The Guardian 2024-03-01 10:31:42


Julia Gillard enters Dunkley byelection campaign as Labor and Liberals brace for close result

Julia Gillard enters Dunkley byelection campaign as Labor and Liberals brace for close result

Exclusive: The former PM has been enlisted to front a social media campaign to help Labor hold the Victorian seat

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Julia Gillard has been enlisted to help boost Labor’s chances in the Dunkley byelection, with Australia’s first female prime minister fronting a social media push aimed squarely at women in the Melbourne seat.

In a sign of Labor’s effort to shore up every last vote in what is expected by both major parties to be a close-run contest, Gillard’s election-eve endorsement praises Jodie Belyea as a “strong local voice”.

As the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, made their final pitches to voters, both sides are expecting a long night of counting on Saturday before a result is reached, and the possibility of no winner being definitively declared.

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In a message to be blasted out on Labor social media channels on Friday evening, Gillard tells voters of the importance of a Labor member for Dunkley “to continue Peta Murphy’s legacy … a seat named after a pioneering woman, Louisa Dunkley, who was also a champion of equality and fairness”.

Gillard, since quitting federal parliament in 2013, has largely stayed out of domestic politics – setting a different course to other recent former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, John Howard and Paul Keating, who have often aired their reflections on local and global affairs. Howard, for instance, put his name to a Liberal party fundraising email this week, asking supporters to donate cash and “send a powerful message”, and is regularly deployed by the Coalition in the final days of various campaigns.

Gillard’s relative reticence on electoral politics makes the occasional interventions more noteworthy, the most prominent of which was an appearance alongside Albanese in the final hours of his successful 2022 election campaign.

She called the Dunkley poll, triggered after the death of sitting Labor member Peta Murphy last year, an “important byelection”.

“My friend, the late Peta Murphy was one of a kind, a fierce advocate for her community and for the issue she was so passionate about. We will all miss her dearly,” Gillard said.

“That’s why it’s so important that we have a Labor member for Dunkley, who will continue to build on Peta’s legacy, and Jodie Belyea will be that strong local voice.”

Gillard, in a simple video filmed from a computer, highlighted Belyea’s community service, pointing to her founding of a not-for-profit group helping disadvantaged women. She also noted the history of Louisa Dunkley, the unionist and equal pay campaigner for whom the seat is named.

In his Friday campaign blitz, Albanese offered a similar gender-tinged message to Gillard, saying Belyea would – in contrast to the Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy – “not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes in Peter Dutton’s team. Opposing everything, being negative about everything, running fear campaigns”.

Dutton’s Friday campaigning focused on community safety and cost of living issues. He claimed in a radio interview that there was “a level of anger within the community” about living conditions and urged voters to “send the prime minister a message that the government needs to do better.”

Labor sources had initially been confident of safely holding the seat, but the last-minute campaign swing of the major party leaders points to both sides expecting a very close result. Labor and Liberal sources both noted the potential for counting to continue long into Saturday night or beyond.

The government has sought to highlight its cost of living relief, including the reframed stage-three tax cuts. However Albanese told the Labor caucus this week that some voters were still not aware of the much-vaunted changes.

Both sides have sought to manage expectations – Dutton claimed even a 3% swing against the government would be a strong result for the Liberals, while Albanese claimed on Friday “byelections are tough for governments”. He downplayed the prospect of a strong swing against the government being a blow to Labor’s momentum, noting the 2001 byelection in Ryan where the Liberals suffered a bad defeat before going on to claim a general election win later that year.

“I’m confident that we’ve run the right campaign and I’m confident that we are the political party in Australia that is being positive, that’s concerned about the future, that’s putting forward an agenda for the future,” Albanese said.

“You can’t change the country for the better by just running fear campaigns.”

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Dunkley byelectionCrime, aspiration and underdog status: PM and Dutton make final pitches

Crime, aspiration and the underdog status: Albanese and Dutton make final pitches in tight Dunkley race

Labor highlights tax changes and legacy of late MP Peta Murphy, while Liberals’ Nathan Conroy tells ‘scared’ voters to ‘send a message’ to government on law and order

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According to Peter Dutton and Anthony Albanese, the battle for Dunkley will either come down to law and order, or tax cuts and the legacy of the late MP Peta Murphy.

As the tight race to win Saturday’s byelection turned to a sprint, the two leaders descended on Frankston to make their final pitches to voters on Friday – though neither would admit that its political importance goes well beyond Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe.

First up, at the home ground of the Frankston Dolphins football club, was Dutton, who described the poll as an opportunity for voters to “send a message” to the Labor government for “failing” to get on top cost-of-living and crime.

“If people here in Dunkley are worried about law and order issues, if you’re worried about crime, the last person you want to vote for is Anthony Albanese,” the opposition leader said, standing alongside the Liberal candidate for Dunkley, Nathan Conroy, and supporters clad in blue.

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He doubled down on the opposition’s question time attacks on the government over a person charged after they were released from immigration detention – even though Victoria police have admitted they got the wrong man and withdrawing charges.

Dutton also continued to blame Albanese for the release of 149 “hardened criminals” – despite it being a binding ruling of the high court – and backed a tweet by Liberal MP Sussan Ley urging voters in Dunkley concerned about alleged assaults by “foreign criminals” against “Victorian women” to vote against Labor.

“It’s clear that the government has made the community less safe by releasing these people,” he said.

Conroy described voters in Dunkley as being scared.

“People are sleeping with weapons next to themselves and there’s a lady in Carrum Downs – burgled twice in the last month – has just got a camera and she’s more nervous now waiting for that alert to ping on her phone,” he said.

“This shouldn’t happen in Australia in 2024.”

‘Get things done’

Meanwhile, Albanese spoke from the home of Frankston & District Netball Association, joined by supporters in red, after posing for photos with cafe workers in Frankston and then visiting an early voting centre in Carrum Downs.

Albanese said the brand-new netball facility was “physical evidence” of how effective Murphy was as a “local champion”.

Instead of offering a message to Canberra, the prime minister said voters in Dunkley could send a local representative “who can get things done as a voice in my government”.

“Not just be another bloke, sitting behind all the other blokes on Peter Dutton’s team, opposing everything, being negative about everything, running fear campaigns,” Albanese said.

“This will be a tight result. But I’m confident that we have the right policies, that we have the best candidate and that we have in Jodie Belyea, someone who will carry on Peta Murphy’s legacy as a strong voice for Dunkley.”

He said Labor’s changes to stage three tax cuts would provide tangible cost of living relief for low- and middle-income earners but not punish high income earners.

“We understand the aspiration isn’t something that just applies to people who are politicians and people above $200,000 [salaries] a year,” Albanese said.

“Aspiration is something that all Australian families have … people want and aspire to something better for their kids.”

He did not rule out further relief in May’s budget.

Claiming the underdog status

The Liberals claim Conroy was the “underdog” in the byelection, which was triggered by Murphy’s death from cancer in late 2023. The Labor MP had been elected in 2019 on a two-party preferred margin of 2.7%, later increasing it to 6.3% at the 2022 election.

“[It is] a very, very significant margin,” Dutton said.

Despite the attempt to lower expectations, the byelection has been seen as a critical test of the opposition leader’s electoral strategy of focusing on outer-suburban and regional seats to help him win office next year.

Meanwhile, for Labor, it has been seen as a chance to turn its recent fortunes around.

But there was one thing both leaders agreed on – a tight result.

Albanese noted that since 1983, the average swing against governments in government-held seats in byelections was 7.1%. He compared the latest poll to the wipe-out John Howard faced at the Ryan byelection in 2001, where Labor gained the seat with a 9.7% swing away from the government.

“It was very much a safe Liberal state [and] John Howard went on to win elections,” he said.

But Dutton is giving Labor a much smaller buffer.

“If there is a 3% swing against the government, particularly given there was an over 6% swing to the government in Aston only a matter of months ago,” he said.

“That would be a devastating result for the prime minister.”

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Immigration attacksDutton doubles down despite police clearing detainee of charges

Peter Dutton doubles down on immigration attacks despite Victoria police clearing detainee of assault charges

Deputy leader Sussan Ley refuses to delete tweet claiming ‘Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals’

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The Coalition has doubled down on its question time attacks on the government over the charge of a person released from immigration detention – despite Victoria police now conceding they got the wrong man and withdrawing charges.

On Friday the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, argued he was entitled to rely on an earlier Victoria police statement and media reports, as Labor went on the counterattack accusing the Coalition of a “grubby political scare campaign”.

Meanwhile, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said it is “extraordinary” that the deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, has still not deleted an inflammatory tweet about alleged assaults by “foreign criminals” against “Victorian women”.

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

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Just hours after Dutton made the alleged assaults the centrepiece of the Coalition’s question time attack, Victoria police revealed they had cleared the former detainee and now believe another man – who there is no reason to believe was released from immigration detention – was involved in the incident.

On Thursday evening, the Victoria police commander Mark Galliott apologised for the “error in arresting the person and remanding him”. He cited GPS data from the man’s ankle bracelet, quality of CCTV available at the time and similarities in “race, age, height, clothing” as the cause for the error.

Galliott denied that racial profiling contributed to the arrest.

“Based on the evidence and the descriptions we had at that time there was grounds for the arrest, they look very much alike and very similar,” he told ABC Radio on Friday.

“Based on, as well with the GPS data, [this] gave the investigators enough to satisfy themselves this was the offender.”

On Friday, Dutton said it was “entirely reasonable” for the Coalition to have made the points it did in parliament “when you are relying on advice from the police authorities, from a statement that had been issued or from media reports that had been confirmed by the minister responsible”.

“I guess the general point that we’re making is that the Albanese government’s released 149 people, hardened criminals, from immigration detention,” he told reporters in Frankston South.

The Coalition has sought to make its handling of the issue a factor in the Dunkley byelection.

Before the police withdrew charges, Ley tweeted a statement about “Victorian women being assaulted by foreign criminals” urging a vote against Labor on Saturday.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, the chief executive of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, threatened to make a human rights complaint about the tweet.

Albanese told reporters in Frankston that the incident “showed the problem – if you are just negative, if you just run fear campaigns [and] don’t worry about the facts, but you just shoot from the hip, get out there [and] run a fear campaign”.

“If you look at the questions that were asked in parliament yesterday, it says everything about the problem with this 24-hour news cycle, where you just have a fear campaign about everything and a solution for nothing.”

Earlier on Friday, the education minister, Jason Clare, took Ley to task, demanding that she delete the tweet in a segment with her on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

“This is a classic example of why women aren’t joining the Liberal party and why they’re not voting for the Liberal party, because of that classic, desperate, grubby political scare campaign we saw from the Liberal party yesterday,” he said.

Ley defended herself and said she was “not taking instructions” from Clare.

The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, has repeatedly said that those released as a result of the NZYQ decision are continuously monitored and the location of all of them is known.

Ley noted that Labor’s home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, had previously said if it were up to her “all of these people would be back into detention”.

She noted that the home affairs department had revealed 37 of the 149 people released had been convicted of sexually based offending

“As a woman I am not taking a backward step on this and I’m calling it out,” Ley said.

Sanmati Verma, acting legal director of the Human Rights Law Ceentre, said that “relentless hounding to drum up community fear for political gain … endangers people who have been lawfully released from detention”.

-With additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

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As it happenedPenny Wong ‘horrified’ by Gaza humanitarian catastrophe and signals more aid

And with that, I am going to put the blog to bed. Before we go, let’s recap the big headlines:

  • The Australian government has said it is “horrified” by the catastrophe in Gaza and has signalled plans to announce extra humanitarian assistance in coming days.

  • The head of Asio, Mike Burgess, defended his decision not to name the former Australian politician alleged to have “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by spies for a foreign regime.

  • Sussan Ley has said she stands by the Dunkley byelection tweet that Jason Clare labelled “grubby”.

  • The federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has discussed a global tax on billionaires at the G20 meeting in Brazil.

  • The Australian housing market lifted in all but one capital city, with expectations of rate cuts later this year boosting confidence.

  • The Victorian Labor senator Linda White has died after a short illness.

  • A body has been found in a Lake Macquarie unit after a fire broke out yesterday.

  • Australians facing emergencies weren’t able to speak to trained triple zero call-takers for more than an hour due to an issue at Telstra.

  • Sydney’s Mardi Gras organisers have acknowledged the grief and pain felt by the city’s queer community ahead of tomorrow’s parade following the alleged murders of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

  • The weather bureau has warned against people describing natural disasters as “one-in-100-year events”, saying the term was misleading.

Lawyers argue evidence is not available to rule out Britanny Higgins’ consent

Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers argue evidence is not available to rule out Britanny Higgins’ consent

Lehrmann’s lawyers also admit client’s evidence is ‘unsatisfactory’ but say it would be overstating it to say he is a ‘compulsive liar’

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If the court finds that sexual intercourse took place between Bruce Lehrmann and Brittany Higgins it will also have to find she was “so intoxicated as to be unable to consent” and that evidence is not available, Lehrmann’s lawyers have told the federal court.

“The evidence simply does not permit a positive finding of fact that Ms Higgins’ intoxication was, at any relevant time, such that she could not consent to sexual activity,” new submissions filed in Lehrmann’s defamation case against Channel Ten and Lisa Wilkinson said.

The submission argues that neither CCTV footage from parliament house of Higgins entering through security nor expert evidence about her likely blood alcohol levels proved Higgins was heavily intoxicated.

The court was also told it would have to find – if sex did take place and Higgins was too drunk to consent – that Lehrmann “either knew or believed Ms Higgins was incapable of consenting to sexual activity”.

Justice Michael Lee will deliver his judgment as early as this month in the high-profile case brought by the former Liberal staffer. Lehrmann says he was defamed by a rape allegation made by Higgins on Ten’s The Project. Lehrmann was not named but says he was identifiable.

Lehrmann, Ten and Wilkinson made final submissions on Friday after additional evidence was heard in a cross-claim brought by Wilkinson against Ten for her legal fees. The former presenter on The Project won the case last month.

Lehrmann submitted that even if Justice Lee rejects his evidence about what happened inside Linda Reynolds’ office, he could not be satisfied Ten and Wilkinson “have established any sexual activity, consensual or otherwise, took place for several reasons.”

The reasons include that Higgins may have been found naked on the couch because she removed her own white dress due to either feeling sick or having already vomited on it.

They also admit their client’s evidence is “unsatisfactory” and “it would be open to the court to form an adverse view of his credit” but it is overstating it to say he is a “compulsive liar”.

In closing arguments in court in December, defence lawyers described Lehrmann as a “fundamentally dishonest man”, suggesting his repeated mistruths about the events of March 2019 suggest he might be a “compulsive liar”.

Lisa Wilkinson’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC, also told the court there “can’t be any doubt in anyone’s mind that there was sex” on the night Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped.

“The only issue that would trouble your honour, having regard to the unsatisfactory state of the evidence by both persons, is the consent issue,” Chrysanthou said.

Both Chrysanthou and Matt Collins KC, representing Network Ten, highlighted a series of lies they allege Lehrmann told also in their closing arguments.

Both also conceded there were issues with Higgins’ credibility but say she delivered a powerful and consistent account of the alleged rape itself.

Collins told the court that Lehrmann was “revealed to be a fundamentally dishonest man who was prepared to say or do anything he perceived to advance his interests”.

He pointed to Lehrmann’s alleged lies about being attracted to Higgins, buying drinks for her at the Dock bar in Canberra, encouraging her to drink and “skol” a drink, touching and kissing her at a later venue, the 88mph nightclub, telling parliament security he had been instructed to pick up documents, and then telling his boss Fiona Brown he was there to drink whiskey.

Chrysanthou also alleged Lehrmann lied about needing to return to the office to make notes of a conversation about submarines he had had with unidentified defence bureaucrats at the Dock.

Lehrmann’s lawyers in the final submissions published on Friday countered that Higgins had a “preparedness to tell lies, including elaborate lies, on the most solemn of occasions” because her evidence in the trial contradicted what she told the Commonwealth in her personal injury compensation claim.

“Ms Higgins’ evidence in this proceeding on multiple elements of the allegation is itself contradicted by other out of court representations made, such as to the Project during the two sit down interviews, or representations in Ms Higgins’ book or representations made to [news.com.au].

“The court would reject Ms Higgins’ evidence in its entirety unless corroborated by other independent evidence or contemporaneous documents,” the submission said.

“In the case of the [Commonweath] Deed, this involved payment of a settlement sum to her that was life changing,” Lehrmann’s submission said. “In the case of the criminal trial it was the prospect of securing a guilty verdict against the man that she had earlier accused of rape in the most public of forums.”

In her final submission to the court Wilkinson said evidence heard in the cross-claim had “graphically illustrated to the court the legal advice and approval from Network Ten that Ms Wilkinson received to give her speech at the Logies”.

“The court now knows that Ms Wilkinson gave entirely truthful evidence about the advice she had received,” it said.

But Lehrmann submitted this does not absolve Wilkinson of responsibility. “Her actions remain ill advised, reckless and prejudicial to the Applicant’s right to a fair trial,” the submission said.

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Australia take charge over New Zealand after Cameron Green’s rearguard

Australia take charge of New Zealand Test after Cameron Green’s rearguard

  • Australia 383 & 13-2; New Zealand 179 | Australia lead by 217
  • Green and Josh Hazlewood share 116-run final-wicket stand

Australia dismissed New Zealand for 179 to take control of the first Test on Friday’s second day after Cameron Green had scored a brilliant 174 not out in a defiant final-wicket partnership to drive the visitors to 383 all out.

The Black Caps lost wickets in clumps as they reeled in the face of Australia’s attack with Glenn Phillips’s aggressive 71 serving only to save the home side from deeper embarrassment in front of a sellout crowd.

Australia chose not to enforce the follow-on but the wickets kept falling with skipper Tim Southee dismissing Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne cheaply as the shadows across the ground lengthened.

Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon was dropped by Southee in the slips off the last ball of the day and will resume on six not out alongside Usman Khawaja, who was unbeaten on five. Australia are on 13 for two, leading by 217 runs.

New Zealand, looking for only a second win over their neighbours in 24 Tests this century, had started the day hoping to quickly remove the final Australian wicket but Green and Josh Hazlewood refused to yield for two hours.

All-rounder Green, who had reached the century mark for the second time in Tests on the penultimate ball of day one, continued to play his shots, scoring 23 fours and five sixes in a marathon 275-ball innings.

Hazlewood contributed 22 off 62 balls at the other end as the pair combined for 116 runs before seamer Matt Henry finally winkled out the Australian paceman to claim his second Test five-wicket haul with figures of 5-70.

Australia’s final tally included 41 extras, which included 20 wides, but New Zealand’s profligacy was not to be limited to their fielding and they were quickly reduced to 12-3.

Tom Latham played on to depart for five and two balls later Kane Williamson ran himself out for a duck after bumping into his batting partner Will Young at midwicket with Labuschagne’s direct hit wrecking the stumps.

Three balls later and Rachin Ravindra was also sent back with zero runs to his name after a fine Nathan Lyon catch off the bowling of Hazlewood.

Australia skipper Pat Cummins triggered the next collapse when he had Daryl Mitchell caught behind with the final ball of one over and Mitchell Marsh ended Young’s innings with the first ball of the next to leave the hosts on 29-5.

Phillips and Tom Blundell steadied the sinking ship with a partnership of 84 but Lyon (4-43) brought an end to that when he had the latter caught for 33 off an inside edge.

Two balls later, Scott Kuggeleijn became the off spinner’s second victim and the home side were again on the ropes at 113-7.

Hazlewood finally found the way to evict Phillips with a short delivery the batsman top-edged to Starc in the deep and when Lyon stopped Henry’s pugnacious innings on 42, the end was not long coming. The second and final Test in Christchurch begins on 8 March.

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As it happenedNew Zealand v Australia: first Test, day two

Day two’s report from Basin Reserve:

Kerry Stokes and his billionaire mates take a punt on ‘mainstream middle’ journalism

The Nightly: Kerry Stokes and his billionaire mates take a punt on ‘mainstream middle’ journalism

Amanda Meade

Online afternoon newspaper praises the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of ‘tycoons of industry who put us on the map’. Plus: Greg Sheridan caught up in Taylor Swift fever

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A new publication was launched this week in the form of an online afternoon newspaper. The afternoon newspaper died decades ago with the closure of Fairfax’s Sydney Sun, News Limited’s Brisbane Telegraph and Sydney’s Daily Mirror. The “digital weeknight newspaper” – that’s both a pdf and an online version – is a product we need now, we were told by publisher Seven West Media, because people are too busy to read the news in the morning: “Your ‘me time’ is now at night”.

The Nightly promises “No paywall, no clickbait – just commonsense ‘mainstream middle’ journalism”. All backed by the power and resources of Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media.

Stokes owns the West Australian, the Sunday Times, 19 regional publications, 11 suburban newspapers and free news website perthnow.com.au – which The Nightly promotional material unkindly referred to as “clickbait”.

The Nightly has something most start-ups don’t. The financial support of several billionaires – as well as Stokes – in the form of guaranteed advertising spend.

The Nightly carries ads from Mineral Resources founder Chris Ellison, Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, as well as an in-depth interview with Gerry Harvey titled “Why Gerry’s all smiles even amid ‘challenging’ sales”. The first editions are packed with display ads for Channel Seven as well as multiple mining and gambling ads. Very wholesome.

The Nightly promised in its first editorial to “fight for the mainstream middle” but the views expressed by the editor-in-chief, Anthony De Ceglie, were demonstrably to the right of centre.

De Ceglie, who is doubling up as the editor in chief of The West Australian, focused on the same targets as he does in his established newspaper: industrial relations reforms and environmentalists. He railed against “industrial relations laws that fly in the very face of economic ambition” and complained that industry is “hobbled by over-zealous environmental bodies which have been overtaken by fanatics”.

There was a good word for his financial backers too. “So much for the entrepreneurial spirit embodied by those tycoons of industry who put us on the map,” he said.

Dore and Shorten among recruits

The Nightly’s headline act – who will deliver “blisteringly readable content” – is one Christopher Dore, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian.

Dore is making his return to writing via The Nightly after he was terminated by News Corp after 31 years, allegedly after an incident at a Wall Street Journal event in California.

Once the most powerful editorial executive in Murdoch’s Australian business, Dore’s first offering was a four-part hit piece on the prime minister. Anthony Albanese, he wrote, “stunned Labor colleagues by ignoring explicit advice warning against declaring the Voice referendum a first-term priority on election night and has been ‘cursed’ by the call since”.

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The copy is almost exclusively unsourced, is littered with expletives _ “It’s fucked the republic now” – and contains “quotes” attributed to Albanese himself in private, such as: “‘The whole point of the Voice was to listen to Indigenous people,’ [Albanese] would tell people, ‘we did that … we had a crack.’”

And: “‘I’ll stand up for my values,’ [Albanese] tells colleagues ‘and I’m prepared to make difficult decisions.’”

Another hire has been Kristin Shorten, an investigative reporter who joins from The Australian where she covered the trial of Zachary Rolfe for the killing of Kumanjayi Walker. Rolfe shot Walker three times while trying to arrest him in Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of charges of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

The inquest into Walker’s death heard on Wednesday that Shorten was a friend of Rolfe’s because her partner was a fellow police officer. According to texts put to Rolfe in evidence at the inquest this week, she messaged Rolfe in November 2019 asking if he was OK after the shooting and telling him, among other things, to “ignore the leftist reporting”. Shorten has not given evidence at the inquest and was approached for comment.

ABC’s critics evenly split

It will surprise no one to hear 51% of all complaints raised by the ABC audience in 2023 related to the Israel/Gaza war.

According to the ABC Ombudsman’s first annual report, 58% of complainants suggested content was pro-Israel and 41% pro-Palestine.

The report found the ABC’s coverage was “professional, wide ranging and reflective of newsworthy events”.

Ombudsman Fiona Cameron, who was appointed in late 2022 and is independent from ABC News, suggested the ABC more clearly set out whether content was analysis, opinion or lived experience.

“While complaint numbers are a useful reflection of audience engagement, often content that is uncomfortable attracts more criticism,” she said.

“The ABC needs to be mindful of this tension to avoid being fearful of delivering on charter obligations to provide innovative and comprehensive programming while being thick skinned enough to clarify and explain decisions, acknowledge
misjudgements and, where appropriate, apologise.”

Strange allies

Of all the words published about Taylor Swift’s The Eras tour last month, you can’t go past Greg Sheridan’s analysis of the “cultural meaning” of the pop star for sheer absurdity.

“I had my rock concert-going days some little time ago,” Sheridan says, before going on to compare Swift to the performers he enjoyed in the 1970s: Billy Joel, Supertramp, Lou Reed and Elton John.

The 67-year-old conservative commentator admits he struggled at first to work out what all the fuss is about because, for a start, Swift is “not the classical beauty”.

The Australian’s foreign editor prefers the “classical beauty” of a Scarlett Johansson, for example. “That’s a superficial quality for sure, but sheer physical beauty is a factor for many entertainers,” he wrote in a piece headlined “Why Taylor Swift’s niceness and joy confounds the progressive left”.

Which brings us to his other point in the 1,200-plus word piece: Swift is, according to Sheridan, hated by the “ideological left”, perhaps because she was “brought up in a Christian home” and is nice. “One reason the left will never finally triumph is that they can never take yes for an answer,” he says. “And they are profoundly offended by any sign of normality, especially in their own ranks, or the ranks of those they expect to find sympathetic.”

Cashing in on Swift

All the newspapers – all the media, in fact – made the most of the Swiftmania by giving readers what they wanted: more Swift content.

According to ABC TV’s Media Watch, the Tele and the Herald Sun won the prize for excess, putting Swift on a combined 28 front pages in February. The two tabloids printed a 12-page ultimate fan guide, an 8-page souvenir concert liftout, a “build your own” lifesize Taylor Swift poster, and another 100-page souvenir edition liftout.

But the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph went one step further, publishing online fan galleries of the Sydney concerts featuring hundreds of happy concertgoers in their Swift attire. In the Herald, you could click on a link to buy a print for $72.

It reminded us of the Daily Telegraph’s innovative “Matildas semi-final fan gallery” last year which was a clever subscription strategy.

If any of the 300 Matildas fans who were photographed had clicked on the gallery to see their photo, they would have hit a paywall, forcing them to subscribe to see the pic.

Channel 10 in mourning

Young staff at Channel 10 who worked with the allegedly murdered roving TV reporter Jesse Baird are really struggling to cope as they come to terms with his death while also working on stories about the police investigation.

“Jesse was so much more than a colleague,” staff wrote in a post on social media. “He was a cherished friend who brightened every day with his positivity, cheeky winks and brilliant smile.

While high-profile staff such as presenters Narelda Jacobs and Angela Bishop have paid tribute to Baird publicly, there are dozens of junior staff who are doing it tough in silence, senior newsroom staff told us.

Unfortunately the redundancies announced by Ten last month continued apace, adding stress to the workforce, sources told Weekly Beast.

ABC’s local content decline

A former ABC senior executive in the television division, Michael Ward, has published an analysis of the broadcaster’s local content over the decade – and it’s not pretty.

Ward, who has just completed a PhD in media and communications at the University of Sydney, found that first release, non-news and current affairs screen content on the ABC’s main TV channel has dropped by 40% in ten years.

Ward says the decline in local content is due to close to $1bn budget shortfall over the period the Coalition was in power.

In 2022-23 the ABC broadcast 630 hours of new Australian programs compared to 1,060 hours in 2013-14, according to the study published by former staffers who call themselves ABC Alumni.

Using the ABC’s own data from annual reports and submissions, the analysis found that across all ABC platforms – including iview and the multi-channels – the drop was about 20%.

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Kerry Stokes and his billionaire mates take a punt on ‘mainstream middle’ journalism

The Nightly: Kerry Stokes and his billionaire mates take a punt on ‘mainstream middle’ journalism

Amanda Meade

Online afternoon newspaper praises the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ of ‘tycoons of industry who put us on the map’. Plus: Greg Sheridan caught up in Taylor Swift fever

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A new publication was launched this week in the form of an online afternoon newspaper. The afternoon newspaper died decades ago with the closure of Fairfax’s Sydney Sun, News Limited’s Brisbane Telegraph and Sydney’s Daily Mirror. The “digital weeknight newspaper” – that’s both a pdf and an online version – is a product we need now, we were told by publisher Seven West Media, because people are too busy to read the news in the morning: “Your ‘me time’ is now at night”.

The Nightly promises “No paywall, no clickbait – just commonsense ‘mainstream middle’ journalism”. All backed by the power and resources of Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media.

Stokes owns the West Australian, the Sunday Times, 19 regional publications, 11 suburban newspapers and free news website perthnow.com.au – which The Nightly promotional material unkindly referred to as “clickbait”.

The Nightly has something most start-ups don’t. The financial support of several billionaires – as well as Stokes – in the form of guaranteed advertising spend.

The Nightly carries ads from Mineral Resources founder Chris Ellison, Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page and mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, as well as an in-depth interview with Gerry Harvey titled “Why Gerry’s all smiles even amid ‘challenging’ sales”. The first editions are packed with display ads for Channel Seven as well as multiple mining and gambling ads. Very wholesome.

The Nightly promised in its first editorial to “fight for the mainstream middle” but the views expressed by the editor-in-chief, Anthony De Ceglie, were demonstrably to the right of centre.

De Ceglie, who is doubling up as the editor in chief of The West Australian, focused on the same targets as he does in his established newspaper: industrial relations reforms and environmentalists. He railed against “industrial relations laws that fly in the very face of economic ambition” and complained that industry is “hobbled by over-zealous environmental bodies which have been overtaken by fanatics”.

There was a good word for his financial backers too. “So much for the entrepreneurial spirit embodied by those tycoons of industry who put us on the map,” he said.

Dore and Shorten among recruits

The Nightly’s headline act – who will deliver “blisteringly readable content” – is one Christopher Dore, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian.

Dore is making his return to writing via The Nightly after he was terminated by News Corp after 31 years, allegedly after an incident at a Wall Street Journal event in California.

Once the most powerful editorial executive in Murdoch’s Australian business, Dore’s first offering was a four-part hit piece on the prime minister. Anthony Albanese, he wrote, “stunned Labor colleagues by ignoring explicit advice warning against declaring the Voice referendum a first-term priority on election night and has been ‘cursed’ by the call since”.

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The copy is almost exclusively unsourced, is littered with expletives _ “It’s fucked the republic now” – and contains “quotes” attributed to Albanese himself in private, such as: “‘The whole point of the Voice was to listen to Indigenous people,’ [Albanese] would tell people, ‘we did that … we had a crack.’”

And: “‘I’ll stand up for my values,’ [Albanese] tells colleagues ‘and I’m prepared to make difficult decisions.’”

Another hire has been Kristin Shorten, an investigative reporter who joins from The Australian where she covered the trial of Zachary Rolfe for the killing of Kumanjayi Walker. Rolfe shot Walker three times while trying to arrest him in Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of charges of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

The inquest into Walker’s death heard on Wednesday that Shorten was a friend of Rolfe’s because her partner was a fellow police officer. According to texts put to Rolfe in evidence at the inquest this week, she messaged Rolfe in November 2019 asking if he was OK after the shooting and telling him, among other things, to “ignore the leftist reporting”. Shorten has not given evidence at the inquest and was approached for comment.

ABC’s critics evenly split

It will surprise no one to hear 51% of all complaints raised by the ABC audience in 2023 related to the Israel/Gaza war.

According to the ABC Ombudsman’s first annual report, 58% of complainants suggested content was pro-Israel and 41% pro-Palestine.

The report found the ABC’s coverage was “professional, wide ranging and reflective of newsworthy events”.

Ombudsman Fiona Cameron, who was appointed in late 2022 and is independent from ABC News, suggested the ABC more clearly set out whether content was analysis, opinion or lived experience.

“While complaint numbers are a useful reflection of audience engagement, often content that is uncomfortable attracts more criticism,” she said.

“The ABC needs to be mindful of this tension to avoid being fearful of delivering on charter obligations to provide innovative and comprehensive programming while being thick skinned enough to clarify and explain decisions, acknowledge
misjudgements and, where appropriate, apologise.”

Strange allies

Of all the words published about Taylor Swift’s The Eras tour last month, you can’t go past Greg Sheridan’s analysis of the “cultural meaning” of the pop star for sheer absurdity.

“I had my rock concert-going days some little time ago,” Sheridan says, before going on to compare Swift to the performers he enjoyed in the 1970s: Billy Joel, Supertramp, Lou Reed and Elton John.

The 67-year-old conservative commentator admits he struggled at first to work out what all the fuss is about because, for a start, Swift is “not the classical beauty”.

The Australian’s foreign editor prefers the “classical beauty” of a Scarlett Johansson, for example. “That’s a superficial quality for sure, but sheer physical beauty is a factor for many entertainers,” he wrote in a piece headlined “Why Taylor Swift’s niceness and joy confounds the progressive left”.

Which brings us to his other point in the 1,200-plus word piece: Swift is, according to Sheridan, hated by the “ideological left”, perhaps because she was “brought up in a Christian home” and is nice. “One reason the left will never finally triumph is that they can never take yes for an answer,” he says. “And they are profoundly offended by any sign of normality, especially in their own ranks, or the ranks of those they expect to find sympathetic.”

Cashing in on Swift

All the newspapers – all the media, in fact – made the most of the Swiftmania by giving readers what they wanted: more Swift content.

According to ABC TV’s Media Watch, the Tele and the Herald Sun won the prize for excess, putting Swift on a combined 28 front pages in February. The two tabloids printed a 12-page ultimate fan guide, an 8-page souvenir concert liftout, a “build your own” lifesize Taylor Swift poster, and another 100-page souvenir edition liftout.

But the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph went one step further, publishing online fan galleries of the Sydney concerts featuring hundreds of happy concertgoers in their Swift attire. In the Herald, you could click on a link to buy a print for $72.

It reminded us of the Daily Telegraph’s innovative “Matildas semi-final fan gallery” last year which was a clever subscription strategy.

If any of the 300 Matildas fans who were photographed had clicked on the gallery to see their photo, they would have hit a paywall, forcing them to subscribe to see the pic.

Channel 10 in mourning

Young staff at Channel 10 who worked with the allegedly murdered roving TV reporter Jesse Baird are really struggling to cope as they come to terms with his death while also working on stories about the police investigation.

“Jesse was so much more than a colleague,” staff wrote in a post on social media. “He was a cherished friend who brightened every day with his positivity, cheeky winks and brilliant smile.

While high-profile staff such as presenters Narelda Jacobs and Angela Bishop have paid tribute to Baird publicly, there are dozens of junior staff who are doing it tough in silence, senior newsroom staff told us.

Unfortunately the redundancies announced by Ten last month continued apace, adding stress to the workforce, sources told Weekly Beast.

ABC’s local content decline

A former ABC senior executive in the television division, Michael Ward, has published an analysis of the broadcaster’s local content over the decade – and it’s not pretty.

Ward, who has just completed a PhD in media and communications at the University of Sydney, found that first release, non-news and current affairs screen content on the ABC’s main TV channel has dropped by 40% in ten years.

Ward says the decline in local content is due to close to $1bn budget shortfall over the period the Coalition was in power.

In 2022-23 the ABC broadcast 630 hours of new Australian programs compared to 1,060 hours in 2013-14, according to the study published by former staffers who call themselves ABC Alumni.

Using the ABC’s own data from annual reports and submissions, the analysis found that across all ABC platforms – including iview and the multi-channels – the drop was about 20%.

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Scams promoted in fake news articles and videos cost Australians more than $8m last year

Scams promoted in fake news articles and deepfake videos cost Australians more than $8m last year

The National Anti-Scam Centre has warned people to beware after it had more than 400 reports of these investment scams in 2023

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The federal government has warned consumers to beware of fake news articles and deepfake videos that endorse online investment trading platform scams, saying they cost Australians more than $8m last year.

The National Anti-Scam Centre said it had received more than 400 reports of these scams in 2023, including one that saw an Australian man lose $80,000 in cryptocurrency.

The scams work by creating fake news articles and videos featuring a celebrity – they are sometimes known as the “Kochie scam” because many of the fake articles include the former Sunrise host David Koch – which are embedded on social media or appear as advertisements on reputable news sites.

“Scammers are creating fake news articles and deepfake videos to convince people that celebrities and well-known public figures are making huge sums of money using online investment trading platforms, when in fact it is a scam,” said Catriona Lowe, the deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“We know of an Australian man who lost $80,000 in cryptocurrency after seeing a deepfake Elon Musk video interview on social media, clicking the link and registering his details through an online form. He was provided with an account manager and an online dashboard where he could see his investment supposedly making huge returns. But when he tried to withdraw the money – he was locked out of his account.”

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The National Anti-Scam Centre said it had received complaints about scammers using the fake online trading platforms operating under the names Quantum AI, Immediate Edge, Immediate Connect, Immediate X3, and Quantum Trade Wave.

Sonia, not her real name, clicked on one of these fake articles on Facebook. It reported that the Matildas captain Samantha Kerr had had an argument with former athlete and television presenter Matt Shirvington.

“It wasn’t an investment thing, it was just a bit of gossip,” she said. “I thought, ‘oh that’s interesting’.”

The fake story quoted Kerr as saying that she had created wealth for herself outside football through shrewd investing, including through a particular online trading platform.

Sonia went on to the online trading platform’s website and left her name and number. “I was like, I’m not committing to anything … someone’s going to give me a call and that’s when I was going to just ask some questions.”

Sonia said someone from the company called her straight away and tried to get her to hand over her credit card details, for the minimum investment of $350. When she refused and said she wanted more time to think about it, the man pushed her to sign up immediately and then said he would call her again the next day.

That night, Sonia spoke with her husband, who works in fraud prevention at a major bank. They looked up the company and realised it was a scam.

When the man called back the following day, she told him she would not be investing, but tried to be friendly and to placate him, because she knew the company had her phone number and she did not want them to harass her. It did not work.

Since then, Sonia said the company had called her more than 60 times.

“He just calls every two hours, all through the night. Just full trolling me now. So I never invested anything, but had I known that I would just be constantly trolled … I never would have even provided my details. I’m just like: this is so silly, why did I do it?

“I’ve got a brain. You’ve just got to be so careful. You feel like you need to justify your intelligence. But there are a lot of dodgy people out there, who are good at their jobs.”

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Australia sweats through third-hottest summer with hot and dry autumn predicted

Australia sweats through third-hottest summer on record with hot and dry autumn predicted

Bureau of Meteorology says only 2018-19 and 2019-20 summers were warmer, meaning Australia’s three hottest seasons have occurred in the past six years

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Australians endured the country’s third-hottest summer on record, while odds strongly favour a hotter and drier than usual autumn, the Bureau of Meteorology has said.

The top-three ranking applied for each of the maximum, mean and minimum temperatures. All states and territories bar Victoria reported one of their 10 warmest summers.

Mean temperatures, which average out daytime and night-time readings, were 1.62C above the bureau’s 1961-1990 yardstick. Only the 2018-19 and 2019-20 summers were warmer, meaning Australia’s three hottest seasons have occurred in the past six years.

Western Australia set a record for its summer mean temperatures, topping 2019-20.

“We did reach the bureau’s threshold for at least low-intensity heatwaves across pretty much all of Australia at some point during the summer,” said Simon Grainger, a senior bureau climatologist. “But really for eastern Australia it was a lot more about the steady heat.”

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Australia’s weather is driven by conditions in surrounding oceans as well as the background warming from climate change that has elevated temperatures by about 1.5C since 1910.

Much of the media attention focused on the development of an El Niño pattern in the Pacific. Such an event, however, tends to have its strongest influence on rainfall in eastern Australia in the spring rather than the summer.

Of the 28 years with an El Niño event since 1900, the summer of 2023-24 was the third wettest, trailing 2009-10 and 1994-95, Grainger said. Rainfall averaged 247.7mm across the country, or almost 19% more than the 1961-90 norm.

The unusual feature was a persistent positive phase of the so-called southern annular mode in December and January. During summer, that pattern means eastward moving weather systems tend to track closer to Antarctica.

“What you do see in those situations [is] easterly flows bringing those muggy conditions and a chance of storms to eastern Australia,” Grainger said. Warmer than usual sea-surface temperatures in the Tasman also contributed to extra rain.

Among the major capitals, Brisbane has started 2024 with the longest streak of overnight temperatures at or above 20C, counting 61 so far with more to come. The previous record was 59 to kick off 1978, he said.

Sydney, meanwhile, reported its third hottest summer on record by mean temperatures, according to Ben Domensino, a senior Weatherzone meteorologist. The city’s mean reading of about 24.1C was slightly more than 2C above the long-run norm.

Abnormally high dew point temperatures were a feature of summer in eastern New South Wales “making it harder for the body to lose heat by evaporating sweat”, he said. Sydney’s summer rainfall of 411mm was also about 80mm above average.

Perth was another standout city, with the Western Australian capital notching its second hottest summer on record for maximum temperatures, Domensino said.

The average daytime high of 32.6C was beaten only by the 2021-22 summer’s 33.3C average. It also clocked a record seven days above 40C in February, beating Perth’s record of six such days set in January 2022, Weatherzone said.

Melbourne was one capital to post a slightly lower than average summer for maximums. Temperatures, though, picked up in February, while rainfall dwindled to just 6mm for the month, Domensino said.

The shift towards drier conditions may continue into autumn, according to the bureau’s latest outlook, released on Thursday.

The eastern two-thirds of the country has odds favouring below-average rainfall, Grainger said.

Temperatures were also tilting towards warmer than normal conditions for the March-May period. Those odds were 80% or higher for maximums to be above-average for much of the nation, he said.

Grainger said uncertainty beyond autumn meant that it was too early to be sure whether another La Niña event may form in the Pacific later in the year.

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Inquest told of ‘clearly racist’ NT police awards that appear to contradict senior officers’ testimony

Kumanjayi Walker inquest told of ‘clearly racist’ NT police awards that appear to contradict senior officers’ testimony

Zachary Rolfe evidence calls into question the testimony of several senior officers to the court earlier this week

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Award certificates allegedly given out to members of an elite Northern Territory police unit were “clearly racist”, calling into question the evidence of several senior officers, a court has heard.

Zachary Rolfe told an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker earlier this week that he believed a racist mock award had been bestowed by the Tactical Response Group to the member who behaved most like an Aboriginal person.

The NT police are investigating the allegations, as well as other claims made by Rolfe about racism in the force.

But four current and former members of the TRG provided statements to the court on Thursday which denied such an award existed.

Some of the officers clarified that an award had been renamed in 2022 to avoid any connotation it was racist, and that it was possible this was the award Rolfe was referring to.

Rolfe told the court on Friday that he had since been provided with three award certificates given to officers when they had served with the TRG.

The court heard one of the certificates featured a backdrop of the Aboriginal flag, and another featured an edited image of Usain Bolt, with the Jamaican athlete’s head believed to have been replaced with the head of the officer who won the award.

One of the certificates was dated as awarded in 2013. The certificates are yet to be released by the court.

Phillip Boulten SC, representing the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, said the certificates were “clearly racist”, and also appeared to reference blackface.

TRG officers said in their statements that there was an award called the Sooty, which was named after a former member who once almost electrocuted himself, leaving his skin blackened.

Rolfe provided the court with further details about who gave him the certificates in a bid to assist the police investigation.

Ian Freckelton KC, representing the NT police, confirmed the matter was being investigated by professional standards command, overseen by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

But he said it remained unclear that the certificates were genuine, saying not even Rolfe was aware of their legitimacy, given they had been provided to him by someone else.

Freckelton argued that the court should not release the certificates publicly until their legitimacy could be established given the very serious inferences that could be drawn against the NT police.

“Nobody knows yet if these documents are what they purport to be,” he said.

Boulten opposed the application, saying Freckelton had not given any reasons why the publication of the certificates would interfere in the proper administration of justice.

The NT coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, agreed to an interim non-publication order regarding the certificates, given concerns over their “providence” and their “incendiary” nature.

Counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer SC, said a former long-serving NT police officer who had recently retired had provided an email which “corroborates to a significant degree at face value some of the evidence” Rolfe had given regarding racism in the force.

She also said further summons may be issued to NT police in relation to the allegations made by Rolfe regarding the awards.

Armitage also confirmed in court on Friday that Rolfe’s evidence would not be completed that day as scheduled because of a series of technological failures and legal disputes, raising the spectre of yet another delay in the inquest which had been expected to finish in 2022.

She said it was unfortunate there was a further delay but that “to rush it at this point would be a disservice to the work that has already been engaged in”.

The court was adjourned until 27 May.

Outside court, Walker’s cousin Samara Fernandez-Brown said his family were “extremely exhausted” and had been hoping the evidence in the inquest would be completed on Friday.

But she said Rolfe had given evidence which underlined concerns about the extent of racism within the NT police, and the family expected to make further submissions regarding this issue in order to “keep our people safe”.

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Inquest told of ‘clearly racist’ NT police awards that appear to contradict senior officers’ testimony

Kumanjayi Walker inquest told of ‘clearly racist’ NT police awards that appear to contradict senior officers’ testimony

Zachary Rolfe evidence calls into question the testimony of several senior officers to the court earlier this week

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Award certificates allegedly given out to members of an elite Northern Territory police unit were “clearly racist”, calling into question the evidence of several senior officers, a court has heard.

Zachary Rolfe told an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker earlier this week that he believed a racist mock award had been bestowed by the Tactical Response Group to the member who behaved most like an Aboriginal person.

The NT police are investigating the allegations, as well as other claims made by Rolfe about racism in the force.

But four current and former members of the TRG provided statements to the court on Thursday which denied such an award existed.

Some of the officers clarified that an award had been renamed in 2022 to avoid any connotation it was racist, and that it was possible this was the award Rolfe was referring to.

Rolfe told the court on Friday that he had since been provided with three award certificates given to officers when they had served with the TRG.

The court heard one of the certificates featured a backdrop of the Aboriginal flag, and another featured an edited image of Usain Bolt, with the Jamaican athlete’s head believed to have been replaced with the head of the officer who won the award.

One of the certificates was dated as awarded in 2013. The certificates are yet to be released by the court.

Phillip Boulten SC, representing the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, said the certificates were “clearly racist”, and also appeared to reference blackface.

TRG officers said in their statements that there was an award called the Sooty, which was named after a former member who once almost electrocuted himself, leaving his skin blackened.

Rolfe provided the court with further details about who gave him the certificates in a bid to assist the police investigation.

Ian Freckelton KC, representing the NT police, confirmed the matter was being investigated by professional standards command, overseen by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

But he said it remained unclear that the certificates were genuine, saying not even Rolfe was aware of their legitimacy, given they had been provided to him by someone else.

Freckelton argued that the court should not release the certificates publicly until their legitimacy could be established given the very serious inferences that could be drawn against the NT police.

“Nobody knows yet if these documents are what they purport to be,” he said.

Boulten opposed the application, saying Freckelton had not given any reasons why the publication of the certificates would interfere in the proper administration of justice.

The NT coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, agreed to an interim non-publication order regarding the certificates, given concerns over their “providence” and their “incendiary” nature.

Counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer SC, said a former long-serving NT police officer who had recently retired had provided an email which “corroborates to a significant degree at face value some of the evidence” Rolfe had given regarding racism in the force.

She also said further summons may be issued to NT police in relation to the allegations made by Rolfe regarding the awards.

Armitage also confirmed in court on Friday that Rolfe’s evidence would not be completed that day as scheduled because of a series of technological failures and legal disputes, raising the spectre of yet another delay in the inquest which had been expected to finish in 2022.

She said it was unfortunate there was a further delay but that “to rush it at this point would be a disservice to the work that has already been engaged in”.

The court was adjourned until 27 May.

Outside court, Walker’s cousin Samara Fernandez-Brown said his family were “extremely exhausted” and had been hoping the evidence in the inquest would be completed on Friday.

But she said Rolfe had given evidence which underlined concerns about the extent of racism within the NT police, and the family expected to make further submissions regarding this issue in order to “keep our people safe”.

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Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to postponed Australian tour

Ticketing company denies responsibility for refunds to Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour

Ticketbud says money was sent directly to organisers Turning Point Australia, but it says money is only received after events are completed

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A ticketing company has denied claims by the organiser of Donald Trump Jr’s postponed Australian tour that it is responsible for processing refunds, arguing Turning Point Australia received the money.

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 initially postponed to September amid claims of visa difficulties.

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

Guardian Australia reported this week that some ticket holders were still waiting for requested refunds and the company had failed to respond to emails for a month.

Turning Point Australia’s founder, rightwing influencer Joel Jammal, said this week the responsibility for ticketing and refunds was with the ticketing companies, saying all money was held by those organisations until after the event.

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“We have had several complaints from ticket holders 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.”

While Ticketek has processed refunds for the Sydney show, some customers for Brisbane and Melbourne shows who bought through Ticketbud had reported not receiving refunds despite multiple requests to Turning Point Australia.

A spokesperson for Ticketbud refuted Jammal’s claim on Thursday, stating the payments through the Ticketbud system go through Stripe and are paid to the organisers.

“Unfortunately, Ticketbud is not responsible for issuing refunds,” a spokesperson said.

“Event funds are processed by the payment processor Stripe, and sent directly to the organiser of the event. Event funds are never held or processed by Ticketbud directly. The funds are held by Stripe and the event organiser.”

The spokesperson also disputed the claim that Turning Point Australia does not get the funds until after the event.

“Refunds are the sole responsibility of the organiser. Ticketbud, as an event registration and ticketing platform, does not control how the event is run and does not issue refunds on the event organisers’ behalf.”

Jammal and Stripe were approached for comment.

Jammal said this week that he is in the process of working through Trump Jr’s availability for this year, as well as the logistics for venues, and will make an announcement in March.

Turning Point Australia has not posted on its social media accounts since November. Jammal has not posted on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, X/Twitter or TikTok since November.

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Telco apologises to family of Victorian who died during triple zero outage

Telstra apologises to family of Victorian who died during triple zero outage

Government says regulator is looking into the disruption which prevented more than 100 calls being transferred to emergency services

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Telstra has apologised for a technical issue that meant Australians were not able to speak to trained triple zero call takers for more than an hour.

The telecommunications giant issued the apology to people who were unable to make phone calls to triple zero for more than an hour on Friday morning.

Telstra receives all triple zero calls before transferring them to local emergency services – but between 3.30am and 5am on Friday, Telstra was unable to immediately transfer 148 of 494 calls, the chief executive, Vicki Brady, told reporters.

One of those calls involved a person who suffered a cardiac arrest and died, Brady said.

The Victorian Ambulance Union secretary, Danny Hill, described the incident as distressing for everyone involved. The patient died after an unsuccessful resuscitation effort, and the person who rang triple zero received a call back after the patient had died.

“About an hour after … the crew had originally arrived and had been there working on the patient, they received a phone call saying do you still need an ambulance?” Hill told ABC radio.

The 90-minute disruption was described by paramedics as “complete chaos”, with crews dispatched to cases with no details of the emergencies, Hill said.

Telstra staff manually took down details from triple zero calls to send to emergency services by email, Brady said.

“We followed our backup process exactly as they are designed but it is clear already from our preliminary review that there are improvements that we can make in these processes,” she said.

The telco is investigating what caused its servers to not work as intended.

“I … offer my deepest apology to the family of that person and in fact anyone who was impacted in those 90 minutes,” Brady said.

“I haven’t yet had a chance and [it is] not appropriate yet to reach out to that family but clearly we don’t yet understand how much the delay was and how much that impacted,” she said.

“But obviously it’s unacceptable if there was any delay in getting that call through.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority is undertaking an “initial assessment” of the situation, specifically looking at Telstra’s “compliance with regulatory obligations”, the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said.

“The Australian Communications and Media Authority is undertaking an initial assessment of Telstra’s compliance with its regulatory obligations,” Rowland said.

“The government understands that one of the impacted callers to triple zero has passed away. We are deeply saddened and our thoughts are with their family and friends.”

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Misinformation about Indigenous voice to parliament spreads online

Misinformation about South Australia’s Indigenous voice to parliament spreads online

Factcheckers say claims about First Nations people getting ‘special rights’ echo the falsehoods in the federal no campaign

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Misinformation about South Australia’s voice to parliament is spreading online and factcheckers say the claims are false and echo those spread before last year’s federal voice referendum.

The state’s voice has been legislated and elections will be held on 16 March.

RMIT CrossCheck, an online verification service, said one of the dominant narratives that “marred” the federal voice was that it would be “racially divisive”. That claim has now resurfaced, along with false claims the voice was set up in “secret”.

CrossCheck said that a claim the election is “race based” echoes “a dominating narrative circulating in the year ahead of the 2023 federal voice, arguing that the proposal would grant Indigenous Australians ‘special rights’ and that since it would only serve one group of people, it is ‘racist’ by design”.

Multiple posts claim, wrongly, that the state government is forcing a voice on SA despite the no vote getting a majority at the election – the state voice was not put to a referendum and is markedly different from the federal version.

“Some social media users appeared to be confusing the SA voice and the upcoming election with last year’s federal voice,” the factcheckers said.

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The attorney general, Kyam Maher, said it was a “very different proposition”.

“The referendum was about changing the federal constitution, which we do very rarely,” he said.

“What we have is a legislated voice to parliament that will have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people elected by members of their own communities to give advice to government to help them make decisions.”

CrossCheck pointed to United Australia, a Facebook page that declares it has no affiliation with Clive Palmer (who founded the United Australia party).

United Australia wrongly claimed in a post that the SA voice was treasonous and would be “invalid” under the constitution.

It also claimed that “they want us to eat the bugs” because they contain chitin that “cannot be processed by our gut” but instead fuels cancers, parasites and fungi. That claim is part of a conspiracy theory that the elites will feast on real food while forcing the rest of humanity to live off bugs. US broadcaster National Public Radio said the theory was “framed as a matter of individual freedom and government control”.

CrossCheck also singles out Mark Aldridge, who has unsuccessfully run at federal and state elections as an independent and One Nation candidate, for claiming it would give Aboriginal people a “one up”, and that it “seems to be a secret election”, along with multiple other claims CrossCheck said are misleading.

Aldridge made the claims in an interview with Voice of Freedom’s Carl Liebold, part of the freedom movement, which comprises a grab bag of anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown and anti-government activists including sovereign citizens.

Aldridge also said the voice could be expanded in the future so that “any legislation, any bill … any spending, anything passed through parliament, must by the way of this legislation, must go before the voice or the black parliament before it can proceed through or be agreed or passed”.

Some no campaigners in the lead-up to the federal election falsely claimed the voice would have veto powers.

“There’s nothing at all to fear with the SA First Nations voice to parliament,” Maher said.

“It’s an advisory body and at the end of the day the government will still make decisions.

“The government will decide what laws to pass and what money to spend, but this advisory body will give advice to government to help us make better decisions.”

Aldridge conceded the voice would not have any veto powers but said: “I’m all for Aboriginal people getting a voice but I’m not sure that having a quasi-black parliament is a good idea.”

Under the state legislation, First Nations communities will vote to elect two levels of representatives, a local voice and a state voice.

Voters will choose seven elected members in six regions (except the region which includes Adelaide, which will have 11 representatives) for the local voices.

Two representatives from each region – making a total of 12 representatives – will form the state voice, which will engage with the parliament, ministers and the government.

Maher said Labor’s “very first commitment” in opposition in 2019 was to the voice, that the premier, Peter Malinauskas, spoke about it at the opening of many of his speeches, and that the dedicated two-month consultation with Aboriginal individuals and communities was “the most significant” they had ever had. About 5,000 people attended a special Sunday sitting of parliament to see the legislation passed.

Aldridge, who is also the former director of the Australian Federation party, said some of his other concerns had been allayed as he found out more about the voice, but that he believed people would falsely claim Aboriginality in order to vote, and that he still thought there had not been enough consultation.

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Young Matildas player becomes first professional Australian footballer to come out as non-binary

Young Matildas player Grace Wilson becomes first professional Australian footballer to come out as non-binary

  • Wilson says making announcement came as huge relief
  • Adelaide United teammates had ‘phenomenal reaction’ to news

Adelaide United and Young Matildas player Grace Wilson has been hailed for their bravery after becoming the first professional footballer in Australia to come out as non-binary.

The goalkeeper shared that they are non-binary on Friday amid widespread support from teammates, management and staff at the A-League Women’s club.

“This was the first step in my journey, but I had a phenomenal reaction,” Wilson said.

“The girls were lovely about it and I got a hug from every player. As soon as I said it, cheers, and applause – it was this lovely thing.

“I felt so comfortable and supported, it was probably one of the best feelings.”

Wilson is considered a bright talent and was last month selected in the Young Matildas squad to take part in the AFC Under-20 Women’s Asian Cup later this month in Uzbekistan.

Wilson said their perception of gender does not fit into the western standards of man and woman, and that finally making the announcement came as a huge relief to them.

“Every non-binary person experiences this differently,” Wilson told Holly Ransom, Pride Cup board chair. “As a kid, I didn’t see that things were supposed to be for girls or for boys but I was taught that as I grew up.

“You don’t realise how much of a difference it makes. Being referred to as ‘they/them’ for the first time gave me this euphoric feeling. I just wanted to be free.”

There may be other players in the ALW who identify as non-binary, but Wilson is the first to come out publicly. AFLW star Darcy Vescio became the second AFLW player to come out as non-binary in 2021, following in the footsteps of Tori Groves-Little.

Adelaide United has been vocal in its championing of gender equality in the past, and was supportive of men’s player Josh Cavallo in 2021 when he came out, becoming the only openly gay man playing in any top flight at the time.

At the international level, Canada midfielder Quinn made history when they became the first transgender and non-binary person to appear at either a men’s or women’s World Cup last year.

“Adelaide United Football Club is proud to be at the forefront of this movement, championing equality both on and off the pitch,” a club statement read on Friday.

Adelaide’s head of football, Marius Zanin, said: “We stand behind Grace wholeheartedly and commend their bravery in sharing their authentic self with the world.

“At Adelaide United, we believe in fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all individuals, regardless of gender identity.”

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