The Guardian 2024-03-02 22:31:46


Labor’s Jodie Belyea triumphs but Liberals win modest swing

Dunkley byelection: Labor’s Jodie Belyea triumphs but Liberals win modest swing

Liberal candidate Nathan Conroy wins swing of more than 3% but well short of the 6.3% required, leaving Belyea as the newest federal MP

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Peter Dutton’s Liberal party has won a modest swing in the Dunkley byelection but fallen short in the Labor seat vacated by the death of the popular local MP Peta Murphy.

The Liberal candidate, Nathan Conroy, has currently received 47.5% of the two-party preferred vote, a swing of more than 3% to the opposition, well short of the 6.3% swing required to win the seat off the Albanese government.

The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said Labor was increasingly confident of victory, and after 8.40pm the party declared it believed Jodie Belyea had won the seat. Conroy called Belyea shortly after to concede defeat.

Conroy told his supporters in Dunkley that the Liberals had “sent [Anthony] Albanese a message tonight”.

“Cost of living is in crisis, healthcare is in crisis, housing is in crisis … crime is on the rise, [and] community infrastructure is being cut,” he said.

“The result didn’t go our way tonight, but at the next election we are coming for Albanese and his government.”

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Belyea thanked Conroy for the hard-fought campaign and gracious concession, in a victory speech vowing to be a “strong voice” in Canberra.

After introducing herself as “a mum from Frankston with two dogs and a mortgage”, Belyea said she was “not a career politician” and thanked Albanese for putting his faith in “a rookie”.

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to follow in Peta Murphy’s footsteps and to build on her remarkable legacy.”

Belyea said cost of living would be her priority and while “Labor’s tax cuts will make a difference … the message tonight is there is still much more to do”.

With cost of living the number one issue with voters, the results suggest that high inflation and 13 interest rate rises had contributed to a small protest vote against Labor.

The Albanese government campaigned on its decision to carve up stage-three tax cuts more in favour of low- and middle-income earners to help struggling households and focused on the Coalition’s lack of alternative policies.

On primary votes, Conroy was on about 39%, up about 7%, with 59% of the primary vote counted. Belyea was on a primary vote of more than 40%, marginally up, but would be disadvantaged by a drop in the Greens’ primary of more than 4%.

The Liberals appeared to have benefited from a stronger vote in the southern end of the electorate, around the wealthier Mount Eliza area. But the opposition did not fully capitalise on the absence of One Nation and United Australia party candidates, who won 8% at the 2022 poll.

The deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, described the result as a “strong swing” and “an endorsement” for Dutton’s leadership.

The shadow home affairs minister, James Paterson, said if replicated nationally Labor stood to lose Aston and McEwen in Victoria and would be forced to govern in minority.

The shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan, said the byelection result showed the government “hasn’t done enough on cost of living”.

Marles said: “The primary vote has held up, it’s a huge achievement for Jodie [Belyea]. We feel very confident in our prime minister.”

In comments signalling further cost-of-living relief measures were likely, Marles said the government would continue “thinking how we can improve Australians’ lives, and make the family budget better”.

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As it happenedLabor holds Dunkley as Liberal swing falls short

That’s it for us tonight – be sure to check back for later coverage, and of course we will have all the updates tomorrow as well. For those interested in these sorts of things, Dan Tehan is on Insiders tomorrow, which should be fun for all involved.

Thank you to everyone who spent their Saturday night with us – a tough call in general, but especially with the state of politics lately. We truly appreciate it, and you.

We’ll be back with Australian politics live mid-March, but you’ll have the general news blog as well as all of our regular coverage to keep you company in the meantime.

And as always, please – take care of you Ax

A day on the frontline of Australia’s homelessness crisis

‘I’ve got to start rebuilding my life’ … Cameron has been on the public housing waitlist since he started sleeping rough in Melbourne over a year ago. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

In Victoria, where Australia’s housing crisis is especially acute, case workers perform a stressful triaging act as they try to fit people into beds that just aren’t there

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by Cait Kelly Inequality reporter

Cameron just wants somewhere safe to sleep. Crouching in an alley off Bourke Street in the centre of Melbourne, he speaks quickly and softly. It’s hot, but despite the February sun hitting the footpath at 36C, he has a puffer jacket with him.

He has started talking about how his relationship ended, but that’s not what he really wants to say. Really, he’s angry. He’s been on the public housing waitlist since he started rough sleeping. He wants off the street.

“There was a relationship breakdown, but that is just life itself,” he says. “I decided to go camping in the park and set up a tent. I didn’t realise how quickly time could pass me by. I realise 15 months have now passed. I’ve got to start rebuilding my life because I can’t keep living like this.”

Few people need to be told Australia is in the grips of a housing crisis. Private renters are facing a median cost of $31,252 a year to keep a roof over their heads, while a report last year found that of the 45,895 rental listings across the country, just four were affordable for someone on the jobseeker payment.

The problem is acute in Victoria, where the state Labor government has announced record-breaking $5.3bn funding for new social housing in recent years. Advocates argue it won’t touch the sides. Victoria still has the lowest proportion of social housing out of all states and territories and the public housing waitlist was 60,708 applications long in December.

At the last census, 30,660 people were recorded as sleeping rough, about five times the national average. The state’s experience demonstrates a national reality – that solving a problem stemming from decades of underinvestment can’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, people like Cameron are feeling the full force of the crisis.

“There are too many people living on the streets,” he says. “I see people walking around here with no shoes on and talking to themselves. It’s remarkable to see.

“The politicians should walk to this end of the street to see what’s going on, down here.”

You just have to hold on

At lunchtime, Westwood Place is busy. Next door, about 50 people are getting a free feed at the Salvation Army – today it’s pork carbonara. In the alley, friends laugh after someone spills ice-cream down his shirt; a man talking about Queen Elizabeth is chain-smoking and women are mingling. On the street, there is so much time. Boredom is another enemy that will bite you if you’re not looking.

Chelsea, an outreach worker with Launch Housing, one of Victoria’s biggest homelessness services, has come to see Cameron. She wants to know if he would like to spend a night or two in a hotel, offering some respite from the heat.

“I would hug you if it wasn’t unprofessional,” he tells her.

Chelsea and her colleague Jess are on their usual round. They are outreach workers with Launch and spend their working days in the CBD, checking on Melbourne’s homeless population and seeing if they can link them in with services.

Today it’s quiet – people are taking shelter from the heat. But on any given shift, they’ll talk to as many as 30 people. “A lot of people [who] we work with have lost trust in services and have been let down by people in their lives,” Chelsea says. “So showing up when you say you’re going to is important.”

Often they don’t even discuss housing. They might offer a coffee, a supermarket voucher or take people to a cafe. They see if anyone needs a phone or clothes – but never cash.

Today there are a few people out coal biting (slang for begging) and Jess tells a story about watching a woman offer $20 in cash with the condition the person “didn’t spend it on drugs”. Despite the housing crisis, homelessness still has so much stigma.

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The Victorian government says it is “housing as many people as possible”. A spokesperson for Homes Victoria, the agency responsible for the state’s “Big Housing Build”, says more than 7,000 households moved into social housing last year, “an increase of 29% from the previous year”.

The headline figures are impressive. But the situation for those working on the ground appears to be different. Jess says she’s worked in homelessness services for more than five years and has only had two clients enter public housing. One was this morning. The other was an Indigenous Australian man who, after languishing on the waiting list for years, died within 12 months of living in his new home.

She explains they have some clients who have been living rough for 20 years.

On the street today, Jess sees a woman she knows but doesn’t approach. The woman is angry. She was meant to move into public housing a month ago but was told it wasn’t ready, it needed renovation and she would have to wait.

There’s no timeframe for when she can move in. It’s the same message they tell Cameron – you just have to hold on.

Safe haven, for a few weeks

With social housing in short supply, a stay in emergency accommodation is a lifeline for many.

In an inner city suburb south of the CBD, on one of Melbourne’s busiest roads, sits the large Tudor-style house, fitted with a block of small brick apartments out the back.

Here, Launch runs one of the country’s only women’s crisis accommodations with a drug and alcohol harm-minimisation policy. The old house creaks as case workers and residents move about. No men are allowed on the property.

Among the residents is Ruby. Nine years ago, the now 35-year-old came to Australia seeking safety. She says she was arrested on the street in Malaysia and spent three nights in prison because she is trans. After her mother died in 2015, she fled.

“I tried to live in my country, but I cannot survive there,” Ruby says.

She was initially on a bridging visa and was able to work. But after a mix-up with her permanent residency application, she was moved on to another bridging visa that does not have work rights.

“So while I [waited] for the application to [be processed], I was working as a sex worker,” she says. “I didn’t have any choice … I needed to find money for my living, to pay for my food and my bills.”

She also started taking methamphetamine to stay awake at night.

Ruby moved from hotels to Airbnb and some weeks she slept in a different bed every night. After Covid lockdowns ended, Ruby started gambling and slowly the small safety net she had built up disappeared.

In October last year, she started sleeping on the street near Spencer Street Station. At first, she visited old clients or people she had known in the past to ask for help.

“No one picked up the call, no one opened the door. They ignored me,” she says.

Ruby was eating breakfast at one of the charity soup kitchens when they linked her in with Launch. She has now gone 73 days without drugs or gambling.

She has been at the crisis accommodation for 13 weeks but only has two to go.

Her situation shows that while support services can start to turn a person’s life around, is it near impossible to break the cycle of homelessness without sufficient housing.

The accommodation’s policy is to not vacate anyone into homelessness, but for women on visas with no working rights, and not enough beds to meet the demand, the options are very thin. So Ruby is standing on a precipice – it’s unclear if she will end up back on the streets.

In Malaysia she worked as a librarian – she wants to do the same here one day.

“The protection visa is very hard to get,” she says. “I’ve been waiting nine years, nine years. I will not give up.”

Families to the front, but never enough beds

It’s 9am in Collingwood in Melbourne’s inner north. There is already a line forming at one of Launch’s homelessness hubs. A mother and her young child have claimed a small slither of shade under a tree while they wait for the doors to open.

When people come in they are assessed and case workers try to match them with any accommodation available – a hotel for a few nights, a rooming house; they check to see if there are any crisis vacancies. Everything has its own criteria and there’s never enough.

Within 30 minutes they are at capacity, says Sarah, the acting service manager at Launch.

“That’s when we need to advise clients and set expectations that for anyone who presents after that, they [may] not be seen on that day.”

Sarah says they have about 30 people on the list for help for that day – even those people will be lucky to get a bed for longer than a few nights. Launch only gets about 25 to 30 vacancies each month for crisis accommodation.

It’s a high-stakes game of Tetris, trying to fit people into beds that just aren’t there – and on top of it, case workers are performing a stressful triaging act. First, families to the front. After that, they ask: what’s your age, gender and what’s your health like? Is there a couch you can sleep on that night?

Assessing one person can take over an hour and a half. There is no guarantee of a bed. “On a busy day, if we’ve got upwards of 25 people, we have to set those expectations early in the day,” Sarah says.

Today at Launch’s St Kilda East crisis accommodation facility, she says they’ve been able to process an advance rent payment for one couple who have secured a public housing tenancy. That’s two across the day, a success for the frontline workers.

“When I started in the role, my team kept saying, ‘Oh, there’s such a lack of resources and a lack of options available to our clients,’” she says. “And that was back in 2012. These conversations are still happening. It’s the system that we’re up against.”

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New Zealand v Australia: first Test, day four – live

46th over: New Zealand 126-3 (Ravindra 59, Mitchell 24) Pat Cummins replaces Lyon, it could be a change of ends for the spinner, a result of the wind swirling around the basin. Don’t do that! Very nearly another calamitous run out for New Zealand as Ravindra calls Mitchell through for an extremely tight single… Marnus swoops and releases on the run but the throw just misses the stumps. I think that was sayonara with a direct hit. Ah, that’ll settle the nerves. Mitchell stands tall and punches for three through the covers. Ravindra then nurdles a much more comfortable single into the leg side.

Dunkley shows the Liberal party’s ‘more of the same’ is not a path to government

Dunkley shows the Liberal party’s ‘more of the same’ is not a path to government

Paul Karp

Labor cannot afford to be complacent but if Dutton can’t win a seat after 13 interest rate rises then maybe the strategy needs a rethink?

  • Dunkley byelection: Labor’s Jodie Belyea triumphs but Liberals win modest swing
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

There is something for everyone in Dunkley’s byelection result.

For the Albanese government: Jodie Belyea has held on to what is traditionally a marginal seat, even after the death of a popular local MP and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

For Peter Dutton and the Liberals: a bit of a swing, showing that attack lines about a tax on cars can do real damage, and the suggestion a path back to office through the outer suburbs is more than just a conservative fever dream.

Over on Sky, Peta Credlin said the bullish early results showed “the strategy’s right, the positioning is right”. Of course the strategy is to falsely claim that a fuel efficiency standard which will give Australians choice of more efficient cars amounts to a tax. But, hey, there are votes in it.

When the results soured for the Liberals and it became clear they would fall short, Credlin’s prescription was that the opposition needed “more of the same” to go one better next time.

On Thursday, Dutton said that a swing of 3% or more would be disastrous for the government, an overstatement that indicated that’s what he expected to receive.

The swing that materialised was about that, maybe a little more, not a disaster for either Dutton or Anthony Albanese. More like par. It was a typical swing against the government in a byelection.

The deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, concocted the most bizarre metric to declare victory: if the swing were replicated at the federal election (they never are – byelections are their own beast), the Coalition would win 11 seats, “enough” to form government, she said.

That a minority government is the Coalition’s best-case scenario says a lot about their desire to put a brave face on a lukewarm result.

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But Labor cannot afford to be complacent. And, in fairness, they have not been.

Albanese returned from the Christmas break determined to do something significant to help struggling households, and smashed the stage-three income tax cut piggy bank to redistribute more to low- and middle-income earners.

The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said early on Saturday night before a single vote count had been reported that Labor would continue listening to the electorate regardless of the result.

The subtext was clear: win or lose, Labor knew going into Saturday’s context that it needs to offer more cost-of-living relief. Marles and Belyea confirmed as much when they took to the stage to declare victory.

There is reason to cheer for Labor. If Dutton can’t win a seat after 13 interest rate rises and after Albanese’s side lost the Indigenous voice referendum, maybe the regional and outer suburban strategy isn’t the panacea for Liberal woes that Dutton and Credlin think.

Or maybe it is the right strategy, but Dutton is not the right leader to execute it, not outside the core demographics of Queensland, blokes and over-55s.

With inflation softening, Labor’s hope is that the Reserve Bank will have started cutting interest rates by the time of the next election, due by May 2025. Saturday night’s result shows that if Labor’s management of the economy comes good in the second half of the term, it need not lose seats to its right.

The Greens vote went backwards by about 4%, a result blamed on the presence of Victorian socialists and Australian Democrats. Despite the long-term decline in the major party vote, majority Labor government is still possible.

But as the once in a hundred year win for the government in the Aston byelection showed, these are just snapshots that say a lot about one moment in time and very little about how the next election will go.

You can bet Dutton’s scare tactics – on the new car and ute tax that’s not a tax, the cost-of-living crisis, and immigration – will continue.

Perhaps one of the great remaining wildcards will be when and how much policy Dutton will actually get around to announcing.

In Dunkley, Labor campaigned not just on having done something significant with income tax cuts, it hammered Dutton for offering negativity and no real solutions of his own.

Where will the nuclear power plants go? Who will pay for them? What is the ideal level of migration? Just how will the Coalition restore stage-three tax cuts when Labor has already given the dosh away to those doing it tough? Can the Coalition stay united on net zero emissions by 2050, let alone agree to the more ambitious interim targets the Earth needs? So many questions remain to be answered.

Labor won the byelection not just in the narrow sense of retaining the seat, but also because it already knows what it needs to do with the result and every day to the election.

The danger for the Coalition is that a swing of a bit more than 3 or 4% is just enough to convince them they’re on track to shake the Albanese government loose, but not enough to prompt them to craft any solutions of their own.

Perhaps they won’t need policy, perhaps the scares will be enough. All we can say with certainty is: tonight, they were not.

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Dunkley shows the Liberal party’s ‘more of the same’ is not a path to government

Dunkley shows the Liberal party’s ‘more of the same’ is not a path to government

Paul Karp

Labor cannot afford to be complacent but if Dutton can’t win a seat after 13 interest rate rises then maybe the strategy needs a rethink?

  • Dunkley byelection: Labor’s Jodie Belyea triumphs but Liberals win modest swing
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

There is something for everyone in Dunkley’s byelection result.

For the Albanese government: Jodie Belyea has held on to what is traditionally a marginal seat, even after the death of a popular local MP and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis.

For Peter Dutton and the Liberals: a bit of a swing, showing that attack lines about a tax on cars can do real damage, and the suggestion a path back to office through the outer suburbs is more than just a conservative fever dream.

Over on Sky, Peta Credlin said the bullish early results showed “the strategy’s right, the positioning is right”. Of course the strategy is to falsely claim that a fuel efficiency standard which will give Australians choice of more efficient cars amounts to a tax. But, hey, there are votes in it.

When the results soured for the Liberals and it became clear they would fall short, Credlin’s prescription was that the opposition needed “more of the same” to go one better next time.

On Thursday, Dutton said that a swing of 3% or more would be disastrous for the government, an overstatement that indicated that’s what he expected to receive.

The swing that materialised was about that, maybe a little more, not a disaster for either Dutton or Anthony Albanese. More like par. It was a typical swing against the government in a byelection.

The deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, concocted the most bizarre metric to declare victory: if the swing were replicated at the federal election (they never are – byelections are their own beast), the Coalition would win 11 seats, “enough” to form government, she said.

That a minority government is the Coalition’s best-case scenario says a lot about their desire to put a brave face on a lukewarm result.

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

But Labor cannot afford to be complacent. And, in fairness, they have not been.

Albanese returned from the Christmas break determined to do something significant to help struggling households, and smashed the stage-three income tax cut piggy bank to redistribute more to low- and middle-income earners.

The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said early on Saturday night before a single vote count had been reported that Labor would continue listening to the electorate regardless of the result.

The subtext was clear: win or lose, Labor knew going into Saturday’s context that it needs to offer more cost-of-living relief. Marles and Belyea confirmed as much when they took to the stage to declare victory.

There is reason to cheer for Labor. If Dutton can’t win a seat after 13 interest rate rises and after Albanese’s side lost the Indigenous voice referendum, maybe the regional and outer suburban strategy isn’t the panacea for Liberal woes that Dutton and Credlin think.

Or maybe it is the right strategy, but Dutton is not the right leader to execute it, not outside the core demographics of Queensland, blokes and over-55s.

With inflation softening, Labor’s hope is that the Reserve Bank will have started cutting interest rates by the time of the next election, due by May 2025. Saturday night’s result shows that if Labor’s management of the economy comes good in the second half of the term, it need not lose seats to its right.

The Greens vote went backwards by about 4%, a result blamed on the presence of Victorian socialists and Australian Democrats. Despite the long-term decline in the major party vote, majority Labor government is still possible.

But as the once in a hundred year win for the government in the Aston byelection showed, these are just snapshots that say a lot about one moment in time and very little about how the next election will go.

You can bet Dutton’s scare tactics – on the new car and ute tax that’s not a tax, the cost-of-living crisis, and immigration – will continue.

Perhaps one of the great remaining wildcards will be when and how much policy Dutton will actually get around to announcing.

In Dunkley, Labor campaigned not just on having done something significant with income tax cuts, it hammered Dutton for offering negativity and no real solutions of his own.

Where will the nuclear power plants go? Who will pay for them? What is the ideal level of migration? Just how will the Coalition restore stage-three tax cuts when Labor has already given the dosh away to those doing it tough? Can the Coalition stay united on net zero emissions by 2050, let alone agree to the more ambitious interim targets the Earth needs? So many questions remain to be answered.

Labor won the byelection not just in the narrow sense of retaining the seat, but also because it already knows what it needs to do with the result and every day to the election.

The danger for the Coalition is that a swing of a bit more than 3 or 4% is just enough to convince them they’re on track to shake the Albanese government loose, but not enough to prompt them to craft any solutions of their own.

Perhaps they won’t need policy, perhaps the scares will be enough. All we can say with certainty is: tonight, they were not.

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Israel reportedly close to accepting six-week ceasefire, US official says

Israel reportedly close to accepting six-week Gaza ceasefire, US official says

Israel ‘more or less’ accepts deal on hostage release and Gaza aid, but Hamas stuck on ‘category of vulnerable hostages’

Israel is reported to be close to accepting a six-week ceasefire proposal for Gaza, a senior Biden administration official told several US news outlets on Saturday, two days after more than 100 Palestinians died while attempting to access aid trucks in the territory.

The official said that there is a “framework deal” and Israel has “more or less accepted” a ceasefire to allow for the release of Hamas-held hostages in Gaza and to allow aid into the territory that has been devastated by four months of bombardment, killing more than 30,000 people.

However, the official said that Hamas has not yet agreed to a “defined category of vulnerable hostages” – a sticking point to an agreement. Israel has reportedly said that ceasefire talks would not continue until Hamas presents a list of the hostages, including who is alive and who is dead.

The official added that a second phase “to build something more enduring” would be worked out during the initial ceasefire.

On Friday, US officials said that talks to reach an agreement to halt the fighting by the Muslim holiday of Ramadan – which begins on 10 March – appeared to be progressing, but warned that a ceasefire agreement depended on a Hamas response to talks held in Paris and Doha involving Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the US.

More talks are planned in Cairo, with negotiators from the US, Israel, Egypt and Hamas expected to attend, a diplomatic source told CNN, with or without the involvement of Qatar.

The first airdrops of US aid over the territory began Saturday, a day after President Biden issued a call for an “immediate ceasefire” – the first Biden has issued since the conflict began in October.

But the US president said in a post on X that the amount of aid flowing into Gaza was “not nearly enough”, adding that the US “will continue to pull out every stop we can to get more aid in”.

The comments came after days of increasing signaling from the administration about a ceasefire. On Tuesday, Biden said he hoped for one by the following Monday. But on Friday he said “it’s not there yet”, adding that the US would insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need.

US Central Command said the humanitarian aid drops, co-ordinated between the US and Jordan, were “part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors and routes”.

The aid, and repeat signals of progress in ceasefire talks, come days after more than 100,000 voters in the key swing state of Michigan signaled their anger at the administration’s handling of the crisis by voting “uncommitted” in the state’s Democratic primary.

Signs that the administration is more willing to make public its push for a ceasefire came Saturday when Reuters reported that vice-president Kamala Harris will meet with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz at the White House on Monday.

The talks are expected to include efforts to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties, securing a temporary ceasefire, securing the release of hostages held in Gaza and increasing aid to the territory, a White House official said.

“The vice-president will express her concern over the safety of the as many as 1.5 million people in Rafah,” the official said, adding that Israel also had a “right to defend itself in the face of continued Hamas terrorist threats”.

Gantz, Israel’s former military chief and defense minister and political foe of prime minister Netanyahu, confirmed the trip.

“Minister Gantz personally updated the prime minister on his own initiative on Friday of his intention to travel, in order to coordinate the messages to be transmitted in the meetings,” the statement said.

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Pro-Palestinian protesters charged after entering Mardi Gras parade

Pro-Palestinian protesters charged after Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Police confirmed one man and seven women were charged after entering the parade route near Taylor Square on Saturday night

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Eight pro-Palestinian protesters who allegedly attempted to disrupt Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras have been charged.

Police confirmed a 25-year-old man and seven women, aged between 29 and 42, were charged after entering the parade route near Taylor Square about 9.20pm on Saturday.

All were charged with “more than three people use violence to cause fear”, police said.

The man was also charged with possession of a bright light distress signal in a public place.

They were all granted conditional bail to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on 28 March.

The ninth person, a 29-year-old woman, was released pending further investigation.

The protesters allegedly entered the parade route ahead of the New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, and held up a banner that read: Queer Solidarity with Palestine Resistance.

They then allegedly attempted to run away from police while holding lit flares. At least two were thrown to the ground, and were then moved away from the parade route by police while Minns’ group of Rainbow Labor was held at a distance from the commotion.

The parade then continued on.

Police said there were no other incidents during the parade.

As with every Mardi Gras parade, Saturday’s began with the roar of motorbike engines as the Dykes on Bikes rumbled along Oxford Street.

This year, though, the 250 motorbike riders broke with tradition, at Taylor Square pausing for a moment of silence in honour of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies, who were allegedly murdered by serving police officer Beau Lamarre in Paddington less than two weeks ago.

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“We need to bear in mind that Mardi Gras has long been a celebration but also a commemoration in our community,” the Dykes on Bikes outgoing president, Emily Saunders, told Guardian Australia. “This is a resilient community that’s had to work through a lot to get to where they are today.”

With heavy police guard, a small, quiet group of police officers marched in matching rainbow T-shirts, drawing both boos and applause from onlookers.

The Qantas float carried Davies’ name in honour of the 29-year-old flight attendant as his colleagues were cheered along the route in rainbow kangaroo shirts.

Marchers in the Sydney Swans float paid tribute to Baird, wearing black armbands in memory of the 26-year-old AFL umpire.

A vigil for the pair at Green Park in Sydney’s east was held on Friday night.

A slideshow of images and videos played at the vigil and mourners formed a line to lay flowers, light candles and sign condolence books, many staying well after the sun went down.

The federal Sydney MP and environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, independent MP Alex Greenwich, Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, and Network Ten presenter Narelda Jacobs were among those who attended.

With Australian Associated Press.

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Asio cleared of unlawfully luring Daniel Duggan back to Australia, agency chief Mike Burgess says

Asio cleared of unlawfully luring Daniel Duggan back to Australia, agency chief Mike Burgess says

Exclusive: Duggan’s legal team continues to fight US request for extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering

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The spy agency Asio says it has been cleared by the intelligence watchdog of allegations of impropriety raised by the Australian citizen Daniel Duggan as he fights extradition to the US.

Duggan, a former US marines pilot accused of training Chinese pilots to land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, had complained to the inspector general of intelligence and security (IGIS) about Asio’s role in securing his return to Australia from China.

His legal team had raised concerns an “unlawful lure” – in the form of an Asio clearance for an Australian aviation security identification card – may have been used to entice Duggan back to Australia where he could be arrested on behalf of the US and extradited.

The Asio chief, Mike Burgess, revealed the outcome of the months-long IGIS inquiry in an interview with Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast released on Sunday, while insisting “we support this oversight”.

In the wide-ranging interview in the wake of his annual threat assessment speech, Burgess also offered to relinquish one of Asio’s powers to question children and he revealed how foreign spies were hiring private investigators to monitor dissidents in Australia.

Duggan’s complaint to the IGIS about Asio was just one element of his ongoing legal battle against extradition to the US.

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“People do have a legal right to make complaints to the inspector general about what they think we’ve done,” Burgess said.

“Mr Duggan – and I won’t go into his case – has made allegations to the inspector general about my organisation. The inspector general conducted his own inquiry [with] full access to everything we did. He found all the allegations against us were unfounded.”

Duggan, 55, a naturalised Australian, was arrested in October 2022 at the request of the US government, which is seeking his extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering, arising from his alleged training of Chinese fighter pilots more than a decade ago.

Duggan’s legal team has maintained the US extradition request is politically motivated, catalysed by the US’s deepening geopolitical contest with China, and the outcome of his legal challenge against the extradition has yet to be determined.

The independent IGIS was approached for comment on Friday, although its practice is not to comment on the outcome of complaints.

Burgess said the IGIS was “paramount as one of our oversight mechanisms with standing powers of a royal commission” and had “full access to everything Asio does”.

“There is nothing I, or any of my officers, can or would withhold from the inspector general.”

Offer to repeal one of its powers

Critics have said that in the two decades since the 11 September 2001 attacks and the Bali bombings in 2002, Australia’s terrorism laws have continually ratcheted up.

But Burgess said contrary to the claim that “we collect more and more powers”, Asio was now offering to relinquish one of its powers regarding the questioning of children.

Asio can seek a warrant from the attorney general to compulsorily question people aged from 14 to 17 if they are likely to engage in terrorism, but this power has never been used.

“We asked for an extension of those powers last time the review was done because the threat environment in my mind justified that ask; parliament agreed,” Burgess said.

“Now we’re saying we’ve seen a recession in the number of minors [coming to the attention of authorities].”

Burgess said radicalisation of children was “still an issue” but Asio had concluded “that’s not the point you want to deal with the problem and therefore we do not need the compulsory questioning power of a minor”.

The ‘person knows who it is’

Burgess’s speech last Wednesday sparked a round of intrigue and speculation after he alleged that an unnamed former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by foreign spies.

Some current and former MPs, including Peter Dutton and Joe Hockey, called for the individual to be named or at least for further details to be disclosed to avoid sullying the reputation of others.

Burgess told Guardian Australia his main aim was to raise awareness “so politicians and budding politicians know what this threat looks like, so they can be resistive to and report any inappropriate approaches”.

He said he would not name the former politician because Asio must “protect our people, our sources and methods”.

Burgess said the activities of the former politician were legal at the time because they pre-dated the 2018 espionage and foreign interference laws.

Asked whether Asio had confronted the former politician directly, Burgess said he would not divulge operational details except to say “this person knows who it is” and “the harm has been dealt with”.

“If we see indications they are active again, engaging with foreign intelligence services, they will be subject to our investigation.”

Burgess also said some foreign spies used “cover stories” to hire private investigators to gather information about dissidents in Australia.

“The private investigators may well be fooled by that, not because they’re silly, because good intelligence services know how to build a good cover story. And they’ll collect that information. What they don’t know is what happens next.”

  • Hear the full interview with Mike Burgess on Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast

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Asio cleared of unlawfully luring Daniel Duggan back to Australia, agency chief Mike Burgess says

Asio cleared of unlawfully luring Daniel Duggan back to Australia, agency chief Mike Burgess says

Exclusive: Duggan’s legal team continues to fight US request for extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering

  • Podcast: listen to the interview with Asio boss Mike Burgess
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The spy agency Asio says it has been cleared by the intelligence watchdog of allegations of impropriety raised by the Australian citizen Daniel Duggan as he fights extradition to the US.

Duggan, a former US marines pilot accused of training Chinese pilots to land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, had complained to the inspector general of intelligence and security (IGIS) about Asio’s role in securing his return to Australia from China.

His legal team had raised concerns an “unlawful lure” – in the form of an Asio clearance for an Australian aviation security identification card – may have been used to entice Duggan back to Australia where he could be arrested on behalf of the US and extradited.

The Asio chief, Mike Burgess, revealed the outcome of the months-long IGIS inquiry in an interview with Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast released on Sunday, while insisting “we support this oversight”.

In the wide-ranging interview in the wake of his annual threat assessment speech, Burgess also offered to relinquish one of Asio’s powers to question children and he revealed how foreign spies were hiring private investigators to monitor dissidents in Australia.

Duggan’s complaint to the IGIS about Asio was just one element of his ongoing legal battle against extradition to the US.

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

“People do have a legal right to make complaints to the inspector general about what they think we’ve done,” Burgess said.

“Mr Duggan – and I won’t go into his case – has made allegations to the inspector general about my organisation. The inspector general conducted his own inquiry [with] full access to everything we did. He found all the allegations against us were unfounded.”

Duggan, 55, a naturalised Australian, was arrested in October 2022 at the request of the US government, which is seeking his extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering, arising from his alleged training of Chinese fighter pilots more than a decade ago.

Duggan’s legal team has maintained the US extradition request is politically motivated, catalysed by the US’s deepening geopolitical contest with China, and the outcome of his legal challenge against the extradition has yet to be determined.

The independent IGIS was approached for comment on Friday, although its practice is not to comment on the outcome of complaints.

Burgess said the IGIS was “paramount as one of our oversight mechanisms with standing powers of a royal commission” and had “full access to everything Asio does”.

“There is nothing I, or any of my officers, can or would withhold from the inspector general.”

Offer to repeal one of its powers

Critics have said that in the two decades since the 11 September 2001 attacks and the Bali bombings in 2002, Australia’s terrorism laws have continually ratcheted up.

But Burgess said contrary to the claim that “we collect more and more powers”, Asio was now offering to relinquish one of its powers regarding the questioning of children.

Asio can seek a warrant from the attorney general to compulsorily question people aged from 14 to 17 if they are likely to engage in terrorism, but this power has never been used.

“We asked for an extension of those powers last time the review was done because the threat environment in my mind justified that ask; parliament agreed,” Burgess said.

“Now we’re saying we’ve seen a recession in the number of minors [coming to the attention of authorities].”

Burgess said radicalisation of children was “still an issue” but Asio had concluded “that’s not the point you want to deal with the problem and therefore we do not need the compulsory questioning power of a minor”.

The ‘person knows who it is’

Burgess’s speech last Wednesday sparked a round of intrigue and speculation after he alleged that an unnamed former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by foreign spies.

Some current and former MPs, including Peter Dutton and Joe Hockey, called for the individual to be named or at least for further details to be disclosed to avoid sullying the reputation of others.

Burgess told Guardian Australia his main aim was to raise awareness “so politicians and budding politicians know what this threat looks like, so they can be resistive to and report any inappropriate approaches”.

He said he would not name the former politician because Asio must “protect our people, our sources and methods”.

Burgess said the activities of the former politician were legal at the time because they pre-dated the 2018 espionage and foreign interference laws.

Asked whether Asio had confronted the former politician directly, Burgess said he would not divulge operational details except to say “this person knows who it is” and “the harm has been dealt with”.

“If we see indications they are active again, engaging with foreign intelligence services, they will be subject to our investigation.”

Burgess also said some foreign spies used “cover stories” to hire private investigators to gather information about dissidents in Australia.

“The private investigators may well be fooled by that, not because they’re silly, because good intelligence services know how to build a good cover story. And they’ll collect that information. What they don’t know is what happens next.”

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Mayoral race turns toxic as Andrew Laming attempts political comeback

Rancour in Redland city: mayoral race turns toxic as Andrew Laming attempts political comeback

Candidates and supporters clash ahead of Queensland council election, with a mysterious Facebook page documenting the drama

In his two decades as a federal MP, Andrew Laming was no stranger to controversy.

Whether it be riling the nation’s teachers by saying they needed to work longer hours, ridiculing his critics in a local newspaper’s comment thread, or successfully obtaining an apology from Channel Nine, Laming has rarely been one to shrink from a confrontation.

In 2021, the Liberal National party (LNP) blocked Laming from recontesting the seat of Bowman after he apologised for comments he made about two women online. Laming later retracted the apology, saying the women weren’t “genuinely upset”.

He is now running for mayor of Redland city council, east of Brisbane, in a bid to reignite his political career.

The mayoral race has descended into acrimony, with locals saying the atmosphere two weeks out from polling day has become “unpleasant”. Police have been called at least twice in relation to disputes among candidates.

Documenting it all has been the Facebook page Redland City – Election News & Information – 2024, which was set up in January and has been running videos shot by Laming, as well as other posts about the election.

The page caught the attention of rival mayoral candidate Jos Mitchell, who approached Laming at a local market and accused him of being affiliated with the page – something Laming denies.

Guardian Australia approached the Facebook administrator and asked them to reveal their identity but they did not respond.

Laming is currently appealing against a 2023 court judgment that fined him $20,000 for not declaring his political links on Facebook posts prior to the 2019 federal election. A previous Guardian Australia investigation had found Laming operated more than 30 Facebook pages and profiles under the guise of community groups. Guardian Australia does not suggest he is affiliated with the Redland City – Election News page.

After being accused by Mitchell of being linked with the page, a video uploaded by Laming shows an exchange between the pair, with Mitchell holding up her hand and pushing his phone away as he films her.

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On social media, Laming claimed to have been “assaulted”, something Mitchell strongly disputes.

“He pushed his phone towards my face. I automatically raised my hand to stop it,” Mitchell told Guardian Australia.

A Queensland police spokesperson said the video had been reviewed and both parties spoken to. “The incident is very minor in nature, with no force or injuries, so police will not be taking any further actions.”

Mitchell said she had been the subject of social media posts by Laming for more than a year, which had been “an unpleasant experience”.

“I find his attention and focus on me very concerning and I think it is time to call it out,” she said. “I believe there should be stronger controls in relation to candidate conduct.”

Guardian Australia asked Laming to respond to Mitchell’s comments and all of the other matters mentioned in this article and he said: “The topics aren’t part of my campaign.”

‘I fooled the doorpeople’

Less than a week after the incident at the market, police were called to a community meeting organised by Redlands 2030 and ACF Community Bayside, where Mitchell and other candidates were speaking.

Laming claimed online he was not invited to the event. But the president of Redlands2030, Steve MacDonald, said Redlanders – including all candidates – were issued an invitation on social media.

MacDonald said Laming did not reply until a few hours before the event, when he sent an email asking to attend “in an effort to restore some calm” given the market incident with Mitchell.

MacDonald advised Laming that the matter was not suitable for debate and that it was too late for him to attend as they had “a full house”.

“Despite this Mr Laming came … avoided our sign-in protocol and he entered the venue through a rear door,” MacDonald said. “He refused to leave when asked. We suspended the meeting and called police.”

Video posted by Laming online shows both he and the attendees filming each other. Guardian Australia understands members of the audience then chanted for Laming to leave.

Both Laming and Mitchell have also said police were called, although it is understood they did not intervene and Laming, who was at this stage seated, was allowed to remain. A spokesperson for Queensland police confirmed no action was taken in relation to the incident.

In a comment written by Laming on Facebook, he said: “I RSVPed and they tried to prevent me attending. I fooled the doorpeople and made my way to the back … I just listened and took notes.”

In an unrelated video posted by Laming on Facebook, and shared by Redland City – Election News & Information – 2024, he films former LNP state MP Peter Dowling putting up a placard of Jos Mitchell on a fence.

As Dowling is shown driving off in his ute, Laming accuses him of erecting a placard on public property. Laming then tells him: “You’ve lost out of your own career and now you’re going to do everything you can.”

Dowling was dumped as the LNP candidate for the state seat of Redlands before the 2015 election after a woman claimed he texted her a photo of his penis in a glass of wine. Dowling apologised to his family, colleagues and staff at the time and said he was “not proud of the events” and that he “can’t and won’t defend any part of it”.

Guardian Australia contacted Dowling for comment. He declined to respond.

Conflict in ‘cut-throat election’

Meanwhile, the third mayoral candidate, Cindy Corrie, has attempted to position herself as a “no drama llama” and not involved in any conflict. Corrie and Laming have both preferenced each other in the number two spot.

Griffith University political scientist Dr Pandanus Petter said the amount of personal politics was rather unusual for a mayoral race.

“I would say mayoral candidates most of the time try to sort of show that they are rising above that kind of stuff,” he said.

“It’s not entirely unheard of … to criticise each other … but all throughout the Redlands it seems like there’s a lot of rancour that you don’t see as often in other places.”

Local resident Tim Allder said he couldn’t remember witnessing another mayoral race this toxic.

“This election is very cut-throat. There’s a lot of stuff being said about other candidates … I always think there’s two sides to every story that you read,” Allder told Guardian Australia.

Local businessman Tim Whittle described the political atmosphere as “unpleasant”. He said he backed Laming.

“He has a very strong track record of being visible. He’s been around for a long time and is very experienced at being in contact with all levels of government,” he said.

Wendy Boglary, a councillor and member of Mitchell’s team of candidates, said Redlands elections “are always a horrid time”.

“I would encourage the community to research names and read about people for themselves,” she said.

Fellow councillor Paul Bishop said he had heard from people who felt “embarrassed, offended and shocked” by some of the things that they were seeing before the council election.

“Anything that promotes division or further division, without focusing on the issues that the city is facing … is not just not helping,” he said.

For Nicola Delamere of Russell Island, the campaign is more reminiscent of “the way American politics works – it’s not how Australian politics works”.

Delamere said she and others on the island felt ignored by the council. “I’m struggling to find any candidate who is focused on the island issues … My street is still dirt. I haven’t got a main road.”

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US president confuses Gaza with Ukraine in airdrop announcement

Joe Biden confuses Gaza with Ukraine in airdrop announcement

President says US will ‘insist’ Israel does more to facilitate help, saying ‘children’s lives are on the line’

Middle East crisis – live updates

Joe Biden twice confused Gaza with Ukraine as he was announcing that the US would provide desperately needed aid to Palestinians.

The US president, 81, confirmed on Friday that humanitarian assistance would be airdropped into Gaza and said the US would “insist” Israel did more to facilitate help for those affected by famine and the effects of war, saying: “Children’s lives are on the line”.

Biden twice mistakenly referred to airdrops to help “Ukraine”, leaving White House officials to clarify he was in fact talking about Gaza.

Biden made the announcement while hosting the Italian prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, in Washington.

He said: “Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”

Biden’s announcement comes a day after the Hamas-run health ministry said 30,000 Palestinians had died since the war began last October.

Hunger and severe malnutrition are widespread in the Gaza Strip, where about 2.2 million Palestinians are facing severe shortages as a result of Israel destroying food supplies and severely restricting the flow of food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies.

Palestinians waiting for humanitarian relief and aid trucks have also come under Israeli fire.

Speaking in the White House on Friday, the US president said: “In the coming days, we are going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies in Ukraine [sic].”

Biden said the US would “seek to continue to open up other avenues in Ukraine [sic], including the possibility a marine corridor to deliver large amounts of humanitarian assistance. In addition to expanding deliveries by land, we are going to insist Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need.”

The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, Jordan and the UK have already carried out airdrops.

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Mother visits grave day after Moscow funeral

Alexei Navalny’s mother visits grave a day after Moscow funeral

Other mourners lay flowers as police maintain presence at cemetery where opposition leader was buried

The mother of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has visited his grave, a day after thousands of Russians risked arrest to pay tribute to the anti-corruption campaigner at his funeral.

Navalny, who was Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic for more than a decade, died last month in a prison colony where he was serving a 19-year sentence for “extremism” charges largely regarded as retribution for his opposition to the Kremlin.

His mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, visited his grave, which was covered in flowers and wreaths, at the Borisovo cemetery in southern Moscow early on Saturday. She was accompanied by Alla Abrosimova, the mother of Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya.

Yulia Navalnaya, the couple’s two children and Navalny’s brother all live abroad and were unable to attend the funeral because of the risk of arrest for their own opposition to the Russian president.

Navalnaya has pledged to continue her husband’s work and said Putin “murdered” Navalny.

The day after Navalny’s funeral, a trickle of mourners lay flowers at his grave. There was a continued police presence at the cemetery, close to the banks of the Moskva River.

Thousands of Navalny’s followers queued for hours on Friday to pay their respects to the 47-year-old. As they streamed from a nearby church to the cemetery, some chanted “No to war!” and other pro-Navalny slogans, including branding Putin a “murderer” and calling for the release of political prisoners.

The rights monitoring group OVD-Info said Russian police had arrested at least 128 people attending tributes to Navalny in 19 cities on Friday.

Scenes of thousands marching in support of Navalny, demanding an end to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and criticising the Kremlin, have not been seen in Russia since the first days after Moscow ordered hundreds of thousands of troops to invade Ukraine in February 2022.

The Kremlin has cracked down hard on dissent and used strict military censorship laws to prosecute hundreds who have spoken out against the campaign.

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Ex-president sweeps Michigan’s Republican party convention

Donald Trump sweeps Michigan’s Republican party convention

Former president is poised to be awarded all 39 state delegates for November’s national convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Donald Trump swept at the Michigan Republican party convention, where the party is poised to award all 39 delegates up for grabs to the former president.

The delegates awarded today will fuel Trump ahead of Tuesday, 5 March, when 15 states will hold primaries and Trump’s nomination could be all but decided. The Michigan state party delegates met on Saturday at the sprawling Amway Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, huddling in 13 separate meeting rooms representing the state’s 13 congressional districts.

Their near-uniform support for Trump at today’s convention eclipsed the support the former president earned in the primary, when former UN ambassador Nikki Haley garnered about 26% of the vote. She did not win any delegates awarded on Saturday for the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where the party will officially nominate a candidate for the presidential election in November.

The Michigan Republican party’s process for awarding delegates to the national committee was complicated this year: the Democratic-controlled state legislature decided to hold the presidential primaries early. This prompted the state Republican party to create a “hybrid” model, holding a primary on 27 February and a convention four days later to remain in compliance with the national party’s rules.

The convention on Saturday at times took on the tone of a campaign rally.

“President Trump, I’m going to help you win Michigan,” exclaimed Bernadette Smith, a Michigan Republican party activist running to be Michigan’s Republican National Convention committeewoman, during a speech at the convention Saturday. “I’m from Detroit – I was raised in Detroit,” said Smith, to cheers. “Detroit is red, they just don’t know it yet.”

But if delegates found common cause today, it was only in their unyielding support for Trump. The Michigan Republican party has been split for months over interpersonal feuds in the county chapters, the role of Christian nationalism in the party at large and questions about how to salvage the party from financial collapse.

The divisions fomenting in the party broke out into the open this year in a leadership dispute when a group opposing the former Michigan GOP chair, Kristina Karamo, voted to oust her in January. The Republican National Committee in February recognized Pete Hoekstra, a close Trump ally whom Karamo’s opponents elected to chair the party, as the rightful leader of the Michigan GOP.

Karamo and her allies refused to accept defeat, vowing to hold a separate convention in Detroit – which fell apart only after a judge ruled on Tuesday that Karamo had been properly removed from her seat and forbade her from using official Michigan GOP social media accounts or accessing its finances.

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