The Guardian 2024-03-03 04:32:02


Dutton’s Liberal party ‘dominated by blokes’, Albanese says after Dunkley victory

Back to Albanese. In his opening address to the media, he hammered home that new Dunkley MP, Jodie Belyea, would be joining a “team which is majority female”. A journo asks if he is suggesting the Liberals have a woman problem.

Albanese replies:

People will make their own judgment. My government has a majority of members who are women … we also have a very diverse caucus. When you look at my caucus, you see Australia, you see people from diverse backgrounds, different faiths, different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different histories. When you look at Peter Dutton’s team, what you see by and large is [it is] dominated by blokes and they keep having preselections and putting up more blokes, including to replace women who are retiring at the next election.

He said he would be waiting to see if the Liberals tomorrow pick a woman to replace Scott Morrison in the seat of Cook. Albanese said:

They have an opportunity in Cook tomorrow to preselect a woman. We’ll wait and see if they do. If they do, then that will be a change in the pattern of behaviour that we’ve seen.

Dunkley byelectionLabor’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

  • Comment: Dunkley shows the Liberal party’s ‘more of the same’ is not a path to government
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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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SydneyPro-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. Serving police officer Beau Lamarre has been charged with their murder 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 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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ExclusiveAsio 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.”

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Australian who worked for foreign spies was in parliament at the time, Asio boss says

Australian who worked for foreign spies was in parliament at the time, Asio boss says

Mike Burgess says actions of person who ‘sold out their country, party and former colleagues’ were legal because they predated 2018 espionage laws

  • Podcast: listen to the interview with Asio boss Mike Burgess
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The Asio boss, Mike Burgess, says an Australian who worked for foreign spies is no longer a politician and no longer a security threat “but this happened when they were a politician”.

Burgess has also stated that the unnamed former politician knew they were assisting a foreign intelligence service. “This person knew what they were doing,” he said.

Burgess has sat down for a small number of interviews in the wake of his annual threat assessment speech, when he alleged that a former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by foreign spies.

Burgess has not revealed the level of government – federal, state or local – where the former politician served. Burgess has also not disclosed the political party or the gender of the person involved amid a round of speculation about who it could be.

In an interview with Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast – released today – Burgess confirmed that the activities of the individual were legal at the time because they predated Australia’s 2018 espionage and foreign interference laws.

Asked to outline specific activities the former politician carried out, Burgess said it was “a range of things” including “helping select people and invite people to an overseas conference”.

“And at that overseas conference, all expenses paid, including air fares, they were met by bureaucrats [but] those bureaucrats were not bureaucrats – they were members of a foreign intelligence service,” Burgess said.

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“They [the spies] were there to cultivate relationships, see who had access to government information and build that rapport so they could obtain sensitive information that would not normally be available to them.”

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,” he said.

In a separate interview with SBS News, Burgess divulged that the individual had still been in politics at the time of the activities. “[They are a] former politician now – the matter is resolved – but this happened when they were a politician,” he said.

Pressed on whether this happened when they were serving in a parliament in Australia, Burgess said: “Correct.”

Some current and former MPs, including the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, and former treasurer 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 said 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 Asio did not name individuals or share operational details because the agency must “protect our people, our sources and methods”.

In his threat assessment speech last Wednesday, Burgess said that: “At one point, the former politician even proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member into the spies’ orbit. Fortunately that plot did not go ahead but other schemes did.”

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

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

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

Asked whether the two cases were linked, Burgess made clear that his comment about how “that plot did not go ahead” meant no approach was made to a prime minister’s family member.

“This approach did not go ahead,” Burgess said. “Mr Turnbull’s talking about an approach that actually he’s alleging happened. I think you have your answer right there.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Alex Turnbull.

The federal education minister, Jason Clare, backed Burgess’s judgment in not naming the former politician and said it was more important that everyone in politics was “on our guard” to the threat of foreign interference.

“This is not a game of guess who, this is about keeping the country safe – the fact that this happened in the first place is deadly serious,” Clare told Sky News on Sunday.

“The point is that there’s evidence here from the head of Asio that says another country has interfered in Australian politics, contacting a politician.”

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PodcastMike Burgess on the former Australian politician recruited by foreign spies

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Daniel Hurst, Guardian Australia’s foreign affairs and defence correspondent, speaks to Mike Burgess, the head of Australia’s domestic intelligence agency Asio, about the allegations he made this week that an unnamed former Australian politician was recruited by spies for a foreign regime. They also discuss increased community tensions in Australia as the Israel-Gaza conflict continues and whether Asio needs more oversight.

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Sea Eagles v Rabbitohs, Broncos v Roosters – live

Well that was fun! Maybe not for the Souths, who came a long way to get blown away in the second half by a Manly team that were down two scores and then just exploded! So now they have to fly back home, a long, long way, off a crushing defeat.

Hopefully there’s some time for a piss-up on the strip! Am I right?

Scientists search for the cause as volunteer carers are overwhelmed

What’s paralysing thousands of rainbow lorikeets? Scientists search for the cause as volunteer carers are overwhelmed

A mystery paralysis syndrome is afflicting lorikeet populations in south-east Queensland and northern NSW at a rate scientists say they have never seen

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Dr Tim Portas pulls the patient from a cardboard box, wraps him in a towel and touches a cotton bud on his eye to see if he can blink.

Patient number 1,433,093 is one of about 3,500 Rainbow lorikeets that have come into the RSPCA’s wildlife hospital near Brisbane since the beginning of the year with a mystery paralysis.

This bird is one of the lucky ones. He can swallow and walk – albeit with a drunk-like gait, staggering across the triage room floor – so it’s a quick injection of fluids and off to the aviary.

“He’s a got good prognosis for recovery,” says Portas, the hospital’s veterinary director.

Across the corridor in the bird ward, a few dozen lorikeets are paired up in cages for more intensive care and hand feeding.

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“They’re such a beautiful bird, but they’re cheeky and cranky little buggers,” says Jaimee Blouse, a senior nurse at the hospital.

“They bite hard and they have sharp claws,” she says, holding up her hands to show the scratches of treating hundreds of the distressed birds.

By the time we have returned from the aviary, there are another dozen lorikeets inside boxes in a reception area waiting to be seen. In recent weeks, about 100 paralysed lorikeets a day have been coming in to the hospital.

For more than a decade, Australia’s most often sighted bird – a ridiculously colourful and gregarious high-speed parrot with an ear-piercing screech – has been going down with a mystery syndrome.

But this year, the numbers afflicted with so-called lorikeet paralysis syndrome (LPS) have been far and above anything seen before.

Across south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales – a hotspot for LPS cases – more than 5,000 lorikeets have been taken in at wildlife care centres since the beginning of the year.

“In the past it’s been a trickle of cases,” says Dr Tania Bishop, head vet at the wildlife rescue charity Wires. “But then 2021 really spurred us on to form a working group. But this year has been something altogether different.”

Wires has set up a “lorikeet drop-off point” in the town of Grafton – the centre of the syndrome in northern NSW.

Symptoms of LPS range from mild to deadly. Some birds have trouble flying and look drunk when they walk.

Others lose their ability to blink and their shrill screech starts to crack, and they struggle to swallow and breathe. If left untreated, the worst cases will die from starvation, dehydration or be an easy meal for other animals, including cats.

Because of the sheer numbers, vets have been forced to prioritise which birds to try to nurse back to health, either at rehabilitation facilities or in the homes of volunteer licensed carers. Many hundreds have been painlessly euthanised with anaesthesia and then barbiturates.

Bishop has euthanised several hundred lorikeets this year. “Vets and carers really do care for their birds, but no one is trained to see death and suffering on a scale like this,” she says.

An avian whodunnit

Rainbow lorikeets are one of Australia’s most common birds and the paralysis syndrome is only affecting a tiny percentage of the species.

But the scale of the suffering is making a group of about 20 scientists coordinated by the University of Sydney even more determined to understand the cause.

The syndrome peaks in summer and there is also concern some of Australia’s large bats are also showing similar symptoms (the RSPCA hospital in Brisbane has treated about 250 flying foxes with paralysis this year).

“We’re probably looking at five times more birds this year than we have had in the past,” says Prof David Phalen, an avian vet at the University of Sydney who, along with Portas and Bishop, is among the scientists trying to unravel the mystery.

“We really need to get to the bottom of this but I’m hopeful this is the year we break into the cause,” he says.

The organs of the birds have been analysed, multiple necropsies carried out, toxicology tests completed and even DNA analysis of the birds’ droppings. Samples of plants close to sites where birds have been found are also being checked.

Researchers have ruled out any infectious disease and there is no evidence so far that chemicals such as pesticides are to blame.

Phalen says the working hypothesis is that the birds are being affected by a toxin such as a bacteria or fungi, which could be growing on the plants they feed on.

Rainbow lorikeets feed on nectar, pollen and native fruits. But narrowing down what they are eating will be difficult.

Portas says DNA analysis of the gut contents of lorikeets has so far turned up about 150 different plant species.

“It’s a real whodunnit kind-of mystery,” he says. “But the challenge will be, once we know what it is, how do we control it?”

The worst day

Phalen says the toll on vets and carers who have had to witness thousands of suffering birds has been high.

“These lorikeets – each one has its own personality. They’re smart and beautiful and to have to kill bird after bird is terrible,” he says.

Robyn Gray remembers one afternoon – “the worst day” – when she had about 200 lorikeets arrive in boxes and cages that were scattered around her house.

Gray is a retired office clerk and a licensed volunteer carer for Wires and lives near Grafton. Her spare bedroom was turned into a makeshift triage ward.

“If they couldn’t walk or swallow, we thought they were suffering and they needed to be euthanised. The poor birds were in a lot of pain,” she says.

But Gray now has about 350 lorikeets recovering from LPS in two aviaries in her back yard. Some are getting ready to be released, as are about 50 of the birds with the RSPCA in Brisbane.

“Once it’s all over I’ll revisit everything and I will probably crumble after that,” she says.

“They’re all little lives and you want to save them all. You have to do something in this life to help, or else what’s the point?”

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Scientists search for the cause as volunteer carers are overwhelmed

What’s paralysing thousands of rainbow lorikeets? Scientists search for the cause as volunteer carers are overwhelmed

A mystery paralysis syndrome is afflicting lorikeet populations in south-east Queensland and northern NSW at a rate scientists say they have never seen

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Dr Tim Portas pulls the patient from a cardboard box, wraps him in a towel and touches a cotton bud on his eye to see if he can blink.

Patient number 1,433,093 is one of about 3,500 Rainbow lorikeets that have come into the RSPCA’s wildlife hospital near Brisbane since the beginning of the year with a mystery paralysis.

This bird is one of the lucky ones. He can swallow and walk – albeit with a drunk-like gait, staggering across the triage room floor – so it’s a quick injection of fluids and off to the aviary.

“He’s a got good prognosis for recovery,” says Portas, the hospital’s veterinary director.

Across the corridor in the bird ward, a few dozen lorikeets are paired up in cages for more intensive care and hand feeding.

  • Sign up for a weekly email featuring our best reads

“They’re such a beautiful bird, but they’re cheeky and cranky little buggers,” says Jaimee Blouse, a senior nurse at the hospital.

“They bite hard and they have sharp claws,” she says, holding up her hands to show the scratches of treating hundreds of the distressed birds.

By the time we have returned from the aviary, there are another dozen lorikeets inside boxes in a reception area waiting to be seen. In recent weeks, about 100 paralysed lorikeets a day have been coming in to the hospital.

For more than a decade, Australia’s most often sighted bird – a ridiculously colourful and gregarious high-speed parrot with an ear-piercing screech – has been going down with a mystery syndrome.

But this year, the numbers afflicted with so-called lorikeet paralysis syndrome (LPS) have been far and above anything seen before.

Across south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales – a hotspot for LPS cases – more than 5,000 lorikeets have been taken in at wildlife care centres since the beginning of the year.

“In the past it’s been a trickle of cases,” says Dr Tania Bishop, head vet at the wildlife rescue charity Wires. “But then 2021 really spurred us on to form a working group. But this year has been something altogether different.”

Wires has set up a “lorikeet drop-off point” in the town of Grafton – the centre of the syndrome in northern NSW.

Symptoms of LPS range from mild to deadly. Some birds have trouble flying and look drunk when they walk.

Others lose their ability to blink and their shrill screech starts to crack, and they struggle to swallow and breathe. If left untreated, the worst cases will die from starvation, dehydration or be an easy meal for other animals, including cats.

Because of the sheer numbers, vets have been forced to prioritise which birds to try to nurse back to health, either at rehabilitation facilities or in the homes of volunteer licensed carers. Many hundreds have been painlessly euthanised with anaesthesia and then barbiturates.

Bishop has euthanised several hundred lorikeets this year. “Vets and carers really do care for their birds, but no one is trained to see death and suffering on a scale like this,” she says.

An avian whodunnit

Rainbow lorikeets are one of Australia’s most common birds and the paralysis syndrome is only affecting a tiny percentage of the species.

But the scale of the suffering is making a group of about 20 scientists coordinated by the University of Sydney even more determined to understand the cause.

The syndrome peaks in summer and there is also concern some of Australia’s large bats are also showing similar symptoms (the RSPCA hospital in Brisbane has treated about 250 flying foxes with paralysis this year).

“We’re probably looking at five times more birds this year than we have had in the past,” says Prof David Phalen, an avian vet at the University of Sydney who, along with Portas and Bishop, is among the scientists trying to unravel the mystery.

“We really need to get to the bottom of this but I’m hopeful this is the year we break into the cause,” he says.

The organs of the birds have been analysed, multiple necropsies carried out, toxicology tests completed and even DNA analysis of the birds’ droppings. Samples of plants close to sites where birds have been found are also being checked.

Researchers have ruled out any infectious disease and there is no evidence so far that chemicals such as pesticides are to blame.

Phalen says the working hypothesis is that the birds are being affected by a toxin such as a bacteria or fungi, which could be growing on the plants they feed on.

Rainbow lorikeets feed on nectar, pollen and native fruits. But narrowing down what they are eating will be difficult.

Portas says DNA analysis of the gut contents of lorikeets has so far turned up about 150 different plant species.

“It’s a real whodunnit kind-of mystery,” he says. “But the challenge will be, once we know what it is, how do we control it?”

The worst day

Phalen says the toll on vets and carers who have had to witness thousands of suffering birds has been high.

“These lorikeets – each one has its own personality. They’re smart and beautiful and to have to kill bird after bird is terrible,” he says.

Robyn Gray remembers one afternoon – “the worst day” – when she had about 200 lorikeets arrive in boxes and cages that were scattered around her house.

Gray is a retired office clerk and a licensed volunteer carer for Wires and lives near Grafton. Her spare bedroom was turned into a makeshift triage ward.

“If they couldn’t walk or swallow, we thought they were suffering and they needed to be euthanised. The poor birds were in a lot of pain,” she says.

But Gray now has about 350 lorikeets recovering from LPS in two aviaries in her back yard. Some are getting ready to be released, as are about 50 of the birds with the RSPCA in Brisbane.

“Once it’s all over I’ll revisit everything and I will probably crumble after that,” she says.

“They’re all little lives and you want to save them all. You have to do something in this life to help, or else what’s the point?”

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Tehan condemns ‘big Australia’ policy but won’t reveal Coalition’s immigration plan

Dan Tehan condemns ‘big Australia’ policy but won’t reveal Coalition’s immigration plan

Shadow immigration minister wants ‘better Australia’ but refuses to say what level of migration Coalition would pursue in government

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The shadow immigration minister, Dan Tehan, has criticised a “big Australia” policy but refused to say what level of migration the Coalition would pursue in government, saying only that it wants “a better Australia”.

In an interview with the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Tehan was repeatedly challenged to spell out the Coalition’s view on acceptable migration levels, but said: “I can tell you what it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be as high as what it is today.”

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“What I have said is, we don’t want Labor’s ‘big Australia’. Labor are pursuing a big Australia,” he said.

Tehan said immigration was “too high in this nation” and the “intake of foreign students does need to be reduced, absolutely”.

In November 2021 while serving as trade minister in the Morrison government, Tehan issued a press release saying measures were needed to “help support the rapid return of international students when borders open again”.

Tehan was asked to reconcile his current stance with comments by the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, in September 2022 that “we do need an increase in the migration numbers”.

He replied: “Well no one thought that the Labor party would say that 1.6 million without a plan should be coming in to this country over the next four years. That is the size of the city of Adelaide.”

Latest budget figures show net overseas migration to Australia was 510,000 last financial year, driven by a post-pandemic catchup of international students, skilled temporary visa holders and working holidaymakers.

Net overseas migration is expected to moderate to 375,000 this year (2023-24), before falling again to 250,000 in 2024-25. Forecasters expect the level to be 255,000 in 2025–26 and 235,000 in 2026–27.

When asked whether he wanted a bigger or smaller Australia, Tehan said: “What we want is a better Australia. We will announce what our better Australia will look like in the lead-up to the election.”

In December, the Labor government announced a migration strategy that would raise the bar for international students and some workers to get a visa. The government predicted net overseas migration would be 185,000 lower over five years as a result of its policies.

In the interview, Tehan also insisted that the opposition was “not at all” embarrassed for targeting the federal government over the arrest of a man released from immigration detention – only for police to withdraw the charges.

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.

Just hours after the Coalition made the alleged assaults the centrepiece of its pursuit of the government in parliamentary question time on Thursday, Victoria police revealed they had cleared the former detainee and now allege another man – who there is no reason to believe was released from immigration detention – was involved in the incident.

The host of Insiders, David Speers, asked Tehan whether the developments were “a bit embarrassing for your colleagues who ripped into the government over a wrongful arrest”.

“Not at all,” he replied. “The facts were the facts at that time.”

Tehan said the Coalition was “perfectly entitled to go after the government” on the basis of a Victoria police statement.

The education minister, Jason Clare, told Sky News that politicians “rather than leaping to conclusions should let police do their job”.

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Family’s complaint about The Australian’s coverage not investigated by media watchdog

Kumanjayi Walker’s family’s complaint about The Australian’s coverage not investigated by media watchdog

Revelation comes after inquest into 19-year-old’s death shown texts between journalist from newspaper and Zachary Rolfe

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The family of Kumanjayi Walker complained to the media standards watchdog in 2022 about The Australian’s coverage of the Warlpiri man’s death, questioning why the journalist responsible had not disclosed her personal relationship with Zachary Rolfe in her articles.

But the Australian Press Council decided not to investigate the 2022 complaint, saying it considered it was “unlikely that a breach of [its] standards of practice has occurred”.

Text messages exchanged between Kristin Shorten and Rolfe only days after the former Northern Territory police officer shot and killed Walker were put to Rolfe in evidence on Wednesday at the inquest into the 19-year-old’s death.

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

The messages revealed Shorten told Rolfe: “I know what you did was totally warranted. If you ever want me to write an article in your defence, with or without naming you, say the word.” She also wrote: “Ps if or when you want I can write it without naming you or quoting you so it sounds like we never spoke.”

In a complaint sent to the press council in October 2022, and seen by Guardian Australia, concerns were raised about Shorten’s coverage of the story in The Australian.

The coverage in The Australian was described as a “national disgrace” by the Indigenous affairs officer at Media Diversity Australia, in the days after Rolfe was found not guilty of murder in March 2022.

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The complaint alleged that The Australian had breached press council standard No 8, as it had not ensured that “conflicts of interests are avoided or adequately disclosed, and that they do not influence published material”.

“This journalist has written very bias [sic] material that has painted Zachary Rolfe in a positive light and Kumanjayi Walker in a negative light,” the complaint said.

“This is highly inappropriate due to her relationship with Zachary Rolfe – her husband is friends with Zachary Rolfe.

“They have a friendship, which was not disclosed publicly … this kind of conduct breaches both transparency and integrity. It is a large conflict of interest and frankly disturbing.”

The complaint also outlines concerns about what it alleged could be breaches of other specific standards, including the need to avoid causing or contributing materially to substantial offence, distress or prejudice unless doing so is in the public interest.

Further allegations included that information was presented in the article as if it had been gained during interviews, rather than taken from court documents.

In December 2022, Paul Nangle, the press council’s director of complaints, told the complainant that the watchdog had considered the matter but decided not to proceed further.

“Upon receipt of your complaint, council staff met to carefully consider the matters outlined in your complaint form, the article that is the subject of your complaint, the council’s standards of practice and any other information that was considered relevant,” Nangle said.

“After careful consideration, it has been decided to not proceed further with your complaint as it is considered unlikely that a breach of the council’s standards of practice has occurred.

“Although your complaint will not be considered further, the publication will be informed of your complaint.”

The press council said complaints were considered on a case-by-case basis.

“Based on the information available to Council when it responded to the complainant, the article in The Australian was considered unlikely to have breached the Council’s Standards of Practice,” the spokesperson said.

On Friday, The Australian said the “award-winning reporting of the Zachary Rolfe shooting of Kumanjayi Walker was balanced and fair”.

“The Australian reported all the allegations against Rolfe and many difficult aspects of this case including domestic violence perpetrated against women and children in Indigenous communities including Yuendumu,” a spokesperson said.

”The Australian Press Council closed the complaints and made no adverse findings against The Australian or its reporting.”

Shorten has been contacted for comment.

NT government gazettes and other articles that were available at the time the council rejected the complaint confirmed that Rolfe and Shorten’s husband both previously served in the defence force and joined the NT police in 2016.

It is unclear how long they had known each other prior to Walker’s shooting, but in court on Wednesday Rolfe confirmed Shorten was a friend and that he knew she would be very sympathetic when interviewing him.

Rolfe also said in court on Wednesday, when asked about a video diary entry he had made as part of the Seven Network’s Spotlight program, that “in hindsight … [I] wished I’d never … spoken to the media because in trial we were able to prove my innocence and the media was not required”.

“The media was a tool that I believe sometimes [was] used against me. And then sometimes I utilised the media as a tool as well.

“There was no need for that. And in hindsight I wish I never did it.”

In 2022 Shorten won two journalism awards for her reporting on the case, including an NT media award backed by the journalists union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

Along with colleagues from News Corp, she also won a News award, a journalism accolade handed out to employees of the media company.

The MEAA says the NT media awards “support and encourage professional and ethical reporting”. An MEAA spokesperson declined to comment on the revelations about Shorten’s relationship with Rolfe but told Guardian Australia new criteria for the state-based awards were being introduced.

“To ensure that all state and regional awards continue to reflect contemporary community values, including respect for Indigenous cultural values, MEAA conducted a thorough review over the past 12 months of the awards criteria and judging processes,” the spokesperson said, speaking generally.

“New criteria has now been introduced as a result of this review … and these are being progressively implemented across the various MEAA state and territory media awards.”

The national broadsheet published an on-camera interview with Rolfe, conducted in late 2019, in which he said the footage from the body cameras shows he and his colleagues tried their best to stop the bleeding after Walker was shot and to keep him comfortable.

The documentary, executive produced by The Australian’s former editor-in-chief Christopher Dore, was titled: “I’m no racist: Zach Rolfe speaks in exclusive documentary”.

The newspaper published several negative stories about Walker, including a description of him as “a very scary man” and an unwanted baby, and a headline that read: “Kumanjayi Walker’s family told cops where to find him”.

Shorten was reporting for The Australian until last month, but has now joined the West Australian’s new digital newspaper the Nightly, as has Dore.

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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.

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

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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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

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

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

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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  • Victoria
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Germany to investigate Russia’s apparent interception of military talks on Ukraine

Germany to investigate Russia’s apparent interception of military talks on Ukraine

Chancellor Olaf Scholz describes as ‘very serious’ the circulation of a recording purportedly showing German officials discussing delivery of long-range missiles to Kyiv

  • See all our Ukraine war coverage

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has promised a full investigation after a recording purportedly of confidential army talks on the Ukraine war was circulated on Russian social media, in a huge embarrassment for Berlin.

A German defence ministry spokesperson confirmed to Agence France-Presse that the ministry believed a conversation in the air force division was “intercepted”. “We are currently unable to say for certain whether changes were made to the recorded or transcribed version that is circulating on social media,” they said.

Margarita Simonyan, a Russian state TV journalist and the head of Russia Today, posted an audio file on her Telegram channel and claimed it revealed German officers “discussing how to strike the Crimea bridge”, which links Russia to the Ukrainian peninsula it seized and annexed in 2014.

Participants in the call also appear to discuss the possible delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Kyiv, which Scholz has publicly so far firmly rejected. They also talk about the training of Ukrainian soldiers, and possible military targets. Kyiv has long called on Germany to provide it with Taurus missiles, which can reach targets up to 500km (300 miles) away.

Reuters listened to the 38-minute recording but could not independently confirm its authenticity.

Scholz, speaking on a visit to Rome, called the potential leak “very serious” and said it was “now being clarified very carefully, very intensively and very quickly”.

Russia’s embassy in Berlin did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Saturday about allegations of possible spying. A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson said on social media on Friday: “We demand an explanation from Germany”, without detailing its particular concerns.

Germany’s ARD broadcaster described the leak as a “catastrophe” for the German secret services.

According to Der Spiegel magazine, the videoconference was held on the WebEx platform, and not on a secret internal army network.

“If this story turns out to be true, it would be a highly problematic event,” Green party politician Konstantin von Notz told the RND broadcaster.

Speaking at a diplomatic forum in Turkey on Saturday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the recording indicated that Ukraine and its backers “do not want to change their course at all, and want to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield”.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, demanded that Germany “promptly” provide explanations for the discussion. “Attempts to avoid answering the questions will be regarded as an admission of guilt,” she said.

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of the Security Council, said on Telegram: “Our age-old rivals – the Germans – have again turned into our sworn enemies.”

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the defence committee in Germany’s parliament, said Moscow’s intention was “obvious”. She said Scholz was being “warned against” supplying Ukraine with Taurus missiles.

“We urgently need to increase our security and counterintelligence, because we are obviously vulnerable in this area,” she told the Funke media group.

Roderich Kiesewetter, from Germany’s opposition conservatives, warned that further recordings might also be leaked, telling the Handelsblatt newspaper that he considered the reports to be authentic.

“Russia is of course showing how heavily it uses espionage and sabotage as part of the hybrid war,” he was quoted as saying. “It is to be expected that much more was intercepted and leaked in order to influence decisions, discredit and manipulate people.”

With Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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Nathan Lyon spins Australia to victory as New Zealand collapse in first Test

Nathan Lyon spins Australia to victory as New Zealand collapse in first Test

  • Australia 383 and 164; beat New Zealand 179 and 196 by 172 runs
  • Lyon finishes with 10 wickets after Cam Green’s unbeaten 174

Nathan Lyon has spun Australia to victory in the first Test and the retention of the Trans-Tasman Trophy, with New Zealand feeble in their second innings at the Basin Reserve.

Australia won the Test by 172 runs in a contest likely to be remembered for Cameron Green’s unbeaten first-innings 174, a breakout performance as the youngster looks to cement his place at No 4. Green was the only man capable of a century in Wellington, where the Lyon-led Australian attack suffocated New Zealand on their home patch.

Starting day four at 111-3 and chasing 369, the Black Caps maintained they could pull off their best-ever fourth innings chase – even if the odds were against them. Instead, they collapsed, losing 85-7 as Lyon tallied his fourth 10-wicket Test, finishing the second innings with 6-65.

The result was plain from the moment Lyon swapped the Vance End to bowl into the wind. The 36-year-old claimed three victims in his first 10 deliveries from the Scoreboard End, beginning with the key wicket of Rachin Ravindra.

The 24-year-old started the day on 56, with fans hoping for a defiant century that would justify his status as New Zealand’s rising star and push his side closer to their first home Test win over Australia in 31 years. Ravindra lasted just seven balls against Lyon before falling to a well-set Australian trap, looking to cut a wide and short delivery but spooning his shot to Green at point to depart for 59.

Lyon struck again three balls later, dismissing new batsman Tom Blundell (duck) in the same manner as the first innings – attempting to flick a leg-side ball off his pads, only to be caught after an inside edge. In his next over, Lyon locked in the 24th five-wicket innings of his career – moving ahead of Dennis Lillee on 23 – by deceiving Glenn Phillips in flight, the Kiwi dangerman trapped in front when looking to defend a quicker ball.

“He’s a captain’s dream,” Australian captain Pat Cummins said of Lyon.

“There’s a real sense of calm out there when you know you’ve got someone that good on a wicket that’s giving him a little bit of help.

“It always felt like he was in control … we had Plan B, C, D that we could go to as well but never really felt like we had to.”

With the tail exposed, the Black Caps appeared in no mood to hang around, with Scott Kuggeleijn (26), Matt Henry (14) and Tim Southee (seven) all dismissed while attempting to score boundaries. Will O’Rourke – pulled from a bowling stint on Saturday due to hamstring tightness – made it out to bat, watching Daryl Mitchell (38) fall for the last wicket, caught and bowled by Hazlewood.

The match turned on day two, when Green and Hazlewood combined for a 116-run 10th-wicket stand to push Australia’s total to 383, before New Zealand were dismissed for 179 that afternoon.

“It was probably the difference, that last-wicket partnership,” Black Caps skipper Southee said.

“[Green] played an absolute blinder, for a young guy to come in and play the way he did, a chance-less 170-odd … it took the game away from us.”

Of the Black Caps, two in particular deserve credit: Glenn Phillips – for his first-innings 71 and a career-best turn with the ball, taking 5-45 as Australia made just 164 in their second innings – and paceman Matt Henry, who took 5-70 and 3-36.

With the packed international schedule only permitting a two-Test series, Australia’s win means they cannot lose the series and will retain the Trans-Tasman Trophy. With New Zealand’s next Tests with their arch-rival not scheduled until the summer of 2026-27, Australia’s grasp on that piece of silverware will extend into a fourth decade.

The Black Caps haven’t held the trophy since 1994, enduring a tortured run since then which includes just one Test victory – at Hobart’s Bellerive Oval in 2011. They can at least snap that run and draw the series next week at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval, where the series concludes with the second Test, beginning on Friday.

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Ex-president sweeps Michigan’s Republican party convention

Donald Trump sweeps Michigan’s Republican party convention

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

Donald Trump continued his march toward the GOP nomination at the Michigan Republican party convention on Saturday, sweeping all 39 delegates.

The delegates awarded 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 the 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 in July will officially nominate a candidate for the November presidential election.

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 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.

Before she was elected last year to chair the Michigan Republican party, Karamo made a name for herself as a vocal proponent of Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election in Michigan. Karamo went on to run for Michigan secretary of state, the office overseeing elections in the state, in 2022. She lost by 14 points but never conceded.

Karamo, who has developed a reputation for floating outlandish conspiracy theories and who embraces Christian nationalism, has referred to the split within the party as a form of “spiritual warfare” and her political opponents as “demonic” – rhetoric embraced by sections of the growing rightwing Pentecostal movement in the US.

Republicans in the party were willing to look past the stranger aspects of their eccentric chair, but when she failed to salvage the party’s struggling finances – even splurging on a $100,000 fee to bring Jim Caviezel, the QAnon-affiliated star of The Passion of Christ, to speak at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference – many grew frustrated with her.

But she has retained loyalists in the party, many of whom planned to attend Karamo’s alternate GOP convention in Detroit before it was canceled.

Without a convention of their own, some supporters of the former chair changed course at the last minute, opting instead to attend the official one and lobbying – mostly successfully – for recognition in Grand Rapids.

Others abandoned the convention entirely, choosing to stay home or decamp to various alternative meetings held around the state on the same day. Republican party leaders from the 1st congressional district, which contains 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula, informed members Friday that their district would be caucusing separately amid concerns that the official convention would not accept their delegates.

“The newly declared administration of [the Michigan Republican party] appears to be inviting dissent and disregarding rules with the consent of their Michigan Republican party allies,” said district chair Daire Rendon, in a statement. “We will not play that game by falling into their confusing messaging and backtracking.”

“Daire Rendon did us a favor,” said Tom Stilling, a Michigan GOP activist and former chair of the Antrim county Republican party, which is in the first congressional district. “All the extremists were out there, and the fear was that they would be here.” Without many of their delegates, the 1st congressional caucus room sat mostly empty.

But rifts in the Michigan GOP cut deeper than the crisis of leadership that the party has faced this year, often playing out at the county level.

In the Republican Party of Hillsdale, for example, a small and conservative county in southern Michigan, party activists have been embroiled in a parallel dispute for years – one that’s been fought between the party and a faction of the party dubbed the America First Republican party. A judge in April 2023 ruled that the America First faction were not the legal leaders of the party and in January found numerous activists, including Karamo, in contempt of court for failing to recognize the ruling.

Party activists in the 5th congressional district, which stretches across the south of the state and represents Hillsdale county, tried to tamp down that dispute on Saturday.

“We all want to prevent a revolt,” said Suzy Avery, a prominent Michigan conservative who sits on the board of the Michigan Republican Party Trust and who resides in Hillsdale. Avery, who caucuses with the Hillsdale county Republican party, helped broker a deal with the America First activists, granting that faction nine of the county party’s 13 delegates.

A similar split grew last year in Kalamazoo county, leading to a physical altercation during a state GOP meeting last year.

Leaders in the Michigan Republican party downplayed intraparty tensions on Saturday, viewing their ability to shepherd delegates through the Saturday convention as a success.

“Today was relatively uneventful – it’s exciting that we can maybe move on,” said Vance Patrick, the chair of the Oakland county Republican Party, the largest chapter of the Michigan GOP.

“The crazy part about all this is everyone here is for Trump.”

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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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