The Guardian 2024-03-06 04:31:37


Optus fined $1.5m for ‘alarming’ safety breach; David McBride sentencing postponed

Optus has been slapped with a $1.5m fine by the communications watchdog after the telco was found to have breached public safety rules.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority found Optus did not upload the details of 200,000 mobile customers to a database used by emergency services between January 2021 and September 2023.

The Integrated Public Number Database is used to provide information to police, fire or ambulance services during triple zero calls, as well as being used to issue emergency alerts in disasters such as bushfires.

Samantha Yorke from the authority said an investigation into Optus was launched after a compliance audit found data was not submitted. She said:

While we are not aware of anyone being directly harmed due to the non-compliance in this case, it’s alarming that Optus placed so many customers in this position for so long.

Optus cannot outsource its obligations, even if part of the process is being undertaken by a third party.

As well as the financial penalty, Optus will be required to carry out an independent review of its compliance with the database, which is court enforced, and adopt any of the recommendations put forward.

Australian Associated Press

More to come in the next post.

Public servants paint bleak picture of their jobs

Burnout, bullying and low morale: Australia’s public servants paint bleak picture of their jobs

Feedback during Canberra staff engagement session also covers senators’ rude behaviour, uncompetitive pay and brain drain

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Public servants have complained about rude and unprofessional senators, bullying, burnout, low morale, uncompetitive pay and a lack of specialist skills that have led to expensive program failures and outsourcing.

The blunt feedback was delivered to department bosses during a staff engagement session in Canberra, which allowed managers to confront concerns as they seek to rebuild the capacity of the federal bureaucracy.

“We’ve got to hold our feet to the fire on this,” the public service commissioner, Gordon de Brouwer, said in reference to staff feedback and efforts to improve culture and accountability.

The complaints do not always reflect the majority of views within the public service, but do align with opinions expressed in an annual survey of staff published by the commission each year.

One anonymous public servant asked: “When will ministers be held accountable to Australian public service values? Behaviour during Senate estimates [hearings] is often unprofessional and rude.”

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According to the Australian Public Service Commission website, those values require public servants to “respect all people, including their rights and their heritage”.

The assistant public service minister, Patrick Gorman, who took part in the feedback session, said it would be a mistake to conflate the role of bureaucrats with democratically elected ministers responsible for holding departments to account.

“That separation is really important,” Gorman said. “I don’t want us to go down a path where everything applies in exactly the same way because we’ve got to recognise that one comes with a democratic mandate.”

About 10% of public servants who took part the latest workplace survey said they had experienced some form of bullying or harassment. That rate has fallen in recent years, but leaders acknowledge it is still too high.

“Bullying and harassment in the workforce are completely unacceptable behaviours,” De Brouwer said. “There is zero tolerance for it.”

Public servants raised concerns about “a brain drain” of talented colleagues quitting to take higher-paying jobs in the private sector. One possible solution was ensuring staff are not permanently based in Canberra.

“I would not have taken this job if it was completely in Canberra,” said the executive director of the Office for Women, Padma Raman, who was on the feedback panel.

The health department’s first assistant secretary, Rachel Balmanno, who moderated the session, said “we do struggle to compete on a pay basis with the private sector in terms of a lot of these technical capabilities”.

De Brouwer also acknowledged concerns that specialist staff believe their careers cannot progress unless they become generalist managers.

Other questions focused on what managers were doing to lift morale in departments and agencies. In some large agencies, the number of staff satisfied with their job has dropped to about 65% in recent years.

The veterans’ affairs department secretary, Alison Frame, said keeping staff morale high was a challenge given the intense scrutiny of an ongoing royal commission into veteran suicides.

“I think that brings a really specific challenge around keeping morale high when staff feel that every day their efforts [are] being diminished,” Frame said.

“There is this ongoing public scrutiny and we always want to improve but that doesn’t mean that their efforts aren’t massively appreciated.”

Balmanno referenced questions on burnout within departments, including her own, which came under considerable strain during the height of the pandemic.

“Certainly, there are always different parts of the service that are under enormous pressure,” she said.

Gorman said the government was aware of burnout and it was one reason why it had increased the size of the public service.

“In the last financial year, we grew the public service by 6.9%. That’s 11,000 additional staff in the public service,” he said. “We knew this was a problem and that on the other side of that burnout, the public were not getting the services they needed.”

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Trump doubles down on nativist message in speech as Biden slams him as set on ‘revenge’; Haley wins Vermont

Joe Biden and Donald Trump have won their primaries in the biggest prize of the night: California.

The Associated Press reports that Biden won the Democratic primary and Trump the Republican primary. California, the most-populous state in the country, also has the most delegates up for grabs of any state.

ReportBiden and Trump dominate as Haley wins Vermont

Haley wins surprise Vermont victory as Biden and Trump dominate Super Tuesday

Neither Biden nor Trump have secured the nomination of their respective parties, but both are likely to do so within the next two weeks

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump largely cruised to easy victories on Super Tuesday. In early results, Biden and Trump captured wins in their respective primaries in California, Virginia, North Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Colorado and Minnesota. Biden also won the Democratic caucus in Iowa and Vermont, but lost American Samoa, while Nikki Haley won the Republican primary in Vermont – her second victory of 2024.

The United States has not witnessed a primary campaign season with so little competitive tension since political primaries began to dominate the nomination process in the 1970s. Neither the current president nor the former president secured the nomination of their respective parties, but both are likely to do so within the next two weeks.

Both candidates took shots at each other in statements and speeches on Tuesday evening. Biden said Trump was focused on “revenge and retribution” and “determined to destroy democracy”.

“Tonight’s results leave the American people with a clear choice: are we going to keep moving forward or will we allow Donald Trump to drag us backwards into the chaos, division, and darkness that defined his term in office?” Biden said.

In a victory speech at Mar-a-Lago, Trump praised his wins, stating that “never been anything like this” and again attacked migrants, falsely claiming that US cities are “being overrun by migrant crime”. The former president has frequently derided migrants and made baseless and racist comments that they are dangerous.

Biden sweeps, but with warning signs

Biden requires 1,968 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Going into Super Tuesday, he held 206. Primaries and caucuses today offered another 1,420. Assuming Biden continues to sweep through primary contests, the earliest he could secure the nomination on the first ballot would be 19 March with results from Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio.

Democratic candidates can win delegates with 15% or more of the vote in a congressional district. California’s 424 Democratic delegates were the richest haul of the evening.

Votes for write-in candidates typically take days to tabulate, but observers have been acutely watching for “uncommitted” or “none of the above” protest votes to register displeasure with the Biden administration’s policy on the Israel-Hamas war. The campaign has gained more ground after a strong showing in Michigan last week.

William Galvin, secretary of state for Massachusetts, told reporters today that if enough voters selected “no preference”, a delegate may be assigned to that option.

Trump marches on, but party rifts visible

Trump entered Super Tuesday with 273 delegates, requiring 1,215 needed to win the nomination outright at the Republican National Convention. Super Tuesday offered 865 delegates, but Nikki Haley’s continued campaign has prevented Trump from claiming all of them. With tonight’s results, the earliest Trump could secure the nomination is also 19 March with Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas and Ohio.

Trump gained a late-game reprieve in Colorado when the US supreme court unanimously ruled on Monday that states cannot unilaterally kick a presidential candidate off the ballot using the 14th amendment and was expected to win Colorado.

Haley won the District of Columbia primary on Sunday, becoming the first woman to win a Republican presidential primary in history. Only about 2,000 people voted in the primary but she did score her first state win on Tuesday with Vermont.

Notable state races hold more upsets

California voters have been focused on the state’s highly-contested down ballot race to fill the seat held by Dianne Feinstein, the late US senator. California places the top two candidates from the primary in a runoff. Of the 27 contenders Adam Schiff, the US representative who has long been a Trump antagonist in Congress, was expected to take the top spot followed by Republican Steve Garvey. Katie Porter, a Democratic congresswoman and Barbara Lee trailed in polls.

But voters in California were unenthusiastic and analysts projected the state could see its lowest voter turnout in history.

“I’m not excited about any of the issues, I just needed to take a walk today so I decided to drop off my ballot,” said Daniel, a 50-year-old voter who declined to share his last name.

Texas held state and federal legislative primaries Tuesday, presenting Texan voters with a Republican grudge match over state politics. Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, has been on a revenge tour to punish legislators who voted for his impeachment on corruption allegations last year, issuing a long list of endorsed challengers to incumbents.

Dade Phelan, speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, presented the biggest target. Paxton, Trump and Matt Rinaldi, the Texas GOP chair, have all endorsed David Covey in a primary challenge to Phelan, with bruising and well-funded attack ads flooding his house district. Phelan and Covey were neck and neck on Tuesday evening.

Ted Cruz, the US senator, secured the Republican nomination with no major GOP competitors. Democratic representative Colin Allred beat out Roland Gutierrez, who has emerged as a national gun control advocate following the Uvalde shooting, to face Cruz in November.

Alabama voters cast their ballots in a newly-redrawn second congressional district . The US supreme court forced Alabama to redraw its congressional map last year, declaring it a racial gerrymander that illegally diminished the political power of Black voters. As a result, two white Republican congressmen – Jerry Carl and Barry Moore – faced each other for a single seat after their districts were redrawn.

More than 6,000 voters in the second district received postcards with incorrect voting information ahead of the primary, which a county official attributed to a software error.

Notably Tom Parker, chief justice of Alabama’s supreme court, who issued a religiously-inflected ruling on the personhood of frozen embryos last month, was not on the ballot tonight. Alabama bars judges over the age of 70 from running for re-election; his term ends in 2025. The winner of the Republican nomination to succeed Parker is Sarah Stewart.

Stewart is a current associate justice on the Alabama supreme court and was part of the court’s majority ruling on the embryo case.

In North Carolina, the Republican state legislature redrew congressional maps last year after winning a majority on the state supreme court. As a result, the current delegation of 14 congresspeople will likely change from a 7-7 split to a 10-4 Republican majority and the most competitive seats have attracted sharp primary contests, particularly the 13th district.

North Carolina’s first congressional district in the state’s coastal north-east has historically held a Democratic, mostly-Black majority. Lawmakers redrew it to be much more competitive for a Republican candidate. Representative Don Davis beat the 2022 Republican nominee, businesswoman and perennial candidate Sandy Smith, by four points. Smith drew a primary challenger this year.

Meanwhile Mark Robinson, the lieutenant governor, has won the Republican nomination for governor, to succeed North Carolina’s term-limited Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. Robinson, North Carolina’s first Black lieutenant governor, has a history of sexist and inflammatory comments, particularly about Jews.

Robinson’s opponent in November will be Democrat Josh Stein, the North Carolina attorney general who would be the state’s first Jewish governor.

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Who is Jason Palmer?Biden beaten by unknown in American Samoa

Who is Jason Palmer? Biden beaten by unknown in American Samoa Democratic caucus

Palmer, who hails from Baltimore, took on the president in what some might say was an uneven match, but won four delegates to Joe Biden’s two

  • Haley wins surprise Vermont victory as Biden and Trump dominate Super Tuesday

As he wrestles with the challenges of the Democrat “uncommitted’ protest vote, Joe Biden faced a new opponent on Super Tuesday, and lost.

The president swept every Democratic contest in the early results, including taking Minnesota, the home state of nearest challenger Dean Phillips. But he didn’t reckon on the power of Jason Palmer in American Samoa.

Out of 91 ballots cast in the territory’s caucus, Palmer won 51 and Biden won 40, according to the local party, giving the previously unknown candidate from Baltimore four delegates to Biden’s two.

The outcome in the tiny collection of islands in the South Pacific with fewer than 50,000 residents is unlikely to derail Biden’s march toward his party’s nomination but sparked interest amid the more predictable results. Many greeted the news online with the question: who is Jason Palmer?

Palmer describes himself as a Maryland resident and proud father who has worked for various businesses and nonprofits, often on issues involving technology and education. He says he “recently gained national prominence by qualifying for the presidential ballot in sixteen US states and territories” and, at 52, has promoted himself as one of the youngest Democratic candidates.

In the wake of his win he posted on X, saying he was “honoured” by the victory.

“This win is a testament to the power of our voices. Together, we can rebuild the American Dream and shape a brighter future for all #VoteJasonPalmer,” he wrote.

Palmer appears to have campaigned in the territory. On the day before the caucus, he posted on X that “Washington DC is long overdue for a president who will be an advocate for American Samoa.” His account includes pictures of young people holding homemade campaign signs.

Residents of US territories vote in primaries but do not have representation in the electoral college for the general election in November.

American Samoa has been the site of quixotic victories before. During the 2020 Democratic primaries, billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s only win came in the territory.

With Associated Press

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Super Tuesday 2024Live primary election results

Super Tuesday 2024: live primary election results

Follow live as Republicans and Democrats vote in 16 states and one territory to choose their presidential election nominee

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  • Democrats running

Sixteen states and one territory will choose their presidential candidate in contests known as Super Tuesday, when more than a third of delegates will be assigned to determine the Republican presidential nominee. Past results and opinion polls suggest that, by Tuesday night, Donald Trump will have in effect wrapped up the Republican nomination against Nikki Haley, his sole remaining challenger, far before July’s Republican national convention in Milwaukee.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden has swept aside token challenges by Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota and the self-help author Marianne Williamson and is cruising to the nomination. The lopsided contests and lack of suspense are making Super Tuesday, one of the most celebrated rituals of the American election season, one of the least surprising.


Republican delegates

In the Republican primary, 874 of 2,429 total delegates will be up for grabs on Super Tuesday, and the winning candidate will ultimately need 1,215 delegates to capture the nomination.


Democratic delegates

In the Democratic contest, 1,421 delegates, representing roughly a third of all delegates, will be up for grabs on Super Tuesday, and Biden will need 1,968 delegates to officially win the nomination.


Republican results


Republicans running

Donald Trump

The former US president’s campaign to retake the White House and once again grab his party’s nomination got off to a slow start that was widely mocked. But after decisive wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, his campaign has steadily moved into a position of dominance.

Trump declined to attend any of the Republican debates, has used his court appearances and many legal woes as a rallying cry to mobilize his base, and has run a surprisingly well-organized campaign. His extremist rhetoric, especially around his plans for a second term and the targeting of his political enemies, has sparked widespread fears over the threat to American democracy that his candidacy represents.

His political style during the campaign has not shifted from his previous runs in 2016 and 2020 and, if anything, has become more extreme. Many see this as a result of his political and legal fates becoming entwined, with a return to the Oval Office being seen as Trump’s best chance of nixing his legal problems.

Nikki Haley

The former South Carolina governor and ex-US ambassador to the United Nations under Trump has mostly hewed a fine line between being an alternative to Trump, while not outraging his base with too much direct criticism.

That paid off to some extent as Haley shone in debates and rose past her competitors for the No 2 slot in the Republican race. But after losing by sizable margins in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Haley’s chances have dwindled.

Ryan Binkley

Binkley, a Texas businessman, has now dropped out but is still on the ballot. Binkley was a long-shot candidate who is also a pastor at Create church. The self-proclaimed far-right fiscal conservative criticized both Democrats and Republicans for not being able to balance the federal budget, and said he would focus on health costs, immigration reform and a national volunteer movement.


Democratic results


Democrats running

Joe Biden

Biden is the likely Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election. He announced his campaign for re-election on 25 April 2023, exactly four years after he announced his previous, successful presidential campaign. While approval for the president remains low, hovering just above 40%, political experts say he is the most likely candidate to defeat Trump. Biden has served in politics for more than five decades and is running on a platform that includes abortion rights, gun reform and healthcare. At 81, he is the oldest president in US history.

Dean Phillips

Dean Phillips, a three-term Democratic congressman from Minnesota, is challenging Biden, saying the next generation should have the opportunity to lead the country. Phillips is the heir to a distilling company and once co-owned a gelato company. He entered public office spurred by fighting back against Trump.

Marianne Williamson

Failed 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson dropped out of the race last month before then resurrecting her long-shot campaign after the Michigan primary. Williamson, an author of self-help books, launched her bid with campaign promises to address climate change and student loan debt. She previously worked as “spiritual leader” of a Michigan Unity church.

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The Sofronoff saga has shattered whatever confidence we had in our legal system. Here’s what went wrong

The Sofronoff saga has shattered whatever confidence we had in our legal system. Here’s what went wrong

Geoffrey Watson

Millions of dollars were spent on the failed inquiry. But things were awry from the start

It is getting worse, not better – and there is no end in sight.

I am referring to Justice Stephen Kaye’s damning decision on the subject of Walter Sofronoff’s conduct and report of an “inquiry into the criminal justice system”. The background was the rape prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann – a charge Lehrmann steadfastly denies and upon which he was not convicted. The damage caused by that night in Canberra continues to spread. Justice Kaye has found that it was reasonable to apprehend that Sofronoff was biased against Lehrmann’s prosecutor, Shane Drumgold SC, when Sofronoff made his harsh findings adverse to Drumgold.

Sofronoff’s inquiry was set up to get to the bottom of problems in the criminal justice system, but the inquiry itself was compromised by bias. Confidence in the legal system is founded upon an assumption of independent, bias-free decision-making. The judgment of Justice Kaye tells us that assumption is false – the conduct and result of Sofronoff’s inquiry shatters whatever confidence there was in the system.

The law was not the only important institution shown to be flawed – so was the fourth estate, our free press. Not only did the commission bellyflop, it went down together with our “national broadsheet”, the Australian.

So what went wrong? Justice Kaye carefully exposes this with agonising detail. After Lehrmann’s aborted trial, questions arose regarding the conduct of the police, the prosecutor and some politicians. Allegations and counter-allegations. An independent inquiry was the only way to get to the truth. A retired judge, Sofronoff, was appointed.

But things went awry straight away. A connection was made between Sofronoff and a “conservative columnist” at the Australian, Janet Albrechtsen. Albrechtsen had written many, many articles attacking the prosecution of Lehrmann as political and severely criticising Drumgold. It was clear that Albrechtsen had taken a position on the very matters which Sofronoff was supposed to be examining. They went to lunch together in Brisbane and commenced personal contact relating to Sofronoff’s inquiry.

Sofronoff has defended this, saying he was following a practice that commissioners make direct personal contact with the press. Sofronoff might think that, but no lawyer I know agrees with him. Everyone has been shocked by his conduct.

But even so there are varying degrees of personal contact. The constant contact between Sofronoff and Albrechtsen, as set out in the judgment, was pretty striking. It started even before the inquiry opened. It continued with a surprising intensity. Sofronoff and Albrechtsen shared more than 50 telephone calls for over 7.5 hours. They exchanged a huge number of text messages, many in a single day. Some emails were sent “secretively” to a private email address. Much of the traffic was initiated by Sofronoff. Meanwhile, Albrechtsen continued banging out negative articles about Drumgold on a daily basis.

The content of their contact was equally surprising. Even before the hearings started, Sofronoff sent Albrechtsen parts of the evidence with comments critical of Drumgold. During the public hearing, Albrechtsen even proposed to Sofronoff that he put particular questions to a witness – and Sofronoff agreed!

It gets worse. During the crucial phase during which Sofronoff was drafting his report, he was actually sending successive versions to Albrechtsen. Changes were made, but Justice Kaye did not make a finding as to why the changes were made or who suggested them. We do know, however, that Sofronoff’s final report closely matched Albrechtsen’s anti-Drumgold narrative. Justice Kaye found it would be reasonable to think that Sofronoff was under Albrechtsen’s “influence”.

Given all of this, it was inevitable that Justice Kaye would find that Drumgold had been denied procedural fairness. Nothing is more fundamental to procedural fairness than a fair hearing conducted by an unbiased decision-maker. Drumgold did not get that. Every finding adverse to Drumgold was made in the absence of a fair hearing. Because of Justice Kaye’s findings, nothing said by Sofronoff retains validity. The report should never have been published – but that decision was denied to the ACT government when Sofronoff gave a copy to Albrechtsen days before he gave it to the chief minister.

Justice Kaye’s decision does not mean that Drumgold has received justice. It is some redress, but nowhere near enough. He has lost his job. He has lost his reputation. I do not know him, but I would be amazed if he was not emotionally damaged.

And Justice Kaye’s scathing finding has not stopped Albrechtsen. The day after the judgment, she pumped out yet another article attacking Drumgold. Why? What further do you want? It is time to stop.

A lot of money has been wasted. Millions of dollars were spent on Sofronoff and his failed inquiry. The ACT government is up for another million or two for the legal costs of the Kaye judgment. I suggest that Walter and Janet put their heads together for one last time and agree to make a solid financial contribution toward the millions of dollars that have been thrown away.

  • Geoffrey Watson is a former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and a director of the Centre for Public Integrity

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The Sofronoff saga has shattered whatever confidence we had in our legal system. Here’s what went wrong

The Sofronoff saga has shattered whatever confidence we had in our legal system. Here’s what went wrong

Geoffrey Watson

Millions of dollars were spent on the failed inquiry. But things were awry from the start

It is getting worse, not better – and there is no end in sight.

I am referring to Justice Stephen Kaye’s damning decision on the subject of Walter Sofronoff’s conduct and report of an “inquiry into the criminal justice system”. The background was the rape prosecution of Bruce Lehrmann – a charge Lehrmann steadfastly denies and upon which he was not convicted. The damage caused by that night in Canberra continues to spread. Justice Kaye has found that it was reasonable to apprehend that Sofronoff was biased against Lehrmann’s prosecutor, Shane Drumgold SC, when Sofronoff made his harsh findings adverse to Drumgold.

Sofronoff’s inquiry was set up to get to the bottom of problems in the criminal justice system, but the inquiry itself was compromised by bias. Confidence in the legal system is founded upon an assumption of independent, bias-free decision-making. The judgment of Justice Kaye tells us that assumption is false – the conduct and result of Sofronoff’s inquiry shatters whatever confidence there was in the system.

The law was not the only important institution shown to be flawed – so was the fourth estate, our free press. Not only did the commission bellyflop, it went down together with our “national broadsheet”, the Australian.

So what went wrong? Justice Kaye carefully exposes this with agonising detail. After Lehrmann’s aborted trial, questions arose regarding the conduct of the police, the prosecutor and some politicians. Allegations and counter-allegations. An independent inquiry was the only way to get to the truth. A retired judge, Sofronoff, was appointed.

But things went awry straight away. A connection was made between Sofronoff and a “conservative columnist” at the Australian, Janet Albrechtsen. Albrechtsen had written many, many articles attacking the prosecution of Lehrmann as political and severely criticising Drumgold. It was clear that Albrechtsen had taken a position on the very matters which Sofronoff was supposed to be examining. They went to lunch together in Brisbane and commenced personal contact relating to Sofronoff’s inquiry.

Sofronoff has defended this, saying he was following a practice that commissioners make direct personal contact with the press. Sofronoff might think that, but no lawyer I know agrees with him. Everyone has been shocked by his conduct.

But even so there are varying degrees of personal contact. The constant contact between Sofronoff and Albrechtsen, as set out in the judgment, was pretty striking. It started even before the inquiry opened. It continued with a surprising intensity. Sofronoff and Albrechtsen shared more than 50 telephone calls for over 7.5 hours. They exchanged a huge number of text messages, many in a single day. Some emails were sent “secretively” to a private email address. Much of the traffic was initiated by Sofronoff. Meanwhile, Albrechtsen continued banging out negative articles about Drumgold on a daily basis.

The content of their contact was equally surprising. Even before the hearings started, Sofronoff sent Albrechtsen parts of the evidence with comments critical of Drumgold. During the public hearing, Albrechtsen even proposed to Sofronoff that he put particular questions to a witness – and Sofronoff agreed!

It gets worse. During the crucial phase during which Sofronoff was drafting his report, he was actually sending successive versions to Albrechtsen. Changes were made, but Justice Kaye did not make a finding as to why the changes were made or who suggested them. We do know, however, that Sofronoff’s final report closely matched Albrechtsen’s anti-Drumgold narrative. Justice Kaye found it would be reasonable to think that Sofronoff was under Albrechtsen’s “influence”.

Given all of this, it was inevitable that Justice Kaye would find that Drumgold had been denied procedural fairness. Nothing is more fundamental to procedural fairness than a fair hearing conducted by an unbiased decision-maker. Drumgold did not get that. Every finding adverse to Drumgold was made in the absence of a fair hearing. Because of Justice Kaye’s findings, nothing said by Sofronoff retains validity. The report should never have been published – but that decision was denied to the ACT government when Sofronoff gave a copy to Albrechtsen days before he gave it to the chief minister.

Justice Kaye’s decision does not mean that Drumgold has received justice. It is some redress, but nowhere near enough. He has lost his job. He has lost his reputation. I do not know him, but I would be amazed if he was not emotionally damaged.

And Justice Kaye’s scathing finding has not stopped Albrechtsen. The day after the judgment, she pumped out yet another article attacking Drumgold. Why? What further do you want? It is time to stop.

A lot of money has been wasted. Millions of dollars were spent on Sofronoff and his failed inquiry. The ACT government is up for another million or two for the legal costs of the Kaye judgment. I suggest that Walter and Janet put their heads together for one last time and agree to make a solid financial contribution toward the millions of dollars that have been thrown away.

  • Geoffrey Watson is a former counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and a director of the Centre for Public Integrity

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Rapist officer ‘should never have been employed’ to work in NSW prisons, scathing inquiry finds

Rapist officer ‘should never have been employed’ to work in NSW prisons, scathing inquiry finds

Wayne Astill’s file contained complaints of serious criminal misconduct before he was hired to work at women’s prison, report says

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The former corrections officer Wayne Astill should “never have been employed” to work in New South Wales prisons, an inquiry has found, after complaints of serious criminal misconduct were made decades before he was found guilty of sexually assaulting female inmates.

Handing down his report after a special commission of inquiry into Astill’s offending at the Dillwynia women’s correctional centre, the commissioner, Peter McClellan, said it was “corruption or incompetence” that saw the former police officer hired by Corrective Services NSW in 1999.

McClellan, a former NSW supreme court judge, found there had been “tragic” consequences as a result of notes on Astill’s file from his time working as a police officer and detective being ignored.

“He should never have been employed by CSNSW,” McClellan said.

“His file contained complaints of serious criminal and other misconduct which, apart from raising questions as to why he was not prosecuted, cast doubt on the integrity of CSNSW’s employment process.

“Whether corruption or incompetence (it must have been one or the other) was responsible for his acceptance by CSNSW, I cannot say. It has led to tragic consequences for both prisoners and prison officers.”

The state government released McClellan’s scathing 800-page report on Wednesday after months of hearings. It included 31 recommendations including urgent improvements to CCTV coverage at the prison and a clarification of the reporting requirements for allegations of misconduct.

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Astill was jailed for a maximum of 23 years in 2023 for abusing his position and assaulting women at Dillwynia, on the outskirts of Sydney, for several years.

He was an officer and then chief correctional officer at the centre for a decade before being found guilty of 27 charges, including aggravated sexual and indecent assault.

The inquiry was announced last July by the state’s corrections minister, Anoulack Chanthivong, who said he had been “shocked and absolutely appalled” after Astill’s conviction and ordered the review to be led by McClellan.

McClellan was critical of the jail’s management and culture.

“It is impossible to believe that … a majority of correctional officers and a great many inmates would not have been aware that Astill may be ‘up to no good’,” he said.

“Instead of investigating the rumours, the management of the gaol sought to suppress them at multiple levels. In many cases, the available evidence was more than rumour.”

He found the culture, practices and procedures at Dillwynia were “inadequate and inappropriate”, as was the performance of several correctional officers and their managers.

“Multiple officers and managers failed to do their duty. The problems were exacerbated by the failure of multiple levels of managers in CSNSW to ensure that both the management system and the managers who administered it were capable of dealing with the problems that emerged.”

He found that the investigations branch of CSNSW was “hopeless”.

McClellan also raised concerns about the lawyers working for the department who he said failed to raise with enough time that other former officers could have given relevant evidence to the inquiry.

“I trust that if there is relevant evidence that has not been drawn to my attention it has not been deliberately withheld. If it has, it would constitute serious misconduct,” he said.

In a joint statement, the NSW premier, Chris Minns, and Chanthivong acknowledged the “confronting and distressing” report.

“It is a stark description of the multiple failings in the management of reports of misconduct,” they said.

“The offences and systemic issues detailed in the report are deplorable and inexcusable.”

They thanked those who gave evidence and pledged to “repair the correctional system and ensure future complaints are fully and appropriately investigated”.

The government has established a taskforce in the office of the secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice that will be responsible for implementing the recommended reforms.

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Coercive control and stealthing become criminal offences under historic laws passed by parliament

Coercive control and stealthing become criminal offences under historic laws passed by Queensland parliament

Sweeping reform, which includes affirmative consent laws, is aimed at ‘recentring victim voices’

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Coercive control will become a criminal offence and removing a condom without consent will be considered rape under historic laws passed by Queensland parliament.

Under sweeping reform passed in an omnibus bill on Tuesday, coercive control will become a criminal offence in 2025 and attract a maximum penalty of 14 years.

Queensland is the second jurisdiction to move towards criminalising coercive control – a pattern of behaviours that is highly correlated with the risk of domestic harm and homicide.

The state parliament has also passed affirmative consent laws. The legislation requires free and voluntary agreement to participate in a sexual activity.

This means a person must say or do something to ascertain consent, which can include a non-verbal cue.

The act of stealthing – removing or tampering with a condom during sex without consent – will be criminalised and carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Stealthing is illegal in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

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Sue and Lloyd Clarke have championed the criminalisation of coercive control since losing their daughter, Hannah, and three grandchildren, Aaliyah, 6; Laianah, 4; and Trey, 3, to a domestic violence murder.

In parliament on Tuesday, the minister for women, Shannon Fentiman, recognised the many survivors who had contributed to the bill.

“For too long victims have been let down by a system that does not understand or acknowledge the pain inflicted upon them by perpetrators,” Fentiman said.

“This bill is about recentring victim voices.”

The Liberal National party supported the bill but moved amendments to remove a provision of the bill which require a court to consider cultural considerations such as intergenerational trauma when sentencing an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

The amendments failed, as did amendments tabled by the Greens, which requested coercive control laws to be reviewed in three years to monitor the impacts of policing, particularly on First Nations and multicultural communities.

The Greens MP Michael Berkman said the party supported the bill but felt “putting sole responsibility for responding to domestic violence on to the police does not work”.

“The recent inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence highlighted how ill-equipped the police are to respond to domestic violence, citing instances of acute misconduct as well as systemic and cultural failures,” he said.

Fentiman said the state’s police force would roll out compulsory face-to-face domestic and family violence coercive control training from 1 July.

Several members of parliament shared their own experiences of domestic violence and how it impacted their loved ones.

The LNP MP Ros Bates said when she was a child she witnessed her mother as a victim of coercive control.

“Watching my mum have to lie, hide things and try to work her way around my father to have some sort of a life was sad,” she told parliament.

“The LNP wants justice for sexual assault victims, and we must ensure the law strengthens the chance of prosecution and leaves no room for error.”

The Labor MP Jonty Bush spoke about her sister, Jacinta, who was murdered when she was 19 years old.

“After Jacinta died, a common reaction I received from friends, colleagues and random people in the street was, of course, ‘Didn’t you see anything?’” Bush said.

“The question is not, ‘Didn’t you see anything?’; it should be, ‘What could you have done with the stuff that you saw?’ and the answer at that time was, ‘Nothing.’

“This bill … will capture that pattern of behaviour that is, by definition, coercive control and it will recognise that as a crime in and of itself.”

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Inquiry finds ‘appalling failure’ over allegations of historical child sexual abuse in public schools

Inquiry finds ‘appalling failure’ over allegations of historical child sexual abuse in Victorian public schools

A ‘culture of covering up’ in education department led to a ‘woeful’ failure to ensure student safety between 1960 and 1994, report says

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The Victorian education department had a “culture of covering up” allegations of historical child sexual abuse in public schools to protect reputations, an inquiry has found, describing it as an “appalling and systemic failure”.

The final report of Victoria’s special inquiry investigating historical sexual abuse at 24 state schools, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, found the department “woefully failed” to protect children between 1960 and 1994, because it had not policies in place to deal with perpetrators.

The inquiry identified 109 alleged victims of the four teachers at the centre of the allegations, the report said.

“The department failed in both its action and inaction,” the board of inquiry wrote.

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“There was a culture of covering up child sexual abuse to prioritise the reputation of the education system, including schools and teachers.

“Because of a dearth of policies and procedures, there were no measures in place in the education system to identify, manage, respond to and prevent child sexual abuse.”

The board of inquiry was initially focused on the Beaumaris primary school, where four teachers – Graham Steele, Darrell Ray, David MacGregor and “Wyatt”, a pseudonym used for legal reasons – were alleged to have abused students during the 1960s and 1970s.

But it was expanded to 23 other government schools, where the alleged perpetrators also worked.

Three of the alleged perpetrators – Ray, Wyatt and MacGregor – have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Steele was never prosecuted before his death in 2013.

In respect to Ray, the inquiry found “multiple teachers, an assistant principal, a principal and a district inspector” were aware of his behaviour by 1974 and concerns were raised with the department.

In 1976, he left Beaumaris and began working at a new school, where he was later charged with sexual abusing a student. He kept teaching until his conviction in 1979.

“The department’s inaction put numerous children at risk of sexual abuse,” the inquiry said in its report.

The inquiry said concerns were raised about Wyatt in the early 1970s but no action was taken and he continued to teach for more than two decades until his resignation.

The action of parents led the department to move MacGregor into an administrative role, which he kept even after he was convicted and sentenced on charges of child sexual abuse and found guilty of misconduct through a departmental investigation.

“He was able to remain employed and continue to take advantage of the benefits of a departmental role until he chose to retire in 1992,” the inquiry said in its report.

In the 1980s, reports were made to the police that Steele sexually abused children but this “[did] not appear to have been conveyed to the department, despite the fact he was still teaching”.

The inquiry found the department still had not done a review of allegations into sexual abuse at Beaumaris or within the broader state school system.

“Victim-survivors from other government schools have not been afforded an opportunity to gain an understanding of the extent of child sexual abuse at their school, or of whether they were alone in their experience,” it said.

It makes nine recommendations for reform, including establishing a statewide “truth-telling and accountability process” for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in all Victorian government schools.

It also recommends a new public memorial at the Beaumaris primary school, better resources to help victim-survivors and a statewide public apology to be made by the government in parliament, the latter of which had been committed to by former premier Daniel Andrews.

His successor, Jacinta Allan, thanked the more than 120 victims and their loved ones who came forward and spoke at the inquiries.

“I want to thank them for their courage and strength, not just participating in this inquiry but for driving this inquiry in the first place,” she told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.

Allan and the deputy premier and education minister, Ben Carroll, met with victims in private after the report was tabled.

The department said it “was deeply sorry for the harm, abuse and injury inflicted” in state schools.

“This should simply never have happened,” a spokesperson said.

“We reiterate our commitment to do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and to ensure that victim-survivors get every support they need to rebuild their lives.”

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Inquiry finds ‘appalling failure’ over allegations of historical child sexual abuse in public schools

Inquiry finds ‘appalling failure’ over allegations of historical child sexual abuse in Victorian public schools

A ‘culture of covering up’ in education department led to a ‘woeful’ failure to ensure student safety between 1960 and 1994, report says

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

The Victorian education department had a “culture of covering up” allegations of historical child sexual abuse in public schools to protect reputations, an inquiry has found, describing it as an “appalling and systemic failure”.

The final report of Victoria’s special inquiry investigating historical sexual abuse at 24 state schools, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, found the department “woefully failed” to protect children between 1960 and 1994, because it had not policies in place to deal with perpetrators.

The inquiry identified 109 alleged victims of the four teachers at the centre of the allegations, the report said.

“The department failed in both its action and inaction,” the board of inquiry wrote.

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

“There was a culture of covering up child sexual abuse to prioritise the reputation of the education system, including schools and teachers.

“Because of a dearth of policies and procedures, there were no measures in place in the education system to identify, manage, respond to and prevent child sexual abuse.”

The board of inquiry was initially focused on the Beaumaris primary school, where four teachers – Graham Steele, Darrell Ray, David MacGregor and “Wyatt”, a pseudonym used for legal reasons – were alleged to have abused students during the 1960s and 1970s.

But it was expanded to 23 other government schools, where the alleged perpetrators also worked.

Three of the alleged perpetrators – Ray, Wyatt and MacGregor – have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Steele was never prosecuted before his death in 2013.

In respect to Ray, the inquiry found “multiple teachers, an assistant principal, a principal and a district inspector” were aware of his behaviour by 1974 and concerns were raised with the department.

In 1976, he left Beaumaris and began working at a new school, where he was later charged with sexual abusing a student. He kept teaching until his conviction in 1979.

“The department’s inaction put numerous children at risk of sexual abuse,” the inquiry said in its report.

The inquiry said concerns were raised about Wyatt in the early 1970s but no action was taken and he continued to teach for more than two decades until his resignation.

The action of parents led the department to move MacGregor into an administrative role, which he kept even after he was convicted and sentenced on charges of child sexual abuse and found guilty of misconduct through a departmental investigation.

“He was able to remain employed and continue to take advantage of the benefits of a departmental role until he chose to retire in 1992,” the inquiry said in its report.

In the 1980s, reports were made to the police that Steele sexually abused children but this “[did] not appear to have been conveyed to the department, despite the fact he was still teaching”.

The inquiry found the department still had not done a review of allegations into sexual abuse at Beaumaris or within the broader state school system.

“Victim-survivors from other government schools have not been afforded an opportunity to gain an understanding of the extent of child sexual abuse at their school, or of whether they were alone in their experience,” it said.

It makes nine recommendations for reform, including establishing a statewide “truth-telling and accountability process” for victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse in all Victorian government schools.

It also recommends a new public memorial at the Beaumaris primary school, better resources to help victim-survivors and a statewide public apology to be made by the government in parliament, the latter of which had been committed to by former premier Daniel Andrews.

His successor, Jacinta Allan, thanked the more than 120 victims and their loved ones who came forward and spoke at the inquiries.

“I want to thank them for their courage and strength, not just participating in this inquiry but for driving this inquiry in the first place,” she told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.

Allan and the deputy premier and education minister, Ben Carroll, met with victims in private after the report was tabled.

The department said it “was deeply sorry for the harm, abuse and injury inflicted” in state schools.

“This should simply never have happened,” a spokesperson said.

“We reiterate our commitment to do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and to ensure that victim-survivors get every support they need to rebuild their lives.”

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‘Hypervaccinated’ man reportedly received 217 jabs without side-effects

‘Hypervaccinated’ man reportedly received 217 Covid jabs without side-effects

The 62-year-old, from Germany said he had the large number of vaccines for ‘private reasons’, researchers said

A “hypervaccinated” German man who reportedly received 217 Covid jabs in 29 months showed “no signs” of ever being infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 and had not reported any vaccine-related side-effects, according to a study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The 62-year-old, from Magdeburg, Germany said that he had the large number of vaccines for “private reasons”, the researchers from University of Erlangen-Nuremberg said.

The academics heard about the man from a newspaper report and asked if they could study his body’s response to the multiple jabs.

“We then contacted him and invited him to undergo various tests in Erlangen”, Dr Kilian Schober said. “He was very interested in doing so.”

The research team said it had seen official confirmation for 134 of the vaccinations, which included eight different vaccines. They looked at previous blood tests the man had given and also examined blood samples as he went on to receive further vaccines.

“The observation that no noticeable side-effects were triggered in spite of this extraordinary hypervaccination indicates that the drugs have a good degree of tolerability,” Schober said.

The researchers found that his immune system was fully functional.

Certain immune cells and antibodies against the virus which causes Covid-19 (Sars-CoV-2) were present in considerably higher levels compared with people who had received just three vaccines, the team reported.

“Overall, we did not find any indication for a weaker immune response, rather the contrary,” said one of the leading study authors Katharina Kocher.

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Matildas star’s lawyers seek to have harassment charge thrown out of court

Sam Kerr’s lawyers seek to have harassment charge thrown out of court

Matildas captain pleaded not guilty in UK this week to racially aggravated harassment of a police officer

Lawyers for Matildas captain Sam Kerr will attempt to have a criminal charge of racially aggravated harassment thrown out in a UK court hearing in April.

The 30-year-old appeared in Kingston crown court on Monday accused of using insulting, threatening or abusive words that caused alarm or distress to a police officer in January 2023.

The four-day trial is currently scheduled for February 2025, more than two years after the alleged offence.

However, Kerr may not have to face trial if her lawyers are successful in having the charge downgraded or dismissed.

On Monday she entered a not guilty plea, and documents filed by Kerr’s legal team show they will argue an abuse of process by crown prosecutors, according to multiple media reports.

These arguments will be heard in a court hearing set for 26 April.

The allegation against Kerr relates to an incident involving a police officer who was responding to a complaint involving a taxi fare on 30 January last year.

Metropolitan police confirmed she was charged on 21 January this year, almost 12 months since the time of the alleged offence.

In the UK, harassment convictions can include a sentence of up to two years if the offence is racially aggravated.

Kerr is yet to comment on the allegation, which Football Australia said it only learned of in the media on Tuesday morning.

FA chief executive James Johnson said he had not been given any prior notice.

“I woke up this morning like everyone else did to the news, and that is when Football Australia found out about this unsettling event.”

Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson also told media he had no notice of Kerr’s court appearance.

Both said it was too early to say whether the matter would have any impact on the 30-year-old’s position as Australian captain.

“Sam has rights as an individual, she has pleaded not guilty and I think we need to remember that and we need to respect that,” Johnson said.

Kerr’s club Chelsea is yet to address the allegation.

Kerr injured her knee in January and is expected to miss much of 2024.

The Matildas qualified for the Olympics in July after beating Uzbekistan last week, and have three friendlies – including matches in Adelaide and Sydney – scheduled in coming months.

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GDP figures show economy grew by just 0.2% in the December quarter

GDP figures show Australia’s economy grew by just 0.2% in the December quarter

Treasurer Jim Chalmers had been preparing the public for ‘quite weak’ economic growth at the end of 2023 as interest rate rises hit home

Australia’s economy eked out modest growth at the end of 2023 as consumers drew down savings to keep spending, fuelling hopes of a near-term rebound as inflation ebbs, tax cuts arrive and the Reserve Bank starts cutting interest rates.

The country’s gross domestic product in the December quarter posted a 0.2% rise compared with the previous three months, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday. At an annual rate, GDP rose 1.5%.

Economists had expected quarterly growth to maintain at its 0.2% pace in the final three months of 2023. Compared with a year earlier, they expected 1.5% growth – also matching the official outcome.

The September quarter’s growth pace was revised higher to 0.3%. As a result, GDP slowed has slowed for the past five quarters but has remained positive since the September quarter of 2021.

As expected, a rise in exports and a drop in imports contributed the most to the quarterly growth tally, at 0.6 percentage points. A drop in stocks held by companies shaved 0.3% to be the main drag.

Households managed to increase overall spending 0.1% while cutting back on discretionary outlays. Rising income and additional government spending on benefits also helped lift the household saving-to-income ratio to 3.2% – ending two years of falls.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, had been preparing the public for “quite weak” economic growth from the December quarter, a period that included the RBA’s 13th and possibly last interest rate rise since it began hiking the cash rate in May 2022.

“Addressing inflation is still our primary concern,” Chalmers said. “But these numbers show that the balance of risks in our economy is shifting from inflation to growth.”

The headline growth figure, though, has been buoyed by Australia’s swelling population. Prior to Wednesday’s numbers, the ABS had reported per capita GDP had been flat or falling for each of the last four quarters. In the December quarter, per capita GDP shrank another 1%.

As with other rich nations, Australia has been stabilising after the Covid pandemic initially sent the economy into a tailspin then a sharp recovery as stimulus spending kicked in. Disruptions to supply chains sparked a jump in prices made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Australia’s 1.5% annual GDP growth compared favourably with many other rich nations. The US clocked 3.1% growth in 2023, while the Euro-area posted 0.1% growth, Canada 0.5% and Japan 1%. The UK’s economy shrank 0.2% last year, according to Economist data.

The RBA wants to bring inflation back to its 2%-3% target range over time with higher interest rates while retaining most of the surge in employment. A too-rapid slowdown in the economy, though, will foster more criticism that its November rate rise was excessive.

The central bank’s latest forecasts, released last month, assumed GDP growth in the December quarter would come in at 1.5%. It will slower further to 1.3% by June before quickening to 1.8% by the end of 2024.

Market reaction was limited as the GDP figures were largely as expected. The dollar remained at about 65 US cents and stocks were holding on to modest losses during morning trade.

Deloitte Access Economics partner Stephen Smith said “Australia is not in recession but many Australians are”.

“Excluding the pandemic and the impact of the GST, this is the slowest rate of economic growth since the recession of the early 1990s,” Smith said, adding that Wednesday’s figures were “further evidence that the November 2023 interest rate hike by the RBA was unnecessary”.

“Another rate rise would cruel the economy – and Deloitte Access Economics expects to see 100 basis points of cuts in 2024-25,” he said. “Monetary and fiscal policy need to pivot away from containing inflation to stimulating economic growth.”

Private business investment rose 0.7% in the December quarter, driven 5% higher by non-dwelling construction, the ABS said. Firms, though, cut spending on machinery and equipment by 1.3%, the first drop since September 2022 with farmers leading the retreat.

Public investment was also a drag on growth, declining 0.2% also for the first quarterly drop since the July-September quarter of 2022, the ABS said.

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Judges ‘erred badly’ with Trump ruling, historian says

US supreme court ‘erred badly’ with Trump ruling, leading US historian says

Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted outcome of every US election since 1984, disagrees with decision on Colorado ballot

The US supreme court “erred badly” in ruling Colorado was wrong to seek to remove Donald Trump from the ballot for inciting the January 6 insurrection, a leading historian and analyst of presidential politics said.

The court handed down its unanimous ruling on Monday, a day before Colorado became one of 16 states and one US territory to hold a Super Tuesday primary.

“The supreme court erred badly based on our amicus brief and our review of history, in claiming that a candidate for federal office can only be disqualified by an act of Congress,” Allan Lichtman said, speaking to reporters with three other historians who signed the brief arguing Trump should be removed.

Lichtman is a professor at American University in Washington DC who has correctly predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984, using a system of “keys to the White House” he co-devised.

With Trump closing on the Republican nomination, Lichtman recently said Joe Biden held five keys to Trump’s three, with five up for grabs.

Most analysts and pollsters give Trump the edge, despite his facing 91 criminal charges (17 for election subversion, 40 for retention of classified documents and 34 over hush-money payments to an adult film star) and suffering multimillion-dollar penalties in civil suits regarding his business affairs and a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.

But with Colorado’s attempt to remove Trump from the ballot rejected by the supreme court – ensuring the same fate for efforts in Maine and Illinois – he is poised to secure the Republican nomination and potentially return to office.

The Colorado case attracted numerous amicus briefs. Lichtman and 24 other historians argued Trump should be disqualified under section three of the 14th amendment, approved in 1868 to bar former Confederates from office.

“For historians,” they said, “contemporary evidence from the decision-makers who sponsored, backed and voted for the 14th amendment … demonstrates that decision-makers crafted section three to cover the president and to create an enduring check on insurrection, requiring no additional action from Congress.”

On Monday the supreme court disagreed, saying in an unsigned opinion: “We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But states have no power under the constitution to enforce section three with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.”

It was up to Congress, five of the six conservative justices said, to enact disqualification procedures.

Lichtman spoke to reporters with three other signatories to the amicus brief: Manisha Sinha, of the University of Connecticut; Brooks D Simpson of Arizona State University; and Orville Vernon Burton, of the University of Illinois.

Lichtman said the brief “decisively proved [that] not a single one of the thousands of ex-Confederates who were disqualified under section three of the 14th amendment were disqualified under an act of Congress. They were automatically disqualified, as Jefferson Davis himself [the former Confederate president] recognised in his trial and the two judges in the trial agreed.”

Lichtman said he identified some good in the Colorado ruling. First, the court “did not buy into Trump’s argument that section three of the 14th amendment excluded the presidency” as an office subject to sanction.

“Secondly, the supreme court, consistent with our brief, did not buy into the argument that section three only applied to ex-Confederates – clearly in this ruling [the court] indicated that it applies indefinitely.

“So these positive aspects [warn] future insurrectionists that you will not necessarily get away scot free. You can be disqualified by the states if you try to run for a state office, and you can be disqualified to run for a federal office by an act of Congress.”

Like Lichtman, Sinha noted that the four women on the court – the liberals Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson and Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative – issued something of a rejoinder to the five men, saying they went too far by stating only Congress could disqualify a candidate for federal office.

But Sinha said the ruling left her “a little more pessimistic”. Speaking ironically, she said: “Let me congratulate the conservatives for giving up on their deep respect for states’ rights that they have always showed in their decisions but strangely enough in this particular decision they upheld the federal and national authority of the 14th amendment. So that was quite out of character.”

The liberals who agreed there should not be a “patchwork” state-based system of disqualification, Sinha said, “don’t seem to understand that if the supreme court had rendered a decision disqualifying Trump that would have had a national effect, it would not have meant that each state gets to decide. The decision as it stands now has a national effect: that Trump cannot be barred from any states.”

Trump appointed three rightwingers to a court critics accuse of acting in his favour: speedily dismissing the Colorado challenge but moving slowly on Trump’s claim of total immunity in his federal election subversion case.

In that case, the court said last week it would hear arguments on a matter most thought decided against Trump by a federal appeals court. Trial will now take place close to election day in November or after it, giving Trump the chance to dismiss the charges should he return to power.

Sinha said: “It seems to me that [the court] fast track[s] all the decisions in all the cases that let Trump off the hook and they’re slow-pedaling all the decisions that don’t let Trump off the hook.

“This is primary season and I think it’s going to have an effect politically. Trump is going to seal the deal” with the Colorado decision.

Simpson said he was less disappointed in the decision, because it “illuminates certain ways in which Trump is still vulnerable”, including by not addressing the question of whether he incited an insurrection.

“The crisis persists,” Simpson said, “and anyone who sees this as a definitive ruling that settles everything is sorely mistaken.”

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