The Guardian 2024-03-07 10:01:20


Victoria police allege man murdered Ballarat woman in ‘deliberate attack’

Samantha Murphy: Victoria police allege man murdered Ballarat woman in ‘deliberate attack’

Man, 22, faced court on one count of murder on Thursday, a month after 51-year-old was last seen leaving home

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The 22-year-old man charged with the murder of Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy allegedly killed her in a “deliberate attack” on the day she went missing a month ago, police say.

The Scotsburn man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared in the Ballarat magistrates court on Thursday afternoon, charged with one count of murder.

He had been arrested at his home, about 20km south of Ballarat, on Wednesday morning by detectives from Victoria police’s missing person’s squad.

The chief commissioner, Shane Patton, said police would allege Murphy was murdered at Mount Clear on 4 February, the day she disappeared.

He would not disclose how she was allegedly killed, other than to describe the alleged murder as a “intentional act”.

“We’re saying this was a deliberate attack on Samantha,” Patton alleged.

“I’m not going to go into the details, motive or any of those further details in regards to what has or hasn’t happened when she has [allegedly] been killed. I will simply say he has been charged with murder, which by its definition means it was an intentional act.”

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Patton said the man was not known to Murphy’s family and was believed to have acted alone.

He said the man had not disclosed the location of Murphy’s body, and called on the public to come forward with “even the slightest bit of information” that may help police locate it.

Appearing in court on Thursday, the man was flanked by two security guards. He wore an orange hi-vis shirt and stared ahead during the brief hearing.

Magistrate Michelle Mykytowycz said there was “high community interest” in the matter. She remanded the man in custody, to reappear for committal mention hearing on 8 August.

Murphy, 51, was last seen at about 7am on 4 February, captured on CCTV footage in her family home’s driveway. She had told friends and family members she planned to go for a run.

They raised the alarm after she failed to return for brunch later that day.

Since then, there have been extensive searches of the Canadian Forest area, involving a range of specialist units from across Victoria police and volunteers from the local community.

On Thursday, Patton thanked detectives from the missing persons squad, search and rescue, crime and counter-terrorism commands and police from the western region for their work on the “painstaking, methodical investigation”.

He said their work was “far from over”.

“We’re going to be continuing to gather further evidence, we will be taking further statements and investigations will continue at a very heavy pace,” he said.

“Importantly, doing everything we can to locate Samantha’s body for the family is absolutely vital and something we’ll be focusing on.”

Patton also thanked members of the SES and CFA, as well the close-knit Ballarat community, for their support.

“I know that Samantha’s disappearance has had a profound impact on the Ballarat community. Some cases … bring out outpourings of grief and we’ve seen that here,” he said.

“So thank you to the community and all those involved, all those who provided assistance in all of those areas.”

He acknowledged the “intense scrutiny” Murphy’s family had faced from the “outset” of the investigation.

“We [at] Victoria police said everyone should keep an open mind and let us go about our business. They have been cooperative with us. They have provided everything we needed and they have had no involvement whatsoever in this matter,” Patton said.

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ExplainerTimeline of the investigation into alleged murder

Explainer

Samantha Murphy: timeline of the investigation into alleged murder of Ballarat woman

A man has been charged with murder, but Murphy’s body has not been found. Here’s what we know about the case

  • Man arrested over disappearance of Ballarat woman, Victoria police say
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Victoria police on Thursday say they have charged a 22-year-old man with murder in relation to the disappearance of missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy, who vanished more than a month ago.

Her case, among almost 40,000 missing person reports each year in Australia, has captivated and troubled the nation.

A week after she disappeared, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said his thoughts were with her family as he acknowledged it was a difficult time.

Here’s a timeline of what we know about the search and the investigation into the disappearance of Murphy.

Sunday 4 February

7am – Murphy is last seen on Sunday 4 February, captured on CCTV footage in her family home’s driveway.

That morning, while the town was tipped to swelter through a 36C day, Murphy – age 51 and a keen runner – tells friends she plans to run in the nearby Woowookarung regional park, known by locals as the Canadian forest.

About 8am – Murphy is believed to have reached the Mount Clear area by foot, according to mobile phone data later obtained by police.

Map of the search areas where police sought clues as to Murphy’s disappearance

Later that day, her family raises the alarm after she failed to attend a planned brunch.

Monday 5 February

Victoria police appeal for information from the public over her disappearance.

“Police and family have concerns for Samantha’s welfare due to the hot weather and her disappearance being out of character,” police say in a statement.

Wednesday 7 February

Police release CCTV footage of a woman they initially believe to be Murphy running along a Ballarat street.

A member of the public comes forward to confirm they were depicted in the vision, not Murphy.

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Thursday 8 February

Murphy’s family issue an emotional plea for her to come home.

Murphy’s eldest daughter, Jess, breaks down in tears as she sought to speak directly to her mother at a press conference at Ballarat West police station.

“Mum, we love you so much, and we miss you, and we need you at home with us,” she says.

“Please come home soon. I can’t wait to see you and to give you the biggest hug when I do, and to tell you off for giving us so much stress. I love you.”

Murphy’s husband, Michael, urges anyone with information about his wife’s disappearance to come forward.

“People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone has got to know something,” he says.

Friday 9 February

Victoria police’s missing persons squad takes over as lead investigators on the search for Murphy. Police cite “significant concerns” as the search enters its sixth day.

Acting Det Supt Mark Hatt tells media there is nothing to suggest there was “anything sinister” about Murphy’s disappearance at the time.

“However, it is especially concerning that we have now gone six days without any contact from her or any potential sightings,” he says.

Investigators also widen their search to the Buninyong area, based on a “ping” from Murphy’s phone, after spending the past five days searching bushland around the Woowookarung regional park, known by locals as the Canadian state forest.

Wednesday 14 February

Victoria police acknowledge there are “some suspicions” in the disappearance of Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy after she vanished 10 days ago.

The police commissioner, says Murphy’s disappearance looked “suspicious” but there are no new developments in the investigation.

“When someone’s been missing for this period of time, we have no trace, well clearly there must be some suspicions there because we haven’t been able to locate her,” he says.

Friday 23 February

Victoria police say it is “very doubtful” she is still alive amid a renewed ground search.

Mobile phone data provides a new lead in the search for Murphy, with a previously examined area the subject of a targeted hunt for clues as to her disappearance. Up to 40 detectives search the Mount Clear area – about 7km south of Murphy’s home.

Saturday 24 February

A volunteer-led community search takes places in Ballarat with hundreds of locals and visitors searching dense bushland in the hope of finding a clue to assist the investigation.

Wednesday 6 March

6am – Victoria police arrest a 22-year-old man at his home. He is taken to a police station where he remains in custody overnight.

Thursday 7 March

9.30am – Victoria police announce the man’s arrest.

2.10pm – Victoria police say the man has been charged with murder.

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Investigation into logging under way after release of ‘horrific images’ of dead koalas

Investigation into logging on Kangaroo Island under way after release of ‘horrific images’ of dead koalas

Logging stopped as Australian Agribusiness Group says its teams have resolved to increase efforts ‘on the protection of the local animal population’ and that they ‘are operating well beyond what is considered best practice for wildlife management’

WARNING: contains images some viewers may find distressing

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Government and RSPCA inspectors are investigating the logging of blue gum plantations on Kangaroo Island after the release of what the South Australian deputy premier described as “horrific” images of koalas allegedly being killed and injured.

Logging has been stopped while the investigation takes place.. It follows Guardian Australia publishing photos of seriously injured and dead koalas, and the Seven Network airing footage of koalas clinging to and being thrown from falling blue gums.

Ex-employees of the company managing the plantation estate, Australian Agribusiness Group, said they tried to save at least 40 injured koalas and saw about 20 that had been killed as the plantations were cleared for agricultural use.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they alleged that some of the company’s workers appeared to disregard instructions to leave standing trees that had been marked by trained spotters as containing koalas. The ex-employees and the president of the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network, Katie Welz, described injuries including broken skulls, jaws, arms and hips.

The South Australian deputy premier and environment minister, Susan Close, told SA parliament that “we have all been shocked by the horrific images of koalas in blue gum plantations on Kangaroo Island being injured as a result of timber harvesting operations”.

On Thursday, she said she had introduced a regulation requiring companies that wanted to clear Kangaroo Island plantations to have a new koala management plan. She said that meant Australian Agribusiness Group had to stop “until they have satisfied me that they’ve got the appropriate approach”. “We expect them to be able to return to their clearances as long as they are doing it in a way that doesn’t put koalas at risk,” she said.

Close said the department had re-opened an investigation into koala welfare that began in 2021, but was closed because it found no evidence of “non-compliant activities”. Investigators from the Department for Environment and Water and the RSPCA visited Kangaroo Island on Thursday.

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Interviewed on ABC local radio, Close said seeing the “distress and pain” of the koalas had been “absolutely appalling”. “I think everyone is horrified by seeing animals suffering like that,” she said.

In a statement, Australian Agribusiness Group earlier said it had paused logging so harvest and wildlife protection teams could discuss how it could further improve its practices.

“Out of these discussions, our teams resolved to further increase their efforts with greater vigilance across all our workers, including additional koala spotting resources, to provide a greater focus on the protection of the local animal population,” a spokesperson for the company said.

The company, which is contracted by land owners Kiland Ltd to manage the plantation estate, said it was working in accordance with agreed environmental land management practices, including an approved koala management plan. It said its spotters had identified and protected 4,000 koalas over the past 15 months, and left a cluster of nine trees when a koala was spotted as was protocol.

“We are operating well beyond what is considered best practice for wildlife management,” the spokesperson said. “Unfortunately some of the facts associated with our practices have been lost in the recent criticism.”

Australian Agribusiness Group is a separate and unrelated company to Australian Agribusiness (Holdings) Pty Ltd. The latter company is not the subject of any of the allegations raised.

Asked on ABC radio to comment on Australian Agribusiness Group’s statement that it was operating well beyond best practice, Close said: “ We’ve all seen the video. I’m not sure if they think that is beyond best practice.”

Also speaking on the ABC, the South Australian opposition leader, David Speirs, said the Liberal party supported the regulation change. He said the incident had created “not just a national scandal, but an international scandal”.

“I had my cousin contact me about this from Scotland last night and say ‘what are you guys doing with your koalas’. It’s creating a lot of embarrassment … It’s just shocking,” he said.

Spiers said the idea that koalas could be protected by leaving just a cluster of nine trees on an otherwise cleared landscape was “quite bizarre in my view”.

Koala welfare is a contentious issue on Kangaroo Island. While the marsupial is listed as endangered by extinction in New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, it was considered a pest on Kangaroo Island before the catastrophic impact of the black summer bushfires, which burned half the island.

The species was introduced to the island a century ago and the population grew to more than 50,000 – a level scientists considered unsustainable – until the fires reduced it to about 15,000, including an estimated 3,000 in blue gum plantations.

Kiland’s 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of plantations on Kangaroo Island were badly damaged during the fires, and the blue gums are being removed in part because they are considered a high fire risk.

Welz said the wildlife network did not believe the plantations should be left standing, but they should not be logged until a koala management plan was introduced. She said she had written to Close and the department about the issue last year, but nothing had changed until the pictures became public.

South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said logging should be paused until there had been an independent investigation and the koalas were protected. “It’s disappointing to hear this issue was raised with state Labor last year, but that little has been done,” she said.

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Sydney Swans v Melbourne Demons: AFL 2024 ‘Opening Round’ – live

Melbourne continue to create opportunities but their 29 inside 50s have translated into just two goals, one coming from Langdon just before the break. Sydney have scrambled well, kicking at 73% efficiency but the humidity is playing havoc with both team’s ball handling and it is conspiring to make this a messy arm wrestle of a match. A low-scoring affair tonight but only a seven-point ball game. Second half will be huge!

Major supermarkets have not given some fruit and vegetable growers price rises in 15 years, inquiry told

Australia’s major supermarkets have not given some fruit and vegetable growers price rises in 15 years, inquiry told

National Farmers’ Federation council member says the food sector should not be ‘held to ransom’ by Coles and Woolworths

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Some fruit and vegetable growers have not received price increases from the major supermarkets in 15 years, and farmers are being pressured to fund recent price promotions, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Speaking at the first public hearing of the supermarkets inquiry, horticulture sector representative Jeremy Griffith said the negotiating tactics used in the sector and low prices paid were contributing to the wide-scale bulldozing of orchards and an industry exodus.

The National Farmers’ Federation council member said Australia’s food sector should not be “held to ransom by a large corporate duopoly”, referring to Coles and Woolworths.

“This is how bad it is at this point of time,” Griffith said, referring to stagnant supplier prices.

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“The average age of every grower is getting way too old because the next generation simply do not see a future in going into the agricultural sector.”

The Senate inquiry, designed to investigate how big supermarkets set prices and use their market power when dealing with suppliers, held its first public hearing in Tasmania on Thursday, before scheduled hearings in NSW and Victoria next week.

There is also a separate 12-month probe by the competition regulator.

Chaired by the Greens senator Nick McKim, the committee heard that the buying process was unfair, with the supermarkets enforcing a tight window of price negotiations for perishable produce.

Griffith said fruit growers were also asked to cut their prices to fund a recent promotion campaign.

“From the public’s point of view, that’s great. The supermarkets have read the tea leaves and they’re going to take a hit on their margins,” Griffith said.

“[But] there was an expectation that the growers would fund that discount or part of that discount.”

Woolworths, which recently announced price drops on hundreds of items including packs of bananas, pears and apples, did not immediately respond to questions on Thursday.

The country’s biggest chain has consistently defended its relationship with the agricultural sector.

A Woolworths spokesperson has previously said: “We are committed to offering our customers value while working with our suppliers to sensitively manage economy-wide inflationary pressures.”

Coles was contacted for comment.

While the major retailers have controlled two-thirds of the market for some years, farming groups have said the recent inflationary period has exposed issues around the lack of competition, with more pressure exerted on food producers.

Guardian Australia analysis has consistently shown that the big supermarkets are enjoying higher profit margins than they did before the pandemic despite a cost-of-living crisis.

The committee heard on Thursday that food prices were now so high that Australians were resorting to dumpster diving, stealing or skipping meals, all while the major retailers print healthy profits.

Activist and university lecturer Danny Carney said the major supermarkets were often the only providers of essential items, such as food and sanitary items.

He said some people were forced to look for discarded items in supermarket bins, or steal.

“The other way that most people have power to control their grocery bills is by just not eating,” said Carney, from Grassroots Action Network Tasmania.

“The really damning thing that makes us all really angry is that supermarkets are making more and more money as it gets harder and harder for the rest of us.”

Rising living costs are particularly poignant for many Tasmanians given the state’s unemployment level is above the national average, creating a particular strain on youth.

Committee member Tammy Tyrrell, a Tasmanian senator of the Jacqui Lambie Network, said on Thursday that locals don’t believe the major supermarkets are acting in the best interests of the state or country.

“What we’ve heard at the supermarket inquiry in Hobart this morning is awful,” Tyrrell said.

“Young Tasmanians are dumpster diving or shoplifting because the price of food at the supermarket is completely unaffordable.”

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Major supermarkets have not given some fruit and vegetable growers price rises in 15 years, inquiry told

Australia’s major supermarkets have not given some fruit and vegetable growers price rises in 15 years, inquiry told

National Farmers’ Federation council member says the food sector should not be ‘held to ransom’ by Coles and Woolworths

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

Some fruit and vegetable growers have not received price increases from the major supermarkets in 15 years, and farmers are being pressured to fund recent price promotions, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Speaking at the first public hearing of the supermarkets inquiry, horticulture sector representative Jeremy Griffith said the negotiating tactics used in the sector and low prices paid were contributing to the wide-scale bulldozing of orchards and an industry exodus.

The National Farmers’ Federation council member said Australia’s food sector should not be “held to ransom by a large corporate duopoly”, referring to Coles and Woolworths.

“This is how bad it is at this point of time,” Griffith said, referring to stagnant supplier prices.

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

“The average age of every grower is getting way too old because the next generation simply do not see a future in going into the agricultural sector.”

The Senate inquiry, designed to investigate how big supermarkets set prices and use their market power when dealing with suppliers, held its first public hearing in Tasmania on Thursday, before scheduled hearings in NSW and Victoria next week.

There is also a separate 12-month probe by the competition regulator.

Chaired by the Greens senator Nick McKim, the committee heard that the buying process was unfair, with the supermarkets enforcing a tight window of price negotiations for perishable produce.

Griffith said fruit growers were also asked to cut their prices to fund a recent promotion campaign.

“From the public’s point of view, that’s great. The supermarkets have read the tea leaves and they’re going to take a hit on their margins,” Griffith said.

“[But] there was an expectation that the growers would fund that discount or part of that discount.”

Woolworths, which recently announced price drops on hundreds of items including packs of bananas, pears and apples, did not immediately respond to questions on Thursday.

The country’s biggest chain has consistently defended its relationship with the agricultural sector.

A Woolworths spokesperson has previously said: “We are committed to offering our customers value while working with our suppliers to sensitively manage economy-wide inflationary pressures.”

Coles was contacted for comment.

While the major retailers have controlled two-thirds of the market for some years, farming groups have said the recent inflationary period has exposed issues around the lack of competition, with more pressure exerted on food producers.

Guardian Australia analysis has consistently shown that the big supermarkets are enjoying higher profit margins than they did before the pandemic despite a cost-of-living crisis.

The committee heard on Thursday that food prices were now so high that Australians were resorting to dumpster diving, stealing or skipping meals, all while the major retailers print healthy profits.

Activist and university lecturer Danny Carney said the major supermarkets were often the only providers of essential items, such as food and sanitary items.

He said some people were forced to look for discarded items in supermarket bins, or steal.

“The other way that most people have power to control their grocery bills is by just not eating,” said Carney, from Grassroots Action Network Tasmania.

“The really damning thing that makes us all really angry is that supermarkets are making more and more money as it gets harder and harder for the rest of us.”

Rising living costs are particularly poignant for many Tasmanians given the state’s unemployment level is above the national average, creating a particular strain on youth.

Committee member Tammy Tyrrell, a Tasmanian senator of the Jacqui Lambie Network, said on Thursday that locals don’t believe the major supermarkets are acting in the best interests of the state or country.

“What we’ve heard at the supermarket inquiry in Hobart this morning is awful,” Tyrrell said.

“Young Tasmanians are dumpster diving or shoplifting because the price of food at the supermarket is completely unaffordable.”

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Russia-Ukraine war live: Missiles strike near Zelenskiy as Russia says conflict could escalate to war in Europe

A deadly Russian missile strike on the Ukrainian port city of Odesa appeared to land near president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and visiting Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who described the moment of the bombardment as “intense”.

The attack on port infrastructure on Wednesday killed five people and left an unspecified number of wounded, according to Ukraine’s navy.

“We heard the sound of sirens and explosions that took place near us,” said Mitsotakis, who was holding talks with Zelenskiy. “We did not have time to get to a shelter. It is a very intense experience,” Mitsotakis added, through an interpreter in Odesa.

Ukraine stepped up its own attacks behind Russian lines with the apparent killing of a Russian election official on Wednesday with a car bomb and a drone assault on a metal plant.

Russia and Ukraine have increased aerial attacks as Moscow’s troops advance on the frontlines and Kyiv faces a shortage of manpower and weapons.

Spokesperson Dmytro Pletenchuk confirmed that the Odesa strike came as the Greek delegation was visiting the port with Zelenskiy.

Malaysian PM calls on Albanese to reinstate UNRWA funding to aid Gaza

Malaysian PM calls on Albanese to reinstate UNRWA funding to aid ‘besieged civilians’ of Gaza

Difference between the west’s responses to human suffering in Ukraine and Palestine defies reasoning, Anwar Ibrahim says

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The Malaysian prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, says he has appealed directly to his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, to reinstate funding to UNRWA, arguing the aid agency was the most effective channel to “help the besieged civilians” of Gaza.

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Addressing the Australian National University in Canberra on Thursday, Anwar said countries should not apply international law selectively.

“Unfortunately, the gut-wrenching tragedy that continues to unfold in the Gaza Strip has laid bare the self-serving nature of the much-vaunted rules-based order,” Anwar said.

“The differing responses by the west to human suffering defy reasoning.”

Anwar questioned why the west had been “so vociferous, vehement and unequivocal in the condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while remaining utterly silent on the relentless blood-letting inflicted on innocent men, women and children of Gaza”.

“Sure, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between,” he said as he delivered the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration, named after a long-serving former foreign minister.

Anwar said some countries had labelled as “counterproductive” the proceedings initiated by South Africa at the International Court of Justice alleging Israel had breached the genocide convention. Israel has repeatedly denied claims of genocide levelled against it.

“But what could be more consistent with any reasonable conception of a rules-based order, than an appeal to those values before a panel of 17 judges?”

Anwar said it would foolish to think these inconsistencies would “go unnoticed”.

Asked later whether he included Australia in his critique of western responses, Anwar said he gave “credit to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, because they have somewhat shifted from the original stance and called for a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance”.

Those three countries voted in December for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of hostages. They also issued a joint statement in February warning Israel against a “catastrophic” ground offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza.

Israel states that its legitimate aim is to “destroy” Hamas and to rescue more than 100 hostages that remain in captivity in Gaza after the militant group’s 7 October attack on southern Israel.

But Anwar said the conflict had a longer history. He said Palestinians had suffered since the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands of people were expelled or fled from their homeland after the creation of the state of Israel.

“But at least stop, for goodness sakes – stop the killings of children, women and civilians. And now I think Australia is onboard consistently calling for this.”

Anwar said he had urged Albanese – during a meeting in Melbourne on Monday – to fund UNRWA at the same time as investigations continued into allegations from Israel that 12 of the organisation’s staff members were involved in the 7 October attack.

“[Albanese] was very attentive, very polite, as most good politicians [are] … and allowed me to present my case very strongly on the issue of Gaza,” he said.

Amid reports Canada may soon reinstate funding to UNRWA, Albanese told reporters on Wednesday that Australia would “make an assessment at an appropriate time” about providing about $6m in top-up funding that was frozen in late January.

The Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong, who was born in Malaysia, warmly welcomed Anwar to the ANU stage on Thursday.

“Prime Minister, as a proud Sabahan-Australian, it is a singular honour for me to introduce you today,” she said.

Wong said it was “important for us to continue to use our voices to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and humanitarian access, the release of hostages, and for the protection of civilians”.

Wong called for “an enduring peace with an independent Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel”. Unlike Australia, Malaysia does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.

Wong also spoke about the spillover impacts of the conflict on social cohesion: “Regrettably, here in Australia, we see people who claim to champion human rights and justice behaving in ways that show little regard for either.”

Wong said there had also been “shocking attempts at intimidation and character assassination” and “blatant antisemitism and Islamophobia” but Australia must remain “a pluralist country”.

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Trump a worse appeaser than Neville Chamberlain, leading Democrat says

Trump a worse appeaser than Neville Chamberlain, leading Democrat says

Jim Himes says comparisons between Trump’s attitude to Putin and 1930s PM’s stance on Hitler ‘give Trump way too much credit’

Donald Trump is a worse appeaser in his attitude to Vladimir Putin and Russia than the 1930s British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was towards Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, a senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee said.

Jim Himes of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the committee, also said Trump acted like a “single-cell organism” in obstructing aid to Ukraine.

Comparisons between the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee and Chamberlain, who failed to avoid world war by appeasing Hitler, gave Trump “way too much credit”, Himes said, in an interview with the One Decision Podcast, co-hosted by Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of the British intelligence service MI6, and Indira Lakshmanan, a guest host.

“They both may be undertaking an act of appeasement,” Himes added, “but Neville Chamberlain, love him or hate him, I think probably thought this through.

“Donald Trump is a little bit of a single-celled organism: he responds to one stimulus and one stimulus only, which is, ‘Does this make me feel good or does it make me feel bad?’ And Ukraine makes him feel bad because he got impeached over Ukraine.”

Trump’s enthusiam for Putin and other authoritarians is also widely discussed but Trump’s first impeachment did arise from attempts to blackmail Ukraine, withholding military supplies needed to fend off Russian aggression while demanding dirt on rivals including Joe Biden.

Acquitted by Senate Republicans, Trump was impeached and acquitted a second time for inciting the deadly attack on Congress of 6 January 2021.

Three years on, notwithstanding 91 criminal charges and multimillion-dollar civil penalties, Trump is all but confirmed as the Republican nominee to face Joe Biden in November. As such, he has ensured that Republicans led by the House speaker, Mike Johnson, have blocked new Ukraine aid.

Most observers believe that in the third year of war, Kyiv faces stalemate or damaging defeats against its Russian invaders if US support ceases.

Dearlove called Himes, 57 and in his eighth term in Congress, “one of the sanest political voices that I’ve heard recently in the United States, given all the concern about forthcoming presidential election”, adding that Himes should be “listened to carefully … particularly about Ukraine”.

Under Trump’s “America first” outlook, Himes said, “two things are happening in the Republican party. One, some people are channeling that traditional isolationism which we’ve lived with in this country forever. And by the way, it’s not a terrible instinct, right? There are episodes in our history where we probably should have been a bit more isolationist.

“But then you have Donald Trump as a single-celled organism saying ‘Ukraine bad’ and his acolytes … saying, ‘The boss thinks it’s bad.’ And, you know, an awful lot of my colleagues just realise that if they stand up and say things contrary to what the cult leader is saying, they’ll put their own careers at risk.”

At the recent Munich security conference, Himes said “Republican after Republican” told him it was “absolutely essential that we get this aid done”.

But referring to a touted congressional mechanism by which Johnson might be bypassed and aid advanced, he said: “The question I want [Republicans] to answer is, ‘Will you sign a discharge petition, which will get you in trouble with the speaker? Is it that important? And the answer … is no.

“They’re not going to take a risk on behalf of Ukraine.”

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Trump a worse appeaser than Neville Chamberlain, leading Democrat says

Trump a worse appeaser than Neville Chamberlain, leading Democrat says

Jim Himes says comparisons between Trump’s attitude to Putin and 1930s PM’s stance on Hitler ‘give Trump way too much credit’

Donald Trump is a worse appeaser in his attitude to Vladimir Putin and Russia than the 1930s British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was towards Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, a senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee said.

Jim Himes of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the committee, also said Trump acted like a “single-cell organism” in obstructing aid to Ukraine.

Comparisons between the all-but-certain Republican presidential nominee and Chamberlain, who failed to avoid world war by appeasing Hitler, gave Trump “way too much credit”, Himes said, in an interview with the One Decision Podcast, co-hosted by Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of the British intelligence service MI6, and Indira Lakshmanan, a guest host.

“They both may be undertaking an act of appeasement,” Himes added, “but Neville Chamberlain, love him or hate him, I think probably thought this through.

“Donald Trump is a little bit of a single-celled organism: he responds to one stimulus and one stimulus only, which is, ‘Does this make me feel good or does it make me feel bad?’ And Ukraine makes him feel bad because he got impeached over Ukraine.”

Trump’s enthusiam for Putin and other authoritarians is also widely discussed but Trump’s first impeachment did arise from attempts to blackmail Ukraine, withholding military supplies needed to fend off Russian aggression while demanding dirt on rivals including Joe Biden.

Acquitted by Senate Republicans, Trump was impeached and acquitted a second time for inciting the deadly attack on Congress of 6 January 2021.

Three years on, notwithstanding 91 criminal charges and multimillion-dollar civil penalties, Trump is all but confirmed as the Republican nominee to face Joe Biden in November. As such, he has ensured that Republicans led by the House speaker, Mike Johnson, have blocked new Ukraine aid.

Most observers believe that in the third year of war, Kyiv faces stalemate or damaging defeats against its Russian invaders if US support ceases.

Dearlove called Himes, 57 and in his eighth term in Congress, “one of the sanest political voices that I’ve heard recently in the United States, given all the concern about forthcoming presidential election”, adding that Himes should be “listened to carefully … particularly about Ukraine”.

Under Trump’s “America first” outlook, Himes said, “two things are happening in the Republican party. One, some people are channeling that traditional isolationism which we’ve lived with in this country forever. And by the way, it’s not a terrible instinct, right? There are episodes in our history where we probably should have been a bit more isolationist.

“But then you have Donald Trump as a single-celled organism saying ‘Ukraine bad’ and his acolytes … saying, ‘The boss thinks it’s bad.’ And, you know, an awful lot of my colleagues just realise that if they stand up and say things contrary to what the cult leader is saying, they’ll put their own careers at risk.”

At the recent Munich security conference, Himes said “Republican after Republican” told him it was “absolutely essential that we get this aid done”.

But referring to a touted congressional mechanism by which Johnson might be bypassed and aid advanced, he said: “The question I want [Republicans] to answer is, ‘Will you sign a discharge petition, which will get you in trouble with the speaker? Is it that important? And the answer … is no.

“They’re not going to take a risk on behalf of Ukraine.”

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Son of former defence minister dies after parachute incident during training at RAAF base

Soldier Jack Fitzgibbon dies after parachute incident during training at RAAF base in Richmond

Son of former Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was involved in incident during ‘routine’ training at airbase on Wednesday evening

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ADF soldier Jack Fitzgibbon, the son of former Labor defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon, has died after a parachute incident during a routine training activity in Sydney.

The lance corporal, who was 33, was injured on Wednesday night at the RAAF airbase at Richmond, about 50km north-west of Sydney’s CBD. He received first aid at the scene and was taken to Westmead hospital in a serious condition but later died from his injuries.

Brig James Kidd said on Thursday afternoon that Jack Fitzgibbon was loved for his courage, sense of humour “and his service to the country”.

Joel Fitzgibbon, in a statement provided by Defence, said: “We are devastated and heartbroken by the loss of our wonderful Jack. Serving in the special forces was Jack’s dream job and we take comfort from the fact he died serving his nation.”

“Jack was a dedicated, highly skilled and courageous soldier. He was an experienced parachutist,” the former MP said.

“Our lives will never be the same without Jack but we will always remain proud of him and his many achievements.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said on Thursday “the burden of grief falls on a dear friend to so many in the Labor family”.

Kidd said all army parachute training had been suspended while the incident was investigated.

He declined to give specific details of the incident and said it was “too early to speculate” on the possible cause. He described the training exercise as “routine”, adding that no other personnel were injured.

“We have paused all parachute training. We have also paused that particular exercise that was being conducted. That allows us to reconstitute the safety staff and medical teams. It also allows us to conduct that first analysis so that we can learn and make any adaptations that we may require,” Kidd said.

“The Defence investigation will likely take some time.”

The defence minister, Richard Marles, described Joel Fitzgibbon as a close friend and said the incident was a “tragedy”.

Jack Fitzgibbon’s life had “been taken far too early”, Marles said.

“Every one of lance corporal Fitzgibbon’s friends and colleagues in the Australian Defence Force will be feeling the heaviness of this news,” he said in a statement.

“Jack loved serving in the special forces and he did so with honour and great ability.”

Albanese said: “Every death in the service of Australia carries the heavy weight of loss and sadness. The tragedy of a life cut cruelly short.”

“This tragic accident is a harsh reminder that there are no easy days for those who defend our nation,” the prime minister said. “We are so grateful to every Australian who serves and puts themselves on the line for all of us.”

Kidd said Jack Fitzgibbon received first aid at the scene before being attended to by paramedics. He said members of his unit, 2 Commando, had ceased training and were gathering at Holsworthy barracks “to process this news”.

Kidd said mental health and chaplaincy support had been offered to Jack Fitzgibbon’s colleagues and family.

“Army is a giant team, we comprise many team members and many families, and the Fitzgibbon family is absolutely part of that community.”

Eyewitnesses said a soldier’s parachute appeared to fail to open as they and another soldier attempted a landing above Richmond’s Sydney Polo Club, according to local news outlet the Hawkesbury Post.

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Law passed to allow nurses to provide abortion pills amid strong opposition from LNP

Queensland passes law to allow nurses to provide abortion pills amid strong opposition from LNP

Nurses and midwives will be allowed to dispense MS-2 Step as state grapples with ‘postcode lottery’ for women’s healthcare

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Laws allowing nurses to provide pregnancy termination medication have passed parliament despite strong opposition from Queensland’s Liberal National party.

Nurses and midwives will be allowed to dispense the drug, MS-2 Step, in a bid to bridge barriers to abortion access as the state grapples with a “postcode lottery”.

The legislation – passed during women’s week – was championed by Labor, the Greens, advocates and healthcare professionals. Queensland is the second jurisdiction, after Western Australia, to pass such laws.

But on the other side of the chamber, the LNP opposition spoke out against the legislation.

The shadow minister for women, Ros Bates, rose in parliament on Wednesday, flanked by women from the opposition, to oppose the laws.

Five of the party’s six female MPs were in the camera frame as Bates referenced her nursing career and claimed the new law could be unsafe due to lack of resources in rural areas.

Two male frontbenchers left their seats to make way for Ann Leahy and Deb Frecklington, who sat to Bates’ left and right.

Behind them sat Laura Gerber and Fiona Simpson.

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The leader of the opposition, David Crisafulli, was pressured to speak on the issue last year after he announced the preselection of the former federal senator Amanda Stoker, who has expressed strong anti-abortion views.

Crisafulli categorically ruled out repealing abortion laws if he wins government in 2024, five years after he voted against its decriminalisation.

Only three LNP members broke ranks to support the laws at the time, including Steve Minnikin, Jann Stuckey and Tim Nicholls.

In parliament on Wednesday, Bates acknowledged she had also voted against decriminalising abortion in 2018. But she referenced her former profession once more to justify opposing the laws, saying they allowed “on-demand terminations up to 22 weeks”.

The minute she sat down, the female phalanx broke up and Dale Last was back in his ordinary spot.

Later, the shadow integrity minister, Fiona Simpson, accused Labor of attacking people with different beliefs about the “sanctity of life and conscience” with “dogmatic intolerance”.

“That intolerance means that doctors and nurses who may want to exercise their right to conscientious objection … about the sanctity of life will be afraid that they will be demonised in the workforce,” she said.

The health minister, Shannon Fentiman, said the Miles government would “always defend a woman’s right to make choices about her sexual and reproductive health.

At a press conference outside parliament on Thursday, Fentiman said she was “disappointed” the LNP had voted against the bill.

“It’s 2024, I would have thought women in regional Queensland accessing termination services would be a no brainer,” she said.

Belinda Maier, from the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union, also spoke out against the LNP’s opposition of the laws.

“This is this is a women’s rights issue … to control her own body,” she said.

“It’s not going to be a free for all. Midwives and nurses are professional people … they are accredited and educated in what they’re doing.”

The Labor MP Brittany Lauga said she was “proudly pro-choice” and had supported the decriminalisation of abortion in 2018.

“There have been trucks with my face on them driven around town accusing me of being a murderer … I stood up for women in my community,” she said.

“Access to safe termination of pregnancy care is a human right and essential for reproductive freedom. This bill safeguards that.”

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Mediation talks between Linda Reynolds, Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz postponed

Mediation talks between Linda Reynolds, Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz postponed

Reynolds said she proposed a fortnight’s pause in the defamation case after ‘a tiring and difficult day’ of discussions on Tuesday

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Mediation between Linda Reynolds, Brittany Higgins and David Sharaz is due to resume in coming weeks after initial talks failed, the supreme court of Western Australia has said.

Reynolds said she had proposed a fortnight’s pause in her defamation case after what she called a “a tiring and difficult day” of discussions on Tuesday. Higgins reportedly attended hospital after Tuesday’s proceedings, which lasted more than nine hours. A further conference scheduled for Wednesday was abandoned.

Higgins, the former Liberal staffer, alleged she was raped in 2019 by then-colleague Bruce Lehrmann inside Reynolds’ ministerial office. Lehrmann has always denied the allegation, and his trial in the ACT supreme court was derailed by juror misconduct. Prosecutors decided not to pursue further action, citing concerns of the effect it might have on Higgins’ mental health.

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Reynolds, the former defence minister, is suing Higgins and Sharaz over a series of social media posts she says damaged her reputation.

She is suing Sharaz over tweets and a Facebook comment made in 2022. Among the defamatory imputations claimed against Sharaz’s tweets were that Reynolds put pressure on Higgins not to proceed with a genuine complaint to police, that she “is a hypocrite in her advocacy for women’s interests and empowerment”, and she interfered in Bruce Lehrmann’s trial and bullied Higgins.

Higgins is accused of posting defamatory material on two occasions on her Instagram and X accounts.

Justice Marcus Solomon had encouraged the parties to work to resolve the matter before a lengthy and costly trial. A court spokesperson said on Wednesday that the conference scheduled for that day had been vacated, but that mediation was expected to resume in future.

The court proposed the matter be listed for a directions hearing in coming weeks.

In a statement, Reynolds said: “Legal negotiations are unfortunately sometimes difficult and testing for all participants and [Tuesday] was a tiring and difficult day for all of us”.

“I attempted to minimise stress by avoiding any direct contact that may have been confronting and relying on a very experienced judge to interact with Ms Higgins.

“I proposed today [Wednesday] through my solicitor a two-week pause in the case to enable Miss Higgins and all parties to recover and get past the stress of the court attendance and significant media attention. I hope Ms Higgins makes a swift recovery.”

Higgins said earlier this week: “I think everyone is acting in good faith trying to get an outcome.”

Higgins and Sharaz moved to France in December. The couple travelled back to Australia for the court proceedings. Speaking outside court this week, Higgins said Perth was “beautiful, but just personally it’s hard being back in Perth”.

Lawyers for the parties appeared in the Western Australian supreme court in February, when they sorted out key dates in preparation for a trial should mediation fail.

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