The Guardian 2024-03-08 10:01:07


Joe Biden delivers feisty State of the Union address with vision for his second term

The president needed to appeal to voters as he and Donald Trump are neck and neck in the presidential contest

Joe Biden confirmed a new US mission to deliver aid to Gaza and repeatedly took aim at Donald Trump in his State of the Union address on Thursday, offering a pointed preview of the general election in November.

Biden’s most significant announcement came toward the end of his roughly hour-long speech, when he confirmed that the US military would establish a “temporary pier in the Mediterranean on the coast of Gaza” capable of receiving large shipments of water, food and medicine. Biden pledged the mission will not involve deploying American troops on the ground and would facilitate a significant infusion of supplies into Gaza.

While reiterating his belief in Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, Biden condemned the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.

“To Israel, I say this: humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be priority,” Biden said. “As we look to the future, the only real solution to the situation is a two-state solution over time.”

The overall tone of Biden’s speech, which marked his last State of the Union address before November, was strikingly combative, while hopeful. Biden repeatedly invoked Trump by derisively referring to “my predecessor” as he criticized the former president’s views on everything from foreign policy to immigration reform.

Opening his remarks with a robust defense of US allies abroad, Biden called on Congress to approve more funding for Ukraine amid its war against Russia and condemned Trump’s recent comments about Nato.

Biden compared this moment to 1941, when the US stood on the precipice of entering the second world war, and he repeatedly reminded Americans that “history is watching” how the nation will react to the crises unfolding around the world. As he reflected on the deadly violence seen at the Capitol on January 6, Biden warned that democracy faces a fundamental threat.

“Not since President Lincoln and the civil war have our freedom and democracy been under assault at home as they are today,” Biden said. “What makes our moment rare is freedom and democracy are under attack both at home and overseas at the very same time.”

Biden then accused Trump of “bowing down” to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, after the former president said he would allow Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to Nato nations that fail to make sufficient financial contributions to the alliance.

“It’s dangerous and it’s unacceptable,” Biden said. “My message to President Putin, who I’ve known for a long time, is simple. We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.”

Republican members of Congress, who were seated in the House chamber as Biden delivered his remarks, occasionally lashed out against the criticism of Trump. Early in his speech, Biden said: “My predecessor failed the most basic presidential duty that he owes to the American people: the duty to care. I think that’s unforgivable.”

One unidentified member of Congress responded to the remark by yelling: “Lies!”

Biden later directly engaged with Republican members on the issue of immigration, attacking them over blocking the bipartisan border and national security deal that stalled in the Senate last month. As Biden blamed Trump for impeding the bill’s passage by instructing members to oppose it, Republicans began yelling at him.

In a tense moment, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a hard-right Republican of Georgia, implored Biden to say the name of Laken Riley, a Georgia college student who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant.

Greene had handed Biden a button bearing Riley’s name as he walked into the chamber, and the president held the button up as he said her name, although he appeared to mispronounce her first name. Biden then expressed his condolences to Riley’s parents and emphasized the need to “change the dynamic at the border”, saying: “I would respectfully suggest my Republican friends owe it to the American people [to] get this bill done. We need to act now.”

Even as he clashed with Republicans, Biden made a point to paint a vision of his potential second term. He noted that one of first lady Jill Biden’s guests at the State of the Union address was Kate Cox, a Texas woman who was forced to flee her home state after courts rejected her pleas to access abortion care.

“If you, the American people, send me a Congress that supports the right to choose, I promise you: I will restore Roe v Wade as the law of the land again,” Biden said to loud applause from Democratic lawmakers in the chamber.

Biden went on to outline other campaign promises – including protecting social security and Medicare, banning assault weapons and capping the cost of prescription drugs. Faced with an underwater approval rating and widespread concerns over his age of 81, Biden did not waste the opportunity to contrast his vision for the country with that of Trump.

“I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while,” Biden said, prompting laughter from the audience. “My fellow Americans – the issue facing our nation isn’t how old we are, it’s how old are our ideas? Hate, anger, revenge, retribution are the oldest of ideas. But you can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back. To lead America, the land of possibilities, you need a vision for the future and what can and should be done. Tonight you’ve heard mine.”

As America braces for a long general election season that is expected to be bitterly fought and closely contested, Biden has eight months to sell voters on that vision.

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Former President Donald Trump, during Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, sent a steady stream of messages blasting Biden on Truth Social.

“He looks so angry when hes talking, which is a trait of people who know they are ‘losing it,’” Trump wrote. “The anger and shouting is not helpful to bringing our Country back together!”

He added: “This was an angry, polarizing, and hate-filled Speech. He barely mentioned Immigration, or the Worst Border in the History of the World.

“He will never fix Immigration, nor does he want to. He wants our Country to be flooded with Migrants. Crime will raise to levels never seen before, and it is happening very quickly!”

Explainer

‘My predecessor’, hecklers, and lots of fire: key takeaways from Biden’s state of the union address

The US president covered everything from abortion rights to Donald Trump, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Israel’s war in Gaza, as well as the size of a Snickers bar

Joe Biden made a forceful State of the Union address on Thursday, criticising former president Donald Trump over the January 6 insurrection, vowing to stand up to Vladimir Putin, urging Israel to play its part in the delivery of aid to Gaza, backing reproductive freedom and taking on rightwing antagonist Marjorie Taylor Greene on immigration.

Here are some key takeaways from the speech.

He who shall not be named

Biden opened the speech with fiery denunciations of the rioters who stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021, then singled out Republicans in the chamber and Trump. But he refused to utter Trump’s name, saying that “my predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth about Jan 6.”

He wrapped that into a larger theme that democracy is threatened like no time since the civil war, signalling a clear line of attack he will use against Trump.

He also criticised “my predecessor” for his assertion that Russian president Vladimir Putin could “do whatever the hell he wants” with respect to Nato allies. “I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous and it’s unacceptable,” Biden said. “My message to President Putin, who I’ve known for a long time, is simple: we will not walk away. I will not bow down.”

Speaking with a vigour that his supporters have said has been lacking, he set up a contrast between his internationalist view of the world and the more isolationist leanings of Donald Trump.

Biden v Marjorie Taylor Greene

One of the most striking moments of the night took place when Biden addressed the topic of immigration – which polls show is a major weakness for the president going into the election against Trump.

As he spoke, the president was heckled by far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She demanded he say the name of Laken Riley, who is suspected to have been killed by an undocumented migrant.

Biden, who usually wants nothing to do with Greene, took her up on the offer. Here’s what happened:

The age old question

When asked about his age and how it affects his ability to be president, Biden’s stock answer is: watch me.

On Thursday night, he delivered what a lot of his own supporters had found wanting. It was a high-energy, forceful speech, and at times he taunted Republicans with ad-libs. When they heckled his support for bipartisan border security legislation, Biden said, “Look at the facts, I know you know how to read”.

Biden leaned into his age, mentioning he was born during the second world war, but defended his vision for the country as fresh. “You can’t lead America with ancient ideas that only take us back.”

Biden stumbled over a few words, and in the Republican response, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama called him “dithering and diminished” but it was a more vigorous performance than other speeches where his remarks can be meandering or hard to hear.

Israel ‘must do its part’

Biden announced plans for the US military to help establish a temporary pier on the coast of Gaza, an effort that the administration claims should significantly boost the flow of aid into the besieged territory.

But at the same time he said Israel “must also do its part” to alleviate suffering even as the IDF seeks to eliminate Hamas. “To the leadership of Israel I say this,” he said, “Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip. Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority.”

The unveiling of the plan was perhaps the most substantive element of his address that touched on the war. It allowed Biden to demonstrate that he’s taking action in the face of anger and defiance from some Democrats over his strong support for Israel, even as the Palestinian death toll mounts.

Abortion on the ballot

The president said efforts to restrict abortion were an “assault on freedom”, and he derided the supreme court ruling that overturned Roe v Wade, with members of that court seated just feet away.

He also welcomed Kate Cox, a Dallas mother whose foetus had a fatal condition that put her own health at risk. She had to leave the state in order to get an abortion. “My God, what freedoms will you take away next?” Biden said.

Through much of his career, Biden has not emphasised abortion rights. In his speech, he showed how much he believes that issue could be key to a second term.

Middle class Joe

Biden outlined an economic vision that went big and small. He touted a post-pandemic economic recovery that didn’t sacrifice job creation in order to tame inflation. With housing prices still high, he proposed a tax credit that would reduce mortgage costs.

He also hammered Republicans for tax policies that favour the wealthy. “Check the numbers. Folks at home, does anybody really think the tax code is fair?”

Biden said there should be a minimum tax rate of 25% on billionaires, saying “no billionaire should pay a lower federal tax rate than a teacher, a sanitation worker or a nurse.”

The president talked about cracking down on junk fees or hidden charges that can chip away at Americans’ budgets. He also criticised snack companies for “shrinkflation,” or getting less product for the same price.

“You get charged the same amount and you got about 10% fewer Snickers in it.”

With Associated Press

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Analysis

Joe Biden came out swinging at his State of the Union address – will it be enough?

David Smith in Washington

The president brought the fight, jousting with Republican hecklers as he attacked Trump without mentioning his name

Would it be a withered old man or a human dynamo? Would it be a rambling, gaffe-prone politician or an inspiring leader touched with fire? Would it be Geriatric Joe or Dark Brandon?

Within the first few minutes of Thursday’s State of the Union address in Washington, millions of Americans had their answer. Joe Biden, 81, had brought the fight.

The US president was feisty, fired up and possibly highly caffeinated. For over 68 minutes he shouted for America, let rip at Donald Trump and found artful ways to address concerns over his age. The more that Republicans heckled him and screamed “Liar!”, the more he fed off their energy and turned it against them.

Indeed, for the second year running, Biden’s State of the Union address became more akin to Britain’s House of Commons – combative, electric, rowdy. Past American presidents could get away with reading from a teleprompter. Biden, supposedly old and sleepy, has made the event interactive and turns out to be looser with ad libs and quicker on his feet than any of them.

Rarely has the State of the Union address doubled as a medical exam before a global audience, more about stamina than statistics, more about pep-in-your-step than policy.

Biden hit the ground running with the topics likely to be his central pitch for November’s election. He accused Trump and Republicans of trying to rewrite history about the January 6 insurrection. “My predecessor and some of you here seek to bury the truth about January 6. I will not do that. You can’t love your country only when you win.”

You had us at hello. The House speaker, Mike Johnson, shook his head and rolled his eyes.

Biden also went after Trump for his comments inviting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to invade Nato nations if they did not spend more on defence. “My predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, quote, ‘Do whatever the hell you want.’ That’s a quote. A former president actually said that – bowing down to a Russian leader. I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous and it’s unacceptable.”

Biden tackled reproductive rights, pledging to “restore Roe v Wade as the law of the land again” if Democrats regain control of Congress. There were rousing cheers from Democrats. Biden added that anyone “bragging about overturning Roe v Wade had no clue about the power of women, but they found out reproductive freedom was on the ballot. We won in 2020 and 2022 and we’ll win again in 2024.”

Later some Republicans jeered as Biden said the bipartisan border bill would have included the “toughest set of border security reforms we’ve ever seen”. He relished the challenge, shooting back: “Oh, you don’t like that bill, huh? That conservatives got together and said was a good bill? I’ll be darned … You’re saying no. Look at the facts. I know you know how to read.”

Drawing another contrast with Trump, Biden also commented: “I will not demonise immigrants saying they are poison in the blood of our country.” (He did, however, make a reference to “an illegal”, attracting the ire of progressives in Congress.)

Still, amid all the bantering and euphoria, there was Gaza. Biden’s motorcade took a different route from the White House to the US Capitol after protesters blocked part of Pennsylvania Avenue. Inside the House of Representatives chamber, some members wore keffiyehs, the black-and-white checkered scarves that have symbolised solidarity with Palestinians. Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush held up signs calling for a ceasefire.

Biden announced that the US military will build a port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian assistance by sea. But he called on the Israelis to do more to alleviate the suffering even as they try to eliminate Hamas. “To Israel, I say this humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.”

He spoke with compassion about the plight of Palestinians but did not urge a “permanent ceasefire” policy shift that demonstrators crave – that threat to his re-election remains.

Thursday’s audience included George Santos, expelled from Congress, and a man wearing Trump’s mug shot emblazoned on his shirt. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene sported a red “Make America great again” cap and a “Say her name” shirt referring to Laken Riley, a student murdered last month, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant.

Biden stumbled over a few words but on big occasions like this tends to benefit from the soft bigotry of low expectations on the age question. First elected to the Senate in 1972, he took aim at Trump again: “Now some other people my age see a different story: an American story of resentment, revenge and retribution. That’s not me.”

It was a far cry from Trump’s bleak, subdued victory speech at Mar-a-Lago on Super Tuesday. When it was over, glum Republicans bolted for the door while Democrats mobbed Biden as if he had just won the Super Bowl. “No one’s gonna call you cognitively impaired now,” Congressman Jerry Nadler told him. Biden quipped: “I kinda wish sometimes I was cognitively impaired.” Another congressman said: “You had the Irish fire tonight!” But will we love you tomorrow?

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Woman dies after being pinned between bus and building in Brisbane’s CBD

Police say the bus mounted the kerb in Edward Street shortly before 5pm, pinning the pedestrian between the vehicle and a wall

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A woman has died after a bus ran onto the footpath during peak hour in Brisbane’s CBD.

The bus mounted a kerb in Edward Street shortly before 5pm, pinning the woman between the vehicle and a building, police said.

A Queensland ambulance spokesperson said there were nine people on the bus. Five of those, including the driver, were transported to hospital with minor injuries.

Nine ambulance crews attended the scene.

A Queensland police spokesperson said the forensic crash unit was investigating.

Motorists were urged to avoid the area due to multiple road closures.

The accident contributed to major traffic issues on the eve of the opening round AFL match of the Brisbane Lions against the Carlton Blues at the Gabba stadium.

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Astronomers detect ‘waterworld with a boiling ocean’ in deep space

Exclusive: Significant discovery, made by James Webb telescope, provokes disagreement over conditions on planet’s surface

Astronomers have observed a distant planet that could be entirely covered in a deep water ocean, in findings that advance the search for habitable conditions beyond Earth.

The observations, by Nasa’s James Webb space telescope (JWST), revealed water vapour and chemical signatures of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the exoplanet, which is twice Earth’s radius and about 70 light years away. This chemical mix is consistent with a water world where the ocean would span the entire surface, and a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge, although they do not envisage a balmy, inviting seascape.

“The ocean could be upwards of 100 degrees [Celsius] or more,” said Prof Nikku Madhusudhan, who led the analysis. At high atmospheric pressure, an ocean this hot could still be liquid, “but it’s not clear if it would be habitable,” he added.

This interpretation is favoured in a paper published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics Letters, but is disputed by a Canadian team that made additional observations of the same exoplanet, which is known as TOI-270 d. They detected the same atmospheric chemicals but argue the planet would be too hot for liquid water – possibly 4,000C – and instead would feature a rocky surface topped by an incredibly dense atmosphere of hydrogen and water vapour.

Whichever view wins out, these latest observations showcase the stunning insights James Webb is giving into the nature of planets beyond our solar system. The telescope captures the starlight that has been filtered through the atmospheres of orbiting planets to give detailed breakdowns of the chemical elements present. From this, astronomers can build up a picture of conditions at a planet’s surface – and the likelihood of life being able to survive there.

The evidence for TOI-270 d’s ocean is based on the absence of ammonia, which basic chemistry predicts should occur naturally in a hydrogen-rich atmosphere. But ammonia is highly soluble in water and so would be depleted in the atmosphere if there were an ocean down below. “One interpretation is that this is a so-called ‘hycean’ world – with a water ocean under a hydrogen-rich atmosphere,” said Madhusudhan.

Conditions would be very different from those on Earth. TOI-270 d is tidally locked, meaning one side permanently faces its star and the other is bathed in eternal darkness, creating an extreme temperature contrast.

“The ocean would be extremely hot on the day side. The night side could potentially host habitable conditions,” said Madhusudhan. But there would be a crushing atmosphere, with tens or hundreds of times the pressure at the Earth’s surface, and steam rolling off the ocean. The waters are likely to reach depths of tens to hundreds of kilometres, with a high-pressure ice seabed, and beneath that a rocky core.

Prof Björn Benneke, of the University of Montreal, has carried out additional observations of the planet and questions the “hycean world” hypothesis. “The temperature in our view is too warm for water to be liquid,” he said, adding that the atmosphere appeared to contain substantial amounts of water vapour – too much for the existence of an ocean to be plausible. At the surface, temperatures could reach 4000C, Benneke estimates, with water existing in a supercritical state, where the distinction between a liquid and gas becomes blurred. “It’s almost like a thick, hot fluid,” he said.

Both teams detected carbon disulphide, which is linked to biological processes on Earth, but which can also be produced by other sources. However, there was no sign of another biosignature molecule, dimethyl sulphide (DMS).

“We can’t tie [carbon disulphide] to biological activity,” said Madhusudhan. “In a hydrogen-rich atmosphere, it is relatively easy to make it. But if we’re able to measure the unique molecule it’s promising that we should be able to measure habitable planets in the future.

“We need to be extremely careful about how we communicate findings on this kind of object,” he added. “It’s easy for the public to jump on to the idea that we’re finding life already.”

Dr Jo Barstow, an astronomer at the Open University who was not involved in the latest work, said: “Spectra of these small planets with JWST are really exciting because these are brand new environments for which we have no solar system equivalent.”

Barstow added that further observations to pin down the abundance of water vapour in the atmosphere would help clarify the likelihood of an ocean. “It’s really fascinating and really nice that two teams have looked at the same dataset and come up with the same chemical makeup,” she added.

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Peter FitzSimons scores own goal in rush to judge Sam Kerr over alleged ‘racist epithets’

Amanda Meade

It was a confusing read as the SMH star columnist’s bold argument was overtaken by events. Plus: a quiet ABC farewell for Ita Buttrose

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Peter FitzSimons, a Sydney Morning Herald star columnist, paid the price this week for rushing to judgment with sparse facts to hand when he penned a column arguing Sam Kerr should lose the captaincy of the Matildas for allegedly “uttering racist epithets”.

“Curveball must cost Matildas captaincy for now” was the headline on the comment piece that ran in print, arguing the news of the Kerr incident came as such as shock because the footballer was a woman, a lesbian and ethnically diverse herself.

“We can safely assume the least likely to utter racist epithets will be those who have suffered racism themselves …” Fitz said. “And yet, we all know what happened Tuesday morning.”

Only we didn’t know. And the column, which was promoted on page one of the paper, was soon overtaken by allegations that Kerr had called the police officer a “stupid white bastard”. Not the type of racist incident Fitz had assumed.

Additions were hastily made to the online version of the column, which was published on the front of the SMH website under the headline “The incomprehensible nature of Kerr’s alleged transgression”, resulting in a confusing read as the bold argument fell apart.

“But from here, without knowing any other circumstances – because we continue to fly blind – if it is, we can surely agree it is on the very lowest end of the scale,” Fitz said belatedly.

Some of the additions were so tortured they barely made sense.

There was initially no acknowledgment on the column that it had been amended to take account of the overnight news.

The Herald’s editor, Bevan Shields, told Beast: “The Herald always tries to note when pieces have had a substantive clarification, and that should have happened in this instance. It was a miss and we have since noted at the end of the column that it was updated post-publication to include the new details about the alleged nature of Kerr’s remarks to the police officer.”

Stan Grant’s new gig

The editor-in-chief of the Saturday Paper, Erik Jensen, announced this week he had hired Stan Grant as a columnist to add to the intellectual life of the paper.

“There are few people who write with Stan’s grace and erudition. He is one of the country’s sharpest journalists, and he brings to his work a great store of intellect and feeling,” he said on the 10th anniversary of the paper.

We wondered what this would mean for Grant’s position as the inaugural director of the Constructive Institute Asia Pacific.

After a bruising period at the ABC, Grant said last year he was walking away from the media after four decades because he wanted to change the toxic global news culture by working on something constructive.

“I’ll be working out of Monash University in a dual role as professor of journalism and director of the Constructive Institute,” Grant told Guardian Australia.

A spokesperson for Monash University told Weekly Beast the launch of the Asia Pacific arm had been “delayed”, but would not confirm Grant’s employment status or explain the delay.

We spoke to the vice-chancellor of Monash, Prof Sharon Pickering, and she too declined to comment.

A few weeks ago, an event with Grant at the Wheeler Centre to mark the official launch of the institute to “interrogate the complexities of our global news culture and discuss how fixing the news can embolden democracy” was cancelled.

Grant confirmed on Friday morning he had walked away from Monash for personal reasons and would file a fortnightly column for the Saturday Paper.

We have noticed Grant is playing himself in an upcoming Australian-filmed comedy feature, Ricky Stanicky, starring Zac Efron and John Cena. From the director Peter Farrelly, who is known for his gross-out films, it’s a strange choice.

Ita’s ABC farewell a muted affair

Ita Buttrose was given a muted farewell by the ABC this week after her legacy was overshadowed by ongoing legal action taken by Antoinette Lattouf, a casual presenter who claims she was sacked due to her political views and her race.

A grand dinner party inside Ultimo’s famed Studio 22 in February, which your diarist was kindly invited to, was abruptly cancelled after invitations had already gone out. Speeches celebrating the former editor’s five-year tenure, as well as her decades-long media career, would sit uncomfortably with headlines about the ABC’s handling of the Lattouf case.

In the week leading up to the planned farewell dinner, Lattouf lost a legal bid to force the ABC to produce emails sent to Buttrose calling for her dismissal.

Buttrose’s last day on Wednesday was marked by a quiet boardroom farewell and an inhouse video address sent to all staff.

MD David Anderson praised Buttrose as “a staunch advocate for the ABC, its staff and the Australian public”.

Parting words

Despite News Corp Australia targeting the ABC almost daily with criticism, if not abuse, Buttrose chose to give her exit interview to a Murdoch journalist from the Sunday Telegraph. In return for recording a podcast with Sarrah Le Marquand, Buttrose was given the superstar treatment and her photoshoot was featured on the cover of Stellar magazine.

Buttrose told Stellar the board had never caved into political pressure and blamed the Lattouf controversy on social media. “I think social media has been the culprit here,” she said. “Everybody feels they must share, God help us.”

Four Corners chalks up a win

Before the ABC Four Corners program about Cranbrook had gone to air, the Australian had branded it a “hit job”. “The ABC is planning a ‘hit-job’ on one of Australia’s most prestigious schools, Cranbrook”, the Australian reported last week.

By Friday, the Oz was looking a bit silly as Louise Milligan’s investigation led to the resignation of the principal, Nicholas Sampson.

Parents of the private Sydney boys’ school were told the board had become aware “for the first time of allegations of an extremely concerning past conduct matter involving a current senior school teacher at Cranbrook”.

Milligan says she has received more legal threats before a program went to air than she has ever had.

“We know of SEVEN legal threats before tonight’s #4Corners Cranbrook story. To: Myself & ABC, People in our program, People not in our program,” Milligan wrote to X.

Behind the scenes the school, which charges upwards of $40,000 a year in fees, had hired corporate spin doctors Gracosway to do crisis PR.

Ironically a former ABC journalist, Brigid Glanville, was the consultant charged with ensuring Cranbrook was shown in the best light. Glanville said Gracosway does not comment on clients.

Next week the ABC’s global affairs editor, John Lyons, will present the Four Corners program The Forever War: inside Israel’s war machine, in which he interviews former prime minister Ehud Barak and cabinet minister Avi Dichter.

Given 51% of all complaints raised by the ABC audience in 2023 related to the Israel-Gaza war, we are sure Lyons can expect a strong response.

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Peter FitzSimons scores own goal in rush to judge Sam Kerr over alleged ‘racist epithets’

Amanda Meade

It was a confusing read as the SMH star columnist’s bold argument was overtaken by events. Plus: a quiet ABC farewell for Ita Buttrose

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

Peter FitzSimons, a Sydney Morning Herald star columnist, paid the price this week for rushing to judgment with sparse facts to hand when he penned a column arguing Sam Kerr should lose the captaincy of the Matildas for allegedly “uttering racist epithets”.

“Curveball must cost Matildas captaincy for now” was the headline on the comment piece that ran in print, arguing the news of the Kerr incident came as such as shock because the footballer was a woman, a lesbian and ethnically diverse herself.

“We can safely assume the least likely to utter racist epithets will be those who have suffered racism themselves …” Fitz said. “And yet, we all know what happened Tuesday morning.”

Only we didn’t know. And the column, which was promoted on page one of the paper, was soon overtaken by allegations that Kerr had called the police officer a “stupid white bastard”. Not the type of racist incident Fitz had assumed.

Additions were hastily made to the online version of the column, which was published on the front of the SMH website under the headline “The incomprehensible nature of Kerr’s alleged transgression”, resulting in a confusing read as the bold argument fell apart.

“But from here, without knowing any other circumstances – because we continue to fly blind – if it is, we can surely agree it is on the very lowest end of the scale,” Fitz said belatedly.

Some of the additions were so tortured they barely made sense.

There was initially no acknowledgment on the column that it had been amended to take account of the overnight news.

The Herald’s editor, Bevan Shields, told Beast: “The Herald always tries to note when pieces have had a substantive clarification, and that should have happened in this instance. It was a miss and we have since noted at the end of the column that it was updated post-publication to include the new details about the alleged nature of Kerr’s remarks to the police officer.”

Stan Grant’s new gig

The editor-in-chief of the Saturday Paper, Erik Jensen, announced this week he had hired Stan Grant as a columnist to add to the intellectual life of the paper.

“There are few people who write with Stan’s grace and erudition. He is one of the country’s sharpest journalists, and he brings to his work a great store of intellect and feeling,” he said on the 10th anniversary of the paper.

We wondered what this would mean for Grant’s position as the inaugural director of the Constructive Institute Asia Pacific.

After a bruising period at the ABC, Grant said last year he was walking away from the media after four decades because he wanted to change the toxic global news culture by working on something constructive.

“I’ll be working out of Monash University in a dual role as professor of journalism and director of the Constructive Institute,” Grant told Guardian Australia.

A spokesperson for Monash University told Weekly Beast the launch of the Asia Pacific arm had been “delayed”, but would not confirm Grant’s employment status or explain the delay.

We spoke to the vice-chancellor of Monash, Prof Sharon Pickering, and she too declined to comment.

A few weeks ago, an event with Grant at the Wheeler Centre to mark the official launch of the institute to “interrogate the complexities of our global news culture and discuss how fixing the news can embolden democracy” was cancelled.

Grant confirmed on Friday morning he had walked away from Monash for personal reasons and would file a fortnightly column for the Saturday Paper.

We have noticed Grant is playing himself in an upcoming Australian-filmed comedy feature, Ricky Stanicky, starring Zac Efron and John Cena. From the director Peter Farrelly, who is known for his gross-out films, it’s a strange choice.

Ita’s ABC farewell a muted affair

Ita Buttrose was given a muted farewell by the ABC this week after her legacy was overshadowed by ongoing legal action taken by Antoinette Lattouf, a casual presenter who claims she was sacked due to her political views and her race.

A grand dinner party inside Ultimo’s famed Studio 22 in February, which your diarist was kindly invited to, was abruptly cancelled after invitations had already gone out. Speeches celebrating the former editor’s five-year tenure, as well as her decades-long media career, would sit uncomfortably with headlines about the ABC’s handling of the Lattouf case.

In the week leading up to the planned farewell dinner, Lattouf lost a legal bid to force the ABC to produce emails sent to Buttrose calling for her dismissal.

Buttrose’s last day on Wednesday was marked by a quiet boardroom farewell and an inhouse video address sent to all staff.

MD David Anderson praised Buttrose as “a staunch advocate for the ABC, its staff and the Australian public”.

Parting words

Despite News Corp Australia targeting the ABC almost daily with criticism, if not abuse, Buttrose chose to give her exit interview to a Murdoch journalist from the Sunday Telegraph. In return for recording a podcast with Sarrah Le Marquand, Buttrose was given the superstar treatment and her photoshoot was featured on the cover of Stellar magazine.

Buttrose told Stellar the board had never caved into political pressure and blamed the Lattouf controversy on social media. “I think social media has been the culprit here,” she said. “Everybody feels they must share, God help us.”

Four Corners chalks up a win

Before the ABC Four Corners program about Cranbrook had gone to air, the Australian had branded it a “hit job”. “The ABC is planning a ‘hit-job’ on one of Australia’s most prestigious schools, Cranbrook”, the Australian reported last week.

By Friday, the Oz was looking a bit silly as Louise Milligan’s investigation led to the resignation of the principal, Nicholas Sampson.

Parents of the private Sydney boys’ school were told the board had become aware “for the first time of allegations of an extremely concerning past conduct matter involving a current senior school teacher at Cranbrook”.

Milligan says she has received more legal threats before a program went to air than she has ever had.

“We know of SEVEN legal threats before tonight’s #4Corners Cranbrook story. To: Myself & ABC, People in our program, People not in our program,” Milligan wrote to X.

Behind the scenes the school, which charges upwards of $40,000 a year in fees, had hired corporate spin doctors Gracosway to do crisis PR.

Ironically a former ABC journalist, Brigid Glanville, was the consultant charged with ensuring Cranbrook was shown in the best light. Glanville said Gracosway does not comment on clients.

Next week the ABC’s global affairs editor, John Lyons, will present the Four Corners program The Forever War: inside Israel’s war machine, in which he interviews former prime minister Ehud Barak and cabinet minister Avi Dichter.

Given 51% of all complaints raised by the ABC audience in 2023 related to the Israel-Gaza war, we are sure Lyons can expect a strong response.

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Samantha Murphy: Patrick Stephenson identified as alleged killer of Ballarat woman

Magistrate lifts order which prohibited naming son of former AFL footballer accused of murder

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The man accused of murdering Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy has been revealed as 22-year-old Patrick Stephenson, after the lifting of a legal order preventing him from being named.

The son of ex-AFL footballer, Orren Stephenson, has been charged with the murder of Murphy, a mother of three, who went missing on 4 February after going for a run. Police are still searching for her body.

The 22-year-old from Scotsburn attended St Patrick’s College and moved with his family to Ballarat in 2002.

His father made his debut in the AFL in 2012 at age 30 and in an interview with afl.com.au talked about how he returned home as much as possible when he was training in Melboune.

“Patrick last year was rolling around the rooms with the Geelong Cats and this year he’s rolling around with the Richmond Tiger boys,” he said.

“He wouldn’t pass it up for quids. He loves it and the girls have had a lot of fun with it as well. It’s a massive bonus that we can share these pretty good times in our lives with our kids.”

In 2019, Stephenson was photographed by the Ballarat Courier with his teammates from the Redan Under 19s team, to help promote Looking After Our Mates, a program to discourage drink-driving.

Five weeks since Murphy vanished after leaving her Ballarat East home, police on Thursday charged Stephenson with murdering the mother-of-three at Mount Clear.

He appeared in Ballarat magistrates court on Thursday, where his name was concealed.

Stephenson’s lawyer had argued releasing the name could cause prejudice to the man’s right to a fair trial and said his client had been suffering poor mental health since he was arrested.

The court lifted an interim order on Friday.

Stephenson has been remanded into custody and will next face court on 8 August. His lawyer, David Tamanika, on Thursday told the court that it was his client’s first time in custody.

Detectives from the missing persons squad arrested Stephenson, who they said was not linked to the Murphy family, at about 6am on Wednesday.

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“We are alleging a deliberate attack that has caused the death of Samantha,” the police commissioner, Shane Patton, told reporters.

On Thursday, Murphy’s husband, Michael, spoke of his relief over the development, describing the past few weeks as “shithouse” and told of how the community had rallied around his family.

“[It’s] like someone let a pressure valve off,” he told reporters.

“God, the adrenaline with everything that’s been going on, it’s just [been about] trying to be brave for everybody.”

He said while they had been putting on “a brave face”, the family was “doing as good as we can”.

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast on Friday morning, the Ballarat mayor, Des Hudson, said the arrest had offered some “closure”.

“I think the fact that Sam was a mum, had young kids, or young teenagers, and just disappeared without any trace, it really sparked the emotion of our community and communities from everywhere,” Hudson said.

“Samantha will never come home to her family [and] they will never have a beautiful mother, a beautiful wife to be with them as [they] go forward.”

Police and specialist detectives were continuing a search for the body of Murphy.

“Investigations will continue at a very heavy pace,” Patton said. “Doing everything we can to locate Samantha’s body for the family is absolutely vital.”

Police said they were not looking for anyone else at this stage in connection to the alleged murder.

Anyone who has information, including CCTV or dashcam footage from the time Murphy went missing, has been asked to come forward.

Weeks of extensive searching began around Ballarat after Murphy disappeared, with emergency services workers joined by hundreds of locals.

Murphy’s disappearance was out of character as she had been described as mentally and physically fit, and was training for an upcoming race by undertaking 15km runs.

A vigil will be held in Ballarat on Friday evening near the Murphys’ home.

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Aboriginal leader Lowitja O’Donoghue farewelled with PM paying tribute to ‘her remarkable power’

The Yankunytjatjara woman changed the course of Australia for the better, Anthony Albanese says in eulogy

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The Aboriginal rights trailblazer Lowitja O’Donoghue was one of a select few Australians of whom it could be confidently said changed the course of the nation.

“One of the great rocks around which the river of our history has gently bent, persuaded to flow along a better course,” was how the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, described the esteemed Yankunytjatjara woman.

“Her remarkable power was one built on an abiding faith in the possibility of a more united Australia.”

O’Donoghue was both an ally and adversary to numerous prime ministers through the years but Albanese’s eulogy, delivered before hundreds of mourners at St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide on Friday, conveyed the universal respect now afforded her in Australian politics.

She played a key role in the 1967 referendum, lobbied the Keating government to recognise Indigenous land ownership through native title laws and advised on the apology to the stolen generation.

O’Donoghue died on Kaurna Country in Adelaide with her immediate family by her side, on 4 February. She was 91.

“As we mourn her, we give thanks for the better Australia that she helped to make possible,” Albanese said.

“Perhaps even more importantly, we reflect on the possibility of an even better Australia, which she placed so clearly before us.

“Through her time in this world, Dr O’Donoghue walked tall and the power of her example made us all walk that little bit taller as well.

“Now she walks in another place. Yet, thanks to all that she did, she will always be here. In all her warmth and all her strength, a great rock standing forever at the river’s bend.

“May she rest in peace.”

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O’Donoghue gained prominence after becoming the first Aboriginal person to train as a nurse at Royal Adelaide hospital in 1954.

After being denied the opportunity because of her Indigenous heritage, she successfully lobbied the then premier Thomas Playford to win her right to admission, setting her on a lifelong path of fighting for equality.

She was a member of the stolen generations, taken from her mother at two and put in a children’s home.

In the 1960s, she joined Aboriginal rights groups in South Australia before working as a nurse and welfare officer for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

She campaigned for the 1967 referendum that changed the constitution to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the population and make laws for them.

O’Donoghue continued her advocacy and was later made a member of the Order of Australia in 1977.

She was the founding chairperson of the National Aboriginal Conference and in 1984 was named Australian of the Year.

O’Donoghue became the inaugural chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 1990.

One of her greatest achievements was lobbying the Keating government to recognise Aboriginal land ownership through the Native Title Act.

Another was advising Kevin Rudd on the apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly the stolen generation, in 2008.

Away from public life, O’Donoghue’s family were well acquainted with her fierce determination and strong will that served the cause of Aboriginal rights so well.

But they also knew her as a kind, generous, compassionate, larger-than-life, one-of-a-kind woman.

“We loved her, we adored her, we have no idea what life will be like without her here,” her niece Deborah Edwards said.

“We are so proud of all that she was, all that she achieved, and all that she gave to this nation.

“We are proud that she was ours.”

The non-profit Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation was set up in 2022 to continue her legacy by creating opportunities for advancement and change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Her family has asked mourners to donate to the foundation in lieu of flowers.

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Toyota asks for Australia’s proposed vehicle emissions standard to be watered down

Australia’s biggest selling brand says it is broadly supportive but has asked for changes including revisiting the stringency and the timeframe

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Toyota has asked the Albanese government to water down its proposed new laws aimed at disincentivising the purchase of the worst polluting cars and hastening the importation of cleaner vehicles.

Australia’s biggest selling brand – which makes popular models such as the HiLux and LandCruiser – has voiced concerns the scheme will harm rural and regional drivers.

Toyota, in its submission to the government responding to the unveiling of its preferred model for the national vehicle efficiency standard (NVES) in early February, said it was broadly supportive of such a scheme, but made a raft of recommendations, including asking it to “revisit (the) stringency” of targets set out in its preferred “option B” model.

Toyota’s submission comes as rival manufacturers continue sparring with one another as well as climate advocates over claims the proposed NVES will increase the cost of popular car types and is too strict for the industry.

Australia’s proposed fuel standard will place a cap on the emissions from new cars to incentivise carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles. The cap will be lowered over time.

Companies whose emissions averages come in below the cap will gain credits, which can be used by other companies who will be penalised for exceeding the cap.

The government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

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The Albanese government’s preferred model is expected to cut 369m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – equivalent to the last six years of emissions from light vehicles in Australia.

The company noted how the proposed NVES is loosely based on targets under the scheme in place in the US, and pointed to media reports from recent weeks citing unnamed sources that Joe Biden was considering softening certain tailpipe emissions reductions targets to 2030 in part due to pressure during an election year.

“Reports indicate that the USA intends to decelerate the implementation of its annual emissions requirements and review the applicable timeframes,” Toyota’s submission said. “Evidence from the USA market shows that there has been a ‘slower than anticipated demand for electric vehicles’.”

Toyota – which made three of Australia’s top 10 selling cars in 2023 and had come under criticism for taking until last week to introduce its first electric vehicle to the Australian market – also called for the introduction of penalties outlined in the proposed NVES model to be staggered.

While the government has proposed a $100 per g/km of CO2 rate of penalty when the scheme comes into effect as planned for January 2025, Toyota said this was “too severe” and would risk costing consumers.

Instead, it wants there to be no financial penalties for manufacturers exceeding their caps in the first two years of the scheme. It then wants the penalty amount to increase in yearly phases, staggered to reach a penalty rate of $100 per g/km by 2029.

Toyota also asked for the government to tweak the credit scheme in its preferred model by incorporating different types of credits carmakers can earn.

Currently, “supercredits” for the cleanest of vehicles, “off-cycle credits” for specific green technologies used in cars that are not measured in tailpipe emissions, and “air conditioning credits” for using greener refrigerants, only feature in the least ambitious NVES model being considered, but not preferred, by the government.

Echoing concerns made by the federal opposition, Toyota also warned of potential specific downsides for regional and rural Australians requiring specific higher polluting car types for their road conditions as opposed to others who could choose cleaner alternatives.

“Given Australia’s unique conditions, vehicles need to be developed to a higher severity rating which require ladder frame chassis to navigate Australian roads which inherently increases vehicle mass (adding up to 300kg).

“The target setting of Option B unfairly penalises the vehicles that everyday regional and rural Australian conditions require. Across industry, Option B as presented will negatively impact the consumers who need rather than want these products,” the company said.

Toyota also backed in the position of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the industry body whose campaigning against the government’s preferred NVES model has seen Tesla and Polestar quit the group in protest with accusations it was not representing them and was making unsubstantiated claims the scheme would increase the cost of cars.

Meanwhile, the Grattan Institute submission on the proposed NVES model estimated the policy would on average increase prices by about 1%, but that consumers would quickly be financially better off due to significant savings on fuel and maintenance costs.

Australia remains one of the few countries in the OECD without standards. Industry analysts have routinely warned that manufacturers are treating Australia as a dumping ground for heavily polluting vehicles due to a lack of penalties.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel for each 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

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Toyota asks for Australia’s proposed vehicle emissions standard to be watered down

Australia’s biggest selling brand says it is broadly supportive but has asked for changes including revisiting the stringency and the timeframe

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

Toyota has asked the Albanese government to water down its proposed new laws aimed at disincentivising the purchase of the worst polluting cars and hastening the importation of cleaner vehicles.

Australia’s biggest selling brand – which makes popular models such as the HiLux and LandCruiser – has voiced concerns the scheme will harm rural and regional drivers.

Toyota, in its submission to the government responding to the unveiling of its preferred model for the national vehicle efficiency standard (NVES) in early February, said it was broadly supportive of such a scheme, but made a raft of recommendations, including asking it to “revisit (the) stringency” of targets set out in its preferred “option B” model.

Toyota’s submission comes as rival manufacturers continue sparring with one another as well as climate advocates over claims the proposed NVES will increase the cost of popular car types and is too strict for the industry.

Australia’s proposed fuel standard will place a cap on the emissions from new cars to incentivise carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles. The cap will be lowered over time.

Companies whose emissions averages come in below the cap will gain credits, which can be used by other companies who will be penalised for exceeding the cap.

The government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

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

The Albanese government’s preferred model is expected to cut 369m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – equivalent to the last six years of emissions from light vehicles in Australia.

The company noted how the proposed NVES is loosely based on targets under the scheme in place in the US, and pointed to media reports from recent weeks citing unnamed sources that Joe Biden was considering softening certain tailpipe emissions reductions targets to 2030 in part due to pressure during an election year.

“Reports indicate that the USA intends to decelerate the implementation of its annual emissions requirements and review the applicable timeframes,” Toyota’s submission said. “Evidence from the USA market shows that there has been a ‘slower than anticipated demand for electric vehicles’.”

Toyota – which made three of Australia’s top 10 selling cars in 2023 and had come under criticism for taking until last week to introduce its first electric vehicle to the Australian market – also called for the introduction of penalties outlined in the proposed NVES model to be staggered.

While the government has proposed a $100 per g/km of CO2 rate of penalty when the scheme comes into effect as planned for January 2025, Toyota said this was “too severe” and would risk costing consumers.

Instead, it wants there to be no financial penalties for manufacturers exceeding their caps in the first two years of the scheme. It then wants the penalty amount to increase in yearly phases, staggered to reach a penalty rate of $100 per g/km by 2029.

Toyota also asked for the government to tweak the credit scheme in its preferred model by incorporating different types of credits carmakers can earn.

Currently, “supercredits” for the cleanest of vehicles, “off-cycle credits” for specific green technologies used in cars that are not measured in tailpipe emissions, and “air conditioning credits” for using greener refrigerants, only feature in the least ambitious NVES model being considered, but not preferred, by the government.

Echoing concerns made by the federal opposition, Toyota also warned of potential specific downsides for regional and rural Australians requiring specific higher polluting car types for their road conditions as opposed to others who could choose cleaner alternatives.

“Given Australia’s unique conditions, vehicles need to be developed to a higher severity rating which require ladder frame chassis to navigate Australian roads which inherently increases vehicle mass (adding up to 300kg).

“The target setting of Option B unfairly penalises the vehicles that everyday regional and rural Australian conditions require. Across industry, Option B as presented will negatively impact the consumers who need rather than want these products,” the company said.

Toyota also backed in the position of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the industry body whose campaigning against the government’s preferred NVES model has seen Tesla and Polestar quit the group in protest with accusations it was not representing them and was making unsubstantiated claims the scheme would increase the cost of cars.

Meanwhile, the Grattan Institute submission on the proposed NVES model estimated the policy would on average increase prices by about 1%, but that consumers would quickly be financially better off due to significant savings on fuel and maintenance costs.

Australia remains one of the few countries in the OECD without standards. Industry analysts have routinely warned that manufacturers are treating Australia as a dumping ground for heavily polluting vehicles due to a lack of penalties.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel for each 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

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Almost 1 million Australians are working at least two jobs as cost-of-living pressures bite

More workers are taking on multiple jobs as they grapple with higher interest rates, inflation and underemployment

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Almost 1 million Australians are working at least two jobs as many workers struggle to meet cost-of-living pressures amid rising underemployment.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Friday show 970,700 people held multiple jobs in December 2023, up from 957,100 three months earlier.

The share of workers in multiple jobs swung between 5% and 6% of the workforce before 2020, but had stabilised at about 6.7% over the last year.

The increased proportion represented an extra 100,000 workers taking on multiple jobs compared to the pre-pandemic level, as they grappled with higher interest rates and inflation.

People in financial difficulty commonly resort to taking on extra jobs, according to the acting financial counselling director for the Consumer Action Law Centre, Claire Tacon.

Inquiries to the centre’s National Debt Helpline had surged as financial difficulties had forced people to search for new sources of income, she said.

“Financial counsellors will often suggest people take a look at increasing their income … and it’s something that people have already considered or are doing.”

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Almost one in three Australians want to take on extra work in 2024, according to the financial comparison site Finder. Research by Insights Exchange says that share rises to one in two in the 18-24- and 35-44-year-old age groups.

While rising living costs had forced people to look for extra jobs, their search had been helped by high post-pandemic spending and high job vacancies, according to the University of Melbourne economist Jeff Borland.

“When the labour market strengthens, there’s more jobs available, so there’s this opportunity for people who want more hours to take on an extra job,” he said.

But as spending and job creation slow, Australians would soon have fewer opportunities to take on extra work.

Job advertisements began to fall in February after picking up towards the end of last year, according to ANZ and Indeed.

The total number of hours worked had continued to fall, the ABS reported on Friday, while underemployment had crept upwards to 6.6% in January this year, from a low of 4.6% in November 2022.

Additionally, once inflation recedes and interest rate cuts arrive, the need for extra work should decline.

“When you take those cyclical forces and inflation away, there’s the potential for multiple job holding to come back down to where it was before,” Borland said.

Tacon agreed that any potential ease in living cost pressures would allow Australians to stop working multiple jobs.

“Interest rates going down would make a massive difference. That’s what’s made us so busy,” she said.

But the Centre for Future Work policy director, Fiona Macdonald, said multiple job holding would persist due to Australia’s dependence on flexible, part-time work.

“Employers have increasingly had the ability to recruit and roster people according to peak periods … which leaves part-time and casual workers with quite a few gaps,” she said.

One in five part-time workers in Australia were underemployed last year, the same as in 2022, suggesting there is persistent pressure to take on extra hours.

“It’s more likely that multiple job holding will continue to be as high as it is or higher, as long as part-time and casual work are high,” Macdonald said.

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Labor admits just 17 of 500 domestic violence staff promised have been hired

Social services minister Amanda Rishworth says government ‘needed to work hard’ to fulfil election promise

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Only a handful of the 500 domestic violence support workers promised by the Albanese government have been hired, the social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, has admitted, saying Labor “needed to work hard” to fulfil its election commitment.

“We put the money in our budget and we’re working with the states and territories through paying them to employ these workers and get these workers on the ground,” Rishworth told the ABC on Friday, confirming just 17 of the 500 domestic violence staff had started work.

The minister told News Corp that state and territory governments had signed agreements to reach a “first milestone” of 352 workers by 30 June this year.

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Rishworth criticised the deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, for turning the issue “into a political football”, after the opposition called out the government’s delay on International Women’s Day.

Ley issued a statement on Friday morning calling on the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to “accept responsibility for failing to meet his commitment to deliver 500 new domestic violence workers and pledge to fix it”. She pointed to a November 2021 commitment from Labor, then in opposition, to “fund 500 new community sector workers to support women in crisis”.

An October 2022 budget commitment, not long after Labor won government, pledged $169m for 200 workers to be employed in the 2022 and 2023 financial years, and 100 in 2024-25.

“Labor funded the 500 community workers measure in the October 2022 budget promising to have 200 new workers on the ground in 2022-23. None were delivered in that year,” Ley said.

She referenced evidence given by officials from the Department of Social Services in a 14 February Senate estimates committee who said, “we have one worker in South Australia and one worker in the Northern Territory” when asked for an update on the program by Liberal senator Kerrynne Liddle, the shadow minister for prevention of family violence.

Officials said time had been needed to negotiate agreements with state and territory governments to hire the workers, including planning and identifying services and recruiting staff.

“All states have informed us that they are on track for meeting their worker targets this financial year and we’ve only seen the start of those workers coming into place,” a department official told the estimates hearing.

Liddle called the rollout of the program “appalling”, claiming “the Albanese government’s go-slow here is truly unwarranted and disturbing”.

“This is a disgrace given that we lost more than 50 women to intimate partner violence in 2023 and already 11 women have been killed in family violence incidents in just two months this year,” she said.

Responding to the issue in an ABC TV interview, Rishworth said more work needed to be done, but disputed the figures given by Ley.

“They don’t have their facts correct. We have now got 17 full-time-equivalent workers on board,” she said.

“But, yes, we do need to work hard to make sure that we are putting more workers on board. Of course, the states and territories have received two payments, two funding payments, one as far back as June last year, and we are working with them to make sure that they are putting on the workers that we need, recruiting the workers that we need.”

Ley spoke to 2GB soon afterwards, noting Rishworth’s update, and saying 17 was “not enough”.

“I meet with the services, I’ve met with them in every state and they’re crying out for help and women need this,” she said.

“What you need to know if you’re someone who is expecting one of these workers who’s ready to host one in your organisation is why are they not here? Where are they? And I think the state government is actually waiting for action from the commonwealth, but whatever it takes, it needs to be sorted and if this is a promise made by the prime minister, it’s a promise he needs to keep.”

Earlier, a statement from Rishworth and the assistant social services minister, Justine Elliot, noted the government’s commitment of $2.3bn in the 2022 and 2023 budgets for women’s safety initiatives, including the $169m for states and territories to provide those domestic violence workers.

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Polestar joins Tesla in quitting auto lobby over its campaign against proposed vehicle efficiency standard

Electric carmaker concerned at ‘overblown’ claims that Albanese government’s plan to import environmentally cleaner cars would increase ute prices

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Electric car brand Polestar has become the second company to quit Australia’s main auto industry lobby group over frustrations at its campaign against the Albanese government’s plan to import environmentally cleaner cars.

On Friday – a day after Tesla announced it would cease being a member of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) over the group’s opposition to the government’s proposed vehicle efficiency standard – Polestar Australia’s managing director, Samantha Johnson, wrote to FCAI CEO Tony Weber advising him the Volvo-owned brand was also cancelling its membership.

In the letter, Johnson echoed concerns from Tesla over claims the FCAI was warning the government’s preferred model for a national vehicle efficiency standard (NVES) could increase the price of popular utes by up to $13,000.

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Johnson said the active campaigning against the standard by the FCAI and fellow member companies was not aligned with Polestar’s focus.

She said claims about the standard leading to price increases are “overblown” and called on the FCAI to release the modelling underpinning its assertions. “Rather, it appears that the FCAI has cherrypicked what it thinks will progress the position of only some members”.

“The FCAI’s commentary against the proposed ‘Option B’ framework of a NVES does not represent the position of Polestar and may have irrevocably damaged consumer perception and trust in the proposed policy,” Johnson wrote.

“The brand can not in good faith continue to allow its membership fees to fund a campaign designed to deliberately slow the car industry’s contribution to Australia’s emissions reduction potential,” she said.

Johnson also pointed to a submission by the Grattan Institute on the government’s proposed model for the NVES, which estimated the policy would on average increase prices by about 1%, but that consumers would quickly be financially better off due to significant savings on fuel and maintenance costs.

Johnson said Polestar would consider returning to the lobby group “when the FCAI commits to representing all voices in the automotive industry, fairly”.

Weber, in a statement, noted that the FCAI “must act in the interests of the Australian automotive industry and Australian car buyers” which includes more than 50 brands with more than 350 vehicles “from battery electric vehicles, plugin hybrid and hybrids to petrol and diesel drivetrains”.

“FCAI cannot support a standard that in the short-term might meet the needs and pockets of those at the premium end of the market while potentially hurting businesses and families who may be forced to deal with less choice and higher prices next time they buy a new car,” Weber said.

Responding to Tesla’s accusations earlier this week, the FCAI said it had encouraged successive governments to introduce an efficiency standard for more than a decade, and that its members “want to continue to play their role in combating climate change and providing Australians with the zero- and low-emission vehicles they can afford”.

On Thursday, Tesla asked the FCAI to publicly correct its “false claims” and acknowledge they do not accurately reflect what car companies intend to do. It was worried the group’s comments would significantly push up the price of most popular cars and utes, and significantly reduce the price of Tesla models.

It expressed concern the FCAI’s claims could lead to a consumer run on high-polluting utes out of fear their cost would increase when the NVES is introduced. It was also worried the claims could push motorists to delay buying Tesla cars out of an expectation of a price drop when the government’s scheme comes into effect.

Australia’s proposed fuel standard will place a cap on the emissions from new cars to incentivise carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles. The cap will be lowered over time.

The government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

The Albanese government’s preferred model is expected to cut 369m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – equivalent to the last six years of emissions from light vehicles in Australia.

Australia, along with Russia, remains one of the few countries in the OECD without standards. Industry analysts have routinely warned that manufacturers are treating Australia as a dumping ground for heavily polluting vehicles due to a lack of penalties.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel for each 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

Since the government unveiled its preferred model in early February, tensions have simmered between climate advocates, car companies and political opponents.

On Wednesday, Anthony Albanese denied that the Thai prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, asked him to slow the introduction of Australia’s planned fuel efficiency standard as it would adversely affect Thai exports.

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Son arrested after woman’s body found in boot of car in northern NSW

Sixty-year-old was found dead in car in Evans Head with police questioning her 39-year-old son

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A man has been arrested after the body of his 60-year-old mother was found in the boot of a car in northern New South Wales.

The 60-year-old woman was discovered dead after police were called to an apartment in Evans Head on Friday morning.

Her son, 39, was arrested at the apartment before being taken to Ballina police station for questioning. No charges have been laid.

A crime scene was established at the Park Street address.

“Police have established a crime scene and launched an investigation into the incident,” a police spokesperson said. “Inquiries are ongoing.”

Anyone with information was urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

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