The Guardian 2024-03-11 01:01:33


Jim Chalmers has announced the slashing of some 500 “nuisance tariffs” worth nearly $30m on a range of goods including washing machines, shoes and fridges, as the government cleans up old regulations.

It includes the slashing of $3m in tariffs on menstrual sanitary products.

The treasurer says Australian businesses aren’t protected by these tariffs, which apply to a range of goods which are now imported duty-free thanks to various trade agreements, but local businesses still have to go through various regulatory processes and paperwork anyway.

Such compliance takes time and costs money. The government claims that slashing the tariffs – which they’re calling the biggest tariff reform in 20 years – will cut costs for businesses and consumers, as well as boosting productivity.

Although the costs of the tariffs bring in relatively little money, so the benefits to consumers may be relatively small. Examples given include cutting tariffs on toothbrushes ($22,000 in revenue annually), fridge-freezers ($28,000), X-ray film ($200) and toasters ($1,000).

At the upper end, the government is cutting $3m in tariffs on menstrual products, $140,000 on fishing reels, $95,000 on pens and $140,000 on washing machines.

“The tariffs identified have been selected because their abolition will deliver benefits for businesses without adversely impacting Australian industries or constraining Australia in sensitive FTA negotiations,” a release from Chalmers’ office said.

Chalmers acknowledged the small tariffs on some goods, but said the changes would give “small amount of extra help with the cost-of-living challenge by making everyday items such as toothbrushes, tools, fridges, dishwashers and clothing just a little bit cheaper”.

First post-op photo of Princess of Wales withdrawn due to ‘manipulation’

Picture agencies issue ‘kill notice’ after editing error of the image of Catherine with her children comes to light

The first official photograph of the Princess of Wales to be released after her abdominal surgery two months ago has been recalled by some of the world’s biggest picture agencies over claims it had been manipulated.

The image, released to mark Mother’s Day in the UK, shows Catherine sitting on a chair surrounded by her three children. It is the first authorised picture of her since Christmas.

After its release, the photo was recalled by photo agencies including Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters, which put out a “kill notice” to halt their distribution of the picture.

“At closer inspection, it appears that the source has manipulated the image,” the AP notice said. A spokesperson for AP told the Telegraph: “The photo shows an inconsistency in the alignment of Princess Charlotte’s left hand.”

AFP said: “Mandatory kill. Due to an editorial issue this photo by the Prince of Wales has been withdrawn … and may no longer by used in any manner. Please immediately remove it from all your online services, stop using it in any other fashion and delete it from your servers.”

Speculation and conspiracy theories have grown since Catherine has been out of the public eye recovering from the planned abdominal operation in January, when it was said she was expected to be recuperating until around Easter.

The photo was posted to the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media accounts on Sunday morning, along with a message thanking well-wishers for their support.

“Thank you for your kind wishes and continued support over the last two months,” the message read. “Wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day. C.”

Kensington Palace said the image was taken in Windsor earlier this week by the Prince of Wales.

Details of the princess’s condition have not been revealed, but Kensington Palace previously said it was not cancer-related and that Catherine wished her personal medical information to remain private.

Kensington Palace has declined to comment.

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In all the excitement, I forgot to mention one of the best original song performances – Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People) from Killers of the Flower Moon. It was a banger, quite literally – a spirited, percussive performance from a group of Osage and indigenous American musicians. Jon Batiste has just performed his own best song nominee, a solo piano version of It Never Went Away. Pleasant enough, but not a patch on that drumming.

Oscars 2024: how to watch, nominations, predictions, and timetable

The 96th Academy Awards are almost upon us – here’s our guide to tuning in at home on Sunday and who we reckon will win the top prizes

  • Oscars 2024 live updates
  • Oscars 2024: the full list of winners – live updates

The run-up to this year’s Oscars has been smoother than in recent years: no major turmoil to report other than the “snub” for Barbie – 2023’s biggest hit arrives with eight nominations, but Greta Gerwig was passed over entirely in the directing category. Well, this is a democracy, and the votes don’t just go with money. (No one is getting in a huff about The Super Mario Bros Movie, last year’s number two, not coming to the big show.)

The Oscars are fully aware that the bigger the movies they reward, the better the audience figures are for the TV broadcast (their main money-spinner), so they plan to rinse Barbie for everything they can. They will be giving 65 Kens to frug alongside Ryan Gosling as he warbles I’m Just Ken (nominated for best song), while Billie Eilish (also nominated, a much more likely winner) will sing her hit song What Was I Made For?

Another element of Oscar “news” is the nudge to the start time: the ceremony is getting underway an hour earlier and is aiming for a snappy three and a half hour running time. Host Jimmy Kimmel – the universally acknowledged safe pair of hands – will have to do a lot of shooing, but unless they give the playoff orchestra leader an electric cattle prod, the chances of keeping things that trim are slim to bupkis.

What not many people are talking about, though, is the likelihood of significant political protest, given the activity at the Grammys, the Independent Spirit awards and elsewhere. Security around the venue has been “beefed up”, but the Oscars have said they won’t interfere with winners’ speeches – though, unless Mark Ruffalo manages to get past Robert Downey Jr for best supporting actor, it’s hard to see where an incendiary Vanessa Redgrave-type speech is going to come from. James Wilson, producer of The Zone of Interest, has a bit of form in the area though.

How to watch

In the US: The E! channel gets things under way with Brunch at the Oscars at 12:00 PT/15:00 ET, then moves to Live from the Red Carpet show at 14:00 PT/17:00 ET. ABC starts its coverage with The Oscars Red Carpet Show at 15:30 PT/18:30 ET, before the ceremony begins at 16:00 PT/19:00 ET. It is due to finish at 19:30 PT/22:30 ET.

In the UK: ITV has nabbed the rights this year, with its streaming platform ITVX starting up at 21:30 GMT and its broadcast channel ITV1 stepping in with Oscars Live at 22:15 GMT.

In Australia: 7Bravo is carrying E!’s red carpet coverage from 08:00 AEDT. Channel 7 is picking up Red Carpet Live at 09:30 AEDT, with the ceremony show getting under way at 10:00 AEDT.

Preparation

There’s a lot to read about the Oscars. Here’s the best of it

What’s in those goodie bags?
Guardian writers step up for their favourite best picture nominee
The Oscar short films reviewed.
Stuart Heritage assesses what the “brutally honest” Oscar voter interviews can tell us.
Argue over which Christopher Nolan film is the best.
The art of a memorable Oscar speech.
Emma Stone would do anything for an Oscar win – and we mean anything.
The awards-bait movies that got away.
Interviews with all the key players: Greta Gerwig, Jeffrey Wright, Justine Triet, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Lily Gladstone, Cillian Murphy, Yorgos Lanthimos and Jonathan Glazer.

Final predictions

Some of these have been dead certs for weeks; others less so. Everyone’s had their say, including our own Peter Bradshaw, so here’s a last roll of the dice.

Best picture Oppenheimer
Best actor Cillian Murphy
Best actress Lily Gladstone
Best supporting actor Robert Downey Jr
Best supporting actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph
Best director Christopher Nolan
Best song What Was I Made For?
Best adapted screenplay American Fiction
Best original screenplay Anatomy of a Fall
Best documentary 20 Days in Mariupol
Best animated film The Boy and the Heron
Best international film The Zone of Interest

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Oscars 2024: the full list of winners – live updates

We are updating this page as the winners are announced. Refresh for the latest news

Live blog: follow the red carpet and the ceremony live

Best picture

American Fiction
Anatomy of a Fall
Barbie
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Past Lives
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Best actor in a leading role

Bradley Cooper – Maestro
Colman Domingo – Rustin
Paul Giamatti – The Holdovers
Cillian Murphy – Oppenheimer
Jeffrey Wright – American Fiction

Best actor in a supporting role

Sterling K Brown – American Fiction
Robert De Niro – Killers of the Flower Moon
Robert Downey Jr – Oppenheimer – WINNER
Ryan Gosling – Barbie
Mark Ruffalo – Poor Things

Best actress in a leading role

Annette BeningNyad
Lily Gladstone – Killers of the Flower Moon
Sandra Hüller – Anatomy of a Fall
Carey Mulligan – Maestro
Emma Stone – Poor Things

Best actress in a supporting role

Emily Blunt – Oppenheimer
Danielle Brooks – The Color Purple
America Ferrera – Barbie
Jodie Foster – Nyad
Da’Vine Joy Randolph – The Holdovers – WINNER

Best directing

Anatomy of a Fall – Justine Triet
Killers of the Flower Moon – Martin Scorsese
Oppenheimer – Christopher Nolan
Poor Things – Yorgos Lanthimos
The Zone of Interest – Jonathan Glazer

Best animated feature film

News: The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, wins Oscar for best animation

The Boy and the Heron – WINNER
Elemental
Nimona
Robot Dreams
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Best adapted screenplay

American Fiction – WINNER
Barbie
Oppenheimer
Poor Things
The Zone of Interest

Best original screenplay

News: Anatomy of a Fall wins best original screenplay Oscar

Anatomy of a Fall – WINNER
The Holdovers
Maestro
May December
Past Lives

Best cinematography

El Conde
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Poor Things

Best costume design

Barbie
Killers of the Flower Moon
Napoleon
Oppenheimer
Poor Things – WINNER

Best documentary feature film

Bobi Wine: The People’s President
The Eternal Memory
Four Daughters
To Kill a Tiger
20 Days in Mariupol

Best documentary short film

The ABCs of Book Banning
The Barber of Little Rock
Island in Between
The Last Repair Shop
Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó

Best film editing

Anatomy of a Fall
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Oppenheimer – WINNER
Poor Things

Best international feature film

Io Capitano
Perfect Days
Society of the Snow
The Teachers’ Lounge
The Zone of Interest – WINNER

Best makeup and hairstyling

Golda
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Poor Things – WINNER
Society of the Snow

Best original score

American Fiction
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Killers of the Flower Moon
Oppenheimer
Poor Things

Best original song

The Fire Inside – Flamin’ Hot
I’m Just Ken – Barbie
It Never Went Away – American Symphony
Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People) – Killers of the Flower Moon
What Was I Made For? – Barbie

Best production design

Barbie
Killers of the Flower Moon
Napoleon
Oppenheimer
Poor Things – WINNER

Best animated short film

Letter to a Pig
Ninety-Five Senses
Our Uniform
Pachyderme
WAR IS OVER! Inspired by the Music of John & Yoko – WINNER

Best live action short film

The After
Invincible
Knight of Fortune
Red, White and Blue
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Best sound

The Creator
Maestro
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Oppenheimer
The Zone of Interest

Best visual effects

The Creator
Godzilla Minus One – WINNER
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One
Napoleon

Read more about the 2024 Oscars:

  • Here’s how and where to watch the Oscars.

  • The full list of nominations, the all-time biggest snubs and Oscarbait titles that missed the mark.

  • Read our guide to the best picture movies – along with predictions from Peter Bradshaw.

  • Read interviews and profiles of Cillian Murphy, Jeffrey Wright, Robert De Niro, Annette Bening, Lily Gladstone, Sandra Hüller, Carey Mulligan and Emma Stone.

  • More Oscar questions: What’s Greta Gerwig’s best film? Or Ryan Gosling’s finest performance? Do those anonymous Oscar ballots tell us anything?

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Oscars kicks off behind schedule as pro-Palestine protesters delay stars’ arrivals

Barbie star Margot Robbie reportedly among those trying to get through protest but sources say flow into theater was secure

  • Oscars 2024 – live updates
  • Stars wear red Gaza ceasefire pins at Oscars

The annual Oscars broadcast kicked off several minutes behind schedule after hundreds of protesters obstructed the red carpet and entrance to the Dolby Theatre, preventing many of Hollywood’s biggest stars from getting to the show on time.

Ahead of and during the red carpet, pro-Palestinian protesters shouted at fans and stars alike: “Ceasefire now! Free Palestine.” Some also had signs that read “No awards for genocide” and drove school buses with Palestinian flags.

One reporter for the New York Times claimed that the protesters “shut down” a “main thoroughfare” and that the Academy was sending golf carts to retrieve the stars who got stuck.

Barbie star Margot Robbie was reportedly among those trying to get through the protesters.

The Los Angeles police department (LAPD) told local news station KABC that the protesters were held “outside the secure zone and officers were eventually able to clear routes and intersections after issuing the dispersal order”.

Vanity Fair’s awards editor Katey Rich noted on X that she “truly cannot remember a time when the Oscars have started LATE – nobody in the auditorium seems clear on why, but the pro-Palestine protests down the block seem like a likely cause to me”.

Sources close to the situation told the Guardian that, despite the protests, the flow into the theater was safe and secure and that attendees are in good spirits. They also noted that show is continuing to move forward as planned.

Demonstrations continued on the red carpet itself as stars like Billie Eilish, Ramy Youssef and others wore red pins in an effort of solidarity for Artists4Ceasefire.

“We’re all calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. We’re calling for the safety of everyone involved. We really want lasting justice and peace for the Palestinian people,” Youssef said during a red carpet interview. “We really just want to say, ‘Let’s just stop killing children.’ There’s so much there to process and it feels like the easiest way to have the conversations that people want to have is when they’re isn’t an active bombing campaign happening.”

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School shopping: the inner-city Melbourne schools next to public housing towers that middle-class families avoid

A group of primary schools are struggling to attract enrolments. It’s a different story for those in neighbouring zones

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When Koreena Carlton sees a parent pushing a pram from her office window, she often grabs a brochure, rushes outside and introduces herself. “I will ask them how old their kids are, if they want to come check out the school,” says the principal of Debney Meadows primary school, in Melbourne’s inner north.

“The other staff do laugh at me quite a bit. I’m outside every single day – before school, after school. Any community event, someone from the school will be there. We are very active in trying to show people what we do.”

Carlton, who joined the public school in 2021, is on a mission to encourage parents in the Flemington community to send their children to it.

When it first opened in the mid-1970s, Debney Meadows had 575 students. During the pandemic, enrolments were as low as 64.

According to the Victorian education department’s “enrolment pressure index”, which measures demand across state schools, Debney Meadows was at 14% capacity in 2022 – when the most recent data was compiled.

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Debney Meadows’ situation is in stark contrast with other primary schools in the increasingly gentrifying inner north of Melbourne.

Less than a kilometre away, the Flemington primary school was at 66% capacity in 2022. The Ascot Vale and Kensington primary schools, each a five minute’s drive from Debney Meadows, were at 77% and 85% respectively.

Experts suggest Debney Meadow’s predicament is likely due to its location. It is wedged between four public housing towers, two of which are slated for demolition by the state government by 2031.

The majority of its students are children of recent migrants and refugees, and 80% are from the most disadvantaged quarter of the Australian community, according to the My School website.

Yet Flemington public school has 344 students, of which 60% are from the most advantaged quarter.

Christina Ho, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney, suggests this is a result of “school shopping”, and says it has become more prevalent among middle-class parents in gentrified suburbs across Australia.

“The middle-class families are trying to essentially avoid people from lower-income backgrounds,” she says.

“Perhaps they think that these kids will be more disruptive in class or they’ll be a bad influence on the kids. Sometimes, there is also a racial component if there are a lot of non-Anglo Australian kids, that could be seen as a negative influence.

“There’s often a lot of euphemisms that people will use. They might say a certain school looks very rough. That’s often code for ‘there’s a lot of kids who look like they might be from poor backgrounds’ or from certain ethnic backgrounds.”

It’s a similar story five kilometres away in Carlton.

Carlton Gardens primary school was bursting at the seams at 119% of capacity in 2022, while Carlton North primary school was at 96%.

Yet Carlton primary school – located next to the public housing towers on Drummond and Lygon Street – was at only 23% capacity.

Further east, Richmond primary school was at 89% capacity – in contrast to the nearby Richmond West school, which sits between towers on Highett Street and Lennox Street, which was at 63%.

Tom Greenwell, a Canberra-based teacher and author of Waiting for Gonski: How Australia Failed its Schools, says the country has one of the most segregated school systems in the OECD.

“It overwhelmingly means a concentration of disadvantaged students in public schools,” he says.

School shopping

In Victoria, parents can seek enrolments at a school outside their designated zone. But if that school has limited spaces available, applications are considered using the “priority order of placement”, which prioritises students “who live within the school zone and out of zone siblings”.

Ho says the policy, which is similar in other states, encourages school shopping.

“This has created a culture really of going school shopping. You’re looking around at all the nearby schools, and then sometimes further afield,” Ho says.

Carlton says she is aware of several local families who have chosen to send their children to schools outside the zone.

“The way the policy is, they have a right to do that,” she says.

“I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure why people aren’t choosing the school. It would be lovely to see people come through the doors and see the school, see the work that we do, the level of community engagement that we have.

“It’s a beautiful school with a beautiful culture.”

An education department spokesperson says all Victorian schools “do a fantastic job catering for unique and diverse student demographics” and “sit at the heart of their communities”.

“We’re continuing to invest in inner-city schools to ensure all students have the best facilities and opportunities for success,” they say.

“Debney Meadows is just one fantastic example of many schools going above and beyond to deliver outcomes for every student, no matter their background.”

When Carlton started at Debney Meadows, the state was in the grips of Covid-19. A year earlier, the towers of Flemington and North Melbourne were placed into a hard lockdown with no warning.

Many families, who were offered alternative housing by the Victorian government, had left the school.

“When I came, we saw the number of students enrolled drop to its lowest number of around 64,” she says.

“My job was to start to build back not just enrolments but a school community.”

With a grant from the William Buckland Foundation, the school transformed an empty space into a community hub, which offers playgroups, adult education, as well as dance, homework and sports clubs.

Carlton also set up a school readiness program that prepares preps for school from term two of the previous year. She says program is more comprehensive than what other schools offer, and also begins about six months earlier.

It has seen enrolments bounce back – there are now 118 students at the school, with half either in prep or grade 1.

Other schools are also taking a creative approach to increase enrolments. Fitzroy primary school attracted students and lifted its “disadvantage” profile when it adopted a French bilingual program several years ago.

Since adopting the program, enrolments have doubled to 200 students and is projected to reach 300 in coming years.

Resourcing disparities

But Carlton says at Debney Meadows it is still a struggle to get prospective parents through the doors. She suggests its concrete and brick exterior could be to blame.

“It is a harsh building, when you look at it, Richmond West is the same,” she says.

“But with some funding, we could soften it up, make it more inviting.”

The school is part of the Victorian government’s Flemington education plan but, unlike Ascot Vale and Flemington, which received $3.87m and $1.15m for upgrades in 2020/21, it has not received any funding for capital works beyond $400,000 for planning.

According to Greenwell, segregation between schools is occurring due to resourcing disparities.

He points to a recent federal government-commissioned report, which showed that disadvantaged students who were concentrated with other disadvantaged students at school had worse outcomes compared to being in a classroom with a lot of advantaged students.

“The peers [who] you learn with have a big effect on your student outcomes,” Greenwell says.

“Social cohesion doesn’t just grow on trees. You need to foster it and support it and encourage parents to enrol their children in their local public school and be confident that that school is appropriately resourced.”

Ho points to broader consequences of schools becoming segregated.

“If students are only dealing with people who are like them, then that is a real lost opportunity for them to learn the kinds of skills to gain an understanding about how all sorts of different people live their lives,” she says.

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School shopping: the inner-city Melbourne schools next to public housing towers that middle-class families avoid

A group of primary schools are struggling to attract enrolments. It’s a different story for those in neighbouring zones

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

When Koreena Carlton sees a parent pushing a pram from her office window, she often grabs a brochure, rushes outside and introduces herself. “I will ask them how old their kids are, if they want to come check out the school,” says the principal of Debney Meadows primary school, in Melbourne’s inner north.

“The other staff do laugh at me quite a bit. I’m outside every single day – before school, after school. Any community event, someone from the school will be there. We are very active in trying to show people what we do.”

Carlton, who joined the public school in 2021, is on a mission to encourage parents in the Flemington community to send their children to it.

When it first opened in the mid-1970s, Debney Meadows had 575 students. During the pandemic, enrolments were as low as 64.

According to the Victorian education department’s “enrolment pressure index”, which measures demand across state schools, Debney Meadows was at 14% capacity in 2022 – when the most recent data was compiled.

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

Debney Meadows’ situation is in stark contrast with other primary schools in the increasingly gentrifying inner north of Melbourne.

Less than a kilometre away, the Flemington primary school was at 66% capacity in 2022. The Ascot Vale and Kensington primary schools, each a five minute’s drive from Debney Meadows, were at 77% and 85% respectively.

Experts suggest Debney Meadow’s predicament is likely due to its location. It is wedged between four public housing towers, two of which are slated for demolition by the state government by 2031.

The majority of its students are children of recent migrants and refugees, and 80% are from the most disadvantaged quarter of the Australian community, according to the My School website.

Yet Flemington public school has 344 students, of which 60% are from the most advantaged quarter.

Christina Ho, an associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney, suggests this is a result of “school shopping”, and says it has become more prevalent among middle-class parents in gentrified suburbs across Australia.

“The middle-class families are trying to essentially avoid people from lower-income backgrounds,” she says.

“Perhaps they think that these kids will be more disruptive in class or they’ll be a bad influence on the kids. Sometimes, there is also a racial component if there are a lot of non-Anglo Australian kids, that could be seen as a negative influence.

“There’s often a lot of euphemisms that people will use. They might say a certain school looks very rough. That’s often code for ‘there’s a lot of kids who look like they might be from poor backgrounds’ or from certain ethnic backgrounds.”

It’s a similar story five kilometres away in Carlton.

Carlton Gardens primary school was bursting at the seams at 119% of capacity in 2022, while Carlton North primary school was at 96%.

Yet Carlton primary school – located next to the public housing towers on Drummond and Lygon Street – was at only 23% capacity.

Further east, Richmond primary school was at 89% capacity – in contrast to the nearby Richmond West school, which sits between towers on Highett Street and Lennox Street, which was at 63%.

Tom Greenwell, a Canberra-based teacher and author of Waiting for Gonski: How Australia Failed its Schools, says the country has one of the most segregated school systems in the OECD.

“It overwhelmingly means a concentration of disadvantaged students in public schools,” he says.

School shopping

In Victoria, parents can seek enrolments at a school outside their designated zone. But if that school has limited spaces available, applications are considered using the “priority order of placement”, which prioritises students “who live within the school zone and out of zone siblings”.

Ho says the policy, which is similar in other states, encourages school shopping.

“This has created a culture really of going school shopping. You’re looking around at all the nearby schools, and then sometimes further afield,” Ho says.

Carlton says she is aware of several local families who have chosen to send their children to schools outside the zone.

“The way the policy is, they have a right to do that,” she says.

“I don’t know what it is. I’m not sure why people aren’t choosing the school. It would be lovely to see people come through the doors and see the school, see the work that we do, the level of community engagement that we have.

“It’s a beautiful school with a beautiful culture.”

An education department spokesperson says all Victorian schools “do a fantastic job catering for unique and diverse student demographics” and “sit at the heart of their communities”.

“We’re continuing to invest in inner-city schools to ensure all students have the best facilities and opportunities for success,” they say.

“Debney Meadows is just one fantastic example of many schools going above and beyond to deliver outcomes for every student, no matter their background.”

When Carlton started at Debney Meadows, the state was in the grips of Covid-19. A year earlier, the towers of Flemington and North Melbourne were placed into a hard lockdown with no warning.

Many families, who were offered alternative housing by the Victorian government, had left the school.

“When I came, we saw the number of students enrolled drop to its lowest number of around 64,” she says.

“My job was to start to build back not just enrolments but a school community.”

With a grant from the William Buckland Foundation, the school transformed an empty space into a community hub, which offers playgroups, adult education, as well as dance, homework and sports clubs.

Carlton also set up a school readiness program that prepares preps for school from term two of the previous year. She says program is more comprehensive than what other schools offer, and also begins about six months earlier.

It has seen enrolments bounce back – there are now 118 students at the school, with half either in prep or grade 1.

Other schools are also taking a creative approach to increase enrolments. Fitzroy primary school attracted students and lifted its “disadvantage” profile when it adopted a French bilingual program several years ago.

Since adopting the program, enrolments have doubled to 200 students and is projected to reach 300 in coming years.

Resourcing disparities

But Carlton says at Debney Meadows it is still a struggle to get prospective parents through the doors. She suggests its concrete and brick exterior could be to blame.

“It is a harsh building, when you look at it, Richmond West is the same,” she says.

“But with some funding, we could soften it up, make it more inviting.”

The school is part of the Victorian government’s Flemington education plan but, unlike Ascot Vale and Flemington, which received $3.87m and $1.15m for upgrades in 2020/21, it has not received any funding for capital works beyond $400,000 for planning.

According to Greenwell, segregation between schools is occurring due to resourcing disparities.

He points to a recent federal government-commissioned report, which showed that disadvantaged students who were concentrated with other disadvantaged students at school had worse outcomes compared to being in a classroom with a lot of advantaged students.

“The peers [who] you learn with have a big effect on your student outcomes,” Greenwell says.

“Social cohesion doesn’t just grow on trees. You need to foster it and support it and encourage parents to enrol their children in their local public school and be confident that that school is appropriately resourced.”

Ho points to broader consequences of schools becoming segregated.

“If students are only dealing with people who are like them, then that is a real lost opportunity for them to learn the kinds of skills to gain an understanding about how all sorts of different people live their lives,” she says.

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  • Social housing
  • Melbourne
  • Victoria
  • features
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Australian students struggling to put food on the table in unpaid training, but this could be a thing of the past

Federal government’s University Accord report recommends financial support for nurse, teacher and social work trainees

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By the time Marni Tavener graduates, she will have spent 1,200 hours working for Queensland’s hospitals – but without a dollar to show for it.

The 29-year-old must undertake multiple full-time, on-call training placements to get her nursing and midwifery degree.

“At the drop of a hat, we have to go into the hospital,” she says. “If one of your women that you’re following through [pregnancy] calls you, then you go.”

The constant, uncertain hours would not be a problem if Tavener was being paid. But placements are always unpaid, and she has had to cut back on her paid work as a nanny to fit them in.

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That means less food on the table.

“I have to pick and choose between being able to afford fruit and vegetables,” she says. “I can live Centrelink payment to Centrelink payment – just.”

Tavener is one of thousands of students around Australia who has to sacrifice their studies, income and health to take on compulsory placements.

A proposal in the federal government’s University Accord report to pay students on placement is welcome news to aspiring nurses, teachers and social workers, who are all required to complete hundreds of hours of intense workplace training to get their degree.

“Providing financial support for placements is essential to ensure that enough students can meet their … requirements without falling into poverty,” the report said.

“Mandatory placements can involve onerous hours and can financially disadvantage students who are unable to participate in paid work.”

Social work student Tyler Robb had to move out of Sydney when taking on a placement forced her to give up her weekday income.

“Even if I worked every day on the weekend, I wouldn’t be able to afford to live in Sydney and do my placement,” she says.

Robb’s only option was to move back in with her mum in Toukley on the New South Wales Central Coast, a two-hour commute from her placement and her classes. But she counts herself lucky.

“There’s definitely a lot of students I know who aren’t in the same boat as me, and they’ve had to postpone placements or even drop out of the degree,” she says.

Prof Christine Morley, head of the social work and human services disciplines at Queensland University of Technology, says Robb’s experience is all too common.

“Students are worried about money or having to work excessive hours, or impoverished because they don’t have enough money to make ends meet,” she says.

Morley’s research indicates students avoid or drop out of degrees with high unpaid work requirements due to the uncompensated financial and mental burden.

Without change “we would continue to see a downturn in the people who are putting their hands up to become teachers and nurses and social workers and that would be devastating for our community”, she says.

Sandra Kallarakkal studies teaching. While on placement, she worked eight-hour days at a school followed by four hours each night preparing for the next day’s classes.

“I still wouldn’t be done by 10.30pm,” she says. “I just couldn’t handle it … so I stopped working.”

Placement students not only face heavy hours but also the full intensity and responsibility of the job. Just two days into Kallarakkal’s teacher training placement, a student in her class assaulted one of the teachers.

“I was just really scared because I don’t know what I would have done if that was me,” she says. “I’m not there to fight off students who are physically assaulting me. I’m there to teach them.”

But despite the long days and heavy responsibilities of placements, the students still say the experience is invaluable.

“You can do your classes at uni and your simulated rooms and stuff, but you are learning when you are in the workplace,” Tavener says.

The real problem, according to Robb, is the lack of pay.

“It was probably the hardest I was working in my whole life but it was the poorest I’d ever been,” she says.

Tavener says: “The role that we provide on placement is the equivalent of an undergraduate student in nursing [working as an employee].

“So why are we not getting some kind of compensation when we’re doing that role on placement?”

Kallarakkal doesn’t expect paid placements to cover her costs or compensate for the heavy responsibilities of her work but she’s hopeful for a bit of extra support.

“Some amount of money would be better than the nothing we currently get.”

Other students are more strident in their demands, with Robb among those demanding minimum wages for placement workers. Some have organised an advocacy group, Students Against Placement Poverty, to campaign for wage rates in line with industry standards.

“Students’ health, wellbeing, capacity to learn, would all benefit from paid placements,” Morley says. “It would be absolutely a gamechanger.”

While the education minister, Jason Clare, wants placements to be paid, he has not committed to funding them, saying the federal government will spend the coming months considering reform.

The University Accord report only recommends employers make “reasonable contributions” to the costs of providing placements, with the government to provide support for key industries including nursing, care and teaching. It doesn’t say what form the financial support should take.

State governments and some private employers are sympathetic, but say they won’t foot the bill, suggesting Clare might struggle to split responsibility for funding the payments.

Without the urgent introduction of support, Tavener says workforce shortages will continue to worsen.

“Even if it was like a token amount, like if it was $50 a day,” she says.

“We need something to be able to continue, to not burn out.”

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Sydney Harbour Bridge and tunnel drivers would be charged tolls in both directions under shakeup

NSW government’s interim report on Sydney’s toll road network would use a ‘declining distance-based rate’ of tolling

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Sydneysiders driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and tunnel should be forced to pay fees in both directions, a review into the city’s patchwork toll road network has recommended, alongside a vision to unify all paid roads under a consistent “declining distance-based rate” of tolling.

On Monday, the New South Wales government released the interim report of its review into Sydney’s toll road network, which has recommended changes to achieve a “reset” of the network, which would have the effect of spreading the city’s toll burden – estimated to cost drivers $123bn over the next 37 years – predominantly from the west to the eastern and northern suburbs.

A key recommendation is for the establishment of a state “TollCo” – a new body “to take back control of tolls”.

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The new TollCo, as recommended by the review authors – former competition watchdog chair Allan Fels and David Cousins – would be able to provide authority for a system of network tolls, while taking into consideration the array of individual tolling contracts with private owners so that third parties’ minimum revenues are still met.

The proposed declining distance-based rate of charging would mean a fairer and simpler system, Fels said.

Fels gave an example of how such a structure could work; suggesting that for the first 5km of a toll road, drivers could be charged $1 for each kilometre travelled, 80c per kilometre between 5-10km, and then 60c per kilometre for 10-15km.

The review also recommended tolling drivers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and tunnel, as well as the Eastern Distributor, in both directions – they are currently only charged in one direction.

Fels also said it would be “logical” to introduce the same tolling scheme for the future western harbour tunnel to open in coming years.

Crossing Sydney harbour would also attract an “infrastructure charge” in addition to the new network and declining distance charge approach.

Increasing tolling revenue from the Sydney harbour crossings and Easter Distributor would fund the decreases motorists elsewhere in Sydney currently face.

The majority of tolls across the city would fall as a result of the declining distance-based charging, Fels said.

Fels, who revealed the interim report on Monday, said “tolls need a big shakeup”.

“No holds barred,” Fels said. “The longer that a motorist drives, the less cost per kilometre, which is fairer.”

The review also recommended for Ipart to set the tolling settings in the future, reductions for mid-sized trucks to tackle the issue of trucks avoiding toll roads and damaging local roads, and cheaper tolls for motorcycles and towed recreational vehicles.

Fels said the current tolling system was unfairly and “clogging up” free roads.

“The problem needs to be tackled seriously and systematically,” Fels said.

The review also revealed analysis that drivers will spend $123bn on toll roads measured in 2023 dollars over the next 37 years.

Driving the mammoth spend on tolls is the privately owned WestConnex project, the final stage of which included the Rozelle Interchange, which caused traffic chaos when it opened late last year.

Of the $123bn toll spend by 2060, 52% of this amount will be spent on WestConnex. Over the next 37 years, Sydneysiders will have paid for the construction cost of the entire WestConnex project three times over.

Analysis in the review also found that while toll roads were meant to alleviate pressure on existing free to access arterial roads, many drivers avoid the paid roads.

“Rather than use the toll roads, motorists are continuing to utilise the more congested untolled roads,” the report said.

The report also conducted a review of 1,500 drivers across Sydney which found that 87% felt tolls were too high, and 70% felt toll prices were unfair.

Across the city, there are 13 roads over 179km with tolled sections, which has led to claims that is Sydney is the most tolled capital city in the world. All but two of the toll roads are run by private operator Transurban as part of an array of long-term agreements which stipulate minimum guaranteed revenue.

Sydney’s toll roads have several different pricing structures – some charge a fixed fee, others charge for the distance travelled while, for another road, users pay an access fee as well as for the distance travelled. There are also roads where users are charged differently depending on the time of day or day of the week and some roads only toll users in one direction.

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NSW lags on rollout of renewables, putting Australia’s 2030 clean energy target at risk

State less than halfway to goal, report suggests, adding to challenges for federal government’s 82% renewable energy target for grid by end of decade

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New South Wales has the largest gap between its 2030 emissions reduction goals and the present pace of renewables rollout among the states, a performance that will make it harder for Australia to meet national goals unless addressed, a new report argues.

The report, by Green Energy Markets, said NSW’s legislated electricity infrastructure roadmap indicates the state would need to generate 33,600 gigawatt hours of renewable energy from projects in place by the end of 2029.

On this score, NSW was less than halfway to its goal with forecast output from projects already committed or contracted at about 12,911GWh as of the end of 2023. Those projects amounted to just over 6GW of capacity, leaving the state with almost 7.5GW more in wind and solar farms needed to hit the target.

For Queensland, the capacity shortfall was about 2.6GW given a “remarkable” recent pace of approvals, with South Australia’s at 2.445GW. Victoria was now less than 1GW shy of the needed capacity to meet its own target of 60% renewables by 2030, while Western Australia already had enough projects either under construction, contracted or government-funded to meet its goal.

The Albanese government’s 82% renewable energy target for the grid by 2030 was already going to be a stretch as the federal goal was greater than what the states themselves were aiming for, the report said.

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Still, as the biggest electricity generator, NSW was “the chokepoint” for the national transition off fossil fuels, said Tristan Edis, a senior Green Energy Markets analyst and an author of the report. It was time for planners “to take their foot off the pedal”, he said.

NSW largely dodged major strains on its power grid this summer with heatwaves for main population centres, including Sydney, mostly limited to single-day events.

But the state’s challenges may worsen in the near term. Australia’s largest power station – the 2.88GW Eraring coal-fired plant – is slated to shut by August 2025. Talks over an extension continue between NSW and owner Origin, with its exit to remove about a quarter of the NSW’s so-called baseload generation capacity.

The Minns Labor government said it was stepping up the pace of approvals with 18 “significant” wind, solar and battery projects getting the nod in 2023. A planning department spokesperson told Guardian Australia the state government was presently assessing 29 renewable energy projects.

“It is also awaiting development applications and [environmental statements] for more than 70 new projects from industry,” the spokesperson said, adding the department aimed “to determine up to 50 new energy projects in 2024 with a combined generation and storage capacity of up to 25 gigawatts”.

The NSW planning minister, Paul Scully, told the Smart Energy Council’s conference in Sydney last week that average approval time for projects had fallen to just 67 days.

His estimate, though, was at odds with a Clean Energy Investment Group report that found solar farms over the past five years were taking 705 days on average to secure approval, battery projects 540 days and windfarms almost 3,500 days.

A senior executive in the renewables industry, who requested anonymity, said NSW was by the worst among the states and territories for planning approvals.

The executive cited changes to conditions once approvals had been granted that could deter future investment. These included draft wind energy guidelines that could trigger retrospective alterations, even within the state’s renewable energy zones that were originally set up to streamline developments.

In the case of the Central West-Orana zone, the initial target for the amount of power that would be in excess of transmission capacity was put at 0.3% in December 2021. By 2022, however, the target for curtailment had been lifted 14-fold to 4.37%, even before limits outside the zone, such as in Sydney, were added.

“The value proposition of the CWO REZ has been seriously eroded from what was proposed in 2021,” the executive said. “Intending generators are being asked to pay huge amounts to access a new network with local curtailment levels worse than the vast majority of the national electricity market [NEM] with very little protection it will not get worse over time.”

A spokesperson for EnergyCo, the agency charged with implementing NSW’s electricity plan, said the revised curtailment figure of 4.37% “better reflects typical curtailment in economic modelling across the NEM and optimises network efficiency, in the interests of electricity consumers”.

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NSW lags on rollout of renewables, putting Australia’s 2030 clean energy target at risk

State less than halfway to goal, report suggests, adding to challenges for federal government’s 82% renewable energy target for grid by end of decade

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New South Wales has the largest gap between its 2030 emissions reduction goals and the present pace of renewables rollout among the states, a performance that will make it harder for Australia to meet national goals unless addressed, a new report argues.

The report, by Green Energy Markets, said NSW’s legislated electricity infrastructure roadmap indicates the state would need to generate 33,600 gigawatt hours of renewable energy from projects in place by the end of 2029.

On this score, NSW was less than halfway to its goal with forecast output from projects already committed or contracted at about 12,911GWh as of the end of 2023. Those projects amounted to just over 6GW of capacity, leaving the state with almost 7.5GW more in wind and solar farms needed to hit the target.

For Queensland, the capacity shortfall was about 2.6GW given a “remarkable” recent pace of approvals, with South Australia’s at 2.445GW. Victoria was now less than 1GW shy of the needed capacity to meet its own target of 60% renewables by 2030, while Western Australia already had enough projects either under construction, contracted or government-funded to meet its goal.

The Albanese government’s 82% renewable energy target for the grid by 2030 was already going to be a stretch as the federal goal was greater than what the states themselves were aiming for, the report said.

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Still, as the biggest electricity generator, NSW was “the chokepoint” for the national transition off fossil fuels, said Tristan Edis, a senior Green Energy Markets analyst and an author of the report. It was time for planners “to take their foot off the pedal”, he said.

NSW largely dodged major strains on its power grid this summer with heatwaves for main population centres, including Sydney, mostly limited to single-day events.

But the state’s challenges may worsen in the near term. Australia’s largest power station – the 2.88GW Eraring coal-fired plant – is slated to shut by August 2025. Talks over an extension continue between NSW and owner Origin, with its exit to remove about a quarter of the NSW’s so-called baseload generation capacity.

The Minns Labor government said it was stepping up the pace of approvals with 18 “significant” wind, solar and battery projects getting the nod in 2023. A planning department spokesperson told Guardian Australia the state government was presently assessing 29 renewable energy projects.

“It is also awaiting development applications and [environmental statements] for more than 70 new projects from industry,” the spokesperson said, adding the department aimed “to determine up to 50 new energy projects in 2024 with a combined generation and storage capacity of up to 25 gigawatts”.

The NSW planning minister, Paul Scully, told the Smart Energy Council’s conference in Sydney last week that average approval time for projects had fallen to just 67 days.

His estimate, though, was at odds with a Clean Energy Investment Group report that found solar farms over the past five years were taking 705 days on average to secure approval, battery projects 540 days and windfarms almost 3,500 days.

A senior executive in the renewables industry, who requested anonymity, said NSW was by the worst among the states and territories for planning approvals.

The executive cited changes to conditions once approvals had been granted that could deter future investment. These included draft wind energy guidelines that could trigger retrospective alterations, even within the state’s renewable energy zones that were originally set up to streamline developments.

In the case of the Central West-Orana zone, the initial target for the amount of power that would be in excess of transmission capacity was put at 0.3% in December 2021. By 2022, however, the target for curtailment had been lifted 14-fold to 4.37%, even before limits outside the zone, such as in Sydney, were added.

“The value proposition of the CWO REZ has been seriously eroded from what was proposed in 2021,” the executive said. “Intending generators are being asked to pay huge amounts to access a new network with local curtailment levels worse than the vast majority of the national electricity market [NEM] with very little protection it will not get worse over time.”

A spokesperson for EnergyCo, the agency charged with implementing NSW’s electricity plan, said the revised curtailment figure of 4.37% “better reflects typical curtailment in economic modelling across the NEM and optimises network efficiency, in the interests of electricity consumers”.

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Katie Britt defends sex trafficking story she falsely links to Biden presidency

Republican denied hiding fact that the abuse she referred to in her State of the Union rebuttal had actually occurred during Bush era

In her first interview since delivering her widely ridiculed rebuttal to Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, Republican senator Katie Britt refused to apologize for invoking a story about child rape that she implied resulted from the president’s handling of the ongoing crisis at the southern US border – even though the abuse occurred years earlier in Mexico while her party controlled the White House.

Britt, 42, appeared on Fox News Sunday and denied hiding the fact that the rape and sex trafficking case to which she referred had actually occurred during the presidency of George W Bush. She also made it a point to criticize what she called “the liberal media” for how they have covered her rebuttal to Biden’s speech on Thursday, which earned being parodied on the latest episode of Saturday Night Live.

“I very specifically said … I very clearly said I spoke to a woman who told me about when she was trafficked when she was 12. So I didn’t say a teenager – I didn’t say a young woman,” Britt replied after being asked whether she intended to give the impression that the abuse occurred under the Biden administration’s watch. “[It was] a grown woman … trafficked when she was 12.”

Britt also said: “To me, it is disgusting to try to silence the voice of telling the story of what it is like to be sex trafficked.”

The junior Alabama senator’s remarks to Fox News Sunday came after even her fellow Republicans pronounced her rejoinder on Thursday to Biden’s State of the Union speech – from the setting of a kitchen – “one of our biggest disasters”.

During that rebuttal, as she oscillated between smiling and seeming to fight back tears, Britt described traveling to the Del Rio sector of the US-Mexico border and speaking to a woman whom the senator said had relayed horrific experiences.

“She had been sex-trafficked by the cartels starting at age 12,” Britt said. “She told me not just that she was raped every day – but how many times a day she was raped.”

Britt avoided saying when or where the abuse took place. But she strongly implied that it had stemmed from the Biden administration’s management of immigration issues at the southern border.

“We wouldn’t be OK with this happening in a third-world country. This is the United States of America. And it’s past time we start acting like it. President Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace,” Britt said. “It’s despicable, and it’s almost entirely preventable.”

On Friday, in a seven-minute video on TikTok, author and former Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz established that Britt was describing events that unfolded in Mexico in between 2004 and 2008, when Bush was president.

The tale centered on Karla Jacinto Romero, an activist who in May 2015 testified to Congress about her experiences at the hands of sex traffickers who held her captive between the ages of 12 and 16 in her native Mexico. Britt met Jacinto Romero on a visit to the border with other Republican senators in January 2023.

But while the meeting with Jacinto Romero, now 31, occurred shortly after Britt took office, her abuse occurred as many as two decades earlier and not in the US.

Katz lambasted Britt as dishonest and misleading, and many others have since done the same. A Biden White House spokesperson on Sunday issued a statment which said Britt had peddled “debunked lies”.

A spokesperson for Britt confirmed to the Washington Post that the senator was referring to Jacinto Romero in her speech Thursday. Yet that spokesperson also insisted Britt’s presentation of Jacinto Romero’s story was “100% correct”. And Britt doubled down on that position Sunday.

“This is a story of what is happening,” Britt said. “We have to tell those stories, and the liberal media needs to pay attention to it because there are victims all the way coming to the border, there are victims at the border, and then there are victims all throughout the country.”

Britt’s guest spot on Fox News Sunday came hours after the actor Scarlett Johansson stood in a kitchen portraying the Alabama senator and satirized the latter’s State of the Union rebuttal on Saturday Night Live’s cold open.

Among other things, Johansson said sarcastically: “I’ve invited you into this empty kitchen because Republicans want me to appeal to women voters and women love kitchens.”

Britt went out of her way Sunday to explain “exactly why [she] was sitting at a kitchen table” when she rebutted Biden.

“Republicans care about kitchen table issues,” Britt said. “We care about faith, family. We care about freedom.”

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Gaza food aid ship stuck at Cyprus with ‘technical difficulties’

Vessel carrying 200 tonnes of provisions to alleviate looming famine now not sailing from Larnaca on Sunday as planned

An aid ship carrying 200 tonnes of food to alleviate looming famine in the Gaza Strip remained docked in Cyprus on Sunday night, despite the push for maritime aid in the face of stalling ceasefire talks and the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The Cyprus government spokesperson, Konstantinos Letymbiotis, told the island’s official news agency that the exact timing of the vessel’s departure would not be made public for “security reasons”. It was later reported that due to “technical difficulties”, it might not depart until Monday morning.

World Central Kitchen (WCK), a US-based non -governmental organisation, and the Spanish charity Open Arms, set up to rescue refugees and migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, were expecting a first delivery of goods including rice, flour, lentils, beans and canned fish and meat to leave via an Open Arms vessel from Larnaca this weekend and arrive at an undisclosed location in Gaza in two or three days’ time.

But the boat remained moored in Cyprus on Sunday evening. Letymbiotis said the cargo had been inspected by Cypriot officials under a plan approved by Israel.

The WCK spokesperson Linda Roth declined to go into the “full logistical information”, citing an “evolving and fluid situation”, but said Open Arms, towing a barge, would embark as soon as possible. The charities were ready to send another 500 tonnes of aid, funded by the UAE, she added, and work had begun on Sunday on a floating jetty where the aid can be received.

In a separate development, a US military vessel carrying equipment for the construction of a second temporary pier in Gaza was en route to the Mediterranean, officials in Washington said. It could be weeks before the facility was functional, they added.

The delay in the departure of the aid ship highlights the complexity of delivering aid to Gaza through unconventional means. Israel has been repeatedly accused of not doing enough to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people. Its shallow shoreline waters and dearth of functioning ports make such maritime operations difficult, and it is unclear how much assistance via the new “sea highway” will affect the dire humanitarian situation on the ground.

After five months of war, the UN says a quarter of people in the besieged Palestinian territory are on the brink of starvation. The local health ministry said on Saturday that 23 people, including several children, had died of dehydration or malnutrition in the previous 10 days.

Aid agencies’ efforts to get humanitarian aid to where it is most needed have been severely hampered by a combination of logistical obstacles, a breakdown of public order and lengthy bureaucracy imposed by Israel.

Israel said it welcomed the sea deliveries and would inspect Gaza-bound cargo before it left the staging area in nearby Cyprus.

As the only two open entry points to the coastal territory are in the far south, humanitarian aid convoys have to traverse up to 25 miles (40km) of destroyed roads, with a continual threat of looting, in order to reach Gaza City and the northern areas of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya, where conditions are direst. Many convoys have also been blocked or delayed by Israeli forces.

Last week more than 100 people were killed when Israeli forces opened fire at an aid distribution point in Gaza City. The Israeli military said most died in a crush, but Palestinian officials and witnesses denied this, saying most of those taken to hospital had bullet wounds.

The opening of the EU-backed sea corridor from Cyprus, along with aid airdrops by the US, Jordan and others, reflects a growing frustration among even Israel’s closest allies that the country is not doing enough to get aid to Gaza’s desperate civilians. The number of aid trucks entering the territory by land over the past five months has been far below the 500 a day that entered before the war.

Israeli authorities have consistently denied the allegations. “Hamas has been stealing humanitarian aid and stockpiling equipment and food for Ramadan for terrorist leaders instead of the Gazan civilians in need,” the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson R Adm Daniel Hagari said on Saturday.

“In coordination with our partners in the US, we are coordinating a temporary floating pier to get more humanitarian aid to Gaza. We will continue our humanitarian efforts while we continue to dismantle Hamas military capabilities and do everything we can to bring our hostages home.”

The most devastating violence in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented 7 October attack on Israel, in which, according to Israeli figures, about 1,200 people were killed and another 250 abducted.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 31,000 people, displaced 85% of Gaza’s population and left more than half of the strip’s infrastructure in ruins, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory and the UN. At least 15 people were killed by airstrikes and artillery fire in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis, Gaza’s civil defence department said on Sunday.

About 100 hostages were exchanged for 240 Palestinian women and children held in Israel jails during a week-long truce in November brokered by the US, Egypt and Qatari mediators, but progress on a second deal, designed to last at least six weeks, has proved elusive.

Egypt was in contact with senior Hamas and Israeli figures as well as other mediators on Sunday in an effort to restart negotiations for a ceasefire that can be implemented during Ramadan, two Cairo security sources told Reuters.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, reiterated last week that a threatened ground offensive on Rafah, Gaza’s last area of relative safety, would go ahead despite the ceasefire efforts and the onset of the Muslim holy month.

Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Israel, is now home to more than a million people, most in tents and other makeshift structures, who have fled their homes elsewhere. The southern town is a key logistics hub for aid deliveries; increased fighting there would cut off even the meagre supplies currently reaching the territory and risk massive civilian casualties.

An offensive on Rafah during Ramadan could also serve as a trigger for further violence across Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider region. Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have already been drawn into the conflict.

On Saturday, the US president, Joe Biden, said he believed Netanyahu was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” in his approach to the war against Hamas and that the Israeli leader “must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken”.

He called an Israeli ground attack on Rafah a “red line”, but said supplying Israel with weaponry was not. “The defence of Israel is still critical, so there’s no red line [where] I’m going to cut off all weapons so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them,” he said, referring to Israel’s air defence system.

Although Washington’s rhetoric on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has strengthened over the last week or so, critics say Biden has opted not to use Washington’s leverage as Israel’s principal arms supplier to bring its ally to the negotiating table or increase the flow of aid to Gaza.

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Fresh calls for pill-testing after suspected drug overdose death at Victorian music festival

The 23-year-old man died after being airlifted to hospital from the Pitch Music and Arts festival in western Victoria

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The Victorian government is being urged to reassess its stance on pill-testing after the death of a man from a suspected drug overdose at a weekend music festival.

The 23-year-old was airlifted in a critical condition to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne from Mafeking near Ararat, in the state’s south-west, in the early hours of Sunday but later died.

Two other men aged in their 30s and 40s were reportedly also taken in a stable condition to East Grampians Health Service suffering suspected overdoses.

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The Pitch Music and Arts festival was subsequently cancelled due to dangerous heatwave conditions and extreme fire danger.

The Victorian Greens said the man’s death should be a trigger for the premier, Jacinta Allan, to “shift gears and finally set up pill-testing”.

“While this Labor government continues to stall, young Victorian lives are being put at risk,” party spokesperson Aiv Puglielli said in a statement on Monday.

“Even with pure MDMA we’ve seen how extreme heat can deal a deadly blow. So with untested drugs circulating, this was truly a disaster waiting to happen.”

Puglilli said the government could not afford to delay pill-testing any longer.

“It’s taking an already dangerous situation and turning it lethal.”

The Greens said if further overdose deaths were to be prevented, pill-testing needed to be established on-site at music festivals as a matter of urgency.

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Hobart endures hottest night in 112 years as severe heatwave hits south-eastern Australia

Extreme heat forecast to continue across Victoria, Tasmania, SA and NSW for several days, as record temperatures cause cancellation of long weekend events

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Hobart residents sweated through the city’s hottest night in 112 years as a severe heatwave continues to affect large parts of south-east Australia.

Extreme heat is forecast to continue across South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and southern New South Wales for several days, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Sunday after record temperatures caused the cancellation of long weekend events.

Saturday was the hottest March day on record for Edithburgh on South Australia’s Yorke peninsula (41.7C) and Kanagulk (40.6C) in western Victoria.

The overnight low temperature in Hobart was 24.3C – the warmest night in the Tasmanian capital since 1912, according to the bureau’s records.

Sarah Scully, a senior meteorologist at the bureau, said hot nights were “really unusual” for Hobart, where the mean minimum overnight temperature for March is 11C. She said maximum temperatures were about 10 to 16 degrees above the March average across the heatwave-affected areas.

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“It was very hot last night,” Scully said.

“There’s been observed or forecast greater than 37C days for Melbourne for the entire long weekend. [The extreme heat] started [on Saturday] and is expected to continue right through the early hours of Tuesday morning.”

Temperatures should ease when a southerly change hits Melbourne and southern Victoria on Tuesday, but the state’s north and parts of South Australia will continue to swelter until Thursday when a “blocking” high-pressure system moves away.

Scully said the blocking high was causing northerly winds and dragging hot air over Australia’s south-east.

“It is unusual to have such intense heatwaves at this time of year, but it’s not unprecedented,” Scully said.

“Autumn is typically the transition season from the heat to the cooler months, so to have heatwaves during the early parts of Autumn [isn’t] unusual.”

Melbourne peaked at 36.9C late on Sunday with Avalon recording 40C and Geelong 39.6C. Temperatures were much cooler in Tasmania as a cold front pushed across the state with Hobart’s maximum temperature of 25.7C recorded before 8am.

Event organisers across south-eastern Australia were sweating over safety concerns and cancellations as the heatwave settled in.

One of the stages at Adelaide’s Womad was closed on Sunday due to the heat while a handful of other events were postponed until night or cancelled as temperatures climbed to almost 40C.

The conditions also prompted the cancellation of the Pitch music and arts festival in regional Victoria.

“Through consultation with authorities, we have been directed to cancel the remainder of Pitch Music & Arts 2024 in light of an updated extreme fire danger warning issued this afternoon for tomorrow,” the organisers said on Sunday afternoon.

“We have consistently followed the guidance of relevant authorities throughout the entire process. Nobody is in immediate danger. We encourage everyone on site not to rush [but] calmly pack up and depart either this evening or early tomorrow.”

Melbourne’s Moomba parade was cancelled on Saturday due to concerns for performers and spectators as temperatures soared in Victoria, but the infamous Birdman rally went ahead on Sunday.

“This is a very difficult decision, particularly in Moomba’s 70th year, but we must prioritise people’s health in these extreme conditions,” Melbourne’s lord mayor, Sally Capp, said of the parade being cancelled.

“Participants are required to spend several hours outdoors in hot, heavy costumes – putting them at greater risk.”

Melbourne was tipped to reach a maximum of 37C on Monday, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s predicted across most of the state. Adelaide was forecast to hit 38C with hot conditions in the high 30s and low 40s predicted for most regional areas in South Australia.

While the south-east sweltered, people at the opposite end of the country were being confronted by different weather extremes.

In Western Australia, the Eucla, Goldfields and southern interior regions were warned about the possibility of flash flooding and intense rainfall from a rain system that was likely to remain almost stationary for days.

– Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

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