The Guardian 2024-03-14 16:01:13


More pharmacies open across Australia despite guild’s dire forecasts on 60-day prescriptions

Lobby group, which is meeting on the Gold Coast with Peter Dutton giving the keynote address, warned in 2023 that hundreds of pharmacies would close

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The federal government received 87 applications to open new pharmacies in the months after the announcement of 60-day prescriptions– 50% more than were received in the same period the year prior.

The increase occurred despite warnings from lobby group the Pharmacy Guild, and from the federal opposition, that the dispensing changes may lead to pharmacy staff cuts, fee increases for services and hundreds of pharmacy closures.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said at the time that while he supported cheaper medicines, taxpayers should bear the cost of the reforms. He also supported a Pharmacy Guild campaign opposing the reforms.

Dutton will deliver the keynote address on Friday at the annual Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference, organised by the Pharmacy Guild, being held from 14-17 March on the Gold Coast.

Since 1 September, doctors have been issuing eligible patients with a 60-day prescription for 184 common medicines to treat ongoing health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and osteoporosis. It means patients can fill two scripts for the price of one, halving the cost of many common medicines to the consumer.

The changes followed reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics that almost 1 million Australians delayed or did not fill their medications in 2019-20 due to the time and cost involved in attending GP consults for repeat scripts, and the cost of medicines.

Changing the 30-day supply to 60 days was also a recommendation from clinical experts at the independent pharmaceutical benefits advisory committee in 2018 but the measure was not implemented by the former Coalition government.

Since the reforms were introduced, Australians have saved $11.7m on almost 3m 60-day scripts issued between September and January, the latest available data shows.

The health minister, Mark Butler, told Guardian Australia that a further 100 medicines will become eligible on 1 September.

He said the latest available data shows the government received 87 new pharmacy applications between May 2023 and January 2024.

The government had reinvested the savings made from fewer dispensing fees paid to pharmacies for each script back into the industry. For example, the national immunisation program has been expanded so pharmacists now receive the same fee as doctor for administering a vaccine.

Rural and regional pharmacies will also see upwards of $300,000 allocated towards them over the next four years through new and increased government payments.

Pharmacists also receive payments through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for dispensing opioid dependency medicines.

“Together, these investments have already seen an extra $50m flow into pharmacies, over and above business as usual,” Butler said.

Dutton’s office told Guardian Australia key points from his keynote address at the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference will not be shared before Friday.

The Pharmacy Guild did not respond to questions about any impact they had seen to pharmacies since the dispensing reforms were introduced.

Despite the data showing pharmacy losses had not eventuated, the government announced on Thursday that it had reached a non-binding draft agreement with the Guild over the Eighth Community Pharmacy Agreement, which will see pharmacists allocated an extra $3bn over the five year agreement term.

The agreement, which governs how pharmacies supply medicines subsidised by the government under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, will commence from 1 July 2024 if finalised.

Guardian Australia asked Butler’s office for any further details about what specifically the additional $3bn will go towards, but did not receive a response.

The chief executive of the Consumers Health Forum (CHF), Dr Elizabeth Deveny, said the CHF had not heard from any consumers about their local pharmacy closing due to the 60-day dispensing reform.

“Our expectation is that the government is monitoring this so people, especially in rural and remote areas, have continued access to their valued community pharmacy,” she said.

However, Deveny said she had received feedback from consumers that they found some of the dispensing changes confusing.

“Many are confused by the eligibility rules or a lack of information from some pharmacists and GPs, especially in the early stages of the rollout, about how this was applied to patients,” she said.

“In particular, the amount of money saved by patients depends on whether their medicines are priced over or under the $31.60 general co-payment, and has led to some confusion about the ‘two-for-one’ offer.”

While she said the CHF and consumers broadly are supportive of any reform that reduces healthcare costs, there is a need for more education about how changes apply to them, and consultation throughout the entire reform process.

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Australian computer scientist is not bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, high court rules

Judge says evidence for his conclusion that Craig Wright did not create bitcoin is ‘overwhelming’

Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, is not the Australian computer scientist Craig Wright, a high court judge has ruled, ending a fractious two-month trial in London.

In a highly unusual decision, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Mellor, issued the verdict within seconds of the case concluding, promising to issue a “fairly lengthy written judgment” in due course.

“However, having considered all the evidence and submissions presented to me in this trial, I’ve reached the conclusion that the evidence is overwhelming,” Mellor said.

“First, that Dr Wright is not the author of the bitcoin white paper. Second, Dr Wright is not the person who adopted or operated under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto in the period 2008 to 2011.

“Third, Dr Wright is not the person who created the bitcoin system. And, fourth, he is not the author of the initial versions of the bitcoin software.”

Wright was sued by a conglomerate of cryptocurrency companies called the Crypto Open Patent Alliance (Copa), which sought to prevent him from continuing to claim he had invented the cryptocurrency and from using this to expand his influence over the sector.

The trial took an unusual turn even before it started. Copa, whose membership includes the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s Block, Coinbase and the bitcoin investment vehicle MicroStrategy, accused Wright of fabricating a significant quantity of the documents provided as evidence.

The group’s expert witnesses said they found hallmarks of backdated edits, created or altered using versions of software that did not exist at the time the documents were supposedly made. One document contained traces of the involvement of ChatGPT in its creation, Copa claimed, despite the fact that the software did not exist until years after the document was supposedly written.

Jonathan Hough KC, representing Copa, told the high court that Wright’s claim was a “brazen lie and elaborate false narrative supported by forgery on an industrial scale”.

The expert witnesses for Wright’s defence concurred with many of the assessments, including the finding that the original document describing bitcoin had been made using OpenOffice software, while the version provided by Wright had been written using a tool called LaTeX.

In a cross-examination once the trial had opened, Wright subsequently raised concerns that Dr Simon Placks, the expert appointed by his own solicitors, was under-qualified for the task. “I didn’t choose Dr Placks, I didn’t want Dr Placks,” Wright said. “Dr Placks is a psychologist. He has a degree in psychology. He has no qualifications in information security.”

Asked if his position was that “the expert called by your side is not a suitably qualified expert to give evidence on what he covers in his reports”, Wright said: “If you’re asking me that directly, yes.”

In August 2022, Wright won a defamation case against a man who had called him a “fraud” for claiming he was Nakamoto. But the damages were set at just £1 after the judge ruled he had “advanced a deliberately false case and put forward deliberately false evidence until days before trial”.

A Copa spokesperson said: “This decision is a win for developers, for the entire open source community, and for the truth. For over eight years, Dr Wright and his financial backers have lied about his identity as Satoshi Nakamoto and used that lie to bully and intimidate developers in the bitcoin community. That ends today with the court’s ruling that Craig Wright is not Satoshi Nakamoto.”

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Coles pay offer labelled ‘insulting’ as staff say they can’t afford to shop at own workplace

One worker says she feels ‘disrespected’ by proposed agreement, which includes in-store gift cards if staff vote to accept

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Some Coles workers say an offer from the supermarket giant of in-store gift cards if they vote to accept a new enterprise agreement is “insulting”, and the agreement doesn’t give them a meaningful pay rise despite the company’s increased profits.

One employee said she felt “disrespected” by the offer, which comes at a time when some staff say they are skipping meals and shopping at other supermarkets because they can’t afford food from their own workplace.

Australia’s second-largest supermarket chain this week delivered a proposed new enterprise agreement to staff which would determine their wages and workplace conditions for four years. Workers are scheduled to vote on the agreement from Monday.

Coles has negotiated separately with the SDA retail and warehouse union and the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) in recent months.

The SDA has hailed the proposed agreement as improving wages and allowances, enabling fairer rostering and including better leave provisions.

But the RAFFWU has decried it as undermining safety conditions, introducing split shifts and tying any pay rise only to Fair Work’s annual wage review, which increases award minimums. Under the agreement, a level one Coles worker would earn $25.27 per hour, just 54 cents above the award base rate.

The agreement also includes an offer of a Coles gift card – to the value of $600 for a full-time staff member, $250 for a part timer or $150 for a casual – if the employee is working for the company when the agreement is voted in, and is still working for the company when the agreement is approved by the Fair Work Commission. Approximately 85% of Coles staff are part-time or casual employees.

A new agreement has long been delayed: the previous one expired in 2020, with Coles only forced back to the bargaining table after the Labor government’s flagship industrial relations laws came into effect at the end of 2022.

“It’s insulting,” said Taylor Dempsey, 27, a part-time Coles worker in Brisbane. “Team members [are] already so close to what I would call a modern poverty situation.”

‘That’s no way to live’

Dempsey said he has needed the assistance of charities to put food on the table, despite working close to full time hours for the company.

“And if I’m in that situation there’s an issue, because I have significantly more hours than other team members would,” Dempsey said.

“We’ve got team members that are skipping meals, eating food that’s provided by the company in the tea room – bananas, apples, Coles Ultimate brand cookies – because they can’t afford it. They’re putting $10 at a time in their car for fuel and just barely get to work and back. That’s no way to live.”

Dempsey said he would be urging other Coles workers to vote against the agreement and push for a better deal.

Coles posted a 4.8% rise in annual profit to $1.1bn last financial year and has been accused of inflationary profiteering amid the cost-of-living crisis. The company has defended its pricing and said it was working hard to keep goods affordable.

The major supermarkets are currently facing a federal Senate inquiry into how they set prices and use their market power when dealing with suppliers.

Shona*, a part-time Coles employee in regional New South Wales, said she usually shops at one of Coles’ competitors because she can’t afford to shop at her own workplace.

“I work there, but where I shop is cheaper, even with the 5% [Coles staff] discount,” Shona said.

Shona, who receives a partial jobseeker payment, said she felt “disrespected” by the gift card offer.

“It’s not even cash. I can’t even top up my rent or take it to the dentist.”

Josh Cullinan, secretary of the RAFFWU, said the gift card offer was a “deliberate effort … to induce a [yes] vote by offering poor people food, and to try and attract their own staff to come back to shop for them again because they can’t afford to shop for them now”.

The campaign has highlighted the rising tensions between the SDA, the powerful and conservative legacy union of the retail sector, and the fledgling but rapidly growing RAFFWU. The latter has been trying to get Coles to bargain on a new agreement since 2020, including taking a petition to the Fair Work Commission.

Since bargaining opened, the RAFFWU has been campaigning for a minimum wage of $29 an hour, the abolition of junior rates (which still apply to Coles workers for two years after they turn 18), as well as better job security and safer workplaces. Its members took rolling strike action in stores across the country in the lead-up to Christmas. SDA members did not take industrial action.

Gerard Dwyer, the SDA’s national secretary, said the union’s bargaining positions had been endorsed by its members. He said the agreement contained “significant benefits” and the SDA recommended it be voted in next week.

“The agreement includes a number of improvements for Coles employees, such as increased minimum hours for part timers, access to additional hours, superannuation on paid and unpaid parental leave (a priority issue for SDA members), increased compassionate leave and annual leave for part-timers to be based on actual hours worked,” Dwyer said.

“The sign-on bonus [gift card] would be welcome money in the pocket for workers confronting significant cost of living pressures.”

A Coles spokesperson said the proposed agreement provided “several benefits” for staff including “greater flexibility”, “maintaining above-award base rates of pay … a mechanism for future wage rate increases” and “enhanced” leave entitlements.

“We are pleased to be able to deliver all of this as part of the proposed enterprise agreement,” the spokesperson said.

“We have been working hard to listen to our team members and their bargaining representatives to provide a proposed enterprise agreement that provides benefits for our team members and which supports our operations.”

The RAFFWU has vowed to fight the agreement at the Fair Work Commission if it is voted in by staff.

* Name has been changed

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Russia is believed to have jammed the satellite signal on an aircraft used by defence minister Grant Shapps to travel from Poland back to the UK, a government source and journalists travelling with him said on Thursday, reports Reuters. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not immediately comment.

According to the source and journalists, the GPS signal was interfered with for about 30 minutes while the plane flew close to Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. Mobile phones could no longer connect to the internet and the aircraft was forced to use alternative methods to determine its location, they said.

Pro-Ukraine exiled Russian fighters launch cross-border raid into southern Russia

Members of the Siberia, Freedom of Russia Legion and RDK battalions work closely with the Ukrainian army

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Three pro-Ukrainian battalions made up of recruits from Russia have launched a fresh incursion into southern Russia in a cross-border raid meant to sow chaos before Vladimir Putin’s widely expected re-election this weekend.

The three armed groups of Russian exiled fighters, who operate in close coordination with Ukraine’s military, said they had crossed the border into the southern Kursk and Belgorod regions. In a statement, the Russian National Guard acknowledged the raid, saying that together with the armed forces, they were repelling the Ukrainian-backed armed groups’ attack near the village of Tyotkino in Russia’s western Kursk region.

Russia’s defence ministry later in the day said it had foiled the raids and posted a video appearing to show destroyed tanks and armoured fighting vehicles belonging to the pro-Ukrainian fighters.

Members of the Siberia, Freedom of Russia Legion and RDK battalions – the three groups that claimed the cross-boarding raid – closely work together with the Ukrainian army.

Russia Legion and RDK battalions comprise members ranging from far-right nationalists to anarchists; while the Siberian battalion is predominantly made of minority ethnic people from Siberia, including Buryats, Yakuts, and Tuvans.

While the cross-border raids are unlikely to result in Ukrainian territorial gains, they could pull Russian troops away from significant battles in eastern Ukraine where Moscow holds the momentum.

Using several tanks and armoured vehicles, the three groups earlier this week first launched an attack on Tyotkino, a small village located on the Russian border, but soon appeared to have made a retreat back into Ukraine.

On Thursday, the anti-Putin militias posted a statement on Telegram saying that cross-border assault to “liberate” the Kursk and Belgorod regions would continue “until all targets are achieved”.

The border skirmishes were accompanied by sustained Ukrainian drone and missile strikes targeting the city of Belgorod. On Thursday, Ukraine fired at least eight missiles at Russia’s Belgorod border region, killing one person and wounding six, local officials said. Kyiv this week also stepped up its attacks on refineries and energy facilities deep inside Russia, disrupting production at least one vital oil refinery.

The latest wave of Ukrainian attacks comes days before the 15-17 March presidential election, which incumbent Putin is all but guaranteed to win.

In an interview with state media on Wednesday, Putin said the latest flurry of Ukrainian border attacks were meant to disrupt the presidential elections. “The main goal, I do not doubt it, is to … somehow prevent the normal process of the expression of the will of the citizen,” he said.

In a message aired on Wednesday, Putin urged Russians to cast their ballots in this week’s carefully managed vote. “It is vital to underscore our cohesion and resolve and move forward together. Every vote you cast is valued and meaningful,” Putin said in a video address first shown in the far east region of the country.

Moscow earlier this week opened polling stations in the four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine that it annexed in September 2022. The Ukrainian foreign ministry described the voting held in the four territories as illegal and void and called on its international partners not to recognise the results of the presidential elections.

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Netanyahu is obstacle to peace says top Democrat Chuck Schumer as he calls for new Israeli elections

Senate majority leader says Israeli prime minister has ‘lost his way’ and warns that country risks becoming ‘a pariah’

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, called on Israel to hold new elections, saying he believed the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had “lost his way” in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and a growing humanitarian crisis there.

Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the US, strongly criticized Netanyahu in a lengthy speech on Thursday morning on the Senate floor.

In prepared remarks obtained by the Associated Press, Schumer said the prime minister had put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows”.

“Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah,” Schumer said.

The speech came as an increasing number of Democrats have pushed back against Israel and as President Joe Biden has stepped up public pressure on Netanyahu’s government, warning that he needs to pay more attention to the civilian death toll in Gaza.

The US this month began airdrops of badly needed humanitarian aid and announced it will establish a temporary pier to get more assistance into Gaza via the sea.

Schumer has so far positioned himself as a strong ally of the Israeli government, visiting the country just days after the brutal 7 October attack by Hamas and giving a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in December decrying “brazen and widespread antisemitism the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations in this country, if ever”.

But he said on the Senate floor on Thursday that the “Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past”.

Schumer said Netanyahu, who has long opposed Palestinian statehood, was one of several obstacles in the way of the two-state solution pushed by the US. He also blamed rightwing Israelis, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Until they are all removed from the equation, he said, “there will never be peace in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank”.

Schumer said the US cannot dictate the outcome of an election in Israel, but “a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government”.

It is unclear how Schumer’s unusually direct call will be received in Israel. The next parliamentary elections are expected in 2026 but could be held before then.

Netanyahu’s cabinet is dominated by ultranationalists who share the prime minister’s opposition to Palestinian statehood and other aims that successive US administrations have seen as essential to resolving Palestinian-Israeli conflicts in the long term.

The US vice-president, Kamala Harris, Schumer and other lawmakers met last week in Washington with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and a far more popular rival of Netanyahu – a visit that drew a rebuke from the Israeli prime minister.

Gantz joined Netanyahu’s government in the war cabinet soon after the Hamas attacks. But Gantz is expected to leave the government once the heaviest fighting subsides, signaling that the period of national unity has ended. A return to mass demonstrations could ramp up pressure on Netanyahu’s deeply unpopular coalition to hold early elections.

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Netanyahu is obstacle to peace says top Democrat Chuck Schumer as he calls for new Israeli elections

Senate majority leader says Israeli prime minister has ‘lost his way’ and warns that country risks becoming ‘a pariah’

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, called on Israel to hold new elections, saying he believed the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had “lost his way” in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and a growing humanitarian crisis there.

Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the US, strongly criticized Netanyahu in a lengthy speech on Thursday morning on the Senate floor.

In prepared remarks obtained by the Associated Press, Schumer said the prime minister had put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows”.

“Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah,” Schumer said.

The speech came as an increasing number of Democrats have pushed back against Israel and as President Joe Biden has stepped up public pressure on Netanyahu’s government, warning that he needs to pay more attention to the civilian death toll in Gaza.

The US this month began airdrops of badly needed humanitarian aid and announced it will establish a temporary pier to get more assistance into Gaza via the sea.

Schumer has so far positioned himself as a strong ally of the Israeli government, visiting the country just days after the brutal 7 October attack by Hamas and giving a lengthy speech on the Senate floor in December decrying “brazen and widespread antisemitism the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations in this country, if ever”.

But he said on the Senate floor on Thursday that the “Israeli people are being stifled right now by a governing vision that is stuck in the past”.

Schumer said Netanyahu, who has long opposed Palestinian statehood, was one of several obstacles in the way of the two-state solution pushed by the US. He also blamed rightwing Israelis, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Until they are all removed from the equation, he said, “there will never be peace in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank”.

Schumer said the US cannot dictate the outcome of an election in Israel, but “a new election is the only way to allow for a healthy and open decision-making process about the future of Israel, at a time when so many Israelis have lost their confidence in the vision and direction of their government”.

It is unclear how Schumer’s unusually direct call will be received in Israel. The next parliamentary elections are expected in 2026 but could be held before then.

Netanyahu’s cabinet is dominated by ultranationalists who share the prime minister’s opposition to Palestinian statehood and other aims that successive US administrations have seen as essential to resolving Palestinian-Israeli conflicts in the long term.

The US vice-president, Kamala Harris, Schumer and other lawmakers met last week in Washington with Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and a far more popular rival of Netanyahu – a visit that drew a rebuke from the Israeli prime minister.

Gantz joined Netanyahu’s government in the war cabinet soon after the Hamas attacks. But Gantz is expected to leave the government once the heaviest fighting subsides, signaling that the period of national unity has ended. A return to mass demonstrations could ramp up pressure on Netanyahu’s deeply unpopular coalition to hold early elections.

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Concerns raised over solitary confinement in Queensland youth detention after deaths of two First Nations boys

Government report says placing children in prison isolation can affect their health and wellbeing in ‘severe, long-term and irreversible ways’

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A Queensland government report has raised concerns over the use of solitary confinement in youth detention, detailing the case of two First Nations children with disabilities who died after spending extensive time in isolation at overcrowded and understaffed youth detention centres.

The Child Death Review Board’s annual report, tabled in state parliament on Thursday, details the anonymised cases of two boys, Harry* and Jack*. The report does not explicitly state their cause of death but Guardian Australia understands it to be suicide.

The report detailed that both boys had an extensive history of trauma, exposure to violence, substance abuse, disengagement from school and subsequently involvement in the criminal justice system.

Both were suspected to have undiagnosed foetal alcohol syndrome, which was not properly identified at an early age.

Harry spent 376 days in a youth detention centre; Jack was detained for 319. Both spent extensive periods in “separation”, which is a bureaucratic term for solitary confinement.

Of the entire time he was in detention, Harry was confined to his cell 78% of the time.

Jack was confined to his cell for more than 22 hours a day on 55 separate days. On 22 days he was in his cell for more than 23 hours. Three times he spent 24 hours in his cell without a break.

The report said one of the boys “experienced incidents of bullying and victimisation from other young people while in detention”.

“Records show he was spat on by other young people, punched in the head, had water thrown on him and was bullied because of his size,” the report said.

“Records show this boy requested to move cells because he feels he is being bullied …[and]… that he is sick of the sexualised behaviours and inappropriate comment[s] by some of the other young people in the unit.

“When he considered that this move was not actioned quickly enough, he tried to flood his cell and his access to water was turned off. He reported spending additional time in his cell by choice because he felt unsafe.”

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Most of the recorded separations were due to staff shortages. Guardian Australia’s reporting last year revealed the true extent of solitary confinement and lockdowns in the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, where children were routinely locked in “separation” for weeks, and received little schooling or other form of rehabilitation.

Concerns were also raised about “filthy” conditions. Staff shortages had been blamed for the extensive lockdowns, and the state government has since said it has recruited more staff.

The death review report said the extended separations “significantly impacted” Jack’s access to education, therapeutic and cultural programs, social and leisure activities, exercise, fresh air and sunlight.

“Youth Justice noted separation periods directly led to [Jack] having limited ability to engage in criminogenic programs during his time remanded,” it said.

“While the number and length of separations experienced by [Harry] were not as significant, he too had his programs, education and activities interrupted by staff shortages and separations.”

The report labelled separation “counter-productive”.

“Rather than improving behaviour, it creates problems with reintegration and fails to address the underlying causes of behaviour,” it said.

When both boys were locked in confinement, the number of incidents they were involved in increased.

“Both boys experienced heightened emotions and behaviours as a direct result of extended periods of separations and the associated reduction in access to activities and programs,” the report said.

An incident report about Jack recorded that he “appeared extremely agitated and it was clear that [he] was frustrated being in the unit and with minimal activities”.

Other records related to Jack detail “behavioural escalations” during separation periods including being verbally abusive and kicking the cell door. In August 2021, he armed himself with a broom and afterwards told staff he had not wanted to return to his cell after only an hour and 12 minutes outside. Some of his personal belongings were confiscated in response.

“There is a trend with the number of behavioural incidents increasing as his time locked in his cell per day increased,” the report said.

The report raised concern that the youth detention system – particularly the practice of placing children in separation, isolation or solitary confinement – can affect their health and wellbeing in “severe, long-term and irreversible ways”.

“Many of the children and young people in detention have experienced a life of significant disadvantage and marginalisation, with many being the victims of abuse and neglect,” it said.

“Being confined in a cell for extended periods of time, without interaction with peers, family, culture and support networks creates an environment of re-traumatisation. Research has shown pre-existing mental health problems are likely exacerbated by experiences during incarceration, such as isolation, boredom and victimisation.”

The report said Harry enjoyed fishing, basketball, football and computer games. He had a mild language disorder, suspected foetal alcohol syndrome and reported feelings of anxiety and suicidal ideation. He had poor emotional regulation and problem solving skills and demonstrated antisocial behaviour from about age 11. He went to detention nine separate times.

Jack liked to play football. He was the victim of a sexual assault at age 14, about the same time he became involved in the youth justice system. He suffered from multiple suspected disabilities, some which were not properly diagnosed, and had cognitive and language impairments.

Greens MP Michael Berkman said the information about the deaths should spark “an immediate end to, or at least an investigation into” the use of separation in youth prisons.

“It shouldn’t take two tragic deaths like this to wake the government up. But if not now, when?” Berkman said.

“This report confirms a devastating truth: that isolating children in detention compounds their mental and emotional distress, and is driving some children to suicide.”

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, you can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 988, chat on 988lifeline.org, or text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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Analysis

Queensland Labor vulnerable on two fronts as Greens target Brisbane’s commuter belt

Ben SmeeQueensland state correspondent

Housing pressures and the cost of living crisis mean Steven Miles’ government is under threat from the Greens in Brisbane and the LNP in the regions

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The old Inala roller skating rink in Brisbane’s south-west has been vacant for more than 15 years. For many locals, it is a symbol that progress moves slower in the outer suburbs.

Earlier this month, the Greens’ campaign for the Brisbane city council election announced plans to buy the building and turn the site into a public pool.

The announcement has received relatively little local media attention, but it says a lot about why the Brisbane election is worth following. The city is Australia’s largest local government area, with a population of more than 1.2 million – the same as Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory combined. There are clear national political implications here, too.

Some analysts predict the Greens could win eight council wards, outpoll Labor city-wide, and become Brisbane’s official “opposition” party – that alone would be interpreted as another considerable step forward for the minor party.

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But Greens insiders are also focused on another measure of success: can they start to make inroads into the commuter belt?

In housing – particularly by championing the cause of renters – the Greens have found an entry point into the political debate in the outer suburbs. The issue will be front and centre of the next federal and Queensland elections, and the Greens’ platform in Brisbane – an effective rent freeze that threatens landlords with huge rates increases if they put rents up – aligns neatly with its national pitch on housing.

Party insiders say they don’t expect to compete in outer-suburban council wards, particularly because council elections tend to focus more on local issues. But the goal is to lift the vote in these places by about 5% to 10%, build a local supporter base and campaign infrastructure, and go again at the next election. The next federal target is the Labor-held seat of Moreton.

For those who might dismiss the Greens as a niche environmental party that can not break through beyond the inner-city, some food for thought: federal victories in Brisbane, Ryan and Griffith were as much about gains in suburban areas – with large proportions of social housing – as in affluent, progressive parts of the city. The Greens also outpolled Labor in unexpected places, like Stafford on the north side and Carina, south of the river.

Plans for the 2032 Olympics will also have an impact on the Brisbane council election. Voters will go to the polls while results of a review into plans for the Olympics are still pending, but with genuine concerns about the cost and impact of the games. The Greens, and lord mayoral candidate Jonathan Sriranganathan, have been longstanding vocal opponents of the initial plan to redevelop the Gabba stadium.

Those concerns feed into kitchen tables ones, too, about the cost of living and housing. The idea of spending $7bn on Olympics infrastructure is a tough sell, particularly in the suburbs, where households are doing it tough – or when people drive around their own suburbs and see eyesores like the old skate rink.

“If South Bank residents and visitors get access to a free swimming pool, why can’t everyone else in the city?” Sriranganathan said last month.

This is a tried and tested political tactic; tapping into the grievances of the bush – or the regions, or the suburbs – with the idea that those folks who live closer to the seat of power have it better.

Some might find it paradoxical that the Greens and Sriranganathan – a favourite punching bag of the tabloids, portrayed by his opponents the archetype of a West End political radical – are pitching themselves as on the outer side of that political divide.

Attack on two fronts

On the same day as the council elections in Queensland, two byelections could underscore the difficulty the Labor state government will have in winning a fourth consecutive term.

Labor will win in Inala, the seat of retired former premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, where the margin is 28%. There will be a big swing to the LNP, but not that big.

But Labor insiders are particularly worried about another heartland seat next door, Ipswich West, which is on a margin of about 14%.

The state political landscape looks increasingly grim for Steven Miles’s government. Labor’s most vulnerable seats are in regional Queensland, but its majority is underpinned by its dominance of Greater Brisbane, where it holds all but four seats.

On Saturday, Labor could find itself under attack on two fronts – falling behind the Greens across Brisbane and battling to keep its heartland seats from the LNP.

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Influential NSW independent speaks out against laws that make it harder for young people to get bail

Exclusive: Barwon MP and former police staffer Roy Butler says it’s wrong to assume offenders view longer sentences as a deterrent

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An influential independent New South Wales MP has spoken out against new laws from the Minns government that would make it harder for young people to get bail.

The Barwon MP, Roy Butler, a former police administrator, said it was wrong to assume that young offenders would always view extended sentences as a punishment and a deterrent to antisocial behaviour.

“Some young offenders see incarceration as a rite of passage, an elevation in status among their peers,” he said. “For others, it’s an environment where they have three meals a day and a routine, something their life in the community may have lacked.”

The government introduced legislation to NSW parliament this week to toughen bail laws along with a $26.2m package of initiatives it said would address youth offending, after facing pressure to act on regional crime.

Butler, whose vast rural electorate makes up about 44% of the state and is home to some of its most disadvantaged communities, called for locally designed “intensive residential programs” to be set up as an alternative.

However, Butler said incarceration should be “non-negotiable” for serious offences such as assault and sexual violence.

Analysis from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar), released on Thursday, found that in 2023 the rate of property crime in regional NSW was 59% higher than in Sydney, and the rate of violent crime in regional NSW was 57% higher than in Sydney.

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There were not increases in all types of crime in regional NSW over the five years from 2019 to 2023, but motor vehicle theft rose by 20%, domestic assault increased by 24% and sexual assault jumped by 47%.

Labor’s proposed changes to the Bail Act would include an extra test for 14- to 18-year-olds charged with committing certain serious break and enter or motor vehicle theft offences while on bail for the same offences and seeking further bail.

Butler was unable to attend parliament this week and could not try to amend the legislation.

In 2018, a parliamentary inquiry led by the Coalition recommended promoting the diversion of young people from the criminal justice system wherever possible.

Earlier this week, the attorney general, Michael Daley, said he was concerned the tougher bail laws would result in more young people being locked up but that the government had no choice.

“If there was another option available to us today, to keep these children safe, we’d take it. But there isn’t,” he said.

Butler wrote to the premier, Chris Minns, this week to raise concerns that the government’s youth crime package – the centrepiece of which is a $13.4m youth support pilot program for Moree – was neglecting the state’s far west.

“By taking this specific course of action, I feel you are failing to address other communities currently experiencing the same or worse,” Butler wrote in the letter, seen by Guardian Australia.

The Barwon MP referred to Bocsar data from October 2022-September 2023 analysed by his office, which showed there were higher per capita rates of certain crimes in towns in his electorate than in Moree.

For example, in Walgett, domestic violence-related assault offences occurred at a rate of 8,857.8 per 100,000 people. In Bourke, these offences occurred at a rate of 6,476.19 per 100,000 people. By comparison, these offences occurred in Moree at a rate of 1,873.4 per 100,000 people.

In his letter to Minns, Butler acknowledged there could be statistical issues given the size of Walgett and Bourke.

“[But] we must start looking at their data and on a per capita basis to ensure there is clarity over which communities are suffering severe spikes or continuous issues and not just those who are loudest,” he wrote.

The police minister, Yasmin Catley, on Thursday told reporters she did not accept the notion that the government was neglecting the rest of regional NSW.

Minns said he had spoken to mayors, MPs including Butler, senior police and other community leaders. He said the government would not leave communities behind.

“[They] have said we need to do more when it comes to crime rates, so that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

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Secret Serco rating system for immigration detainees must be scrapped, say Greens

Senator Nick McKim says company’s ‘opaque’ SRAT security assessment tool ‘has severe implications for fundamental human rights’

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The Greens have called for a security rating system used in immigration detention centres to be scrapped, following a Guardian Australia investigation that found the tool was “abusive” and “unscientific”.

The Security Risk Assessment Tool – or SRAT – attempts to calculate a detainee’s “risk” for behaviours such as violence, escape or self-harm. But lawyers, immigration insiders and successive government reports say the tool regularly rates people as high risk based on “unwarranted” escalations and errors – with serious consequences.

The tool was developed by Serco, the company that runs Australia’s immigration network. Security risk assessments for each detainee are required under the terms of its contract with the government.

“Serco’s use of algorithms without oversight in immigration detention, with its profound flaws and opacity, is unacceptable and must end immediately,” said Nick McKim, the Greens immigration spokesperson.

“The Australian government and Serco owe the public a full explanation of this practice, which has severe implications for fundamental human rights.”

Human rights commissioner Lorraine Finlay said the AHRC has “consistently expressed concerns” about the SRAT and questioned whether it leads to restrictive measures that “are not necessary, reasonable, or proportionate”.

“The risk rating given to an individual detainee has a significant impact on their treatment while in detention,” she said. “We have serious concerns about whether the SRAT and its current application in immigration detention is fair and accurate, and whether it complies with Australia’s human rights obligations.”

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Multiple government reports have also found that SRAT assessments can contain inaccuracies.

In 2020, Nauroze Anees, who spent more than 1,000 days in immigration detention in Australia, brought an action before the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) against Serco over his SRAT.

In October 2023, the OAIC decided his privacy had been interfered with because Serco failed to ensure his personal information “was accurate, up-to-date and complete”, among other breaches of the Privacy Act. A minor injury he sustained while playing football listed him as an “alleged offender”. Another incident was summarised as “detainees involved in assault”, but did not describe who was involved or even when or where it occurred.

Serco was made to apologise and pay him $1,500.

Immigration insiders told Guardian Australia it was easy for detainees to accumulate incidents on their SRATs that added to their risk score.

A 2019 AHRC report found “abusive/aggressive behaviour” incidents were used to calculate a risk rating for “aggression/violence” even though the interaction may not have included any physical aggression or violence.

The commonwealth ombudsman also found in 2020 that detainees with any violent criminal history were assessed as high risk, no matter how much time had passed since the offence or any rehabilitation.

Inaccurate SRATS can have profoundly serious consequences, especially as the population of people in immigration detention has changed to include more people who have had visas cancelled on character grounds due to criminal convictions.

Some detainees who the AHRC found were wrongly assessed as high risk due to inaccurate SRATs were placed in high security compounds where they were assaulted.

Detainees aren’t given the opportunity to challenge their rating, and typically are not even told it exists – a situation the AHRC believes should change.

“We have identified the lack of clarity around the process as being a significant cause of confusion and frustration for individual detainees, and have recommended that people in immigration detention should be informed of their risk rating and of the reasons for this rating, unless doing so would present an unacceptable risk,” Finlay said.

Multiple sources familiar with the system said SRAT ratings rarely go backwards from high to low, even for detainees who have “long periods of perfect behaviour”.

“The major parties must be held accountable for their roles in enabling and perpetuating anti-immigration policies that dehumanise and mistreat those seeking refuge and a new life in Australia,” McKim said.

“Their tacit or explicit support for systems like the SRAT reveals a willingness to undermine basic human dignity and fairness.”

An Australian Border Force spokesperson said: “Australian Border Force officers work tirelessly with contracted service providers to provide a safe and secure Immigration Detention Network for detainees, staff and visitors.”

“The SRAT considers each detainee’s individual circumstances, including consideration of an individual’s capability (e.g. age, frailty, medical condition) and intent (e.g. immigration pathway, behaviour, prevalence of incidents), and is reviewed at regular intervals.”

Serco declined to comment.

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Australian woman among two tourists killed in Bali landslide that swept away villa

Wooden villa in Jatiluwih hit by landslide after heavy rain the previous night, official says

Two tourists, including an Australian woman, have been killed on the Indonesian resort island of Bali after heavy rain triggered a landslide that swept away their villa, an official said on Thursday.

Large areas of the archipelago of 17,000 islands are prone to flooding and landslides during the wet season which starts around November.

The wooden villa in Jatiluwih village on the popular tourist island was hit by the landslide on Thursday morning after a downpour in the area the previous night, local disaster mitigation agency official I Nyoman Srinadha Giri told AFP.

The intense rain eroded water canals used for irrigation that sit above the villa and triggered the landslide, killing the two, according to the official.

“The victims were evacuated from the debris while in sleeping (positions). There were two victims, a man and a woman in one bed,” he said.

The female victim, 47, was born in Australia and had a US permanent residence permit, while the male victim’s nationality and identity remained unknown.

The victims’ bodies were transferred to a hospital in the provincial capital Denpasar.

Landslides in Indonesia have been aggravated in some places by deforestation, with prolonged torrential rain causing flooding in some areas.

Landslides and floods triggered by intense rains on Sumatra island last week killed at least 27 people.

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