The Guardian 2024-03-19 01:01:31


The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has demanded a meeting with ABC management to protest last night’s Four Corners program, which he alleged “was the journalistic equivalent of a bowl of vomit”.

The program was titled Ukraine’s War: The Other Side. The ABC’s blurb said it was “a rare insight from the other side”, adding that “filmmaker Sean Langan’s groundbreaking documentary offers a human perspective on life on the Russian frontline”.

In a statement issued this morning, Myroshnychenko said the program “unquestioningly repeated and aired countless blatant lies, historical distortions, racist claims and propaganda narratives emanating from the Kremlin” and therefore “completely served the interests of Russia’s dictator, Putin”.

Myroshnychenko said:

It also minimised and denigrated the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children who have been killed by Russian soldiers in an illegal and brutal invasion strongly condemned by Australia and the majority of countries through the UNGA resolution in March 2022.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation should be ashamed that it put such total garbage to air.

Through the Minister for Communications, I will ask for a meeting with the Managing Director of the ABC and the Executive Producer of Four Corners to understand what process led to the airing of this pro-Putin and pro-violence propaganda piece by Australia’s national broadcaster. I will share with them the facts that the program totally disregarded.

Comment is being sought from the ABC.

Reserve Bank tipped to hold interest rate but economists split on when cuts will start

Pundits and investors expect the RBA to leave its cash rate unchanged at 4.35% when the board meets on Tuesday

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The Reserve Bank is widely tipped to leave its key interest rate on hold at this week’s board meeting, but economists are split on how soon borrowers can expect rate relief.

The central bank will announce the results of its second board meeting for 2024 on Tuesday. Pundits and investors alike anticipate the RBA will leave its cash rate unchanged at its 12-year high of 4.35%.

Official interest rates were relatively slow to increase in Australia and did not rise as high as similar economies. That flatter rate trajectory is one reason why the first cuts won’t land until next February, the independent economist Saul Eslake predicts.

“The RBA has consciously decided – though not explicitly said – that it’s willing to tolerate inflation being above its [2%-3%] target for longer than its peers,” Eslake said, listing counterparts such as the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.

That tolerance was aimed in part to “preserve as much as possible of the gains that have been made in reducing unemployment and underemployment in recent years”, he said. The corollary, though, was that Australia’s interest rates would also likely ease slower than elsewhere.

All of the big four commercial banks predict the RBA will start cutting this year. The CBA is the most aggressive, forecasting the equivalent of three 25 basis-point reductions by the end of 2024.

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While Australia’s weak 0.2% economic growth in the December quarter was in line with the RBA’s expectations, consumer activity – the largest share of the economy – fell well short, said Gareth Aird, CBA’s head of Australian economics. Instead of expanding 1.1% from a year earlier, as the RBA forecast in November when it last hiked rates, consumption actually rose just 0.1%.

“A series of [interest rate] cuts will be required to prevent the unemployment rate from rising to the levels the RBA does not want to see it get to,” Aird said.

“So far the evidence indicates that the balance of risks for the RBA should be shifting to consumer spending surprising further to the downside rather than inflation proving more persistent,” he said. “Indeed the news on the inflation front is encouraging”, with the six-month annualised pace of price increases on track to be 3.2% for the current quarter – or just outside the target band.

The Reserve Bank governor, Michele Bullock, will detail the RBA’s thinking at a media briefing in Sydney an hour after the board’s rates decision is released at 2.30pm (AEDT). The bank is expected to leave rates on hold until the end of September when it will be cut to 4.1%, according to a poll of economists by Reuters.

Unions are among those calling for speedier cuts.

“Inflation is coming down in Australia and around the world,” the ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, said. “Unfortunately, the RBA has not understood the nonexistent role of wages in the current inflationary period and paid little attention to contribution of price gouging by companies exploiting general price rises.

“They should not be looking to increase unemployment, their approach of the previous decade kept unemployment and underemployment higher than it should have been,” McManus said.

Eslake, though, said the RBA had to assess the impact of the amended stage-three tax cuts from 1 July, which would have the effect on household cashflow of lopping 50 basis points off interest rates. Other central banks did not have to consider such transfers in rate-cut calculations.

Aird said the CBA was “a little more dovish” on rates than the overall market. He predicted the RBA would have enough evidence by May to end its tightening stance towards rates. Two board meetings later, in August, the bias should have shifted to a loosening one.

“A key risk is the decision of the Fair Work Commission around the award and minimum wage,” he said. “If that outcome is too large it could pose a risk to the outlook for inflation and our expectations of an easing cycle.”

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Australia’s big electricity generators say nuclear not viable for at least a decade

AGL Energy, Alinta, EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy say they will remain focused on renewables despite Coalition support for nuclear reactors

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Australia’s big private electricity generators have dismissed nuclear energy as a viable source of power for their customers for at least a decade.

They say they will remain focused on developing renewable sources as coal and gas plants exit the grid.

The comments – from AGL Energy, Alinta, EnergyAustralia and Origin Energy – follow an announcement by the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, that the Coalition would back both large-scale and small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) as a way to cut electricity prices and increase grid reliability.

Energy Australia, whose Hong Kong-listed owner CLP currently operates two large nuclear power stations in mainland China, said the company was “committed to Australia’s clean energy transformation, reducing emissions as quickly and affordably as possible while maintaining system reliability”.

“We know that Australia will need some form of controllable long-duration, zero-carbon storage or generation to deliver net zero by 2050,” an EA spokesperson said, adding that green hydrogen or nuclear had potential to play a role.

“Given long lead times for development, [nuclear is] a potential option for the late 2030s or 2040s.”

Alinta said it had not been approached by the Coalition and nuclear energy was “not something we’re exploring”.

“To be a viable option, the regulatory environment would need to be amended and many other considerations would need to be assessed,” the Alinta spokesperson said.

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Damien Nicks, AGL’s chief, said nuclear energy was not a part of the company’s plans to develop coal and gas plants into low-emissions industrial hubs.

“There is no viable schedule for the regulation or development of nuclear energy in Australia and the cost, build time and public opinion are all prohibitive,” Nicks said on Friday. “Policy certainty is important for companies like AGL and ongoing debate on the matter runs the risk of unnecessarily complicating the long-term investment decisions necessary for the energy transition.”

An Origin spokesperson said the company was focused on accelerating the take-up of renewables and storage, including the construction of big batteries at its Eraring coal-fired power plant in New South Wales and at its Mortlake gas-fired plant in Victoria.

“At this stage, our primary focus is adding more supply from these mature low-emissions technologies, however we will continue to watch progress with any emerging technologies that may be able to contribute to emissions reduction over time,” the spokesperson said.

Australia’s electricity prices have jumped in recent years, including a hike in the default market offer in 2022 that the Morrison government delayed until after the election that year – lumping Labor with the increase.

The slow rollout of wind and solar farms, however, has stoked concerns the electricity sector won’t have sufficient capacity to meet demand as ageing coal plants shut.

While companies stress they remain “energy agnostic”, the challenges of introducing a new energy source requiring complex regulations, particularly for the storage and disposal of nuclear energy waste, are steep, they say. They point to the absence of commercially proven SMRs and cost blowouts of large-scale plants such as the UK’s Hinkley Point C, which has been touted as the world’s “most expensive” power station.

Guardian Australia sought comment from Ted O’Brien, the opposition’s energy spokesperson. “If you’re not serious about nuclear, you’re not serious about net zero,” O’Brien said last December. “We’re open to all technologies from renewables to carbon, capture and storage, zero-emissions nuclear energy, and so much more.”

One senior executive told Guardian Australia power bills would triple if the nuclear path was pursued.

NSW’s chief scientist, Hugh Durrant-Whyte, dismissed the comparisons by nuclear energy advocates of places such as Ontario, Canada. That country had spent decades building a nuclear industry employing 70,000 people.

“Nobody in this country has even the faintest idea how to build a nuclear power plant,” Durrant-Whyte, a former nuclear adviser to the UK government, told NSW upper house estimates earlier this month.

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Watchdog would get powers to ‘smash’ supermarket duopoly under Greens bill

The party will table a private senator’s bill this week to enable the ACCC to force Coles and Woolworths to sell off parts of their business

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Australia’s competition regulator would gain powers to “smash the supermarket duopoly” and force the breakup of big supermarket chains, under a push from the Greens to be introduced to federal parliament.

The Greens will this week table a private senator’s bill seeking to introduce divestiture powers into Australian competition law. The party’s economic justice spokesperson, Nick McKim, said they will seek support across the parliament for their plan which would allow the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to apply for a court order requiring large companies to divest assets if their market power is unfairly inflating prices or blocking competition.

The Greens say their push echoes similar long-established schemes in the United States and United Kingdom. Former ACCC chair Allan Fels says a divestiture power should be “part of the toolkit for all competition laws everywhere in the world”, but conceded it may not assist in supermarket issues specifically.

While the proposed powers would apply to all large businesses, the minor party says its push is squarely aimed at addressing issues around the major supermarkets. The Greens suggested the proposed powers could be used to require the sale of specific Coles or Woolworths-owned supermarkets or liquor outlets, or its supermarket home brand product lines, to a local or international competitor.

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As political focus in Australia’s cost-of-living crisis has shifted to the market power of supermarkets, several politicians have raised discussions about potential divestment reforms. Crossbench MPs Bob Katter and Andrew Wilkie proposed forced divestiture of Coles and Woolworths last month, promoted with a media stunt where the two donned inflatable pig costumes.

At the time, assistant minister for competition, Andrew Leigh, told Sky News “we’re not looking at divestment powers … They’re not one of the major tools you use for getting better prices for consumers.”

Leigh instead raised the government’s work around merger reform and investigations into the supermarkets.

Fels, the former ACCC chair from 1995 to 2003, called for divestiture powers in a report commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions last month.

“Australia should also introduce a divestiture law which allows big business to be broken up in circumstances where a court has found that it has breached a competition law seriously and where a court determines that divestiture is the best remedy,” Fels wrote.

Fels told Guardian Australia divestiture powers should be a “core economic principle”, available across the whole economy, claiming it would better compel good corporate behaviour than the threat of fines.

But while believing there would be “considerable” long-term benefits of such a power economy-wide, Fels said he didn’t expect such laws would force any major changes to supermarkets specifically.

“I don’t envisage the law to break them [supermarkets] up in any major way, only at the margins,” he said.

McKim’s office pointed to recent statements about lack of competition from Reserve Bank governor Michelle Bullock and current ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

In response to questions from McKim at a Senate estimates hearing in February, Bullock said: “I think that, yes, there probably are firms that are using the circumstances of lack of competition, strong demand and, as you mentioned, the cover of higher inflation.”

In a May 2023 estimates hearing, McKim asked Cass-Gottlieb if the market power of the big supermarkets made it easier for them to raise prices.

“Consistent with the capacity of concentrated sectors to have higher mark-ups, there is a capacity to do so,” she said.

In the same hearing, Cass-Gottlieb nominated reforms to company mergers as another important consideration, but that divestiture powers would create stronger competition.

McKim claimed the major supermarkets “have had it their way for far too long”.

“It’s time that the interests of people took precedence over the profits of corporations. We need to stop supermarket corporations ruthlessly using their market power to gouge prices while raking in billions of dollars in profits,” he said.

“Giving our courts and competition regulators the power to smash the supermarket duopoly will help rein them in.”

McKim raised about competition problems “in many sectors of the economy”, which he said the proposal would also be able to address.

“The very existence of divestiture powers will mean that dominant supermarkets, banks or energy companies will think twice about pocketing higher margins and instead pass on savings to their customers.”

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Independents move to ban mega donations in far-reaching political transparency overhaul

Crossbenchers including the Greens and the Jacquie Lambie Network back proposal that would ban $1.5m-plus donations and tighten the definition of gifts but does not include spending caps

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Mega donations of more than $1.5m would be banned under a crossbench plan to get big money out of politics.

Lower house independents, including Kate Chaney, Zali Steggall, the Greens, David Pocock, Lidia Thorpe and the Jacqui Lambie Network, will present a united front by introducing the fair and transparent elections bill in both houses of parliament.

The bill contains a suite of reforms including truth-in-political advertising, a ban on donations from socially harmful industries including fossil fuels, and tightening the definition of gifts to capture major party fundraisers, including dinners and business forums.

The bill legislates Labor’s election promises to lower the donation disclosure threshold to $1,000 and real-time disclosure of donations within five business days.

But it excludes a recommendation from the electoral matters committee to cap spending on elections, after concerns from the Climate 200 fundraising body this could effectively entrench the two major parties.

The special minister of state, Don Farrell, first revealed in July 2022 that Labor planned to legislate spending caps, with a bill now expected by mid-year. Farrell has repeatedly cited Clive Palmer’s $117m spending at the last election, funded by donations from his company Mineralogy.

Palmer has warned that a spending and donation cap in the tens or even hundreds of thousands would “silence the diversity of ideas”, threatening a high court challenge.

The crossbench fears that Labor could seek a deal with the Coalition to increase public funding of political parties and enact restrictive caps that make it difficult for new political entrants to challenge incumbents while continuing controversial practices like cash-for-access dinners.

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In a draft explanatory memorandum, Chaney warned that “any significant increase in public funding in a cost-of-living crisis is poor reform”.

The crossbench bill proposes that individual donors be limited to donating 2% of the total amount of public funding paid by the Australian Electoral Commission in the last election, which currently stands at $1.5m.

Donations from socially harmful industries – including gambling, alcohol, fossil fuels and tobacco companies – would be banned, as would donations from current or potential government contractors.

The bill also seeks to level the playing field by limiting government ads before elections, stopping postal vote applications being used to harvest data and creating an independent campaign entity to allow independents some of the advantages of parties, such as easier access to the electoral roll.

Chaney, who will introduce the house bill, told Guardian Australia: “The government has committed to transparency and truth and we’re demonstrating that it doesn’t need to wait for opposition support to get this done.”

With the Greens’ 11 Senate votes, the Jacqui Lambie Network, Thorpe and Pocock, the bill could pass parliament without the support of the Coalition – if Labor gets behind it.

Chaney said if the government wants to propose its own electoral reforms, it should “bring it on”, but the crossbench had set the fair and transparent elections bill as a “baseline”.

“This bill provides the government the opportunity to show it has listened and is interested in reforms that build trust, not changes that embed the two-party system.”

Larissa Waters, the Greens Senate leader, said that “history shows that electoral reform proposed by the major parties has in-built loopholes to ensure their own big money is retained while hampering the chances of any challengers”.

“Any reform which limits donations to those who challenge Liberal and Labor, while protecting the establishment parties’ sources of income, will be seen for what it is – a complete stitch- up, undermining our democracy and the public’s expectation of fair play.”

Pocock, who will introduce the bill in the Senate, said the bill “gives this parliament an opportunity to enact serious and long-overdue electoral reform before the next federal election”.

“We live in a well-functioning democracy, but we have seen this increasingly under threat and must act now to improve our democratic processes.”

Steggall said the reforms “could be passed ahead of the next election, fulfilling the wishes of Australian voters and strengthening trust in our political system”.

On Thursday Peter Dutton suggested truth-in-political advertising laws would be “probably welcome”, raising expectations that a major party deal might be possible, despite the Liberals resisting both caps and truth in advertising in the electoral matters inquiry.

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Analysis

Israel’s Shifa raid shows its grip is slipping as a ‘forever war’ looms

Jason Burke in Jerusalem

Retaking of Shifa complex shows Hamas militants, despite heavy losses, are still operational in northern Gaza

The latest raid on al-Shifa hospital reveals that the Israeli military’s hold on the areas of Gaza supposedly cleared of Hamas militants is considerably more tenuous than the country’s political leaders have claimed – and suggests the region’s military superpower is facing its own “forever war” in the territory with enormous costs for everyone involved, particularly civilians.

The fighting around the Shifa hospital and its eventual seizure was the climactic moment of the first phase of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, launched last year after Hamas killed 1,200 and captured 250 people, mostly civilians, in a surprise raid on 7 October. There was bitter argument over whether the hospital’s buildings and basements had been used by Hamas as a covert command centre, as Israel claimed, but none over the strength of Israel’s control of the site when its soldiers moved in on 15 November.

Three months later, Monday’s raid is an implicit admission that this control seems to have slipped.

It is clear that Hamas is operating in parts of northern Gaza that were supposed to have been cleared by Israeli forces a long time ago. In February, there was fighting in Zeitoun, a neighbourhood of Gaza City, and al-Shati camp, further up the coast. There have even been clashes in Beit Hanoun, which was one of the first places overrun by Israeli forces at the very beginning of the war.

Three things are happening. One is that, though Hamas has sustained heavy casualties, it still has enough men under arms and sufficiently functional command systems to launch sporadic attacks on Israeli troops when circumstances are right. Its extensive tunnel system helps here. These cause little damage and few casualties but will add to pressure on Israel in any talks over a ceasefire and hostage for prisoner exchange. They will also help Hamas frame the conflict’s eventual outcome as a victory.

A second is that Israel has demobilised most of its reservists and transferred key regular units to its northern border or the occupied West Bank. The current phase of its offensive in Gaza involves targeted strikes and raids instead of massed confrontations. For economic and political reasons, Israel’s strategic planners had few options, but this means there are few troops permanently on the ground in northern Gaza. Most are confined to so-called ‘bastions’ on the outskirts of population centres or at strategic points such as road junctions.

The third is that war – like nature – abhors a vacuum. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has refused to discuss seriously any realistic plans for governing in Gaza after the war and is apparently content to allow swaths of the territory to slide into chaos in the weeks or months Israel achieves his stated war aim of “crushing” Hamas.

But others are filling the yawning governance gap. There are criminal gangs, major families with their own quasi-militia, informal neighbourhood committees set up by desperate civilians and, inevitably, Hamas. The militant Islamist organisation has run Gaza since 2007 and its structures, overt and covert, are deeply embedded. So too are its ideas.

This has not escaped even friends of Israel. The annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, published last week, predicted that Israel “probably will face lingering armed resistance from Hamas for years to come, and the military will struggle to neutralise Hamas’s underground infrastructure, which allows insurgents to hide, regain strength, and surprise Israeli forces”.

There is now a situation of deadly stasis in Gaza. Neither the Israelis nor Hamas are likely to reach their ultimate objectives, however defined, anytime soon. A ceasefire could take many weeks or may not be possible at all. Meanwhile, more than 31,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive, mostly women and children, according to local health authorities, and famine looms.

Netanyahu has said that once Israel’s forces have destroyed their enemy’s forces in Rafah, the southernmost town in the territory and where more than a million displaced are sheltering, then the war will in effect be over. Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, recently told US officials: “Ending the war without clearing out Rafah is like sending a firefighter to extinguish 80% of the fire.”

Monday’s raid on Shifa makes clear that, despite the grey ash and rubble across so much of the territory, the fire in Gaza is not fully extinguished anywhere.

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‘Catastrophic levels of hunger’ in Gaza mean famine is imminent, says aid coalition

More than a million people are at risk, according to report, as Oxfam says Israeli authorities are blocking relief deliveries

Famine is imminent in northern Gaza with people suffering “catastrophic levels of hunger”, a coalition of aid groups has warned.

The situation was called “man-made starvation”, as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a group that includes the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, said that 1.1 million people, half of Gaza’s population, faced famine.

The IPC report came as Philippe Lazzarini, the head of Unrwa – the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees – said he had been denied entry to Gaza where he was due to work on improving the humanitarian response. Lazzarini said the Israeli authorities prevented him from entering Gaza on Monday. Unrwa, the largest aid organisation working in Gaza, is coordinating aid trucks entering via the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings.

“This man-made starvation under our watch is a stain on our collective humanity,” Lazzarini wrote on X. “Too much time was wasted, all land crossings must open now. Famine can be averted with political will.”

Also on Monday, Oxfam said Israeli authorities were preventing “a warehouse full of international aid” from reaching the Gaza Strip.

Israel has asked the International Court of Justice not to issue emergency orders for it to step up humanitarian aid to Gaza to address the looming famine, dismissing South Africa’s request to do so as “morally repugnant”.

In a legal filing to the UN’s highest court, made public this week, Israel said it “has real concern for the humanitarian situation and innocent lives, as demonstrated by the actions it has and is taking” in Gaza during the war.

The IPC report named both the intensity of Israeli military operations and the extreme restrictions to humanitarian access into northern Gaza as factors that have propelled its population towards famine in just a few months.

“The entire population in the Gaza Strip (2.23 million) is facing high levels of acute food insecurity,” it said. “Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur any time between mid-March and May 2024.”

Southern parts of Gaza, it said, would also face a risk of famine in the coming months “in a worst-case scenario”. An Israeli ground offensive on the southernmost town of Rafah, the IPC added, would increase already catastrophic levels of hunger across the entire Gaza Strip.

The UN said last week: “During the first two weeks of March, 12 humanitarian aid missions to northern Gaza were facilitated by the Israeli authorities, six were denied, and six were postponed.”

The US, Jordan and other international observers have resorted to dropping in packages of food on parachutes in an attempt to get some aid to northern Gaza, although Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, has warned that airdrops “will do very little to alleviate hunger malnutrition, and do nothing to slow down famine”.

Late last week, the aid organisation World Central Kitchen said it had chartered a ship from Cyprus and had begun to deliver 37m meals to northern Gaza. But the UN said that trucking aid into Gaza has proved the most reliable way to distribute aid. Since the Hamas attacks on 7 October, just a fraction of the 500 trucks carrying food, water and medicines that previously entered each day are permitted to deliver essential goods, while piped water and electricity have been cut off.

The IPC said that dwindling supplies meant “virtually all households are skipping meals every day and adults are reducing their meals so that children can eat”.

In two-thirds of households in northern Gaza, the report said, “people went entire days and nights without eating at least 10 times in the last 30 days. In the southern governorates, this applies to one-third of the households.”

With famine imminent, Oxfam has accused Israeli authorities of doing little to obey the International Court of Justice’s instruction to facilitate relief efforts to 2 million Palestinians. The Israeli government, it said, “ultimately bears accountability for the breakdown of the international response to the crisis in Gaza”.

Oxfam detailed how the Israeli authorities were “arbitrarily rejecting aid items”, claiming they were “dual-use” – civilian goods that could have a military purpose – including torches, batteries and medical supplies.

Essential equipment for humanitarian workers was also being stopped, Oxfam said, including communications equipment, protective vests, armoured cars, generators and prefabricated housing for staff.

There was “no communication about which are items are classified as dual-use”, it said, meaning an entire truckload could be turned away over one item.

“Some items may pass one day and be rejected the next. The list of rejected items is overwhelming and ever-changing,” Oxfam said. In one case, items including water bladders and testing kits for drinking water were rejected with no reason provided, but later allowed to enter.

“Oxfam’s shipment of vital water quality testing equipment has not been able to cross since December,” it said. “Oftentimes when a single item is considered ‘dual-use’ by Israel, the truck is forced to exit the queue. Reloading the truck to be able to enter the inspection line again can take 20 days.”

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Fierce clashes between IDF and Hamas after Israel takes control of key hospital

Israel claims to have killed 20 militants at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City following early morning raid

Fierce fighting has continued around al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, as Israeli troops battled Hamas militants after seizing control of the strategically situated medical complex in an early morning raid.

Witnesses reported multiple airstrikes and ferocious firefights as fears rose for the safety of hundreds of civilians in the immediate vicinity of the hospital.

Israeli military officials said troops were “continuing precise operations in the Shifa hospital to thwart terrorism” and had killed 20 Hamas militants there, including Faiq Mabhouh, whom they identified as the head of the operations directorate of Hamas’s internal security. At least 80 people were detained by the Israeli forces and one soldier killed in the raid.

The raid was based on “intelligence information indicating the use of the hospital by senior Hamas terrorists to command attacks”, Israeli officials said.

Separately, Joe Biden spoke by phone with Benjamin Netanyahu in their first call since mid-February.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, described the call as “businesslike” but said the US president had refuted “straw man” arguments put forward by the Israeli leader.

Sullivan repeated the US argument that a major ground operation in Rafah would be a mistake, saying: “It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza, and further isolate Israel internationally.”

He added: “A military plan cannot succeed without an integrated humanitarian plan and political plan.”

Netanyahu said the two men, whose relationship has become increasingly tense, had discussed Israel’s commitment to achieve all the targets it had set out for the war: eliminating Hamas; releasing all the hostages; and ensuring Gaza would no longer pose a threat to Israel.

This would be done “while providing the necessary humanitarian aid that helps achieve those goals”, Netanyahu added.

The fighting and the devastation in northern Gaza has forced thousands of Palestinians to seek shelter at Shifa, living in makeshift tents in its grounds. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, expressed deep concern about the fighting, which he said was “endangering health workers, patients and civilians”.

“We are terribly worried about the situation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza,” he wrote on X. “Hospitals should never be battlegrounds.”

A reporter with Al Jazeera was beaten and arrested along with other journalists, the Qatar-based TV network reported.

Witnesses described the beginning of the Israeli operation in the al-Rimal area of Gaza City, where the hospital is located.

“Suddenly, we started to hear sounds of explosions, several bombings, and soon tanks started to roll,” Mohammad Ali, 32, a father of two, who lives just over a mile from the hospital, told Reuters via a chat app. “They came from the western road and headed towards al-Shifa, then sounds of gunfire and explosions increased.

“We don’t know what is happening, but it looked as if it was a re-invasion of the Gaza City,” he added.

Hamas said the Israeli military had committed a new crime by directly targeting the hospital buildings without concern for patients, medical staff or displaced people in it.

Gaza’s health ministry said the raid had caused a fire at the entrance of the complex, resulting in cases of asphyxiation among displaced women and children in the hospital.

“There are casualties, including deaths and injuries, and it’s impossible to rescue anyone due to the intensity of the fire and targeting of anyone approaching the windows,” the ministry said, as it accused Israeli forces of “another crime against health institutions”.

The claims made by health ministry officials, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas could not be independently verified.

During the morning, the IDF dropped leaflets and used social media to tell civilians to leave their homes immediately and travel along Gaza’s coastal road to al-Muwasi, an area 18 miles (30km) south designated as a “humanitarian island” by Israel.

There is very limited transport available in Gaza, and many residents of Gaza City, particularly children and elderly people, are weak after months without adequate food. It was not immediately clear how many would be able to comply with the Israeli instructions even if the ongoing combat allowed safe passage.

An Israeli raid in November on Shifa – Gaza’s largest hospital – drew widespread international condemnation and the new operation underlines the difficulties faced by Israel in Gaza as they seek to fulfil their declared war aim of “crushing Hamas”.

Since February, the IDF has returned to fight in parts of the territory that were thought to have been cleared of Hamas militants after fierce battles last year. Residents of Gaza City told the Guardian this month that few Israeli troops were stationed amid its ruined streets but had withdrawn to positions on the outskirts and at key road junctions.

Israeli forces have raided a number of hospitals in Gaza during a military campaign launched after the surprise attack by Hamas into southern Israel in which the militants killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 others hostage.

The intensity of the offensive has eased somewhat in recent weeks but the death toll continues to rise. Israel’s campaign against Hamas has killed at least 31,645 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields by running military operations from hospitals and other medical centres. The militant group denies these claims.

After its November raid on Shifa, the Israeli military said it had found weapons and military equipment hidden there as well as a 55-metre tunnel in the basement. The IDF shared footage it said proved hostages had been held there, which Hamas also denies.

Evidence produced by the IDF did not appear to substantiate claims made before the raid that the militant group had built a well-equipped command centre in multiple connected bunkers beneath the hospital, though a long reinforced tunnel running deep underneath the complex was identified.

On Monday, the IDF said that it had found “funds intended for distribution to Hamas terrorist operatives, in addition to numerous weapons … in the hospital.”

Aid agencies have been working to restore services at Shifa for several weeks, but have found it difficult to reach northern Gaza to bring in equipment and supplies. Many humanitarian groups have accused Israel of deliberately holding up their deliveries with arbitrary checks, opaque decison-making and cumbersome bureaucracy – a charge Israeli officials vehemently deny.

The latest raid comes amid hopes that a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel can be agreed in a new round of talks expected to start within days.

  • Reuters contributed to this report

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Israeli delegation to visit Washington to discuss planned offensive on Rafah

US says attack would be ‘mistake’ as Biden and Netanyahu talk by phone for first time in over a month

Israel will send a team of officials to Washington to discuss its planned offensive on Rafah, the White House has said, as the Biden administration insists that an attack would be a “mistake” and seeks to persuade Israel to allow in more aid in the face of an imminent famine in Gaza.

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, announced the Israeli visit after a phone call on Monday between Joe Biden and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, focusing on the planned Rafah assault that Netanyahu has vowed to launch.

Sullivan confirmed that Israeli forces had killed Marwan Issa, the deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza, and one of the masterminds of the 7 October attacks, in an operation last week, one of thousands of Hamas fighters he said had been killed. But he added: “a military plan cannot succeed without an integrated humanitarian plan and political plan.”

Sullivan said it was “first and foremost” Israel’s obligation “to step up and ensure that more is done to deliver food to starving people in northern Gaza”, in the wake of a warning from UN organisations that famine was “imminent” in northern Gaza, with an onset at any time between mid-March and May.

Sullivan restated US opposition to the planned Rafah offensive, pointing out that more than a million Palestinians had taken refuge in the southernmost Gazan town having fled other cities ruined by Israeli bombing.

“Israel has not presented us or the world with a plan for how or where they would safely move those civilians, let alone feed and house them and ensure access to basic things like sanitation,” Sullivan said.

He also pointed out Rafah was the main entry point for the small amount of aid reaching Gaza, and it could seriously affect Israeli relations with Egypt, on the other side of the border.

Sullivan described the Biden-Netanyahu call, their first in over a month, as “businesslike” but said the US president had dismissed “straw man” arguments put forward by the Israeli leader.

“The president has rejected and did again today the straw man that raising questions about Rafah is the same as raising questions about defeating Hamas. That’s just nonsense,” he said.

Sullivan admitted that Israel had made military gains against Hamas but said, “A major ground operation [in Rafah] would be a mistake.” It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza, and further isolate Israel internationally.”

In the call, Biden asked Netanyahu to send a team of military, intelligence and humanitarian officials to discuss Gaza and talk about alternatives to attacking Rafah.

“Now we really need to get down to brass tacks and have the chance for a delegation from each side on an integrated basis, everyone’s sitting around the same table, talking through the way forward,” Sullivan said. “Send your team to Washington, let’s talk about it. We’ll lay out for you what we believe is a better way.”

He said Netanyahu accepted the invitation and the meeting should happen at the end of this week or the beginning of next week.

“We have every expectation that they’re not going to proceed with a major military operation in Rafah until we have that conversation,” Sullivan added.

The national security adviser said talks were also continuing in Doha between Israel, Qatar and Egypt aimed at securing a hostage deal, and that if Hamas agreed to release the elderly, sick and women hostages “tomorrow” there would be an immediate six-week ceasefire.

“We believe those discussions are very live, that a deal is possible, that we should be able to achieve it and that it is the best way both to get hostages home and to alleviate the suffering of the civilians in Gaza,” Sullivan said.

He said the US was hoping to beat the projected schedule of 45 to 60 days for building a floating dock off the Gaza Strip for delivering aid delivered by sea. The plan is for US military engineers to put the dock together at sea and then for it to be floated into shore and secured by Israeli troops, Sullivan said. Aid agencies have warned, however, that the famine would already have a grip on Gaza by the time any such a pier is built, it remains unclear how food would be distributed, and it would be no substitute for opening more land routes for more aid to flow into the besieged coastal strip.

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Rose Dugdale, English debutante turned IRA bomb maker, dies aged 83

Sinn Féin members pay tribute to Dugdale, who was also involved in 1974 art heist and police station attack using hijacked helicopter

Rose Dugdale, who went from a background of wealth and privilege in England to become an IRA militant and bomb maker, has died in a Dublin nursing home aged 83.

Dugdale was presented as a 17-year-old to Queen Elizabeth as part of the 1958 summer debutante season. Years later, in 1974, Dugdale was given a nine-year prison sentence, in part for her role in the theft of 19 paintings from the home of a wealthy British politician.

The stolen art, belonging to Sir Alfred Beit, included works by Johannes Vermeer, Francisco Goya, Thomas Gainsborough and Peter Paul Rubens.

Beit was tied up and struck with revolvers as the IRA gang took the paintings from their frames. It was not clear whether the group sought to sell the paintings, which were later recovered, or use them as ransom for political demands.

During her trial, Dugdale declared herself “proudly and incorruptibly guilty” of offences against the state and described Britain as “the filthy enemy”.

She was also involved in an IRA hijack of a helicopter, which she used in an attempted bomb attack on a Royal Ulster Constabulary police station in Strabane, County Tyrone. The bombs failed to explode.

While in Limerick prison, Dugdale gave birth to a son, Ruairi, whose father was another IRA member, Eddie Gallagher.

In 1975, Gallagher and an accomplice kidnapped a Dutch businessman, Tiede Heremma, and demanded the release of Dugdale and other IRA prisoners.

The kidnappers were eventually found after a massive countrywide search and surrendered after a two-week siege. Herrema was released shaken but unharmed.

After her release from prison, Dugdale continued her involvement with both Sinn Féin and the IRA.

She and her new partner Jim “Mortar” Monaghan developed several lethal homemade explosive devices. Monaghan was one of three Irish republicans arrested and sentenced in Colombia for training Farc rebels.

The three, whose conviction was later quashed, escaped to Ireland shortly after being found guilty.

There has been renewed interest in Dugdale during the past year, with a new book, television series and a film, entitled Baltimore, a reference to a village in County Cork.

One of Dugdale’s first crimes was in 1973 when she was arrested along with her lover Walter Heaton after stealing paintings and silverware valued at £82,000 from her family’s home in Devon.

During cross-examination, her father, who appeared as a prosecution witness, told his daughter: “I love you, but I hate everything you stand for.” The couple were found guilty and she was given a two-year suspended sentence because the judge said the possibility of her reoffending was “extremely remote”.

Several Sinn Féin members have paid tribute to her.

Fiachra McGuinness, the son of the late former IRA commander and, later, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, posted a photo of Dugdale on X, calling her a “republican legend”.

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Rose Dugdale, English debutante turned IRA bomb maker, dies aged 83

Sinn Féin members pay tribute to Dugdale, who was also involved in 1974 art heist and police station attack using hijacked helicopter

Rose Dugdale, who went from a background of wealth and privilege in England to become an IRA militant and bomb maker, has died in a Dublin nursing home aged 83.

Dugdale was presented as a 17-year-old to Queen Elizabeth as part of the 1958 summer debutante season. Years later, in 1974, Dugdale was given a nine-year prison sentence, in part for her role in the theft of 19 paintings from the home of a wealthy British politician.

The stolen art, belonging to Sir Alfred Beit, included works by Johannes Vermeer, Francisco Goya, Thomas Gainsborough and Peter Paul Rubens.

Beit was tied up and struck with revolvers as the IRA gang took the paintings from their frames. It was not clear whether the group sought to sell the paintings, which were later recovered, or use them as ransom for political demands.

During her trial, Dugdale declared herself “proudly and incorruptibly guilty” of offences against the state and described Britain as “the filthy enemy”.

She was also involved in an IRA hijack of a helicopter, which she used in an attempted bomb attack on a Royal Ulster Constabulary police station in Strabane, County Tyrone. The bombs failed to explode.

While in Limerick prison, Dugdale gave birth to a son, Ruairi, whose father was another IRA member, Eddie Gallagher.

In 1975, Gallagher and an accomplice kidnapped a Dutch businessman, Tiede Heremma, and demanded the release of Dugdale and other IRA prisoners.

The kidnappers were eventually found after a massive countrywide search and surrendered after a two-week siege. Herrema was released shaken but unharmed.

After her release from prison, Dugdale continued her involvement with both Sinn Féin and the IRA.

She and her new partner Jim “Mortar” Monaghan developed several lethal homemade explosive devices. Monaghan was one of three Irish republicans arrested and sentenced in Colombia for training Farc rebels.

The three, whose conviction was later quashed, escaped to Ireland shortly after being found guilty.

There has been renewed interest in Dugdale during the past year, with a new book, television series and a film, entitled Baltimore, a reference to a village in County Cork.

One of Dugdale’s first crimes was in 1973 when she was arrested along with her lover Walter Heaton after stealing paintings and silverware valued at £82,000 from her family’s home in Devon.

During cross-examination, her father, who appeared as a prosecution witness, told his daughter: “I love you, but I hate everything you stand for.” The couple were found guilty and she was given a two-year suspended sentence because the judge said the possibility of her reoffending was “extremely remote”.

Several Sinn Féin members have paid tribute to her.

Fiachra McGuinness, the son of the late former IRA commander and, later, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, posted a photo of Dugdale on X, calling her a “republican legend”.

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Obituary

Rose Dugdale obituary

English heiress who gave away her money and joined the Provisional IRA in the 1970s

On the night of 26 April 1974, 19 prized masterpieces were stolen at gunpoint from Russborough House, County Wicklow, the home of Sir Alfred Beit, a former Conservative MP and South African mining heir.

The haul included paintings by Goya, Velázquez, Vermeer, Rubens, Hals, Gainsborough and Guardi. It was one of the largest art heists in history. The IRA gang had tricked their way into the stately home south of Dublin, led by a woman pretending to be a French tourist whose car had broken down.

Rose Dugdale, who has died aged 83, may have started out as an Oxford-educated debutante and heiress but her unconventional life spiralled through political activism into republican violence, culminating in her developing explosives to destroy Royal Ulster Constabulary armoured Land Rovers. A privileged renegade, she has been compared to contemporary, 1970s ultra-leftist revolutionaries such as Patty Hearst, Italy’s Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang.

Earlier in 1974 she had carried out the IRA’s first helicopter-bomb attack on a Northern Ireland police station. The aircraft had been hired in County Donegal by a woman posing as a freelance journalist for a photographic assignment.

Once airborne, the pilot was threatened with a pistol and ordered by Dugdale and her accomplice, Eddie Gallagher, to collect milk churns packed with explosives and then fly over the border. One device was then dropped on the RUC station in Strabane, County Tyrone; the main charge failed to explode. No one was injured.

The Wicklow heist was not Dugdale’s first art theft. Knowledge of classical painting acquired in her youth had proved useful. In 1973, she broke into her parents’ home in Devon with professional burglars and looted £80,000 worth of pictures, silver and antiques to raise money for revolutionary causes. She was subsequently given a two-year suspended sentence by a judge, who said it was unlikely she would reoffend.

The aim of the raid on Russborough House, her idea, was to ransom paintings for the return from an English jail to a Northern Irish prison of four hunger-striking IRA bombers – Gerry Kelly, Hugh Feeney and the sisters Dolours and Marian Price.

After the servants were rounded up and Sir Alfred was beaten, everyone was tied up. Dugdale, maintaining the character of a French tourist, went from room to room pointing at pictures. “Zis one and zis one! Non. Not zat one!” according to Sean O’Driscoll’s 2022 biography Heiress, Rebel, Vigilante, Bomber: The Extraordinary Life of Rose Dugdale. Gallagher and two other IRA men loaded the paintings into the car.

They drove to the west Cork village of Glandore, where she had booked a cottage under the name of Ms Merrimée. A ransom note was sent to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. After that the plot began to unravel.

The Price family called for the paintings not to be damaged. Dugdale opened the door to Garda officers using her false French accent. They were not convinced by her explanation and raided the cottage to discover canvases estimated to be worth around £100m at today’s valuations.

Dugdale was born at Yarty Farm, her family’s 600-acre estate in east Devon. Her father was Lieutenant Colonel Eric Dugdale, a successful Lloyd’s underwriter, whose main home was in Chelsea in London. Her mother, Carol (nee Timmis), was from a wealthy Gloucestershire family; she had studied art and initially married Oswald Mosley’s younger brother John; they had two sons but divorced over his womanising. She subsequently married Dugdale, with whom she had three children.

Bridget Rose was the middle child. Despite her first name she had no immediate Irish ancestry and was known as Rose. She attended Miss Ironside’s school for girls in Kensington.

In an early display of characteristic resolve, she initially resisted becoming a debutante but struck a deal with her family – agreeing to be presented to the Queen at Buckingham Palace in return for being allowed to apply to university. The 1958 “coming out” season, where young women were launched into high society, was the last ceremony hosted by the monarch.

Dugdale went to St Anne’s College, Oxford, in 1959 to study philosophy, politics and economics, graduating three years later. Among her tutors were the novelist Iris Murdoch and Peter Ady, a female economist with whom she had an affair.

Her first confrontation with the establishment came when she and another student dressed as men to infiltrate the then all-male Oxford Union debating society. Their protest succeeded; women were formally admitted several months later.

She took a master’s degree in philosophy at a US college, returned to London to work as a government economics adviser on developing countries with Ady in 1965, then completed a doctorate at Bedford College, London, where she taught economics.

The 1960s countercultural revolution broadened her horizons. Dugdale travelled to communist Cuba and to Belfast, where she witnessed the army on the streets. Radicalisation followed. She left academia in 1971, deciding that she wanted to give away her inherited wealth to the poor.

Using her own money, she set up a north London claimants union office supporting marginalised people. She fell in with Wally Heaton, a former soldier who urged her to become involved in armed revolution.

Bloody Sunday in January 1972, when the Parachute Regiment shot dead 14 civil rights protesters in Derry, was a watershed. She and Heaton travelled there, met IRA leaders and offered them money to buy weapons. She returned repeatedly to Belfast and Derry, delivering guns she had obtained.

Heaton was jailed for the raid on Dugdale’s parents’ home and in 1973 she met Gallagher, who had volunteered to work in her claimants union office. They teamed up and later that year moved to Ireland where she joined an IRA training camp.

Following the Russborough House raid, Dugdale was sentenced to nine years in prison for the Strabane hijacking and the art theft. She was held in Limerick jail, where it was eventually noticed that she was pregnant. The father was Gallagher.

The following year, Gallagher, who was on the run, kidnapped the Dutch industrialist Tiede Herrema in Limerick. The IRA gang demanded the release of Dugdale and two other republican prisoners within 48 hours, warning that Herrema would be shot.

Irish police tracked down the kidnappers. After an 18-day siege they surrendered. Herrema was unharmed. Gallagher was sentenced to 20 years.

Even in prison, Dugdale kept up the pressure – forcing the authorities to allow her and Gallagher to marry behind bars in 1978 so that she could avoid extradition to the UK. She was freed in 1980 and moved to Dublin to raise her son, Ruairí.

If her earlier years had an air of political theatrics, her later years showed more deadly intent. She worked with residents’ vigilante groups to drive heroin dealers out of inner-city estates. She also broke up with Gallagher and lived with Jim Monaghan, an expert IRA bomb maker.

Together they helped refine the Provisionals’ weapons technology, conducting research on a remote farm in County Mayo. Their improved missile launchers – which used digestive biscuit packets to absorb the recoil – and fertiliser-based bombs enabled the IRA to kill more soldiers, RUC officers and civilians.

She never expressed regret. “The happiest day of my life was the bombing in Strabane,” she told the author Sean O’Driscoll. “It was the first time I felt at the centre of things, that I was really doing as I said I would do.” A feature film based on her life, Baltimore, focusing on the Wicklow art raid, is due to be released in the UK on 22 March.

Dugdale, who had been living in a Dublin care home run by nuns, is survived by her partner, Monaghan, by Gallagher, to whom she remained married, and by Ruairí.

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Australia’s power regulator drafts price cuts of up to 7.1% for households as generation costs ease

Regulator releases draft ‘default market offer’, which sets the maximum amount retailers can charge for electricity

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Millions of households should see power prices fall in the coming year as falling costs for generation have declined from the “extreme peaks of 2022”, the Australian Energy Regulator says.

The regulator released its draft default market offer for 2024-25 on Tuesday, setting a guide for electricity prices in New South Wales, South Australia and south-east Queensland.

The majority of households can expect price cuts of 0.4%-7.1%, while most small businesses could see reductions between 0.3% and 9.7%, the AER said. But the price changes vary by location and load demand.

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission released a separate draft decision, with average residential bills falling 6.4% and 7% for small businesses.

The AER chair, Clare Savage, said the decision took into account wholesale and network costs and environmental and retail expenses. The default offer effectively sets a benchmark price.

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“We know that economic conditions have put pressure on many Australians and the increases in electricity prices over the last two years has made energy less affordable for many households,” Savage said.

“While wholesale markets have stabilised since their extreme peaks of 2022, this easing has been offset by the pressures we are observing in network prices. Poles and wires costs are a large component of retail prices, comprising around 40% of the price.”

Electricity prices rose more than 20% in each of the past two years.

The Albanese government has also offered rebates for many consumers. In the December quarter of 2023, power prices were 6.9% higher than a year earlier. Excluding the Energy Bill Relief rebates, the increase would have been 17.6%, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.

Generation costs, which make up about a third of bills, have been sharply lower in the past year in part because the share of renewable energy has increased. Spot wholesale prices in the national electricity market were 48% lower in the December quarter of 2023 than a year earlier.

Energy minister, Chris Bowen, welcomed the proposed cuts.

“We’ve got reductions today for the first time in quite a while,” Bowen told the ABC’s AM program. “That is an encouraging sign for Australian consumers.”

Gavin Dufty, policy manager at the St Vincent de Paul Society, said the cuts were good news given households were being squeezed by rising costs for housing, transport, medication and other essentials.

With only about 4% of the community on a default price, it was up to consumers to visit websites such as Energy Made Easy to shop around for the best offers, he said.

“The discounts aren’t going to come to households. You have to get up and you have to chase them..”

For a typical NSW household on Ausgrid, using 3,900 kilowatt-hours annually, the savings would be 6.3% or $114. Small business customers using 10,000 kWh would save about $652 or 13%, the AER said.

Victoria’s energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said she was “absolutely delighted” with her state’soffer that would slice about $112 off annual household bills and $266 for small businesses.

“The benefits will flow on by putting downward pressure and greater competition on energy retailers to sharpen their pencils and further cut bills,” D’Ambrosio said.

Juanita Pope, chief executive of Victorian Council of Social Service, pointed out that the reductions while welcome would only reverse a quarter of this year’s 25% increase.

“Without a dramatic decrease in the baseline price, the VDO will trap even more Victorians in poverty,” Pope said.

The regulator said network cost increases were driven by inflation and interest rate rises. NSW’s roadmap for speeding up renewable energy projects also added to costs.

“Our draft determination should still allow a retailer to recover their costs and make a reasonable profit ,” Savage said.

Recent data show prices were already falling, with the median market offer easing 1-5% in most zones in 2024. The most competitive market offers were 18-23% below the default market offer, Savage said.

The Coalition said Labor had broken a “fatal promise”, given its pre-2022 pledge to reduce household power bills by $275 by 2025.

“Australians are now paying among the most expensive bills in the world,” said Ted O’Brien, the coalition’s energy spokesperson.

The AER will release its final decision on the default market offer in May.

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Ange Postecoglou and Arsenal’s Matildas to return to Australia for exhibition games

  • Tottenham and Newcastle to play match at MCG in May
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Ange Postecoglou and Arsenal’s three Matildas will return to Australia for two exhibition fixtures in May designed to tap into the international success of the country’s best football exports.

Postecoglou’s Tottenham side will play Premier League counterparts Newcastle United in a midweek friendly at the MCG on 22 May before an A-League All Stars double header at Marvel Stadium two days later.

Arsenal Women, who have Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Kyra Cooney-Cross on their books, will headline that Friday evening in a match against the first ever women’s A-League All Stars team.

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United will play the A-League All-Stars Men as the curtain-raiser for that match.

The matches fall just after the English seasons conclude – and before the start of Euro 2024 – but managing director of promoter TEG Rachael Carroll said there were “absolutely some commitments within contracts” to ensure the clubs’ best players go to Australia.

Tottenham’s chief football officer, Scott Munn, said all his club’s players will be available unless they are having surgery or there are “extenuating circumstances”. “I think there’s only one player [Timo Werner] that’s getting married that weekend, so he probably won’t travel.”

Former Socceroo Mile Jedinak, who now works alongside Postecoglou on the Spurs coaching staff, said the goal of these events is to inspire Australians.

“I just take myself back to my own childhood and we had some big games where I watched on TV and it was all inspirational, so I see this event as no different,” he said. “Where that leads people in the end, only time will tell, but we can plant the seed of inspiration.”

Both matches fall during the AFL season. The Tottenham clash is sandwiched at the MCG between the Collingwood v Adelaide clash and Richmond v Essendon the following Saturday.

The turnaround at Marvel Stadium is tighter, with matches currently scheduled by the AFL for the day before and the day after the All Stars clash.

The A-League Men grand final is due to be played on the weekend of 25 and 26 May.

Victorian sport minister Steve Dimopoulos said the matches would provide a boost to the state’s economy.

“We expect tens of thousands of people to come to Victoria from somewhere else, and we expect them to come here to see these extraordinary matches, maybe stay for three days and spend in our economy, while watching some of the best football matches globally.”

Australian Professional Leagues chair Stephen Conroy said the events would provide a revenue boost for the local game.

“Even if we would just break even – and we’re not, we’re doing much better than that – but even if we were just breaking even, the publicity, the excitement that’s generated by it is worthwhile doing it.”

The All-Stars Men concept was launched in 2013 with a match again Manchester United, but fell dormant until it was revived in 2022 for a game against Barcelona that attracted 70,000 fans and highlighted emerging talent Garang Kuol. A fixture with Bayern Munich had been touted for 2023 but fell through.

The A-League Women All-Stars will be a new fixture this year. Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams said the clash against her former club Arsenal will be a “battle”.

“People here will want to prove themselves against one of the best women’s clubs and likewise, they’re going to want to come in and prove themselves as well.”

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Queensland farming lobby launches legal challenge against Great Artesian Basin carbon capture trial

AgForce is seeking a judicial review of a 2022 decision that found the project did not need to be assessed under federal environmental laws

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Queensland farming body AgForce has launched legal action against the federal government in a bid to stop liquified carbon dioxide from being pumped into the Great Artesian Basin.

The Carbon Transport and Storage Corporation (CTSCo), a subsidiary of mining giant Glencore, is awaiting state government approval for a pilot scheme to inject Co2 emitted by a coal-fired power station in southern Queensland into underground water aquifers as part of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project trial.

Farming and environmental groups say the project risks causing irreversible damage to the Great Artesian Basin, a vital freshwater source for farmers and one of the country’s “greatest environmental assets”. Glencore maintains the project is based on robust scientific analysis.

The chief executive of AgForce, Michael Guerin, said the lobby group had sought a judicial review of a 2022 decision that found the project did not need to be assessed under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

“Confidence in our food supply is at genuine risk because of the current proposal from Glencore,” Guerin said. “Court is the last place we want to be but there’s too much at stake not to put our members’ money into this federal court case.”

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Guerin said AgForce had been “mystified by the lack of engagement” from federal government ministers and that discussions had “got nowhere”. Taking the matter to court was a last resort, he said.

The federal environment department said projects that fell outside what could be currently assessed under the EPBC Act did not need to undergo federal environmental assessment. The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, referred questions to the department.

“Legally, neither the minister nor the department can consider matters that fall outside national environment law,” the department said in a statement to Guardian Australia.

According to CTSCo modelling, the pilot project would create a 1.6km-wide “plume area” some 2.3km underground.

The ground water within the plume area would be unsuitable for livestock. But Glencore says there are no farmers currently extracting water at this depth within a 50km radius of the planned injection site.

The Queensland environment department is currently reviewing the project’s environmental impact statement, with a decision expected by May 2024. A state government spokesperson said there were “strict regulatory requirements” in place to assess CCS projects.

The director of the Queensland Conservation Council, Dave Copeman, said he stood “shoulder to shoulder” with AgForce and the National Farmers’ Federation in opposing the project.

He said the conservation group had been lobbying the federal government to include a requirement to assess the impact of CCS projects on underground aquifers in an impending overhaul of the EPBA Act.

“We are calling for that expansion of nature laws to protect the Great Artesian Basin from the impacts of projects such as this,” he said.

Copeman said CCS would likely play some role in decarbonising emission-intensive industries “but this isn’t a hard-to-abate sector”.

“We need to stop mining coal … this is a sector that should not continue,” he said. “It [the pilot scheme] is a fig leaf by Glencore to keep emitting more fossil fuels.”

Glencore said it welcomed the opportunity for a court hearing, where “misleading rhetoric will be shown for what it is and measured against Glencore’s extensive scientific evidence”.

“This litigation is an important test for the commonwealth and state’s respective support for carbon capture and storage in Australia,” it said in a statement.

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Queensland farming lobby launches legal challenge against Great Artesian Basin carbon capture trial

AgForce is seeking a judicial review of a 2022 decision that found the project did not need to be assessed under federal environmental laws

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
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Queensland farming body AgForce has launched legal action against the federal government in a bid to stop liquified carbon dioxide from being pumped into the Great Artesian Basin.

The Carbon Transport and Storage Corporation (CTSCo), a subsidiary of mining giant Glencore, is awaiting state government approval for a pilot scheme to inject Co2 emitted by a coal-fired power station in southern Queensland into underground water aquifers as part of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project trial.

Farming and environmental groups say the project risks causing irreversible damage to the Great Artesian Basin, a vital freshwater source for farmers and one of the country’s “greatest environmental assets”. Glencore maintains the project is based on robust scientific analysis.

The chief executive of AgForce, Michael Guerin, said the lobby group had sought a judicial review of a 2022 decision that found the project did not need to be assessed under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

“Confidence in our food supply is at genuine risk because of the current proposal from Glencore,” Guerin said. “Court is the last place we want to be but there’s too much at stake not to put our members’ money into this federal court case.”

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Guerin said AgForce had been “mystified by the lack of engagement” from federal government ministers and that discussions had “got nowhere”. Taking the matter to court was a last resort, he said.

The federal environment department said projects that fell outside what could be currently assessed under the EPBC Act did not need to undergo federal environmental assessment. The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, referred questions to the department.

“Legally, neither the minister nor the department can consider matters that fall outside national environment law,” the department said in a statement to Guardian Australia.

According to CTSCo modelling, the pilot project would create a 1.6km-wide “plume area” some 2.3km underground.

The ground water within the plume area would be unsuitable for livestock. But Glencore says there are no farmers currently extracting water at this depth within a 50km radius of the planned injection site.

The Queensland environment department is currently reviewing the project’s environmental impact statement, with a decision expected by May 2024. A state government spokesperson said there were “strict regulatory requirements” in place to assess CCS projects.

The director of the Queensland Conservation Council, Dave Copeman, said he stood “shoulder to shoulder” with AgForce and the National Farmers’ Federation in opposing the project.

He said the conservation group had been lobbying the federal government to include a requirement to assess the impact of CCS projects on underground aquifers in an impending overhaul of the EPBA Act.

“We are calling for that expansion of nature laws to protect the Great Artesian Basin from the impacts of projects such as this,” he said.

Copeman said CCS would likely play some role in decarbonising emission-intensive industries “but this isn’t a hard-to-abate sector”.

“We need to stop mining coal … this is a sector that should not continue,” he said. “It [the pilot scheme] is a fig leaf by Glencore to keep emitting more fossil fuels.”

Glencore said it welcomed the opportunity for a court hearing, where “misleading rhetoric will be shown for what it is and measured against Glencore’s extensive scientific evidence”.

“This litigation is an important test for the commonwealth and state’s respective support for carbon capture and storage in Australia,” it said in a statement.

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How badly do Tasmanians want to protect nature? The state election may provide answers

The major parties have been all but silent on the environment this campaign, while the Greens say more nature should be protected

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Tasmania markets itself as a natural beauty, pitching to people on the mainland that they should “come down for air”, but it’s been a different story in the island state’s frenzied election campaign. Nature was nearly entirely absent from the first month of campaigning ahead of election day on 23 March.

By late last week, the incumbent Liberal party had issued more than 220 press releases since the campaign kicked off on Valentine’s Day. None included an environment policy. Labor, which is attempting to return to power after 10 years in the political wilderness, had sent out 130 press releases without mentioning nature.

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Coincidentally or otherwise, that changed after the Tasmanian Greens flew journalists to Melaleuca, deep in the south-west world heritage wilderness, to make a string of announcements on Friday.

Kate Crowley, an adjunct associate professor in politics at the University of Tasmania, said the environment had been “noticeably absent” from the election campaign despite what is sometimes described as the state’s clean, green image. She said this wasn’t surprising.

“We have seen a continuing erosion of support from the major parties for protecting important nature areas,” she said. “In a way, this is as much a reaction to the Greens as anything to do with the environment itself. Labor and the Liberals tend to ignore the environment unless it’s really pushed under their nose and they’re forced to do something.”

With less than a week to go until polling day, a central question is whether this reflects the will of the electorate. Polling by uComms of 1,174 Tasmanians, commissioned by progressive thinktank the Australia Institute and released last week, suggested a majority oppose a Liberal promise to allow logging in 40,000 hectares of protected forests.

It also found there was strong support (69%) for reducing the number of inshore salmon farms – a step that would be at odds with the policies of major parties, which both back the fish farming industry. But the poll did not test the extent to which these issues would influence how people voted.

The Australia Institute’s state director, Eloise Carr, said the results showed people were not satisfied with “a continuation of the status quo” on environmental and other issues, and that the lack of focus on nature in the campaign ignored that “people visit and live in Tasmania because it’s a part of the planet that is in relatively good nick”.

“Voters are asking why this policy vacuum exists,” Carr said. “And Tasmanians do care – look at the numbers.”

Into the wild with the Greens

On Friday, the Greens MP Vica Bayley led a group of journalists, tourism operators and Indigenous leaders that flew over the path of the South Coast track, a bushwalking trail through 85km of remote, scenic wilderness, to launch the party’s nature policy. The view below took in button grass plains, pristine beaches, steep peaks and country with documented Indigenous history.

The track is the subject of a contentious proposal to allow six luxury accommodation huts that would open the area to a greater range of tourists but would, according to an analysis commissioned by the Wilderness Society, significantly affect the wilderness values of the area.

The Greens oppose what they say has been a “dodgy” process under which tourism businesses have been invited to lodge expressions of interest for developments in the world heritage area and national parks, with little transparency over what would result.

Their policy also promises to fight to establish an Aboriginal-owned national park and expand the world heritage area that was established in 1982 and covers about a fifth of the state, but excludes areas that campaigners say have been found to have unique wilderness values.

Tabatha Badger, a Greens candidate for Lyons, a seat that includes rural areas and coastal towns, said the minor party was fighting to protect natural places while the Liberals and Labor ignored them. “Where are the other parties? We’d absolutely welcome some sensible environment policies from them, but yet again they are letting Tasmanians down,” she said

While the Greens were in the wild, Labor released its first environment statement of the campaign. It was not backed by a media conference or public events. Labor accused the Liberal party of having “no interest in protecting our environment” and failing to release a state of the environment report during its decade in power, despite legislation requiring one every five years.

Labor’s policies include a promised $500,000 package to create new jobs managing national parks, a position similar to that also backed by the Greens. It said it would work to reduce the effect of feral fallow deer, provide increased funding for Landcare and release the state’s first state of the environment report since 2009.

Its remaining environment policies, including a ban on single-use plastics, introducing a container deposit scheme that has been in development under the Liberal government and a restatement of existing climate commitments, were not nature-related. The party’s environment spokesperson, Sarah Lovell, said Labor would “get on with the work needed to protect our environment and parks, to ensure our children can enjoy the same Tasmania we know and love”.

The Liberal party followed with a parks and environment statement on Saturday. The premier, Jeremy Rockliff, said Tasmania’s parks were “world-class”, that its “globally significant natural environment is the jewel in our state’s crown” and that more than 50% of the state’s environment was “protected forever”. This figure is disputed by the Greens and environmentalists, who say development, logging and mining are allowed in significant areas counted to reach 50%.

Rockliff promised that if re-elected the Liberals would spend $15m to upgrade three parks to “enhance the visitor experience for visitors and locals alike”, and commit $8m over four years to a threatened species fund. The environment minister, Roger Jaensch, said: “The Liberals are absolutely committed to protecting Tasmania’s pristine natural environment.”

The state’s environment groups supported the Greens’ position and were critical of what the major parties offered, particularly their support for continuing – and, in the Liberals’ case, potentially expanding – native forestry. Jenny Weber, campaigns manager with the Bob Brown Foundation, described the Liberals and Labor as “both pro-logging and pro-toxic salmon parties”.

On Sunday, thousands of people joined a protest march through the centre of Hobart calling for a native forest logging ban. The Bob Brown Foundation said it had expected about 500 people, but estimated the crowd that gathered outside state parliament topped 3,000.

Alice Hardinge, state campaign manager for the Wilderness Society, said it was increasingly clear that some politicians were prepared to ignore people who cared about nature, but Tasmanians ultimately expected the state’s “precious places” to be protected.

“What is at stake is worth far more than cheap politics.”

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Peter Navarro: US supreme court denies Trump ally’s bid to avoid prison

Justices find ‘no basis to disagree’ with lower court’s ruling after Navarro, former Trump trade adviser, convicted of contempt

The US supreme court on Monday denied a request by Donald Trump’s former aide Peter Navarro to avoid prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction for defying a subpoena from a panel that investigated the 2021 Capitol attack.

Navarro, who served as trade adviser during Trump’s presidency, is set to become the first senior member of his administration to be imprisoned for actions related to the attempt to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss.

Navarro is slated to arrive around 11.30am ET on Tuesday at a federal prison in Miami to begin serving a four-month prison sentence, according to his lawyers.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles certain emergency matters involving cases from Washington, acted for the supreme court in rejecting Navarro’s request.

A jury convicted Navarro last September of two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for defying the Democratic-led House of Representatives committee’s subpoena.

Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Joe Biden in the 5 November US election.

On 6 January 2021, Trump supporters sought to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s 2020 victory over him, clashing with police and rampaging through the Capitol. The committee that Navarro spurned investigated that attack as well as Trump’s broader attempts to overturn his 2020 loss.

The US court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit denied Navarro’s request to pause his sentence while he appeals, prompting his emergency request last week to the supreme court.

Roberts, in a brief order, said he saw “no basis to disagree” with the DC circuit’s determination that Navarro had forfeited various arguments seeking to avoid prison, “which is distinct from his pending appeal on the merits”.

Navarro has argued that he believed that he did not have to cooperate with Congress because he thought Trump had invoked the legal doctrine of executive privilege, which shields some presidential records and communications from disclosure.

Navarro was the second prominent Trump adviser to be convicted of contempt of Congress for rebuffing the House panel. Former Trump adviser and rightwing firebrand Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison in 2022. He has avoided serving the sentence while he appeals his conviction.

Navarro advised Trump on trade issues during his presidency and served on a Covid-19 taskforce. He became a vocal supporter of Trump’s false claims of widespread voting fraud in the 2020 election.

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NT residents assess damage from Tropical Cyclone Megan after evacuation efforts fail

Town of Borroloola was due to be evacuated before cyclone arrived but dangerous weather prevented aircraft from landing

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Tropical Cyclone Megan has been downgraded to a tropical low in Australia’s north-east where remote communities were waking up to assess damage from the severe weather.

About 700 residents in the town of Borroloola faced the worst of the cyclone, which made landfall on the south-western side of the Gulf of Carpentaria on Monday afternoon as a category-three storm before weakening to a category one.

The Borroloola community was due to be evacuated before the cyclone arrived but RAAF aircraft were unable to land due to the severe conditions.

Residents were instead told to shelter at the police station, health facility or dozens of dwellings capable of withstanding a category-three system.

Garawa Elder Keith Rory waited for hours at the airstrip with hundreds of people, only to be told they couldn’t be evacuated.

“Everybody got a shock when the police … said look, it’s been cancelled,” he told ABC radio. “So we had just to go home.

“They [had] to say that to two or three hundred people.”

Barkly MLA Steve Edgington said there were “still a couple of hundred angry and frustrated residents” waiting at the council office on Monday afternoon, 200 metres from the airport.

“Locals on the ground are wondering why the community and surrounding areas of Borroloola were not evacuated by the government [on Sunday] while weather conditions allowed,” he wrote on Facebook.

An evacuation of the McArthur River Mine was also called off due to the conditions.

Ashley Garner, who runs a fishing lodge on the isolated McArthur River around 40km north-west of Borroloola, said it was concerning some people had stayed behind.

“The problem is some people are in caravans and … in the campground, which is quite concerning because the ground is already very wet so it won’t take a lot of wind for big trees to start falling over and things like that,” he told ABC radio.

The Territory Emergency Operations Centre said overnight reports indicate all residents were safe, with no injuries.

“Minimal damage, primarily in the form of fallen trees, was reported within the community,” a statement said.

Edgington said 40 houses, the health clinic and police station were all identified by the local emergency management team as places to withstand a category-three cyclone.

The local controller was planning to assess the safety of the airstrip on Tuesday morning for landing purposes, and further evaluations would take place throughout the day to ensure the community can “resume normal activities”, according to the operations centre.

Megan was downgraded to a tropical low south of Borroloola on Tuesday morning. The Bureau of Meteorology said it would move west through inland parts of the Northern Territory over the next few days.

A severe weather weather warning remained in place, with a flood watch for inland NT and Carpentaria coastal rivers.

“At this stage, the system is not expected to redevelop into a tropical cyclone even though it may approach the west Kimberley coast late in the week,” the bureau said.

The operations centre said residents in the Daly and Roper regions should brace for heavy rainfall on Tuesday, with potential flooding downstream of Rocky Creek and McArthur River.

Defence force personnel remained on standby to assist with recovery from Tuesday, Northern Territory police Supt Sonia Kennon told reporters.

Heavy rain and flash flooding was forecast for parts of the Carpentaria and the northern Barkly region on Tuesday morning.

Six-hourly rainfall totals between 80mm and 150mm were likely, with a 24-hourly rainfall total of up to 200mm and wind gusts of more than 90km/h.

Almost 600mm of rain fell at Groote Eylandt over the weekend as the severe weather system moved over the remote island communities.

The wharf on the GEMCO manganese mine on Groote Eylandt was damaged by one of its ships carrying manganese and fuel.

NT police said there was no leakage and authorities were working to remove the ship from the wharf.

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US foundation cancels RBG awards for Musk and Murdoch after backlash

Dwight D Opperman Foundation had planned to give award named for late supreme court justice to Tesla chief and News Corp mogul

A foundation which stirred controversy by planning to give awards named for the late US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch said on Monday it had canceled the ceremony.

“While we believe each of the honorees is worthy of our respect for their leadership and their notable contributions, the foundation has decided that the planned ceremony in April 2024 will be canceled,” Julie Opperman, chair of the Dwight D Opperman Foundation, said in a statement.

Opperman added: “Justice Ginsburg was known for her civility. It is important to note that the last thing we intended was to offend the family and friends of RBG. Our purpose was only to remember her and to honour her leadership.”

The move came a day after James Ginsburg, the late justice’s son, called the decision to give Musk and Murdoch RBG awards – originally known as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership awards – a “desecration” of the memory of his mother.

“I don’t want to speak to what our other plans might be if the foundation doesn’t see the wisdom of desisting and ending this desecration of my mother’s memory,” Ginsburg told CNN on Sunday. “But I will say that we will continue to fight this.”

The second woman appointed to the supreme court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent 27 years as a justice, a hero to American liberals. She died aged 87 in September 2020 and was replaced on the court by Amy Coney Barrett, the third rightwinger installed by Donald Trump.

Ginsburg helped establish the award in her name, saying it would honour “women who have strived to make the world a better place for generations that follow their own, women who exemplify human qualities of empathy and humility, and who care about the dignity and well being of all who dwell on planet Earth”.

Previous recipients included Barbra Streisand and Queen Elizabeth II.

Last week, the Opperman Foundation announced a five-strong list it said was chosen from “a slate of dozens of diverse nominees” but which included just one woman.

That was Martha Stewart, 82, the lifestyle entrepreneur (and member of the first RBG award committee) who in 2004 was convicted of fraud and jailed for five months.

The men were:

  • Musk, 52, the billionaire owner of SpaceX, Tesla and Twitter/X, through which he has taken increasingly rightwing political stances;

  • Murdoch, 93 and the rightwing media baron owner of Fox News;

  • Michael Milken, 77, a financier jailed on securities charges, pardoned by Trump and now a philanthropist;

  • And Sylvester Stallone, 77, the star of films including the Rocky saga and the violent Rambo franchise.

The list prompted protests including a widely publicised letter to the foundation from a former Ginsburg clerk. Jane C Ginsburg, the justice’s daughter and a Columbia University law professor, called it “an affront to the memory of our mother”.

James Ginsburg, founder and president of Cedille Records, a classical music label, told CNN he did not have “a clue” how the honorees were decided.

He said: “The original purpose of the award was … to recognise an extraordinary woman who has exercised a positive and notable influence on society and served as an exemplary role model in both principles and practice.

“And whether you want to discuss the wisdom of opening up that to men or not is one thing, but I think it would be hard pressed to apply that description to people like Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch. And that’s why the family is so upset … and her clerk family …

“I’ve been contacted by people I know and people even that I don’t know about this, saying how upset they are. My sister even got a threatening letter and one of the things we want to do here is set the record straight. The family had nothing to do with this. We were not consulted. We are vehemently against this appropriation of our mother’s name and this insult to her legacy.”

On announcing the new list, the Opperman Foundation said it wanted to honour men because Ruth Bader Ginsburg “fought not only for women but for everyone”.

On cancelling the awards, the foundation said that though Ginsburg’s “concept of equality for women was very controversial for most of her life”, it did “not intend to enter the fray” and was “not interested in creating controversy [or] debate about whether particular honorees are worthy or not”.

Saying it would “reconsider its mission and make a judgment about how or whether to proceed”, the foundation said it would not comment further.

James Ginsburg said his mother would have been “appalled” by honours given in her name to “people who pretty much stand against all the things that she stood for in terms of trying to … make the world a better place for people striving for equality and for a more inclusive world where everybody is treated with respect.

“… We can discuss the wisdom of each [nominee], but the two that obviously stand out here are Elon Musk and Rupert Murdoch.

“When you think of trying to create a more just society, which of course was mom’s ultimate goal, those are probably about the last names that would come to mind.”

The two men did not comment.

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