The Guardian 2024-03-19 16:01:27


More than 170 immigration detainees could be freed if Australian government loses high court challenge

Exclusive: The number of detainees who refuse to cooperate with deportation is larger than thought, a leaked internal estimate reveals

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More than 170 people in immigration detention could be released if the government loses the next high court challenge on the legality of the program, according to a leaked internal estimate.

Guardian Australia can reveal that the affected cohort who refuse to cooperate with deportation is larger than earlier estimates produced by media outlets and that the government has identified more than 40 people who are yet to lodge claims for protection visas who could be freed by the decision.

The number of people potentially affected by the ASF17 high court case, to be heard on 17 April, has been a closely guarded secret, with the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, refusing to disclose estimates in question time on Monday.

In November, the high court ruled that immigration detention is unlawful where it is impossible to deport the non-citizen, a decision which has triggered 151 releases so far, igniting a political firestorm about the government’s management of the decision.

Guardian Australia revealed in February that the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, had applied to send a new case to the high court to clarify if the government must release people from immigration detention if their refusal to cooperate with authorities has prevented them being deported.

According to leaked Australian government estimates, more than 170 people could be affected including:

  • More than 110 “involuntary individuals”, whose home countries will not issue a travel document or facilitate removal.

  • More than 40 who could fall into scope who have not yet lodged protection visa applications.

  • More than 20 who have asked to be deported – which enlivens a statutory obligation for them to be removed – but their cases have not been referred to the Australian Border Force.

Earlier estimates published by the media were based on December detention statistics, which noted there were 69 people from Iran in detention, 34 from Sudan and 24 from Iraq who were likely affected because their governments would not accept involuntary removals.

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Asked how many could be affected by the case, Giles told parliament on Monday he “can’t get into the details of cases that are before the high court”.

“The government believes that these individuals – those who are not cooperating with their removal – should be removed from Australia as a priority.

“While they are not, they should remain in immigration detention.”

The federal court has issued contradictory judgments on the issue of non-cooperative detainees, ordering the release of Ned Kelly Emeralds on 30 November but refusing release in the case of an Iranian man known by the pseudonym ASF17.

ASF17, who has been detained for more than a decade, refuses to meet Iranian authorities because he fears for his life if he is removed to Iran because he is bisexual.

According to ASF17’s submissions in the case, the commonwealth has accepted that sexual intercourse between males is illegal in Iran and can attract the death penalty.

In the submission ASF17’s lawyers warned that holding non-cooperative detainees responsible for the inability to deport them “is wrong”.

This would require courts “make plainly political value judgments in individual cases”, they warned.

Guardian Australia understands the government believes there is a good chance it will win the case, but is preparing detailed release plans in advance of the April hearing.

These include draft minutes to grant visas to those affected, and protocols for how many are released at a time, to ensure police are on hand to apply electronic monitoring ankle bracelets.

Giles told Guardian Australia: “The government does not comment on court cases because we will not do anything to jeopardise our chances of being successful.”

Earlier, Giles said “we successfully defended this in the federal court and will continue to argue this forcefully in the high court”.

“The high court will make its decisions independent of government,” he said in a statement. “No government, no parliament, no minister is above the law.

“Community safety is the first and foremost responsibility of government. We have not sat idly by as the former government did.

“We engaged legal and security experts through the community protection board. We are getting the best advice so we are ready to respond.”

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Rules on MPs’ ad spending relaxed to lessen public servants’ workload

Attempt to create less grunt work for public servants behind decision to report less details around MPs’ expenditure on online ads and self-promotional material

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The finance department has admitted it is now reporting less transparency around what federal MPs bill to taxpayers on junk mail and online advertising in a bid to reduce admin scutwork for public servants.

The change to expense reporting means voters will now have no insight into what federal MPs buy with their printing and communications budget, including self-promotional pamphlets and online advertising.

Newly released expense reports show some politicians are spending over $100,000 on printing and communications per quarter.

The quarterly expense reports were previously presented with itemised spending on newspaper subscriptions, books and printing. They are now generalised to only give a dollar figure, under the broad category “Publications – Printed and electronic” and “Printing and Communications”.

The change came into effect after the Albanese government’s election. Greens senator David Shoebridge last year said Labor was overseeing “even less transparency” than the former Coalition government; former senator Rex Patrick described it as “secrecy by stealth”.

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The finance department and Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority last year did not clarify why the change had been made. But the department has now conceded it is to cut down on grunt work for staff.

“In 2018, changes were made to the design of the system for managing parliamentary work expenses through the Parliamentary Expenses Management System to reduce manual entry of information by Finance officials,” the finance department has confirmed in a response to a freedom of information request.

“Data entry was replaced by an automated categorisation process. While the majority of reported expenditure information was not changed, a more automated process resulted in printing, communications and publications expenses being reported under specific categories.

“These changes were designed to meet the requirements under the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 and are now being implemented by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority.”

A finance department spokesperson said politicians had to certify that their expenses were “for the dominant purpose of conducting their parliamentary business” but didn’t answer why the new system would not give as much information as the previous one.

In come as the latest released parliamentary expenses, for September-December 2022, reported some politicians spent more than $100,000 on printing and communication in that three-month period.

Independent MP Dai Le topped the list. Her $133,000 on printing and communications accounted for more than half the total $215,168 her office spent in that quarter.

A spokesperson for Le said her multicultural western Sydney electorate relied on “printed and written material still and some of these are translated, which incurs additional design, translation costs”.

Queensland Liberal National party MPs Bert van Manen and the shadow energy minister, Ted O’Brien, also billed taxpayers more than $100,000 for printing and communication costs in the final quarter of 2022, with no detail as to what these costs were for.

A spokesperson for Van Manen said a $30,112 bill was for an annual senior’s guide, while $21,986 was for a calendar and Christmas card. Some expenses logged in the September-December 2022 quarter, they said, had been for a previous quarter but were logged later once invoices were received.

O’Brien billed taxpayers $26,528 on 18 November and $18,681 separately on 22 November. His office did not comment about what those expenses were for. A spokesperson said “communicating with constituents and consulting on matters of public importance is a core responsibility of every Member of Parliament and one that Ted O’Brien takes very seriously”.

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White House spokesman Andrew Bates sharply criticized Donald Trump for his comments that Jews who vote for Democrats “hate” Israel and their religion.

“President Biden has put his foot down when it comes to vile and unhinged antisemitic rhetoric,” he said in a statement. “As antisemitic crimes and acts of hate have increased across the world – among them the deadliest attack committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust – leaders have an obligation to call hate what it is and bring Americans together against it.”

Here’s more on that, from the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt:

White House criticizes Trump for ‘unhinged antisemitic rhetoric’

Ex-president claims Jewish people who vote for Democrats ‘hate Israel’ and ‘hate their religion’

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The White House has criticized Donald Trump for “vile and unhinged antisemitic rhetoric” after the former president claimed that Jewish people who vote for Democrats “hate Israel” and “hate their religion”.

In an interview on Monday Trump was asked about increased criticism by Democrats of Israel’s military action in Gaza, which has left more than 30,000 Palestinians dead.

“I think they hate Israel. And the Democrat party hates Israel,” Trump said.

He added: “Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion. They hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves because Israel will be destroyed.”

In a statement, the White House spokesman Andrew Bates said:

“President Biden has put his foot down when it comes to vile and unhinged antisemitic rhetoric. As antisemitic crimes and acts of hate have increased across the world – among them the deadliest attack committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust – leaders have an obligation to call hate what it is and bring Americans together against it.”

Bates referenced the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after which Trump claimed had “very fine people on both sides”.

“Like President Biden said, he was moved to run for President when he saw neo-Nazis chanting ‘the same antisemitic bile that was heard in Germany in the 1930s’ in Charlottesville,” Bates said.

Trump made his comments about Jewish people in an interview with Sebastian Gorka, a former aide. The claims prompted an angry response from Democrats and others.

Kathy Manning, a Democratic congresswoman from North Carolina, told Axios that Trump’s claims were “particularly disgraceful and dangerous at a time when Jews are facing dangerous levels of antisemitism nationwide”.

Jamie Raskin, a congressman from Maryland, said Trump had committed an “outrageous slander against the vast majority of American Jews”.

“Luckily I don’t know any Jews who look to Donald Trump for advice on how to be Jewish,” Raskin said, according to an Axios report.

“After all, this is the guy who saw ‘very fine people on both sides’ of an antisemitic riot and entertained the neo-Nazi Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes over at his house at Mar-a-Lago for dinner.”

In the interview with Gorka Trump also claimed that Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, was “very anti-Israel”.

Schumer responded in a post on X: “To make Israel a partisan issue only hurts Israel and the US-Israeli relationship. Trump is making highly partisan and hateful rants. I am working in a bipartisan way to ensure the US-Israeli relationship sustains for generations to come, buoyed by peace in the Middle East.”

Trump’s remarks came as a judge denied his attempt to prevent Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels from testifying in his upcoming trial over a hush-money payment made to Daniels, an adult film star, in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee faces 34 charges of falsifying business records related to his reimbursement of Cohen for the payment to Daniels, made to prevent her from discussing a sexual encounter she says she had in 2006.

He also filed a defamation lawsuit against ABC News on Monday, in a further indication of how Trump’s life is increasingly consumed by litigation.

Lawyers for Trump filed the suit in a Florida court, claiming that George Stephanopoulos, an ABC News host, had damaged his reputation when he said on air that Trump had “been found liable” for rape, after Trump was found civilly liable for sexually abusing the magazine columnist E Jean Carroll.

The judge in that case found that Carroll’s claim Trump had raped her was “substantially true”.

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Jimmy Kimmel on his Oscars Trump joke: ‘I love that this bothered him so much’

The late-night host revels in Trump mocking him during the Academy Awards and reviews the ex-president’s dark rhetoric

While other late-night hosts are off this week, Jimmy Kimmel responded to Donald Trump’s comments about his bit at the Oscars at the former president’s expense.

Jimmy Kimmel

Jimmy Kimmel spent St Patrick’s Day with his family in Los Angeles, while “the large orange leprechaun spent his St Patrick’s Day focused on me, of all people,” he noted on Monday evening.

Trump was “still stewing” about a joke Kimmel made at the Oscars last Sunday, in which the host mocked Trump’s Truth Social post about him on air. In an interview with Fox News, Trump mocked Kimmel for even mentioning him.

“I shouldn’t be surprised – Donald Trump has said I’m not talented so many times Eric is starting to get jealous,” said Kimmel. “But what he doesn’t realize is that I love this. I love that this bothered him so much. I love that Fox picked a news guy nobody knows to interview him, and I especially love when he tries to spin the fact that everyone was laughing at him into a positive.”

In an interview with Fox News, Trump said: “He wants to go out there, and he wants to … I guess, confront me, and he ends up reading my Truth. I said, ‘this guy’s even dumber than I thought. The thing went viral – it went all over the world now – and all he had to do is keep his mouth shut.’”

“You forget why it went viral,” Kimmel responded, replaying his joke from the bit: “I’m surprised you’re still up – isn’t it past your jail time?”

“Barbie was laughing at you!” Kimmel gloated. “Not only were they laughing at you on Oscar Sunday, there are now dozens of ‘isn’t it your past your jail time’ shirts for sale,” among other merchandise online.

“If only I kept my mouth shut – imagine him telling anyone they should’ve kept your mouth shut. That should be on his tombstone,” he added.

“Maybe you’re right about me being dumb,” Kimmel continued. “We should take one of those cognitive tests, or an IQ test together, or maybe we could sit down for a long game of Scrabble and find out who has the biglier brain. I would love that.”

In other Trump news, the former president’s lawyers were forced to tell a court on Monday that they can’t find anyone to put up the $454m bond needed to cover what he owes the state of New York. “Gee, I wonder why,” said Kimmel. “Can you imagine that call? – ‘Hi, we represent Donald Trump. We were wondering if you could – hello?’

“Who would’ve ever guessed that a hard-earned reputation for not ever paying your bills would make it difficult to get credit,” he added. “And what’s the problem, anyway? Didn’t you say Mar-a-Lago is worth $1.8bn? Just get a reverse mortgage on that!”

Kimmel also touched on Trump’s latest headline-making comments from the campaign trail – at a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on Sunday, Trump promised a “bloodbath” if he was not re-elected president.

Pundits have since debated whether Trump was referring to literal bloodshed or metaphorically speaking of the auto industry, but Kimmel didn’t see a point to debating it. “Listen, there are very fine people on both sides of the bloodbath,” he said, “but the truth is the context we should be considering isn’t whether or not Trump meant bloodbath literally, it’s that he’s such a lunatic, we actually have to debate if he meant it literally.”

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How two giant pandas loaned to Adelaide zoo tell the story of the ups and downs of China-Australia relations

Giant panda pair Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been on loan from China since 2009 – now their future in Australia hangs in the balance

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They might be cute and cuddly, but Australia’s only giant pandas are in fact expensive – though nonverbal – Chinese diplomats.

The fate of Wang Wang and Fu Ni, who have called Adelaide zoo home for the last 15 years, will be decided on Wednesday after a meeting between Australian politicians and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.

The pandas arrived in Australia in 2009 after being relocated from China’s Wolong national nature reserve. It was the first time pandas had been held in Australia and the first time in the southern hemisphere.

The former PM, John Howard, was effusive in his praise for the China at the time: “It’s important when you’re talking about billions of dollars of resource contracts and you’re talking about tens of thousands of students, it’s also important to find in the relationship, the warmth and exhilaration that can come from the temporary residence of such lovely creatures.”

The initial 10-year loan was renewed in 2019 with funding from the SA state government before relations with China soured under the Morrison government.

Kathleen Buckingham, a panda diplomacy expert from the University of Oxford, wrote that “sharing the care of such a precious animal strengthens the bonds that China has with its ‘inner circle’ of countries”. China has currently loaned 63 giant pandas to 19 countries, according to data from China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

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Panda diplomacy has existed since the Tang dynasty, but pandas were given as gifts, rather than loaned, prior to 1984.

Dr Phil Ainsley, the director of Adelaide zoo, said while it was ultimately China’s decision, the zoo will do “absolutely everything it can” to keep Fu Ni and Wang Wang or to get different pandas on loan.

“The first time you actually get to see a giant panda in person, there’s absolutely something amazing about them,” he said.

“The way you look into their eyes and they look at you is so captivating, and they are unlike any other animal to myself that I’ve come across.”

Fu Ni – who has won a silver medal for the most popular panda outside China – was named “lucky girl” in the hopes she would “fall in the net of love and have a baby”. However, after nine attempts at breeding, including four attempts at artificial insemination, Fu Ni has not fallen pregnant and instead experienced multiple false pregnancies, which are virtually indistinguishable from normal pregnancies.

The fact that the pandas have continuously lived in Australia for the last 15 years is something of a feat, given escalating tensions.

The UK kept their pandas for 12 years before they were sent back in December 2023. China recalled nearly all pandas in the US in 2019, nearly 50 years after the first pandas were sent to the US in 1972, but announced in February 2024 that it plans to send two pandas to San Diego zoo this year.

While the pandas may be China’s version of an olive branch, they are an expensive one. A 14-hectare bamboo plantation, which grows 15 different species of bamboo, was set up to feed the pandas in South Australia, in addition to the loan payments of about $1m a year.

Ainsley said the giant pandas were “hugely popular”, with international tourists coming to Adelaide just to see the pandas. He said they also acted as an “ambassador” for other threatened species at Adelaide zoo.

The pandas are part of a international giant panda research, conservation and breeding program designed to protect the vulnerable population, with Adelaide zoo studying how pandas behave in the southern hemisphere.

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How two giant pandas loaned to Adelaide zoo tell the story of the ups and downs of China-Australia relations

Giant panda pair Wang Wang and Fu Ni have been on loan from China since 2009 – now their future in Australia hangs in the balance

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

They might be cute and cuddly, but Australia’s only giant pandas are in fact expensive – though nonverbal – Chinese diplomats.

The fate of Wang Wang and Fu Ni, who have called Adelaide zoo home for the last 15 years, will be decided on Wednesday after a meeting between Australian politicians and China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.

The pandas arrived in Australia in 2009 after being relocated from China’s Wolong national nature reserve. It was the first time pandas had been held in Australia and the first time in the southern hemisphere.

The former PM, John Howard, was effusive in his praise for the China at the time: “It’s important when you’re talking about billions of dollars of resource contracts and you’re talking about tens of thousands of students, it’s also important to find in the relationship, the warmth and exhilaration that can come from the temporary residence of such lovely creatures.”

The initial 10-year loan was renewed in 2019 with funding from the SA state government before relations with China soured under the Morrison government.

Kathleen Buckingham, a panda diplomacy expert from the University of Oxford, wrote that “sharing the care of such a precious animal strengthens the bonds that China has with its ‘inner circle’ of countries”. China has currently loaned 63 giant pandas to 19 countries, according to data from China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

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

Panda diplomacy has existed since the Tang dynasty, but pandas were given as gifts, rather than loaned, prior to 1984.

Dr Phil Ainsley, the director of Adelaide zoo, said while it was ultimately China’s decision, the zoo will do “absolutely everything it can” to keep Fu Ni and Wang Wang or to get different pandas on loan.

“The first time you actually get to see a giant panda in person, there’s absolutely something amazing about them,” he said.

“The way you look into their eyes and they look at you is so captivating, and they are unlike any other animal to myself that I’ve come across.”

Fu Ni – who has won a silver medal for the most popular panda outside China – was named “lucky girl” in the hopes she would “fall in the net of love and have a baby”. However, after nine attempts at breeding, including four attempts at artificial insemination, Fu Ni has not fallen pregnant and instead experienced multiple false pregnancies, which are virtually indistinguishable from normal pregnancies.

The fact that the pandas have continuously lived in Australia for the last 15 years is something of a feat, given escalating tensions.

The UK kept their pandas for 12 years before they were sent back in December 2023. China recalled nearly all pandas in the US in 2019, nearly 50 years after the first pandas were sent to the US in 1972, but announced in February 2024 that it plans to send two pandas to San Diego zoo this year.

While the pandas may be China’s version of an olive branch, they are an expensive one. A 14-hectare bamboo plantation, which grows 15 different species of bamboo, was set up to feed the pandas in South Australia, in addition to the loan payments of about $1m a year.

Ainsley said the giant pandas were “hugely popular”, with international tourists coming to Adelaide just to see the pandas. He said they also acted as an “ambassador” for other threatened species at Adelaide zoo.

The pandas are part of a international giant panda research, conservation and breeding program designed to protect the vulnerable population, with Adelaide zoo studying how pandas behave in the southern hemisphere.

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ABC defends broadcasting Russia-Ukraine war documentary after ambassador calls it ‘bowl of vomit’

Ukraine ambassador to Australia says documentary aired on Four Corners repeats Kremlin’s ‘blatant lies’ but national broadcaster defends ‘important contribution’ to war reporting

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The ABC has defended an international documentary about the Russia-Ukraine war screened on Four Corners after it was criticised as propaganda by the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko.

On Monday the ABC broadcast Ukraine’s War: The Other Side, from British film-maker Sean Langan, which promised to offer a human perspective on life on the Russian frontline.

But Myroshnychenko said the documentary repeated “blatant lies” that emanated from the Kremlin and served the interests of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and alleged the program “was the journalistic equivalent of a bowl of vomit”.

He demanded a meeting with the managing director of the ABC David Anderson and complained to the minister of communications Michelle Rowland.

“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.”

The ABC said the documentary, which remains available on ABC iview, is considered an important contribution to the reporting of the war.

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“Ukraine’s War: The Other Side is a challenging but legitimate documentary, made by reputable journalist Sean Langan and first aired last month on the UK’s ITV, that offers a rare insight into the lives of Russian soldiers during the war,” an ABC spokesperson said.

The Australian Ukrainian community joined the ambassador in condemning the ABC for screening it, saying the film gave Russian soldiers “free rein to justify their brutal, unlawful invasion of a sovereign country”.

“In a series of unchallenged interviews, viewers see stomach-turning images of Langan fist-bumping, handshaking, hugging and smiling alongside Russian soldiers, and listening to gross lies, hate and genocidal intentions,” the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations said.

The ABC said the film was being screened internationally and is just one of a suite of programs about the Russia-Ukraine conflict broadcast on Four Corners.

“We believe Australian audiences also have the right to watch it and make up their own minds,” a spokesperson said.

“It adds to our understanding of this tragic conflict and shows the full, horrific impact of the war. The reporter challenges the Russian soldiers and civilians featured in the film about their beliefs and opinions.”

The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations said the program had caused distress for the Ukrainian-Australian community.

Rowland told the ambassador the ABC has operational and editorial independence and any concerns about ABC editorial content should be directed to the ABC.

“I have received the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia’s correspondence, and have provided him with information regarding the ABC complaints process and relevant contact details,” Rowland said.

Guardian Australia understands the ABC’s editorial director Gavin Fang will meet with Myroshnychenko.

Langan made three trips to Donbas to film Ukraine’s War and had rare access to soldiers, sharing the extreme danger of their lives.

The Guardian’s defence and security editor Dan Sabbagh described the film last month as appearing “generous to the Russian position simply by giving its ordinary soldiers and civilians airtime”.

“But neither viewers nor broadcasters should completely disregard rarely heard points of view,” Sabbagh wrote.

“Throughout the documentary is careful enough to stress who is at fault for the invasion – Russia, and the overall narrative positioning justifies ITV’s decision to air it on its main channel, even in the aftermath of the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, widely believed to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.”

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Damien Hirst formaldehyde animal works dated to 1990s were made in 2017

Exclusive: Three sculptures exhibited in galleries around world were artificially aged, sources claim

Three Damien Hirst sculptures that were made by preserving animals in formaldehyde were dated by his company to the 1990s even though they were made in 2017, an investigation by the Guardian has found.

The trio of works, made by preserving a dove, a shark and two calves, have in recent years been exhibited in galleries in Hong Kong, New York, Munich, London and Oxford as examples of works from the 1990s, his Turner prize-winning period.

However, all three were made by Hirst’s employees at a workshop in Dudbridge, Gloucestershire in 2017. The artworks first appeared at an exhibition at Gagosian’s Hong Kong art gallery that same year. The show, Visual Candy and Natural History, was billed as an exhibition of the artist’s works “from the early to mid-1990s”.

Among the artworks on show were three formaldehyde sculptures that had never been seen in public before. They included Cain and Abel, 1994, which consisted of twin calves that appeared side-by-side in white boxes, and Dove, 1999, which featured a bird, wings outstretched as if in flight, set in a single liquid-filled acrylic box.

Hirst gave the third piece, a shark dissected into three pieces, the title Myth Explored, Explained, Exploded, 1993-1999. The same sculpture is on show at the Munich Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art.

The Guardian could find no mention anywhere of the works having existed, in any form, prior to 2017. Sources familiar with all three works said that, contrary to the impression given by the dates in their titles, the sculptures were less than a year old when they first appeared in Hong Kong.

Dove, 1999 is understood to have been sold at or after the Hong Kong exhibition. The calves and dissected shark, however, have appeared in several public galleries and museums across the US and Europe, between 2018 and 2024. At every exhibition, they were displayed beside 1990s dates.

Dates attributed to artworks are widely understood to refer to the year they were completed. However, in response to questions from the Guardian, Hirst’s company Science Ltd said the date that the artist assigns to his formaldehyde works does not represent the date they were made.

It said: “Formaldehyde works are conceptual artworks and the date Damien Hirst assigns to them is the date of the conception of the work. He has been clear over the years when asked what is important in conceptual art; it is not the physical making of the object or the renewal of its parts, but rather the intention and the idea behind the artwork.”

Hirst’s lawyers later clarified that while using the date of conception in the title was the artist’s “usual approach” for formaldehyde works, he did sometimes use the date the sculptures were made. “The dating of artworks, and particularly conceptual artworks, is not controlled by any industry standard,” they said, adding: “Artists are perfectly entitled to be (and often are) inconsistent in their dating of works.”

That approach, however, appears at odds with industry norms in the art world. The Guardian consulted a range of art vendors, gallerists, academics and auction houses, including some who have in the past exhibited or sold Hirst’s works. All said the date assigned to a contemporary artwork ordinarily denoted the year it was physically created – not the year it was conceived.

The Gagosian Hong Kong exhibition where the dove, dissected shark and twin calves made their debut was a useful opportunity for Hirst to showcase his older works to a new market in east Asia. In an interview with the South China Morning Post to coincide with the 2017 exhibition, Hirst remarked: “I prefer them now to when I made them.” The same article observed some of the artworks were “showing their age”.

That may accord with a suggestion – denied by Hirst – that there was a concerted effort by his company to give the sculptures the appearance of artworks that had suffered from years of wear and tear. Sources told the Guardian that Science instructed employees to artificially age the sculptures, making them look as if they were made in the 1990s.

Lawyers for Hirst accepted that his works had on occasion “been made to look older or distressed”. But they said that any such steps were part of the “artistic process” and denied “any suggestion that employees of Science have ever been told to ‘physically age’ works of art in order to falsely represent that the works are older than in fact they are”.

Seemingly muddled remarks

While there appears to be broad consensus in the contemporary art world that dates given to artworks denote the year they were made, there are some caveats. For works created over time, or replicated after an initial edition, for example, artists sometimes use a hyphen or oblique to include a date range.

When Hirst displayed the dissected shark in Hong Kong, the title contained one such date range: Myth Explored, Explained, Exploded, 1993-1999. However, the date range Hirst used for the sculpture suggested the artwork was conceived in 1993, and completed in 1999, when it was, in fact, made in 2017.

Subsequent exhibitions, including the one currently showing the sculpture in Munich, dropped the reference to 1999 altogether.

More recently, Hirst made seemingly muddled remarks about the origins of Myth Explored, Explained, Exploded when he commented on them in an Instagram video in 2020, while it was on display at his Newport Street Gallery in London.

Wearing a grey beanie hat, Hirst walked around the pieces of shark, and described the piece as “an idea for a shark in 93 that I didn’t do until quite a few years later”. He added it was made at “a similar sort of time” to when he was cutting up the cow used in his famous formaldehyde sculpture Mother and Child Divided. That piece was created for the Venice Biennale in 1993.

Hirst said in the Instagram post that an exhibition in which the sculpture was appearing, entitled End of a Century, contained “many works I made in the 20th century, before the year 2000”. Hirst’s lawyers said it would be wrong to suggest that Hirst intended to mislead the public in his Instagram post.

Back in 2006, Hirst found himself at the centre of a different debate arising out of the need to refurbish or update formaldehyde pieces that are prone to decay. It related to the piece that made him famous: the formaldehyde shark The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), which had been bought by the US hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen for $8m.

Hirst offered to replace the 4-metre (14ft) tiger shark inside the tank, which had decomposed. Cohen agreed to pay for its replacement with a new tiger shark suspended in the old tank, igniting a debate about whether it could still be called the same work.

“It’s a big dilemma,’’ Hirst said at the time. “Artists and conservators have different opinions about what’s important, the original artwork or the original intention. I come from a conceptual art background, so I think it should be the intention. It’s the same piece. But the jury will be out for a long time to come.”

The three formaldehyde works made in 2017 before the Hong Kong exhibition, however, raise a very different set of questions around whether Hirst has been sufficiently transparent about the origins of the works. The dove, twin calves or dissected shark were not refurbished formaldehyde works, and neither were they official editions or reproductions of earlier works.

They have in recent years been presented in galleries around the world in a manner likely to lead the public to assume they were created in the 1990s. And it is possible that other Hirst formaldehyde works that have been dated to the 1990s were in fact made in subsequent decades.

Awkward questions

Any ambiguity over the origin of any of Hirst’s formaldehyde works is likely to raise awkward questions, including for the institutions that promote his work. There is no public list, or catalogue raisonné, of Hirst’s sculptural works, so galleries, auctioneers and museums rely on Science for details.

Hirst’s lawyers said galleries, museums and auction houses were typically provided with details of artworks “and are then provided with further information as and when required or raised in any ad hoc queries”. There are now likely to be questions around precisely what Hirst told galleries about the trio of works made in 2017.

In 2021 and 2022, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History displayed what it called “Damien Hirst’s famous Cain and Abel (1994) artwork” as part of Meat the Future, an exhibition about the production and consumption of animal products. Hirst posted a picture of the sculpture on display at the Oxford museum, with the title: Cain and Abel (1994).

A museum spokesperson said: “These dates were provided by Science Ltd, and the museum understood them to be the creation date of Cain and Abel as per artwork label convention. The museum reproduced them exactly as Science Ltd presented them, with the date in brackets, and Science Ltd signed off our artwork label before printing.”

Informed by the Guardian that the work was actually made in 2017, the spokesperson added: “We followed sector practice in adopting the date of creation as supplied by the artist and therefore did not mislead the public.”

The Gagosian, which hosted the 2017 Hong Kong exhibition and subsequently exhibited two of the same works in galleries in New York and London between 2018 and 2023, said: “Gagosian is transparent with its clients. We dispute your points on the same grounds laid out in the responses from Science (UK) Ltd.” The Newport Street Gallery did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, visitors to Munich’s Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art (MUCA) are greeted with Hirst’s dissected shark in three tanks. The title, Myth Explored, Explained, Exploded, appears beside the date 1993. An MUCA spokesperson said: “The museum has worked directly with the artist Damien Hirst and his studio for this exhibition. As such, all artwork cataloguing details have been provided by the artist’s studio and displayed in accordance with the artist.”

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‘Red alert’: last year was hottest on record by clear margin, says UN report

Records being broken for greenhouse gas pollution, surface temperatures and ocean heat

The world has never been closer to breaching the 1.5C (2.7F) global heating limit, even if only temporarily, the United Nations’ weather agency has warned.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Tuesday that 2023 was the hottest year on record by a clear margin. In a report on the climate, it found that records were “once again broken, and in some cases smashed” for key indicators such as greenhouse gas pollution, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover and glacier retreat.

Andrea Celeste Saulo, secretary general of the WMO, said the organisation was now “sounding the red alert to the world”.

The report found temperatures near the surface of the earth were 1.45C higher last year than they were in the late 1800s, when people began to destroy nature at an industrial scale and burn large amounts of coal, oil and gas.

The error margin of 0.12C in the temperature estimate is large enough that the earth may have already heated 1.5C. But this would not mean world leaders have broken the promise they made in Paris in 2015 to halt global heating to that level by the end of the century, scientists warn, because they measure global heating using a 30-year average rather than counting a spike in a single year.

The report documented violent weather extremes – particularly heat – on every inhabited continent. Some of the weather events were made stronger or more likely by climate change, rapid attribution studies have shown.

Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who was not involved in the report, said: “If we do not stop burning fossil fuels, the climate will continue to warm, making life more dangerous, more unpredictable, and more expensive for billions of people on earth.”

Climate scientists are divided on whether extreme temperatures seen at the start of 2024 represent an unexpected acceleration of the climate crisis. Some indicators, such as sea surface temperatures, have been unexpectedly high – even accounting for the return of the ocean-warming weather pattern El Niño – while other weather events have reached rare extremes sooner that thought.

Andreas Fink, a meteorologist at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology who was not involved in the report, said: “In terms of temperatures, it can be stated that a year like 2023, although extreme, is already possible in climate simulations of the current human-heated climate. But not all extreme weather events can be simulated with the current climate models.”

The WMO found “a glimmer of hope” in the growth of renewable energy. The amount of renewable capacity added in 2023 was almost 50% greater than the year before, the report found, bringing it to the highest rate observed in the past two decades.

Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, said the state of the climate is an “accelerating crisis” for humanity. “This is, sadly, only the beginning of much worse impacts to come, given carbon emissions are still rising and there is continued massive new investment in extracting fossil fuels.”

The report found that marine heatwaves seared one third of the world’s ocean on an average day in 2023, harming vital ecosystems and food systems. By the end of the year, just 10% of the ocean had escaped heatwave conditions.

Climate change also worsened extreme weather events that left people hungry and forced them from their homes, even if it was not the main factor in their suffering. The number of people who are “acutely” food insecure has more than doubled since 2019 to 333 million people in 2023, the report found, concentrated in Africa and south Asia.

The uneven impact of climate change is already making itself clearly felt, said Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at the University of Leipzig who was not involved in the report. “The public debate, on the other hand, continues to pretend that the problems of the global south do not affect [the global north] – and that the consequences of climate change can somehow be overcome through technology.”

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‘Red alert’: last year was hottest on record by clear margin, says UN report

Records being broken for greenhouse gas pollution, surface temperatures and ocean heat

The world has never been closer to breaching the 1.5C (2.7F) global heating limit, even if only temporarily, the United Nations’ weather agency has warned.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed on Tuesday that 2023 was the hottest year on record by a clear margin. In a report on the climate, it found that records were “once again broken, and in some cases smashed” for key indicators such as greenhouse gas pollution, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, Antarctic sea ice cover and glacier retreat.

Andrea Celeste Saulo, secretary general of the WMO, said the organisation was now “sounding the red alert to the world”.

The report found temperatures near the surface of the earth were 1.45C higher last year than they were in the late 1800s, when people began to destroy nature at an industrial scale and burn large amounts of coal, oil and gas.

The error margin of 0.12C in the temperature estimate is large enough that the earth may have already heated 1.5C. But this would not mean world leaders have broken the promise they made in Paris in 2015 to halt global heating to that level by the end of the century, scientists warn, because they measure global heating using a 30-year average rather than counting a spike in a single year.

The report documented violent weather extremes – particularly heat – on every inhabited continent. Some of the weather events were made stronger or more likely by climate change, rapid attribution studies have shown.

Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who was not involved in the report, said: “If we do not stop burning fossil fuels, the climate will continue to warm, making life more dangerous, more unpredictable, and more expensive for billions of people on earth.”

Climate scientists are divided on whether extreme temperatures seen at the start of 2024 represent an unexpected acceleration of the climate crisis. Some indicators, such as sea surface temperatures, have been unexpectedly high – even accounting for the return of the ocean-warming weather pattern El Niño – while other weather events have reached rare extremes sooner that thought.

Andreas Fink, a meteorologist at Karlsruhe Institute for Technology who was not involved in the report, said: “In terms of temperatures, it can be stated that a year like 2023, although extreme, is already possible in climate simulations of the current human-heated climate. But not all extreme weather events can be simulated with the current climate models.”

The WMO found “a glimmer of hope” in the growth of renewable energy. The amount of renewable capacity added in 2023 was almost 50% greater than the year before, the report found, bringing it to the highest rate observed in the past two decades.

Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at University College London, said the state of the climate is an “accelerating crisis” for humanity. “This is, sadly, only the beginning of much worse impacts to come, given carbon emissions are still rising and there is continued massive new investment in extracting fossil fuels.”

The report found that marine heatwaves seared one third of the world’s ocean on an average day in 2023, harming vital ecosystems and food systems. By the end of the year, just 10% of the ocean had escaped heatwave conditions.

Climate change also worsened extreme weather events that left people hungry and forced them from their homes, even if it was not the main factor in their suffering. The number of people who are “acutely” food insecure has more than doubled since 2019 to 333 million people in 2023, the report found, concentrated in Africa and south Asia.

The uneven impact of climate change is already making itself clearly felt, said Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at the University of Leipzig who was not involved in the report. “The public debate, on the other hand, continues to pretend that the problems of the global south do not affect [the global north] – and that the consequences of climate change can somehow be overcome through technology.”

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Revealed: documents shed light on shadowy US far-right fraternal order

New documents detail inner workings of Society for American Civic Renewal, group with an emphasis on Christian nationalism

New documents have shed light on the origins and inner workings of the shadowy Society for American Civic Renewal (SACR), including methods for judging the beliefs of potential members on topics such as Christian nationalism, and indications that its founders sought inspiration in an apartheid-era South African white men-only group, the Afrikaner-Broederbond.

They also show that Boise State University Professor and Claremont thinktank scholar Scott Yenor tried to coordinate SACR’s activities with other initiatives, including an open letter on “Christian marriage”.

One expert says that one of the new documents – some previously reported in Talking Points Memo – use biblical references that suggest a preparedness for violent struggle against the current “regime”.

The SACR is a secretive far-right men-only organization with an emphasis on Christian nationalism and a desire to open branches across the US.

The Guardian has previously reported on SACR’s close links to the Claremont Institute, an influential rightwing thinktank with fellows who have participated in attempts to overturn the 2020 election and promoted the idea that an authoritarian “Red Caesar” might redeem a US republic they see as decadent.

SACR’s origins appear to date to the latter half of 2020, with key milestones in the group’s development coming over the following 18 months.

And there are indications that the inner circle of the group sought inspiration from earlier iterations of Christian nationalism in authoritarian states.

As previously reported in the Guardian, Skyler Kressin, a tax consultant based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, appears to play a central administrative role in SACR. Idaho and Texas company records show that Kressin incorporated lodges in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Dallas; serves as a director of the Coeur d’Alene and Dallas lodges; and was named as the principal officer of the parent organization on its 2020-21 tax return.

On 30 October 2020, Kressin wrote an email to Yenor with the question “that good?”, along with a screenshot of an Amazon listing for Super-Afrikaners, a book by the investigative journalists Ivor Wilkins and Hans Strydom.

First published in 1978, Super-Afrikaners exposed the workings of South Africa’s Broederbond, a secretive, exclusive, men-only network that promoted the interests of white Afrikaners in that country and which is credited with a significant role in bringing the National party – the architects of apartheid – to power.

Within half an hour, Yenor replied: “That’s the one”.

The Guardian contacted Scott Yenor with detailed questions on aspects of this reporting, including whether or not the Afrikaner Broederbond had been an inspiration for SACR.

He did not respond directly to most of those questions, but on the matter of SACR’s secrecy, he wrote in an email: “We maintain confidentiality because we know talentless punks like you would pose ridiculous, bad-faith questions meant to stoke your unhinged fever dreams and incriminate us and even unaffiliated people.”

Yenor continued: “Lazy propagandists who disregard ethics in journalism don’t deserve detailed responses.”

The Guardian invited Yenor to respond to the initial questions.

SACR’s rules and vetting process

In the early part of 2021, Yenor drafted documents that firmed up SACR’s purpose and character.

To a 27 April 2021 email sent to himself and his wife at her employment address, Yenor attached a document entitled “Working membership and recruiting guide for chapter leadership”.

In spelling out SACR’s rules, the document reveals the high value the organization places on secrecy. It says that “all discussion is confidential unless clearly noted otherwise”; and “all names of attendees are strictly confidential”. The document even says that members should withhold information from prospective members, instructing that members should “never reveal the names of other Chapter members to prospects”, and “never reveal national or chapter initiatives to prospects – speak only in general terms about our objectives and mission”.

The document also lays out procedures for vetting such prospects. After chapter leaders have decided that a prospect is “worthy of consideration”, they should be invited to a chapter event.

The document says that at that point, members should “gauge alignment and fit” with questions such as “What are your thoughts on Christian nationalism?”, “Comment on the Trump presidency and what it entails for the future”, and “Describe the dynamic of your household in terms of your role and that of your wife.”

In the first section – “membership criteria” – the document says membership in the group is “predicated on political alignment and faithfulness to the Christian religion, combined with virtue and with any of community influence, capability, or wealth”.

The document elaborates on each of these criteria.

Alignment is “deference to and acceptance of the wisdom of our American and European Christian forebears in the political realm, a traditional understanding of patriarchal leadership in the household, and an acceptance of traditional natural law in ethics”.

Natural law is a view with a long history on the right which holds that fundamental moral principles arise from God or nature, not from human reflection or politics. It is a view that Claremont scholars have attempted to provide.

Faithfulness also has a patriarchal edge in SACR’s definition: it is “submission to the authority and standards of behavior of a particular Trinitarian Christian body”, but also “taking ownership as head of the household in terms of leading regular prayer and spiritual reading and reflection”.

Influence is defined as “the ability to make a mark primarily on culture and social discourse but also in politics and business. The positions here can range from equity ownership in productive enterprises to positions of influence in cultural, religious and intellectual institutions.”

Recruiting efforts for the group included visits to Boise from out-of-town collaborators.

A 19 March 2021 email from Yenor lays out a draft schedule for a visit to Boise by Aaron Renn, senior fellow and editor of “theocon” website American Reformer – co-founded by Nate Fischer – and a former senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Plans included “dinner at Epi’s”, a Basque restaurant in Boise; a meeting with representatives of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a far-right thinktank; and a guest lecture by Renn to Yenor’s students.

Also planned were “drinks with SACR possibles” where Yenor anticipated a “soft sell as per Skyler’s method”, a comment which is not explained further.

The documents indicate Yenor had worked on putting together a group of “SACR possibles” ahead of Renn’s visit.

In a 19 March 2021 exchange, Yenor and his son Jackson workshop the wording of an invitation to prospective SACR members to an evening talk at a local “classical Christian” academy, the Ambrose school. While Scott Yenor’s original had “a national movement with national ambitions”, Jackson Yenor replied with the recommendation: “Say goals instead of ambitions. These guys are ‘goal oriented’ business people, not Machiavelli.”

Further on, the text advised prospective recruits that “chapters will unite public-spirited men who are interested in doing the work of civic renewal. This might involve shoring up teetering institutions. It might involve seeking to turn corrupt institutions.”

The Ambrose School is a “classical Christian” academy in Meridian, on the western edge of the Boise metro area, where Yenor’s wife Amy works as an events coordinator.

The draft invitation does not indicate any date for the drinks meeting, but Yenor’s visit happened less than three weeks after Yenor was working on the text.

The Guardian contacted Boise State University to ask whether there were any policies about faculty combining guest lecturer visits with political activism, but there was no immediate response.

Other documents appear to be connected to SACR recruiting.

On several occasions, Yenor emailed a link to the sacr.us domain with no further context or explanation in the email text. One such email was sent to the Gmail address of the chief executive of a civil engineering company in Pennsylvania. Another was sent to a lawyer and former justice department employee in Tallahassee, Florida.

Christian nationalist prayers

An April 2021 email Yenor sent to his wife’s work address has an attached PDF – “SACR-prayers”. The document features a “long prayer – formal and inaugural occasions” and a “short prayer – regular meetings”.

The long prayer draws biblical and historical parallels for SACR’s activities: “May God unite us in this mission as Joshua’s men when they defeated the mighty walls of Jericho, as Nehemiah’s men who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, as St Constantine’s men when they conquered in the sign of the cross. May the light of Christendom be restored in our homeland, and may America not fall to those who hate God.”

Brad Onishi is the author of Preparing for War, a critical account of Christian nationalism, the host of the Straight White American Jesus podcast, and an academic with appointments at UC Berkeley and the University of San Francisco. He is also a self-described former Christian nationalist.

In a telephone conversation he said that the prayers include “coded” references that may function as justifications of violence.

Explaining the reference to the story of the conquest of Jericho in the book of Joshua, Onishi said: “What happens when the walls fall down? Joshua’s men go in and kill everyone: men, children, women, animals.

“It’s an attempted genocide, right?”

“In that prayer they’re saying we’re Joshua’s men. We’re the type of men who trust God,” Onishi added.

“And when God, when God gives us the signal, we’re going to go kill everybody. That’s what we do.”

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Jared Kushner says Gaza’s ‘waterfront property could be very valuable’

Donald Trump’s son-in-law also says Israel should bulldoze an area of the Negev desert and move Palestinians there

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Jared Kushner has praised the “very valuable” potential of Gaza’s “waterfront property” and suggested Israel should remove civilians while it “cleans up” the strip.

The former property dealer, married to Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, made the comments in an interview at Harvard University on 8 March.

Kushner was a senior foreign policy adviser under Trump’s presidency and was tasked with preparing a peace plan for the Middle East. Critics of the plan, which involved Israel striking normalisation deals with Gulf states, said it bypassed questions about the future for Palestinians.

His remarks at Harvard gave a hint of the kind of Middle East policy that could be pursued in the event that Trump returns to the White House, including a search for a normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable … if people would focus on building up livelihoods,” Kushner told his interviewer, Harvard’s Middle East Initiative faculty chair, Prof Tarek Masoud. Kushner also lamented “all the money” that had gone into the territory’s tunnel network and munitions instead of education and innovation.

“It’s a little bit of an unfortunate situation there, but from Israel’s perspective I would do my best to move the people out and then clean it up,” Kushner said. “But I don’t think that Israel has stated that they don’t want the people to move back there afterwards.”

Masoud replied that there was “a lot to talk about there”.

Kushner also said he thinks Israel should move civilians from Gaza to the Negev desert in southern Israel.

He said that if he were in charge of Israel his number one priority would be getting civilians out of the southern city of Rafah, and that “with diplomacy” it could be possible to get them into Egypt.

“But in addition to that, I would just bulldoze something in the Negev, I would try to move people in there,” he said. “I think that’s a better option, so you can go in and finish the job.”

He reiterated the point a little later, saying: “I do think right now opening up the Negev, creating a secure area there, moving the civilians out, and then going in and finishing the job would be the right move.”

The suggestion drew a startled response from Masoud. “Is that something that they’re talking about in Israel?” Masoud asked. “I mean, that’s the first I’ve really heard of somebody, aside from President Sisi [Egypt’s leader], suggesting that Gazans trying to flee the fighting could take refuge in the Negev. Are people in Israel seriously talking about that possibility?”

“I don’t know,” Kushner replied, shrugging his shoulders.

“That would be something you’d try to work on?” Masoud asked.

“I’m sitting in Miami Beach right now,” Kushner said. “And I’m looking at the situation and I’m thinking: what would I do if I was there?”

Asked by Masoud about fears on the part of Arabs in the region that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, would not allow Palestinians who flee Gaza to return, Kushner paused and then said: “Maybe.”

He went on to say: “I am not sure there is much left of Gaza at this point. If you think about even the construct, Gaza was not really a historical precedent [sic]. It was the result of a war. You had tribes in different places and then Gaza became a thing. Egypt used to run it and then over time different governments came in.”

Responding to a question about whether the Palestinians should have their own state, Kushner described the proposal as “a super bad idea” that “would essentially be rewarding an act of terror”.

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‘Exorbitant’ fees paid to academic publishers better spent on research and education

Australia Institute report author says proposed open-access research library ‘great start’ but research grants reforms are needed to disrupt current model

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Australia’s public research institutions are paying $1bn a year to giant academic publishers, new research shows, amid growing calls for taxpayer money to be redirected away from private enterprises.

The Australia Institute report, released on Wednesday, questioned if more public money should be used for research and education instead of being directed to international academic publishers.

Academic publishes are among the most profitable businesses in the world – raking in massive profit margins approaching 40% – in line with Google and Apple.

The market is dominated by five major houses – Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, Springer Nature and SAGE Publications – and rakes in billions of dollars a year.

The report found Australia’s research institutions and universities spent $300m on journal subscriptions annually, totalling $1bn when additional fees and publication charges were added.

The exorbitant fees are charged towards institutions and research groups in order to access research that the public largely funds. One-off access for a single article costs about $50.

Dr Kristen Scicluna, a postdoctoral research fellow and author of the report, said research was being “hamstrung” without appropriate funding and money could be better directed elsewhere.

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“This amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars every year – much of it public money – spent on publication and subscription, not research and discovery,” she said.

Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, has proposed a world-first open access model, recently finalised for the federal government, that would provide a centralised digital library for all Australians to access research papers free of charge, as long as they had a MyGov account or were in education.

Scicluna said Foley’s plan was a “great start” but did not go far enough, instead pressing for reform as to how research grants were awarded.

“It doesn’t do much to disrupt entrenchment publishers have on academic workflow,” she said.

Scicluna’s proposal includes revising grant criteria to reward publication in open access journals that have lower publishing fees and trialling a lottery-based grant system to reduce the power of major journals.

Australia’s two major public grant bodies – the Australian Research Council (Arc) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) – require publications to be open access, with stipulations in place. But receiving a grant depends on an academic’s track record, typically based on whether they have published in prestigious journals.

Scicluna said until grant conditions offered academics alternative avenues for promotion, private publishers would continue to benefit.

The lottery system has been trialled in New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Australia and Switzerland to some success. Grant applications are first screened for eligibility, then awarded randomly to applicants considered equal, to reduce the emphasis on a researcher’s publication record.

“Publishers can just keep increasing prices, so [the] funding universities get through the government to cover the costs of research, salaries and equipment end[s] up going to library subscription fees.”

In Australia, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) has taken the lead on negotiating open-access agreements on behalf of institutions. The council’s executive director, Jane Angel, said the need for reform came down to equity.

Angel said not advancing open access particularly hindered innovation among demographics that did not have access to paywalled information – primarily, those outside educational institutions.

“That either predicates that innovation comes or is perpetuated among those who are tertiary educated, or suggests that this is where we expect to find innovation,” she said.

“That is not democratic or progressive, or indicative of the Australia [the education minister] Jason Clare wants where ‘no one is held back, and no one is left behind’.”

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Prestigious leadership prize rewards Bridget Archer and David Pocock for ‘rare courage’ and ‘vision’

Liberal MP and ACT independent senator recognised for standing by principles, engaging with all parties in good faith

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Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer and independent ACT senator David Pocock have been named winners of a prestigious prize after being recognised as outstanding political leaders for the communities they serve.

Archer was selected as the McKinnon Political Leader of the Year 2023 for her “rare” courage in standing up for her principles.

The award, which is a collaboration between the Susan McKinnon Foundation and the University of Melbourne after being established in 2017, is given to political leaders who have driven positive change through their vision, collaboration, courage and ethical behaviour.

Archer said she was “very honoured” to be joining the ranks of a small, prestigious group of leaders.

“As members of federal parliament, we are in the unique position to lead the conversation and ensure all voices are heard. I will continue to speak out against gendered violence and call for the elimination of violence against women and children,” Archer said.

“I look forward to continuing my advocacy to ensure adequate mental health services are provided not just in Northern Tasmania but across Australia, ensuring the most vulnerable in our society are protected.”

Meanwhile, Pocock was chosen for the McKinnon Emerging Political Leader of the Year 2023 – given to elected representatives who have been in the game for less than five years – for genuinely engaging in good faith with competing perspectives.

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Pocock said he was committed to being accessible and accountable, and putting people first, above politics.

“I think they’re values Australians want to see and values that many winners of this prize share and it’s a privilege to be recognised alongside them,” Pocock said.

“I believe we have so much more in common than the sum of our differences and this is the approach I’ve tried to bring to my role on the crossbench. We are facing huge challenges as communities, as a nation and globally it’s more important than ever to find ways to work together to solve them.”

The selection panel of esteemed Australian include the likes of former PM&C secretary, Martin Parkinson, former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, and former federal politicians Arthur Sinodinos and Cathy McGowan.

Parkinson said Archer was an obvious choice after impressing successive panels.

“Ms Archer has consistently demonstrated rare courage by standing up for her principles and the interests of her constituents, even when this has put her at odds with her party and threatened her career,” he said.

“Through all this, her dedication and commitment to her party is clear and the panel noted how she has worked tirelessly to drive reforms from within.”

Over the course of her career, Archer has crossed the floor against her party on at least 28 occasions.

Most recently, Archer crossed the floor in October after the Coalition moved to suspend the standing orders to vote on calling for a royal commission into child sexual abuse in Indigenous communities.

Pocock, a first-term senator, had used his role as kingmaker in the Senate to pursue “a broader vision for the community”, Parkinson said.

“Historically, Australia has seen senators who hold the balance of power use that to pursue a relatively narrow set of goals, designed to satisfy a small constituency, often at the expense of the broader community,” he said.

“Senator Pocock is a great example of how that position of power can be used to pursue a broader vision for the community as a whole.”

Finkel said giving Pocock the award set an excellent example “at a time when so many populist ‘strongman’ leaders command headlines on the global stage”.

The honour was won last year by foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, and independent MP Helen Haines.

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