The Guardian 2024-03-20 16:01:12


Affordable housing beyond reach in all Australia’s eastern capitals, data shows

Only Perth and Darwin buck the trend, according to analysis by the Greens, who say home ownership has become an ‘impossible dream’

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Affordable housing is now beyond reach in all Australia’s eastern capitals, according to new analysis released by the Greens, with the average annual salary needed to buy a home without financial stress $164,400.

There are just two capitals – greater Perth and Darwin – where the cost of a unit would not put the average earner under housing stress, according to the Parliamentary Library’s analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and CoreLogic.

Max Chandler-Mather, the Greens’ housing spokesperson, said the figures showed the system was “broken” and that home ownership had now become an “impossible dream” for millions of Australians.

The data, which assumed prospective buyers had a 20% deposit and would sign up to a variable rate mortgage of 6.49% over 25 years, showed there were no capital cities in Australia considered affordable for single-income homebuyers.

The analysis deemed housing affordable if repayments represented less than 30% of income.

The highest median sale price is for a house in Sydney sits at $1.36m while the median sale price for units in the NSW capital is $767,250. The analysis suggests for someone to afford the monthly mortgage payments and not be under housing stress, the household would need a $272,000 upfront deposit and to be earning $293,578 a year for a home. For a unit in Sydney, it’s a salary of $165,623 a year and deposit of $153,450.

The average yearly earnings for those in Sydney stands at $98,353, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data from November 2023.

In Melbourne, where the average yearly salary is $96,621, a household would need to bring in $189,962 a year for a home or $133,837 a year for a unit to avoid financial stress. Buyers would also need to stump up with deposits of $176,000 for a home or $124,000 for a unit.

The analysis assumes that a mortgage holder has a 20% deposit and is offered a standard variable rate mortgage of 6.49%, paying both principal and interest. Affordable housing is when repayments are less than 30% of income.

Perth and Darwin buck the trend of unaffordable housing for units, but not homes, according to the analysis.

Someone earning the average yearly salary – $95,306 – would require an income of $83,648 a year in Darwin to comfortably pay back their unit after putting down a $77,500 deposit while a home in top end would need a higher salary of $124,339 with a $115,200 deposit.

Chandler-Mather released the minor party’s policy last month, urging the federal government to ditch generous concessions for property investors.

The Greens want to see negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount pared back and have threatened to hold Labor’s Help to Buy shared equity scheme hostage in the Senate over it.

Negative gearing allows investors to claim tax deductions on rental property losses, while the capital gains tax discount halves the amount of excise paid by people who sell assets that have been owned for 12 months or more.

The first-term Queensland MP also unveiled an ambitious $12.5bn housing policy in March, promising 360,000 affordable homes would be built over five years for Australians to rent or buy if the Greens took the helm.

Chandler-Mather said the federal government needed to stop the tax handouts to fix the housing crisis.

“When you need to earn $186,000 a year and have a $173,000 deposit to buy a house in a capital city in Australia, then you know the system is broken,” he said.

“First home buyers are losing at auctions to property investors who keep pushing up the price of housing with their tax handouts from Anthony Albanese.

“The only way we are going to fix this crisis is if Labor finally works with the Greens to phase out the massive tax handouts for property investors, like negative gearing, that are denying millions of renters the chance to buy a home.”

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ABC journalists call for chief content officer to stand down over alleged Antoinette Lattouf mismanagement

Motion passed by 75 union members expresses outrage over way Chris Oliver-Taylor and senior executives ‘damaged the public’s trust in our capacity to report without fear or favour’

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A union meeting of ABC journalists has called for the broadcaster’s chief content officer, Chris Oliver-Taylor, to stand down after what they say is his mismanagement of the removal of casual radio presenter Antoinette Lattouf.

Lattouf claims she was sacked from the casual presenting role on Sydney’s Mornings radio program over her political views and her race.

In December she filed a submission to the Fair Work Commission for unlawful termination on the grounds of “political opinion or a reason that included political opinion”.

The motion passed by 75 members of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) on Wednesday expressed outrage at the way Oliver-Taylor and senior executives have “damaged the public’s trust in our capacity to report without fear or favour”.

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The ABC’s managing director, David Anderson, declined to comment on the motion because the ABC is defending the matter before the Fair Work Commission, but he backed Oliver-Taylor, the former director of production for Australia & New Zealand for Netflix, who joined the ABC last year. He held senior roles at ABC TV including head of television production before he left for the private sector in 2011.

“The commission has had the benefit of hearing the evidence of all witnesses in its entirety – not just selectively reported comments – and of hearing the legal submissions made by both parties,” Anderson said.

“I have continued confidence in Chris Oliver-Taylor to perform the role of ABC chief content officer. Chris has an outstanding record as a media executive and is widely respected across the media sector.”

The meeting reaffirmed its lack of confidence in Anderson, after a vote of no confidence in the managing director in January.

Lattouf was contracted as a casual presenter for five shifts in December. She maintains she was terminated after three shifts, after she reposted a video from Human Rights Watch on her personal Instagram page that said: “The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a weapon of war in Gaza”.

The ABC’s case is that Lattouf was not dismissed, but rather was told she would not be required to present the final two shifts of the Mornings program, which she was paid for.

The ABC strongly denied being influenced by lobbyists after revelations of a campaign by pro-Israel lobbyists to have her dismissed.

“The ABC rejects any claim that it has been influenced by any external pressure, whether it be an advocacy or lobby group, a political party, or commercial entity,” Anderson’s told staff in January.

The MEAA’s media director, Cassie Derrick, said the incident had been mishandled and had damaged the integrity and reputation of the ABC.

“Evidence provided in the Fair Work Commission hearing about the involvement of David Anderson and Chris Oliver-Taylor in her dismissal has further undermined the confidence of staff in the managing director and his senior managers to be able to protect the independence of the ABC from outside criticism,” Derrick said.

“The Lattouf case continues a pattern of ABC journalists lacking support from management when their work is criticised by lobby groups, business organisations and politicians.

Documents before the commission show that Oliver-Taylor asked radio executives to investigate whether Lattouf had breached the ABC’s editorial standards. Anderson asked him to act after the corporation received complaints that her social media activity was biased towards Palestine.

Oliver-Taylor asked: “Can we also advise why we selected Antoinette as stand in host?”

Lattouf has separately sued the ABC in the federal court for allegedly breaching its enterprise agreement.

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Southern Australian households to face gas shortages from 2026 as most production set for export

Aemo reports that Victoria’s total available gas supply will drop by 48% from 2024 to 2028

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Southern Australia could face gas shortages during “extreme peak demand days” from 2025 as Bass Strait supplies dwindle, the Australian Energy Market Operator said.

In its annual gas statement of opportunities report, the Aemo said “small seasonal supply gaps” may emerge from 2026 with the shortages becoming annual ones from 2028 unless additional supplies are developed. Regions affected include New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

Aemo said although the forecast gap has been delayed a couple of years because more households were ditching the fossil fuel.

A year ago, the Aemo warned of gas shortage risks “from winter 2023”. Shortfalls, though, were avoided as a “record mild winter” resulted in “significantly lower” gas demand. High prices and “early signs of increased electrification” also cut consumption.

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Still, with two-thirds of east coast gas production earmarked for exports, mostly from Queensland, domestic demand will have to decline at a faster rate to avoid gaps in later years. Alternatively, more supplies will be needed or more gas piped southwards.

Southern fields produced about 1,500 petajoules of gas in 2022, a tally that will drop to about 1,200Pj this year and roughly 700Pj by 2028. For Victoria, the total available gas supply will drop by 48% over the outlook period, from 297Pj in 2024 to 154Pj in 2028, according to a separate Aemo report on the state also released on Thursday.

The chief executive of the Aemo, Daniel Westerman, said gas-fired power plants could get “temporary relief” by burning liquid fuels such as diesel.

“From 2028, supply gaps will increase in size as Bass Strait production falls significantly,” he said, noting the offshore fields had historically supplied two-thirds of southern Australia’s gas.

Gas shortage forecasts have been a feature of the annual Aemo reports for the past decade, with the market operator seeking to identify gaps that then get addressed.

Their emphasis has also typically been on supply issues rather than how demand might change both factors, in response to higher energy prices. Efforts to quicken the switch off gas – such as Victoria’s ban on new residential gas connections from the start of 2024 – may also drive down consumption faster than Aemo is presently predicting.

The federal energy minister, Chris Bowen, said changes to the gas security mechanism and the implementation of the mandatory code of conduct for gas producers will help ensure supplies.

Bowen, though, is familiar with the risks facing energy supplies. An early winter cold snap combined with gas shortages and a period of low wind and solar power to create a short-lived energy crisis soon after his government took office.

The latest Aemo report also noted that it was “critical” that all southern gas storage was full prior to winter and their depletion rates monitored to reduce shortfall risks: “In extreme cases where depletion is taking place at an accelerated rate, northern supply should be sourced to ensure depletion is minimised.”

One swing factor could be the timing of the closure of the 2,880-megawatt Eraring coal-fired power plant. Should it extend beyond the scheduled date of August 2025, gas-fired power consumption could be 30% to 60% lower.

Gas demand is forecast to continue to decline, just not at the pace of falling output in the south. Residential gas consumption is expected drop more than two-thirds, or about 125Pj a year, 50Pj in 2043, the Aemo said.

Burning gas for electricity generation has also been on the skids since 2019, with the downward trend continuing until the early 2030s. At that point, demand should stabilise as gas-fired plants get called upon more to support variable renewable energy plants.

Liquefied natural gas producers control about 70% of known reserves in central and eastern Australia. Volumes of gas exported internationally via Curtis Island in Queensland represent about 70% of annual consumption in the east coast gas market, the Aemo said.

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New Banksy tree mural in north London defaced with white paint

Banksy claimed mural in Finsbury Park as his own on Monday and artwork has now been damaged

A mural of a tree painted by Banksy on a residential building in north London has been defaced with white paint two days after it first appeared.

The artwork in Finsbury Park features rough brushstrokes of green paint on a wall near a tree, giving an abstract appearance of foliage, with a stencil of a person holding a pressure hose next to it.

Images shared on social media on Wednesday showed that the mural on Hornsey Road appeared to have been partly covered.

Banksy claimed the mural as his own in an Instagram post on Monday after it was speculated to be one of his.

One local resident, Matt McKenna, told the BBC: “It has got lots of people talking and it is a bit of London which is a bit forgotten at times.”

Since the mural appeared, fencing has been installed around the tree and the wall.

Islington council, in whose borough the artwork appeared, said: “We welcome this fantastic Banksy piece to Islington, a borough that celebrates creativity.

“In recent days, the piece has created a real buzz in the borough and beyond, and we very much want it to stay.

“It’s sad to see the piece has been defaced. When the mural first arrived in Islington, we moved quickly to put in place temporary measures to protect it and manage the crowds, such as installing fencing and having visits from park patrol officers.

“We are discussing future solutions with the homeowner, to enable everyone to enjoy the artwork while protecting it, the tree, and the surrounding area. We’re also in the process of installing a CCTV camera.

“This is a really powerful piece, which highlights the vital role that trees play in our communities and in tackling the climate emergency. Culture is a powerful way to tell meaningful stories, and we very much hope that the piece, which is still fantastic, will now be left alone for people to enjoy.”

Before the white paint appeared, the council said its graffiti removal team was aware of the artwork and would not remove it.

Banksy fans visiting the mural on Wednesday described their disappointment, with one describing it as “wanton vandalism”.

Patrick Volcker, who flew from Germany to see it, said: “I was too late because it was ruined last night. It’s sad it happened so fast, but it’s OK because Banksy’s art pieces are always in a temporary style.”

He added: “It’s not really ruined. Let’s just say ‘covered’.”

Gil Ben-ari, 80, travelled from Coulsdon, south London, to see the artwork and was also saddened that it had been defaced so soon. When asked about the addition of the white paint, Ben-ari said: “There’s only one way to describe it: wanton vandalism.”

The local authority said the cherry tree chosen by Banksy was 40-50 years old and in declining health, with decay and fungal damage. The council had removed the top branches of the tree – a process known as pollarding – to try to keep it alive, and was anticipating that it should rebud across its crown.

James Peak, who created the BBC Radio 4 series The Banksy Story, told the BBC that the work had a clear message: “Nature’s struggling and it is up to us to help it grow back.”

He said Banksy had chosen a “very busy, urban, built-up environment” in which to set it, with the tree sitting in the gardens of some social housing. The figure of the woman was a “classic Banksy-style stencil”, he added.

“It looks like the tree has burst into life, but in a noticeably fake and synthetic way. And it’s pretty subtle for a massive tree, I’d say. It’s spring now, and this tree should be bursting forth with leaves, but Banksy must have cycled past and thought how miserable it looks,” Peak said.

Banksy’s last confirmed work was in December when he painted military drones on to a stop sign in Peckham, south London. That was removed less than an hour after he confirmed it was genuine on social media, with witnesses reporting it was taken down by a man with bolt cutters. Two men were later arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage.

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New Banksy tree mural in north London defaced with white paint

Banksy claimed mural in Finsbury Park as his own on Monday and artwork has now been damaged

A mural of a tree painted by Banksy on a residential building in north London has been defaced with white paint two days after it first appeared.

The artwork in Finsbury Park features rough brushstrokes of green paint on a wall near a tree, giving an abstract appearance of foliage, with a stencil of a person holding a pressure hose next to it.

Images shared on social media on Wednesday showed that the mural on Hornsey Road appeared to have been partly covered.

Banksy claimed the mural as his own in an Instagram post on Monday after it was speculated to be one of his.

One local resident, Matt McKenna, told the BBC: “It has got lots of people talking and it is a bit of London which is a bit forgotten at times.”

Since the mural appeared, fencing has been installed around the tree and the wall.

Islington council, in whose borough the artwork appeared, said: “We welcome this fantastic Banksy piece to Islington, a borough that celebrates creativity.

“In recent days, the piece has created a real buzz in the borough and beyond, and we very much want it to stay.

“It’s sad to see the piece has been defaced. When the mural first arrived in Islington, we moved quickly to put in place temporary measures to protect it and manage the crowds, such as installing fencing and having visits from park patrol officers.

“We are discussing future solutions with the homeowner, to enable everyone to enjoy the artwork while protecting it, the tree, and the surrounding area. We’re also in the process of installing a CCTV camera.

“This is a really powerful piece, which highlights the vital role that trees play in our communities and in tackling the climate emergency. Culture is a powerful way to tell meaningful stories, and we very much hope that the piece, which is still fantastic, will now be left alone for people to enjoy.”

Before the white paint appeared, the council said its graffiti removal team was aware of the artwork and would not remove it.

Banksy fans visiting the mural on Wednesday described their disappointment, with one describing it as “wanton vandalism”.

Patrick Volcker, who flew from Germany to see it, said: “I was too late because it was ruined last night. It’s sad it happened so fast, but it’s OK because Banksy’s art pieces are always in a temporary style.”

He added: “It’s not really ruined. Let’s just say ‘covered’.”

Gil Ben-ari, 80, travelled from Coulsdon, south London, to see the artwork and was also saddened that it had been defaced so soon. When asked about the addition of the white paint, Ben-ari said: “There’s only one way to describe it: wanton vandalism.”

The local authority said the cherry tree chosen by Banksy was 40-50 years old and in declining health, with decay and fungal damage. The council had removed the top branches of the tree – a process known as pollarding – to try to keep it alive, and was anticipating that it should rebud across its crown.

James Peak, who created the BBC Radio 4 series The Banksy Story, told the BBC that the work had a clear message: “Nature’s struggling and it is up to us to help it grow back.”

He said Banksy had chosen a “very busy, urban, built-up environment” in which to set it, with the tree sitting in the gardens of some social housing. The figure of the woman was a “classic Banksy-style stencil”, he added.

“It looks like the tree has burst into life, but in a noticeably fake and synthetic way. And it’s pretty subtle for a massive tree, I’d say. It’s spring now, and this tree should be bursting forth with leaves, but Banksy must have cycled past and thought how miserable it looks,” Peak said.

Banksy’s last confirmed work was in December when he painted military drones on to a stop sign in Peckham, south London. That was removed less than an hour after he confirmed it was genuine on social media, with witnesses reporting it was taken down by a man with bolt cutters. Two men were later arrested on suspicion of theft and criminal damage.

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Focus on youth crime may be influencing bail decisions for children, Victorian judge says

Exclusive: supreme court judge says ‘it is a cause for concern’ if public policy is considered over individual merits of a case

A Victorian supreme court judge has raised concerns an increased focus on crime may be causing authorities to take a “more conservative approach” when it comes to assessing bail suitability for children.

In a decision published earlier this month, supreme court judge Rita Incerti granted a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy bail after he had earlier been denied by a magistrate at Bendigo children’s court.

The boy, whose identity is suppressed and is referred to in the decision by the acronym PJ, was facing several charges including aggravated burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and committing an indictable offence while on bail.

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Incerti found authorities had not proved PJ was an “unacceptable risk” to be denied bail and he presented with exceptional circumstances including “severe intellectual and cognitive disabilities”, an “extreme vulnerability to a custodial setting” and an “inherent vulnerability” as person who identifies as Aboriginal.

During a one-day hearing in late February, the court heard from PJ’s youth justice worker, who had assessed him as “unsuitable” for a supervised bail program.

She said this was due to concerns around his ability to engage with the program. But under questioning from PJ’s lawyer, she conceded youth justice had been “more strict in assessing suitability for bail”.

“We’ve been under significant review at the moment due to the increase and current focus on the youth crime, so there has been kind of a shift in direction around our assessments,” the youth justice worker said, according to court documents obtained by Guardian Australia.

The concession was noted by Incerti in her decision.

“It was also conceded by [worker] that, considering the increased discussions regarding youth crime in the public discourse, youth justice has come under scrutiny and has adopted a more conservative approach in their assessments regarding suitability for bail,” Incerti wrote.

“While I do not consider that this report was the product of an internal directive, it is a cause for concern if youth justice is considering public policy over the individual merits of a case.”

Her comments come as the Victoria government announced it has ditched its plans to give children the presumption of bail. It follows decisions in New South Wales and Queensland to tighten bail laws for children.

The Victorian attorney general, Jacyln Symes, last year committed to wind back bail laws to reduce the number of children remanded behind bars but delayed the change amid high-profile incidents of youth offending.

At the time, she stated she did not want to introduce the laws and spark a debate around a “a youth crime crisis that doesn’t exist”.

On Wednesday, Symes said she did not want to create “concern that we are weakening bail, when it’s not necessarily the case”.

She said “99%” of young people were already demonstrating they should be released on bail as they were able demonstrate to the courts exceptional circumstances or compelling reasons not to be put into custody.

But Negar Panahi, the principal managing lawyer of Balit Ngulu Practice at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (Vals), which represented PJ, said Symes’ comments “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

“PJ is a very clear example resorting to remand as a preventative measure,” Panahi told Guardian Australia.

“Almost all [our] clients spend time on remand and they are not sentenced to periods of detention if they are found guilty.”

In her decision, Incerti said it was PJ’s first time in custody, he had no prior criminal convictions and was unlikely to receive a custodial sentence for his offending if found guilty of the charges outstanding against him.

She said it was “regrettable” authorities had been “seeking the ongoing remand of a vulnerable child” while his case passed through the courts, “with full awareness” he would not receive a custodial sentence.

Panahi also criticised Symes’ announcement of a trial of electronic monitoring of children on bail describing the move as a “fail” and “complete waste of money”.

She instead urged the government to invest in services to help divert children away from the criminal justice system, and added that funding for programs such as Balit Ngulu, Vals’ legal practice for Aboriginal children, was about to expire.

Victorian Legal Aid’s executive director of criminal law, Dan Nicholson, said the government’s decision to run a trial of electronic monitoring for young people released on bail and not proceed with reforms was “deeply disappointing, stigmatising, and not supported by evidence”.

“These changes will have a disproportionate impact on First Nations children and kids from communities of colour – and will further entrench the systemic racism they are already subjected to,” he said, while urging funding for programs like Balit Ngulu.

“These evidence-based initiatives are proven to work in reducing offending. They are the best solution to addressing the harms felt in the community because they identify and address the harms caused to children that are often the reason for their offending.”

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Crossbenchers back Lidia Thorpe’s call for federal government to act on deaths in custody reforms

Exclusive: Victorian senator criticises lack of monitoring of royal commission recommendations and demands ‘tangible and achievable action’

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An alliance of parliamentary crossbenchers has backed a call from senator Lidia Thorpe for the federal government to urgently address long called for reforms in landmark reports on Indigenous deaths in custody and child removals.

Thorpe, the Victorian independent, said the Australian Human Rights Commission should be empowered to oversee progress on the key Closing the Gap measures.

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The Labor government has maintained that the state governments should address the outstanding recommendations of the 1991 royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody and the 1997 Bringing Them Home report, but the significant show of unity from more than a dozen crossbenchers will put pressure on Canberra to act.

“Successive governments have failed to implement the majority of recommendations from these reports, several decades after they have been handed down,” Thorpe wrote in the letter, addressed to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, the Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, and the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus.

“The lack of a coordinated approach and urgent implementation of these recommendations has led to the continuing worsening of conditions for First Peoples, and many lives lost.”

The letter is co-signed by senators David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, and Tammy Tyrrell, and MPs Andrew Wilkie, Kylea Tink, Zali Steggall, Monique Ryan, Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniel, Helen Haines, Sophie Scamps and Allegra Spender.

“We write to you to find a way forward on implementing the recommendations from the Bringing Them Home report on removal of First Nations children and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.”

The Greens did not sign on to the letter. The party’s First Nations spokesperson, Dorinda Cox, said they would seek further consultation with stakeholders before backing a new audit.

“The previous national audit took us backwards and gave the federal government a get-out-of-jail card on further reforms. We need to ensure that does not happen again,” Cox’s spokesperson said.

Last month’s Closing the Gap update found targets on adult imprisonment, suicide prevention and Indigenous children in out-of-home care were going backwards.

The federal government has said many recommendations of the two landmark reports are either outdated or can not be acted upon by the commonwealth.

Thorpe quit the Greens last year in opposition to the party’s stance on the Indigenous voice to parliament. She opposed the reform but publicly held out for the possibility of supporting the referendum if the government advanced the recommendations of the deaths in custody and child removal reports.

The Australian Medical Association last year made a similar call.

The Bringing Them Home report made 54 recommendations including compensation for forced removals, better record-keeping, better health and mental health training on the effects of forced removal, and justice system reforms.

The deaths in custody royal commission, of which former Labor senator Pat Dodson was a commissioner, made more than 300 recommendations including better monitoring of Indigenous deaths, and imprisonment as a last resort.

The Albanese government last year implemented real-time monitoring of deaths in custody, with Dreyfus saying the issue “remains a matter of concern for our government”.

“We’re going to continue to look at those recommendations. Some of them concern the states and territories. We’re going to continue to work with [them] to reduce, and do what we can, about black deaths in custody,” he said at the time.

That data dashboard, as of Wednesday, reported 15 deaths in custody in 2024 – four Indigenous and 11 non-Indigenous deaths – and 562 Indigenous deaths in custody since the 1991 royal commission.

Thorpe’s letter criticised a “lack of monitoring” of all the recommendations left to implement and called on the government to keep better records.

“The first step towards this and one which falls under clear federal jurisdiction, is the establishment of a clear entity to monitor the implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations and report annually to all governments on the progress of implementation,” the letter reads.

Thorpe suggested the Australian Human Rights Commission should oversee the deaths in custody recommendations, and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s commissioner oversee the Bringing Them Home recommendations.

Thorpe called these changes “a tangible and achievable action for your government to take in this term”.

Speaking to Guardian Australia, Thorpe called the monitoring a “basic measure”.

“Yet again we’ve seen Closing the Gap data showing things getting worse for First Peoples, and no leadership from the government to reduce rising rates of incarceration, deaths in custody and child removal,” she said.

“Decades after these important reports have been handed down, our people continue to die, and our children continue to be taken in record numbers. We need justice. The Albanese government must show national leadership on these key reform areas now.”

Pocock said Indigenous incarceration rates were “of deep concern”, specifically raising alarm at the rates of imprisonment in his home of the Australian Capital Territory being 25 times higher for Indigenous Australians, and calling the deaths in custody figures “a national disgrace”.

Steggall said she backed urgent changes.

“It is unacceptable that we continue to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People overrepresented in the rates of suicide, incarceration and children in out-of-home care,” she said.

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World’s top fossil-fuel bosses deride efforts to move away from oil and gas

Executives at Texas summit claim clean-energy transition is failing and say world should ‘abandon the fantasy’ of fossil-fuel phaseout

The bosses of the world’s leading oil and gas companies have poured scorn on efforts to move away from fossil fuels, complaining that a “visibly failing” transition to clean energy was being pushed forward at an “unrealistic pace”.

The oil executives, gathered at the industry’s annual Cera Week conference in Houston, Texas, have taken turns this week to denounce calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, despite widespread acknowledgment within the industry, as well as scientists and governments, of the need to radically reduce planet-heating emissions to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas, and instead invest in them adequately,” said Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, to applause in the room.

Nasser dismissed projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that global demand for oil and gas will peak by 2030, claiming that rising energy costs mean that people will require “the importance of oil and gas security” rather than shift to renewables.

“In fact, in the real world, the current transition strategy is visibly failing on most fronts,” Nasser added, criticizing solar, wind and electric vehicles for what he said was a minimal impact in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“And, despite our starring role in global prosperity, our industry is painted as transition’s arch-enemy,” Nasser complained.

This skepticism was echoed by other leading executives at the conference, which gathers industry leaders and politicians in Texas’s oily heartland. Meg O’Neill, chief executive of Woodside Energy, said that the transition to clean energy cannot “happen at an unrealistic pace”, predicting that cleaner fuels could take up to 40 years to develop.

“It has become emotional,” O’Neill said of the climate debate. “And when things are emotional, it becomes more difficult to have a pragmatic conversation.”

“If we rush or if things go the wrong way, we’ll have a crisis that we will never forget,” warned Jean Paul Prates, chief executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil corporation, about the shift to clean energy.

The comments were swiftly denounced by climate campaigners.

Those in the industry “work night and day to torpedo a transition to renewable energy and then have the audacity to critique the slowness of the transition itself,” said Jeff Ordower, North America director of 350.org. “Cera Week should highlight a global vision toward a clean and equitable future, and instead, we get talking points from the 1970s.”

“We should be skeptical of any solutions touted by the industry because it’s clear they don’t have a real interest in halting the climate crisis,” Ordower added.

The conference, which has the “multi-dimensional, multi-speed and multi-fuel energy transition” as its theme, is being held to a backdrop of several major oil and gas companies reversing their plans to cut production and watering down targets to eliminate greenhouse gases, even as they bask in near-record profits.

Darren Woods, the chief executive of Exxon, who recently said the public is unwilling to pay for a world with less carbon pollution, has used Cera Week to instead talk up the prospects of carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, which the industry sees as acceptable avenues for government subsidy that do not threaten the central business model of drilling for oil and gas.

Scientists are clear, however, that the world needs to get to net zero emissions by the mid-point of this century to avoid disastrous heatwaves, droughts, floods and other climate-driven impacts and so far no technology is able to ameliorate the primary task of not burning more oil, gas and coal.

According to the IEA, which has called the fossil-fuel industry “a marginal force at best” in investing in the transition to clean energy, oil and gas use would have to decline by more than 75% by 2050 if the world is to keep to the internationally agreed goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C beyond pre-industrial times.

This would require the curtailing of an unprecedented boom in gas infrastructure along the US’s Gulf of Mexico coast, which Joe Biden’s administration recently sought to dampen by announcing a pause in new exports of liquified natural gas from these facilities. At Cera Week, however, Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s energy secretary, said that the pause will be “long in the rear-view mirror” in a year’s time.

In Houston, climate activists, including those who staged a mock funeral march outside the conference on Tuesday to represent communities blighted by oil and gas development, said the industry executives had shown their true intentions at the gathering.

“If you look at their actions, it’s clear that not only are they not committed to reducing emissions, they’ve actually come to Cera Week to continue promoting fossil fuel production and extraction and delaying the transition to a just, clean energy future,” said Josh Eisenfeld, campaign manager of corporate accountability at Earthworks.

Aly Tharp, a campaigner at GreenFaith, said activists had been purposely barred from registering to attend the event, leaving them to voice their objections outside the venue.

“I have a moral obligation to disrupt the systematic poisoning of our planet being caused by fossil fuels,” she said. “These harms need to be seen and understood and not left out of the conversation.”

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World’s top fossil-fuel bosses deride efforts to move away from oil and gas

Executives at Texas summit claim clean-energy transition is failing and say world should ‘abandon the fantasy’ of fossil-fuel phaseout

The bosses of the world’s leading oil and gas companies have poured scorn on efforts to move away from fossil fuels, complaining that a “visibly failing” transition to clean energy was being pushed forward at an “unrealistic pace”.

The oil executives, gathered at the industry’s annual Cera Week conference in Houston, Texas, have taken turns this week to denounce calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, despite widespread acknowledgment within the industry, as well as scientists and governments, of the need to radically reduce planet-heating emissions to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas, and instead invest in them adequately,” said Amin Nasser, chief executive of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, to applause in the room.

Nasser dismissed projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that global demand for oil and gas will peak by 2030, claiming that rising energy costs mean that people will require “the importance of oil and gas security” rather than shift to renewables.

“In fact, in the real world, the current transition strategy is visibly failing on most fronts,” Nasser added, criticizing solar, wind and electric vehicles for what he said was a minimal impact in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“And, despite our starring role in global prosperity, our industry is painted as transition’s arch-enemy,” Nasser complained.

This skepticism was echoed by other leading executives at the conference, which gathers industry leaders and politicians in Texas’s oily heartland. Meg O’Neill, chief executive of Woodside Energy, said that the transition to clean energy cannot “happen at an unrealistic pace”, predicting that cleaner fuels could take up to 40 years to develop.

“It has become emotional,” O’Neill said of the climate debate. “And when things are emotional, it becomes more difficult to have a pragmatic conversation.”

“If we rush or if things go the wrong way, we’ll have a crisis that we will never forget,” warned Jean Paul Prates, chief executive of Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil corporation, about the shift to clean energy.

The comments were swiftly denounced by climate campaigners.

Those in the industry “work night and day to torpedo a transition to renewable energy and then have the audacity to critique the slowness of the transition itself,” said Jeff Ordower, North America director of 350.org. “Cera Week should highlight a global vision toward a clean and equitable future, and instead, we get talking points from the 1970s.”

“We should be skeptical of any solutions touted by the industry because it’s clear they don’t have a real interest in halting the climate crisis,” Ordower added.

The conference, which has the “multi-dimensional, multi-speed and multi-fuel energy transition” as its theme, is being held to a backdrop of several major oil and gas companies reversing their plans to cut production and watering down targets to eliminate greenhouse gases, even as they bask in near-record profits.

Darren Woods, the chief executive of Exxon, who recently said the public is unwilling to pay for a world with less carbon pollution, has used Cera Week to instead talk up the prospects of carbon capture and hydrogen technologies, which the industry sees as acceptable avenues for government subsidy that do not threaten the central business model of drilling for oil and gas.

Scientists are clear, however, that the world needs to get to net zero emissions by the mid-point of this century to avoid disastrous heatwaves, droughts, floods and other climate-driven impacts and so far no technology is able to ameliorate the primary task of not burning more oil, gas and coal.

According to the IEA, which has called the fossil-fuel industry “a marginal force at best” in investing in the transition to clean energy, oil and gas use would have to decline by more than 75% by 2050 if the world is to keep to the internationally agreed goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C beyond pre-industrial times.

This would require the curtailing of an unprecedented boom in gas infrastructure along the US’s Gulf of Mexico coast, which Joe Biden’s administration recently sought to dampen by announcing a pause in new exports of liquified natural gas from these facilities. At Cera Week, however, Jennifer Granholm, Biden’s energy secretary, said that the pause will be “long in the rear-view mirror” in a year’s time.

In Houston, climate activists, including those who staged a mock funeral march outside the conference on Tuesday to represent communities blighted by oil and gas development, said the industry executives had shown their true intentions at the gathering.

“If you look at their actions, it’s clear that not only are they not committed to reducing emissions, they’ve actually come to Cera Week to continue promoting fossil fuel production and extraction and delaying the transition to a just, clean energy future,” said Josh Eisenfeld, campaign manager of corporate accountability at Earthworks.

Aly Tharp, a campaigner at GreenFaith, said activists had been purposely barred from registering to attend the event, leaving them to voice their objections outside the venue.

“I have a moral obligation to disrupt the systematic poisoning of our planet being caused by fossil fuels,” she said. “These harms need to be seen and understood and not left out of the conversation.”

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Clermont locals pushed for this Queensland mine. Now Adani is fighting for the right not to employ them

The state rescinded its decision over Carmichael mine fly-in, fly-out jobs but it’s unlikely to be the end of the dispute

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When Adani’s north Queensland coalmine obtained its final approvals in 2019, the residents of Clermont held an impromptu celebration at the Leo hotel.

“Our town needs it, everyone’s passionate about it, it will be great for the community. A welcome, welcome thing,” one local at the pub told the ABC.

In some exaggerated versions of the story, Clermont is the “little town that played a huge role” in the 2019 election result, after locals helped organise a counter-protest when the Stop Adani convoy rolled into town.

More than four years later, the miner and the Queensland government have become embroiled in a legal dispute about whether Adani has the right to exclude Clermont locals from work at the Carmichael mine.

Under Queensland law, companies are banned from having a 100% fly-in, fly out workforce if there is a “nearby regional community” within 125km.

In September, the assistant coordinator general, Kerry Smeltzer, wrote to Adani advising the company the state had decided to expand the “nearby regional community” area for the Carmichael mine to include the town of Clermont, which is 159km from the coal pits.

“Accordingly, this means the 100% fly-in fly-out prohibition and anti-discrimination in recruitment provisions [which prohibit discrimination against locals applying for jobs] now apply to the project,” Smeltzer said.

Adani responded by taking legal action in the Queensland supreme court in December, seeking a judicial review to overturn the decision, which it claimed was “an improper exercise of power” that restricts its “freedom” to choose “who it may employ and from what locations”.

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Adani said in a statement that it had “Clermont people working in permanent jobs” and businesses from the town working as suppliers, but that it had challenged the decision on the basis it was overreach.

“We brought this legal action because the state’s decision to legislate that we employ Clermont locals was unnecessary overregulation as we already do so and have done so throughout construction and operation of the Carmichael mine,” the company said.

On 14 March, the Queensland government rescinded its determination, citing an “administrative error”. Accordingly, the case lodged by Adani was abandoned, but it is unlikely to be the end of the dispute.

It is understood the state government made no concessions in relation to Adani’s legal arguments and that it might now consider making an amended declaration to extend the nearby regional community area to Clermont.

“The decision made in September 2023 was intended to achieve the objective of the [laws], so residents living nearby the Carmichael coalmine benefit from the operation of the project,” a spokesperson from the coordinator general’s office said.

“The coordinator general will continue to work with both Bravus and Issac regional council to ensure the objectives … are achieved for the community of Clermont”.

The vast majority of staff at the Carmichael mine are fly-in workers based in Rockhampton, Townsville and Mackay. The state government’s initial determination letter says that the decision should not alter the miner’s “commended” focus on employment in larger regional centres but would “mean that residents of Clermont will not be excluded from employment opportunities at the mine”.

In a social impact assessment for the Carmichael mine, Adani noted that the Clermont community had said a “desired outcome” would include a “provision for workers to reside locally”, but that driving or bussing workers to the mine site from the town would only be considered once road access had improved.

The upgrade of a mine access road was a condition of Adani’s Queensland government approvals. Adani says works have begun, but the road is not complete and is behind schedule. The Isaac regional council launched legal action last year, claiming the road was a ““vital connection for rural residents, as well as suppliers and workers” and that Adani had failed to meet its obligations.

The letter from the assistant coordinator general notes the ongoing “delays and disputes” and requests Adani to “give the construction and completion of the road your urgent attention”.

Adani said in a statement that providing employment and contracting opportunities for Clermont “will remain an everyday part of our business”. The company says it is pursing costs for the legal case.

Ellen Roberts, the national coordinator of Lock the Gate, said governments had “bent over backwards to give Adani what it wanted” including public subsidies and the deferral of mining royalties.

“Unfortunately, it seems the Queensland government is continuing the legacy of governments doing all they can to appease Adani by backflipping so quickly on what was a sensible direction.”

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Defendants can appeal decision to keep Fani Willis on Trump case, judge rules

Scott McAfee ruled Fulton county district attorney could continue prosecution of ex-president despite relationship with deputy

The judge overseeing the election interference criminal case against Donald Trump and others in Georgia on Wednesday ruled that the defendants can appeal the decision last week to allow the prosecutor Fani Willis to remain on the case despite a past romantic relationship with her deputy.

Last Friday the judge, Scott McAfee, in Georgia ruled that the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, could continue to head the prosecution of Trump for trying to undermine the 2020 presidential election in the state, as long as the top deputy agreed to step down.

The deputy, the special prosecutor Nathan Wade, with whom Willis had a romantic relationship, resigned on Friday, clearing the way for Willis to continue.

Now the judge will allow an appeal, according to a new court filing.

Reuters contributed reporting

More details soon …

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In his statement announcing his resignation, Leo Varadkar said it’s time to move on.

I’ve learned so much about so many things, met so many people who I’d never have got to meet, been to places I would never have seen both home and abroad.

And I am deeply grateful for it – and despite the challenges, would wholeheartedly recommend a career in politics to anyone who’s considering it.

However, politicians are human beings and we have our limitations. We give it everything until we can’t anymore. And then we have to move on.

Varadkar also said he has nothing lined up and no definite plans but he is “really looking forward to having the time to think about them.”

States push ‘fetal personhood’ bills despite outrage at Alabama IVF ruling

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have considered efforts to give legal rights and protections to embryos and fetuses

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states have considered efforts to endow embryos or fetuses with legal rights and protections since the start of the year, and at least three states have advanced such “fetal personhood” legislation since February, when an Alabama supreme court decision ruling that frozen embryos are “extrauterine children” unleashed national outrage.

The Alabama state legislature responded to the repercussions of that ruling – which led several of the state’s in vitro fertilization (IVF) providers to halt their work – by passing a bill to protect providers’ ability to offer that treatment. Yet, just hours after the legislature passed those protections, Republicans in the Iowa statehouse passed a fetal personhood bill that amends state law to criminalize causing the “death of an unborn person”.

An “unborn person”, according to the Iowa bill, is “an individual organism of the species homo sapiens from fertilization to live birth”. Such a definition would include frozen embryos, which are eggs that have been fertilized by sperm. If passed by the Republicans who control the Iowa state senate, the bill could endanger IVF access in the state. But because the language of the bill is so broad, prosecutors may also try to apply it to a wide range of circumstances. Causing the “death of an unborn person” intentionally through acts like murder, assault or sexual abuse would be a Class A felony, punishable by a life sentence. Doing so unintentionally would be a Class B felony. The bill even specifies that unintentionally causing “the death of an unborn person while drag racing” would be a Class D felony.

State legislators have also recently pushed fetal personhood language in other, less conspicuous areas of law. In early March, the Kentucky state senate passed a bill to establish the right to demand child support for fetuses; that bill has passed to the statehouse, which, like the senate, is dominated by a Republican supermajority.

That same week, the Republican-controlled Utah state legislature sent the governor there a bill that would allow fetuses to seek legal restitution if the fetus’s parent has been killed or injured.

“Fetal personhood exists in some form or fashion in pretty much every state,” said Dana Sussman, deputy executive director of Pregnancy Justice, an advocacy organization supporting people who face criminalization over their pregnancies. She warned of the sweeping effects of such language even in what seem like narrow contexts. “We have to grapple with the implications, because when it’s in law in one area … we see the creep into other areas of law. Judges will say: ‘Well, it’s a person in this context. So why isn’t it a person in that context?’”

As of 2022, at least 11 states – including Alabama – have what Pregnancy Justice identified as “extremely broad personhood language that could be read to affect all state laws, civil and criminal”, according to a brief by the organization. “Those are the ones that really have the power in their language itself to increase criminalization of pregnant people, to threaten IVF, to threaten forms of contraception and obviously to ban abortion,” Sussman said.

Much opposition to abortion springs from the belief that life begins at conception, and the fetal personhood movement is a natural outgrowth of anti-abortion organizing. But for decades, Roe v Wade curbed the movement’s influence, allowing mainstream Republicans to reap the votes of anti-abortion activists and fetal personhood proponents without having to reckon with the real-world consequences of their policies. Now that the US supreme court has overturned Roe, these seemingly fringe movements are moving into the mainstream and their policies’ consequences are materializing – to many Republicans’ surprise and voters’ outrage.

Fetal personhood has seeped into contexts that may surprise even the people who support it. In Missouri, which has broad fetal personhood language on the books, people convicted of child molestation and statutory rape have argued that that language means courts should base an underage victim’s age not on their date of birth, but on the date of their conception – making them nine months older.

Mary Ziegler, a professor at the University of California at Davis who studies the legal history of reproduction, said many people on the right have never been forced to confront the consequences of fetal personhood’s sweeping impact.

“That’s really what you’re seeing play out in real time,” said Ziegler, who is writing a book about fetal personhood. “Republicans and frankly even people in the anti-abortion movement never really had to answer any of these questions before.”

Several of the bills now under consideration in state legislatures were originally introduced in 2023 but could still become law, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which shared a tally of fetal personhood bills with the Guardian. However, since the Alabama IVF ruling in mid-February – arguably the highest-profile illustration to date of the practical effects of fetal personhood language – related bills have died in Florida, West Virginia and Colorado.

At least 38 states also have “fetal homicide” laws, which establish that homicide charges can be brought for the loss of a pregnancy. Although the mainstream anti-abortion movement contends that it does not want to punish women for their pregnancy outcomes, women in states such as California, Indiana and Texas have faced feticide and murder charges over their own pregnancy losses.

Pregnancy Justice has also uncovered more than 600 cases, filed between 2006 and 2022, where people in Alabama faced criminal consequences over their pregnancies. That’s more than any other state in the country.

In 2018, Alabama became the first state in the country to enshrine a fetal personhood clause into its state constitution, after voters backed a measure to recognize “the rights of the unborn child”, including the right to life. The Alabama supreme court ruling in February cited that clause in the state constitution as a justification for its judgment.

For fetal personhood activists, the ultimate goal is to convince the US supreme court to take up a fetal personhood case, according to Ziegler. Many activists want the court to rule that the 14th amendment, with its guarantees of due process of law and equal protection, covers embryos and fetuses. Such a ruling would establish fetal personhood on a federal scale.

“The idea is to have as many state laws and as many state decisions as you can get saying that a fetus is a person in various contexts, so it becomes more and more incongruous that a fetus is not a person in the context of constitutional law,” Ziegler said. “To say to the court: ‘Don’t you want to harmonize constitutional law with all these other areas of the law? Don’t you see how the states are clamoring for this, the way they were clamoring for the overruling of Roe?’

“It’s part of the very long game,” she said.

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