The Guardian 2024-03-24 10:01:19


Tim Wilson defeats two women to win Liberal preselection in Goldstein and set up rematch against teal Zoe Daniel

Former MP held the seat in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs from 2016 to 2022

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

The former MP Tim Wilson has won preselection to become the Liberal party candidate in his former seat of Goldstein, setting up a rematch with the “teal” independent Zoe Daniel.

Wilson, who held the seat in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs between 2016 and 2022, won the vote of Liberal party members on Sunday afternoon, beating out two female challengers, Colleen Harkin and Stephanie Hunt.

Harkin, a research fellow at the conservative thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs, had formerly run for the Liberal party in the neighbouring federal seat of Macnamara, while Hunt is a lawyer and former staffer to the former ministers Julie Bishop and Marise Payne.

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

About 300 members voted in the ballot, which was held at Kingston Arts Centre in Moorabbin, after hearing from the three candidates.

According to Liberal party sources, Wilson did not win a majority of votes in the first round, meaning a second round was required.

Wilson was one of six MPs to lose once-safe Liberal seats to progressive independents – known as “teals” – at the 2022 election and is the only one to put his hand up to run at the next poll, which is due by the middle of 2025.

In a statement issued on Sunday afternoon, the Victorian Liberals endorsed his candidacy.

“Tim has been driven to run for Goldstein at the next federal election by his deeply principled commitment to integrity in public service and his belief that the Goldstein community is worth fighting for,” it read.

“He is committed to strengthening the pathway to home ownership for young residents in Goldstein to make owning their own home a reality, to ensure they have the opportunity to build strong families and strong communities.”

The former MP, who is undertaking a PhD in economics, said he would “fight every day to deliver real cost-of-living relief”.

“Families are struggling to pay their mortgages,” he said. “Grandparents are having to pick up their grandchildren’s school fees.”

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, congratulated Wilson in a statement shared on social media.

“Tim understands the challenges people are facing with mortgage costs and power bills soaring under Labor and will work every day to deliver real cost-of-living relief for families and small businesses,” Dutton said.

Before the 2022 election, Goldstein had been held by the Liberals since its creation in 1984. It takes in well-off beachside suburbs including Brighton, Hampton, Sandringham and Beaumaris, as well as Bentleigh, Ormond and McKinnon and parts of Cheltenham, Highett and Elsternwick.

Daniel, a former ABC journalist, now holds the seat Goldstein on a 2.9% margin. She won in 2022 with a primary vote of 34.5%, while Wilson’s primary vote dropped by more than 12%.

In a statement she acknowledged Wilson’s preselection, describing it as a “party decision made in what they believe is the best interest of their party”.

“I remain very proud to be a community-backed independent, acting in the best interest of my community, and I will run again,” Daniel said.

On Saturday Amelia Hamer was preselected to become the Liberal party’s candidate for Josh Frydenberg’s former seat of Kooyong.

The 31-year-old is an executive at a fintech company and the grand-niece of the former Victorian premier Rupert “Dick” Hamer.

Last year Frydenberg, a former treasurer, ruled out a run in his old seat, instead pursuing a corporate career with the investment bank Goldman Sachs.

In New South Wales the party selected the former state minister Andrew Constance to run again in Gilmore – the most marginal seat in the country, held by Labor on a margin of 0.2%.

Both Constance and Hamer raised the cost of living as an issue they will pursue in the lead-up to the 2025 election.

Explore more on these topics

  • Liberal party
  • Australian politics
  • Tim Wilson
  • Independents
  • Melbourne
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Analysis

Liberal minority rule, Lambie alliance or Labor ‘traffic light’ coalition: where to now for Tasmanian politics?

Adam Morton

As the dust settles from an unnecessary election, premier Jeremy Rockliff has some serious work to do to form a stable government

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

Jeremy Rockliff brought this on himself.

The Tasmanian premier – the leader of Australia’s sole Liberal government – called an election a year earlier than required, believing he could persuade voters to reject the “chaos” of minority government and reward his party with a fourth straight majority victory. Tasmanians didn’t buy it.

Before the election, Rockliff was struggling to deal with the demands of two ex-Liberal MPs who quit the party and became independents. That looks a much simpler ask than what lies ahead.

It could be weeks before the final makeup of the Tasmanian parliament is known but the Liberals will be well short of the 18 MPs needed to form a government in their own right. They will have at least 14, probably 15.

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

It means Rockliff will need to win support from members of a multi-coloured and expanded crossbench to survive.

The ex-Liberals who caused him so much grief in the last term, John Tucker and Lara Alexander, are both gone, rejected by their electorates. But the parliament is likely to include five Greens, two or three new MPs representing the Jacqui Lambie Network and a couple of independents with generally progressive views and links to the Labor party.

It makes Rockliff’s exultant declaration on Saturday night that the early results looked “like a fourth consecutive win for the Liberal party” tone deaf, at best. Tasmanians collectively chose to give other MPs the final say on that.

What is clear is that the Liberals will have first stab at forming a government. Labor cannot win more than 11 seats, and the Labor leader, Rebecca White, said on Sunday that convention dictated that Rockliff would get the first opportunity. The Liberal leader said he had begun the negotiation process, having spoken with the federal senator Jacqui Lambie and some of her candidates, and contacted the likely independents David O’Byrne and Kristie Johnston.

What could happen from here? We know that Rockliff will have some serious persuading to do.

The arrival of JLN is uncharted terrain for the Tasmanian parliament. The party ran with few, if any, policies and has no membership base to shape its views. It exists solely due to Lambie’s popularity, mostly in the state’s north, as a colourful and blunt outsider politician who promises to stick it up the establishment. Little is known about how the candidates who could be elected in her name would handle that responsibility.

At the moment Lambie is Rockliff’s main contact point for negotiations and she has made no secret of her unhappiness with the premier.

She told the ABC on Saturday that his government had been “crap”. And she expressed anger over the Liberals’ sharp criticism of her in the campaign. They included a Liberal-endorsed attack website set up to look like, and with a similar url to, the actual JLN site.

Many political observers, including some Liberals, thought this was madness. The attacks came as every poll suggested the government would not be re-elected in its own right and would likely have to rely on JLN MPs. A central question now is whether this can be quickly patched up or will ultimately be seen as an extraordinary act of self-harm on the part of Rockliff and his advisers.

What might happen from here? No predictions, but let’s consider some scenarios.

Rockliff has ruled out negotiating with the Greens, and says he will not compromise on the so-called “2030 strong plan” released during the campaign. Taken at face value, it sounds like his starting position with JLN, O’Byrne and Johnston is that they should agree to back his agenda – and maybe they would be thrown a win or two in return.

The best that can be said about this approach is: good luck with that. Rockliff already tried it with Tucker and Alexander and failed – and they were elected on the Liberal platform as Liberal MPs. That won’t apply to the new crossbench.

Another possibility would be for the Liberals to go into a formal coalition with crossbench members, including potentially offering ministries to MPs outside the party – but Rockliff has already ruled this out.

The most pragmatic approach would be to reach a deal with some of the crossbench on supply and confidence to ensure the government’s survival, and for other legislation to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It would make for an interesting and, if acted on in good faith, genuinely democratic parliament.

Little in the Liberals’ behaviour of the past year suggests they are open to this more collaborative model or that they have the nimbleness required to manage it. It would raise fresh challenges for Rockliff’s leadership, which may come under threat after Saturday’s result and as the Liberal party room becomes increasingly conservative (see: the election of former senator Eric Abetz). But it may be their only choice if they want to govern.

A less likely scenario is one that could eventuate if the Liberals’ attempts to form a government collapse and Labor then drops its pledge not to deal with the Greens and attempts to stitch together a traffic-light coalition from across the crossbench.

This idea – what the Germans call an Ampelkoalition – is obviously not the norm in Australia and would be likely to face consistent challenges to its legitimacy. Tasmanians have been here before, including when Labor and the Greens governed in coalition after the 2010 poll despite the Liberals getting the most votes. It didn’t end well.

Views within Labor differ on this, and White seemed to leave open the possibility on Saturday night before walking it back on Sunday. Significant parts of the party would rather leave it to the Liberals to try and fail – and then go to another election, if it came to that.

The reality is that winning a majority of seats in Tasmania’s newly expanded 35-member parliament, with seven members each in five multi-member electorates, is going to be increasingly difficult.

White made this point on Saturday, arguing that the results showed “a significant shift in the way politics operates in Tasmania”. “We can expect to see this happen again and again. It is very likely Tasmanians will continue to elect minority governments,” she said.

It means politicians in the state are likely to have to learn to operate differently for the system to work. But old ways are slow to die: don’t expect change to come overnight.

Explore more on these topics

  • Tasmanian election 2024
  • Tasmanian politics
  • Tasmania
  • Liberal party
  • Jacqui Lambie
  • Labor party
  • Australian Greens
  • analysis
Share

Reuse this content

Interview

‘Mum knew what was going on’: Brigitte Höss on living at Auschwitz, in the Zone of Interest family

Thomas Harding

Her father was Rudolf Höss, the camp’s commandant. He was arrested by the Jewish great-uncle of the writer Thomas Harding, to whom Brigitte gave this, her final interview – and confession

It was the morning of 16 December 2021, a week before Christmas. Across from me sat Brigitte, the daughter of Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz. I was here to ask what life was like next to the camp.

Brigitte was 88 years old. With pale lips, thin arms and wisps of white hair, she was frailer than she had been the last time I saw her. Her voice was weaker too, her speech more languid and halting. But she was still able to think clearly and her eyes still sparkled with life.

We were sitting in Brigitte’s curtains-drawn house in the suburbs of Washington DC. The neighbourhood was full of senators, lobbyists and lawyers. The streets were wide and lined with trees that had long lost their leaves.

Next to me stood a scraggy Christmas tree. From its branches hung homemade ornaments that decades before Brigitte had brought from Germany. “Mutti made many of those,” she told me with a fond smile. Mutti was Hedwig Höss, the wife of the commandant of Auschwitz.

I had first interviewed Brigitte in 2013. Up till then, she had said little to her children about Auschwitz. She had never before spoken to a journalist. It had taken me three years to persuade her to talk with me.

In all, I spoke with Brigitte for more than 20 hours. This became the basis for an article I wrote for the Washington Post which was syndicated around the world. It was the first time that one of Rudolf Höss’s children had chosen to speak publicly, the first time that one of them had opened up about life in the villa next to the camp.

During these interviews, Brigitte had provided the basic facts: in 1940, she had been seven years old when she arrived at the camp with her family. She had remained at the villa till 1944 when they moved to Berlin for the final months of the war.

In April 1945, just before the Soviet army took Berlin, her father had gone on the run. He took on the identity of a seaman and worked at a farm near Flensburg in northern Germany. Brigitte, her mother and siblings hid in a nearby sugar factory.

A year later, a captain from the British army was given the job of searching for Brigitte’s father. This captain happened to be my great-uncle, Hanns Alexander, who was a German Jew from Berlin. He found Brigitte and the others in the sugar factory and demanded to know where her father was hiding. Brigitte told me that he shouted so hard at her that for the rest of her life she had headaches. With information provided by Hedwig, he tracked down Rudolf Höss and arrested him. I later wrote a book about this story, Hanns and Rudolf.

Brigitte left Germany in the 1950s and started a new life in Spain. For three years, she was a model for Balenciaga in Madrid, where she met her Irish-American husband, an engineer. They moved to Washington in the 1970s and Brigitte worked in a fashion boutique for 35 years.

In the years since carrying out these interviews, I came to realise that there were gaps in the history. Episodes that needed completing. Questions that needed to be answered. I wanted to get Brigitte on the record one last time before it was too late. For the sake of history. It would be one final interview.

So it was that eight years later, in December 2021, I was once again sitting in Brigitte’s living room in the gloomy and cluttered house outside Washington DC. “What was your first memory?” I started by asking. “Auschwitz,” she said. “I don’t remember anything before that.”

And her siblings, what were they like? “I was closest to my younger brother, Hans Jürgen,” she said. “I had most fun with him. I went horseback riding with my sister.” Brigitte slept in the villa with her sister Heidetraud. Her two brothers Klaus and Hans Jürgen shared a bedroom while baby Annegret slept in a little basket in a room with a nanny who looked after her. “I remember we had fun,” she said, “We had a little swimming pool in the backyard. And my mother had a beautiful garden house with flowers. She loved flowers. I inherited that, I love flowers too.” They also had pets. Two tortoises called Jumbo and Dilla and two big dalmatians.

But she was always aware of danger. When there was an air-raid warning they had to dash to the basement. “We had a little suitcase next to our bed with clothes in it,” she recalled. “We picked it up and went downstairs when my mom said: ‘Let’s go downstairs.’”

Her mother and father were very close, Brigitte told me. “They loved each other.” At the weekends, her father didn’t have to go to what she called “work”. He could spend time with his family.

“He was a wonderful dad,” she said. “On Sundays he smoked a cigar through the whole house. We had breakfast, lunch or dinner, like a nice family.” She then added: “We didn’t even know what his work was really.”

One of her favourite times of the year was Christmas. Her parents would hang ornaments on the tree and when they were finished her father would ring a bell. Brigitte made a ting-a-ling sound when she recounted this story.

“Dad then opened the door. And there was a tree with all the lights on, real white candles. And so you could look at it. But first we had to eat Christmas Eve dinner. And then after this we could get under the tree. Always there were real cookies. And we could get some down. And eat some. Not all, just a couple.”

Brigitte said she knew that the people who worked in the villa and garden were prisoners in the camp. “They were always very happy,” she said. “They called my mother, the Angel of Auschwitz.” Seeing my surprise, Brigitte said: “My mom was just a nice person. Period.”

In the 1970s, Hedwig visited Brigitte in Washington but they rarely discussed Auschwitz. “It was too painful,” she said. “I’m sure my mom knew what was going on [in the camp]. She was very sad about it. But she couldn’t help. She just tried to be nice with the children and with my father.”

Before he was hanged in Auschwitz, in April 1947, Rudolf Höss wrote his final words to Brigitte and her sister Heidetraud. I read this to Brigitte:

“You are yet too young to learn the extent of the hard fate dished out to us. But you especially, my dear good girls, are specially obligated to stand at your poor unfortunate mother’s side and with love assist her in every way you can. Surround her with all your childlike love from your heart and show her how much you love her.”

“That just sounds like my dad,” she said when I finished. “I love it.”

So what was her father like? I asked. “He was a wonderful, absolute wonderful person,” she said. “I couldn’t have wished for a better father.”

Was he affectionate, I asked?

“Oh, yes,” she replied. “He was always hugging. At night, he would give us a kiss and tell us: ‘Schlaf schön Nacht meine Kinder’ [Sleep well my children].”

Brigitte paused. “Later, we found out what’s going on. I don’t really like to talk about it because I didn’t like this idea what they did. But I know it was not my dad’s fault.” She paused again, before adding: “I don’t think he knew what he got into when he started. Because he was very unhappy many times. And when I talked with my mom after all this happened, you know, she told me he was very unhappy man.”

I pushed her on this. How could her father be an “absolute wonderful person” if he was responsible for the murder of over a million women, men and children?

“Well …,” she stammered.

“That’s a fact. Isn’t it?” I said.

“Yeah,” she conceded. “But I don’t think … I mean I don’t see it like this.”

“But it’s true. You do agree it’s true? You know, it’s true?” I pushed.

“Well, it happened,” she said weakly.

“It happened at Auschwitz?” I said to be clear.

“Yes,” she said, her voice barely audible.

“And your father was the commandant?” I continued.

“Yes,” she said again.

“So he was responsible?”

“Like I said, things happen sometimes.” She then waited a moment, and added: “Maybe I don’t want to know certain things.”

“But it’s true,” I pressed. “You know that he was responsible. You do know that?”

“I still don’t believe it,” she still resisted, “because there were people on top of him, who made him do this.”

“But he still did it.”

“Well, yes, I guess,” she at last conceded, “I have to say yes.”

And with that the interview was over. I packed up my recording equipment, put away my notes and said goodbye.

Less than two years later, in October 2023, Brigitte died. The only one of her siblings still alive is Annegret, but she was just a baby when they lived at the camp. And so with Brigitte’s death we have lost the last person to remember what life was like for the commandant’s family who lived in the villa in Auschwitz.

On 10 March 2024, The Zone of Interest won two Oscars for best international feature film and best sound. This film tells the story of what life was like for the Höss family in the villa next to Auschwitz. It was released after Brigitte died.

I am therefore glad that I was able to record her testimony on the record for the sake of history, for the sake of anyone who wants to understand how human beings are capable of carrying out such an atrocity, for anyone who wants to stop such things from happening again.

Thomas Harding is the author of Hanns and Rudolf (Windmill, £12.99)

You can follow him on X: @thomasharding

Explore more on these topics

  • Holocaust
  • The Observer
  • Nazism
  • The Zone of Interest
  • Second world war
  • Germany
  • Europe
  • Family
  • features
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Liberal minority rule, Lambie alliance or Labor ‘traffic light’ coalition: where to now for Tasmanian politics?
  • Poland activates air force as western Ukraine and Kyiv come under ‘massive’ Russian attack
  • ‘Mum knew what was going on’: Brigitte Höss on living at Auschwitz, in the Zone of Interest family
  • The sauna secret: why Finland is the happiest country in the world
  • Australia beat Bangladesh by six wickets: second women’s one-day international – live

On a garden bench, amid a sea of daffodils: how Kate dropped her bombshell news

Royal fans hope that news of princess’s cancer diagnosis will end the online storm

There was no carpet of roses outside Windsor Castle yesterday, no bunches of daffodils blocking the entrance to Kensington Palace – just an occasional bouquet. The royal family wanted things to be business as usual after the Princess of Wales revealed her cancer diagnosis the day before, and the public has been keen to oblige.

Tourists watched the changing of the guard at Windsor, while visitors in London trooped into Kensington Palace to see the regalia of past monarchs, or posed outside for selfies.

The sense of normality is vital for the royal family at a moment of high vulnerability. Little more than a year after the death of the Queen, King Charles is focusing on his own cancer struggle. The Prince of Wales is juggling royal duties with caring for his wife and their three children, and there is no sign of an end to William’s estrangement from Prince Harry.

Among the more junior royals, Sarah, Duchess of York is also dealing with cancer, while the public is being reminded of Prince Andrew’s past behaviour by two new films. The king’s optimism about reinventing the royals as a slimmed-down, modernised monarchy during his reign could be soured by a string of anni horribiles.

The Royal Household will be heartened by the well-wishers at the royal residences, as well as the world leaders and celebrities, sports stars and charities who praised Catherine for speaking openly about her shock at learning of her illness, her preventative chemotherapy, and the trouble she and William had taken to explain to their three children what it meant.

At Kensington Palace, Terry Jackson, who had come to visit from his home on the Fylde coast in Lancashire with his granddaughter Ellie, said it was shame Kate had felt the need to release the statement.

“It has been tough for them,” the 66-year-old retired kitchen fitter said. “The king as well, with his cancer scare. But, unfortunately, that is what they are in. If they don’t say anything, they get it. If they do, they get it.”

Katie Nicholl, author of The New Royals and Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent, said she hoped it would finally end “the wild, and frankly, salacious and irresponsible conspiracy theories”.

“It really shouldn’t have taken the Princess of Wales having to issue an unprecedented personal video message to do that,” she said. “Although that’s not the reason she has done this – she’s done it because she wanted to address the public in her own way, on her own terms, in a timeline that works for her and her young family.”

At the start of the year, the royal family was only a few months into the king’s plan to reinvent itself as a slimmed-down, modernised monarchy. But those plans were dismantled in early January when Kate was admitted in secret to the London Clinic for abdominal surgery, a week after her 42nd birthday.

The next day, 17 January, Kensington Palace revealed she had undergone an operation and barely more than an hour later, Buckingham Palace followed suit by announcing that Charles would also go into the private hospital for surgery on an enlarged prostate. Neither was said to have cancer.

Gossip about the health of the king and future queen began to seep across social media. The king’s cancer diagnosis, on 5 February, provoked a flurry of interest in cancer charities but the absence of information about Catherine created space for speculation.

People on social media tried at first to calculate her condition from the scant details about her treatment – newly minted experts on hysterectomies, tummy tucks and bowel obstructions. But the digitally manipulated Mother’s Day photography unleashed a torrent of conspiracies.

That all came to an end on Friday evening when Kensington Palace released the video message, recorded at the Frogmore House estate in Windsor two days earlier by a BBC camera crew. She sat on a bench, shining in the spring sun with an early bloom of daffodils behind her, and told the world she had cancer.

“Most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK,” she said. “As I have said to them; I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body and spirits.”

Simon Lewis, former communications secretary to the late queen, said the “unprecedented” message was powerful, brave and dignified. “We now know why they wanted to wait until now, because the children are out of school,” he said on the BBC’s Today programme . Lewis added that people in public positions should not be forced to reveal details of their private lives, but David Yelland, the former Sun editor and Lewis’s co-host of the When It Hits the Fan podcast, said it was not so simple for the royals.

“A vacuum of months went by and it was filled by social media,” he said. “If we go forward six, nine months, that vacuum will open up again and social media will very quickly come in again, so we will need to be updated in some way.” Being in the thoughts of millions of people was tough, Yelland said. “The palace needs to think about how to gently fill that vacuum without putting any pressure on Kate.”

Her illness and treatment mean that the bulk of public-facing royal duties will continue to fall to Queen Camilla, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Edinburgh. They face the challenges of distracting those determined to conjure up drama online and inspiring a new generation of royal devotees.

At Windsor Castle, Ann Anderson, from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, said the princess’s video message had been “absolutely tremendous”. “How can you sit on a bench like that at that age and just talk about your health?” she said. “My heart goes out to her, my heart goes out to William. Hasn’t he been through enough? He really doesn’t need any more.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Catherine, Princess of Wales
  • The Observer
  • King Charles III
  • Monarchy
  • Cancer
  • Health
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Liberal minority rule, Lambie alliance or Labor ‘traffic light’ coalition: where to now for Tasmanian politics?
  • Poland activates air force as western Ukraine and Kyiv come under ‘massive’ Russian attack
  • ‘Mum knew what was going on’: Brigitte Höss on living at Auschwitz, in the Zone of Interest family
  • The sauna secret: why Finland is the happiest country in the world
  • Australia beat Bangladesh by six wickets: second women’s one-day international – live

On a garden bench, amid a sea of daffodils: how Kate dropped her bombshell news

Royal fans hope that news of princess’s cancer diagnosis will end the online storm

There was no carpet of roses outside Windsor Castle yesterday, no bunches of daffodils blocking the entrance to Kensington Palace – just an occasional bouquet. The royal family wanted things to be business as usual after the Princess of Wales revealed her cancer diagnosis the day before, and the public has been keen to oblige.

Tourists watched the changing of the guard at Windsor, while visitors in London trooped into Kensington Palace to see the regalia of past monarchs, or posed outside for selfies.

The sense of normality is vital for the royal family at a moment of high vulnerability. Little more than a year after the death of the Queen, King Charles is focusing on his own cancer struggle. The Prince of Wales is juggling royal duties with caring for his wife and their three children, and there is no sign of an end to William’s estrangement from Prince Harry.

Among the more junior royals, Sarah, Duchess of York is also dealing with cancer, while the public is being reminded of Prince Andrew’s past behaviour by two new films. The king’s optimism about reinventing the royals as a slimmed-down, modernised monarchy during his reign could be soured by a string of anni horribiles.

The Royal Household will be heartened by the well-wishers at the royal residences, as well as the world leaders and celebrities, sports stars and charities who praised Catherine for speaking openly about her shock at learning of her illness, her preventative chemotherapy, and the trouble she and William had taken to explain to their three children what it meant.

At Kensington Palace, Terry Jackson, who had come to visit from his home on the Fylde coast in Lancashire with his granddaughter Ellie, said it was shame Kate had felt the need to release the statement.

“It has been tough for them,” the 66-year-old retired kitchen fitter said. “The king as well, with his cancer scare. But, unfortunately, that is what they are in. If they don’t say anything, they get it. If they do, they get it.”

Katie Nicholl, author of The New Royals and Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent, said she hoped it would finally end “the wild, and frankly, salacious and irresponsible conspiracy theories”.

“It really shouldn’t have taken the Princess of Wales having to issue an unprecedented personal video message to do that,” she said. “Although that’s not the reason she has done this – she’s done it because she wanted to address the public in her own way, on her own terms, in a timeline that works for her and her young family.”

At the start of the year, the royal family was only a few months into the king’s plan to reinvent itself as a slimmed-down, modernised monarchy. But those plans were dismantled in early January when Kate was admitted in secret to the London Clinic for abdominal surgery, a week after her 42nd birthday.

The next day, 17 January, Kensington Palace revealed she had undergone an operation and barely more than an hour later, Buckingham Palace followed suit by announcing that Charles would also go into the private hospital for surgery on an enlarged prostate. Neither was said to have cancer.

Gossip about the health of the king and future queen began to seep across social media. The king’s cancer diagnosis, on 5 February, provoked a flurry of interest in cancer charities but the absence of information about Catherine created space for speculation.

People on social media tried at first to calculate her condition from the scant details about her treatment – newly minted experts on hysterectomies, tummy tucks and bowel obstructions. But the digitally manipulated Mother’s Day photography unleashed a torrent of conspiracies.

That all came to an end on Friday evening when Kensington Palace released the video message, recorded at the Frogmore House estate in Windsor two days earlier by a BBC camera crew. She sat on a bench, shining in the spring sun with an early bloom of daffodils behind her, and told the world she had cancer.

“Most importantly, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be OK,” she said. “As I have said to them; I am well and getting stronger every day by focusing on the things that will help me heal; in my mind, body and spirits.”

Simon Lewis, former communications secretary to the late queen, said the “unprecedented” message was powerful, brave and dignified. “We now know why they wanted to wait until now, because the children are out of school,” he said on the BBC’s Today programme . Lewis added that people in public positions should not be forced to reveal details of their private lives, but David Yelland, the former Sun editor and Lewis’s co-host of the When It Hits the Fan podcast, said it was not so simple for the royals.

“A vacuum of months went by and it was filled by social media,” he said. “If we go forward six, nine months, that vacuum will open up again and social media will very quickly come in again, so we will need to be updated in some way.” Being in the thoughts of millions of people was tough, Yelland said. “The palace needs to think about how to gently fill that vacuum without putting any pressure on Kate.”

Her illness and treatment mean that the bulk of public-facing royal duties will continue to fall to Queen Camilla, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Edinburgh. They face the challenges of distracting those determined to conjure up drama online and inspiring a new generation of royal devotees.

At Windsor Castle, Ann Anderson, from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, said the princess’s video message had been “absolutely tremendous”. “How can you sit on a bench like that at that age and just talk about your health?” she said. “My heart goes out to her, my heart goes out to William. Hasn’t he been through enough? He really doesn’t need any more.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Catherine, Princess of Wales
  • The Observer
  • King Charles III
  • Monarchy
  • Cancer
  • Health
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Liberal minority rule, Lambie alliance or Labor ‘traffic light’ coalition: where to now for Tasmanian politics?
  • Poland activates air force as western Ukraine and Kyiv come under ‘massive’ Russian attack
  • ‘Mum knew what was going on’: Brigitte Höss on living at Auschwitz, in the Zone of Interest family
  • The sauna secret: why Finland is the happiest country in the world
  • Australia beat Bangladesh by six wickets: second women’s one-day international – live

Princess of Wales ‘enormously touched’ by messages of support after cancer diagnosis

Kensington Palace says Catherine and Prince William are ‘extremely moved by the public’s warmth and support’

The Princess of Wales and her husband, Prince William, have been “enormously touched” by the messages of support received since she announced her cancer diagnosis, a Kensington Palace spokesperson has said.

Catherine said on Friday she was undergoing preventive chemotherapy after tests done following her major abdominal surgery in January revealed cancer had been present.

The 42-year-old wife of the heir to the throne called the cancer discovery a “huge shock”. The news came as a fresh health blow to the British royal family: King Charles is also undergoing treatment for cancer.

Kate’s statement via a video message, which was filmed at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, triggered an outpouring of support from well-wishers.

“The prince and princess are both enormously touched by the kind messages from people here in the UK, across the commonwealth and around the world in response to Her Royal Highness’s message,” the Kensington Palace spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday.

“They are extremely moved by the public’s warmth and support and are grateful for the understanding of their request for privacy at this time.”

It is not known how long Kate will be receiving treatment but it is understood she may be keen to attend events as and when she feels able to, in line with medical advice, although this will not indicate a return to full-time duties.

William will continue to balance supporting his wife and family and maintaining his official duties, as he has done since her operation.

The prince is due to return to public duties after his children return to school following the Easter break. He and his wife will not attend the royal family’s traditional Easter Sunday service at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel, which the king is hoping to go to with the queen if his health allows.

It is not likely to be a large family gathering or service, according to the Telegraph, as Charles has paused public-facing royal duties.

The palace said Catherine started her chemotherapy treatment in late February. It is understood her public announcement of the news was timed to coincide with the children breaking up from school for the Easter holidays.

The palace said Catherine had wished to provide a medical update in order to put an end to the speculation sparked by her admission to the London Clinic on 16 January for major abdominal surgery. At the time, the palace refused to confirm what Catherine was being treated for, but said the condition was non-cancerous.

The speculation was only fuelled when the first official photograph of the Princess of Wales to be released after her surgery was recalled by some of the world’s biggest picture agencies earlier this month over claims it had been manipulated.

With Reuters and Press Association

Explore more on these topics

  • Catherine, Princess of Wales
  • Monarchy
  • Cancer
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Labor on brink of historic win in SA byelection to snatch former Liberal premier’s seat

Cressida O’Hanlon has significant lead in Dunstan though there are many early votes yet to be counted

Labor’s Cressida O’Hanlon is nervously waiting, hoping to be confirmed as the next member of South Australia’s House of Assembly.

The 51-year-old business mediator is on track to win the seat of Dunstan with a 2.9%, two-party-preferred lead over her Liberal rival Anna Finizio.

No SA government in more than a century has managed to win a seat off the opposition at a byelection but O’Hanlon looks set to achieve a historic victory should pre-poll votes continue to fall her way.

“Tonight we are in an incredible position and it’s thanks to all of you,” she told a room full of volunteers on Saturday night.

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

Attending the launch of a new medical complex on Sunday with O’Hanlon at his side, the South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, declared she was “on the cusp of achieving something quite special”.

The Greens emerged on Sunday as another potential success story, with Katie McCusker polling 22.4% of first-preference votes – an advance of some 9% on the party’s return in the electorate at the 2022 state election.

“If we can replicate the results that we saw in Dunstan last night, we will win the seat of Sturt at the next federal election,” the SA senator Robert Sims said on Sunday.

The federal Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said McCusker’s showing had put the major parties on notice.

With almost half the vote counted, the ABC election analyst Antony Green said O’Hanlon was on track to claim the seat with a 3.4% swing.

Dunstan became the state’s most marginal seat after the former Liberal premier Steven Marshall survived a 6.9% swing against him to hold on by 0.5% at the last election.

The byelection was forced when Marshall resigned in January after 14 years as member for the inner-eastern Adelaide electorate.

More than 8,000 early votes out of an expected 27,000 won’t be counted until Monday.

If the final result confirms a Liberal loss, the state opposition leader, David Speirs, faces a huge task to reassure his party he is the right man to carry it to the next election.

Voters vented their frustrations in byelections in Queensland and the federal seat of Dunkley, with large swings against the government.

The apparent swing towards Labor serves as a huge fillip to Malinauskas as he enters the second half of his first term in power.

Explore more on these topics

  • South Australian politics
  • South Australia
  • Peter Malinauskas
  • Labor party
  • Australian Greens
  • Liberal party
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Thousands rally across Australia in growing push to end native forest logging

Crowds gather in Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and regional centres urging Albanese government to better preserve native wildlife habitats

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

Over 4,000 people have marched across Australia’s capital cities and in regional centres, calling for an end to native forest logging.

Crowds gathered in Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, as well as regional centres of Newcastle, Bega, Kyneton, Lismore and Bellingen, as part of the March in March for Forests organised by the Bob Brown Foundation.

It comes only a week after 3,000 people marched to end forest logging in Hobart, amid increasing pressure on the federal government to protect forests and their inhabitants.

People attended the marches in tree or koala costumes, holding signs calling for the preservation of the habitats of native wildlife.

The foundation organised the marches to urge the prime minister to end native forest logging and securely protect native forests.

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

In a statement, environmentalist Bob Brown urged people to attend the marches, saying Australians “need the forests the most.”

“Right now, when we need forests the most, we are still destroying them. We need to protect and restore native forests” he said.

Jenny Weber, the Bob Brown Foundation’s campaigns manager, said the turnouts reflected a growing understanding among the public of the growing dangers of extinction some native species face.

“People know forests are being logged and confident that the story of the koalas, the greater gliders, the swift parrots, it is all coming home to people that there are literally animals that have been lost and on the path to extinction from logging.”

“People love their Australian wildlife and to think that logging is continuing to destroy their habitats is something that is of great concern to people,” she said.

Last week the New South Wales hosted a “koala summit” looking at the major threats posed to one of Australia’s most popular native species. Bushfires, land clearing and logging were contributing to plummeting populations: in 2022 the government raised the koala’s conservation status to endangered.

Weber said protesters from across the country had expressed concerns at habitats being destroyed, even in places like Adelaide, where there was little connection to forests.

She said the Foundation’s campaign was aimed at the next federal election.

“We are targeting Prime Minister Albanese directly – we want him to know that he can protect native forests securely across Australia and end native forest logging. It doesn’t have to be up to the state.”

“We are building out these nationwide actions until the federal election or until forests are protected,” she said.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young added her voice to the protest, saying more “protectors” were needed.

“We need an end to native forest logging and an end to the destruction of habitat and wildlife. We need more protectors and less destroyers.”

Hanson-Young referred to the Tasmanian election result as an example of a “clear rejection” of the major parties and their climate plans.

“The Tasmanian election results are a clear rejection of the major parties’ push to continue destruction,” she said.

“Right now the federal environment minister is putting together laws to fix our broken environment laws. They must end native forest logging.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Activism
  • Bob Brown
  • Logging and land-clearing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Russia will observe a national day of mourning on Sunday after a massacre in a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 130 people, the deadliest attack in Europe to have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Flags are flying at half mast, numerous events have been cancelled and TV channels have updated their schedules.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has vowed to track down and punish those behind the “barbaric terrorist attack”, saying four gunmen trying to flee to Ukraine had been arrested. Kyiv has strongly denied any connection.

Putin, in his first public remarks on the attack, made no reference to a statement by IS claiming responsibility.

He has said that “all the perpetrators, organisers and those who ordered this crime will be justly and inevitably punished”.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said rescue workers were still pulling bodies from the burnt-out building on Saturday.

Rescuers would continue to scour the site for “several days”, the Moscow region’s governor said.

About 107 people were still in hospital, many in a critical condition, said the deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova.

Russia will observe a national day of mourning on Sunday after a massacre in a Moscow concert hall that killed more than 130 people, the deadliest attack in Europe to have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Flags are flying at half mast, numerous events have been cancelled and TV channels have updated their schedules.

Agence France-Presse reports that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has vowed to track down and punish those behind the “barbaric terrorist attack”, saying four gunmen trying to flee to Ukraine had been arrested. Kyiv has strongly denied any connection.

Putin, in his first public remarks on the attack, made no reference to a statement by IS claiming responsibility.

He has said that “all the perpetrators, organisers and those who ordered this crime will be justly and inevitably punished”.

Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said rescue workers were still pulling bodies from the burnt-out building on Saturday.

Rescuers would continue to scour the site for “several days”, the Moscow region’s governor said.

About 107 people were still in hospital, many in a critical condition, said the deputy prime minister, Tatyana Golikova.

Poland activates air force as western Ukraine and Kyiv come under ‘massive’ Russian attack

Poland says Russian missile targeting Ukraine’s Lviv region violated its airspace while Kyiv suffers third pre-dawn attack in four days

Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv and the western region of Lviv have come under a “massive” Russian air attack, officials have said, and Polish forces have also been placed on heightened readiness.

Russia and Ukraine have been engaged in a series of deadly aerial attacks, with Sunday’s early morning strikes also coming a day after the Russian military said it had seized the Ukrainian village of Ivanivske west of Bakhmut.

A militant attack on a Moscow concert hall on Friday that killed at least 133 people has also become a new flashpoint between the two arch-rivals, wth President Vladimir Putin seeking to tie Kyiv to the attack; Ukraine has denied involvement and Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

“Explosions in the capital,” Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, posted on Telegram on Sunday. “Air defence is working. Do not leave shelters.”

The Lviv region’s governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, said Stryi district, south of the city of Lviv, near the Polish border, was also attacked.

Ukraine was earlier placed under a nationwide air alert that warned of cruise missiles being launched from Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers. The alert was lifted about two hours later.

Sergiy Popko, head of the Kyiv city military administration, said the missiles were fired at the capital “in groups” in the third pre-dawn attack in four days.

Preliminary reports suggested there were no casualties or damage, he said, and the city’s air defences had hit “about a dozen” missiles.

“The enemy continues massive missile terror against Ukraine,” Popko said on Telegram. “It does not give up its goal of destroying Kyiv at any cost.”

In Lviv, the mayor, Andriy Sadovy, said about 20 missiles and seven Iranian-made Shahed drones were fired at the region. “They targeted critical infrastructure facilities.”

The Polish Armed Forces Operational Command (RSZ) said its forces were on a heightened state of readiness because of the “intensive long-range aviation activity of the Russian Federation tonight” and the missile attacks in Ukraine.

“Polish and allied aircraft have been activated, which may result in increased noise levels, especially in the south-eastern part of the country,” it said.

It later said Russia had violated Poland’s airspace with a cruise missile which “entered Polish space near the town of Oserdow (Lublin Voivodeship) and stayed there for 39 seconds”.

“During the entire flight, it was observed by military radar systems,” it added.

Russia and Ukraine have increased their air attacks in recent weeks.

Kyiv, which has struggled to find weapons and soldiers after more than two years of war, has promised to retaliate by taking the fighting to Russian soil.

Multiple air attacks Saturday on the Russian border region of Belgorod adjoining Ukraine killed two people and injured at least seven, the regional governor said.

Farther east, a drone attack on the Samara region caused a fire at a major oil refinery, the latest in a series of strikes against Russia’s energy industry.

Belgorod’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, wrote on Telegram that two districts in his region, as well as the regional capital, Belgorod city, had been hit in drone and air attacks.

A man was killed when three balconies on an apartment building collapsed, Gladkov said.

Russia said later on Saturday that it had repulsed a barrage of Ukrainian missiles fired at the city of Sevastopol in Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.

Sevastopol’s governor, Mikhail Razvozhayev, said rocket fragments had killed a 65-year-old resident and four other people had been wounded. “It was the biggest attack in recent times.”

Moscow has escalated its own strikes, firing dozens of missiles on Friday and launching dozens of explosive drones to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Russian forces have also taken control of a string of frontline settlements in recent weeks.

The capture last month of Adviivka, near the Russian-held stronghold of Donetsk, was the first major territorial gain made by Russia since the devastated city of Bakhmut was seized 10 months ago.

Putin hailed that success as a sign that Russian forces were back on the offensive.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report

Explore more on these topics

  • Ukraine
  • Russia
  • Poland
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the crisis in the Middle East.

Hamas-run media has said 19 Palestinians were killed in Gaza City on Saturday and several others wounded at the Kuwait roundabout while they waited for aid trucks, Reuters reports.

“We survived death, they shot at us, there are many martyrs, there are many injured, we almost died to get our children a bite to eat,” said Alaa al-Khoudary, a resident of Gaza City who had just returned from the roundabout carrying a bag of aid.

The Israeli military said the incident was being investigated, but “preliminary findings have determined that there was no aerial strike against the convoy, nor were there incidents found of IDF forces firing at the people at the aid convoy.”

“The IDF facilitated an aid convoy to deliver food to people in Northern Gaza. Upon its approach to the designated distribution point, the convoy was intercepted and looted by hundreds of Gazans, north of the humanitarian corridor,” the Israeli military statement said.

More than 100 Palestinians were killed at the end of last month after Israeli forces opened fire as desperately hungry people crowded around an aid convoy near Gaza City.

More on that soonest. In other developments:

  • Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant will leave on Sunday for talks in the United States, the Israeli government said, amid growing tensions between the allies over the war in Gaza. Gallant will meet with US counterpart Lloyd Austin, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan “and additional senior officials”, a statement said.

  • UN secretary general António Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire and for Gaza to be flooded with aid, during a visit to the Rafah border crossing on Saturday as part of his annual Ramadan solidarity visit to the region. Stood near a long line of waiting trucks, Guterres declared it was time to “truly flood Gaza with life-saving aid,” calling the starvation inside Gaza a “moral outrage”.

  • Guterres said it was time for Israel to give an “ironclad commitment” for unfettered access to humanitarian goods throughout Gaza. Speaking during a visit to the Rafah border crossing, he also called for the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza and said the UN would continue to work with Egypt to “streamline” the flow of aid into Gaza.

  • During his visit to the Rafah border crossing on Saturday, Guterres also said there was a clear international consensus that any ground assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population has taken refuge, would cause a humanitarian catastrophe. Israel said on Friday it would send its troops to fight Hamas in the nearby city of Rafah, even without US support.

  • Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (Unrwa), said on Saturday “for the second time this week, a food convoy has been denied to northern Gaza” in a post on X. He wrote: “Today, the Israeli authorities denied another Unrwa convoy with much needed food supplies from going to the north where people are on the verge of famine. The last time Unrwa was able to send food aid to the north was nearly month ago.”

  • Five of the injured Palestinians at the Gaza Strip’s al-Shifa hospital, which is being besieged by Israeli forces, have died, Gaza’s health ministry said in a statement on Saturday. The medical facility is under siege for the sixth day in a row with no water, food nor health services, the ministry added.

  • Hamas expressed gratitude for the stances taken by Russia, China, and Algeria in vetoing the US draft resolution that failed to pass during the recent UN security council vote on Friday. In a statement published on its Telegram channel, Hamas criticised the resolution for its “misleading language that aligns with the interests of Israel,” allowing Israeli forces to “sustain their aggression” and providing cover and validation for the “extermination campaign” against Palestinians in Gaza.

  • A vote at the UN security council on a new text calling for an “immediate” ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war was postponed to Monday, diplomatic sources told AFP.

  • Israeli forces said on Saturday that more than 170 gunmen were killed during a prolonged operation at al-Shifa hospital. However, according to Hamas representatives, the deceased individuals identified in Israeli reports were not combatants but rather patients and displaced individuals. Hamas have accused Israel of war crimes.

  • At least 72 Palestinians were killed and 144 injured in Israeli strikes in the past 24 hours, said the Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas. According to the statement, at least 32,142 Palestinians have been killed and 74,412 have been injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October.

  • Nearly 600 relatives of 81 hostages have appealed to US president Joe Biden to urge Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to negotiate a deal for their release. In a letter sent to the US president, families expressed their disappointment with the Israeli government’s perceived lack of commitment to finalising the agreement.

  • “Never before have so many of Gaza’s children needed medical care,” said Unicef spokesperson, James Elder, in a video posted on social media, which showed him visiting Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and reflecting on the children he met the last time he was there. Local and UN health officials said fighting, fuel shortages and Israeli raids put Nasser hospital completely out of service in February.

  • Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a major pro-Palestinian demonstration in Dublin. Organisers called for an end to Israel’s action in Gaza and for the Irish government to “take action to hold Israel accountable”. The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) said it was the fifth such national mobilisation.

  • Hezbollah claimed to have targeted an Iron Dome battery on Saturday, situated close to the northern village of Kfar Blum, in the Hula Valley in Israel, using two drones loaded with explosives, the Times of Israel reported. The Israeli publication said local authorities had confirmed that the impact ignited a fire but that no casualties or damage resulted from the attack. The incident could not be independently verified.

  • Israel conducted an air raid on Baalbek, Hezbollah’s stronghold in eastern Lebanon on Saturday, two security sources in Lebanon told Reuters. Hezbollah said in statement on Sunday that in response to the “bombing of a place in the city of Baalbek” it targeted an Israeli missile and artillery base in Yoav and the Kaila barracks with more than 60 Katyusha rockets.

Laurent de Brunhoff, author of Babar children’s books, dies at 98

Painter and storyteller, who revived father’s picture-book series about elephant king, said he didn’t consciously write for young people

Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff, who revived his father’s popular picture-book series about an elephant-king and presided over its rise to a global multimedia franchise, has died at the age of 98.

De Brunhoff, who was from Paris and moved to the US in the 1980s, died on Friday at his home in Key West, Florida, after being in hospice care for two weeks, according to his widow, Phyllis Rose.

Just 12 years old when his father, Jean de Brunhoff, died of tuberculosis, Laurent was an adult when he drew upon his own gifts as a painter and storyteller and released dozens of books about the elephant who reigns over Celesteville, among them Babar at the Circus and Babar’s Yoga for Elephants. He preferred using fewer words than his father did, but his illustrations faithfully mimicked Jean’s gentle, understated style.

“Together, father and son have woven a fictive world so seamless that it is nearly impossible to detect where one stopped and the other started,” author Ann S Haskell wrote in the New York Times in 1981.

The series has sold millions of copies worldwide and was adapted for a television program and such animated features as Babar: The Movie and “Babar: King of the Elephants. Fans ranged from Charles de Gaulle to Maurice Sendak, who once wrote: “If he had come my way, how I would have welcomed that little elephant and smothered him with affection.”

De Brunhoff would say of his creation, “Babar, c’est moi” (“that’s me”), telling National Geographic in 2014: “He’s been my whole life, for years and years, drawing the elephant.”

The books’ appeal was far from universal. Some parents shied from the passage in the debut, The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, about Babar’s mother being shot and killed by hunters. Numerous critics called the series racist and colonialist, citing Babar’s education in Paris and its influence on his (presumed) Africa-based regime. In 1983, Chilean author Ariel Dorfman would call the books an “implicit history that justifies and rationalises the motives behind an international situation in which some countries have everything and other countries almost nothing”.

“Babar’s history,” Dorfman wrote, “is none other than the fulfilment of the dominant countries’ colonial dream.”

Adam Gopnik, a Paris-based correspondent for the New Yorker, defended Babar, writing in 2008 that it “is not an unconscious expression of the French colonial imagination; it is a self-conscious comedy about the French colonial imagination and its close relation to the French domestic imagination”.

De Brunhoff himself acknowledged finding it “a little embarrassing to see Babar fighting with Black people in Africa”. He especially regretted Babar’s Picnic, a 1949 publication that included crude caricatures of Blacks and American Indians, and asked his publisher to withdraw it.

De Brunhoff was the eldest of three sons born to Jean de Brunhoff and Cecile de Brunhoff, a painter. Babar was created when Cecile de Brunhoff, the namesake for the elephant’s kingdom and Babar’s wife, improvised a story for her kids.

“My mother started to tell us a story to distract us,” de Brunhoff told National Geographic in 2014. “We loved it, and the next day we ran to our father’s study, which was in the corner of the garden, to tell him about it. He was very amused and started to draw. And that was how the story of Babar was born. My mother called him Bebe elephant [French for baby]. It was my father who changed the name to Babar. But the first pages of the first book, with the elephant killed by a hunter and the escape to the city, was her story.”

The debut was released in 1931 through family-run publisher Le Jardin Des Modes. Babar was immediately well received and Jean de Brunhoff completed four more Babar books before dying six years later, aged 37. Laurent’s uncle, Michael, helped publish two additional works, but no one else added to the series until after the second world war, when Laurent – by then a painter – decided to bring it back.

“Gradually I began to feel strongly that a Babar tradition existed and that it ought to be perpetuated,” he wrote in the New York Times in 1952.

De Brunhoff was married twice, most recently to the critic and biographer Phyllis Rose, who wrote the text to many of the recent Babar publications, including the 2017 release billed as the finale, Babar’s Guide to Paris.

De Brunhoff had two children, Anne and Antoine, but the author did not consciously write for young people.

“I never really think of children when I do my books,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2017. “Babar was my friend and I invented stories with him, but not with kids in a corner of my mind. I write it for myself.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Books
  • Children’s books: 7 and under
  • Children’s books: 8-12 years
  • France
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Shutdown of 3G networks a ‘health and safety issue’ for some regional Australians

Telcos promised no loss of coverage but farmers outside official coverage areas fear their lifeline will turn off

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Stacey Storrier was told she was “lucky” that she received mobile phone service at her home in the New South Wales Riverina region.

But when Telstra’s 3G network is switched off on 30 June, that luck will run out.

The Hillston farmer is concerned for the safety of her family and neighbours if coverage is expanded to fill the gap.

“It’s just the health and safety of people that work on your properties and that live in regional Australia,” she said. “If something happens and you can’t make a phone call to ambulance, it can be the difference between life and death.”

Australia’s three main telecommunications companies have been steadily upgrading 3G towers with 4G and 5G for several years and claim to have managed the transition to ensure minimal disruption. Vodafone has already switched off its 3G network and Optus will switch off in September 2024. Just 2% of all mobile services in Australia in 2023 used 3G, according to federal government data, while 63% use 4G and 85% use 5G.

According to the official coverage maps, Storrier had never received any mobile phone service. So when Telstra upgraded its local tower to 5G and her 3G service dropped off, there was no recourse.

“Telstra said that the maps they had showed that we should never have got coverage … so they couldn’t do anything about it,” Storrier said. “They said we were just lucky.”

Even when the 4G and 5G network exists, the changeover carries a significant cost to farmers. Many older mobile phones and automated farming equipment are not built to support 4G.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

Storrier has had to purchase new equipment, including a telemetry for cattle troughs, which prevents remote troughs from overflowing, “because once the 3G service got switched off they would not work any more, and they didn’t have the capacity to upgrade”.

Her main concern is not the upgrades but the ability to access any network at all.

Chris McIntosh lives in Deepwater, less than 10 minutes off the New England Highway on the NSW northern tablelands. He is lucky to get a bar of signal.

“Local mobile towers are regularly congested,” he said. “The available bandwidth gets used up quickly, slowing speeds to barely-usable.”

Caitlin James lives in Coolah in central west NSW. The only spot she can get phone signal is on top of the hill. She relies on the 3G network to send messages to family members who have internet access but no phone signal.

“If something happens up the hill that they need to know, my best bet is contacting them via 3G because they have wifi in the house but not phone coverage,” she said. “So I can contact them by internet.”

A Griffith University lecturer, Dr Amber Marshall, is an expert in rural digital inclusion. She said that, on paper, Telstra’s shutdown of its 3G network should not leave any customers behind. The telco has promised to match or exceed existing 3G coverage with 4G or 5G.

“There could be interruptions to service when things get turned off, and new things get turned on, because that’s kind of the nature of technology,” she said. “But it’s not the intent that consumers that were in coverage or had service won’t have it any more.”

She urged businesses to switch over Eftpos machines and other payment systems to wifi ahead of time, to avoid disruption. Loss of Eftpos was one of the main points of disruption during the nationwide Optus outage last November, she said.

Telcos are required to upgrade base stations to ensure they maintain contracted network coverage levels as technology changes, the acting communications minister, Mark Dreyfus, told Guardian Australia.

The RMIT associate professor Mark Gregory said there was no guarantee the coverage area would remain the same through the transition.

“With the 4G spectrum, if you were using the same antennas with the same transmit power, the same energy, then the footprint for 4G should be bigger than 3G,” he said.

“But we’re not using the same antennas. So therefore, there is no guarantee that the footprint will be the same or bigger. It will be come down to a case-by-case, tower-by-tower basis.”

Telstra’s regional general manager, Chris Taylor, said there would be no impact to the 3G network until 30 June, at which point the “entire network will be shut down” at once. “The plan is not to have just some coverage in some places and a staggered closure,” he said.

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter

  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Explore more on these topics

  • Rural Australia
  • The rural network
  • Telecommunications industry
  • Mobile phones
  • Telstra
  • news
Share

Reuse this content