The Guardian 2024-04-10 16:03:29


Albanese says Australia needs ‘sharper elbows’ as he signals domestic innovation push

Prime minister says government needs to be ‘more strategic and more sophisticated’ to compete globally

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is signalling a dramatic shift to unapologetically and directly supporting Australian industry and innovation, saying the country needs “sharper elbows when it comes to marking out our national interest” and competing with the rest of the world.

In a speech to be delivered to the Queensland Press Club on Thursday, Albanese will effectively launch his bid for re-election with a plan for a green interventionist industry policy, one which uses direct government support to speed up the energy transition, provide certainty for business and stem the flow of money and ideas to countries offering investment incentives.

His speech contains a message to those who may see the move as a new form of protectionism for certain sectors and projects.

“We need to be clear-eyed about the economic realities of this decade, recognising that the game has changed and the role of government needs to evolve,” Albanese says in an advance copy of the speech, seen by Guardian Australia.

“Government needs to be more strategic, more sophisticated and a more constructive contributor. We need sharper elbows when it comes to marking out our national interest.”

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Albanese will emphasise the link between economic security and national security and will say attracting investment has “never been a polite and gentle process where every nation gets a turn”.

Borrowing and bending a phrase his predecessor Scott Morrison employed to defend the Coalition government’s slow acquisition of vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic, Albanese will say of shaping the future economy: “It’s always a contest – a race.”

“Australia can’t afford to sit on the sidelines,” he will say. “Being in the race does not guarantee our success but sitting it out guarantees failure … Australia is in a race, no matter what. Our government wants Australia to be in it to win it.”

The prime minister will argue that Australia needs to be “willing to break with old orthodoxies and pull new levers” to advance that national interest.

He will foreshadow new legislation – to be titled the Future Made in Australia Act – that he says will serve as the framework for the changed approach, with details to come in next month’s federal budget. He will describe this as coordinating a package of new and existing initiatives to “boost investment, create jobs and seize the opportunity” of an Australian-made future.

Albanese does not spell out what those incentives will involve, although possibilities may include concessions, grants, or underwriting of projects.

But he will emphasise that it will underpin the work of the new Net Zero Authority, which aims to facilitate investment in renewable, sustainable energy projects and help retrain workers in fossil fuel industries and guide them into new jobs.

Albanese will cite the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act, which contains half a billion dollars in green energy incentives, and the CHIPS Act, which subsidises research and production of semiconductor technology, as key reasons why Australia can no longer continue a level-playing-field approach to industry development and energy transition.

He will cite similar interventionist measures in Europe, Japan, Korea and Canada designed to boost their respective domestic industries.

“This is not old-fashioned protectionism or isolationism, it is the new competition,” Albanese will say. “These nations are not withdrawing from global trade or walking away from world markets or the rules-based order – and let me be clear, nor should Australia.”

Albanese will insist that Australia will continue to champion global markets and free trade and forge both bilateral and multilateral agreements, but that countries with which it seeks to partner are “moving to the beat of a new economic reality”.

However, his government will not necessarily replicate these other approaches, he will say.

“But we must recognise there is a new and widespread willingness to make economic interventions on the basis of national interest and national sovereignty.”

He will say Australia can no longer be “running on the fumes of past economic reforms”, nor government be merely “an observer or a spectator”.

“We cannot afford another decade where government is a drag on business investment and productivity instead of a driver of it.”

The prime minister will say the new approach will shift the emphasis away from minimising risk towards maximising reward. It will seek to exploit Australia’s advantages and build sovereign capability – an issue that emerged during the pandemic – in a longer-term way, rather than just as a patch-up in a crisis.

“We’re building an economy with more good jobs for fair wages – that’s what I mean by a future made in Australia,” he will say, with an election-style pitch about a “stronger, fairer and more prosperous future”.

“One where we compete for and win the great prize of new prosperity – and win our way, by staying true to the values that make this the greatest country on earth.”

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My Place groups worry about 5G and chemtrails. Some are also taking an interest in Queensland’s council elections

Network founded in Victoria writes about setting up a parallel system of governance and promotes a range of conspiracy theories

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Surrounded by paintings of lush rainforests and waterfalls, Darren Bergwerf lays out his utopian vision.

He tells his Facebook followers in a March 2023 post that his organisation – My Place Australia – is setting up community groups all around Australia, with their own wellness and health hubs, farming and produce networks and council advocacy groups.

Instead of fighting the system, Bergwerf says, they will join it. The groups will keep watch at council meetings, write their own constitution and build a parallel system.

From its Melbourne headquarters, My Place has created about 180 Facebook groups, including about 50 for Queensland communities, promoting sovereign citizen messaging and conspiracy theories about 5G, chemtrails, fluoride, wind turbines and smart cities.

In one Queensland Facebook group, Bergwerf further details his plan:

We are transitioning … into our own realms of self governance and building. Eventually that will be a private members association that will trade and barter our services and labour to support each other. We will be SELF GOVERNED.

Last month’s Queensland local elections may not have offered an obvious path to that goal but Guardian Australia has identified My Place groups campaigning for various candidates. One explicitly shared some of the beliefs laid out by Bergwerf while others have distanced themselves from the controversial movement.

Bergwerf is an admin of most of the Queensland Facebook groups, which commonly operate as loose collectives of individuals with similar views on certain issues. My Place charges users $60 a year for a separate community hub, which has a smaller membership.

On the Sunshine Coast, Camillo Primavera ran an unsuccessful bid for division 10.

In Facebook posts Primavera – who attracted headlines for interrupting councillors with questions from the gallery in 2023 – echoes Bergwerf, laying out his vision to establish a “My Place Sunshine Coast Council” running parallel to the actual council.

Primavera tells Guardian Australia that members of the local My Place group assisted his campaign by dropping flyers in letterboxes and handing out how-to-vote cards on polling day.

He confirms that he shares My Place’s beliefs about sovereignty, 5G and fluoride but rejects the notion that the group is made up of conspiracy theorists.

“We are not a bunch of conspiracy theorists, as some media portray. We are about community and not harm,” he says. “Conspiracy = ‘A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful’.”

He says there needs to be “some form of transparency and accountability in the council”.

In Gympie several members and an admin of the My Place local group have expressed support for Allona Lahn, who won a seat on the council. Lahn is a member of the Facebook group and has spoken at My Place events.

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Lahn tells Guardian Australia she is part of many Facebook community groups: “My Place Gympie is one of those.”

She says she does not know Bergwerf personally and is “not overly active in the group”, apart from sharing posts about the community markets she organises.

“I don’t know Darren, have never met or spoken with him nor know of his involvement or his views or past experiences in My Place. I am in the group because it’s one of many local community groups,” she says.

“I [was] standing for council because, I want a better, more cohesive, united community which includes talking and connecting with ALL demographics and people.”

She finds it “refreshing that some community groups show an interest in politics and actively share information about elections”.

“I am my own person and therefore sovereign, as is everyone,” she says.

“I don’t drink fluoride … I live off grid … [and] I am an active homeschooling mum. I am particularly concerned about the erosion of rights and choice and government control and overreach.”

After reports in local media, the admin of the My Place Gympie page said the group had not “endorsed” or “donated money” to any individual candidates.

In Facebook comments, the admin wrote: “Allona will be an incredible asset to Div 5 and if I lived there, she 100% would have my vote.”

Guardian Australia has previously reported that the local My Place group backed successful candidates in Townsville, including Troy Thompson for mayor and Kristian Price in division four.

Thompson thanked My Place Townsville for supporting his campaign. Messages reveal the group asked volunteers to support the independent candidates by attending polling booths, standing with signs, handing out how-to-vote cards, doing letterbox drops and acting as scrutineers to oversee the vote count.

In Bundaberg, two successful council candidates have been members of the city’s My Place Facebook group. The mayor-elect, Helen Blackburn, previously told a local newspaper she had been added to the group in 2022 by an existing member but had left immediately after learning of the group’s controversial views.

“Someone invited me to join the group and I obviously clicked ‘join’ … I don’t receive any updates or posts from the group (that I can recall) and wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about them, their ethos or their members,” Blackburn was reported as saying.

“I’ve been invited to join many groups and pages, most times I decline, however, when this group presented as My Place Bundaberg I believe I thought that this would be a group of people who lived in and loved Bundaberg.

“I do not align or abide with any of their beliefs relating to councils or sovereign citizenship.”

Another former member, Deb Keslake, elected to the council for division three, has also posted on the My Place Australia group.

Both have posted or commented in their local My Place Facebook group as recently as 2023.

Keslake has commented on a post by another user that shows the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, speaking about the digital economy and digital IDs. In the post the user asks if Australia is “ready for full enslavement” and says: “REFUSE … DON’T COMPLY and WIN.”

In response Keslake writes: “How can people not see what is happening [sad face emoji].”

In response to questions on her Facebook page, Keslake says she has joined “many pages in an[d] around this area” and did not share any controversial views linked with the group.

“As the last paragraph [of the local paper’s report] states and I agree with – it is not suggested Ms Keslake share any of the controversial views that have been linked to My Place’s social pages,” she says.

Blackburn, a former councillor, made headlines in 2021 for telling anti-vax protesters in Bundaberg that “almost 700 people have died by taking this poison jab”.

Blackburn, Keslake and Bergwerf have not responded to Guardian Australia’s requests for comment.

The My Place group in Moreton Bay also says it has been “doing a lot of talking” with councillors about “chemtrails, fluoride and 5G”.

Josh Roose, a political sociologist at Deakin University, says My Place is a sovereign citizen group which believes governments are “illegitimate”.

My Place has rejected the term sovereign citizen, viewing it as an oxymoron.

“They … view elections as a convenient mechanism to gain real power where they otherwise have none,” Roose says.

In My Place’s home state of Victoria, candidates it backed failed to win seats at the 2022 state election.

Bergwerf ran for the federal seat of Dunkley in this year’s byelection but received only 3.92% of the vote.

Last year Yarra Ranges and Latrobe city councils were forced to move meetings online to avoid unruly and antisocial behaviour at public meetings that allegedly involved some members of My Place groups.

Roose says My Place and other anti-establishment and anti-government groups are “operating in fertile political terrain”.

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Christmas hams, candles and a ‘priceless’ 75cm statue: what Australia’s politicians are being gifted

Disclosures include a custom turntable from Joe Biden and a statue depicting Julian Hill on a gold armchair gifted by a local supporter

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The Labor MP Julian Hill’s declaration of a 75-centimetre statue of himself, given by a constituent, has shone a light on the interesting – and sometimes weird – world of political disclosures and gifts.

Gifts ranging from bottles of wine to customised vinyl record turntables, free concert tickets to flight upgrades are accepted and dutifully recorded on the federal politicians’ publicly-available register of interests, as required under parliamentary rules.

A set of longstanding rules govern what pecuniary information politicians have to list – and explain why the firebrand MP from the Melbournedeclared his unusual gift this week.

A ‘priceless’ 75cm statue

“Statue of me received from a constituent Mr Haidary. 56cm high. Seated on a 75cm high throne. Made in Iran,” Hill added to his register yesterday, noting the value as “priceless”.

A photo of said statue, obtained by Guardian Australia, shows the MP seated on a gold armchair in a navy suit and black boots. At his feet are what appear to be a feather duster and a white piece of fabric – both details Hill himself was unable to shed light on.

Hill told Sky News the statue came from a local supporter who his office “provided great help to”.

“An unsolicited and very surprising gift,” Hill said.

“I checked the rules and I do need to declare it. I concluded it was made by an artist and shipped from overseas, it probably exceeded the $300 value – but how could I value it? So I valued it as priceless.”

The rules for gifts

The $300 value Hill refers to goes to one of the register’s rules. Both senators and members are required to declare gifts valued above $750 received from official sources, like other office-holders or foreign governments, or above $300 from non-official sources. Gifts from family or friends don’t need registration.

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Guidelines for official gifts, applicable to ministers, say politicians can keep gifts over the $300 or $750 values if they pay the difference themselves to the government. It means official gifts are often surrendered to their departments, but some politicians elect to keep highly prized gifts.

The rules say ministers and the prime minister can accept gifts, but “must not seek or encourage any form of gift in their personal capacity”.

Politicians are also required to disclose shareholdings, real estate, liabilities and debts, bank accounts, major assets, income outside their parliamentary salary, membership of any organisations, and any sponsored travel or hospitality above $300.

The rules require politicians to update any changes within 28 days – but while some MPs are meticulous in keeping up to date, others are more sparing in their updates, or miss the 28-day window entirely without any penalty.

The disclosures

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, noted last week he’d been given a watch by the Sultan of Brunei, which he surrendered to his department. Albanese also “retained” a custom turntable from the US president, Joe Biden, which he received on his visit to America last year for a state dinner. In an earlier register update, Albanese noted he “surrendered” the turntable (which came with a “commemorative plaque”), as well as books on music history and framed AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen records.

The vast majority of politicians have declared membership of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge and the Virgin Club, the exclusive clubhouses allowing VIPs to shelter away from the hoi polloi at crowded airports. Many others have declared complimentary subscriptions to Foxtel or Sky News – while Labor MP Dan Repacholi disclosed he “didn’t take up the offer” when approached.

Numerous Coalition MPs declared travel to the United Arab Emirates from the Coalition for Conservation or to the United Kingdom for the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference. Other MPs have noted travel for a study visit to Israel provided by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

Barnaby Joyce listed shareholdings, for his dependent children, in Woodside, Rare Earths, and Commonwealth Bank. In 2021, he famously listed “head of cattle (multiple)” as assets belonging to his son.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, recently listed a box of royal gala apples from Gaeta & Sons Orchards, and a Christmas ham gift from Australian Pork Limited.

The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, has recently declared tickets from Disney to the premiere of a Beauty and the Beast show, as well as to a production of Swan Lake from Telstra.

The Liberal senator Wendy Askew in January declared receiving whisky from the Callington Mill Distillery, “value approximately $315”, and a Gobi cashmere scarf from the Mongolian ambassador, “value approximately AUD210”.

Liberal Ross Cadell is known for colourful storytelling in his disclosures, with recent declarations of a candle “smelling of sandalwood with delightful subtle undertones of vanilla” from the embassy of the United Arab Emirates and a St Patrick’s Day function with the Irish embassy (“I found the Guinness a bit bitey, like watered down Marmite”).

The Australian Association of Christian Schools delivered a pack of hot cross buns to numerous MPs just before Easter, including Cadell and the education minister, Jason Clare.

Clare has listed gifts from as small as a $5 badge or calico bag, a $10 pair of socks from a charity and a $4 packet of lollies, up to a bottle of wine from the Bangladeshi high commissioner, and a goodie bag from Bankstown RSL.

The Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather has declared his Hecs/Help student debt on his list of liabilities – something few other politicians, some of whom would have benefited from free university tuition instituted by Gough Whitlam, have declared.

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EVs are booming but electric bikes are really cutting emissions

Ebikes and mopeds, known as electric micromobility, were responsible for two-thirds of the 1.5m barrels of oil displaced a day by EVs in 2022

Australians are really getting on board with electric cars, but the number of electric bikes has also exploded – and data suggests the smaller EVs are having a bigger impact on oil demand.

Electric vehicles as a whole displaced about 1.5m barrels of oil a day globally in 2022, according to Bloomberg. Two-thirds of that – almost 1m barrels a day – was just from electric bikes and mopeds, which are known as electric micromobility. Electric cars were responsible for a little over a sixth, with the remainder accounted for by vans, trucks and buses.

In 2021, Australia consumed about 1m barrels of oil per day across all sectors of the economy. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that electric vehicles could displace 5m barrels of oil per day by 2030.

A huge part of electric micromobility’s impact is due to its scale – there were almost 300m two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles globally in 2022, compared to around 26m electric cars. More than 95% of the two-wheelers are located in China, according to the IEA.

Australian electric car sales in the year to March were 98,436 – double that of the year before – and the number of charging stations also grew by more than 75%. Meanwhile, Australians bought more than 193,000 ebikes last year, according to Bicycle Industries Australia.

Ebikes won’t replace a car for a lot of people, but they are often well-suited for shorter trips and the “last kilometre” – the distance between home and the nearest public transport. Experts have calculated that charging an ebike to travel 20km a day, five days a week, only costs about $20 annually – although the bikes themselves can be expensive.

‘What we’re seeing is not telehealth’: alarm over doctors using AI and prescribing without seeing patients

Consumers Health Forum calls on Australian government to address ‘significant safety concerns’ about prescribing without any conversation with patient

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Australia’s health regulator is fielding complaints about the use of artificial intelligence during telehealth prescribing, and patients being issued with prescriptions without ever speaking with a doctor.

A spokesperson for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) told Guardian Australia the agency had received 550 notifications about telehealth consults and prescribing across health professions since July 2020. Of those, 30% related to complaints about a practitioner not adequately assessing a patient, they said.

In 45 cases, Ahpra identified poor telehealth prescribing practices, prompting the regulator to take action against practitioners.

“In some cases this has led to restrictions preventing practitioners from prescribing or conducting appointments via telehealth,” the spokesperson said.

Concerns raised with health regulators about telehealth included not having to consult or see a prescriber before a prescription was given; prescribing processes that felt managed by an algorithm, or artificial intelligence (AI) process; and medications costing more when dispensed on a prescription provided online or via telehealth.

Dr Elizabeth Deveny, the head of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia, called on the government to address “significant safety concerns” she had about such practices, saying a conversation between a doctor and a patient should occur, “particularly when they’re a new patient”.

“This loophole needs to be closed through better regulation … because there are significant safety concerns,” she said. “Particularly what happens if a person has a bad reaction to this new medication or product, or perhaps the health practitioner who’s doing the prescribing doesn’t have their full history and understand the other medications they’re taking.”

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Deveny said she had heard of telehealth platforms prescribing products such as weight-loss drugs without live consults.

“This model of online, no-consumer-contact prescribing doesn’t meet a lot of the safety features we would normally see,” she said.

“Telehealth is a great model that helps consumers access a health practitioner using a phone or computer, allowing them to have important conversations in a way that better suits them. What we’re seeing [when live consultations do not occur] is not telehealth, and we think it has potential for significant harm.”

‘I do not provide tick-box prescribing’

Guardian Australia has previously reported being able to access a prescription for vapes from an online telehealth platform, despite having never been a patient of that GP and never having previously been prescribed vapes.

The prescription was sent via email almost immediately after a $40 fee was paid and an online questionnaire filled in, with no live phone or video consult required.

The doctor, Dr Carolyn Beaumont, states that her website, medicalnicotine.com.au, “utilises innovative proprietary AI to effectively achieve its aims”.

But Beaumont told Guardian Australia that AI was not used by the platform in prescription generation. She did not clarify how the platform used AI.

“Scripts are individually reviewed and actioned as appropriate,” she said.

She said her online questionnaire “covers all the requirements of taking a medical history and there is plenty of scope for ongoing follow-up as needed”.

Guidelines from Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia, which came into effect in September 2023, state that “asynchronous, online tick-box prescribing without a real-time patient-doctor consultation is not good medical practice”.

But the guidelines do not explicitly ban the practice. “Real-time doctor-patient consultations remain key to safe prescribing,” the guidelines state.

“I do not provide tick-box prescribing,” Beaumont said. “There is scope for individualised responses and follow-up is available, including in the form of longer-term telehealth that offers preventive care for smokers.”

Ahpra does not disclose the names of doctors who are the subject of complaints, and there is no suggestion that Beaumont is among them.

Beaumont has also commented about her method of prescribing without a live consult on an article about vaping on the Medical Republic website.

“It is worth addressing why I choose mostly written communication with my patients, rather than conventional phone or video consults,” she wrote.

“Firstly, timezones. I’m in Victoria, and many patients are from WA. There’s a 3 hour gap, so realistically I can’t make calls until midday. Consider also that as a whole, heavy smokers are more likely to work jobs such as construction, mining or hospitality. These jobs don’t lend themselves to taking time out for a phone consult.”

Deveny told Guardian Australia that in her view time zone differences did not justify a lack of a live consult via phone or video call.

“What happens if something goes wrong with the medication?” she said. “Is the timezone going to mean that they can’t be helped by that doctor? Who’s responsible for that person’s aftercare if the timing doesn’t work?” She said a live consultation also allowed for a more comprehensive medical history than a questionnaire.

Beaumont told Guardian Australia that ideally patients would have a regular GP, but that was rarely a reality for remote workers.

“I manage their aftercare in relation to my prescribing,” she said. “To circumvent timezone difficulties, written communication has proven the most effective modality.”

A spokesperson for the Medical Board of Australia said any practitioner who prescribed in a way not consistent with the board’s guidelines “must be able to explain how the prescribing and the management of the patient was appropriate and necessary in the circumstances”.

“Failure to do so may lead to action from the board,” the spokesperson said.

Beaumont said the Medical Board’s guidelines were “designed for optimal healthcare delivery which I fully support”.

The government is investigating the appropriate use of AI in the health system, including possible regulation.

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‘What we’re seeing is not telehealth’: alarm over doctors using AI and prescribing without seeing patients

Consumers Health Forum calls on Australian government to address ‘significant safety concerns’ about prescribing without any conversation with patient

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

Australia’s health regulator is fielding complaints about the use of artificial intelligence during telehealth prescribing, and patients being issued with prescriptions without ever speaking with a doctor.

A spokesperson for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) told Guardian Australia the agency had received 550 notifications about telehealth consults and prescribing across health professions since July 2020. Of those, 30% related to complaints about a practitioner not adequately assessing a patient, they said.

In 45 cases, Ahpra identified poor telehealth prescribing practices, prompting the regulator to take action against practitioners.

“In some cases this has led to restrictions preventing practitioners from prescribing or conducting appointments via telehealth,” the spokesperson said.

Concerns raised with health regulators about telehealth included not having to consult or see a prescriber before a prescription was given; prescribing processes that felt managed by an algorithm, or artificial intelligence (AI) process; and medications costing more when dispensed on a prescription provided online or via telehealth.

Dr Elizabeth Deveny, the head of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia, called on the government to address “significant safety concerns” she had about such practices, saying a conversation between a doctor and a patient should occur, “particularly when they’re a new patient”.

“This loophole needs to be closed through better regulation … because there are significant safety concerns,” she said. “Particularly what happens if a person has a bad reaction to this new medication or product, or perhaps the health practitioner who’s doing the prescribing doesn’t have their full history and understand the other medications they’re taking.”

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

Deveny said she had heard of telehealth platforms prescribing products such as weight-loss drugs without live consults.

“This model of online, no-consumer-contact prescribing doesn’t meet a lot of the safety features we would normally see,” she said.

“Telehealth is a great model that helps consumers access a health practitioner using a phone or computer, allowing them to have important conversations in a way that better suits them. What we’re seeing [when live consultations do not occur] is not telehealth, and we think it has potential for significant harm.”

‘I do not provide tick-box prescribing’

Guardian Australia has previously reported being able to access a prescription for vapes from an online telehealth platform, despite having never been a patient of that GP and never having previously been prescribed vapes.

The prescription was sent via email almost immediately after a $40 fee was paid and an online questionnaire filled in, with no live phone or video consult required.

The doctor, Dr Carolyn Beaumont, states that her website, medicalnicotine.com.au, “utilises innovative proprietary AI to effectively achieve its aims”.

But Beaumont told Guardian Australia that AI was not used by the platform in prescription generation. She did not clarify how the platform used AI.

“Scripts are individually reviewed and actioned as appropriate,” she said.

She said her online questionnaire “covers all the requirements of taking a medical history and there is plenty of scope for ongoing follow-up as needed”.

Guidelines from Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia, which came into effect in September 2023, state that “asynchronous, online tick-box prescribing without a real-time patient-doctor consultation is not good medical practice”.

But the guidelines do not explicitly ban the practice. “Real-time doctor-patient consultations remain key to safe prescribing,” the guidelines state.

“I do not provide tick-box prescribing,” Beaumont said. “There is scope for individualised responses and follow-up is available, including in the form of longer-term telehealth that offers preventive care for smokers.”

Ahpra does not disclose the names of doctors who are the subject of complaints, and there is no suggestion that Beaumont is among them.

Beaumont has also commented about her method of prescribing without a live consult on an article about vaping on the Medical Republic website.

“It is worth addressing why I choose mostly written communication with my patients, rather than conventional phone or video consults,” she wrote.

“Firstly, timezones. I’m in Victoria, and many patients are from WA. There’s a 3 hour gap, so realistically I can’t make calls until midday. Consider also that as a whole, heavy smokers are more likely to work jobs such as construction, mining or hospitality. These jobs don’t lend themselves to taking time out for a phone consult.”

Deveny told Guardian Australia that in her view time zone differences did not justify a lack of a live consult via phone or video call.

“What happens if something goes wrong with the medication?” she said. “Is the timezone going to mean that they can’t be helped by that doctor? Who’s responsible for that person’s aftercare if the timing doesn’t work?” She said a live consultation also allowed for a more comprehensive medical history than a questionnaire.

Beaumont told Guardian Australia that ideally patients would have a regular GP, but that was rarely a reality for remote workers.

“I manage their aftercare in relation to my prescribing,” she said. “To circumvent timezone difficulties, written communication has proven the most effective modality.”

A spokesperson for the Medical Board of Australia said any practitioner who prescribed in a way not consistent with the board’s guidelines “must be able to explain how the prescribing and the management of the patient was appropriate and necessary in the circumstances”.

“Failure to do so may lead to action from the board,” the spokesperson said.

Beaumont said the Medical Board’s guidelines were “designed for optimal healthcare delivery which I fully support”.

The government is investigating the appropriate use of AI in the health system, including possible regulation.

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Charles Darwin University asked inquiry not to publish staff submissions critical of its support for harbour project

In letter vice-chancellor requested committee not publish joint submission by two academics and redact parts of second submission ‘unfairly’ critical of CDU

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Charles Darwin University asked a federal inquiry not to publish submissions by three of its staff after the academics criticised the university’s support for a gas and industrial development on Darwin Harbour.

It comes as the Northern Territory government is due to give evidence in Darwin on Thursday to the Middle Arm inquiry, which is examining the proposed precinct and a $1.5bn investment promised by the Albanese government.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Larrakia traditional owners called on senators to “take decisive action” to protect Middle Arm from the development, saying it would “poison and destroy” mangrove ecosystems, songlines and culturally significant sites.

The inquiry was launched last year after a Guardian Australia investigation revealed the government knew Middle Arm was seen as a “key enabler” for new gas projects, despite being publicly branded a sustainable development precinct.

In a letter published by the inquiry, CDU’s vice-chancellor, Scott Bowman, asked the committee not to publish a joint submission by two academics and to redact parts of a second submission by a professor of nursing and outgoing chair of the university’s human research ethics committee that was “unfairly” critical of CDU.

The academics had written to the committee in response to an official CDU submission that expressed support for the development – subject to environmental monitoring and community consultation – because of the “need to drive economic growth in the NT”.

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In one letter, professor of nursing Marilynne Kirshbaum wrote she “was dismayed by Charles Darwin University’s submission” and had been asked by many staff and students to register their “opposition to the official perspective of Charles Darwin University”.

She wrote the majority of academics, staff and students had not been consulted for their views on the project and the submission was “the view of the VC who is entrusted with the financial viability and growth of our university”.

In the joint letter, research and teaching associate in the faculty of arts Stephen Enciso and faculty of health research assistant Janina Murta wrote CDU’s position was “not representative of the views of staff and students” and did not reflect the “expert scientific consensus in relation to the health and climate impacts of petrochemical and fossil fuel projects”.

The letter also claimed there had been no internal consultation with staff before the submission was created and expressed concern about “the possible existence of conflicts of interest between the university and the fossil fuel industry”.

CDU’s chancellor is the lobbyist and former NT chief minister Paul Henderson. Bowman told Guardian Australia Henderson had “no input or visibility over CDU’s submission”.

In a right of reply to the inquiry, Bowman asked the committee “to not publish the supplementary joint submission” by Enciso and Murta and “redact the sections of Prof Kirshbaum’s submission where it criticises, I believe unfairly, CDU”.

While he was supportive of “the participation and counterviews” by academia at CDU and “would not seek to limit any academic’s participation in the inquiry”, he said the university had not purported to present a unanimous view in its submission.

“I do not believe the criticism of CDU is justified or should be published,” the letter states.

Bowman, in response to questions on Wednesday, reiterated that he strongly supported the participation by academics at CDU in the inquiry and the presentation of counterviews.

“Regarding the two submissions in question, I felt the criticisms of the process were unfair and could not see the value in these matters of process being published,” he said.

“In retrospect, this was unnecessary, and I am pleased these academics are participating in the inquiry.”

Enciso, who along with Murta is a member of Darwin-based community climate groups including the No New Gas Coalition, expressed disappointment at the request to withhold their submission from publication.

“Transparency is important and this kind of request from the leader of an academic institution ostensibly committed to free speech amounts to a request for censorship,” he said.

He said many staff and students, if given the opportunity, would have given “clear reasons why it would be unacceptable for CDU to give conditional support for the Middle Arm development in its current form”.

“If the university can send all-staff emails asking for suggestions on the staff Christmas party, then it can do the same for what its position should be on the Middle Arm industrial precinct,” he said.

Don Driscoll is a professor of ecology at Deakin university and the chair of the academic freedom working group at the Ecological Society of Australia. His research has examined academic freedom and scientific suppression in Australia.

He said he was heartened the federal inquiry had chosen to publish the submissions in full.

The NT chief minister, Eva Lawler, and senior officials will appear before the inquiry on Thursday.

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‘Something is rotten in the state of Australia’: Peter Dutton blames police and Labor for rise in antisemitism

Opposition leader says ‘national moral fog’ has made antisemitism permissible in speech at Sydney Opera House

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The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has blamed police and Labor political leaders for what he calls an unprecedented and unchecked rise in antisemitism, declaring “something is rotten in the state of Australia”.

In a speech on Wednesday evening in which he forcefully defended Israel and framed a series of domestic policy proposals in the context of the Israel-Gaza conflict, Dutton also accused Penny Wong of being “reckless” in advocating for Palestinian statehood as essential to sustainable Middle East peace. He called the foreign minister’s remarks at a security conference on Tuesday “utterly illogical, ill-timed and inappropriate”.

The Liberal party leader called Wong’s advocacy for a Palestinian state “the most reckless act of a foreign minister” in decades. “For a crass domestic political win, Penny Wong has irreparably damaged our relations with our ally Israel.”

Speaking at the Sydney Opera House, the site of violent pro-Palestine protests that took place two days after the 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel, Dutton accused police of being weak and woke and demonstrating a “supine” response to antisemitism across Australia both then and since.

“It would be concerning if – among our top-ranking police officers – there is a reluctance to enforce the law because to do so risks offending certain cultural sensitivities or stoking tension in particular communities,” said Dutton, a former Queensland police officer.

“If our top-ranking police officers harbour such fears and have adopted a soft approach, they do a disservice to these very communities who want the law enforced just like their fellow Australians.”

In a Liberal party oration named in honour of Tom Hughes, Dutton said it was “astonishing” how few arrests had been made for antisemitic behaviour and said if the police response at the Opera House protests had been stronger then other incidents would not have occurred.

“Additionally, what should have been clearcut condemnations of antisemitism from the Labor party have been clouded by instances of moral equivalence and moral ambiguity,” he said. “What remains is a national moral fog which has made antisemitism permissible.”

Dutton likened those 9 October protests to the shooting murder of 35 people at Tasmania’s Port Arthur historic site in 1996, which heralded tougher gun laws in Australia.

“While no one was killed during the 9 October protests, the events at the Sydney Opera House were akin to a Port Arthur moment in terms of their social significance,” Dutton said.

He said Anthony Albanese “has not risen to that moment” and that a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents were the result.

“I believe there are two causes for this fallout: a failure of law enforcement to exercise power and a failure of political leadership from those in power.”

Dutton zeroed in on what he said were domestic policy failings that needed repair, in immigration and education.

He said the protests at the Opera House had demonstrated that there were people in Australia who did not subscribe to its liberal democratic values and had “ripped up the social contract”.

“My message to this recalcitrant minority is simple,” he said. “You will not change us. If you do not subscribe to the Australian way of life, leave the country.”

He said Australians who incited or engaged in violence should face “the full force of the law” and non-citizens who did the same “should have their visas cancelled and be deported”. He said this would be “the resolve of a future Coalition government under my leadership”.

The federal Coalition recently refused to pass government legislation aimed at jailing non-citizens who obstructed moves to deport them.

Dutton says kids taught ‘what to think, not how to think’

Dutton also linked what he said was a Coalition commitment to use “explicit instruction teaching” in schools to prioritise “reading, writing and maths” in the curriculum. He said children were being taught “what to think, not how to think” and were “force-fed” what he described as “anti-Israel hate”.

“We also need to ensure our students have a better grasp of the horrors of the Holocaust as well as the age-old, enduring and shape-shifting nature of antisemitism,” he said.

Dutton said he believed Australians “have had a gutful of the politics of division and the preoccupation with difference”.

Using the issue for an election pitch, he said a Coalition government would “rebuild our national confidence and camaraderie” by focusing on things that unite Australians, listing a set of values and priorities and vowing to safeguard Australia “from those who seek to destroy it”.

In her speech on Tuesday night, Wong accused both the Greens and Dutton of inflaming social division. Wong said the Greens were amplifying disinformation and exploiting community distress to win votes, and that Dutton dismissed concern for Palestinians as “Hamas sympathising”.

“On this, and in his approach to the world, Mr Dutton needs to decide if he wants to be a leader in difficult times – or if he wants to continue being a wrecking ball, making those times even more difficult,” Wong said. “Australians know our country needs mature leadership for serious times.”

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CEO of female-only app would not address trans woman as ‘Ms’, Sydney court hears

‘I don’t think it’s kind to expect a woman to see a man as a woman’, founder of Giggle for Girls, Sall Grover tells courtroom

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A court has heard that the founder and CEO of a women-only social media app will not address a transgender woman as “Ms”, saying “I don’t think it’s kind to expect a woman to see a man as a woman”.

Roxanne Tickle is suing Giggle for Girls and its CEO, Sall Grover, for alleged unlawful discrimination after Tickle’s membership of the female only networking app was revoked in September 2021. Tickle is seeking damages.

On the second day of the trial, Grover gave evidence for more than two hours at Sydney’s federal court on Wednesday morning before federal court justice Robert Bromwich.

Tickle’s counsel, Georgina Costello KC, claimed the respondents had persisted in misgendering her for years, despite Grover once telling Tickle in a X interaction that “If I was to meet you IRL, I’d treat you how you want to be treated”.

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Costello asked Grover if she would “call her Ms Tickle in real life?”

“No,” Grover answered. When asked if that was kind, Grover said: “I don’t think that it’s kind to expect a woman to see a man as a woman.”

The court was told that, as part of crowdfunding efforts towards covering Giggle’s legal costs, an Etsy shop is selling Team Giggle merchandise, including a $37.70 “Sweaty Balls Team Giggle” scented candle which features a “demeaning” image of Tickle.

When questioned whether she understood that the product was deeply offensive to the applicant, Grover said that “offence is very subjective”.

As part of her argument, Costello described a transgender woman who had a female birth certificate, hormone therapy, breasts, gender affirmation surgery, wore makeup and women’s clothes, had a woman’s hairstyle and used women’s facilities.

“I suggest to you that that is a woman in our society,” said Costello.

“I don’t agree,” replied Grover.

The landmark case is the first time gender identity discrimination laws have been tested in the federal court. Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act in 2013 made it unlawful under federal law to discriminate against a person on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Definitions of sex, gender and what it means to be a woman are central to the case.

Giggle’s legal team argues sex is a biological concept. It claims Tickle was discriminated against on the grounds of sex rather than gender identity and that, under the act, the app counts as a “special measure” that helps advance equality between men and women.

Giggle is represented by former Liberal party candidate Katherine Deves. Grover has said that she intends to take the case to the high court.

While the court heard on Tuesday that the app was designed as an “online refuge” for women, Grover and Giggle were subject to a “flood of male abuse” and that her email had been “bombarded by thousands of men”.

In media interviews in London in March, Grover described Tickle as a man, described “him” as “scary” and said that “he” had harassed her, the court heard.

Grover has spoken at conservative conference CPAC Australia and has given between 20 and 50 interviews about the case, she said.

She said she had messaged evolutionary biologist Colin Wright to seek advice. Wright is expected to give evidence in the trial.

As of Wednesday morning, an online crowdfunding platform to help cover Giggle for Girls’ legal costs had raised $512,000.

Grover said she had spent nearly half a million dollars on the development of the app. She was unable to answer questions about the company’s income over the last two to three years.

The app is now being rebuilt with a view to going back online, the court heard.

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Ex-Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg sentenced to five months for perjury

Weisselberg pleaded guilty last month to two counts of perjury in the first degree in civil fraud case

The ex-Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg has been sentenced to five months in jail for lying under oath in civil fraud case.

The former Trump Organization chief financial officer, 76, was expected to receive this sentence after pleading guilty last month to two counts of perjury in the first degree.

Weisselberg previously spent three months in jail last year after pleading guilty to helping orchestrate a tax fraud scheme at the business.

A longtime lieutenant to Donald Trump, Weisselberg was one of the defendants on the former president’s fraud trial that resulted in a $450m fine. Weisselberg, along with Trump, Trump’s adult sons and Jeff McConney, another former Trump executive, were found guilty of inflating the value of Trump’s assets on government financial documents. Weisselberg was fined $1.1m for his role in the case.

When Weisselberg took the witness stand in October for the trial, he was often evasive of prosecutors’ questions, including ones about his knowledge about the size of Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower. On financial statements, the Trump Organization listed the apartment as being 30,000 sq ft. In reality, the apartment is closer to 11,000 sq ft.

Weisselberg said the matter was “de minimus, in my mind”, brushing off the difference.

Forbes magazine soon refuted his claim, saying they had emails and notes of Weisselberg trying to convince the magazine that the apartment was 30,000 sq ft, despite documents that indicated the apartment was much smaller.

Weisselberg admitted to perjury as part of a deal with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting a separate Trump trial around the former president’s hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

In the deal, the district attorney’s office agreed not to prosecute Weisselberg for any additional crimes relating to his work at the Trump Organization, protecting him from further prosecution relating to the hush-money case.

It is still unclear what role Weisselberg will play in the hush-money trial, which starts 15 April.

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Arizona Republicans denounce revived 1864 abortion ban in sudden reversal

As the party struggles to talk about abortion, response marks fastest and strongest rebuke of bans since the fall of Roe

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Hours after Arizona’s supreme court declared on Tuesday that a 160-year-old abortion ban is now enforceable, Republicans in the state took a surprising stance for a party that has historically championed abortion restrictions – they denounced the decision.

“This decision cannot stand,” said Matt Gress, a Republican state representative. “I categorically reject rolling back the clock to a time when slavery was still legal and we could lock up women and doctors because of an abortion.”

First passed when Arizona was still a territory, the ban only permits abortions to save a patient’s life and does not have exceptions for rape or incest.

“Today’s Arizona supreme court decision reinstating an Arizona territorial-era ban on all abortions from more than 150 years ago is disappointing to say the least,” said TJ Shope, a Republican state senator.

“I oppose today’s ruling,” added Kari Lake, a Republican running to represent Arizona in the US Senate and a Donald Trump loyalist. Lake called on the state legislature to “come up with an immediate commonsense solution that Arizonans can support”.

Since the US supreme court overturned Roe v Wade, leading the GOP to stumble in the 2022 midterms and abortion rights supporters to win a string of ballot measures, including in purple and red states, Republicans have struggled to find a way to talk about abortion without turning off voters. But their response to the ruling on the 1864 ban may mark their fastest and strongest rebuke of abortion bans since Roe fell.

“This is an earthquake that has never been seen in Arizona politics,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant in Arizona, of the decision. “This will shake the ground under every Republican candidate, even those in safe legislative or congressional seats.”

The 1864 ban is not currently in effect, and may not go into effect for weeks due to legal delays. Abortion is currently allowed in Arizona up until 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Some of the criticisms of the Tuesday ruling came from politicians who had previously supported the 1864 ban or cheered the end of Roe v Wade. Lake previously called the ban a “great law”, according to PolitiFact. David Schweikert, an Arizona congressman who is facing one of the most competitive House races in the country this November, said on Tuesday that he does not support the ruling and wants the state legislature to “address this issue immediately”, but in 2022 said the fall of Roe “pleased” him.

The speaker of the Arizona state house and the president of the state senate, who are both Republicans, also released a joint statement saying that they would be “listening to our constituents to determine the best course of action for the legislature”. In contrast, on the day Roe fell, the Republican-controlled state senate released a statement declaring that the 1864 ban was in effect immediately. That statement unleashed confusion and chaos among abortion providers in Arizona, prompting them to stop offering the procedure out of an abundance of caution.

“They are trying to play it both ways. They’re trying to have this illusion that they’re moderate to get votes, because they know that Arizonans do not want a total ban,” said Dr Gabrielle Goodrick, one of the providers who temporarily stopped performing abortions when Roe fell. “This is just ridiculous. Now they’re saying that they oppose it? Yeah, yeah – a little too late.”

Arizona is one of roughly a dozen states where voters may be able to directly decide abortion rights come November. Activists in the state have now collected more than half a million signatures in favor of giving Arizona residents a chance to vote on a ballot measure that would enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.

Democrats hope that turnout for this proposal, which has yet to be officially added to the ballot, will also lead to surge in support for their candidates, including Joe Biden. A similar dynamic is at play in Florida, whose state supreme court recently paved the way for a six-week abortion ban, and where voters will be able to vote in November to constitutionally protect abortion.

The decision also exposed the deepening rift between Republicans and their longtime allies in the anti-abortion movement. As Arizona Republicans raced to distance themselves from the long-dormant law, abortion opponents cheered the decision.

“We celebrate the Arizona supreme court’s decision that allows the state’s pro-life law to again protect the lives of countless, innocent unborn children,” said Jake Warner, a senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, who argued the case before the court in favor of the ban.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who disappointed religious conservatives on Monday when he said states should decide their own abortion laws, did not immediately weigh in on the Arizona ruling.

Abortion rights are popular in Arizona: nearly one-third of Arizona voters in the 2022 midterm elections said abortion was the issue that mattered most in helping them decide who to vote for, according to exit polling. By a two to one margin, voters in the state said abortion should be legal, and 40% said they felt “angry” about the supreme court decision ending the federal right to an abortion.

A poll conducted in late February by the Phoenix-based firm, Noble Predictive Insights, found that 40% of Arizona voters expected Trump, if elected, to attempt to ban abortion altogether, while 45% expected Biden, if re-elected, to increase access.

The vice-president, Kamala Harris, will go to Arizona later this week, in a visit that was planned ahead of the Tuesday decision. She blamed the impending state ban on Trump, whose three supreme court appointees voted to eliminate the federally guaranteed right to an abortion.

“Arizona just rolled back the clock to a time before women could vote – and, by his own admission, there’s one person responsible: Donald Trump,” Harris said in a campaign statement. “The alarm is sounding for every woman in America: if he has the opportunity, Donald Trump would sign off on a national abortion ban.”

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