The Guardian 2024-04-12 01:04:09


The federal education minister, Jason Clare, has slammed Peter Dutton’s comparison between the Port Arthur massacre and a pro-Palestine protest.

Speaking on Sunrise, Clare said: “If you want to run the country, you can’t run your mouth.”

Last week, Peter Dutton took the side of another country that killed an Australian citizen. This week, he’s using the murder in cold blood of 35 Australians to try to make a political point. This bloke is all aggro and no judgment …

You have other Liberals like Bridget Archer, the Tasmanian MP [who is] respected on all sides of the parliament, who has condemned Peter Dutton’s words here and called on him to apologise.

If there were more Liberals in the Liberal party like Bridget Archer, then Peter Dutton would be gone today.

Clare said it was “extraordinary” for Dutton to blame a rise in antisemitism on the Labor party and police.

Yesterday, Archer labelled Dutton’s comments “incredibly disrespectful” and “wholly inappropriate”. You can read her full response to his speech below:

Bridget Archer leads criticism after Peter Dutton compares pro-Palestine protest to Port Arthur massacre

Tasmanian Liberal MP labels comments ‘wholly inappropriate’ after PM says he was ‘taken aback’ by opposition leader’s speech

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Peter Dutton has drawn widespread criticism, including from one of his own MPs, for comparing the 1996 mass murder of 35 people at Port Arthur to a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House.

The Tasmanian Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer labelled Dutton’s comments “incredibly disrespectful” and “wholly inappropriate”.

The MP for Bass, who is known for speaking out against the party line on important issues, told Guardian Australia the example used in the opposition leader’s speech on Wednesday night went too far.

“[Dutton’s comments were] incredibly disrespectful to the victims and survivors of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history and a wholly inappropriate and somewhat bizarre comparison,” Archer said.

Dutton used an address at the Sydney Opera House to warn of an unprecedented and unchecked rise in antisemitism.

The Liberal leader then compared the 9 October pro-Palestine protests outside the Sydney Opera House last year to the Port Arthur massacre, which led to tougher gun laws in Australia, while blaming Labor politicians’ “moral equivalence” for rising antisemitism.

“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.

On Thursday, Dutton appeared to walk back the comments when asked whether he still stood by comparing the two events.

“If you look at the facts of what I said, I don’t think you could have the presumption in that question that you ask,” he said, suggesting the comments were about former prime minister John Howard’s strength as a leader instead of comparing the Port Arthur massacre to a protest.

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The prime minister and the premier of New South Wales both took issue with the opposition leader’s example, with Chris Minns warning Dutton to “keep NSW police out of the federal political fight” while Anthony Albanese said he was “taken aback”.

The Greens senator Nick McKim also criticised the comments, calling them disrespectful.

The senator, from Tasmania, said: “Dutton can stay out of Tasmania for good.”

In an address to the Queensland Media Club on Thursday, the prime minister said Dutton’s comments went too far and he was “very concerned” about social cohesion in Australia.

“Sometimes what Peter Dutton does in his comments, is to think about how hard you could possibly go and how angry you could possibly be – and then go one step further,” Albanese said.

“It’s up to him to explain that. I’m someone who has spent time, including recently in Parliament House, with the family of victims of Port Arthur.”

Labor’s federal member for Lyons, Brian Mitchell, whose electorate includes Port Arthur, condemned Dutton’s reference to 1996’s “unspeakable tragedy”.

“The Australian people put politics aside and came together in common purpose,” he said.

“As the local member here, I would ask Peter Dutton to reflect on that and refrain from making such divisive and inflammatory comments using the tragedy in our community.”

Dutton also used his speech to condemn the police response, saying rising antisemitism could have been restrained if the police response to the protests had been stronger. The opposition leader added it was “astonishing” how few arrests had been made for antisemitic behaviour.

When asked about the comments, NSW police pointed out that the force began Operation Shelter after the Opera House protests, to “ensure community safety in response to any future protest activity”.

Eighty-nine people have been arrested and charged with 191 offences as part of the operation, which also included a strike force to investigate reports of unlawful activity during protests across Sydney.

Minns defended the NSW police force as a “wonderful institution” in Sydney on Thursday.

“They do a great job in NSW and we should all get behind them,” he said.

Albanese said efforts to politicise or weaponise issues surrounding the Israel-Gaza conflict were not appropriate and risked dividing Australian communities.

“When it comes to the Middle East, these are complex issues. They do not need people talking up the heat, they need people turning it down,” he said.

Dutton suggested on Wednesday that a “supine” police response to antisemitic incidents could reflect an effort to avoid “offending certain cultural sensitivities or stoking tension in particular communities”.

When asked to respond to Dutton’s comments, Victoria police said that it takes any report of racial or religious-based crime extremely seriously and “will investigate all cases, no matter who has reported them”.

“Our engagement with the Palestinian and Jewish communities remains strong both through our proactive patrolling and our support of community events,” a spokesperson said.

The Queensland police service was contacted for comment.

– Additional reporting by Eden Gillespie, Tamsin Rose and Benita Kolovos

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Queensland government accused of failing to provide adequate schooling to locked up children

Data shows children in youth detention centres received just two to three hours of education a day on average

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Children held in the “youth hub” of a Queensland police watch house are receiving less than an hour of daily schooling on average each weekday, while those held in youth detention centres are receiving an average of just two to three hours of classes.

Data from a question on notice by the shadow attorney general, Tim Nicholls, revealed children within the Caboolture watch house education support hub received less than 44 minutes of schooling each weekday on average from 22 January to 15 March this year.

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Children detained in Queensland police watch houses generally do not receive any schooling. The only watch house in the state where children received schooling by department of education staff was Caboolture. The data only captured children who had been detained for a full school week.

In youth detention centres, children who attended learning centres received some schooling. However, children often missed classes due to other appointments.

The chief executive of the Youth Advocacy Centre, Katherine Hayes, said the data emphasised “how watch houses are not suitable for children”.

Hayes said there were about 70 children in Queensland watch houses, with 20 of those in Caboolture.

“Children are not getting education unless they happen to be in the youth hub, in which case they’re getting less than an hour, which is meaningless,” Hayes told Guardian Australia.

In her response to Nicholls’ question on notice, the youth justice and education minister, Di Farmer, said the department “has developed a range of resources to provide meaningful education, literacy and numeracy that young people can complete while they are in a watch house”.

A second question on notice from Nicholls also revealed the daily contact hours by education staff for those who attended classes at Cleveland, Brisbane and West Moreton Bay youth detention centres was between two and three hours on average.

The average daily contact hours were 2.29 at Brisbane youth detention centre, 2.69 at Cleveland and 3.3 hours at West Moreton over the periods with available data.

The lowest daily contact hours on record at Brisbane youth detention centre was zero hours during a four-day Covid-19 shutdown in 2021 and then 1.94 hours from 25 to 29 September 2023.

This data only included children who attended the learning centres. Hayes said she had heard cases of some children not attending, particularly when they have other appointments.

Hayes said the hours of schooling in youth detention centres should be higher as these children are generally already behind in their education.

“While kids are in detention centres and watch houses, they are more often than not sitting there bored and unstimulated and that can lead to behavioural issues,” Hayes said.

Nicholls accused Labor of failing to “deliver the most basic service of education to youth offenders”.

“It’s clear some young people aren’t receiving any education, and those who are receive just a few hours a day on average,” he said.

“This failure is leaving young people without the tools they need to break the cycle of crime, or re-enter schooling when they are out of detention.”

A youth justice department spokesperson said that “education is a key protective factor for a young person” but that required activities including court appearances and medical appointments “may impact school attendance”.

The spokesperson said 200 new staff were employed in detention centres in 2023 and 2024, with current staffing at least 100 over budgeted strength.

“All existing and new youth detention centres are equipped with sufficient education and programming facilities to support the 1:4 teaching ratio that underpins the operations of the on-site schools,” they said.

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Minister was warned of ‘increased’ legal risks of immigration detention in 2022

Documents released under freedom of information reveal home affairs department advised it needed to show ‘concrete’ steps to deport some non-citizens

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Andrew Giles was warned of legal “risks” associated with immigration detention within months of Labor’s election, including a need for his department to be able to show “concrete and robust steps” to deport some non-citizens.

In response to “increased risks” after a spate of court cases under the Coalition government, the home affairs department told Giles in July 2022 it was “identifying and reviewing” all non-citizens in detention who were owed protection obligations to “explore third country options” for removal.

Despite the work to resettle long-term immigration detainees, the government did not approach third countries to take a man known as NZYQ until after it conceded on 31 May 2023 it could not resettle the stateless Rohingyan challenging immigration detention in the high court.

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The submission, released under freedom of information, reveals that Giles attended a briefing with the commonwealth solicitor general on 21 June 2022 – just one month after Labor’s election – in relation to “risks associated with long-term detention”.

In the “key issues” section of the 8 July 2022 submission is the observation that the 20-year-old precedent case of Al Kateb had ruled indefinite detention lawful, although it noted the 2004 case was decided by “a bare majority of the high court”.

The rest of the paragraph about the case, overturned by the high court in November in the NZYQ decision, is redacted.

Guardian Australia understands that both Coalition and Labor governments were advised of the risk of Al Kateb being overturned and the department believed good-faith efforts to resettle those detained boosted the prospect it would be upheld.

In a section titled “third country options”, the department noted the AJL20 high court decision in 2021 had “only reduced some of the legal risk” associated with failing to deport a non-citizen “as soon as reasonably practicable”.

The department noted “one such risk crystallised” in the BHL19 case in March 2022, when the commonwealth was ordered to explain “steps taken to remove [the applicant] and why removal had not become reasonably practicable”.

“In order to comply with its obligations under the Migration Act and mitigate associated risks, the department must be in a position to evidence that concrete and robust steps to remove the individual as soon as reasonably practicable have been and are being taken in any given case.”

The department said that in response to “increased risks associated with cases where [it] is obliged to pursue third country options” it created a new body in the department which “is currently identifying and reviewing all cases” that may engage Australia’s protection obligations “to explore third country options”.

Giles signed the submission on 25 July 2022, including noting that he would be briefed on “detainees who have been found to engage Australia’s protection obligations who are unable to be removed at this time, where the department must investigate third country removal options”.

The department said that it was “highly unlikely” a person would be accepted without “at least significant ties” to the proposed third country and that their criminal history was “one of the most significant barriers to successful third country removals”.

The high court found that NZYQ “had a well-founded fear of persecution” such that he could not be deported to Myanmar, meaning he was likely among the cohort identified by the department as requiring third-country resettlement.

NZYQ, a stateless man who had pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old boy, launched his high court challenge on 5 April 2023.

On 26 May 2023, an assistant secretary in the home affairs department wrote to the offices of Giles and the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, in an email titled “NZYQ v Minister … indefinite detention / Al Kateb challenge … proposal to reconsider exercising ministerial intervention powers under the Act in light of litigation risk”.

The email indicated that the government was considering releasing NZYQ by giving him a visa to avoid the high court challenge.

On 31 May, the commonwealth conceded it “had not identified any viable options to remove the plaintiff from Australia” and that NZYQ “could not be removed from Australia, [and] there was no real likelihood or prospect of the plaintiff being removed in the reasonably foreseeable future”.

According to a document tabled in Senate estimates, Giles “was not asked to sign off on the statement of agreed facts”.

Despite the concession it was not likely NZYQ could be deported, the Australian government approached Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and the Five Eyes allies from July to September to resettle him.

NZYQ’s counsel Craig Lenehan said in the 7 November hearing this was done “under the shadow of this litigation”, more than three years after the Migration Act created an obligation to deport him.

Lenehan said the Australian constitution required more than the “charade” of attempting to deport someone to justify their detention.

Responses from all countries were negative – except the US, which committed to take a “hard look” at NZYQ’s case.

On 31 May the commonwealth accepted it had “never successfully removed a person, who has been convicted of an offence involving sexual offending against a child” except to a country of which they were a citizen.

But after the commonwealth lost the case, O’Neil claimed that it had operational advice it was likely to be able to deport NZYQ.

In the July 2022 submission the department also identified “removal challenges” for those in detention, including “individuals who refuse to cooperate with removals processes”, “delays in obtaining foreign travel documents” and “challenges engaging with foreign governments”.

Due to redactions it is not clear if policies such as creating an offence for failure to cooperate in deportation, as proposed by Labor’s bill, were in contemplation at the time.

A spokesperson for Giles and O’Neil said: “The government took into consideration every available tool to argue strongly against the release of individuals from immigration detention, and demonstrate that current settings were constitutional”.

“At no stage has the opposition been able to identify an action they would have taken which would have resulted in a different outcome.”

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Peter Dutton’s office billed taxpayers almost $6,000 for staff to travel with him when he attended Gina Rinehart party

Exclusive: Opposition leader travelled at own expense to lavish party, but documents reveal two staff also made the trip to Perth

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Peter Dutton’s office claimed nearly $6,000 in public expenses for staff and security to travel to Perth with the opposition leader when he attended Gina Rinehart’s lavish birthday party.

Dutton’s office has said he travelled at his own expense to the party for Australia’s richest woman, which included a horseriding performance, multiple large cakes and onstage pyrotechnics. But travel information obtained under freedom of information shows members of Dutton’s team – which his office said included a staffer and a security detail – claimed travel from Melbourne to Perth and back again on 29 February, the night of the party on the banks of the Swan River.

It was reported in March that Dutton attended Rinehart’s party after the end of a parliamentary sitting week, before appearing in Melbourne the next morning to campaign for the Dunkley byelection. The Australian Financial Review reported Dutton was spotted flying from Canberra to Melbourne, then travelling on to Perth before returning to Melbourne that same evening – potentially joining Rinehart’s party for as little as an hour.

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Dutton was criticised at the time by 2GB host Ben Fordham for choosing to fly to Perth instead of spending more time campaigning in Dunkley, calling the opposition leader’s decision “a bad call” and suggested he should have “brushed” the party to campaign more in the crucial byelection.

“Peter Dutton spent more time on the aeroplane than he did at the party, which sounds like a waste of time to me,” Fordham said.

Labor’s Jodie Belyea won the byelection against Liberal challenger Nathan Conroy by a 53-47 margin.

The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA), the government body which manages parliamentarians’ work expenses, released information under FoI on Thursday to show Dutton’s office claimed flights between Melbourne and Perth on the day of – and the day after – Rinehart’s party. All were classified as having been claimed by “personal staff”, rather than Dutton himself. Guardian Australia understands that any claim for Dutton himself would have been recorded and classified differently on the documents.

IPEA records show staff from Dutton’s office claimed a Melbourne to Perth flight on 29 February, the day of the party, costing $2,221.63. The same day, staff also claimed a Perth to Melbourne air fare, at $2,680.80.

The following day, 1 March, was another staff claim for a Perth to Melbourne air fare at $1,028.93.

In total, the three air fare claims between Melbourne and Perth came in at $5,931.36.

Guardian Australia contacted Dutton’s office for clarification on the claims. A spokesperson responded that the opposition leader travelled with one staff member and his security detail, which they said was appropriate and within travel rules.

Dutton is typically accompanied in public by a security detail, as are other senior politicians like prime minister Anthony Albanese and deputy PM Richard Marles.

Dutton’s spokesperson also referred back to his remarks in March, at the time of the initial reporting on his Perth trip.

“The air fares were at my expense, there was no accommodation. I flew back on the redeye so that I could be back into Melbourne at 4.30 the next morning,” Dutton said at the time.

“My security detail operates exactly the same as the governor general and the prime minister.”

The lavish celebration for Rinehart, according to her company’s websites, included “a horse show backed by the fantastic Aussie music, The Man from Snowy River, with riders … carrying large Australian and company flags”.

The Perth lord mayor, Basil Zempilas, told 6PR radio he attended the event, calling the horseback show “an incredible sight”, and saying the pop star Guy Sebastian had sung the national anthem.

Last year Dutton was flown to another Rinehart party at Hancock Prospecting’s Pilbara mine by another billionaire rich-lister, where he praised the mining magnate and her family as “pioneers” who had “given so much to this country”.

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The 30-year hunt to find the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert bus: ‘My jaw was on the ground’

Not long after the 1994 film became a smash hit, the titular bus disappeared. Where did it go? Who had it? And could it be recovered before it was too late?

Thirty years ago, a humble silver bus was transformed into a cinematic icon when the low-budget Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert became a heart-warming, Oscar-winning smash hit.

But for years, no one has known where the bus used in Stephan Elliott’s film went. Not long after the 38-day shoot finished in 1993, it seemingly vanished without a trace. This did not stop countless Australians from claiming they either owned it or knew who owned it, or that they had spotted it somewhere up and down the country.

The story of where she ended up, and how she was found, is worthy of a film in itself.

‘We were a bit suspicious at first’

In the 1994 film, Priscilla is home to drag queens Mitzi Del Bra (Hugo Weaving), Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Guy Pearce) and transgender woman Bernadette Bassenger (Terence Stamp) as they drive from Sydney to Alice Springs.

In reality, Priscilla is a 1976 Japanese model Hino RC320. It was owned by Sydney company Boronia Tours before it was sold to a couple who leased the bus to Latent Images, the film’s production company, for the duration of the shoot in September and October 1993. Afterwards, the couple hired it out occasionally, including to the Australian band the Whitlams, who used it as a tour bus for six months in 1994.

But after that, Priscilla vanished without a trace.

For years, the bus was the white whale for curatorial staff at the History Trust of South Australia, who hoped to acquire it for the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, SA – home to several famous cars from cinema, including the Mad Max Bigfoot buggy.

So when a man called Michael Mahon got in touch with the History Trust in 2019 claiming Priscilla was sitting on his property in Ewingar, New South Wales (population: 67), no one really believed him.

“Michael sent a message saying he had the bus and wanted to sell it. I felt like I was in The Castle – I said, ‘tell him he’s dreaming’,” says Paul Rees, head of museums at the History Trust and former director of the National Motor Museum. “We were a bit suspicious at first, to be honest. But we put our Sherlock Holmes hats on and soon realised it wasn’t a joke, so we started our investigation.”

Curators spent months determining if the bus was truly Priscilla. “A few things really made us confident: it had the right number plates, the distinctive animal print curtains and dashboard cover, and the original name roller,” says Adam Paterson, manager curatorial at the History Trust.

Complicating matters were the many pretenders to the throne: there are many copies of Priscilla, including the bus that was driven around the 2000 Olympics closing ceremony in Sydney; another was made for the talent show I Will Survive; and the one used in the Priscilla stage show, now displayed in Broken Hill.

In the film, the bus is famously painted bright pink partway through – but because the film-makers could only afford one bus, they painted just half of it pink and left the other side silver so they could shoot out of sequence. Crucially, some old pink paint hadn’t been removed from a hinge.

“What convinced everyone in the end was the pink paint scrapings,” says Rees. “Curators are fantastically conservative – they will not jump until they’re absolutely sure. But I was jumping all over the place.”


Some facts and dates remain a little murky, but what everyone agrees on is this: the couple who owned Priscilla eventually broke up and one of them got the bus in the separation. That person drove it to their new partner’s place in Ewingar sometime around 2006, where it was eventually abandoned when that relationship ended. When the owner of that house in Ewingar died, it was sold – complete with Priscilla – to Mahon in 2016.

“I’d been here in Ewingar for about six months when I went down to the community hall to say hello to everybody, and they said, ‘G’day! What are you going to do with the bus?’” says Mahon. “I said to the bloke behind the bar, ‘Why is everyone asking me about the bus?’ and he went, ‘That’s Priscilla!’ ‘Strewth,’ I said.”

Mahon did some research online and rewatched the film, then looked over the bus with fresh eyes. Everything matched, down to the number plates. He went on Facebook for advice on bus restoration, but “everyone thought I was an idiot and a liar because they thought she had been stolen or destroyed”.

Eventually he made friends with a few enthusiasts, who told him the rusting vehicle outside his house was known by two names in the bus-loving community. “One was ‘The Hunt for Red October’ because they’d been looking for it for years,” says Mahon. “The other was ‘the Holy Grail’.”

By that time, the bus had been languishing outdoors for a decade. In the years following, it survived multiple bushfires and floods. In October 2019, when huge flames came within centimetres of the bus, a water bomb struck it and saved it.

“The fire went right alongside Priscilla and took out a van, a boat and two cars right next to it,” Mahon says. “You wouldn’t believe it. It was 2,000-degree temperatures. The fire went straight over the roof of the house, the fireball was 50 feet above the treetop. But Priscilla survived.”

Right after the 2019 fires came floods, which made finding a new home for Priscilla even more urgent. “With all the rain, it started to really rust because it copped a lot of heat,” says Mahon. “Thankfully, the museum was in the same frame of mind as me – it is a true blue, ridgy-didge Australian icon. It’s got to be saved.”


“I’ve heard it so many times – ‘I’ve got the bus!’ – that it gets boring,” says Stephan Elliott, the director and writer of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. When the History Trust got in touch to see if he could help verify the bus’s authenticity, he was sceptical.

“But I was astonished when they showed me the photos,” he says. “I said, ‘There’s two things I need to see: the carpet and if there is a side-railing on the roof.’ They sent more photos and I immediately said, ‘That’s it. You got her.’ My jaw was just on the ground.”

The side-railing was installed on the bus’s interior so a camera could be hung from it “like a little cable car”, to allow for moving shots inside the bus while it was on the road. “It’s so odd, no one else would think to put it there,” says Elliott.

The director, who fondly calls Priscilla “the old bus and chain”, wrote the film at the same time as his 1993 comedy Frauds, which ended up being made first. The experience was “terrible, the whole Hollywood nightmare … I was completely ruined by the end, I was literally a dribbling wreck.”

“We were having an early production meeting for Priscilla and I said, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t want to ever make a film again.’ Everyone was shocked. But Owen [Paterson, the production designer] said, ‘Well, there’s something that I’ve found and it’s about to pull up. Come and have a look.’

“So we’re sitting there in Paddington and around the corner she came. It was a very weird moment where I got inside the bus and I put my hand on the wall. I turned to everyone and said, ‘I think I can do this.’”

Elliott estimates he has seen 50 different copies of the bus over the years, “at premieres, Mardi Gras and daggy things”. “So to hear that the original was still alive, it was very special,” he adds. “I don’t understand how it is. It is just extraordinary.”


Given the complex nature of who actually owned Priscilla, having been abandoned on a deceased estate, the History Trust applied to the NSW courts to buy the vehicle as abandoned property in 2021, 18 months after Mahon first contacted them. This process required them to wait another whole year for someone to come forward to claim it as their own. But no one did.

Mahon was finally deemed the legal owner of the bus and sold it to the History Trust in May 2023. In September, “a whole army of very experienced mechanics and engineers” turned up to Ewingar to move her for the first time in at least 16 years.

“I was actually on leave but I drove myself all the way to NSW to watch it be moved – this is what a project like this does to you,” says Rees.

The bus’s flat tyres were carefully filled with air; if they couldn’t be filled or burst, it would become a much more complex operation. Everyone held their breath as the bus was wriggled “inch by inch” out of a tight spot on a slope, then down the hill on to a truck. Just as it went on, one tyre popped.

Ten or so Ewingar locals gathered to watch her go. (“Word started to spread and as the bus drove out, they all sort of waved goodbye,” says Paterson. “That was pretty cool.”)

Was Mahon sad to see Priscilla go? “Yes and no,” he says. “I believe museums are important, so it was going to the right place.” But long after she was taken, he felt a pang when he looked over the spot, “like something was missing”.

“Part of me was gone,” Mahon says. “But if it stayed where it was for another 12 months, it probably would have been unrepairable.”

Priscilla is now at a restoration business in Queensland, ready to be glammed up – but not too much.

“We are restoring it to the state it was in during the making of Priscilla because the film is why it is significant,” says Rees. “So if the crew say it was a bit manky then, then it’s going to be that way when we’re done with it.”

But Priscilla was almost 20 years old when she featured in the film and will turn 50 in two years’ time, so she needs a lot of work. The History Trust is hoping people around the world will help raise A$2.2m (US$1.4m/£1.1m) – a total that includes A$750,000 for an extensive restoration, including possibly making the bus roadworthy again. The rest will go to building an ambitious “immersive” exhibit, fit for a queen, in the National Motor Museum in South Australia. (The SA government has already committed $100,000.)

“She’s not in good shape, she’s not been loved and cared for. But she’s very, very salvageable – if you’ve got money to throw at it,” says Rees. “We want the exhibition to be fabulous. If we’re taking her on the road to Mardi Gras, we want that to be a fabulous experience. All those things cost a lot of money, as do the decades of care we will provide her with.

“It’s survived flood, fires, 16 years out in the open,” he adds. “But the film is all about survival – and somehow, the bus survived.”

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‘It’s a joke’: Enhanced Games swimmer should face life ban, says aquatics chief

  • Brent Nowicki said: ‘You cross that bridge, you don’t come back’
  • James Magnussen plans to dope to break world record at Games

The Australian world champion swimmer James Magnussen should be banned from sport for life if he deliberately dopes in an attempt to win $1m by trying to break a world record, the World Aquatics chief executive, Brent Nowicki, has said.

The 6ft 7in Magnussen, who won three world titles as well as a 100m freestyle silver at the London 2012 Olympics, has promised to “juice to the gills” when he comes out of retirement for the Enhanced Games next year – and reckons he can break the 50m freestyle world record in six months.

However, Nowicki was quick to shoot down the plans of the 33-year-old, who is known as “The Missile”. “I think it’s a farce,” he said. “I think it’s a joke. If you want my honest opinion, if you are going to partake in that activity, you shouldn’t be involved in any sport ever again. You cross that bridge, you don’t come back.”

Organisers of the Enhanced Games, which has been backed by venture capitalists including the billionaire Peter Thiel, have called their event “the Olympics of the future”. They argue that drug use in sport should be called a “demonstration of science” and say their event will include athletics, swimming, weightlifting, gymnastics and combat sports.

Nowicki, though, believes that the Enhanced Games’s scientific claims are dangerous and wrong. “I think it is extremely shortsighted to tell me that one of the priority reasons behind this is science,” he said. “That is like telling me that science vessels are going out into the oceans killing whales for science purposes. You can find a lot of smoke and mirrors in this world. This is one of them.

“It takes us back years. It cuts against what we are trying to do,” he added. “It’s going to potentially give reason to somebody who’s considering doping – who can say, ‘look it’s safe now, James did it.’ Or hey, maybe there is a way to do this with this new technology.”

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‘It’s a joke’: Enhanced Games swimmer should face life ban, says aquatics chief

  • Brent Nowicki said: ‘You cross that bridge, you don’t come back’
  • James Magnussen plans to dope to break world record at Games

The Australian world champion swimmer James Magnussen should be banned from sport for life if he deliberately dopes in an attempt to win $1m by trying to break a world record, the World Aquatics chief executive, Brent Nowicki, has said.

The 6ft 7in Magnussen, who won three world titles as well as a 100m freestyle silver at the London 2012 Olympics, has promised to “juice to the gills” when he comes out of retirement for the Enhanced Games next year – and reckons he can break the 50m freestyle world record in six months.

However, Nowicki was quick to shoot down the plans of the 33-year-old, who is known as “The Missile”. “I think it’s a farce,” he said. “I think it’s a joke. If you want my honest opinion, if you are going to partake in that activity, you shouldn’t be involved in any sport ever again. You cross that bridge, you don’t come back.”

Organisers of the Enhanced Games, which has been backed by venture capitalists including the billionaire Peter Thiel, have called their event “the Olympics of the future”. They argue that drug use in sport should be called a “demonstration of science” and say their event will include athletics, swimming, weightlifting, gymnastics and combat sports.

Nowicki, though, believes that the Enhanced Games’s scientific claims are dangerous and wrong. “I think it is extremely shortsighted to tell me that one of the priority reasons behind this is science,” he said. “That is like telling me that science vessels are going out into the oceans killing whales for science purposes. You can find a lot of smoke and mirrors in this world. This is one of them.

“It takes us back years. It cuts against what we are trying to do,” he added. “It’s going to potentially give reason to somebody who’s considering doping – who can say, ‘look it’s safe now, James did it.’ Or hey, maybe there is a way to do this with this new technology.”

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Kari Lake denounces Arizona abortion ban that she once supported

Far-right US Senate candidate joins Republicans who have decried state supreme court ruling but who blocked appeal effort

Kari Lake, the far-right US Senate candidate and Donald Trump ally, denounced Arizona’s abortion ban on Thursday, arguing that the strict legislation she previously praised does not have the support of the state’s residents.

“This total ban on abortion the Arizona supreme court just ruled on is out of line with where the people of this state are,” she said in a video on Thursday. “I agree with President Trump – this is such a personal and private issue.”

In a sudden and apparently strategic reversal, Lake and other Republicans in the state have come out against a ruling from the court on Tuesday declaring that a civil war-era law banning abortion in the state is now enforceable. The law, which predates Arizona’s statehood, does not provide exceptions for rape or incest and abortions are permitted only if the mother’s life is at risk.

Donald Trump has said the court went too far: “That’ll be straightened out, and as you know, it’s all about states’ rights.”

Despite their backpedaling, Republicans in the statehouse blocked an effort by Democrats on Wednesday to repeal the ban, highlighting the disunity within the party over how to handle an issue that will likely define the 2024 race.

Lake, an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the state and election denier, expressed her support for the law in 2022 after the supreme court voted to overturn Roe v Wade.

“I’m incredibly thrilled that we are going to have a great law that’s already on the books,” she said in a June 2022 radio interview. “I believe it’s ARS 13-3603, so it will prohibit abortion in Arizona except to save the life of a mother. And I think we’re going to be paving the way and setting course for other states to follow.”

An adviser to Lake on Tuesday argued she was referring to a different law, despite the fact that she cited the number of the 1864 code.

While Republicans celebrated the decision to overturn Roe, the issue has become a political nightmare for the party. Political strategists have said that the near-total ban would draw moderate voters to Democrats and mobilize young voters and voters of color.

“This was an earthquake of epic proportions in Arizona politics,” Barrett Marson, a Phoenix-based Republican strategist, said this week. “Anytime Republicans are talking about abortion, they’re losing. Now, I think the only issue is going to be abortion.”

Doug Ducey, the Republican former governor who expanded the state supreme court and appointed the four conservative justices who ruled the ban is enforceable, has said the court went too far. He said the ruling is “not the outcome I would have preferred”.

Support for abortion in the US remains strong. A survey last year found that 69% of Americans, a record high, believed abortion should generally be legal in the first three months of pregnancy.

Lake has sought to distance herself from her past comments on Arizona’s law and urged lawmakers to “come up with an immediate commonsense solution that Arizonans can support”. Meanwhile, Politico reported Thursday that Lake was personally lobbying lawmakers to repeal the law.

In a five-minute video released on Thursday in which she lavished praise on Trump and expressed her agreement with his position no less than three times, Lake said that while she personally opposed abortion, she supported exceptions for rape and incest. “A full ban on abortion is not where the people are,” she said.

She reiterated her support for the decision to overturn Roe, and insisted that if elected to the Senate she would oppose federal funding for abortion as well as a federal ban on abortion.

“I’m not going to Washington DC to impose federal restrictions on something that’s already been sent back to the states,” she said. “I’m going to Washington DC to secure our borders, strengthen our families and help President Trump make America great again.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Hamas says it does not have 40 hostages who fit criteria for deal with Israel

US-backed proposal involves women, children and elderly or sick hostages in Gaza being exchanged for 900 Palestinian prisoners

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The Palestinian militant group Hamas has indicated it does not have 40 captives who are still alive who meet the “humanitarian” criteria for a proposed hostages-for-prisoners ceasefire agreement with Israel.

A senior Israeli official confirmed claims made at the weekend by Hamas during talks in Cairo that it does not have 40 hostages in Gaza who meet the exchange criteria.

Ceasefire talks have focused on a US-backed proposal of a phased exchange of hostages and prisoners. In the first instance women, children, and elderly or sick people – including five female Israeli soldiers – would be exchanged for an estimated 900 Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel, alongside a six-week ceasefire in Gaza.

Hamas appears reluctant to make up the numbers for an exchange with surviving male hostages. Reliable information about how many hostages remain alive, who is holding them and where has been hard to come by.

The CIA director, William Burns, has presented a new proposal to try to bridge the gaps between the two sides.

The US is pressuring Israel to agree to release 900 Palestinian prisoners in the first phase of a three-stage deal as well as allowing the return of Palestinians to northern Gaza.

The talks, which resumed on Sunday, have brought no signs of a breakthrough on a plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, which Hamas said it was studying.

About 240 hostages, including the bodies of some killed during Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel, were taken into Gaza during the assault.

So far 112 hostages have been returned alive to Israel. Of those, 105 were released as part of an exchange last year. Before that, Hamas released four prisoners unilaterally, while three more were rescued by the Israel Defense Forces.

In the months since 7 October, Israel has revealed that a number of those who were believed to have been alive when they were abducted were in fact killed during the initial Hamas attack.

Hamas has said some hostages have died during Israeli strikes on Gaza. In a high-profile friendly fire incident Israel killed three escaped male hostages as they approached Israeli troops.

Israel believes about 30 of the remaining hostages are dead, which would leave about 100 still alive, including 91 Israelis or dual nationals, eight Thai citizens, one Nepali, and one French-Mexican national.

The long-running manoeuvres on both sides around ceasefire negotiations – an increasingly politically contentious issue in Israel – have become more tortuous by the week despite pressure from mediators.

While there was speculation that Israel’s withdrawal of its forces from operations in southern Gaza may have been an undeclared confidence-building measure, the killing of three of the sons of Hamas’s political bureau chief, Ismail Haniyeh, along with several of his grandchildren, appeared to undercut that analysis.

In an interview with the Al Jazeera satellite channel, Haniyeh said the killings would not pressure Hamas into softening its positions.

Haniyeh left Gaza in 2019 and lives in exile in Qatar. The top Hamas leader in Gaza is Yahya Sinwar, who masterminded the 7 October attack on Israel, which killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Among the various stumbling blocks on the Israeli side are demands that displaced Palestinians be allowed to return to northern Gaza, as well as the identity of prisoners to be released from Israeli jails.

Hamas has been pushing for a far more significant cessation in hostilities, including a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, even as Israeli officials have vowed to continue with the war.

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Tennessee legislature passes bill banning marriage between first cousins

Proposal sails through, with one vocal opponent saying gay first cousins do not risk having a child with birth defects

The Republican-led Tennessee legislature has overwhelmingly voted to send the Republican governor, Bill Lee, a proposal that would ban marriage between first cousins.

The statehouse cast a 75-2 vote on Thursday on the bill after the senate previously approved it without any opposition.

A particularly vocal opponent, the Republican representative Gino Bulso, took up most of the debate time, as he argued for an amendment to allow first-cousin marriages if the couple first seeks counseling from a genetic counselor.

In a previous committee hearing on the bill, Bulso lightheartedly shared a story about how his grandparents had been first cousins who came to the US from Italy in the 1920s, then traveled from Ohio to Tennessee to get married. He and other lawmakers laughed, and Bulso voted for the bill in that committee.

Then, during Thursday’s floor debate, the socially conservative attorney argued that the risk of married cousins having a child with birth defects does not exist for gay couples. He contended there was no compelling government interest to ban same-sex cousins from getting married, saying that would run afoul of the US supreme court’s gay marriage decision.

He also couched his argument by saying that he thought the supreme court decision on gay marriage was “grievously wrong”. Bulso has supported legislation aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, including a bill he is sponsoring that would largely ban displaying Pride flags in public school classrooms, which civil liberties advocates have contended runs afoul of the US constitution.

“The question is: is there a public health issue with a male marrying a male first cousin?” Bulso said. “And I think the answer is no.”

Ultimately, lawmakers voted down Bulso’s amendment and approved the ban proposed by the Democratic representative Darren Jernigan.

“I hope it’s safe to say that in 2024, we can close this loophole,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan said a 1960 attorney general’s opinion determined that an 1820s Tennessee law restricting some marriages among relatives does not prevent first cousins from marrying. He responded to Bulso that there was no violation to the gay marriage ruling in his bill.

Monty Fritts, a Republican representative, was the other lawmaker to vote against the bill.

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Tennessee legislature passes bill banning marriage between first cousins

Proposal sails through, with one vocal opponent saying gay first cousins do not risk having a child with birth defects

The Republican-led Tennessee legislature has overwhelmingly voted to send the Republican governor, Bill Lee, a proposal that would ban marriage between first cousins.

The statehouse cast a 75-2 vote on Thursday on the bill after the senate previously approved it without any opposition.

A particularly vocal opponent, the Republican representative Gino Bulso, took up most of the debate time, as he argued for an amendment to allow first-cousin marriages if the couple first seeks counseling from a genetic counselor.

In a previous committee hearing on the bill, Bulso lightheartedly shared a story about how his grandparents had been first cousins who came to the US from Italy in the 1920s, then traveled from Ohio to Tennessee to get married. He and other lawmakers laughed, and Bulso voted for the bill in that committee.

Then, during Thursday’s floor debate, the socially conservative attorney argued that the risk of married cousins having a child with birth defects does not exist for gay couples. He contended there was no compelling government interest to ban same-sex cousins from getting married, saying that would run afoul of the US supreme court’s gay marriage decision.

He also couched his argument by saying that he thought the supreme court decision on gay marriage was “grievously wrong”. Bulso has supported legislation aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, including a bill he is sponsoring that would largely ban displaying Pride flags in public school classrooms, which civil liberties advocates have contended runs afoul of the US constitution.

“The question is: is there a public health issue with a male marrying a male first cousin?” Bulso said. “And I think the answer is no.”

Ultimately, lawmakers voted down Bulso’s amendment and approved the ban proposed by the Democratic representative Darren Jernigan.

“I hope it’s safe to say that in 2024, we can close this loophole,” Jernigan said.

Jernigan said a 1960 attorney general’s opinion determined that an 1820s Tennessee law restricting some marriages among relatives does not prevent first cousins from marrying. He responded to Bulso that there was no violation to the gay marriage ruling in his bill.

Monty Fritts, a Republican representative, was the other lawmaker to vote against the bill.

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Anti far-right campaigners say Labor’s anti-doxing laws could be weaponised

Group tells attorney general’s department that not all doxing is harmful and therefore bad or undesirable

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Anti-fascist research group the White Rose Society has warned the Australian government that its push for new anti-doxing laws are a “quick fix” for complex problems that could be weaponised against reporting and have negative consequences for society.

In March the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, announced consultation for new laws that would include a right to sue for serious invasion of privacy and a criminal offence of doxing.

It was first flagged by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, in February after a spreadsheet was posted online containing the names, professions and social media accounts of 600 Jewish writers and artists who were members of a WhatsApp group. The details were posted in response to some of the members of the group actively targeting pro-Palestinian writers and their publishers over their coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

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The White Rose Society, which routinely investigates neo-Nazi groups and unmasks those groups in its reporting, told the attorney general’s department in a submission that not all doxing is harmful and therefore bad or undesirable.

“We believe that doxing responsibly, carefully and with a definite end in mind – the disruption and exposure of neo-Nazi, extremist, and far-right activities for the purposes of community and public safety – is a much-needed and valuable service,” the group said.

“Over the last five years, we have engaged in this service and have even been thanked in NSW parliament for our efforts.”

The group said its work had led to the exposure of neo-Nazis in the NSW Young Nationals and Australia’s military forces, and revealed that Australians had joined the international terror organisation The Base, which is now a proscribed terror group in Australia.

The White Rose Society said the leak of the members of the WhatsApp group constituted an example of poor doxing. White Rose said it supported the leaking of the redacted chat log, but not the “poorly vetted list” of members.

“We understand the motivations of the activists who took this action and while sympathetic, we think their actions were hasty and poorly thought through,” the group said. “Our experience in working with large data breaches has involved months of work in verifying identities and names linked to online accounts.

“We make every effort not to get it wrong.”

However, the action to release the list was in response to a “very vicious campaign of doxing” of pro-Palestinian supporters by pro-Israel activists, White Rose said.

The group argued existing law is sufficient to deal with intentionally harmful doxing, but enforcement tends to be “generally inadequate and frequently useless”, with police often not understanding the issue.

The group said it was concerned this was a “quick-fix” law to a complex problem.

“We do not believe that these [laws] are effective and may have serious negative consequences for both victims and society,” the White Rose Society said. “We are concerned that anti-doxing legislation may be weaponised to shut down the reporting of journalists when defamation law already applies to what stories are and aren’t published and how they are reported.”

The concerns of White Rose were echoed by digital rights groups in their submissions.

“This consultation is, to our mind, a kneejerk reaction by the government in response to, what we can reasonably infer, may be a vocal minority seeking to stifle and make lopsided public debate on the Israeli military action in Palestine,” Electronic Frontiers Australia said in its submission. “The problem of doxing is broader, deeper, and more nuanced than it appears through this over simplified and reductionist lens.”

Digital Rights Watch said there were already existing avenues for dealing with the harm caused by malicious doxing, and the leak of the WhatsApp chat logs was not a good catalyst.

“As a highly politically potent issue, using this incident as the political tool to garner momentum may actually undermine the government’s efforts toward privacy law reform.”

A spokesperson for Dreyfus said the government was carefully considering the feedback before next steps.

“We sought submissions from people with lived experience of doxing, media organisations and others interested in this to ensure we get this right,” the spokesperson said.

“The Albanese government has no higher priority than the safety of the community.”

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Australia’s back yard chicken owners urged to implement biosecurity measures in case of bird flu outbreak

Australia is the only continent free from the highly contagious H5N1 virus, after it was detected in wild bird colonies in Antarctica in February

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Back yard chicken owners in Australia have been urged to implement biosecurity measures to prevent contact with wild birds in the wake of a global avian influenza outbreak.

Australia remains the only continent without HPAI H5 (high pathogenicity avian influenza of subtype H5), after scavenging skua birds on mainland Antartica tested positive for bird flu in February. Symptoms for affected birds include diarrhoea, sneezing, a reduction in egg production and sudden death.

The risk of infection in Australian wild birds is classified as high, after a risk assessment provided to the Department of Agriculture in December. The risk to poultry is listed as moderate to high.

Dr Melinda Cowan, a veterinary specialist in avian medicine, said her Sydney clinic is already making preparations for an outbreak.

“It’s critical that all bird owners, but especially our pet chicken owners, are aware of how to implement and potentially improve their own biosecurity measures,” she said. “And it’s sensible anyway.”

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Cowan said authorities are worried about the disease being introduced by migrating seabirds and nomadic waterfowl. The highly virulent strain of the virus has been identified in more than 300 species of wild birds worldwide.

“We all need to really have our finger on the button,” she said. “We need to be very mindful of what’s going on overseas, there are definitely some things that we could implement straight away.”

Cowan said homes with back yard chickens or pet birds could reduce the risk of interaction with wild birds by creating netted, enclosed spaces and regularly changing and sanitising sources of food and water.

She said that while implementing biosecurity measures in small back yards may be challenging, “this will be the way that we can protect our beloved pet birds, if we implement these things now”.

“We are mentioning this concern so people can be alert but not alarmed. We are trying to educate people about this concern and what they can do to help their flock.”

Peter Laurence has four pet chooks in his back yard in Tempe, near wetland bird habitats in Sydney’s inner west. He said he was not aware of the risk from avian flu, and said there should be better communications from authorities to back yard chook owners.

“None of my friends who keep chickens are talking about bird flu, and we talk about our chooks a lot,” he said. “There’s very little awareness about the impact of diseases in the community with city flocks … we’ve been sheltered from so many agricultural diseases and viruses.”

Four chickens is considered a low risk of infection, because the disease requires larger flocks to spread. But with the family cat registered with his local council, Laurence said he would like to see a similar process for his chickens.

“I don’t see that it would be an inconvenience to have a chicken registered, particularly if it means that government would be able to get to us quickly if there was an outbreak … it would be really good if we could register our flock,” he said.

Poultry researcher Dr Peter Groves said bird owners needed to be vigilant to spot unwell birds before disease of any kind began to spread.

“The major risk to poultry in Australia would come from wild ducks or geese,” he said. “But to migrate, they need to be healthy and HPAI has killed huge numbers of them.”

Groves said for bird flu to arrive on Australian shores, an infected bird would have had to survive the flight from Antarctica to Australia and transmit the virus to local ducks or geese. Those wild birds would then need to survive long enough to circumvent biosecurity protections and come into contact with a chicken or turkey in a commercial operation.

“​​All of this is possible but probably very unlikely,” he said. “Poultry veterinarians regularly check poultry mortalities for the presence of avian influenza virus (AIV) and Newcastle Disease [a virus that causes paralysis and death] and monitor our status of freedom from these diseases.”

A spokesperson for the department of agriculture said Australia’s biosecurity system was one of “the most robust in the world” and the recent surge in cases was being closely monitored.

“While migratory birds do travel between Australia and parts of Asia where HPAI is present, the distance between Australia and our northern neighbours may reduce the likelihood of introduction of HPAI viruses,” they said.

“Australia has nationally agreed response arrangements in place to respond to emergency animal disease incursions and outbreaks, including for avian influenza.”

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Australia could reach an ‘ambitious’ emissions cut of up to 75% by 2035, advisers tell Labor

Climate Change Authority says goal could be achievable if more action is taken by governments, business, investors and households

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Australia could meet an “ambitious” target to cut national greenhouse gases by at least 65% and up to 75% by 2035, according to an initial assessment by the Albanese government’s climate advisory body.

The Climate Change Authority has been commissioned to advise the government on a 2035 target and plans to cut emissions from electricity and energy, transport, industry and waste, agriculture and land, resources and buildings.

In a consultation paper released on Thursday, the authority nominated a 65-75% cut compared with 2005 levels based on an initial assessment of scientific, economic, technological and social evidence.

The chief executive, Brad Archer, said this target range “would be ambitious and could be achievable if additional action is taken by governments, business, investors and households”.

Labor is expected to announce its 2035 target before the next election. Some experts have questioned whether the country will meet its legislated 2030 target – a 43% cut – after a slowdown in the rollout of large-scale renewable energy, though government projections have suggested it is possible.

The authority’s preliminary proposal broadly lines up with an agreement reached at the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai, which recognised that limiting heating to 1.5C required “deep, rapid and sustained” cuts equivalent to a 67% global reduction by 2035 compared with 2005 levels.

Developed countries that have already emitted more than their “fair share” of carbon pollution, such as Australia, are likely to face calls to make deeper cuts to help reach this goal.

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The Investor Group on Climate Change, representing members with more than $35tn in assets under management, endorsed the authority’s proposed range. The group’s policy director, Erwin Jackson, said it was “very positive” that the authority was “focused on a 2035 target that is aligned with limiting warming to 1.5C and also with the highest possible level of ambition”.

“Investors globally will be looking closely at Australia’s target to see that it is serious about achieving what it has said it wants to achieve, which is to align with 1.5C,” Jackson said. “Investors are looking to all governments to commit to targets along these lines because a volatile climate means a volatile economy.”

Australia’s three biggest states, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, have each already set a 2035 target of at least 70% cut. But Western Australia is a likely drag on the national commitment, having significantly increased its carbon pollution as it backs ongoing expansion of its emissions-intensive gas export industry.

The climate change and energy director at the Australian Industry Group, Tennant Reed, said it had been clear for a while that any logical analysis would lead to Australia adopting a 2035 target in the authority’s proposed range.

He said the scale of the cuts needed were likely to “take some people aback”, but it was “hard to escape numbers in that range if you’re looking at the physics, at the states’ [commitments] or the diplomacy”.

Australia’s emissions are 25% below 2005 levels, according to the government. Reed said given the slow turnover of vehicles and buildings, reaching a 65-75% reduction target by 2035 would require rapid action to build on existing federal and state policies, not just changes next decade.

A spokesperson for the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, said Australia was within striking distance of its 2030 emissions goal and had policies to boost reliable renewable energy, increase access to cleaner cars and reduce industrial emissions. They said the authority was consulting with the community and would not make a recommendation until later this year.

In a speech on Thursday, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, again signalled next month’s budget would include a green industry policy to help the country compete in a global race for clean investment.

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Banquet room with preserved frescoes unearthed among Pompeii ruins

‘Black room’ with frescoes inspired by Trojan war described as one of most striking discoveries ever made at site in southern Italy

A banquet room replete with well preserved frescoes depicting characters inspired by the Trojan war has been unearthed among the ruins of Pompeii in what has been described as one of the most striking discoveries ever made at the southern Italy archaeological site.

The 15-metre-long, six-metre-wide room was found in a former private residence in Via di Nola, which was ancient Pompeii’s longest road, during excavations in the Regio IX area of the site.

The “black room”, so-called because of the colour of its walls that were probably intended to mask the soot from burning oil lamps, was a “refined setting for entertaining during convivial moments”, experts said.

Its walls are adorned with artworks featuring mythical Greek characters, including one of Helen of Troy meeting Paris, prince of Troy, for the first time. The fresco includes a dog and a Greek inscription that reads “Alexandros”, the prince’s other name. According to Greek legend, the pair’s elopement triggered the Trojan war in the 12th century BC.

Another fresco depicts the Greek god Apollo trying to woo the priestess Cassandra. In his efforts to seduce her, Apollo had bestowed upon her the power to foresee the future, but when she rejected him he cursed her so that nobody would believe her predictions. As a result, she was unable to thwart the tragic events of a battle she had prophesied. After being raped during the capture of Troy, Cassandra ended up enslaved.

Gabriel Zuchtriegel, the director of Pompeii’s archaeological park, said the mythological figures had the explicit function of entertaining guests and providing talking points during feasts.

“The mythological couples provided ideas for conversations about the past, and life, only seemingly of a merely romantic nature,” he said. “In reality, they refer to the relationship between the individual and fate: Cassandra who can see the future but no one believes her, Apollo who sides with the Trojans against the Greek invaders, but being a god, cannot ensure victory, Helen and Paris who, despite their politically incorrect love affair, are the cause of the war, or perhaps merely a pretext.”

He added: “People would meet to dine after sunset; the flickering light of the lamps had the effect of making the images appear to move, especially after a few glasses of good Campanian wine.”

The artworks are “third style”, or ornate style, and dated between 15BC and AD40-50.

“It’s always difficult to judge quality but what we see is a high degree of care for detail, expression and shadows,” said Zuchtriegel. “This is very striking, as is the topic of the works.”

Meanwhile, the room’s sophisticated mosaic floor contains more than a million tiny white tiles.

The room opens on to a courtyard with a long staircase leading up to the property’s first floor, beneath which a huge pile of building materials was found. On the arches of the staircase, someone had drawn in charcoal two pairs of gladiators and what archaeologists said in a statement “appears to be an enormous stylised phallus”.

Excavations in Regio IX, a district of the city that had hosted a cluster of homes and workshops, have yielded plenty of other discoveries since beginning in February last year, including a home containing a cramped bakery where enslaved people were believed to have been imprisoned and exploited to produce bread.

The remains of three victims of the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius were found in one of the bakery’s rooms. A still-life fresco resembling a pizza was also found on a wall in the home’s hallway. In December, 13 Nativity-style statuettes were found in an upright position on what was probably a shelf in the hallway of a home. Archaeologists said the figurines provided evidence of pagan rituals in Pompeii before the city was destroyed by Vesuvius.

“Pompeii is truly a treasure chest that never ceases to surprise us and arouse amazement because, every time we dig, we find something beautiful and significant,” said the Italian culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano.

The Pompeii ruins were discovered in the 16th century, with the first excavations beginning in 1748. Pompeii is the second most-visited archaeological site in the world.

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