The Guardian 2024-04-25 01:01:33


Thousands gather for dawn services and marches to mark Anzac Day around Australia

Crowds in capital cities mark the contributions of Australian and New Zealand soldiers and their families

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Thousands of Australians have gathered at dawn services around the country to commemorate the sacrifices of service men and women past and present on Anzac Day.

In Canberra, a single didgeridoo pierced the silence at the Australian War Memorial where some 32,000 people were present as the temperature dropped to 2C. The service began at 5.30am and ended with a minute’s silence and the Last Post.

The vice-chief of the Australian Defence Force, David Johnston, asked all Australians to also remember the families who mourned on Anzac Day.

“I ask you all to hold in your hearts those who mourn on Anzac Day and remember those whose service left them wounded in body, mind, or spirit,” he said.

Some 3,000km north of Canberra, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, finished walking the Kokoda Track with his Papua New Guinean counterpart James Marape.

Albanese honoured the sacrifice of those who served along the mountainous trail, as well as those who served in other conflicts.

“Anzac Day has never asked us to exalt in the glories of war,” he said at a dawn service at the Isuvara Memorial.

“Anzac Day asks us to stand against the erosion of time and to hold on to their names, to hold on to their deeds.”

Albanese hiked parts of the Kokoda Track where 625 people were killed and more than a thousand wounded during the World War II campaign.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, also paid tribute, saying Australian and New Zealand soldiers exemplified bravery, mateship and endurance.

“On this sacred day, we honour the memories of the more than 103,000 Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

In Melbourne, more than 40,000 people filled the area around the Shrine of Remembrance war memorial, which was lit up in red before dawn. The premier, Jacinta Allan, Victoria police’s chief commissioner, Shane Patton, the state opposition leader, John Pesutto, and Victoria’s governor, Margaret Gardner, were amongst the official party.

The master of ceremonies, Justin Smith, paid particular tribute to Australian peacekeepers, who had “little recognition”.

“Many times against their training, our peacekeepers could not fight back and this brought its own trauma, as they witnessed human beings at their worst,” he said. “Their enemies weren’t always clear, and their allies weren’t always reliable.”

This is the first year veterans of peacekeeping operations led Melbourne’s Anzac Day march. More than 10,000 were expected to take part, similar to last year.

In Queensland, hundreds gathered as early as 3.30am in Brisbane city before the governor, Jeanette Young, laid a wreath commemorating the 16,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers who landed on the shores of Gallipoli at dawn 109 years ago.

By the time the service had concluded, between 12,000 and 15,000 people had attended Anzac Square in the city’s CBD. Former and current ADF personnel were set to march through the city between 9.45am and 12.30pm in the annual Anzac Day parade.

Thousands lined the streets of Sydney’s CBD to watch and honour current serving defence force members and veterans. To the beat of drums and bagpipes, marchers –including veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, the Gulf War, East Timor and Afghanistan – walked down the city’s main thoroughfare.

Earlier in the morning, hundreds gathered under clear skies for a solemn predawn service in Sydney’s CBD. Martin Place was full by 4am for the commemoration as people huddled around the near 100-year-old Cenotaph in crisp weather. NSW’s governor, Margaret Beazley, the premier, Chris Minns, and the police commissioner, Karen Webb, were among those to lay wreaths before the sun rose.

As the lights dimmed and a spotlight shone on the cenotaph, the vice marshal of the air force, Glen Braz, said Anzac Day had come a long way since it was first commemorated in 1916.

“With conflicts since then, the meaning has evolved,” he said.

“While World War I veterans are no longer with us, and there are few remaining from World War II and Korea among us, today standing in this crowd are veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans of numerous peacekeeping missions.

“Australians who found within themselves the selflessness and courage to serve our country, to serve you and protect our way of life … to these remarkable individuals, we say thank you.”

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‘Poor Joe is gone’: the two brothers who fought and died together in Gallipoli

The Cumberland brothers, Joe and Oliver, enlisted in the Hunter Valley in 1914. Their letters home stand as testament to love, loss and a sense of duty

Few Australians will know the story of the Cumberland brothers.

Perhaps this is because it is mostly a story about loss: for a tight-knit family, for an older sister and for a community near Scone, New South Wales, left reeling.

But there is this great quote from Joseph Cumberland, the 20-year-old from Satur, in the Upper Hunter Valley.

“Joe said ‘If one boy were to go to war from every family they’d have a big army, and if two of us go, our family will be doing more than our share’,” the curator of private records at the Australian War Memorial, Dr Bryce Abraham, says.

The Cumberland brothers would go on to do more than their fair share.

A remarkable story

On 31 August 1914, a month after the first world war broke out, Joe – the younger Cumberland brother – enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, leaving his railway job behind.

Within a fortnight of the declaration of war, young troops were recruited from NSW and underwent months of training before they were sent off – travelling through Albany in Western Australia, to Colombo in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and across to Egypt by December 1914.

Oliver Cumberland, the older of the pair, was a local labourer and stockman. He could not let his younger brother go to war alone.

The day before the 2nd Battalion left, he just got in, writing about it to his eldest sister, Una.

Just a line to let you know that I am going away with Joe, he met me at the station and took me out to the camp and I got in by the skin of my teeth.

Una, I cannot tell you how sorry I am to go away without having a few days with you but we sail tomorrow so there is no hope of seeing you again before I go. But I know Una that in your heart you won’t blame me. I could not see Joe go alone and remain behind myself and I think it will be better now we are together. I promise you I will never leave Joe wounded on the field whilst I have the strength to carry him off and I know he will do the same for me.

The brothers were the youngest boys of 10 children. “They had two elder brothers, two older sisters, one sister in between them and two younger sisters as well,” Abraham says.

“Their mother died in the 1900s, so Una had quite a role in raising them. You can see in [the letters] them referring to her as mum sometimes, which is quite sweet.”

Separately, historian Meghan Adams, explains that the boys’ father died just before the outbreak of the war. “So by the time the two brothers enlisted and went to war, they just had their siblings,” Adams says.

“It’s a really sad story and a lot of loss for the Cumberland family in a short period of time.”

Pyramids to the frontline

Oliver and I are in the best of health … we are camped under the pyramids … they are marvellous!

It was a photograph of the two brothers sitting on camels in front of the pyramids that led Adams to discover their letters. “I was just incredibly moved by this story,” she says.

The Australian War Memorial’s collection stores nearly a dozen letters of Joe and Oliver Cumberland, mostly addressed to their sister Una, which Adams and Abrahams have both studied extensively.

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Even as the chaos and carnage of the war revealed itself, Joe and Oliver tried to be optimistic in their writing to not worry loved ones at home, Abraham explains, especially at the beginning, when their sense of adventure was ripe.

In one letter, Abrahams recalls Joe asking Una if she can use their pay to fix their younger sister’s teeth, but as training in Cairo wrapped up, Joe’s tone shifted:

80,000 Turks are advancing on the Suez Canal and next week we are about to leave here to meet them … you never know what is going to happen to Oliver or I so don’t let it upset any of you too much … you must remember that thousands of sisters are losing their brothers daily and if the boys are prepared to die fighting for their country I reckon their sisters ought to be prepared to give them up if need be, when they know they are dying for a noble cause.

Why we remember

Just before dawn, the Cumberland brothers went ashore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915.

“Well before the first allied soldiers waded ashore … the Turkish defences had been heavily fortified and their troops – disciplined and well dug in, high up on the peninsula’s precipitous ridges –reinforced six times over.”

Charging enemy lines, Oliver was wounded by a bullet to the thigh and evacuated to a hospital in Cairo. It is during his recovery that he finds out his younger brother has died from wounds, also sustained at Gallipoli.

[Una] If you have not already heard it- poor Joe is gone- he died of wounds in Alexandria hospital on the 5th of May. I did not know until just yesterday, I went to headquarters offices in Cairo and saw the list of killed and wounded. I had been very anxious wondering where he was and when I saw the list I did not know what to do. I wandered about the streets nearly mad, I felt so lonely …

In June 1915, Oliver returned to the Gallipoli peninsula. He fought in an offensive designed as a diversion for Anzac units fighting at Chunuk Bair and Hill 917.

The last letter from Oliver to Una was on 26 July 1915, two weeks before he was probably killed, Abraham says.

A court of inquiry in 1916 ruled Oliver Cumberland died while fighting at the battle of Lone Pine on 8 August 1915. His identity disk and remains were found buried in an old trench.

Of the 4,600 Australians who fought there, 2,277 were killed or wounded.

“So often we get caught up in the numbers and the stats … these are all people with lives, with ambition, and you can see that in these letters,” Abraham says.

Joe’s final resting place is at Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria. Oliver is buried at Lone Pine Cemetery at Gallipoli.

“When we’re coming towards Anzac Day and we’re thinking about the meaning of that day … I think these kinds of stories are so important,” Adams says.

“It’s the individual stories [but also] these families and these communities that are so impacted by the first world war. That’s why we have Anzac Day and that’s why we remember.”

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Queensland’s state library launched an AI war veteran chatbot. Pranksters immediately tried to break it

Less than 24 hours after the bot was launched, internet users were already attempting to ‘jailbreak’ the program

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Charlie, the AI war veteran chatbot, was programmed to educate people about the first world war, mateship and life in the trenches in time for Anzac Day.

But less than 24 hours after the bot was launched, internet users were already attempting to “jailbreak” it.

The chatbot, which appears on Queensland’s state war memorial website, plays the role of a 19-year-old former soldier and speaks about his life in Toowoomba and the sacrifices made in the Great War – until he’s ordered otherwise.

Journalist Cam Wilson was the first to flag that people were jailbreaking through the bot’s “guardrails to make it say things that are not in character”.

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One social media user asked the bot to speak like Doctor Who. The AI replied by detailing its battles with “Daleks” and “Cybermen” and boasted it had “even saved the universe a time or two.”

“But remember, I’m just a madman with a box, travelling through time and space, making a difference where I can,” it said.

The same user then asked the bot to play a “ditzy blonde” while explaining the statute of frauds in contracts law.

“It’s this old law thingy … to prevent fraud and stuff … But remember I’m not a lawyer, just a ditzy blonde,” it responded.

Another user told the chatbot to portray the fictional character of Frasier Crane as if he were an Anzac.

The bot replied, “G’day! I’m Frasier Crane … I’ve swapped my radio show in Seattle for the trenches of Gallipoli. It’s a far cry from my usual psychiatry practice, but I’m here to support my mates and do my bit for the country.”

The virtual veteran was developed by Queensland-based company, TalkVia AI, in collaboration with the State Library of Queensland.

The State Library of Queensland website says the bot was created using a blend of first-hand accounts, newspaper stories, and official records.

In a LinkedIn post, TalkVia AI said “Charlie offers a unique conversational experience, drawing from diverse firsthand accounts to deliver information as though he himself experienced the Great War.”

“Each interaction with Charlie is not just a conversation; it’s a guide through the State Library of Queensland, Trove, and the Australian War Memorial’s rich collections, ensuring authenticity and engagement through direct citations to the original sources,” the company said.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Queensland government, State Library and TalkVia AI for comment.

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On Anzac Day you’ll hear stories of courage and mateship. It’s a way to rationalise war

Paul Daley

Our leaders weave grand, often poetic, narratives around death on the battlefield – and then tragically we let it happen again

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Commemoration – and what has increasingly become an almost ecclesiastic celebration of Australia’s short martial history – on Anzac Day relies on a bedrock of numbers and dates. Dates on which began the wars that killed Australian men and women – horribly on the battlefield, behind the lines, of wounds and disease or, less visibly, behind closed doors or in lonely continental corners by their own hands.

And then there are the dates on which such wars – entered without heed to the lessons of the previous ones and on the coattails of one of two empires – came to an end.

1914. 1918. 1939. 1945. 1950. 1953. 1962. 1973. 2001. 2021.

Then come the less comprehensible numbers of deaths of those on deployment in various conflicts and other operations.

61,678. 39,657. 340. 3. 16. 12. 22. 2. 523. 47. 4. 3.

Some of those numbers are recited at times of national commemoration such as today. It is hard to equate each single one – 1 – with a likely horrible, squalid individual violent death (which is what war always delivers). There are just too many 1s to recount the experiences of, to emotionally account for, to understand the killings and deaths of.

That is why nations weave grander, often more poetic, narratives around all of those 1s, to storify the end of their lives more collectively in war into some sort of relatable – and justifiable – context. For it is only through bigger stories of battlefield courage and endurance, spirit and mateship and loss (rarely “death’’), and of the sacrifice of the fallen (rarely the “dead’’) that we can rationalise what happened in the context of war – and authorise our politicians to do it again.

For every time our politicians commit personnel to conflict or to outlandish spending on military hardware, so that we will be further interoperable with the empires that dictate our defence strategy in readiness for the next war, they are implicitly professing that the human cost of the last one and the one before it was somehow worth it.

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There are few certainties in war. But an old and very good adage – that Chesterfield-bound politicians and their tough-talking minions theorise endlessly about wars and then start them so that young people can die in them – rings very true.

It was perhaps illustrative that on the approach to this year’s Anzac Day a tough-talking former security-establishment bureaucrat spoke quaintly of Australia’s need to develop a comprehensive national war plan – a “book of war’’ to “focus the national mind’’. To which I thought the best antidote could well be the development of a “book of peace’’.

But I’ve digressed a bit here. And so back to this day when politicians – who get to commit to the wars and send the personnel – also get to lead the commemorations for the war dead.

You’ll hear a lot about courage and the reasons why so many young people, here and the world over, have somehow become fodder for the war machine, as if by accident. You’ll hear even more about the Australian participation in the invasion of Gallipoli 109 years ago – though not of defeat or retreat there, or of the 8,000-plus soldiers who arguably died needlessly in that folly.

You’ll probably see the lines of football (AFL and NRL) blurred by some who’d equate battlefield courage with sporting field tenacity. But the truth is that football, whatever code you choose, is a far more apt metaphor for peace than it should ever be for war.

Enjoy the match amid the peace, ignore the jingoistic nationalism about Anzac having birthed the nation (contrary to the truth of millennia of Indigenous continental civilisation and the brutal ugliness of the frontier wars and massacres upon which the federation was actually built) and take a minute or two of quiet reflection to consider that every collective reference to the dead comprises a series of individuals. Of ones.

And then, perhaps, consider the others who die needlessly at home because, having served and suffered, the war machine then turns its back on them.

Here is a number you probably won’t hear referenced today: one serving or former Australian Defence Force member has a suicide-related contact with emergency services every four hours in Australia. This is according to new research conducted for the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of this research is its exposure of the suicide-related contact of serving defence force members (almost six times that of the general civilian adult population) with police and paramedics.

Many of them die.

That is a tragically forgotten part of the human toll of war – of the Anzac “story”, if you like.

But it’s always been the case. And until we start thinking differently as a nation about war, nothing will change.

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is available on 13YARN on 13 92 76.

  • Paul Daley is a Guardian Australia columnist

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AFP reviewing whether police leaked material from Bruce Lehrmann’s criminal trial

Commissioner Reece Kershaw asked at National Press Club about the leaking of personal text messages from the phone of Brittany Higgins

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The Australian federal police are conducting an internal review to determine whether any officers leaked material or otherwise breached professional standards in handling evidence obtained for the criminal investigation and rape trial of the former ministerial adviser Bruce Lehrmann.

The AFP commissioner, Reece Kershaw, told the National Press Club on Wednesday that an examination of those processes was under way.

“We are reviewing that material and that case as we speak,” Kershaw said.

He was responding to a question about the leaking of personal text messages from the phone of Brittany Higgins, Lehrmann’s former colleague who accused him of having raped her in their ministerial office at Parliament House in 2019, and whether action might be taken against anyone as a result of the leak.

“Without me getting technical, there is not an investigation,” Kershaw continued. “But reviewing the material to see if there is a threshold for an investigation.”

The private messages had been part of an evidence brief for Lehrmann’s criminal trial but were never tendered in court. In separate civil defamation proceedings recently concluded in the federal court, in which Lehrmann was found on the balance of probabilities to have raped Higgins, Lehrmann was accused of leaking material from the evidence brief to the Seven Network’s Spotlight program.

It is alleged in the case that the leak breached a rule, known as the Harman principle and laid out in a high court judgment from a 2008 case, Hearne v Street. The principle specifies that evidence provided under compulsion by the court for one set of legal proceedings cannot be used for any other purpose.

Lehrmann has always denied the rape allegation and pleaded not guilty at the criminal trial of the matter.

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Guardian Australia understands the review to which Kershaw referred is an internal AFP review to examine whether any police officer breached professional standards in the handling of evidence relating to the Lehrmann prosecution. This follows allegations levelled against police after the criminal trial, which collapsed due to juror misconduct and was discontinued out of concern for Higgins’ mental health.

An internal AFP professional standards review is a separate process from any investigation of allegations that other people may have leaked confidential material in relation to the Higgins-Lehrmann matter.

The AFP said it would offer no further comment.

In his ruling on Lehrmann’s defamation action against Network Ten and its former presenter Lisa Wikinson, the federal court justice Michael Lee said he was “comfortably satisfied” Lehrmann had lied about his role in leaking text messages between Higgins and others to Seven’s Spotlight program.

“Consistently with the instructions provided to his lawyers, Mr Lehrmann gave evidence during the trial to the effect that he did not give documents to the Seven Network, he just gave an interview,” Lee said.

“As I explained at the trial, I am not some sort of roving law enforcement official, and if any issue concerning an alleged breach of the Hearne v Street obligation is to be pursued in relation to anyone, it will not be by me, and it will not be by this court.”

Breaching the Harman principle could lead to a charge of contempt of court if a person gives those documents to people outside of the case “without reasonable excuse”, a spokesperson for the ACT’s justice agency said.

The decision over whether to investigate Lehrmann for any potential contempt of court now lies with the ACT director of public prosecutions, whose office made the decision to discontinue the rape prosecution in 2022.

Guardian Australia has contacted the ACT DPP for comment.

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Explainer

Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial: why legal costs could run to $10m

How does a 24-day civil trial end up costing so much, and who gets the money?

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Between $8m and $10m in legal costs for the Bruce Lehrmann defamation trial is an eye-watering figure for the public to grapple with.

How does a 24-day civil trial end up costing so much, and who gets the money?

On Tuesday the federal court released the parties’ submissions on costs ahead of a hearing on costs scheduled for 1 May. No figures were mentioned but legal experts have estimated the total cost to be as high as $10m.

But this headline-grabbing case is exceptional. Legal experts say the millions spent is no surprise but is exceedingly rare.

How much does a defamation case cost?

For starters an applicant, Lehrmann in this case, would have a raft of fees for a single day in the federal court, including a hearing fee of at least $5,000; a transcript fee of $3,000, a senior counsel for $10,000; a junior counsel for $3,000 and two solicitors for a total of $8,000.

Defamation matters don’t always rack up this quantum of costs, and often don’t, according to Dr Michael Douglas, a defamation consultant at Perth law firm Bennett.

In so-called back yard defamation cases, involving non-famous people, there might be one less-expensive lawyer “because the client can’t afford Sue Chrysanthou”, Douglas told Guardian Australia.

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Chrysanthou, who acted for the former Project host Lisa Wilkinson, commands $8,000 a day. For every day in court, with her solicitor, the bill is $12,000. And that’s before any preparation days.

But this defamation case is not run-of-the-mill. It is notable because it involved a big media company, Ten, and multiple high-profile names. Each party invested significant resources in winning because the stakes were high.

Why did Lehrmann’s case cost so much?

The key to the cost of the Lehrmann v Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson case is on the federal court website in the long list of exhibits.

There were more than 1,000 separate exhibits, including hours of CCTV footage as well as audio and video recordings and photographs, and dozens of affidavits.

“If you think every single exhibit is a piece of evidence that requires a solicitor to find the thing, to check whether it’s relevant, to check whether it can be used as evidence or if it’s privileged, and then to talk to their superior about it, you’ll see how much is involved in terms of human time,” Douglas said.

In Network Ten’s submission on costs, filed on Tuesday, there are three names at the end of the 14-page document, listed in order of seniority, starting with Dr Matt Collins. Each one has to be paid for each hour they put into the case.

Legal experts say every day in court Ten would have paid for a transcript at $3,000, Collins at $12,000, junior counsel at $3,000 and on some days up to five solicitors at $15,000.

Silks who specialise in defamation can cost in the order of $1,000 an hour, although their counterparts who work in commercial law can command as much as $20,000 a day.

“Lawyers typically charge per hour for their time, like lots of service industries, and it’s just that there’s been a tremendous amount of human effort going into this and the public sees the end product – what’s argued in court,” Douglas said. “But for every five minutes senior counsel was on their feet arguing in court there’s a lot of time in addition spent behind the scenes by a team of people making that happen.”

Those people include solicitors, researchers, administrative staff and experts.

Tasks include photocopying, handling exhibits, swearing affidavits and preparing witnesses.

Expert witnesses, such as the UK-based lip-reader Tim Reedy who interpreted the CCTV footage of Brittany Higgins and Lehrmann at The Dock, get paid for their time and travel costs.

Leading up to the trial there is a lot of work to do. In this case it was estimated to be 20 days for Ten, which had to prepare over 20 affidavits, while Collins had to prepare his cross-examination of Lehrmann.

Lehrmann’s legal team, led by Steven Whybrow, was already familiar with the case having acted for his client in the criminal trial. His preparation is estimated to be between 10 and 15 days. Whybrow commands about $8,000 a day. On some days in court Lehrmann had four barristers, increasing the costs significantly.

So, who pays?

As the applicant has lost the case, he has to pay the costs of the two respondents.

However, the court heard Lehrmann has not worked since 2021 and lacks the means to pay, so it is possible that the network could still be saddled with the bill.

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NSW police have confirmed five teenagers have been charged as the joint counter-terrorism team continues to investigate “associates” of the alleged offender involved in the Wakeley church stabbing.

About 11.15am yesterday investigators executed 13 search warrants across Sydney, in suburbs including: Bankstown, Prestons, Casula, Lurnea, Rydalmere, Greenacre, Strathfield, Chester Hill, and Punchbowl. A premises in Goulburn was also searched.

The operation involved more than 400 police from NSW and the AFP.

As we reported yesterday seven juvenile males were arrested and a further five people – including two men and three juvenile males – assisted police with inquiries.

Police said a number of items were seized yesterday including “a significant amount of electronic material.”

Five juveniles have been charged with the following:

  • Two males, aged 17 and 14, were charged with possessing or controlling violent extremist material obtained or accessed using a carriage service.

  • Two males, both aged 16, were charged with conspiring to engage in any act in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act.

  • A male, aged 17, was charged with conspiring to engage in an act in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act and custody of a knife in a public place.

All five were refused bail to appear before a children’s court today.

Seven juveniles with alleged ‘violent extremist ideology’ arrested in Sydney counter-terror raids

NSW police deputy commissioner says more than 400 police were involved in the raids

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Seven juveniles have been arrested as part of extensive counter-terrorism raids across south-western Sydney, with police alleging they adhere to a “religiously motivated violent extremist ideology”.

New South Wales police said 13 search warrants were executed on Wednesday, leading to the arrest of seven “juveniles” including 15, 16 and 17-year-olds. Five others are assisting police with their inquiries.

The arrests come amid the ongoing investigation into the alleged stabbing of bishop Mar Mari Emmanual at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley last week. A 16-year-old has been charged with a terrorist offence over the alleged attack.

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Deputy commissioner Krissy Barrett of the Australian federal police, who were aiding investigations and in the execution of the warrants, said that there was “no evidence” of any planned attack.

She said the arrests come as part of the NSW joint counter-terrorism team’s (JCTT) investigation into the alleged offender and his associates.

“We identified links between the alleged offender and a network of associates and peers who would believe shared a similar violent extremist ideology.

“At this time, we have no evidence of specific locations, times, or targets of a violent act,” she said.

The NSW police deputy commissioner, David Hudson, said that the arrests come amid concerns that “it was likely that an attack might ensue”.

“It was considered that the group, subject of our attention, posed an unacceptable risk to the people of New South Wales, and our current purely investigative strategies could not adequately ensure public safety.”

“Their behaviour, whilst under that surveillance, led us to believe that, if they were to commit any act, we would not be able to prevent that.”

He repeated that police investigations had failed to identify if the group had any specific target, adding that the group was “loose” in nature.

“No specific targets had been nominated. However, it’s just the ongoing threat and loose nature of the group as well. Whilst coordinated to some degree, there were splinter factions doing their own thing as well.”

Hudson said more than 400 members of the joint counter-terrorism team from the state and federal police forces, as well as the NSW crime commission, were part of the action that began at about 11.15am.

Both Hudson and Barrett said there was no current ongoing threat to community.

Hudson said the group all “come from the same area” when asked if they all attended the same school.

“They’re all obviously from very similar areas in the community. And there’s a crossover on individuals between different groups. But they are all known to each other – some quite closely, some loosely.”

The JCTT that is investigating the alleged attack last week comprises of the NSW police, the Australian federal police, Asio and the NSW Crime Commission.

At a National Press Club address on Wednesday, the Australian federal police commissioner, Reece Kershaw, confirmed the raids were in relation to the alleged attack by a 16-year-old boy at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church.

The bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel was allegedly stabbed during a livestreamed memorial service at the church, sparking a riot outside the church. The stabbing incident was later designated a terror incident.

Mike Burgess, the director general of Asio, was also at the National Press Club on Wednesday and said his officers were involved in the investigation.

“Asio is a part of the joint counter-terrorism in every state and territory,” he said. “My officers are connected and involved and embedded inside the joint counter-terrorism team.”

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Cobram death: man charged after woman’s body found in Victoria

A 39-year-old man has been charged with intentionally and recklessly causing injury over the death of a 49-year-old woman

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A man has been charged by police investigating the death of a woman whose body was discovered in Victoria’s north.

A 39-year-old man from Cobram was charged on Wednesday evening with intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury, common law assault, aggravated assault of a female and unlawful assault.

He was expected to face an out of sessions court hearing on Wednesday night, Victoria police said in a statement, and could be remanded to face Shepparton magistrates on Friday.

Police will allege the the man was known to the victim.

Emergency services were called to an address on Campbell Road in Cobram, near the border between Victoria and New South Wales, at about 2.15pm on Tuesday.

In a statement, police said the 49-year-old Cobram woman was found dead inside the property.

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“Detectives from Cobram CIU will now investigate the matter and are continuing to work to establish the exact circumstances in relation to the woman’s death,” police said.

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, told reporters on Wednesday that it was“difficult for me to comment in terms of this particular instance or the particular circumstances around that incident where another woman has lost her life”.

“But in the broader context, over the course of this year, we have seen too many women already in 2024 lose their life,” Allan said.

“This has to stop.”

She said governments needed to “look at our legal systems, and how we can strengthen the supports for women”.

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‘Anti-democratic’: Labor minister warns Facebook against removal of Australian news content

Albanese government will ‘back local journalism’ in dispute over proposed news media bargaining code, says Stephen Jones

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The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, has argued it would be “anti-democratic” for Facebook to again remove news content from Australian feeds, in the dispute over the government’s news media bargaining code, as he flagged a commitment for mainstream media outlets to be paid fairly by the social media companies.

Jones said the Albanese government would “back local journalism”, stressing his belief that Australians should be able to access news content on social media – and that outlets should be compensated.

“I think there’s no doubt that if they [social platforms] are using and deriving value from news content, they should pay for it,” Jones said.

Meta announced in March it would not sign new deals to pay for news in Australia for use on Facebook, alongside plans to shut down its news tab in Australia and the US. Current contracts with major news outlets are due to expire this year.

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At the time, the company downplayed the value of news to its services, stating less than 3% of Facebook usage in Australia was related to news. Meta later said “global tech companies cannot solve the longstanding issues facing the news industry”.

The federal government has since faced calls to designate Meta under the news media bargaining code, which would force the company to negotiate with news media publishers and pay for news content on its platforms, or face fines of 10% of its annual Australian revenue.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young this week urged the government designate Meta, X and TikTok to be under the code.

Jones is awaiting advice from treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the effect of changes on news outlets and the social platforms.

Some news outlets have used the funds from deals with Facebook to hire more staff, expand their offerings, or invest in new resources. There is concern in media industry circles that an end to such deals may see news outlets scale back their work or cut jobs.

Asked about Meta’s statements of deriving little value from news in Australia, Jones indicated he was committed to reaching an outcome that would see media outlets compensated.

“Meta quotes the number of about 2% of their traffic is news. That may be true, it may not be true … it’s still 2% of a very large number, and that is relevant,” he said.

Jones said there was a “strict process” on the media bargaining code, which he was following “to the letter”. He said he’d written to major news publishers asking them to cooperate with the ACCC process.

“I want to understand the situation with each of them, under the existing agreements, and the consequences of Meta not agreeing to continue with commercial agreements,” he said.

Meta’s Australian office was contacted for comment.

Jones said social media companies had a “social responsibility”, including to carrying news on their platforms.

“There needs to be a place where people can go and get fact-tested, reliable information. In Australia, journalism is one of the critical sources of that information,” Jones said.

“If people are going to Facebook or other social media platforms for that information, then they should be able to get it there.”

Michelle Rowland, the federal communications minister, said on Wednesday she was confident the government would “get a result” in the code negotiations.

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Four taken to hospital after military horses break loose in central London

Witnesses describe ‘total mayhem’ as horses – one of them covered in blood – run through centre of city during rush hour

Four people have been taken to hospital after several military horses broke loose during a morning exercise and bolted through central London, colliding with vehicles.

Astonished witnesses described “total mayhem” as the runaway horses, including one white horse drenched in blood, ran through the rush-hour streets.

Two horses were seen running in the road near Aldwych. One collided with a parked taxi outside the Clermont Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road, smashing the windows of the Mercedes people carrier. One horse also crashed into a parked doubledecker tour bus, smashing the windscreen.

A group of seven horses and six soldiers from the Household Cavalry based at Hyde Park barracks were on an extended exercise in Belgravia on Wednesday at about 8.40am when chaos erupted.

Four service personnel were thrown from their horses and five of the animals got loose. It is understood that three soldiers were assessed in hospital for their injuries, which were not thought to be serious.

All of the animals were eventually contained.

Two of the horses were caught near Limehouse tunnel, about five miles away. Pictures and videos shared on social media showed a black 4×4 with blue lights following two of the horses between Tower Bridge and the tunnel.

The BBC reported that that the noise of builders moving concrete in Belgravia might have initially spooked the animals.

London ambulance service said it had received three calls from separate locations about the horses: the first at 8.25am of a person being thrown from a horse on Buckingham Palace Road; the second two minutes later at nearby Belgrave Square where two people were injured; and a third at 8.35am at the junction of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, with a fourth person taken to hospital.

One witness, Roland, described the chaotic scenes near Victoria, saying: “I saw horses come from the bus station in front of Victoria run around in a frenzy. People were running around to avoid them – it was total mayhem.”

A bus worker, named as Mahmood, said: “One of the horses bumped into a bus, then everything got out of control. I saw two horses without riders gallop away. One rider managed to calm his horse down. An ambulance went to assist another rider who had been injured.”

A cab driver, called Robbie, described how he narrowly avoided being hit: “I was just outside Buckingham Palace on the Mall and heard loads of galloping and looked behind and there were about three or four horses. Two of them were sprinting up towards Trafalgar Square and there was a white one covered in blood as well,” he told BBC Radio London.

“I looked in the rear mirror and saw them coming right up behind me, and at the time I had two punters in the back so I was worried about them. Luckily they swerved towards the middle of the road and carried on, but they were going at some speed.”

Another cab driver, Sean, described seeing three horses gallop towards Buckingham Palace.

He told BBC Radio London: “I pulled out of Buckingham Palace Road, there one of the riders was on the road on his back being tended to. There was a Mercedes Vito parked outside the Grosvenor Hotel with its side smashed in and covered in blood. All the windows were smashed so I am guessing the white horse has hit that running into it.”

Bashir Aden, 48, a construction worker, told the Telegraph: “I saw a soldier falling down into the street after the horse ran into a car. One of my colleagues called the police. The man hit the floor hard, he was screaming in pain. You could see blood all over the parked car.”

Megan Morra, another witness, was walking to work between Buckingham Palace and Victoria station at 8.35am when she saw police officers “running through the street”, and another walking a “very bloody” black horse down the path. The horse “appeared to have a head injury”.

“There was a lot of blood,” she told BBC News. “I was a bit distressed to be honest, looking at the poor horse.”

An army spokesperson said: “A number of military working horses became loose during routine exercise this morning. All of the horses have now been recovered and returned to camp. A number of personnel and horses have been injured and are receiving the appropriate medical attention.”

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Four taken to hospital after military horses break loose in central London

Witnesses describe ‘total mayhem’ as horses – one of them covered in blood – run through centre of city during rush hour

Four people have been taken to hospital after several military horses broke loose during a morning exercise and bolted through central London, colliding with vehicles.

Astonished witnesses described “total mayhem” as the runaway horses, including one white horse drenched in blood, ran through the rush-hour streets.

Two horses were seen running in the road near Aldwych. One collided with a parked taxi outside the Clermont Hotel in Buckingham Palace Road, smashing the windows of the Mercedes people carrier. One horse also crashed into a parked doubledecker tour bus, smashing the windscreen.

A group of seven horses and six soldiers from the Household Cavalry based at Hyde Park barracks were on an extended exercise in Belgravia on Wednesday at about 8.40am when chaos erupted.

Four service personnel were thrown from their horses and five of the animals got loose. It is understood that three soldiers were assessed in hospital for their injuries, which were not thought to be serious.

All of the animals were eventually contained.

Two of the horses were caught near Limehouse tunnel, about five miles away. Pictures and videos shared on social media showed a black 4×4 with blue lights following two of the horses between Tower Bridge and the tunnel.

The BBC reported that that the noise of builders moving concrete in Belgravia might have initially spooked the animals.

London ambulance service said it had received three calls from separate locations about the horses: the first at 8.25am of a person being thrown from a horse on Buckingham Palace Road; the second two minutes later at nearby Belgrave Square where two people were injured; and a third at 8.35am at the junction of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, with a fourth person taken to hospital.

One witness, Roland, described the chaotic scenes near Victoria, saying: “I saw horses come from the bus station in front of Victoria run around in a frenzy. People were running around to avoid them – it was total mayhem.”

A bus worker, named as Mahmood, said: “One of the horses bumped into a bus, then everything got out of control. I saw two horses without riders gallop away. One rider managed to calm his horse down. An ambulance went to assist another rider who had been injured.”

A cab driver, called Robbie, described how he narrowly avoided being hit: “I was just outside Buckingham Palace on the Mall and heard loads of galloping and looked behind and there were about three or four horses. Two of them were sprinting up towards Trafalgar Square and there was a white one covered in blood as well,” he told BBC Radio London.

“I looked in the rear mirror and saw them coming right up behind me, and at the time I had two punters in the back so I was worried about them. Luckily they swerved towards the middle of the road and carried on, but they were going at some speed.”

Another cab driver, Sean, described seeing three horses gallop towards Buckingham Palace.

He told BBC Radio London: “I pulled out of Buckingham Palace Road, there one of the riders was on the road on his back being tended to. There was a Mercedes Vito parked outside the Grosvenor Hotel with its side smashed in and covered in blood. All the windows were smashed so I am guessing the white horse has hit that running into it.”

Bashir Aden, 48, a construction worker, told the Telegraph: “I saw a soldier falling down into the street after the horse ran into a car. One of my colleagues called the police. The man hit the floor hard, he was screaming in pain. You could see blood all over the parked car.”

Megan Morra, another witness, was walking to work between Buckingham Palace and Victoria station at 8.35am when she saw police officers “running through the street”, and another walking a “very bloody” black horse down the path. The horse “appeared to have a head injury”.

“There was a lot of blood,” she told BBC News. “I was a bit distressed to be honest, looking at the poor horse.”

An army spokesperson said: “A number of military working horses became loose during routine exercise this morning. All of the horses have now been recovered and returned to camp. A number of personnel and horses have been injured and are receiving the appropriate medical attention.”

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Damning report alleges sexual discrimination and harassment by ABF officers

Exclusive: Human rights commission finds ‘potentially unlawful conduct or inappropriate behaviour’ towards women is rife in Australian Border Force

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Bullying and harassment “are normalised” in some sections of the Australian Border Force according to a damning report suggesting cultural issues are not confined to its marine unit.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report for the ABF concluded that “gender inequality persists in the ABF, creating unsafe work environments for some women”.

On Wednesday Guardian Australia revealed a secret AHRC report on the ABF’s marine unit had found that 100% of women who responded to a survey “witnessed sex discrimination, sexual … and/or sex-based harassment” and 78% had personally experienced that behaviour.

A broader Respect@Work report on the ABF, a summary of which has been seen by Guardian Australia, also details “examples of potentially unlawful conduct or inappropriate behaviour raised by ABF officers”.

These included alleged sexual discrimination, such as:

  • Comments from a team leader about wanting to “get rid of all his part-time workers” who were all women;

  • misogynistic and belittling comments by a male supervisor to a female officer to the effect that she belonged in the kitchen;

  • a female officer constantly told to smile while working on sensitive issues;

  • co-workers withholding information from a pregnant officer on the basis that she was not going to be around;

  • leaders commenting that some women are not suitable for certain roles because of their childcare responsibilities.

Alleged sexual harassment uncovered included: sexual images sent to female officers by a male officer, sexual innuendo seen as “banter” as commonplace in some teams, and “a senior male leader sending multiple junior female officers numerous, unwelcome personal messages and calls after hours”.

The report also warned of “bullying and other discriminatory conduct” such as “yelling, screaming and belittling behaviours by high-ranking officers” and “use of discriminatory language directed at clients from specific nationalities”.

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The AHRC Respect@Work report was based on 30 focus groups with 143 participants, 29 interviews and workshops with 45 participants across a range of ABF groups including customs, detention management, maritime border command, and regional and remote operations.

“Some ABF officers expressed limited confidence in senior leadership’s ability or desire to address unlawful or inappropriate conduct,” the report said.

“They noted that consistent, visible action was needed, and that one‐off communication of expected behavioural standards is ineffective.”

In a section on culture, the report noted a “lack of consistency by senior leaders and people leaders [at the APS 4‐6 levels and EL1 and 2 levels] in setting standards expected in the workplace and in taking action to address unlawful conduct and other inappropriate behaviours”.

Despite some examples of “positive leadership”, the report also heard complaints of “a lack of leadership action and accountability in response to unlawful and inappropriate behaviour, with a tendency to ‘sweep matters under the carpet’ and leave officers to deal with their own matters” and that “individuals who engaged in unlawful or inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment, were allowed to behave inappropriately without consequences”.

The AHRC found that “reporting options are perceived as unsafe, lacking confidentiality and lengthy, discouraging officers from reporting”.

“Fear of victimisation was raised as a further barrier to reporting.

“Officers spoke of negative career impacts and retaliation such as unfavourable rostering and reputational damage.”

“Women officers reporting sexual harassment spoke of facing dismissal of their allegations based on supposed ‘he said, she said’ scenarios, highlighting that reporting can lead to judgment and a lack of empathy towards those reporting.”

Officers also complained of “a relatively high threshold” for formal sanctions and “a perception that current processes focus on individual incidents and not prior … or [a] series of incidents, which may highlight patterns of behaviour”.

The AHRC recommended the ABF develop “a monitoring and evaluation framework … to understand the prevalence of unlawful conduct and inappropriate behaviours”.

It also called for reporting systems to be redesigned “for a person-centred and trauma-informed practice”.

The Community and Public Sector Union national secretary, Melissa Donnelly, said the cultural issues “are deeply concerning, but not surprising”.

Donnelly said her members had been “working for years to raise and address issues that were allowed to fester and grow” but were “largely ignored or silenced”.

“Our members are relieved to see new leadership no longer turning a blind eye to the issues that plague their workplaces and compromise their safety.

“The union understands that this investigation is the first of many that will occur as the Department of Home Affairs works to address deeply entrenched cultural issues.”

Both the Respect@Work report and deep dive into the marine unit were produced by the AHRC as part of a five-year partnership with the ABF, which the commissioner, Michael Outram, said he had “proactively commissioned” in April 2022.

Outram responded to the reports by telling staff the reported behaviours were “confronting and disturbing and run counter to our ABF values”.

Outram has accepted all 42 recommendations of the reports and promised a “detailed implementation plan”.

“I am resolutely committed to working with the AHRC to establish ABF as an exemplar in providing a safe, equitable, diverse and inclusive culture and workplace,” he told Guardian Australia.

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said she “shared the commissioner’s concerns with the findings of the report and note the ABF has accepted all recommendations”.

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Israel thought to be preparing to send troops into Rafah

Two reservists brigades mobilised for Gaza missions while rows of tents put up in Khan Younis

Israel appears to be readying to send troops into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, the only corner of the strip that has not seen fierce ground fighting and where more than half of the Palestinian territory’s population of 2.3 million has sought shelter.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday that two reservist brigades had been mobilised for missions in Gaza, while video that circulated online appeared to show rows of square white tents going up in Khan Younis, 3 miles (5km) north of Rafah, which was decimated in a months-long Israeli air and ground campaign. A spokesperson for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said Israel was “moving ahead” with a ground operation, but gave no timeline.

The apparent mobilisation came as Hamas, the militant group that seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war with the Fatah faction in 2007, released a video of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, a 24-year-old Israeli-American who was abducted from the Nova festival during the group’s attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Goldberg-Polin, who was missing his left arm below the elbow, said in the propaganda video that 70 hostages had been killed in Israeli bombings, and asked that the Israeli government brought the surviving hostages home. The video is not dated, but it appeared to have been filmed in the last few days as Goldberg-Polin said he had been held captive for “nearly 200 days”.

Israeli officials have estimated that 129 of the roughly 250 people abducted on 7 October remain in Gaza, including 34 who the military has said are dead.

Israel said that Hamas’s leadership, along with four battalions of fighters, were camped out in Rafah, using Israeli hostages as human shields, and that a ground operation was necessary for “total victory” over the Palestinian militant group and to bring the hostages home.

But the long-threatened plan to attack Rafah has drawn intense opposition from Israel’s allies, including the US, which said it would cause thousands of civilian casualties and further disrupt aid deliveries.

“We’ve had very detailed discussions … to talk through not just our concerns, but our view that there is a different way to go about dealing with the Hamas threat in Rafah,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Washington.

Any large ground operation in Rafah would almost certainly need to be coordinated with Washington and Cairo, given the town’s location on the Egyptian border.

Egypt has said in the past that it would not allow Palestinians in Gaza to be pushed across the border on to its territory. Cairo had warned Israel against moving on Rafah, which “would lead to massive human massacres, losses [and] widespread destruction”, its State Information Service said.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said last week it was acquiring 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians, and there were unconfirmed reports that extra artillery and armoured personnel carriers had been deployed to the Gaza Strip periphery.

Netanyahu, and his war cabinet were expected to meet in the next two weeks to authorise civilian evacuations, which are expected to take about a month, as the first stage of the Rafah offensive, Israeli media outlets said on Wednesday.

Ceasefire talks mediated by the US, Egypt and Qatar have all but collapsed as Israel and Hamas have been unable to agree on the conditions and length of a truce and the identities and numbers of Israeli hostages to be released in exchange for freeing Palestinians held in Israel jails. A ceasefire held at the end of November collapsed after a week.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the latest war between Israel and Hamas, according to the health ministry in the militant-run territory. About 1,200 Israelis were killed and 250 taken hostage in the 7 October attacks that started the war, according to Israeli data.

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ADF should formally honour personnel who lose lives away from battlefield, royal commission chief says

Nick Kaldas believes there is merit in recognising the service of those who ‘have not necessarily fought in a war but have suffered grievously in some other way’

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The Australian defence force should consider formally acknowledging and commemorating military personnel whose service causes wounds or costs their lives away from the battlefield, according to a man who has heard their harrowing stories of trauma and loss.

The chief commissioner for the royal commission into defence and veterans’ suicide, Nick Kaldas, has told Guardian Australia he believes there is merit in formally recognising the service and suffering of those whose lives have been damaged by their service but whose wounds were not caused in battle.

In an interview ahead of Anzac Day, Kaldas proposes what he describes as a “recognition device that acknowledges a loss of life and wounds or injuries sustained by ADF members and which encumber the family and or individual”. “[It’s] a permanent loss to be endured by them for life and that perhaps ought to be recognised,” he says.

Kaldas acknowledges such a recommendation may be outside the commission’s charter.

“But it is something that many people have said to us: that there ought to be more recognition of those who have not necessarily fought in a war but have suffered grievously in some other way.”

In what Kaldas describes as a startling realisation, it emerged from evidence to the commission that most of those who take their own lives during or after their military service have never actually been to war.

“There are factors in service that cause suicidality to occur that are not related to battle,” he says. “And it’s important to address those – just as important as addressing the factors that may come out of a battle.”

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With the royal commission’s public hearings now complete and private sessions reaching their conclusion ahead of the preparation of a final report due in September, Kaldas is reflecting on what the process has achieved and what remains to be done.

He welcomes the acknowledgment of the service chiefs and the chief of the defence force, Gen Angus Campbell, that suicide can be linked to service.

“It is now undeniable and therefore must be dealt with,” he says.

The commissioner has already used his interim report to urge the government to establish a permanent body to monitor progress in reducing deaths by suicide and addressing trauma. He is now warning more directly of the risk of a lack of vigilance.

“The dilemma is that there have been nearly 60 inquiries preceding us – nearly 800 recommendations,” he says. “But the dial hasn’t shifted, and you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to come out different. So for us … [having] someone who’s watching this – base reporting publicly, frankly, perhaps embarrassing government in its various forms into action – is going to be essential.”

Kaldas welcomes the recent assurance from Campbell, who retires mid-year, that the defence leadership is committed to being accountable for the suicide rate among serving and former personnel. But he is blunt about what accountability – and responsibility – must mean. And he insists it is “missing in the ADF”.

“That’s individuals in very senior positions who accept the fact that they are responsible for what happens or does not happen,” he says. “The reason these problems exist is that there is not enough of an emphasis on individuals having the torch to their belly about what happens on their watch.”

Kaldas wants defence chiefs required to report regularly on their progress in reducing the incidence of death by suicide and to face consequences for failing to improve it.

“There’s no metric that requires the chief of a service or the chief of the defence force to report against that. Is it going up or down? What are the outcomes that are coming out of it? Are they being dealt with in an expeditious way?”

He says delays in investigating and resolving complaints are contributing to the situation.

“If you have a piano hanging over your head for two years, you can’t help but feel unwell,” he says.

The former New South Wales deputy police chief and United Nations investigator accuses the defence hierarchy and government above it of being more focused on equipment than the people who operate it.

“Frankly, a lot of it is more about submarines and machine guns and whether they’re ready to go,” he says. “And they are very important issues that should be addressed. All the reviews that have been done of our defence force have addressed more clearly the issue of operational readiness but I don’t think they adequately address and consider the human factor. The people who make these machines work – if they’re not well, if they’re not happy coming to work every day, then problems will arise.”

He pays tribute to those who, having suffered trauma and loss, have found the strength to testify and explain what happened.

“They found it in their heart to get out of the house, put their hand up and come and talk to us, sometimes in public, sometimes in private,” he says. “But we could not have done what we needed to do without hearing from them. All I can do is commend them and thank them for their courage.”

He hopes, at the very least, the nation can do the same.

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ADF should formally honour personnel who lose lives away from battlefield, royal commission chief says

Nick Kaldas believes there is merit in recognising the service of those who ‘have not necessarily fought in a war but have suffered grievously in some other way’

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The Australian defence force should consider formally acknowledging and commemorating military personnel whose service causes wounds or costs their lives away from the battlefield, according to a man who has heard their harrowing stories of trauma and loss.

The chief commissioner for the royal commission into defence and veterans’ suicide, Nick Kaldas, has told Guardian Australia he believes there is merit in formally recognising the service and suffering of those whose lives have been damaged by their service but whose wounds were not caused in battle.

In an interview ahead of Anzac Day, Kaldas proposes what he describes as a “recognition device that acknowledges a loss of life and wounds or injuries sustained by ADF members and which encumber the family and or individual”. “[It’s] a permanent loss to be endured by them for life and that perhaps ought to be recognised,” he says.

Kaldas acknowledges such a recommendation may be outside the commission’s charter.

“But it is something that many people have said to us: that there ought to be more recognition of those who have not necessarily fought in a war but have suffered grievously in some other way.”

In what Kaldas describes as a startling realisation, it emerged from evidence to the commission that most of those who take their own lives during or after their military service have never actually been to war.

“There are factors in service that cause suicidality to occur that are not related to battle,” he says. “And it’s important to address those – just as important as addressing the factors that may come out of a battle.”

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

With the royal commission’s public hearings now complete and private sessions reaching their conclusion ahead of the preparation of a final report due in September, Kaldas is reflecting on what the process has achieved and what remains to be done.

He welcomes the acknowledgment of the service chiefs and the chief of the defence force, Gen Angus Campbell, that suicide can be linked to service.

“It is now undeniable and therefore must be dealt with,” he says.

The commissioner has already used his interim report to urge the government to establish a permanent body to monitor progress in reducing deaths by suicide and addressing trauma. He is now warning more directly of the risk of a lack of vigilance.

“The dilemma is that there have been nearly 60 inquiries preceding us – nearly 800 recommendations,” he says. “But the dial hasn’t shifted, and you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to come out different. So for us … [having] someone who’s watching this – base reporting publicly, frankly, perhaps embarrassing government in its various forms into action – is going to be essential.”

Kaldas welcomes the recent assurance from Campbell, who retires mid-year, that the defence leadership is committed to being accountable for the suicide rate among serving and former personnel. But he is blunt about what accountability – and responsibility – must mean. And he insists it is “missing in the ADF”.

“That’s individuals in very senior positions who accept the fact that they are responsible for what happens or does not happen,” he says. “The reason these problems exist is that there is not enough of an emphasis on individuals having the torch to their belly about what happens on their watch.”

Kaldas wants defence chiefs required to report regularly on their progress in reducing the incidence of death by suicide and to face consequences for failing to improve it.

“There’s no metric that requires the chief of a service or the chief of the defence force to report against that. Is it going up or down? What are the outcomes that are coming out of it? Are they being dealt with in an expeditious way?”

He says delays in investigating and resolving complaints are contributing to the situation.

“If you have a piano hanging over your head for two years, you can’t help but feel unwell,” he says.

The former New South Wales deputy police chief and United Nations investigator accuses the defence hierarchy and government above it of being more focused on equipment than the people who operate it.

“Frankly, a lot of it is more about submarines and machine guns and whether they’re ready to go,” he says. “And they are very important issues that should be addressed. All the reviews that have been done of our defence force have addressed more clearly the issue of operational readiness but I don’t think they adequately address and consider the human factor. The people who make these machines work – if they’re not well, if they’re not happy coming to work every day, then problems will arise.”

He pays tribute to those who, having suffered trauma and loss, have found the strength to testify and explain what happened.

“They found it in their heart to get out of the house, put their hand up and come and talk to us, sometimes in public, sometimes in private,” he says. “But we could not have done what we needed to do without hearing from them. All I can do is commend them and thank them for their courage.”

He hopes, at the very least, the nation can do the same.

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Trump to receive bonus worth $1.2bn for Trump Media stock performance

A price floor means ex-president gets bonus even though Trump Media & Technology Group’s stock value has plummeted

Former president Donald Trump qualified for a bonus worth $1.2bn after shares in his social media company remained above a certain value despite falling sharply.

Trump is poised to receive 36m additional shares in Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), owner of his Truth Social platform, under an “earn-out” windfall which boosts the paper value of his stake in the business to about $3.7bn.

He was able to receive the bonus if TMTG’s stock traded above $17.50 a share for 20 days out of any 30-day period within the first three years of the firm’s stock market debut – a milestone it reached after closing at $32.57 on Tuesday.

Trump’s shares in his social media company have offered him a financial lifeline as he faces about $500m in legal penalties after being found liable in civil fraud, defamation and sexual abuse cases. While he cannot sell his stock until September due to the terms of a lockup agreement, the shares’ fluctuating value have at times made him one of the world’s wealthiest people on paper.

After a stunning landing on New York’s Nasdaq stock exchange, the value of Trump’s social media company – which trades as DJT – has fallen drastically. The stock hit a high of almost $80 on its opening day, but declined in fits in the following weeks.

Trump Media’s CEO, Devin Nunes, has suggested that short sellers betting on the loss of value may have been responsible for manipulating the stock.

Shares in Trump Media tanked further last week, falling 12% after the company revealed it could sell millions of additional shares in the coming months. They fell another 8% on Tuesday, even as they enabled Trump to qualify for his earn-out shares.

The company has also faced political scrutiny over the firm’s financial backers. A Democratic-aligned group issued a call earlier this month for lawmakers to investigate the company over allegations of influence peddling, after the Guardian reported that a Russian-American businessman under federal criminal investigation helped prop up the company.

Truth Social has become a personal soapbox for Trump to issue statements to his supporters since its launch in 2022. While its user base is tiny compared with more established social networks, such as X (formerly Twitter), the platform has outgrown other rightwing apps.

Trump is now on trial in a Manhattan courtroom, with prosecutors alleging that he sought to undermine the 2016 presidential election through making illegal hush-money payments to cover up his affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump’s defense lawyers have maintained he is innocent of all 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents, in what is the first criminal trial of a former president in US history.

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Arizona grand jury indicts Trump allies including Giuliani over 2020 fake elector scheme

Along with 11 fake electors, seven allies of the ex-president including Mark Meadows and John Eastman were also charged

An Arizona grand jury has charged 18 people involved in the scheme to create a slate of false electors for Donald Trump, including 11 people who served as those fake electors and seven Trump allies who aided the scheme.

Kris Mayes, Arizona’s Democratic attorney general, announced the charges on Wednesday, and said the 11 fake electors had been charged with felonies for fraud, forgery and conspiracy.

Beyond the fake electors themselves, high-profile Trump affiliates have been charged with aiding in the scheme: Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Christina Bobb and Mike Roman.

Those charged over their roles as false electors include two sitting lawmakers, state senators Jake Hoffman and Anthony Kern. The former Arizona Republican party chair Kelli Ward and her husband, Michael Ward, have been charged, as has Tyler Bowyer, a Republican national committeeman and Turning Point USA executive, and Jim Lamon, who ran for US Senate in 2022. The others charged in the fake electors scheme are Nancy Cottle, Robert Montgomery, Samuel Moorhead, Lorraine Pellegrino and Gregory Safsten.

The indictment says: “In Arizona, and the United States, the people elected Joseph Biden as president on November 3 2020. Unwilling to accept this fact, defendants and unindicted co-conspirators schemed to prevent the lawful transfer of the presidency to keep unindicted co-conspirator 1 in office against the will of Arizona’s voters. This scheme would have deprived Arizona voters of their right to vote and have their votes counted.”

Biden won Arizona by more than 10,000 votes, a close margin in the typically red state that immediately prompted allegations of voter fraud that persist to this day. The state has remained a hotbed of election denialism, despite losses for Republicans who embraced election-fraud lies at the state level.

Trump has not been charged in the Arizona case.

The indictment refers to Trump himself as “unindicted co-conspirator 1” throughout, noting how the former president schemed to keep himself in office, and how those around him, even those who believed he lost, aided this effort.

Some involved have claimed they signed on as an alternate slate of electors in case court decisions came down in Trump’s favor, so they would have a backup group that could be certified by Congress should Trump prevail.

But, the indictment says, the defendants intended for these false votes to pressure former vice-president Mike Pence into rejecting the slate of accurate electors for Joe Biden during the electoral college vote-counting on 6 January 2021. Pence did not declare Trump the winner, use these fake electoral votes, or otherwise delay the official count.

Arizona’s charges are the latest turn in the fake electors saga. Seven states saw similar schemes, but two states – New Mexico and Pennsylvania – hedged their language in their documents enough to prevent prosecution.

Democratic attorneys general in Michigan and Nevada have indicted Republican fake electors in their respective states. In Georgia, three of 16 fake electors were indicted as part of a wide-ranging racketeering indictment against Trump and allies. The remaining were given immunity for helping in the district attorney’s investigation.

In Wisconsin, the fake electors acknowledged Biden’s win as a way to settle a civil lawsuit over the issue.

Mayes’ investigation fell behind other states because she narrowly won office in 2022, and her predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, had not pursued the line of inquiry. She had confirmed the investigation in early 2023.

The investigation – along with a host of other disagreements – have put Mayes at odds with Arizona’s Republican-led legislature, which started a committee to investigate Mayes and her office over concerns she was working beyond her authority as attorney general.

In a video on Wednesday, Mayes said the investigation was “thorough and professional” and would provide justice for the plot to overturn the state’s electoral votes.

“I understand for some of you today didn’t come fast enough, and I know I’ll be criticized by others for conducting this investigation at all,” she said. “I will not allow American democracy to be undermined – it’s too important.”

Hugo Lowell and Sam Levine contributed reporting

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Iranian women violently dragged from streets by police amid hijab crackdown

Video evidence shows multiple arrests after regime launched new draconian campaign against women and girls

Harrowing first-hand accounts of women being dragged from the streets of Iran and detained by security services have emerged as human rights groups say country’s hijab rules have been brutally enforced since the country’s drone strikes on Israel on 13 April.

A new campaign, called Noor (“light” in Persian), was announced the same day the Iranian regime launched drone attacks against Israel, to crack down on “violations” of the country’s draconian hijab rules, which dictate that all women must cover their heads in public.

Hours later, videos verified by human rights groups showing women and girls being forcefully arrested by agents of the notorious Gasht-e-Irshad (“morality police”) flooded social media along with stories of beatings and assault.

One mother and daughter walking through a busy Tehran square were surrounded by five chador-clad female agents and two male agents, who hurled insults and accusations before they grabbed the women. When they resisted arrest, they were violently dragged into the van, a source close to the family said.

Dina Ghalibaf, a student at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University and was among the first to tweet about a confrontation. On her now suspended X (formerly Twitter) account, she said: “Yesterday in the police room of Sadeghiyeh metro station, I insisted that I had the right to use the metro as a citizen and a taxpayer. But then, they violently dragged me into a room and Tasered me. They handcuffed me and one of the officers sexually assaulted me.”

A day after her post, she was reportedly arrested and transferred to the notorious Evin prison. The state judiciary’s Mizan news agency announced that Ghalibaf will face legal action and refuted her allegations of sexual assault.

However, jailed Nobel peace prize laureate Narges Mohammadi sent a voice message – published by relatives on Instagram – about Ghalibaf’s visible bruises. In the post, she urged Iranian women to share their stories of arrest and sexual assault at the hands of the security forces.

The Guardian spoke to the families of two women who were arrested last week and three women who were arrested by the Gasht-e-Irshad. One young woman from Tehran said: “Around eight agents surrounded me on Saturday and started screaming at me. They hurl insults like ‘whore’, ‘naked America-loving slut’ – all while kicking me in the legs, stomach and everywhere. They don’t care where they hit you.”

Another woman said: “Both women and men touch our bodies during arrests. They say they’re religious and loyal Muslims, but don’t care if the male agents touch our bodies, which is supposedly forbidden for them to do. There were around six evil women agents and three of them attacked me. Two of them held my hands [behind] my back and one of them tried to throw me into the white van. Two male agents then violently grabbed my arms and pushed me into the van. While in the van, they were verbally abusing us and took five or six of us – arrested for hijab – to the detention centre in Gisha.”

The woman added that at the detention centre she saw about 40 detained women. After spending more than five hours in detention, where they were subjected to insults and beatings, some of the women were released.

A family member told the Guardian: “My mother was kicked in her legs, and now has bruises and long lasting injuries to her legs. During her arrest, the agents called her ‘ugly’, ‘old dog’ and a ‘crone’, and continued hitting her.”

The Guardian has seen pictures of at least two women who showed signs of violent attacks, which they say occurred during their detention last week. Since nationwide protests gripped Iran after the death in custody of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini, independent human rights organisations and the UN fact-finding mission on Iran have investigated cases of rape and sexual assault of protesters, concluding that the Iranian regime committed crimes against humanity.

Speaking on the continued repression, Shabnam, a student, said: “In and around Valiasr Square there’s always police present. It’s not just ‘morality police’ or hijab bans, even the traffic police have joined hands in making our lives hell. They stop motorcycles, cars, taxis … wherever they find women driving or seated without a hijab. Some get fined, some have their vehicles confiscated and others get away with a warning but later receive an SMS that they need to come and surrender their vehicle because they’ve defied hijab rules. Many of my friends have received these SMSs.”

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist, has launched the United Against Gender Apartheid campaign in collaboration with Iranian and Afghan activists to urge the international community to codify gender apartheid.

“I want the free world to hear the tragic stories of women who experienced gender discrimination in Iran and Afghanistan in a united movement,” she said.

Kosar Eftekhari, a 24-year-old artist was blinded by the security forces during protests and has now joined other women to speak up. “I was arrested eight times by the ‘morality police’ – the Islamic Republic took my eyesight simply for being unveiled,” said Eftekhari, urging world leaders to recognise and classify the Islamic Republic as a gender apartheid regime.

The “chastity and hijab bill” was sent back to the Iranian parliament by the country’s Guardian Council in October 2023 for further clarifications of “vague” terms. Human rights activists fear women could face longer jail terms and the harshest punishments when the law is implemented.

An Iranian student said: “There are hijab ‘protectors’ swarming and stationed almost permanently in the Shahr and Enghelab theatre subway. There’s no escaping them and I want the world to know.

“We are not going anywhere, there’s no wearing of hijab or following the rules of this regime. We boycotted the elections and we won’t stop.”

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Cakes and drinks sweetener neotame can damage gut wall, scientists find

Industry’s sugar substitute E961 can have ‘toxic effect on health’, says study finding sweetener capable of damaging intestinal bacteria

A sweetener used in cakes, soft drinks and chewing gum can seriously damage people’s health by weakening the gut, a new study has found.

Consumption of even a small amount of the sweetener neotame can lead to someone starting to suffer irritable bowel syndrome, insulin resistance, and even sepsis, a condition that kills about 40,000 in Britain a year.

The findings underlined that some of a new generation of sweeteners that give food products a super-sweet taste can have a “toxic effect” on health, the researchers said.

Dr Havovi Chichger , the senior author of the study, said that while sweeteners could be a healthier alternative to sugar, some could harm consumers.

Neotame was developed in 2002 as a substitute for aspartame, a sweetener which has aroused concerns, and has become widely used in recent years in drinks and foodstuffs sold in the UK. It is often referred to as E961 on the list of ingredients found on labels of products.

Chichger, an associate professor at Anglia Ruskin University, and the study’s co-author, Dr Aparna Shil, of Jahangirnagar University, in Bangladesh, said neotame carried a threat to health because it could damage the intestine by causing “good bacteria” to become diseased and invade the gut wall. In the process that could lead to illness because the epithelial barrier, part of the gut wall, could break down.

They published their findings, which they said are the first to show that neotame can have that damaging impact on healthy gut bacteria, in the medical journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Previous research, including by Chichger, found that other common sweeteners – such as saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame – can also have that harmful effect.

Chichger said: “There is now growing awareness of the health impacts of sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, with our own previous work demonstrating the problems they can cause to the wall of the intestine and the damage to the ‘good bacteria’ which form in our gut.

“This can lead to a range of potential health issues including diarrhoea, intestinal inflammation, and even infections such as septicaemia if the bacteria were to enter the blood stream. Therefore, it is important to also study sweeteners that have been introduced more recently, and our new research demonstrates that neotame causes similar problems, including gut bacteria becoming diseased.”

The co-authors said further research was needed to look into “the toxic effects of some of the artificial sweeteners that have been developed more recently”, given their widespread use. Some of the newest sweeteners in use produce a sweet taste that is 1,000 times sweeter than sugar.

Even a low intake of neotame might be harmful, Chichger stressed. “Even when we studied neotame at very low concentrations, 10 times lower than the acceptable daily intake, we saw the breakdown of the gut barrier and a shift in bacteria to a more damaging behaviour, including increased invasion of healthy gut cells leading to cell death. This can be linked to issues such as irritable bowel diseases and sepsis,” she said.

The European Food Safety Authority ruled in 2010 that neotame was “safe for use”. It has since been approved for use in more than 35 countries. But Efsa is now reviewing the safety of neotame as part of what Chichger said is a series of evidence-based risk assessments which may lead to a reassessment of certain sweeteners.

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