The Guardian 2024-04-28 01:01:53


The minister for social services, Amanda Rishworth, says violence against women is “a national shame” that has “been at crisis levels for some time”.

Speaking to the ABC, Rishworth says the problem has “been pervasive throughout our community and through our society for too long”.

It has to stop. We have to all work together to put an end to violence against women and children. I would like to see both persistent and consistent attention to this and absolutely sustained effort in addressing what is a national shame.

The minister says the government has spent $3.2m in its first two budgets to address family and domestic vehicles, which includes funding for prevention, early intervention, response and healing and recovery.

Part of our responset is a commitment to frontline workers. That funding is in the budget, of course; we are not as the Commonwealth, responsible for frontline workers. That money has been transferred … to states and territories to put on those workers. The numbers increase every week. And to the frontline workers being put on as a part of that, I expect we will meet our targets.

Violence against women rallies: thousands attend protests as Mark Dreyfus rules out royal commission

More rallies to be held across the country on Sunday with attorney general claiming state and federal governments need to cooperate on plan of action

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Thousands of people have rallied in Sydney calling for an end to violence against women amid growing anger at the number of those being killed in violent attacks across the country.

No More: National rallies against gender based violence were held in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide on Saturday, with more due to be held across the country on Sunday, calling for greater action, including calls for a royal commission, to address the epidemic of women killed in violent attacks.

It comes as the federal attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, rejected the idea of holding a royal commission into domestic violence, saying that it should be dealt with via cooperation between the federal government working with state and territory governments.

“I think we’ve actually identified a whole range of actions already that need to be taken, and I think what we probably can say is that we need to be working harder on the kinds of actions that have already been identified,” he said.

“And I think what we probably can say is that we need to be working harder on the kinds of actions that have already been identified.”

The Sydney crowd chanted and sang as they marched from Belmore Park to Hyde Park in Sydney’s CBD, before speakers demanded policy and cultural change to address the violence.

Organised by advocacy group What Were You Wearing (WWYW), the rally was attended by people young and old, many holding signs calling for an end to violence, and greater accountability.

Twenty-six women have been violently killed in the first 114 days of the year, according to data compiled by advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project Counting Dead Women.

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is due to attend the rally in Canberra, with the minister for women, Katy Gallagher.

In a statement posted to X, Albanese said a woman had been killed every four days so far this year.

Protesters said they were “horrified” and “outraged” by the growing violence, with figures from the Destroy the Joint’s Counting Dead Women and Femicide Watch’s Red Heart Campaign showing that an average of one woman is murdered in domestic violence incidents every four days across the country. Last year, that figure was one woman a week.

“I’m here today because I am horrified at the continued number of deaths and serious assaults against women in this country,” said Siobhan Ferguson, one of the protesters at the rally on Saturday.

“Not enough is being done, in my opinion, to change people’s mindset and to change legislation.”

But Ferguson said she felt heartened by the turnout, that stretched through the city and closed multiple major streets.

“I get the sense there are a broad range of feelings but I’d say people are disappointed and angry, predominantly, and wanting action.”

“They want to see things moving, they’re trying to raise awareness,” she said.

The writer Emmy Hee said she had attended because she was “incensed” by the violence women have been facing.

“We’re just incensed by the loss of life, and by the beautiful women who’ve had their lives cut short, and if ever there was a time to come together, it’s now.”

She added: “I think we can build from here, I can feel the momentum.”

Hee said she did not feel it was just anger that defined the rally, but a sense of grief and solidarity.

“We feel angry but we also feel the pain. And we want to see cultural change, not just empty words. We need action on every level.”

The business owner Helen Cooper said she was attending to support the women affected by domestic violence across the country.

“Solidarity is an important part of today, we aren’t just hear to march, we are here to be together in this time.

“We have definitely seen a spike in violence against women this year, we can all feel it, and not enough is being done.”

Cooper said the turnout made her feel “supported” and hoped all the attenders felt similarly.

“Especially for the people attending alone like me, this makes me feel like I am not alone, like I am supported by everyone here.

“Things are changing, but slowly,” she added.

Speaking at a press conference in Ipswich, Queensland on Saturday morning, Dreyfus added that the rallies organised over the weekend reflected the huge level of community distress about the number of women who are dying in violent incidents.

“We have in this country an epidemic of male violence and we all need to step up. We need to do more about it. What these rallies are about are reflecting that level of community distress.

“I’m going to keep saying it: men need to step up. Men need to talk to their sons, to their brothers, to their colleagues at work and try to work together. It cannot be left to women to do something about this,” he said.

Here are where the rallies will take place on Sunday:

  • Melbourne: State Library at 10am

  • Perth: Parliament House at 1pm

  • Brisbane: King George Square at 11am

  • Canberra: Commonwealth Park at 2pm

  • Bendigo: Rosalind Park at 11am

  • Geelong: Market Square Mall at 11am

  • Coffs Harbour: Jetty foreshore at 11am

  • Sunshine Coast: Foundation Park at 11am

  • Gold Coast: Broadwater Parklands at 11am

  • Orange: Robertson Park at 2.30pm

  • Cobram: Federation Park at 11am

  • Wagga Wagga: Victory Memorial Gardens at 11am

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 988 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org

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As regional Australia reels from several women’s deaths, advocates seek both policing and prevention

Half of the 26 women who have been killed so far this year have been in regional parts of the country, highlighting a need for more resourcing outside metropolitan areas

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In regional Australia, a series of tragic deaths has rippled across a group of close-knit communities.

During the course of the past week, the death of Molly Ticehurst, a 28-year-old childcare worker in the New South Wales town of Forbes, sparked outrage just a day before the body of Emma Bates, 49, was found in Cobram, Victoria.

The mayor of Forbes, Phyllis Miller, says Ticehurst was loved by many and that her death had left many families and the children she cared for reeling.

“Molly was a very beautiful young woman and very highly regarded in our community,” Miller says.

“The whole system has let her down badly.”

This year, 26 women in Australia have been killed – a rate of one death every four days – according to data compiled by advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project Counting Dead Women.

Of those, half occurred in regional parts of Australia, highlighting the vulnerabilities faced by women experiencing violence outside metropolitan areas.

Across Australia, frontline services, domestic violence advocates and police officers are demanding investment in violence prevention and a crackdown on law enforcement.

The NSW government also has ordered a review of the bail laws following Ticehurst’s death, over which her ex-partner Daniel Billing has been charged with murder. The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, has backed this review as an urgent priority, but she acknowledged that more needed to be done to stop domestic violence happening in the first place.

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This weekend, thousands are preparing to take to the streets in 17 rallies across the nation calling for greater action on a growing epidemic of women killed in violent attacks.

In Ballarat, Victoria’s third-largest regional city, the rally on Friday marked the second time in a month residents had marched the city’s streets demanding an end to the killing of women.

An earlier protest came a week after the body of Hannah McGuire, from the nearby town of Clunes, was found dead in a burnt-out car in a state forest, and within 48 hours of police launching a new and unsuccessful search for the body of Samantha Murphy, allegedly murdered on 4 February after leaving her family home to go for a run.

Ballarat has also been rocked by the death of 42-year-old Rebecca Young, who was killed in a suspected murder-suicide by her partner, in the small suburb of Sebastopol.

Wendy Sturgess, the chief executive of non-profit community service organisation Child & Family Services Ballarat, says the interconnected nature of regional and remote communities can add additional barriers.

“We hear about women in remote settings, who lived for years with family violence because they don’t have access to means of transport to leave, they don’t have access to legal services and the perpetrator can often be a mate of everybody’s,” she tells Guardian Australia.

Elise Phillips, the deputy chief executive of Domestic Violence NSW, says resourcing in regional and rural areas is a major issue. In particular, the lack of housing and crisis accommodation.

“Women are having to choose between being homeless or between continuing to experience abuse,” she says.

Phillips points out that the Victorian government spends more than all of the other states and territories combined on DVF services. The NSW government spends less than half of what Victoria does, despite supporting a larger population.

“This means that frontline services on the ground are struggling to meet demand and frontline workers are faced with having to turn vulnerable women and children away,” says Phillips.

Meanwhile, women in rural areas across Australia are 24 times more likely to end up in hospital due to domestic violence issues, she says.

“We’ve made it very clear to [the premier, Chris Minns that] changing the bail laws alone is not going to get the job done,” Phillips says.

Antoinette Braybrook, the chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal-community controlled family violence prevention and legal service Djirra, also says data on the number of murdered and missing First Nations women is poor.

“The most recent national data suggests that Aboriginal women are 33 times more likely to be hospitalised and 11 times more likely to die from a violent assault than other women. But rarely are our stories covered or seen as newsworthy,” she says.

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has vowed to establish a taskforce to determine ways to curb the spate of women’s deaths.

Sturgess says solutions must be focused on early prevention and notes men’s behavioural programs are critical to help break intergenerational cycles of violence.

“There is a lack of support the further out you go for men, in particular in terms of behaviour change programs,” she says.

Such programs are critical, she says, for helping men, women and children.

“If we’re helping men, we’re helping women and children as well.”

Lauren Callaway, Victoria police’s assistant commissioner for family violence, says practical measures that could be considered include tougher penalties for perpetrators who breach family violence intervention orders.

Meanwhile, in NSW, an estimated 40% of police work is responding to domestic violence incidents.

A report released by the state’s police watchdog last year found there had been an improvement in how police respond to incidents, including introducing police teams that specifically focus on DVF in each of the state’s six policing regions.

But it found that in more than a third of complaint investigations reviewed by the commission, police failed to investigate reports of DVF properly, and the bulk of the work is still carried out by general police officers.

Though there is training related to responding to DVF, the training is not mandatory, and the lack of training was highlighted as an issue in the cases reviewed by the watchdog. The police agreed in principle to a recommendation from the report to make the training mandatory and increase the frequency.

The watchdog recommended that NSW follow Victoria and Queensland and establish separate commands which deal with DVF. But given the population and size of the state, it said a command for each region could be warranted.

In the Bega Valley region, Vesna Andric, who runs the region’s Staying Home Leaving Violence project, says police have one domestic violence liaison officer for the whole region and “it’s not enough”.

She wants to see more resourcing for police and domestic violence services, but also a greater focus on prevention.

“We need education in schools on healthy relationships,” she says. “We need something that allows men who are thinking about violence to come forward and get rehabilitation.”

“We need to set something up so an expert can talk to those men when violence is happening and, when they’re charged about what’s on their mind, what their plans are, rather than letting them stew and ruminate in the dark.”

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Sarah Hanson-Young softens demand for inquiry into Murdoch media

Amid the threat of big tech, Greens senator says News titles are ‘trusted news providers’ and a royal commission should look at the whole industry

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The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has watered down her demand for a royal commission examining the role of the Murdoch media in Australia, now describing it as a “trusted” news provider compared with unregulated social media platforms.

Hanson-Young says she still wants a royal commission but that she is no longer advocating for it to focus specifically on media outlets owned by News Corp.

“Upon reflection, I think the community, while they’re upset and they distrust the Murdoch media, they’re increasingly looking at other players and going ‘you know, this needs a clean up across the board’,” Hanson-Young said in an interview for Guardian Australia’s Australian Politics podcast.

She also listed the Murdoch media among “trusted news providers” which could have their journalism actively blocked from social media platforms if their owners make good on threats to deprioritise news.

Hanson-Young has drafted a private senator’s bill calling for a special commission. Drafted last year and currently being examined by a Senate committee, the Murdoch media inquiry bill 2023 aims to create a commission of inquiry “into the current state of media diversity and conduct of media outlets operating in Australia, in particular the Murdoch media empire, and their impact on Australian democracy”.

Now, she said it should scrutinise all media equally.

“So, you know, maybe it’s a reframing,” she said. “But nonetheless, some type of independent commission to inquire to test and push the boundaries, to try to have that overarching regulation.”

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Hanson-Young also called for the government to use its existing powers to designate major tech companies that are no longer willing to pay traditional media organisations for the journalism they feature on their platforms.

Under the news media bargaining code, a formal designation would force the companies to pay for the news they feature. Currently, companies including Google and Meta are paying media companies under voluntary agreements. But Meta, which owns platforms including Facebook and Instagram, has indicated it will not continue the arrangement, arguing its users are no longer interested in news.

Hanson-Young said the government’s code designation should go beyond payment.

“Along with designating these social media platforms to have to pay for the content, the news content, I actually think they need to be designated to carry news in the public interest,” she said.

The senator described a scenario in which a conspiracy theory could be spreading via a social media platform but its owner blocks users from sharing factual, countervailing information from “trusted news providers like the Guardian, like the ABC, like the Murdoch press – like the local newspaper in a small rural town”.

Questioned about her change of tune on News Corp, she said there were “some decent journalists” at the company “who do good work”.

“It’s the business model of outrage that I see coming from Murdoch management that worries me the most and their undue influence.”

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, told Guardian Australia this week that 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.”

During negotiations on the first round of the code in 2021, Facebook blocked all news on its platform in Australia, and inadvertently blocked information and government pages, including health and emergency services. The ban was later reversed, but with Canadian news outlets also facing long-lasting bans on Facebook, there is concern that Meta may enact similar responses in Australia.

Jones urged Meta not to repeat that response here.

“They [Meta] have threatened in Australia and around the rest of the world that they’re going to remove news content from the screens. We think that’s both a concern and anti-democratic,” he said.

“It’s absolutely fundamental to a well-functioning democracy that people have access to fact-tested news and reliable information sources. We intend to back local journalism, we think it’s a critical pillar in our democracy.”

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Sanders hits back at Netanyahu: ‘It is not antisemitic to hold you accountable’

US senator says Israeli prime minister is using antisemitism to distract attention from ‘extremist and racist government’ policies

Bernie Sanders has hit back fiercely at Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister’s claim that US universities were being overrun by antisemitism on a scale comparable to the rise of Nazism in Germany.

In a video posted on X, the progressive senator from Vermont – who is Jewish – accused Netanyahu of “insult[ing] the intelligence of the American people” by using antisemitism to distract attention from the policies of his “extremist and racist government” in the military offensive in Gaza.

“No Mr Netanyahu, it is not antisemitic or pro-Hamas to point out that, in a little over six months, your extremist government has killed over 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 78,000, 70% of whom are women and children,” Sanders said.

The two-and-a-half minute video listed a catalogue of further consequences of the war in the Palestinian coastal territory, including the destruction of infrastructure, hospitals, universities and schools, along with the killing of more than 400 health workers.

Sanders, who sponsored an unsuccessful Senate bill in January to make US aid to Israel conditional on its observance of human rights and international law, said Netanyahu’s government had unreasonably blocked humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza, causing “thousands of children [to] face malnutrition and famine”.

In a blistering conclusion, he said: “Mr Netanyahu, antisemitism is a vile and disgusting form of bigotry that has done unspeakable harm to many millions of people.

“But please, do not insult the intelligence of the American people by attempting to distract us from the immoral and illegal policies of your extremist and racist government. … It is not antisemitic to hold you accountable for your actions.”

Sanders’ comments were a riposte to a video posted on social media by Netanyahu in which he waded in to protests sweeping American university campuses and claimed not enough was being done to combat a “horrific” rise in antisemitism.

“Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities,” Netanyahu said. “They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty. This is reminiscent of what happened in German universities in the 1930s.

“It has to be stopped. It has to be condemned and condemned unequivocally, but that’s not what happened. The response of several university presidents was shameful. Now fortunately, state, federal and local officials, many of them, have responded differently. But there has to be more.”

Netanyahu’s comments came against the backdrop of police deployments to break up pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University and numerous other US campuses. In some universities, faculty members have been arrested, including the chair of the philosophy department and a professor of English and Indigenous studies at Emory University in Atlanta.

Jewish students have reported feeling threatened by the protests and heated atmosphere that followed Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, resulting in the deaths of about 1,200 Israelis and the kidnapping of more than 200 others.

Videos posted on social media have depicted anti-Israel protesters shouting “go back to Poland” and “go back to Belarus”, apparently at Jewish students. A congressional hearing earlier in April into a reported upsurge of antisemitism at Columbia heard allegations that Jewish students had been subjected to taunts of “F the Jews”.

Last October’s attack triggered an overwhelming and continuing Israeli military response that has so far killed more than 34,000 Palestinians – according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza – and led to a burgeoning humanitarian disaster, accompanied by accusations that Israel is committing “genocide”.

In his video, Netanyahu said Israel was being “falsely accused” of genocide and called it part of an “antisemitic surge”.

“Israel tries to defend itself against genocidal terrorists who hide behind civilians,” he said. “Yet it is Israel that is falsely accused of genocide. Israel that is falsely accused of starvation and sundry war crimes. It’s all one big libel.

“But that’s not new. We’ve seen in history that antisemitic attacks were always preceded by vilification and slander.”

The Joe Biden White House, while resisting pressure to condition or limit weapon supplies to Israel, has voiced frustration over its resistance to allowing more humanitarian aid freely into Gaza and roundly criticised the recent strikes that killed seven workers from celebrity chef Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen charity.

Protests on campuses across the US continued on Saturday, with some protesting student bodies and universities locked in a standoff that saw demonstrators vowing to keep their movements going at the same time as college authorities moved to close down the encampments.

Police in riot gear cleared protest tents on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston, while students shouted and jeered at them, the Associated Press reported. The university said the protest had been “infiltrated by professional organisers” with no connection to the institution, while some demonstrators had used antisemitic slurs.

The picture of campus antisemitism run amok was lent further credence by Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard president and ex-US treasury secretary, who accused authorities at his former university of failing to act decisively against protesters occupying Harvard Yard.

“This is the predictable culmination of the Harvard Corporation’s failure to effectively address issues of prejudice and breakdowns of order on our campus,” he posted on X. “There can be no question that Harvard is practicing an ongoing double standard on discrimination between racism, misogyny and antisemitism.”

His comments provoked a sharp response from critics of Israel. “Your efforts to portray student demonstrators challenging Israel’s genocidal actions as ‘antisemitic’ are cheap & disingenuous,” wrote Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn). “These students should be commended for their courage & compassion, risking suspension & smears (like yours), to fight the most heinous crimes underway in Gaza.”

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Payslip wars: Australian jobseekers suffer harassment in ‘a crazy system that doesn’t work for anyone’

Private job providers can claim public money when jobseekers find work. But they need their payslips to do so, and some resort to extreme methods to get them

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A former employee of one of Australia’s biggest job network providers has spoken up about the extreme methods they use to claim public money when jobseekers find employment.

One researcher called the process – supposedly designed to help people enter the workforce or increase their hours – a “crazy system that doesn’t work for anyone”.

Jobseekers must sign up with a private job provider to receive Centrelink benefits, which they can continue to claim if they have work but are earning below a certain threshold.

The providers can claim “outcome payments” when a client on their books has completed four, 12 and 26 weeks of employment, regardless of whether the client or provider found the job, using payslips as proof of the client’s employment. In 2022-23 providers received $329m in outcome payments.

But jobseekers, employers and former staff at the providers say the requirement to obtain payslips has led providers to put unreasonable pressure on clients – who are not obliged to hand over the information – and employers.

In some cases providers trying to obtain payslips have forced jobseekers’ Centrelink payments to be suspended.

Prof Jo Ingold of the Peter Faber business school at the Australian Catholic University said the system did not work for jobseekers, providers or employees.

“It is … obviously very stressful and horrible for somebody to go through effectively having their payments suspended because they’re not providing information that … it is within their right not to provide,” she said.

“But then the providers desperately scramble to get evidence to meet their claim for the outcome payment. It’s just a crazy system that doesn’t work for anyone.”

‘They would track them down’

Alan* worked as an employment consultant for a job provider in Western Australia last year.

He said there was a member of his team whose sole job it was to check whether jobseekers had employment and try to get the details so that the provider could claim an outcome payment when they reached the four-, 12- or 26-week milestone.

“Their job was to collate all the claims we had and go through and notify us as individual employment partners when we had claims coming up and who we should be tracking … If we weren’t able to get hold of them, they would … try to track them down.

“They’ll look at them on Facebook, they’ll … phone their employers out of the blue … They’re doing this on a daily basis.”

He said the team was encouraged to target participants who were long-term unemployed or Indigenous, as the provider gets a higher payout when they become employed.

He said the company had an internal system to track how many weeks a jobseeker had been in work, and which prompted providers to ask for payslips at certain points.

“These are jobs we haven’t had anything to do with,” he said. “A lot of the time, people are getting their own jobs and all we’re doing is claiming money for them.”

To keep receiving benefits, jobseekers must meet “mutual obligations” requirements such as applying for jobs and courses, and attending interviews with their providers.

Alan said one method of forcing jobseekers to pass on payslips was to set up a requirement the provider knew the client could not meet, which would trigger a suspension of their benefits.

“If somebody’s working you can just book them in for an appointment that you know they can’t attend if you’re not getting the payslips. When they don’t attend, you just say ‘not attended’ and it’s cut the payment off automatically.”

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Alan said employees of the provider were also told to put pressure on jobseekers to hand over payslips by withholding grants from the employment fund – a pool of money providers can use to help jobseekers find work by covering costs such as new work boots or car registration.

He said his manager told him not to spend money from the fund “unless there was something in it” for the provider.

“As part of our mandate, we should be offering these things, but my particular manager would only allow us to do this if we were ‘tracking for a claim’.”

Pressure on employers

Dani*, who lives in Victoria, said in March her provider threatened to put her Centrelink payments on hold unless she gave them the payslips for the cleaning job she has had for seven years.

Providers can sometimes claim payments even when the jobseeker found a job before starting with them. In March Guardian Australia revealed the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations paid providers more than $3.6m in the past five years for pre-existing employment.

“She wouldn’t put my hours in the system … without a payslip,” Dani said.

“You’re not obligated to provide it, they can ask, but I said ‘no, I won’t be doing that’.”

After the phone call she was sent a message saying her payments would be suspended because she had not met her requirements. Dani has been unable to transfer to a different provider because that alleged failure is now on her record in the system.

“I’ve been working since I was 15,” she said. “I’m a single mum, I try to do the right thing.

“[They’re] just money hungry. They don’t really want [to help] me unless they can get their outcome payment.”

Jim Daly ran a business in South Australia for seven years, employing up to 20 staff. He said he would routinely get calls from job providers asking for his staff’s payslip details.

“None of my staff ever came to me through the services of a job network provider,” Daly said.

“But they were on the phone to me every Monday or Friday, demanding information about the people who I did have on the books.”

He said he always refused, leaving it to his staff to declare their hours if they wished – but they would still ring him. He said at one point in 2019 a provider threatened to suspend his employees’ benefits.

“[They said] if you do not provide us with the information that we are asking for, we will contact Centrelink and have their payments cut off.”

Will privatisation be rolled back?

A spokesperson for the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) said it had regularly told providers not to press jobseekers for payslip details.

“Providers should not repeatedly ask or pressure clients for payslips under any circumstance,” they said. “This has been made clear to providers on a number of occasions.

“While providers are allowed to ask for payslip details, jobseekers are under no obligation to hand over the details.”

Guardian Australia put questions to the job providers referred to in the above examples, but all either failed to respond or declined to comment on individual cases.

The chief executive of the National Employment Services Association, Kathryn Mandla, said the organisation had “advocated that the overarching principle for the employment services system … is that the best interests of jobseekers should be paramount”.

“Employment service providers are legally required by government to assist each participant on their caseload to progress towards and sustain suitable employment.”

Simone Casey is a research associate at RMIT’s Centre for People, Organisation and Work. She said DEWR needed to make the rules clear and enforce them.

“Overall, there’s a lack of clarity about the circumstances in which providers should be seeking payslips. There’s inconsistency in guidelines … And DEWR is not telling providers clearly that jobseekers have the right to decline requests for payslips.

“Providers wield their power, threatening people with cutting off their payments to obtain the information about the employers without respecting or complying with the actual information and privacy protection laws.”

Kristin O’Connell of the Antipoverty Centre said the information job providers were trying to get access to was already known to Centrelink.

“We already report our income to Centrelink … the job agency has no need for that information, except to maximise the amount of money they extract out of the system for jobs that we find ourselves,” she said.

“There’s no reason these job agencies need these payslips. The government absolutely has the power to direct them to stop being intrusive, and requesting this information from people who don’t want to give it. It’s really that simple.”

Last year’s federal inquiry into the sector found the privatisation of the employment services system had failed and recommended the establishment of a large government-run provider.

The government has yet to respond to the recommendation, but the national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Melissa Donnelly, said it should be adopted without reservation.

“Privatisation puts profit before people and has led to a compromised and ineffective employment services system,” she said.

“This system doesn’t work for people looking for a job or for employers looking for workers, and no amount of tweaking the existing system will fix that.”

* Names have been changed

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The demise of Twitter: how a ‘utopian vision’ for social media became a ‘toxic mess’

In the early days it was seen as a place for ‘genuine public discourse’, but users have fled since Elon Musk took over. What went wrong?

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If anything is emblematic of the demise of Twitter, it is the rise and stall of the account of Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah joined the platform in 2009, tweeting for the first time live from her wildly popular TV show: “HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.”

It was “a breakthrough moment” for the platform, says Axel Bruns, professor in the digital media research centre at Queensland University of Technology.

“That really was the moment where numbers absolutely took off.”

These days, Oprah still has an account on the now-renamed X, with 41.7m followers. But since November 2022, a month after Elon Musk’s acquisition of the site was finalised, she has posted just once – in January 2023, when she told Chelsea Clinton she was “still laughing out LoUD for real 😂” over Clinton accidentally wearing two different black shoes to an event.

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Debates about X have reignited in the last week, as the Australian government has taken the platform to court in an effort to get it to remove a video of a Sydney bishop being allegedly stabbed as he officiated a church service last week.

X says it has complied with orders to remove footage of the stabbing (though ironically, the post announcing its compliance had a comment directly underneath in which someone had shared the full and graphic video) and Musk has been scathing about Australia’s requests for the footage to be taken down. X has been contacted for comment.

But as the debate has raged about what responsibility social media platforms have for stopping the spread of violent or extremist content, another question has emerged: what even is Twitter/X any more?

What has become of a site that was once utterly indispensable to the news cycle and political debate and now is increasingly abandoned by those who once checked it religiously?

The beginning: ‘a utopian vision’

In Twitter’s early years, it had lofty goals, says a former employee at Twitter Australia, who does not wish to be named.

“I think back then it was definitely a utopian vision. Like so many of these founders, they really saw themselves as disruptors, as creating a space for genuine public discourse,” she says. “I think people really enjoyed it back then – it was a really fast-moving, innovative platform, you could get breaking news, you could follow and connect with people you really admired. It always had pockets of being a toxic swamp, even early on, but it wasn’t entirely like that.”

“It had social cachet,” she says. “Remember when everyone was obsessed with having a blue tick … and people who didn’t have one pretended not to care?”

Exact numbers of active monthly users are not available, but while Twitter/X has never had the broad mainstream appeal of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or TikTok, for years it had an outsize impact on the world of news and politics.

“It’s a very specific and limited audience,” Bruns says. “But the kind of audience you could reach on Twitter were journalists, politicians, activists, experts of various forms … often the people who are influential in other communities both online and offline.”

Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, says: “It became a company that really made itself absolutely central to the news cycle. In essence, it became a tool that journalists in particular just couldn’t afford to do without.”

This was partly because the functionality of Twitter – specifically @ mentions and hashtags – made it so good for breaking news.

In Japan, for instance, Twitter became big partly because in 2011, when the country was hit by the devastating tsunami, people were using it as a way of communicating and organising, the former Twitter employee says.

“It became a real lifeline for people, it’s the way people were getting rescued,” she said.

Pew research from 2021 found that 69% of US Twitter users said they got news from the site, 46% said the site had increased their understanding of current events and 30% said it had made them feel more politically engaged.

The breaking news functionality was not without its issues. While the immediacy of the platform gave voices to dissidents and citizen journalists, making it crucial for uprisings like those seen in the Arab spring, it also allowed politicians to circumvent the traditional mediation of journalists, says Bruns.

“There are quite a few politicians who essentially stopped giving interviews to journalists, because then they also have to expose themselves to critical questions, and basically just posted their announcements on Twitter.”

There have always been issues around misinformation and trolling, says Barnet, but the company adopted measures to try to combat some of the worst of the effects, by implementing what she calls the “three pillars”: blue tick verification of users, moderation policies and a trust and safety team.

“These things all worked in concert to make it reasonably reliable during a breaking news event, which is why people went there. Misinformation did go viral on the old Twitter, but they would often just kill the trend before it got anywhere,” she said.

The present: Musk’s wild west

All three of these pillars were dismantled swiftly after Musk acquired the platform at the end of 2022, Barnet says.

The trust and safety teams were among those fired by Musk in the wild weeks after he acquired the company for US$44bn and walked into the headquarters on his first day holding a ceramic sink. A video of Musk’s entrance was posted to the site with the caption: “Let that sink in”.

Many of those who had been blocked from the site for breaching its online rules, including Donald Trump, had their accounts reinstated (though Trump’s account was later blocked again).

The verification process changed dramatically. Instead of people being granted blue ticks because they were a public figure or worked for a recognised news site, ticks were now available for purchase.

The approach to moderation also changed. Musk’s spat with the Australian government reveals something about his vision for X, which he sees as a bastion of free speech.

“They’re very reluctant to engage in any kind of moderation,” says Bruns. “To some extent that represents a broader sense in the US about free speech that it is an absolute good above all. Whereas elsewhere in Australia and Europe and many other places there’s much more about needing to balance the rights of free speech and the right to freedom from harmful speech. And for many otherwise quite liberal people in the US, that sounds like censorship, essentially.”

Ironically, X has suspended accounts of people who have criticised Musk, including the accounts of several high-profile journalists from CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post who had been critical of him in 2022. At the same time, he banned an account tracking the whereabouts of his own personal jet using publicly available data.

“Elon wants it both ways,” says Barnet. “He wants it to be the original Twitter, which was indeed, absolutely crucial to the news cycle”, but also to “take away the pillars, the processes that Twitter had worked out over years and years are what is conducive to a community that can find facts.”

“I think it’s turning into a toxic mess,” says Barnet.

The future: an uncontrollable place

Research from Pew found that in the first few months after Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, 60% of US Twitter users took a break of a few weeks or more from the platform. A quarter of those surveyed said they did not see themselves using the site at all within a year.

Even the most prolific tweeters were using the platform less, with a 25% dip in the number of tweets they posted per month.

Whether the trend has continued is a harder question to answer, in part because under Musk, it has become prohibitively expensive for researchers studying social media to keep up their work.

For many years, Twitter made application programming interfaces (APIs) available to academic researchers and private sector organisations for a price. About a year ago, the cost to access these APIs skyrocketed.

Aaron Smith, director of data labs at Pew, says that his centre has developed a “fairly rich body of work” on Twitter over many years, but since the prices for accessing tweets increased – he says the annual fee to access the API is now “larger than our team’s entire research budget for a couple of years” – they have not been able to do any more research about the platform.

Bruns says academics are in the same boat. “You just can’t do any particularly explorative research, looking for hate speech bots or misinformation on the platform. Essentially, [X] pretty much priced themselves out of the market.”

He says this is a shame, as academic research on Twitter used to enable the platform to identify and clean up pockets of hate speech and misinformation, which will now go even more unchecked.

“It’s certainly already starting to transform into something that’s more similar to … platforms like Gab or Parler, or even [Trump’s] Truth Social where you’ve got far, far right people furiously agreeing with each other and furiously hating on everyone else.”

Even the former employee has since deactivated her account. “I think what it is now is a really dangerous space, it’s uncontrollable,” she says.

“I miss it sometimes. I always thought it was an amazing newswire for journalists and citizen journalists … I don’t know, I find myself sitting with breaking news and wondering where to go. There’s a hole that has been left behind. I’m hoping someone will try and fill that gap.”

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The demise of Twitter: how a ‘utopian vision’ for social media became a ‘toxic mess’

In the early days it was seen as a place for ‘genuine public discourse’, but users have fled since Elon Musk took over. What went wrong?

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If anything is emblematic of the demise of Twitter, it is the rise and stall of the account of Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah joined the platform in 2009, tweeting for the first time live from her wildly popular TV show: “HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.”

It was “a breakthrough moment” for the platform, says Axel Bruns, professor in the digital media research centre at Queensland University of Technology.

“That really was the moment where numbers absolutely took off.”

These days, Oprah still has an account on the now-renamed X, with 41.7m followers. But since November 2022, a month after Elon Musk’s acquisition of the site was finalised, she has posted just once – in January 2023, when she told Chelsea Clinton she was “still laughing out LoUD for real 😂” over Clinton accidentally wearing two different black shoes to an event.

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

Debates about X have reignited in the last week, as the Australian government has taken the platform to court in an effort to get it to remove a video of a Sydney bishop being allegedly stabbed as he officiated a church service last week.

X says it has complied with orders to remove footage of the stabbing (though ironically, the post announcing its compliance had a comment directly underneath in which someone had shared the full and graphic video) and Musk has been scathing about Australia’s requests for the footage to be taken down. X has been contacted for comment.

But as the debate has raged about what responsibility social media platforms have for stopping the spread of violent or extremist content, another question has emerged: what even is Twitter/X any more?

What has become of a site that was once utterly indispensable to the news cycle and political debate and now is increasingly abandoned by those who once checked it religiously?

The beginning: ‘a utopian vision’

In Twitter’s early years, it had lofty goals, says a former employee at Twitter Australia, who does not wish to be named.

“I think back then it was definitely a utopian vision. Like so many of these founders, they really saw themselves as disruptors, as creating a space for genuine public discourse,” she says. “I think people really enjoyed it back then – it was a really fast-moving, innovative platform, you could get breaking news, you could follow and connect with people you really admired. It always had pockets of being a toxic swamp, even early on, but it wasn’t entirely like that.”

“It had social cachet,” she says. “Remember when everyone was obsessed with having a blue tick … and people who didn’t have one pretended not to care?”

Exact numbers of active monthly users are not available, but while Twitter/X has never had the broad mainstream appeal of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or TikTok, for years it had an outsize impact on the world of news and politics.

“It’s a very specific and limited audience,” Bruns says. “But the kind of audience you could reach on Twitter were journalists, politicians, activists, experts of various forms … often the people who are influential in other communities both online and offline.”

Belinda Barnet, senior lecturer in media and communications at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, says: “It became a company that really made itself absolutely central to the news cycle. In essence, it became a tool that journalists in particular just couldn’t afford to do without.”

This was partly because the functionality of Twitter – specifically @ mentions and hashtags – made it so good for breaking news.

In Japan, for instance, Twitter became big partly because in 2011, when the country was hit by the devastating tsunami, people were using it as a way of communicating and organising, the former Twitter employee says.

“It became a real lifeline for people, it’s the way people were getting rescued,” she said.

Pew research from 2021 found that 69% of US Twitter users said they got news from the site, 46% said the site had increased their understanding of current events and 30% said it had made them feel more politically engaged.

The breaking news functionality was not without its issues. While the immediacy of the platform gave voices to dissidents and citizen journalists, making it crucial for uprisings like those seen in the Arab spring, it also allowed politicians to circumvent the traditional mediation of journalists, says Bruns.

“There are quite a few politicians who essentially stopped giving interviews to journalists, because then they also have to expose themselves to critical questions, and basically just posted their announcements on Twitter.”

There have always been issues around misinformation and trolling, says Barnet, but the company adopted measures to try to combat some of the worst of the effects, by implementing what she calls the “three pillars”: blue tick verification of users, moderation policies and a trust and safety team.

“These things all worked in concert to make it reasonably reliable during a breaking news event, which is why people went there. Misinformation did go viral on the old Twitter, but they would often just kill the trend before it got anywhere,” she said.

The present: Musk’s wild west

All three of these pillars were dismantled swiftly after Musk acquired the platform at the end of 2022, Barnet says.

The trust and safety teams were among those fired by Musk in the wild weeks after he acquired the company for US$44bn and walked into the headquarters on his first day holding a ceramic sink. A video of Musk’s entrance was posted to the site with the caption: “Let that sink in”.

Many of those who had been blocked from the site for breaching its online rules, including Donald Trump, had their accounts reinstated (though Trump’s account was later blocked again).

The verification process changed dramatically. Instead of people being granted blue ticks because they were a public figure or worked for a recognised news site, ticks were now available for purchase.

The approach to moderation also changed. Musk’s spat with the Australian government reveals something about his vision for X, which he sees as a bastion of free speech.

“They’re very reluctant to engage in any kind of moderation,” says Bruns. “To some extent that represents a broader sense in the US about free speech that it is an absolute good above all. Whereas elsewhere in Australia and Europe and many other places there’s much more about needing to balance the rights of free speech and the right to freedom from harmful speech. And for many otherwise quite liberal people in the US, that sounds like censorship, essentially.”

Ironically, X has suspended accounts of people who have criticised Musk, including the accounts of several high-profile journalists from CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post who had been critical of him in 2022. At the same time, he banned an account tracking the whereabouts of his own personal jet using publicly available data.

“Elon wants it both ways,” says Barnet. “He wants it to be the original Twitter, which was indeed, absolutely crucial to the news cycle”, but also to “take away the pillars, the processes that Twitter had worked out over years and years are what is conducive to a community that can find facts.”

“I think it’s turning into a toxic mess,” says Barnet.

The future: an uncontrollable place

Research from Pew found that in the first few months after Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, 60% of US Twitter users took a break of a few weeks or more from the platform. A quarter of those surveyed said they did not see themselves using the site at all within a year.

Even the most prolific tweeters were using the platform less, with a 25% dip in the number of tweets they posted per month.

Whether the trend has continued is a harder question to answer, in part because under Musk, it has become prohibitively expensive for researchers studying social media to keep up their work.

For many years, Twitter made application programming interfaces (APIs) available to academic researchers and private sector organisations for a price. About a year ago, the cost to access these APIs skyrocketed.

Aaron Smith, director of data labs at Pew, says that his centre has developed a “fairly rich body of work” on Twitter over many years, but since the prices for accessing tweets increased – he says the annual fee to access the API is now “larger than our team’s entire research budget for a couple of years” – they have not been able to do any more research about the platform.

Bruns says academics are in the same boat. “You just can’t do any particularly explorative research, looking for hate speech bots or misinformation on the platform. Essentially, [X] pretty much priced themselves out of the market.”

He says this is a shame, as academic research on Twitter used to enable the platform to identify and clean up pockets of hate speech and misinformation, which will now go even more unchecked.

“It’s certainly already starting to transform into something that’s more similar to … platforms like Gab or Parler, or even [Trump’s] Truth Social where you’ve got far, far right people furiously agreeing with each other and furiously hating on everyone else.”

Even the former employee has since deactivated her account. “I think what it is now is a really dangerous space, it’s uncontrollable,” she says.

“I miss it sometimes. I always thought it was an amazing newswire for journalists and citizen journalists … I don’t know, I find myself sitting with breaking news and wondering where to go. There’s a hole that has been left behind. I’m hoping someone will try and fill that gap.”

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Melbourne mother one of two people killed after glider crashes near Mount Beauty airport

Kate Callingham, 39, died when the light aircraft crashed north of Falls Creek in Victoria

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A Melbourne mother has been named as one of two people killed after a powered glider crashed near an airport in Victoria’s alpine region.

Kate Callingham, 39, died when the light aircraft crashed on Saturday afternoon, her family confirmed in a statement.

Callingham was described as a “beloved partner, mother, daughter and friend, and a keen-minded leader in the arts and cultural life in Melbourne”.

Emergency services were called to the incident at Mount Beauty, north of Falls Creek, after 1.40pm on Saturday.

“It is believed the pair were flying over Embankment Drive when the aircraft crashed about 1.45pm,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

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Country Fire Authority crews from Mount Beauty were the first to arrive on the scene followed by Tawonga’s fire brigade, road and air ambulance services and police.

Paramedics treated the pair but both died at the scene.

“Paramedics responded with significant resources dispatched to the scene including Advanced Life Support paramedics, Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance paramedics and an air ambulance,” an Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said.

The two people were the glider’s only occupants.

Country fire crews deemed the incident under control at 2.13pm and safe at 3.34pm.

Emergency service crews were expected to remain on the scene.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

The accident comes after Mathew Farrell died in September 2022 when his plane crashed after taking off from Mount Beauty Airport.

The 42-year-old died when the plane he was flying crashed into dense bushland east of Tallangatta.

A search was launched after he failed to reach his destination in Wollongong and his body was found a day later in an area that required heavy machinery to access.

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Australia pledges $100m in military assistance to Ukraine as Richard Marles visits

The deputy prime minister says Australia remains committed to Ukraine’s war effort as it struggles to hold back Russian advances

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The Australian government has announced a new $100m assistance package for Ukraine, which includes munitions and military equipment, during a visit to the country by the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles.

Australia’s package will include $50m in military assistance, including $30m towards uncrewed aerial systems, and $15m towards other high-priority equipment such as combat helmets, rigid hull inflatable boats, boots, fire masks and generators.

It will also include the delivery of air-to-ground precision munitions and $50m in short-range air defence systems.

During his visit, Marles met the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, and deputy minister of defence, Lt Gen Ivan Havryliuk.

He said Australia remained committed to the Ukrainian war effort, as the country struggles to hold back Russian advances.

“Australia remains committed to supporting Ukraine to resolve the conflict on its terms,” he said.

“I am pleased to announce an additional $100m of military assistance, including world-leading drone technology, with the support of local Australian defence industry.”

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As part of his visit, Marles met members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during training exercises and had the opportunity to tour the local defence industry, which has been integral in Ukraine’s defence against Russia.

Marles said his meeting with Shmyhal “reaffirmed” that the spirit of the Ukrainian people remained strong, with the war recently crossing the two-year mark.

“Ukraine and its people have endured more than two years of Russia’s full-scale invasion but their spirit remains strong. This was reaffirmed during my meeting with Prime Minister Shmyhal.

“Australia is proud to be working with our partners, including Poland, to support Ukraine’s self-defence,” he said.

Marles also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the multinational program to train Ukrainian armed forces personnel in the UK, through Operation Kudu.

As part of his trip, he also visited Poland, and met with the deputy prime minister and minister of defence, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz.

As part of his conversation with his counterpart, Marles thanked the Polish government for its support of the recent six-month deployment of a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail which helped protect a vital gateway of international humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine.

The new package brings Australia’s overall support to Ukraine to more than $1bn, which includes $880m in assistance for Ukraine’s military.

That support has included providing 120 Bushmaster vehicles, six M777 155mm lightweight towed howitzers, 56 M113AS4 armoured vehicles, 14 special operations vehicles as well as munitions.

The government also announced a $50m grant to the International Fund for Ukraine in February, and said it would extend and expand Operation Kudu over two years to deliver additional support for Ukraine.

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Drivers face record petrol prices thanks to weak Australian dollar and rising crude oil costs

Motorists shouldn’t blame retailers for rising fuel prices, can expect some relief soon, analyst says

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Australians are paying more than ever at the fuel bowser as a weak Australian dollar collides with rising crude prices, new data shows.

The average price of 91 octane unleaded has soared to 217.92 cents per litre in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, according to Compare the Market data, breaking the $2.17 record set last September.

Brisbane motorists were paying the highest average price for their fuel at $2.30 per litre, and as much as $2.35 per litre.

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Melburnians were paying about $2.25 for regular unleaded on Friday while in Sydney motorists were facing $2.13 a litre.

Perth had the lowest average price of the five major capitals at $1.94 per litre.

Compare the Market’s Chris Ford said there were a number of factors behind the spike, but motorists should hold off from blaming retailers.

“Firstly, some wholesale prices have jumped from an average of $1.65/litre at the start of the year to $1.88/litre now – a 13.9 per cent hike,” he said.

“The higher the wholesale price, the more retailers fork out for fuel and the more likely these costs are passed on to motorists.”

Ford said a weaker Australian dollar relative to the US dollar was also affecting prices at the pump, along with a stronger price for crude.

“Oil prices are also climbing due to conflict in the Middle East,” he said.

“Oil prices aren’t far behind the highs we saw last September, which could be why we’re now seeing those national average retail price records being smashed.”

Compare the Market believes fuel prices should ease soon.

“Adelaide operates in more regular fuel pricing cycles than cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which means the city-wide average should start to drop in the coming days and bring down that national average,” Ford said.

“It’s a similar story in Perth, where the city-wide average has already dropped 21 cents since Wednesday.”

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Drivers face record petrol prices thanks to weak Australian dollar and rising crude oil costs

Motorists shouldn’t blame retailers for rising fuel prices, can expect some relief soon, analyst says

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

Australians are paying more than ever at the fuel bowser as a weak Australian dollar collides with rising crude prices, new data shows.

The average price of 91 octane unleaded has soared to 217.92 cents per litre in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, according to Compare the Market data, breaking the $2.17 record set last September.

Brisbane motorists were paying the highest average price for their fuel at $2.30 per litre, and as much as $2.35 per litre.

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

Melburnians were paying about $2.25 for regular unleaded on Friday while in Sydney motorists were facing $2.13 a litre.

Perth had the lowest average price of the five major capitals at $1.94 per litre.

Compare the Market’s Chris Ford said there were a number of factors behind the spike, but motorists should hold off from blaming retailers.

“Firstly, some wholesale prices have jumped from an average of $1.65/litre at the start of the year to $1.88/litre now – a 13.9 per cent hike,” he said.

“The higher the wholesale price, the more retailers fork out for fuel and the more likely these costs are passed on to motorists.”

Ford said a weaker Australian dollar relative to the US dollar was also affecting prices at the pump, along with a stronger price for crude.

“Oil prices are also climbing due to conflict in the Middle East,” he said.

“Oil prices aren’t far behind the highs we saw last September, which could be why we’re now seeing those national average retail price records being smashed.”

Compare the Market believes fuel prices should ease soon.

“Adelaide operates in more regular fuel pricing cycles than cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which means the city-wide average should start to drop in the coming days and bring down that national average,” Ford said.

“It’s a similar story in Perth, where the city-wide average has already dropped 21 cents since Wednesday.”

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Queensland is on a path to treaty with Indigenous people. How will it work? Who’s involved?

State government announced the members of the First Nations Treaty Institute to begin truth telling and healing inquiry

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Queensland’s historic truth-telling and healing inquiry will begin on 1 July as the government moves ahead on its path to treaty with the state’s First Nations people.

The state government on Friday made long-awaited announcements about the members of the inquiry and First Nations Treaty Institute.

The landmark path to treaty legislation was passed in a regional parliament sitting in Cairns last May and heralded as a “history-making moment”. But how will it work?

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Disgraced former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein hospitalized

Ex-movie mogul is at New York City department of correction for tests, his lawyer said, and will be transferred to Rikers Island

The disgraced former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has been hospitalized in New York City for a series of tests, his lawyer said.

Weinstein’s hospitalization comes after the New York court of appeals overturned his 2020 rape conviction on Thursday. According to the court’s ruling, the judge who oversaw the watershed case during the peak of the #MeToo era prejudiced Weinstein with “egregious” improper rulings and was mistaken in allowing women whose accusations were not part of the case to testify against him.

In a statement on Saturday, Weinstein’s lawyer Arthur Aidala said: “They examined him and sent him to Bellevue [hospital]. It seems like he needs a lot of help, physically. He’s got a lot of problems. He’s getting all kinds of tests. He’s somewhat of a train wreck health-wise,” the Associated Press reports.

Aidala added that he spoke to Weinstein on Friday afternoon as Weinstein was being transported from the upstate jail Mohawk correctional facility to New York City’s department of correction following the appeals court’s ruling. According to Aidala, Weinstein’s issues are physical and the former movie mogul is mentally “sharp as a tack” with “feet [that] are firmly planted on the ground”.

Aidala went on to say that Weinstein had been treated poorly in jail, with prison staff allegedly refusing to offer “a sip of water”, food and bathroom breaks to Weinstein. “He was not treated well … He’s a 72-year-old sickly man,” said Aidala, the Associated Press reports.

Weinstein’s defense team has repeatedly argued that Weinstein suffers from various health issues including cardiac issues, diabetes, sleep apnea and eye problems. In 2021, his lawyers said Weinstein had lost four teeth in prison.

On Thursday, the New York court of appeals vacated his conviction after concluding that a trial judge permitted jurors to see and hear too much evidence not directly related to the charges he faced. It also erased his 23-year prison sentence and ordered a retrial.

Prosecutors said they intend to retry him on charges that he forcibly performed oral sex on a TV and film production assistant in 2006 and raped an aspiring actor in 2013.

Weinstein remained in custody after the appeals ruling because he was convicted in Los Angeles in 2022 of another rape and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Thomas Mailey, a state corrections spokesperson, had no comment when Aidala’s remarks about Weinstein’s treatment were read to him over the phone.

Aidala said he was told that Bellevue doctors planned to run a lot of tests on Weinstein before he will be returned to the Rikers Island jail complex.

The lawyer said he is scheduled to meet with Weinstein on Monday. He added that he plans to tell a judge when Weinstein goes to court on Wednesday in Manhattan that a retrial should occur after Labor Day.

The overturning of Weinstein’s conviction earlier this week was swiftly met with outrage. Ashley Judd, an actor who was among the first people to go on record with her allegations against Weinstein, condemned the ruling, saying: “This is unfair to survivors. We still live in our truth.”

Meanwhile, Rosanna Arquette, another actor who was among the first people to share details of Weinstein’s sexual abuse, said: “Harvey was rightfully convicted. It’s unfortunate that the court has overturned his conviction. As a survivor, I am beyond disappointed.”

Rose McGowan, an actor who accused Weinstein of rape, said: “No matter what they overturn, they cannot take away who we are and what we know, what we’ve gone through and what we can achieve in this life. We are not victims. We are people that were injured by evil.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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Help to Buy: Labor promises to ‘open the door of home ownership’ – but does the contentious scheme stack up?

The Albanese government faces a political fight as the Greens and Coalition have already shared their distaste for the idea – for different reasons

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Another key housing fight looms for the Albanese government. This time, it’s the Help to Buy scheme – a policy the prime minister has declared would “open the door of home ownership to tens of thousands of Australians”.

In a nutshell, the proposal is known as a shared equity scheme and it aims to help eligible applicants get into the housing market by loaning them 30% (for an existing build) or 40% (new build) of the purchase price. This reduces the bank loan to 60% or 70%, so those eligible will require smaller deposits and loans.

In its current form, the scheme will be limited to 10,000 applicants a year, for four years.

But to pass the bill, Labor faces combative upper house where it does not hold a majority.

The Greens and the Coalition have already publicly shared their distaste for the idea – for different reasons – and without support from either of them, it’s unlikely to ever become a reality.

Let’s look at how the policy stacks up.

What does Labor think it can achieve?

Labor says instead of directly bringing down house prices, the government will help those earning a modest wage to get into home ownership.

A Labor-chaired parliamentary committee tasked with looking at the bill’s merits concluded in April that the scheme addresses “access and affordability hurdles” of home ownership by reducing the upfront costs along with the long-term mortgage repayments.

But not everyone agrees this is the best way forward.

What do the opposition and crossbench think about it?

While the committee’s majority report assessing the bill was largely positive, the Coalition and the Greens issued their own dissenting reports.

The Liberal senators Andrew Bragg and Dean Smith called it an “entirely warped approach”.

Part of their criticism centres around the value for money. The scheme will be offered to a maximum of 40,000 participants at a cost of $5.5bn to the federal government. It extends to single-income households earning up to $90,000 or couples with a joint income of up to $120,000.

There is also a price limit on eligible homes so, for example, a participant cannot apply to use the shared equity scheme to buy a home in Sydney above $950,000 (in Sydney the median dwelling costed about $1.1m in January).

Bragg and Smith say the policy is “shuffling deck chairs as the Titanic sinks”.

The Greens, meanwhile, have already signalled they won’t pass Labor’s bill unless the government budges on removing negative gearing and lowering capital gains tax discounts.

The Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said the housing affordability crisis could not be solved by this “unambitious”, which offers a hand to a “lucky few”.

The Greens say they also want the federal government to invest in increasing public housing stock.

“This is a deeply unambitious policy, introduced at a critical point, where homelessness, rental and mortgage stress are skyrocketing,” the dissenting report said.

But the independent ACT senator David Pocock is broadly supportive of the scheme. Pocock said the bill should pass but recommended the cap of 10,000 eligible households a year be changed to a floor of 30,000 households. He also recommended a third of the scheme’s houses be set aside for historically disadvantaged cohorts, such as older women and First Nations peoples.

Are economists and housing experts on board?

During the inquiry, concerns were raised about whether the policy might unintentionally raise housing prices, but most of the economists who appeared said the impacts were quite small given the scheme’s proposed size.

The Grattan Institute’s economics program director, Brendan Coates, described the scheme as “modest” but a “piece of the puzzle” in solving the housing crisis.

“I don’t think we should judge this scheme on does it solve housing in Australia? Because it doesn’t,” he said. “What we should judge it on is: does it fill in a piece of the puzzle that we need it to fill in? … And I think it does.”

Matt Grudnoff, a senior economist at The Australian Institute, was lukewarm on whether the policy would achieve its intended outcome – increasing home ownership rates – but said its small size meant it was unlikely to impact housing prices. He suggested the focus should be on limiting negative gearing and scrapping the capital gains tax discount instead.

The chief economist of Master Builders Australia, Shane Garrett, said the program was “not huge”, noting the amount of first home buyers in 2023 was 117,000. Garrett said Help to Buy would be “still better to have … than not”.

What do housing advocacy groups say?

Maiy Azize, spokesperson for the national campaign to address the housing crisis, Everybody’s Home, said the scheme was “perfectly fine” but “not a solution to affordability”.

National Shelter, the peak body for improving housing affordability, said the scheme could give disadvantaged groups a shot at home ownership, but it recommended the fund extend beyond its intended four years to support low-income homebuyers into the future.

Support is mixed, so where does it go now?

The Greens have warned Labor that it will hold the bill hostage in the Senate unless it agrees to negotiate on the related tax policies – negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts.

However, the Albanese government has already signalled it is unwilling to bargain with the minor party over these issues.

The stalemate continues for now but just like last time there was a housing impasse, someone will surely budge.

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Britney Spears settles legal dispute with estranged father over conservatorship

Singer’s attorney says agreement gives his client the ‘freedom’ that ‘she desired’

Britney Spears and her estranged father have agreed to settle a legal dispute that continued between them even though it had been more than two years since a court terminated the conservatorship that put him in control of the US pop star’s life.

Terms of the settlement between the singer of the chart-topping hit Womanizer and Jamie Spears weren’t disclosed in statements that their attorneys distributed to media outlets on Friday.

Spears’ attorney, Matthew Rosengart, would only say that the agreement had given his client the “freedom” that “she desired”. “She will no longer need to be involved with court or entangled with legal proceedings in this matter,” Rosengart added.

Jamie Spears’s attorney Alex Weingarter, meanwhile, told CNN that his client was “thrilled that this is all over”.

Yet the entertainment news outlet TMZ – which has accurately reported on Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle – said it spoke to sources with direct knowledge of the settlement who said it required the 42-year-old musician to pay Jamie Spears’ legal bills, which exceed $2m. That amount is in addition to a few million dollars she had already paid with respect to her own attorneys’ bills, according to the outlets’ sources, who described Spears as “furious” over the financial hit.

Spears spent nearly 14 years under a conservatorship before a judge in Los Angeles ordered its dissolution in November 2021.

In her memoir, The Woman in Me, Spears wrote about how the conservatorship governed nearly her every waking moment, from decisions about her diet and artistry to family planning. She wasn’t even allowed to drive a car or drink coffee, she has said.

“I begged the court to appoint literally anyone else – and I mean anyone off the street would have been better” for the job of conservator, Spears wrote in her memoir, as CBS News and other outlets have noted. “[But] my father was given the job.”

Spears’ memoir also explained how “the conservatorship stripped me of my womanhood [and] made me into a child”.

“I became more of an entity than a person onstage,” said Spears, who was born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana. “I had always felt music in my bones and my blood; they stole that from me.”

Despite the eventual end of the conservatorship, there remained unresolved legal battles centering on attorneys’ fees and allegations from Britney Spears that Jamie Spears had exploited his role to unjustly enrich himself. Jamie Spears denied wrongdoing, with Weingarten insisting that his client only “wants the best for Britney – nothing less”.

The settlement announced Friday eliminated the possibility of a trial that would rehash the conservatorship in painstaking details while pitting father against daughter in perhaps the most public setting yet.

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