The Guardian 2024-04-30 01:02:05


In response to the government releasing the report into last year’s Optus outage that we mentioned earlier, the company’s interim CEO, Michael Venter, apologised again to customers for the 8 November outage and said changes have been made to prevent it occurring again.

He said:

This includes, reconfiguring our routers to handle significant changes in IP routing addresses and enhancing our processes to allow us to restore our network faster remotely.

We are also reviewing the way triple zero call failures are captured and processed in our network.

Since the outage we have also strengthened our ability to remotely force wilting of the 3G radio network if any situation arises where we may need to do this in the future.

National Legal Aid calls for $300m funding increase to keep Australian women safe

Exclusive: Peak body unable to meet increased demand for family services as nation grapples with a crisis of murdered women

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More than $300m additional annual government funding is needed to meet demand for legal aid services related to family violence, the national peak body has warned, as Australia grapples with a crisis of murdered women.

The National Legal Aid chair, Louise Glanville, said that national rallies against gendered violence held over the weekend demonstrated that the community expected more to be done.

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Twenty-seven women have been violently killed this year, according to data compiled by advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project Counting Dead Women.

“We have the infrastructure and ability to support victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to receive our legal and non-legal supports,” Glanville told Guardian Australia in a statement.

“However, National Legal Aid is concerned that the limited funding for family law services means we are unable to meet the current demand and we are concerned this could put women at risk.

“Without adequate legal assistance funding, it’s the most disadvantaged women – including victim-survivors of domestic violence – who lose out.”

Glanville said recent modelling identified that an additional $317m in annual funding was needed to meet demand for family and civil law, including for family violence services.

She said that in NSW there had been an increase of about 30% in demand for family advocacy and support services duty lawyer representation over the past year, a 61% increase in duty services provided by the domestic violence unit and a 36% increase in calls to the unit’s hotline.

Melanie Alexander, a Legal Aid NSW domestic violence unit senior solicitor, said that she was seeing a clear increase in demand for services on the ground.

“As a duty solicitor on any given day I see between six to 10 clients, and most of these women present with a real risk of harm to themselves or their children,” she said.

“It is clear to us the scale of the problem with the amount of people seeking help.

“The volume of clients accessing our service continues to increase on a daily basis.”

Alexander said that not only were more women seeking help but they typically had a wider range of concerns.

“I have noticed women presenting with more and more complex issues – often requiring help with an ADVO [Apprehended Domestic Violence Order], as well as housing, debt and parenting issues – and they need more of our time.

“Most clients express huge relief at receiving advice and knowing their options to keep themselves and their children safe, often after many years enduring violence.

“The work is at times confronting, with many women facing harrowing circumstances. We are providing services to some of the most vulnerable women in our community at a time of crisis in their lives and so we have to be mindful of the impact of the work on ourselves and support staff.”

The federal attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, is considering an independent review of the national legal assistance partnership (NLAP), an agreement that funds Legal Aid commissions, community legal centres, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

The agreement expires next year, and the review was completed by Dr Warren Mundy last month.

“The NLAP is a $2.4bn agreement between the commonwealth and state and territory governments to fund vital legal assistance services for the most vulnerable people in Australia,” Dreyfus said in a statement last month.

“Dr Mundy was asked to consider how future arrangements could better provide access for justice for all who need it.

“Legal assistance is essential to ensuring access to justice and equality before the law.”

Dreyfus has ruled out a royal commission on gendered violence.

But an urgent national cabinet meeting has been convened for Wednesday, with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, saying all governments nationwide – including his own at the federal level – must make changes and focus more on stopping perpetrators.

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Australia urged to impose big tech tax to fund trusted media and fight disinformation

Thinktank casts ‘deterioration of the information environment’ as a foreign policy priority and a threat to social cohesion

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Australia has been urged to hit big tech companies with a new digital platform tax to fund trusted news media in order to confront the “rising tide of misinformation and disinformation”.

Australia’s defence budget “commits billions to buffer against military threats” but the country is “unprepared to fend off malicious actors looking for any chance to wage information warfare”, according to the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) thinktank.

An options paper published by AP4D on Tuesday says new ideas should be considered because previous efforts to address the news media’s financial woes, regulate social media companies and make them pay for news “have faltered”.

The recommendations include the need to educate citizens in Australia on how to spot misinformation and disinformation, and also to fund independent journalism across the Pacific.

Meta – the parent company of Facebook and Instagram – has announced it will no longer make payments to news companies in Australia, as the three-year contracts struck to avoid being regulated under the news media bargaining code begin to expire.

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Anastasia Kapetas, an adviser to AP4D and one of the editors of the options paper, said Meta’s decision could take $70m out of commercial news and public broadcasting in Australia.

Kapetas said this left trusted news outlets “staring down the barrel of yet another crisis”.

She said malicious actors were “taking advantage of information vacuums left by shuttered or curtailed news operations, both in Australia and the region, as well as lax social media regulation to undermine social cohesion”.

The options paper says it is “time to consider other measures such as a special digital platform tax, the revenues of which could be channelled towards news”.

The paper is not prescriptive about the size or scope of this proposed tax, but says “most disinformation” is delivered via multinational social media and tech platforms “and their business models depend on generating maximum engagement through content engineered to cause shock and outrage”.

Australia is facing “a deep decline in information sovereignty” because of the growing power of “a handful of global companies that operate global information infrastructure monopolies in social media, data, AI, satellite technology and cloud computing”.

The paper acknowledges it is difficult for a country of Australia’s size to influence big commercial players like Google, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and Meta, but suggests trying to “influence standards in cooperation with the US and EU”.

The paper says allocating revenue from a digital platform tax to fund Australian journalism “must be done in a way that does not entrench existing news organisations and information monopolies but encourages new players to emerge”.

Complementary policies could include tax incentives for news producers and philanthropic support.

“Not-for-profit or employee-owned corporate structures for media companies could be modelled and encouraged,” the paper says.

“The most well known of these is the Scott Trust which owns the Guardian. These kinds of trusts could be replicated in Australia to provide stable base funding and freedom from political interference.”

The paper suggests policymakers could also “tackle the demand side in the form of government funding for news subscriptions that are distributed on the basis of means-testing”.

“Given that most credible news is now only accessible through prohibitive paywalls, restoring public access to diverse and accurate news sources has become a critical issue,” the paper says.

Media industry woes are only one part of the AP4D paper, titled What Does it Look Like for Australia to Use All Tools of Statecraft in the Information Environment.

The paper says Australia should commit more resources to protecting citizens from harms in the information environment through “long-term well-funded and ongoing public literacy campaigns”.

It calls for digital media literacy to be taught from early childhood onwards “to help children and young adults build resilience against the many harms targeted at them in the information environment”.

The paper casts the “deterioration of the information environment” as “an urgent foreign policy priority” for Australia at a time when China is seeking to increase its influence across the Pacific.

“Australia’s Pacific broadcasting strategy still spends less than one Australian dollar per capita compared to Japan which spends roughly $4.50 on overseas broadcasting and Germany which spends $7 per person,” it says.

The paper was produced as part of a program funded by the Australian Civil-Military Centre, but does not represent Australian government policy.

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More than 90% of marine animals caught in NSW shark nets over summer were non-target species

Exclusive: New documents reveal government division over controversial program as data reveals death toll

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More than 90% of marine animals caught in shark nets off New South Wales beaches over the summer were non-target species, with new documents revealing division within the government over the controversial program.

More than half of the 208 non-target species – such as turtles, dolphins and smaller sharks – that were caught in the nets over the past eight months were killed, data obtained by conservationists show.

The 134 dead animals included five critically endangered grey nurse sharks, four endangered leatherback turtles and an endangered loggerhead turtle, according to the figures released on Tuesday as the nets were removed for another year.

The data, obtained by Humane Society International under the state’s information access laws, show that of the total non-target animals caught, only 74 animals or 36% were released alive.

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There were 15 target animals caught; three tiger sharks and 12 great white sharks, with five of these killed. The conservation group said no target shark species were caught at any of Sydney’s metropolitan beaches.

Under NSW’s shark meshing program, nets are installed at 51 beaches between Newcastle and Wollongong from 1 September to 30 April every year.

Before the nets were installed last year, the department of primary industries (DPI) advised the agriculture minister, Tara Moriarty, that the nature of the nets used meant the catch of non-target species was “unavoidable”.

Briefing documents prepared by the department for Moriarty, seen by Guardian Australia, also show the shark nets are considered a “key threatening process” because of how many non-target species, or “bycatch”, are affected.

“The catch in the shark meshing program has always and continues to be dominated by non-target animals. The average ratio of bycatch to the catch of target sharks … in recent years has been approximately 12:1,” one of the briefs said.

The nets were rolled out last year despite the government saying it would wait until it received feedback from eight coastal councils before making a decision.

A brief prepared by the environment department in August last year, seen by Guardian Australia, says the DPI “initially offered coastal councils the option to opt out of shark nets” deployed in their area but then backflipped.

“On 21 August 2023, [Moriarty] announced that the nets would go back in on 1 September for the full meshing season, to allow DPI to gather further data to make better informed decisions about possible changes,” the brief said.

These possible changes could include removing nets in select council areas in the 2024-2025 season, according to the brief.

A government spokesperson on Monday said the department was incorrect to say councils were offered the chance to opt out of the program.

“Last year DPI conducted formal consultation with relevant councils regarding shark management, including their willingness to be involved in future administration,” the spokesperson said.

“As trials of new technologies are proven to improve safety outcomes for swimmers, the government will consider support for the reassessment of shark nets to move towards new technologies.”

The environment minister, Penny Sharpe, has privately voiced her support for ending the use of shark nets.

Sharpe wrote to Moriarty before the 2023-2024 shark meshing season began, proposing their respective agencies work together with local councils on a “staged approach to remove” the nets.

“I understand work with local councils is progressing to allow them to decide whether to continue to use shark nets in their local areas,” Sharpe wrote in a letter seen by Guardian Australia.

“Giving councils the choice to opt out of shark nets empowers local communities to decide the best mix of shark protection measures for their area.”

Envoy Foundation conservationist Andre Borell, who obtained the documents under the state’s information access laws, said Sharpe should “stand up for the environment publicly”.

“A letter in the background I don’t feel is enough,” Borell said. “We would love for them to be more public about that instead of leaving it all to the community and NGOs.”

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Bonza cancels all flights across Australia as owners consider airline’s ‘ongoing viability’

Passengers left stranded as services suspended amid speculation budget carrier’s aircraft have been repossessed

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The low-cost airline Bonza has abruptly cancelled all its flights across Australia, with speculation its aircraft have been repossessed, as its owners consider the viability of the carrier’s future.

Passengers were left stranded at a handful of airports when Bonza “temporarily suspended” all services due to be operated on Tuesday with no notice.

“Discussions are currently underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business,” Bonza’s CEO, Tim Jordan, said in a statement.

“We apologise to our customers who are impacted by this and we’re working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition in the Australian domestic aviation market.”

Shortly after the cancellations were reported, the transport minister, Catherine King, said her department had contacted Bonza and that “our expectation is that they keep passengers informed of their options and their consumer rights”.

The transport department was establishing a hotline on Tuesday morning for stranded Bonza passengers.

“I have spoken to Qantas and Virgin CEOs this morning and both airlines stand ready to assist stranded passengers needing to get home,” King said.

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Meanwhile, aviation sources told the Guardian that Bonza’s fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft had been repossessed.

Bonza’s private equity owners, the US firm 777 Partners, own the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. The parent company also part owns the Canadian low-cost carrier Flair and leases its aircraft assets between the airlines.

Flair had some of its aircraft repossessed at short notice in 2023.

Bonza had been operating two aircraft wetleased from Flair in recent months, in addition to its fleet of four aircraft.

Bonza did not immediately respond to questions about aircraft repossessions.

The Guardian has previously reported that 777 Partners were being chased in court in the UK for almost US$30m (A$44.7m) in unpaid aircraft leasing fees and damages. Despite the legal issues, 777 Partners is currently attempting to takeover English football club Everton. The proposed takeover is awaiting approval from the English Premier League.

On Tuesday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) was seeking an urgent meeting with Bonza to discuss the implications for workers during “this difficult and uncertain time”.

“This is an extremely distressing time for workers and stranded passengers. Bonza must ensure staff are prioritised and informed as this process plays out,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Bonza and any other airline attempting to enter the Australian aviation market has little chance of survival. Despite speculation of issues behind the scenes at Bonza, this is an industry dominated by aggressive competition and unchecked corporate greed that will squeeze out any new entrant,” he said.

Kaine echoed his union’s calls for a broader commission into aviation to address competition, consumer and worker issues.

“Aviation is an industry on its knees. Service standards have plummeted while airfares have gone through the roof. Regional jobs and communities are now at further risk of being cut off as a more cost-effective airline struggles to stay in the air,” Kaine said.

Launched in January 2023 after a lengthy accreditation process during which its planes could not fly, Bonza has struggled with aircraft shortages and was forced to cancel several routes over the past year.

It has come under fire for repeatedly expanding to new routes before cutting some because of low patronage.

The airline operates out of a base at Sunshine Coast airport and was set up to primarily serve the leisure market through direct routes between regional airports.

The airline operates out of larger airports, including Melbourne’s Tullamarine and the Gold Coast.

However, it had been critical of the laws governing Sydney airport. Those laws meant Bonza struggled to gain access to take off and landing slots to launch services in and out of the lucrative Sydney market.

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Blinken urges Hamas to accept ‘extraordinarily generous’ Israeli ceasefire deal

US secretary of state says Hamas is the ‘only thing standing between people of Gaza and ceasefire’

The US secretary of state has said that “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire” is Hamas, ahead of what are seen as last-chance talks to salvage a diplomatic solution before a threatened Israeli ground invasion in Rafah.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum meeting in Saudi Arabia on Monday, Antony Blinken said: “Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.

“They have to decide and they have to decide quickly … I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision and we can have a fundamental change in the dynamic.”

The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, told the same gathering that Hamas should accept the deal for a “sustained 40 days’ ceasefire”.

International actors have renewed efforts to broker a ceasefire in the nearly seven-month-old conflict in recent days. Israel’s mounting preparations for a ground operation in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has sought shelter from the fighting elsewhere, mean this week’s talks in Cairo may be the last opportunity for negotiations to free Israeli hostages and pause or end the war.

A Hamas delegation left the Egyptian capital on Monday, saying they would return again with a written response to the ceasefire proposal.

Blinken, on his seventh visit to the region since the war broke out, is expected to next visit Israel to discuss the negotiations. Israel has not publicly confirmed whether it is also sending a delegation to Cairo.

The latest ceasefire proposal appears to include major compromises from Israel, which is under domestic pressure over the fate of the hostages and facing international criticism over the humanitarian crisis its war has caused in Gaza.

About 1,200 Israelis were killed and another 250 taken hostage in Hamas’s 7 October attack. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ensuing retaliatory operation in Gaza, which has left desperate civilians without healthcare, food or water and reduced most of the coastal territory to ruins.

Israel is reportedly willing to accept the release of just 33 hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails, and a second phase of a truce that includes a “period of sustained calm” – a new response to Hamas’s repeated demand for a permanent ceasefire.

It is also reportedly open to discussing the return of Palestinians to their homes in the northern half of the strip, and the withdrawal of troops from the military corridor that now divides the territory.

Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said Egypt was optimistic about the new talks. “We are hopeful the proposal has taken into account the positions of both sides, has tried to extract moderation from both sides, and we are waiting to have a final decision,” he said.

A senior Hamas official said on Sunday that the group had no “major issues” with the most recent truce plan, which in essence remains the same as the deal outlined in several failed rounds of talks since a week-long ceasefire collapsed at the end of November.

In recent days Hamas has broadcast several proof-of-life videos of hostages, a move widely interpreted as a good faith gesture towards mediators. However, an official from the group told Reuters on Monday that “questions and enquiries” remain, suggesting that a response on the latest proposal may not be immediately forthcoming.

Even as hopes grew once again that talks between Israel and Hamas could finally succeed, at least 30 people were killed in airstrikes on Rafah.

Strikes that hit three houses in the city next to the Egyptian border on Monday injured many more people, while in Gaza City, the bombing of two buildings killed another four people and wounded several more, medics said.

An Israeli military spokesperson said fighter jets had “struck terror targets where terrorists were operating within a civilian area in southern Gaza”, declining to give details.

Israel has said that Hamas’s leadership, along with four battalions of fighters, are camped out in Rafah, using Israeli hostages as human shields, and that a ground operation is necessary to achieve Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise of “total victory” over the Palestinian militants and bring the remaining hostages home.

But the long-threatened plan to attack Rafah has drawn intense opposition from Israel’s allies, including the US, which says the overcrowded conditions could lead to thousands of civilian casualties as well as further disrupting aid deliveries entering from Egypt. Joe Biden “reiterated his clear” opposition to an invasion of Rafah in a conversation with Netanyahu on Sunday.

Blinken reiterated on Monday that the US would not support an Israeli offensive on Rafah until it had seen a plan to prevent harm to civilians.

“We’ve said clearly, and for some time now on Rafah that, in the absence of a plan to ensure that civilians will not be harmed, we can’t support a major military operation,” he said.

“We have not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected.”

Netanyahu’s ministers have publicly sparred on whether to go forward with a truce, with far-right members of his coalition threatening to quit the government if Israel is seen to “surrender” to Hamas’s demands.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials appeared increasingly concerned that the international criminal court may issue arrest warrants against the country’s leaders, as pressure mounts over the war.

Israeli officials have referred in recent days to an ICC investigation launched three years ago into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants going back to the 2014 Israel-Hamas war. The investigation is also looking at Israel’s construction of settlements in occupied territory the Palestinians want for a future state.

There was no comment from the court on Monday, and it has given no indication warrants in the case are imminent. It was not clear what sparked the Israeli concerns.

Israel’s foreign ministry said late on Sunday that it had informed Israeli missions of “rumours” that warrants could be issued against senior political and military officials. The foreign minister, Israel Katz, said any such warrants would “provide a morale boost” to Hamas and other militant groups.

Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the ICC to undermine its inherent right of self-defence”.

“The threat to seize the soldiers and officials of the Middle East’s only democracy and the world’s only Jewish state is outrageous. We will not bow to it,” he posted on X.

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US finds Israeli units committed human rights abuses before Gaza war

State department says five units mostly from IDF but including at least one police unit responsible for gross violations in West Bank

The US has found five units of the Israeli security forces responsible for gross violations of human rights, over incidents in the West Bank before the current Gaza war, the state department has said.

The findings come at a time when Israel is facing potential accountability from the international criminal court and the state department for its conduct of the conflict in Gaza, in which more than 34,000 people have been killed.

The units found to be involved in abuses in the West Bank are mostly from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) but include at least one police unit. They have not been sanctioned, however, the state department said.

Four of the units were judged to have carried out effective remedial action after the US state department shared its findings with Israel.

The fifth, an ultra-orthodox military unit known as Netzah Yehuda, drawn in part from West Bank settlers, was about to be blacklisted earlier this month under the Leahy laws, which ban US funding of any foreign military units involved in atrocities.

The unit had carried out no apparent remedial action despite having been alerted to the abuses and Israeli government lawyers had ignored communications about the issue for months, according to US officials.

Shortly before the sanctions were due to be announced, however, Israeli government lawyers urgently contacted Washington and insisted that under the current 10-year US memorandum of understanding governing military relations with Israel signed in 2018, Israel should be given more time to respond to the US finding. US officials stressed that Leahy sanctions remained under consideration.

“After a careful process, we found five Israeli units responsible for individual incidents of gross violations of human rights. All of these were incidents much before October 7 and none took place in Gaza,” a state department spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said.

“Four of these units have effectively remediated these violations, which is what we expect partners to do … For a remaining unit, we continue to be in consultations and engagements with the government of Israel.”

The Guardian reported in January that the Leahy laws were interpreted by different, more lenient rules in Israel compared with other countries.

Netzah Yehuda is notorious for a series of incidents involving abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank. In 2022, the battalion commander was reprimanded and the platoon commander and company commander were removed from their positions following the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian American man, Omar Assad, who suffered a heart attack after being detained, bound and gagged by members of the unit at a West Bank checkpoint.

The IDF admitted Assad’s death was a consequence of “moral failure and poor decision-making” by the soldiers who had detained him.

Netzah Yehuda is now active in Gaza. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has described the unit’s potential sanctioning by the US as the “height of absurdity and a moral low” and vowed to resist any such decision.

The prime minister himself is facing possible war crimes charges for his leadership of the Gaza war. Reports in Israeli media in recent days have said that the government expects the international criminal court to issue arrest warrants as early as this week against Netanyahu, the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, and other military leaders.

According to a report on the Axios news website, Netanyahu has appealed to Biden to intervene to stop the warrants being issued. The US is not a member of the court, but under the Trump administration, it sanctioned court officials after complaining about its investigations of US military operations in Afghanistans and Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Asked about the prospect of ICC warrants, the White House spokesperson, Karine Jeanne-Pierre, said: “We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation, we don’t support it, we don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction.”

Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that several senior US officials in the state department have advised the secretary of state that Israeli assurances that it has used US-supplied weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law, are not “credible or reliable”.

Under a national security council memorandum issued by Joe Biden in February, the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, must report to Congress by 8 May, on the credibility of the Israeli assurances. A negative report could lead, in theory, to the suspension of US military aid.

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US navy ship off Gaza coast building part of aid platform, images show

Satellite photos show pieces of floating pier alongside vessel, which is about 5 miles from project base

A US navy ship involved in an American-led effort to bring more aid into the besieged Gaza Strip is offshore from the territory and building out a floating platform for the operation, according to satellite photos analysed by the Associated Press.

The USNS Roy P Benavidez sits about 5 miles from the pier and base of operations for the project being built by the Israeli military.

A satellite image from Sunday by Planet Labs PBC showed pieces of the floating pier in the Mediterranean Sea alongside the vessel. The US military and Israeli authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the Benavidez’s position.

Under the plan by the US military, aid will be loaded on to commercial ships in Cyprus to sail to the floating platform now under construction off Gaza. Pallets will be loaded on to trucks, which will be loaded on to smaller ships that travel to a metal, floating two-lane causeway. The 550-metre (1,800ft) causeway will lead to shore.

The new port sits just south-west of Gaza City, north of a road bisecting Gaza that the Israeli military built during the current fighting against Hamas. The area was the territory’s most populous region before the Israeli ground offensive rolled through and pushed more than a million people south toward the city of Rafah on the Egyptian border.

Israeli military positions now sit on either side of the pier, which initially had been built – as part of an effort led by World Central Kitchen – out of the rubble of buildings levelled by Israel. That effort halted after an Israeli airstrike killed seven WCK aid workers on 1 April as they travelled in clearly marked vehicles on a delivery mission authorised by Israel.

WCK said on Sunday that it would resume work in Gaza. Its CEO, Erin Gore, said the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had apologised for the attack and promised a change in their rules of operation, but that little was assured.

“While we have no concrete assurances, we continue to seek answers and advocate for change with the goal of better protecting WCK and all NGO workers serving selflessly in the worst humanitarian conditions,” she said. “Our demand for an impartial and international investigation remains.”

Gore said her organisation was exploring routes to allow more aid into Gaza, including a maritime corridor. Using cargo ships to deliver aid has drawn criticism from relief groups including the UN, amid criticism it is a less efficient way to deliver vital goods than over land.

Data from the UN shows that about 250 aid trucks enter Gaza each day, about half of what aid groups say are needed, amid reports of imminent famine in parts of the territory.

As WCK resumed operations, a coalition of activists and relief groups said they had postponed a plan to sail three ships from Turkey to Gaza carrying ambulances, anaesthetics and other forms of relief.

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, a group comprising hundreds of international activists spearheaded by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), said the flag carrier Guinea-Bissau removed its flag from two of the ships. “Without a flag, we cannot sail. But this is not the end,” they said in a statement.

Organisers said the shipping registry of Guinea-Bissau, administered by an Athens-based corporation, G-B International, contacted them to demand further inspection of one of their ships, the Akdeniz, a large passenger ship moored in an Istanbul shipyard.

Before the inspection was completed, they said, G-B International told them it had withdrawn the flag from the Akdeniz and a cargo ship.

IHH has sent multiple cargo ships of aid to Al-Arish in Egypt, which then enters Gaza through the Rafah crossing with the consent of the Israeli authorities. However, in this instance activists onboard the flotilla said they would not cooperate with Israel in any way to deliver the aid onboard once they reached Gaza.

The organisers said G-B international demanded “a formal letter explicitly approving the transportation of humanitarian aid and a complete manifest of the cargo”.

Eirini Sampani, a legal officer with G-B international, said signing up to its register entailed a commitment not to “engage on a unilateral basis in war zones against internationally followed practices and UN resolutions, such as the Gaza area”.

Sampani and G-B international said they were “closely monitoring the situation and cooperating with relevant authorities to ensure that any potential commercial activity adheres to applicable laws and regulations”.

They declined to answer further questions about what had prompted the company to suddenly withdraw the flags, or what information was provided by IHH about the ship’s purpose or destination during registration.

The activists’ efforts to reach Gaza from Turkey marked a repeat of an attempt in 2010 in which the boats were boarded by Israeli commandos in international waters. Nine people were killed on one of the boats.

Activists and IHH said reports of imminent famine in Gaza and the rising loss of life made them decide to reprise the flotilla, even though the 2010 incident prompted a dramatic break in Turkish-Israeli relations that lasted for years. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was pressed into apologising to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for the incident by the then US president, Barack Obama.

Aid groups say maritime deliveries and airdrops are not enough to ward off famine. The relief organisation Oxfam said Israel should “lift its total blockade of Gaza” and stop arbitrary blocks that prevented relief from entering.

The White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told ABC News that a floating pier built by the US military would be operative in two or three weeks’ time.

He said that while it was designed to increase aid into Gaza, the maritime route remained a limited way to bring in relief. “Nothing can replace the ground routes and the trucks that are getting in,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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ICC urged to delay possible war crimes charges against Israel and Hamas

G7 diplomats argue any move now in investigation launched in 2021 could disrupt current ceasefire talks

Diplomats from the G7 industrialised nations have urged officials at the international criminal court not to announce war crimes charges against Israel or Hamas officials, amid concerns that such a move could disrupt the chances of a breakthrough in ceasefire talks.

Israeli politicians including the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have suggested that the ICC could press charges imminently after an investigation launched in 2021 that covers events starting in 2014. The inquiry has also been looking at Israel’s construction of settlements in occupied territory.

The ICC has not commented officially and has advised diplomats that it is not aware of any dramatic moves in the investigation. The prosecutor Karim Khan must have any request for an arrest warrant validated by three judges, and this final step would have to be completed if charges were to be announced this week.

But Israel appeared to be taking the rumours of imminent arrest warrants so seriously that late on Sunday the foreign minister, Israel Katz, sent messages to Israel’s embassies abroad advising them to prepare for a severe antisemitic backlash should the court take action. Reports in Israeli media suggested the warrants could potentially be against Netanyahu, the defence minister, Yoav Gallant, and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi.

Katz said: “There is nothing more distorted than attempting to prevent Israel from defending itself against a murderous enemy openly calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. If the warrants are issued, they will harm the commanders and soldiers of the IDF and provide a morale boost to the terrorist organisation Hamas and the axis of radical Islam led by Iran against which we are fighting.”

The ICC rumours started to swirl on Friday when Netanyahu said forthcoming decisions by the ICC could set a dangerous precedent.

“We will never stop defending ourselves. Whereas decisions of the court in The Hague will not affect Israel’s actions, they would set a dangerous precedent threatening the soldiers and officials of any democracy fighting criminal terrorism and aggression,” he said.

Israel has made a string of announcements in recent days about allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza, but that appears to be a strategic response to renewed pressure from the White House rather than heading off possible ICC action.

The ICC’s Khan said during a visit to Egypt in December that the investigation was “moving forward at pace, with rigour”.

One of his first acts as prosecutor was to establish a dedicated team to investigate the Palestinian situation. In a speech in Egypt in which he condemned the 7 October raid by Hamas on Israel and underlined that the taking of hostages was a war crime, he also said of people in Gaza: “The fact that innocent civilians are trapped under the weight of a war they cannot escape and which is not their fault is not tenable.”

Any ICC arrest warrants could put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries. They would also serve as a major rebuke of Israel’s actions at a time when pro-Palestinian protests have spread across US college campuses and elsewhere.

US diplomats at the UN insisted that Washington regarded the ICC as independent and it would not be interfering in its decision-making process. The US and Israel do not recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC, which is vested with the task of prosecuting war crimes.

According to a report on the Axios news website, Netanyahu has appealed to Biden to intervene to stop the warrants being issued. The US is not a member of the court, but under the Trump administration it sanctioned court officials after complaining about its investigations of US military operations in Afghanistan and Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Asked about the prospect of ICC warrants, the White House spokesperson, Karine Jeanne-Pierre, said: “We’ve been really clear about the ICC investigation. We don’t support it; we don’t believe that they have the jurisdiction.”

US politicians spoke out, with the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, saying: “Such a lawless action by the ICC would directly undermine US national security interests. If unchallenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats, and American military personnel, thereby endangering our country’s sovereign authority.”

Democratic senator John Fetterman warned: “It would be a fatal blow to the judicial and moral standing of ICC to pursue this path against Israel.” He said he was calling on Joe Biden to intervene as part of the administration’s ongoing commitment to Israel.

The international court of justice, a separate UN court responsible for handling inter-state disputes, is due to reveal on Tuesday if it will accept a request by Nicaragua to order Germany to stop providing humanitarian or military aid to Israel on the basis that Germany has a duty under the genocide convention to prevent a potential genocide.

Israel has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused both international courts of severe bias.

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‘We want to share our country with the world. We’re just asking people to protect it,’ says Bronwyn Dodd, chair of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation. Photograph: Antony Baxter/Alamy

A new plan may stop tourists who visit the enormous salt pan 700km north of Adelaide from driving or walking on sacred ground – or into trouble

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by Tory Shepherd

When Bronwyn Dodd looks out across Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, an expanse covering almost 1,000 sq km in the middle of a national park, she thinks of home.

It’s a place both sacred and dangerous, she says, which is why there’s a plan to stop people walking on the lake bed without permission.

“I think of the place my father, my grandparents and all those that came before have walked, lived, hunted, survived,” the chair of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation says.

“In such a vast, remote landscape it’s very grounding to think our people have survived there for thousands of years.

“I also reflect on water. Water is very sacred to us. My elders often tell me: ‘without water, there is no life’.”

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, about 700km north of Adelaide, is an enormous salt pan – until the floods creep through it, bringing colour and life.

There’s a small flood every few years, a big one once a decade, and the lake fills up about once every 25 years as water from the Lake Eyre Basin – which spreads across Queensland, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia – drains into it.

Overlaying it are the Arabana’s dreaming stories, their knowledge, their songs and traditions – their Ularaka. There are culturally significant mound springs, dreaming stories associated with the underlying Great Artesian Basin. There are totemic species, alongside bush tucker and traditional medicines.

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But the lake also attracts tourists, who sometimes stray from the paths in their cars or by foot. A draft management plan aims to stop that, and to keep tourists to specific viewing platforms and on specific tracks around the lake bed. There’ll be exemptions for scientific research and commercial filming and photography.

Swimming, driving and boating are already restricted. Those restrictions will be extended to walking on the lake bed if the plan goes ahead.

“It’s actually quite dangerous for them to [walk on the lake bed],” Dodd says.

“You can sink knee-deep in it.”

The notion has brought a predictable reaction from some who compare it to the ban on climbing Uluru, or Mount Warning in NSW and foment fear about non-Indigenous exclusion.

Local publican and tourism operator Trevor Wright says there’s no comparison.

For a start, he says, the ban will have no effect on tourists at all.

“Zero,” he says.

“It’s been an unwritten rule for the last 20 years that you don’t go out on the lake – you don’t go boating. It’s very shallow, and huge, and with winds you could end up anywhere.”

And you wouldn’t go swimming once the floods come.

“That lake is 12.5 times saltier than seawater and two-and-a-half times saltier than the Dead Sea. It’ll burn the hell out of your membranes. And under the salt crust there’s black slimy clay that utterly stinks and is full of crystallised gypsum, like glass – it’ll cut your legs open.

“And people think they can drive on it … You go and pull a vehicle out of there. It’s a big job.”

Never mind getting lost.

Wright says the views of the shimmering salt pan or the flood-driven transformation are best from the shoreline or from the air, and that he hopes there’ll be better infrastructure and signage to help tourists get there.

Dodd agrees there’s “nothing new”, just a strengthening of the existing rules to stop people tramping on sacred ground and walking into trouble.

“We want to share our country with the world. We’re just asking people to protect it,” she says. The land was entrusted to the Arabana, and they have a responsibility to both protect it and educate people about it.

“It’s not about locking people out,” she says.

“We’re definitely not banning people. Just stick to the tracks that have been there for a very long time.”

On top of the cultural considerations, the area is home to rare species, including the black-breasted buzzard and the yellow-bellied sheath-tailed bat. The Lake Eyre dragon is one of a number of endemic vertebrates, and when those waters come through, the floods are a major breeding event for birds.

Northern Territory senator and indigenous affairs shadow minister, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, was asked about the situation along with other restrictions on access including at Uluru and Mount Warning in NSW.

“We’re locking the place up,” she told 2GB’s Ben Fordham. Indigenous culture had “almost become the new religion”, she said.

The South Australian opposition leader, David Speirs, said if the changes were “to protect biodiversity or people’s safety” he would accept the changes easily, but was scathing about doing it for the Arabana people.

“I don’t like seeing mythology and superstition blended with science … if there’s any area where there are songlines or particular stories and lore from Aboriginal people that will be impacted by visitors, I would have to have a significant level of confidence that was the case before seeing the community locked out of places,” he said.

Consultation on the plan is open till 19 July.

The state’s water and environment minister, Susan Close, says visitors can still enjoy the park and the views from the air or designated visitor areas.

“The proposal for visitors not to enter a sacred cultural site is made both in recognition and respect for Arabana culture, and to ensure the safety of visitors,” she says.

“The Australian desert environment is extremely harsh, particularly on the white salt lake where it’s easy to lose your sense of direction and get lost.”

Dodd is disappointed at false claims that people will be banned from the park or from visiting the lake.

“We’d love to have more people out there, to share our culture and have more hands-on experiences,” she says.

“You don’t have to walk on the lake to get that.”

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‘We want to share our country with the world. We’re just asking people to protect it,’ says Bronwyn Dodd, chair of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation. Photograph: Antony Baxter/Alamy

A new plan may stop tourists who visit the enormous salt pan 700km north of Adelaide from driving or walking on sacred ground – or into trouble

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

When Bronwyn Dodd looks out across Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, an expanse covering almost 1,000 sq km in the middle of a national park, she thinks of home.

It’s a place both sacred and dangerous, she says, which is why there’s a plan to stop people walking on the lake bed without permission.

“I think of the place my father, my grandparents and all those that came before have walked, lived, hunted, survived,” the chair of the Arabana Aboriginal Corporation says.

“In such a vast, remote landscape it’s very grounding to think our people have survived there for thousands of years.

“I also reflect on water. Water is very sacred to us. My elders often tell me: ‘without water, there is no life’.”

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, about 700km north of Adelaide, is an enormous salt pan – until the floods creep through it, bringing colour and life.

There’s a small flood every few years, a big one once a decade, and the lake fills up about once every 25 years as water from the Lake Eyre Basin – which spreads across Queensland, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and South Australia – drains into it.

Overlaying it are the Arabana’s dreaming stories, their knowledge, their songs and traditions – their Ularaka. There are culturally significant mound springs, dreaming stories associated with the underlying Great Artesian Basin. There are totemic species, alongside bush tucker and traditional medicines.

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

But the lake also attracts tourists, who sometimes stray from the paths in their cars or by foot. A draft management plan aims to stop that, and to keep tourists to specific viewing platforms and on specific tracks around the lake bed. There’ll be exemptions for scientific research and commercial filming and photography.

Swimming, driving and boating are already restricted. Those restrictions will be extended to walking on the lake bed if the plan goes ahead.

“It’s actually quite dangerous for them to [walk on the lake bed],” Dodd says.

“You can sink knee-deep in it.”

The notion has brought a predictable reaction from some who compare it to the ban on climbing Uluru, or Mount Warning in NSW and foment fear about non-Indigenous exclusion.

Local publican and tourism operator Trevor Wright says there’s no comparison.

For a start, he says, the ban will have no effect on tourists at all.

“Zero,” he says.

“It’s been an unwritten rule for the last 20 years that you don’t go out on the lake – you don’t go boating. It’s very shallow, and huge, and with winds you could end up anywhere.”

And you wouldn’t go swimming once the floods come.

“That lake is 12.5 times saltier than seawater and two-and-a-half times saltier than the Dead Sea. It’ll burn the hell out of your membranes. And under the salt crust there’s black slimy clay that utterly stinks and is full of crystallised gypsum, like glass – it’ll cut your legs open.

“And people think they can drive on it … You go and pull a vehicle out of there. It’s a big job.”

Never mind getting lost.

Wright says the views of the shimmering salt pan or the flood-driven transformation are best from the shoreline or from the air, and that he hopes there’ll be better infrastructure and signage to help tourists get there.

Dodd agrees there’s “nothing new”, just a strengthening of the existing rules to stop people tramping on sacred ground and walking into trouble.

“We want to share our country with the world. We’re just asking people to protect it,” she says. The land was entrusted to the Arabana, and they have a responsibility to both protect it and educate people about it.

“It’s not about locking people out,” she says.

“We’re definitely not banning people. Just stick to the tracks that have been there for a very long time.”

On top of the cultural considerations, the area is home to rare species, including the black-breasted buzzard and the yellow-bellied sheath-tailed bat. The Lake Eyre dragon is one of a number of endemic vertebrates, and when those waters come through, the floods are a major breeding event for birds.

Northern Territory senator and indigenous affairs shadow minister, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, was asked about the situation along with other restrictions on access including at Uluru and Mount Warning in NSW.

“We’re locking the place up,” she told 2GB’s Ben Fordham. Indigenous culture had “almost become the new religion”, she said.

The South Australian opposition leader, David Speirs, said if the changes were “to protect biodiversity or people’s safety” he would accept the changes easily, but was scathing about doing it for the Arabana people.

“I don’t like seeing mythology and superstition blended with science … if there’s any area where there are songlines or particular stories and lore from Aboriginal people that will be impacted by visitors, I would have to have a significant level of confidence that was the case before seeing the community locked out of places,” he said.

Consultation on the plan is open till 19 July.

The state’s water and environment minister, Susan Close, says visitors can still enjoy the park and the views from the air or designated visitor areas.

“The proposal for visitors not to enter a sacred cultural site is made both in recognition and respect for Arabana culture, and to ensure the safety of visitors,” she says.

“The Australian desert environment is extremely harsh, particularly on the white salt lake where it’s easy to lose your sense of direction and get lost.”

Dodd is disappointed at false claims that people will be banned from the park or from visiting the lake.

“We’d love to have more people out there, to share our culture and have more hands-on experiences,” she says.

“You don’t have to walk on the lake to get that.”

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Jacinta Allan dumps Victorian Labor MP from party room after fresh allegations emerge

Darren Cheeseman dismissed from parliamentary Labor party after another staff member alleged inappropriate behaviour in workplace

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The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has dumped MP Darren Cheeseman from the Labor party room after further allegations of “persistent and repeated inappropriate behaviour” towards two female staffers.

Jacinta Allan had removed the South Barwon MP from his position as the parliamentary secretary for schools on Friday after revealing there had been a complaint about his behaviour from a member of staff.

On Sunday Allan had defended her decision to keep Cheeseman in the Labor party room. But Allan released a statement late on Monday night confirming she had “received new information about further allegations of persistent, inappropriate behaviour” by Cheeseman towards another staff member.

“After enquiries by my office, and in consultation with my colleagues, tonight I asked the member for South Barwon to resign as a member of the parliamentary Labor party – and he has done so,” she said.

“Following these new allegations it is now clear to me that there is no place for the member for South Barwon in my government.

“The wellbeing of staff and their right to a respectful workplace is not negotiable.”

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In a statement on Facebook, Cheeseman said while he had resigned from the Labor party room, he intended to remain in parliament as an independent.

“I will continue to serve the people of South Barwon as their MP,” the statement said.

“This is an incredibly distressing time for me and my family and I ask our privacy to please be respected.”

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Allan said her office had received the second complaint on Monday afternoon but she had been unable to act on it immediately as she had been giving evidence at the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

“It was following my appearance at Yoorook that I received information from my office that there had been a further allegation made of repeated and inappropriate behaviour,” Allan told reporters.

“It was following the receipt of that information that I had discussions and consultations with colleagues. [After] that I asked for the member to resign from the Labor party because there’s simply no room, no tolerance of this sort of behaviour in the government.”

She said her focus had been “firmly on the safety and wellbeing of staff”.

“Everyone deserves the right to a safe and respectful workplace,” Allan said.

“When it comes to the behaviour of members of parliament, we should also consider how we have a responsibility to be held to a higher standard and it is in that context that I have taken this action in regard to the member for South Barwon.”

She said the allegations were of a nature “that don’t require the involvement of Victoria police” and she would not provide any information about the staffers involved.

Allan said decision to remove Cheeseman from the party room had been “very strongly supported”.

Lily D’Ambrosio, a government minister and the leader the socialist left faction of which Cheeseman is a member, said on Tuesday that two women had come forward with complaints.

She told reporters she was among several senior MPs who the premier consulted before the decision.

Allan said it was a matter for the wider Labor party whether to remove him as a member.

Cheeseman is the second Labor MP to be forced out of caucus this term.

Last year the Ringwood MP Will Fowles was also forced to resign from Labor’s parliamentary party in August over the alleged assault of a ministerial staffer.

The police have not substantiated those claims Fowles maintains his innocence.

Allan denied there was a cultural problem in her party.

Cheeseman was the member for the federal electorate of Corangamite from 2007 to 2013 and moved into state politics in 2018 after his election to the Geelong-based seat of South Barwon.

He previously served as the parliamentary secretary for community sport and the doomed 2026 Commonwealth Games before being handed the education role in October.

Cheeseman has been approached for comment.

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Parents of teen who allegedly stabbed bishop at Sydney church say he has a history of mental health issues

Speaking to ABC’s 7.30, the 16-year-old’s mother and father say their son has struggled with mental health problems for years

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The parents of the 16-year-old accused of stabbing an Assyrian priest at a Sydney church have said their son has a history of mental health issues.

Two weeks to the day after the teenager allegedly travelled 90 minutes to the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley and stabbed bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, his parents have spoken about their son’s mental health problems throughout his school life.

“He saw so many counsellors in his schools and we saw more than two psychologists and they’re all saying like ‘he have a problem, he have issue when he gets angry’,” his mother said during an interview with ABC’s 7.30. The parents’ faces were blurred and identities not revealed.

His parents explained how his mental health issues had led to problems at school, and that he had been expelled by year 7.

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“They said he might have autism and he might need tablets to take,” his mother said. However, he was never formally assessed for autism.

His parents said their son left their home in south-west Sydney on the afternoon of Monday 15 April but did not know where he was going.

They said one of his friends had died recently, and his father had been expecting to take his son to the wake but was unable to find him.

Later that night, the teenager’s mother received a phone call asking if her son was at home. The caller then sent the mother a video – which showed the livestream of the church service during which the alleged attack occurred.

“I couldn’t finish the video … I threw the phone,” his mother said.

The parents’ comments follow comments by the teenager’s lawyer on Friday that the boy had shown behaviour consistent with mental illness or intellectual disability.

On Sunday, the bishop said he had lost the use of his right eye after the attack.

Wearing an eyepatch, the 53-year-old bishop, who was hospitalised after the attack, delivered sermons in English, Arabic and Assyrian marking the Assyrian Orthodox Palm Sunday.

In his Arabic sermon, Emmanuel said his injury was a “sacrifice”, and said it should be taken as a gesture of love to Muslims.

In his English sermon, Emmanuel echoed comments he made earlier forgiving the alleged offender.

“I will always pray for you, I will always wish you nothing but the best,” he said.

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Teenager charged with murder after 10-year-old girl allegedly stabbed to death in NSW home

Seventeen-year-old due to face court on Tuesday after incident in Boolaroo, about 20km west of Newcastle

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A 17-year-old girl has been charged with murder after a 10-year-old girl was allegedly stabbed to death in the New South Wales Hunter region.

NSW police said emergency services responded to reports of a stabbing at a home in Boolaroo, approximately 20km west of Newcastle, at about 3.45pm on Monday.

“NSW Ambulance paramedics treated a 10-year-old girl at the scene for multiple stab wounds; however she died at the scene,” police said.

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Officers from Lake Macquarie police district arrested a 17-year-old girl at the home.

“She was taken to Belmont police station and is currently assisting with inquiries,” police said.

The teenage girl was charged with murder and refused bail to appear at a children’s court on Tuesday.

Both girls are believed to be known to one another, according to police.

The girls were sisters, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“A crime scene has been established as investigations continue,” police said.

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Teenager charged with murder after 10-year-old girl allegedly stabbed to death in NSW home

Seventeen-year-old due to face court on Tuesday after incident in Boolaroo, about 20km west of Newcastle

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A 17-year-old girl has been charged with murder after a 10-year-old girl was allegedly stabbed to death in the New South Wales Hunter region.

NSW police said emergency services responded to reports of a stabbing at a home in Boolaroo, approximately 20km west of Newcastle, at about 3.45pm on Monday.

“NSW Ambulance paramedics treated a 10-year-old girl at the scene for multiple stab wounds; however she died at the scene,” police said.

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Officers from Lake Macquarie police district arrested a 17-year-old girl at the home.

“She was taken to Belmont police station and is currently assisting with inquiries,” police said.

The teenage girl was charged with murder and refused bail to appear at a children’s court on Tuesday.

Both girls are believed to be known to one another, according to police.

The girls were sisters, the Daily Telegraph reported.

“A crime scene has been established as investigations continue,” police said.

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Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare to stand down after poor election result

Leader says ‘it’s not been easy’ as he stands aside five years after controversially realigning the country with China

The Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has announced he will not stand as a candidate when lawmakers vote this week for a new leader, and his political party would instead back former foreign minister Jeremiah Manele.

The two major opposition parties in Solomon Islands struck a coalition deal on Saturday as they vie with Sogavare’s party to form a government after an election delivered no clear winner.

Last week’s election was the first since Sogavare struck a security pact with China in 2022, inviting Chinese police into the Pacific Islands archipelago and drawing the nation closer to Beijing.

The election is being watched by China, the US and Australia because of the potential impact on regional security.

Sogavare, who narrowly held his on seat in last Wednesday’s election, announced he would not be a candidate for prime minister at a televised press conference on Monday evening.

Sogavare said his government had been “under pressure from the United States and western allies” and he had been “accused of many things”.

“Geopolitics is at play, after we made a very important decision in 2019,” he said, referring to his government’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

Manele said that if he was elected as prime minister he would have the “same foreign policy basis – friends to all and enemies to none”.

Election results showed Sogavare’s Our party won 15 of the 50 seats in parliament, while the opposition Care coalition has 20. Independents and micro parties won 15 seats, and courting the independents will be the key to reaching the 26 seats needed to form a government. Sogavare said on Monday his party had support for 28 seats.

Nominations for candidates for prime minister opened on Monday, and lawmakers are expected to vote on Thursday. The nomination vote had previously been expected to take place next week, on 8 May.

Sogavare said he had been vilified as prime minister and his family home “razed to the ground, but that did not waver my resolve to continue to serve our people – it has not been easy”.

Sogavare’s house was burnt during anti-government riots in 2021, that also damaged the capital Honiara and prompted him to invite Australian police to restore order. Six months later he struck a security pact with China.

He said his government, which took construction aid from China to build seven sporting stadiums and a loan to build a Huawei mobile telecommunications network, was transformative and focused on big infrastructure projects.

Opposition parties were critical of the Chinese security deal and said hospitals struggled without medicine, and pledged greater support for education.

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Victorian Greens shape up for housing fight over Labor’s proposed Airbnb levy

Exclusive: Greens say new figures show government’s 7.5% levy on short-stay rentals won’t help fix the housing crisis

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The Greens are setting the stage for a fight with the Victorian government over its proposed Airbnb levy, armed with new figures that show the measure will only make a “marginal” difference to the number of homes freed for renters.

Announced last year as part of the government’s plan to tackle the housing crisis, the 7.5% levy on short-stay properties leased through platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz is expected to be included in the state tax bill, which will be tabled in parliament after next week’s budget.

The levy, described at the time by former premier Daniel Andrews as “modest”, is forecast to raise $70m annually by 2025/26. Andrews said “every single dollar” would be spent maintaining and building social and affordable homes.

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To pass the measure – an Australian first – without the support of the Coalition, the government would need the votes of the four Greens MPs and two other crossbenchers in the upper house.

But the new Victorian Greens leader, Ellen Sandell, said her party would not support the levy in its current form.

“Labor will need the Greens’ votes to get their short-stay legislation through the parliament and we’re not going to accept something that does nothing to get homes on to the long-term market,” Sandell told Guardian Australia.

“We want something that actually helps fix the situation for renters and people who want to buy a home to actually live in.”

Sandell – who was elected the party’s leader last week after her predecessor Samantha Ratnam announced she was stepping down to contest the federal seat of Wills – said she wants the government to introduce stronger regulations for short-stay accommodation to coincide with the levy, including a 90-day cap on listings.

The Greens commissioned Victoria’s Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) to compare the impact of the government’s levy with the party’s proposed 90-day cap, a measure already used elsewhere, including in Perth and London.

The PBO found the average short-stay owner would pay about $2,083 annually per property under the government’s levy and it said it expected most would “absorb some of this tax burden” and “pass a portion to the consumer through higher prices”.

The PBO said the levy would make a “marginal” difference to property investor behaviour, particularly in areas such as the Mornington Peninsula and the regions, and to those who used their short-stay rental as a residence for part of the year.

It said owners of short-stay properties in Melbourne’s CBD – where there is more competition – may be “less able to pass the levy on to consumers” and could have a “material incentive” to shift their properties to the long-term rental market.

Meanwhile, the PBO’s analysis of the Greens’ proposal estimated there were 36,000 short-stay properties in Victoria, of which 13,000 were rented for more than 90 nights each year.

It said this group of property owners would face “reduced returns” if a cap were imposed and “may be particularly incentivised to seek alternative uses for their property”.

Sandell said this could include making them available to long-term renters or selling to owner-occupiers.

She said the upcoming budget was an opportunity for Labor to stop “tinkering around the edges” and introduce reforms to “free up thousands more homes”.

“If Labor think they can keep getting away with doing the bare minimum on housing, well they’re going to have a fight on their hands,” Sandell said.

“Rents in Victoria are at record highs and a whole generation has given up the dream of ever being able to afford their own home.

“It is a housing crisis and we need some bold reform and ideas to fix it.”

With both costings, the PBO said it was limited by the lack of public data available on short-stay accommodation. This included the total number of short-stays operating in the state, the number of nights each one operated and their revenue.

Last year, Andrews said there were between 30,000 and 40,000 homes on Airbnb and other short stay platforms that were not available for long-term tenants.

“There are a significant number of properties that would have, 10-15 years ago, been available for longer-term rental, for a year, for two years,” he said.

“They’re not available because of that.”

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British Columbia abruptly drops drug decriminalization after backlash

Premier asks government to reintroduce ban, ending Canada’s first large attempt to gauge effects of decriminalization

British Columbia has abruptly reversed course on its landmark experiment decriminalizing the possession of certain illicit drugs, citing mounting public frustration and “disorder” in the Canadian province.

Premier David Eby said on Friday that he had asked the federal government to reintroduce a ban on public drug use, formally ending the country’s first large attempt to gauge the effects of decriminalization.

“Keeping people safe is our highest priority. While we are caring and compassionate for those struggling with addiction, we do not accept street disorder that makes communities feel unsafe,” Eby said.

When the province began its experiment in 2023 of decriminalizing, but not legalizing, the possession for small amounts of illicit drugs, the move was heralded as a dramatic re-thinking of a criminal justice system that has long been used to punish people who use drugs and suffer from addiction. The plan was set to run for three years and would be closely monitored by at the federal and provincial levels.

At the time Canada’s health minister said it would serve as a template for other jurisdictions and the province’s health officer said it would “make a difference” in the the spiraling overdose crisis that had engulfed British Columbia.

“Addiction is a health issue, it is not a criminal law issue, and that principle is what the entire decriminalization project was about. It was about removing the stigma for people struggling with addiction, preventing them potentially from reaching out to others to ask for help … for fear of arrest, for fear of a criminal record,” Eby said on Friday as he announced the scaling back of the decriminalization effort.

While experts caution that fatalities from tainted drugs won’t be solved without addressing an increasingly adulterated drug supply, public frustration has grown over open drug use and a mounting death toll, with the government facing accusations it has become too lenient.

“Sometimes, tough love is needed,” Eby said.

The province, which had previously received an exemption under the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, has now asked for key elements of exemption to be reversed.

While the personal possession of 2.5g of cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA and opioids such as fentanyl will be permitted in private spaces, such as homes, tents and safe injection sites, the police will soon be able to seize drugs if people are using in public spaces “when necessary” or to arrest them in “exceptional circumstances”.

“People are dying from deadly street drugs and we see the issues with public use and disorder on our streets,” said Mike Farnworth, the provincial minister of public safety and solicitor general, said in a statement. “As we continue to go after the gangs and organized criminals who are making and trafficking toxic drugs, we’re taking action now to make it illegal to use drugs in public spaces, and to expand access to treatment to help people who need it most.”

But the province’s decision has also been sharply criticized by advocacy groups.

“BC never gave #decrim a fair chance. It is blamed for social issues that are the result of policy failure[s] resulting in a housing crisis & poverty,” Moms Stop the Harm, posted on X. “Rather than address the real issues [Eby] found a convenient scapegoat. Our loved ones die.”

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Plato’s final hours recounted in scroll found in Vesuvius ash

Newly deciphered passages outline Greek philosopher’s burial place and describe critique of slave musician

Newly deciphered passages from a papyrus scroll that was buried beneath layers of volcanic ash after the AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius may have shed light on the final hours of Plato, a key figure in the history of western philosophy.

In a groundbreaking discovery, the ancient scroll was found to contain a previously unknown narrative detailing how the Greek philosopher spent his last evening, describing how he listened to music played on a flute by a Thracian slave girl.

Despite battling a fever and being on the brink of death, Plato – who was known as a disciple of Socrates and a mentor to Aristotle, and who died in Athens around 348BC – retained enough lucidity to critique the musician for her lack of rhythm, the account suggests.

The decoded words also suggest Plato’s burial site was in his designated garden in the Academy of Athens, the world’s first university, which he founded, adjacent to the Mouseion. Previously, it was only known in general terms that he was buried within the academy.

In a presentation of the research findings at the National Library of Naples, Prof Graziano Ranocchia, of the University of Pisa, who spearheaded the team responsible for unearthing the carbonised scroll, described the discovery as an “extraordinary outcome that enriches our understanding of ancient history”.

He said: “Thanks to the most advanced imaging diagnostic techniques, we are finally able to read and decipher new sections of texts that previously seemed inaccessible.”

The text also reveals that Plato was sold into slavery on the island of Aegina, possibly as early as 404BC when the Spartans conquered the island, or alternatively in 399BC, shortly after Socrates’ passing.

“Until now it was believed that Plato was sold into slavery in 387BC during his sojourn in Sicily at the court of Dionysius I of Syracuse,” Ranocchia said. “For the first time, we have been able to read sequences of hidden letters from the papyri that were enfolded within multiple layers, stuck to each other over the centuries, through an unrolling process using a mechanical technique that disrupted whole fragments of text.”

Ranocchia said the ability to identify these layers and virtually realign them to their original positions to restore textual continuity represented a significant advance in terms of gathering vast amounts of information.

He said the work was still in its nascent stages and the full impact would only become apparent in the coming years.

The scroll was preserved in a lavish villa in Herculaneum and discovered in 1750, and is believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar’s father-in-law.

Over the years, scholars have tried to decipher the scrolls found in this villa, known as the Villa of the Papyri.

Domenico Camardo, an archaeologist at the Herculaneum conservation project, compared the impact of the AD79 eruption on Herculaneum, an ancient Roman beach town close to Pompeii, to the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during the second world war.

Such was the heat of the pyroclastic surge produced by Vesuvius – believed to have been between 400C and 500C – that the brains and blood of victims instantly boiled.

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