The Guardian 2024-05-03 10:02:07


Australian universities reject calls for police to break up Gaza protests

Group of Eight chief says campuses don’t want to see ‘escalation’ like what is occurring in the US

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Vice-chancellors have rejected calls to shut down the pro-Palestine encampments at Australian universities, saying campuses don’t want to see an “escalation” of the kind that is happening in the US.

A snap meeting was held on Thursday between the Group of Eight (Go8) vice-chancellors, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and the secretary of the education department to discuss the safety of students and staff amid the protests.

Vicki Thomson, the Go8 chief executive, said it was a “very constructive” meeting that allowed universities to hear the concerns of representative bodies.

The ECAJ president, Daniel Aghion, has been calling on education ministers and vice-chancellors to dismantle the camps that have now been established in universities in every state, saying a failure to do so risked “permanently degrading” the reputation of Australian universities.

Thomson assured that any reports of unlawful incidents “have been and will continue to be dealt with swiftly”.

“None of us want to see an escalation like [what is occurring] in the US,” she said.

The US protests, which inspired the Australian wave of camps, have led to thousands of arrests and police violence despite students and faculties insisting the demonstrations have been peaceful.

Mark Scott, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, attended Thursday’s meeting. A protest on the lawns of his university is now into its 11th day, the longest of any Australian camps.

Scott took to LinkedIn on Thursday to reject calls from shadow education minister Sarah Henderson for police intervention, maintaining the exercise of free speech could be “challenging and confronting”.

“I am not convinced what is happening on US campuses demonstrates a pathway to greater safety and security for any students or staff, nor helps to build a community committed to free speech and thoughtful exchanges of divergent views,” Scott wrote.

“Protests and vigorous debates have always been part of our culture of academic freedom … even when, as individuals, we may strongly disagree with things we hear said.”

On Friday, the University of Sydney camp was met with a counter-protest by the group Together with Israel, but the situation remained relatively peaceful. There was no apparent police presence.

Prof Alana Lentin, a Jewish woman and University of Western Sydney expert in social and cultural analysis, said she had come to “stand firm” with organisers of the encampment who were peacefully protesting “not only for a free Palestine but also for the University of Sydney and all universities to divest from any ties with the Zionist state of Israel”.

Ben, who did not provide his last name, was part of the counter-protest at the entrance to the campus. The group wore shirts that said “stop the hate mate” and waved Israeli and Australian flags.

He said he’d come to the rally “to show support for the entire university and public and Jewish population”.

Monash University’s vice-chancellor, Prof Sharon Pickering, was also in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, as was the University of Adelaide’s provost, Prof John Williams. Both universities have backed the lawful expression of peaceful protest on their campuses.

The University of Melbourne’s vice-chancellor, Duncan Maskell, wrote to his university’s community last week reiterating respect for peaceful protest was “core” to the university’s values.

The Jewish Council of Australia has condemned the wave of counter-protests, labelling one at the University of Melbourne on Thursday a “motley group of rightwing zionists”.

Its executive officer, Dr Max Kaiser, said students in the Gaza solidarity camps were taking a “brave and peaceful stand against genocide and should be heard”.

“We are deeply concerned that universities are not taking this far-right threat seriously,” he said. “Allowing attacks on peaceful protesters has a chilling effect on our right to free speech.”

On Friday, the Australia National University’s deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Grady Venville, addressed controversy over an ABC radio interview in which one ANU organiser offered “unconditional support” for Hamas and another refused to condemn the terrorist group.

In an email to employees, she reiterated staff and students were “free to express themselves” and ANU was proud of its long history of political engagement after boosting security at the university’s student-led camp.

“You may be aware of comments made in the media these last few days,” she wrote. “Appropriate action has been taken by the university.”

Henderson pushed back at ANU, urging vice-chancellors to expel students that spoke in support of Hamas.

“Like all universities, ANU must be transparent about what actions it is taking to combat antisemitism including against students who endorse a listed terrorist organisation,” Henderson said.

After a roundtable with Jewish university students and staff in Melbourne on Friday, Henderson called on universities to implement “time and place” rules governing when protests could go ahead.

A second roundtable of Jewish students, academics and community leaders will be held in Sydney on Monday.

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That’s it for today, thanks for reading.

Here are the main stories for today:

  • The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, says he disagrees with a magistrate’s decision to release a former immigration detainee on bail and with the prosecutor’s decision not to oppose it. The man allegedly assaulted a woman in a home invasion eight weeks later;

  • The transport workers union urges Bonza administrators to ‘strain every sinew’ to pay employees’ wages, after the airline went into voluntary administration;

  • Family violence and sexual assault data of 4,000 Victorians collected over two decades by one of the state’s largest health services has been exposed;

  • The Flemington racecourse floodwall “most likely” caused houses to be inundated in 2022, an independent panel finds;

  • A NSW man is charged with blackmail after an alleged pubs and clubs data breach;

  • Sky News Australia apologises for its interview with the winner of a $1m barramundi competition;

  • A Victorian man arrested at a shopping centre after allegedly threatening people with a knife; and

  • The mayor of Blacktown city council in Sydney’s west, Tony Bleasdale, dies while reportedly on a flight home from China.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Anthony Albanese criticises granting of bail to former detainee accused of assaulting Perth woman

Independent panel made ‘wrong decision’ to advise that Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan did not need ankle bracelet before alleged assault on Ninette Simmons, PM says

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Anthony Albanese has blamed the community protection board and prosecutors for a former immigration detainee having his ankle bracelet removed and receiving bail before he and two other men allegedly assaulted a 73-year-old Perth woman.

The prime minister told Channel Seven’s Sunrise it was the “wrong decision” by the board to advise that Majid Jamshidi Doukoshkan did not need electronic monitoring, and if it were up to him “there wouldn’t have been bail granted in that case”.

But Albanese continued to stand by the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, rejecting Coalition calls to sack him and explaining that both decisions had been made by independent agencies.

Doukoshkan, one of more than 150 people released from immigration detention after the high court ruled that indefinite detention was unlawful in November, was arrested along with two other men over the alleged assault and robbery of Ninette Simmons in April.

Western Australian police allege the trio also assaulted Simmons’ husband Philip, 76, and tied his hands behind his back, before stealing $200,000 worth of jewellery.

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Doukoshkan faced court in February over alleged curfew breaches. Bail was not opposed by the commonwealth, and the charges were later dropped over an administrative error related to the issuing of his visa.

In March the community protection board, a panel of justice system experts, advised the government to remove Doukoshkan’s ankle bracelet, which Ninette Simmons has questioned.

On Friday Albanese was asked if it was time to sack his minister. He replied: “No … in this country … we have a separation of the judicial system from the political system.

“But if it was up to me I assure you that there wouldn’t have been bail granted in that case. But these things are done independently by the director of public prosecutions and in consultation of the AFP.

“That wasn’t a decision of government.”

Albanese said he was “just as upset” as others about the decision not to oppose bail, which he said “lacks common sense”. He suggested the issue could be considered by a meeting of attorneys general in Canberra on Friday.

Asked if it was a failure to remove the ankle bracelet, Albanese replied: “Yes, it is. I think that’s a wrong decision by that board, but they … make the decisions independently.”

Albanese said the commonwealth had opposed NZYQ’s bid in the high court to overturn the legality of indefinite detention but the government has “had to deal with the implications” of the loss.

The government had “brought in a range of laws”, which included curfews, criminal penalties for visa breaches and a regime to apply for preventive detention.

Albanese criticised the Coalition and Greens for delaying Labor’s bill to create an offence with a mandatory minimum of one-year in prison for a non-citizen who refused a direction to help facilitate their deportation.

“So we want to take as strong an action as possible here,” he said. “We recognise that community safety is the absolute priority.

“My heart goes out to Ninette. No one should be subject to that sort of violence. It is an outrage that this occurred and my government is committed to doing what we can to address these issues.”

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, told Channel Nine’s Today program that “the minister has responsibility here”.

“The first charge of the prime minister of our country is to keep people safe, not to put them in harm’s way … People are right to be angry about it and upset.”

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Attacks on press freedom around the world are intensifying, index reveals

In the past year, in virtually every region, journalists and independent media outlets faced increasing repression

Political attacks on press freedom, including the detention of journalists, suppression of independent media outlets and widespread dissemination of misinformation, have significantly intensified in the past year, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The index ranks 180 countries on the ability of journalists to work and report freely and independently.

In a year when more than half the world’s population will go to the polls in democratic elections, the RSF’s index shows an overall decline in press freedom globally and a steep rise in the political repression of journalists and independent media outlets.

“RSF sees a worrying decline in support and respect for media autonomy and an increase in pressure from the state or other political actors,” said Anne Bocandé, RSF editorial director. “States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom. This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.”

The Maghreb and Middle East regions performed the worst in terms of restrictions on press freedom by government forces, according to the report. In the past year, said RSF, governments across the region have attempted to control and curtail the media through violence, arrests and draconian laws, compounded by “systematic impunity for crimes of violence against journalists”.

The RSF says that, since October 2023, more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by in Gaza, including at least 22 in the course of their work.

Elsewhere in the region, journalists have been killed in Sudan, where there have been serious attempts to curb independent reporting of violence and civil war. The situation for media professionals in Syria has also deteriorated, with journalists who have fled press repression in their home country threatened with expulsion from neighbouring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. The RSF also says that four of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran – have continued to attack and detain them.

The RSF says that Latin America is also showing alarming indicators of political repression of journalism. In Argentina, the new president, Javier Milei, has boasted about his assault on the free press and has shut down the country’s biggest new agency. Press freedom is also under sustained political attack in Peru and El Salvador.

The US has performed badly due to increasing attacks on journalists from political officials, including public calls to imprison reporters.

Elections in sub-Saharan Africa saw violence against journalists fuelled by political attacks on media freedom. In Nigeria nearly 20 reporters were attacked in early 2023, and in Madagascar, reporters were targeted while covering pre-election protests. More recently, Burkino Faso has suspended dozens of foreign news organisations, including the Guardian, over reporting of an alleged massacre of hundreds of civilians by the Burkinabe army.

In Europe, the index showed Russia dropping down the ranks of countries mounting attacks on press freedom for what the RSF terms its “crusade” against independent journalism. More than 1,500 Russian journalists have fled abroad since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Belarus’s position near the bottom of the RSF’s index is due to the persistent persecution of journalists under the pretext of combating “extremism”.

Last week, a report by the German-based Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) warned that press freedom is “perilously close to breaking point” in several European countries.

Repression of the free press also worsened in the Asia-Pacific region. The RSF says that the region’s dictatorial governments have been tightening their hold over news and information with “increasing vigour” in countries such as Afghanistan, where the Taliban have all but destroyed independent journalism, and North Korea and China’s “all-out persecution” of local media. Vietnam and Myanmar also fell in the rankings this year due to their pursuit of mass imprisonment of media professionals.

The RSF also painted a bleak picture of the increasing use of artificial intelligence, calling its use in the arsenal of disinformation for political purposes “disturbing”, with deepfakes being used to influence the course of elections.

Reporting on the war against nature is also proving increasingly dangerous. Forty-four journalists have been killed for covering environment stories over the past 15 years, according to a separate report by Unesco, which organises today’s World Press Freedom Day.

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Homeless women and children offered car park to sleep in through NSW pilot program

NSW homelessness minister acknowledges program is direct response to housing crisis but says ‘it’s not acceptable this is what we have come to’ for those fleeing domestic violence

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Women and children in New South Wales are being offered a car park to sleep in overnight as part of a pilot program aimed at keeping those experiencing homelessness and domestic violence safe.

The program is being run by an organisation in Newcastle, which has not disclosed its name, for fear of giving away the location. But Nova, the housing assistance service for women and children fleeing domestic violence, has been referring people to the pilot, which began in April and will run until June.

It comes as the NSW government announced on Friday it would develop an urgent emergency package within days to address the domestic violence crisis in the state.

The “Women in Cars” project, offers those staying in the car park food and drink, showers, toilets, laundry, kitchen facilities and access to television. Dogs are allowed and security and support is also on site.

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In a statement, Nova said they could not give any more information about the service, as they did not want to put more people at risk.

“We are heartened by the enthusiastic response from our community, both locally and nationally, to share support options for women needing a space to sleep,” the spokesperson said.

“The project is also a pilot, it’s testing an idea to see if it provides respite for women who need it and we respectfully ask you to help us do that by not sharing the car parking project information any further.

“We certainly do not see this pilot as a housing solution, but as a response to the immediate crisis currently in our region.”

In 2022-23, homelessness services across the country assisted 58,589 women and 37,825 children who had experienced domestic and family violence, according to Homelessness Australia. But only 3.7% of those seeking housing got the long-term housing they need to be safe.

The Homelessness NSW chief executive, Dom Rowe, said the lack of safe and affordable housing was “forcing vulnerable women to make impossible choices”.

“What’s out there is often poor quality and not safe or secure for those fleeing violence,” he said. “The problem is particularly bad in regional areas, where the only suitable and safe accommodation might be towns away.”

Homelessness NSW is urging the state government to spend $1bn a year for a decade to double the supply of social housing by 2050.

Rose Jackson, NSW’s housing and homelessness minister, said modular housing and opening unused motels and nursing homes were being considered in the emergency package.

“We know demand for emergency accommodation and long-term housing is not keeping up with supply,” Jackson said.

“Of course, I recognise how these efforts to make women and children safe are direct responses to the ongoing housing crisis, but it’s not acceptable that this is what we have come to. I don’t want to see women and children sleeping in cars because that is the only safe place for them.”

The emergency package is expected to be developed within days, with Jackson saying she had recently spoken to Nova about the Women in Cars project. She said temporary accommodation was available to “anyone who needs it” in the Newcastle region, but there was a shortage of long-term stable housing.

“Fundamentally, we desperately need more long-term social housing for women and children leaving violence. For many sleeping in cars, this is the permanent housing solution they need,” Jackson said.

Currently, one in two people seeking support in NSW are turned away because homelessness services do not have the resources to house them.

Annabelle Daniel, the CEO of Women’s Community Shelters, said domestic violence was the primary reason women became homeless in Australia. “Every shelter we’ve opened over the last 10 years, women have attempted to put themselves on a waiting list for our shelters before they even open,” she said.

In other instances, Daniel said services were now handing out tents to women because they have nowhere else to go.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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UK general election opinion poll tracker: Labour leading as election looms

Find out who’s up and who’s down in the latest polls – and how many seats each party is likely to win in the next general election

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  • UK general election: the seats the Tories will lose if the polls are right
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The next UK general election is looming, with most analysts expecting it to be called late this year.

After 13 years of Conservative rule, Keir Starmer’s Labour has been consistently ahead in the polls since the start of 2022.

The latest a general election could be called is January 2025. The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has the power to call a general election at any point before then, but facing a potential loss, experts think that he will put it off to stay in power for longer.

The Guardian will track latest polling averages, sourced from all major British polling companies, until election day.

The Scottish National party (SNP) is not included in the data the Guardian is using in the chart above. In Great Britain-wide polls, the SNP vote sits between 2% and 4% of national vote share. But its geographical concentration in Scotland means it will win many more seats than other small parties with a similar national vote share, such as the Greens. Targeted Scotland-only polls give a much better indication of how well it will do in the next election than the nationwide polls above.

Polls only go so far in predicting who will win in the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system. What matters is the number of seats each party wins in parliament, which is decided by individual races in 650 constituencies.

Seat predictions differ, but the one we show above is from the pollster Electoral Calculus. It conducts its own polls, in which it also gathers demographic data from the people it surveys.

This data is fed into a mathematical model, called a multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) model, with the goal of estimating the connection between characteristics such as age, gender and the area where a person lives, and which party they will vote for.

Matching this up with data about what types of people live in different UK constituencies, Electoral Calculus predicts which party will come top in each constituency.

How accurate are seat projections?

In Britain’s first-past-the-post system the numbers in the polls do not correlate cleanly to seats because it depends where votes are located. Describing seat projections from general polling as a “loose yardstick”, Rob Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, said: “Labour could get a lead of 15 points and not have a majority, a lead of 10 points and have a majority. It depends where those votes are.”

If the election is close, the polls become less predictive of the outcome. Other limitations of projecting seat counts from national polling include the fact that the Lib Dem seat count is hard to infer from national polling because, while their national support is much lower than the two main parties, in certain constituencies they have a significant presence. Nor is nationwide polling very informative about what will happen in Scotland, and polls there are more infrequent.

Notes on the data

The chart shows a rolling 10-day average for the support of each party based on Great Britain-wide polls. This excludes Northern Ireland, which has different political parties. On any given day, the Guardian works out the average support for each party across any poll published in the preceding 10 days. Only polling companies that are members of the British Polling Council are included.

The seat projections are sourced monthly from Electoral Calculus, which applies a model to polling and demographic data to estimate the number of seats each party may win. They update this projection monthly.

Illustrations by Sam Kerr

Keir Starmer is in Blackpool South where he told Labour activists a few minutes ago that the byelection result was a clear message to the PM that people want change. He said:

It is incredible to have won by such a swing, a 26% swing. That’s the fifth swing of over 20% to the Labour party in byelections in recent months and years. It is a fantastic result, a really first class result.

And here in Blackpool, a message has been sent directly to the prime minister, because this was a parliamentary vote, to say we’re fed up with your decline, your chaos of your division and we want change. We want to go forward with Labour.

That wasn’t just a little message. That wasn’t just a murmur. That was a shout from Blackpool. We want to change. And Blackpool speaks forthe whole country in saying we’ve had enough now, after 14 years of failure, 14 years of decline.

Explainer

Key points as early local election results indicate major losses for Tories

With fewer than a third of council elections declared, the Conservative party appeared on course to lose up to 500 seats

  • Local and mayoral election results – live updates

At the start of a long weekend of election results, the first outcomes have been every bit as dire for the Conservatives and Rishi Sunak as analysts had predicted. With fewer than a third of the council elections declared, and none of the metro mayoral results yet in, here is the state of play.

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Boris Johnson turned away from polling station after forgetting to bring photo ID

Former PM made the requirement to bring photo ID a stipulation of the Elections Act in 2022

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Boris Johnson was turned away from his local polling station when trying to cast his vote in Thursday’s elections after forgetting to bring the required photo identity.

The former prime minister was initially told by polling station staff he would not be allowed to vote in the police and crime commissioner election in South Oxfordshire without proving his identity.

The misstep was embarrassing for Johnson because the requirement to bring photo ID is a stipulation of the Elections Act he introduced in 2022 while in Downing Street.

The Electoral Commission has warned that hundreds of thousands of people could be excluded from voting because of the law, which it said could have a disproportionate effect on some groups.

A source close to Johnson confirmed he had forgotten the photo ID, but did later vote. “Mr Johnson voted Conservative,” a spokesperson added. Earlier on Thursday he had posted on X: “The polls are now open. Vote Conservative!”

It came after the veterans minister apologised to former military personnel who were prevented from using their veterans ID to vote in the local elections in England.

Downing Street said it would “look into” changing the controversial rules, which require photo ID in order to vote, to allow veterans’ ID cards on to the list of valid identification.

The minister, Johnny Mercer, was responding to a complaint from a veteran who said he had been turned away at a polling station. “I am sorry about this. The legislation on acceptable forms of ID came out before the veterans ID cards started coming out in January this year. I will do all I can to change it before the next one,” Mercer tweeted.

A government spokesperson said it was the intention to add the veterans’ card to the list of accepted ID and that defence identity cards for serving armed forces members were already accepted. “We are already consulting on this,” they said.

Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said earlier that Downing Street had no concerns about voter ID more generally, adding: “We don’t want to see anyone turned away from polling stations, we want everyone to be able to vote. Experience from the last local elections was that 99.75% of people were able to cast their vote successfully.”

Ministers have faced significant criticism over the limited number of acceptable forms of ID, particularly the decision to allow documents such as the older person’s bus pass but almost none issued to younger ones, such as other travel passes and student documents.

The Electoral Commission warned last year that it was difficult to assess the consequences of requiring photo ID before voting.

It said the laws could have a disproportionate effect on poorer people, those with disabilities and people from minority ethnic backgrounds, and that the disfranchising effect of the law was very likely to be proportionately greater in a general election.

Among people who did not vote in May last year, 4% said this was because of voter ID. If this figure went up to 5%, it could mean about 800,000 people staying away from the polls at a general election.

A Tory MP was among those caught out by the voter ID requirement as polls opened for the local elections in England and Wales. The Ipswich MP, Tom Hunt, said his dyspraxia was the reason he had lost his documents.

Hunt sent a message to his local Conservative WhatsApp group stating: “Bit of drama. Turns out I have no appropriate ID to vote tomorrow. There is an emergency proxy option if you lose your ID … who would like the honours?”

But Hunt said it was inappropriate for Labour and social media users to mock him for misplacing his documents given his developmental coordination disorder.

“I don’t want to blame everything on my dyspraxia, but it’s a factor in my life I have to deal with,” he told the Evening Standard. “It’s all well and good people saying we need to have more neurodiverse members of parliament, but having a massive pile-on on them, I don’t think it’s going to encourage more people.”

The Electoral Commission said “most voters” were able to cast their ballots despite the ID requirements.

“Our initial assessment of the elections is that they were well run, and millions of voters were able to exercise their democratic rights,” a spokesperson said. “This is a testament to the efforts of electoral administrators, who work tirelessly to ensure the smooth delivery and integrity of polls.”

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Feelgood story turns bad as Sky humiliates Indigenous teenager who caught $1m barramundi

Amanda Meade

Peter Stefanovic interview with teenager who won Northern Territory tourism competition turns sour. Plus: Daily Telegraph embraces Chat GPT

It was the feelgood story of the year from the Northern Territory when 19-year-old Keegan Payne caught a barramundi worth $1m in a competition designed to promote tourism.

“The whole family was shocked – they’re all proud of me,” he told the ABC. “We’re from Katherine, Mum’s from Kakadu.

“It’s pretty hard going for us at the moment with money but now, with a million dollars, don’t have to complain about it.”

But one live interview, on Sky News Australia, turned into a humiliating experience for the Indigenous teenager when the host, Peter Stefanovic, asked him a question about an incident he was involved in when he was 16.

“There is a claim online that you stole a Polaris Ranger and Polaris quad that you and your friends stole and damaged from a business a few years back. First of all, is that true?” Stefanovic asked.

A shocked Payne, who was sitting in the Darwin Sky News studio, quietly said “yes”.

Pushed to explain himself, Payne said he and his mates “weren’t thinking at the time”, were “still young” and that he regretted it “big time”.

It was excruciating to watch.

Contacted by the Daily Mail, Payne’s former boss Bob Cavanagh said the young man had “always felt so terrible for what he did” and he was an otherwise “good kid”. He had also offered to pay him back.

After the Stefanovic interview, Cavanagh told Sky News reporter Matt Cunningham he did not proceed with police charges at the time, opting instead to talk to the boys and their parents and they agreed to work for free on weekends.

Indigenous leader and Sydney city councillor Yvonne Weldon said she was appalled by the interview.

“They invited him on to talk about his prize catch and then proceeded to put him on the stand for an adolescent misdemeanour,” Weldon said in a LinkedIn post. “In doing so, they’ve shown no regard for his wellbeing and right to privacy.

“Moreover, they have perpetuated a harmful and negative stereotype about Aboriginal young people.”

Naomi Moran, the general manager of Australia’s only independent Indigenous newspaper, the Koori Mail, said “this is what institutionalised discrimination looks and sounds like in mainstream media”.

“A narrative that is so familiar,” Moran said, also on LinkedIn. “That a black person will only be who he once was, rather than who he has become in this country.

“We must continue to call out this representation of our people in mainstream Australian media.”

Sky News did not respond to a request for comment and Stefanovic deleted his social media accounts overnight.

On Friday afternoon Sky News issued a statement that recounted the exchanges in the interview and included an apology to Payne.

“Sky News Australia and Peter Stefanovic apologise to Mr Payne and his family for raising these claims during the live interview about his million dollar win in the fishing competition,” the statement said.

”Mr Stefanovic has reached out to Mr Payne and his family directly to convey his apology.”

The original video had been taken down by Friday afternoon.

Fitz tackled

Sydney Morning Herald sports writers are slugging it out in the paper over the emotive issue of banning the kick-off in NRL matches as a measure to reduce high-impact tackles that may cause concussion.

The SMH’s chief sports writer, Andrew Webster, took aim at Peter FitzSimons on Friday over a column by FitzSimons about moves to prevent head impacts in NRL.

Conceding there is “nothing quite as boring as columnists trading barbs in their allocated space”, Webster wrote he was so hurt by what Fitz had written that he had to respond.

“How dare someone accuse us of not caring about these people, our mates, just so they can fill column inches to prove they’re right and we’re wrong,” Webster said.

“So, in summary, we get it Fitz.

“You hang your journalistic hat on your coverage of concussion and that’s fair enough. You were the first and that will never be forgotten. You deserve credit for fighting the good fight.

“But wouldn’t it be more effective to bring people with you on this concussion journey, instead of continually belittling them?”

What did Fitz say to provoke this angry response? In a column on Thursday headlined “The expert opinion is in: NRL must take on the kick-off concussion issue”, without naming Webster, he ridiculed “people saying that a source of concussions in the NRL, the long kick-off, is no problem, and that all of us who advocate changing it for the sake of sanity are somewhere between engaging in a silly debate and out to destroy the game”.

Webster’s column two days earlier had referred to the kick-off ban proposal as a “silly debate”.

Will Fitz now respond to Webster’s response to his criticism?

Picture imperfect

The executive chairman of News Corp Australia, Michael Miller, has shown an optimistic attitude to artificial intelligence, telling staff last year it would “change our industry” and setting up an AI working group to explore “10 new high-value opportunity areas for AI”.

He also boasted last August that News Corp was producing 3,000 articles a week using generative artificial intelligence.

Now it would appear AI is increasingly being used for illustrations at the Daily Telegraph, replacing newspaper photography or commissioned art. An opinion piece by James O’Doherty about federal funding for roads, published last Friday, was accompanied by an image of a traffic jam snaking though a fictional western Sydney suburb, credited to ChatGPT.

A quick review showed us many of the opinion pieces by O’Doherty, Joe Hildebrand, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt are now illustrated by ChatGPT. We have asked the editor, Ben English, what the paper’s policy is.

Ten stops celebrating

The Ten Network may have won the defamation case brought by Bruce Lehrmann but the network has had little to celebrate since the judgment was handed down on 15 April.

Not only is Ten likely to have to cover millions in legal costs due to Lehrmann being of extremely limited means but its behaviour outside the federal court raised the ire of Justice Michael Lee, who demanded Ten’s lawyers explain themselves before the costs hearing on Wednesday.

Lawyer Justin Quill, who was authorised to comment on the judgment by Ten, said outside the court Ten had been vindicated by the judgment.

Lee, who described the comments as misleading and discourteous, said it was it is “open to argue” that Ten’s conduct “was intended to, or had the tendency to, interfere with the administration of justice in a particular proceeding”.

Three very “contrite” lawyers submitted affidavits to Lee apologising for saying his judgment was a “vindication” and performing a backflip on some evidence given at the trial.

Lisa Wilkinson was heavily criticised in the media for an acceptance speech she gave at the Logies in 2022 for the Project interview with Brittany Higgins. The speech led to the criminal trial in the ACT supreme court for the alleged sexual assault of Higgins being delayed by three months.

Ten’s chief litigation counsel, Tasha Smithies, told the court in February she did not think there were any issues with the Logies acceptance speech, which she had approved.

Lee did not agree, asking Ten why it “repeatedly expressed the view that the Logies speech not only did not have the tendency to interfere with the administration of justice but presented no difficulty whatsoever”.

Smithies told Lee the judgment had been “profound and sobering” and she had a different view now she had reflected on it.

“Since the delivery of the trial judgment I have taken counsel from senior members of the legal profession including Dr Matt Collins AM KC about the advice I gave in relation to the Logies speech, the evidence I gave, and the observations and conclusions about me in the trial judgment,” Smithies said in her affidavit.

“As a result of all of those matters, I believe I’ve developed greater insight into my conduct.”

In a separate claim for costs, Taylor Auerbach’s solicitor Rebekah Giles told the court her client had run up a bill of close to $40,000 for giving evidence. Her fees alone were $900 an hour.

Devil in the detail

The ABC has deleted a social media post which was not marked “analysis” and which gave the impression the public broadcaster’s newsroom was accusing the prime minister of getting it “horribly wrong”.

The article was commentary by Annabel Crabb about Anthony Albanese’s appearance at the domestic violence rally in Canberra.

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The ABC told Weekly Beast the automated process dropped the word “Analysis” from the post on X.

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Feelgood story turns bad as Sky humiliates Indigenous teenager who caught $1m barramundi

Amanda Meade

Peter Stefanovic interview with teenager who won Northern Territory tourism competition turns sour. Plus: Daily Telegraph embraces Chat GPT

It was the feelgood story of the year from the Northern Territory when 19-year-old Keegan Payne caught a barramundi worth $1m in a competition designed to promote tourism.

“The whole family was shocked – they’re all proud of me,” he told the ABC. “We’re from Katherine, Mum’s from Kakadu.

“It’s pretty hard going for us at the moment with money but now, with a million dollars, don’t have to complain about it.”

But one live interview, on Sky News Australia, turned into a humiliating experience for the Indigenous teenager when the host, Peter Stefanovic, asked him a question about an incident he was involved in when he was 16.

“There is a claim online that you stole a Polaris Ranger and Polaris quad that you and your friends stole and damaged from a business a few years back. First of all, is that true?” Stefanovic asked.

A shocked Payne, who was sitting in the Darwin Sky News studio, quietly said “yes”.

Pushed to explain himself, Payne said he and his mates “weren’t thinking at the time”, were “still young” and that he regretted it “big time”.

It was excruciating to watch.

Contacted by the Daily Mail, Payne’s former boss Bob Cavanagh said the young man had “always felt so terrible for what he did” and he was an otherwise “good kid”. He had also offered to pay him back.

After the Stefanovic interview, Cavanagh told Sky News reporter Matt Cunningham he did not proceed with police charges at the time, opting instead to talk to the boys and their parents and they agreed to work for free on weekends.

Indigenous leader and Sydney city councillor Yvonne Weldon said she was appalled by the interview.

“They invited him on to talk about his prize catch and then proceeded to put him on the stand for an adolescent misdemeanour,” Weldon said in a LinkedIn post. “In doing so, they’ve shown no regard for his wellbeing and right to privacy.

“Moreover, they have perpetuated a harmful and negative stereotype about Aboriginal young people.”

Naomi Moran, the general manager of Australia’s only independent Indigenous newspaper, the Koori Mail, said “this is what institutionalised discrimination looks and sounds like in mainstream media”.

“A narrative that is so familiar,” Moran said, also on LinkedIn. “That a black person will only be who he once was, rather than who he has become in this country.

“We must continue to call out this representation of our people in mainstream Australian media.”

Sky News did not respond to a request for comment and Stefanovic deleted his social media accounts overnight.

On Friday afternoon Sky News issued a statement that recounted the exchanges in the interview and included an apology to Payne.

“Sky News Australia and Peter Stefanovic apologise to Mr Payne and his family for raising these claims during the live interview about his million dollar win in the fishing competition,” the statement said.

”Mr Stefanovic has reached out to Mr Payne and his family directly to convey his apology.”

The original video had been taken down by Friday afternoon.

Fitz tackled

Sydney Morning Herald sports writers are slugging it out in the paper over the emotive issue of banning the kick-off in NRL matches as a measure to reduce high-impact tackles that may cause concussion.

The SMH’s chief sports writer, Andrew Webster, took aim at Peter FitzSimons on Friday over a column by FitzSimons about moves to prevent head impacts in NRL.

Conceding there is “nothing quite as boring as columnists trading barbs in their allocated space”, Webster wrote he was so hurt by what Fitz had written that he had to respond.

“How dare someone accuse us of not caring about these people, our mates, just so they can fill column inches to prove they’re right and we’re wrong,” Webster said.

“So, in summary, we get it Fitz.

“You hang your journalistic hat on your coverage of concussion and that’s fair enough. You were the first and that will never be forgotten. You deserve credit for fighting the good fight.

“But wouldn’t it be more effective to bring people with you on this concussion journey, instead of continually belittling them?”

What did Fitz say to provoke this angry response? In a column on Thursday headlined “The expert opinion is in: NRL must take on the kick-off concussion issue”, without naming Webster, he ridiculed “people saying that a source of concussions in the NRL, the long kick-off, is no problem, and that all of us who advocate changing it for the sake of sanity are somewhere between engaging in a silly debate and out to destroy the game”.

Webster’s column two days earlier had referred to the kick-off ban proposal as a “silly debate”.

Will Fitz now respond to Webster’s response to his criticism?

Picture imperfect

The executive chairman of News Corp Australia, Michael Miller, has shown an optimistic attitude to artificial intelligence, telling staff last year it would “change our industry” and setting up an AI working group to explore “10 new high-value opportunity areas for AI”.

He also boasted last August that News Corp was producing 3,000 articles a week using generative artificial intelligence.

Now it would appear AI is increasingly being used for illustrations at the Daily Telegraph, replacing newspaper photography or commissioned art. An opinion piece by James O’Doherty about federal funding for roads, published last Friday, was accompanied by an image of a traffic jam snaking though a fictional western Sydney suburb, credited to ChatGPT.

A quick review showed us many of the opinion pieces by O’Doherty, Joe Hildebrand, Tim Blair and Andrew Bolt are now illustrated by ChatGPT. We have asked the editor, Ben English, what the paper’s policy is.

Ten stops celebrating

The Ten Network may have won the defamation case brought by Bruce Lehrmann but the network has had little to celebrate since the judgment was handed down on 15 April.

Not only is Ten likely to have to cover millions in legal costs due to Lehrmann being of extremely limited means but its behaviour outside the federal court raised the ire of Justice Michael Lee, who demanded Ten’s lawyers explain themselves before the costs hearing on Wednesday.

Lawyer Justin Quill, who was authorised to comment on the judgment by Ten, said outside the court Ten had been vindicated by the judgment.

Lee, who described the comments as misleading and discourteous, said it was it is “open to argue” that Ten’s conduct “was intended to, or had the tendency to, interfere with the administration of justice in a particular proceeding”.

Three very “contrite” lawyers submitted affidavits to Lee apologising for saying his judgment was a “vindication” and performing a backflip on some evidence given at the trial.

Lisa Wilkinson was heavily criticised in the media for an acceptance speech she gave at the Logies in 2022 for the Project interview with Brittany Higgins. The speech led to the criminal trial in the ACT supreme court for the alleged sexual assault of Higgins being delayed by three months.

Ten’s chief litigation counsel, Tasha Smithies, told the court in February she did not think there were any issues with the Logies acceptance speech, which she had approved.

Lee did not agree, asking Ten why it “repeatedly expressed the view that the Logies speech not only did not have the tendency to interfere with the administration of justice but presented no difficulty whatsoever”.

Smithies told Lee the judgment had been “profound and sobering” and she had a different view now she had reflected on it.

“Since the delivery of the trial judgment I have taken counsel from senior members of the legal profession including Dr Matt Collins AM KC about the advice I gave in relation to the Logies speech, the evidence I gave, and the observations and conclusions about me in the trial judgment,” Smithies said in her affidavit.

“As a result of all of those matters, I believe I’ve developed greater insight into my conduct.”

In a separate claim for costs, Taylor Auerbach’s solicitor Rebekah Giles told the court her client had run up a bill of close to $40,000 for giving evidence. Her fees alone were $900 an hour.

Devil in the detail

The ABC has deleted a social media post which was not marked “analysis” and which gave the impression the public broadcaster’s newsroom was accusing the prime minister of getting it “horribly wrong”.

The article was commentary by Annabel Crabb about Anthony Albanese’s appearance at the domestic violence rally in Canberra.

The new post on X is clearly labelled.

The ABC told Weekly Beast the automated process dropped the word “Analysis” from the post on X.

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Australian government weighs supporting Palestine to become full UN member as draft resolution revealed

Exclusive: Intense negotiations under way as Penny Wong backs two-state solution after meeting Germany’s Annalena Baerbock

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The Australian government faces a decision next week on whether to support admitting Palestine as a full member of the UN and is swapping notes with allies including South Korea and Germany.

A copy of the draft resolution, seen by Guardian Australia, expresses “deep regret and concern” that the US used its veto power to block the proposal at the UN security council last month.

The Palestinian-backed draft text, due for a vote in New York on 10 May, will be put to the general assembly where all UN member states have a vote.

It laments that “one negative vote” had scuttled a proposal backed by 12 others in the 15-member security council, including US allies South Korea, Japan and France. The UK and Switzerland abstained.

The proposed new resolution is understood to be backed by the Arab Group and some members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The general assembly would recommend that the UN security council “reconsider the matter favourably”.

At present, Palestine has the status of “Permanent Observer State” at the UN. That means it can participate in all UN proceedings but does not have voting rights.

Palestinian diplomats at the UN represent the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the Israeli occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority is dominated by Fatah, a rival to Hamas.

Under UN rules, full membership of the global body can only be granted with the support of both the security council and two-thirds of the general assembly.

This means the looming vote in the general assembly is seen as largely symbolic, although it will be another gauge of global opinion amid rising alarm about the humanitarian impact of the Israel-Gaza war.

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The draft resolution says the general assembly “determines that the State of Palestine is, in its judgment, a peace-loving State within the meaning of Article 4 of the Charter, is able and willing to carry out the obligations of the Charter, and should therefore be admitted to membership in the United Nations”.

Contentiously, however, the draft resolution would also “confer upon the State of Palestine the rights and privileges necessary to ensure its full and effective participation in the sessions and work of the general assembly” and other UN conferences “on equal footing with member states”.

Guardian Australia understands that the early draft of the resolution is being intensely debated among diplomats in New York, with many countries yet to lock in their position because the text is “still fluid”.

It is expected that the more broadly worded the question is, the more difficult it will be to win support from countries that have yet to recognise Palestinian statehood but still want to signal political support for a two-state solution.

Western diplomats have questioned the inclusion of the clause conferring “equal footing with member states”, raising concerns about potential inconsistencies with the UN charter.

This is because those rights appear to take effect regardless of whether the security council revisits the membership issue.

Diplomatic negotiations are continuing, but the draft resolution “reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine”.

The draft text also “calls for renewed and coordinated efforts by the international community aimed at achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” in accordance with international law.

The text outlines “unwavering support for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders, based on the pre-1967 borders”.

Some countries that voted last month to grant full UN membership to Palestine emphasised this did not equate to bilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood.

South Korea – which, like Australia, is a key US ally in the Indo-Pacific region – said the vote signalled “our view that renewed and strengthened efforts are needed to revitalise the path toward the two-state solution”.

The Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, talked about the issue with counterparts from South Korea and Germany this week.

In Melbourne on Wednesday, Australian and South Korean ministers “discussed how the international community can help build momentum towards a lasting peace” and how Seoul’s UN vote “reflected this aspiration”, according to a readout of the meeting.

Wong met her German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, in Adelaide on Friday and said a two-state solution was “the only path out” of the cycle of violence.

“There are different views within the international community about how that will be achieved, but it is an important discussion,” Wong said.

Wong first floated the issue in a foreign policy speech three weeks ago when she said the international community was “now considering the question of Palestinian statehood as a way of building momentum towards a two-state solution”.

She reiterated that there must be “no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state” and the group must release hostages held in Gaza.

But the Coalition denounced Wong’s comments as “ill-timed and inappropriate” because Hamas remained in power in Gaza and posed “an existential threat to the state of Israel”.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, said on Wednesday granting full member status to Palestine would “reward the perpetrators of the horrors” of the deadly 7 October attack.

But the Palestinian envoy, Riyad Mansour, told the same session of the general assembly that “the massacres against the Palestinian people continue unabated” and Israel must not have a veto over “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination”.

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Husband of stabbing victim Emma Lovell says he hopes killer will be jailed for life

Sentencing to depend heavily on whether the judge considers the murder to be ‘particularly heinous’

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The husband of murdered Queensland woman Emma Lovell wants the young man who fatally stabbed his wife in the heart to be jailed for life, he told a court on Friday.

Lovell, 41, was killed during a late-night attack at her home in North Lakes, north of Brisbane, by two youths on Boxing Day 2022. Her husband, Lee Lovell, was also stabbed twice in the back and kicked in the head in the attempted robbery.

“My wife was murdered with our children close by,” he told the Queensland supreme court in a victim impact statement on Friday.

Lovell said he hoped his wife’s murderer would be “locked up for life”.

“Unfortunately I believe [my children] are the ones that will be left with a life sentence,” he said.

The couple moved from the United Kingdom 13 years ago. Lovell has been left a single parent, and said he continues to check cameras constantly for fear someone has entered his home.

“I feel so lost without her … it was so difficult returning home. My daughter feared they would come back,” he said.

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The perpetrator sat expressionless in the dock during the sentencing hearing. He cannot be identified due to his age at the time of the offence. He pleaded guilty to four offences in March, including murder, and has admitted to wielding the weapon, an 11cm knife. It was later found by police in two pieces.

Crown prosecutor David Nardone told supreme court justice Tom Sullivan it was open to him to rule that the offender had stabbed Lovell so hard it had snapped the blade from the handle.

Attack captured on camera

The moment of the attack was captured on multiple security cameras.

The silent black and white video played to the court on Friday revealed the incident lasted less than three minutes.

The footage shows one youth approaching the Lovell’s home at about 11.28pm. Finding the door unlocked, he returns to the other youth and they enter the property together about a minute later.

The video shows that youth, who faced court today, holding a knife. A minute later, four people – the two offenders and the Lovells – crash through the door in a violent struggle. The fight spills on to the front lawn, where the youth offender kicks Lee Lovell twice in the head and runs off.

Both Emma and Lee Lovell were asleep, and were woken by a barking dog, the court heard.

The video footage shows a car parked in the driveway, which the prosecution said should have been a warning to the assailants that someone was home.

The court heard the Lovells had attempted to detain the offenders.

Lee Lovell sat in court as the video was played. He told media outside the courtroom it was the first time he’d seen it.

He left before the prosecution played even more confronting audio footage.

In 59 seconds of sound recorded by a neighbour, a woman’s voice can be heard yelling “fuck off”.

Nardone told the court the decision to kick Lovell in the face, proved the offender was attempting more than just escape, demonstrating particular “moral culpability”. He said the crime was “premeditated” and the assailant “almost gleeful” to find an unlocked door.

“He flees, but ultimately places his desire to escape above the welfare and safety of the Lovells,” Nardone said.

“He uses the knife and he uses it repeatedly.”

Sentencing hinges on whether crime was ‘particularly heinous’

Sentencing will depend heavily on whether judge Sullivan considers the offence “particularly heinous”. Otherwise, the sentence will be a maximum of 10 years.

The court heard the young man had previously broken into 17 locations, seven of them homes. He was on parole at the time of the attack, and had just finished a days-long bender, the court heard.

Defence barrister Scott Lynch said it would be “an understatement to say he had a chaotic upbringing”.

He was 10 years old when he left home, Lynch said, and was exposed early to alcohol, violence and drugs. He left school in grade 8.

“He’s been taken through the victim impact statements … he’s saddened by it all obviously,” Lynch said.

“But all he can say to that is ‘too much feelings’.

“He feels extraordinarily sorry for the legacy of his offending.”

The prosecution said he had put “little effort” into attempts at rehabilitation, despite having access to parole resources.

Judge Sullivan will deliver his sentence next week.

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Turkey’s trade halt with Israel will continue until a permanent ceasefire in Gaza is secured as well as unhindered humanitarian aid flow to the region, Turkish trade minister Omer Bolat said on Friday, reports Reuters.

Turkey stopped all exports and imports to and from Israel on Thursday, citing the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s uncompromising attitude and worsening situation in Gaza prompted Turkey to halt trade, Bolat said in a speech in Istanbul while announcing April trade figures.

The two countries had a trade volume of $6.8bn in 2023.

Turkey’s trade halt with Israel will continue until a permanent ceasefire in Gaza is secured as well as unhindered humanitarian aid flow to the region, Turkish trade minister Omer Bolat said on Friday, reports Reuters.

Turkey stopped all exports and imports to and from Israel on Thursday, citing the “worsening humanitarian tragedy” in the Palestinian territories.

Israel’s uncompromising attitude and worsening situation in Gaza prompted Turkey to halt trade, Bolat said in a speech in Istanbul while announcing April trade figures.

The two countries had a trade volume of $6.8bn in 2023.

NSW weather: BoM forecasts wet weekend with heavy rain and thunderstorms

The Illawarra, Sydney and Hunter coast regions are expected to see up to 100mm of rainfall, with Sunday ‘the very wet day’

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New South Wales is expecting a wet weekend of heavy rain, with little hope for sunny and dry conditions in the coming week.

“What we have seen as spotty, intermittent shower activity across the coast is really going to fill in and become persistent rainfall,” Angus Hines, a senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said.

Showers have spotted the east coast in what was a damp and dreary week for NSW, with some locations seeing 50mm of rain over the past 24 hours.

On Friday, thunderstorms were expected to develop across western parts of NSW, with risk of severe thunderstorms pushing into southern Queensland. That wet weather would drift east to the NSW coast on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday “is looking to be really the very wet day for NSW”, Hines said, with the east coast expecting long spells of rain.

The Illawarra district, Sydney metro area and Hunter coast would see the most rainfall, with a potential for 100mm of rain to fall through the course of the weekend.

“That is certainly enough to cause disruption,” Hines said. “Things like water across roads, major traffic, potentially minor flooding.

“We could certainly see some impact on the ground from the rainfall, especially on Sunday.”

Throughout Monday, skies would begin clearing from south to north. But it was not expected to return to clear, dry and sunny conditions, Hines said, with showers and cloudy skies set to stick around through much of the coming week.

On the other side of the country, a cold front was crossing southern parts of Western Australia, with severe thunderstorms in areas mostly south of Perth. “There wasn’t very heavy rain with them,” Hines said, aside from 100mm of rain falling at Brookdale in Perth.

“By and large, aside from those generally minor flooding issues, that was welcomed rainfall on the back of what has been an incredibly dry start to the year for WA,” Hines said.

“Any rain they get in that part of the country at the moment is generally a good news story.”

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Germany says Russians behind ‘intolerable’ cyber-attack last year

Foreign minister says investigation found Fancy Bear group was behind attack that took down several websites

Germany has said it has evidence that Russian state-sponsored hackers were behind an “intolerable” cyber-attack last year in which several websites were knocked offline in apparent response to Berlin’s decision to send tanks to Ukraine.

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said a federal government investigation into the 2023 cyber-attack on the Social Democrat party (SPD) – part of Germany’s governing coalition and the party of chancellor Olaf Scholz – had just concluded.

“Today we can say unambiguously [that] we can attribute this cyber-attack to a group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia,” she told a news conference during a visit to Australia. “In other words, it was a state-sponsored Russian cyber-attack on Germany, and this is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and will have consequences.”

APT28, also known as Fancy Bear or Pawn Storm, has been accused of dozens of cyber-attacks in countries around the world. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has described the unit as “a highly skilled threat actor” that has “used tools including X-Tunnel, X-Agent and CompuTrace to penetrate target networks”.

Baerbock did not give further details of the cyber-attack against the SPD. The EU’s computer security response unit CERT-EU last year noted a German media report that an SPD executive had been targeted in a cyber-attack in January 2023 “resulting in possible data exposure”. It said there were reportedly “concrete signs” it was of Russian origin.

At the same time, Berlin said Russian activist hackers had knocked several German websites offline in response to its decision to send tanks to Ukraine, although with little tangible effect.

In January 2023, Germany was inching towards a decision to send Leopold 2 battle tanks to the frontline after Ukraine appealed for a fleet of 300 from Europe.

The pro-Russia hacking group Killnet took credit for the attack at the time, with the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov commenting: “We are not aware of what [Killnet] is. We honestly wonder why any group of hackers is associated with Russia and not with some other European country.”

Baerbock’s comments come two months after Russian media published an audio recording of a meeting of senior German military officials, after one participant had dialled in through an “unauthorised connection” leading to the leak.

Cyber-attacks are officially considered by European leaders to be part of Russia’s “hybrid” war against Ukraine and the EU. Disinformation across social media, and doppelganger or fake news websites that look almost exactly like legitimate media, are part of the weaponry deployed by the Kremlin, with more than 17,000 disinformation units identified by the EU since the start of the war.

The pro-Russian doppelganger network of sites was uncovered in 2022 and is still active. In April, a fake Der Spiegel website claimed the German finance minister, Christian Lindner, was “robbing” pensioners.

The EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said earlier this year that the Russians were using disinformation to undermine the credibility of mainstream parties, sow seeds of distrust in democracy and create hate against minorities.

He said this new kind of warfare “does not involve bombs that kill you” but words and ideas that “colonise you”.

The World Economic Forum ranked disinformation and cyber-attacks, so-called foreign information manipulations and interference as “the second biggest risk the world is going to face this year”, while Nato said it was treating it as being as important as physical weaponry.

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Samantha Murphy’s alleged killer charged with drink and drug driving offences

Patrick Stephenson charged over crash that occurred months before Ballarat mother’s alleged murder

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The man accused of Samantha Murphy’s murder has been charged over a crash that occurred months before the Ballarat mother’s alleged killing.

Patrick Orren Stephenson has been charged with careless driving, drink driving and drug driving offences after a crash on 1 October last year, which was the Sunday after the AFL grand final.

Victoria police confirmed on Friday the 22-year-old man had been charged on summons after a single vehicle collision involving a motorcycle in Ballarat.

Stephenson was in March arrested and charged over the disappearance of Murphy, who left home to go for a run on 4 February and has not been seen since.

He is accused of killing the mother-of-three at Mount Clear in Ballarat on the day that she went missing.

No trace of the 51-year-old woman has ever been found, despite weeks of widespread searches from police and members of the public.

Murphy has been described as a physically and mentally strong woman who was devoted to her three children.

Stephenson will face Ballarat magistrates court on August 8 over the fresh charges and the murder charge.

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Three questioned in Mexico as concerns grow for missing Perth brothers

Siblings Callum and Jake Robinson went missing on a surfing trip to the Baja California region

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Three people have been questioned in Mexico in connection to the disappearance of two Perth brothers who went missing during a surfing trip in Mexico along with an American man who was travelling with them.

Authorities said they had found an abandoned camping site that may have been used by the travellers, as well as a mobile phone and a vehicle.

A search continues for siblings Callum and Jake Robinson, both in their 30s, along with their American companion. who are believed to have gone missing on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.

The brothers were reportedly travelling with 30-year-old US citizen Jack Carter Rhoad.

A missing persons poster being circulated by the brothers’ friends and family said the trio were last seen on Sunday near the K-38 surf spot – so-named because the collection of breaks sits at the 38km mark of the Baja Highway south of Rosarito.

“They did not check into the airbnb near K38 and Callum did not return to work in San Diego as scheduled,” the poster said.

“They were driving a white Chevrolet Colorado utility with Californian number plates … around Ensenada region.

“Callum is a type 1 diabetic and the family have not been able to make contact since Saturday. This is out of character behaviour, please help.”

Jorge Argoud, operational deputy director of security in Ensenada, told Reuters: “Since the disappearance was reported, the operation has been ongoing, and so far, a cell phone apparently belonging to one of the missing persons and a vehicle have been recovered.”

Local media reports – as yet unconfirmed – said a burnt-out ute matching the description of the one the group was driving had been found on a ranch in nearby Santo Tomás.

The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) officials had been in contact with the family after the disappearance.

“This is a really concerning situation,” Albanese told Seven’s Sunrise program on Friday.

“Our embassy in Mexico is working with local authorities as well to try to ascertain what has happened here. We certainly hope that these brothers are found safely but there is real concern about the fact that they’ve gone missing. Their mother is obviously very distressed about this and we just hope for a positive outcome.”

Mexican police said they had questioned a woman and two men in relation to the disappearance. The woman was found with a mobile phone that contained a photo that looked like one of the missing brothers.

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María Elena Andrade Ramírez, Baja California’s chief prosecutor, told reporters that abandoned tents had been found, along with evidence that linked the three people to the missing men, but would not elaborate on whether they were suspects or witnesses in the case.

“A working team is at the site where they were last seen, where tents and other evidence was found that could be linked to these three people we have under investigation,” Andrade Ramírez said. “There is a lot of important information that we can’t make public.”

“We do not know what condition they are in,” she added. “All lines of investigation are open at this time. We cannot rule anything out until we find them.”

She said the time that had elapsed since they went missing might make it more difficult to find the missing men.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the last few days that they were reported missing. So, that meant that important hours or time was lost.”

The pair’s mother, Debra Robinson, appealed for help to find her sons on Mexican social media, saying she had not heard from them since Saturday and “this is a very dire situation”.

She also shared an image of a Chevrolet ute the brothers had been travelling in, and mentioned in a comment that the family hoped to travel to Mexico as soon as possible.

Dfat confirmed it was helping the family.

“Owing to our privacy obligations we are unable to provide further comment,” a spokesperson said.

The Western Australian premier, Roger Cook, said the disappearance of the brothers was distressing.

“When we do send out young men and women overseas to enjoy that adventure holiday, they invite an element of risk, and this is really quite distressing,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“I share the concerns of all Western Australians in terms of their welfare.”

In 2015, WA surfers Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas were murdered in western Sinaloa state in Mexico’s north-west, across the Gulf of California — also known as the Sea of Cortez. Authorities said they were victims of highway bandits, who shot them and burned their van and bodies.

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