The Guardian 2024-05-08 16:02:32


Budget sneak-peek predicts higher wages and tax breaks – but no increase for Australians on jobseeker

Government dampens hopes for an increase to jobseeker, despite pressure from economists, social justice groups and equality advocates

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Australians are forecast to have more disposable income next year, according to budget predictions, with higher wages, tax cuts and lowering inflation.

But those on unemployment payments are unlikely to see any major change to their financial situations, with the government dampening expectations the base jobseeker rate will increase, despite growing pressure from economists, social justice groups and equality advocates.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, overnight released an advance look at budget figures, trumpeting a recovery in real household disposable income. His office said the average real disposable income is forecast to grow by 3.5% in 2024-25.

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That comprises a 4.5% growth in labour incomes and 1% from the expanded stage-three tax cuts. The budget analysis says inflation is “expected to be a smaller drag” on incomes than in recent years, with the figures showing inflation slightly below 5% in 2024-25, a touch below the figure in 2023-24.

Chalmers’ office said employment is expected to keep growing, and noted nominal wages were growing at the fastest rate in 15 years. Labor’s revamped version of the Morrison-era stage-three changes will deliver an average tax cut of $1,888.

The budget’s cost of living centrepiece will be the previously announced tax cuts, though Chalmers has hinted at some level of additional assistance. The treasurer hasn’t ruled out changes to rent assistance, but has dampened expectations of any further rise to the jobseeker, with the government saying it has to balance any additional assistance against fears of further stoking inflation.

The Labor caucus has not put the same pressure as last year on the government to raise the base rate of jobseeker, with backbenchers who spoke to Guardian Australia referencing a “more consultative process” with the budget authors, and expecting relief in other areas.

That relief is most likely to be through an increase in commonwealth rent assistance, as well as an extension to the energy relief program. Other MPs say they are hopeful of changes to housing such as an extension of the Help To Buy program, or further changes to Hecs loan repayments. But the priority recommendation of the government’s own advisory committee – a raise in the base rate of the unemployment and associated payments – looks to be ignored.

The Jenny Macklin Economic Inclusion Advisory (EIAC) report recommended a raise in rent assistance and reform in how it was applied alongside an increase in the base rate of jobseeker in order to have any material impact on low-income and welfare households.

Commonwealth rent assistance is only paid once rent reaches a certain threshold and not everyone on welfare is eligible. It has also been linked to an increase in rental prices, which adversely affects those unable to access the payment.

The energy price relief program touted by the government is paid directly to energy suppliers, not households, and although it lowers bills it offers no direct financial assistance.

More than a dozen Labor backbenchers publicly called for a jobseeker rise before the last budget. The rate was increased by $20 a week, but there has not been the same backbench campaign in 2024, despite growing calls from civil society.

More than 300 women and non-binary people from across academia, advocacy community, union and business groups have signed an open letter calling on the prime minister and treasurer to lift the base rate of jobseeker. Leading economists have signed a separate letter urging the government to lift the rate this budget.

Advocates for lifting the base rate above $55 a day argue its impacts on inflation would be negligible.

“From 1 July it seems we can afford to give $4500 extra a year to people on the highest incomes, and tax cuts to middle income earners across the board to help with cost of living … but lifting people out of the most severe and abject poverty on jobseeker at just $20k per year can’t be done?,” Australian Council of Social Service CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

“It’s not true and it’s cruel to keep saying it.”

Caucus members spoken to by Guardian Australia said they felt that already announced measures, such as the tax cuts and Hecs university loan changes, were making a difference, with many pointing to the treasurer’s hints on rental assistance and energy relief as “action”.

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Allowing Australians to access super to pay for first home would blow multibillion-dollar hole in budget, modelling finds

Deloitte modelling for Super Members Council finds move could cost budget up to $2.5bn a year by end of the decade

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Letting Australians access superannuation to buy their first home would blow a hole of up to $2.5bn a year in the budget by the end of the decade, according to Deloitte modelling for the super industry.

The modelling for the Super Members Council, released on Thursday, shows a mounting annual and cumulative cost to the budget primarily from more people relying on the aged pension due to lower super balances at retirement.

Deloitte found a couple comprised of two 30-year-olds who withdrew $35,000 each from their super could retire with about $195,000 less in today’s dollars.

Such a couple could be expected to receive $3,270 more a year from the aged pension, costing $88,400 to the budget over their lifetime.

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In March Guardian Australia revealed the Coalition is proposing to expand its super for housing policy, including to allow first home buyers to withdraw more than the $50,000 proposed before the 2022 election.

This sets up a major policy fight with the Albanese government, which argues the policy will undermine the purpose of super and increase house prices.

Deloitte modelled two scenarios: one in which first home buyers can withdraw the lower of 40% or $50,000 of their superannuation for a house deposit; and a second with no cap on the amount they can withdraw.

It found that, under the capped scenario, access to super would cost the budget $320m a year in 2030, rising to more than $3bn a year in 2060, by which time the cumulative cost of the policy would be $40bn.

In the uncapped scenario, access to super would cost the budget $2.5bn a year by 2030, rising to $15bn a year by the mid-2060s, by which time the cumulative cost of the policy would be $200bn.

The Deloitte model assumed that over the medium to long term 87% of first home buyers would access the scheme, a figure based on access to New Zealand’s KiwiSaver scheme to buy a house.

It assumed a first home buying household (with an average of 1.7 people) would withdraw about $60,000 under the capped scenario and $140,000 under the uncapped scenario.

Earlier Super Members Council modelling has claimed that letting first home buyers access up to $50,000 could cause price rises of between $69,000 to $86,000 in major capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

The Super Members Council chief executive, Misha Schubert, said using super for housing was “economically reckless”.

“It sets a policy trap for young Australians because it hikes house prices and blows a budget blackhole in the decades ahead mostly by pushing up age pension costs – which every taxpayer would pay,” she said.

“Ideas to break the seal on super just leave people with less savings in retirement and a bigger bill for all taxpayers.”

The Coalition’s shadow assistant minister for housing affordability, Andrew Bragg, has argued it is unfair not to allow millennials access to tens of thousands of their super, given the average deposit in Sydney is $150,000.

In April Guardian’s Essential poll found majority support for a range of more radical solutions to housing unaffordability including super for housing, the Greens’ public sector property developer, Labor’s shared equity scheme, and tackling housing tax concessions.

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World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target

Exclusive: Planet is headed for at least 2.5C of heating with disastrous results for humanity, poll of hundreds of scientists finds

  • ‘Hopeless and broken’: why the world’s top climate scientists are in despair

Hundreds of the world’s leading climate scientists expect global temperatures to rise to at least 2.5C (4.5F) above preindustrial levels this century, blasting past internationally agreed targets and causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet, an exclusive Guardian survey has revealed.

Almost 80% of the respondents, all from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), foresee at least 2.5C of global heating, while almost half anticipate at least 3C (5.4F). Only 6% thought the internationally agreed 1.5C (2.7F) limit would be met.

Many of the scientists envisage a “semi-dystopian” future, with famines, conflicts and mass migration, driven by heatwaves, wildfires, floods and storms of an intensity and frequency far beyond those that have already struck.

Numerous experts said they had been left feeling hopeless, infuriated and scared by the failure of governments to act despite the clear scientific evidence provided.

“I think we are headed for major societal disruption within the next five years,” said Gretta Pecl, at the University of Tasmania. “[Authorities] will be overwhelmed by extreme event after extreme event, food production will be disrupted. I could not feel greater despair over the future.”

But many said the climate fight must continue, however high global temperature rose, because every fraction of a degree avoided would reduce human suffering.

Peter Cox, at the University of Exeter, UK, said: “Climate change will not suddenly become dangerous at 1.5C – it already is. And it will not be ‘game over’ if we pass 2C, which we might well do.”

The Guardian approached every contactable lead author or review editor of IPCC reports since 2018. Almost half replied, 380 of 843. The IPCC’s reports are the gold standard assessments of climate change, approved by all governments and produced by experts in physical and social sciences. The results show that many of the most knowledgeable people on the planet expect climate havoc to unfold in the coming decades.

The climate crisis is already causing profound damage to lives and livelihoods across the world, with only 1.2C (2.16F) of global heating on average over the past four years. Jesse Keenan, at Tulane University in the US, said: “This is just the beginning: buckle up.”

Nathalie Hilmi, at the Monaco Scientific Centre, who expects a rise of 3C, agreed: “We cannot stay below 1.5C.”

The experts said massive preparations to protect people from the worst of the coming climate disasters were now critical. Leticia Cotrim da Cunha, at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said: “I am extremely worried about the costs in human lives.”

The 1.5C target was chosen to prevent the worst of the climate crisis and has been seen as an important guiding star for international negotiations. Current climate policies mean the world is on track for about 2.7C, and the Guardian survey shows few IPCC experts expect the world to deliver the huge action required to reduce that.

Younger scientists were more pessimistic, with 52% of respondents under 50 expecting a rise of at least 3C, compared with 38% of those over 50. Female scientists were also more downbeat than male scientists, with 49% thinking global temperature would rise at least 3C, compared with 38%. There was little difference between scientists from different continents.

Dipak Dasgupta, at the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, said: “If the world, unbelievably wealthy as it is, stands by and does little to address the plight of the poor, we will all lose eventually.”

The experts were clear on why the world is failing to tackle the climate crisis. A lack of political will was cited by almost three-quarters of the respondents, while 60% also blamed vested corporate interests, such as the fossil fuel industry.

Many also mentioned inequality and a failure of the rich world to help the poor, who suffer most from climate impacts. “I expect a semi-dystopian future with substantial pain and suffering for the people of the global south,” said a South African scientist, who chose not to be named. “The world’s response to date is reprehensible – we live in an age of fools.”

About a quarter of the IPCC experts who responded thought global temperature rise would be kept to 2C or below but even they tempered their hopes.

“I am convinced that we have all the solutions needed for a 1.5C path and that we will implement them in the coming 20 years,” said Henry Neufeldt, at the UN’s Copenhagen Climate Centre. “But I fear that our actions might come too late and we cross one or several tipping points.”

Lisa Schipper, at University of Bonn in Germany, said: “My only source of hope is the fact that, as an educator, I can see the next generation being so smart and understanding the politics.”

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We asked 380 top climate scientists what they felt about the future…

Hopeless and broken Ruth Cerezo-Mota Mexico
We live in an age of fools Anonymous South Africa
I worry about the future my children are inheriting Lorraine Whitmarsh UK

They are terrified, but determined to keep fighting.
Here’s what they said

‘Hopeless and broken’: why the world’s top climate scientists are in despair

Exclusive: Survey of hundreds of experts reveals harrowing picture of future, but they warn climate fight must not be abandoned

  • World’s top climate scientists expect global heating to blast past 1.5C target

“Sometimes it is almost impossible not to feel hopeless and broken,” says the climate scientist Ruth Cerezo-Mota. “After all the flooding, fires, and droughts of the last three years worldwide, all related to climate change, and after the fury of Hurricane Otis in Mexico, my country, I really thought governments were ready to listen to the science, to act in the people’s best interest.”

Instead, Cerezo-Mota expects the world to heat by a catastrophic 3C this century, soaring past the internationally agreed 1.5C target and delivering enormous suffering to billions of people. This is her optimistic view, she says.

“The breaking point for me was a meeting in Singapore,” says Cerezo-Mota, an expert in climate modelling at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. There, she listened to other experts spell out the connection between rising global temperatures and heatwaves, fires, storms and floods hurting people – not at the end of the century, but today. “That was when everything clicked.

“I got a depression,” she says. “It was a very dark point in my life. I was unable to do anything and was just sort of surviving.”

Cerezo-Mota recovered to continue her work: “We keep doing it because we have to do it, so [the powerful] cannot say that they didn’t know. We know what we’re talking about. They can say they don’t care, but they can’t say they didn’t know.”

In Mérida on the Yucatán peninsula, where Cerezo-Mota lives, the heat is ramping up. “Last summer, we had around 47C maximum. The worst part is that, even at night, it’s 38C, which is higher than your body temperature. It doesn’t give a minute of the day for your body to try to recover.”

She says record-breaking heatwaves led to many deaths in Mexico. “It’s very frustrating because many of these things could have been avoided. And it’s just silly to think: ‘Well, I don’t care if Mexico gets destroyed.’ We have seen these extreme events happening everywhere. There is not a safe place for anyone.

“I think 3C is being hopeful and conservative. 1.5C is already bad, but I don’t think there is any way we are going to stick to that. There is not any clear sign from any government that we are actually going to stay under 1.5C.”

‘Infuriating, distressing, overwhelming’

Cerezo-Mota is far from alone in her fear. An exclusive Guardian survey of hundreds of the world’s leading climate experts has found that:

  • 77% of respondents believe global temperatures will reach at least 2.5C above pre-industrial levels, a devastating degree of heating;

  • almost half – 42% – think it will be more than 3C;

  • only 6% think the 1.5C limit will be achieved.

The task climate researchers have dedicated themselves to is to paint a picture of the possible worlds ahead. From experts in the atmosphere and oceans, energy and agriculture, economics and politics, the mood of almost all those the Guardian heard from was grim. And the future many painted was harrowing: famines, mass migration, conflict. “I find it infuriating, distressing, overwhelming,” said one expert, who chose not to be named. “I’m relieved that I do not have children, knowing what the future holds,” said another.

The scientists’ responses to the survey provide informed opinions on critical questions for the future of humanity. How hot will the world get, and what will that look like? Why is the world failing to act with anything remotely like the urgency needed? Is it, in fact, game over, or must we fight on? They also provide a rare glimpse into what it is like to live with this knowledge every day.

The climate crisis is already causing profound damage as the average global temperature has reached about 1.2C above the pre-industrial average over the last four years. But the scale of future impacts will depend on what happens – or not – in politics, finance, technology and global society, and how the Earth’s climate and ecosystems respond.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has convened thousands of experts in all these fields to produce the most authoritative reports available, which are approved by all governments. It was founded in 1988 by the United Nations, which was concerned even at that time that global heating could “be disastrous for mankind if timely steps are not taken at all levels”.

The IPCC’s task was to produce a comprehensive review and recommendations, which it has now done six times over 35 years. In terms of scale and significance, it may be the most important scientific endeavour in human history.

The IPCC experts are, in short, the most informed people on the planet on climate. What they think matters. So the Guardian contacted every available lead author or review editor of all IPCC reports since 2018. Almost half replied – 380 out of 843, a very high response rate.

Their expectations for global temperature rise were stark. Lisa Schipper, at the University of Bonn, anticipates a 3C rise: “It looks really bleak, but I think it’s realistic. It’s just the fact that we’re not taking the action that we need to.” Technically, a lower temperature peak was possible, the scientists said, but few had any confidence it would be delivered.

Their overwhelming feelings were fear and frustration. “I expect a semi-dystopian future with substantial pain and suffering for the people of the global south,” said a South African scientist who chose not to be named. “The world’s response to date is reprehensible – we live in an age of fools.”

‘Running away from it is impossible’

So how do the scientists cope with their work being ignored for decades, and living in a world their findings indicate is on a “highway to hell”?

Camille Parmesan, at the CNRS ecology centre in France, was on the point of giving up 15 years ago. “I had devoted my research life to [climate science] and it had not made a damn bit of difference,” she said. “I started feeling [like], well, I love singing, maybe I’ll become a nightclub singer.”

She was inspired to continue by the dedication she saw in the young activists at the turbulent UN climate summit in Copenhagen 2009. “All these young people were so charged up, so impassioned. So I said I’ll keep doing this, not for the politicians, but for you.

“The big difference [with the most recent IPCC report] was that all of the scientists I worked with were incredibly frustrated. Everyone was at the end of their rope, asking: what the fuck do we have to do to get through to people how bad this really is?”

“Scientists are human: we are also people living on this Earth, who are also experiencing the impacts of climate change, who also have children, and who also have worries about the future,” said Schipper. “We did our science, we put this really good report together and – wow – it really didn’t make a difference on the policy. It’s very difficult to see that, every time.”

Climate change is our “unescapable reality”, said Joeri Rogelj, at Imperial College London. “Running away from it is impossible and will only increase the challenges of dealing with the consequences and implementing solutions.”

Henri Waisman, at the IDDRI policy research institute in France, said: “I regularly face moments of despair and guilt of not managing to make things change more rapidly, and these feelings have become even stronger since I became a father. But, in these moments, two things help me: remembering how much progress has happened since I started to work on the topic in 2005 and that every tenth of a degree matters a lot – this means it is still useful to continue the fight.”

‘1.5C is a political game’

In the climate crisis, even fractions of a degree do matter: every extra tenth means 140 million more people suffering in dangerous heat. The 1.5C target was forced through international negotiations by an alliance of uniquely vulnerable small island states. They saw the previous 2C target as condemning their nations to obliteration under rising oceans and storms.

The 1.5C goal was adopted as a stretch target at the UN climate summit in Paris in 2015 with the deal seen as a triumph, a statement of true multilateral ambition delivered with beaming smiles and euphoric applause. It quickly became the default target for minimising climate damage, with UN summits being conducted to the repeated refrain of: “Keep 1.5 alive!” For the target to be breached requires global temperatures to be above 1.5C across numerous years, not just for a single year.

It remains a vital political target for many climate diplomats, anchoring international climate efforts and driving ambition. But to almost all the IPCC experts the Guardian heard from, it is dead. A scientist from a Pacific Island nation said: “Humanity is heading towards destruction. We’ve got to appreciate, help and love each other.”

Schipper said: “There is an argument that if we say that it is too late for 1.5C, that we are setting ourselves up for defeat and saying there’s nothing we can do, but I don’t agree.”

Jonathan Cullen, at the University of Cambridge, was particularly blunt: “1.5C is a political game – we were never going to reach this target.”

The climate emergency is already here. Even just 1C of heating has supercharged the planet’s extreme weather, delivering searing heatwaves from the US to Europe to China that would have been otherwise impossible. Millions of people have very likely died early as a result already. At just 2C, the brutal heatwave that struck the Pacific north-west of America in 2021 will be 100-200 times more likely.

But a world that is hotter by 2.5C, 3C, or worse, as most of the experts anticipate, takes us into truly uncharted territory. It is hard to fully map this new world. Our intricately connected global society means the impact of climate shocks in one place can cascade around the world, through food price spikes, broken supply chains, and migration.

One relatively simple study examined the impact of a 2.7C rise, the average of the answers in the Guardian survey. It found 2 billion people pushed outside humanity’s “climate niche”, ie the benign conditions in which the whole of human civilisation arose over the last 10,000 years.

The latest IPCC assessment devotes hundreds of pages to climate impacts, with irreversible losses to the Amazon rainforest, quadrupled flood damages and billions more people exposed to dengue fever. With 3C of global heating, cities including Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Miami and The Hague end up below sea level.

“It is the biggest threat humanity has faced, with the potential to wreck our social fabric and way of life. It has the potential to kill millions, if not billions, through starvation, war over resources, displacement,” said James Renwick, at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. “None of us will be unaffected by the devastation.”

“I am scared mightily – I don’t see how we are able to get out of this mess,” said Tim Benton, an expert on food security and food systems at the Chatham House thinktank. He said the cost of protecting people and recovering from climate disasters will be huge, with yet more discord and delay over who pays the bills. Numerous experts were worried over food production: “We’ve barely started to see the impacts,” said one.

Another grave concern was climate tipping points, where a tiny temperature increase tips crucial parts of the climate system into collapse, such as the Greenland ice sheet, the Amazon rainforest and key Atlantic currents. “Most people do not realise how big these risks are,” said Wolfgang Cramer, at the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Ecology.

‘All of humanity needs to come together and cooperate’

In the face of such colossal danger, why is the world’s response so slow and inadequate? The IPCC experts overwhelmingly pointed to one barrier: lack of political will. Almost three-quarters of the respondents cited this factor, with 60% also blaming vested corporate interests.

“[Climate change] is an existential threat to humanity and [lack of] political will and vested corporate interests are preventing us addressing it. I do worry about the future my children are inheriting,” said Lorraine Whitmarsh, at the University of Bath in the UK.

Lack of money was only a concern for 27% of the scientists, suggesting most believe the finance exists to fund the green transition. Few respondents thought that a lack of green technology or scientific understanding of the issue were a problem – 6% and 4% respectively.

“All of humanity needs to come together and cooperate – this is a monumental opportunity to put differences aside and work together,” said Louis Verchot, at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. “Unfortunately climate change has become a political wedge issue … I wonder how deep the crisis needs to become before we all start rowing in the same direction.”

Dipak Dasgupta, an economist and former government adviser in India, said short-term thinking by governments and businesses was a major barrier. Climate action needed decade-long planning, in contrast to election cycles of only a few years, said others.

A world of climate chaos would require a much greater focus on protecting people from inevitable impacts, said many scientists, but again politics stands in the way. “Multiple trillions of dollars were liquidated for use during the pandemic, yet it seems there is not enough political will to commit several billion dollars to adaptation funding,” said Shobha Maharaj, from Trinidad and Tobago.

The capture of politicians and the media by vastly wealthy fossil fuel companies and petrostates, whose oil, gas and coal are the root cause of the climate crisis, was frequently cited. “The economic interests of nations often take precedence,” said Lincoln Alves at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

Stephen Humphreys at the London School of Economics said: “The tacit calculus of decision-makers, particularly in the Anglosphere – US, Canada, UK, Australia – but also Russia and the major fossil fuel producers in the Middle East, is driving us into a world in which the vulnerable will suffer, while the well-heeled will hope to stay safe above the waterline” – even with the cataclysmic 3.5C rise he expects. Asked what individual action would be effective, he said: “Civil disobedience.”

Disinformation was a major concern for scientists from Brazil to Ukraine. This was polarising society, compounding a poor public understanding of climate risk and blinding people to the fact almost all the climate solutions needed were at hand, they said.

“The enormity of the problem is not well understood,” said Ralph Sims, at Massey University in New Zealand. “So there will be environmental refugees by the millions, extreme weather events escalating, food and water shortages, before the majority accept the urgency in reducing emissions – by which time it will be too late.”

‘Capitalism has trained us well’

“Fight for a fairer world.” That simple message from one French scientist reflected the thoughts of many, who said the huge gap between the world’s rich and poor was a giant barrier to climate action, echoing the chasm between those responsible for the most emissions and those suffering most from the impacts.

Global solidarity could overcome any environmental crisis, according to Esteban Jobbágy, at the University of San Luis in Argentina. “But current growing inequalities are the number one barrier to that.”

Aditi Mukherji, at the CGIAR research group, said: “The rich countries have hogged all the carbon budget, leaving very little for the rest of the world.” The global north has a huge obligation to fix a problem of its own making by slashing its emissions and providing climate funding to the rest of the world, she said. The Indian government recently put a price tag on that: at least $1tn a year.

Overconsumption in rich nations was also cited as a barrier. “I feel resigned to disaster as we cannot separate our love of bigger, better, faster, more, from what will help the greatest number of people survive and thrive,” said one US scientist. “Capitalism has trained us well.”

However, Maisa Rojas, an IPCC scientist and Chile’s environment minister, said: “We need to communicate that acting on climate change can be a benefit, with proper support from the state, instead of a personal burden.”

She is one of a minority of the experts surveyed – less than 25% – who still think global temperature rise will be restricted to 2C or less. The IPCC vice-chair Aïda Diongue-Niang, a Senegalese meteorologist, is another, saying: “I believe there will be more ambitious action to avoid 2.5C to 3C.”

So why are these scientists optimistic? One reason is the rapid rollout of green technologies from renewable energy to electric cars, driven by fast-falling prices and the multiple associated benefits they bring, such as cleaner air. “It is getting cheaper and cheaper to save the climate,” said Lars Nilsson, at Lund University in Sweden.

Even the rapidly growing need to protect communities against inevitable heatwaves, floods and droughts could have an upside, said Mark Pelling, at University College London. “It opens exciting possibilities: by having to live with climate change, we can adapt in ways that bring us to a more inclusive and equitable way of living.”

Such a world would see adaptation go hand-in-hand with cutting poverty and vulnerability, providing better housing, clean and reliable water and electricity, better diets, more sustainable farming, and less air pollution.

However, most hope was heavily guarded. “The good news is the worst-case scenario is avoidable,” said Michael Meredith, at the British Antarctic Survey. “We still have it in our hands to build a future that is much more benign climatically than the one we are currently on track for.” But he also expects “our societies will be forced to change and the suffering and damage to lives and livelihoods will be severe”.

“I believe in social tipping points,” where small changes in society trigger large-scale climate action, said Elena López-Gunn, at the research company Icatalist in Spain. “Unfortunately, I also believe in physical climate tipping points.”

Back in Mexico, Cerezo-Mota remains at a loss: “I really don’t know what needs to happen for the people that have all the power and all the money to make the change. But then I see the younger generations fighting and I get a bit of hope again.”

Note: Julian Ganz provided the technical support to conduct the survey, which was sent on 31 January 2024. Men made up 68% of the respondents, women 28% and 4% preferred not to state their gender. This mirrors the gender split of the IPCC authors overall. A large majority of the scientists – 89% – were aged between 40 and 69 and they were from 35 different countries across the world, with every continent represented by dozens of experts. The age and gender questions were not mandatory but were answered by 344 and 346 respondents respectively.

Excerpts of footage and images taken from the Guardian’s climate coverage

US paused weapons shipment to Israel amid concern over Rafah, senior US official says

Rafah’s mayor says city ‘stands on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe’ as pressure builds on Israel to pull back from attack

The Biden administration paused the supply of thousands of large bombs to Israel last week in opposition to apparent moves by the Israelis to invade the Gaza city of Rafah.

Confirming the move on Wednesday, Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said: “We’ve been very clear … from the very beginning that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space.

“And again, as we have assessed the situation, we have paused one shipment of high payload munitions,” he told a Senate hearing, adding: “We’ve not made a final determination on how to proceed with with that shipment.”

The US president, Joe Biden, has been trying to head off a full-scale assault by Israel against the southern city, where battles raged on the outskirts on Wednesday, once again displacing Palestinians. Rafah’s mayor, Ahmed al-Sofi, warned it is “on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions” in an appeal to the international community on Wednesday. “The streets of the city echo with the cries of innocent lives lost, families torn apart, and homes reduced to rubble,” he said

The highly significant US move on arms supplies comes amid mounting international pressure on Israel to pull back from a full-scale attack after its seizure on Tuesday of the city’s border crossing with Egypt, and criticism of Israel’s use of large aerial munitions in areas packed with civilians.

The weapons – 1,800 2,000lb bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs – had long been seen by experts as the most likely to be targeted for any potential restrictions on arms supplies to Israel given how destructive they are in urban settings.

The Guardian understands that conversations in recent months had focused on how the Israeli military’s use of certain munitions diverged from the Pentagon’s rules on the use of such weapons in heavily populated urban settings. The Biden administration is also reviewing other planned shipments to Israel, including 6,500 joint direct attack munitions (JDAM), which convert freefall “dumb bombs” into precision-guided weapons, people familiar with the matter said.

Austin’s comments confirmed earlier briefings by unnamed officials that the weapons shipment had been held up due to Israel’s threat for a full-scale offensive in Rafah.

”We are especially focused on the end-use of the 2,000lb bombs and the impact they could have in dense urban settings as we have seen in other parts of Gaza. We have not made a final determination on how to proceed with this shipment,” one US official said.

A second US official, also speaking anonymously and quoted by the Washington Post, said the move was a “shot across the bow” intended to convey to Israel the seriousness of US concerns about its offensive in Rafah.

While an Israeli military spokesperson attempted to downplay the shipment delay – saying that allies resolve any disagreements “behind closed doors” – the move appeared to mark a significant moment in US policy.

While the US, EU, UK and other countries have pursued an escalating sanctions campaign against extremist Israeli settlers and far-right organisations, against the background of the Gaza war and settler violence on the West Bank, US attention has moved recently to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

The weapons holdup comes against the background of the expected delivery of a state department report that examines whether Israel’s war conduct is credibly in compliance with assurances that US-supplied weapons are not being used in contravention of US and international humanitarian law.

The White House and Pentagon declined to comment.

Israeli forces on Tuesday seized the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in Rafah, cutting off a vital route for aid into the tiny territory. On Monday, the Israeli army had called on 100,000 people in eastern Rafah to evacuate.

Despite the assault in Rafah, the US has said it believes a revised Hamas ceasefire proposal may lead to a breakthrough as talks resume in Cairo. Israel had previously said the terms in the proposal had been softened, but the White House spokesperson John Kirby said the new text suggests the remaining gaps could “absolutely be closed”.

The CIA director, William Burns, is to travel to Israel on Wednesday to meet the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a source said.

The delays to US arms shipments appeared to be the first since the Biden administration offered its full support to Israel after Hamas launched its 7 October attack last year, in which about 1,200 people were killed and about 250 others were abducted, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

The latest Israel military actions have seen aid crossings closed to traffic, raising global alarm about the delivery of key supplies to the coastal strip.

While the Rafah border crossing to Egypt remained closed, the Israeli military said it was reopening another major aid crossing into Gaza, Kerem Shalom, as well as the Erez crossing in the north.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, however said the Kerem Shalom crossing – which Israel shut after a rocket attack killed four soldiers on Sunday – remained closed on Wednesday.

Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas has led to a seven-month military campaign that has killed 34,789 Palestinians, most of them civilians, the Gaza health ministry has said.

Without addressing whether there had been a holdup in arms shipments, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, reaffirmed that Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security was “ironclad”.

When asked about the reports on the arms holdups, she added: “Two things could be true, in the sense of having those conversations … tough, direct conversations with our counterparts in Israel … in making sure citizens’ lives are protected … and getting that commitment.”

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Dozens reportedly arrested as police clear George Washington University encampment

The school’s student paper reported arrests as hundreds of Washington DC police dismantled the impromptu tent village

Hundreds of Washington DC police, some deploying pepper spray, cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University early on Wednesday, in the latest clash between law enforcement and protesting students to sweep the US.

The GW Hatchet student paper reported that at least a dozen people had been arrested as the impromptu tent village was dismantled in University Yard. The Metropolitan police department said the arrests had been made for “assault of a police officer” and “unlawful entry”.

The George Washington confrontation follows the clearing of the protest encampment at the University of Chicago on Tuesday. A large police contingent was sent in to remove tents in the university’s Quad, after the school authorities said that negotiations with students had broken down.

Since campus protests first erupted three weeks ago at Columbia University in New York City and spread rapidly across the country, there have been at least 2,600 arrests on 50 campuses, according to the Associated Press.

At George Washington, tension rose on Tuesday night after protesters left the university encampment and marched to the home of the institution’s president, Ellen Granberg. The local TV station Fox 5 reported that they were chanting, “Granberg, Granberg, you can’t hide, you’re complicit in genocide.”

University authorities said in a statement following the removal of the encampment that the protest had “evolved into an unlawful activity, with participants in direct violation of multiple university policies and city regulations”. On Sunday, Granberg went further, claiming the protest had been taken over by outsiders and accusing the demonstrators of a raft of illegal and provocative acts.

“When protesters overrun barriers established to protect the community, vandalize a university statue and flag, surround and intimidate GW students with antisemitic images and hateful rhetoric, chase people out of a public yard based on their perceived beliefs, and ignore, degrade, and push GW police officers and university maintenance staff, the protest ceases to be peaceful or productive,” Granberg said.

Student protesters have called her account of events “deeply misleading” and countered that Granberg had repeatedly refused to meet with them and discuss their demands. They include disclosure by the university of all its investments and endowments, and divestment from academic partnerships in Israel.

One question looming over the volatile events at George Washington was why the DC police took so long to remove the encampment following days of requests by the university authorities to do so. On Friday the police chief and mayor of DC ordered police officers who had been assembling to dismantle the tents to stand down, saying they were worried about being seen to act against peaceful protesters, the Washington Post reported.

The mayor, Muriel Bowser, and the police chief, Pamela Smith, were set to answer questions from US Congress members on Wednesday about why they failed to respond to the university’s request to clear the campus until now.

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Why have student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza gone global?

Ceasefire and divestment calls have spread beyond US campuses, with more expected as Rafah offensive begins

University campuses around the world have been the stage of a growing number of protests by students demanding academic institutions divest from companies supplying arms to Israel.

The protests, which first spread across college campuses in the US, have reached universities in the UK, the rest of Europe, as well as Lebanon and India.

The students say they are voicing their opposition to, what they describe as, their university’s “complicity” in Israel’s assault on Gaza that has killed more than 34,700 people. Israel said its military offensive was a response to the attack by Hamas militants on 7 October, when about 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage.

More than 2,500 demonstrators have been arrested in the US so far, with protests on college campuses attracting global media attention and reaction from Palestinians trapped in the besieged Gaza.

More protests are expected, with the Israeli assault on Rafah drawing international condemnation. Some students have begun hunger strikes in protest against their university’s “silence and inaction”.

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UK armed forces chief urges US to ‘stay strong’ and resist isolationism

‘Sticking together’ is vital as world becomes more dangerous, says Adm Sir Tony Radakin on Washington visit

Britain’s most senior military commander has called on the US to “stay strong, stick together, and see through” conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East as he appealed against future American isolationism on a trip to Washington DC.

Adm Sir Tony Radakin said at a conference he believed “the world is undeniably becoming more dangerous” and invoked memories of D-day to justify potential future US engagement in struggles against authoritarian regimes.

Citing next month’s 80th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, Radakin said the battle had involved “young men” from the US, UK and other allied countries, fighting on the beaches with a sense of purpose to defeat Adolf Hitler.

“They were to see through what Gen Eisenhower termed ‘the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world’,” Radakin said. “In all the great conflicts of the 20th century, the west prevailed because we understood what was at stake.”

The speech at the Ash Carter Exchange came a few weeks after the US Congress voted through fresh military aid worth $61bn to Ukraine and $14bn to Israel after a hiatus of several months, though he did not refer to it directly.

Radakin acknowledged the battlefield situation in Ukraine had deteriorated for the defenders, though he did not directly link it to the protracted hold-up in funding caused by Donald Trump-aligned Republicans in the House who were sceptical about the value of further military aid to Kyiv.

This year, having rebuffed Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive, the Russian army “has been able to make modest tactical gains”, Radakin said. Territory in the east had been captured slowly, he said, and “at even higher cost in men and material and to the national economy of Russia”.

The west, if it acted, had the capacity to support Ukraine with “millions of rounds of ammunition, thousands of drones, hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles”, he said, while Russia would have to “twist its economy out of shape to sustain the war”, widely expected to last into 2025.

Ukraine, the Middle East and China were interlinked by “a battle of ideas”, Radakin said, between “an authoritarian and belligerent Russia and a dynamic, democratic Ukraine” and “between a reckless Iran and its terrorist network on one side, and the responsible nations of the Middle East on the other”.

He warned of a split “between a China that believes it can dominate and coerce, and those nations that share a commitment to an international system that is open and free” – an effort to link future funding of Ukraine with more established US concerns about the security of Israel and the rising power of Beijing.

The UK, he said, had joined with the US, France and others last month in helping Israel repel a major missile and drone attack from Iran “to prevent the conflict with Hamas escalating into all-out war” – though his only explicit reference to the crisis in Gaza as Israel stepped up its attacks on Rafah was to say “international aid is coming”.

Responding to “a more combative world” required statecraft, Radakin told his audience in the US capital, forming closer partnerships with allied countries and being willing to take military action if needed to uphold “the rules and values” shared by the west. “The task now is to stay strong, stick together, and see it through,” he said.

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A $400 room the size of a walk-in closet: short-term renters left vulnerable as NSW housing crisis bites

Temporary visitors – among an increasing number of short-term tenants – felt unable to raise conditions in Sydney flat without the protection of a contract

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For American visitors Olivia and Molly, a cosy Randwick apartment seemed the perfect place to experience Australia.

But the college friends – who asked not to use their full names – say they found themselves paying $400 a week each for cramped rooms with few amenities, thanks to a lack of affordable short-term accommodation in Sydney.

“We really were restricted to this three months or so period here, putting us in a super awkward position, desperate for housing,” Molly said.

With rental contracts rarely available for less than six months, and hostels, Airbnbs and hotels out of their budget, the pair turned to informal arrangements on Flatmates.com.au.

After weeks of searching, they took the first place to offer them a spot – even though a lack of bedrooms meant Molly would have to squeeze into a sunroom attached to Olivia’s room.

But worse was to come, they said.

“We thought we were going into a living space just with women – we thought there were two female tenants in the space, and then we were taking the last room,” Olivia said.

But the living room had been turned into a bedroom, she said, “and then we showed up and there was a man living there”.

The wifi didn’t work unless they stood in the stairwell, the shower had to be fixed after it flooded and the hallway smelled like cat urine, the pair said. But without any contract or written agreement, they saw no option but to stay quiet.

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The pair came forward only after they and their flatmate Tara had left the property. They asked for their surnames to be withheld.

In response to questions from Guardian Australia, the landlord said they had hosted many tenants who were happy with the property, but declined to comment further.

Short-term rentals have become increasingly common as low-earning workers, new migrants and people without rental history struggle to secure long-term accommodation, according to the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales.

But renters in NSW who don’t sign residential tenancy agreements are subject to the state’s code of conduct, which was drawn up in response to the proliferation of properties offered on Airbnb and other platforms. The code leaves hosts and platforms to negotiate agreements with tenants, who face much weaker legal protections than they would under a residential tenancy.

The policy and advocacy manager at the Tenants’ Union, Jemima Mowbray, said: “The pressure in the last two years has increased and we’re seeing more and more people forced into this really vulnerable arrangement.”

Living in fear of eviction

Olivia and Molly said they had no way to restrict their landlord’s access to the property, and they came in without giving them advance notice.

The flatmates had a virtual inspection of the property with the landlord before moving in, but said they did not get amenities they were told were included, such as a clothes dryer, working wifi and sufficient kitchen items.

But Olivia said they kept their heads down out of concern they might lose their bond or be evicted.

“I didn’t want to cause any problems with [the landlord], because I was so concerned that we would come home with our suitcases outside and [they] would just be like, ‘You’re out’,” she said.

While residential tenants can turn to a tribunal to appeal if they are evicted, landlords can evict short-term renters at short notice with little difficulty.

“[Tenants] know if they assert a right, if they raise repairs or anything like that, they will be put on the landlord’s radar and may be evicted,” Mowbray said.

“You’ll find somebody potentially losing their housing very, very quickly, without any recourse to a tribunal or external decision-maker.”

Short-term rentals have boomed as platforms such as Airbnb and Flatmates make it easy for proprietors to chase higher returns from tourist tenants.

NSW was home to 52,300 short-term rental dwellings in January, two-thirds of which were registered as non-hosted. State government data shows the figure has risen by 7,000 since May 2023 and 20,000 since December 2021.

The rising profitability of short-term rentals has invited landlords to shift their properties out of the already tight long-term accommodation market, making it even harder for renters.

In some cases, the short supply of housing has forced renters seeking year-long tenancies to settle for short-term setups like Olivia and Molly’s.

“So many of the people in that kind of informal arrangement are … forced into that situation because they couldn’t find something elsewhere,” Mowbray said.

And while short-term tenants have fewer legal protections than their long-term counterparts, housing shortages have ensured they pay just as much or more in rent.

“I’m renting a room that’s meant to be like a sunroom … about the size of a decent walk-in closet, and I am paying $400 a week,” Molly said.

“We don’t have this kind of money to be sparing, it’s just out of a desperate need.”

What can be done

The Victorian government last year announced it would impose a 7.5% levy on short-term rentals from 2025, hoping to stem the flow of long-term accommodation into the temporary market.

The NSW government has considered following suit, and in February began reviewing the regulation of short-term rental accommodation with an eye to pushing existing housing stock from short-term to long-term residency.

The NSW housing minister, Rose Jackson, said the government would look at potential reforms after reviewing thousands of survey responses and submissions in response to its discussion paper.

“Every part of the housing market is under the microscope for options to encourage a greater supply of long-term rental accommodation,” she said.

But short-term rentals make up only about 1.5% of the state’s private housing stock, so cutting back might see small benefits to supply while making life harder for the temporary migrants who need the freedom of shorter leases.

“A lot of places for lease were minimum six months,” Molly said. “It probably would have been the preferred living situation to have the legal aspect of a lease, but that just wasn’t an option for us.”

The Tenants’ Union says the state government should strengthen the rights of short-term renters, to protect those who need the flexibility of temporary living.

“Just because you are only going to be in that home for a short time doesn’t mean you should be stripped … of some of those basic rights,” Mowbray said.

Without action, she said, workers, students and international visitors might avoid coming to NSW or even start leaving the state to escape the housing crisis.

“Sydney itself is worth it, it’s amazing, but … the wear and tear has made me want to leave,” Olivia said.

“On a couch, that’s not right, sleeping in a closet, that’s not right. This is not the standard, this should not be the living standard.”

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A $400 room the size of a walk-in closet: short-term renters left vulnerable as NSW housing crisis bites

Temporary visitors – among an increasing number of short-term tenants – felt unable to raise conditions in Sydney flat without the protection of a contract

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

For American visitors Olivia and Molly, a cosy Randwick apartment seemed the perfect place to experience Australia.

But the college friends – who asked not to use their full names – say they found themselves paying $400 a week each for cramped rooms with few amenities, thanks to a lack of affordable short-term accommodation in Sydney.

“We really were restricted to this three months or so period here, putting us in a super awkward position, desperate for housing,” Molly said.

With rental contracts rarely available for less than six months, and hostels, Airbnbs and hotels out of their budget, the pair turned to informal arrangements on Flatmates.com.au.

After weeks of searching, they took the first place to offer them a spot – even though a lack of bedrooms meant Molly would have to squeeze into a sunroom attached to Olivia’s room.

But worse was to come, they said.

“We thought we were going into a living space just with women – we thought there were two female tenants in the space, and then we were taking the last room,” Olivia said.

But the living room had been turned into a bedroom, she said, “and then we showed up and there was a man living there”.

The wifi didn’t work unless they stood in the stairwell, the shower had to be fixed after it flooded and the hallway smelled like cat urine, the pair said. But without any contract or written agreement, they saw no option but to stay quiet.

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

The pair came forward only after they and their flatmate Tara had left the property. They asked for their surnames to be withheld.

In response to questions from Guardian Australia, the landlord said they had hosted many tenants who were happy with the property, but declined to comment further.

Short-term rentals have become increasingly common as low-earning workers, new migrants and people without rental history struggle to secure long-term accommodation, according to the Tenants’ Union of New South Wales.

But renters in NSW who don’t sign residential tenancy agreements are subject to the state’s code of conduct, which was drawn up in response to the proliferation of properties offered on Airbnb and other platforms. The code leaves hosts and platforms to negotiate agreements with tenants, who face much weaker legal protections than they would under a residential tenancy.

The policy and advocacy manager at the Tenants’ Union, Jemima Mowbray, said: “The pressure in the last two years has increased and we’re seeing more and more people forced into this really vulnerable arrangement.”

Living in fear of eviction

Olivia and Molly said they had no way to restrict their landlord’s access to the property, and they came in without giving them advance notice.

The flatmates had a virtual inspection of the property with the landlord before moving in, but said they did not get amenities they were told were included, such as a clothes dryer, working wifi and sufficient kitchen items.

But Olivia said they kept their heads down out of concern they might lose their bond or be evicted.

“I didn’t want to cause any problems with [the landlord], because I was so concerned that we would come home with our suitcases outside and [they] would just be like, ‘You’re out’,” she said.

While residential tenants can turn to a tribunal to appeal if they are evicted, landlords can evict short-term renters at short notice with little difficulty.

“[Tenants] know if they assert a right, if they raise repairs or anything like that, they will be put on the landlord’s radar and may be evicted,” Mowbray said.

“You’ll find somebody potentially losing their housing very, very quickly, without any recourse to a tribunal or external decision-maker.”

Short-term rentals have boomed as platforms such as Airbnb and Flatmates make it easy for proprietors to chase higher returns from tourist tenants.

NSW was home to 52,300 short-term rental dwellings in January, two-thirds of which were registered as non-hosted. State government data shows the figure has risen by 7,000 since May 2023 and 20,000 since December 2021.

The rising profitability of short-term rentals has invited landlords to shift their properties out of the already tight long-term accommodation market, making it even harder for renters.

In some cases, the short supply of housing has forced renters seeking year-long tenancies to settle for short-term setups like Olivia and Molly’s.

“So many of the people in that kind of informal arrangement are … forced into that situation because they couldn’t find something elsewhere,” Mowbray said.

And while short-term tenants have fewer legal protections than their long-term counterparts, housing shortages have ensured they pay just as much or more in rent.

“I’m renting a room that’s meant to be like a sunroom … about the size of a decent walk-in closet, and I am paying $400 a week,” Molly said.

“We don’t have this kind of money to be sparing, it’s just out of a desperate need.”

What can be done

The Victorian government last year announced it would impose a 7.5% levy on short-term rentals from 2025, hoping to stem the flow of long-term accommodation into the temporary market.

The NSW government has considered following suit, and in February began reviewing the regulation of short-term rental accommodation with an eye to pushing existing housing stock from short-term to long-term residency.

The NSW housing minister, Rose Jackson, said the government would look at potential reforms after reviewing thousands of survey responses and submissions in response to its discussion paper.

“Every part of the housing market is under the microscope for options to encourage a greater supply of long-term rental accommodation,” she said.

But short-term rentals make up only about 1.5% of the state’s private housing stock, so cutting back might see small benefits to supply while making life harder for the temporary migrants who need the freedom of shorter leases.

“A lot of places for lease were minimum six months,” Molly said. “It probably would have been the preferred living situation to have the legal aspect of a lease, but that just wasn’t an option for us.”

The Tenants’ Union says the state government should strengthen the rights of short-term renters, to protect those who need the flexibility of temporary living.

“Just because you are only going to be in that home for a short time doesn’t mean you should be stripped … of some of those basic rights,” Mowbray said.

Without action, she said, workers, students and international visitors might avoid coming to NSW or even start leaving the state to escape the housing crisis.

“Sydney itself is worth it, it’s amazing, but … the wear and tear has made me want to leave,” Olivia said.

“On a couch, that’s not right, sleeping in a closet, that’s not right. This is not the standard, this should not be the living standard.”

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Western Sydney councillor doubles down on same-sex parent book ban as residents express outrage over move

Steve Christou claims ban has ‘overwhelming’ community support despite petition opposing the ban gaining almost 10,000 signatures in less than 24 hours

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A Western Sydney councillor has doubled down on Cumberland’s blanket ban on same-sex parenting books from local libraries despite the policy breaching the state’s library act and possibly contravening anti-discrimination laws.

At a meeting last week, former mayor and current councillor Steve Christou successfully passed the amendment that the council take “immediate action” to “rid” same-sex parent books and materials from its eight council-run libraries.

During the meeting, Christou brandished a book he alleged had received “really disturbing” constituent complaints, saying parents were “distraught” to see the book, Same-Sex Parents by Holly Duhig, displayed on a shelf in the children’s section of the library.

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He has since confirmed publicly he has not read the book which explores the experience of having two mums or two dads and features two men and a young child on the front cover.

Christou told Guardian Australia it was “very disgraceful” the state government was threatening to pull funding from the shire, adding Cumberland was one of the most “socially disadvantaged communities in New South Wales”.

“They paid to paint buses for Mardi Gras but because a democratically elected council makes a decision in the interest they feel is representing the views of their community we’re now being threatened,” he said.

“I’m urging all residents to contact their four Labor state MPs saying ‘we expect you to fight for us and defend us’.”

Christou claimed the feedback he had received from his community was “overwhelmingly in support” of the ban.

A petition to rescind the ban, started by local resident Caroline Staples, has received almost 10,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. The petition, hosted by Equality Australia, will be presented to council next week.

In February, Cumberland council passed a motion in front of a 300-strong crowd banning drag queen storytime events, in a move seconded by Christou and critiqued by the current mayor.

“I’m committed to upholding the view of residents … this isn’t the end of the matter. We’ll see where it lands,” Christou said.

New South Wales arts minister John Graham on Wednesday wrote to the council advising it the ban contravened the state’s laws that set out guidelines for freedom of access to information from libraries.

In the letter, seen by Guardian Australia, Graham noted libraries in Cumberland received $743,130 in government funding last year and asked that the council reconsider the ban “with haste”.

After sending the letter, Graham said the government was “examining the consequences” the decision may have for the council continuing to receive library funding from the state government.

“The more time local councillors spend acting as self-appointed censors, the less time they have to focus on services people really need, like their bins being picked up and potholes filled,” he said.

The motion passed 6-5 with the backing of Labor councillor Mohamad Hussein, who broke ranks with his party to vote in favour of the ban in a move condemned by NSW Labor minister Rose Jackson.

Hussein said he stood by his decision which was made in line with his religious beliefs and “not targeted at anyone or groups”.

“I will not be comprising those beliefs,” he said.

Other local residents have come out in swinging opposition, including award-winning poet Omar Sakr.

“I cannot wait to vote them [the supporting councillors] out,” he posted on X.

Staples, who moved to Lidcombe with her husband in 1985 and has raised a “rainbow family” in the area, said the ban made her “terrified” for the safety of LGBTQ+ community members.

“I’ve cried a few times because I don’t know if I can bring my grandchildren to this library when it says they don’t exist,” she said. “I fear for families living here.”

Staples said she backed threats from NSW Labor for council funding to be cut – adding “public money has to be accountable”.

She said Christou’s comments that the area had conservative beliefs and “wasn’t Marrickville or Newtown” didn’t represent her community but represented “some people and their fears”.

“Councillors have characterised my community in a way I haven’t experienced – a stereotype of western Sydney.

“I’ve walked these streets, been on the sidelines of football matches, had children educated here.”

Greystanes resident Tori-Alice Girdhage said she and her wife and other LGBTQ+ parents in the area were “outraged” by the council’s decision.

“I’d spent the morning with my six-month-old and my three-year-old daughter at Wentworthville Library, so I was utterly devastated, to be honest,” she said.

“I can’t fathom how this has happened because it’s just going like 200 steps backwards … [Christou’s] religious and personal beliefs don’t belong in government funded public libraries.”

Darcy Byrne, the mayor of the Inner West, which encompasses Marrickville and Newtown, said accusations from Christou were “pathetic”.

“Banning books is something we would expect to see in Putin’s Russia, not modern, inclusive Sydney,” he said.

Bryne said the Inner West council had been targeted in recent months by people “seeking to disrupt and cancel a range of our LGBTIQIA+ events including drag story times events”.

“We will not back down in the face of intimidation from such a small minority or bigoted reactionaries.”

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Victorian woman felt her voice was taken away before mother allegedly forced her to marry older man, court told

Sakina Muhammad Jan accused of forcing daughter Ruqia Haidari to marry ‘someone she did not know’

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A young woman felt like her voice and future were being taken away when her mother allegedly coerced her into marrying an older man from another state, a jury has been told.

Prosecutors have accused Sakina Muhammad Jan, from Victoria’s north, of forcing her 20-year-old daughter into marrying a man from Western Australia in 2019.

Jan has pleaded not guilty and denies her daughter Ruqia Haidari, who has since died, told her that she did not want to marry Mohammad Ali Halimi.

Sitting in the court dock supported by a translator, Jan faced the first day of a trial at the county court in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Haidari was the youngest of five children, all of whom were born in Afghanistan and migrated to Australia with their mother as refugees in 2013, after their father was murdered by the Taliban.

The family settled in Shepparton and became part of the town’s Hazara community.

Prosecutor Darren Renton said Haidari had married a man in an Islamic religious ceremony called nikah, but it had ended in divorce before the alleged forced marriage.

Haidari was seen to have “lost her value and does not have good prospects for remarriage” due to the divorce.

“This is a relevant circumstance in the Crown’s case, because it goes to the motive to the accused’s desire to push her daughter into the marriage,” Renton told a jury of 13.

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In 2019, a matchmaker spoke to Haidari about her marriage prospects, but she said she wasn’t ready and wanted to wait until she was aged 27 or 28, he said.

The matchmaker, Shukria Muqadas, was then told about a man from Perth who was looking for a wife and agreed to assist.

A meeting was arranged with the man, Halimi, who flew from Perth to Shepparton on 1 June, where he met Haidari for the first time.

He offered to marry Haidari, but Jan said the family needed time to think about the proposal and he flew back to WA.

Less than two weeks after meeting Halimi, Haidari was married to him on a temporary basis, which allowed her to remain in Shepparton with her family.

However, Haidari told multiple people she did not want to be married, including two of her driving instructors, a teacher, counsellor and police, Renton told the jury.

“She felt like she was having her voice and future taken away,” he said.

“It all happened in a very rushed way … she did not know her fiance, he wasn’t even from Victoria, she was worried about living her life with someone she did not know.”

Haidari allegedly told police she was going to be permanently married to Halimi on 20 August but she did not want to go ahead, Renton said.

She also said Jan had been paid a $10,000 dowry from Halimi.

Renton alleged Haidari told her mother, on 19 August, that she did not want to marry Halimi and Jan told her it was not up to her.

“Are you my mother or I’m your mother? I can make decisions for you,” he claimed Jan told Haidari.

Two days later, Haidari’s brother arranged an officiant and she was permanently married to Halimi.

While she gave verbal consent at the ceremony, Renton said it was coerced.

Jan denies all allegations of coercion and denies her daughter told her she did not want to be married to Halimi.

“She denies her daughter did not fully and freely consent to the permanent nikah, she denies her daughter entered into the nikah because of coercion, threat or deception,” defence barrister Andrew Buckland said.

He asked the jury to dismiss any feelings of sympathy or prejudice and to put any preconceived ideas about arranged marriage to the side.

The trial continues.

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‘Huge’ proportion of mental health conditions in Australia found to be caused by childhood maltreatment

Almost a quarter of the 1.8m cases of depression, anxiety and substance disorders could be prevented, researchers find

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If child abuse and neglect did not exist, almost a quarter of the more than 1.8m cases of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders in Australia could be prevented.

The finding comes from the first Australian study to estimate the proportion of mental health conditions which are directly caused by childhood maltreatment and independent from other influences such as genetics and social environments.

Published on Thursday in the American Medical Association’s specialty journal of psychiatry, JAMA Psychiatry, the research led by the University of Sydney found 41% of suicide attempts, 35% of self-harm and 21% of cases of depression in Australia are caused by child maltreatment.

The researchers called for childhood abuse and neglect to be treated as a national public health priority, with investment in preventive policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare, or income support – all things which evidence shows reduce instances of maltreatment.

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Childhood maltreatment includes physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and emotional or physical neglect experienced before the age of 18.

Dr Lucinda Grummitt, the lead author of the paper from the Matilda Centre for research, said: “Normally, the gold standard for establishing cause and effect in science is a randomised control trial – where we can randomly allocate participants to either exposure or control [not being exposed].

“But obviously, we could never allocate a child to abuse and neglect, and another one not, and then compare how they grow up.”

The researchers’ work was informed by a systematic review published in 2023 that synthesised the findings from international studies examining cause and effect through other study designs.

For example, there are twin studies, where the children share the same genetics but one child was adopted out, allowing researchers to control for the effect of genetics on maltreatment and mental health. Other studies examined the mental health consequences of institutional neglect that occurred in Romanian orphanages during the Ceaușescu regime.

Grummitt’s team then combined those causal estimates with Australian estimates of maltreatment to calculate the impact of abuse and neglect on specific mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

One of the surprising findings was although the international evidence suggested a small to medium causal effect, Grummitt’s research found a “really huge” proportion of mental health conditions in Australia are caused by childhood maltreatment.

“In psychiatry we would never think of mental health conditions as having a single cause,” she said. But the study does isolate where childhood maltreatment has been attributed with creating a “latent vulnerability – it might predispose someone to experiencing mental health conditions, and then something that happens later on is that proximal cause of a disorder”, Grummitt said.

“These findings really highlight that we don’t need to be waiting until people are showing up to mental health treatment services to be able to help them.”

Prof Sarah Bendall, the head of trauma and youth mental health at Orygen, praised the “elegant” design and strong methodology of Grummit’s study.

“This research and the childhood maltreatment study are really putting the numbers behind what we see in clinical practice and showing us how important childhood maltreatment and childhood trauma are in the development of mental disorder,” Bendall said.

Carly Dober, a psychologist and director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, said childhood maltreatment can affect how people see themselves or the world.

“They might have difficulty trusting people, they might have difficulty forming and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships,” she said.

Dober said a lack of awareness around childhood maltreatment meant many people were unaware that what they experienced as a child was, in fact, abuse or neglect. “It can be very confusing for young people to talk about, and adults as well, who have lived through it.”

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‘Huge’ proportion of mental health conditions in Australia found to be caused by childhood maltreatment

Almost a quarter of the 1.8m cases of depression, anxiety and substance disorders could be prevented, researchers find

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

If child abuse and neglect did not exist, almost a quarter of the more than 1.8m cases of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders in Australia could be prevented.

The finding comes from the first Australian study to estimate the proportion of mental health conditions which are directly caused by childhood maltreatment and independent from other influences such as genetics and social environments.

Published on Thursday in the American Medical Association’s specialty journal of psychiatry, JAMA Psychiatry, the research led by the University of Sydney found 41% of suicide attempts, 35% of self-harm and 21% of cases of depression in Australia are caused by child maltreatment.

The researchers called for childhood abuse and neglect to be treated as a national public health priority, with investment in preventive policies such as paid parental leave, affordable childcare, or income support – all things which evidence shows reduce instances of maltreatment.

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

Childhood maltreatment includes physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and emotional or physical neglect experienced before the age of 18.

Dr Lucinda Grummitt, the lead author of the paper from the Matilda Centre for research, said: “Normally, the gold standard for establishing cause and effect in science is a randomised control trial – where we can randomly allocate participants to either exposure or control [not being exposed].

“But obviously, we could never allocate a child to abuse and neglect, and another one not, and then compare how they grow up.”

The researchers’ work was informed by a systematic review published in 2023 that synthesised the findings from international studies examining cause and effect through other study designs.

For example, there are twin studies, where the children share the same genetics but one child was adopted out, allowing researchers to control for the effect of genetics on maltreatment and mental health. Other studies examined the mental health consequences of institutional neglect that occurred in Romanian orphanages during the Ceaușescu regime.

Grummitt’s team then combined those causal estimates with Australian estimates of maltreatment to calculate the impact of abuse and neglect on specific mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

One of the surprising findings was although the international evidence suggested a small to medium causal effect, Grummitt’s research found a “really huge” proportion of mental health conditions in Australia are caused by childhood maltreatment.

“In psychiatry we would never think of mental health conditions as having a single cause,” she said. But the study does isolate where childhood maltreatment has been attributed with creating a “latent vulnerability – it might predispose someone to experiencing mental health conditions, and then something that happens later on is that proximal cause of a disorder”, Grummitt said.

“These findings really highlight that we don’t need to be waiting until people are showing up to mental health treatment services to be able to help them.”

Prof Sarah Bendall, the head of trauma and youth mental health at Orygen, praised the “elegant” design and strong methodology of Grummit’s study.

“This research and the childhood maltreatment study are really putting the numbers behind what we see in clinical practice and showing us how important childhood maltreatment and childhood trauma are in the development of mental disorder,” Bendall said.

Carly Dober, a psychologist and director of the Australian Association of Psychologists, said childhood maltreatment can affect how people see themselves or the world.

“They might have difficulty trusting people, they might have difficulty forming and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships,” she said.

Dober said a lack of awareness around childhood maltreatment meant many people were unaware that what they experienced as a child was, in fact, abuse or neglect. “It can be very confusing for young people to talk about, and adults as well, who have lived through it.”

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John Cleeland is homeless and living off a disability pension in his caravan on the outskirts of Ballarat. Photograph: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

People living on the shores of Ballarat’s Lake Burrumbeet say they have to choose between rent or food and petrol – and they have chosen the latter

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by Dellaram Vreeland

An old black billy hangs above a doused fire at the front of John Cleeland’s caravan, nestled on the banks of Lake Burrumbeet. The afternoon sun peeks through the surrounding eucalypts, casting its light across the waterfront, as Tank the french bulldog keeps guard.

Cleeland has been living on the lake’s foreshore, 30 kilometres north-west of Ballarat, for about four months. His van is decked out with cooling, heating, a washing machine and oven. His disability pension funds the diesel in his tank. He says he’s self-sufficient.

“I choose to live this way. I don’t consider myself homeless. Far from it,” he says.

“There’s no way I’m going to be able to afford that in town. Here I’m living. I’m barely going to exist out there.”

There are about a dozen campers currently living at the lake. A few metres away from Cleeland, Dana Lyall has set up base with a menagerie of pets keeping her company. She’s just invested in a diesel-powered heater to take the edge off the crisp Ballarat nights. Whatever the solar panels can’t power, the generator will.

“It’s just a beautiful spot. Peaceful,” she says.

Lyall has been living at the lake on and off for the past six months while she takes care of her mother in Ballarat. She relies on jobseeker payments and suffers from ongoing health complications, so says renting is not realistic.

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“I’ve got nowhere else to go. It’s free camping here for up to 28 days, but if you keep your area nice and tidy, they understand,” she says.

“If I paid rent I wouldn’t have enough to live. I’ve been lucky enough through the help of my mum to have this caravan. I’d hate to think what I’d be doing otherwise.

“I’m comfortable here. I’ve got all I need. It feels like home.”

Darrylene McBain moved to the lake just over a week ago after setting up camp at the Slaty Creek campgrounds in Creswick, 18 kilometres north of Ballarat, where she was prospecting for gold. She says her new spot is “perfect”.

With her mum in Mount Beauty and a sick grandchild in Melbourne, McBain says it was important she had the means to travel.

“You’ve got two options: you can live in a home, or afford to drive,” she says. “So you lose a lot, and then you’re stuck with what we’ve got.”

“We look after our family, even though we’re homeless.”

‘Homelessness doesn’t discriminate’

More than 70 people are currently known to be homeless in Ballarat.

Last month, a report released by Council to Homeless Persons showed the number of working Victorians seeking support from homelessness services has grown by 14% in the past two years, including 330 people in Ballarat alone.

Luke Thomas, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, was camping in local bushland for nine months before he moved into Peplow House, a crisis accommodation service run by Catholic Care in Ballarat. Thomas has schizophrenia and was struggling with substance abuse and gambling, and was no longer able to afford his mortgage or hold down a job.

“Homelessness doesn’t discriminate,” he says. “If it doesn’t affect you directly, it will affect your family and friends and those close to you. This has caused stress for my father and mother, who are always wondering if I’m going to come home or if I’m sleeping rough.”

Thomas says more funding is needed to address the root causes of homelessness, as well as investing in more housing stock to keep prices “half reasonable”.

The current median rent in Ballarat is $400 a week. The maximum fortnightly jobseeker payment for a single person is $762.70.

According to Anglicare’s rental affordability snapshot for 2024, there are no advertised rental properties anywhere in Australia that would be affordable for a single person receiving the jobseeker payment, and just 0.1% of rental listings were affordable for a person on the slightly higher disability support pension, for which the maximum fortnightly payment is $1,064.

More demand than supply

James Treloar, the homelessness and housing support manager at Catholic Care, says the housing crisis in Ballarat has become much more visible in the last six months.

“There is a lot of building and investment in housing, but we’re playing catch-up on decades of under-investment and we’re paying for it now,” Treloar says.

Peplow House was running on a $100,000 deficit last year. Ballarat’s Soup Bus, a volunteer-run organisation serving meals to those in need, is also struggling to keep up with rising demand.

“We need to look after programs in existence, not just roll out new ones,” Treloar says.

Reid’s Guest House, a crisis accommodation facility in Ballarat, announced last month that it would be closing its doors as it was “no longer fit-for-purpose and doesn’t meet the standards required of modern rooming houses”.

The accommodation facility, operated by Ballarat Uniting for more than 20 years, had 15 rooms with capacity to host up to 60 guests.

“To continue operating a program like Reid’s it would need to be located in a purpose-built facility,” Uniting’s Jenny Ham says. “We cannot build or purchase [on our own] – we would need to partner with government or other organisation.”

The mayor of Ballarat, Des Hudson, says until recently homelessness had been fairly invisible to the majority of Ballarat residents.

“It’s important to note that being homeless is not a criminal offence,” Hudson says. “There might be other behaviours which might be an issue, but it’s not about moving people on. It should be about connecting them to services and the provision of services.

“When those are all exhausted, that’s really unfortunate.”

According to the state government, 1,811 people and families were placed in social housing in rural and regional Victoria last financial year.

As of March 2024, there were 48,620 new applications on the Victorian housing register. Applicants are asked to list up to five locations where they would like to live. Almost 2,800 applicants had registered interest in the central highlands district, which includes Ballarat.

Some 197 homes have already been built in Ballarat as part of state government’s housing programs and another 191 are promised. A Victorian government spokesperson says the state is investing more than $13m in homelessness support services in the central highlands region, and was “working closely with specialist agencies to support people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness”.

Treloar says people experiencing homelessness, particularly long-term homelessness, often found it difficult to receive help.

“When [these men] come to Peplow, they’re at their lowest ebb,” he says. “Often their family supports have completely melted away so they’ve got nobody left.”

Thomas says that for him, living rough had become “almost a self-care mechanism”.

“You get addicted to being homeless after a while. Your self-worth is lowered and you can get used to the lifestyle.

“I had jobs, I had money in the bank, then to go to have nothing, you get used to that life.”

In Australia, support is available at Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14, and at MensLine on 1300 789 978.

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Boy, 10, arrested after alleged sexual assault of a tourist in Cairns

Queensland police say four ‘juveniles’ were held after an Italian woman was attacked by the boy and then set upon by others when she called for help

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Queensland police say a 10-year-old boy has been arrested after a woman was allegedly sexually assaulted in the state’s far north.

Det Insp Kevin Goan said a 23-year-old woman was walking in the Cairns CBD at about 10am on Wednesday when the 10-year-old allegedly sexually assaulted her.

The woman, a tourist from Italy, called for police after the assault, and was then “set upon” by several other boys, Goan said.

Four “juveniles” were arrested soon after including the 10-year-old boy.

The woman suffered minor bruising and scratches to her head and face but did not require hospitalisation.

The alleged offenders were able to be arrested quickly because of an extensive network of CCTV around Cairns, he said.

“No doubt [this was] a traumatic experience for the young lady and one we certainly hope won’t blemish her experience of touring in Far North Queensland.”

Goan said other boys who were allegedly present were also expected to be arrested and called for any witnesses to the alleged incident at the corner of Lake and Spence streets to contact police.

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Australia’s health watchdog warns patients are being overprescribed psychotropic medication

Royal commissions into disability and aged care found ‘a fundamental problem’ with how the drugs were used

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Glenda Parkin was 56 when she was diagnosed with younger-onset dementia, a rare visual variant of Alzheimer’s disease known as posterior cortical atrophy. She became functionally blind and her ability to perceive the world around her gradually deteriorated.

While the diagnosis forced Parkin to retire at the zenith of her career as a school principal in Perth, losing her abilities to read and write alongside other basic capabilities, she carried on a fulfilling life, according to her husband, Bronte, her carer for 10 years.

The couple travelled together, with Glenda “effectively seeing the world through my eyes,” he said. She continued to pursue her love of music as a member of a community choir and took on new challenges, becoming a dementia advocate.

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However, Glenda’s quality of life took a turn for the worse when in 2020 the couple sought their medical team’s help for Glenda’s changing behaviour and sleeplessness. She was prescribed quetiapine, an antipsychotic medicine.

The previous year she had also been prescribed a sedative, lorazepam, to treat anxiety, agitation, restlessness, aggression, and occasionally delusional behaviour – common in people with dementia.

Not long after starting on quetiapine, Glenda began to experience unusual muscular movements in her legs and lose her balance. One evening as Bronte was cooking, she toppled over on the hard timber floor of their home, fracturing her pelvic bones.

“It was only in the hospital we found out that the leg movements were caused by the medicines,” Bronte said.

The hospital psychiatrist explained that Glenda’s leg movement disorder was a side-effect of the quetiapine – something that hadn’t been discussed as a risk when it was prescribed – and he recommended that both medications be slowly phased out.

Although her pelvic bones eventually healed, Glenda never regained the ability to walk, making it impossible for Bronte to care for her in their home. She was admitted to an aged care home where for the first six months she was confined to bed 24 hours a day because putting her into a nursing chair was too risky. She remained there until she died in 2023.

‘A new standard’

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care is warning people with intellectual disabilities, autism, dementia and other neurodevelopmental conditions are being overprescribed psychotropic medicines to manage behavioural issues.

The chief medical officer for the commission, Dr Carolyn Hullick, said there was limited evidence they were effective for behavioural issues in people with cognitive disability or impairment. What was known is that they increase the risk of falls, stroke and death, she said.

A new national standard to be released Thursday stresses that those prescribing such drugs must first consider non-medication options.

Hullick said the impetus for the new standard was that both royal commissions into disability and aged care highlighted “there was a fundamental problem with the way we were using medication to restrict people and to control their behaviour, rather than using the medications appropriately for management of symptoms and disease”.

“Whether you’re a child or whether you are a 95-year-old, the principles should be the same,” Hullick said.

Psychotropic medicines include antidepressants, anxiolytic/hypnotics and antipsychotics. There has been a 60% increase in their prescription for all Australians over the past three decades. About a third of people with intellectual disability are prescribed psychotropics and 61% of people given at least one in their first three months in residential aged care.

The new standard emphasises that health professionals must develop individually tailored non-medication interventions and only use psychotropic medicines as a last resort.

In cases where doctors do prescribe them they must ensure there is informed consent, with patients and carers provided comprehensive information about the purpose, benefits and risks.

Prof Eddy Strivens, a geriatrician and clinical director of the Cairns and Hinterland hospital and health service, said the standard would encourage health professionals to find out the reasons behind someone’s behaviour, which is often their way of communicating an unmet need.

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Susan Buckner, actor known for role in Grease, dies aged 72

Actor who played cheerleader Patty Simcox became audience favorite and went on to star in TV shows

Susan Buckner, the actor known for her role as Patty Simcox in the 1978 movie musical hit Grease, died on Thursday at the age of 72.

In a statement to the Guardian, Buckner’s publicist confirmed Buckner’s death. A cause of death has not been publicized.

Samantha Mansfield, Buckner’s daughter, described her mother as “magic” and a “lighting rod of a mother”, in a statement.

“She was magic. She was my best friend. And I will miss her every day. I was lucky I had such a lighting rod of a mother and now I have her as an angel,” she said.

At 25, Buckner was cast as the spirited cheerleader Patty Simcox in Grease, which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Buckner quickly became an audience favorite given her character’s perky cheers: “Do the splits, give a yell! … Show a little spirit for old Rydell!”

After appearing in Grease, Buckner also acted in several television shows, including The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Love Boat, and BJ and the Bear. She also co-starred in the ABC series When the Whistle Blows which ran for one season.

Buckner later stepped away from acting to raise her two children. She directed several theatrical productions at the Pinecrest elementary school in Florida and worked as a fitness instructor for nearly a decade, according to Buckner’s publicist.

Born on 28 January 1952 in Seattle, Washington, Buckner was crowned Miss Washington in 1971, representing the state in the nationwide pageant the following year.

She pursued music and songwriting, performing in Dean Martin’s Golddiggers signing group, the all-girl group Fantasy and the musical duo Buckner and Pratt.

Buckner also performed as a dancer and synchronized swimmer on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

Buckner is survived by her two children, Adam Josephs and Samantha; her four grandchildren; her sister Linda; her daughter-in-law Noel Josephs; her son-in-law Adam Mansfield and Buckner’s longtime partner Al.

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