The Guardian 2024-05-09 01:02:16


The independent senator David Pocock has lashed the government’s new future gas strategy as “morally bankrupt, negligent and just plain stupid”.

Pocock said the strategy ignores advice from climate scientists, writing on X:

Climate scientists and global energy experts tell us opening new gas projects is disastrous for our climate, our children and future generations…

Backing the expansion of the fossil fuel industry in 2024 is morally bankrupt, negligent and just plain stupid given we export 75% of our gas. We could legislate a domestic reservation policy and have enough gas for our transition, rather than locking in emissions for decades.

This shows a tragic lack of imagination and ambition – speeding up electrification of households and businesses should be the response to warnings of potential shortfalls. Electrification could save the average [Australian] household $2-5k per year, every year.

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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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 central business district 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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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 jobseeker payments, 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 $4,500 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?” the Australian Council of Social Service chief executive, 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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Explainer

Australian federal budget 2024: what we know so far and what to expect

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has promised more cost-of-living relief in his 14 May budget as well as spending for students and health

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On 14 May the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, will deliver his second full-year budget.

Chalmers has promised more cost-of-living relief in a budget that he says tackles inflation but sets Australia’s economy up for growth – neither scorched-earth nor a free-for-all of spending.

A second surplus is within reach, but that’s just speculation. Here’s what we know already about what is in the budget.

Tax cuts and cost of living

The biggest element of the cost-of-living relief in the budget is the changes to stage-three tax cuts, a $359bn 10-year tax cut package announced by Labor in January and legislated in February with opposition support.

The package means all Australian taxpayers (earning over the tax-free threshold of $18,200) get a tax cut, doubling the benefit for an average income earner compared with the Coalition’s original stage three proposal.

Labor says 84% of taxpayers are better off under its proposal, although those earning more than $146,486 would have received more under the Coalition’s model.

There will be other cost-of-living measures the government claims won’t add to inflation, which might point towards extending energy price relief.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has poured cold water on the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee’s call for jobseeker to rise to 90% of the age pension, although he and the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, have seemed more open on increasing rent assistance. Chalmers has confirmed there will be “additional steps” on poverty reduction and “new initiatives for housing”.

Education, skills and Hecs

The government will wipe $3bn from student debts by indexing Hecs and Help debts to the lower of the consumer price index or the wage price index, backdated to June 2023.

The government will also pay student teachers, nurses, midwives and social workers $320 a week during their mandatory work placements, starting from July 2025. These two measures are aspects of the government’s response to the Universities Accord, but there will be more in the budget.

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The government has announced $90.6m to boost the number of skilled workers in the construction and housing sector, creating 15,000 fee-free Tafe places and 5,000 places for pre-apprenticeships.

School funding will also rise as the federal government negotiates with the states to cover the 5% funding gap, most recently offering to lift its share of funding from 20% to 22.5%. This is estimated to cost $6bn over five years, although Chalmers has been coy about whether estimates will be reflected in the budget or only be added after education and health agreements are finalised.

Childcare

There is no question childcare workers will be receiving a pay rise in this budget – the only questions are how much and how it will be distributed. With the industry in crisis due to staffing shortages, which have been exacerbated by staff leaving to work in aged care after that sector’s pay rise win, the government is expected to make wage increases for childcare workers a centre piece of the budget.

But it’s unclear whether the government will pull the trigger on scrapping the activity test, which sets a subsidy rate based on employment. It has indicated it wants to get rid of the measure as part of its plan to make childcare in Australia “universal”, though it’s not clear whether it will happen in this budget.

Health and aged care

Public hospitals are expected to get more funding, as the federal government works to finalise a new five-year agreement with the states to start in mid-2025. The commonwealth has reportedly offered to lift funding by an extra $4bn in 2025-26 and $13bn over the whole five years.

The government is also increasing funding for its medical research future fund over 13 years, with $1.1bn for existing projects plus $150m million to investigate rarely survived cancers, and $150m towards reducing inequalities in the health system. A further $500m will go to other research schemes.

The government is also yet to outline its response to March’s aged care taskforce report, which suggested new ways to pay for the system – including asking Australians with more wealth to pay more for the cost of their care.

Defence and foreign affairs

The budget will confirm that Australia’s defence spending will increase from 2.1% of Australia’s economic output next financial year to 2.4% by 2033-34, driven by a range of big-spending projects including the Aukus nuclear-powered submarines.

There will be some cuts to programs, however, with the government announcing last month that it would free up about $73bn over 10 years by cutting, delaying or changing the scope of some defence projects.

Even after these cuts are taken into account, the government says it has committed a net increase of $50.3bn for defence over the next 10 years. This includes a net increase of $5.7bn over the immediate four-year budget cycle.

This immediate funding includes $1bn over the next four years for long-range strike, targeting and autonomous systems.

In foreign affairs, the government has promised $492m for the Asian Development Fund’s 2025-28 pledging round, to “help respond to the needs of the region and deliver transformative development projects across the Indo-Pacific”.

Infrastructure

So far, western Sydney is the biggest winner in infrastructure after the minister, Catherine King, announced $1.9bn in funding for 14 road and transport projects. Those include road upgrades, planning projects and extra money for a business case to extend the train line into the city’s south-west.

Cyclists will also get a boost with $100m being set aside to build and upgrade bicycle and walking lines in cities and regional centres.

Canberra will also get a $50m injection to extend its light rail line from the northern suburbs past Parliament House and into the city’s south.

Road safety data from the states and territories will also be better harmonised with a $21m funding announcement to set up a national data hub.

Future Made in Australia

The government has announced funding for a range of projects under its Future Made in Australia policy, which aims to directly support Australian industry and innovation, particularly in green energy. These commitments include:

  • $1bn for the Solar Sunshot production of solar panels in the Hunter

  • $1bn to PsiQuantum to build the world’s first fault tolerant quantum computer in Brisbane

  • $840m for Arafura’s rare earth metals production in the Northern Territory

  • An export agreement to sell armoured vehicles made by the German defence manufacturer Rheinmetall

  • $566m over 10 years for GeoScience Australia to map what is under Australia’s soil and seabed

  • $400m in new loans to Alpha HPA for Australia’s first high-purity alumina processing facility in Queensland; and

  • $185m to Renascor Resources to fast-track the development of stage one of its Siviour Graphite Project in South Australia; and

  • $100m to speed up environmental approvals, including assistance for business.

Gender equality

The government has committed $925m for the leaving violence payment, a payment of $5,000 to help meet the costs of leaving a relationship. The existing trial will be extended and the new permanent program available from mid-2025.

The government has also said that parents will receive 12% superannuation – or about $106 a week – on their publicly funded paid parental leave from July 2025, full costings for which will be in the budget.

Indigenous affairs

The government has not foreshadowed any new major spending commitments in the Indigenous affairs space, but the budget will contain details and funding for several large programs in that portfolio that were recently unveiled.

The Closing The Gap commitments from February, including a $700m remote jobs program, and March’s announcement of a $4bn remote housing program for the Northern Territory, are expected to be the major components of the Indigenous affairs portfolio. Most of the new commitments in Indigenous affairs are typically contained in February’s Closing The Gap document rather than the May budget.

Attorney general’s department

The government has pledged $161.3m to establish the national firearms register, and $11m for an app alerting Australians in real time if somebody tries to use their data to commit fraud.

The government will invest $166.4m to implement reforms to Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime.

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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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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

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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Heartbreak for Georgia Godwin as injury rules Australia’s top gymnast out of Olympics

  • National champion suffers serious Achilles injury in training
  • 26-year-old’s hopes of competing at a second Olympics dashed

Australia’s Olympic team has been robbed of its one of its most prominent athletes after top gymnast Georgia Godwin suffered an Achilles injury in training, ruling her out of the Paris Games.

The loss of the 2022 Commonwealth Games all around gold medal winner is a disastrous development for the gymnastics team, which was compounded by an injury to Australia’s top-ranked men’s trampolinist Blake Rutherford.

Days out from this week’s national championships on the Gold Coast, a teary Godwin told her followers on Instagram the injury was “not ideal”.

“This is definitely not the news I want to be sharing with you right now,” she said. “A couple of days out from nationals, less than 80 days from Paris, I’ve sustained an Achilles injury. It’s extremely heartbreaking.”

Gymnastics Australia issued a statement describing Godwin’s injury as a “cruel blow”, and pledged to provide support, saying the organisation was devastated for Godwin and Rutherford.

“The entire gymnastics community in Australia wishes them both well in their recovery,” the statement read.

Godwin is one of the older members of the Australian team, and she said in her video she would speaking to a surgeon in Brisbane in coming days.

“We’ll just see where we go from there. I’m not entirely sure what the recovery process looks like going forward, but I’ve got an amazing team around me and trying to be as positive as possible.”

Godwin had helped the Australia’s women’s team qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2012 with a strong performance at the World Championships last year.

The 26-year-old is also a much-loved member of the international gymnastics and Australian athletic communities, and a move in her name was added to the sport’s official rulebook last year.

Fellow Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe said in response to Godwin’s post, “my heart breaks for you”.

Olympic beach volleyballer Mariafe Artacho del Solar also offered her support. “Sending lots of love your way girl,” she said.

The selection of the Olympic team will be finalised following the national championships on the Gold Coast, which formally begin on Thursday.

Godwin had won the all around title at the meet seven times before, and represented Australia at her first Olympics in Tokyo.

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Heartbreak for Georgia Godwin as injury rules Australia’s top gymnast out of Olympics

  • National champion suffers serious Achilles injury in training
  • 26-year-old’s hopes of competing at a second Olympics dashed

Australia’s Olympic team has been robbed of its one of its most prominent athletes after top gymnast Georgia Godwin suffered an Achilles injury in training, ruling her out of the Paris Games.

The loss of the 2022 Commonwealth Games all around gold medal winner is a disastrous development for the gymnastics team, which was compounded by an injury to Australia’s top-ranked men’s trampolinist Blake Rutherford.

Days out from this week’s national championships on the Gold Coast, a teary Godwin told her followers on Instagram the injury was “not ideal”.

“This is definitely not the news I want to be sharing with you right now,” she said. “A couple of days out from nationals, less than 80 days from Paris, I’ve sustained an Achilles injury. It’s extremely heartbreaking.”

Gymnastics Australia issued a statement describing Godwin’s injury as a “cruel blow”, and pledged to provide support, saying the organisation was devastated for Godwin and Rutherford.

“The entire gymnastics community in Australia wishes them both well in their recovery,” the statement read.

Godwin is one of the older members of the Australian team, and she said in her video she would speaking to a surgeon in Brisbane in coming days.

“We’ll just see where we go from there. I’m not entirely sure what the recovery process looks like going forward, but I’ve got an amazing team around me and trying to be as positive as possible.”

Godwin had helped the Australia’s women’s team qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2012 with a strong performance at the World Championships last year.

The 26-year-old is also a much-loved member of the international gymnastics and Australian athletic communities, and a move in her name was added to the sport’s official rulebook last year.

Fellow Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe said in response to Godwin’s post, “my heart breaks for you”.

Olympic beach volleyballer Mariafe Artacho del Solar also offered her support. “Sending lots of love your way girl,” she said.

The selection of the Olympic team will be finalised following the national championships on the Gold Coast, which formally begin on Thursday.

Godwin had won the all around title at the meet seven times before, and represented Australia at her first Olympics in Tokyo.

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

More than 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, more than 1.8m cases of depression, anxiety and substance use disorders in Australia – almost a quarter of the total number – 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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‘Can it really be this bad?’: racism in schools shocks South Australia’s children’s tsar

Helen Connolly was taken aback by reports of playground abuse in a report that suggests behaviour is often set by teachers and parents

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Tales of schoolchildren pulling off girls’ hijabs, using the N-word, and accusing other kids of being terrorists have “shocked” Helen Connolly, the South Australian commissioner for children and young people.

“I kept thinking ‘is this right?’,” she said.

“Can it really be this bad? Because surely we would be doing something about it.”

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Connolly says she has been stunned by the level of racist language used by children in Australia, as outlined in the Everyday Racism report, produced by her office.

A separate, recent report from her office also found misogyny and sexism in schools.

Connolly’s comments are timely amid a national conversation about racism, Islamophobia, radicalisation, sexism and misogyny escalates after a series of attacks and murders.

“When I first started, when I was listening to the kids talking about bullying, I was really surprised by the level of racist commentary in little kids,” Connolly said.

“All about Islamic State, terrorists, the N-word. I was a bit shocked … that’s when I started hearing about kids in primary school pulling off girls’ hijabs. And it just kept coming up every time I connected with kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds, this everyday racism.”

That racism also comes from teachers and random adults, her survey found.

“Adults think it’s OK to have racist commentary towards children who are just going about their business, waiting for a bus,” Connolly said. “I was shocked by the pervasive nature of it.

“The shocking thing for me was this whole resignation to it. There’s just no point telling anyone, there’s no point talking about it, there’s no point kicking up.

“I don’t think any of us would understand just how prevalent, persistent, everyday racism is.”

‘Our voice gets shut down’

Connolly said racism among children is a pervasive national, and probably global issue. Meanwhile, “we just don’t ask the kids what their experience is”, she said.

“Parents’ voices are important but parents are not proxies for children,” Connolly said.

“The stuff they say to me is quite different to what they say to their parents. We need to hear children’s voices in this as well.”

The Everyday Racism report canvassed 600 people over five years from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and followed up with other forums. It found bullying occurred in face-to-face situations, via phone, texts and social media and involved references to physical appearance, gender, sexual identity, ability and race. “You’re part of Isis”, “you’re a terrorist”, “go back to your own country” were among the common phrases used.

“All black people like chicken … when talking about slavery in class, they refer to you and say ‘you’ll know about it’,” one girl said.

Another said: “Some teachers are racists at school … when we complain, nobody does anything – our voice gets shut down.”

Children reported others using racial slurs to bait them into fights, after which they were punished. They reported favouritism and stereotypes from teachers, including getting into trouble for speaking their first language.

“One group said that pulling girls’ hijabs off was a ‘common form of bullying’ they observed,” the report found.

The 2023 Islamophobia in Australia report found women wearing hijab were “the most convenient and frequent target of Islamophobia”, while a 2022 report found religious bullying, including the ripping off of hijabs, was rife in the playground.

Connolly’s report also found that young people were being directed to vocational education training (VET) programs rather than being offered the full range of options.

“They repeatedly discussed being prevented from taking certain subjects, and that they were not being encouraged to take up opportunities to complete their SACE certificate or obtain an Atar for further study. Many felt this was based on racist perceptions,” it found.

‘The cruelty of it surprised me’

Adults who work with the children warned the cumulative impacts of everyday racism can lead to disengagement and withdrawal, and vulnerability to “antisocial” behaviour and substance abuse.

In sports, migrant and refugee young people reported being “benched” or “subbed” more often.

In the community they experienced racial abuse and harassment in public places. African young people particularly described being targeted for increased surveillance and bag checks.

Connolly’s recommendations include listening to children, having a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, specifically addressing race-based bullying and ensuring people can make complaints about racism without fear of retribution.

A separate report published in April, Seen, But Not Heard, canvassed children in years eight, nine and 10. The girls talked about ongoing sexist and gendered commentary, while those who were sexually or gender diverse, neurodiverse or non-Anglo Saxon were subjected to more bullying.

They said they were rarely asked for their views or suggestions.

“We are young. We are smart. Listen to us. We have good shit to say. Listen and learn,” a year 9 girl said.

The Yarra Valley Grammar principal, Dr Mark Merry, said on Wednesday that he was shocked by the cruelty of the boys at his school.

Two boys were expelled from the private school for publishing a list ranking girls as “wifeys”, “cuties”, “mid”, “object”, “get out” and “unrapable”.

“The cruelty of it surprised me …. The viciousness and the cruelty of this particular post is what struck me, and it was so alien to everything that usually goes on here that it really did cause quite a shock,” he told ABC Radio National.

Merry acknowledged it was a cultural issue in a letter to parents and said that sexism and misogyny did happen from time to time in schools, and throughout the community.

“It is a problem in the community. It is rife,” he said.

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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 had not 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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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 had not 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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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, 30km 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 has 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, 18km 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 past 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 Jerry 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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House quashes Marjorie Taylor Greene motion to oust speaker Mike Johnson

Far-right congresswoman booed on House floor before chamber votes 359-43 to kill proposal to remove Johnson from post

The House easily quashed Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s resolution to oust the Republican speaker, Mike Johnson, on Wednesday, as members of both parties came together in a rare moment of bipartisanship to keep the chamber open for business.

The vote on the motion to table Greene’s resolution was 359 to 43, as 196 Republicans and 163 Democrats supported killing the proposal.

Greene took to the House floor on Wednesday evening to announce her plans, prompting boos from fellow Republicans present in the chamber. Her request triggered a countdown clock, as House rules stipulated that members had to vote on the matter within two legislative days. House Republicans chose to take up the matter immediately, as the resolution was widely expected to fail.

House Democratic leaders previously indicated that they would vote to kill Greene’s resolution, and the vast majority of their caucus took the same position on Wednesday. However, 32 Democrats and 11 Republicans opposed the motion to table the resolution, and seven members voted “present”.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Johnson thanked his colleagues for helping him to hold on to a post he has held for six and a half months.

“I want to say that I appreciate the show of confidence from my colleagues to defeat this misguided effort. That is certainly what it was,” Johnson said. “As I’ve said from the beginning and I’ve made clear here every day, I intend to do my job. I intend to do what I believe to be the right thing, which is what I was elected to do, and I’ll let the chips fall where they may. In my view, that is leadership.”

Greene’s maneuver appeared to catch many Republicans off guard, after the hard-right congresswoman spent much of the past few days meeting with Johnson to address her concerns about his leadership. She has repeatedly criticized Johnson for passing significant bills, including a government funding proposal and a foreign aid package, by relying on Democratic support.

Greene had said she would force a vote on the motion to vacate this week, but she appeared to back away from that commitment on Tuesday.

“We’ll see. It’s up to Mike Johnson,” Greene told reporters when asked if she still planned to demand the vote. “Obviously, you can’t make things happen instantly, and we all are aware and understanding of that. So now the ball is in his court, and he’s supposed to be reaching out to us – hopefully soon.”

Donald Trump, who has voiced support for Johnson in recent weeks, reportedly called Greene over the weekend, but she would not disclose details about the call to reporters.

“I have to tell you, I love President Trump. My conversations with him are fantastic,” Greene said. “And again, I’m not going to go into details. You want to know why? I’m not insecure about that.”

Even though her motion to vacate overwhelmingly failed, Greene and her allies already appear poised to turn the issue into a litmus test for fellow Republican members. Congressman Thomas Massie, a co-sponsor of Greene’s resolution, shared a picture on X of the 11 Republicans who voted against the motion to table.

“It’s a new paradigm in Congress,” Massie said. “[Former Democratic speaker] Nancy Pelosi, and most [Republicans] voted to keep Uniparty Speaker Mike Johnson. These are the eleven, including myself, who voted NOT to save him.”

The Republicans who rallied around Johnson returned the fire by accusing Greene and her allies of promoting chaos in the House. The episode came less than a year after the ouster of former Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy, which brought the chamber to a standstill for weeks until Johnson’s election.

Congressman Mike Lawler, who faces a tough reelection campaign in New York this November, told reporters on Wednesday: “This type of tantrum is absolutely unacceptable, and it does nothing to further the cause of the conservative movement. The only people who have stymied our ability to govern are the very people that have pulled these types of stunts throughout the course of this Congress to undermine the House Republican majority.”

Congressman Sean Casten, an Illinois Democrat, offered a more concise and cutting assessment. Writing on X, he said of Greene: “She is so, so dumb. And yet she keeps talking.”

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Robert F Kennedy Jr says health issue caused by dead worm in his brain

Third-party US presidential candidate says 2010 issue ‘caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died’

Robert F Kennedy Jr, the third-party candidate for US president, said a health problem he experienced in 2010 “was caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died”, the New York Times reported.

The startling words were contained in a divorce case deposition from 2012 the Times said it obtained.

Two years before the deposition, the paper said, Kennedy experienced “memory loss and mental fogginess so severe that a friend grew concerned he might have a brain tumour”.

Neurologists who treated Kennedy’s uncle, the Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, before his death aged 77 from brain cancer in 2009, told the younger man he had a dark spot on his brain scans, and concluded he too had a tumour.

But, Kennedy reportedly said, a doctor at New York-Presbyterian hospital posited another explanation: a parasite in Kennedy’s brain.

Speaking this winter, the paper said, Kennedy told the Times that at around the same time he learned of the parasite in his brain he was also found to have mercury poisoning, which can cause neurological problems, probably due to eating a lot of fish.

In the 2012 deposition, Kennedy reportedly said: “I have cognitive problems, clearly. I have short-term memory loss, and I have longer-term memory loss that affects me.”

In his recent interview, the Times said, Kennedy said he had recovered from such problems. The paper also said Kennedy’s spokesperson, Stefanie Spear, responded to a question about whether the candidate’s health problems could compromise his fitness to be president by saying: “That is a hilarious suggestion, given the competition.”

Now 70, Kennedy has suffered other issues including a heart problem for which he has been repeatedly hospitalised and spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that affects his voice.

Nonetheless, the scion of a famous political clan – his father was the US attorney general and New York senator Robert F Kennedy, his uncle John F Kennedy, the 35th president – has focused on showing off his physical fitness in contrast to that of Joe Biden, the oldest president ever elected, now 81, and Donald Trump, the 77-year-old Republican challenger.

The Times said Kennedy declined to share his medical records. Biden and Trump have not released theirs in this election cycle.

Observers on the left and right of US politics fear Kennedy’s campaign, which leans into his prominence as a Covid vaccine conspiracy theorist and other outsider positions, could siphon key votes from both Biden and Trump – candidates with whom the public is largely dissatisfied.

Kennedy has gained ballot access or is pursuing it in key states, including by securing nominations from fringe parties. In April, a host of Kennedy family members appeared in Philadelphia to publicly back Biden.

The Times said the 2012 deposition it obtained was given during Kennedy’s divorce from his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy.

Kennedy, then an environmental attorney and campaigner, argued that his earning power was diminished by his neurological and cognitive problems, the Times said.

Doctors eventually concurred that the spot on Kennedy’s brain was the result of a parasite, Kennedy said, according to the Times. Kennedy reportedly said he thought he might have contracted the parasite in southern Asia. The Times said experts who did not treat Kennedy thought the parasite “was likely a pork tapeworm larva”.

“Some tapeworm larvae can live in a human brain for years without causing problems,” the Times said. “Others can wreak havoc, often when they start to die, which causes inflammation. The most common symptoms are seizures, headaches and dizziness.”

But Scott Gardner, curator of the Manter Laboratory for Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told the paper severe memory loss, as described by Kennedy (who told the Times he experienced “severe brain fog”), was more often associated with mercury poisoning.

In his 2012 deposition, the Times said, Kennedy also discussed his spasmodic dysphonia, which he said had affected his earnings from public speaking.

Kennedy recently told Vladislav “DJ Vlad” Lyubovny, “a Ukrainian-American interviewer, journalist and former DJ”, that last year he went to Kyoto, Japan, “to get a surgery, a procedure … that is not available here in the United States” and which involved putting “a titanium bridge between your vocal chords”.

Kennedy’s deposition also included discussion of his heart problems, which he said began in college, the Times reported.

Saying the condition was triggered by stress, caffeine and sleep deprivation, Kennedy reportedly said: “It feels like there’s a bag of worms in my chest.”

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Macklemore performs pro-Palestine song for first time at New Zealand concert

Hind’s Hall pays tribute to US campus protesters while condemning Israel’s campaign in Gaza

The US rapper Macklemore has performed live for the first time his new track Hind’s Hall, expressing solidarity with Palestine and condemning Israel’s military campaign, in front of a sellout crowd in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington.

“I stand here today and every day forward for the rest of my life in solidarity with the people of Palestine, with an open heart, in the belief that our collective liberation is at stake – that we all deserve freedom in this life of ours,” Macklemore said in a short speech 40 minutes into his two-hour set.

“Yesterday [Tuesday], I put out a song called Hind’s Hall – can I play it for you guys?” he asked, to a screaming reception from the audience.

As he performed, the red, white and green of the Palestinian flag flashed across the stadium. Behind him a video montage played showing student protesters in the US intercut with footage of politicians and Gaza.

The audience of 5,500 raised their hands as he sang and multiple fans waved keffiyeh – the black and white scarf linked with Palestinian struggle.

Towards the end of the song Macklemore led a chant of “free, free Palestine”, which the crowd repeated back to him. Macklemore later called for an immediate ceasefire.

The artist released his song on social media and YouTube on Tuesday, promising that once it hit streaming services all proceeds would be donated to the UN relief agency Unrwa.

The song gives robust support to Palestine as well as those protesting at US universities against Israel’s activities in Gaza. The title refers to Hamilton Hall, a Columbia University building occupied by students last week and renamed Hinds Hall by protesters in reference to Hind Rajab, a six-year-old child killed in Gaza.

“If students in tents posted on the lawn / Occupying the quad is really against the law / And a reason to call in the police and their squad / Where does genocide land in your definition, huh?” he raps, referring to the police crackdown against protests.

Israel has said that it is following all international law and that it investigates allegations of abuse by its security forces.

Macklemore’s track addresses Joe Biden, saying “blood is on your hands”, and says he will not be voting for him later this year.

The rapper characterises Israel as “a state that’s gotta rely on an apartheid system to uphold an occupying violent history been repeating for the last 75 [years]”, and says he has experienced support from Jewish people in solidarity with the pro-Palestine protests. “We see the lies in them, claiming it’s antisemitic to be anti-Zionist / I’ve seen Jewish brothers and sisters out there and riding in solidarity and screaming ‘Free Palestine’ with them.”

As well as condemning Israel’s campaign in Gaza, Columbia students are calling for their university to divest from companies linked to Israel – a call that has been repeated in other campuses across the US. Last week New York police arrested more than 100 people protesting at Columbia, including some occupying Hamilton Hall. More than 2,000 people have been arrested over US campus protests.

Macklemore fans Stacey and Matt Johnsen, who had travelled from the bottom of the South Island to see him perform in Wellington, praised the artist for taking a stand.

“I think it’s so cool that someone has finally spoken out,” Stacey said. “He’s down to earth and human.”

“Like anyone else you’re allowed an opinion … nobody wants war, nobody wants innocent people to die or get hurt,” Matt said. “Some other people might be aggressive about it or lean a bit more towards a certain side but that’s not how Macklemore comes across to me.”

The couple felt proud their music hero was taking a risk and hoped Macklemore’s message would resonate with the audience and farther afield. “I would hope it would encourage more people to speak out,” Stacey said.

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