The Guardian 2024-05-10 16:02:02


Bruce Lehrmann ordered to pay almost all of Channel Ten’s defamation case costs

Ten’s legal team had argued Lehrmann should pay all its costs because suing The Project for defamation was ‘deliberately wicked and calculated’

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The federal court has ordered Bruce Lehrmann to pay most of Ten’s legal costs from his failed defamation suit against the TV network and Project host Lisa Wilkinson because he brought the case on a “knowingly false premise”.

Justice Michael Lee on Friday said Lehrmann should pay almost all of Ten’s and Wilkinson’s costs on an indemnity basis, except when it came to the failed qualified privilege defence argument, where the network would receive regular costs.

Because of the failed privilege defence, no costs are recoverable for the affidavits of Ten personnel involved in The Project broadcast including Wilkinson, lawyer Tasha Smithies and producers Craig Campbell, Angus Llewellyn, Christopher Bendall, Laura Binnie and Peter Meakin, Lee said.

Costs awarded on an indemnity basis are higher than standard costs and granted in exceptional circumstances.

Lee said he accepted Ten’s submission that Lehrmann “engaged in an abuse of the court’s processes, ran a case based on falsities, and put Network Ten to the cost of defending a baseless proceeding”.

However, the judge added he would describe it differently: “Mr Lehrmann had sexual intercourse with Ms Higgins and yet ran a primary case premised upon the fanciful and knowingly false premise that in the early hours of 23 March 2019 he was preoccupied with noting up details as to French submarine contracts” at Parliament House.

The costs for all parties have been estimated to be between $8m and $10m for the 24-day civil trial which Lehrmann lost.

“In the end, it comes down to the order for costs that does best overall justice in the circumstances,” Lee said.

“On balance, the appropriate exercise of discretion is to make an award that Network Ten recover its costs against Mr Lehrmann on an indemnity basis, except for costs incurred in relation to the statutory qualified privilege defence, which will be recoverable save for the cost of the affidavits to which I’ve referred on an ordinary or party-party basis.

“As to Ms Wilkinson’s costs [she] makes the same points made by Network Ten.”

Lee ordered the parties to provide details by 24 May of the total amount of legal expenses payable.

“In addition to a referee reporting upon the total amount of the indemnified costs, the parties agree that it is consistent with the overarching purpose for the same referee to inquire into and report upon the amount payable by Mr Lehrmann pursuant to the costs order made in favour of the respondents,” Lee said.

Lee also addressed the matter of Wilkinson’s Logies speech which he found last month to be “grossly improper and unjustifiable as amounting to conduct apt to cause disruption to the criminal justice system”.

After the delivery of the judgement a Ten solicitor made “what might be described as a ‘victory tour’” Lee said. He claimed that the speech “presented no difficulty whatsoever”.

However, since Ten has now apologised for the speech made outside court by lawyer Justin Quill the court will take no further action, Lee said.

“This material suggests that (Saul of Tarsus-like) the scales have belatedly fallen from the anthropomorphic eyes of Network Ten,” Lee said.

Network Ten’s legal team had argued Lehrmann should pay all its costs because suing The Project for defamation was “deliberately wicked and calculated” and an abuse of process.

The former Liberal staffer lost the defamation case he brought against Ten and Wilkinson, with Lee finding last month that on the balance of probabilities Lehrmann raped Brittany Higgins on a minister’s couch in Parliament House in 2019.

By all accounts, Lehrmann is jobless, homeless and lacking in significant means to pay Ten’s costs, so having successfully defended the case, the network could still be saddled with the bill.

Lehrmann has always denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty at the criminal trial of the matter which was aborted due to juror misconduct.

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Australia likely to support UN vote on status of Palestine after resolution was watered down

General assembly resolution is most highly anticipated UN vote for Australia since it supported an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in December

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Australia appears likely to support a UN vote on Palestinian membership after the draft resolution was significantly watered down in last-minute negotiations.

The Australian government is continuing to consult on the matter ahead of a critical vote in the UN general assembly in New York, but the changes to the wording have allayed some of its earlier concerns.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said the new wording would see some countries that were likely to vote “no” shift to an abstain position and some countries that were likely to abstain move into the “yes” column.

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Australia was leaning towards abstaining on the original resolution, which would have seen the general assembly request the 15-member security council “favourably” reconsider Palestine’s application for full UN membership status.

Last month the US used its veto power to scuttle the proposal at a security council meeting, and full membership is impossible without that body’s consent.

In addition to the symbolic move of requesting a rethink by the security council, the general assembly was to consider granting Palestine rights and privileges “to ensure its full and effective participation … on equal footing with member states”, according to a draft version of the resolution circulating among diplomats last week.

Some western sources had raised concerns that this could be inconsistent with the UN charter, because those rights would apparently take effect regardless of whether the security council revisited the membership issue.

An official with knowledge of the negotiations said the most recent version circulated by the United Arab Emirates was significantly watered down from earlier drafts and demonstrated “major concessions” by the Palestinians and the Arab Group.

It is understood the resolution to be put to the general assembly expresses the aspiration for Palestine to attain membership, but makes it clear that it would be for the security council to recommend that step.

In the meantime, the resolution would extend Palestine’s existing rights of participation as an observer at the UN, such as the right to submit proposals, the right of reply regarding the positions of a group and the right to raise procedural motions. But it would be clarified that this does not entail voting rights.

The new draft acknowledges Israel’s right to peaceful existence, by including mention of “unwavering support for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognised borders”, as was also in previous drafts.

Guardian Australia understands that the changes have made it easier for Australia to support the resolution, although further amendments are still possible and so it will still depend on the final wording.

The vote in New York is expected to be held on Saturday morning Australian time.

It looms as Australia’s most highly anticipated UN vote since December, when it supported an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the unconditional release of hostages.

The Australian government continues to express alarm about the “devastating” consequences of an impending Israeli ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have taken shelter.

The Australian government was waiting on the final wording of the resolution to be put to the general assembly – where all countries have a vote – before deciding whether to support the proposal or abstain.

Australia was not inclined to oppose the resolution outright, after signals from the foreign minister, Penny Wong, about the need to kickstart progress towards a two-state solution to end the cycle of violence.

Wong said earlier on Friday – before the most recent changes to the wording were known – that the Australian government was considering “the timing and the situation on the ground”, including the fact that Hamas was still holding hostages in Gaza.

Dismissing the idea that voting yes or abstaining would be a reward for terrorism, Wong argued progress towards a two-state solution was “the opposite of what Hamas wants”.

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

On the eve of the UN vote, YouGov released polling showing that more Australians supported Palestinian statehood than opposed it, but a very large proportion – 44% – were unsure.

About 35% of the 1,514 respondents, polled in April, backed the idea when asked: “Do you think that the Australian government should or should not recognise Palestine as an independent state?”

The remaining 21% disagreed with the idea. Labor voters were more likely to support the idea than Coalition voters.

The Coalition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Simon Birmingham, implored the government to “be strong enough to oppose” the UN general assembly resolution or risk creating “an incentive for Hamas and others to see that they get what they want through terrorism rather than through negotiation”.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said Labor must support “the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians to enjoy the same rights to self-determination under international law that everyone else has”.

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Swagger and family: how Jeff Dunne reached the heights of Australian breaking in time for Paris

The 16-year-old prodigy has risen rapidly on the local scene and heads to the Olympics with his not-so-secret weapon just off stage

The 16-year-old’s head spins are spectacular. His footwork, elevated by a DJ’s beats, light and tight. But the status of Jeff Dunne, AKA J-Attack, as Australia’s best male breaker relies on his swagger and the odd cold stare.

Despite that, J-Attack also has a not-so-secret weapon: his mother, Rhondda. “I’m super glad,” Dunne says. “It’s wonderful to have someone that supports me in my life, and will continue to support me until they die.”

Dunne, who will represent Australia at the Paris Olympics, was born in the Philippines. He moved here at the age of one when he was adopted by Rhondda and her husband, Tony. Rhondda now travels almost everywhere with him, acting, as she describes, as his “personal luggage carrier, bed hotel maker and organiser”. The pair have been overseas seven times in the past year, including to last year’s world championships in Belgium.

“He doesn’t feel comfortable going on his own, and it’s not like there’s an entourage of Australians, so it’s just us going over so he can compete and get ready, to get the feel of the big, big battles,” Rhondda says.

Breaking is very much an adult world. Watching J-Attack on the Australian scene, it’s easy to forget he is still a year 11 high school student in New South Wales’ Northern Rivers region. Although he says he received “good marks” in term one this year, Dunne’s trajectory is towards a future in breaking. His school has allowed him to travel, and he stays up to date with a laptop and the support of his teachers.

“They said if you need any help, or if you need any extra time on an assignment or anything, just call us up, because breaking is your priority and we don’t want to take that away from you,” Dunne says.

Dunne discovered breaking as a seven-year-old when he joined his older sister’s hip-hop dance classes. By 12 he was already an elite performer, winning the 2019 Australian Youth Championships, before quickly establishing himself in the open category.

The Australian breaking community has embraced the prodigy. The president of AusBreaking, Lowe Napalan, says local breakers have watched him develop since he was a child, and feel a level of investment. “He’s like everyone’s little brother,” Napalan says. But from what Dunne has heard, the scene hasn’t always been as welcoming.

“Breaking died down,” he says. “Specifically because breakers were too scared that if they trained a kid they’d become better than them, and they let their ego get to them.”

These days there is genuine camaraderie. After the Breaking Oceania Championship final last October that secured Dunne’s Paris place, the defeated finalist, 15-year-old Benji “BenMX” Cogdell-Baird, celebrated with Dunne as if he had won himself.

“It’s nowhere near as heated as it used to be,” Dunne says. “There’s no beef with anyone any more. We’re all pretty chill, we’re all supportive, and we’re trying to turn it into a supportive community.”

Alongside Australia’s female representative, Rachael “Raygun” Gunn, Dunne has become one of the faces of the Paris Olympics team. And as breaking is a new sport in the 2024 Games, the pair have been tapped for dozens of interviews and promotions. “It can get exhausting,” Dunne says. “Sometimes I feel like, ‘well, I don’t want to do this interview or this shoot, but you know, it’s gonna benefit my profile, get me out there more.’”

Dunne receives some government and Australian Olympic Committee funding, but it only covers training expenses and flights to Olympic lead-up competitions. The sport is far from a professional pursuit in Australia, and although some breakers overseas can eke out an existence through sponsors and endorsements, July’s Olympics offers unrivalled exposure.

Dunne has asked for financial assistance on social media in recent months in a bid to raise money for travel expenses for him and his mother. Dunne is hoping to get to two more international jams before Paris, to test himself against the world’s best.

“These past 18 months, my mum and dad have to have been using their money straight out of their pockets to get me to all these other places in order to get ready for battles,” he says. In April Dunne signed with management agency TGI Sport in a bid to secure his first endorsement deal.

Rhondda still holds out hope for a change of mind from Los Angeles 2028 officials, who have scrapped breaking from their program, and for the sport to return to the Olympics in time for Brisbane 2032, when her son would be 25. “I’m hoping they’re going to put it back on the table once they see what happens in Paris,” she says.

The Olympics represents a moment of mainstream legitimacy for a style of dance that emerged in the 1970s. Where once improvisation and expression were paramount in breaking, today athletes tune their routine to maximise their scores, and are judged across five categories.

Despite the shift in emphasis, the format of competition is largely one-on-one battles, and confrontation remains the sport’s defining feature. A breaker might be a refined athlete with a well-choreographed routine, but they still need to perform at the feet of their opponent, often under an avalanche of trash talk.

Dunne says breakers need to “deal with it and leave it all on the floor” but concedes he is still working on controlling his emotions.

“When people go at me, sometimes it lights a fire in me and I like to go back at them,” he says. “Mum always sees me as a humble kid, so whenever I do that, she’s like, ‘Oi, knock it off.’”

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Tourist killings expose fragmentation of organised crime at the heart of Mexico’s extraordinary violence

The murders of two Australians and an American in Baja California show the shifting and uncertain fault lines of risk in a country where crime and the state often overlap

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The killings of the Australian brothers Callum and Jake Robinson and their American friend, Jack Carter Rhoad, have highlighted the shifting and uncertain fault lines of risk in Mexico, which is simultaneously a major tourism destination and a country with hotspots of extraordinary violence.

The trio, who in April went missing in the Pacific coast state of Baja California while on a surfing trip, were later found dead, each killed by a gunshot to the head. Mexican authorities believe that they were attacked by people who wanted to steal their car tyres and were killed upon resisting.

The man accused of the killings, Jesús Gerardo known as “El Kekas”, is currently in custody, with murder charges expected to be filed. His girlfriend, who was also taken into custody, has reportedly turned witness against him, telling a court he said to her “I killed them”, gave her a mobile phone and showed her the allegedly stolen tyres on her car.

The murders are part of the violence that grips Mexico, which in 2023 saw more than 30,000 homicides for the sixth consecutive year. More than 100,000 people are also missing.

But beneath the national-level statistics, violence is hyper-concentrated in certain states.

“Baja California is one of them – but even there the bulk of homicides occur in Tijuana, and mostly in the poor areas,” said Falko Ernst, Mexico analyst for the nonprofit Crisis Group.

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The violence in Baja California reflects the sheer volume of criminal business in the state, but also the instability of the criminal system itself.

Tijuana is the biggest border city in Mexico, which means huge flows of people, goods and cash going to and from the US every day. That makes Tijuana itself a prize to control, with a big local drug market and opportunities for money laundering.

Organised crime groups also have an interest in other parts of the state, for example the port in Ensenada – the nearest city to where the tourists’ bodies were found – which brings in drugs and chemical precursors for synthetics such as fentanyl and crystal meth.

Many groups are fighting to control these territories and businesses across Baja California.

“Tijuana is an emblem of the fragmentation of organised crime, where you don’t have one group running the show, but many,” said Ernst. “What ensues is perpetual fighting.”

This has been made more deadly by the torrent of US-made firearms trafficked over the border to Mexico. “Over the last couple of decades, guns have proliferated,” said Victoria Dittmar, a researcher for Insight Crime. “Now, anyone who wants a pistol can get one easily.”

Despite the violence, many tourists are drawn to Baja California for the beaches, waves and wildlife along a peninsula that stretches down to the resort towns of Los Cabos, on the southernmost tip of the state of Baja California Sur.

Given the number of visitors, it is striking how rare it is for tourists to be targeted. This is in part because organised crime groups also make money from the tourism industry – for example by extorting hotels, restaurants and nightclubs – and therefore rely on the continued flow of tourists.

“The fish you eat at that fancy restaurant may be subject to a kind of criminal taxation,” said Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego. “There could be a whole structure of criminal governance of which the tourist is unaware.”

However, crime in Mexico is far from perfectly organised. There are independent actors and local cells making decisions on the ground and in the moment.

“We’re also talking about a world that is hyper-paranoid,” said Ernst. “If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and somebody panics and thinks that there might be a risk for them, mistakes can be made.”

The speed of the investigation that followed the disappearance of the three surfers in Baja California reflects local authorities’ desire to relieve the external pressure and reassure tourists that they are safe in the state. Within days of the tourists being reported missing, three suspects were detained and the bodies were found at the bottom of a well on remote ranch land.

This is in a state where more than 80% of homicides go unpunished and roughly 20,000 people remain missing since 2006.

According to the Daily Beast, a member of the Sinaloa Cartel – one of Mexico’s largest organised crime groups – claimed to have tipped the authorities off on where to find the suspects so as to avoid “unwanted attention”.

“I think this case tells us a lot about how crime and the state tend to overlap in Mexico,” said Ernst. “Intelligence is not the problem – the problem is corruption and collusion, with many security forces on the take or even part of criminal networks.

“But if there’s external pressure, if elite and economic interests are potentially being affected, then the Mexican state is capable of getting things done.”.

“Sadly, there are tiers of victims. If you’re a foreigner, it is very likely they will find your remains,” said Farfán-Méndez. “But if you’re Mexican, you may never be found.”

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Tourist killings expose fragmentation of organised crime at the heart of Mexico’s extraordinary violence

The murders of two Australians and an American in Baja California show the shifting and uncertain fault lines of risk in a country where crime and the state often overlap

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

The killings of the Australian brothers Callum and Jake Robinson and their American friend, Jack Carter Rhoad, have highlighted the shifting and uncertain fault lines of risk in Mexico, which is simultaneously a major tourism destination and a country with hotspots of extraordinary violence.

The trio, who in April went missing in the Pacific coast state of Baja California while on a surfing trip, were later found dead, each killed by a gunshot to the head. Mexican authorities believe that they were attacked by people who wanted to steal their car tyres and were killed upon resisting.

The man accused of the killings, Jesús Gerardo known as “El Kekas”, is currently in custody, with murder charges expected to be filed. His girlfriend, who was also taken into custody, has reportedly turned witness against him, telling a court he said to her “I killed them”, gave her a mobile phone and showed her the allegedly stolen tyres on her car.

The murders are part of the violence that grips Mexico, which in 2023 saw more than 30,000 homicides for the sixth consecutive year. More than 100,000 people are also missing.

But beneath the national-level statistics, violence is hyper-concentrated in certain states.

“Baja California is one of them – but even there the bulk of homicides occur in Tijuana, and mostly in the poor areas,” said Falko Ernst, Mexico analyst for the nonprofit Crisis Group.

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

The violence in Baja California reflects the sheer volume of criminal business in the state, but also the instability of the criminal system itself.

Tijuana is the biggest border city in Mexico, which means huge flows of people, goods and cash going to and from the US every day. That makes Tijuana itself a prize to control, with a big local drug market and opportunities for money laundering.

Organised crime groups also have an interest in other parts of the state, for example the port in Ensenada – the nearest city to where the tourists’ bodies were found – which brings in drugs and chemical precursors for synthetics such as fentanyl and crystal meth.

Many groups are fighting to control these territories and businesses across Baja California.

“Tijuana is an emblem of the fragmentation of organised crime, where you don’t have one group running the show, but many,” said Ernst. “What ensues is perpetual fighting.”

This has been made more deadly by the torrent of US-made firearms trafficked over the border to Mexico. “Over the last couple of decades, guns have proliferated,” said Victoria Dittmar, a researcher for Insight Crime. “Now, anyone who wants a pistol can get one easily.”

Despite the violence, many tourists are drawn to Baja California for the beaches, waves and wildlife along a peninsula that stretches down to the resort towns of Los Cabos, on the southernmost tip of the state of Baja California Sur.

Given the number of visitors, it is striking how rare it is for tourists to be targeted. This is in part because organised crime groups also make money from the tourism industry – for example by extorting hotels, restaurants and nightclubs – and therefore rely on the continued flow of tourists.

“The fish you eat at that fancy restaurant may be subject to a kind of criminal taxation,” said Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego. “There could be a whole structure of criminal governance of which the tourist is unaware.”

However, crime in Mexico is far from perfectly organised. There are independent actors and local cells making decisions on the ground and in the moment.

“We’re also talking about a world that is hyper-paranoid,” said Ernst. “If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and somebody panics and thinks that there might be a risk for them, mistakes can be made.”

The speed of the investigation that followed the disappearance of the three surfers in Baja California reflects local authorities’ desire to relieve the external pressure and reassure tourists that they are safe in the state. Within days of the tourists being reported missing, three suspects were detained and the bodies were found at the bottom of a well on remote ranch land.

This is in a state where more than 80% of homicides go unpunished and roughly 20,000 people remain missing since 2006.

According to the Daily Beast, a member of the Sinaloa Cartel – one of Mexico’s largest organised crime groups – claimed to have tipped the authorities off on where to find the suspects so as to avoid “unwanted attention”.

“I think this case tells us a lot about how crime and the state tend to overlap in Mexico,” said Ernst. “Intelligence is not the problem – the problem is corruption and collusion, with many security forces on the take or even part of criminal networks.

“But if there’s external pressure, if elite and economic interests are potentially being affected, then the Mexican state is capable of getting things done.”.

“Sadly, there are tiers of victims. If you’re a foreigner, it is very likely they will find your remains,” said Farfán-Méndez. “But if you’re Mexican, you may never be found.”

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Labor says a greener future is on the way. So why is it taking a political gamble on gas?

Karen Middleton

Albanese government’s ‘future gas’ strategy has spooked its inner-city backbench MPs. How voters will respond is less clear

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On Wednesday afternoon, members of the federal Labor caucus backbench committee on climate change and energy were briefed on the government’s about-to-be-released future gas strategy.

It wasn’t, “Hey, what do you think of this?”. It was, “This is what you’ll be reading in the papers tomorrow”.

Some committee members were dismayed. As a series of subsequent public interventions from city-based backbenchers demonstrated, those with seats already at risk of falling to the Greens felt slightly stronger than that.

The member for the Melbourne-based seat of Macnamara, Josh Burns, was the first to speak out after flagging his intention with like-minded colleagues. Others followed, one by one, expressing alarm that their Labor government was suddenly embracing gas “to 2050 and beyond”, opening new gas fields and proposing offsets and abatements to justify the ongoing use of gas while needing to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I didn’t get into politics to be a support mechanism for the fossil fuel industry,” Burns told ABC Radio National on Friday.

The Greens immediately accused the rebels of grandstanding and making faux protests just to win over appalled progressive constituents.

So is it a real policy showdown or just politics? Well, both.

There are two major parts to the government’s policy calculations in producing a strategy with, effectively, an indefinite reliance on gas. They start with a premise.

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The transition to sustainable forms of energy is no longer hypothetical or hifalutin, as 15 years of political obfuscation allowed some people to believe. It’s necessary, it’s happening and it needs to happen faster. While renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, battery technology isn’t yet good enough for them to substitute for baseload power sources completely. So something else will need to do the job in the meantime.

Of the stabilising options while Australia makes the shift, the government considers gas the most viable, ostensibly because it can be switched on and off as a power source much faster than coal. Also, people who say they’re worried about climate change don’t seem to hate it quite as much.

The other bit of the policy argument is that incorporating gas firmly in the energy transition is an exercise in regional reassurance. Neighbourhood allies – specifically Japan and South Korea – are good gas customers and want certainty from their energy suppliers, especially since the Covid experience exposed supply chain concerns worldwide. Global security fears have only compounded them.

The argument continues that making a definitive pledge that gas will be part of Australia’s energy future even beyond 2050 – despite believing that battery technology development will dramatically shorten that timeframe – provides that reassurance. It also sets the nation up to sell the same customers future energy alternatives – “clean” hydrogen, biomethane and the like. So it’s still really all about the energy transition. Don’t worry.

But the politics are a bit trickier than that. The government’s placing considerable store in qualitative research on attitudes to gas that suggests a solid portion of the voting populace find it a less odious fossil fuel than coal.

Yet, it very much depends who you ask, and that’s where the problem lies. The equation is further complicated because voters’ views can be a bit contradictory. We know we need to move away from fossil fuels and we want to do that. But switching our households to electricity is expensive. Right now, we can’t afford it. But we know we need to move away. Et cetera.

That makes assessing how this kind of announcement might be received more a circular than a linear exercise.

Nevertheless, the thinking goes that a future energy plan including gas might provide a form of reassurance to those voters, too, in the sense that they won’t personally be forced to switch too fast.

Government strategists believe these research findings mitigate the political risk in publicly embracing gas for (quite) a while longer. In some resource-rich states – and one in the west in particular – they believe it’s mostly upside.

Some reason that federal Labor might therefore be able to withstand a bit of a breakout on the backbench over gas and in some seats, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Although disunity is usually death in politics, there’s a school of thought that says in the seats where it counts, strategic differentiation can sometimes bring the opposite.

Just to clear up any confusion, the government is saying the future gas strategy is only half the story and the rest will be coming in the budget, in the form of support for clean energy innovation through the “future made in Australia” plan.

Within 48 hours of the gas plan’s unveiling, the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, was forced to clarify that there wouldn’t be “any new money for the future gas strategy in the budget” but billions of dollars in renewable investment.

“I think that should assure and reassure people who want, like I do, a renewable future for this country, [about] where the government’s priorities lie,” Chalmers said on Friday. “But we need to be realistic about the role for gas in the interim.”

Politically, this is a dangerous game.

It’s risky to announce you’re getting fully behind gas exploration without a phase-out deadline, let that sink in for six days and then unveil the kicker, the bit about renewables and a greener, smarter, better future that’s supposed to make it all make sense.

When you’ve derided your predecessors for their “gas-led recovery” and won an election spruiking the urgency of achieving net zero emissions, you need a pretty solid, clear and convincing explanation for why you’re suddenly talking up another quarter-century-plus of reliance on fossil fuels.

It’s one thing to want to get the potentially difficult news out first. But if what’s meant to be the good news doesn’t actually reassure people or even further confuses them, you’re in trouble.

Maybe it will all come together when the treasurer stands up in parliament on Tuesday night. The worried backbenchers will have their fears allayed and the horrified folks who are accusing Labor of selling out will realise it’s not that bad.

But if Labor’s message is muddled and an idea takes hold that it’s put politics first, that it isn’t what it seemed, or that its energy transition plan might not work, then – politically speaking – it could be much worse.

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NSW police fighting to keep secret documents from watchdog related to death of woman shot with bean bag round

Watchdog wants access to manual on use of ‘less-lethal’ force and personnel logs as part of investigation into Krista Kach’s fatal wounding

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New South Wales police are fighting a request to hand over key documents to the police watchdogover the death of Krista Kach, who was fatally wounded by police after she was shot with a bean bag round.

Kach, 47, died after a 10-hour standoff with police in Newcastle in September in which she was Tasered by police twice and went into cardiac arrest after a bean bag round punctured her body and impacted her heart. Police claimed Kach had earlier threatened officers with an axe.

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc), which is overseeing the police investigations into Kach’s death, had requested the force’s manual on the use of “less-lethal” measures and personnel logs which recorded actions of police during the incident.

NSW police launched an appeal in the supreme court to stop it being compelled to produce the document in its entirety, arguing it contained sensitive information that was not relevant to the watchdog’s monitoring.

In a hearing on Thursday between the NSW commissioner for police and the attorney general of NSW, the force’s lawyer, David Hume, argued it should be up to the courts as to whether the public interest of not disclosing the force’s records outweighed the public interest of it being disclosed to the watchdog.

Hume argued the manual guiding the deployment of less-lethal measures spans beyond the use of the bean bag rounds and deals with other police tactics, including methods used by law-enforcement agencies overseas.

In resisting the request to also hand over personnel logs, Hume argued it contained the names of officers which could disclose their identities and “lead to reprisals”. However he conceded the police may be willing to hand over a redacted version.

Shortly after Kach died, her family released a statement that said what happened to their mother was “a disturbing and heartbreaking response by the police to a vulnerable person who had been told that she would soon be homeless”.

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Hume said the force respected the public interest need for transparency, however he said there are legitimate concerns about the information being disclosed beyond the commission.

This included the force’s concerns that information could appear in a parliamentary report if passed to the state parliament.

“We did invite Lecc to undertake not to on-disclose the information to parliament and that was refused,” he said.

James Emmett SC, the council for the attorney general, argued the police’s objections were not legitimate.

“The Lecc is a body set up to carry on a degree of oversight … It is clearly equipped by parliament to make that judgment,” he said.

“Disclosure to the parliament does not necessarily lead to its publication. Parliament has control of the document from there.”

One of the three judges overseeing the case questioned how Lecc could oversee an investigation without all the relevant material.

“If the surveillance logs are telling the story of what’s been happening during the particular incident, siege or the like, I am struggling with how one could have a proper monitoring of that incident response without access to something like that,” the NSW court of appeal president, Julie Kathryn Ward, said.

Hume said the issues at play extended beyond this case.

“We see genuine public interest concerns, where say, an informer has given the police information on the basis that that will stay within a very small group of people, and then they later find out well actually there was a whole statutory regime where Lecc was able to get that information and then it came before parliament,” he said.

The judges have reserved their decision.

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Order from eSafety to hide Sydney church stabbing video was invalid, X tells court

Lawyer for Elon Musk’s company tells federal court notice from watchdog was ‘manifestly inadequate’

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Elon Musk’s X Corp has argued notices ordering the companyto remove tweets showing video of a stabbing attack at a Sydney church were invalid, and told a court it was not reasonable for Australia’s eSafety commissioner to expect the 65 posts to be taken down globally.

Last month, X was ordered to hide the posts of the stabbing attack on bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel while he was giving a livestreamed service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in the suburb of Wakeley.

Esafety sought a federal court injunction after X only made the tweets unavailable to Australian users and vowed to challenge the notice.

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The barrister representing X, Bret Walker SC, told the court on Friday that X did not believe the notice was valid and was “manifestly inadequate” in lacking detail in the description of the consideration made by the eSafety officer who decided to order the removal of the material, and deemed it to be “class 1” under Australian classification law.

Walker argued the determination referred to a depiction of “crime, cruelty or violence”, which is not something he said would rise to the level that would be refused classification by the classification board in Australia. He said the depiction of such an act of violence, with a camera close to see how it is being done, does not meet that bar.

The barrister for the eSafety commissioner, Tim Begbie KC, told the court the decision document captured key factors the decision-maker considered. Begbie said eSafety had 28 days to put on a full statement of the reasons for the decision through the separate review process X launched in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Begbie argued the case at hand was focused on the enforcement of the Online Safety Act and protecting Australians from harm, not freedom of speech.

He told the court X wasn’t opposed to globally removing content but says the company has viewed it as unreasonable to globally remove the posts because the Australian government wants it to.

He also said the parliament would have been aware of the global nature of the internet when it passed the Online Safety Act.

Walker said X had taken all reasonable steps to prevent Australians accessing the tweets, though it had still been accessible via virtual private network connections for the small subset of people who choose that method of access.

He said it was a “really remarkable proposition” for a country to argue the only way to control what’s available to end users in Australia is “to deny it to everybody on Earth”.

An order to hide the tweets was due to expire at 5pm on Friday but has been extended until Monday pending the court’s decision on the interlocutory order – expected at 10am.

Walker argued before the court that the terms of the order were not compatible with how X’s systems work and there would likely need t be a revision of any order to make the tweets unavailable if the injunction continues prior to a final hearing.

The US-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation sought to intervene in the case, however eSafety objected arguing that EFF’s position – focused on the potential curtailing of free speech globally under eSafety removal notices – was one “for the ballot box” not the case before the court. Justice Kennett has yet to rule on whether to allow the intervention.

No date has yet been set for the final hearing, with another case management hearing scheduled for Wednesday next week. The week of 10 June was potentially floated as one date, with the case likely to take two hearing days.

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Order from eSafety to hide Sydney church stabbing video was invalid, X tells court

Lawyer for Elon Musk’s company tells federal court notice from watchdog was ‘manifestly inadequate’

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

Elon Musk’s X Corp has argued notices ordering the companyto remove tweets showing video of a stabbing attack at a Sydney church were invalid, and told a court it was not reasonable for Australia’s eSafety commissioner to expect the 65 posts to be taken down globally.

Last month, X was ordered to hide the posts of the stabbing attack on bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel while he was giving a livestreamed service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in the suburb of Wakeley.

Esafety sought a federal court injunction after X only made the tweets unavailable to Australian users and vowed to challenge the notice.

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

The barrister representing X, Bret Walker SC, told the court on Friday that X did not believe the notice was valid and was “manifestly inadequate” in lacking detail in the description of the consideration made by the eSafety officer who decided to order the removal of the material, and deemed it to be “class 1” under Australian classification law.

Walker argued the determination referred to a depiction of “crime, cruelty or violence”, which is not something he said would rise to the level that would be refused classification by the classification board in Australia. He said the depiction of such an act of violence, with a camera close to see how it is being done, does not meet that bar.

The barrister for the eSafety commissioner, Tim Begbie KC, told the court the decision document captured key factors the decision-maker considered. Begbie said eSafety had 28 days to put on a full statement of the reasons for the decision through the separate review process X launched in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Begbie argued the case at hand was focused on the enforcement of the Online Safety Act and protecting Australians from harm, not freedom of speech.

He told the court X wasn’t opposed to globally removing content but says the company has viewed it as unreasonable to globally remove the posts because the Australian government wants it to.

He also said the parliament would have been aware of the global nature of the internet when it passed the Online Safety Act.

Walker said X had taken all reasonable steps to prevent Australians accessing the tweets, though it had still been accessible via virtual private network connections for the small subset of people who choose that method of access.

He said it was a “really remarkable proposition” for a country to argue the only way to control what’s available to end users in Australia is “to deny it to everybody on Earth”.

An order to hide the tweets was due to expire at 5pm on Friday but has been extended until Monday pending the court’s decision on the interlocutory order – expected at 10am.

Walker argued before the court that the terms of the order were not compatible with how X’s systems work and there would likely need t be a revision of any order to make the tweets unavailable if the injunction continues prior to a final hearing.

The US-based digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation sought to intervene in the case, however eSafety objected arguing that EFF’s position – focused on the potential curtailing of free speech globally under eSafety removal notices – was one “for the ballot box” not the case before the court. Justice Kennett has yet to rule on whether to allow the intervention.

No date has yet been set for the final hearing, with another case management hearing scheduled for Wednesday next week. The week of 10 June was potentially floated as one date, with the case likely to take two hearing days.

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Labor pours $1bn into domestic violence crisis housing and doubles homelessness funding

Albanese government also plans to cap international student enrolments and require universities to build more housing to ease shortages

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The Albanese government will put an extra $1bn towards crisis accommodation for women and children leaving domestic violence, as part of a multi-billion-dollar housing and homelessness package agreed at national cabinet on Friday.

The commonwealth will double its funding for homelessness under the $9.3bn national agreement, while the states will get another $1bn to help speed up construction on infrastructure to support new housing.

Separately the federal government will also adjust policy settings around international students in a bid to ease housing shortages, with plans to put new caps on student numbers, require universities to build more campus accommodation and further crackdown on sub-standard education providers or agents.

“It’s a challenge facing Australians everywhere and it needs action from every level of government,” the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said of Australia’s housing problems.

National cabinet met on Friday to discuss housing issues. The new agreements, to be included in next week’s federal budget, include $1bn for crisis and transitional accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence; and $1bn for states and territories to build new roads, sewers, energy and water infrastructure required for new housing developments.

The meeting also produced a new national agreement on social housing and homelessness, which will include plans to address homelessness and maintain social housing.

The five-year plan will be boosted by $400m in annual homelessness funding from the commonwealth, a doubling of current funding and which will be matched by state funding.

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The federal government did not immediately detail how many new properties it would seek to build, or where they would be located, under the announcements.

As the domestic violence crisis sweeps Australia, the federal and state governments had been urged to take bold action. Another national cabinet meeting last week made permanent a $5,000 “leaving violence” payment, but governments had been urged to do much more to address domestic violence and help victims, including providing more housing options and social support payments.

Albanese said the new funding would ensure “fewer barriers to construction, less talk and more homes”.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said housing would be a major focus of Tuesday’s budget, saying “Australia needs to build more homes more quickly” and pointing to boosting supply as the solution.

Despite the government’s own National Housing Supply and Affordability Council projecting only 943,000 new homes will be built over the next five years, the housing minister, Julie Collins, said the government was still committed to “achieve the ambitious national target of 1.2 million new homes by the end of the decade.”

The government has also announced plans to require universities to increase supply of student accommodation for domestic and international students. A statement from the prime minister’s office said Australia must “reduce pressure on the private rental market”.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said the government wanted to see “more purpose-built housing to support students in higher education”. The government did not immediately outline the specifics of that initiative, saying only that it would “work with the higher education sector on new regulation” to see more student accommodation built.

In a separate announcement, Clare said the government would introduce new legislation next week allowing the education minister to set a cap on the maximum number of new international student enrolments institutions can offer.

Universities seeking to enrol students over that cap, Clare’s office said, would have to build new student accommodation – which would “free up pressure on the rental market”.

Labor in December sought to raise the bar for international students to get a visa as part of its migration review, in a bid to weed out dodgy providers and help students to avoid exploitation. The number of international students in Australia in April topped 700,000 for the first time, helping drive the number of temporary entrants to 2.8 million, another new record. The government has come under pressure to lower migration numbers, including student arrivals, in a bid to lessen pressure on the housing market.

The government will seek new powers to crack down on international education providers, including powers to pause new applications for education providers or cancelling dormant providers, preventing education providers from owning education agent businesses, and barring providers under investigation from recruiting new students.

“International students are an incredibly important part of our economy and our communities, and we need to ensure the sector is set up for the future,” Clare said.

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Feeling the pinch: why are so many Australian businesses failing?

The high cost of living and the ‘bullwhip effect’ have had a deleterious effect, particularly on food services and building, resulting in a decade-high 10,000 collapses

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An insolvency tsunami has swept through Australia, putting the country on track to record decade-high numbers of collapsed businesses by the end of the financial year.

While building and food services companies are at the forefront of the surge, few sectors have been spared, representing a soft underbelly to the country’s otherwise resilient economy.

Why are so many businesses coming unstuck?

Just one glass

The hospitality industry is recording a spate of collapses as consumers cut their restaurant and cafe spend during a cost-of-living crisis.

This rubs against the support hospitality businesses received from the community in the early pandemic, in part due to programs such as state government-issued dining vouchers. There have also been 13 interest rate rises since then, accompanied by rocketing household expenses.

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Suresh Manickam, chief executive of Restaurant & Catering Australia, says everybody is feeling the pinch.

“There is an element of discretionary spending for a consumer when they go out,” says Manickam.

“They might not have a bottle of wine with their meal and instead cut back to one or two glasses, or they may choose two courses instead of three.”

Official data shows that the volume of retail trade, which includes food and dining out, has fallen for the fifth quarter out of the past six.

The corporate regulator expects the total number of annual collapses will surpass 10,000 by the end of June, a level not seen since the 2013 financial year.

One caveat is that the number of registered companies has risen significantly over that period, from about 2m to more than 3.3m.

Bullwhip effect

The construction sector is recording the most collapses out of any sector, far exceeding levels recorded before and during the early pandemic years.

Tim Reardon, chief economist at the Housing Industry Association, says the industry is suffering from a “bullwhip effect”, referring to pent-up pressures on builders being passed on to subcontractors.

Many builders were caught out in the inflationary period by fast-rising material costs, which eroded anticipated profits from their fixed-price contracts.

Worker shortages and supply chain delays also led to a blowout in build times, another factor that dents profitability.

“That challenge of fixed price contracts and long build times have been the underlying cause of the problem, but we are now through that cycle,” Reardon says.

Reardon expects more construction businesses will wind up ahead of 30 June, before insolvency numbers stabilise.

Late payments

The average time taken by a business to pay back dues has been rising steadily, according to analysis by credit reporting agency Equifax, which is an indicator of financial stress.

When it comes to late payments, the construction industry is outpacing the broader market, paying their dues on average 10.2 days after they are supposed to.

Scott Mason, general manager of commercial and property services at Equifax, says financial stress in business can tip over into personal financial strain.

“These business owners are having to make some extremely difficult choices around whether to prioritise paying their business or personal expenses and, as a result, their mortgage repayments are starting to lapse,” Mason says.

Sole traders and small business owners in the construction and hospitality sectors are significantly more likely to be in mortgage arrears than consumers with no commercial commitments, according to Equifax.

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The UN general assembly overwhelmingly passed the resolution for the UN Security Council to reconsider and support the full membership of Palestine into the United Nations.

143 countries supported it, 9 voted against, and 25 abstained.

The nine countries who opposed were:

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Is AI lying to me? Scientists warn of growing capacity for deception

Researchers find instances of systems double-crossing opponents, bluffing, pretending to be human and modifying behaviour in tests

They can outwit humans at board games, decode the structure of proteins and hold a passable conversation, but as AI systems have grown in sophistication so has their capacity for deception, scientists warn.

The analysis, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers, identifies wide-ranging instances of AI systems double-crossing opponents, bluffing and pretending to be human. One system even altered its behaviour during mock safety tests, raising the prospect of auditors being lured into a false sense of security.

“As the deceptive capabilities of AI systems become more advanced, the dangers they pose to society will become increasingly serious,” said Dr Peter Park, an AI existential safety researcher at MIT and author of the research.

Park was prompted to investigate after Meta, which owns Facebook, developed a program called Cicero that performed in the top 10% of human players at the world conquest strategy game Diplomacy. Meta stated that Cicero had been trained to be “largely honest and helpful” and to “never intentionally backstab” its human allies.

“It was very rosy language, which was suspicious because backstabbing is one of the most important concepts in the game,” said Park.

Park and colleagues sifted through publicly available data and identified multiple instances of Cicero telling premeditated lies, colluding to draw other players into plots and, on one occasion, justifying its absence after being rebooted by telling another player: “I am on the phone with my girlfriend.” “We found that Meta’s AI had learned to be a master of deception,” said Park.

The MIT team found comparable issues with other systems, including a Texas hold ’em poker program that could bluff against professional human players and another system for economic negotiations that misrepresented its preferences in order to gain an upper hand.

In one study, AI organisms in a digital simulator “played dead” in order to trick a test built to eliminate AI systems that had evolved to rapidly replicate, before resuming vigorous activity once testing was complete. This highlights the technical challenge of ensuring that systems do not have unintended and unanticipated behaviours.

“That’s very concerning,” said Park. “Just because an AI system is deemed safe in the test environment doesn’t mean it’s safe in the wild. It could just be pretending to be safe in the test.”

The review, published in the journal Patterns, calls on governments to design AI safety laws that address the potential for AI deception. Risks from dishonest AI systems include fraud, tampering with elections and “sandbagging” where different users are given different responses. Eventually, if these systems can refine their unsettling capacity for deception, humans could lose control of them, the paper suggests.

Prof Anthony Cohn, a professor of automated reasoning at the University of Leeds and the Alan Turing Institute, said the study was “timely and welcome”, adding that there was a significant challenge in how to define desirable and undesirable behaviours for AI systems.

“Desirable attributes for an AI system (the “three Hs”) are often noted as being honesty, helpfulness, and harmlessness, but as has already been remarked upon in the literature, these qualities can be in opposition to each other: being honest might cause harm to someone’s feelings, or being helpful in responding to a question about how to build a bomb could cause harm,” he said. “So, deceit can sometimes be a desirable property of an AI system. The authors call for more research into how to control the truthfulness which, though challenging, would be a step towards limiting their potentially harmful effects.”

A spokesperson for Meta said: “Our Cicero work was purely a research project and the models our researchers built are trained solely to play the game Diplomacy … Meta regularly shares the results of our research to validate them and enable others to build responsibly off of our advances. We have no plans to use this research or its learnings in our products.”

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