The Guardian 2024-05-15 10:01:39


Fatima Payman accuses Israel of genocide in Gaza in significant rupture with Labor party position

WA senator says ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ – a phrase Anthony Albanese argues is counter to two-state solution

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The Labor senator Fatima Payman has accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and has questioned how many deaths will be enough for the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to declare “enough”.

In a significant rupture with the Labor party position, Payman called for sanctions and divestment from Israel and declared “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – a politically charged phrase that Albanese has criticised.

But Payman characterised the call as signifying “freedom from the occupation, freedom from the violence and freedom from the inequality”.

The Western Australian senator originally intended to read her statement to a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday marking the Nakba – an Arabic phrase meaning “the catastrophe” that refers to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians around the time of the establishment of Israel in 1948.

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Instead she read the statement to two media outlets, acknowledging that “there is disillusionment in the community with the [political] parties”. Payman said she was “terrified at my own inadequacy to stand for what I believe”.

“Today, more than ever, is the time to speak the truth – the whole truth – with courage and clarity,” she told SBS News and Capital Brief.

“My conscience has been uneasy for far too long. And I must call this out for what it is. This is a genocide and we need to stop pretending otherwise.”

Payman said she saw leaders, instead of advocating for justice, “performatively gesture defending the oppressors’ right to oppress while gaslighting the global community about the rights of self-defence”.

“I ask our prime minister and our fellow parliamentarians: how many international rights laws must Israel break for us to say enough? What is the magic number?

“How many lives need to be lost before we say enough? What is the magic number?”

Payman also asked “how many horrors need to be repeated before we feel that this should end” and “how many Palestinian lives are enough to call this violence against them terrorism” and genocide.

Palestinian authorities report that 35,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its military response to Hamas’s 7 October attacks, when about 1,200 people were killed and about 250 were taken hostage.

The Israeli government maintains that its military operations are a legitimate response to the Hamas attacks, and has dismissed allegations it is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza as “false” and “outrageous”.

The international court of justice has yet to make a substantive ruling on genocide allegations levelled by South Africa but said in an interim ruling in January the claims were “plausible” and ordered Israel to take all steps to prevent genocidal acts and incitement.

Payman also mentioned the pro-Palestine encampments that have been set up across universities. She said Australian MPs and senators “cannot be disconnected from the people of Australia”.

“We can be on the right side of history so that when the young read about us, they can be proud Australians, knowing that their country at a time when it was needed had the moral clarity to do what is right, that the voices calling for freedom and for justice were heard,” she said.

“I ask you to join me to continue to call for freedom from the occupation, freedom from the violence and freedom from the inequality. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Albanese has argued that the “river to the sea” phrase is counter to the two-state solution favoured by the Australian government.

Prominent Jewish groups have labelled the phrase as “hateful”, saying it calls for full Palestinian control in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and excludes the possibility of a state of Israel.

But advocates including the Palestinian-US writer Yousef Munayyer have argued the phrase express a desire for Palestinians to “live in their homeland as free and equal citizens, neither dominated by others nor dominating them”.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in January he would not compromise on full Israeli security control west of the Jordan River.

The co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Alex Ryvchin, said Payman “should immediately apologise for stoking hatred in such a vile way”.

Ryvchin said the phrase was “an old Arab supremacist slogan calling for the destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population”.

“If she can’t refrain from using racist slogans at a time of extreme tension in our society, she should consider her position,” Ryvchin said.

But the president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, thanked Payman for “speaking truth to power in the interests of the sanctity of human life and human rights”.

Payman was elected to the Senate in 2022 and used her first speech to parliament to describe how her family fled Taliban-ruled Afghanistan shortly after her birth.

“I stand before you tonight as a young woman, as a Western Australian, as a Muslim devout to her faith, proud of her heritage and grateful to this beautiful country,” she told the Senate in 2022.

Comment was sought from Albanese and Payman.

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Police who investigated Bruce Lehrmann sue Shane Drumgold for $1.42m over critical comments

Five AFP officers say complaints in a November 2022 letter brought them into ‘public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt’

Five federal police officers are suing the Australian Capital Territory government and Shane Drumgold for $1.42m over the former director of public prosecutions’ complaint about the handling of Bruce Lehrmann’s prosecution.

In December 2022 Guardian Australia revealed that Drumgold had written to the ACT detective superintendent Scott Moller shortly after the trial’s collapse, saying he held concerns that police were politically influenced and had aligned themselves with the defence.

Lehrmann pleaded not guilty to raping Brittany Higgins, his former Liberal staffer colleague, on the minister Linda Reynold’s couch in Parliament House in 2019. The criminal trial was abandoned due to juror misconduct and Lehrmann maintains his innocence.

In April a federal court judge found on the balance of probabilities that Lehrmann had raped Higgins.

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Drumgold wrote in his letter that there had been “consistent and inappropriate interference by investigators, firstly directed towards my independence with a very clear campaign to pressure me to agree with the investigators’ desire not to charge, then during the conduct of this trial itself, and finally attempting to influence any decision on a retrial”.

In their statement of claim to the federal court submitted in April, the officers say the allegations made in the 1 November 2022 letter went to the heart of their standing as police officers and brought them into “public disrepute, odium, ridicule and contempt”.

“Within the AFP, a police officer’s professional reputation is critical to his or her career success and ability to effectively engage with members of the community,” the document said.

Moller and his colleagues, a detective inspector, Marcus Boorman, a deputy chief police officer, Michael Chew, a detective leading senior constable, Trent Madders, and a senior constable, Emma Frizzell, allege that Drumgold defamed them on two occasions – when he sent the letter to the AFP and again when he released the letter to Guardian Australia in response to an FoI request.

They also say the ACT government is “vicariously liable” for Drumgold’s “misfeasance” in public office.

If successful, Boorman could receive the most in damages and economic loss at $415,000, followed by Moller, who is seeking $350,000. In total, the five officers could receive at least $1.415m.

An ACT government spokesperson said it acknowledged “that proceedings have been commenced” but said it would not be appropriate to respond.

Guardian Australia contacted lawyers for the officers for a response. Drumgold’s lawyer declined to comment.

Drumgold’s letter also accused Reynolds of “disturbing conduct” during the trial. The Liberal senator was awarded $70,000 in damages, $20,000 in legal costs and an apology from the ACT government in March after launching legal action.

The publication of the letter’s claims partly led to the establishment of a board of inquiry into the ACT’s investigation into Higgins’ rape allegation and the subsequent trial.

Led by a former Queensland judge, Walter Sofronoff, the inquiry made a number of serious findings against Drumgold in July 2023, including he “at times … lost objectivity and did not act with fairness and detachment”.

Sofronoff ruled out political influence or interference playing a role in the investigation or trial, instead praising police conduct.

Drumgold, who resigned in August shortly after the inquiry’s final report, challenged many of Sofronoff’s findings against him in the ACT supreme court, alleging that the inquiry had failed to give him a fair hearing, denied him natural justice, breached the law and “gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias”.

While Drumgold was unsuccessful in challenging all of the misconduct findings, Justice Stephen Kaye ruled in March that Sofronoff’s extensive interactions with the Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen gave the impression he “might have been influenced by the views held and publicly expressed” by her.

The court heard that, while leading the inquiry, Sofronoff had 273 interactions with Albrechtsen between January and July 2023, including 51 phone calls, text messages, emails and a private lunch meeting in Brisbane.

Call logs submitted to court showed the former judge had spent seven and a half hours on the phone with journalists from the Australian over the seven-month period, most of them with Albrechtsen.

The ACT integrity commissioner, Michael Adams, will investigate whether Sofronoff acted corruptly by leaking his final report on the Lehrmann trial to select journalists before its official release.

Guardian Australia has contacted Sofronoff for a response.

– additional reporting by Paul Karp

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Gina Rinehart demands National Gallery of Australia remove her portrait

NGA rebuffs efforts by billionaire to take down painting by award-winning artist Vincent Namatjira

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The mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has demanded the National Gallery of Australia remove her portrait from an exhibition by the award-winning artist Vincent Namatjira.

The image, arguably an unflattering picture of Australia’s richest woman, is one of many portraits unveiled at the Canberra gallery as part of the Archibald prize-winning artist’s first major survey exhibition.

The National Gallery has rebuffed efforts to have the picture taken down and said in a statement that it welcomed public dialogue on its collection and displays.

“Since 1973, when the National Gallery acquired Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, there has been a dynamic discussion on the artistic merits of works in the national collection, and/or on display at the gallery,” it said.

“We present works of art to the Australian public to inspire people to explore, experience and learn about art.”

The portrait of Rinehart hangs alongside images of Queen Elizabeth II and football player Adam Goodes and is set to be on display until 21 July.

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Before going on show in Canberra, the painting was on public display in Adelaide for months during the exhibition’s initial run at the Art Gallery of South Australia from October 2023 until January 2024.

The SA gallery has confirmed it did not field any requests for the removal of the painting.

A reproduction of the image is also part of a prestigious Thames & Hudson monograph about Namatjira’s work, published to accompany the survey show.

Rinehart is listed as a friend of the National Gallery after donating between $4,999 and $9,999 to the institution.

She has been contacted for comment through her company Hancock Prospecting.

In 2023, Rinehart withdrew a $15m sponsorship of Netball Australia after the Indigenous netballer Donnell Wallam asked for her uniform not to carry the Hancock Prospecting logo.

Rinehart later set up a $3m fund to reward athletes who won gold medals or set world records in swimming, artistic swimming, rowing and volleyball.

In 2020 Namatjira became the first Aboriginal artist to win the Archibald prize with his portrait of Goodes, with his paintings about changing people’s perspectives by using satirical humour as a commentary on power.

In one of his recent works included in the show, King Charles III stands in his regalia in the central desert, looking decidedly uncomfortable and out of place, as a way of depriving the royal family of their power and entitlement.

Born in Alice Springs, Namatjira was raised in foster care in Perth from the age of six, which meant losing his connection to family, country and culture.

He grew up not knowing of his link to the famed watercolourist Albert Namatjira – Vincent is his great-grandson – until he was an adult, and was astonished to discover his artistic legacy and the significance of his family name.

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Chiefs’ kicker Butker rails against Pride, Biden and working women in speech

  • Three-time Super Bowl winner speaks at Benedictine
  • Butker targets Biden, Pride month, Covid policies

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker railed against Pride month, working women, US president Biden’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and abortion during a commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend.

The three-time Super Bowl champion delivered the roughly 20-minute address Saturday at the Catholic private liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas, which is located about 60 miles north of Kansas City.

Butker, who has made his conservative Catholic beliefs well known, began his address by attacking what he called “dangerous gender ideologies” in an apparent reference to Pride month, which has been celebrated in June since the Stonewall riots in 1969. He also criticized an article by the Associated Press highlighting a shift toward conservativism in some parts of the Catholic Church.

The 28-year-old Butker then took aim at Biden’s policies, including his response to Covid-19, which has killed nearly 1.2m people in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While Covid might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique,” he said. “The bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for the degenerate cultural values and media all stem from pervasiveness of disorder.”

Butker later addressed the women in the audience, arguing that their “most important title” should be that of “homemaker”.

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you,” Butker said. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

The Chiefs declined to comment on Butker’s commencement address.

The 2017 seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech has become of the NFL’s best kickers, breaking the Chiefs’ franchise record with a 62-yard field goal in 2022. Butker helped them win their first Super Bowl in 50 years in 2020, added a second Lombardi Trophy in 2023, and he kicked the field goal that forced overtime in a Super Bowl win over San Francisco in February.

It has been an embarrassing offseason for the Chiefs, though.

Last month, voters in Jackson County, Missouri, soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have helped pay for a downtown ballpark for the Royals and an $800m renovation to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs. Many voters criticized the plan put forward by the Chiefs as catering primarily to VIPs and the wealthy.

The same week, wide receiver Rashee Rice turned himself in to Dallas police on multiple charges, including aggravated assault, after he was involved in a high-speed crash that left four people with injuries. Rice has acknowledged being the driver of one of the sports cars that was going in excess of 100mph, and video shows him leaving the scene without providing information or determining whether anyone needed medical attention.

Last week, law enforcement officials told the Dallas Morning News that Rice also was suspected of assaulting a person at a downtown nightclub; Dallas police did not name Rice as the suspect in detailing a report to the Associated Press.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he had spoken to the receiver and the team was letting the legal process play out.

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Chiefs’ kicker Butker rails against Pride, Biden and working women in speech

  • Three-time Super Bowl winner speaks at Benedictine
  • Butker targets Biden, Pride month, Covid policies

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker railed against Pride month, working women, US president Biden’s leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and abortion during a commencement address at Benedictine College last weekend.

The three-time Super Bowl champion delivered the roughly 20-minute address Saturday at the Catholic private liberal arts school in Atchison, Kansas, which is located about 60 miles north of Kansas City.

Butker, who has made his conservative Catholic beliefs well known, began his address by attacking what he called “dangerous gender ideologies” in an apparent reference to Pride month, which has been celebrated in June since the Stonewall riots in 1969. He also criticized an article by the Associated Press highlighting a shift toward conservativism in some parts of the Catholic Church.

The 28-year-old Butker then took aim at Biden’s policies, including his response to Covid-19, which has killed nearly 1.2m people in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While Covid might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique,” he said. “The bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for the degenerate cultural values and media all stem from pervasiveness of disorder.”

Butker later addressed the women in the audience, arguing that their “most important title” should be that of “homemaker”.

“I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you,” Butker said. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

The Chiefs declined to comment on Butker’s commencement address.

The 2017 seventh-round pick out of Georgia Tech has become of the NFL’s best kickers, breaking the Chiefs’ franchise record with a 62-yard field goal in 2022. Butker helped them win their first Super Bowl in 50 years in 2020, added a second Lombardi Trophy in 2023, and he kicked the field goal that forced overtime in a Super Bowl win over San Francisco in February.

It has been an embarrassing offseason for the Chiefs, though.

Last month, voters in Jackson County, Missouri, soundly rejected a ballot initiative that would have helped pay for a downtown ballpark for the Royals and an $800m renovation to Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Chiefs. Many voters criticized the plan put forward by the Chiefs as catering primarily to VIPs and the wealthy.

The same week, wide receiver Rashee Rice turned himself in to Dallas police on multiple charges, including aggravated assault, after he was involved in a high-speed crash that left four people with injuries. Rice has acknowledged being the driver of one of the sports cars that was going in excess of 100mph, and video shows him leaving the scene without providing information or determining whether anyone needed medical attention.

Last week, law enforcement officials told the Dallas Morning News that Rice also was suspected of assaulting a person at a downtown nightclub; Dallas police did not name Rice as the suspect in detailing a report to the Associated Press.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he had spoken to the receiver and the team was letting the legal process play out.

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NDIS changes to close costly ‘loophole’ before it becomes ‘gaping wound’, Bill Shorten says

Budget forecasts $14.4bn in savings from national disability insurance scheme, which minister says will come from changes to plan rules

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Bill Shorten has said the majority of the federal government’s planned $14.4bn NDIS savings over the next four years will come from changes yet to pass parliament, as he promised to shut down a plan inflation “loophole” before it becomes a “gaping wound”.

The 2024-25 federal budget shows Labor is banking on a total of $27.9bn in savings to fund a number of measures. Of that total, $14.4bn is expected to be freed up by moderating the national disability insurance scheme’s expected growth of $15.9bn to just $1.5bn by 2027-28.

The papers show funding for the scheme will still rise from $44.3bn in 2023-24 to $60.7bn by 2027-28.

The drastic reduction in growth follows a national cabinet agreement last year to an annual growth target of 8% from 1 July 2026, with the states and territories also agreeing in principle to offer more disability services for Australians currently missing out on NDIS access.

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But the expected $14.4bn in savings from curbing NDIS growth has also left some participants and the sector wondering whether some will miss out on crucial services in the name of savings.

One peak disability group has said it has “serious concerns” about the changes, while the Greens accused Labor of abandoning people with disability.

Shorten told ABC on Wednesday the scheme was here to stay but it couldn’t continue at its current rate of 20% annual growth.

Two measures, as outlined in a bill revealed in March tasked with getting the scheme “back on track”, will relieve the budget pressures, Shorten said.

The changes, if passed, would allow the government to change NDIS rules to target plan intra-inflation – where participants spend the funds in their plan and then request a top-up.

Shorten accused some providers and support coordinators of telling participants to spend money for supports and items quickly in order to get an “automatic top up”.

Another proposed change will remove existing itemised budgets, replacing it with a simplified system with flexible supports and stated supports.

Around 95% of the $14.4bn in savings over four years will come from these two changes, with plan inflation making up two-thirds of it. Changing how plans are budgeted represents around a third of expected savings.

“The scheme is going to increase in numbers and we’re increasing the investment in it,” Shorten said.

“But I do think that it doesn’t have to grow at 20%, I think that’s over the top and we need to bring it to a more reasonable growth level.”

Shorten said “squirrel theory” – where squirrels stock up on acorns for the winter – was behind the spike in the scheme’s growth in recent years.

“I think it’s led to a premature rush for the exit to try and get a little bit more because people are worried that somehow they won’t get that,” he said. “I just say to people, we want to have a more accountable scheme . The scheme is going to be ongoing.”

Marayke Jonkers, a former Paralympian and the president of peak advocacy group People with Disability Australia, said the forecast seemed to come at the “expense of support and service delivery for people with disability who need it most”.

“Disability representative organisations and people with disability need to not just be in the room, they need to be leading reform,” Jonkers said.

Another representative group, the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, said it had “serious concerns” about how the intra-plan inflation crackdown might impact participant plans and supports.

The Greens senator, Jordon Steele-John, said the changes would lead to disabled people “not getting the support they need when they need”, accusing Labor of choosing to “abandon” them.

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Is the 2024 budget inflationary? Warwick McKibbin and other economists say ‘yes’

Former RBA board member among experts who say Albanese government’s third budget is likely to at least delay next interest rate cut

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The Albanese government has “rolled the dice” on the economy and its third budget is likely to at least delay the next interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank, if not provoke another increase, ex-RBA board member Warwick McKibbin and other economists say.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, unveiled a second consecutive budget surplus on Tuesday although future years are projected to report sizeable deficits. Westpac estimates the government will pump into the budget an extra $20bn in spending in 2024-25 and 2025-26.

McKibbin, who is now the director of ANU’s Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis and served on the Reserve Bank from 2001-2011, said the extra spending was “such a risky strategy” when current interest rates were already probably too low to rein-in inflation.

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“By December, my guess is interest rates are going to be higher than they are today,” he told Guardian Australia on Wednesday. “Inflation is going to be higher, and the government is going to be in deep trouble.”

The government has argued that its $300 electricity rebate for every household, a 10% increase in rent assistance and a freeze on some medical prescriptions would place downward pressure on inflation even as the budget swings from surplus to deficit.

Treasury predicted that with household consumption all but stalling this financial year, some uptick in government spending – at federal and state level – could be accommodated. Headline inflation, at 3.6% in the March quarter, will also sink back to within the RBA’s 2%-3% target range by December, the budget projects.

Economists at the big four commercial banks gave mixed reviews on whether the budget would have a material effect on inflation and the RBA’s actions.

Westpac was perhaps the most positive about the budget, saying that treasury’s forecast that inflation could be down to 2.75% by next June was “a little below our own but it is entirely plausible”.

CBA, which until recently had forecast rate cuts in each of the RBA’s final three meetings of 2024, said the budget “represents a larger‑than‑expected easing of fiscal policy”.

“The risk is now more real that the first interest rate cut could be delayed and that the neutral cash rate is higher than we currently estimate due to the expansionary fiscal setting and the high level of investment in the economy,” the bank said. It predicts the RBA will cut the 4.35% cash rate by 25 basis points in September.

McKibbin said the cash rate should be around 5%. Evidence from the US and elsewhere – including inflation figures out on Tuesday – indicated inflation would prove stickier than people expect even with the US rates sitting at 5.5%-5.75%.

The government should have made more effort to improve the efficiency of the economy if they couldn’t find savings to offset spending increases – “That’s why productivity is so important and they’re just not addressing it,” McKibbin said.

McKibbin said the government appeared likely to make expensive mistakes with its $22.7bn so-called Future Made in Australia package. Taking the refining of silica for solar panels as one example, he said high wages and regulatory burdens were the reasons such investments weren’t made now.

With the opposition vowing to scrap the plans – which the shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, dubbed “billions for billionaires” – developers would also have to weigh up the political risks of making such investments.

“The whole thing makes absolutely no sense when there’s no consensus on key policy frameworks here,” McKibbin said.

Australia would find it difficult to reach the scale of investments needed to have a competitive edge in industries from green hydrogen to quantum computing. Even if there was a national security interest served by diversifying risk away from China, it remained unclear why Australia would need to seek to carve out production in so many areas.

“If we don’t trust the Americans or the Japanese or the Europeans [for] our production networks, we’re in bigger trouble than we thought,” McKibbin said.

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Young Indigenous man cried for help before drowning while fleeing police, Queensland coroner told

Robert Malayta, 18, was found dead by police divers in the Ross River near the Townsville suburb of Kirwan in 2022

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A young Indigenous man was caught up in a stolen car pursuit before drowning in an attempt to evade police by crossing a river, a coroner has heard.

Robert “Robbie” Malayta, 18, was found dead by police divers in the Ross River near the Townsville suburb of Kirwan in north Queensland at 11.48am on 25 February 2022.

During a pre-inquest conference in Brisbane on Tuesday, the coroner Terry Ryan heard that Malayta had fled in a stolen red Toyota Corolla driven by his older brother Shakur McLennan in the early hours of 24 February.

The counsel assisting, Carolyn McKeon, said it was likely Malayta and McLennan entered the river via a jetty within three or four minutes of leaving the Toyota.

McLennan later told police he saw Malayta drop below the water surface then yell out “big bro, I can’t breathe” before disappearing into the darkness.

“I’m trying to swim back to him and I’m nearly going under. His last breath was like ‘big bro, help’,” McLennan said.

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McKeon said Malayta, McLennan and a female friend, Erin Barnes, abandoned the Toyota and entered the Riverway Skatepark at 3.36am after the vehicle hit a police tyre deflation device.

“The officers were placed to lock the area down. No officer chased the group at any point,” McKeon said.

An officer posted at a school on the river’s bank heard someone calling out “Robbie” or “Robert” for a few minutes after 3.42am.

Police scanned the water with their torches and searched the riverbank between 4.11am and 5.51am with the aid of a police dog after reporting back that unknown suspects could have attempted to swim across the river.

Malayta’s family members searched the riverbanks at 7am and reported him missing at 5.56pm.

“Police commenced land searches of the park and river within hours of the report,” McKeon said.

An autopsy found Malayta showed no signs of internal or external injuries, or natural disease, and his cause of death was determined to be drowning.

McKeon said Malayta looked up to McLennan, who was breaching parole at the time, and only joined him in the car after some convincing.

Malayta’s sister saw him chastising McLennan for stealing $100 from their mother, Patricia McLennan.

“Patricia found a note written by Mr Malayta saying ‘Mum – gone with big bro to get your money back’,” McKeon said.

A police ethical standards command investigation later found that the officers’ actions during the early hours of 24 February 2022 were justified and there was no misconduct or breach of discipline.

Ryan ordered an inquest to be held on 17 and 18 October at Townsville and it would inspect the riverbank site of Malayta’s death.

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Young Indigenous man cried for help before drowning while fleeing police, Queensland coroner told

Robert Malayta, 18, was found dead by police divers in the Ross River near the Townsville suburb of Kirwan in 2022

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A young Indigenous man was caught up in a stolen car pursuit before drowning in an attempt to evade police by crossing a river, a coroner has heard.

Robert “Robbie” Malayta, 18, was found dead by police divers in the Ross River near the Townsville suburb of Kirwan in north Queensland at 11.48am on 25 February 2022.

During a pre-inquest conference in Brisbane on Tuesday, the coroner Terry Ryan heard that Malayta had fled in a stolen red Toyota Corolla driven by his older brother Shakur McLennan in the early hours of 24 February.

The counsel assisting, Carolyn McKeon, said it was likely Malayta and McLennan entered the river via a jetty within three or four minutes of leaving the Toyota.

McLennan later told police he saw Malayta drop below the water surface then yell out “big bro, I can’t breathe” before disappearing into the darkness.

“I’m trying to swim back to him and I’m nearly going under. His last breath was like ‘big bro, help’,” McLennan said.

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McKeon said Malayta, McLennan and a female friend, Erin Barnes, abandoned the Toyota and entered the Riverway Skatepark at 3.36am after the vehicle hit a police tyre deflation device.

“The officers were placed to lock the area down. No officer chased the group at any point,” McKeon said.

An officer posted at a school on the river’s bank heard someone calling out “Robbie” or “Robert” for a few minutes after 3.42am.

Police scanned the water with their torches and searched the riverbank between 4.11am and 5.51am with the aid of a police dog after reporting back that unknown suspects could have attempted to swim across the river.

Malayta’s family members searched the riverbanks at 7am and reported him missing at 5.56pm.

“Police commenced land searches of the park and river within hours of the report,” McKeon said.

An autopsy found Malayta showed no signs of internal or external injuries, or natural disease, and his cause of death was determined to be drowning.

McKeon said Malayta looked up to McLennan, who was breaching parole at the time, and only joined him in the car after some convincing.

Malayta’s sister saw him chastising McLennan for stealing $100 from their mother, Patricia McLennan.

“Patricia found a note written by Mr Malayta saying ‘Mum – gone with big bro to get your money back’,” McKeon said.

A police ethical standards command investigation later found that the officers’ actions during the early hours of 24 February 2022 were justified and there was no misconduct or breach of discipline.

Ryan ordered an inquest to be held on 17 and 18 October at Townsville and it would inspect the riverbank site of Malayta’s death.

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South China Sea: huge civilian Filipino flotilla heads to disputed shoal to ‘assert sovereign rights’

Philippines coast guard and navy watch as wooden boats head to Scarborough shoal to place buoys and hand food packs to local fishers

A flotilla of about 100 mostly small fishing boats led by Filipino activists has set sail for a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s coast guard and suspected militia ships have used powerful water cannon to ward off what they regard as intruders.

The Philippine coast guard and navy deployed one patrol ship each to keep watch from a distance on the activists and fishers, who set off on wooden boats with bamboo outriggers on Wednesday to assert Manila’s sovereignty over the Scarborough shoal. Dozens of journalists joined the three-day voyage.

Activists and volunteers, including a Roman Catholic priest, belonging to a non-government coalition called Atin Ito – Tagalog for This is Ours – planned to float small territorial buoys and distribute food packs and fuel to Filipino fishers near the shoal, organisers said, adding they were prepared for contingencies.

“Our mission is peaceful based on international law and aimed at asserting our sovereign rights,” said Rafaela David, a lead organiser. “We will sail with determination, not provocation, to civilianise the region and safeguard our territorial integrity.”

In December, David’s group also tried to sail to another disputed shoal but cut short the trip after being tailed by a Chinese ship.

China effectively seized the Scarborough Shoal, a triangle-shaped atoll with a vast fishing lagoon ringed by mostly submerged coral outcrops, by surrounding it with its coast guard ships after a tense 2012 standoff with Philippine government ships.

Angered by China’s action, the Philippine government brought the disputes to international arbitration in 2013 and largely won with a tribunal in The Hague ruling three years later that China’s expansive claims based on historical grounds in the busy seaway were invalid under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The ruling declared the Scarborough Shoal a traditional fishing area for Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese fishers. In the past, fishers have anchored in the shoal to avoid huge waves in the high seas in stormy weather.

China refused to participate in the arbitration, rejected the outcome and continues to defy it.

Two weeks ago, Chinese coast guard and suspected militia ships used water cannon on Philippine coast guard and fisheries boats patrolling the Scarborough Shoal, damaging both craft.

The Philippines condemned the Chinese coast guard’s action on the shoal, which lies in the south-east Asian nation’s internationally recognised exclusive economic zone. The Chinese coast guard said it took a “necessary measure” after the Philippine ships “violated China’s sovereignty”.

The Chinese coast guard has also reinstalled a floating barrier across the entrance to the shoal’s vast fishing lagoon, the Philippine coast guard said. The Philippine coast guard removed a similar barrier in the past to allow Filipinos to fish there.

In addition to the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have also been involved in the territorial disputes.

Chinese coast guard ships had also ventured into waters close to Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia in the past, sparking tensions and protests, but those nations with considerable economic ties with China have not been as aggressively critical of Beijing’s increasingly assertive actions.

The Philippines has released videos of its territorial face-offs with China and invited journalists to witness the hostilities in the high seas in a strategy to gain international support, sparking a war of words with Beijing.

The increasing frequency of the skirmishes between the Philippines and China has led to minor collisions, injured Filipino navy personnel and damaged supply boats in recent months. It has sparked fears the territorial disputes could degenerate into an armed conflict between China and the United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines.

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Victorian parliament deems keffiyeh ‘political’ as it bans MPs from wearing it

Ban comes after Greens MPs wore the scarf that’s long been a symbol for the struggle for a Palestinian state

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Victoria’s parliament has become one of few in the world to ban MPs from wearing the keffiyeh, the scarf that has been linked to the struggle for a Palestinian state for decades.

The president of the upper house, Shaun Leane, and the lower house speaker, Maree Edwards, both ruled on Wednesday that the scarf was political, meaning it could not be worn in either chamber.

In the upper house, Leane asked four Greens MPs to take off the keffiyeh at the start of the sitting day.

“Could I please ask the members of the Greens to remove the scarves that they are wearing today and if they could put them in spots that are not visible to the chamber,” he said.

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He later told Greens MP Samantha Ratnam that watermelon earrings, another symbol of Palestine resistance, could not be worn.

He said that unlike pins worn by MPs to mark events such as Anzac Day and the Cancer Council’s Daffodil Day, there was no “consensus” around the Palestinian symbols.

“If it is a cause we can all get behind or we reasonably think everybody can get behind, we should be relaxed about it,” Leane said.

“If it is symbolism – and I am not making a commentary on the symbolism – that you could reasonably expect the whole chamber is not behind, then I think it is a fair ruling to say that that should not be worn.”

He compared the ruling with a ban on wearing “Yes” pins during the Indigenous Voice to parliament referendum.

In the lower house, Greens MP Gabrielle de Vietri had been wearing a keffiyeh in parliament for several months before Edwards last week told her to take it off after Liberal MP David Southwick, who is Jewish, complained.

The party’s leader, Ellen Sandell, sought an explicit ruling on the keffiyeh on Wednesday morning, to which Edwards replied: “Political paraphernalia and badges are not allowed in the house. My ruling stands.”

The speaker said further clarification could be sought from her office. Guardian Australia has contacted Edwards for comment.

Sandell, who was heckled by MPs as she sought the ruling, said the Greens wore the keffiyeh “in solidarity with the countless Palestinians under siege right now”.

“In the midst of a potential genocide, our government should be joining the millions of people around the world calling for a permanent ceasefire,” she said.

“Instead … the Victorian parliament becomes one of the only parliaments in the world to ban the wearing of the keffiyeh in the chamber.”

Southwick welcomed the ban, describing the scarf as “triggering”.

“It is being used by Hamas terrorists time and time again. It’s not a peace sign. It’s not something that anybody should be wearing in a parliament,” he said.

In Canada, Ontario’s provincial parliament recently loosened its ban on the keffiyeh. Politicians, staff and visitors are to enter the building while wearing the scarf before requiring them to take it off when inside the chamber.

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Charlise Mutten’s alleged murderer threatened to ‘kill’ her mother in voicemails, NSW court hears

Violent messages left by Justin Stein after he is accused of shooting nine-year-old dead played to murder trial

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The man accused of murdering schoolgirl Charlise Mutten sent a string of violent voicemails to her mother threatening to kill her if she didn’t return his car to him.

Justin Laurens Stein, 33, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Charlise on or about 12 January 2022 at Mount Wilson, in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

The nine-year-old was found dead inside a barrel with two gunshot wounds, to her head and lower back, after an intensive four-day search of the area.

Charlise’s mother, Kallista Mutten, left the Mount Wilson property in the early hours of 13 January, driving Stein’s Red Holden Colorado ute, a New South Wales supreme court trial was told on Wednesday.

The pair were in a relationship at the time, with Mutten travelling alone to a nearby reserve where she sent text messages to friends that prosecutors say are consistent with her belief the child was missing.

“Bring back my car now. I’m saying this only once,” Stein says in one voicemail played to the court.

“If you don’t bring it back I’m going to hurt you as well as everyone else.

“I’ve got me fucking guns and I’m going to kill you,” he says.

“Have fun – between everything I can put on you, you’re going down dog.”

Mutten returned to the property with Stein’s car shortly after, the court was told.

Stein’s lawyer argued earlier this week it was Mutten who had shot the girl, and that he had only helped to dispose of her body.

Police were led to the girl’s body by using Google location data stored on Stein’s phone, the jury was told on Wednesday.

The data indicates on the same day he verbally threatened Mutten, Stein travelled to at least three separate boat ramps across Sydney – at Rose Bay, Drummoyne and Windsor.

CCTV images captured of the trip showed Stein towing a boat, with what prosecutors allege is a barrel containing Charlise’s body in the back tray of his ute.

Phone data and CCTV footage tracks Stein’s movements for close to eight hours, before the data showed he returns to the Blue Mountains near the Colo River, stopping at two locations for roughly five minutes each.

At one of the locations detectives found traces of sand and scrape marks and were able to visually locate the barrel with Charlise’s body down a steep hill towards the river.

Soon after Stein returned from allegedly dumping Charlise’s body, Mutten called triple zero to report the girl missing.

In a recording of the call played to the jury, Mutten tells the operator the last time she saw her daughter was two nights earlier after she left her alone with Stein.

“She was here and I wasn’t here, my partner was here … during the morning she was sort of sick, so she was sort of lethargic and I was two-and-a-half hours away,” Mutten said in the call.

She told the operator Stein had left Charlise, who he claimed was sick, with a woman who had come to do a valuation of the Mount Wilson property owned by his mother.

“He asked if she could mind her while he went and got me … he didn’t want her in the car because she’d been throwing up,” Mutten said.

“When we got back they were gone.”

The crown prosecutor, Ken McKay SC, earlier told the jury Charlise being sick and remaining with the property valuer was one of two lies Stein told Mutten about what happened to her daughter.

He would later suggest the nine-year-old might have been taken by people from his criminal past.

The officer in charge of the investigation, Det Sgt Bradley Gardiner, began giving evidence on Wednesday and was expected to remain in the witness box for the rest of the week.

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