The Guardian 2024-05-16 01:02:33


On Labor senator Fatima Payman saying that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and calling on the prime minister to sanction Israel, Anthony Albanese says he speaks for government policy.

Daniel Hurst has covered off Payman’s statement to SBS here:

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’.

Albanese was asked about Payman’s use of “from the river to the sea” and said it was “not appropriate”:

What’s appropriate is a two state solution. A two state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in security in peace and in prosperity.

It is not in the interests of either Israelis or Palestinians to advocate there just be one state that is a forerunner of enormous conflict and grief and we are seeing enormous grief in Gaza.

That is having a significant impact on people who have relatives and friends in Gaza. And and that is a very traumatic occurrence – just as a lot of trauma is being experienced by Jewish Australians due to the rise in antisemitism that we’re seeing here, where people who happen to be Jewish, being held responsible for actions of the Netanyahu government.

I don’t believe that it is appropriate the targeting of people because they happen to be Jewish.

Anthony Albanese defends evicting tenant from his Sydney property

Australian prime minister says he charged ‘about half’ of market rent for four years to tenants who had previously praised him as a landlord

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Anthony Albanese has defended his decision to evict the tenant in a house he owns in Sydney who is refusing to move out, saying he has been “more than fair” as a landlord but his impending marriage means he wants to sell.

Tenant Jim Flanagan was given three months’ notice to vacate the premises when the prime minister decided to sell the property but has resisted and is pleading with Albanese to reconsider.

According to News Corp newspapers, Flanagan is asking to stay, saying eviction “will kill me, it’s a crippling blow”.

But Albanese says he plans to proceed to sell the three-bedroom home in Dulwich Hill, which he bought a decade ago, because he is “changing arrangements” – a reference to his impending marriage to partner Jodie Haydon.

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

“In his own words – I have been a more than fair owner of that property,” Albanese told ABC Radio National on Thursday morning.

The prime minister said Flanagan had lived in the house for four years and that the tenant’s personal circumstances had also changed. Flanagan had formerly lived at the property with his now ex-partner, Chrissy Flanagan, with whom he previously co-owned the Sausage Factory, a brewery and restaurant in Sydney’s inner west.

“I have had him in the property with the rent being about half of what is the market rent for four years,” Albanese said. The real estate agent had issued Flanagan with a notice to move out.

Albanese said Flanagan had “refused to have discussions with the real estate agent”.

“That is a matter for him,” the prime minister said. “He’s been well looked after for a long period of time but I am entitled to make decisions in my personal life, including selling a property that I own because I wish to move on in my personal life in a different direction. The property was bought when my personal circumstances were different.”

According to News Corp, Albanese bought the property in 2015 for $1.175m and it is now worth about $2m.

Flanagan and his former partner, Chrissy Flanagan, had previously been public fans of Albanese.

Two years ago, Chrissy Flanagan posted a video on TikTok praising him as an “amazing” landlord for having reduced the rent by 25% at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in recognition that the couple were small business owners in the struggling hospitality sector and then leaving it at the reduced rate for the next two years.

“I am the definitive proof that Anthony Albanese as prime minister is going to fix housing affordability because he’s already done it for me,” Chrissy Flanagan said in her TikTok post.

“What it shows is that he lives his actual values just quietly in private. No one knows about this.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Anthony Albanese
  • Australian politics
  • Labor party
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

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

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

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.

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

“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.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian budget 2024
  • Australian economy
  • Australian politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Dutton readies budget reply as Chalmers links migration cut to inflation fight

Treasurer says migration ‘important’ but needs to be ‘well managed’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Jim Chalmers has said the projected halving of net migration will contribute to Australia’s inflation fight, ahead of Peter Dutton’s budget reply which is expected to attack Labor over the spike in arrivals.

As Guardian Australia revealed in April, the Coalition will make home ownership a “core” election issue by linking the net migration intake to housing construction, a policy expected to be announced or at least constitute a major theme of the opposition leader’s reply on Thursday.

The Albanese government has challenged Dutton to use the speech to fill in the blanks of Coalition policy, including where and how it will build nuclear power plants and where it might make savings, given its complaints Labor’s budget will fuel inflation.

On Wednesday Dutton attacked Labor in morning interviews and in question time over migration, complaining that “almost 1 million people” had arrived in the past two years while “only 265,000 homes have been built [and] building activity is at 11-year low”.

The budget papers reveal net migration is projected to fall from 528,000 last year to 395,000 this financial year, then 260,000 in 2024-25, 255,000 in 2025-26, and 235,000 in the next two years.

It said government actions had reduced net overseas migration by 110,000 people over four years from July, citing the response to the migration review. This included a reduction in international student numbers, which has been followed by a new plan to cap their numbers.

Chalmers told the National Press Club post-budget lunch on Wednesday that there was “a fairly substantial moderation in migration built into the budget”, including as a result of student changes and ending the Covid visa.

“We had that spike in the post-Covid period, which was primarily students and long-term tourists, and that meant the numbers were a bit higher and now they’re moderating to more normal levels,” he said.

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

Chalmers said migration was “important” but it needs to be “well managed”, including addressing pressures such as housing and infrastructure.

“We’re seeing a substantial moderation in inflation in the forecasts and in the last couple of years as well, and that is largely because of how we’re managing the budget, but it will also be increasingly about how we’re managing the population as well.”

The budget contains $6.2bn in new housing money for a total of $32bn over 10 years for housing.

Parliament is set to rise on Thursday with no resolution on Labor’s controversial deportation bill, which was described as “urgent” when introduced in May.

Labor and the Greens will move a Senate hours motion for 10 bills to be passed on Thursday but not the deportation bill, which the Greens oppose.

The government is yet to respond to the Coalition’s proposed amendments to the bill and has no agreement with the opposition to bring it on for a vote, meaning it may not be voted on until late June when the Senate returns.

The deportation bill creates new powers for the government to require unlawful non-citizens to cooperate with their removal, harsh new powers which Labor has used to deflect from criticism about its handling of releases from detention.

But population pressures from legal arrivals are also a potent political issue, with some mainstream experts, such as former Deloitte Access Economics economist Chris Richardson, linking the cost of housing to the temporary spike in arrivals.

In April, the Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, the opposition’s spokesperson for housing affordability, complained that under Labor migration had reached “a ratio of one house for every 3.2 migrants”, compared with 1.2 under the Coalition in 2016-17.

In question time on Wednesday, Anthony Albanese rebuffed Dutton’s criticisms on migration by noting he had said in September 2022 that “we do need an increase in the migration numbers”.

Albanese said Labor had inherited a “migration mess” from the Coalition, citing Martin Parkinson’s review for his claim that migration was “so badly broken, it was a deliberate decision to neglect the system”.

Chalmers said it was “long past time for the Coalition to present their plan”.

“They’ve said there should be deep spending cuts,” he told reporters in Canberra. “Well, it’s time to say what they will cut.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian budget 2024
  • Australian politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Scott Morrison says Donald Trump subject to a ‘pile-on’ in US and poses for photo at famous gilded lift

The former Australian PM said he discussed the Aukus deal with Trump and found a ‘warm reception’

Former prime minister Scott Morrison says Donald Trump has been subject to a “pile on” in the United States, in comments after meeting the American presidential candidate in New York.

Morrison said he and Trump discussed Aukus, the military agreement whereby the United States and Britain will share nuclear-powered submarine technology with Australia, and Trump gave a “warm reception” to Morrison’s spruiking the deal.

It comes after concerns on both sides of the Pacific that Trump, if he were to win this year’s presidential election, may not proceed with the pact signed by election rival Joe Biden.

Morrison, who said he enjoyed a warm relationship with Trump when both were in office, met the Republican candidate at his home in New York City overnight. He posted on social media a photo with Trump, grinning and flashing a thumbs-up, in front of the famous gilded elevator inside Trump Tower where high-profile figures including the UK’s Nigel Farage have posed before.

“Was pleased to meet with former President Donald Trump on Tuesday night at his private residence in NY. It was nice to catch up again, especially given the pile on he is currently dealing with in the US,” Morrison wrote on X.

Trump is currently facing a criminal trial over paying hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. He also faces charges over his handling of classified documents, an election interference conspiracy case in Georgia, and federal criminal charges for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election loss.

Morrison earlier this year left parliament to join a defence company run by Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former secretary of state.

Morrison said his meeting with Trump was “a good opportunity to discuss AUKUS, which received a warm reception.”

“We also discussed the continuing assertions of China in the Indo-Pacific and the threats against Taiwan. These were issues we discussed regularly when we were both in office,” he wrote.

“Once again, the former President showed his true appreciation of the value he places on the Australia-US alliance and the shared role of supporting what our friend, Shinzo Abe, called a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Morrison finished his message by writing “Good to see you DJT and thanks for the invitation to stay in touch. All the best.”

Morrison told the ABC the meeting was a good opportunity to explain how AUKUS fitted into the issues in the Indo-Pacific, “the contribution Australia makes as part of that, and the credible deterrent that’s necessary to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“Should he be elected, I mean, he will make his judgements when that time comes about.”

Morrison said Trump would “ensure” that both countries had sufficient nuclear-powered submarines.

“AUKUS wasn’t about displacement of capability, it was about enhancement of capability across all three partners,” Morrison told the ABC.

“It was never my intention, when I put Aukus together, that this was about just moving submarines around. This was about having more submarines to do the job we wanted them to do. And I think the former president understands that.”

Morrison described Aukus as “the most important agreement we’ve had in place with the United States in 70 years.”

“I thought it was a good opportunity to have a good, friendly conversation with him, as someone who got on with him very well in office, and I’ve gotta say, I like where it’s going.”

Morrison told a Sydney radio station last week “I got on well with Donald Trump” when both were in office. Trump was US president between 2016 and 2020, before losing to Biden; Morrison was Australian prime minister between 2019 and 2022.

Morrison was feted by Trump with a state dinner at the White House in 2019. He also joined Trump at a campaign rally stop in Ohio on that visit. Trump at the time said Morrison backed “as a lot of the same things” he did.

Asked about the Morrison-Trump meeting, the current prime minister Anthony Albanese said he wouldn’t comment on matters before the courts – in reference to Morrison’s claims of Trump experiencing a “pile on”.

“Scott Morrison is a former prime minister of Australia. I respect the office of prime minister,” Albanese told Radio National.

He said he hadn’t spoken to Morrison in recent times, and that “I will leave our diplomacy, funnily enough, to diplomatic endeavours.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Donald Trump
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

‘Good chance’ we’ll leave US if Trump acquitted, Stormy Daniels husband says

Barrett Blade says wife, who testified in hush-money trial, ‘wants to move past this’ but admits ‘I don’t see people fighting for her’

The husband of Stormy Daniels said there is a “good chance” that the couple will leave the US if Donald Trump is acquitted in his criminal trial over paying hush-money payments to the adult film star.

“I think if it’s not guilty, we got to decide what to do. Good chance we’ll probably vacate this country,” Barrett Blade told CNN host Erin Burnett on Tuesday.

“If he is found guilty, then she’s still got to deal with all the hate. I feel like she’s the reason that he’s guilty from all his followers, so I don’t see it as a win-win situation either way.”

Blade’s comments come after Daniels appeared in court last week to deliver powerful testimony on her alleged sexual affair with Trump nearly 20 years ago.

Among the questions she said Trump asked her was: “What about testing? Do you worry about STDs?”

Daniels also said Trump compared her to his daughter Ivanka, saying: “You remind me of my daughter. She is smart and blonde and beautiful and people underestimate her as well.”

She testified that upon returning from using the bathroom in Trump’s hotel room, she found him on the bed, wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt. Daniels said she tried to leave but Trump stood between her and the door.

“He said, ‘I thought we were getting somewhere. I thought you were serious about what you wanted,’” Daniels recalled.

Daniels and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, are at the center of Trump’s historic criminal case. Prosecutors allege that Cohen allegedly worked alongside tabloid publisher David Pecker to bury unfavorable stories that would potentially affect Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, and that Cohen facilitated a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels shortly before the election.

Trump has been charged with falsifying business records. Prosecutors allege that the former president falsely listed his repayments to Cohen as legal service fees.

Trump’s defense team attempted to discredit Daniels, with lawyer Susan Necheles at one point saying: “You have a lot of experience in making phony stories about sex appear to be real.”

“That’s not how I would put it,” Daniels replied. “The sex in the films is very much real, just like what happened to me in that room.”

In a more pointed question, Necheles asked, “You were looking to extort money from president Trump, right?”, to which Daniels responded: “False.”

Blade was asked on CNN about accusations that Daniels made up the affair. “I think she’s a brilliant writer,” Blade said. “So she would have written something way better than what she said about the Trump story.”

He went on: “She wants to move past this. We just want to do what … normal people would get to do in some aspects, but I don’t know if that ever will be, and it breaks my heart.

“Everybody has their agenda for her at this point, and I don’t see people fighting back for her.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Stormy Daniels
  • Donald Trump trials
  • Donald Trump
  • US politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Slovakia prime minister Robert Fico has surgery after being shot in assassination attempt

Suspect in custody after shooting attack on populist prime minister that has raised fears across Europe of rising political violence

  • Fico shooting: what we know so far
  • EU leaders condemn ‘cowardly’ shooting of Slovakian PM
  • Profile who is Robert Fico?

Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, has been left with life-threatening injuries after an assassination attempt that has prompted warnings across Europe of rising political violence.

Video captured on Wednesday appeared to show the moment five shots were fired at Fico, 59, as he shook hands with a small group of supporters in the town of Handlová, about 90 miles (150km) north-east of the capital.

Speaking later in the evening, Slovakia’s defence minister, Robert Kaliňák, said Fico was in an “extraordinarily serious” condition. After three and half hours of surgery, the prime minister was still being operated on, he added.

Medical workers in the city of Banská Bystrica were “fighting for the life” of Fico, who suffered “serious polytrauma after several shots”, Kaliňák said.

Late on Wednesday the deputy prime minister, Tomáš Taraba, told the BBC he believed the operation had gone well.

“I guess in the end he will survive,” Taraba said, adding: “He’s not in a life-threatening situation at this moment.”

The interior minister, Matúš Šutaj Eštok, told reporters: “We suspect the attacker had political motivation.”

A suspect was in custody, the country’s president said in a televised statement.

Local reports later identified the alleged gunman as Juraj C, a 71-year-old writer and poet from Levice, south-central Slovakia, who had spoken on YouTube of his desire to form a political movement.

The son of the alleged shooter told the news outlet Aktuality.sk that his father was the legal holder of a gun licence.

A video posted online appeared to show the alleged shooter in detention saying that he did not agree with the government’s policies, particularly what he described as the “liquidation” of the media.

Fico, a veteran populist politician, returned to power in Slovakia after elections last year, his success fuelled in part by promises to halt military aid to Ukraine, criticisms of sanctions targeting Russia, and campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights.

The first months of his return have proved tense and polarising, with thousands repeatedly taking to streets across the country to protest against government plans, including a media overhaul that critics have warned will imperil freedom of the press.

The shooting comes three weeks before European parliament elections, with polls suggesting that populist and hard-right parties in the 27-nation bloc will make gains.

European Commission sources said the attack risked stoking further violence across the political landscape.

In a statement, the liberal political group Renew said it was “increasingly alarmed by the rising polarisation within our political sphere fuelled by extremist ideologies, both left and rightwing”.

“This climate of heightened division is laying the groundwork for an environment where acts of violence are more likely to occur, and also wrongly justified by those who seek to disrupt and dominate rather than engage and debate,” it added.

The warning was echoed in Germany, where three elected officials were recently assaulted in less than a week. The chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said he had been left reeling by Fico’s shooting. “News of the cowardly assassination attempt on Slovakian prime minister Fico shocks me deeply,” he wrote on X. “Violence must have no place in European politics.”

Reaction from some within Fico’s party in Slovakia, however, hinted that the incident could exacerbate the country’s already febrile political climate.

Ľuboš Blaha, a lawmaker with Fico’s party, took aim at critics, linking them to the attack.

“You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred,” said Blaha.

Speaking to reporters, Šutaj Eštok called on politicians and others to stop “spreading hate” on social media. “What has started now was sown by many of you, by your hate,” he said. The minister of defence, Kaliňák, described the shooting as a clear “political assault”.

Others sought to strike a more moderate tone. The outgoing president, Zuzana Čaputová, a political rival of Fico, described the violence as “unacceptable” in a televised statement. “The hateful rhetoric we’ve been witnessing in society leads to hateful actions,” she added. “Please, let’s stop it.”

Peter Pellegrini, Slovakia’s president-elect and an ally of Fico, described the incident as an “unprecedented threat” to Slovakian democracy.

“If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardising everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovakian sovereignty,” he said.

A veteran of Slovakian politics, Fico had begun to embrace more extreme positions in recent years, from strident criticism of western allies to threats to veto any future Nato membership invitation for Ukraine.

As news of the shooting broke, Slovakia’s main opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, said they had cancelled a protest over the government’s controversial media reform plans.

The Progressive Slovakia leader, Michal Šimečka, said on social media that he was “shocked and appalled” by the shooting. “We unequivocally and strongly condemn any violence,” he said. “At the same time, we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps that could contribute to further increasing the tension.”

Condemnations of the attack were swift to pour in from across Europe and beyond. Among the first to comment was Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister, who described it as “shocking”. “We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society,” he said.

The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said he was “shocked to hear this awful news”, while Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the attack on Fico as “appalling”. The US president, Joe Biden, said he was alarmed. “We condemn this horrific act of violence,” he said.

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister and a close ally of Fico, said he was “deeply shocked by the heinous attack”. “We pray for his health and quick recovery! God bless him and his country!” he posted on X.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, described it as a “vile attack”.

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” she said. “My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family.”

In recent years several incidents involving serious violence in Slovakia have made global headlines.

In 2022, two people were killed and another wounded in a shooting outside an LGBT venue in Bratislava.

In 2018, tens of thousands of Slovakians rallied to demand Fico’s resignation after the investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were shot dead in their home. At the time police said Kuciak’s death was “most likely” related to an investigation of his into alleged ties between Slovakia’s top politicians and the Italian mafia.

Additional reporting by Lisa O’Carroll in Brussels and Sara Cincurova in Bratislava. Agencies also contributed to this report

Explore more on these topics

  • Slovakia
  • Europe
  • Robert Fico
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Robert Fico shooting: what we know so far

Slovakia’s prime minister has surgery after being shot multiple times while meeting supporters in the town of Handlová

  • Slovakian PM Robert Fico ‘fighting for his life’ after being shot
  • Robert Fico shooting – latest updates
  • Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, is in a “life-threatening” and “serious” condition after being shot multiple times on Wednesday while meeting supporters outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlová, about 100 miles (160km) north-east of the capital, Bratislava. Fico was conscious while being transported to the hospital, a hospital spokesperson said.

  • Deputy prime minister Tomáš Taraba told the BBC: “as far as I know the operation went well”. Earlier, Robert Kaliňák, Slovakia’s defence minister, said Fico was in an “extraordinarily serious” condition.

  • Slovakia’s interior minister, Matúš Šutaj-Eštok, said the perpetrator of the attack fired at Fico five times. He said initial information “clearly points to a political motivation”. A suspect was in custody, the country’s president, Zuzana Caputova, said in a televised statement.

  • According to the news publisher Denník N, Fico was shot in the abdomen and left arm.

  • Šutaj-Eštok described the incident as “the saddest moment in the 31 years of history of Slovakia … An attack on the prime minister is an attack on democracy. It is an attack on the state itself.”

  • Šutaj-Eštok also said officials will do everything possible to make sure that the people of Slovakia are safe. He appealed for calm, adding: “We can’t respond to hate with hate.”

  • President Caputova pleaded for people to “stop hateful rhetoric” during a press conference from the presidential palace in Bratislava.

  • The suspect is a 71-year-old man, according to local media reports. Slovak news media reported the shooter was a former security guard at a shopping mall.

  • Global leaders including Joe Biden, Ursula von der Leyen and Vladimir Putin condemned the attack. The US president said he was “alarmed” by the attack. Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, a close ally of Fico, said he was “deeply shocked by the heinous attack against my friend”. Von der Leyen said: “I strongly condemn the vile attack on prime minister Robert Fico.” UK prime minister Rishi Sunak said his “thoughts are with prime minister Fico and his family”. Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, said: “I am deeply shocked by the news of the cowardly attack on Slovakian prime minister Fico. Violence must not exist in European politics.” Josep Borrell, Europe’s chief diplomat, said that Europe was “once again witnessing unacceptable attacks against political representatives”.

  • The shooting has heightened tensions ahead of next month’s European parliament elections, with attacks on German, Spanish and Irish politicians already casting a shadow over public life. European Commission sources said the attack risked fuelling further violence across the political landscape.

Explore more on these topics

  • Robert Fico
  • Slovakia
  • Europe
Share

Reuse this content

Profile

‘He is borrowing from Trump’: the rise of Robert Fico, Slovakia’s populist leader

The veteran politician shot and wounded on Wednesday, is a fan of Viktor Orbán and has embraced ever more extreme positions to retain power

  • Robert Fico ‘in life-threatening condition’ – latest updates
  • Slovakia prime minister Robert Fico shot and injured

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, who was shot and wounded on Wednesday, is a burly and brash political veteran known for his attacks on the media, NGOs and prosecutors.

Having enjoyed three previous stints as prime minister, Fico, 59, is well known to voters and observers – and critics, who accuse him of seeking to emulate Viktor Orbán, his friend in neighbouring Hungary, by trying to undermine checks and balances and cement his power while also taking a friendlier stance toward Russia.

Fico’s return to power last year has prompted concern inside and outside his country, which critics say is becoming increasingly febrile and polarised under his watch. Journalists in Slovakia have expressed alarm over a recent government decision that would replace the country’s public broadcaster and, they say, open it up to political influence.

Meanwhile, Fico’s move to close down a special prosecutor’s office focused on high-level corruption has raised the possibility that the EU could freeze some funding allocated to Slovakia.

Legislation that would label civil society groups that receive more than €5,000 (£4,300) a year in international funding as “organisations with foreign support” has also triggered worries in the EU and among NGOs. Amnesty International Slovakia has described the bill as “a thinly disguised attempt to stigmatise civil society organisations that are critical of the authorities and hamper their vital work”.

Fico is typical of the new wave of nationalist-populist politicians who have emerged over the last decade, riding the wave of resentment generated among tens of millions of Europeans by the disappointments of the 21st century.

He grew up in Topoľčany, a small town in Slovakia’s west, the son of a forklift truck driver and a shop worker. Soviet tanks had crushed the Czechoslovak reform movement when he was three years old and few expected any change to the iron grip of the Communist party on what was then Czechoslovakia during his early years.

As a young man, Fico remained very much within the system, doing his military service as an investigator, earning a PhD for his study of capital punishment and then working in the legal branch of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

But the fall of the Berlin Wall, the non-violent Velvet Revolution that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia, and Slovakia’s independence, ushered in a new, freewheeling capitalist era that offered business and political opportunities.

Fico, who was young, convincing – and, importantly, untainted by any association with the fallen communist regime – was quick to realise his childhood ambition to enter politics.

He progressed rapidly. After joining the Party of the Democratic Left, he moved to found Smer – sociálna demokracia (Direction – Social Democracy). The new organisation paid lip service to both democracy and socialism, though many observers quickly concluded that its ideology came second to Fico’s own ambitions.

Seven years of opposition led to victory in elections in 2006. This proved the political potency of promising to protect those left behind in a country where living standards for many were only slowly catching up to western Europe, and where, in consequence, many were nostalgic for the communist-era past.

Out of power in 2010, Fico’s party won again two years later after another centre-right coalition broke up. A tough stance against migrants brought re-election in 2016. But then, when the journalist Ján Kuciak, who was investigating high-level corruption, and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, were murdered by a contract killer in 2018, Fico ran into trouble again. Huge protests forced him to resign. Smer lost power in the 2020 election to parties pledging to weed out corruption, and his party split.

Fico would not give up, however, preferring a brutal political battle to indulging his taste for bodybuilding or fast cars. When it arrived, the Covid pandemic offered Fico – then polling under 10% – a new opportunity.

“He became the most prominent political representative of a movement against face masks or vaccination,” said Grigorij Mesežnikov, a political analyst in Bratislava.

The Smer leader had himself faced criminal charges, which he has always denied, over allegedly creating a criminal group and misuse of power, but Slovakia’s prosecutor-general threw out the indictment. This offered further motivation to win back power.

“He is borrowing from [Donald] Trump and will do and say what is needed, taking from right and left,” said Milan Nič, a senior research fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, shortly before last year’s election.

“He’s been very skilful at positioning himself as anti-establishment. His main interest now is to dismantle the judicial effort … He is escaping by winning.”

To this end, Fico has embraced more extreme positions that include attacks on western allies, pledges to stop military support for Kyiv, criticism of sanctions on Russia and threats to veto any future Nato invitation for Ukraine. He has also worked hard to exploit the division between older, more conservative provincial voters and those in the capital, Bratislava, with its more progressive culture, and wealthier and often more educated population.

One of Fico’s targets has been the country’s liberal president, the former human rights lawyer and activist Zuzana Čaputová, whom he has called a “US puppet” and who sued him last year for spreading lies about her. Fico has also labelled various opponents and NGOs as following the instructions of the US financier George Soros. Another target has been Slovakia’s LGBT community.

Fico, whom analysts regard as being inspired by Orbán in Hungary, insists he has Slovakian interests at heart.

“We see Viktor Orbán as one of those European politicians who do not fear to openly defend the interests of Hungary and Hungarian people,” Fico told Reuters last September. “He puts them in the first place. And that should be the role of an elected politician, to look after the interests of his voters and his country.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Slovakia
  • Europe
  • Robert Fico
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

EU leaders condemn ‘cowardly’ shooting of Slovakian PM amid rise in attacks

Growing alarm over escalating violence on campaign trails in weeks leading to European parliament elections

  • Robert Fico ‘in life-threatening condition’ – latest updates
  • Slovakia prime minister Robert Fico shot and injured

EU leaders have condemned the “cowardly” assassination attempt on the Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, warning that violence has “no place” in European politics.

Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, a country which has itself experienced a wave of violent attacks on politicians in the past month, said: “I am deeply shocked by the news of the cowardly attack on Slovakian Prime Minister Fico. Violence must not exist in European politics.”

Speaking just three weeks before elections to the European parliament, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, echoed his message, condemning what she said was a “vile attack” on “both the prime minister and democracy”.

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family,” she said.

The populist leader, 59, was taken to hospital for emergency surgery after being shot outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlová, about 100 miles north-east of the capital, Bratislava, where the leader was meeting with supporters, according to reports on TA3, a Slovakian TV station.

The shooting will heighten tensions going into the elections in June, with attacks on German, Spanish and Irish politicians already casting a shadow over public life. European Commission sources said the attack risked fuelling further violence across the political landscape.

In a statement, the liberal political group Renew said it was “increasingly alarmed by the rising polarisation within our political sphere fuelled by extremist ideologies, both left- and right-wing.”

This “climate of heightened division is laying the groundwork for an environment where acts of violence are more likely to occur, and also wrongly justified by those who seek to disrupt and dominate rather than engage and debate”, it added.

Josep Borrell, Europe’s chief diplomat, said that Europe was “once again witnessing unacceptable attacks against political representatives”.

In Germany, where assaults on politicians causing physical injury have increased steeply this year, with 22 such incidents recorded so far compared with 27 for all of 2023, Matthias Ecke, a Social Democratic MEP and candidate in Saxony, recently suffered a broken cheekbone and eye socket after being attacked while putting up campaign posters.

A Green party politician was harassed and spat at while putting up posters in Dresden, while a week ago Franziska Giffey, a Berlin state senator and former mayor of the capital, was briefly treated in hospital after being attacked with a bag “filled with hard contents”.

Violence has also marred Spanish politics. Last November, Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a co-founder of Spain’s far-right Vox party, was shot in the face in Madrid, leading to the arrests of five people in connection with the case.

In Ireland, the husband and young children of the justice minister, Helen McEntee, were forced to evacuate their home after a bomb scare, while masked people gathered last month outside the home of the integration minister, Roderic O’Gorman, in unprecedented scenes of aggression at the homes of politicians.

Explore more on these topics

  • European parliamentary elections 2024
  • European Union
  • Slovakia
  • Europe
  • The far right
  • Ireland
  • Spain
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

No increase to base jobseeker rate in budget means Centrelink payment remains below poverty line

Australia’s unemployment payments are hundreds of dollars a week below the poverty line and were not increased in the federal budget.

The government’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee recently recommended that jobseeker payments should be lifted to 90% of the age pension. Experts say that without change the gap between jobseeker and pension payments is only going to widen.

The budget did increase commonwealth rent assistance by 10% and extended the eligibility for the highest rate of jobseeker payments for about 4,700 people. All Australians will also receive a $300 energy bill rebate.

Jobseeker payments for a single person are currently about $220 a week lower than the Henderson poverty line, and about $170 lower than the age pension, when supplements are included.

The jobseeker rate briefly went above the poverty line after a $550-a-fortnight temporary supplement was added. But it has since fallen below the poverty line again.

There isn’t an official poverty line in Australia and various measures are often used, such as 50% or 60% of household disposable incomes. Many measures have serious limitations, such as arbitrary thresholds, not accounting for high housing costs in Australia, or ignoring the effect of household wealth.

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

This chart uses the the Henderson poverty line, which was created for Australian conditions, and some poverty researchers consider it the “least bad”. The measure came out of the 1973 Henderson poverty inquiry and is based on the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children in 1973. It is now regularly updated by the Melbourne Institute.

A coalition of social services organisations were campaigning for an increase to income support payments ahead of the budget. These included Homelessness Australia, the Salvation Army and Domestic Violence NSW.

The campaign asked for jobseeker payments to be raised to the same level as the age pension, for income support to be indexed to wages as well as prices, and for supplementary payments for people with disability and illness, and for single parents.

No increase to base jobseeker rate in budget means Centrelink payment remains below poverty line

Australia’s unemployment payments are hundreds of dollars a week below the poverty line and were not increased in the federal budget.

The government’s Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee recently recommended that jobseeker payments should be lifted to 90% of the age pension. Experts say that without change the gap between jobseeker and pension payments is only going to widen.

The budget did increase commonwealth rent assistance by 10% and extended the eligibility for the highest rate of jobseeker payments for about 4,700 people. All Australians will also receive a $300 energy bill rebate.

Jobseeker payments for a single person are currently about $220 a week lower than the Henderson poverty line, and about $170 lower than the age pension, when supplements are included.

The jobseeker rate briefly went above the poverty line after a $550-a-fortnight temporary supplement was added. But it has since fallen below the poverty line again.

There isn’t an official poverty line in Australia and various measures are often used, such as 50% or 60% of household disposable incomes. Many measures have serious limitations, such as arbitrary thresholds, not accounting for high housing costs in Australia, or ignoring the effect of household wealth.

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

This chart uses the the Henderson poverty line, which was created for Australian conditions, and some poverty researchers consider it the “least bad”. The measure came out of the 1973 Henderson poverty inquiry and is based on the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children in 1973. It is now regularly updated by the Melbourne Institute.

A coalition of social services organisations were campaigning for an increase to income support payments ahead of the budget. These included Homelessness Australia, the Salvation Army and Domestic Violence NSW.

The campaign asked for jobseeker payments to be raised to the same level as the age pension, for income support to be indexed to wages as well as prices, and for supplementary payments for people with disability and illness, and for single parents.

Centrelink mutual obligations: budget changes tipped to prevent 1m jobseeker suspensions a year

Announcements are ‘good steps’ to reduce harms caused by employment services system but fall short of the overhaul required, advocates say

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Albanese government will relax some of the requirements imposed on job seekers as a condition for their income support, with changes expected to prevent about 1m welfare payment suspensions every year.

Changes to the mutual obligations scheme, contained in the federal budget, will ease the rules that govern when a person’s payments are suspended, meaning job seekers will have a five-day grace period – rather than 48 hours – to account for missing employment services appointments and other activities before their income support is cut off.

Welfare recipients who work 30 hours or more per fortnight will also be protected from having their payments suspended for failing to attend an appointment at an employment services provider – a change intended to prevent them from effectively being punished for having paid work.

Calls to overhaul the system have intensified after a damning parliamentary inquiry that found the mutual obligations regime was “ineffective, self-defeating, and requires reform”.

In the first 15 months of the current employment services regime – Workforce Australia, which began in July 2022 – 70.4% of participants had their payments suspended.

Guardian Australia revealed in October that those receiving jobseeker payments had their welfare payments suspended more than 450,000 times between July and September last year, with data showing the majority of payment suspensions were related to mutual obligations, including missing appointments with employment services agencies.

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

The budget papers reveal the government has also changed the rules for jobseekers who apply for a medical exemption from their mutual obligations, which can include attending meetings with a employment consultant, applying for jobs and taking part in training courses and other activities.

Under current rules, which advocates have long argued unfairly affected those with chronic illness, medical exemptions are capped at 13 weeks. The changes will remove the time limit and allow the duration to be based on medical advice.

A Department of Employment and Workplace Relations spokesperson told Guardian Australia the change would mean about 70,000 people would “no longer be required to provide multiple medical certificates for the same medical condition to receive an exemption for the full duration of their incapacity”.

The department estimated 1m income support payment suspensions will be prevented by the other changes.

Labor has framed the moves as enabling better recognition of the individual circumstances of welfare recipients and “strengthening the integrity of employment services”.

While welcoming some of the changes, advocates argued the announcements still fell short of what was required to fix what they viewed as a punitive and harmful system, which the parliamentary review likened to “using a nuclear bomb to kill a mosquito”.

The review, chaired by the Labor MP Julian Hill, was commissioned by the government and released in November.

Kate Allingham, the chief executive of Economic Justice Australia, said the changes flagged in the budget were “good steps that will help reduce some of the harms of employment services that fail to consider individual circumstances” but fell short of the “major systemic reform” recommended by the inquiry.

The extension of the grace period for a missed appointment “hopefully will get some people off the torturous merry-go-round of payment suspensions”, Allingham said. “However, the effect that the threat of payment suspension has on people’s wellbeing remains.”

While ​​the removal of the time limit on medical exemptions would be “a relief for thousands of people who are in employment services with long-term health issues and disabilities”, Allingham warned that it would need to be handled carefully to avoid diverting or delaying eligible people from accessing the disability support pension.

Peter Davidson, the principal adviser at the Australian Council of Social Service, said more detail was needed before the changes could be judged.

“There’s still too much of this ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach,” Davidson said, noting that Acoss had been advocating for the removal of automation in payment suspensions and ensuring there was a built-in capacity for natural justice.

“Any penalty, including a payment suspension, should only be imposed by an authorised delegate at Centrelink, but also following a process where people’s circumstances are assessed and the decision-maker interrogates why they didn’t attend.”

The rollout of the changes will occur progressively over the next 12 months, with the extension of the grace period beginning in October this year, the time cap lifted on medical exemptions from January 2025 and the loosening of obligations for people working more than 30 hours per fortnight to begin in March 2025.

Explore more on these topics

  • Welfare
  • Inequality reporting
  • Centrelink
  • Unemployment
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Murder charge dropped against 12-year-old girl arrested over Melbourne death

Prosecutors successfully apply to withdraw the charge related to alleged stabbing at Footscray

A 12-year-old girl accused of killing a woman in Melbourne’s inner west will no longer face a charge of murder.

Prosecutors on Thursday applied to withdraw the charge against the girl, but did not give a reason why.

The magistrate withdrew and struck out the charge of murder. She was not facing any other offences.

The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was accused of fatally stabbing a 37-year-old woman at Footscray in November.

A psychiatrist was assessing the child’s age of criminal responsibility, also known as doli incapax.

Explore more on these topics

  • Melbourne
  • Australian police and policing
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Explainer

Ukraine war briefing: 50 countries swing behind peace summit in Switzerland

Ukrainians’ decision whether to strike inside Russia, says Blinken; focus is on providing air defences including Patriots. What we know on day 813

  • The Ukraine peace summit planned by Switzerland has so far drawn delegations from more than 50 countries, the Swiss president, Viola Amherd, has said. Russia has not been invited, but Switzerland says it might be if Moscow had not repeatedly stated it is not interested. The Ukrainian government has said Russia does not negotiate in good faith anyway.

  • Amherd said she was in discussion about whether Switzerland might step aside from receiving a Patriot missile defence system that is due from the US, so Ukraine can get one sooner.

  • The Ukrainian presidential office has said additional reinforcements were being deployed in the Kharkiv region, including army reserve units. Heavy enemy fire prompted repositioning of some troops in the Kupiansk direction to the east of Kharkiv city, the general staff said on Wednesday. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president, has postponed all his upcoming foreign trips, underscoring the seriousness of the threat his soldiers are facing. The Ukrainian military said troops fell back from areas in Lukyantsi and Vovchansk near Kharkiv “to save the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses”, Peter Beaumont writes.

  • Vovchansk – 5km (three miles) from the Russian border – has been the focus of much of the recent fighting, and Ukrainian and Russian troops battled in its streets on Wednesday. Oleksii Kharkivskyi, head of the city’s patrol police, said Russian troops were taking up positions there, while the Ukrainian general staff said its forces were trying to flush them out.

  • Russia’s gains in the Kharkiv region must be a “wake up call”, the British defence secretary, Grant Shapps, has said, adding that allies had become “distracted” from the war. “We must back [the Ukrainians] all the time, not just periodically,” Shapps said, adding that a $60bn US military package “took too long to get through Congress”.

  • Visiting Kyiv, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has announced a $2bn arms deal, with most of the money coming from the package approved by Congress last month.

  • Blinken said the US does not encourage Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia with US-supplied weapons but believes it is a decision Kyiv should make for itself. The US was focused on providing Patriot missile systems and other forms of critical air defence, he said.

  • The Russian defence ministry claimed its troops have retaken the village of Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. The claim was unconfirmed. Ukrainian forces regained control of the village last August. Elsewhere in Ukraine’s southern regions, an aerial attack on the central district of Kherson wounded 17 civilians, the regional prosecutor’s office said. A Russian missile attack injured six people in Mykolaiv, according to Ukraine’s rescue service.

  • Vladimir Putin arrived in China on Thursday to meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping as he seeks greater support from Beijing for his war effort in Ukraine and his isolated economy. Putin, in an interview published in Xinhua ahead of his visit, hailed Beijing’s “genuine desire” to help resolve the Ukraine crisis. Blinken, who met Xi in Beijing last month, said China’s support for Russia’s “brutal war of aggression” in Ukraine had helped Russia ramp up production of rockets, drones and tanks – while stopping short of direct arms exports.

  • European Union ambassadors agreed in principle on Wednesday to add four Russian media outlets to the EU sanctions list, accusing them of propaganda: Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestija and Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The EU also banned Russian funding of EU media, non-governmental organisations and political parties. It has previously imposed sanctions on Russian state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik.

Explore more on these topics

  • Ukraine
  • Russia-Ukraine war at a glance
  • Russia
  • Europe
  • explainers
Share

Reuse this content

Australia’s budget has ‘gaping hole’ in funds for DV victims, environment and housing, advocates say

Labor touts cost of living package as ‘substantial’ but advocates say changes are inadequate

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The federal government’s decision not to further increase funding for jobseeker, housing and domestic violence is a “gaping hole in the heart of the budget”, advocates have warned, with politicians and civil society dismayed there was not more cost of living support announced on Tuesday.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the budget’s cost of living package was “substantial” and targeted at “middle Australia”, listing the revamped stage-three tax cuts, $300 energy bill rebates, a slight increase to rent assistance and freezing medicine prices as the highlights of its response.

But Chalmers dodged a question about when the Labor government would consider a long-urged increase to the jobseeker unemployment payment. The Australian Council of Social Service chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, was alarmed the government had not done more to address cost of living pressures and the violence against women crisis.

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

“We did not get the solutions that were the right one for the scale of the challenges that we face,” Goldie said.

“There is a gaping hole in the heart of the budget.”

All households get the energy bill relief, and all taxpayers get a cut to income tax – an average of $1,888 per taxpayer. There are targeted measures for some on government payments: a 10% increase in the maximum rate of commonwealth rent assistance, worth $18 a fortnight for eligible singles; an extra $55 a fortnight for those on jobseeker with a “partial capacity to work”; and freezing maximum prescription co-payments for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, told parliament: “Labor will always do what it can do to provide people with more support, ease cost of living pressures and put downward pressure on inflation.”

But Goldie savaged the changes as inadequate, in the face of “exorbitant” rising prices.

“We are a very wealthy country. We are so wealthy, that this is a budget that is going to spend, from 1 July, $26bn per year in tax cuts … and this is the same budget that has cruelly denied the desperately needed increase to social security, jobseeker and youth allowance,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot said about $300 as a rebate going to everybody … it’s going to cost this budget $3.5bn. Imagine what our community sector would have done with $3.5bn to help people.”

The Jenny Macklin-chaired Economic Inclusion Advisory (EIAC) report recommended raising rent assistance and the base rate of jobseeker to help low-income and welfare households. As part of the renewed focus on the domestic violence crisis, advocates said raising the rate would allow more victims of violence to escape, while the sex discrimination commissioner, Anna Cody, said it “will stop homicides”.

Goldie’s reaction was replicated across the social sector. Anglicare called the rent assistance increase a “Band-Aid” and the lack of jobseeker increase “unfinished business”. Mission Australia said it was “dismayed” at the absence of a greater rise, while the Greens claimed the budget “betrays” those on low incomes.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the government has powerful safety levers and they are in control of how and when they are used,” Single Mother Families Australia said.

Chalmers was asked at the National Press Cub lunch about what economic circumstances would have to be present before Labor would further increase jobseeker. He did not directly answer but noted the 2023 budget’s $20 a week boost to that payment.

“Good Labor governments with hard heads and warm hearts into the future will do what they can to always help the most vulnerable people in our society,” Chalmers said.

The Warringah independent MP, Zali Steggall, said she was “very disappointed” the budget did not have more for domestic violence, beyond national cabinet’s recent extension of the leaving violence payment.

“I know, from talking to many in the sector, they’re very distressed the government hasn’t stepped up to reflect in the budget the level of crisis in the sector in addressing demand, especially for women’s legal services,” she said.

“I do not accept what’s delivered is sufficient. We will push for more. Business as usual is not acceptable.

“The system in dire distress. The government pats itself on the back and moves along, that isn’t acceptable to me and many on the cross-bench.”

The Goldstein independent MP, Zoe Daniel, said she had heard “outrage” from the domestic violence sector, which was planning to launch a petition calling for government “to properly fund programs to end violence against women.”

Guardian Australia understands crossbenchers may pursue parliamentary procedural moves to demand the government make more contribution to domestic violence.

Scientists and conservationists also sharply criticised the government for not addressing a long-term funding shortfall needed to protect nature, which a state-of-the-environment report found was in poor and deteriorating health.

The top nature-related spending highlighted by the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, was a re-announcement of $176m to establish two new agencies, Environment Protection Australia and Environment Information Australia.

Funding for both was included in last year’s budget.

The Biodiversity Council, an independent science organisation set up by 11 Australian universities, said the budget was “one of the worst in recent years” for new environment spending and noted Chalmers did not mention nature protection and recovery in his speech on Tuesday.

“Continuing to run down our natural capital will ultimately come at our peril,” lead councillor Prof Sarah Bekessy, said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said nature spending was inadequate and projected to “drop disastrously”, and the government did not have a plan to meet its promise of no new extinction.

“Meanwhile the threat of extinctions continues to grow,” she said.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Australian budget 2024
  • Cost of living crisis
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Australia’s budget has ‘gaping hole’ in funds for DV victims, environment and housing, advocates say

Labor touts cost of living package as ‘substantial’ but advocates say changes are inadequate

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The federal government’s decision not to further increase funding for jobseeker, housing and domestic violence is a “gaping hole in the heart of the budget”, advocates have warned, with politicians and civil society dismayed there was not more cost of living support announced on Tuesday.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said the budget’s cost of living package was “substantial” and targeted at “middle Australia”, listing the revamped stage-three tax cuts, $300 energy bill rebates, a slight increase to rent assistance and freezing medicine prices as the highlights of its response.

But Chalmers dodged a question about when the Labor government would consider a long-urged increase to the jobseeker unemployment payment. The Australian Council of Social Service chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, was alarmed the government had not done more to address cost of living pressures and the violence against women crisis.

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

“We did not get the solutions that were the right one for the scale of the challenges that we face,” Goldie said.

“There is a gaping hole in the heart of the budget.”

All households get the energy bill relief, and all taxpayers get a cut to income tax – an average of $1,888 per taxpayer. There are targeted measures for some on government payments: a 10% increase in the maximum rate of commonwealth rent assistance, worth $18 a fortnight for eligible singles; an extra $55 a fortnight for those on jobseeker with a “partial capacity to work”; and freezing maximum prescription co-payments for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, told parliament: “Labor will always do what it can do to provide people with more support, ease cost of living pressures and put downward pressure on inflation.”

But Goldie savaged the changes as inadequate, in the face of “exorbitant” rising prices.

“We are a very wealthy country. We are so wealthy, that this is a budget that is going to spend, from 1 July, $26bn per year in tax cuts … and this is the same budget that has cruelly denied the desperately needed increase to social security, jobseeker and youth allowance,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot said about $300 as a rebate going to everybody … it’s going to cost this budget $3.5bn. Imagine what our community sector would have done with $3.5bn to help people.”

The Jenny Macklin-chaired Economic Inclusion Advisory (EIAC) report recommended raising rent assistance and the base rate of jobseeker to help low-income and welfare households. As part of the renewed focus on the domestic violence crisis, advocates said raising the rate would allow more victims of violence to escape, while the sex discrimination commissioner, Anna Cody, said it “will stop homicides”.

Goldie’s reaction was replicated across the social sector. Anglicare called the rent assistance increase a “Band-Aid” and the lack of jobseeker increase “unfinished business”. Mission Australia said it was “dismayed” at the absence of a greater rise, while the Greens claimed the budget “betrays” those on low incomes.

“We cannot ignore the fact that the government has powerful safety levers and they are in control of how and when they are used,” Single Mother Families Australia said.

Chalmers was asked at the National Press Cub lunch about what economic circumstances would have to be present before Labor would further increase jobseeker. He did not directly answer but noted the 2023 budget’s $20 a week boost to that payment.

“Good Labor governments with hard heads and warm hearts into the future will do what they can to always help the most vulnerable people in our society,” Chalmers said.

The Warringah independent MP, Zali Steggall, said she was “very disappointed” the budget did not have more for domestic violence, beyond national cabinet’s recent extension of the leaving violence payment.

“I know, from talking to many in the sector, they’re very distressed the government hasn’t stepped up to reflect in the budget the level of crisis in the sector in addressing demand, especially for women’s legal services,” she said.

“I do not accept what’s delivered is sufficient. We will push for more. Business as usual is not acceptable.

“The system in dire distress. The government pats itself on the back and moves along, that isn’t acceptable to me and many on the cross-bench.”

The Goldstein independent MP, Zoe Daniel, said she had heard “outrage” from the domestic violence sector, which was planning to launch a petition calling for government “to properly fund programs to end violence against women.”

Guardian Australia understands crossbenchers may pursue parliamentary procedural moves to demand the government make more contribution to domestic violence.

Scientists and conservationists also sharply criticised the government for not addressing a long-term funding shortfall needed to protect nature, which a state-of-the-environment report found was in poor and deteriorating health.

The top nature-related spending highlighted by the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, was a re-announcement of $176m to establish two new agencies, Environment Protection Australia and Environment Information Australia.

Funding for both was included in last year’s budget.

The Biodiversity Council, an independent science organisation set up by 11 Australian universities, said the budget was “one of the worst in recent years” for new environment spending and noted Chalmers did not mention nature protection and recovery in his speech on Tuesday.

“Continuing to run down our natural capital will ultimately come at our peril,” lead councillor Prof Sarah Bekessy, said.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said nature spending was inadequate and projected to “drop disastrously”, and the government did not have a plan to meet its promise of no new extinction.

“Meanwhile the threat of extinctions continues to grow,” she said.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Australian budget 2024
  • Cost of living crisis
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Dfat accused of attempting to censor official history of military operations in Timor-Leste

Exclusive: Bureaucratic process of ‘clearing’ book has dragged on for almost three years with historians arguing obstruction ‘amounts to censorship’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Australia’s foreign affairs department (Dfat) is refusing to approve the publication of an official history of military operations in Timor-Leste until references are removed that could embarrass officials and diplomats, leading to accusations of “censorship”.

The finished manuscript was presented for vetting 30 months ago and Dfat is the only agency of nine in the declassification process not yet largely or wholly satisfied it does not pose a risk to national security, defence or international relations.

The second volume of the official history of Australia’s engagement in Timor-Leste – formerly East Timor – is part of a six-volume series commissioned by the Turnbull government. Subsequent volumes will cover operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Vetting each volume is supposed to take six months.

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

Guardian Australia can reveal Dfat officials wanted no mention of Asis spies having bugged the Timorese cabinet room during negotiations over Timor Gap oil resources in 2004 included in the second volume. Nor did they want any canvassing of the complications involved in the transition to Timorese independence.

ANU emeritus professor David Horner said if those issues were to be omitted “what we’re talking about is not playing around with words – what we’re talking about here is issues that amount to censorship”.

Domestic spy agency Asio, international spy agency Asis, the Office of National Intelligence, the Australian Signals Directorate, the Defence Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation and the Australian federal police have all approved the second Timor history. All but one small section of the defence department has also cleared it.

Dfat, however, has strung out the process, repeatedly raising new concerns, challenging words and phrases and demanding that entire topics be expunged, including some already on the public record. Its attitude has prompted other official historians to warn of the risks of censorship.

Public disclosure of the 2004 bugging led to the criminal prosecution of a former Asis operative known as Witness K, and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery. Witness K pleaded guilty and the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, abandoned the Collaery prosecution after the Albanese government took office. Much of the controversy involved in the independence transition has also already been examined in a United Nations report.

The official historian overseeing the series, University of New South Wales Prof Craig Stockings, confirmed the difficulties in a recent address to the Australian National University. Stockings, who wrote the first East Timor volume, said the obstruction he encountered was now being replicated with the second volume, written by Dr William Westerman, who is also from UNSW.

“The bureaucratic process of ‘clearing’ the book was the greatest challenge,” Stockings said in the Robert O’Neil lecture delivered in March. “In all, it took over three years of negotiation, confrontation, compromise, mediation and conciliation to have the volume approved for publication. This issue has continued into the second East Timor volume – now under clearance for in excess of two years.”

An ANU video of the lecture, published online, omits Stockings’ comment about confrontation.

The head of the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, which hosted the lecture, Dr Brendan Taylor, told Guardian Australia the omission was due to a technical issue with the camera’s recording time and was “completely coincidental” and not deliberate. Taylor said it was “regrettable” that a key part of Stockings’ address was cut out.

Stockings declined to comment further on either the vetting process or the video.

Australia’s military historians are watching closely. Following the second Timor Leste volume is one on Australian operations in the Middle East from 2000 to 2005; one on operations in Iraq; and two on Afghanistan. Spanning issues including the reasons for the war in Iraq and war crimes allegations in Afghanistan, those volumes could be even more contentious.

The first East Timor volume, Born of Fire and Ash, covered pre-independence operations in 1999 and 2000. It was published last year after Dfat protested that some sections could offend Indonesia and embarrass Australia. Ultimately, the department did not secure all the changes it sought.

The stoush continued after publication. The Australian War Memorial’s proposed launch of the first book was abruptly cancelled without explanation after invitations had been issued. Instead, the war memorial held an “in conversation” event featuring board chairman Kim Beazley interviewing Stockings.

Guardian Australia asked Horner for his view on the possibility that the bugging and independence-transition controversies might be omitted. Horner wrote the official history of Australian peacekeeping and the first volume of the official history of Asio.

“They need to be in,” the ANU historian said. “They’re on the public record. If you don’t put in what’s on the public record, it looks like you’re not doing your job properly.”

He said official historians were sometimes asked to “play around with words” during vetting – making language more general or more nuanced to address agencies’ concerns. But potentially “what we’re talking about here is issues that amount to censorship”.

Another Asio history author, ANU professor in intelligence studies and international security Dr John Blaxland, said Australians needed to understand Australia’s military engagements “warts and all”.

“I am deeply concerned that the great work of people like Craig Stockings and his colleagues is being held up by people in the bureaucracy who have taken it upon themselves to act as gatekeepers for information that should be in the public domain and obstructing its timely and appropriate release,” Blaxland said.

He said the lead-up to Timorese independence carried “critically important” lessons for Australian diplomacy. Omitting certain inconvenient truths risked Australia’s reputation for producing “publicly authoritative official histories”. A true and unclassified version needed to be available, Blaxland said.

“That’s what we do in Australia and we need to make sure that record is maintained.”

Dfat did not acknowledge concerns about its objections.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been working cooperatively and productively with the Australian War Memorial to realise the publication of volume two of the official history series,” it said in a statement. “This process has been undertaken through a Department of Defence-led steering committee comprising of a range of Australian government agencies.”

Defence coordinates what is officially a war memorial project.

“Under the Archives Act 1983, the government is afforded the right to consider whether the public release of any classified information might cause damage to Australia’s international relations, defence or national security interests,” a Defence spokesperson said.

“Defence agreed to coordinate the review and declassification of volumes in a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, a longer timeframe has been needed due to the very large size of the volume and the number of stakeholders both within and external to Defence.”

Guardian Australia understands the second volume is about 30% larger than the first. The war memorial was contacted but did not respond.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Timor-Leste
  • Australian politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Woman raped at knifepoint in Portugal gives evidence in Christian Brückner trial

Main suspect in Madeleine McCann case in court in Germany charged with three rapes and two indecent assaults

A woman who was raped at knifepoint by a masked man in Portugal 20 years ago has told a German court how the trauma of the ordeal had left her suffering from frequent panic attacks.

Hazel Behan, 40, broke down as she recalled how a man dressed in black had entered her apartment in the resort of Praia da Rocha in the Algarve at 3am on 16 June 2004. She told how he stood over her bed and woke her by calling her name before proceeding to rape her repeatedly over several hours.

Behan was giving evidence at the trial in Braunschweig, northern Germany, of Christian Brückner, 47, the main suspect in the 2007 disappearance of three-year-old Madeleine McCann. He stands accused of three rapes and two indecent assaults, incidents that took place in Portugal between December 2000 and June 2017. The incidents involved five women and girls aged between 10 and 80 years old.

In a graphic account, told over several hours, Behan, who is an Irish national, had to pause several times. The court pored over the details of accounts she had given first to the Portuguese police, and later to the Irish police, as well as photographs from the crime scene. Physical details, such as her description of a distinctive mark on the perpetrator’s right upper thigh, and his accent were also deliberated over.

Behan had come forward to offer the account of her ordeal to British police in 2020 after learning of a Metropolitan police appeal for witnesses after German police named Brückner as the main suspect in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine.

The newspaper report on the appeal included a picture of Brückner. Behan described to the court how she had first seen the picture in June 2020, recognising what she described as “his very piercing blue eyes”. “I saw his eyes … and I was sick,” she said.

The judge, Uta Engemann, asked: “So you saw the photo and you vomited?” Behan replied: “Yes”. The judge added: “Because you thought that was the photo of the perpetrator?” Behan replied: “Yes.”

Asked if she had compared the picture to other pictures, to be sure it was the same person, Behan, crying, said: “I didn’t need to.”

The attack on Behan, who works as an administrator, from Mullingar, in county Westmeath, Ireland, took place when she worked as a holiday representative at the resort, a job she said she had “absolutely loved” before the attack, which she said “took the fire out of me”.

She said the experience had turned her from a carefree 20-year-old into “someone I did not much like”, who for years blamed herself for the attack.

Behan said it had taken her years to get help, turning to her GP and Dublin’s Rape Crisis Centre. She still receives counselling and suffers regular panic attacks and said the attack had brought her to the brink of wanting to end her own life, feelings she said were only averted after she knew she was going to become a mother, “which saved my life”.

Behan said “the blood rushed from my body” during the ordeal. “I was just trying to figure out how am I going to get out of this?”

She described how she was repeatedly raped, whipped and tied up in her apartment, and how the perpetrator had filmed everything on a camera he had strategically positioned on the television set.

After forcing her to move to the bathroom, Behan described watching from under a sheet hours later as the attacker retreated backwards out of the apartment, through the balcony door, slipped into his shoes he had left there, and fled. She described her agonising wait, deciding only to leave the apartment to get help after she was sure he had gone.

She later described her anger towards the Portuguese police who allegedly failed to take a proper statement from her and, when she had been called to the local police station, had tossed her clothes – some of which the attacker had cut off with a pair of scissors – across a desk at her. She described being repeatedly urged to leave the resort, and was regularly followed by plain-clothed policemen.

Confronting them one day with the question: “Why are you following me?” She described how two of them had answered: “We just want to see if you’re a slut.”

“They said it would be best if I just went home because something like this would ruin tourism in the area … my friends would lose their jobs,” she said.

Brückner, who denies the sexual assault charges and also denies involvement in the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann at the Praia da Luz resort, 37km (23 miles) away, sat metres away from Behan appearing to show no reaction.

He appeared to listen to her account, his chin resting on the fingers of his left hand for the majority of it. He is currently in prison for the rape of an American tourist and is due for release next year.

German police first began focusing on Brückner in 2013, asking him to speak to them in relation to the disappearance of Madeleine. Despite naming him as their main suspect in her disappearance, they have not been explicit as to the reasons why.

They have continued to pursue the case, going so far as to say that they do not believe Madeleine is alive, but have refused to go into any detail as to why.

Behan is to continue giving evidence on Thursday.

The case continues.

Explore more on these topics

  • Germany
  • Portugal
  • Europe
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Most viewed

  • Slovakia prime minister Robert Fico has surgery after being shot in assassination attempt
  • Gina Rinehart demands National Gallery of Australia remove her portrait
  • LiveAustralia politics live: Albanese defends evicting tenant from his Sydney property, criticises Labor senator’s Palestine statement
  • ‘I honest to God believe I was drugged’: magician David Copperfield’s alleged victims speak out
  • ‘Good chance’ we’ll leave US if Trump acquitted, Stormy Daniels husband says

Outrage after Republican candidate tells voters ‘don’t be weak and gay’

Valentina Gomez, running for Missouri secretary of state, makes remark in video filmed in historically LGBTQ+ neighbourhood

Valentina Gomez, a Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state, stoked outrage with a video in which she ran down a street while wearing a protective vest and said: “In America, you can do anything you want, so don’t be weak and gay. Stay fucking hard.”

Jason Kander, a former Democratic Missouri secretary of state and candidate for US Senate, said with sarcasm: “So refreshing to see a female GOP candidate who never served in the military doing the whole veteran cosplay, stolen valour, bigotry as a substitute for strength routine as well as any man.”

Observers noted that Gomez’s video was filmed in the Soulard District of St Louis, a historically LGBTQ+ neighbourhood.

Gomez’s tweet included the handles for Andrew Tate, a British influencer, and his brother Tristan Tate, a kickboxer, who deny charges of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women.

Gomez said her video featured music by “the great Lupe Fiasco”. Users pointed to the rapper’s statements against homophobia, including: “You should not use words like ‘faggot’ it’s derogatory and unacceptable … no room for homophobia in hip hop.”

On Tuesday, apparently in response to the video, the rapper said: “We are aware and currently taking action.”

Gomez, 25 and from St Louis, describes herself as “a real estate investor, financier, strategist, former NCAA Division I swimmer, relentless achiever, and a fierce advocate for the principles values we hold dear as Americans battling for a better future”.

Like many other short videos Gomez has made, the ad featuring her running included an image of her holding a large gun. Others show her firing guns, including at an inflatable Star Wars stormtrooper.

In February, Gomez posted a video in which she used a flamethrower to burn books with LGBTQ+ themes.

“This is what I will do to the grooming books when I become secretary of state,” she said. “These books come from a Missouri public library. When I’m in office, they will burn.”

The Kansas City Star told readers: “Public book burnings typically illustrate extreme censorship related to political, cultural and religious materials. They often invoke historic atrocities such as burning of Jewish texts in Nazi Germany or racist bonfires by the Ku Klux Klan.”

Gomez’s campaign director told NBC News: “You want to be gay? Fine be gay. Just don’t do it around children.” The statement also included familiar far-right complaints about drag shows, pronouns and transgender rights.

Whoever succeeds the current Missouri secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, will control elections in the state. Gomez supports Donald Trump’s lies about electoral fraud.

The independent non-profit Ballotpedia places Gomez among the frontrunners in an eight-strong Republican field, alongside members of the state house and senate.

Gomez is “a real estate investor who has received national attention for her social media presence”, the site says.

Explore more on these topics

  • Missouri
  • US politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Earth-sized planet spotted orbiting small star with 100 times sun’s lifespan

Speculoos-3b, 55 light years away, is only second planetary system to be found around an ultra-cool red dwarf

Astronomers have discovered a new Earth-sized planet orbiting a small, cool star that is expected to shine for 100 times longer than the sun.

The rocky world, called Speculoos-3b, is 55 light years from Earth and was detected as it passed in front of its host star, an ultra-cool red dwarf that is half as hot as the sun and 100 times less luminous.

The newly discovered world, described as “practically the same size as our planet”, swings around the red dwarf once every 17 hours, making a year on the planet shorter than a single Earth day.

But while the years are short on Speculoos-3b, the days and nights are never-ending. “We believe that the planet rotates synchronously, so that the same side, called the day side, always faces the star, just like the moon does for the Earth. On the other hand, the night side would be locked in endless darkness,” said Michaël Gillon, an astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium and lead author on the study.

It is only the second planetary system to be discovered around such a star, after the detection of seven rocky worlds around Trappist-1, another cool red dwarf star 40 light years from Earth.

Researchers spotted the planet as it wandered across the face of its star causing a dimming in the starlight. The transit was detected by the Speculoos (Search for Planets EClipsing ULtra-cOOl Stars) global network of robotic telescopes.

Ultra-cool red dwarf stars make up about 70% of the stars in our galaxy and survive for about 100bn years, making them contenders to be the last stars left shining in the universe. Because they are so faint and scattered across the sky, astronomers have to observe them over several weeks to detect planets crossing in front of them.

The long lifespan of the red dwarf stars means planets orbiting them may be warm enough for long enough for life to emerge. But in the case of Speculoos-3b, any life would face an extremely harsh environment. The planet’s tight orbit means it is bombarded with radiation, receiving almost 16 times more energy per second than Earth.

“In such an environment, the presence of an atmosphere around the planet is highly unlikely,” said Julien de Wit, a planetary scientist at MIT and co-director of the Speculoos Northern Observatory and its Artemis telescope.

Details are published in Nature Astronomy.

Explore more on these topics

  • Planets
  • Astronomy
  • Space
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *