The Guardian 2024-05-16 10:02:04


There is also a commitment to tighten Commonwealth bail laws:

Recently Molly Ticehurst, a 28-year-old mother from New South Wales was murdered because her violent ex-partner was on bail.

Our bail laws need to be tightened. And under a Coalition Government I lead, they will be tightened. Offences relating to partner and family violence generally fall under state and territory legislation.

But there is also a role for the Commonwealth.

A Coalition Government will make it an offence to use mobile phone and computer networks to cause an intimate partner or family member to fear for their personal safety, to track them using spyware, or engage in coercive behaviours.

We will toughen the bail laws that apply to these new Commonwealth offences.

Peter Dutton promises to slash permanent migration by 25% in short term in populist budget reply

Opposition leader also calls for crime crackdown while offering support for cost-of-living measures

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Peter Dutton has promised to cut permanent migration by one-quarter in the short term in a populist budget reply largely mismatched with the scale of fears he has raised over net arrivals.

On Thursday the opposition leader called for a crackdown on crime including creating new offences for causing an intimate partner or family member to fear for their safety, tracking them, or engaging in coercive behaviours, and posting criminal acts online.

In a speech offering bipartisanship on cost-of-living measures but cuts to the Future Made in Australia plan, Dutton argued that Labor had “made life so much tougher for Australians” and “set our country on a dangerous course”.

Providing no fresh detail on alternatives on income tax cuts and nuclear power, Dutton instead focused on perceived Coalition strengths of law and order, largely the responsibility of the states, and migration, which has spiked due to borders reopening after Covid.

In the lead-up to the speech, Dutton complained that Labor’s budget showed “1.7 million people are coming into our country” over the next five years, a reference to projections of net migration, which includes temporary entrants on uncapped visa classes who eventually call Australia home.

But in the budget reply Dutton did not commit the opposition to a target on net migration, instead promising to slash the permanent migration program by 25% from 185,000 to 140,000 for the first two years, followed by 150,000 then 160,000.

Dutton argued this was being done in “recognition of the urgency” of the housing “crisis”. The policy would reduce the intake of mostly skilled workers and recipients of family visas by a cumulative total of 150,000 over four years.

“We believe that by rebalancing the migration program and taking decisive action on the housing crisis, the Coalition would free up more than 100,000 additional homes over the next five years,” he said.

Dutton promised to ensure there were “enough skilled and temporary skilled visas” for construction workers and to “return the refugee and humanitarian program planning level to 13,750”, a cut of one-third from the current 20,000.

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Dutton said the Coalition would also “implement a two-year ban on foreign investors and temporary residents purchasing existing homes in Australia”.

After Labor committed to a cap on international student numbers, Dutton approved the measure and promised to add “a tiered approach to increasing the student visa application fee” including slugging students who change providers to “enhance the integrity of the student visa program”.

In the wake of the Bondi Junction stabbing and Wakeley church attack, Dutton signalled a push to “limit and restrict the sale and possession of knives to minors and dangerous individuals”.

Dutton also promised to lead a push for states and territories to develop uniform knife laws, giving police the powers to stop and search people using detector wands, known as Jack’s Law in Queensland.

Under the new proposed new offence of posting criminal acts online, people convicted would be banned from using digital platforms and liable for up to two years’ imprisonment.

Dutton noted Labor’s trial of age verification technology for minors accessing pornography but promised to “include social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok in such a trial”.

After the Coalition waved through Labor’s changes to the stage-three tax cuts, Dutton recommitted to “provide lower, simpler and fairer taxes for all” but provided no detail, saying this would come “ahead of the election”.

Similarly for nuclear power, Dutton said Australia should be “following the other top 20 economies in the world which have zero-emission nuclear power in their energy mix, or are taking steps to put it in”, without saying how.

Dutton also committed to “ramping-up domestic gas production for affordable and reliable energy in the more immediate term”, deriding “Labor’s new gas strategy [as] just words on paper”.

The Coalition had already signalled it would support Labor’s cost-of-living measures including the $300 electricity rebate.

In the budget reply, Dutton confirmed it would seek to save $13.7bn over 10 years by rejecting “corporate welfare for green hydrogen and critical minerals” in Labor’s Future Made in Australia plan.

After months of his shadow minister complaining about Centrelink wait times and backlogs, the only other major saving identified by Dutton was to modify Labor’s plan for “an additional 36,000 public servants” costing billions over four years, a recruitment drive that includes $1.8bn for frontline Services Australia staff.

“The Coalition sees areas like defence as much more of a priority than office staff in Canberra given the precarious times in which we live and threats in our region,” he said, promising to “reprioritise Canberra-centric funding and make an additional investment in defence”.

Dutton promised to further increase the amount older Australians and veterans can work without reducing pension payments, estimated to affect 150,000 people.

“We will triple the existing work bonus from $300 per fortnight to $900,” he said.

Dutton said the Coalition would increase the value of assets eligible for the instant asset write-off to $30,000 and “make this ongoing for small businesses”.

Dutton also promised $400m for junior doctors who train in general practice with incentive payments, assistance with leave entitlements, and support for pre-vocational training.

The Coalition also committed to doubling Medicare-subsidised psychological sessions from 10 to 20 – and on a permanent basis.

Ahead of the speech the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said it was “long past time for the Coalition to present their plan”, including how it would modify Labor’s tax cuts, “where the nuclear reactors will go and how all of these promises will add up”.

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Just 2% of male-only Melbourne Savage Club members surveyed support allowing women to join

Exclusive: Report says members are strongly against admitting women on an equal basis, but are open to having more ‘lady guests’

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Just four members of the exclusive male-only Melbourne Savage Club say they support women being admitted as members, according to a “members’ satisfaction survey”.

But more “lady guests” could visit for “mixed dining”, breaking a 130-year tradition, if suggestions included in the survey were taken up.

“This would enliven the use of the club more often [and] encourage younger members to dine with their lady guests,” a summary of the “typical comments” favouring women as guests states.

The report outlining the results of the survey – which was conducted in December and January – was sent to members in early May by the club president, David McCubbin. The report, seen by Guardian Australia, notes 183 people responded to the survey out of the club’s 458 active members.

Women can already accompany men to the club for certain events and at certain times. While many members said they wanted the guest rules relaxed, only four who responded to the survey – just over 2% – agreed with women becoming card-carrying members.

“Almost none (4/183) in favour of women members, but a lot in favour of increased women as guests,” the report said.

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In a section headed “Some issues some members seem strongly against”, the report listed: “Female members; no easing back of dress code or access for women to the Bar”.

Male-only clubs around the world have been grappling with whether they should admit women.

Earlier this month, London’s 193-year-old Garrick Club – which has a reciprocal arrangement with the Savage Club – voted to accept female members for the first time. Almost 60% of members voted in favour of the change.

Melbourne’s Athenaeum Club, which describes itself as “multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-sector and multi-interest”, struggled with the issue in 2022 and ultimately rejected allowing women to join.

The Australian Club in Sydney – whose membership has included the likes of former prime ministers John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull – voted against allowing women as members in 2021.

Despite its strict jacket and tie policy, the Savage Club is not as buttoned-up as other so-called gentlemen’s clubs. The former Labor senator Doug Cameron once referred to it as a club based on “bohemianism, free love, frugality and voluntary poverty” and “the more sozzled alternative to the genteel Melbourne Club”.

The club’s website says its “bohemian spirit lives on in the … active calendar of artistic events, such as concerts, art prizes, and poetry and literature special interest groups”.

Special interest groups include the “Ancient Savage Hepcats”, “totally zany” kipper breakfasts and the Savage Sloths and Poets’ Table.

In 2014, Labor senators poked fun at the then attorney general and Liberal senator George Brandis for his membership. In parliament, the former senator Stephen Conroy asked Brandis to “sing the club song” and demonstrate the club initiation ceremony.

“Which institution is harder for a woman to get into in 2014: the Savage Club or the Abbott cabinet?” he asked.

Brandis responded: “Senator Conroy, I think it is about time you grew up.”

Robert Menzies and Barry Humphries have also been members.

McCubbin, an artist, was installed as president last year, a move seen as a harbinger of change.

In a cover letter to the report, McCubbin wrote he was “determined to ask members their satisfaction with the club and what changes, if any, they would wish to see”.

The survey offers a rare insight into the workings of the club and what its members like and dislike. Two-thirds of the members are aged between 61 and 90.

One member pointed to the Australian Club’s “cosy and small room” with “mixed dining”.

“We should consider setting aside the room next to the [Third World Bar] for mixed dining when not in use for private functions. This would enliven the use of the club more often,” he said.

“Encourage younger members to dine with their lady guests.”

A “relatively little used basement known to all as the Yorick Tavern” could be open to women, the report suggested.

Women speaking at events or going to lunches could be allowed into the bar for a drink beforehand, under another member’s proposal.

A section headed “What many members regularly seem to be in favour of” listed:

  • “[Making] the club more female friendly, letting women into more events.

  • “An easing of female attendance.

  • “A more balanced approach to gender is the most obvious issue for club growth. We are out of step with society not to investigate how to be gender inclusive.”

Members also called for a push for younger members to be recruited, and for the club to evolve to be “the happening, bohemian, hot spot of the Melbourne arts/intellectual scene with a thriving, more youthful broad-based membership”.

But “almost none” were in favour of women as members.

According to the survey, more than half want to keep the status quo when it comes to the dress code, with one saying “the dress standards of every club that I have ever been associated with have quickly fallen as soon as tie and coat restrictions are lifted”.

Many members were happy with the club food, but suggested changes including bringing back the Wednesday roast chicken, including an omelette or “having an international dish available”.

“A Chinese or Indian would be popular,” one wrote.

Another criticism was that it was “boarding school” food for “old-fashioned meat eaters”.

Another suggestion for change was that the president and committee communicate regularly with members, seek their opinions and be open in decision-making “as per under David McCubbin”.

There were calls for more ergonomic chairs, an outdoor smoking deck, better disability access, a choir and a burlesque or cabaret night for fathers and sons.

“An appealingly amusing idea was to ‘reinstate the toy monkey that moved the punkah flaps’,” the report notes.

A punkah is a type of rectangular fan used in India.

The Savage Club has been contacted for comment.

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Redone, hidden, burnt: seven famous subjects and the portraits they hated

Mining tycoon Gina Rinehart has asked the National Gallery of Australia to remove her portrait, painted by Vincent Namatjira. Others have gone much further

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Vincent Namatjira’s portrait of Gina Rinehart has found no favour with the subject, with the mining tycoon asking the National Gallery of Australia to remove the painting from an exhibition. But Australia’s richest woman is not the first person to take a painting of their likeness to task.

Here we take a look at seven notable examples.

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Vincent Namatjira says ‘people don’t have to like my paintings’ after Gina Rinehart demands portrait be removed

Billionaire wants painting of her removed from National Gallery of Australia but Archibald-winning artist says he hopes people think about what he is trying to say

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Archibald prize-winning artist Vincent Namatjira has responded after mining billionaire Gina Rinehart demanded that a portrait he painted of her be removed from the National Gallery of Australia.

The painting of Rinehart, arguably an unflattering picture of Australia’s richest person, is one of many portraits at the Canberra gallery on display in Namatjira’s first major survey exhibition.

“I paint the world as I see it,” Namatjira wrote in a statement on Thursday. “People don’t have to like my paintings, but I hope they take the time to look and think, ‘Why has this Aboriginal bloke painted these powerful people? What is he trying to say?’”

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Namatjira said he paints “people who are wealthy, powerful, or significant – people who have had an influence on this country, and on me personally, whether directly or indirectly, whether for good or for bad”.

The Indigenous artist and great-grandson of famed Arrernte watercolourist, Albert Namatjira, won the prestigious Ramsay art prize in 2019 for his depiction of Captain Cook and the Archibald in 2020 for a portrait of Adam Goodes.

Rinehart herself has featured as a subject numerous times in Namatjira’s work. He has painted himself alongside the mining magnate in two portraits titled Gina Rinehart and Me, while another painting titled The Richest (Gina Rinehart) became a Ramsay finalist in 2017.

Namatjira’s portrait of Rinehart hangs in the NGA alongside images of Queen Elizabeth II, Scott Morrison and Ned Kelly.

“Some people might not like it, other people might find it funny but I hope people look beneath the surface and see the serious side too,” his statement concluded.

The NGA has rebuffed Rinehart’s demands to take down the portrait. “The National Gallery welcomes the public having a dialogue on our collection and displays,” it wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

“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.”

Before showing in Canberra, Namatjira’s portrait of Rinehart was on public display in Adelaide for months during the exhibition’s initial run at the Art Gallery of South Australia late last year. The Adelaide gallery has confirmed it did not field any requests for the removal of the painting.

The National Association for the Visual Arts (Nava) also released a statement on Thursday defending Namatjira’s work.

“While Rinehart has the right to express her opinions about the work, she does not have the authority to pressure the gallery into withdrawing the painting simply because she dislikes it,” said Nava executive director, Penelope Benton.

“Artistic expression is a fundamental aspect of Australian cultural life and it must include the freedom to exhibit, perform or distribute works that may be unpopular, shocking, or disturbing.”

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

– with AAP

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Another easy shot for Pearson, she’ll be very happy with her teammates and their try positioning so far!

Another easy shot for Pearson, she’ll be very happy with her teammates and their try positioning so far!

NSW premier sacks parliamentary secretary over criticism of police response to pro-Palestine protesters

Chris Minns said Labor MP Anthony D’Adam’s comments in a speech to parliament were ‘absolutely reprehensible’

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A Labor politician who criticised the actions of New South Wales police officers towards pro-Palestinian protesters has been sacked from his role as parliamentary secretary by the premier, Chris Minns.

Minns took aim at the comments made by the upper house MP Anthony D’Adam, saying that D’Adam had never raised his concerns about the police commissioner, Karen Webb, and officers before making his speech in parliament on Wednesday night.

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The parliamentary secretary for youth justice, D’Adam, told the parliament that police had used “fear and intimidation” on three protesters who were arrested at a ‘die-in’ event in March in the Sydney CBD.

“In this case, the police failed to distinguish between real violence and pretend violence, between real harm and actions that are harmless,” he said.

D’Adam attended the March event.

“We will not be intimidated, especially when we are trying to stop a genocide,” he told the house.

“Any time police officers resort to the use of force against non-violent protesters, they violate these principles and undermine the consent and respect necessary for the police to do their job.”

He also said police officers’ actions had made “a liar of the commissioner” who had defended the way her officers had behaved.

Minns told the parliament on Thursday that being a police officer was “far harder than issuing a speech in the middle of the night in a legislative council” and “completely disassociated” himself from the speech.

“Those comments were absolutely reprehensible,” he said.

He then asked D’Adam to withdraw his comments before sacking him from the secretary role.

“Mr D’Adam did not raise his criticisms about NSW police with me, the police minister or with NSW Police. The first we heard about it was his speech in parliament,” Minns said.

“I have formed the view that his actions and criticisms of the NSW police, without at any time speaking with colleagues to convey his concerns in relation to this matter, are incompatible with his position as parliamentary secretary.”

D’Adam said he was “concerned about an increasing trend in NSW and across Australia of curtailing basic civil liberties” including the right to free speech and peaceful protest.

“My comments in the house were primarily in response to a specific incident at which I was present,” he said.

“I maintain that the police response in this particular situation was an unnecessarily aggressive response to a peaceful and disciplined protest.”

He said he was disappointed but held “no malice” towards the premier.

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Coalition senator accuses Labor’s Fatima Payman of ‘supporting terrorists’ before withdrawing claim

Comments come just hours after Senate passes motion urging senators to ‘engage in debate and commentary respectfully’

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A Coalition senator accused the Labor backbencher Fatima Payman of “supporting terrorists” and then withdrew the claim, just hours after the Senate passed a motion opposing “inflammatory and divisive comments”.

The NSW Liberal senator Hollie Hughes denied she had directly referred to Payman as a “terrorist”, which is what was alleged by some senators who were sitting in the chamber at the time and did not wish to be named.

Hughes told Guardian Australia she said “you are supporting terrorists”, which she withdrew shortly afterwards.

Hughes was overheard interjecting numerous times in Senate question time on Thursday, while the opposition pressed the Labor government to say whether it had taken any action against Payman, a first term senator for Western Australia.

Payman on Wednesday broke ranks with her party’s position by directly accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and by using the politically charged phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said the phrase used by Payman was “inappropriate”, and the Coalition successfully moved a motion in the Senate urging all senators to “engage in debate and commentary respectfully”.

In opposing the motion, the Greens said the “attempt to frame criticism of the state of Israel’s policies as antisemitic is utterly inappropriate”.

The motion, which was supported by Labor, included a clause stating that the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” was “frequently used by those who seek to intimidate Jewish Australians via acts of antisemitism”.

On Wednesday, Payman characterised the call as signifying “freedom from the occupation, freedom from the violence and freedom from the inequality”. Payman was not present for the vote on the motion on Thursday, although she was in attendance for Senate question time.

The independent senator Lidia Thorpe criticised Labor for “appalling” treatment of their own backbench senator, accusing the party of silencing its members.

“They should be ashamed. [Payman] was speaking honestly from the heart about something important she cares about. I commend her for that,” Thorpe said.

Prominent mainstream Jewish groups have labelled the “river to the sea” chant as “hateful”, but defenders of the phrase say it has a variety of meanings and can also refer to equal democratic rights and freedom for all Israelis and Palestinians.

Alex Ryvchin, the co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, a peak group, said it was “an old Arab supremacist slogan calling for the destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population”.

Under this reading, the phrase 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.

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“The Australian Jewish community is grateful for this [Senate] motion and to the vast majority of senators who had the decency to vote for it,” Ryvchin said.

But advocates, including the Palestinian-US writer Yousef Munayyer, have argued the phrase reflects 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, from the Likud party, said in January he would not compromise on full Israeli security control west of the Jordan River. In 1977, Likud’s original platform said: “between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty”.

The Greens senator Jordon Steele-John told the Senate his party “recognised the reality that the policies of the state of Israel are increasingly rendering a two-state solution unachievable”.

The president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, said the Senate motion appeared to be an attempt “to shrink the space for Palestinians and civil society groups to defend human rights”.

“We’re outraged that the major parties and the mainstream media have contorted the words of a liberation movement – a movement advocating for the end of Israeli apartheid in Palestine, and defending global values such as freedom, and equality for all – into words of hate,” Mashni said.

The Coalition’s Senate leader, Simon Birmingham, said too many Australians of Jewish background “now go about their lives in Australia in a state of fear”.

“We call on the prime minister to take appropriate action and to ensure members of his government, members of his party, do not act in ways and repeat phrases that incite, fuel or are used by those who incite and fuel hatred or antisemitism,” Birmingham said.

The Liberal MP Julian Leeser told parliament the phrase “demands the destruction of the Jewish state” and he asked whether Albanese would “show strong, not weak, leadership and remove Senator Payman from the joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade”.

Albanese avoided the specific question, but praised Leeser “for the principled stance that he has taken about the rise in antisemitism”.

“The chant ‘from the river to the sea’ has been used from time to time by some in the pro-Palestinian movement; [and] by some who argue that Israel should be just one state as well and that Gaza and West Bank should be wiped out,” Albanese said.

“It is inappropriate. I very strongly believe in a two-state solution. I strongly believe in the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. I strongly believe as well in the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

Further comment was sought from Payman.

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Slovakian PM Robert Fico in ‘stable but serious’ condition after shooting

Hospital director says Fico underwent five hours of surgery with two teams to treat multiple gunshot wounds

The Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, is in stable but serious condition, officials have said, as the country’s security council was set to meet to discuss what has been described by officials as the darkest day in Slovakia’s modern history.

At least five shots were fired at Fico, 59, on Wednesday as he met a small group of supporters after a government meeting in the town of Handlová, about 90 miles (150km) north-east of the capital, Bratislava.

A suspect was taken into custody and the interior minister, Matúš Šutaj Eštok, said the initial investigation pointed to “a clear political motivation” behind the assassination attempt.

Local media identified the alleged shooter as Juraj C, 71, from Levice in south-central Slovakia. He is said to be a former security guard at a shopping centre, the author of three books of poetry, and to have spoken on YouTube of his desire to form a political movement.

The news outlet Aktuality.sk cited the suspect’s son as saying his father was the legal holder of a gun licence.

In an undated video posted on Facebook, a man – whom Reuters verified as the alleged attacker – was seen saying: “I do not agree with government policy.”

Fico was taken to a hospital in the city of Banská Bystrica after the shooting. Hours later, the defence minister, Robert Kaliňák, said medical workers were “fighting for the life” of Fico. He described the shooting as a clear “political assault”.

On Thursday morning Miriam Lapunikova, the director of the hospital, said the prime minister had undergone five hours of surgery with two teams to treat multiple gunshot wounds. Slovakian media reported that Fico was placed in an artificial coma after the operation.

“At this point his condition is stabilised but is truly very serious, he will be in the intensive care unit,” Lapunikova said.

Kaliňák told reporters outside the hospital: “During the night doctors managed to stabilise the patient’s condition. Unfortunately his condition continues to be very serious due to the complicated nature of the wounds, but we all want to believe firmly that we will succeed in managing the situation.”

Late on Wednesday the deputy prime minister, Tomáš Taraba, told the BBC that Fico was expected to survive. “He was heavily injured – one bullet went thought the stomach and the second one hit the joint. Immediately he was transported to the hospital and then to the operation.”

As Slovaks commuted to work on Thursday, many were still processing the news. Mária Szabó, a shopkeeper in Bratislava, said: “I don’t have words for this. This should never have happened in the 21st century, no matter who you vote for. Our country is heading in the wrong direction.”

Fico, a veteran populist politician, returned to power in elections last year after promises not to send “another bullet” to Ukraine, criticism of sanctions targeting Russia, and campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights.

The first months of his return have proved divisive, with thousands of people taking to streets across the country to protest against measures that critics have warned will imperil freedom of the press, and the elimination of a special prosecutor post that deals with major crime and corruption.

Fico has fiercely criticised Slovakia’s mainstream media and refused to speak to some outlets, while members of his party have taken aim at media and opposition actions in recent months.

The tensions were heightened by last month’s hard-fought presidential elections in which Fico tightened his grip on power as his ally Peter Pellegrini won.

Eštok, the interior minister, said on Wednesday that the country was “on the edge of a civil war”, adding: “Such hateful comments are being made on social networks today, so please, let’s stop this immediately.”

Gábor Czímer, a political journalist at the Slovakian news outlet Ujszo.com, told the Associated Press that Fico’s return to power had laid bare how “Slovak society is strongly split into two camps” – one that was friendly towards Russia and another that pushed for stronger connections with the EU and the west.

“At the same time, I couldn’t imagine that it would lead to physical violence,” Czímer said.

The shooting – the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader in more than 20 years – sent shock waves across Europe, with leaders linking the violence to an increasingly febrile and polarised political climate across the continent.

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. “Violence must have no place in European politics,” he wrote on X.

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Slovakian PM Robert Fico in ‘stable but serious’ condition after shooting

Hospital director says Fico underwent five hours of surgery with two teams to treat multiple gunshot wounds

The Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, is in stable but serious condition, officials have said, as the country’s security council was set to meet to discuss what has been described by officials as the darkest day in Slovakia’s modern history.

At least five shots were fired at Fico, 59, on Wednesday as he met a small group of supporters after a government meeting in the town of Handlová, about 90 miles (150km) north-east of the capital, Bratislava.

A suspect was taken into custody and the interior minister, Matúš Šutaj Eštok, said the initial investigation pointed to “a clear political motivation” behind the assassination attempt.

Local media identified the alleged shooter as Juraj C, 71, from Levice in south-central Slovakia. He is said to be a former security guard at a shopping centre, the author of three books of poetry, and to have spoken on YouTube of his desire to form a political movement.

The news outlet Aktuality.sk cited the suspect’s son as saying his father was the legal holder of a gun licence.

In an undated video posted on Facebook, a man – whom Reuters verified as the alleged attacker – was seen saying: “I do not agree with government policy.”

Fico was taken to a hospital in the city of Banská Bystrica after the shooting. Hours later, the defence minister, Robert Kaliňák, said medical workers were “fighting for the life” of Fico. He described the shooting as a clear “political assault”.

On Thursday morning Miriam Lapunikova, the director of the hospital, said the prime minister had undergone five hours of surgery with two teams to treat multiple gunshot wounds. Slovakian media reported that Fico was placed in an artificial coma after the operation.

“At this point his condition is stabilised but is truly very serious, he will be in the intensive care unit,” Lapunikova said.

Kaliňák told reporters outside the hospital: “During the night doctors managed to stabilise the patient’s condition. Unfortunately his condition continues to be very serious due to the complicated nature of the wounds, but we all want to believe firmly that we will succeed in managing the situation.”

Late on Wednesday the deputy prime minister, Tomáš Taraba, told the BBC that Fico was expected to survive. “He was heavily injured – one bullet went thought the stomach and the second one hit the joint. Immediately he was transported to the hospital and then to the operation.”

As Slovaks commuted to work on Thursday, many were still processing the news. Mária Szabó, a shopkeeper in Bratislava, said: “I don’t have words for this. This should never have happened in the 21st century, no matter who you vote for. Our country is heading in the wrong direction.”

Fico, a veteran populist politician, returned to power in elections last year after promises not to send “another bullet” to Ukraine, criticism of sanctions targeting Russia, and campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights.

The first months of his return have proved divisive, with thousands of people taking to streets across the country to protest against measures that critics have warned will imperil freedom of the press, and the elimination of a special prosecutor post that deals with major crime and corruption.

Fico has fiercely criticised Slovakia’s mainstream media and refused to speak to some outlets, while members of his party have taken aim at media and opposition actions in recent months.

The tensions were heightened by last month’s hard-fought presidential elections in which Fico tightened his grip on power as his ally Peter Pellegrini won.

Eštok, the interior minister, said on Wednesday that the country was “on the edge of a civil war”, adding: “Such hateful comments are being made on social networks today, so please, let’s stop this immediately.”

Gábor Czímer, a political journalist at the Slovakian news outlet Ujszo.com, told the Associated Press that Fico’s return to power had laid bare how “Slovak society is strongly split into two camps” – one that was friendly towards Russia and another that pushed for stronger connections with the EU and the west.

“At the same time, I couldn’t imagine that it would lead to physical violence,” Czímer said.

The shooting – the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader in more than 20 years – sent shock waves across Europe, with leaders linking the violence to an increasingly febrile and polarised political climate across the continent.

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. “Violence must have no place in European politics,” he wrote on X.

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Patrick McGorry urges government to move faster on mental health after federal budget boost

Upgrades to existing structures are required to address a ‘surge’ of need, especially among young people, professor says

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The youth mental health champion and former Australian of the year Patrick McGorry has welcomed the federal budget’s new investment in psychology, saying upgrades to existing structures are required to address a “surge” of need, especially among younger people.

But he said the government needs to move with a greater sense of urgency in its reforms, with questions raised about plans for a “low intensity” free online service which won’t start for two more years.

“Youth mental health is in crisis. We need whatever we do to move fast,” McGorry said.

Tuesday’s budget earmarked $888m over eight years for a new national online mental health service, giving up to 10 free sessions annually for “low intensity” issues; more wrap-around care in primary health settings for complex needs patients; and a boost to the Head to Health mental health networks for people with moderate to severe needs.

The Head to Health centres will be renamed Medicare Mental Health Centres, and upgraded so each houses psychiatrists, psychologists and GPs. Only 20 of a planned 61 centres have opened, but the health minister, Mark Butler, said more would open soon.

“That is really the gap in the system, there really is not enough support out there for people with complex needs,” he told Radio National on Thursday.

The government has been under pressure to expand Medicare-backed mental health offerings after Labor let a Covid-era doubling of eligible sessions from 10 to 20 expire. The new online service will not require referrals and is meant as an early intervention scheme to avoid people requiring more intensive care later.

“This will help people get the care they need at every stage of distress, while relieving the pressure on the current Better Access scheme to be all things to all people,” Butler said.

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The online system is not expected to be in operation until 2026, and serve 150,000 people yearly at full capacity. Butler told Radio National on Thursday “we’ve got a bit of work to do to design it” but stressed “it will be humans” staffing the sessions.

“It will be largely online and over the phone, you’ll be able to access it either directly very easily, or through your usual GP,” he said.

The sector has had a mixed reaction to the investments, with the Australian Association of Psychologists Inc (AAPi) peak body calling the overall new funding “tokenistic”. The AAPi welcomed a greater focus on early intervention through the online service, but called for more detail, and raised concern that it must not simply duplicate existing services or use “a lower-qualified workforce”.

Beyond Blue backed the early intervention services, especially for depression and anxiety issues.

AAPi was also critical of no extension of Medicare-backed psychologist visits under the Better Access scheme beyond the current 10 sessions, saying “we don’t force people to ration physical health”.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association said the online service would help fill gaps left by psychology appointments not being available under telehealth, and that Medicare changes would allow more psychiatric admissions to private hospitals.

Suicide Prevention Australia hoped to see more crisis services and suicide prevention workers, but “cautiously welcomed” the new online service and funding to private health networks for mental health nurses.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists welcomed new funding for youth mental health, but said it was “extremely disappointing” there wasn’t more for training workers.

“We are disappointed by the absence of any substantial commitment to grow the number of psychiatrists and mental health workers, which are fundamental to mental health reform,” the college president, Dr Elizabeth Moore, said.

McGorry, the executive director of research service Orygen and professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne, said the individual programs would add to make a significant difference. He has called for a major “reimagining” of the psychology system for some time.

“It’s getting the blueprint right for a new youth mental health system. We need to see major investment in that – youth is the only part of the lifespan where we’re seeing a huge growth in need,” McGorry said.

He said he had proposed the Head to Health model to the former government, with plans for psychiatrists, psychologists and GPs as part of his original model. He welcomed those upgrades, saying there needed to be more help for those with more complex needs, but said the system needed to be strengthened quicker.

“It probably needs to go a lot further and faster,” McGorry said.

“The directions they’ve signalled are the right ones, but I’d like to see a greater sense of urgency … the models of care are easily definable and should be put on deck now. Stop wasting time and money.”

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Charlise Mutten’s alleged killer bought drugs and had sex with her mother after fatal shooting, murder trial told

Police allege that after murdering nine-year-old, Justin Stein drove to buy methamphetamine with her mother

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The mother of Charlise Mutten and the schoolgirl’s alleged murderer drove to Sydney to buy drugs after the nine-year-old was fatally shot in the face and back, a court has been told.

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

Charlise had spent the night of 11 January alone with Stein at a property in Mount Wilson, while her mother, Kallista Mutten, stayed at a caravan at the Riverview Ski Park about 90 minutes away, the NSW supreme court was told.

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Stein allegedly told Mutten that Charlise had been sick and that he had left her with a woman who had come to do a valuation on the property, who was also a friend of his mother.

Phone-location data suggests Stein later picked Mutten up from the caravan and they drove together to Surry Hills, where they allegedly bought methamphetamine.

They continued on to nearby Centennial Park, where Mutten told police the pair had sex.

Mutten asked in a message if the drug dealer could include “weapons”, which the officer in charge of the investigation, Det Sgt Bradley Gardiner, said referred to either syringes or a pipe used to take the drug.

While the pair were in Sydney, Mutten made a number of calls to the landline of the Mount Wilson property, the court heard.

There was no evidence that those phone calls were answered.

After the couple had sex in Centennial Park, Mutten searched “blood coming from penis after sex” and “blood coming out of penis after ejaculation”.

She would accuse Stein of cheating on her and contracting the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea, also known as “the clap”, the jury heard.

Police alleged Mutten forwarded intimate messages and images from Stein’s phone and later messaged him saying, “you’re a liar, cheat and now I’ve lost my daughter”.

When the couple arrived back at the Mount Wilson property that evening, Mutten placed calls to Lithgow hospital and Blue Mountains hospital having made online searches for children’s emergency rooms in the area.

Mutten left the Mount Wilson property in the early hours of 13 January driving Stein’s red Holden Colorado ute, prompting him to leave a string of voicemails threatening to hurt her if she did not return it.

“If you don’t bring it back I’m going to hurt you as well as everyone else,” he said in one of the messages.

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

Stein called triple zero to report the car stolen, initially telling the operator it was taken by a female who he did not know.

“She would have broken into the house and taken the keys while I slept,” he said.

The operator asked Stein if he was sure he did not know the identity of the person, to which he replied: “It could be my ex-partner, but I’m not sure.”

The trial is estimated to run for six weeks.

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Like a ‘civil war’: Nouméa residents describe terror as deadly riots sweep New Caledonia capital

Some locals say they have been too scared to leave their homes as protests over changes to the voting law grew into deadly riots

Lizzie Carboni knew that life in New Caledonia had changed forever when the school she had attended as a child went up in flames on Wednesday night.

“I could hear people yelling, screaming and grenades being fired,” she says, adding that it was “the worst night of my life” and likening the scenes unfolding in the capital, Nouméa, to “civil war”.

Carboni lives in the residential neighbourhood of Portes de Fer and has watched as waves of violence have gripped the country this week, and protests over changes to a voting law grew into riots.

Now, armoured vehicles patrol the streets of the city, and locals describe being afraid to leave their homes.

Burnt detritus amassed over four days of unrest is scattered on Nouméa’s palm-lined major thoroughfares, which are usually thronged with tourists. Fist-size chunks of rock and cement that appeared to have been flung during riots lie on the ground.

In the wake of the violence, Paris has deployed troops to the French territory’s ports and international airport, banned TikTok and imposed a state of emergency. Four people, including a police officer, have died in the clashes and hundreds have been wounded.

Carboni, a freelance journalist, is horrified.

“We have bags ready if we need to leave our home for whatever reason,” she says, adding that local supermarkets had been looted and that she and her family were relying on the food they had remaining in their pantry. “We were, and are still, terrified by what’s happening.

“Life will never be the same from now on. It will take months and months to rebuild everything, if it can be done at all,” she says.

Speaking to broadcaster France Info on Wednesday, Anne Clément, another Nouméa resident, hailed security forces reinforcements, saying the unrest had morphed into “a real urban guerrilla war”.

People have been confined to their homes, terrified by “shooting from all sides”, Clément, a nursery director, told the broadcaster. “We’ve stopped eating, we’ve stopped living, we’ve stopped sleeping,” she added. “I don’t see how we could get out of the situation without the state of emergency.”

Another resident, Yoan Fleurot, told Reuters in a Zoom interview that he was staying at home out of respect for the nightly curfew and was very scared for his family.

“I don’t see how my country can recover after this”, Fleurot said.

Residents in some neighbourhoods strung up improvised white flags, a symbol of their intention to keep peaceful watch over the streets.

French broadcaster La Première posted footage on Twitter showing a supermarket in the town of Dumbéa, next to the capital, which it said had been looted on Wednesday night. Elsewhere, residents formed queues outside petrol stations and supermarkets in a bid to find supplies.

One woman said she felt she had been forced to take food from shops. “We just grabbed what there was in the shops to eat. Soon there will be no more shops,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We need milk for the children. I don’t see it as looting,” she told AFP.

The pro-independence, largely Indigenous protests were sparked by planned changes to voting laws that will allow more long-term French residents of the islands to vote in local elections. The move has sparked fears among the indigenous Kanak population that their influence will be further diluted.

The protests turned violent this week as the bill was voted on in the French parliament. The reforms must still be approved by a joint sitting of both houses of the French parliament.

“A few days ago, we were going out, sitting at cafes, laughing together but in just a few hours, everything changed,” Carboni says.

“The future is uncertain for everybody. What will tomorrow be like?”

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WHO accuses Nigel Farage of spreading misinformation about pandemic treaty

New campaign claims draft deal to improve global cooperation against outbreaks will cede UK sovereignty

The World Health Organization has accused Nigel Farage of spreading misinformation after he launched a campaign to block an international treaty designed to improve global pandemic preparedness.

WHO member states are negotiating a deal to shore up cooperation against new pathogens. If adopted, the legally binding treaty would commit countries to helping each other in the event of a pandemic, increase research and sharing of data, and promote fair access to vaccines.

But populist figures including Farage and a number of Tory MPs are lobbying the UK government to block the deal, claiming that it will give the WHO power to enforce lockdowns on countries, dictate policy on mask wearing and control vaccine stocks.

Farage is fronting the campaign group Action on World Health (AWH), which was registered on Companies House last week.

The AWH’s website lists supporters including the Tory MPs Henry Smith, Philip Davies and David Jones, as well as peers and others. Companies House filings show that it has three directors including the barrister Paul Diamond, whose work has included high-profile cases on behalf of socially conservative Christians and cases where the use of vaccines has been disputed.

Visitors to the AWH’s site are helped to locate and lobby their MP using template “suggested text” emails that claim the WHO treaty will “strip away” the UK’s decision-making powers.

The potency of what some on the right view as a potential new “wedge issue” was underlined in contributions by Tory backbenchers such as Philip Hollobone, who echoed populist language by describing the WHO as being under the influence of “the global elite” and urging against the UK backing the treaty.

The UK health minister Andrew Stephenson urged MPs in parliament this week to dismiss what he described as myths being spread about the treaty, which the UK is considering whether or not to support.

Lockdown mandates are not part of the deal and a claim by Farage that the treaty would require countries to give away 20% of their vaccines was “simply not true”, said Stephenson.

His comments were echoed by the WHO directly. Responding to AWH’s claims, a spokesperson said a draft of the treaty reaffirmed “the principle of sovereignty” of member states.

“Claims that the draft agreement will cede sovereignty to WHO and will give the WHO secretariat power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries are false and have never been requested nor proposed. This agreement will not, and cannot, grant sovereignty to WHO.”

Farage, who denies that the campaign is sharing misinformation, claimed the UK government was “running scared” and that Conservative MPs had “suddenly been shouting” about the treaty on Wednesday.

“The governing party are very scared of me and of anything that would look like a surrender of sovereignty after Brexit. I’m trying to bring to the public’s attention something that is not being debated – that’s what I have done throughout my career – and I think we are getting traction already,” he said.

“This may not be a campaign with mass populist appeal but we can influence the government’s position when they get to Geneva in a couple of weeks time.

European ambassadors who met at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday are understood to have voiced concern about misinformation of the type that the AWH has been accused of promoting.

A leading WHO envoy who was the face of the body in the UK during the pandemic said that he feared public health workers and policymakers were having to work in an increasingly difficult environment.

“We are being identified with particular behaviours as public health types and of doing things that we are not actually doing. It means that I fear that people who work in public health have become almost a despised community by certain groups and various organisations,” said David Nabarro, co-director and chair of global health at Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation.

Nabarro said: “What we are trying to do above all is to help people to avoid death and to avoid misery. There’s no effort by any of us to go for any kind of the political action we are being accused of and yet we do seem to have become seriously disliked.”

Other online campaigns targeting the WHO are already under way in the UK. Two of them – Say No To WHO and Save My Vape – are linked to an anti-EU pressure group run by Brian Monteith, a PR consultant and former Brexit party politician.

Negotiators from the WHO’s 194 member states had hoped to have a final draft agreement by Friday, with a view toward adopting the legally binding text at the World Health Assembly later this month.

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