The Guardian 2024-06-04 09:08:34


Australian officials say they have repeatedly been blocked from having consular access to Gordon Ng, a Hong Kong-Australian dual national detained in Hong Kong.

Ng was one of 14 defendants found guilty of national security-related offences by a Hong Kong court last week. It was the biggest case against pro-democracy campaigners – against a group known as the “Hong Kong 47” – since China imposed a sweeping national security law.

Ng pleaded not guilty.

Madeleine Casey, the assistant secretary of consular operations at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told a Senate estimates committee hearing:

We have made several representations in relation to Gordon Ng. We have requested at least 14 times consular access but at this stage we have still not been granted access to him.

Officials confirmed that the local authorities were denying Australia consular access to Ng because he is a dual citizen.

But Casey said Australia would “continue to advocate for access to him”.

She said despite the lack of direct consular access, consular officials did attend court on 30 May for the verdict.

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, said last week the Australian government was “deeply concerned” by the verdicts and continued to have “strong objections” about “the continuing broad application of national security legislation to arrest and pressure pro-democracy figures, opposition groups, media, trade unions and civil society”.

My colleague Helen Davidson wrote this piece on these latest cases:

Guardian Essential poll: two-thirds of voters support raising minimum age for social media to 16

Survey also shows increasing desire for government regulation of hate speech and artificial intelligence

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More than two-thirds of voters support raising the age limit for social media from 13 to 16, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

The poll of 1,160 voters, released on Tuesday, finds an increasing appetite for government regulation of hate speech, social media and artificial intelligence.

Peter Dutton slipped back into negative territory, with 42% of respondents disapproving of the job he was doing as opposition leader and 41% approving. Anthony Albanese is steady with 47% disapproving of his job as prime minister and 43% approving.

The poll found more than two-thirds (69%) wanted the age limit on social media to be raised from 13 to 16 years, with 44% strongly supporting the idea and 24% “somewhat” supporting it. Just 14% oppose the idea, and 17% neither support nor oppose it.

Almost half (47%) of respondents said technology companies including Meta, Google and TikTok had been “mostly negative” for young people, compared with 19% “mostly positive” and 34% neutral.

The Albanese government is currently testing technology for age verification. Dutton had promised to extend the trial from pornography to social platforms, but communications minister Michelle Rowland has confirmed both are already included in the trial.

Labor premiers are attracted to social media age limits, with South Australia’s Peter Malinauskas looking to legislate a limit of 14 and New South Wales’ Chris Minns supporting an age limit of 16.

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Respondents were asked to select what age on a scale between 10 and 18 children should be able to do a range of activities.

On average, respondents thought children aged about 17-and-a-half should be able to buy and consume alcohol, vote in elections and access pornography. On average, 15.4 was the age at which children were thought ready to use social media; 14.3 was the age for children being held responsible for a crime.

Respondents were told “the government is currently developing new laws to protect people from hate speech” which “would make it a criminal offence to vilify someone based on their sex, sexuality, gender, race or religion”.

A total of 62% said they would support the proposal, either strongly (34%) or somewhat (28%). Just 17% opposed it, while about one in five (21%) were unsure.

The hate speech bill is expected to be introduced in August alongside laws banning doxing, the online exposure of a person’s private information without their consent. It has already proved a major flashpoint between Labor and the Coalition, with Dutton labelling the laws a “trap” and “wedge”.

A majority of respondents said they wanted to see safeguards for artificial intelligence including that: “businesses that introduce AI should have a legal duty to ensure that it is used safely” (78% agreed); “workers should be involved in designing how AI technology is introduced in their workplace” (62%); and “workers should be compensated when their work is used to train AI” (60%).

But respondents were less fearful of AI, with the proportion saying it “carries more risk than opportunity” at 42%, down three points from January. The proportion who said it carried “more opportunity than risk” was steady at 21%. Those who said risk and opportunity “are about the same” was up three points to 37%.

After the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, promised to introduce compulsory national service for 18-year-olds, respondents were told the plan “could include unpaid volunteer work one weekend a month doing community service” or a “paid full-time military placement”.

Half (51%) of respondents said they approved of “mandatory national service” in the form of full-time paid military service, compared with a quarter (25%) who opposed it. Unpaid volunteer work was less popular, with 46% in favour and 26% opposed.

Almost half (49%) of respondents said Australia was heading down the wrong track, down a point from when the question was asked in April, compared with about a third (34%) saying it was heading in the right direction, up a point.

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Bill Shorten’s speechwriter paid $300,000 a year by Services Australia, Senate estimates told

Julianne Stewart has secured two-year contract despite agency employing 200 media and communication staff

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A professional speechwriter contracted to work with the government services minister, Bill Shorten, is expected to cost taxpayers $600,000 over two years, despite Services Australia employing 200 media and communication staff.

Appearing in Senate estimates on Monday, Services Australia confirmed Julianne Stewart has secured a government contract worth about $300,000 a year, which is in its second year. The arrangement came to light after the tender was published on the government’s AusTender website.

Stewart is making almost double some of the highest-paid speechwriters within the agency, which confirmed those among its senior ranks would take home around $140,000 a year.

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Stewart’s LinkedIn profile states she has been in the role for a year and nine months and provides “contract speechwriting services to Services Australia and the Hon Bill Shorten, MP, Minister for Government Services and the NDIS”.

When questioned by the Liberal senator Maria Kovacic about the speechwriter’s contract, the Services Australia deputy chief executive officer, Susie Smith, said the department had “capability” to deliver the contract.

“We do have the capability. I think it comes down to a question of choice,” Smith told Senate estimates. “We have speechwriters as part of our communications capability, yes.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Services Australia said “speechwriting is a specialist skillset” with “accomplished and high calibre writers” difficult to find.

“An external recruitment exercise was undertaken in July 2022 but there were no applicants found suitable commensurate with the level,” the spokesperson said.

“To meet the increased demand, a number of labour hire panels were approached to secure speechwriting services, however, the specialist skills and expertise required were unable to be sourced through panel providers.”

At the end of April, the total cost of the contract paid was $447,516, excluding GST.

Services Australia officials said Stewart commuted from Sydney to Canberra for the role and confirmed the department had not written speeches for the minister in the past 12 months.

Stewart has previously written speeches for four prime ministers, including Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, the former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, and two vice-chancellors of UNSW, according to her LinkedIn.

Shorten told A Current Affair on Monday night the focus on the payments was a “cheap Liberal tactic”, saying he wasn’t involved in negotiating the contract but defended the employee.

“The hiring of a speechwriter was done by Services Australia. I have no idea what the payment was. So if you’re trying to link me to that, you know, good luck,” he said.

“The person involved, who is a speechwriter, does a very good job. I’m not responsible for negotiating a contract.”

Shorten’s office was contacted for comment..

The opposition’s government services spokesperson, Paul Fletcher, said the funding was a waste of money amid a cost-of-living crisis.

“Australians are enduring skyrocketing call wait times and slow payment processing times at Services Australia. Yet Labor is more concerned about spin than improving its performance,” Fletcher said.

“How a speechwriter can earn more than an MP or Senator is bizarre and makes no sense.”

The Liberal senator Linda Reynolds asked Services Australia officials if it was acceptable to spend the money on hiring an additional speechwriter.

“When Services Australia, who is paying for this contract is keeping people waiting increasingly longer for crisis payments, for aged care payments, do you think this use of taxpayer’s money for an extra speech writeis appropriate? Did you push back on this contract?” she asked Smith.

Smith replied: “I think you are asking me for a matter of opinion and I don’t have an opinion about this.”

“I think Australians would love to know why you are spending this much money when it could be far better used in additional staff to process people’s claims,” Reynolds said.

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Qantas announces boarding changes aimed at avoiding chaotic economy queues

Airline calls new system, which will see passengers split into six groups, ‘the most significant change to boarding in a decade’

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Qantas is rolling out a new boarding regime that will see passengers split into six boarding groups as it seeks to fill its planes faster and to ensure they depart on time.

The new boarding protocol will initially apply only to domestic flights on Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s – the workhorses of its domestic services between capital cities.

The new system was put in place at Brisbane airport from Monday, and its introduction will be staggered throughout the month, coming into effect at Perth airport from 10 June, at Melbourne from 17 June and Sydney from 25 June.

Qantas will now split passengers into six groups in an attempt to avoid the chaotic queues that form at gates when economy is called to board.

Premium travellers and the most loyal customers will retain superior priority. Group one will include those in business class, frequent flyers with platinum or platinum one status, as well as travellers from the exclusive chairman’s lounge. Gold frequent flyers will board as group two.

However, instead of the traditional approach where the front and back half of the plane are called to board separately, the cabin will be split into quarters.

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Group three will include everyone seated in the back quarter of the plane, progressing to group six, which consists of passengers in the front quarter of economy.

Each passenger’s group will be printed on their boarding pass, with scanners at the gate only permitting customers of a group already called to pass through.

The new system is intended to speed up boarding and minimise congestion throughout the cabin as travellers in back rows are forced to wait while those in earlier rows stand to load luggage into overhead lockers or shuffle between seats.

The Qantas domestic chief executive, Markus Svensson, said the change was the most significant change to boarding in a decade.

“Group Boarding is designed to minimise the time our customers spend waiting to board and allows them to get settled more quickly,” Svensson said. “We know how important on time departure is to our customers, so this process is also about doing everything possible to ensure we depart on time.”

Qantas noted similar boarding methods had already been implemented by rivals overseas.

The airline’s approach is in contrast to US carrier United Airlines, which last year announced it would board economy passengers by their seat, not just their row, as part of its multi group boarding stages.

On United flights, window seat passengers board first, followed by those with middle seats, before aisle seat travellers board. The system is designed to minimise traffic in the cabin aisles by avoiding the need for already seated passengers to get up to allow a window seat passenger in. United believes its approach cuts its boarding times by two minutes a flight.

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Arrest warrant issued for Aboriginal activist who says he is not an Australian citizen

Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta refused to attend court on charges of trespassing over an anti-forestry protest

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A Hobart magistrate has issued an arrest warrant for an Aboriginal activist who refused to attend court on charges stemming from a protest because he does not consider himself an Australian citizen.

Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta says he wants to highlight the destruction of forests and issues of Indigenous sovereignty.

Everett-puralia meenamatta was arrested and charged with trespassing in March over an anti-forestry protest in Tasmania’s Styx Valley of the Giants.

His matter was listed in the Hobart magistrates court on Monday but he chose to not appear, prompting magistrate Glenn Hay to issue an arrest warrant for the 81-year-old.

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“There was no need to show up, the court doesn’t have any jurisdiction over Aboriginal people protecting our country,” Everett-puralia meenamatta said.

“We’ve never made any agreements to be citizens.”

Everett-puralia meenamatta, who plans to continue protest action in coming months, said he was not fazed by the prospect of jail time or a fine.

“They’ll either catch up with me before I get much else done … or they don’t,” Everett-puralia meenamatta said.

“I’ll probably get fined and then complete what I’m doing and keep building up this issue.

“There’s no use standing up and arguing with a colonial government and expecting they’re going to listen the first time you jump up and down about it.

“I’m going to keep pushing.”

Veteran environmentalist Bob Brown, whose organisation arranged the March protest, attended court and described the situation as a legal test case.

“A court is overriding the sovereignty of Jim Everett … an Aboriginal man who has such enormous respect in the First Nations community,” Brown told reporters.

“Every similar nation in the world has a treaty with its original people where people have invaded … and established courts. This country doesn’t.”

Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre campaign manager Nala Mansell has called for the trespass charge to be dropped.

“The power that white people have over Aborigines, our lives, culture and cultural responsibilities has to have some flexibility,” she said in a statement.

“White people can govern and manage themselves but their laws shouldn’t apply to Aboriginal people.”

Everett-puralia meenamatta, a pakana plangermairreenner man who has written poetry, plays, political and academic papers and short stories, has visited many remote Aboriginal communities.

“If you understand what being Aboriginal is, it is being part of country,” he said. “If you hurt country, you are hurting our community.

“Much research has been done on the generational trauma … because of the destruction of our country.”

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‘I’m ready for everything and I don’t care’: the man refusing to turn up at an Australian ‘colonial’ court

Tasmanian logging protestor Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta is due in court on Monday. But as an Aboriginal ‘non-Australian citizen’, he doesn’t recognise its jurisdiction

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On Monday morning Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta, a Tasmanian Aboriginal elder, is due in Hobart magistrates court to face a trespassing charge after his alleged illegal protest in March against old growth logging in the Styx Valley of the Giants.

But Uncle Jim, as the beloved octogenarian Pakana Plangermairreener man is known, will be nowhere near the court. No, the celebrated artist, writer, academic and filmmaker will be as good as a world away at his traditional home on Cape Barren Island.

“I’ve got no intention of going to court,” says Everett-puralia meenamatta. He shakes his head and laughs.

“Actually, you know, I’ll probably just be back home on the island until the day after I’m due in court. And then I’ve got to get back down here to Hobart for a meeting. They know me pretty well down here and I think they [the authorities] will be a little bit careful about what they do. If there’s an arrest warrant out for me after that, well I’ve just got to try to evade them for a bit. That shouldn’t be too hard.”

Regardless, he does fully expect, at some point, to be rearrested and charged with failing to appear on the trespass charges. He also anticipates the ultimate penalty could be a significant prison sentence or a fine of up to $45,000.

“She’s a big fine. But I’m a poor man. I’m an old man and a poor man. And I’ve got nothing that they can come and take off me that would worry me. So long as they stay away from my library.”

Everett-puralia meenamatta looks sprightly for 81 as he drags on a cigarette one cold morning outside his son’s home near Hobart. “I’ll be 82 later this year – and yeah, I’m in pretty good shape. I dunno what it is. It must be all the mutton bird oil, mate,” he says.

More laughter.

But for a man his age – even one in such apparent good health – the prospect of white man’s prison is probably no laughing matter. Likewise, the issues that Everett-puralia meenamatta is seeking to highlight by provoking the authorities to arrest – and rearrest – him.

In some ways what Everett-puralia meenamatta is doing seems profoundly simple: he wanted to be arrested at the Styx in March, and was. And he eventually wants to be rearrested for failing to appear in court – though not until September, because he plans to be involved in further protest action with friend and fellow Tasmanian activist Bob Brown, who has himself been arrested many times in the forests.

Here is where it gets slightly more complicated. Beyond his 50-plus years of environmental activism and protest against the wholesale destruction of Tasmania’s culturally totemic old growth forests, Everett-puralia meenamatta’s desire to be arrested and eventually rearrested – and perhaps jailed or fined – is strategically aimed to highlight issues of Indigenous sovereignty, legal jurisdiction, colonialism and the citizenship status of Indigenous people on this continent.

“I do not identify as an Australian citizen,” says the former commercial fisherman, who recently obtained his master’s degree in history at the University of Tasmania.

“There has never been a true conciliation between First Nations people and the colonial nation of Australia. And any notion that First Nations peoples are citizens of Australia is an historic political lie being maintained by governments and institutions alike.

“It’s a trickery throughout its history to evade any responsibility to negotiate a treaty with our First Nations.”

Everett-puralia meenamatta does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction over him, as an Aboriginal “non-Australian citizen”. The court, he explains, is like so many Australian institutions – an enduring colonial instrument of an Australian state he neither recognises nor belongs to.

“Of course I don’t intend to even go to the court [on Monday 3 June]. I mean that would just be giving them jurisdiction over me if I walked into the court in the first place. You can’t engage with the colonial court system because once you acknowledge that jurisdiction then how the hell can you argue that they’ve got no jurisdiction when you’re asking them to make a decision on your case?’’

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Ideally, he says, he will avoid rearrest until September. But he’ll be easy for the police to find then, for the glorious Tasmanian spring marks the resumption of the logging – and protest – season. He will be protesting in the forest, attempting to disrupt logging, with many associated with the Bob Brown Foundation (including Brown).

“If I’m arrested then and forcibly taken into the court then I’ll be saying ‘You’ve got no jurisdiction over me because I’ve got a sovereign right to protect my country’ – not that I’ll be making a plea, understand, but I’ll be telling them that,” he says.

“The major issue I’m trying to highlight is the question of Aboriginal citizenship and I’m simply using the court and its jurisdiction as the political gateway to that.”

Everett-puralia meenamatta’s questions around the purported Australian citizenship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are deeply steeped in post-invasion history, not least in his island state.

“By the late 1830s they’d already decimated our people and they’d started putting us onto Flinders Island. The rest of us survived mainly on Cape Barren Island. So I am fifth generation [on Cape Barren].

“In 1876 when Truganini died they declared us extinct. So, they weren’t making any agreements or treaties with us or making us citizens or recognising us in any way because as far as they were concerned we were extinct. Then later they say we are citizens. They never asked us and we didn’t ever agree to that.”

Purported “extinction”, of course, was fallacious. Tasmania has thriving communities of descendants of survivors of what was an attempted genocide (an “apocalypse”) of traditional custodians.

Everett-puralia meenamatta’s point – one that might yet be debated by constitutional lawyers – is that the “colonial state of Australia” has not entered into any worthy agreement with a continental-wide representative body (a “Black government”) under which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people decided to participate in the Australian state as citizens.

And that is why he and some other Aboriginal people consider themselves not to be Australian citizens. He has written academic papers about this. It’s a question central to his master’s thesis.

All of this, he says, has profound implications for commonwealth treaty-making – an issue he believes will be up to the next generation of activists to pursue in a future he may not be a part of.

“To negotiate an [Australian commonwealth] treaty with us, we must firstly resolve the issue of citizenship. The government will not be able to prove that Aboriginal nations made any agreement to be Australian citizens and there exists no records to assert it.”

He says amid all of the talk by the federal government about truth-telling and future treaties “our status [when it comes to] our ability to negotiate treaties needs to be addressed”.

“Are we citizens negotiating a domestic agreement treaty under legislation of this country, or are we indeed talking about sovereign agreements?”

Other Indigenous people have challenged – albeit in different ways – commonwealth assumption of their citizenship. A decade ago Murrumu Walubara Yidindji (the Aboriginal journalist formerly known as Jeremy Geia) “quit Australia” while remaining on this continent, reverting to his traditional name and primarily to the law of his Yidinji people.

That – like Everett-puralia meenamatta’s rejection of Australian citizenship and refusal to acknowledge colonial institutions and legal jurisdiction – has its challenges, of course. Take, for example, when he was arrested back in March.

“When they got me out of the forest and into New Norfolk jail – the police station there … well I wasn’t actually locked up, they just took me in there and sat me down a chair while they did up some paperwork.

“And I signed the bail documents and got out. I didn’t intend to sign the bail documents. But I just forgot what I was doing! And my son later had a go at me about it.

“And I said, ‘Well it doesn’t matter does it? I mean if the colonial court system has no jurisdiction and I sign one of their papers just to get out of jail – well I’d sign anything just to get out of jail – it doesn’t give them any jurisdiction’. But I’ll be careful next time not to sign the bloody bail documents.”

Living on this continent as someone who does not accept Australia citizenship, recognise many of its institutions, legal sovereignty or jurisdiction, is a matter of constant negotiation – “of survival” – he says.

“You know, we are encapsulated in this colonial system too. You live in it. I live in it, just the same as the next person. You do it or else you bloody well die. It’s a matter of survival. If you don’t, then you don’t have an income and you don’t have a way to live. So, I’m caught up with it too.”

What will happen after Monday, when he doesn’t appear in Hobart court, let alone in September, post-anticipated rearrest?

“Who bloody knows? I’m ready for anything. And I don’t care.

“And that’s not the question. The question is: who can do it? I’m probably the only one that can because I’m an old fella, I’ve got no money and I’ve got a high enough profile to lift this into the public domain.”

One thing is certain: come Monday, Jim Everett-puralia meenamatta will not be fronting that “colonial” court in Hobart.

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‘Bully me around the court’: Alex de Minaur bulks up for French Open breakthrough

No 11 seed put on more muscle to compete with the clay-court heavyweights and reach the quarter-finals at Roland Garros

Up until this year, Alex de Minaur would arrive at Roland Garros with trepidation, knowing, with all the will in the world, that his stay in the French capital would be short and probably brutal. At times, he almost felt like he was being bullied, a boy against men, slipping and sliding on clay with nothing to hurt stronger, more seasoned opponents.

On Monday, as the sun came out in Paris for the first time in this year’s event, the 25-year-old became the first Australian to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open since Lleyton Hewitt two decades ago.

“It’s pretty extraordinary, if you ask me,” De Minaur said, after a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 win over Daniil Medvedev, the No 5 seed. “I always thought that for me to play well on the clay I needed hot, lively conditions. But, you know, this whole tournament has proven otherwise, right?

“It’s been a complete shock to the system, to everything I ever believed in. But now it looks like it’s one of my best slam results. Looks like I’ve converted myself into a clay specialist.”

It remains true that hard courts are still De Minaur’s best surface but his improvement on clay has not been by accident. Instead, De Minaur realised that he needed to put on muscle and so he set about doing it just as he’s done everything in his career, with absolute and total conviction.

Intense gym work has seen him grow stronger and the result has been an improvement in his weight of shot, especially on serve. Against Medvedev, his average first serve speed was faster than the Russian, and he ended up with 51 winners in all.

“I think a lot of [the improvement] has been experience and mentality,” De Minaur said. “Growing up Aussie, you look at clay in a different way to the way you look at grass. That is just pure fact. I wasn’t really quite prepared mentally to have a good clay court swing. In a way, I didn’t really think I had it in me and I didn’t think it suited my game.

“Physically, I’ve gained a lot of muscle, a lot of strength. Because my tennis itself, my groundstrokes are not probably best suited for clay, I don’t play with too many revolutions on the ball, that’s where the strength comes in.

“It allows me to maintain a pretty strong average rally ball that helps me hurt my opponents and not get pushed around. I think in the past, when I was a little bit lighter, I definitely felt like the bigger, stronger guys could really push me around and bully me around the court.”

No more. With his fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis watching on, De Minaur showed an increasing determination to get to the net and the stats backed up the eye. In total, he went to the net 128 times and even though he only won 66 of them, the intent forced Medvedev on the retreat.

“He’s unbelievable,” three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander told reporters. “He’s actually stronger, too. You can see it on his legs. His legs are stronger every time I see him.

“You’re talking about who are getting the most out of his game and you have to say that Alex de Minaur is getting the most out of his game. I still think there’s more because he’s so fast and if he learns how to be fast at the right time on the right ball [he can be even better].

De Minaur pointed to the support he received from Thanasi Kokkinakis in the stands as another indication of the standing the 11th seed is held in by his countrymen, all of whom look up to him for his work-rate, his professionalism and increasingly, his results. If a quarter-final appearance in Monte Carlo at the start of the clay-court season planted the impression he could do well on clay, reaching the last eight in Paris has cemented it.

Above all, though, De Minaur paid tribute to the young fan who returned to support him on Monday, having been there for his previous match, after De Minaur reached out on social media and got him tickets.

“He’s managed a miracle,” De Minaur said. “Might have to get him on tour week in, week out. We found him [after the third-round win] through the beautiful world of social media, we ended up finding him. We got him to the match. He came with his whole crew, with his mates and his coach.

“It was great to see him out there. Even on that big court, I could hear him after every single point. It’s a distinctive voice, so it’s great to see. He’ll be around. I think he’ll be chilling with me tomorrow on my practice day, and of course he’ll be there for the very next match.”

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French Open: Alex de Minaur beats Daniil Medvedev to march into quarter-finals

  • Russian fifth seed dispatched in breakthrough four-set win
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Alex de Minaur has broken new ground in his flourishing career, dismantling one of the game’s powerhouses, Daniil Medvedev, to become the first Australian man to make the French Open quarter-finals in two decades.

The slight Sydneysider with the big heart and electric speed came from a set down on Monday to defeat the fifth seed and former US Open champion Medvedev 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-3 to make it to just his second quarter-final in a grand slam.

And a measure of the magnitude of his achievement is that in the last 42 years, only Lleyton Hewitt twice (2001 and 2004) and Pat Rafter (1997), among Australian men, have progressed this far on the clay of Roland Garros.

Those two were both grand slam winners and became world No 1s, and this win had a feel of a major breakthrough for the indefatigable de Minaur, the world No 11 who had lost all six of his previous grand slam matches against top-five players.

Medvedev had knocked out de Minaur in last year’s US Open and held a 6-2 head-to-head advantage over him, but on the clay that the Russian has never enjoyed, it was the Australian who employed all the key moves to set up a last-eight date with either Olympic champion Alexander Zverev or Denmark’s 13th seed Holger Rune.

Too fast, too inventive, too attacking, he overcame a nervy start to grow in confidence and reduced the man who has featured in six grand slam finals to frustration as he constantly pierced Medvedev’s famed defence with 51 searing winners.

The sun came out for the first time this tournament on the Court Suzanne Lenglen and De Minaur staged a dazzling turnaround after Medvedev, who has never got past the quarter-final at Roland Garros, had him on the back foot at the start.

Medvedev missed out on four break points in the opening game but cashed in when de Minaur double-faulted to grab the break that ultimately sealed the opener.

Cleverly varying the pace and height of his groundstrokes, Medvedev gave the Australian no rhythm to work with, and de Minaur’s early work was strangely mistake-riddled, as he dished up 19 unforced errors.

More aggressive in the second, de Minaur took the initiative, but the match really appeared to change after the Russian took a medical timeout mid-set for a blistered foot.

When he resumed, de Minaur rocked Medvedev with a searing backhand crosscourt winner that set up his first break with the Russian offering only a dismal drop shot in response.

It was the prelude to an extraordinary sequence of seven straight games for the Australian as his game flowered in the sunshine, full of variety, including some artful lobs that had Medvedev for the first time really floundering.

De Minaur raced into a 3-0 lead in the third set, cheered in the stands by the young lad who he said had given him life with his passionate cries during his victory over Jan-Lennard Struff, before seizing it 6-1.

When Medvedev, having lost 11 of the previous 12 games, finally got back on the board at the start of the fourth, breaking de Minaur, it appeared he was less dispirited and could rally, but the Aussie kept up the pressure as one thunderous inside-out forehand earned him the final key break for a 5-3 lead.

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If regional communities don’t want a windfarm, why would they accept a nuclear power station?

Gabrielle Chan

The Coalition’s energy policy is leveraged on regional discontent about renewables. But many farmers don’t want nuclear in their back yard either

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Here’s the thing about the Coalition’s latest nuclear policy. It tries to use one of the most contentious issues in rural areas, which is the rollout of renewables and the electricity transmission lines to carry energy around the country, to push an even more controversial energy transition.

Because nuclear power stations would also be built in the regions. And if you’re worried about renewables, hands up who wants a nuclear reactor next door?

My generation grew up with the US-Russian cold war and the Doomsday Clock.

While the conversation and the technology of nuclear energy has moved on, the cost, complexity and construction time has not, as the CSIRO found in a report released last month.

Polling shows support has been steadily rising for the general concept of nuclear power. But I wouldn’t be putting money there being less opposition to nuclear facilities than renewable facilities in regional places.

If there is one thing that I have learned from calling a country town home, it is that people are very attached to their place and how it is identified.

Not everyone opposes renewables but there is a significant portion of people who don’t want them in their own back yard. Others are quietly making their fortunes, having struck the formula for drought-proofing their businesses for decades to come. If the Big Dry strikes, you will probably find them on a beach somewhere.

That is because annual payments to host turbines start from $40,000 each though I know of agreements that are much higher, especially when communities collectively bargain. The New South Wales government pays landowners $200,000 to host transmission lines in annual instalments over 20 years, with Victoria paying the same over 25 years.

Those payments have crept up because of ongoing regional protests. That action has been amplified by poor community consultation from some energy companies highlighted in the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer’s report. He found the rollout had created “material distrust” of developers in some communities.

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Discontent is also being amplified for political purposes, including by David Littleproud, Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, who spoke at a rally against renewables at parliament house.

The politics is clear. For starters, the long lead time kicks the nuclear energy can down the road to 2040. The Liberals cannot walk naked into the next election without at least a fig leaf for a net zero policy. The Nationals, on the other hand, don’t give a toss about net zero. They just want to extract the funding from the Liberals in compensation for hosting any technology that delivers on the net zero promise. Nuclear can be that fig leaf.

It is also true the Nats and the country Liberals will have to wear any pushback on where nuclear facilities are placed. They won’t be able to campaign against their own policy like some do on renewables.

Peter Dutton has not, as yet, specifically named any potential sites for a nuclear power station but he has pointed to current coal production facilities that are due to close. His announcement is imminent, perhaps even after the party room meeting on Tuesday.

Possible sites include the Hunter Valley in NSW; Anglesea and Latrobe Valley in Victoria; Port Augusta in South Australia; Collie in Western Australia; and perhaps Tarong in central Queensland – within Littleproud’s Maranoa electorate.

Since then the game has begun to get Coalition MPs to commit to host or rule out a reactor in their own back yard.

This is a bit silly really, because apart from the ACT, which renewable-supporting metropolitan MPs could commit to hosting a wind turbine or a solar farm in their city seats?

Littleproud and Joyce have both indicated their approval to host a reactor. But a dozen others would not commit when asked by Nine newspapers.

Keith Pitt told Nine he supported lifting the moratorium on nuclear power but, alas, there were technical restrictions, including earthquakes in his electorate. But if Pitt is worried about his area, other MPs might be scurrying to the Geoscience Australia map of faultlines for their own get-out-of-jail-free card.

Pitt’s seat of Hinkler looks like a shoo-in compared to the faultlines under Darren Chester’s Gippsland electorate, which covers the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, or the Liberal MP Rick Wilson’s seat of O’Connor, which covers Collie in WA.

A Geoscience Australia geologist, Dr Tamarah King, said the earthquake hazard in Australia was generally low but damaging earthquakes were possible across the country and have occurred in the past.

“While most earthquakes in Australia are small in magnitude and don’t cause significant damage, they tend to be shallow (less than 10km depth) and shaking is felt over very large distances,” King said.

“Seismic hazards can be avoided and/or engineered for in both coal and nuclear power plant facilities.”

Down in Wannon, an electorate that stretches from Anglesea to the South Australian border, the Liberal MP Dan Tehan said Anglesea wouldn’t be hosting nuclear, thanks very much.

He said the “Eden project” was designed to rehabilitate the mine site there, which according to its website will “celebrate the local ecology and tell you the story of sustainability”.

That development also tells you everything you need to know about how the demographic is changing in Tehan’s electorate, flush with sea-changers escaping the cities. Those newcomers will continue to change voting patterns in a marginal seat, chipped away over three elections by the independent candidate and the former Triple J host Alex Dyson.

And really, that is the point. The existing coal-fired power stations are close to populations and transmission lines but those communities are changing rapidly. And that’s changing the voter base.

We used to lament our kids leaving country towns. Now they are coming back and bringing their friends. Millennials, under 40, are leading the charge on the hunt for affordable places with better lifestyles.

Regional demographic change is no longer a pandemic blip. The latest analysis from the Regional Movers Index, shows regional migration hit a 12-month high, as 24% more people moved from city to bush rather than the other way around.

“This movement in population can no longer be seen as a quirky flow-on effect from the lockdown years,” said the Regional Australia Institute chief executive, Liz Ritchie. “A societal shift is under way,”

Once you combine the feelings of the existing populations with younger populations, does that add up to support for nuclear over renewables in these changing back yards? I wouldn’t bet on it.

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If regional communities don’t want a windfarm, why would they accept a nuclear power station?

Gabrielle Chan

The Coalition’s energy policy is leveraged on regional discontent about renewables. But many farmers don’t want nuclear in their back yard either

  • Sign up for the Rural Network email newsletter
  • Join the Rural Network group on Facebook to be part of the community

Here’s the thing about the Coalition’s latest nuclear policy. It tries to use one of the most contentious issues in rural areas, which is the rollout of renewables and the electricity transmission lines to carry energy around the country, to push an even more controversial energy transition.

Because nuclear power stations would also be built in the regions. And if you’re worried about renewables, hands up who wants a nuclear reactor next door?

My generation grew up with the US-Russian cold war and the Doomsday Clock.

While the conversation and the technology of nuclear energy has moved on, the cost, complexity and construction time has not, as the CSIRO found in a report released last month.

Polling shows support has been steadily rising for the general concept of nuclear power. But I wouldn’t be putting money there being less opposition to nuclear facilities than renewable facilities in regional places.

If there is one thing that I have learned from calling a country town home, it is that people are very attached to their place and how it is identified.

Not everyone opposes renewables but there is a significant portion of people who don’t want them in their own back yard. Others are quietly making their fortunes, having struck the formula for drought-proofing their businesses for decades to come. If the Big Dry strikes, you will probably find them on a beach somewhere.

That is because annual payments to host turbines start from $40,000 each though I know of agreements that are much higher, especially when communities collectively bargain. The New South Wales government pays landowners $200,000 to host transmission lines in annual instalments over 20 years, with Victoria paying the same over 25 years.

Those payments have crept up because of ongoing regional protests. That action has been amplified by poor community consultation from some energy companies highlighted in the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer’s report. He found the rollout had created “material distrust” of developers in some communities.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

Discontent is also being amplified for political purposes, including by David Littleproud, Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, who spoke at a rally against renewables at parliament house.

The politics is clear. For starters, the long lead time kicks the nuclear energy can down the road to 2040. The Liberals cannot walk naked into the next election without at least a fig leaf for a net zero policy. The Nationals, on the other hand, don’t give a toss about net zero. They just want to extract the funding from the Liberals in compensation for hosting any technology that delivers on the net zero promise. Nuclear can be that fig leaf.

It is also true the Nats and the country Liberals will have to wear any pushback on where nuclear facilities are placed. They won’t be able to campaign against their own policy like some do on renewables.

Peter Dutton has not, as yet, specifically named any potential sites for a nuclear power station but he has pointed to current coal production facilities that are due to close. His announcement is imminent, perhaps even after the party room meeting on Tuesday.

Possible sites include the Hunter Valley in NSW; Anglesea and Latrobe Valley in Victoria; Port Augusta in South Australia; Collie in Western Australia; and perhaps Tarong in central Queensland – within Littleproud’s Maranoa electorate.

Since then the game has begun to get Coalition MPs to commit to host or rule out a reactor in their own back yard.

This is a bit silly really, because apart from the ACT, which renewable-supporting metropolitan MPs could commit to hosting a wind turbine or a solar farm in their city seats?

Littleproud and Joyce have both indicated their approval to host a reactor. But a dozen others would not commit when asked by Nine newspapers.

Keith Pitt told Nine he supported lifting the moratorium on nuclear power but, alas, there were technical restrictions, including earthquakes in his electorate. But if Pitt is worried about his area, other MPs might be scurrying to the Geoscience Australia map of faultlines for their own get-out-of-jail-free card.

Pitt’s seat of Hinkler looks like a shoo-in compared to the faultlines under Darren Chester’s Gippsland electorate, which covers the Latrobe Valley in Victoria, or the Liberal MP Rick Wilson’s seat of O’Connor, which covers Collie in WA.

A Geoscience Australia geologist, Dr Tamarah King, said the earthquake hazard in Australia was generally low but damaging earthquakes were possible across the country and have occurred in the past.

“While most earthquakes in Australia are small in magnitude and don’t cause significant damage, they tend to be shallow (less than 10km depth) and shaking is felt over very large distances,” King said.

“Seismic hazards can be avoided and/or engineered for in both coal and nuclear power plant facilities.”

Down in Wannon, an electorate that stretches from Anglesea to the South Australian border, the Liberal MP Dan Tehan said Anglesea wouldn’t be hosting nuclear, thanks very much.

He said the “Eden project” was designed to rehabilitate the mine site there, which according to its website will “celebrate the local ecology and tell you the story of sustainability”.

That development also tells you everything you need to know about how the demographic is changing in Tehan’s electorate, flush with sea-changers escaping the cities. Those newcomers will continue to change voting patterns in a marginal seat, chipped away over three elections by the independent candidate and the former Triple J host Alex Dyson.

And really, that is the point. The existing coal-fired power stations are close to populations and transmission lines but those communities are changing rapidly. And that’s changing the voter base.

We used to lament our kids leaving country towns. Now they are coming back and bringing their friends. Millennials, under 40, are leading the charge on the hunt for affordable places with better lifestyles.

Regional demographic change is no longer a pandemic blip. The latest analysis from the Regional Movers Index, shows regional migration hit a 12-month high, as 24% more people moved from city to bush rather than the other way around.

“This movement in population can no longer be seen as a quirky flow-on effect from the lockdown years,” said the Regional Australia Institute chief executive, Liz Ritchie. “A societal shift is under way,”

Once you combine the feelings of the existing populations with younger populations, does that add up to support for nuclear over renewables in these changing back yards? I wouldn’t bet on it.

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Matildas gamble on fitness of star duo as squad named for Olympic Games

  • Foord and Gorry in race against time to be fit for Paris Games
  • Grant misses out on 18-player squad but among four reserves

Charlotte Grant has been left out of the Matildas’ 18-player squad for the Paris Olympics as coach Tony Gustavsson backs Caitlin Foord and Katrina Gorry to overcome injury in time to play their part in the Games. The 22-year-old Grant became a regular for Australia at right-back while Ellie Carpenter was sidelined with an ACL injury but struggled for playing time at the Women’s World Cup and has been selected as an “alternate” for the Paris Games.

Foord and Gorry have been named in the Matildas’ Olympic squad despite injury concerns, with Grant and three other reserves included as potential cover. Star striker Foord picked up a hamstring injury and lasted just 15 minutes as a substitute in the first friendly against China on Friday, while midfielder Gorry has been out of action since March due to an ankle injury.

Steph Catley will captain the side with Ellie Carpenter and Emily Van Egmond as vice-captains, with the three leaders set to join Foord, Mackenzie Arnold, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne and Tameka Yallop in becoming three-time Olympians.

“This has been an incredibly challenging squad to select with so many quality players competing fiercely for limited spots,” Gustavsson said. “It has been a methodical process over the past couple of years to reach to this point, and each of the players selected bring unique and beneficial qualities to our team that will be vital for our Paris 2024 campaign.

“I would like to congratulate all the players selected and the teammates, coaches, family and friends that have brought them to this moment. I know that this team will give everything for the coat of arms and will represent Australia to the best of their ability in the true Aussie way.”

Michelle Heyman is set to lead the line, as she did in the two friendlies against China, with Sam Kerr to miss the Paris Games and continue her rehabilitation after rupturing an ACL in January. The Canberra United striker’s inclusion completes her remarkable return to the Matildas set up, after making her one and only Olympic appearance at the Rio Games in 2016.

But with Kerr sidelined long-term, Heyman was picked to play her first international since 2018 when Australia faced Uzbekistan in the final stage of Olympic qualification in February this year, netting five times in the two-legged tie. The 35-year-old added a last-gasp goal to salvage a draw for the Matildas in the first international friendly with China at Adelaide Oval.

Goalkeeper Lydia Williams was named as another alternate after her international send-off in the second friendly against China on Monday night, while Sharn Freier and Courtney Nevin have also been included as back-ups. The four alternates can be called into the playing squad at any time during the Paris Games to replace an injured teammate.

The Matildas kick off their Olympic campaign against Germany on 26 July, then face Zambia and the USA to complete the group stage. Australia have never won an Olympic medal in women’s football, coming closest at the 2020 Tokyo Games when losing the bronze-medal playoff against the USA.

Australia squad for Paris Olympic Games

Goalkeepers: Mackenzie Arnold, Teagan Micah; Defenders: Ellie Carpenter, Steph Catley (captain), Clare Hunt, Alanna Kennedy, Clare Polkinghorne, Kaitlyn Torpey; Midfielders: Kyra Cooney-Cross, Emily van Egmond, Katrina Gorry, Clare Wheeler, Tameka Yallop; Forwards: Caitlin Foord, Mary Fowler, Michelle Heyman, Hayley Raso, Cortnee Vine; Alternates: Sharn Freier, Charlotte Grant, Courtney Nevin, Lydia Williams.

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Trump calls on supreme court to annul his guilty verdict in hush-money case

Presumptive Republican nominee pointed to the 11 July sentence hearing, scheduled four days before the GOP national convention

Donald Trump has called on the US supreme court to step in and annul his guilty verdict in a hush-money trial that left him with the unwanted distinction of being the first former US president to be a convicted felon.

The 2024 presumptive Republican nominee made his plea in a typically florid post on his Truth Social site, highlighting that a sentencing hearing scheduled for 11 July falls just four days before the GOP’s national convention in Milwaukee, when his nomination is expected to become official.

“The ‘Sentencing’ for not having done anything wrong will be, conveniently for the Fascists, 4 days before the Republican National Convention,” Trump wrote. “A Radical Left Soros backed D.A., who ran on a platform of ‘I will get Trump,’ reporting to an ‘Acting’ Local Judge, appointed by the Democrats, who is HIGHLY CONFLICTED, will make a decision which will determine the future of our Nation?”

A jury in Manhattan found the ex-president guilty last Thursday on all 34 counts of falsifying documents to conceal a sexual liaison with an adult film actor, Stormy Daniels, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, which Trump won over Hillary Clinton.

The verdict, which Trump has pledged to appeal, raised the atmosphere in this year’s presidential campaign to fever pitch more than five months before polling day, with Republicans circling the wagons while Democrats sought ways to exploit it.

In a worrying sign for Trump, a new ABC/Ipsos poll showed 50% of voters thought the verdict was correct, nearly double the proportion, 27%, who believed it was wrong. Nearly half of those polled, 49%, thought he should end his campaign – a step he is highly unlikely to take.

The figures were even starker among “double haters” – voters who equally dislike Trump and President Joe Biden – 65% of whom supported the verdict, with two-thirds saying the former president should end his campaign. Pollsters predict the cohort could be a critical component of the swing voter constituency they believe will determine the outcome in November.

By appealing to the supreme court to intervene in a case he insists is nakedly political, Trump is reprising the legal strategy deployed in his defense against special counsel Jack Smith’s charges relating to the 6 January, 2021 mob attack on the US Capitol in a bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in his favor.

The case is currently on hold while the nine justices consider claims by Trump’s lawyers that he had complete immunity from prosecution for decisions taken while he was president.

But his invocation of the court – which has a six-to-three conservative majority after Trump’s judicial appointments while he was in the White House – also comes as questions over its political impartiality are at a peak following revelations that a US flag was flown upside down at the home of Justice Samuel Alito at the time of the January 6 riot. The gesture is identical to that used by many participants in the attack as a symbol of protest against Biden’s victory.

In an interview with Fox, Trump affected to be unfazed by the possibility that he could be sentenced to jail by Judge Juan Merchan at his 11 July hearing, saying: “it could happen” and that he would be “OK” with a custodial sentence or home confinement.

Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney who prosecuted Trump’s case, has reportedly yet to decide whether to request a prison term or leave the decision to Merchan’s discretion.

Legal analysts have pointed out that his conviction is for a low-level felony and that Trump has no prior convictions, making probation a more likely sentence.

But the ex-president may have sullied his prospects of remaining free with his relentless verbal assaults on both men.

Previous attacks on Bragg, a Democrat, have included posting a picture of himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of the prosecutor’s head.

The first Republican attack ad aiming to exploit the verdict has been posted by the GOP Senate candidate Tim Sheehy in his campaign against a Democratic incumbent, Jon Tester, in which he links his opponent for a Montana seat to a prosecution that the ad calls “a state-sponsored political persecution led by JOE BIDEN and the radical left”.

“They want to throw Trump in jail, trying to rob Americans of their choice in the election,” the 30-second broadcast says.

It also accuses Tester of advocating political violence against Trump, displaying footage of the senator saying: “I think you need to go back and punch him in the face.”

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Two broken gas meters in seven months before deadly Sydney house explosion at Whalan

Investigation under way into cause of explosion at social housing complex in Sydney’s west that left one woman dead

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The New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, has indicated there could be more money on the way for social housing stock and repairs in this month’s budget after a woman died when a townhouse with a history of suspected gas leaks in Sydney’s west exploded.

Mhey Yumol Jasmin’s body was found in the rubble on Monday morning after two days of searching at the Whalan social housing complex, where two gas meters were found to be damaged in recent months.

The housing minister, Rose Jackson, has vowed to closely monitor the department investigation into the incident after being made aware of reports that residents living in the townhouse complex had “raised the issue of the smell of gas within the last 12 months”.

Homes NSW was on Monday compiling a list of all work requests made for the Waikanda Crescent complex over the past five years, with NSW police and Fire and Rescue NSW also investigating.

According to government sources, there were two known broken gas meters in the past seven months.

In November, a resident reported a suspected gas leak and a contractor attended. The fault was with a gas meter and, according to the government, gas provider Jemena attended the property and resolved the issue.

Five months later in April, the maintenance company contracted by the government, Ventia, responded to an urgent work order after a resident again reported smelling gas. The contractor found the gas meter union had split and the part was replaced.

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Asked about maintenance of the property, Homes NSW said it would not comment due to the police investigation.

“Our thoughts remain with our residents and the neighbours that were impacted by the incident at Whalan over the weekend,” a spokesperson said.

Displaced residents are being offered temporary accommodation until permanent solutions can be found.

Det Supt Darren Newman from NSW police said investigators would pick through what remained at the property over the coming days as they worked to determine the cause of the blast, including whether gas played a role.

Gas supply, maintenance and inspection logs would be reviewed.

A spokesperson for Jemena said the company was “cooperating fully” and that the “investigation into the cause may take some time”.

The Master Plumbers Association of NSW chief executive, Nathaniel Smith, said gas could be “dangerous” and urged anyone with concerns about their own homes to call emergency services.

“If someone ever smells gas, they should call someone. It’s dangerous stuff,” the former NSW Liberal MP said.

The Australian Society of Building Consultants president, Graham Thorpe, said explosions of this size were not frequent and needed to be properly investigated.

“Gas explosions are not pretty – that’s why we treat them with such a high degree of seriousness,” he said.

“It’s a tragic event. It really needs to be investigated.”

Speaking generally about the state of public housing in NSW, Minns said on Monday that it was a “real concern”.

He said there had been a reduction in housing over the past decade “at precisely the same time as we had an increase in homelessness and a housing crisis in the state”.

“Something’s got to give here,” the premier said.

“We’re hoping to look at it very closely in the NSW budget because, obviously, the circumstances as they currently exist aren’t good enough.”

The sector was disappointed by measures included in the budget last year, saying they amounted to “crumbs” when compared with the scale of need in a state experiencing a “chronic housing crisis”.

The chief executive of Homelessness NSW, Dom Rowe, said the government needed to commit to building 5,000 new social homes a year for the next decade.

“There is a dire shortage of social housing in NSW and what’s there is often in poor condition,” she said.

“Too often, people are forced to choose between staying in rundown and unsafe accommodation or sleeping rough.”

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Two broken gas meters in seven months before deadly Sydney house explosion at Whalan

Investigation under way into cause of explosion at social housing complex in Sydney’s west that left one woman dead

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

The New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, has indicated there could be more money on the way for social housing stock and repairs in this month’s budget after a woman died when a townhouse with a history of suspected gas leaks in Sydney’s west exploded.

Mhey Yumol Jasmin’s body was found in the rubble on Monday morning after two days of searching at the Whalan social housing complex, where two gas meters were found to be damaged in recent months.

The housing minister, Rose Jackson, has vowed to closely monitor the department investigation into the incident after being made aware of reports that residents living in the townhouse complex had “raised the issue of the smell of gas within the last 12 months”.

Homes NSW was on Monday compiling a list of all work requests made for the Waikanda Crescent complex over the past five years, with NSW police and Fire and Rescue NSW also investigating.

According to government sources, there were two known broken gas meters in the past seven months.

In November, a resident reported a suspected gas leak and a contractor attended. The fault was with a gas meter and, according to the government, gas provider Jemena attended the property and resolved the issue.

Five months later in April, the maintenance company contracted by the government, Ventia, responded to an urgent work order after a resident again reported smelling gas. The contractor found the gas meter union had split and the part was replaced.

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

Asked about maintenance of the property, Homes NSW said it would not comment due to the police investigation.

“Our thoughts remain with our residents and the neighbours that were impacted by the incident at Whalan over the weekend,” a spokesperson said.

Displaced residents are being offered temporary accommodation until permanent solutions can be found.

Det Supt Darren Newman from NSW police said investigators would pick through what remained at the property over the coming days as they worked to determine the cause of the blast, including whether gas played a role.

Gas supply, maintenance and inspection logs would be reviewed.

A spokesperson for Jemena said the company was “cooperating fully” and that the “investigation into the cause may take some time”.

The Master Plumbers Association of NSW chief executive, Nathaniel Smith, said gas could be “dangerous” and urged anyone with concerns about their own homes to call emergency services.

“If someone ever smells gas, they should call someone. It’s dangerous stuff,” the former NSW Liberal MP said.

The Australian Society of Building Consultants president, Graham Thorpe, said explosions of this size were not frequent and needed to be properly investigated.

“Gas explosions are not pretty – that’s why we treat them with such a high degree of seriousness,” he said.

“It’s a tragic event. It really needs to be investigated.”

Speaking generally about the state of public housing in NSW, Minns said on Monday that it was a “real concern”.

He said there had been a reduction in housing over the past decade “at precisely the same time as we had an increase in homelessness and a housing crisis in the state”.

“Something’s got to give here,” the premier said.

“We’re hoping to look at it very closely in the NSW budget because, obviously, the circumstances as they currently exist aren’t good enough.”

The sector was disappointed by measures included in the budget last year, saying they amounted to “crumbs” when compared with the scale of need in a state experiencing a “chronic housing crisis”.

The chief executive of Homelessness NSW, Dom Rowe, said the government needed to commit to building 5,000 new social homes a year for the next decade.

“There is a dire shortage of social housing in NSW and what’s there is often in poor condition,” she said.

“Too often, people are forced to choose between staying in rundown and unsafe accommodation or sleeping rough.”

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Mexico’s Claudia Sheinbaum poised to secure supermajority after historic win

The leader of the Morena party could pass legislation and budgets unopposed through congress

  • She is poised to become Mexico’s first female president. Can she escape Amlo’s shadow?

Claudia Sheinbaum seems poised to cement her historic victory as Mexico’s first female president with a supermajority in congress that would let her party pass legislation and budgets unopposed – and perhaps even change the constitution without need for compromise.

Sheinbaum, a 61-year-old climate scientist and former mayor of Mexico City, won the presidency with 59.5% of the vote, according to a rapid sample count by Mexico’s electoral authority.

During the campaign, Sheinbaum portrayed herself as a continuity candidate, vowing to keep the policies of her populist predecessor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known popularly as Amlo, who founded the Morena party in 2014 and forged a bond with voters disenchanted with democracy.

López Obrador was constitutionally unable to run again, but chose Sheinbaum as his successor – and she appears to have won 5m votes more than he did six years ago.

“In the 200 years of the republic, I will become the first woman president of Mexico,” Sheinbaum told supporters in a victory speech late on Sunday, to loud cheers of “presidenta, presidenta” – the feminine form of the country’s top political post.

Thanks in part to a constitutional amendment that set the goal of gender parity in all races for elected office and in appointments for top jobs in government, women now hold half the seats in Mexico’s congress and almost half the jobs in cabinet and one-third of the governorships.

Activists will hope to see this prominence of female leaders translate into policy.

In 2023, Mexico’s supreme court ruled that prohibiting abortion was unconstitutional, but this has been slow to manifest in safe and accessible abortion at the state level. Meanwhile, gender-based violence continues to rise.

Although female presidents have been elected in countries across Latin America, Sheinbaum’s victory makes her the first woman to lead a North American country.

Sheinbaum’s main challenger was another woman, Xóchitl Gálvez, who won 27.6% of the vote as candidate of the opposition coalition. She was unable to overcome the unpopularity of the traditional parties backing her, which many voters view as serving the elites.

Aside from the presidency, more than 20,000 posts were up for grabs in Mexico’s biggest election ever.

Morena and its allies are poised to win a two-thirds supermajority in one and perhaps both houses of congress, which would allow it to amend the constitution at will.

Amlo has already laid out a desired packet of reforms that is wide-ranging and occasionally eccentric, including pension reform but also outlawing animal abuse, as well as banning fracking and the sale of vapes.

But the most controversial would be a reform to elect supreme court justices by popular vote. The court has often stood against Amlo, and such a reform could place it under Morena’s control.

On Monday, Amlo said he did “not want to impose anything” on Sheinbaum, before later adding: “I do think we have to address the issue of judicial reform … There has to be a judiciary that represents the Mexican people, that is incorruptible, because if not, we will not move forward.”

Of the nine gubernatorial races, Morena held six and won the state of Yucatán, meaning it now controls 24 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities.

Altogether, Morena will hold more political power than any party since Mexico’s transition to democracy in 2000. The peso slid against the dollar as investors reacted with jitters to Morena’s projected hegemony.

Sheinbaum will take power on 1 October with a huge mandate but substantial challenges to address – not least the violence, corruption and impunity that failed to improve under Amlo, as organised crime groups fight to deep their control of territory and local businesses.

“Security, and the wake of victims, of pain, of anger, sown through great parts of the country – these are the hardest parts of the legacy that [Amlo] leaves Claudia,” said Blanca Heredia, a political analyst.

Amlo also hugely expanded the role of the military into areas typically reserved for civil society, such as domestic security and infrastructure construction. “Managing the army will require great intelligence from Sheinbaum, because they have been given many responsibilities, many resources,” said Heredia.

“Another pending issue is perhaps national reconciliation,” said Vanessa Romero, a political analyst. “These elections were particularly incendiary, as if there were two Mexicos and they don’t talk to each other.”

A month after Sheinbaum takes power, the US is set for its own election and a showdown between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

The countries’ economies are deeply intertwined, with Mexico the top trading partner of the US. Mexico is also the immediate source of the fentanyl that kills 70,000 Americans a year, and a transit country for US-bound migrants – meaning it will play a key role in the US election.

“I look forward to working closely with President-elect Sheinbaum in the spirit of partnership and friendship that reflects the enduring bonds between our two countries,” said Biden in a statement.

In her victory speech, Sheinbaum said the US-Mexico relationship would be based on “mutual respect” before adding: “We will always defend Mexicans who are on the other side of the border.”

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Thousands of homeless people removed from Paris region in pre-Olympics ‘social cleansing’

Campaigners say operation to bus ‘undesirable’ people out of city and wider Île-de-France region has intensified

Thousands of homeless people have been removed from Paris and the surrounding area as part of a “clean-up” operation ahead of the Olympic Games, campaigners say.

Those moved on include asylum seekers, as well as families and children already in a precarious and vulnerable situation, the collective Le Revers de la Médaille, which represents 90 associations, said in a report released on Monday.

Police were also cracking down on sex workers and drug addicts, removing them from their usual networks in which they could receive vital healthcare and support, it added. “The Île-de-France region has been emptied of some of the people that the powers that be consider undesirable,” it concluded.

The collective said expulsions and the dismantling of tent camps in and around the city had intensified since April last year, and 12,545 people had been moved in the last 13 months.

Paul Alauzy, a coordinator for health monitoring at Médecins du Monde, accused the authorities of “social cleansing” of the city’s most precarious population in order for Paris to “appear in the most flattering light possible” for the Olympics. He said people were being bussed to temporary regional centres set up last year as a short-term fix for the problem.

“They are hiding the misery under the rug,” he said. “If this really was a dignified solution to the problem, people would be fighting to get on the buses. They’re not. We are in the process of making life impossible for these people and those who support them.”

The collective said at least 20,000 homes were needed across France, including 7,000 in the Île-de-France region, to provide a long-term solution for the homeless people. Paris city hall had come up with a plan to provide 1,000 urgent places but it had yet to be approved by the prefect, the state representative, it added.

The report qualified social cleansing as “the harassment, expulsion and disappearance of populations categorised by the public authorities as undesirable from the venues where the Games are happening …

“This clean-up is based on a double approach of dispersal to avoid the creation of informal settlements that would be too visible, and the removal from the Paris conurbation of those people who are in a very precarious situation and who may occupy public space on a daily basis.

“Although these public policies have been in place for a number of years, a number of indicators lead us to believe that the Olympic Games are acting as an accelerator.”

Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, has said the city hall had been asking the government, which is responsible for emergency housing, to come up with a credible plan for housing the estimated 3,600 people living on the capital’s streets “for years”. Last year she insisted nobody would be forced to leave the city.

“I am angry about this being pushed on to the city [authority] because it’s not our role or responsibility and we already play more than our part in finding urgent accommodation for vulnerable people. Every week we are putting families into homes,” Hidalgo said.

At a press conference in April, Pierre Rabadan, a former French rugby international and now the deputy mayor in charge of the Olympic Games, said the problem was the number of homeless people living on Paris’s streets, not the Games.

He said the 300 people who faced being moved from the central security zone were less than 10% of those sleeping on the streets of Paris.

“I say, don’t be indignant about people being moved because of the Olympic Games, be indignant about the fact there are 3,600 people sleeping in the streets. We should surely be able to find a dignified solution for them.”

Léa Filoche, the deputy mayor responsible for solidarity, emergency housing and the protection of refugees, said it was not a problem specific to the Olympic Games, and laid the blame firmly with the government.

“Emergency housing is the state’s responsibility,” she said. “We’ve been talking about this with government representatives for more than a year about how to address this problem during the Olympics.

“First they said they’d come up with 400 places, then 200, now it’s down to 80. We came up with a plan to create 1,000 urgent places; they came back to us and said they had no money.

“We are doing our best but the system is saturated.”

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‘Extremely impressive’: melanoma jab trial results excite doctors

The new vaccine approach will help improve survival rates for ‘the next decades and more’, says Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician

The world’s first personalised mRNA cancer vaccine for melanoma halves the risk of patients dying or the disease returning, according to trial results that doctors described as “extremely impressive”.

Melanoma affects more than 150,000 people a year globally, according to 2020 figures from World Cancer Research Fund International.

Patients who received the vaccine after having a stage three or four melanoma removed had a 49% lower risk of dying or the disease recurring after three years, data presented at the world’s largest cancer conference showed. The NHS is among the organisations testing the jab.

Patients in the phase 2b trial had high-risk melanomas and either had the jab, developed by Moderna and Merck, alongside the immunotherapy Keytruda or were given only Keytruda.

The 2.5-year recurrence-free survival rate for the jab in combination with Keytruda was 74.8%, compared with 55.6% for Keytruda alone, delegates at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago heard.

“We are encouraged by the latest results,” said Kyle Holen, Moderna’s head of development, therapeutics and oncology. “These findings reinforce our commitment to advancing this innovative treatment.”

Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, said the results marked another milestone in “the exciting, developing landscape of cancer vaccine research”.

“After three years of follow up, the data suggests that levels of cancer relapse did not increase in people with high-risk, advanced stage melanoma,” he said. “The findings highlight the great promise of therapeutic cancer vaccines used in combination with powerful immunotherapies.”

Known as mRNA-4157 (V940), the jab is custom-built for each patient and tells their body to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent the disease ever coming back.

A sample of tumour is removed during the patient’s surgery, followed by DNA sequencing and the use of artificial intelligence. The result is a custom-built anti-cancer jab specific to the patient’s tumour.

A second trial presented at ASCO, led by the University of Vienna, found cancer jabs can significantly improve survival for breast cancer patients after surgery.

The study involved 400 patients with early stage breast cancer. Half were given a vaccine to stimulate their immune system before surgery.

After seven years, 81% of patients who had the vaccine were still alive and free of breast cancer, compared with 65% of those who had received standard care.

The lead author, Dr Christian Singer, said: “This is the first significant and profound long-term survival benefit of an anti-cancer vaccine in breast cancer patients reported to date.”

Prof Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said the melanoma trial results were “extremely impressive”.

“It’s terribly exciting,” Swanton said. “The new vaccine approach is another piece of the puzzle that will allow more patients to be cured, hopefully, or fewer patients to suffer disease relapse. Ultimately it will contribute to survival rates improving continually over the next decades and more.”

Thousands of patients in England are being fast-tracked into groundbreaking trials of personalised cancer vaccines in a revolutionary world-first NHS “matchmaking” scheme to save lives.

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Colorado man’s silver necklace saves him from bullet

The bullet ‘would have ended up in the victim’s neck’ if not for the chain necklace, Commerce City police said

The life of a Colorado man was apparently saved when a bullet fired at his neck during an argument became lodged in his silver chain necklace.

A news release from the Commerce City police department included a photograph of the mangled, blood-stained necklace the man was wearing.

It gave few other details about the incident, but stated that a suspect was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted murder.

The police statement, posted to Facebook, said the man’s escape was “just incredible”.

“The .22 caliber bullet was fired during an argument and would have ended up in the victim’s neck had it not instead become lodged in the chain he was wearing,” it said.

“As a result he suffered only a puncture wound.”

The statement added that detectives believed the chunky necklace was only silver in color, not made of the precious metal, which might not have offered the same level of protection.

“We looked it up, and silver is soft,” it said. “So maybe think twice before you knock a knock-off.”

The victim’s condition was unknown on Sunday, NBC News reported. Commerce City is about 10 miles north of Denver.

Previous incidents in which metal objects save people from potentially fatal shootings occurred in 2017, when a metal plate in an Alabama man’s head protected him during an ambush; and in Philadelphia four years earlier when a ricochet bullet lodged in a store clerk’s belt buckle during an exchange of fire between persons outside.

As far back as 1916, the Guardian reported the story of a British soldier whose life was saved by a book in his breast pocket after a bullet fired by a German passed through a metal shaving mirror during a first world war assault on Montauban, France.

According to the soldier’s account, he killed his assailant with a bayonet and celebrated his lucky escape by showing off the broken mirror that fused with a small metal case he was also carrying.

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