What we learned today, Wednesday 1 February

Thanks to everyone who has been following along on the blog today. Here is what made headlines:

  • The former human services minister Alan Tudge appeared before the robodebt royal commission to testify on his involvement in the scheme. During the lengthy hearing, Tudge denied he was responsible for his department’s failure to check the legality of the scheme, and that the issue didn’t cross his mind “until [he] read about it in the newspaper” years later.

  • The 6mm-8mm radioactive capsule lost between Pilbara and Perth was found on Wednesday morning, Perth officials confirmed. They described it like “finding a needle in a haystack”, with the search covering an area of 1,400km. Officials are not aware of any injuries, and the site has been surveyed to ensure there is no contamination.

  • Clergy abuse survivors and supporters appeared at St Mary’s cathedral this morning to tie ribbons along the fence to commemorate victims. They pleaded with church staff not to remove the ribbons ahead of George Pell’s funeral service tomorrow, and an agreement was reached to leave ribbons on a significant section of the fence.

  • Meanwhile, NSW police conceded to LGBTQ+ campaigners who will go ahead with protests outside St Mary’s cathedral tomorrow during the funeral service for Pell. NSW police sought to ban the group from marching outside the cathedral. However, after negotiations a new route was agreed upon – across the road.

  • A new Senate inquiry report has called for Australia to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation. The Coalition has called on the government to act on this, saying it will “offer bipartisan support for any action by Australia to implement the recommendations”.

And that’s a wrap on today’s blog. Have a lovely evening and see you back here tomorrow morning!


Teachers ‘burning out’ as chronic NSW shortage deepens

As NSW schools grapple with a chronic teacher shortage, resignations are for the first time outstripping retirements and principals are clocking up to 70 hours work a week, AAP has reported.

Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos on Wednesday told a parliamentary inquiry the shortage was worsening, with vacancy lists growing more than three fold in the past two years despite the government launching a $125 million recruitment drive.

There are more than 3300 teaching vacancies across the state.

Gavrielatos said:

That often cited, much heralded (recruitment) strategy has delivered three people from overseas and five mid-career teachers - one of whom has already left.

It is a failure of delivery in education ... our kids are missing out, our teachers are burning out.

More teachers are quitting than retiring and there’s an 83 per cent increase in insecure work (temporary contracts), according to official figures.

Gavrielatos said regional and rural areas were particularly disadvantaged, with 55 per cent of all vacancies outside major cities.

NSW Secondary Principals’ Council president Craig Petersen said shortages were adversely impacting educational outcomes. He told the inquiry:

A single vacancy in a secondary school means up to six classes may not be covered by an appropriately qualified teacher - that’s potentially 190 students whose learning is likely to be impacted every day.

There can be a real difference between statistics and figures on a page and people in front of classes.

It’s not enough just having any teacher in front of the class. Students need to have their teacher in front of them every day and their teacher needs to be a teacher of that subject.

Some more photos from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s trip to WA:

Sam Lim's the local MP here in Tangney, WA, working to deliver good jobs, quality education and health care for his community.

Before that, he was a police officer, a small business owner, and a dolphin trainer. pic.twitter.com/5PydoCDM7Q

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 1, 2023

We are investing in the things Australians need – from train stations to local pools.

A brand new aquatic centre will be built right next to the new Alkimos Station, which I visited today with Tracey Roberts and @Rita_Saffioti in Perth. pic.twitter.com/V7aYqCgABA

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 1, 2023

Multiple outlets are this evening reporting that two people are in hospital after a Qantaslink flight hit severe turbulence after leaving Brisbane:

Two people are in hospital after a Qantaslink flight hit severe turbulence after leaving Brisbane. The drama happened near Hervey Bay, but the plane was able to return to Brisbane to make a routine landing. https://t.co/VZ3A1cHvFd #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/9ww1atpmra

— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) February 1, 2023

The previous alert issued by the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has been updated now that the radioactive capsule has been found. The advice now reads:

The RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCE in parts of Pilbara, Midwest Gascoyne, Goldfields-Midlands and Perth Metropolitan regions is now contained and under control as the substance has been found and secured.

#BREAKING The DFES coordinated search efforts for a #radioactive #capsule have been successful. The positive result in locating the tiny object over a 1,400km area is testament to amazing inter-agency teamwork in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. #WA #PerthNews pic.twitter.com/b57bNU867d

— DFES (@dfes_wa) February 1, 2023

‘Unlikely anybody has been exposed’ to radioactive capsule, chief health officer says

WA chief health officer Andrew Robertson says they are not aware of any injuries to anyone:

… it’s fallen off the truck and landed on the side of the road. It is remote enough that it’s not in any major community, so it’s unlikely that anybody has been exposed to the capsule.

Robertson says it is too early to say how the radioactive capsule was lost, when asked if it wasn’t secured properly:

All of those aspects will be investigated further. Obviously, [it] has come off the back of the truck and we were aware that [it] came out from the gauge that was protecting it.

We’re continuing to investigate how that actually happened [because] if it [was] appropriately prepared under the regulations then it should be more than adequate to prevent this happening.

It will take us at least a few weeks to do that investigation because we will need to talk to a number of parties…


Radioactive capsule found on Northern Highway, two metres from the side of the road

Commissioner Darren Klemm says the radioactive capsule was retrieved after searching “hundreds of kilometres in the outback and in the metro area over the last six days”:

The capsule was located just south of Newman on the Northern Highway. It was two metres from the side of the road. The vehicle that identified it was travelling at 70 kilometres per hour when the specialist detection equipment picked up radiation emitted by the missing capsule. The search team then use portable detection equipment to locate the capsule.

The Australian Defence Force is currently verifying the capsule using its serial number. A 20 metre hot zone has been set up around the capsule and it will be placed into a lead container to shield from radiation.

It will be stored in a secure location near Newman tonight, before being transported to a health facility in Perth tomorrow.

Once the capsule has been secured, we will survey the site to ensure there is no contamination in the surrounding area.

In extremely unlikely circumstance that the capsule leaks we will remediate the area.


Search groups found 'the needle in the haystack', minister says after radioactive capsule discovered just south of Newman

Emergency services minister Stephen Dawson says the radioactive capsule - measuring just 6mm by 8mm - was found just south of Newman.

Speaking at a press conference, he says this is an extraordinary result for Western Australians:

… emergency services has led a relentless search [over] the past six days. Their investigation led to rapid establishment of a … search area, and [led to] today’s results.

When you consider the scope of the research area, locating this object was a monumental challenge. The search groups have quite literally found the needle in the haystack. Once again [this] highlights the extraordinary capabilities and services in Western Australia. And of course they have been challenged over the past few weeks with a variety of fires and floods.


Radioactive capsule lost between Pilbara and Perth has been found

Perth officials have just confirmed that the radioactive capsule lost between Pilbara and Perth has been found.

An official said it was found around 11am this morning, with investigators finding it like a “needle in a haystack”.

More to come.


Coalition responds to report on human rights in Iran

The Coalition has called on the Albanese government to act on the Senate inquiry report on human rights in Iran.

Frontbenchers Simon Birmingham, Karen Andrews and James Paterson said in a joint press release:

The Albanese Government should swiftly respond to these recommendations, indicating their agreement to oppose the Islamic Republic of Iran from being elected to any United Nations bodies and to take necessary steps to officially recognise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation.

While announcements made by the Government hours before the scheduled release of this report are welcome, consideration must still be given to further Magnitsky-style sanctions and greater protection for Iranian-Australians experiencing intimidation and threats as well as foreign interference in Australia.

The Coalition continues to offer bipartisan support for any action by Australia to implement the recommendations of the Committee and strengthen the condemnation of the continued abuses of human rights being carried out by the Iranian regime. Australia must take stands consistent with likeminded nations.

The Coalition thanks the Committee for its work into this important issue and calls on the Albanese Government to do all it can to support the brave souls in Iran, in particular Iranian women and girls.

Saudi Arabia tourism body’s sponsorship of 2023 Women’s World Cup condemned by human rights groups

Human rights advocates have condemned the decision to allow Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority to sponsor the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, calling it a “textbook case of sports-washing”.

Visit Saudi is set to join international brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa in attaching their names to the 32-team tournament that is due to kick off on 20 July at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s history of oppressing women’s rights, Fifa has decided to ratify the deal under the new “commercial partnership structure” dedicated to developing revenues specifically for the women’s game.

But the announcement has sparked criticism from human rights groups in Australia.

Continue reading:

Electric and hybrid vehicle drivers in ACT win new on-road discounts

Electric vehicle drivers in Australia’s capital will save hundreds of dollars in registration fees every year in a redesigned scheme to encourage the adoption of low-emission vehicles, AAP is reporting.

Hybrid cars will also be cheaper to register in the ACT when the system is introduced in July but some sports cars, hot rods and other high-polluting vehicles will attract higher charges.

Energy and climate groups welcomed the move, calling the revised fees a nation-leading development that could help Australia catch up to other countries in the race to electrify transport.

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr announced the policy change on Wednesday, revealing the territory would stop charging for registration based on a vehicle’s weight and instead use its level of carbon emissions.

The changes would mean the price of registering an electric Hyundai Kona would fall from from $599 to $329 – the lowest charge – and the price of a hybrid Toyota Camry would fall to $365.

Utes and other light commercial vehicles would pay the same rate of registration while lightweight but high-emitting vehicles, such as sports cars, would cost $50 more to register.

Barr said:

These new initiatives are designed to ensure we have an appropriate vehicle registration system for the future.

They will see lower fees for lower emission vehicles, including for lower emitting petrol and diesel vehicles.

The scheme is expected to cost $6.6 million over four years and will come into force in July following a two-year free registration period for new and used zero-emission vehicles.

Other states and territories to offer discounts for electric vehicle registrations include Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory, though Victoria also imposed a road-user tax for low-emission vehicles last year.


Senate report calls for Australia to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organisation

Australia should designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation in the wake of the violent crackdown on protests, according to a new Senate inquiry report.

The report, published on Wednesday, also calls on the government to expel “any Iranian officials in Australia considered to be involved in intimidation, threats, or monitoring of Australians”.

The Senate inquiry into the human rights implications of violence in Iran was launched in October amid a crackdown on protests triggered by the death in custody of Jina “Mahsa” Amini, 22, in September. She had been arrested by Iran’s “morality police”.

The chair of the Senate’s foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee, the Liberal senator Claire Chandler, wrote that its members were “deeply moved by the stories shared by witnesses and submitters”.

The report makes 12 recommendations, all of which were backed by the Coalition and the Greens. It includes a call for the Australian government to “take the necessary steps to formally categorise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as an organisation involved in supporting and facilitating terrorism”.

The report said a large number of submissions “made clear that the IRGC is feared not only by Iranians in Iran but by people of Iranian descent living all over the world, including Australia”.

The attorney general’s department made a submission to the inquiry a day before the report was released to argue against listing a terrorist listing.

The department secretary, Katherine Jones, wrote:

The attorney general’s department is of the view that, as an organ of a nation state, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is not the kind of entity that is covered by the terrorist organisation provisions in the Criminal Code.

The Iranian embassy has been contacted for comment.

We’ll have the full story soon.


Call for voters ‘to know who is funding candidates before they vote’

Independent federal MP Kate Chaney is calling for transparency reform in response to the release of political parties’ annual financial disclosures for 2021-22.

The data was released by the Australian Electoral Commission today. It revealed that Clive Palmer’s mining company Mineralogy donated $116m to the United Australia party in the year of the 2022 federal election. Labor appears to have received $124m in donations and other receipts, while the Liberal party declared $106.7m in donations and other receipts. A further $11.5m was declared by the Nationals.

Chaney said “voters should know who is funding political candidates before they vote, not eight months later”:

Under the current reporting system, a member of the public would need to spend weeks delving into hundreds of financial reports and unraveling a complex entanglement of branch and third party links to reveal just a portion of political funding sources.

Even then, millions of ‘dark money’ dollars are completely opaque.

Political party annual returns out today. Time for reform. #trsnsparency #donationreform #auspol pic.twitter.com/gNToL7B4r9

— Kate Chaney (@ChaneyforCurtin) February 1, 2023


Catch up on the day’s headlines …

… with this quick roundup by Antoun Issa:


Chalmers meets investor group to discuss clean energy and sustainable finance

Treasurer Jim Chalmers today met with members of the United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Investment network to discuss clean energy and sustainable finance.

Chalmers said the investors “all understand our financial, economic, environmental and societal objectives should align, not collide” and that they are driving “values based capitalism”.

Today I met to discuss clean energy and sustainable finance with some of Australia’s biggest investors, representing trillions of dollars of capital, who are all part of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment. #auspol 1/8 pic.twitter.com/utqwOK3IJT

— Jim Chalmers MP (@JEChalmers) February 1, 2023

Chalmers wrote:

The fact this organisation has gained such remarkable traction shows how mainstream these ideas and approaches now are.

This is not some fringe idea, it’s about better designed and better informed markets and more cooperation between investors and governments to modernise our economy and deepen and broaden our industrial base, powered by cleaner and cheaper energy.


Greens welcome new sanctions on Iran and Myanmar but say they ‘could be broader’

The Greens have welcomed the Australian governments new sanctions on Iranian officials and Myanmar’s military ruler.

Overnight, Australia imposed sanctions against 16 people including Iranian security officials and Myanmar’s military ruler on the second anniversary of the military coup.

The sanctions were the third round of measures applied under Australia’s new Magnitsky-style sanction laws, which passed the parliament in late 2021.

The Greens spokesperson for foreign affairs, Senator Jordon Steele-John, said the targeted sanctions are “exactly what the Magnitsky Act was put in place for”. He also said the sanctions placed on both regimes “could be broader”:

The community have shared with me this morning that the sanctions placed on both regimes could be broader. The community are relieved and reflecting on why it has taken the Australian government so long to respond to egregious human rights abuses abroad.

The people of Myanmar have been suffering for two years under a brutal regime, one which entities of our government have maintained engagement with. The Australian Greens are the only Australian political party to recognise the National Unity Government of Myanmar as the representative and democratic government of the people of Myanmar. It is time for the Australian government to do the same.

Steele-John said the community was calling for further sanctions, including cutting off jet fuel supply to the military junta and reducing the revenue available to the military junta by sanctioning the ministry of natural gas and energy in Myanmar.

He added that the Greens “are committed to working with the community to have the Australian government place further sanctions.”


We ‘secured our right to march’, anti-Pell protest organisers say

NSW police have conceded to LGBTQ+ campaigners who will go ahead with protests outside St Mary’s Cathedral during tomorrow’s funeral for George Pell.

NSW police sought to ban the group from marching outside the cathedral.

A Community Action for Rainbow Rights (Caar) spokesperson said in a statement:

Protest organisers with (Carr) refused to accept this repression and were ready to fight it out in NSW supreme court.

But the battle never eventuated.

After a few hours of negotiations, NSW police and Carr were able to agree on a new protest route appeasing both parties.

NSW Police are backing down in their attempt to ban Pell protest, after negotiations with LGBTQ+ campaign group.

An "alternative route has been agreed to," barrister Sebastian De Brennan confirmed.

The route will allow walking up to College St, but not on it - details to come

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) February 1, 2023

Protest organiser Kim Stern said in a statement that “the defiance of activists against this appalling police censorship, and ensuing publicity, has secured our right to march.” Meanwhile, Caar activist Eddie Stephenson said “we’ve been able to defend the democratic right to publicly reject everything Pell stood for.”


‘It represents difficult stories’: survivors of clergy abuse ahead of George Pell’s funeral – video

Victim-survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy gathered outside St Mary’s Cathedral as the coffin of Cardinal George Pell returned to the Sydney church on Wednesday ahead of his funeral on Thursday.

Since Monday, survivors and their supporters have been tying ribbons to the fence of the cathedral in memory of those victims who could not be there in person. Clergy abuse survivor Paul Auchettl has been leading a group tying ribbons to the church gates to represent the voices of those “who are gone, who are suffering, who have been harmed” by child sexual abuse, he said.


Alan Tudge tells robodebt inquiry ‘I can’t recall approving or disapproving’ of media strategy

Meanwhile, former human services minister Alan Tudge is continuing to give evidence before the robodebt royal commission.

The commission has been shown an email from his former adviser, Rachelle Miller, outlining a media strategy to handle robodebt, including an RN breakfast interview, stories in tabloids, and looking at Labor’s record. When senior counsel assisting Justin Greggery KC asks if he approved the strategy or agrees with it, Tudge responded:

I can’t recall approving or disapproving of this. I do acknowledge that we didn’t do many of the things which are outlined here.

Tudge also said his focus was “very much on understanding the system … and starting the fixes …”.

Guardian reporter Luke Henriques-Gomes is continuing to follow the hearing:

We saw this yesterday, DHS media manager Bevan Hannan's summarising thinking on media strategy pic.twitter.com/K5DgwibT0L

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) February 1, 2023

Tudge's office requested: "Case studies of situations uncovered, through the new system, where people have owed legitimate preferably large debts".
Part of the media strategy?
Tudge: There was a lot of misinformation placed out of the media. I was keen to correct [that]

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) February 1, 2023

You can catch up on the hearing so far today below:


Albanese shares images from press conference

Circling back to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Perth visit, he has taken to social media to share some images from a press conference earlier today. He discussed a wide range of topics, including the seven new urgent care clinics announced for WA.

Albanese said:

One of the things we are talking about here today with urgent care clinics is something that has arisen from discussion with health providers on the ground, consumers, the AMA, the Royal Australian Mint [and] others all having that input, as I have had input, into the Medicare task force to report to National Cabinet this week.

Our first bulk-billed Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will open this year.

They’ll make it cheaper and easier for you to see a doctor. They’ll be open seven days a week.

And all you’ll need is your Medicare card. pic.twitter.com/CJPJZP2gwK

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 1, 2023

I’m here in WA with @Mark_Butler_MP, Anne Aly and Amber-Jade Sanderson to announce we’ve started work to open them this year. pic.twitter.com/riIhCPafNI

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 1, 2023

We’re opening 50 Medicare Urgent Care Clinics around the country, in every state and territory.

It’ll mean more families will be able to see a nurse or a doctor - without having to wait in an emergency department.

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) February 1, 2023


New route for anti-Pell protest

Kim Stern, campaign organiser with Community Action for Rainbow Rights, has outlined the newly negotiated route for the protest outside George Pell’s funeral in a presser.

Starting at Archibald fountain in Hyde Park at 10:30am, the group will head across to opposite the Cathedral on College Street. There, speakers will discuss Pell’s “long track record of misogyny, homophobia and conservative bigotry”.

The protest will end with a march through the city after that.


Mobile intravenous vitamin clinic fined almost $160,000

Drip IV, a mobile intravenous vitamin clinic has been fined almost $160,000 for incorrectly advertising their products to help alleviate fatigue caused by Covid-19 and assist in the treatment of Graves and Alzheimer’s disease.

Ranging between $229 and $700, customers can order vitamin formulas that promise to clear the mind, accelerate weight loss and cure hangovers, which are delivered to the door and administered by a nurse.

The TGA issued twenty notices to the company for incorrectly spruiking the formula as a “miraculous” treatment that had the ability to help patients with severe diseases.

The TGA said in a statement:

The advertisements allegedly contained prohibited representations, such as claims regarding cancer.

They also “contained restricted representations such as that the products would alleviate fatigue caused by Covid-19, assist in the treatment of Graves’ disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and support the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.”

The company also referred to ingredients that are prescription only, such as glutathione and contained a statement or picture suggesting or implying the products were “TGA Approved”.


Anti-Pell protest now allowed on College St, in view of St Mary’s Cathedral, LGBTQ+ group says

Campaign group Community Action for Rainbow Rights (Carr) has released a statement after barrister Sebastian De Brennan declared the “matter was resolved” between the group and NSW Police, who were attempting to shut down their anti-George Pell protest scheduled for tomorrow.

Carr will now be able to march on College Street in view of St Mary’s Cathedral during the funeral service of George Pell on Thursday.

Protest organiser Kim Stern said:

Pell was a monster who crusaded against the rights of women, gays and transgender people, and was complicit in a culture of systematic child abuse within the church. Police tried to stifle opposition to a public celebration of [Pell’s] disgraceful life. The defiance of activists against this appalling police censorship, and ensuing publicity, has secured our right to march.

Carr activist Eddie Stephenson added:

We’ve been able to defend the democratic right to publicly reject everything Pell stood for. We call on all progressive people to join us opposite the Cathedral at 10.30am and stand for women’s rights, LGBTI rights and justice for survivors of abuse at the hands of the church.

You can read more from Guardian reporter Rafqa Touma below:


Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition announces new board of directors

Former Liberal party director Tony Nutt, polling guru Mark Textor and former Labor adviser Lachlan Harris are the latest to lend their support to supporting the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum, today being named directors to the yes campaign’s major fundraising and strategy body.

They’ll join a list of other corporate big-hitters including Danny Gilbert, co-founder and CEO of law firm Gilbert+Tobin, film director Rachel Perkins, and BHP director Catherine Tanna.

Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, “a key fundraising and organising vehicle in the campaign”, announced its new board of directors this afternoon.

Gilbert and Perkins will be co-chairs. Also on the board are Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, former NAB chairman and current Wesfarmers chair Michael Chaney, AFL executive Tanya Hosch, reconciliation advocate and company director Karen Mundine, and campaigner and union official Thomas Mayo.

Nutt is former principal adviser to Prime Minister John Howard and director of the Australia Post board. Textor has been a key political strategist and communications specialist in Australian and international politics for years. Harris, former press adviser to PM Kevin Rudd, is a businessman, former journalist and activist.

Perkins said:

In 2023, we have an opportunity to come together, recognise the place of Australia’s first inhabitants in our constitution, and ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given a say over issues affecting them to drive practical change and better outcomes.

The board members bring tremendous experience, wisdom and focus to this cause.

Gilbert said the board “comprises a rich diversity of perspectives, a reflection of the broad spectrum of support across the nation for constitutional recognition through a voice to parliament”:

The depth of strategic capability and campaign expertise is evident in our discussions and we look forward to supporting an energetic, respectful, and positive conversation across the country leading to a successful yes vote at the referendum.


Albanese to give keynote address at Indo-Pacific strategic forum in Singapore

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accepted an invitation to deliver the keynote address at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on 2 June.

Convened by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Shangri-La Dialogue is the region’s premier strategic forum that brings together top government and thought leaders from across the Indo-Pacific and beyond to discuss regional security dynamics and challenges.

Albanese said:

We want a region that is stable, peaceful, resilient and prosperous. Forums like the Shangri-La Dialogue offer a valuable opportunity to discuss our shared aspirations for the Indo-Pacific. I am honoured to deliver the keynote address and look forward to sharing Australia’s strategic outlook at the dialogue.

Australia and Singapore’s close relationship is underpinned by our common strategic and economic interests. I look forward to travelling to Singapore for this important event.


‘Matter has resolved’ on LGBTQ+ protest planned for outside Pell funeral, court hears

Barrister Sebastian De Brennan has told the courtroom “the matter has resolved” with no outstanding issues regarding LGBTQ+ campaigner protests planned for outside George Pell’s funeral for the NSW supreme court to order on.

The judge has thanked the parties for resolving an issue that “no doubt arouses great passions”.

We are yet to hear details about the reassessed protest route that was negotiated.


Silent protest outside St Mary’s ‘perfectly appropriate’, says Daniel Andrews

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has backed protesters tying ribbons in commemoration of abuse victim-survivors outside of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney in the lead-up to the mass for Cardinal George Pell on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Andrews said a silent protest was the “perfectly appropriate way to honour victim-survivors of Catholic child sexual abuse”:

If that’s not legitimate protest, I don’t know what is. It’s not even a protest, it’s just recognition for people who want to be seen and heard.

I’ll say again - I see you, I hear you and I believe you. There’s nothing disrespectful in that.

Andrews last month said he could not think of anything more “distressing” for child sexual abuse victims than Victoria hosting a state funeral for Pell.


‘A special day of mourning for us,’ says child abuse survivor outside St Mary’s Cathedral

Vivienne Moore was another survivor of child abuse standing outside St Mary’s Cathedral this morning. She said watching protest ribbons stay up as Cardinal Pell’s body was carried into the church felt “palpable and powerful”.

Because each of them represent a life lost, really. So it was rather ironic that it was a funeral today for George Pell. These are the ribbons for the survivors who haven’t made it.

Moore called it “a special day of mourning for us”.

It’s healing for all of us. It’s healing having everyone here. Witnessing it. Witnessing our day of mourning ... It’s having a voice. That’s all we want, is to be heard and believed. That’s all we need.

They’re difficult stories to hear. But I’ve lived with my story my whole life since I was five years old. We’re just asking people to come on board for a brief moment, feel the outrage, feel the disgust, and then you can go back to your normal lives. But until we can get people to listen to those stories ... things won’t change.

And it has to come from the top down, you know. It has to come from our leaders that have to speak out more, and the media has to be more willing to put us in front of cameras. And what that does is encourage, is other survivors to come out. It’s like it’s okay. You’re going to be looked after we got you. We will love you back to life. And that’s what today was about. Coming together in, ironically, a celebration of love.

Vivienne Moore outside St Mary’s Cathedral.
Vivienne Moore outside St Mary’s Cathedral. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian


Thanks for leading us through a busy morning, Natasha! I’ll be here to see us through to the evening, with lots still to come.

I hope this first day of the month is treating you kindly. That’s it from me, I’m handing the blog over to Emily Wind!

Albanese hopes Dutton attends voice working group ‘with open mind and open heart’

Circling back to the press conference with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese was asked what he hopes the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, will take away from attending the voice working group meeting tomorrow.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks to media in Perth, Wednesday, 1 February, 2023.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks to media in Perth, Wednesday, 1 February, 2023. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP

I hope that Peter Dutton joins the call from the Uluru Statement from the Heart to walk with Indigenous Australians on the path of reconciliation.

This referendum is about two things, just two things. Recognition and consultation. Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as our First Nations people. That’s the what. The how is the consultation mechanism, which is there in the draft wording that I’ve forwarded. The three points that I’ve advanced. I’m yet to receive any proposed changes to that wording.

But I hope [Dutton] goes and meets with the referendum working group that I’ve met with twice with an open mind, and importantly as well an open heart.

This is something that should be well above politics. This is a chance to unite the nation.

Albanese also said he believes the process will see better outcomes from consulting First Nations people.

This is a chance for us to be proud of sharing this continent with the world’s oldest continuous culture and saying to them something I’ve said before, which I regard as good manners. If you’re going to have an impact on someone or a group of people, ask them about it. And chances are you’ll get better outcomes as well.


‘Tougher penalties are not a deterrent to youth crime,’ Queensland child protection advocate says

Queensland police’s announcement of the new youth crime taskforce comes after more than 50 organisations and experts signed an open letter urging the Queensland government to act smarter, not tougher on youth crime.

Lindsay Wegener, executive director of PeakCare Queensland, said Queensland already has some of the toughest laws in the country and the highest number of children in youth detention centres. He told reporters today:

What we know is tougher penalties are not a deterrent to youth crime, they simply don’t work.

Wegener said the younger children are when they enter the youth justice system, the more likely it is that they will proceed on to a lifetime of crime. He said:

That’s not achieving community safety.

Wegener called on social media outlets to stop allowing young people to publicise offending on social media and to ban vigilante groups from publishing posts that vilify young people.

His comments come after Guardian Australia revealed that a Queensland care home has received threats after being wrongly identified in media reports as a halfway house.

Wegener said:

There are diabolical messages that we’re aware of that call for a local neighbourhood to break into a service where children are living and to hang all the children that are living there. That is atrocious. That crosses the line.

We are calling on politicians to make sure the decisions they make are not driven by extreme views by pockets of the community.


New youth crime taskforce launched in Queensland

Queensland police have launched a new youth crime taskforce which they say will focus on prevention and diverting young people away from offending.

The commander of the taskforce, George Marchesini, said Queensland police are aware they can’t “arrest” their way out of youth crime and will focus on breaking the cycle of reoffending.

Marchesini said youth crime is very complex and driven by a range of factors, including exposure to domestic and family violence, neglect, physical and sexual abuse and mental health concerns.

We know that it’s a challenging issue, which will take not just government but community working together to address …


Medicare card and driver’s licence going digital in NSW

NSW residents will soon be able to have a digital version of their Medicare card in the Service NSW app, NSW digital services minister Victor Dominello has announced.

Dominello said the federal and state governments were working to ensure that by no later than the second half of 2023, NSW residents will be able to have their Medicare card in the Service NSW app, or their digital driver’s licence in their MyGov app.

Almost 4.4 million people in NSW have opted in for a Digital Driver Licence via their ServiceNSW app - this is about an 80% uptake 🏆

One of the most common requests - is whether customers can integrate their Medicare Card into their ServiceNSW app ➡️ https://t.co/TukWshBRpz pic.twitter.com/zp2AULYZdd

— Victor Dominello MP (@VictorDominello) February 1, 2023

The agreement was announced in a press conference with the federal government services minister, Bill Shorten, today.

Dominello said in social media posts:

This is a good example of federal and state governments working together, to get our digital infrastructure operating seamless for the benefit of all Australians.

It followed from the MyGov review released yesterday which called for making it easier for people to store and use their identity documents through the federal MyGov app.


Call for ban on political donations from alcohol and gambling companies after 40% increase

Alcohol and gambling companies and their lobby groups donated $2.165m to Australia’s major political parties last year, according to analysis of disclosure returns by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (Fare) and the Alliance for Gambling Reform (AGR).

In a joint media release, the two organisations said the $2.165m sum represented an increase of 40% ($1.535m) on the previous year.

Donations were split almost equally between Labor and the Coalition with Labor receiving $1.12m and the Liberal and National parties receiving $1.05m.

Both groups are calling for donations from alcohol and gambling companies to be banned.

Carol Bennett, the CEO of AGR said:

The huge increase in the number and value of donations from alcohol and gambling companies and their lobby groups to the major political parties is concerning. The community expects politicians to make decisions that are in the public interest and not influenced by donations made by these companies.

The Labor and Liberal parties exclude tobacco donations. They could extend this to alcohol and gambling companies tomorrow if they wanted to. Like tobacco, alcohol and gambling cause significant health and social harms to Australians.

Caterina Giorgi, the CEO of Fare said:

Political donations from alcohol and gambling companies need to be banned if policies are to be prioritised that put the health, safety and wellbeing of the community ahead of the interests of these companies and their lobby groups.


NSW police back down in attempt to ban LGBT group from protesting outside George Pell funeral

After negotiations between NSW Police and campaign group Community Action for Rainbow Rights, the court will no longer have to make an order as an “alternative route has been agreed to,” barrister Sebastian De Brennan confirmed to the court room.

The route will allow walking up to College St, but not on it. Details as to the route of the agreed protest walkway are to come.

NSW Police are backing down in their attempt to ban Pell protest, after negotiations with LGBTQ+ campaign group.

An "alternative route has been agreed to," barrister Sebastian De Brennan confirmed.

The route will allow walking up to College St, but not on it - details to come

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) February 1, 2023


‘We have a right to heal,’ child abuse survivor says as Cardinal George Pell laid to rest

Nicky Davis, child abuse survivor, joined Ballarat survivors outside St Mary’s Cathedral as Cardinal Pell’s body was laid to rest this morning. She said:

The reason for being here today is it’s to change the discussion away from power and an on to healing.

The Catholic church and all their supporters were trying to sweep child sexual abuse survivors under the carpet. And that is just not fair. We have a right to heal.

By doing a very peaceful, beautiful gesture that is not a protest, is not aggressive, is not a fight, we just want to be part of the discussion.

Pell made a big difference in harming survivors.

To hear the Catholic church promoting that as a positive achievement is just obscene to survivors.

I personally had a meeting with Pell to discuss how incredibly harmful towards healing it was and how it desperately needed to be changed. And he did absolutely nothing.

Nicky Davis outside St Mary’s Cathdral. Cardinal George Pell is returned to St Mary’s Cathdral to lay in rest before the funeral ceremony tomorrow in Sydney, NSW. Australia
Nicky Davis outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian


Australians need to talk about the constitution, Albanese says

Speaking about the Indigenous voice to parliament, Albanese makes the point that most Australians probably need a refresher about what the constitution actually is.

At this press conference in Perth he goes some way towards reminding us it’s not about details but principles:

The principle isn’t whether there be 24 people which was the recommendation, plus perhaps a supplement of two, of the Calma Langton report or whether it’s 20 or whether it’s 32 or whether it’s 16. The principle is whether there be a body.

And over a period of time, because it’s subject to the parliament, of course like other elements it will change. The constitution is not the body that outlines every detail. The constitution establishes the principles.

So for example, [the constitution] says we will have an army and the navy. It doesn’t say we’ll have an air force, because there weren’t planes flying in 1901 when the constitution was written. It doesn’t say where the naval ships will be or how many there will be. It doesn’t anticipate nuclear subs.

It says that is what we will do. That’s the nature of a constitution and part of the education process that needs to occur this year, in an honest way, is for people to talk about what the constitution is. I think a whole lot of Australians wouldn’t have ever had a discussion about a constitution before.

But people in public office and public life have a responsibility to not spread misinformation and talk about the facts. And there can be, with respect, differences. People will have different views and they’re entitled to them, but it should be based upon the facts. And the fact is that the vote later this year will be about recognition and consultation.


Perrottet says he has ‘reached out’ to former ClubsNSW chief Josh Landis

During his press conference, Perrottet was also quizzed on what the sacking of ClubsNSW chief executive, Josh Landis, meant for his planned reforms of gaming in the state.

The premier said he planned to push on towards the final goal of a universal cashless pokies system and would work with whoever was chosen as his replacement.

Perrottet said:

I reached out to Josh last night to check on how he was going. He’s apologised to all those faith-based groups across NSW who could have been offended by those comments. We’ve all made mistakes and we move on.


Dominic Perrottet says pharmacies plan all about taking pressure off GPs

The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has moved to assure doctors that all reforms he is pushing for ahead of Friday’s national cabinet are in their best interests.

He says he wants to take “pressure off GPs” by enabling pharmacists to play a greater role in healthcare provision.

He says:

This is all about making it easier for people across our state to get the medications that they need … for things like UTIs as well as vaccinations from a pharmacist.

What that in essence does is it takes pressure off GPs.

My position supports GPs, supports patients across NSW.

He says emergency departments should be just for emergencies and calls on cooperation between states to reform healthcare.

We have the strongest emergency departments, but emergency departments should be for emergencies. I want to work with the federal government and my state and territory colleagues to end the blame game.

Perrottet says he is working through issues of payroll tax “in a considered way”.


Albanese says no ‘easy, off-the-shelf solutions’ to Alice Springs situation

The Central Australian regional controller’s review is expected today a week on from the crisis meeting held in Alice Springs. Albanese says he is yet to receive the report, but expects to receive it later today or if not early tomorrow morning.

He says he wants to act on the situation as soon as possible while acknowledging there are no “off the shelf solutions”.

Last week there was already some action taken, which, when I spoke to the chief minister this morning, she reported that it was already making a difference.

I want to act as soon as possible. I want not to delay, but I also understand that some of these issues are intergenerational. There are not easy, off-the-shelf solutions.

It is not just about alcohol. It is about employment, about service delivery, about getting staff on the ground. You can fund programs, if you don’t have people to do the services, then that can create an issue as well.

… When I receive the report, I of course will read it, I sit down with the chief minister tomorrow, we had the meeting of the National Cabinet beginning tomorrow night, and goes into Friday morning, and I look forward to constructive engagement.

Albanese said he believes the report should be made public.


Anthony Albanese taking questions in Perth

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking from Perth at the moment. Taking questions, he is defending his efforts to be present not only in cities but in more regional and remote areas of our vast continent.

I am a regular visitor to WA, I will try to get around to all of this great big state, as I try and get around to all of our very large country, whether it is at our cities or our regions.

… In the last week I have not just been to Alice Springs, I have been to Devonport in Tassie, I have been to Bendigo in regional Victoria. I get around our regions and our cities and I look forward to doing so here in WA.


Alan Tudge tells robodebt inquiry he was ‘greatly annoyed’ when his welfare fraud quote was taken out of context

The former human services minister, Alan Tudge, has told a royal commission he was “greatly annoyed” when a comment linking welfare fraud to a jail sentence was conflated to the robodebt scheme.

Tudge was asked about an infamous interview he gave to A Current Affair in December 2016, in which he was quoted at the start of the item as saying: “We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison.”

The ACA item was about the income compliance - or robodebt - scheme.

Tudge told the royal commission the story had been “pitched” to A Current Affair about the taskforce integrity program, which went after welfare fraud, rather than the robodebt scheme that targeted “inadvertent” or administrative overpayments.

Tudge said he had been asked a “direct question on fraud” by the TV program. He said the question was, “What would you say to people who deliberately commit fraud on the commonwealth?”

And “I gave my response in relation to that question”, Tudge told the royal commission.

Tudge accused critics of misusing the quote for “five years”. He said was “greatly annoyed” about the TV item and had given an interview the following month on the ABC’s Radio National program where he suggested he was taken out of context.

Tudge said he had always sought to make a distinction between fraud and “inadvertent” welfare overpayments.

Former Liberal minister Alan Tudge on a screen of the media room at the robodebt royal commission in Brisbane, Wednesday, 1 February, 2023.
Former Liberal minister Alan Tudge on a screen of the media room at the robodebt royal commission in Brisbane, Wednesday, 1 February, 2023. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

Senior counsel assisting, Justin Greggery KC, said Tudge could have easily disavowed the A Current Affair story by issuing a media statement following its broadcast.

He said that was “not my practice” given the amount of media that he did.

He said:

I was completely taken out of context.

Greggery said that employing the “overlay of fraud” onto the public’s understanding of the robodebt scheme made it “more likely that people would engage with the system and repay the money”.

Tudge said:

I disagree there was a particular strategy.


‘I’m not worried about going to jail – I’m worried about my grandchildren’, says Queensland climate activist, 87

Fourteen climate activists faced their first day in court this morning for their brief but raucous protest which interrupted a sitting of Queensland parliament last November.

If convicted, the protesters are facing the prospect of three years’ jail with a count each of disturbing the legislature, the first time the charge has been laid since the days of the notoriously repressive premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Those are days many of the activists remember all too well – the protesters are mainly retired professionals including doctors, nurses and public servants, many of whom reside in well-heeled Brisbane suburbs.

They include Lee Coaldrake, wife of the Queensland University of Technology vice-chancellor who led a review into the integrity of the public service and Queensland government last year.

Also among their number was 87-year-old Judith Rasborsek, who says:

I’m not worried about going to jail. I’m worried about my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. What kind of a world are they going to get?

The 14 were released on bail under the condition they not enter parliament and the case will resume in two weeks when prosecutors hand over their brief of evidence.

Fourteen climate activists faced their first day in court this morning for their brief but raucous protest which interrupted a sitting of Queensland parliament last November.
Fourteen climate activists faced their first day in court this morning for their brief but raucous protest which interrupted a sitting of Queensland parliament last November. Photograph: Joe Hinchcliffe/The Guardian


Tony Burke says opponents of Indigenous voice yet to make argument 'actually about voting no'

The arts minister, Tony Burke, has been speaking a the National Press Club this lunch time giving a speech following the unveiling of the government’s new cultural policy.

Taking questions, Anna Henderson from SBS World News and NITV asks Burke about the Indigenous voice to parliament:

Some of your most vocal critics in the no campaign for a referendum are questioning why Labor wouldn’t put forward legislation on urgency to set up a voice to parliament now and then hold a referendum but be up-front about what an initial structure would look like and eventually stress-test it ahead of a big national vote. What is your argument for why you are not taking this approach?

Burke answers it’s because “that’s not how the constitution works. It’s just not.”

The way the constitution works is you establish what are the things that the parliament should deal with and it’s for the Australian people to decide whether or not we should do the two things that the government will be putting to them. Whether we should recognise the first Australians in the constitution; and secondly, whether we should consult with people on issues affecting them for the first Australians.

And what we are putting to the Australian people is exactly the full detail of what we are asking them to consider whether or not they want to change. The constitution is their document. The parliament will be in control of what legislation goes through if the Australian people make that decision.

Burke shares this observation:

I am yet to hear an argument from the no campaign that is actually about voting no to the question being put forward.

It’s either been about issues that have nothing to do with it or issues that would be determined by parliaments in decades and years to come if this constitutional change is made.


Study finds ‘alarming’ gender disparity in academia

Women are under-represented in psychology publications despite being over-represented in entry-level job positions, new research has found.

The research, led by Swinburne University, found disparities in the progression of women was prevalent in a range of academic careers including psychology, science, technology, engineering and Stem.

Co-author Dr Jessica Mackelprang said the inequalities in academia were “particularly alarming”, and reflective of broader stereotypes and gendered expectations rather than quality of candidates.

The research found women make up the majority of graduates from psychology programs but haven’t received equity in academic publications - which drives career advancement.

An investigation into five elite psychology journals found of 1,828 authorship positions (713 articles), just 35.6% were occupied by women.


We were not surprised to find that women were underrepresented in invited publications, but findings related to the composition of authorship teams were particularly alarming.

These findings emphasise that sponsorship from senior academics of all genders has a critical role to play in closing the gender gap in representation among women in these papers.


Robodebt went through ‘rigorous’ cabinet process, Alan Tudge tells inquiry

The former human services minister, Alan Tudge, has told a royal commission he doesn’t accept he is responsible for his department’s failure to check the legality of the unlawful robodebt scheme.

The former human services minister, who held the role at the initial height of the scandal in 2017, told the inquiry he never saw any legal advice on the robodebt program and was focused on fixing its “problems” rather than its budget savings. He said he was also not focused on its legality, saying he understood the program had been through a “rigorous” cabinet process that involved lawyers in two departments.

Tudge oversaw the unlawful robodebt scheme’s implementation between February 2016 and December 2017, including its largest ramp-up in late 2016, which was part of a Coalition election commitment for billions in budget savings.

Under questioning by senior counsel assisting Justin Greggery KC, Tudge said:

I didn’t know the full context in relation to the legalities. It just had not crossed my mind until I read about it in the newspaper, I think, following the federal court case.

With the scheme generating massive controversy in January 2017, the inquiry has heard the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, sent Tudge a Sydney Morning Herald article by Peter Martin, which raised the prospect that the “income averaging” method central to the scheme was unlawful.

Tudge said he had been on leave and on holidays in the UK with his family when the article was sent to him.

When I came back [I was] was very much focused on the implementation of the scheme. There were a number of issues being raised in the media … That was my intense focus in January and February.

Greggery said in the case where the prime minister was raising the issue in the context of a massive government program, it would have been easy to “refute” the suggestions of illegality by “simply saying, ‘Where’s the advice’.”

Tudge said:

This was a program … which gone through a cabinet process … A cabinet process is a rigorous process, which always has a legal overlay through it. So the department’s lawyers, Social Services’ lawyers, would have had to form a view that it was lawful. Then on top of that the attorney general’s department has to form a view …


‘The time has come for sanctions’ against Myanmar, Penny Wong says

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has defended the government’s previous reluctance to roll out sanctions against Myanmar’s military rulers, saying it had been seeking to support the approach taken by south-east Asia in the first instance.

At a press conference in London earlier today confirming the new sanctions, Wong said the government intended to “bring all aspects of Australian power to our foreign policy, employ every strategy at our disposal towards our upholding rights consistent with our values and our interests”. She said she had previously made it clear that sanctions “will rarely be our first choice”. Wong added:

We have looked to support the work of Asean and work with others to put pressure on the regime, including through the United Nations. But it is ultimately about making the best judgment we can about the right approach at the right time. My judgment is that the time has come for sanctions. So after careful deliberation and consultation, Australia is imposing additional autonomous sanctions on those directly responsible for the military coup and ongoing repression and violence.

Wong said the Australian government would “continue to monitor the regime’s actions” and “will be looking to see improvements for people on the ground and moves towards the restoration of democracy including credible elections”. That meant the government would “keep our targeted sanctions towards Myanmar under review”.

Earlier, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Simon Birmingham, welcomed the sanctions announcement, which also included Iran-related measures. He noted, however, that the timing of the announcement comes just hours before the release of a parliamentary inquiry report that was likely to call for stronger action against Iran:

These actions are very welcome. The Coalition has consistently called for more action to hold Iran to account, while offering strong bipartisan support for action in relation to both Iran & Myanmar. https://t.co/O5xKod4yTP

— Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) January 31, 2023


Daniel Andrews: ‘We need to make Medicare work’

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has warned the federal government is paying “45% of the price of failure” as state and territory leaders push for an equal split of hospital funding.

States and territories will push for the commonwealth to restore 50-50 hospital funding and increase the Medicare rebate at a national cabinet meeting on Friday. The meeting will also consider the strengthening Medicare taskforce report, which aims to improve the commonwealth-funded primary care system to take stress off state-funded hospitals.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Andrews, said patients were ending up in emergency departments because they were unable to access a bulk-billing GP, thereby increasing the cost of public hospitals:

We need to make Medicare work and we’ve got to get those bulk billing rates up. We’ve got to ensure that emergency departments are only for emergencies.

The federal health minister, Mark Butler, has all but ruled out changes to the Medicare rebate.


Perrottet will not attend Pell’s funeral

The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, will not be attending Cardinal George Pell’s funeral in Sydney on Thursday due to prior commitments.

The employee relations minister, Damien Tudehope, will be there to represent him.

Perrottet said:

Minister Tudehope will be representing me at the funeral. I had pre-commitments. But I would say to everybody ... across our state today, I think it’s time that we come together and show respect.


Reactions to Myanmar sanctions

Transparency International has welcomed Australia’s “long overdue” sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime leaders, but has warned of ongoing gaps in the measures.

Today marks the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar.

The Australian government last night published details of new sanctions against 16 people including the commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and his deputy, Soe Win. The sanctions also target two entities, the Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd.

Clancy Moore, the chief executive of Transparency International Australia, said in a statement:

We welcome the long overdue sanctions introduced by the Australia on the corrupt and murderous Myanmar military. Australia should now follow the lead of our allies - the US, UK and EU - and introduce sanctions that target Myanmar’s generals, their families and other economic entities.

Australian linked mining companies and investors are still doing business with the corrupt and violent junta. The lack of sanctions by the Australian government on state-owned enterprises - Myanmar Mining No. 1 and No. 2 - which are controlled by the junta, is helping to enrich the generals.

The independent MP Zoe Daniel said she welcomed the new sanctions, describing Myanmar today as “an unfolding tragedy in our region with civilians being intimidated, attacked, jailed and murdered by the military backed illegitimate government”.

Daniel said it was “ a conflict that Australia, as a regional leader, should be more strongly addressing via dialogue and action together with our other Southeast Asian neighbours”.

In a statement, Daniel said:

This is a step forward, but Australia must now follow the lead of our allies, the US, UK and EU which have issued over 400 sanctions and introduce further sanctions targeting Myanmar’s generals, their family members and other economic entities.

Other countries, among them the United States, have moved to sanction state-owned enterprises in the lucrative resources sector, including Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) which distributes more than 1 billion US dollars every year into the hands of the country’s military leaders.


Tudge’s evidence continues at robodebt royal commission

Today’s robodebt royal commission hearing continues with former human services minister Alan Tudge still giving evidence.

The senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Justin Greggery KC, asked Tudge whether he was aware that questions about whether the scheme was lawful were being asked in the media at the time.

Tudge responded:

I’m aware from reviewing the documents that you have provided to me that there were some media articles that questioned [it].

Greggery said it would have been a “simple thing to ask for advice”, and Tudge replied that there was a lot of media on robodebt and that he was overseas at the time:

When I came back, [I] was very much focused on the implementation of the scheme because [there were] a number of issues which [were] raised in the media. And [there were] a number of issues which I subsequently discovered … and that was my intense focus in January and February.

Tudge: "When I came back ... I had confirmed for me this was a program that had gone through the cabinet process. The cabinet process is a rigorous process that always has a legal overlay." He says DSS lawyers and AG's dept would have to form a view it was lawful.

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) February 1, 2023

OK - second defence from Tudge. "I also became aware that income averaging which was the subject of the Peter Martin article had been used as far back as 1990". Same defence as Morrison.

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) February 1, 2023

The hearing went on recess at 12.30pm and will resume shortly.


NSW police push to stop Sydney protest is an attack on free expression, civil liberties council says

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) says the police’s attempt to stop a planned protest outside Cardinal George Pell’s funeral “tells a sad tale to the rest of the world about queer rights and free expression in this state”.

Community Action For Rainbow Rights is challenging NSW police’s claims of safety concerns. NSWCCL president Josh Pallas said in the statement that “in reality, this is a case of the NSW Police trying to do tone-policing”.

The protest is planning to commence at the fountain in Hyde Park and march to Taylor’s Square in Surry Hills. The route would take it past St Mary’s Cathedral where mourning is taking place for Pell.

Pallas said in the statement:

NSW Police have known about this protest for more than a week. If there were genuine concerns for safety, they could have made an application to the Court in a timely way, as has happened many times in the past. Leaving it to the eleventh hour to commence proceedings in Court doesn’t make any sense if the safety concerns are genuine.

It’s completely unacceptable for NSW Police to be informing protest organisers like CARR that they are taking action in the Supreme Court against them only the day before a planned protest. It is a blatant misuse of the Court process, by seeking to overwhelm protest organisers through the obvious disparity of legal resources, and practically limit their ability to defend the proceedings.

The right to hold religious and other memorial services is important, but so is freedom of expression. That necessarily includes freedom to hold protests in the vicinity of funerals and memorial services. A previous well-known example is the protests at the Sydney Opera House during the memorial service for Kerry Packer.

This is yet another example of the way the right to public assembly in NSW is under attack by the current government. Given that NSW is about to host a huge celebration of the queer community with WorldPride coming to Sydney, it tells a sad tale to the rest of the world about queer rights and free expression in this state.


Thunderstorms possible across east coast

Severe thunderstorms are possible along the east coast of Australia today, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting heavy rainfall and damaging winds for north-east NSW. Meanwhile in Queensland, heavy rainfall is forecast along the north-east, with damaging winds also possible in the south-east.

⛈️NSW Storm Forecast for Wed 1/2/23. Severe thunderstorms are possible in NE NSW today and may contain heavy rainfall and damaging winds. Warnings, if issued, https://t.co/Ss766eSCrL pic.twitter.com/L8el0hAFFy

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) February 1, 2023

⛈️QLD Storm Forecast for Wed 1/2/23. Severe thunderstorms are possible across eastern and northern QLD today. Heavy rainfall is the main threat, but damaging winds are also possible with severe storms in #SEQld. Warnings, if/when issued: https://t.co/FBmpsInT9o pic.twitter.com/Dp9nbKTvUU

— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) February 1, 2023


Fossil fuel companies donated $2m to the major political parties in last financial year, analysis finds

Market Forces, which aims to expose institutions financing environmentally destructive projects, has taken a look at the political donations by fossil fuel companies in the 2021-22 financial year.

Fossil fuel companies donated $2m to the major political parties, according to Axel Dalman, research coordinator at Market Forces.

In the last financial year, fossil fuel companies donated a whopping $2 million to the major political parties clearly aimed at sweetening deals to expand coal, oil and gas production.

Santos was the third-largest fossil fuels donor last year, a company pursuing five new major oil and gas developments including the deeply controversial Barossa and Narrabri projects.

Fossil fuel companies are buying favour while trying to ram through 118 new projects despite the International Energy Agency stressing there can be no new coal, oil or gas expansion if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Gas giant Woodside is in the dubious position of being in the top five after years as the highest fossil fuel donor.

Woodside’s climate wrecking plans include the massive Scarborough gas project which is incompatible with state, federal and global climate goals yet still enjoys support from Labor, Liberal and the Nationals.


Activists vow to go ahead with Pell protest even if court rules in favour of police

More from the supreme court ahead of a hearing over a police push to stop a planned protest outside George Pell’s funeral tomorrow.

Kim Stern, an organiser with Community Action for Rainbow Rights, says that even if the court hears in favour of NSW police, “we will still be going ahead with our protest”.

I think it would be a real slap in the face to all that the Catholic Church has caused harm to.

We will still be going ahead with our protest, we will still be attempting to March as near as possible to the cathedral to show that we not only oppose what Pell stood for but also the attempt to suppress our democratic right to protest.

Thanks to the NSW police the protests has gotten a lot more media, so hopefully there will be a few hundred there.

We know a number of survivors of abuse by the Catholic Church will be in attendance.


In pictures: ribbons adorn the gates at St Mary’s Cathedral in tribute to abuse victims

Our photographer Blake Sharp-Wiggins is with Rafqa Touma outside St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney where Cardinal George Pell’s coffin has been returned this morning to lie in state before his funeral tomorrow.

Clergy abuse survivor Paul Auchettl has been leading a group tying ribbons to the gates of the church to represent the voices of those “who are gone, who are suffering, who have been harmed” by child sexual abuse, he told Touma.

Here are some of the images:

Cardinal George Pell is returned to St Mary’s Cathdral to lay in rest before the funeral ceremony tomorrow in Sydney, NSW. Australia
Cardinal George Pell is returned to St Mary’s Cathdral to lay in rest before the funeral ceremony tomorrow in Sydney, NSW. Australia

Auchettl and activist Simon Hunt have been in negotiations with police and the church about allowing the ribbons to stay on the gates, as church staff had previously removed them.

Paul Auchettl (middle) and Simon Hunt (left) speak with police.
Paul Auchettl (middle) and Simon Hunt (left) speak with police. Photograph: Blake Sharp-Wiggins/The Guardian
Vivienne Moore places ribbons this morning.
Vivienne Moore places ribbons this morning. Photograph: The Guardian


Hearing on court order to prevent LGBTQ+ protest postponed

Hearing on #NSWPolice court order to prevent LGBTQ+ protesters from marching on the street outside of George #Pell's funeral has been postponed to 2pm today.

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) February 1, 2023

Activists await court ruling on whether protest outside Pell funeral can go ahead

Kim Stern, an organiser for LGBTQ+ activist group Community Action for Rainbow Rights, is waiting outside the supreme court in Sydney for a hearing on NSW police’s attempt to stop a planned protest outside Cardinal Pell’s funeral at St Mary’s Cathedral tomorrow.

Community Action For Rainbow Rights is challenging NSW police’s claims of safety concerns with a legal team of Peter O’Brien Solicitors and barrister Tahn O’Rourke.

Stern says:

We think that it’s pretty grotesque that someone who’s an arch defender of homophobia, sexism, who said abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests abusing children, gets to have a celebration of his life.

We want to protest to show there is opposition for everything this man stood for. And everything the Catholic Church stands for today, like entrenching religious discriminations.

I think it’s an attempt to stop opposition to the Catholic Church and the religious right in Australia being heard.


ACT government announces details of Bruce Lehrmann case inquiry

The ACT government has announced that its inquiry into the handling of the Bruce Lehrmann case will report back by June and will examine whether police and prosecutors breached their duties during the investigation and trial of Brittany Higgins’s allegations.

The government on Wednesday confirmed earlier reports that it has appointed Walter Sofronoff KC, an eminent retired Queensland judge, to lead its inquiry into the handling of the case.

It expects the inquiry to deliver its report by June this year, and has released the terms of reference which will guide its work. Those terms of reference include:

Whether any police officers failed to act in accordance with their duties or acted in breach of their duties:

  • in their conduct of the investigation of the allegations of Ms. Brittany Higgins concerning Mr Bruce Lehrmann;

  • in their dealings with the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to his duty to decide whether to commence, to continue and to discontinue criminal proceedings against Mr Lehrmann in relation to those allegations;

  • in their dealings with the legal representatives for Mr Lehrmann before, during or after the trial in the matter of R v Lehrmann;

  • in their provision of information to any persons in relation to the matter of R v Lehrmann.

The terms of reference also allow the inquiry to examine the conduct of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, and whether he breached his duties in “making his decisions to commence, to continue and to discontinue criminal proceedings against Mr Lehrmann”.

The inquiry will also be able to examine the DPP’s decision to release a letter to the Guardian through freedom of information laws, which revealed Drumgold’s concerns about police conduct.

Lehrmann’s trial collapsed after juror misconduct and prosecutors declined to proceed with a retrial due to concerns about Higgins’ mental health.

That leaves Lehrmann with the presumption of innocence. He has always denied the allegation that he raped Higgins and pleaded not guilty at trial.

ACT attorney general Shane Rattenbury said in a statement:

The Board of Inquiry was established to ensure the Territory’s framework for progressing criminal investigations and prosecutions is robust, fair and respects the rights of those involved.

It is important to remember that this will not be a retrial of the case, it will focus on whether the criminal justice officials involved performed their duties with appropriate rigour, impartiality, and independence.


Top Australian and UK ministers to hold defence talks this week

Australian and British ministers will meet to take stock of progress on planned nuclear-powered submarines and discuss ways to support Pacific island countries “who are on the front line of the climate emergency”. The UK also expects the free trade agreement to come into effect in the next few months.

The British government has issued a statement that provides more details on planned talks between the Australian foreign affairs and defence ministers Penny Wong and Richard Marles and their British counterparts James Cleverly and Ben Wallace over the next two days.

The big meeting of all four ministers - annual talks known as Aukmin - will take place tomorrow at the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth “to discuss the countries’ long-term cooperation to promote prosperity in the Indo-Pacific as well as broader cooperation on climate, security and trade”.

But today Wong and Cleverly will have a foreign affairs-focused meeting while Marles and Wallace have their own defence-focused talks. The British government’s statement says:

Following bilateral talks with their opposite numbers on Wednesday, the group will visit Salisbury Plain to see Australian and UK troops training Ukrainian soldiers. The joint programme, which also involves forces from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Lithuania, and the Netherlands, is part of an acceleration of efforts by the UK and allies to ensure Ukraine wins the war and secures a lasting peace.

Last month up to 70 ADF members left Darwin for the training mission in the UK.

Wallace, the UK’s defence secretary, described Australia as “our close and valued defence partner, with historic ties spanning the decades”. He said the Australian defence force was “providing vital training for the brave Ukrainian men and women here in the UK, learning the skills they will need to return and defend their country”.

Cleverly, the foreign secretary, added:

In an increasingly volatile world, we are pursuing a forward-looking agenda with Australia as a trusted partner and friend. Together we are promoting prosperity and security in the Indo-Pacific, boosting trade, and pursuing our vital climate targets.

The statement says the ministers will “look at how the UK and Australia can step up their commitments to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, including by transitioning to renewable energy, promoting low-emission technologies as part of a joint Clean Tech partnership the two countries signed in 2021, as well as supporting island states in the Pacific who are on the front line of the climate emergency”. It adds:

More widely, they will take stock of progress on Aukus – a defence and security pact between the UK, US, and Australia which will deliver a nuclear-powered submarine capability to Australia. They will also continue discussions on the UK’s accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a £9 trillion free trade bloc, and progress towards the UK ratifying the bilateral free trade agreement with Australia, expected to come into force in spring this year.

(The UK’s spring is Australia’s autumn, so that means the next few months.)


Tudge tells robodebt inquiry he doesn’t recall being ‘excited by the outcome of the monies recovered’

The former human services minister Alan Tudge has begun giving evidence at the robodebt royal commission.

Justin Greggery KC, the senior counsel assisting the commission, is questioning Tudge about one of the early briefings he received on 23 February 2016 shortly after commencing the ministerial role, which included a specific briefing on welfare integrity.


The point is, Mr Tudge, you were informed at a very early time of the significance of the particular measure to the government’s budget.


I was certainly informed of the budget measures.

Greggery goes on to ask Tudge about an email which said he was “excited by the outcome of the monies recovered”.

This is an email between persons within the Taxation Office the following day, that is the day after you received the minister’s executive minute, which purports to attribute a position to you in these terms by reference to a Mr Lumley at DHS. In the context of a meeting which was set to take place the following day, it is said of you that you were excited by the outcome of the monies recovered as part of the recent data matching activities. If I pause there, do you recall taking that view or holding that position?


I don’t.


Alright. The concern that was communicated was that you may want even more historical data, that is back as far as 2000, to recover even more overpayments. Do you recall expressing anything along those lines to persons within DHS within that first week?


I don’t. I would say that this is within five weeks of me becoming minister.


New Zealand PM extends fuel excise cuts and public transport subsidy

In his first policy announcement since becoming New Zealand’s prime minister a week ago, Chris Hipkins said his government will extend fuel excise cuts and a public transport subsidy scheme – existing policies that were due to end shortly.

Instead, the 25 cents per litre petrol excise duty cut will run until 30 June 2023, as will nationwide half-price fares for public transport users. Hipkins said the move was in keeping with his pledge to put cost of living issues to the top of his policy agenda.

Hipkins said:

I’ve said bread and butter issues like the cost of living would be my top priority. This is our first step in dealing with some of the persistent cost pressures on businesses and families.

Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s finance minister, previously ruled out an extension of the subsidies, but he said Wednesday that he had changed his position when Hipkins became leader a week ago and asked his ministers to focus on measures to ease the cost of living crisis.


Climate 200 given almost $13m in year as Atlassian founders lead donations

Climate 200, the group that helped fund the successful teal wave at the last election, received almost $13m in donations and other receipts in 2021-22.

Data published by the Australian Electoral Commission on Wednesday morning shows the Climate 200 group received $12,972,291 and spent $12,924,072.

The group’s single biggest donor was Scott Farquhar, billionaire and co-founder of Atlassian, who made a $1.5m donation to Climate 200.

Fellow Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes’s green charity Boundless Earth Limited, which frequently donates to candidates advocating emissions reduction, made a donation of $1,115,000 to Climate 200.

Other significant donors include Keldoulis Investments Pty Ltd, the company owned by philanthropist Rob Keldoulis, which gave $870,000. Keldoulis also donated $332,000 under his own name to Climate 200.

The Climate 200 group helped create a historic move of voters away from the two major parties in the 2022 election.

Most of the teal independents received some campaign funding from Climate 200, which was established by the Melbourne philanthropist Simon Holmes à Court in 2019. The group provided funding to independent candidates who made climate action, political integrity and gender equality the main planks of their campaign – and who could match Climate 200’s contribution with their own fundraising.


Cardinal Pell’s body carried into St Mary’s Cathedral

Cardinal George Pell’s body has been carried into the side entrance of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney to commence his lying in state.

Cardinal #Pell’s body has been carried into the side entrance of St Marys Cathedral in Sydney pic.twitter.com/6i833fDAHx

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) January 31, 2023


Hipkins welcomes NZ deportation change

Chris Hipkins, New Zealand’s prime minister, said the changes the federal government confirmed today to 501 deportations of New Zealanders from Australia are “very, very welcome.”

A new ministerial direction to the immigration department will require greater attention to be paid to the strength, duration and nature of a person’s connection to the Australian community when deportation decisions are made. Deportations of New Zealanders who have spent more than a year in Australian jails – despite in some cases tenuous connections to New Zealand - has provoked frustration in the trans-Tasman relationship for years.

Hipkins told reporters in Auckland this morning that he particularly welcomed:

..the acknowledgement on the Australian side that actually some of the people that we are talking about have had a long history in Australia, some of them have been there since they were very young children, and sending them to New Zealand when they have no connections here other than a very historic one isn’t really a fair or just outcome.

The policy shift was “something that the New Zealand government has been working with Australia to achieve for quite some time now,” Hipkins said, adding that the change was “a first step” of what he hoped would be ongoing movement from the federal government on the matter.

Hipkins will meet Anthony Albanese in Canberra next week.

Political parties are still accepting donations from tobacco giant Philip Morris, the newly-released donations data shows.

The Australian Electoral Commission data, released this morning, shows Philip Morris declared donations of $55,000 each to both the Nationals and the Liberal Democrats.

The donations were made as the tobacco industry continues to push for vaping to be legalised in Australia.

Meanwhile, Clive Palmer’s mining company, Mineralogy, made a significant donation to the Liberal Democrats of $250,000. The two parties struck a preference deal during the 2022 federal election and were both heavily opposed to vaccine mandates.

The Greens declared about $22m in donations and other receipts in 2021-22. Most of their donations came from individuals, including Duncan Turpie and the trust of Tasmanian icon David Walsh, who both made money from gambling.

David Pocock’s party declared almost $1.7m in total receipts, most of which have already been declared.

Pocock, who holds a powerful position in the Senate and could be a critical vote on any future donations reforms, took $856,382 from Climate 200 and $200,000 from Keldoulis Investment Pty Ltd, the company owned by mystery philanthropist and Teal backer Rob Keldoulis. Keldoulis also donated $24,000 to Pocock under his own name.

Nationals will not formally support no campaign on voice referendum, Littleproud says

Nationals leader David Littleproud says his party won’t formally give support to the no campaign on the voice to parliament, stating a desire to stay “fiercely independent” of that group despite deciding to oppose the voice.

The formal no campaign kicked off this week, with leading members including Indigenous businessman Warren Mundine and Country Liberal party senator Jacinta Price, who sits with the Nationals party room.

But despite Price being a leading force behind the Nationals deciding to oppose the voice, Littleproud says the party won’t officially get on board with the opposition campaign.

He told Sky News this morning, when asked if the Nationals would formally support the campaign:

No, we’re fiercely independent.

We got to a position in our party room that didn’t support the voice, predicated on the fact that it would simply add another layer of bureaucracy. And we come to this with genuine intent about closing the gap. We want to close the gap, but not by adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Littleproud claimed “many people in the cities look down on the Nationals” but that “we seek to understand you”.

He said:

[The voice] may work in Redfern, but we’ve gone down this pathway before with a representative body. It was called ATSIC and it didn’t work. It didn’t shift the dial the way it should.

And when you’re asking one or two Indigenous Australians from across hundreds of thousands of square kilometres to across hundreds of different communities that have different challenges, to go to Canberra and have a bespoke solution to each one of those communities, it will not work.


Return to alcohol bans ‘on the table’ but not a long-term solution: NT chief minister

Natasha Fyles said reinstating liquor bans is still an option “on the table” but says it would still only be a short-term solution, not the long-term measure that is needed. But she notes that police say that the interim measures introduced in the crisis meeting last week are making a difference on the ground.

Fyles says the the report being handed down today is not the end of the discussion but the beginning of a process to drive “generational change”:

Looking forward, this report is not the end of it. This report is the beginning of that journey. The alcohol management plans will vary from community to community, and it is much more than alcohol. It is around those services that provide support and drive generational change.

Fyles said the report will be made public but “not in the next couple of days”.

Asked about the options handed down by the regional controller, Dorelle Anderson, to Fyles today, she said:

It’s making sure we do see the leadership of community and how we take that into account. How we have the information that needs to be in there around the domestic and family violence, access to education or school attendance, I should say. That data that will help us have policies that drive change.


‘It’s simply not fair’: NT chief minister calls for more federal funding and help

Fyles is saying that the remoteness of the Northern Territory makes delivering services more difficult, so more federal funding is needed:

The commonwealth need to step up and we need to see needs-based funding. I have said this time and time again - the Northern Territory, based on GST formulas and the cost we have of delivering services, it’s simply not fair. So for people sitting in Sydney and Melbourne, perhaps watching these interview, they have to understand that the cost of service delivery just by the remoteness costs more.

The intensity of the work required will cost more and we can’t do it alone as a Northern Territory government.

Faced with questions about the balance of funding between Darwin and remote areas, Fyles says she is open to the Productivity Commission conducting an audit. But she does not accept that money has been disproportionately spent in the past in Darwin.


There’s long been criticism that Northern Territory governments take that GST money from the other states, from Canberra, and they spend it disproportionately on things in Darwin at the expense of those remote communities. If you’re asking for more funding, would you be willing to let the Productivity Commission do an audit?

Fyles waits for a plane to pass overhead before responding:

Yes, I would be very open to accountability around this. We want to change these issues for the next generation. We want to fix the issues we have now and we know that that is investment and we would certainly welcome measures that allow for us to have an understanding of the investment we’re placing and how that is achieving the change we require.


NT chief minister says former federal government ‘walked away’

Natasha Fyles continues to face the heat from the press about the role her NT government could have played in intervening earlier after the Stronger Futures legislation lapsed. But the chief minister remains adamant the failure lies with the previous federal Coalition government.


Your government has yesterday released new data on emergency departments in that period between the bans lifting and the end of 2022 which show a 50% spike in ED presentations in Alice Springs during that period. Do you now concede there wasn’t enough done in that period?


So I won’t go back over history for the sake of time, but everyone knows that it was the Northern Territory Government that stepped up and put a measure in place allowing communities to remain dry. It was the commonwealth government, the previous Coalition, that walked away.

In terms of alcohol-related presentations, I meet regularly with emergency doctors and our hospital staff. If you look at July to September, the figures were fairly stable.

There was weeks of spikes, but it was certainly that November/December period where we saw an increase and that is why we continue to be agile with policies and put in place different measures.


Ballot on alcohol bans being discussed, NT chief minister says

Taking questions, NT chief minister Natasha Fyles says the idea of communities voting in a ballot on whether they want opt-in alcohol restrictions is still one option being discussed.


Are you still pushing ahead with this ballot idea?


So that has been discussed. I have discussed that with health professionals. We have a situation where the previous commonwealth government did not reinstate or continue the Stronger Futures legislation and … the intervention suspended the Racial Discrimination Act at a commonwealth level. So it was a race-based policy.

In terms of the opt-in/opt-out situation, we saw a number of communities continue as dry communities whilst they developed alcohol management plans.

The Northern Territory government has done enormous amount of work around local decision-making agreements and listening to Indigenous leadership.

So I believe that one option going forward would be to have a ballot so that everyone can have confidence in whatever the decision is. There can’t be the accusation, if you don’t like the decision, that we didn’t talk to the right people.


Key report on Alice Springs crisis to be delivered today

As we mentioned on the blog earlier, the new central Australian regional controller, Dorrelle Anderson will today hand down her review considering whether opt-in alcohol restrictions should be implemented in the Northern Territory.

The NT chief minister, Natasha Fyles, has begun a media conference a week after the crisis meeting brought federal ministers, including prime minister Anthony Albanese to Alice Springs.


We will provide to the commonwealth later today the agreed report on the actions that have been taken around alcohol and any proposed actions into the future. I will then travel with the attorney general Chancy Paech to Canberra and we will be meeting with the prime minister tomorrow so that we can work through these issues and come up with long-term solutions to change the tragic statistics we see in the Northern Territory, particularly around Indigenous incarceration, disadvantage.

We have been doing an enormous amount of work since we came to government, as has previous territory governments – and we want to make sure that as we step forward that these are thought out and based-on-evidence decisions.


St Mary’s Church wants to remove section of ribbons for Pell’s funeral, activist says

Negotiations continue between St Mary’s Church, police and the group putting up ribbons to remember the victim-survivors of child sexual abuse ahead of the funeral of Cardinal George Pell.

The activist Simon Hunt has told our reporter on the ground, Rafqa Touma, that the church wants to remove a section of the ribbons to keep them out of the shot that will show Pell’s coffin entering the church.

Simon Hunt @PPantsdown is “trying to negotiate with police” over placement of ribbons as we wait for Pell’s coffin to enter the cathedral.

“The church are wanting to remove a section of the ribbons I think to keep the ribbons out of the same shot as Pell’s coffin.” pic.twitter.com/jQ8cbMF9SW

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) January 31, 2023


Liberals declare donations from Pratt, Hemmes and Isaac Wakil’s Sugolena

My colleague Nick Evershed informs me across all its divisions the Liberal party has declared $106.7m in donations and other receipts, with a further $11.5m declared by Coalition partner the Nationals.

Among the federal Liberal party’s biggest donations for the 2021-22 year were:

  • $3m donation from the Cormack Foundation, which is an associated entity of the party

  • $1.35m from Anthony Pratt’s Pratt Holdings, making it one of the biggest donors to both majors

  • $700K from Sugolena Pty Ltd, a company linked to philanthropist Isaac Wakil, who made his fortune in the clothing industry and invested heavily in property,

  • $500K Jefferson investments

  • $450K from the Greenfields foundation, which the party also owes $1m

  • $300K from Hemmes trading; and

  • $230K from Meriton

The New South Wales Liberals also declared $100K from Justin Hemmes.


‘Ribbons represent the voices of those who are gone’

My colleague Rafqa Touma is at St Mary’s Cathedral where clergy abuse survivor Paul Auchettl is tying ribbons to make the voices of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse heard ahead of Cardinal George Pell’s funeral.

Paul Auchettl, Ballarat survivor, is outside St Marys Cathedral this morning ahead of Cardinal #Pell’s funeral. His team put up ribbons 5 times before today.

“Each time they took them down, we put them back up … Today, I never dreamt that it would look like a floral carpet.” pic.twitter.com/PxJ84T37vr

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) January 31, 2023

Auchettl says the “ribbons represent the voices of those who are gone, who are suffering, who have been harmed.”

“It starts a difficult conversation that we hope the church is now willing to come to the table.”

— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) January 31, 2023


Clive Palmer’s mining company donated $116m to United Australia party in 2021-22

Clive Palmer’s mining company Mineralogy donated $116m to the United Australia party in the year of the 2022 federal election, newly released data shows.

The Australian Electoral Commission has just published its annual dump of political donations data for 2021-22.

The belated nature of donations disclosures – this time a full eight months after the May 2022 election – has been the subject of frequent criticism by integrity and transparency campaigners, because it gives voters no understanding of financial influence on parties and candidates before the vote.

The data shows a staggering $116m worth of donations to Palmer’s United Australia Party, including two individual donations of $50m and $30m.

The total receipts declared by the UAP is the highest in any single year by a single party, though the major parties have declared more when their various state and territory branches are grouped together.

The UAP also recorded an expenditure of $123.5m in the 2021-22 year.

The donations all came from Mineralogy, Palmer’s Queensland-based mining corporation.

The figure far outstrips the $83.7m Palmer’s company donated to the UAP ahead of the 2019 election.

The UAP annual return also shows it has debts of $9.3m to Google Australia and $751,902 to News Corp.

The volume of the UAP’s donations and expenditure has prompted persistent calls for donation and expenditure caps, to limit the influence of money in the democratic process.

Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy donated a staggering $116m to the United Australia party ahead of the election.
Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy donated a staggering $116m to the United Australia party ahead of the election. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP


Federal Labor declares big donations from Pratt Holdings and Clubs NSW

We’re wading our way through political parties’ financial disclosures for 2021-22.

Labor across its head office and all states and territories appears to have raked in $124m in donations and “other receipts”, which can be everything from fees to attend the party’s business forums, public funding from the AEC, jobkeeper payments from the ATO or any other payment.

One of the ALP’s biggest donors was Pratt Holdings, with two donations totalling $1.75m. It also received two donations from Clubs NSW totally $63K.

The party declared “other receipts” from:

  • The Minerals Council ($102,500)

  • Santos ($69,500)

  • Sportsbet ($120K)

  • St Baker Energy Innovation Trust ($31,900)

Labor’s biggest donors were its union affiliates including the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and Shop Distributive and Allied Employee Association.


Monarchists oppose No campaign’s plan for change to constitution preamble

On Sunday, the no campaign in this year’s voice referendum revealed that they want to propose a symbolic constitutional recognition of both Indigenous people and migrants via an acknowledgment in the preamble of the constitution.

This morning, the Australian Monarchist League have come out in strong opposition to the idea of the constitution’s preamble being “tampered with.”

Philip Benwell, the national chair of the league released a statement:

We have been given to understand that opponents of the Voice to the Parliament are campaigning for a separate referendum to insert an acknowledgment of both the Indigenous people and migrants to Australia in the preamble of the constitution.

Including such an acknowledgement somewhere in the body of the Australian Constitution is one thing but amending the wording of the Preamble is quite another. The preamble is the introduction to the Constitution that follows and should in no way be tampered with.

The Australian Monarchist League has always been and always will be against any change to the Preamble of the Australian Constitution and we will vigourously oppose any attempt to do so.

Ribbons cut down this morning

Channel Nine journalist Lara Vella shared footage at 6.30amshowing the ribbons being cut down from the gates of St Mary’s cathedral.

Happening now: Ribbons left in honour of survivors and victims of child abuse are being cut down from the gates of St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney ahead of Cardinal Pell’s funeral tomorrow pic.twitter.com/DbPXwxJcvt

— Lara Vella (@vella_lara) January 31, 2023


St Mary's cathedral agrees to leave some abuse survivor ribbons up

A group, including clergy abuse survivors, has reached an agreement with St Mary’s cathedral to be able to leave ribbons on a significant section of fence.

Church staff had removed the ribbons from the fence earlier ahead of Cardinal George Pell’s funeral.

Ballarat survivor, Paul Auchettl, who invited the public to join him tying the ribbons, is pictured in the below tweet where the agreement has been announced:

We have secured the agreement of St Mary’s Cathedral to leave a significant section of ribbons on the cathedral for the Pell funeral. There will be further negotiations pic.twitter.com/LNCnHYyc6y

— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) January 31, 2023


Business groups firmly back Labor’s emissions policy

The changes to the safeguard mechanism are strongly backed by business groups. In a message clearly aimed at the Coalition, Andrew McKellar, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on Tuesday said the legislation “must be passed to provide energy certainty to Australian businesses”.

For the sake of certainty and the achievement of our emissions reduction goals, the Safeguard Mechanism must pass parliament.

The Australian Industry Group’s Innes Willox said the legislation was “essential policy infrastructure” and it was in the interest of all parties to vote for it. Specifically: the Coalition had previously backed it, and the Greens should support it because it would create an incentive for businesses to make absolute cuts at polluting facilities.

With the opposition appearing prepared to ignore that advice, Bowen accused the Coalition of hypocrisy.

It’s the same old Liberal and National parties: paying lip service to action on climate change while actively opposing it.

The government is accepting submissions on its proposed changes until 24 February.


Changes to safeguard mechanism

Industry groups are pressuring the Coalition to support Labor’s proposed changes to the safeguard mechanism, the policy the Albanese government plans to use to cut emissions from big polluting businesses.

The opposition appears prepared to ignore that advice, underlining the growing divide between the Liberal party and the business community on climate change.

If the opposition remains opposed, the government will need the support of the Greens and another crossbench senator to pass legislation needed to transform the safeguard mechanism. And the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, has said Labor’s changes did not go far enough because they would not prevent new coal and gas developments.

The argument over the design of the safeguard will be a major issue early in the parliamentary year. The government wants to push through its changes ahead of a proposed 1 July start.

The safeguard mechanism was introduced by the Coalition under Tony Abbott, but has failed to stop industrial emissions rising. Changes proposed by the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, would set new emissions intensity limits for the country’s 215 biggest emitting facilities and reduce them by 4.9% a year for most companies. Polluters would have unlimited access to carbon credits, which allow them to pay for cuts elsewhere.

Most of the changes do not need new legislation. The exception is the creation of a new safeguard crediting scheme that would give credits to companies that emit below their limit, and allow them to sell those credits to companies above their limit.

The Coalition actually proposed this change in government, but has flagged it is now against it. Shadow cabinet considered its position on Tuesday without the shadow climate change minister, Ted O’Brien, who was overseas. It will be discussed by the joint Liberal-National party room when parliament returns next week.


More than 100 firefighters contain retail centre blaze in Melbourne’s north

The fire at the Epping retail centre we mentioned a little while ago has now been contained, firefighters have told ABC News.

Over 100 firefighters, they did an exceptional job at bringing this fire under control really quickly. And containing it to the building of origin.


Central Australian regional controller due to hand down findings a week after crisis meeting

A review of potential alcohol bans to address surging youth crime in Alice Springs will be presented to federal and territory governments after tough takeaway restrictions were put in place, AAP reports.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met with the Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles, last week on new measures to curb anti-social behaviour.

The PM appointed Dorrelle Anderson as a central Australian regional controller to review opt-in alcohol restrictions and consider if bans should be implemented.

Anderson is expected to provide her review to the federal and territory governments today, a week after the crisis meeting was held.

Albanese said he wanted “full solutions” to the problems facing NT communities. He told reporters yesterday:

All governments could have done better over a long period of time on all of these issues. The truth is many of these issues are intergenerational ... that’s why we need to listen to communities about what their needs are.

You can read more about the situation in Alice Springs from Sarah Collard:


Ribbon-tying silent ceremony at St Mary’s

My colleague Chris Knaus told you a little earlier about how clergy abuse survivors are tying ribbons at St Mary’s cathedral this morning ahead of George Pell’s funeral. Church staff have been repeatedly removing the ribbons from the fence, an act widely criticised.

Ballarat abuse survivor Paul Auchettl invited the public to join him at 7.30am at the cathedral for what he said would be a silent event “using ribbons to amplify the voices of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse”.

The effort has now tied ribbons around a third of the fence, according to a video posted on social media.

St Mary’s website states that the reception of the body and commencement of lying in state will commence at 9.30am AEDT.

We’ve done a third of the st Mary’s fence today #EveryRibbonHasAVoice pic.twitter.com/UMZXGAdapM

— Pauline Pantsdown (@PPantsdown) January 31, 2023


Fire in Melbourne homemaker centre

A large fire has broken out at a retail centre in Melbourne’s north, forcing the closure of a busy intersection during the morning peak.

More than 80 firefighters and 25 fire trucks are fighting to contain a blaze which has broken out in a homemaker centre in the suburb of Epping.

Fire Rescue Victoria said crews were called to the scene at 5am this morning where the fire was affecting an automotive parts store and a second hand goods retailer.

Country Fire Association is supporting FRV respond to the incident while the community is being advised to avoid the area.

A large plume of smoke was visible from several kilometres away and members of the public were asked to avoid the area.

A section of the usually busy intersection at High Street and Cooper Street was shut down during the morning peak as more than 80 firefighters worked to put out the inferno.

MEDIA RELEASE - Fire at homemaker centre in Eppinghttps://t.co/lG88j4xQMD

— Fire Rescue Victoria (@FireRescueVic) January 31, 2023

- with AAP


Government wants to do ‘everything we can’ to make insurance affordable, Watt says

Tomorrow, Watt will attend the first of the hazard insurance partnership meetings, which aim to get government and insurance companies to share data and information.

Watt says the work on insurance go “in tandem” with mitigation.

There was already a severe insurance crisis before the disasters hit, let alone the situation now. In the last budget, Jim Chalmers, Stephen Jones, and I agreed to fund this hazard insurance partnership which is really about trying to improve information sharing between governments and insurers about where there is disaster risk, so that we can try to deal with this insurance crisis.

We obviously want to do everything we can to make sure that Australians can obtain the insurance in the first instance and that it can be can be affordable. And if governments and insurers can be having a better understanding about where the risk lies, that allows us and informs the sort of investments that we can be making. We obviously want to use our money in a way that helps bring down those insurance costs as much as we possibly can.

Independent review into disaster funding to stop government ‘chasing our tails spending taxpayer money’, Watt says

The Albanese government is set to announce an independent review looking at whether disaster management funding needs an overhaul. Former AFP commissioner and former leader of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency Andrew Colvin will lead the review.

The minister for emergency management, Murray Watt, is speaking to ABC Radio ahead of that announcement.

What we want to do is have a look at all commonwealth investment, whether that be directly or joint funding with the states, from beginning to end … to make sure we do have a disaster funding system that is fit for purpose for the new age we’re living in.

Ninety-seven per cent of disaster funding in Australia goes towards recovery, with only 3% in mitigation, I think we can be doing a better job to make sure we invest upfront tp protect as many people as possible and reduce that damage bill.

So I think there is more that we can be doing to use that money much more effectively, to really prepare ourselves for the future disasters that we’re likely to see, so that we don’t have to keep chasing chasing our tails spending taxpayers’ money on things over and over again.

Watt says there is a “separate piece of work under way” on how a disaster assistance force could be deployed instead of the defence force.

I don’t really envisage a situation where we develop a national form of an SES. I don’t want to be duplicating the work that they already do. I do think we need to think about – whether its changes to how we use defence force personnel or to paid emergency personnel volunteers, make sure that we’ve got the personnel that we need to deal with these ever increasing disasters.


Wong says openness on colonial history vital

My colleague, Daniel Hurst, has reported on the warnings that the foreign minister, Penny Wong, has given overnight in a major speech at the centre for grand strategy at King’s College London.

As well as warning that war breaking out in the Indo Pacific would be “catastrophic” as the region becomes increasingly dangerous, Wong also reflected on the legacy of the UK’s colonial history.

Here’s what she had to say:

That ancestral connection with Britain has been standard among the men and women who have served in my role. But the other side of my family had a very different experience of British colonisation. My father is descended from Hakka and Cantonese Chinese. Many of these laboured in the Brisbane North Borneo company. Many worked as domestic servants for Britain colonists, as did my own grandmother. Sometimes these stories can feel uncomfortable for those whose stories they are and those who share them. But it gives us the opportunity to find more common ground than if we stayed sheltered in narrower investigations of our countries’ histories. It helps open the world to us, the Indo-Pacific to us.


Marles meets with UK prime minister, saying Aukus will be ‘genuinely trilateral effort’

The deputy prime minister and defence minister, Richard Marles, spoke to ABC AM Radio from London following a meeting with the UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak.

Marles would not be drawn into whether he discussed with Sunak the possibility of Australia acquiring British built nuclear submarines under the Aukus deal but said when the announcement is made it will be a “genuinely trilateral effort.”


Prime Minister Sunak commented on just how full the agenda is between our two countries and how much that is making – perhaps our oldest and most historic relationship – one which is deeply relevant in in the contemporary moment and certainly Aukus is central to that.

And we’re close to announcement and I’m not about to preempt that now. But I think what you’ll see is when we ultimately do announce the optimal pathway that we’ve been working on with both the United States and United Kingdom, that what it really is, is a genuinely trilateral effort to see by the UK and the US provide Australia with a nuclear powered submarine capability.

Asked about the concerns America can deliver the submarines on time amid the repair work on the drydocks that service nuclear submarines, Marles says:

We’re confident that what we will be announcing in the coming weeks is a pathway that will be able to be delivered by all partners on time.


Police apply for court order to shut down George Pell protest

Guardian Australia reported on Tuesday that police were preparing to shut down a protest planned by the LGBTQ+ community outside St Mary’s cathedral on Thursday during George Pell’s planned funeral.

Community Action for Rainbow Rights, a Sydney-based campaign group, had planned to march on the street outside the cathedral to denounce Pell’s strident and long-held opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights.

Police notified the group on Tuesday that they intended to seek a court order prohibiting the public assembly.

That case will be heard at 11.30am in the NSW supreme court. We will bring you developments as soon as they happen.


Abuse survivors explain ribbon-tying

We mentioned earlier that clergy abuse survivors again planned to tie ribbons at St Mary’s cathedral this morning ahead of George Pell’s funeral on Thursday.

Church staff have been repeatedly removing the ribbons from the fence, an act widely criticised.

One survivor who travelled to Sydney for the ribbon-tying ceremony is Trevor Coad of Ballarat.

Coad said in a statement:

I hope that this event brings a sense of community, strength and healing, and leads towards opening up the difficult conversations.

Tess Hall, a supporter of the campaign, condemned the removal of the ribbons. She said, just this week, premier Dominic Perrottet had made it clear that Australia is a tolerant society where views are respected.

The removal of ribbons at St Mary’s Cathedral does not reflect Mr Perrottet’s church being part of a tolerant society – it is an incredibly inappropriate and deeply offensive attack on survivors and harmful to those who have endured abuse within the Catholic church under George Pell’s leadership and through his legacy of inaction.


Clergy abuse survivors tie ribbons at St Mary’s cathedral

Clergy abuse survivors and supporters planned to be at St Mary’s cathedral this morning, where George Pell’s funeral will take place on Thursday, tying ribbons to the fence to commemorate victims.

They are pleading with church staff not to remove the ribbons from the St Mary’s fence, something that’s been happening every day for weeks.

Ballarat abuse survivor Paul Auchettl invited the public to join him at 7.30am at the cathedral for what he said would be a silent event “using ribbons to amplify the voices of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse”.

Auchetll said in a statement:

I don’t want to be disrespectful at George’s funeral, I want him to have a peaceful service. But I want to alert people that there is this unfinished business that he was still yet to do and that, in a sense, he has failed.

I want the church to recognise that clergy abuse and related suicides have created secondary victims – usually family members.

We can’t even talk about this, it’s taboo, it’s too difficult, people are so angry. Yet this is what happens in this sorry story, we’re shut down. The ribbons become a way of saying ‘we need to know about these stories’.


Australia imposes sanctions on Iranian officials and Myanmar’s military ruler

Overnight Australia has imposed sanctions on Iranian security officials and has also targeted Myanmar’s military ruler on the second anniversary of the military coup.

The Australian government revealed a range of new sanctions late on Tuesday, including Iranian figures linked to the suppression of protests and the export of drones for Russian use in the war against Ukraine.

Australian travel bans and asset freezes will apply to 16 people and one entity linked to “serious abuses of human rights in Iran”, including the commander-in-chief of the army, Sayyed Abdolrahim Mousavi, and senior figures in the Basij Resistance Force.

The Iranian sanctions were the third round of measures applied under Australia’s new Magnitsky-style sanctions laws, which passed the parliament in late 2021.

Read the full story here:

Single use plastic ban comes into effect in Victoria

Good morning! Thanks to Martin for kicking things off for us, Natasha May reporting for blog duty.

The ban on single use plastic in Victoria comes into effect today with the supply or sale of single-use straws, drink stirrers, cutlery, plates and cotton bud sticks becoming illegal.

However, people who need single-use plastic drinking straws due to disability or for a medical need will still be able to purchase and use these items.

This was our article when the ban was announced two years ago:


Saudi Arabia to sponsor Women’s World Cup

The Women’s World Cup being hosted by Australia and New Zealand in July and August risks being overshadowed by Fifa’s decision to make Saudi Arabia’s tourist board one of the official sponsors of the tournament.

The Matildas will fly the flag for Australia at a first-ever home World Cup.
The Matildas will fly the flag for Australia at their first home World Cup. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The decision will attract strong criticism because of the kingdom’s record on human rights – especially treatment of women – and follows rancour over Qatar’s hosting of the men’s World Cup last year.

One of our football writers, Paul MacInnes, writes:

The deal has been agreed under Fifa’s new “commercial partnership structure” dedicated to developing revenues specifically for the women’s game, with funds generated from the World Cup going back into the sport. There will be some scepticism over the suitability of the arrangement, owing to repression of women’s freedoms in the Gulf state.

Tudge to testify at robodebt inquiry

Former Liberal minister Alan Tudge will testify on his involvement overseeing robodebt to the royal commission examining the scheme.

Tudge, who was human services minister between 2016 and 2017, will be the third former minister to be questioned at the inquiry into the unlawful Centrelink debt recovery program.

The scheme, which used averaging on incomes to determine debt levels, ran from 2015 to 2019 but continued to operate despite concerns over its legality.

Rachelle Miller, who worked for Alan Tudge while he was former human services minister, testifies at the Robodebt Royal Commision.
Rachelle Miller, who worked for Alan Tudge while he was former human services minister, testifies at the Robodebt Royal Commision. Photograph: Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme

His former adviser, Rachelle Miller, told the panel yesterday that she devised a strategy to place stories in “friendly media” – including the Murdoch press – after Tudge told her to “shut down” the media storm over robodebt in early 2017.

Overhaul of deportation of New Zealand prisoners

The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, has told told his department to change its approach to deporting New Zealand citizens on character grounds, including those with criminal records.

Australia’s deportation of dual-citizens has been a longstanding source of frustration for the New Zealand government, which has strongly campaigned for a change in policy.

The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, pledged to consider changes after talks with his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern, in Sydney last year, which he said allowed for a “reset” of the trans-Tasman relationship.

Rather than changing section 501 of the Migration Act, Giles has issued a ministerial direction to his department to pay greater attention to the strength, duration and nature of a person’s connection to the Australian community.

A spokesperson for Giles said the change would deliver a more “common sense approach” although deportations would still occur.

The Department of Home Affairs must now consider the length of time someone has lived in the Australian community as one of the primary considerations when determining whether to cancel someone’s visa.

Where individuals pose a risk to the community, the Australian government will continue to cancel their visas and remove them.

The change would require decision makers to pay greater attention to where a person has spent the majority of their life, regardless of when the offense occurred and its nature.

New Zealand has repeatedly objected to the deportation of people “who have lived in Australia for a long time and are essentially Australians”.

The number of cancellations under the policy has increased nearly tenfold in a decade, largely as a result of the Australian government tightening the law to say the minister must revoke the visa if a person has been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison.

In 2019, Ardern said after a meeting with the then-prime minister Scott Morrison in New Zealand that the issue had “become corrosive” in the trans-Tasman relationship.



Good morning and welcome to the live blog covering all the day’s breaking news in Australia – and sometimes beyond. I’m Martin Farrer and I’ll give you a run down of the best breaking stories before my colleague Natasha May takes over.

State and territory leaders are expected to endorse a plan to support an Indigenous voice to parliament ahead of Friday’s national cabinet meeting, boosting the Albanese government’s efforts to secure constitutional recognition. But the prime minister will also hear today about another strand of Indigenous policy when Dorrelle Anderson, appointed by him to review opt-in alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs and consider if bans should be implemented, reports to the federal and territory governments on Wednesday, a week after the crisis meeting was held.

Also today, former Liberal minister Alan Tudge will testify at the robodebt royal commission, a day after his former media adviser took the stand to describe their strategy as the scheme unravelled.

Fresh from the entente with France yesterday, Penny Wong has moved on to London, making a speech pleading with “all countries” to to play their part to prevent a “catastrophic” war in the Indo-Pacific region. “If conflict were to break out in the Indo-Pacific, it would be catastrophic – for our people and our prosperity,” Wong has just told an audience at King’s College London, according to a copy of her speech released before the event. It was “up to all countries to ask ourselves how can we each use our national power, our influence, our networks, our capabilities, to avert catastrophic conflict”.

Also on the foreign beat, the federal government announced late last night that it was imposing sanctions on Iranian security officials and has also targeted Myanmar’s military ruler on the second anniversary of the military coup. Australian travel bans and asset freezes will apply to 16 people and one entity linked to “serious abuses of human rights in Iran”, including the commander-in-chief of the army, Sayyed Abdolrahim Mousavi, and senior figures in the Basij Resistance Force.


Emily Wind and Natasha May (earlier)

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