Australian researchers identify genes that cause sarcomas – as it happened

Last modified: 07: 38 AM GMT+0

First genetic map to identify important genes that cause one of most common cancers in children. This blog is now closed

What we learned – Friday 20 January

With that, we will wrap up the blog for this fine Friday.

Have a great weekend. The live blog will be back first thing tomorrow morning to cruise through another day of news.

Here were Friday’s major developments:

  • Olympian sprinter Peter Bol has defended his innocence after failing a doping test in October. He was suspended by Athletics Australia.

  • Almost 90,000 students each year are failing to meet minimum Naplan reading or numeracy standards, according to the Productivity Commission.

  • After years of trade tensions, a meeting between the Australian trade minister and his Chinese counterpart is a step closer after talks in Davos overnight. Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, met with China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

  • South Australia is set to have an Indigenous voice to parliament by the end of the year. The Labor government has pledged a state-based Uluru statement from the heart would go ahead, regardless of what happens with the federal government’s referendum.

  • Queensland police have issued an apology to LGBTIQ+ communities and its past and present police members for historical mistreatment. Commissioner Katarina Carroll delivered the statement of regret, acknowledging the “profound pain” inflicted by the service on the community by enforcing laws criminalising homosexuality.

  • In Covid news, case numbers are down but deaths are up, with 156 deaths recorded in Victoria and 131 in New South Wales.

  • And the Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour, has withdrawn as a candidate from the New South Wales state election.

Updated

Cannon-Brookes edges Forrest in billionaire wrangle over Sun Cable

Earlier this month, Sun Cable, developer of a potentially $30bn solar farm and powerline to Singapore, was placed into voluntary administration.

The core of the problem was a dispute between the shareholders including Mike Cannon-Brookes (MCB) over the firm’s future and the other billionaire investor, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.

Forrest wasn’t happy with the firm’s prospects, which certainly appear to be ambitious if not overly so.

Anyway, there are a couple of developments today. MCB’s family firm, Grok Ventures offered administrators an interim funding proposal for $65m (interest free for six months) “to allow the company to continue realising its strategy and reach key project milestones”.

FTI Consulting, the administrators, accepted the offer “submitted alongside others” (it seems Forrest’s was overlooked), and terms will be settled “in the coming days”, Grok said.

“This proposal is indicative of Grok’s ongoing commitment to the success of Sun Cable and the AAPL project,” a spokesperson said, referring to the link to Singapore.

Earlier, the administrators said they held their first meeting with creditors today.

The “intention” is to continue to pursue Sun Cable’s development portfolio, either achieving a recapitalisation or a “going-concern sale in the short term”, they said.

The short-term lifeline, in other words, is to keep the firm in business long enough to tempt a buyer, or convince shareholders to dig a bit deeper than the $210m or so already collected.

The sale process is expected to commence prior to the end of January with an aim of wrapping it up by the end of April. A second meeting of creditors is planned for on or before 14 February.

Updated

Man critical after crash in Sydney’s west

A man is in a critical condition after a two-vehicle crash in Sydney’s west this afternoon.

About 4pm, emergency services were called to a Berkshire Park road, following reports of the crash.

A 28-year-old man was found on arrival with serious injuries. He was taken to Westmead hospital in a critical condition.

The driver of the second vehicle, a woman believed to be aged in her 40s, was taken to Hawkesbury hospital for treatment for minor injuries and to undergo mandatory testing.

A crime scene has been established, with investigations underway.

Updated

The prime minister is back at his old stomping ground, AKA the greatest suburb in Sydney (I am not biased).

Marrickville ❤️ pic.twitter.com/4tBukffzwA

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 20, 2023

Updated

Grass fire burning near Hume Highway north-west of Canberra

A grass fire burning near the Hume Highway near Jugiong, New South Wales has prompted a watch and act warning.

Residents are being urged to prepare and keep up to date with the latest NSW RFS information.

WATCH&ACT: Berremangra Rd Fire (Hilltops LGA) - Prepare Now. A #grassfire is burning near the Hume Hwy at Berremangra approx 13km east of #Jugiong. The fire is burning in a N and NW direction. Firefighters are on scene and waterbombing aircraft are being sent to assist. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/AakDmE8tVc

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 20, 2023

Updated

Peter Bol suspended by Athletics Australia after failing doping test

Olympic athlete Peter Bol has been provisionally suspended by Athletics Australia after failing an out of competition doping test.

Athletics Australia confirmed this afternoon the 800 metre runner returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for erythropoietin receptor agonists after the test on 11 October last year.

In response Bol said he was innocent and had never taken the substance.

Sport Integrity Australia informed Athletics Australia on 10 January. Bol was suspended the same day, deeming him unable to train at a national, state or club level, compete at any level, receive funding, use official or member facilities or hold a position with a sporting organisation.

He is entitled to have the sample analysed and to a fair hearing process.

Athletics Australia CEO Peter Bromley said the finding was extremely concerning.

There are procedural fairness and investigative consideration that constrain how much we can say, and at this point it would be inappropriate for Athletics Australia or anyone else to speculate about the specific details or pre-empt any outcome.

However what we can say is that learning about this adverse analytical finding was both extremely concerning and completely out of the blue, and we will support Sport Integrity Australia who are leading the investigation into the matter.

Our primary consideration right now is that the appropriate process is followed and that it is not undermined by inappropriate speculation.

Bol took to social media declaring his innocence. He said he was in “total shock” when he was informed of the result and had never taken the substance detected.

I remain hopeful that the process will exonerate me.

pic.twitter.com/8KUFlj9iLy

— Peter Bol OLY (@pbol800) January 20, 2023

Updated

There is nothing more exciting than Bob Katter getting on to crocodiles.

North Queensland MP Bob Katter is spending some time on it*

*a saltwater crocodile reported off Brisbane pic.twitter.com/GFP9ZfodGA

— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) January 20, 2023

When you hear a journo ask Bob Katter about crocodiles... pic.twitter.com/k8FR2HvAP5

— @MartySilk (@MartySilkHack) January 20, 2023

Updated

‘Game-changer’: Australian researchers identify genes that cause sarcomas

Australian researchers have created the first genetic map to identify important genes that cause sarcomas - one of the most common cancers in children, AAP reports.

Sarcomas begin in the body’s connective tissue including bone, muscle, fat and cartilage and make up about 20% of the cancers diagnosed in people under 20.

Nearly 2,500 Australians will be diagnosed with one this year alone.

Published this week in the leading journal, Science, Australian-led research reveals one in 14 individuals who develop a sarcoma carry a clinically important gene that explains why it arose.

Lead author Dr Mandy Ballinger of the Garvan Institute:

The findings uncovered by this research are so important because by understanding how individuals develop sarcomas, we move closer to earlier detection and better treatments.

Jonathan Granek, who was diagnosed with a sarcoma aged 26, lauded how the new scientific discovery “offers hope to sarcoma patients because it increases the chance of a diagnosis at an early and curable stage”.

Prince of Wales Hospital Associate Prof Kathy Tucker says the results are a game-changer in the field that will fill in many missing pieces to the puzzle, which will change clinical practice.

Updated

Police chief apologises for historical mistreatment of LGBTIQ+ communities

Queensland Police has issued an apology to LGBTIQ+ communities and its past and present police members for historical mistreatment.

Commissioner Katarina Carroll today delivered the statement of regret, following a commitment agreed to last year alongside Brisbane Pride Incorporated.

Carroll:

We must acknowledge for much of its history, the QPS inflicted profound pain upon Queensland’s LGBTIQ+ people by enforcing laws that criminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults.

As you would appreciate, it has been an extremely emotional and challenging time. To all those directly and indirectly impacted by the discrimination and prejudice from these laws, which were enforced by the QPS, I am sorry for this profound hurt and pain.

I am also sorry to those within our own organisation who experienced discrimination and prejudice.

Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll today delivered a statement of regret to Queensland’s LGBTIQ+ community for historical mistreatment.
Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll today delivered a statement of regret to Queensland’s LGBTIQ+ community for historical mistreatment. Photograph: Jason O’Brien/EPA

Updated

Body of Australian man found at New Zealand lake

In New Zealand, the body of an Australian visitor has been found at Lake Wakatipu, Glenorchy.

RNZ reported the man had been missing at the lake since yesterday. He had been helping a child struggling when he became in trouble himself, police said.

Police said the man’s body was found about 3.50pm.

Updated

Police appeal for help in investigation into alleged assault and kidnapping on Gold Coast

Police investigating an assault and kidnapping from a Gold Coast car park have appealed for dashcam footage, AAP reports.

Police said the men, a 24-year-old from South Australia and a 22-year-old Gold Coast man, were at a Southport apartment complex when they were approached by five men wearing balaclavas about 8pm on Wednesday.

Both men were assaulted and forced into a Mercedes Benz C63 sedan.

The 24-year-old man escaped before the Gold Coast man was taken by force from the car park. He was transferred to another vehicle and taken to an address where police allege he was tortured – tied to a chair, assaulted and threatened with what is believed to be a firearm.

The 22-year-old suffered injuries to his face and wrists before he was released at Burbank, southeast of Brisbane, and used a ride-share operator to return to Southport.

Both men were in stable condition and treated at Gold Coast hospital.

The Mercedes Benz was abandoned at Brighton Parade, Southport, about 9.45pm with a Nissan Maxima driven by the mask men also found in Southport.

Detective inspector Chris Ahearn refused to comment on a motive but said it was not believed to be a random attack.

I really don’t want to go near a motive for this matter, our investigation is still live and I do not want to jeopardise it. It’s very rare to have someone kidnapped – it’s extremely concerning, but I would point out to the community that this is a targeted attack.

Updated

Dugong, not crocodile, spotted at North Stradbroke Island: acting premier

Queensland’s acting premier Steven Miles has confirmed that an animal spotted at North Stradbroke Island on Friday morning was not a crocodile but “a dugong”.

Miles said rangers are continuing to investigate but have confirmed video footage taken on Friday morning “shows a much less dangerous dugong.”

It comes after traditional owner and local business owner, Mark Jones, reported a crocodile sighting on Wednesday at Myora Springs on North Stradbroke Island, also known as Minjerribah.

Queensland’s department of environment said the sighting was “credible” but unconfirmed.

Early on Friday morning, the department said rangers and wildlife officers had “reviewed footage” taken this morning and confirmed “it shows a dugong in shallow waters on the eastern side of the island.”

The department asked visitors and residents on the island to stay away from beaches between Amity Point and Dunwich and to not launch drones while the investigation continues.

Meanwhile:

Bob Katter says if the crocodile does it exist, it “should be shot”.

— Josh Bavas (@JoshBavas) January 20, 2023

Updated

Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt film shoot to close Harbour Bridge this weekend

AAP has some extremely important news on the whereabouts of celebrities.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge will be closed in both directions at the weekend for filming of a Hollywood blockbuster starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt.

The movie adaptation of 1980s television series The Fall Guy is a show-stopper for vehicles and pedestrians, with all lanes across the bridge shut from 3am to 10am on Sunday, 22 January.

Trains will continue to run across the bridge, which will be closed for all other vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists.

The Sydney Harbour Tunnel will remain open while filming takes place.

The Cahill Expressway over Circular Quay will also be closed for filming on Sunday, in both directions from 1am to 12.30pm.

Based on an TV series of the same name, The Fall Guy follows a burnt-out stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter, played by Gosling.

The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling and being filmed in Sydney, follows a burnt-out stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter.
The Fall Guy, starring Ryan Gosling and being filmed in Sydney, follows a burnt-out stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Photograph: Kristin Callahan/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

Australian community leader held in Japan

Aboriginal health advocate and former Greens candidate Donna Nelson is being detained in Japan, the ABC reports.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) spokesperson confirmed with Guardian Australia it was providing consular assistance to an Australian woman detained in Japan and her family.

The Australian embassy in Tokyo have confirmed her welfare.

Owing to our privacy obligations we are not able to provide further details.

The Western Australian woman and Aboriginal community leader was the Greens candidate for Pearce in last year’s election and worked as chair of a West Australian Aboriginal health service.

Updated

Restoring power to flood-affected SA properties could take ‘several months’

AAP reports that restoring electricity supplies to flooded River Murray properties in South Australia could take months despite falling water levels, authorities say.

About 3,300 properties including homes, holiday shacks, pumping infrastructure and businesses have been cut from the grid in recent months as the river rose.

SA Power Networks said it was working with the state government on the priorities and approach to recovery.

Head of Corporate Affairs, Paul Roberts:

The reality is our work to restore electricity supply is likely to slowly ramp up as floodwaters finally recede and it will continue potentially for several months.

When you consider the number of properties along the length of the river and the fact we had more than 400 kilometres of powerlines and about 4,000 Stobie (power) poles standing in floodwaters, it is a massive task to visit every site, assess the damage, make repairs to powerlines and then reconnect supply.

But before we can do that, in most areas we will have to wait for waters to recede, flood plains to dry, roads to be made safe or repaired, flood-related debris to be cleared and access allowed by emergency services.

A sign at a local business in Mannum in South Australia. Restoring electricity to flooded properties could take months, authorities say.
A sign at a local business in Mannum in South Australia. Restoring electricity to flooded properties could take months, authorities say. Photograph: Matt Turner/AAP

Updated

If you missed it, frenzied debate has been underway on North Stradbroke Island in Queensland today over the reported sighting of a crocodile.

Our correspondent Eden Gillespie has been keeping abreast of the latest developments – including the suggestion it may have been a dugong – the relatively harmless marine animal.

Acting premier Steven Miles has posted that the animal spotted in North Stradbroke Island today was "a dugong", not a croc.

"Rangers continue to investigate but have this afternoon confirmed video shows a much less dangerous dugong."

— Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) January 20, 2023

Updated

Wet and stormy weather alert for NSW and NT

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning communities in New South Wales and the Northern Territory to brace for a downpour this afternoon.

Friends in the Top End:

⚠️Severe Thunderstorm Warning⚠️for HEAVY RAINFALL that may lead to flash flooding.

Severe #thunderstorms are producing heavy rainfall over the #Tiwi & #Daly districts. Take care on the roads in these conditions.

Stay up to date with the latest warnings https://t.co/69w3e2AeN5 pic.twitter.com/s4cOi9W2hM

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) January 20, 2023

And northern New South Wales:

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for HEAVY RAINFALL, DAMAGING WINDS and LARGE HAILSTONE affecting #Tenterfield, #GlenInnes, #Inverell, #Moree, #Narrabri and #Mungindi.

View the full warning: https://t.co/BPo72kTQkw pic.twitter.com/VYWtetJ2jb

— NSW SES (@NSWSES) January 20, 2023

Updated

Pharmacy Guild ‘out of control’, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president says

A war of words has erupted between the peak bodies for general practitioners and community pharmacy owners, with one side accused of whipping up a media frenzy after they labelled the other out of control, AAP reports.

The confrontation was sparked by reporting of a speech given by Pharmacy Guild president Trent Twomey, who allegedly labelled GPs “twits” who allowed their sector to become commercialised.

In his speech to students in Canberra, Twomey pushed for pharmacists to be given greater powers to prescribe medications:

We do not support, at the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, being able to only prescribe if someone else is looking over my shoulder. You don’t see a plumber needing to look over the shoulder of an electrician before they put in your air conditioner.

He went on to explore the benefits of pharmacists being able to prescribe, dispense, administer and review medications.

Prof Twomey discussed issues facing the entire health system, which he reportedly described as “stuffed”.

The president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Dr Nicole Higgins, said the speech was nothing short of astonishing.

The Pharmacy Guild is out of control.

The language used, the brazen way he addresses very serious health care issues and the underlying arrogance informing this speech demonstrates that the Pharmacy Guild should be approached warily.”

The Pharmacy Guild seems to think that everything can be fixed with a drug. Pharmacists just don’t have the expertise and training to perform the function of prescribing medications, that is a job that should be left to medical practitioners.

Updated

Many thanks to the eerily similarly named Cait Kelly for keeping this show on the road.

I’ll be with you for the rest of the afternoon.

And with that last post, I am going to pass you on to Caitlin Cassidy, who will walk you through the afternoon’s news.

Thank you so much for spending the morning with me – a pleasure as always.

Updated

Timber shortages cause stationery shortages

Parents shopping for back-to-school stationery could face price hikes and empty shelves, as logistics and materials pressures cause suppliers to ration goods, AAP reports.

The Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association has called on the federal government to ease white paper import duties, after timber shortages blocked production at Australia’s last white paper mill in Victoria.

“There’s some rationing sort of going on around the amount that we can order but at the moment we’ve still got product on shelves,” association chief executive, Ben Kearney, told AAP.

“I’m concerned that down the line we might start to see that situation where there’s a lack of availability.”

Mr Kearney said newsagents and other retailers were looking at a more than 50% increase in paper costs over a matter of months.

White paper production at Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill was impacted in late December due to timber shortages after state-owned supplier VicForests was ordered to scale back harvesting in parts of Victoria.

The Victorian Supreme Court found VicForests failed to adequately survey logging coupes for two protected possum species.

Updated

Latest numbers show decline in nationwide Covid cases

Covid numbers for this week for the NT, SA, ACT and Tasmania are in. From AAP:

The federal health department on Friday reported a 34.2% decline in national cases, after similar drops in the first two weeks of January.

COVID-19 hospitalisations and intensive care admissions were also down in the week to January 17, with the latest data showing respective drops of 18.8% and 20.6%.

The downward trend is being experienced in every state and territory, with South Australia having the largest drop-off at 43.4%.

  • Northern Territory: 319 cases, no deaths

  • South Australia: 2053 cases, 21 deaths

  • ACT: 806 cases, no deaths

  • Tasmania: 765 cases, three deaths

Updated

Australia still failing to meet UN anti-torture treaty obligations

Save the Children Australia says the nation is risking the safety of people in prisons and detention facilities after it failed to meet its obligations in prison and detention oversight under a UN anti-torture treaty.

Australia risks being placed on a human rights blacklist alongside such countries as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for failing to meet the deadline under the protocol signed more than five years ago.

Mat Tinkler, group chief executive of CEO of Save the Children, said Australia’s commitment to international human rights had taken a hit after the nation missed the deadline:

There have been a series of shocking revelations at Australian youth detention facilities in recent months, with reports children have experienced the kind of abuse that these mechanisms could have prevented, had they been implemented.

Simply put, all we’re asking for is independent observers to be able to interview detainees, publish their findings and offer recommendations. By blocking this, it begs the question of what are the states trying to hide?

Full story here:

Updated

Fair Work takes action against Super Retail Group for allegedly underpaying workers

AAP is reporting that the workplace regulator is taking legal action against the owner of Supercheap Auto, Rebel Sport, Macpac and BCF for allegedly underpaying workers by more than $1 million.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced the federal court action against Super Retail Group and its subsidiaries on Friday following some “serious” contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

It’s alleging the stock exchange-listed company did not pay salaried employees their minimum lawful entitlements, given that they generally performed significant overtime.

Fair Work examined a sample of 146 workers and found they were underpaid by $1.14 million between January 2017 and March 2019.

The amounts ranged from small to about $34,500 per employee, including store managers, retail workers and administrators.

Fair Work began investigating after Super Retail Group self-reported the underpayment of thousands of employees in 2018.

It apologised and paid back more than $52.7 million in entitlements and interest to current and former workers.

Updated

Get a toad of this!

No seriously … if there is one thing you read today, this toad-ally should be it!

‘Credible’ crocodile sighting at popular Queensland island

Locals swarmed One Mile jetty on Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island this morning after media reports that a crocodile was circling the area.

Video footage uploaded on social media shows locals gawking at something moving in the water but the jury is still out on whether it was a croc or a dugong.

Shannon Mitchell, bistro manager of the Little Ship club, told Guardian Australia that the island is currently divided into believers and non-believers.

“You have believers or non-believers at the moment. I’m a believer ... A couple of locals have seen it and there’s some evidence of tracks in the sand,” she said.

Mitchell said she had seen three helicopters, drones and rangers patrolling the shoreline in boats on Friday morning.

“It’s a small town. So this is the most excitement we’ve had for a while,” she said.

“We will be serving crocodile on the menu as of next week. We’ll have some sausages and maybe some croc burgers or something like that.”

It comes after Queensland’s environment department denied reports that they are investigating new footage of a crocodile on the island.

The department denied there had been any further sightings since Wednesday. They also stressed the initial spotting, while described as “credible” , was still unconfirmed.

Updated

South Australia has released its weekly Covid update.

There have been 2,053 new cases detected and 22 further deaths.

There are 102 people being treated in hospital as of 11.59pm Thursday and five people in ICU.

South Australian weekly COVID-19 update 20/01/23.

For more information, visit https://t.co/XkVcAmeZ6V pic.twitter.com/I8TuPP7927

— SA Health (@SAHealth) January 20, 2023

Traditional owners defend alleged attack on painting

Murujuga traditional owners come out in support of protesters who allegedly defaced a painting at the Art Gallery of WA yesterday to highlight Woodside Energy’s $16.5bn Burrup Peninsula gas project.

Protesters allegedly spray-painted a stencil onto a Frederick McCubbin painting, drawing attention to industrial impacts on sacred Murujuga rock art.

Traditional owners said Woodside needed to stop “destroying” ancient art.

How can there be so much fuss about some temporary spray paint on a single piece of art from 100 years ago when Woodside are spraying their emissions all around the oldest, largest art gallery on planet earth? Murujuga holds the stories and songlines of our people going back more than 50,000 years. Woodside need to stop destroying our art.

Raelene Cooper, Mardudhunera woman and former chair of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation called the protesters courageous:

Some people were asking why can’t they leave the art alone. That’s exactly how we feel about what Woodside is doing to our rock art, and our sacred songlines and the plants and animals on the Burrup. The toxic emissions must be sending them a bit crazy or blind if they can’t see the damage the Burrup Hub is doing to our art, our culture and our environment.

Professor Benjamin Smith, chair of World Rock Art at UWA and author of recent research on damage to Murujuga rock art from emissions at the Burrup Hub said Woodside’s claim no-peer reviewed research had shown emissions from LNG production was damaging the art was “wilfully misleading”.

It has been shown without any doubt that nitrogen oxide pollution, combined with local rain and dew, is causing serious damage to Murujuga rock art. Woodside is the largest nitrogen oxide emitter by far at Murujuga.

We don’t need to fingerprint the source to know that Woodside’s nitrogen oxide and other forms of acidic pollution are damaging the rock art and that these emissions are a serious problem that needs urgent intervention.

Updated

‘Positive signs’ that recent Covid wave was passing, Victorian CHO says

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has provided greater detail on the 4,912 Covid cases reported in the state in the past week, a 37.2% decrease on the previous week.

Two cases of the subvariant XBB 1.5 have been detected in the state through genomic surveillance testing. The North American variant has caused concern internationally for being highly transmissible and drug-resistant.

A handful of cases has been found in Australia in the past fortnight.

In better news, Sutton said there were continued “positive signs” the November-December wave had passed, as cases and hospitalisations continued to decline.

Covid-related deaths, though, had increased by 5.5% in the past month, as expected following the extended period of high community transmission.

The average daily number of new cases was 702, down from 1,130 last week, while hospitalisations had also fallen to 324.

Sutton:

In the past three months, 6,019 Covid patients were hospitalised in Victoria. Of those hospitalised, 41% had not received their third vaccine dose and 30.6% were unvaccinated.

Transmission is being driven by multiple Omicron variants. The most recent wastewater analysis shows the recombinant strain XBF makes up the highest proportion of detections, followed by BQ.1/BQ.1.1 and BR.2.

Two cases of the subvariant XBB.1.5 have been detected in Victoria through genomic surveillance testing. With Australia’s most comprehensive wastewater surveillance, Victoria is well-placed to monitor the emergence of this variant locally.

Updated

Student wellbeing must be a priority, Save the Children says

Save the Children and 54 reasons have responded to the Productivity Commission’s report into the National School Reform Agreement, saying student wellbeing must be a national priority, as it is critical for all children to have the support they need to thrive.

Matt Gardiner, CEO of 54 reasons, which delivers Save the Children’s services in Australia:

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to major disasters such as the 2019-20 bushfires and 2022 floods, and complex disadvantage from intergenerational poverty and socio-economic exclusion have put significant pressures on the wellbeing and engagement of students in Australia.

A robust education system must prioritise far more than academia alone to support our kids now and prepare them for the future.

Building on the recommendations by the productivity commission, Save the Children is calling for the next agreement to establish a National Student Wellbeing Program and a platform for student voices to be heard to ensure accountability to children for their wellbeing.

Students have a fundamental right to be heard and taken seriously on all matters that affect them and that they are entitled to all necessary support to develop to their fullest potential.

Updated

Woman charged over McCubbin painting protest in WA

A woman has been charged with criminal damage of one of Australia’s most famous paintings as a protest against a gas company’s alleged destruction of rock art in Western Australia’s north.

Video released by activist group Disrupt Burrup Hub on Thursday showed a woman spray-painting a Woodside Energy logo onto Fredrick McCubbin’s work Down On His Luck at the Art Gallery of WA.

She then appears to glue her hand to the wall beside the colonial masterpiece as a man lays an Aboriginal flag on the floor of the gallery.

The gallery said the McCubbin was protected by a clear plastic sheet and not damaged by the yellow paint.

Police said on Friday a 37-year-old Northbridge woman had been charged with one count of criminal damage and was due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on February 16.

In a recent similar action in Melbourne, where two Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to a prized Pablo Picasso, no charges were reportedly laid.

Disrupt Burrup Hub has called for industrial development on the rock art-rich Burrup Peninsula, about 30km west of Karratha in the Pilbara region, to be stopped, including Woodside Energy’s expansion of the Pluto gas plant.

The group is now raising money to cover its legal fees.

- With AAP

Updated

Former SA senator forms ‘trouble-making project’ aiming to share government information

The former South Australian senator Rex Patrick has a new project – helping independents get hold of government information.

Patrick, along with the former journalist and political adviser Philip Dorling, has started Project Argus, “a public interest trouble-making project intended to stir the political pot to achieve better public policy outcomes”.

When he was in parliament, Patrick’s freedom of information (FOI) requests and dogged grilling of people in estimates was a thorn in the side of the government. He’s offering the teals and other independents the benefit of his experience. According to the website:

Project Argus will seek to integrate FOI, across all jurisdictions – national, state and territories – into the independents’ government oversight role. The project will be integrated with other tools used to extract information and force debate – questions without notice, written questions, orders for the production of documents and inquiries.

Project Argus will also provide assistance to assist the independents in propagating information obtained under FOI to the media.

Updated

Domestic Qantas flight turned around mid-flight

A Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney turned back to Tullamarine airport on Friday morning due to an indication of a “minor engine issue”.

Pilots received the indication shortly after flight QF430 took off, and the Boeing 737 returned to Melbourne as a precaution, Qantas told Guardian Australia.

“The aircraft landed normally – this was not an emergency or priority landing. Both engines remained operational throughout the flight,” Qantas said. Customers will be reaccommodated on the next available flights over the next few hours.

Friday’s incident is the third in as many days for Qantas, after a flight from Auckland to Sydney issued a mayday call due to an engine failure and landed with just one engine on Wednesday, and a flight from Sydney to Fiji turned back to Sydney as a precaution due to a potential mechanical issue.

Updated

Greens respond to education report

For those who have recently joined us – the Productivity Commission has issued a scathing assessment of national education strategies this morning, saying student outcomes have not improved over the past five years.

Now the Greens have responded, saying the findings in today’s report are evidence that a lack of funding for public schools has created an inequality crisis in education.

Greens spokesperson on schools, senator Penny Allman-Payne:

Australian public school teachers must be reading the news today and thinking, ‘Tell us something we don’t know.’

Eleven years ago David Gonski said that there was growing inequality in the school system, that the root cause was funding inequality, and here’s the model to fix that.

But instead of embracing the Gonski recommendations, cowardly governments balked at taking funding from elite private schools. So now, more than a decade later, with public schools still underfunded across the country, no one should be remotely shocked by the Productivity Commission’s findings.

It’s great that the report identifies inequality and student wellbeing as central issues, but there’s nothing in the report’s recommendations that doesn’t cost money.

We don’t need more analysis, more accountability mechanisms, more working groups, more inquiries or more reports. Our public schools need more money, and they need it yesterday.

Updated

No plans to alter punishing Australian Open schedule

From AAP:

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley is adamant the tournament schedule won’t be altered to avoid late finishes despite five-time finalist Andy Murray labelling his marathon against Thanasi Kokkinakis a “farce”.

Murray and Kokkinakis didn’t hit Margaret Court Arena until 10.22pm on Thursday and after the Scottish veteran mounted an incredible five-set comeback victory, they didn’t finish until 4.05am Friday.

“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” Murray said of the late finish.

“Rather than the discussion being about an epic Murray-Kokkinakis match it ends in a bit of a farce.”

Andy Murray shakes hands at the net after his five-set victory against Thanasi Kokkinakis during day four of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.
Andy Murray shakes hands at the net after his five-set victory against Thanasi Kokkinakis during day four of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Murray was also denied a bathroom break at 3am and aired his frustrations with the chair umpire when he levelled proceedings at two-sets all.

But Tiley ruled out any adjustments mid-tournament, either via a curfew or by shuffling matches around.

“At this point, there’s no need to alter the schedule,” he told the Nine Network.

“We will always look at it when we do the [post-tournament] debrief, like we do every year.

“But at this point ... we’ve got to fit those matches in the 14 days so you don’t have many options.

“Over the last three days, we’ve had extreme heat, over five breaks of rain, we’ve had cold ... we’ve had three late nights with scheduling to try and catch up with matches.”

Updated

South Australian government pledges state-based voice to parliament

South Australia is set to have a voice to parliament by the end of the year.

The Labor government has pledged a state-based Uluru statement from the heart would go ahead, regardless of what happens with the federal government’s referendum.

The Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher, plans to introduce the legislation when parliament sits in February and hopes to have the voice in place by the end of the year.

South Australian Labor MP and Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher.
South Australian Labor MP and Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

The SA Greens revealed yesterday that, as well as supporting a “yes” vote in the referendum, they will support enshrining a voice to the SA parliament. That will give the government the numbers they need to pass the legislation.

Maher told the Advertiser the advisory body would comprise elected Aboriginal people. He said:

What SA is proposing is an Australian first – a fully elected Aboriginal body that will not only be a voice to our parliament but a voice within our parliament.

The federal Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, said the SA model was “worthy of consideration at the national level”.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks told ABC it would allow “grassroots Aboriginal voices to be heard”.

Updated

Australia’s assistant trade minister chats with China’s vice-minister of commerce at World Economic Forum

After years of trade tensions, a meeting between the Australian trade minister and his Chinese counterpart is a step closer after talks in Davos overnight.

Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, met with China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.

China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, and Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, after their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday night.
China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, and Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, after their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday night. Photograph: Australian government

A source familiar with the meeting described the atmosphere as constructive and positive, and said the pair had agreed that it would be beneficial to arrange a meeting soon between the senior ministers: Australian trade minister Don Farrell and the Chinese commerce minister, Wang Wentao.

That next step would most likely be a virtual meeting, but it would be the first conversation between an Australian trade minister and a Chinese commerce minister in more than three years. It is unclear yet whether progress has been made in Australia’s push to remove Beijing’s trade actions against a range of Australian exports including wine and barley.

A spokesperson for Ayres told Guardian Australia this morning:

Overnight Assistant Trade Minister Ayres met China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting.
Assistant Minister Ayres raised the importance of cooperation to deliver the outcomes of the World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference, and the removal of current trade impediments affecting Australian exports to China in both countries’ interests.

It is understood the Australian government sees the latest meeting as another step towards stabilising the bilateral relationship.

The Australian government argues it is open to resolving outstanding trade issues bilaterally and to regular dialogue that enables the two countries to navigate their differences “wisely”.

Canberra continues to push for the removal of trade impediments affecting Australian exports, making the case that it would be “mutually beneficial”. Beijing has also given indications it is open to exploring a resolution through direct talks, rather than through the World Trade Organization. But it has made secret of its own concerns about Australian trade actions, including the treatment of Chinese foreign investment proposals.

For more on the backstory, see our earlier report.

Updated

Pilbara Minerals posts ‘absolute cracker’

Driven by EV takeup and decarbonisation, Australia’s biggest lithium miner has had an “absolute cracker” December quarter on strong production and growing global demand.

“It’s all coming together at the perfect time,” Pilbara Minerals CEO, Dale Henderson, said on an investor call on Friday.

“What an amazing quarter we’ve had.”

The chief financial officer, Brian Lynn, said the December quarter was an “absolute cracker” with a strong operating margin supporting an $815m increase in the cash balance to $2.2bn.

He said operating costs continued to be elevated and are still being impacted by labour shortages and supply chain shortages.

“There is this general inflationary pressure being experienced,” he added.

The company has not yet started paying tax.

The first payment, of $90bn, will be made to the tax office in February.

– With AAP

Pilbara Minerals says its bumper quarterly result shows the lithium market is now global.
Pilbara Minerals says its bumper quarterly result shows the lithium market is now global. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Updated

Queensland environment department denies it is investigating new footage of alleged crocodile on North Stradbroke

Queensland’s environment department has denied media reports that they are investigating new footage of a crocodile on North Stradbroke Island.

7News reported on Friday that the department was looking into a video that had recently emerged of a crocodile on a beach on the island.

The network claimed wildlife officers were set to travel to the beach and that the beach’s name had not been made public to avoid scaring away the croc.

The department denied this was the case and stressed that Wednesday’s sighting, while initially deemed “credible”, was still unconfirmed.

The investigation continues into a crocodile sighting report at Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). Vessel-based surveys have not revealed any evidence of the presence of a crocodile near the island. Croc sightings can be reported via the QWildlife app. https://t.co/bOXyNaC4ww pic.twitter.com/I5Mv3x1SHt

— Queensland Environment (@QldEnvironment) January 19, 2023

Updated

Sugar tax is the talk of the town today.

The Australian Medical Association is warning we could become “odd one out” internationally if we don’t adopt a tax on sugary drinks ASAP.

It might seem a bit of an ask considering the cost of living crisis, but they say it’s worth it – to keep us healthier and fund preventive health measures.

My colleague Josh Butler has the exclusive:

Updated

NZ Labour party looks to replace Ardern after resignation announcement

As New Zealanders reel from Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation as prime minister, her Labour party is moving to replace her.

All roads appear to lead to the education minister, Chris Hipkins, a close ally of Ardern, but no candidates have declared for the role.

Ardern’s shock exit was followed by another, with her deputy Grant Robertson ruling himself out of the race.

Leaving Napier on Friday after their party’s year-starting retreat, Labour MPs backed an internal process at a closed-doors caucus meeting on Sunday.

“The team are taking it incredibly seriously,” Hipkins said.

“We need to select a new leader and then we need to really unite behind the new leader and continue to deliver stable leadership for New Zealand.

“It’s likely that we will land on a consensus position and there might not even be a contest.”

New Zealand education minister, Chris Hipkins.
New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins, a close ally of Jacinda Ardern who is tipped to become the next party leader though no candidates have yet declared. Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AP

Updated

Police in Sydney continue search for Swedish student missing off North Head

Police are resuming for the third day their search for a Swedish student believed to have been swept into the water off Sydney, AAP has reported.

Reports suggest 20-year-old Noa Sage fell from a height of about seven metres on to rocks at Blue Fish Point at Manly’s North Head about 5.30pm on Wednesday before ending up in the water.

Officers from Northern Beaches Police Area Command, along with the Marine Area Command and surf lifesavers, searched the area.

The search was initially suspended late on Wednesday night before resuming on Thursday and Friday with aerial help from PolAir.

A Manly ferry crosses in front of North Head
A Manly ferry crosses in front of North Head, where Swedish student Noa Sage is believed to have fallen and been swept into the water. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Updated

Inquiry into Maribyrnong floods needed, Victorian Greens say

The Victorian Greens are calling for a parliamentary inquiry to be established into the devastating Maribyrnong River floods, amid resident concerns that the current review’s scope is too narrow.

Melbourne Water this week opened submissions for its inquiry into the October floods. But the Age reported that residents and former staff have raised issues about the scope failing to consider crucial factors like government policy and urban planning. Deputy leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, said a broad-ranging inquiry was urgent:

I’m worried the Labor government is using this limited inquiry to deflect blame, and avoid any discussion of what governments have done wrong or should do better.

With disasters like floods becoming more common with climate change, the community deserves a proper inquiry into how we can protect lives, livelihoods and homes during climate disasters, rather than just protecting vested interests.

During the floods, residents were angered by the Fleming Racecourse’s flood wall which protected the site from rising waters while neighbouring properties were inundated with water.

Emergency workers look at a submerged car on a flooded street in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong
Emergency workers look at a submerged car on a flooded street in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Khal Asfour pulls out of NSW state election candidacy

The Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour, has withdrawn as a candidate from the New South Wales state election.

Just before 9am on Friday, he released a statement claiming a “vicious smear campaign” had left him with no choice but to pull out.

A spokesperson for Asfour said the latest round of headlines, believed to be those in today’s Daily Telegraph about expenses charged to ratepayers during an overseas trip, had been the “last straw”.

The mayor is vehemently denying any wrong doing and has at all times adhered to the policy set by council, a policy scrutinised by the Office of Local Government.

The attack on the mayor has been a political hatchet job and those pursuing him must be condemned.

The spokesperson said Asfour wanted to give opposition leader, Chris Minns, enough time to find a replacement.

City of Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour
City of Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Updated

Tim Ayres’ meeting with Chinese vice-minister of commerce a precursor to trade ministers’ upcoming meeting

Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, met with China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos overnight.

It will help pave the way for a subsequent meeting between the trade minister, Don Farrell, and China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao. Reuters points out that the Chinese state media outlet Xinhua is now reporting that the pair will meet via video link “in the near future”.

We’re chasing more details on the meeting, but it comes amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to remove the trade “blockages” in the relationship.

For more on the prospect of talks between Farrell and Wang, starting with a virtual meeting before an in-person meeting, see our earlier story here:

Updated

Covid deaths rise in NSW and Victoria

Covid numbers are in for NSW and Vic, cases are down but deaths are up, which you can see illustrated in the graph below:

Covid cases and deaths for week ending Friday 20 January.
Covid cases and deaths for week ending Friday 20 January. Photograph: Guardian Australia

In Victoria, 156 deaths have been reported in the past week and 4,912 new cases.

In comparison, the state recorded 7,908 cases and 149 deaths last week.

This week we reported 4,912 new cases with a daily average hospital occupancy of 341 and 16 patients in ICU.

156 deaths were reported in the past 7 days.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives. pic.twitter.com/Pf1kfHXNcN

— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) January 19, 2023

More data here: https://t.co/OCCFTAcOZP
#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData

— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) January 19, 2023

In NSW, 131 lives have been lost and 9,062 new cases have been recorded.

In comparison, the state recorded 14,053 cases last week and 112 deaths.

COVID-19 weekly update – Friday 20 January 2023
In the 7 days to 4pm Thursday 19 January:
-9,062 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded: 4,493 rapid antigen tests (RATs) and 4,569 PCR tests
-131 lives lost pic.twitter.com/5nZ1t9XCxL

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 19, 2023

As at 4pm Thursday 19 January:
-1,236 people with COVID-19 in hospital
-31 people with COVID-19 in ICU

More info: https://t.co/stL6XYAdUs

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 19, 2023

Updated

BHP seeks clarification of NSW’s coal market intervention

Yesterday we had the news that the NSW government was in talks with the thermal coal industry about reserving as much as 10% of output for domestic use.

The move took the sector by surprise and raised questions about why we don’t have an east coast gas reservation too.

Western Australia has required 15% of gas output in that state be kept for local users, with the result that energy prices there have been shielded from the spikes seen after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in many parts of the world.

(The gas sector warned an investment drought would follow its inception 15 years ago … but the WA government reckons $100bn has been invested since.)

Anyway, BHP, the world’s biggest miner, has weighed in about the NSW actions. They operate the Mt Arthur coalmine that they couldn’t find a buyer for, and are now running it towards closure.

The company says it’s waiting for more details on how a requirement to hold back output for domestic use will affect operations.

It sees the move as a risk for the business, and raisies the question of how it would physically transfer coal to AGL’s Bayswater and Liddell power stations in the Hunter Valley since a conveyor belt to the two plants was dismantled several years ago. (Liddell will close for good in April, so no coal will be needed there).

The quality of the coal doesn’t match the needs of the coal plants either, so some kind of blending would be required too, if Mt Arthur’s output was to be burnt in the plants.

“We’ve had an initial briefing from the department and we’re awaiting further detail to understand how extended directions could potentially apply to Mt Arthur Coal, which we have previously announced is being managed to closure,” a company spokesperson said.

“Clearly there are a number of commercial and practical implications that would have to be managed under an extended direction, along with the potential long-term impacts on market dynamics and investment in more energy supply.”

Updated

PM speaks on radio about Jacinda Ardern and their shared DJ pasts

Anthony Albanese has spoken to KIIS 106.5 about the legacy of outgoing New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Albanese said:

Jacinda did an outstanding job as prime minister of New Zealand. She has gone out on her own terms – there’s an old saying in this job, not many get to go out, they get carried out with attacks from behind or in front

She showed you can be kind but be strong at the same time … I used the word kindness in my victory speech on 21st of May. So many people have mentioned ‘it’s nice you said you wanted to be kind’ … People really noticed it. With Jacinda, she showed you could have empathy at the same time you had intellect and decisiveness, she certainly showed that as prime minister.

On a lighter note, Albanese noted that he and Ardern “are also probably the only two people who’ve been elected to high office that have also been DJs”.

Jacinda Ardern and Anthony Albanese.
DJ PMs: Jacinda Ardern and Anthony Albanese. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

There was a bit of back and forth about whether Albanese would DJ at host Kyle Sandilands’ wedding on 29 April. The PM noted parliament is not sitting that day and he’ll wait for an invite.

Albanese revealed he has no demerit points on his licence, joking that it “helps that [I’m] not allowed to drive”, adding that he misses “being able to duck up to the shops” on a Saturday morning.

Albanese confirmed that federal departments can choose to allow employees to take a day other than Australia Day off. “I think that’s fine to have some flexibility in the system,” he said. “I myself will have a very busy Australia Day.”

Updated

Five-year $41m maintenance contract extension for army’s fleet of Chinook helicopters

The government has announced a $41m extension to an army helicopter maintenance contract.

The five-year extension means Boeing Defence Australia “will continue to support the maintenance, training and sustainment services for Army’s fleet of 14 CH-47F Chinook helicopters”, said a statement issued by Defence this morning.

The HMAS Adelaide embarks Australian army CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters before departing the Port of Brisbane in January 2022.
The HMAS Adelaide embarks Australian army CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters before departing the Port of Brisbane in January 2022. Photograph: Australian Defense Force/Zuma Press Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock

This is separate from the major decision announced earlier this week to dump a different fleet of helicopters, the MRH90 Taipan, in favour of Black Hawks.

In today’s statement, the first assistant secretary of the joint aviation system division at Defence, Shane Fairweather, said the Chinook helicopters had “a reputation for consistently delivering effective, safe and affordable capability for Defence”. He said the Chinook fleet was based in Townsville, while maintenance and sustainment service support was provided in Oakey and Brisbane:

The CH-47F Chinook fleet is an important capability for Defence, providing critical lift capability on several domestic and regional operations, including Bushfire Assist in 2020, and Tonga and Flood Assist in 2022. This contract extension will expand the maintenance and training support for our Chinook fleet, while boosting opportunities for defence industry in Queensland.

Updated

Turn-by-turn cycling directions to launch on Apple Maps

As someone who recently ended up on a six-lane road trying to get to one of Melbourne’s beaches – this is really comforting.

From AAP:

Apple will launch turn-by-turn directions for cyclists – as well as warnings about routes with punishing hills – in a major update to the tech giant’s mapping app.

The cycling directions will be launched around the country on Friday, including detailed information on bike paths, bike lanes and high-traffic routes.

The Apple Maps upgrade, available on iPhones and iPads, will let users select a cycling option when searching for directions, suggesting “routes on bike paths, bike lanes and bike-friendly roads”.

Users will also be shown elevation and traffic information about routes, so they can avoid steep climbs and busy areas, and will be prompted to dismount their bicycle at risky intersections.

WeRide Australia executive officer, Peter Bourke, said millions of Australians could benefit from the update, but Apple needed to take feedback from users who were actually on the ground.

“If they are sent down a road that may be the quickest way to get somewhere by car, but not the safest, it may be the last time that person chooses to ride,” Bourke said.

“As long as they accept on-the-ground improvements and feedback, we welcome any of these companies that are doing it.”

Apple’s mapping app is being upgraded to give cycling directions to users around the country.
Apple’s mapping app is being upgraded to give cycling directions to users around the country. Photograph: xavierarnau/Getty Images

Updated

Agriculture minister says feta feud featuring in EU deal discussions

Remember when we all had to stop calling *sparkling wine* champagne unless it came from the specific region in France? Well, we are here again.

The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, has spent the week in Europe – talking about the trade deal. He’s just spoken about it on RN and apparently, they have been discussing geographical indicators.

Call it feta-style, feta-like, mirror-quality feta – but don’t call it feta, they say:

On the EU deal:

"There is definitely concern from about what's known as geographical indicators, the use of terminology like Feta, parmesan, prosecco... we've been making the point as well that those terms mean a lot to Australia"

- @MurrayWatt PT 1

— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) January 19, 2023

Is that a redline for Australia?

"We have expressed repeatedly that is a very difficult issue for our producers..but the EU is making it clear that is a redline from their perspective as well"

- @MurrayWatt

— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) January 19, 2023

Updated

Good morning everyone, this is Cait Kelly, I will be with you this morning. There are a few things flying around, so let’s get into it!

Updated

Thanasi Kokkinakis fought (and eventually lost) one of the Australian Open’s most extraordinary tennis matches last night, eventually losing to Andy Murray in a six-hour epic that finished past 4am.

He has feelings.

This fucking sport man…..😔

— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) January 19, 2023

Murray, naturally, is delighted. Read his reactions, and our match report, here:

Much of NSW declared free of varroa mite

In good news for bees, especially those planning interstate travel, Australian Associated Press reports that states and territories will reopen their borders to bees from most of NSW for the first time since an outbreak of varroa mite was detected in Newcastle in June last year.

In what has been described as a major milestone for Australian beekeepers, the NSW emergency blue zone has been declared free of the invasive mite.

Red and purple zones remain in place in areas surrounding Newcastle where beekeepers are still required to maintain close surveillance on the health of their hives and regularly report to authorities.

An emergency blue zone for NSW honeybees has been declared free of the invasive varroa mite.
An emergency blue zone for NSW honeybees has been declared free of the invasive varroa mite. Photograph: Denis Anderson

The NSW agriculture minister, Dugald Saunders, said other states will reopen in the coming weeks for the transfer of bees and hives from the blue zone across borders for pollination.

“This is a significant step in the fight to eradicate the mite, and for our beekeepers and pollination-reliant industries that have done it tough over the past seven months,” Saunders said.

“But this is not the time for complacency; now more than ever, we need beekeepers to make sure they continue to do the right thing and maintain their alcohol-wash surveillance so we continue to move in the right direction.”

NSW will work with South Australia, Victoria and Queensland to develop a set of conditions governing interstate movement.

Australian Honeybee Industry Council chief executive, Danny Le Feuvre, said the news added to confidence that the eradication of varroa mite in NSW was possible.

In November last year a fresh outbreak of varroa mite was detected at a property near Cessnock, prompting an expansion of the existing red zone, which applies to all hives within a 10km radius of an infected premises.

Those within the red zone are required to destroy their hives completely to stop the spread of varroa mite.

A purple zone, applying to hives within a 15km radius beyond the red zone, were considered part of the emergency surveillance zone.

All other parts of the state were deemed blue zones and were also under tight restrictions in terms of transporting hives.

NSW has roughly 13,000 registered commercial and recreational beekeepers.

Updated

90,000 school children failing to meet Naplan standards

Almost 90,000 students each year are failing to meet minimum Naplan reading or numeracy standards, according to the Productivity Commission.

The commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today.

It found the agreement:

  • doesn’t include sufficient clear, measurable targets to drive reform including having only one target for academic achievement and none for student wellbeing

  • lacks targeted reforms to improve outcomes for students from poor backgrounds, from the regions, Indigenous students and students who do not meet the minimum standards for literacy and numeracy; and

  • lacks transparent, independent and meaningful reporting on the reform activity of governments.

The Productivity Commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today.
The Productivity Commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The report did not consider schools funding, which was not within scope.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said:

This report makes it clear that serious reform is required. It is very critical of the current national school reform agreement developed by the former Coalition government. It also makes it clear that the implementation of this agreement over the last four years has been slow and has had little impact. This is damning.

The report recommends:

  • freeing up more of teachers’ time for teaching

  • clear and measurable targets for academic achievement of all students, in particular students from priority equity cohorts;

  • targets to reduce the proportion of students who do not meet minimum standards of literacy and numeracy;

  • public reporting on progress on implementing reforms and achieving targets; and

  • focus on student wellbeing.

In December Clare and state and territory ministers commissioned another review of the agreement, which is set to last to December 2024 after it was rolled over for an additional year.

Clare said:

This is an important report and it will play a key role in the development of a new national school reform agreement. Work on that has now begun ... In future, funding needs to be tied to reforms that will make a real, practical difference.

Updated

Trans-Tasman ties likely to stay strong

The resignation of Jacinda Ardern has caused waves across the Tasman but her departure is unlikely to affect Australia’s relations with its near neighbour, according to one former diplomat.

“The Australia-New Zealand relationship is very close, and will remain so irrespective of who the prime ministers are,” said Allan Behm, a former diplomat who worked closely with New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern with her partner Clarke Gayford following the announcement on Thursday.
Jacinda Ardern with her partner Clarke Gayford following the announcement of her resignation on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

“But when you have PMs who get on really well, like John Howard and [former New Zealand prime minister] Jenny Shipley did, or clearly as Anthony Albanese gets on with Ardern, it makes the relationship that much more effective.”

Josh Butler has the full story here, and there is also a full appreciation by our New Zealand correspondent Tess McClure here:

Tenterfield police shooting

NSW police have launched a critical incident investigation after a man was shot dead when he pointed a gun at officers at a northern NSW police station.

The 48-year-old had attended Tenterfield police station when the confrontation happened on Thursday afternoon, police say, and he died at the scene.

Standby for more updates on this story.

Welcome

Good morning and welcome to our rolling news coverage. I’m Martin Farrer here to bring you the main overnight news before your scheduled blogger takes over for the main part of the day.

The big moving story of the past few hours has been that three more adults have been charged with the murder of Indigenous teenager Cassius Turvey in Perth last October. A 27-year-old man from Wundowie, a 24-year-old man from Chidlow and a 20-year-old woman from Herne Hill have each now been charged with murder and will appear at Perth magistrates today, Western Australian police said last night. Jack Steven James Brearley, 21, has already been charged with murder.

Australia risks being placed on a human rights blacklist after the three most populous states failed to meet their obligations on oversight of prisons under a UN anti-torture treaty. The human rights commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, said such a failure could affect the country’s human rights credibility on the world stage. The deadline to comply – already extended twice – runs out today.

Almost 90,000 students each year are failing to meet minimum Naplan reading or numeracy standards, according to a report by the Productivity Commission this morning. In a review of the National School Reform Agreement, the commission said boosts to funding have had little impact on literacy and numeracy results.

And we can’t finish without mentioning the epic tennis news overnight with Thanasi Kokkinakis playing out a five-set thriller with Andy Murray at Melbourne Park that didn’t finish until after 4am. It was a suitably dramatic end to a day that also saw world No 1 Novak Djokovic rage at heckling fans whom he accused of being “drunk”, and where Russia’s Andrey Rublev accused Ukraine-supporting fans of giving him verbal abuse.

Updated

Contributors

Caitlin Cassidy, Cait Kelly and Martin Farrer (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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