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What we learned – Sunday 19 May

With that, we will shut the blog down for the day. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, however you are enjoying it.

Here were today’s major developments:

  • The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, defended the GST deal with Western Australia outlined in the budget, which is going to cost nearly $53bn over the next 10 years. Speaking on Insiders, he said it was “responsible because we made the commitment”.

  • Also on Insiders, Chalmers called Peter Dutton’s budget reply and criticisms that immigration leads to pressure on housing “dark” and “divisive”. Chalmers says Dutton’s reply is based on “numbers that he has plucked out of the air”.

  • Australians stranded in New Caledonia have been forced to ration food as they wait to leave amid riots that have now killed six people.

  • And the Victorian Labor conference will continue today after dramatic scenes yesterday, when a group of pro-Palestinian protesters entered the Moonee Valley Racecourse building and began chanting outside the conference room filled with MPs, unionist and other rank-and-file members.


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Key events

PM praises push to ban kids from social media

Moves to ban children from social media have been applauded by the prime minister. Earlier in May, South Australian premier Peter Malinauskas appointed a former High court chief justice to examine pathways for his government to impose a social media ban on Australians under 14.

Having spoken to concerned parents, prime minister Anthony Albanese welcomed efforts to explore age restriction measures.

Parents are worried sick about what their kids have access to online, it is a major social issue in this country. Premier Malinauskas – I applaud his leadership on this issue.”

Parents were concerned about their children having access to inappropriate material online and the mental health impacts of social media, Albanese said. However, any age requirement initiatives must be proven to work.

The federal government revealed it would commit $6.5 million in its budget to pilot “age assurance technologies” by testing their effectiveness and investigating how implementation could work in a bid to prevent children from accessing inappropriate and harmful online content.


The impact of social media – I think – is the number one topic on the sideline of football, netball and school sport on any weekend in any part of Australia. It’s time that we take strong action, but we want to make sure that strong action is effective.

– via AAP


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The University of Melbourne’s student newspaper, Farrago, says an ongoing pro-Palestine occupation of Arts West building remains “peaceful” on Sunday despite repeated threats of police intervention.

After being shut off to public access when classes were cancelled in the building, elevators have also resumed functioning in a “limited capacity”.

Update from Day 5 at Arts West/Mahmoud’s Hall. Despite the University’s various threats of police intervention the sit-in remains peaceful and in high spirits. Elevators have resumed functioning in a limited capacity.

— Farrago Magazine (@FarragoMagazine) May 19, 2024

The University previously deactivated elevators in the building days ago, disrupting disabled students and staff’s capacity to access teaching facilities and offices.

— Farrago Magazine (@FarragoMagazine) May 19, 2024

You can read about the occupation, which started earlier this week, here:


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Footage of police officer striking man with baton sparks investigation

Footage appearing to show a police officer striking a grounded man with a baton after a street brawl has sparked an internal investigation, AAP reports.

Police were called after reports of a fight between several people outside a pub in Yea in regional Victoria on Friday night. Footage aired by Seven News shows the officer striking a man in the leg with a baton after demanding he get on the ground.

As the man drops, the officer appears to hit him again, this time on the upper body, and yells for the man to get on his stomach. Once the man is on his stomach, the officer appears to hit him with the baton a third time.

“Victoria Police have become aware of footage which shows the conduct of one officer in the latter stages of this incident,” police said in a statement, adding the matter had been referred for review.

A police spokesperson said body-worn camera footage had been reviewed and showed a Taser was not deployed during the incident.

The first police on scene were outnumbered, confronted with a highly dynamic scene and had to deploy OC spray to separate those involved in the fight.

While police were attempting to subdue that man, a woman has allegedly jumped on the back of a police officer while the second man attempted to grab the officer’s firearm. OC spray was again deployed and all three were taken into custody.

Two men and a woman, all in their 20s, have been charged with various offences including affray, assault police and fail to leave licensed premises.


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Two charged with drug offences on Sunshine Coast

Two people have been charged in the Sunshine Coast over alleged drug trafficking offences as part of a police operation to disrupt syndicates in the region.

On 9 March, police intercepted a car in Coolum Beach where offices allegedly located and seized quantities of cocaine, methyl amphetamine, MDMA and cannabis.

The 30-year-old driver appeared in court on 14 May for three counts of possessing dangerous drugs, one count each of possessing anything used in commission of crime, possessing utensils, and driving while relevant drug is present in saliva.

Police further allege the passenger, a 26-year-old woman, was also in possession of a quantity of cocaine and a set of scales.

She was issued a notice to appear in court on 2 April for possessing dangerous drugs and possessing anything used in the commission of a crime. On Friday, she was charged with a further 52 offences, including 48 counts of supplying dangerous drugs (cocaine, methyl amphetamine, MDMA and cannabis), and one count of trafficking dangerous drugs (cannabis).

She is due to appear in court on 22 May.


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Uni union criticises treatment of pro-Palestine protesters at Monash

The Monash branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has released a statement condemning management’s use of student misconduct regulations against pro-Palestine protesters.

The Monash Gaza Solidarity Encampment is a non-violent and peaceful form of protest. The camp has come under repeated and violent vigilante attack from pro-Israel counter protesters, who aren’t students at our university … we understand that Monash students have non-violently resisted incursions into their camp, for which some students are now being disciplined.

As university workers, we are deeply concerned that Monash students are being targeted for disciplinary action in relation to their participation in a non-violent protest. This action raises important questions about whether Monash University is committed to protecting freedom of speech. The right of staff and students to express political views is critical to the mission and function of universities.

The motion passed condemns the university’s “attack on freedom of protest and freedom of speech”, demands all misconduct charges are dropped and reiterates its support for non-violent protest and free speech.

In an update on Friday, the university said it had been notified by organisers that they planned to pack up the encampment and would “continue to work with our student and community leaders, and with staff, to ensure safety and security on campus and, importantly, to meet the academic and pastoral needs of our staff and students during this time”.


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Father of NRL player faces death penalty in Manila

Also on Sunday’s news list is Gregor Johann Haas, who is facing the death penalty after being arrested in Manila.

Haas, the father of Brisbane Broncos player Payne Haas, is accused of smuggling drugs into Indonesia last year and is facing extradition from the Philippines.

Gregor Johann Haas mugshot taken in the Philippines on Wednesday. Photograph: AP

Asked if he is being given diplomatic help, Albanese says the Australian government has had a bipartisan position of being opposed to the death penalty for a long period of time.

That remains our position … it is, of course, at a very early stage of those accusations which have been made.

We will provide consular assistance to Mr Haas as we do for all Australian citizens in such circumstances.

Asked if there is any investigation in Australia to determine whether there are linked to alleged cartels, he says the department of foreign affairs and trade are “looking after these issues”.


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PM on Dutton’s continued support for nuclear energy

Moving on to other topics, the prime minister is asked about the opposition leader’s budget reply speech, and continued support of nuclear energy.

The Smart Energy Council has released a new report which suggests nuclear power is six times more expensive than other renewables.

The fact is that the markets have spoken. The market is saying that renewables are six times cheaper than new nuclear … and that is why no one is putting their hand up and saying: ‘we will finance these reactors’, as it will need massive government subsidies. Nothing will happen for at least a decade in the best case scenario … this is shocking policy.

Peter Dutton has given three budget replies and is yet to come out with a single, costed policy on any measure that he has put forward.

He says the Coalition is “all over the shop”.

This is not an alternative government, this is just a relentlessly negative opposition that just opposes things. You can’t actually build a nation and take it forward with just a policy of opposing any measures.


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Government working ‘very closely’ with 300 Australians in New Caledonia: PM

The prime minister says the federal government is working “very closely” with about 300 Australians registered in New Caledonia.

It comes amid revelations Australians stranded in New Caledonia have been forced to ration food as they wait to leave amid riots that have now killed six people.

The department of foreign affairs and trade are working very closely to examine the need to protect Australians who are in New Caledonia. We know that there’s around 300 people registered with the department … the Australian government is closely monitoring events in New Caledonia, and there are reports they’re running out of food and commercial flights stopped a couple of days ago.

We are looking at in what way we can provide assistance to Australians.


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Soldiers tested positive to drugs days before parachute death

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking now in Gosford following reports today that six members of a Sydney-based army unit tested positive to illicit drugs days before special forces soldier lance corporal Jack Fitzgibbon was killed in a parachute training tragedy.

Albanese attended his memorial service in Cessnock and says he knew him personally because of his friendship with his family.

He was much loved by his co members and by his local community. It was quite a sendoff for Jack and that community will be having another tough day today on top of the very difficult period that they have gone through.

He says the ADF have been transparent regarding investigations into his death.

The ADF quite clearly, the fact that you’re asking me questions about it is a clear indication that the ADF are being transparent in how they’re dealing with these issues.

The ADF have clearly undertaken appropriate investigations … it’s important that they be allowed to conduct these processes through to conclusion.


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Jewish council denounces planned Christian rally in Melbourne

The Jewish Council of Australia has denounced a Christian fundamentalist rally, Never Again is Now, scheduled to take place in Melbourne today.

The rally is projected as a stand against antisemitism and solidarity with the Jewish community and Israel.

In a statement, the council said it was concerned the rally aimed to “exploit Jewish fear about antisemitism and Holocaust memory for a pro-Israel Christian Zionist agenda”.

Sarah Schwartz, executive officer of the Jewish Council of Australia, said rightwing Jewish leaders were “sorely mistaken” if they thought they could fight antisemitism through “anti-Palestinian racism”.

We need to fight antisemitism as part of the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry, by acting in solidarity with others facing racism. It does not assist the fight against antisemitism to treat it in a silo from other forms of racism and to conflate antisemitism with support for Palestinian human rights.


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Pressure grows on La Trobe Uni to dismantle pro-Palestine camp

Meanwhile, pressure is growing on students to dismantle their pro-Palestine encampments after La Trobe followed the Deakin, ANU, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland and Monash University in taking a firmer stance to end the protests.

A spokesperson for La Trobe’s Bundoora campus said it issued a directive to organisers on Friday to disband their ongoing encampment within 48 hours on the basis of “safety, wellbeing and amenity” of campus users.

Although the protests at La Trobe have been relatively peaceful and no classes have been interrupted to date, the university has considered the risks associated with the continued encampment activity and has taken this decision in the interests of the safety, wellbeing and amenity of all campus users and visitors.

La Trobe will continue to accommodate the right of students and staff to protest peacefully and respectfully without an encampment. In keeping with our core values, we are committed to ensuring that our students can safely learn, engage and participate fully in university life.

Students for Palestine condemned the directive, calling it an “attack on free speech” to peacefully protest against the genocide in Palestine. On Saturday, called a protest alongside the La Trobe branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).

Students in the encampment are demanding the university disclose and cut ties with weapons companies and Tel Aviv University, as well as an end to Israel’s war on Gaza.


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Adeshola Ore

Adeshola Ore

Allan ‘disgusted’ by protesters at Labor conference

The Victorian Labor conference has kicked off for a second day, after pro-Palestine protesters stormed the event on Saturday and forced the Moonee Valley racecourse into lockdown.

On Saturday morning, ahead of speeches by the Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, a group of pro-Palestine activists entered the racecourse building and began chanting outside the conference room. Allan said she was “disgusted” by the behaviour of protesters.

Prime minister Anthony Albanese and Victorian premier Jacinta Allan at the Victorian Labor conference on Saturday. Photograph: Con Chronis/AAP

Victoria police have confirmed there were no arrests on Saturday and say the group left without incident:

Police have a visible presence at a planned protest in Moonee Ponds on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 May.

Our priority is the safety of the community and officers will ensure there are no breaches of the peace.

Conference attenders, including unionists and rank-and-file members, on Sunday will debate motions on a range of topics, including the Melbourne airport rail project.


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