News live: federal government ‘standing by and ready’ to airlift Australians out of New Caledonia, Marles says | Australia news

Australia ‘standing by’ to airlift nationals from New Caledonia

The defence minister, Richard Marles, has said that Australia is “standing by” to airlift the 300 Australians currently in New Caledonia.

Amid rising tensions in the Pacific territory, Marles said his government is engaging with French officials and are “monitoring the situation very closely.”

We are standing by and ready to engage in airlift if it is necessary, but again, the starting point here is speaking closely with the French authorities about their work and what is happening on the ground. And we need to be obviously clear with the French authorities about how they are progressing in terms of managing law and order within Noumea and if there is any need for any kind of airlift from Australia and at this point that is an ongoing conversation.

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Key events

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

PM supports Papua New Guinea team joining NRL

It would be “a good thing” for Papua New Guinea to get its own team in the NRL, Anthony Albanese says, again committing his government to backing an expansion of the rugby league competition.

The prime minister has also claimed the Coalition is hiding its plans for nuclear energy, telling ABC Sydney radio that the opposition “won’t tell your listeners or anybody else where they’ll be”.

Albanese dialled into ABC Sydney this afternoon, talking up the budget’s $300 energy bill rebates. He was also asked about the opposition leader, Peter Dutton’s budget reply speech, where he proposed a cut in migration. Albanese labelled as “absurd” the proposition that Dutton’s migration changes would have a major effect on Australian society, saying the changes would be small.

“You actually need serious policies rather than slogans. Peter Dutton has had three budget replies and has yet to come up with a single costed policy, whether it’s this one, or whether it is nuclear reactors, where he won’t say who will finance and how many there will be, where they’ll be, even though just yesterday, David Littleproud said that actually been done polling on the locations,” Albanese said.

Albanese rejected the idea that the budget would be inflationary. Moving on to rugby league, the NRL has said in recent days it may confirm long-awaited expansion plans shortly – including adding teams in PNG, Perth or further afield.

The government has backed a new team in the rugby league mad PNG – with its support partly thought to be about countering China’s influence in the region.

“It would be a good thing for the economic development of PNG, as well as for the relationship that our two great nations have as they approach their 50-year anniversary of independence, to have a team in the NRL,” Albanese said.

The PM, a league tragic himself, said he thought a PNG team would “go pretty well” and be a “powerhouse” in the NRL comp.

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Four children taken to hospital after breathing fumes at NSW pool

Four children under the age of two have been rushed to the hospital after becoming overcome by fumes at a pool on the NSW mid-north coast.

Just after 9.30am this morning, police were called to Macksville Memorial Aquatic and Fitness Centre after reports fumes had affected five children.

Four were taken to hospital, while a fifth child was treated at the scene.

The pool has been closed by Nambucca Valley council, who are also in attendance.

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Australia ‘standing by’ to airlift nationals from New Caledonia

The defence minister, Richard Marles, has said that Australia is “standing by” to airlift the 300 Australians currently in New Caledonia.

Amid rising tensions in the Pacific territory, Marles said his government is engaging with French officials and are “monitoring the situation very closely.”

We are standing by and ready to engage in airlift if it is necessary, but again, the starting point here is speaking closely with the French authorities about their work and what is happening on the ground. And we need to be obviously clear with the French authorities about how they are progressing in terms of managing law and order within Noumea and if there is any need for any kind of airlift from Australia and at this point that is an ongoing conversation.

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State premiers propose raising age minimums for social media platforms

Millions of Australian children could be barred from using social media platforms under changes put forward by state premiers who want better protection of minors from online harm, AAP reports.

The leaders of NSW, Queensland and Victoria united on Monday in a push to lift age minimums on major platforms such as TikTok and the Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram.

All of the platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but that limit could be lifted to as high as 16 under a proposal from NSW.

State leaders concede they might not have the power to legislate controls on the platforms, with several calling for a national regime.

South Australia is investigating if it can impose social media bans for children under 14 and parental permission for those under 16.

Those changes would be a national first and follow legislated restrictions on children using social media accounts in nations such as Spain, as well as some US states.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, said he wanted a minimum age of 16 for social media users, while Queensland counterpart Steven Miles nominated 14.

Victoria premier Jacinta Allan did not specify a minimum age but called for the platforms’ limits to be raised or for Australia to set its own limits.

Minns said he was moved to act after seeing social media’s impact and his experience as a father of three boys.

“Obnoxious” social-media algorithms were “designed to keep children glued to the device rather than ripping it away and speaking with family and friends and getting out of the house”, he said.

The federal Labor government has indicated it supports tighter restrictions on children accessing social media, which the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has identified as a national issue.

The health minister, Mark Butler, said a potential age limit was still being worked out while a verification trial was completed using funding allocated in the recent budget.

“We’ve got to get the age right and we’ve got to get the technological implementation right,” he said.

The NSW government on Monday also announced a state summit to look at the impact of social media platforms on young people involving policymakers, academics and company representatives.

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Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

University of Sydney underpays casual staff $70m

The University of Sydney has underpaid casual staff an estimated $70.1m, its latest annual report released today shows.

The annual report included an update on the university’s Employment Payment Review, which remained ongoing but has estimated the underpayment based on work taken by casual academic staff across a period of 13 semesters.

The main quadrangle building of the University of Sydney. Photograph: jimfeng/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The vice-chancellor, Prof Mark Scott, said paying staff correctly and remediating any historical underpayments was the university’s “absolute priority”, adding it remained in regular contact with the Fair Work Ombudsman since its initial self-disclosure in 2020.

We deeply regret any underpayments that have occurred and are committed to ensuring all staff are paid according to our enterprise agreement.

The annual report also showed the university recorded a surplus of $351.8m in 2023, in excess of $298.5m in 2022. Its underlying loss was $9.4m, compared with an underlying margin of $216.6m the previous year.

Scott, said the financial environment in which universities operated remained “challenging”.

There are ongoing uncertainties ahead. At Sydney, we are fortunate to have been able to build a solid future fund to support our research and education, and our staff and students. This is largely thanks to strong investment returns, as well as the generosity of our donors and our international students continuing to want to study with us.

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Opposition says its not ‘good economic policy’ to ‘reply solely’ on migration

The opposition environment spokesperson, Jonathon Duniam, has claimed on Sky News that reducing migration was necessary to address the housing crisis.

He said it wasn’t “good economic policy” to “rely solely” on migration to generate economic activity, and couldn’t expand on how and where exactly migration should be cut.

I don’t think it is a good economic policy to rely solely on high immigration numbers as a means of generating economic activity.

The environment minister could well bring forward laws that make it easier to do business in this country to get more projects off the ground more quickly to provide more jobs and more economic activity.

The by-product of our high immigration numbers, people coming to this country permanently, is that houses are less affordable and less attainable for Australians and we’ve got to put Australians first here.

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University of Queensland warns protesters of disciplinary action

Adeshola Ore

Adeshola Ore

The University of Queensland has warned pro-Palestine protesters they could face disciplinary action for chanting “out, out, Israel out” or displaying posters which read “intifada” at rallies.

The university last week signalled its aims for its pro-Palestine camps to end, amid a wave of encampments across the country.

In an email sent to encampments organisers on Friday, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Kris Ryan, says the expression “intifada” – the Arabic word for uprising – could be considered threatening, intimidating or harassing to some people.

The email, viewed by Guardian Australia, also warns protesters against chanting the phrase “out, out, Israel out”:

The use of the words ‘out, out, Israel out’ at the protest yesterday in the context of harassing and intimidating behaviours, and the placement of anti-Semitic stickers on windows and students, go beyond the limits of free speech.

The email urges the protesters to take “appropriate action to address the unacceptable behaviours”, warning failure to do so could result in disciplinary action.

Protester Liam Parry, from the Students for Palestine University of Queensland group, described the move as “overreach”. The university’s tertiary education union branch has also passed a motion which opposes any action by the university to “limit non-violent protest” on campus.

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Good afternoon, Mostafa Rachwani with you for the rest of the day.

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Emily Wind

Emily Wind

Many thanks for joining me on the blog today, Mostafa Rachwani will be here to take you through the rest of our rolling coverage. Take care!

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Australians stranded in New Caledonia amid unrest

More than 300 Australians are stranded in New Caledonia amid deadly unrest, and are anxiously waiting on French authorities to allow air travel out of the territory.

Earlier today the PM said the situation was “really concerning” and that the ADF is “certainly ready to fly, pending commercial flights resuming.”

You can now read the full story on the situation from Ben Doherty and Eva Corlett:

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One-in-five drink drivers in Victoria caught during day, police say

One-in-five people caught driving under the influence of alcohol on Victorian roads are nabbed during the day, AAP reports, as police crack down on the state’s dangerous habits.

Police figures show about 1,200 of almost 4,900 drink-drivers were nabbed between 6am and 6pm in the last financial year. More than 400 were caught between 6am and noon.

The state’s assistant commissioner, Glenn Weir, said the figures were worrying, as people traditionally believed drink-driving mainly occurred in the late afternoon or evening:

It’s really concerning because those times of day are when there are lots of people on the roads. Lots of pedestrians on the road and generally vulnerable road users like schoolchildren coming to and from school.

Weir said there wasn’t any current research into the reason, but an increase in working from home could be something to explore.

Assistant commissioner Glenn Weir. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP
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Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor

Optus says need to keep government informed during cyber attack was ‘a challenge’

Optus has told the federal government that during its cyber attack in 2022, needing to keep the government updated in its response was “a challenge” while also dealing with the fallout from the attack.

The company said in a submission to the federal government’s cyber security framework, published on Friday, that:

While this information is just as important as the incident response itself, it is not as time-critical. Optus therefore suggests that the implementation of several measures be guided by a clear principle: separating the operational response to an incident from the regulatory response. In doing so, this separation should occur in both reporting timeframes and information-sharing protocols.

Ausgrid – the main energy provider in New South Wales – revealed that if its systems were compromised that in the worst-case scenario, it would cost the economy up to $120m per hour, or $2.9bn per day.

We supply energy to 105 hospitals, Australia’s only radiopharmaceuticals production facility, 4 of the world‘s top 200 ranking universities, 3 major ports and 37% of Australia’s financial services industry. This means that a cyber attack on our network, even for a few hours, would severely disrupt lives and livelihoods.

Photograph: David Gray/Reuters

The Insurance Council of Australia also called on the government to be more responsive when businesses share information about cybersecurity issues:

The government should show industry that in any act of sharing, information will flow both ways. The Insurance Council understand that often information is provided to the Australian Cyber Security Centre by business to no response. This is disconcerting and disincentivising for firms and should be reviewed.

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Dutton accuses Chalmers of ‘voodoo economics’ amid migration, housing debate

Amy Remeikis

Amy Remeikis

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has responded to treasurer Jim Chalmers’ criticism that his plan to cut migration by 25% would cause billions of dollars of damage to the economy during a media conference in Queensland today.

Dutton has continued to link migration numbers to the housing crisis and accused Chalmers of “voodoo economics”. He said:

If the treasurer is saying that the economy can only function with migration numbers at an historic high, and that the price of that is people not being able to find a home, then I don’t sign up to Jim Chalmers’ form of voodoo economics.

Let’s be very clear about it. I believe very strongly that there is enormous economic growth in what we’ve proposed, because Australians are much wealthier if they’re able to buy their own home and see the price of that home appreciate over time.

There is scant evidence that cutting migration will alleviate the housing crisis, or lower house prices, but Dutton is on the scent for the election. So much so that when asked about the Coalition’s much mooted but still not released nuclear policy, Dutton said the “focus for now is on how we can help Australians get into housing”.

Dutton is in the electorate of Forde, which is sandwiched between the Gold Coast and Brisbane and is the definition of “outer suburban” – the areas we know that Dutton is seeking to appeal to.

The LNP already hold the seat and there are no signs of that electorate flipping, but it’s an area where Dutton’s messages will be heard loud and clear.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton last week. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
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No duty of care despite ‘terrible ordeal’ in immigration detention: court

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

The federal court’s Justice Melissa Perry has handed down a decision rejecting the existence of a duty of care by the Australian government to limit the length of time non-citizens spend in detention.

The applicant, Yasir Hassan, was brought to Australia from Papua New Guinea (PNG) for treatment of his mental health issues as one of a cohort of “medevac” evacuees.

Justice Perry found there was “no duty of care known to the common law of Australia” and to find one would “create incoherence with the operative provisions of the Migration Act” which requires the government to detain people pending removal.

Even if a duty of care as alleged was owed the applicant had not established it was breached, despite the fact no steps were taken to remove him between January 2020 and February 2021. Justice Perry said:

I do not seek to deny or underplay the personal impact upon the applicant of spending over 500 days in immigration detention at (primarily) the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), Avon compound. The applicant has clearly endured a terrible ordeal which it is right to acknowledge. This is all the more so where the applicant has not committed any crime, was brought to Australia only for the temporary purpose of receiving medical treatment, and had mental health issues throughout the duration of his detention.

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Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

Asio director general says ‘general conversations’ have occured about restricting travel to new areas

The Australian security and intelligence organisation’s (Asio’s) director general, Mike Burgess, says “general conversations” have occurred around proscribing new regions deemed illegal for Australians to travel to.

Burgess is before a parliamentary inquiry into a bill that would extend laws making it illegal to travel to certain war-torn or high terrorist activity areas for another three years.

While some areas of Syria and Iraq were previously listed as declared areas, there are currently no areas listed.

Liberal National party MP and committee deputy chair, Andrew Wallace, asks whether he is aware of any consideration to list Gaza or southern Lebanon as a declared area. Burgess responds:

Good question. I will take that on notice as I can actually. In my mind, I’m aware of general conversations, not detailed, and we haven’t been asked for formal advice on any particular areas that we might consider worthy but I get your point around southern Lebanon and what might be happening there. But I’m not aware of any detailed conversations but let me take that on notice for you.

Director-general of the Asio, Mike Burgess. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Burgess is supportive of extending the law to 2027 before it sunsets later this year, saying it’s an important “toolkit” in Australia’s response to future terrorist threats.

If we look at our security environment and what’s happening globally, we continue to keep a close eye on developments in Afghanistan … in the Middle East and Africa, and we could well see the need to have the government call on this [law] in terms of our toolkit to respond to the terrorist threat in the future. It’s a very real possibility.

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Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

Back to the Senate committee examining travel restrictions on parts of Iraq and Syria

The Australian federal police and the Australian Security And Intelligence Organisation (Asio) are now appearing at an inquiry into a bill that would extend laws making it illegal to travel to certain war-torn or areas subject to high terrorist activity for another three years.

Stephen Nutt, the AFP’s acting assistant commissioner, said around 230 Australians had travelled to Syria or Iraq since 2012 to “fight with or support” terrorism groups in his opening statement. Of those 230 people, Nutt said around 120 are believed to have died, 55 women and men have returned to Australia and around 60 are still living in Syria or in the region. He said:

The AFP remains concerned that individuals who have traveled to a declared area and, or engaged in terrorist activity or supported terrorist groups, can present a threat to Australia both whilst overseas and in the event they return to Australia. Foreign terrorist fighters may have enhanced any harmful capabilities, skills, expertise and knowledge as well as potential ideology and motivations to facilitate acts of terrorism or related harms in Australia.

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NSW, Queensland and Victoria unite in push to lift to age minimums on social media

The premiers of NSW, Queensland and Victoria have united today in a push to lift age minimums on social media platforms such as the Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, plus TikTok, AAP reports.

All of the platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but that limit could be lifted to as high as 16 under a proposal from NSW.

South Australia previously announced it is investigating if it can impose social-media bans for children aged under 14 and parental permission for those aged under 16.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, said he wanted a minimum age of 16 for social media users (see earlier post), while his Queensland counterpart, Steven Miles, nominated 14 as the floor.

Victoria’s premier, Jacinta Allan, did not specify a minimum age but called for the platforms’ limits to be raised or for Australia to set its own limits.

Victorian premier Jacinta Allan. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
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Man charged after allegedly misusing WA health system funds to mine crypto

A man working for the Western Australian health system has been charged after allegedly misusing its funds.

According to a statement from WA police, it is alleged the 43-year-old man – who was an employee within WA Health at the time – made a number of purchases for computer components between December 2021 and December 2022, to the value of $32,772.

The computer components were used in personal computers to mine cryptocurrency and not for work-related purposes, the statement from police alleges.

The accused registered a medical equipment and repairs company in March 2022 while still employed with the North Metropolitan Health Service. Between then and July 2023, while purporting to be an employee of the company, the man allegedly invoiced the health service on 31 occasions for parts and services, none of which were ever supplied.

The total value of the parts and services were $281,259.

On 1 May this year detectives executed a search warrants at an address in Kewdale and took the man into custody. He has since been charged with 52 counts of “Public Officer Acts Corruptly in Performance/Discharge of Functions”.

He is due to appear before the Perth magistrates court on 27 May.

WA police tape. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP
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