Australia backs climate justice plan

Australia is set to back a push by Vanuatu at the Pacific Islands Forum to have the International Court of Justice consider whether climate inaction is a breach of human rights.

What we know:

  • On the opening day of the leader’s forum in Fiji on Monday, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy praised the campaign by Vanuatu (The Age); 
  • “We are supportive of the process. This is a really important resolution that will help increase momentum for action on climate change,” Conroy said;
  • If the resolution passes the Pacific Island Forum and then the UN General Assembly, the ICJ would have the power to consider whether countries have breached human rights by failing to cut emissions;
  • Countries that stall climate action could then be subject to international sanctions, lose voting rights in international forums or be brought before an international tribunal (The Guardian); 
  • Experts warn however that Australia appears to want to collaborate on the wording of Vanuatu’s request, and may seek to water it down;
  • New Zealand has already committed to the effort, but wants to be able to “sight”  the wording (Crikey); 
  • Young Pacific activists held a flotilla calling on world leaders to endorse Vanuatu’s campaign (Solomon Times); 
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will arrive at the forum on Wednesday, where he will raise support for a UN climate summit to be hosted in Australia (The Australian $); 
  • It comes as an environmental group makes a formal bid to force the federal government to consider the climate change impacts of 19 fossil fuel projects pending approval (The Conversation). 
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Telcos face fines over scam texts

Mobile phone companies face up to $250,000 in fines if they fail to comply with a new code launched today to block SMS scam messages.

What we know:

  • Mobile providers will be required to identify, trace and block text message scams, share information about scam messages with other providers, and report scams to the authorities (ACMA); 
  • Australian Communication and Media Authority chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the new rules should have a similar impact as a 2021 code to eliminate scam phone calls (ABC); 
  • “That code has resulted in a reduction of an estimated half a billion scam calls to Australian consumers over the last 16 months,” O’Loughlin said;
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual scam report released last week found the call code had led to a 50% drop in complaints about scam calls in 2022, but the gap had been filled by SMS scams (ACCC); 
  • SMS scams accounted for 32% of all reported scams this year to date, accounting for $6.5m in losses compared to $2.3m in the same period last year (The Guardian); 
  • Telstra this month announced it had successfully outsmarted 185 million scam text messages (Gizmodo); 
  • Scams across all mediums are increasingly targeting vulnerable sections of the community;
  • Scammers stole $66m from Indigenous Australians, people with a disability, and culturally diverse communities in 2021 — almost double the amount taken in 2020.
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Call to overturn Witness K conviction

Former attorney-general Gareth Evans has called for Witness K’s conviction to be reversed following the decision to abandon the prosecution of the whistleblower’s lawyer Bernard Collaery.

Witness K and Collaery have been pursued by federal authorities over their exposure of Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste during oil and gas negotiations.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus last week announced that the effort to prosecute Collaery would end (The Saturday Paper). 

Evans said Witness K, who was convicted and handed a three-month suspended sentence last year, should now be afforded similar treatment to Collaery (The Guardian). 

“Decency would also demand that the Witness K conviction be effectively reversed, but that’s probably a bridge too far,” he said.

The Alliance Against Political Prosecutions has called for Witness K to be pardoned in the wake of the Collaery case and for both men to be compensated.

A spokesperson for Dreyfus said: “Witness K’s case concluded in June 2021. Witness K pled guilty and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

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Roberts acquitted of police deaths

A Melbourne man accused of slaying two Victorian police officers has left jail for the first time in two decades after being acquitted.

Supreme Court of Victoria jurors have cleared Jason Roberts of the 1998 murders of Sergeant Gary Silk and Senior Constable Rodney Miller at Moorabbin (The New Daily). 

Roberts, who was 17 at the time of the killings, has spent most of his life behind bars after he was convicted of murdering the officers along with his girlfriend's father, Bandali Debs.

Debs, who Roberts says acted alone, is serving a life sentence for the murders.

A fresh trial was ordered for Roberts after new evidence emerged about improper police practices used in the case against him, with jurors subsequently overturning the conviction.

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Thousands of Ukrainian troops held captive

Up to 7200 Ukrainian service personnel have gone missing since the start of the Russian invasion, with Ukrainian authorities believing the majority are in Russian captivity.

The numbers include members of the National Guard, border guards and security services (BBC). 

Ukraine’s commissioner for missing persons, Oleh Kotenko, expressed hope that “sooner or later” they would be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war and returned home.

Captured Ukrainian medic Yuliia Paievska was recently released by the Russians as part of a prisoner swap, left malnourished after months held in a crowded cell (AP). 

Paievska became a household name in Ukraine after her involvement in the smuggling of bodycam footage showing her team’s efforts to save the wounded in the besieged city of Mariupol (AP). 

Paievska credited the footage, which was smuggled past Russian checkpoints hidden in a tampon, with securing her release, as it showed her helping Ukrainian and Russian soldiers alike.

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She told me that I would not be getting the senior trade and investment commissioner role for the Americas. Ms Brown said that the position, and this is a quote, ‘will be a present for someone’.

Highly qualified senior bureaucrat Jenny West describes how she was told the job she was promised was no longer hers, after it was gifted to the highly connected former deputy NSW premier John Barilaro (ABC).

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Postscript: Inside the (surprisingly huge) vending machine economy

It is an incorrect assumption that the nation’s roughly 5m vending machines – bringing in $7.4bn in annual revenue, according to the industry market research firm IBISWorld – are mostly corporate affairs. In fact, more than 67% of the market is made up of small independent operators, who mostly sell snacks and sweets on slim margins (Courier).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.

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