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Today’s headlines

ByNigel Gladstone

Good evening,I hope you enjoyed our live news coverage,here’s the major headlines of the day.

Thanks for reading,we will be back from 7am tomorrow.

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Chinese duo accused of trying to create micro-state in South Pacific

ByNicola Smith

Taipei: A Chinese man and woman have been accused of plotting to form a micro-state in the Marshall Islands amid Beijing’s push to expand its influence in the region.

Cary Yan,50,and Gina Zhou,34,are said to have attempted to establish a semi-autonomous region similar to Hong Kong,in the Rongelap atoll.

They are accused by the US Justice Department ofbribing officials and enticing investors to the islands which were seized from Japan by America during World War II.

Rongelap atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Rongelap atoll in the Marshall Islands.NASA

Although the country gained independence in 1986 Washington maintains “full authority and responsibility” for the defence of the pro-Taiwan islands.

The Rongelap is a scarcely populated ring of islands devastated by US nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1940s and 1950s. Rates of stillbirths and thyroid cancer soared and in 1985,the entire population of Rongelap was evacuated to another island.

The pair are accused of posing as officers linked to an NGO in New York and attempting to bribe Marshall Islands officials and politicians into backing the creation of the “Rongelap Special Economic Zone”.

Their NGO also allegedly sent the officials to Hong Kong on an all-expenses-paid trip.

Yan and Zhou,who were arrested in Thailand in November 2020 and extradited to the US on Friday,denied money laundering and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Read morehere.

Solomon Islands accepts Australia’s offer to fund elections then delays the vote

ByKirsty Needham

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says he will accept Australia’s offer to fund his national elections as the country’s parliament voted to delay the timing of the next poll.

The Solomon Islands parliament on Thursday passed legislation delaying the next general election despite the objections of opposition party members who have accused Sogavare of a “power grab”.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been accused of a “power grab”.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been accused of a “power grab”.AP

Sogavare said he wanted the legislation to be passed on Thursday because of the risk of protests. The bill seeks to change the constitution to allow the election to be delayed from 2023 until 2024.

He argued that the Solomon Islands cannot successfully host both the Pacific Games and an election in 2023 because of logistical requirements.

Sogavare previously argued that the Solomon Islands could not afford to hold the Pacific Games,a regional athletics meeting for which China is building seven venues and stadiums,and a general election in the same year.

Australia on Tuesday offered to fund the election,prompting a rebuke from Sogavare who said the timing of the offer was “foreign interference”.

He told parliament on Thursday he would nonetheless accept Australia’s funding offer after parliament passed the bill.

Read morehere.

Mark Dreyfus accused of shares conflict of interest

ByJames Massola

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has been accused of a possible breach of the ministerial code of conduct by the federal opposition for investing in an equities fund that is the largest shareholder in a firm that funds litigation and legal class actions in Australia.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton attempted to suspend standing orders in parliament,claiming at least three ministers – Dreyfus,Kristy McBain and Ged Kearney – had now breached the ministerial code of conduct with their shareholdings,despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s promise to clean up politics.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.Alex Ellinghausen

As first law officer of the Commonwealth,Dreyfus has responsibility for the courts and law reform. The register of members’ interests reveals his self-managed super fund holds shares in Greencape Wholesale Broadcap fund,which invests in a range of companies listed on the Australian share market. Greencape is,in turn,the largest shareholder in Omni Bridgeway with just over 9 per cent of shares – or about $100 million worth – and Omni Bridgeway bills itself as the “global leader in litigation financing” and is a large litigation funder in Australia.

It is not known how long Dreyfus has held shares in Greencape but they were listed in his members’ declaration on August 18,2022.

Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley asked Dreyfus in parliament on Thursday about the disclosure of his shareholding,through his superannuation fund,and whether the attorney-general was “satisfied that this shareholding does not give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest” because of the requirements of the ministerial code.

Dreyfus replied that “I can assure members of this house that I have complied at all times” with the ministerial code of conduct.

But in an apparent concession,Dreyfus said he will get advice.

“That is why I will look at the matter that has been raised by the honourable member but I can assure the house that every single one of the publicly listed managed funds that my private superannuation fund invests in have been fully disclosed to this house.”

Read morehere.

Stone Age Borneo skeleton missing foot shows oldest amputation:study

ByMaddie Burakoff

The 31,000-year-old skeleton of a young adult found in a cave in Indonesia that is missing its left foot and part of its left leg reveal the oldest known evidence of an amputation,according to a new study.

Scientists say the amputation was performed when the person was a child — and that the “patient” went on to live for years as an amputee. The prehistoric surgery could show that humans were making medical advances much earlier than previously thought,said the study published in the journalNature on Wednesday.

Dr Tim Maloney (right) and Andika Priyatno work at the site in a cave in East Kalimantan,Borneo,in 2020. The remains,which have been dated to 31,000 years old,mark the oldest evidence for amputation yet discovered.

Dr Tim Maloney (right) and Andika Priyatno work at the site in a cave in East Kalimantan,Borneo,in 2020. The remains,which have been dated to 31,000 years old,mark the oldest evidence for amputation yet discovered.Tim Maloney/Griffith University via AP

Researchers were exploring a cave in East Kalimantan Borneo in 2020,in a rainforest region known for having some of the earliest rock art in the world,when they came across the grave,said Dr Tim Maloney,an archaeologist at Griffith University in Queensland and the study’s lead researcher.

Though much of the skeleton was intact,it was missing its left foot and the lower part of its left leg,he said. After examining the remains,the researchers concluded the foot bones weren’t missing from the grave,or lost in an accident — they had been carefully removed.

The remaining leg bone showed a clean,slanted cut that healed over,Maloney said. There were no signs of infection,which would be expected if the child’s leg had been bitten off by a creature such as a crocodile. And there were also no signs of a crushing fracture,which would have been expected if the leg had snapped off in an accident.

The human skeleton dated to about 31,000 years ago,pictured in a cave in East Kalimantan,Borneo.

The human skeleton dated to about 31,000 years ago,pictured in a cave in East Kalimantan,Borneo.Tim Maloney/Griffith University via AP

The person appears to have lived for about six to nine more years after losing the limb,eventually dying from unknown causes as a young adult,researchers say.

This shows that the Stone Age foragers knew enough about medicine to perform the surgery without fatal blood loss or infection,the authors concluded.

Read morehere.

The Wrap:ASX rallies after Lowe signals easing of rate rises

ByAngus Dalton

Welcome to your five-minute recap of the trading day and how the experts saw it.

The numbers:The Australian sharemarket gained ground on Thursday buoyed by a strong lead from Wall Street and signs interest rate rises could ease in coming months.

After a strong morning session,the ASX jumped around a percentage point on Thursday afternoon when Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowesignalled interest rate rises would be smaller in coming months,closing 1.77 per cent,or 119.7 points,higher at 6848.7.

IT stocks led the gains,up 3.19 per cent,with all sectors closing higher except energy,which fell as much as 4 per cent in morning trade after Brent and US crude oil prices slumped overnight.

The ASX has made a positive start to the session.

The ASX has made a positive start to the session.Louie Douvis

The lifters:Tyro Payments up 27.9 per cent after rejecting a takeover bid led by Sydney-based Potentia Capital;family tracking software Life 360 gained 16.4 per cent,recovering to a new 20-day high;and cloud company Megaport up 12.1 per cent as IT stocks led the gains.

The laggards:Woodside Energy down 5.5 per cent after going ex-dividend;Perpetual Ltd down 0.5 per cent,also trading without rights to its dividend;and Santos down 0.5 per cent on a poor day for energy stocks.

The lowdown:Investors reacted positively to Lowe’s indication rate rises had hit a peak as the local bourse recovered fromWednesday’s losses to record its best session in seven weeks.

The energy sector was the only category to finish in the red,falling broadly as US crude oil prices slid 5.7 per cent and Brent,the international benchmark,shed 5.5 per cent.

Chief investment officer at WealthLander Jerome Lander said while the dip in oil prices hurt energy stocks,it was a sign of optimism for other sectors.

Read morehere.

Rail dispute cost 44,000 work hours,$500,000 for venue hire,says government

ByMatt O'Sullivan andTom Rabe

A long-running industrial dispute between the NSW government and unions has cost the state 44,000 hours of lost working time since early last year,according to documents filed to the industrial umpire by rail operators.

The state also estimates Sydney Trains has spent about $479,000 on venue hire for negotiations,and a further $32,000 to accommodate union delegates released from their day-to-day jobs to bargain,before the government called a sudden halt to talks last week.

The dispute has caused major disruptions to Sydney’s rail network.

The dispute has caused major disruptions to Sydney’s rail network.Louise Kennerley

While rail unions claim the government has failed to bargain in good faith,the documents filed by Sydney Trains and NSW Trains ahead of a Fair Work hearing on Friday reject the assertions.

The unions launchedlegal action in the Fair Work Commission late last week in a bid to force the government back to the bargaining table after Premier Dominic Perrottet threatened toterminate an existing enterprise agreement if rail workers did not vote for a new pay deal.

The hearing is expected to run into next week and will be pivotal to the reliability of Sydney’s rail network,which has been plagued by sporadic disruptions for months due to the dispute.

In their submission,the state’s rail operators argue that they have met good faith bargaining requirements,and that the unions’ application fails to meet thresholds in the Fair Work Act and should be dismissed outright.

They also dismiss the unions’ assertion that they were forced to bargain with a revolving cast of government ministers who had inconsistent views and positions. “There is simply no merit in this allegation,” their submission states.

Furthermore,Sydney Trains refutes the claim that a government ultimatum delivered to unions last week came without warning,adding that a “desire to put a proposed agreement soon was foreshadowed” well before.

Read morehere.

Cabinet door not closed to Stuart Ayres,says NSW Premier

ByLucy Cormack

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has not closed the door to Stuart Ayres returning to his cabinet,despite previously conceding the former trade minister did not conduct himself at arm’s length from the John Barilaro trade appointment.

Perrottet on Thursday said he had not yet read a review determining whether the then-trade minister breached the code of conduct,even though his office received the report on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Stuart Ayres.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Stuart Ayres.Rhett Wyman

“I will read the report,as I’ve said. I will then release it,” the premier said,noting that his chief of staff Bran Black has read the report by high-profile barrister Bruce McClintock,SC.

Ayres was forced to resign from cabinet and as deputy Liberal leader early last month after a separate review into Barilaro’s appointment to a New York trade role raised questions about Ayres’ role in the process.

That triggered the McClintock inquiry to determine whether or not Ayres breached the ministerial code of conduct.

Asked to rule out Ayres returning to cabinet,the premier said,“no,I’m not”,adding that he would make a decision “down the track”,once he had an opportunity to consider the McClintock report.

Read morehere.

No penalties for aged care providers who breach 24/7 nurse mandate

ByDana Daniel

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’selection promise to put a nurse in every aged care home around the clock is on shaky ground as senior bureaucrats reveal that there are no penalties for providers who fail to comply and the nurses’ union warns the promise is meaningless without enforcement.

Legislation to make it mandatory for all residential aged care homes to have a registered nurse “on site and on duty at all times” from July is being debated in the House of Representatives this week,but Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association President Annie Butler said it would be “completely unacceptable” if providers faced no penalties for failing to hire nurses.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised during the election campaign to ‘put nurses back in nursing homes’.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised during the election campaign to ‘put nurses back in nursing homes’.Alex Ellinghausen

“How meaningless is it going to be if you just unendingly don’t have to adhere to it?” she said.

Health department assistant secretary Melanie Metz told a recent Senate committee inquiry into the bill there were “no particular penaltiesattached to the requirements” to have a registered nurse on site 24/7 and experts say the requirement will not fix the aged care sector.

Monash University Professor Joseph Ibrahim said while “it’s a catchy soundbite to have a nurse in every nursing home”,the 24/7 nurse bill would not solve “the fundamental problem of there’s just not enough workers who know what they’re doing”.

“The consequences,politically,for the government are much more dire if they’ve got highly punitive measures,” the geriatric medicine specialist said.

The government is hoping to attract 4900 overseas-trained nurses to work across Australia’s health system as part of its plan tolift the cap on permanent migration by 35,000 places to 195,000 and is backing a push for higher wages in the Fair Work Commission.

Aged care providers struggle to recruit registered nurses to the sector,in part because they can earn higher wages in hospitals.

Read morehere.

Start thinking about Christmas now,warns Australia Post boss

ByEmma Koehn andSarah Danckert

Australia Post boss Paul Graham says consumers should start planning their online Christmas shopping “now”,as the mail carrier gears up for a surge in parcels against a backdrop of supply chain uncertainties and labour shortages.

After speaking at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce event in Melbourne on Thursday,Graham said that shoppers should start ordering gifts early to ensure smooth delivery.

He said while Post was ready for the festive season,there was no certainty on how difficult conditions could get over the next few months because of rising interest rates,geopolitical uncertainty and supply chain challenges.

Paul Graham says he expects this year to be one of the most challenging ever for recruitment.

Paul Graham says he expects this year to be one of the most challenging ever for recruitment.

“I think the merchants are in much better shape than they have been the past couple of years. But if we get a similar sales surge[as] we have got the past couple of years,there will be some challenges,” he said.

Businesses across the country have been getting prepared for Christmas early and building up inventory to prepare for the possibility that they won’t have enough stock on hand,he said.

The impact of rising interest rates on household spending is also a big unknown in the lead-up to festive spending,he said.

“If people keep their money in their pocket because of interest rates,then I think we are going to be in good shape.”

Read morehere.

Broede Carmody is the national news blogger for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Previously,he was a culture reporter and worked on the breaking news desk.

Nigel Gladstone is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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