Australia news live: police say analysis finds no evidence of notorious antisemitic chant in video of Opera House protest | Australia news

NSW police say no evidence offensive antisemitic phrase chanted at pro-Palestine protest last year

Tory Shepherd

Tory Shepherd

New South Wales police say an independent analysis of audio and video files from a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House last year found no evidence for claims that anyone had chanted “gas the Jews”.

People reported hearing the comments at the protest in October last year, and the reports are being investigated by Strike Force Mealing.

In a statement this morning, police said they would continue their investigation and urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers. Police said:

Strike Force Mealing was established to investigate reported unlawful activity committed during an unauthorised protest at the Sydney Opera House on 9 October 2023.

Police received reports following the protest suggesting that an offensive antisemitic phrase was chanted during the event.

As a result of independent forensic analysis of audio-video files of the demonstration provided to investigators, police have no evidence that this phrase was used.

Police also obtained statements from several individuals who attended the protest indicating they heard the phrase however these statements have not attributed the phrase to any specific individual.

We’ll bring you more after a press conference due to start shortly.

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Key events

Labor senator Linda White taking leave over health issues

Senator Linda White says she will be taking leave from the Senate while dealing with some health issues.

In a statement, White said she will be focussing on her recovery “for the next while” so she can return to her full duties as soon as possible:

I want to thank those who have sent me their good wishes, in particular members of the Labor team who I am so privileged to work with.

I appreciate my privacy being respected at this time.

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Dutton suggests PM sack Penny Wong over potential UNRWA funding reinstatement

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has criticised the possibility of Australia reinstating funding to a key UN agency delivering aid to civilians in Gaza, going as far as suggesting the prime minister should consider sacking the foreign minister, Penny Wong.

However, some of his comments lack critical context.

The agency in question, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), supports more than 5.6 million Palestinians in the occupied territories and refugees and their descendants in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

UNRWA is in the midst of a funding and credibility crisis after more than 10 donor countries – including Australia, the US and the UK – suspended funding to it. The suspension of funding came after Israel provided the agency with information alleging that as many as 12 of the agency’s staff were involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks on southern Israel.

The Israeli government, which has long been critical of UNRWA, has argued the agency’s problems go deeper than the allegations surrounding 7 October involvement and it should have no future role in Gaza.

Aid groups have implored the Australian government to reinstate funding, saying “the dire situation in Gaza will rapidly escalate without UNRWA’s critical support” and that the government should “be judicious and discriminate between allegations against a small number of individuals and the foreseeable impact of defunding UNRWA on millions of Palestinians reliant on their services, including children”.

Speaking in Melbourne just earlier, Dutton noted that the government’s announcement in mid-January of a further $6m for UNRWA came after Jewish community leaders warned the government about the risk of the funding being misused. Dutton said:

Now, if the foreign minister is directing Australian taxpayers’ money to an organisation known to be a front or affiliated or associated with a terrorist organisation, her job is completely untenable.

And again, if the prime minister had the strength of leadership, he would stand up and say that Australian taxpayer money is not going to a terrorist organisation.

If Penny Wong is now advocating, knowing that this money is going to an organisation not fit-for-purpose, if that is her argument*, then the prime minister should sack her.

And I don’t believe that any Australian who works hard for their money is prepared to give their money over to an organisation that is acting against the interests of the stated purpose of that organisation, or individuals who will suffer as a result of it.

*That is not Wong’s argument. She says the allegations must be throughly investigated, but she has also pointed out that UNRWA has a critical role in delivering services at a time when many people in Gaza are displaced and starving. The United States similarly says UNRWA has a critical role to play once the allegations are investigated and acted on.

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Deeming defamation case: no second trial at this stage

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Federal court Justice Michael Wheelahan has ruled he won’t order a separate trial to determine imputations at this stage.

He also asked Deeming’s lawyers to reconsider the number of imputations they’re making:

I will not preclude an application for a separate trial being made but I’d like to note first whether the applicant will be revising the pleadings.

He’s adjourned the matter until 23 April.

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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Deeming defamation case: Pesutto presses to avoid second trial

John Pesutto’s barrister Matthew Collins, appearing via video link, said they don’t want a separate trial into the imputations as it would “add to more costs”:

We think we’d be better off focusing on just getting the matter ready for trial … we would end up with two trials rather than one, no material shortening of the second trial, a diversion of our resources to deal with the separate trial.

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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Hearing into Deeming defamation case against Victorian Liberal leader begins

The federal court Justice Michael Wheelahan has begun the first hearing into the defamation case brought by expired Liberal MP Moira Deeming against opposition leader John Pesutto by saying he wants to set down a 10 day trial to begin on September 16.

But Deeming’s lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou, is pushing for another short hearing before then to determine imputations, which she says will save both parties “a significant amount of time and costs”.

Wheelahan, however, raised the number of imputations in Deeming’s statement of claim. He says there are 67 across five publications:

The media release comprises 18 lines and you have pleaded 23 imputations.

He’s asked Chrysanthou whether these imputations overlap. She replies:

They are all different levels of culpability.

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Chalmers says Miles entitled to express opinions on RBA rates

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, also responded to calls from the Queensland premier, Steven Miles, for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates.

Chalmers said “most Australians” have a view about interest rates, and premiers and treasurers at the state level are entitled to express their opinions.

I’m not troubled by that. I would be surprised, frankly, if the reserve bank was troubled by that.

I’ve got a different set of responsibilities and obligations. My job is to safeguard the independence of the Reserve Bank and my job is to make sure that I’m doing everything I can, as the nation’s treasurer, to put downward pressure on inflation…

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Chalmers calls on LNP members directly to support tax cut changes

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has also been speaking to the media about the stage-three tax cuts.

He claimed the way the Coalition and the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has responded to the changes was “diabolically out of touch [with] middle Australia, and with these cost-of-living pressures”.

He called on LNP members directly to support the changes:

I call on LNP members – whether they’re from Logan, the Gold Coast, throughout south-east Queensland or right around Australia – don’t stand in the way of Labor’s cost-of-living tax cut, which will make life a little bit easier for middle Australia.

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Dutton says pro-Palestine protest was ‘a moment of national shame’

Peter Dutton is asked to respond to the NSW police invesitigation that found “where’s the Jews?” was chanted at a pro-Palestine rally in Sydney, not “gas the Jews”, as widely circulated.

Dutton responded that the “accounts from that night speak for itself”.

It was a moment of national shame, it shouldn’t have been allowed to take place, and the fact is that many people in the Jewish community across Australia, including here in Melbourne, are feeling very, very scared at the moment.

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Dutton claims taxes will ‘always’ be lower under Liberal-National government

Opposition leader Peter Dutton is speaking to the media from Melbourne.

Speaking on the stage-three tax cuts, Dutton still wouldn’t confirm the Coalition’s position – stating “we’ll make our announcement in due course” – but claimed taxes would “always” be lower under a Liberal-National government.

Q: The government is offering more money to most taxpayers with this revised stage-three tax cuts. Will you guarantee that no voters will lose what is being offered to them?

Dutton said “the prime minister hasn’t delivered that”, and claimed four million Australians will be worse off.

Q: Where did you get that figure?

That’s the projected figure over the course of the medium term, and it’s 1.8 million [people] immediately and it grows to 4.1 [million] because this is the impact of bracket creep.

Dutton did not cite a source of where this figure is from.

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Police provide more details on Berowra train fatalities

Wrapping up the press conference, the deputy commissioner provided some more information around the deaths of two people at a railway in Berowra.

As we reported earlier, emergency services were called to Berowra railway station shortly after 12am following reports a man and woman had been hit by a train.

Police were told a woman, aged in her 30s, was being assisted off the tracks by a man in his 20s when they were both hit by a freight train. The pair were treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics, however they died at the scene. They have not been formally identified.

Speaking in Sydney, the police officer said the matter is still under investigation with “a lot to work through”, but it appears some property of one of the persons was on the railway track.

It appears that two persons then entered the railway track and unfortunately a train approached at the time. A collision resulted and, tragically, two persons have passed away. We will continue to investigate the circumstances of the incident.

Police believe the two people knew each other.

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NSW police’s forensic expert relied on audio-visual evidence, not witness testimony

Lanyon said several statements were obtained from people who claimed to hear “gas the Jews” at the rally.

Those persons have not been able to ascribe those words to any individual. We haven’t identified any individual who used those words.

But what I’m saying today is the expert has made an examination of the audio and visual files which were taken from outside the Opera House on that occasion. That’s where he has concluded with overwhelming certainty that the words used where “where’s the Jews?”…

We won’t be going back to them to speak about what has subsequently been concluded by the expert, because the expert is relying on what they heard on the audio and visual analysis.

The expert who conducted this analysis is from the National Centre of Biometric Science, “an eminent expert who has been used by law enforcement right across the country, including the NSW police force”, the officer said.

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NSW police: evidence of other antisemitic chants made at rally; audio in video was not doctored

NSW police’s deputy commissioner, Mal Lanyon, said there is “certainly” evidence of other anti-semitic chants being made at the rally, which were “offensive and completely unacceptable”.

But I think the major contention has been about the phrase that was chanted, and quite emphatically, our expert has said that it is ‘where’s the Jews?’

The officer was asked whether the audio in the video had been manipulated? He said the video had not been doctored, but had been compiled from a “parent file”.

What the expert has concluded is that there is a compilation video which has a number of audio and visual files. Those audio and visual files have not been doctored, they’re simply cut from a more parent file… When examined, the parent file and the video compilation have the same audio and visual, and from that, the expert has been able to conclude they are the words that were used. Obviously, subtitles are … an opinion of someone putting those subtitles on there of what they hear…

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Phrase chanted at pro-Palestine protest last year was ‘Where’s the Jews’: NSW police

NSW police are giving a press conference, following news an independent analysis of audio and video files from a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House last year found no evidence for claims that anyone had chanted “gas the Jews”.

Deputy commissioner Mal Lanyon said:

As part of the investigation, investigators engaged an eminent expert in biometric science. That expert has conducted an audio, visual and acoustic phonetic analysis of the audio-visual files.

As a result of that examination, the expert has concluded with overwhelming certainty that the phrase chanted during that protest, as recorded on the audio and visual files, was, “Where’s the Jews?” Not another phrase, as otherwise widely reported.

The strike force continues to investigate offences arising from that protest and we urge any member of the public with information to come forward and provide information.

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Man charged for allegedly scaling and tagging Flinders Street station

A man has been charged over allegedly scaling and tagging (spraying graffiti all over) Flinders Street railway station in Victoria.

Victorian police allege that on 12 January, a man scaled and tagged the heritage listed façade of the building and caused “extensive damage”.

It is also alleged tags were painted on walls around the Westgate tunnel project in Spotswood and across Sandringham, Mernda, Craigieburn and Sunbury railway lines.

The damage is estimated at over $200,000, police said.

Police executed search warrants at addresses in West Footscray and Caulfield North and seized a number of items including spray paint, knuckle dusters and a samurai sword.

A 23-year-old West Footscray man has been charged with multiple offences including criminal damage and possessing a controlled weapon. He has been bailed to appear in Melbourne magistrates court on 8 February.

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Speaking to 3AW, Victorian opposition leader John Pesutto was also asked about the opposition’s stance on treaty.

This comes after it withdrew its support for a treaty with the state’s Indigenous people and ended years of bipartisanship on the issue.

Pesutto argued that the opposition never supported the treaty itself, but the “process” of working towards one.

I’ve had some concerns for a while about whether, under any scenario, I could see the Coalition agreeing to a treaty. And I’ll tell you why – the treaty, according to [premier] Jacinta Allan, is a process. [She] has never explained to our listeners or the Victorian people what could be or what won’t be in the treaty.

When asked if he knew what was in the treaty, Pesutto claimed “Jacinta won’t tell us”.

Pesutto says taxpayers not paying for defence on Deeming defamation action

Victoria’s opposition leader, John Pesutto, was speaking with 3AW radio just earlier.

He was asked about the defamation case brought against him from expelled Liberal MP Moira Deeming. He said the matter between the two was “sorted out” from his end – he is not the one bringing the legal action.

There was an outcome last year that had it been observed, would have seen her return to the party room. Things have taken a different course. I’m totally focused on the cost of living issues facing Victorians, I’m not bringing this action, I’m not concerned about it, it’s with my lawyers and they manage it for me.

Asked about the cost of the legal action, Pesutto said “I’m the one who gets the bills and I’ll sort that out”, but taxpayers won’t pay for it and neither will the party.

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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

The former Labor MP for Hawthorn, John Kennedy, is in court to watch Moira Deeming’s defamation proceedings kick off against John Pesutto – the current member for Hawthorn.

Could this be the beginning of a bid for reelection?

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NSW police say no evidence offensive antisemitic phrase chanted at pro-Palestine protest last year

Tory Shepherd

Tory Shepherd

New South Wales police say an independent analysis of audio and video files from a pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House last year found no evidence for claims that anyone had chanted “gas the Jews”.

People reported hearing the comments at the protest in October last year, and the reports are being investigated by Strike Force Mealing.

In a statement this morning, police said they would continue their investigation and urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers. Police said:

Strike Force Mealing was established to investigate reported unlawful activity committed during an unauthorised protest at the Sydney Opera House on 9 October 2023.

Police received reports following the protest suggesting that an offensive antisemitic phrase was chanted during the event.

As a result of independent forensic analysis of audio-video files of the demonstration provided to investigators, police have no evidence that this phrase was used.

Police also obtained statements from several individuals who attended the protest indicating they heard the phrase however these statements have not attributed the phrase to any specific individual.

We’ll bring you more after a press conference due to start shortly.

Updated at 

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

First hearing to be held in Deeming defamation case against John Pesutto

I’ve just arrived at federal court for the first hearing in expelled Liberal MP Moira Deeming’s defamation action against the Victorian opposition leader, John Pesutto.

She alleges comments he made after she spoke at an anti-trans rally gatecrashed by neo-Nazis in March last year defamed her.

Her lawyers said Pesutto’s comments, as well as a 15-page document his office circulated to Liberal MPs and the media when he moved to expel her from the party, were defamatory as they suggested Deeming “supports, sympathises with or associates with white supremacists and neo-Nazis”, and that she is a white supremacist or neo-Nazi.

Pesutto denies these imputations and his lawyers will largely rely on the honest opinion defence, which allows people to express opinions on matters of public interest, as well as the defences of contextual truth and qualified privilege.

According to the defence document – seen by Guardian Australia – Pesutto will argue her association with the event organisers made her unfit to be a member of the Liberal party room.

The first case management hearing will largely be procedural and should be done within an hour, with neither expected to attend.

But Deeming’s lawyer, high-profile defamation barrister Sue Chrysanthou, has flown down from Sydney to push for another short hearing to determine imputations that could expedite any possible trial. Here’s our preview:

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