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- The case of Stuart Robert and a Gold Coast street light contract
- Food prices rising faster than inflation
- US suspects Wagner Group moving weapons using mail services
- This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Universities extend Indian student ban amid visa fraud concerns
Universities in Victoria and NSW have banned the recruitment of students from some Indian states as the federal government has voiced fresh concern over increasing visa fraud.
The move comes as rejection rates for Indian applicants across all Australian universities have soared to their highest level in a decade, with one in four applications now being deemed as “fraudulent” or “non-genuine” by the Department of Home Affairs.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in March. The Indian leader arrived in Australia yesterday.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
The surge in rejections has accompanied a sharp increase in the volume of applications, prompting fresh calls for regulation of education agents who arrange visas for foreign students.
News of the latest bans on students from specific Indian states, from Federation University in Victoria and Western Sydney University in NSW, came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Australia on Monday night, ahead of an event in Sydney on Tuesday with Anthony Albanese.
Read more about this issue here.
The case of Stuart Robert and a Gold Coast street light contract
Former cabinet minister Stuart Robert held many jobs in government before he suddenly resigned from federal parliament this month, giving him years of access to portfolios ranging from defence to treasury and social services.
But the issue on his mind one Thursday afternoon in the winter of 2017 was a potential deal to upgrade the street lights at the Gold Coast City Council.
Stuart Robert emailed himself an internal document from the Gold Coast Council about upgrading lighting systems.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen/istock
Robert emailed himself an internal document from the council about upgrading lighting systems that cost the council about $10 million a year. How he obtained the document is not clear, but what he did with it is now known thanks to the leaking of a cache of emails that reveal Robert as a backroom deal-maker for business figures in his inner circle.
Using his private email account, Robert emailed himself the confidential memo that described the council’s lighting upgrade options. He also emailed a Taiwanese company, Formosa Energy, whose executives he had met weeks earlier on a taxpayer-funded visit to Taipei.
Find out more about the leaked emails here.
Food prices rising faster than inflation
Inflation for grocery staples from peanut butter to pork chops is outpacing price rises for almost all other goods in the nation’s shopping trolleys, even pushing up the cost of Australians’ morning scrape of Vegemite.
Analysis by UBS economists shows food inflation is running at 9.6 per cent, well above the overall inflation rate of 7 per cent, with the shelf prices for goods such as Vegemite up 8 per cent, Bega peanut butter up 9 per cent and some types of yoghurt up 12 per cent.
But there are signs that prices for fresh food may be starting to ease, albeit remaining at an elevated level.
Cost-of-living pressures on Australians have intensified due to the combination of soaring inflation and increases in interest rates by the Reserve Bank aimed at bringing it down.
Keep reading about food prices here.
US suspects Wagner Group moving weapons using mail services
In the latest news about the Russia-Ukraine war, the US suspects that Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary force, is trying to ship weapons to its fighters through the West African nation of Mali.
“We have been informed that Wagner is seeking to transit material acquisitions to aid Russia’s war through Mali, and is willing to use false paperwork for these transactions,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged other leaders at the G7 to support its fight against Russian invaders.Credit: AP
The Kremlin said Russian forces are repelling “saboteurs” who crossed the border from Ukraine, the second such incident reported by Moscow in two months.
Ukraine said an operation is being carried out by Russian volunteer militias.
Ukraine reported damage to dozens of buildings and vehicles in the central city of Dnipro after another barrage of Russian missiles was unleashed overnight.
President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested Russian forces are taking control of the eastern city of Bakhmut after months of fighting, as skirmishes continue.
This morning’s headlines at a glance
Good morning, and thanks for your company.
I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day. It’s Tuesday, May 23.
Here’s what you need to know before we get started:
- Prices for grocery staples such as dairy goods and spreads have climbed, as some food prices are going up faster than inflation.
- Journalist Stan Grant delivered an emotional speech as he stepped down as host of Q+A, saying he needed a break from the media and felt like he was “part of the problem”.
- Opposition Leader Peter Dutton denounced the Voice to parliament as a regressive and radical threat to Australia’s democracy.
- Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are open to a plea deal with US authorities that might clear the way for his release from a British prison, and his wife declared his freedom is a priority.
- Leaked emails show former Morrison cabinet minister Stuart Robert emailing a company about street lights, and suggesting they hire a consulting company part-owned by two of his friends.
Stan Grant makes an emotional speech after stepping down as host of Q+A.Credit: ABC
- Australia’s Home Affairs secretary says he is “not confident” in PwC after it was revealed the firm breached confidential tax information.
- Universities are banning recruitment of students from some Indian states over concerns about increasing visa fraud, and news of the latest bans came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Australia.
- Victoria’s treasurer will hand down the state’s budget today, and is expected to include new taxes and a surplus within three years.
- In NSW, the Labor government has the support of key crossbenchers to axe Dominic Perrottet’s land tax regime.
- Turning to overseas news, the US signed a new security pact with Papua New Guinea to make it easier for the armed forces of both countries to work together amid concerns about China’s influence in the Pacific.
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