Australia news live: Sydney woman killed in Seoul Halloween crush named; Defence taking cyber-attack on contractor ‘very seriously’

Grace Rached identified as Australian killed in South Korean crowd crush

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

The Australian who was killed during a crowd crush at Halloween festivities in South Korea has been identified as 23-year-old Sydney woman Grace Rached.

The crowd crush caused the death of more than 150 people in Itaewon, Seoul on Saturday night. Two other Australians who Rached was with are now being treated in intensive care.

Grace Rached
Sydney production assistant Grace Rached, 23, was one of the victims from the crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul. Photograph: Facebook

In a statement, Rached’s friend Silvio Cohiji, who met the filmmaker at university, said people always gravitated towards her:

Grace was an amazing person, A beam of light that would do anything to lift the people around her and had such a huge life ahead of her, was doing amazing things in her career and travelling a lot.

Had the joy of life in her and everyone was always their happiest around her Everyone gravitated towards her and she loved her parents and her little sister so much she was truly a person you would be blessed to have crossed paths with.

Key events

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From AAP:

Western Sydney will have the “very best infrastructure possible” thanks to the coalition government’s sale of infrastructure, the NSW premier says.

Dominic Perrottet is spruiking the $5 billion WestInvest program in the lead-up to the March election, when western Sydney will be a key battleground.

The funds came from the sale of the incomplete WestConnex motorway, where tolls are due to rise again in January.

“We built the road, we recycled the asset, unlocked capital which we have invested in projects that will make a real difference in people’s lives,” Mr Perrottet told reporters in Parramatta on Monday.

“This is all about making sure western Sydney has the best infrastructure possible.”

Monday’s beneficiaries include the City of Parramatta, Hawkesbury Council and The Hills Shire Council.

Treasurer Matt Kean has been touring suburbs this month announcing more than $357 million in funding for 68 projects that he says “are going to improve the lives of residents and business owners throughout western Sydney”.

Tony Burke suggests new government body to aid Indigenous artists

From AAP:

A new government body could help Indigenous artists maintain control of their work, arts minister Tony Burke said.

The concept would mean Indigenous artists could retain authority and autonomy in their work, Burke said, even when dealing with large established arts institutions.

The organisation could be run autonomously from inside the Australia Council, he said in a speech at the Purrumpa: First Nations Arts and Cultural Gathering in Adelaide on Monday.

Aboriginal playwrights, for example, could be funded to staff their productions with First Nations crew who they could bring with them to established theatre companies, he said.

“How do we establish a mechanism that allows there to be financial power for First Nations artists, when dealing with non-First Nations companies, so that the power of creator isn’t lost by the time it reaches the audience?” Burke asked.

The idea comes after a federal budget in which the government funded some election promises, including $80m for a National Aboriginal Art Gallery in Alice Springs and $50m for an Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Perth.

But dollars were not forthcoming for a broader arts sector hit hard during the pandemic, with the forward estimates showing the federal government’s arts and cultural funding is set to decline from $859m in 2022/23 to $783m in 2025/26.

Tony Burke
A new government body could help Indigenous artists maintain control of their work, arts minister Tony Burke said. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Queensland government ‘unwilling to learn’ from cyber-security mistakes, report finds

From AAP:

The Queensland government is losing millions of dollars and putting itself at risk of cyber attack because it’s “unwilling to learn” from mistakes and failing to be upfront about their own performance, a report says.

Queensland auditor general Brendan Worrall says almost a third of 454 recommendations he has made to improve government performance in 2018-2020 are yet to be fully implemented.

He says the failure to make changes is impacting oversight, use of IT and data, and sometimes cost millions through poor contract and project management.

“My experience has been that entities are either unwilling to learn from the past or each other, or lack the systems or corporate knowledge to understand the reasons for past failings,” Worrall wrote in the report, publish on Monday.

“In some instances, the fear of repeating past failures is resulting in entities missing opportunities to implement new systems and technologies.

“There is also a lack of information and data sharing within and between entities that would enable them to learn from the mistakes of others and prevent them from re-occurring.”

The minister for foreign affairs, Penny Wong, has sent Australia’s condolences to India after a nearly 100-year-old suspension bridge over the Machchhu River collapsed on Sunday. As many as 132 people have been reported dead so far.

Australia sends our thoughts to the loved ones of those killed, and to the people of India, following the bridge collapse in Gujarat.

Our sincere condolences to all those affected by this tragic event.

— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) October 31, 2022

The “ruse” to keep Indigenous members of a Northern Territory community in the dark about the death of a teenager shot by police was necessary at the time, an inquest has been told.

Supt Jody Nobbs made the decision in November 2019 to not tell locals in Yuendumu about the death of Kumanjayi Walker, who was shot three times during a bungled arrest.

High levels of toxic PFAS chemicals found in drinking water at Avalon Airport

From AAP:

Firefighters and air-traffic controllers are being tested after high levels of toxic PFAS chemicals were found in drinking water at a major Victorian airport.

The contamination has forced the closure of the fire station at Avalon Airport.

United Firefighters Union aviation branch secretary, Wes Garrett, says about 30 firefighters are anxiously waiting for blood test results after PFAS was detected at levels well beyond safe drinking limits.

The air-traffic control tower is also affected, but not the terminal itself.

Man-made PFAS chemicals are often referred to as forever chemicals because they are very slow to break down and accumulate in humans.

They have been associated with a range of serious health issues.

Some of the worst types were used in fire fighting foams. They were banned in Australia more than a decade ago but by that time had already created lasting contamination issues at sites where the foam was used.

New Zealand government appalled by Iranian crackdown on protesters, after Kiwi pair released

From AAP:

Jacinda Ardern has defended her government’s role in freeing two Kiwi influencers from Iran, saying the episode did not compromise New Zealand’s position on Tehran’s brutal repression of civil unrest.

However, with Expedition Earth pair Topher Richwhite and Bridget Thackwray now released from detention, New Zealand is now stepping up its criticism of the Iranian regime.

On Monday, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand hoped to send a “strong signal” by withdrawing from bilateral human rights talks with Iran.

“Aotearoa New Zealand continues to be appalled by the use of force by Iranian authorities in response to peaceful demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini last month,” she said.

“Violence against women, girls or any other members of Iranian society to prevent their exercise of universal human rights is unacceptable and must end.”

Nanaia Mahuta
New Zealand Minister of foreign affairs Nanaia Mahuta. Photograph: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Victorian Greens make case for four-day working week

From AAP:

A four-day working week has been pushed back onto the Victorian election agenda despite both major parties rejecting the idea.

Victorian Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, on Monday pitched a $60m fund to help a transition to a four-day working week.

Under the two-year trial, Victorian-owned entities and departments with less than $50m in annual turnover would be eligible to apply for the funding.

Female-dominated workplaces would be prioritised and the cash used to increase staff numbers in frontline workplaces, or support systems and technology within workplaces to adapt to a new schedule.

Workplaces would transition full-time staff to four days with no loss of pay or entitlements, while part-time workers would get a proportional reduction in working hours or an equivalent pay rise.

Similar pilot programs have been launched in Canada, the United States and Ireland, with outstanding results, Ratnam said.

“Workers often achieve the same or greater output, and with a much more reasonable work-life balance,” she said.

Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Luke Henriques-Gomes

Luke Henriques-Gomes

Legal doubts over robodebt raised with government department in 2014, inquiry hears

The Department of Social Services held internal legal and policy advice casting doubt on the legality of the robodebt scheme almost five years before the Coalition government accepted it was unlawful, a royal commission has heard.

The inquiry, called by the Albanese government, is investigating a botched Centrelink scheme that ended in a $1.8bn settlement between the commonwealth and hundreds of thousands of people issued unlawful social security debts.

Victorian budget deficit to be $1.82bn higher

From AAP:

Victoria is set to record a $1.82bn higher than expected deficit this financial year but has revised net debt forecasts down.

A mid-financial-year update, released on Monday ahead of the government entering caretaker mode, shows Victoria is forecast to post a $9.68bn deficit for 2022/23.

That’s up from the $7.86bn estimate given in the May state budget.

“The risks to Victoria’s outlook are elevated and include uncertainty around the outlook for domestic and global inflation, interest rates, geopolitical conditions, recent flood events and ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” it said.

However, Victoria’s total net debt by mid 2026 has been revised down to $115.6bn from $118.5bn.

The treasurer, Tim Pallas, said the improved debt position was largely attributable to the government’s VicRoads joint venture, which netted the state $7.9bn.

“We did better than we expected in that transaction,” he told reporters.

“We hadn’t provisioned that much and that effectively is the difference between those debt numbers.”

The cash has been put into a future fund to help pay down Victoria’s spiralling debt and doesn’t count against this financial year’s operating result.

“It’s essentially a capital injection,” he said.

Tim Pallas sitting at a table during a meeting
Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas. Photograph: Luis Ascui/AAP

Nino Bucci

Nino Bucci

Defence contractor holds up to 40,000 personnel records

The contractor that was targeted in a malware attack held 30,000 to 40,000 records relating to Australian defence department employees, the minister for veterans’ affairs and defence personnel has confirmed.

The minister, Matt Keogh, confirmed that while that was the extent of the data held by ForceNet, a communications platform used by defence, there was no indication that data had been compromised.

Keogh also said defence was working to establish which current and former employees had data on the system.

He said during a press conference in Hobart earlier:

We’re working with that external provider to make sure we’ve got a full picture of what sort of data was there and available. We understand it may have been about 30 to 40,000 records that they held. So we’re not saying that that’s what’s out there but that’s what the external provider held. But we’re working now to get a full picture of who those individuals might have been and, as I say, we’ve provided information about how people can get in order additional information they may need.

Keogh said there had been no impact on defence systems:

Defence has communicated with staff around making sure that people, in effect, remain vigilant around their personal information in light of recent cyber security attacks we’ve seen from a number of organisations in Australia.
And also to let Defence staff know that an external contractor has been the subject of a ransomware attack. That external contractor was providing…like an internal social media platform which has data from 2018 regarding Defence personnel.
We haven’t seen any evidence of that information being made available to anyone as a result of that attack, but we just want to make sure that all Defence staff and personnel remain vigilant, and we’re working with that external contractor now to make sure we get the best picture of what has occurred so that they’ve got the best support to ensure the security of their data as well.

Keogh said the recent spate of cyber attacks in Australia, which include those targeting Optus and Medibank, were concerning, and highlighted the need for individuals to be vigilant about their personal information, and for governments to ensure the security measures employed by organisations were sufficient.

I think it’s all Australians – and rightly the Australian government – is quite concerned about this sort of cyber activity that’s occurring, people seeking through nefarious means to get access to others’ personal data as a way of trying to steal identities and swoop people’s identification.

Matt Keogh
Minister for veterans’ affairs and defence personnel, Matt Keogh. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


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