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Morning mail: China detains Australian journalist, US tops 6m Covid cases, Ottolenghi spring recipes | Australia news

5 min read

Good morning, this is Emilie Gramenz bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 1 September.

Top stories

An Australian citizen who works as a TV anchor for a Chinese state-controlled broadcaster has been detained as tensions between Canberra and Beijing escalate. The Australian government was notified on 14 August that Cheng Lei, an anchor for a business show on the China Global Television Network, had been detained in Beijing. In a statement released on Monday night, Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, acknowledged the detention and said a consular visit had been conducted via video link.

Only 21 rental listings across Sydney and Melbourne would be affordable for a single unemployed person when the coronavirus supplement is cut next month, new research claims. Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot found of the 76,000 advertisements surveyed across Australia, 808 properties were reasonably priced for a single person on the jobseeker payment. But the figure will drop to 168, or 0.2% of the market, when the federal government reduces the supplement. Daniel Andrews has foreshadowed Victoria’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, to be outlined on Sunday. As people continue to work and study from home, the almost-finished national broadband network should be making life easier but tens of thousands are still finding the network not up to scratch.

The US has reached a grim milestone, topping 6m coronavirus infections nationwide. States including Iowa, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and others in the midwest have emerged as growing hotspots. Scotland has recorded the highest daily number of cases since mid-May after health officials detected 160 cases overnight. And British travellers may once again have to quarantine when returning from Portugal amid a rise in its cases.


The head of the Australian Signals Directorate is attempting to assure people the intelligence agency is not seeking the power to conduct mass community surveillance, while also declaring that “not all Australians are the good guys”.

Coal power plants in NSW are running less than 60% of the time due to an influx of renewable energy, increasing the likelihood some could become economically unviable and close earlier than planned.

The federal government’s proposed foreign relations bill has been blasted as “complete overkill”. Appearing on ABC’s Q+A on Monday night, the former WA premier Colin Barnett added that the bill was ‘patronising” and would “stymie relations”.

The world

A protester plays a banjo during the nightly protests at a Portland police precinct

A protester plays a banjo during the nightly protests at a Portland police precinct. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/AP

Joe Biden has accused Donald Trump of fomenting violence across the US, in a speech given a day after police in Portland, Oregon, arrested 29 people at a protest. The arrests followed a fatal shooting in the city on Saturday, amid clashes between Trump supporters and counter-demonstrators.

The judge overseeing the New York fraud case against the former Trump campaign manager and White House strategist Steve Bannon has set a trial date of 24 May 2021, but also flagged that Covid limitations on court proceedings could lead to a change.

India and China have accused each other of military provocation and violating sovereign territory along their disputed Himalayan border, escalating tensions between the two sides which have been locked in a months-long standoff.

A businessman whose role in saving more than 1,000 lives inspired the film Hotel Rwanda has been arrested on terrorism-related charges in the small east African country. Paul Rusesabagina, 66, was the general manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali, the capital, during the 1994 genocide.

Recommended reads

Covid-19 has highlighted what has long been true – Australia’s social security system is woefully inadequate, writes Greg Jericho. “The old rate of Newstart/jobseeker of $565.70 was pathetic – an amount designed to humiliate and punish those without work.” Two reports highlight that the increased jobseeker payments have kept millions of people out of poverty during the pandemic.

If I have a motto it’s “expect the worst”, Ewa Ramsey writes. “But for all the time I’ve spent worrying about everything from tsunamis to trip hazards, I did not see Covid-19 coming. Like almost everybody, everything about this year has been a complete blindside.” Months in, she says, the catastrophe of the pandemic has been terrifying but also freeing.

Whether it’s colourful baby carrots or crisp local asparagus, spring in Australia means a bounty of fresh local produce and recipes that enhance what nature supplies. Here’s 10 from the celebrated chef Yotam Ottolenghi that are perfect for Australian springtime.

“Vaginismus destroys lives. It doesn’t just destroy relationships, it affects women’s confidence as a whole,” Dr Leila Frodsham says. Vaginismus is a psychosexual condition involving involuntary contraction of the pelvic floor muscles that is shrouded in misunderstanding. While women report being told to “have a glass of wine” or even “get drunk” before intercourse by their doctors, this is finally starting to change.


Today on Full Story: the fight over the Aboriginal flag. At this year’s AFL Indigenous round, set up to celebrate Indigenous players and culture, there was one big change – the Aboriginal flag was not painted on the field. This was the result of a growing conflict about how the flag can be used, with AFL clubs and players, Indigenous companies and communities, and the minister for Indigenous Australians, all weighing in. Guardian Australia’s Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam, explains the history of the flag and why it’s at the centre of such a bitter dispute.

Full Story

The fight over the Aboriginal flag

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Caleb Ewan shows his sprint credentials by outlasting Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett in Sisteron

Caleb Ewan shows his sprint credentials by outlasting Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett in Sisteron. Photograph: Getty Images

The Tour de France peloton has left the French Riviera behind and turned towards this year’s first Alpine stages, with Caleb Ewan of Australia taking the fourth stage win of his career in stage three to Sisteron, at the foot of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

US Open tennis has started. Keep across live updates from the opening day in New York.

Media roundup

Market economists are forecasting the Australian dollar will reach US80¢, reports the Australian Financial Review. More than 120 passengers have registered for a planned charter flight to Australia from the UK for parents with newborn babies, according to the ABC. The Sydney Morning Herald has a story about calls for a public design competition, similar to the Opera House, for a $200m redevelopment of Circular Quay. And, in the Herald Sun, the AFL Commission is expected to reward Queensland’s $200m role in saving the season when it decides the grand final venue today.

Coming up

A four-day committal hearing begins for Constable Zach Rolfe, charged with murder after Kumanjayi Walker, 19, was fatally shot last November as two officers tried to arrest him in his home in Yuendumu, north-west of Alice Springs.

Victoria’s Covid-19 hotel quarantine inquiry continues.

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