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Morning mail: Australia’s ‘national shame’, vaccine rollout disarray, Biden tackles gun control | Australia news

6 min read


Australia’s vaccine rollout has suffered a major setback, more concerns about Liberal MP Andrew Laming’s behaviour, and the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody continues to be a “national shame”. This is Imogen Dewey with the morning’s major news stories on Friday 9 April.

At least 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in police and prison custody since the royal commission handed down its final report in 1991, new research has revealed. To mark the 30th anniversary, Guardian Australia has updated “Deaths inside” which tracks every known Indigenous death in custody from 2008. At least five of those deaths happened since the beginning of March this year. Linda Burney, a Wiradjuri woman and Labor’s spokesperson for Indigenous Australians, is calling for the federal government to fund a real-time reporting system and an independent audit of the commission’s recommendations. “This just can’t continue,” she said.

Australia’s vaccine rollout is in disarray after the government last night announced it had accepted expert health advice that Pfizer should now be the preferred vaccine for under-50s. There’s now an advisory on the AstraZeneca vaccine warning that group it may cause extremely rare but potentially deadly blood clots. The rollout here has already been slow, chaotic and confusing for aged care workers, many of whom have reported receiving no jab or being left in limbo with a first dose only, and the government is expected to miss a self-imposed target on delivering “pop-up” hubs to vaccinate critical aged care staff. It has given no details on the proposal to workers, despite multiple requests for information and meetings from the nursing union.

The Australian Electoral Commission has asked Facebook to provide information about dozens of pages operated by Andrew Laming under the guise of community and news groups without political disclosures. Labor is calling for the government to cut ties with the besieged MP, who, it’s been revealed, prompted a complaint from the teachers’ union when he “inappropriately” wrote to schools in his electorate using his Liberal MP letterhead to request early Naplan data for his own research.

(And speaking of Facebook, it apparently has no plans to notify the more-than 530m users whose details were exposed on a hacker forum in 2019.)

Australia

Fortune Agribusiness plans to use 40,000 megalitres a year to irrigate farming operations, which could affect groundwater dependent ecosystems around Ali Curung, south of Tennant Creek (pictured).
Fortune Agribusiness plans to use 40,000 megalitres a year to irrigate farming operations, which could affect groundwater dependent ecosystems around Ali Curung, south of Tennant Creek (pictured). Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The Northern Territory government has granted the largest groundwater extraction licence in the territory’s history, causing alarm among environment groups and residents.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused John Barilaro of “gaslighting” the people of the Hunter Valley after the New South Wales deputy premier claimed air quality data had been manipulated by environmental groups.

A man accused of murdering a Gold Coast inventor allegedly confessed to the killing, but lawyers are claiming it must have been an “inside job”, as only a bedroom where the murdered man hid cash was disturbed.

Australia’s famed continent-crossing train has received a colourful makeover at the hands of Arrernte artist Chantelle Mulladad. See the Ghan’s transformation into a moving painting for its largest-ever visual display.

The world

Joe Biden has joined Boris Johnson and Irish prime minister Micheál Martin in calling for calm after what police described as the worst violence in Belfast for years.
Joe Biden has joined Boris Johnson and Irish prime minister Micheál Martin in calling for calm after what police described as the worst violence in Belfast for years. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP

Six nights of rioting across Northern Ireland have left 55 police officers injured and aggravated a political crisis. The White House has expressed concern, and “the fear is that this will get bigger”.

Joe Biden has outlined steps to end gun violence in America, calling it an “international embarrassment”. Elsewhere in the US, the Derek Chauvin trial was told “a healthy person would have died” under same circumstances as George Floyd.

More than a third of the vast floating platforms of ice surrounding Antarctica could be at risk of collapsing and releasing “unimaginable amounts” of water into the sea if global temperatures reach 4C above pre-industrial levels.

Police have arrested the reigning “Mrs World” on charges of assault over an on-stage fracas in which she pulled the crown off the head of the new “Mrs Sri Lanka”.

Recommended reads

Ria Andriani bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. ‘With the appropriate equipment and support, the Australian bush is a wonderful place to explore.’
Ria Andriani bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. ‘With the appropriate equipment and support, the Australian bush is a wonderful place to explore.’ Photograph: Supplied

“Thanks to the NDIS, blindnesss hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the Australian bush,” writes Ria Andriani – who was able to engage support workers to go with her when she started getting funding. “It’s different to the regular, safe environment that I expect in urban spaces. A lot of the tracks require some degree of adventurousness – ducking under trees, jumping over rocks, crossing creeks and at times, climbing on hands and feet. These aren’t skills I need when moving through the city, even with the ever-changing construction taking hold in Sydney. But doing it makes me a more confident traveller.”

How can you grieve when you’ve been taught to stare down heartbreak? How can you heal when you can’t admit you’re wounded? Lech Blaine’s candid, thoughtful debut is the tale of two wreckages: the first, a tragic overcorrection on a dark highway; the second, a lifetime in the making. “It’s a study in Australia’s larrikin brand of toxic masculinity, with all its flamboyant insouciance and cast-iron silences,” writes Beejay Silcox. “But it’s as a memoir of the long twilight of the Howard years that Car Crash is at its most bruisingly insightful.”

There’s a lot of buzz about retinols, but if you want cheap skincare that actually works, writes Sarah Ayoub, you should ask your doctor. “There is a tendency to self-diagnose and treat – often inaccurately, ineffectively and expensively – using the internet,” one expert tells her. “We want people to think about effective treatments first, rather than when all else has failed.”

Listen

Helen and Ted Russell with a photo of their son Edward Russell who died in custody.
Helen and Ted Russell with a photo of their son Edward Russell who died in custody. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

When the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody handed down its final report 30 years ago this month, it concluded that more Aboriginal people were dying in custody because more Aboriginal people were being taken into custody, often unnecessarily. Labor senator Pat Dodson, a Yawuru man who was one of the royal commissioners, called the toll of 474 deaths since then a “national shame”.

Guardian Australia has spent the past three years tracking Indigenous and non-Indigenous deaths in custody for the Deaths Inside project. Today on Full Story, Gabrielle Jackson talks to Lorena Allam and Mike Ticher about what needs to change so we’re not having the same conversation in 30 years’ time.

Full Story

474 deaths in 30 years: why are Aboriginal people still dying in custody?

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

Sport

After weeks of deliberation, Sydney Roosters co-captain Jake Friend announced his immediate retirement from the NRL due to concussion concerns.

Media roundup

A former energy executive has been tasked with “overhauling” the Climate Change Authority just two years after the Morrison government nearly scrapped it, reports the Australian Financial Review. According to the Australian, Peter Dutton says his first priority as new defence minister is to “repair morale” in the wake of last year’s devastating Brereton report. And the Age says there’s a “property market reckoning coming”.

Coming up

National cabinet meets today, with the shake-up of the vaccine rollout top of the agenda.

And golf fans can follow the first round of the 2021 Masters Tournament live here.

And if you’ve read this far …

Detail of the 17th-century oil on canvas Crowning of Thorns, attributed to the circle of José de Ribera, which was pulled from sale.
Detail of the 17th-century oil on canvas Crowning of Thorns, attributed to the circle of José de Ribera, which was pulled from sale. Photograph: SCREENGRAB / ansorena.com

Is this a Caravaggio? The Spanish government isn’t sure yet, and has slapped on an export ban while it finds out. The small but luminous oil painting was due to go under the hammer for €1,500 this week. If it’s the real deal, it could be worth up to €150m – but not everyone’s convinced.

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