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Morning mail: accused minister to speak, Brazil variant fears, Dr Seuss pulled |

6 min read


Hello! It’s Wednesday 3 March, and today we’re awaiting the minister at the centre of a rape allegation to come forward. We’re also bringing you news that Chinese-Australians are facing discrimination due to Covid and government tensions, and a bittersweet story from Mardin Arvin, who has shared his joy with the Guardian after walking free from immigration detention after eight years.

The cabinet minister at the centre of allegations of a rape in 1988 is expected to make a public statement today to declare his innocence. The decision to go public follows confirmation by NSW police that there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to proceed with an investigation. Police say they now consider the matter “closed”. “Following the woman’s death, NSW police came into possession of a personal document purportedly made by the woman previously,” a spokesperson said. “NSW police have since sought legal advice in relation to these matters. Based on information provided to NSW police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed.”

A landmark survey of the Chinese-Australian community has found nearly one in five have been physically threatened or attacked in the past year. Researchers from the Lowy Institute said the “dispiriting” finding showed how Covid and worsening China-Australia government tensions were spilling over into discrimination. A report co-author, Dr Jennifer Hsu, said everyone involved in public debate should be mindful about how language can “filter down and affect the day-to-day experience of Chinese-Australians”. On the other hand, four in 10 respondents (40%) said somebody had expressed support for them because of their heritage during the same 12-month period.

Researchers say the coronavirus variant P1, originally found in Brazil, was able to reinfect up to 61% of people who have already had Covid, and is about 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than the original virus. Authorities in Germany and France are under pressure to shift the AstraZeneca vaccine at higher speed to avoid a pile-up of unused doses. France has administered just 24% of the jab, well below a target set at 80% to 85%, while in Germany two-thirds of 1.4m delivered doses remained in storage. Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has described the EU’s vaccination deployment as “too slow” and announced Austria and Denmark will work with Israel on protecting their citizens against new variants. While shots are slow to move in Europe, Donald and Melania Trump made sure to get a shot before leaving the White House.

Australia

Jam Land property near Delegate in southern NSW
Jam Land property near Delegate in southern NSW, which was the subject of an investigation over illegal clearing of endangered grasslands. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

An agricultural group associated with Angus Taylor’s family thanked the NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro, for a $107,000 grant that was used to fund research to support lobbying efforts for the watering down of protections for endangered native grasslands.

Australia’s aged care system will require at least $36bn each year if the Morrison government adopts the royal commission’s cheapest recommendations, economists have calculated.

The private healthcare company responsible for giving two elderly people the wrong vaccine dose last week had previously failed to check its employees’ training and qualifications. Healthcare Australia failed to check basic documents used by a man who was fraudulently claiming to be a nurse to gain work in the NT.

The Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh has asked the auditor general to broaden an investigation into the jobkeeper program to look at how the port operator Qube received $30m in wage subsidies even though its revenue did not fall.

A study has found five in 100,000 Australians were taken to hospital for bee and wasp stings between 2017-18, twice the rate for spiders and snakes.

The world

Alexei Navalny during a court hearing in Moscow
Alexei Navalny during a court hearing in Moscow. The US said policy towards Russia was now being closely coordinated with European allies. Photograph: Babushkinsky district court/EPA

The US has hit Russian officials and 13 Russian and European companies with fresh sanctions over the poisoning of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. US officials said policy towards Russia was now being closely coordinated with European allies, and that more punitive measures would follow.

The UK failed to inform the home countries of almost 200 killers and rapists due to a massive computer failure and subsequent cover-up. A total of 112,490 criminal convictions were not sent to relevant EU capitals over an eight-year period.

The FBI director, Chris Wray, has called the Capitol attack “domestic terrorism” while defending the bureau’s handling of intelligence indicating that violence was likely.

Publication of six Dr Seuss books will cease due to their racist and insensitive portrayal of people of colour, the company that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said.

All planned coal projects around the world must be cancelled to end the “deadly addiction” to the most polluting fossil fuel, says the UN secretary general, António Guterres.

Recommended reads

Refugee and writer Mardin Arvin in Melbourne after his release from hotel detention
Refugee and writer Mardin Arvin in Melbourne after his release from hotel detention

“After eight years in immigration detention, I cannot believe I am free in Australia,” writes Mardin Arvin, who was released from hotel detention in January. “Every few steps forward I look behind me. I expect to see a guard frowning back at me, or staring at me with a patronising smile … I was an imprisoned refugee. I am not happy. But I think to myself maybe it is because after these last few weeks I still cannot believe it – I cannot believe that I can live like a regular human being. A human being who is no longer captive between the four walls of a single room.”

After two decades walking an “ethical tightrope” in rural banking, Kate Woods retrained to become a pharmacist and moved to the remote East Kimberley. “There’s not a day when I’m not challenged by the job. I might be trying to get a life-saving medicine in from Broome, 1,000km away, or communicating with someone whose language I don’t speak, when there’s no interpreter for their particular language. But the people of the Kimberley – both patients and healthcare team – make it such a rich and rewarding experience. To anyone who’s fence-sitting on a career change, I’d say just do it … Prepare well, take a deep breath and go for it.”

Listen

Leigh Chislett worked as a HIV nurse at St Mary’s hospital in London during the 1980s. Watching the new drama It’s a Sin, he saw himself not just in the nurses caring for patients but also in the young gay men navigating their lives. In today’s Full Story, Chislett tells Anushka Asthana about living in London as a young gay man and the horrific impact Aids had on the gay community.

Full Story

Reflecting on It’s a Sin: A nurse on the Aids crisis of the 80s

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

Sport

Lewis Hamilton has said his priority this year is making a significant difference to improving diversity in Formula One, rather than chasing a record-breaking eighth championship.

An amateur jockey, Rob James, has apologised after a video emerged showing him climbing on to the back of a dead horse.

Media roundup

There’s heartache for the 40,000 Australians stranded overseas who will have to wait longer to get home after the federal government extended the international border ban until June, reports the Age. Harvey Norman is among prominent Australian companies facing rising pressure to return jobkeeper payments, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. And the nation’s top military officer has defended telling first-year cadets not to make themselves “prey” to sexual predators by being out late, along, drunk and “attractive”, the Canberra Times reports ($).

Coming up

An inquiry into the future of the aviation sector post-Covid will hear from Qantas, Rex and the transport union.

The NSW environment minister is expected to pledge to save the platypus from extinction.

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