Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 20 August.
Australian hotels have called for the federal government to raise restrictions on overseas arrivals, with the Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive saying many are “absolutely desperate for more business” and very keen to be included in mandatory hotel quarantine programs. In Victoria, the hotel quarantine inquiry is set to hear that rooms offered to returned travellers were unclean. Ninety-nine per cent of Victoria’s second-wave cases have been linked back to quarantine breaches. In NSW police are investigating whether private security companies contracted to work in the state’s hotel quarantine regime were illegally subcontracting to third parties, after a guard tested positive for Covid-19. And, if you missed the news about the potential Oxford University vaccine, Hannah Ryan has a handy explainer.
Sweden has recorded its highest tally of deaths in a calendar half-year since 1869, with Covid-related fatalities accounting for about 10% of the nation’s total mortalities. Iran’s death toll has officially passed 20,000, with researchers suggesting the actual figure is likely to be double that. In Italy a sudden rise in new infections has put the nation back three months, facing infection rates not seen since mid-May but also increasing resistance to further restrictions.
A home affairs department blunder has revealed the identity of a whistleblower, as well as the content of their disclosures. A confidential home affairs investigation, including the name of the whistleblower and an outline of their complaints, was inadvertently emailed to a non-involved party, who alerted the commonwealth ombudsman. It’s not clear whether the department then advised the affected individual of the error, but in a statement wrote: “The Department recognises the seriousness of this matter and makes every endeavour to protect disclosers who make an allegation.” The error could constitute a criminal offence punishable by six months’ imprisonment.
The Banjima people of the Pilbara could lose up to 86 significant sites to mining exploration but have told a Senate inquiry they faced little choice but to “trade away their heritage”. Given the power imbalance, elders said, negotiations were reduced to a choice to “take the deals that were offered or take nothing”.
The lobby group representing major retailers has added its voice to calls for the government to retain the jobkeeper wage subsidy past September, arguing that economic conditions remain weak.
Google has been accused of “bullying” the public through its rollout of new yellow warning signs that a consumer watchdog has already described as effectively “misinformation”. The government has pushed for a code of behaviour between Google and Facebook to help save local journalism. Josh Taylor explains the debate.
The jobs-ready graduate package is set to fall tens of thousands of places short, according to research conducted by the Greens. A submission from leading universities has also raised concerns about how the program will meet needs once transitional funding runs out.
A 1,200-year-old world heritage site is under threat from flooding in China, as rising water levels on the Yangtze River begin to cover the 71-metre Leshan Giant Buddha. It’s the first time since 1949 that water has reached the feet of the Tang-dynasty wonder.
The military leaders behind a coup in Mali are being urged to swiftly reintroduce democracy to the west African nation. The US has condemned what it has called “a forcible seizure of power” after nearly six months of protests following a contested election result.
A Sudanese teenager has died attempting to cross the Channel in an inflatable dinghy using shovels for oars. Aid workers in Calais have condemned the UK government for failing to provide safe alternatives for refugees stuck in limbo.
Elon Musk has become the world’s fourth richest man after two days of trading of Tesla stocks, the company he co-founded, drove his personal wealth up by more than $13bn. Tesla’s share price has increased 10-fold in the past year.
In a secret location in western Sydney, a 50-metre strip of asphalt is undergoing strenuous stress-testing. It’s no ordinary bit of road, write Bianca Nogrady and Hannah Ryan. In an Australian first, locally sourced landfill – coffee cup lids and lining, paper and plastic – is being used as a bitumen binding agent. It’s a “secret herbs and spices” recipe, says the asphalt manufacturer John Kypreos, who has teamed up with the green group Closed Loop. And, according to waste management experts, it’s a winning combination for jobs too.
When the pandemic began global markets were thrown into profound uncertainty. But, as Greg Jericho writes, if there’s a silver lining to Covid 2.0, it’s that it comes with certainty: that “things are stuffed”. And with that certainty, comes a reluctant acceptance. “We’re still not back to the calm old days of yore (ie six months ago) but rather than seeing such extreme fluctuations of 10% to 12%, now the market, on average, moves around 1.4% from low to high on any given day.”
It’s been dubbed “the millennial version of lawn bowls, with less booze” – but just what is the story with recreational axe throwing? ESPN now shows the World Axe Throwing League, and more than 10,000 members across six countries have signed up with the rival International Axe Throwing League. But there’s a lot more to it than just a glorified version of darts, as “axeperts” explain to Alexis Buxton-Collins.
Before Covid Victoria was one of the powerhouse states of the Australian economy but a return to lockdown has brought widespread job losses as businesses are pushed to the wall. On this episode of Full Story, Guardian Australia’s senior business reporter Ben Butler outlines the state’s present challenges.
Just once in the last 75 years has a VFL/AFL grand final been played anywhere but the Melbourne Cricket Ground. And while, given the quality of alternative venues in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, it shouldn’t be an issue, as Rohan Connolly writes, interstate politics guarantee headaches whichever option is chosen.
The AFLW star Chloe Dalton has announced she’ll step away from the game to chase Olympic gold with Australia’s rugby sevens team. And while code-hopping is not a new phenomenon, writes Kirby Fenwick, AFLW is always facing a battle to return its brightest talents.
Josh Frydenberg has secretly rejected a $600m bid from China to buy one of Australia’s biggest fresh milk and drink producers, Lion Dairy & Drinks, acting against advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board, the Financial Review says. Dfat is facing a raft of fresh job cuts, including a role monitoring human rights abuses in Beijing, with the Liberal MP Dave Sharma saying Australia needed a “diplomatic step-up to match our military step-up”, the Australian reports. And, a new multibillion-dollar clean energy project could power a million homes, the Advertiser says.
Public hearings continue at Victoria’s Covid-19 hotel quarantine inquiry. Witnesses will include two nurses who worked in the program and returned travellers.
Qantas will release its preliminary final results.
And if you’ve read this far …
“We have ways of making you walk.” That’s the word from the German government – after the agricultural minister announced a plan to compel all dog owners to exercise their pets twice a day. And we’re not talking a quick trip down to the pub – according to the Hundeverordnung, each trip must be at least one hour in duration.
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