Morning mail: 'intrusive' policing, world's hottest January, Amsterdam's cannabis ban

Richard Parkin
Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 14 February.

Top stories

New South Wales police have compiled a secretive watch list of potential offenders – including a disproportionate amount of Indigenous children – for two decades, the state police watchdog has revealed. Described as an opaque system of “preventive policing”, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s investigation into the Suspect Target Management Plan found “unreasonable surveillance”, “harassment” and “intrusive” policing tactics, having reviewed the cases of 429 children aged nine to 17 on the watch list. Over two-thirds of those monitored identified as Indigenous.

$150,000 of federal money was directed by Bridget McKenzie towards a national study into the benefits of shooting, and away from a major event for 1,000 intellectually impaired athletes, documents show. Evidence produced in the Senate show the former sport minister McKenzie, a shooting enthusiast, was informed by the Department of Health that it had underspent by $580,000 and needed guidance on where to direct the surplus cash. A list of funding options, including the INAS Global Games, was drawn up, but rejected in favour of the shooting study conducted by a consultancy group following a limited tender.

A sudden spike in the number of coronavirus cases is not due to a “significant shift in the pattern of mortality or severity”, the World Health Organisation has confirmed, but rather an uptick in retrospective diagnoses within the Hubei province. China also confirmed an additional 254 deaths, bringing the toll to 1,370, while Vietnam has placed 10,000 people under quarantine. Japan has announced its first death from the coronavirus outbreak, hours after confirming 44 more cases on a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo as fears of the spreading disease mount in the country. And in Australia, the federal government has extended its travel ban on people who have visited China by another week.


A 78-year-old Australian citizen trapped in Wuhan says he feels like a “throwaway citizen”, following his rejection for a government evacuation flight from the coronavirus plagued region. Garry Ridder, a former RAAF officer, describes conditions in the provincial capital as “like a ghost town”.

A Melbourne dentist has been given permission by the federal court to serve Google to ascertain the details of an anonymous account that left a bad review. Dr Matthew Kabbabe is seeking to sue the user for defamation, but the internet giant has in the past argued that reviews are necessary for accurate customer information.

Former teacher and rugby league player Chris Dawson will stand trial for the murder of his wife Lynette, having been committed by magistrate nearly 40 years after the alleged crime took place.

Labor has downplayed reports of up to 20 MPs meeting to form a breakaway pro-coal faction within the party, with the Coalition quick to accuse the opposition of internal divisions over climate policy, something leader Anthony Albanese has denied.

The world

Glaciers in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. Temperatures in the region have warmed rapidly in recent years. Photograph: Johan Ordóñez/AFP via Getty Images

The Antarctic has registered a temperature above 20C for the first time in history, prompting fears of climate instability in the world’s greatest repository of ice. And Earth just had its hottest January since records began, with average global temperatures 1.14C above the 20th-century average.

Donald Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly has strongly criticised the president, launching a spirited defence of impeachment inquiry witness Alexander Vindman, who the retired four-star general maintained had been issued “an illegal order”.

Amsterdam’s mayor has called for a ban on red-light district coffee shops selling cannabis to foreign tourists, as the city of just over a million people struggles to cope with more than 17 million visitors each year.

British chancellor Sajid Javid has resigned, in what analysts are saying is a move by Boris Johnson and senior adviser Dominic Cummings to seize control of the Treasury. Javid’s departure comes just weeks before he was to hand down his first budget.

Recommended reads

Russian and Syrian troops surround the stuck US military convoy. At least one Syrian was killed and another injured in the confused incident. Photograph: AP

American battle trucks stuck in the mud, besieged by angry Kurdish villagers, and the Russian army trying to mediate their escape. After a five-year battle in northern Syria against Isis it wasn’t supposed to end like this, Middle East correspondent Martin Chulov writes. So what are the prospects for peace following Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of US troops from the region? Well, complicated. “An ascendant Russia, a uninterested US, Syrian loyalists looking for leverage – and the local Kurds caught between the competing ambitions of Ankara and Moscow.”

It’s been a decade since beloved Melbourne garage-rock four-piece, Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s last album, and despite a lack of pre-release or promotion, the aptly titled All in Good Time is finally out. After prestigious awards saw larger labels come courting and their gigs began to require larger venues, guitarist and manager Mikey Young decided enough was enough, writes Andrew Stafford. “When things get to a certain size, I just want to run away and start something else.”

Whether sheltering from violent storms or fires in Australia, or stuck in a hotel room or cruise ship cabin due to coronavirus, it’s been the summer of staying indoors. “As the world out there feels increasingly unsafe and unpredictable, are we going to spend more and more time inside?” As UberEats trumps going to restaurants, and movie streaming replaces cinema visits we are increasingly becoming home-habituated, writes Brigid Delaney.


As the world remains gripped by the spread of coronavirus, public health officials have struggled to answer major questions, including its threat to the wider world. In this episode of Full Story, Alison Rourke and Celina Ribeiro trace the virus’s spread and review how China and Australia have responded thus far.


Australia’s Emily Van-Egmond celebrates with teammates after a 93rd-minute equaliser. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The Matildas left it late but Emily van Egmond’s 93rd-minute equaliser against China ensured they finished top of their Olympic qualifying group, setting up a two-legged tie against Group A runners-up Vietnam to reach the Tokyo Games.

Despite winning the T20 tri-series tournament early this week the challenges facing Australia’s women’s cricket team were apparent. “It was good to come up against teams that truly exposed our current flaws,” writes key bowler Megan Schutt in the latest of her Guardian Australia columns. “We’d rather be going through this process now and trying to fix things than figuring it out in the middle of the World Cup.”

And it wouldn’t be Friday without David Squires … on Qatar’s latest World Cup ambassador.

Media roundup

Australia could lose a third of new Chinese students after Scott Morrison’s travel ban extension, prompting the Chinese embassy to express “deep regret and dissatisfaction”, writes the Australian. Queensland and NSW’s drinking water has been declared as largely safe, despite recent floods and bushfires, officials told the ABC. And, Lord Howe Island is bracing for winds of over 150km and rainfalls of up to 150mm in 24 hours as Cyclone Uesi draws closer to Australia, Nine News reports.

Coming up

The National Climate Emergency Summit takes place in Melbourne to unpack what a climate emergency response could look like at local, national, and global levels.

And if you’ve read this far …

Stop me if you’ve heard this storyline before: an Italian woman has evaded arrest for two years by seeking refuge in convents across northern Italy, posed as a nun. Convicted in absentia of fraud and sentenced to prison the 47-year-old opted to do a runner. She was described by fellow sisters as a very kind woman.