Morning mail: border restrictions hit Christmas plans, Afghanistan warning, best albums and films

·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP</span>
Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Good morning. International border restrictions are stopping families reuniting at Christmas. Documents reveal the federal government was warned of the worsening security situation in Afghanistan in July. And the Guardian announces its selection of best albums and films for 2021.

Australians with adult sons and daughters living abroad are being told their children don’t count as ‘“immediate family” and don’t warrant exemption for entry into the country in the lead-up to Christmas. It comes as more countries impose travel restrictions on visitors from other parts of the world in order to try to contain the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. In October, prime minister Scott Morrison announced changes to allow parents of Australian citizens to be classified as immediate family, allowing them to travel to Australian jurisdictions with 80% double-dose vaccination rates. But the same change has not been applied to adult sons and daughters of Australian citizens, who are non-citizens, live abroad, and are no longer considered dependent on their parents. “The stupid thing is that if we were in England, and our daughter was here, we could come in as a parent of an Australian citizen, but when it’s the other way around, she can’t,” one parent told Guardian Australia.

The Australian government was warned in mid-July that the worsening security situation in Afghanistan and Covid restrictions were making it “extremely difficult” to help former Afghan employees escape the country, previously secret documents reveal. At least five weeks before the Afghan capital fell to the Taliban in mid-August, government officials predicted more people would seek to flee the country and they were discussing the possibility of chartering direct flights from Kabul to Australia. Guardian Australia can also reveal the governor general, David Hurley, sought a private briefing from the immigration minister in July about the program to assist former Afghan colleagues – as the government was facing increasing public criticism about its handling of the longstanding scheme.

The Prince of Wales’s acknowledgment of the “appalling atrocity of slavery” that “forever stains our history” as Barbados became a republic was historic, and the start of a “grown-up conversation led by a future king”, equality campaigners have said. Uttering words his mother, the Queen, would be constitutionally constrained from saying, Prince Charles’s speech, at the ceremony to replace the monarch as head of state in the island nation, did not demur from reflecting on the “darkest days of our past” as he looked to a bright future for Barbadians.


Rex Patrick
South Australian senator Rex Patrick launched an extraordinary attack on officials in the prime minister’s department over denials of FOI requests for national cabinet papers. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Labor, One Nation and Rex Patrick united to decry the prime minister’s department for insisting national cabinet documents remain secret under FOI laws, despite the government losing a case brought by Patrick in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on that very point in relation to a previous FOI application.

Australia has recorded the lowest number of new HIV diagnoses in a year since 1984, but doctors are concerned a high proportion of people are being diagnosed late in their infection.

The New South Wales government has introduced new testing measures, and increased fines for returned international travellers who breach Omicron isolation rules.

A suburban South Australian shopping centre has created a buzz after it falsely attributed a quote about bees, written on a plaque in a bathroom hallway, to the famous British naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The world

Prince&#x002019;s Albert II of Monaco (C) and Jeannot Bouillon-Baker (L) one of the sons of late French singer Josephine Baker
Baker will become the first black woman to enter the Pantheon in Paris. Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Josephine Baker, the French-American civil rights activist, music hall superstar and second world war resistance hero, is set to become the first Black woman to enter France’s Panthéon mausoleum of revered historical figures – taking the nation’s highest honour at a moment when tensions over national identity and immigration are dominating the run-up to next year’s presidential race.

Armed French police have broken up a makeshift migrant camp outside Dunkirk where the 27 people who died at sea last week stayed before they drowned in the Channel.

Volumes of goods shipped directly from Ireland to the EU on new Brexit-busting ferry routes have rocketed by 50% in the past six months as exporters seek to avoid travelling across land through Great Britain, according to official data.

Hours before the deadly attack on the US Capitol this year, Donald Trump made several calls from the White House to top lieutenants to talk about ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win from taking place on 6 January.

Recommended reads

The television industry has a problem with the way it treats women. According to a survey by Film + TV Charity, 39% of female employees have experienced sexual harassment at work, while 67% have experienced bullying. Bectu, the union that supports TV and film workers, found that two-thirds of those who had experienced abuse did not report it for fear of being blacklisted. Continuing with its series of exposés about the British TV industry, the Guardian interviews women who remember being assaulted for three years straight, denied work once they became mums and batting off men who are “famously handsy”.

A rural community of 5,500 people in Taiwan, with an under-resourced health system, came together to take on Covid. International news editor Bonnie Malkin introduces this story about a community effort to confront Delta.

Harold and Maude is a movie that celebrates the 1970s. Exuberant, psychedelic, hilarious and heartbreaking, it’s a product of the most prolific decade of Hal Ashby’s directorial output: his skewed, sweet-natured stamp is all over it.


The Omicron variant of Covid has prompted governments around the world to reintroduce border restrictions, with Australia shutting the border to southern Africa and delaying the reopening date for international students and visa holders. The federal government has called for calm, describing the variant as “manageable”, but what do we actually know about it?

Laura Murphy-Oates speaks to medical editor Melissa Davey about what scientists have discovered so far about Omicron and our evolving approach to combating Covid variants.

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


Sheffield Shield match
Players gather for the Sheffield Shield match between New South Wales and Victoria at Melbourne Cricket Ground, on 6 November 2021. Photograph: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Over the weekend, men, women, boys and girls gathered in various parts of the nation to play for their clubs. It is the raw manifestation of Cricket Australia’s core business: people playing, and enjoying, cricket. But Sam Perry says Australian cricket culture is still ruled by traditional machismo. “Upon winning, it’s not unheard of for clubs to sing songs referencing binge drinking and sexual promiscuity,” Perry writes. “If it’s not being bellowed in song, it’s being side mouthed in conversation.”

Media roundup

New South Wales has experienced its wettest November in more than 100 years, the ABC reports, with rainfall records falling across the state. Queensland could lose 6,000 teachers to vaccine mandates, according to the Brisbane Times. And last night, Western Australian governor Kim Beazley welcomed Cleo Smith’s parents to Government House to honour the heroic police officers responsible for rescuing their little girl, the West Australian reports.

Coming up

The inquest into the disappearance of Belgian backpacker Theo Hayez at Byron Bay continues.

And if you’ve read this far …

Discover the Guardian’s best albums and films of 2021.

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