Morning mail: Brexit fast-track rejected, farmers' drought demands, reality show payout

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Jessica Taylor/AP

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday, October 23.

Top stories

Boris Johnson’s plan to fast-track his Brexit deal through parliament in time for next week’s 31 October deadline has been rejected by MPs, even after he threatened to pull his deal and press for a general election. After a day of cajoling and inducements from the prime minister and the Conservative whips, the government lost a crunch vote by 322 to 308 – a majority of 14. MPs were rejecting the “programme motion”, which set out a blistering three-day timetable for them to scrutinise the 110-page withdrawal agreement bill. The legislation was only published late on Monday, and the chancellor, Sajid Javid, declined to publish an economic analysis of the deal. Even some MPs minded to back Johnson’s deal said they could not accept such a truncated debate.

Farmers have sent the government a list of key demands for immediate drought response, including a call for the commonwealth to pay council rates for affected businesses and to offer exit packages for those wanting to leave the land. The demands come amid simmering tensions between the Nationals and the Liberal party about the government’s drought response, with calls from regional MPs for the government to do more, and frustrations about One Nation stealing the limelight in regional areas.

The Morrison government underspent $214m in vocational education and training programs in the last financial year, contributing to a total $919m underspend since 2014. In its 2018-19 annual report, the education department revealed it spent less than was budgeted for key programs including trade support loans (-$68m), Australian Apprenticeships Centres (-$51m) and apprenticeship incentives (-$35m). Labor’s shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, seized on the figures, accusing the Coalition of shortchanging Tafe and training by $1bn “despite the fact Australia is suffering a national shortage of tradies”.


Australian media companies have used Scott Morrison’s words to argue against criminalising journalism. The companies noted, in a letter to MPs, that the PM told parliament on Monday that Australians would not want to live in a country where politicians could decide on a whim who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t.

Channel Seven has been ordered to pay compensation to a reality show contestant who won a landmark compensation case against the network for psychological injury suffered while filming the show.

The vast majority of disability pension applicants say Centrelink treated them unfairly, according to research from Monash University. Among those who had applied for the disability pension, 88% said they believed Centrelink had not treated them fairly.

Chris the Merino sheep has died. The sheep made international headlines after being found wandering and barely visible under a world-record 41kg fleece.

The world

Some commentators saw Donald Trump’s remarks as a political strategy. Photograph: UPI/Barcroft Media

Donald Trump referred to impeachment proceedings against him as a “lynching” in a Tuesday morning tweet, sparking condemnation for using such a racially charged word to describe his political predicament.

ExxonMobil is to face trial in New York City on Tuesday, accused of misleading investors over the business risks caused by regulations aimed at addressing the climate crisis.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin have agreed on the parameters of a proposed Turkish “safe zone” in Syria, a development that could bring an end to Ankara’s offensive against Kurdish forces over the border by severely curtailing its control of the area.

Radical light and sound wave therapy could slow Alzheimer’s. Doctors in the US have launched a clinical trial to see whether exposure to flickering lights and low frequency sounds can slow the progression of the disease.

Recommended reads

Government advertising spikes in the lead-up to elections. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

Australia needs a ban on taxpayer-funded political advertising before elections, writes Christopher Knaus. “Time and again, the federal government’s advertising spend curiously spikes in the lead-up to elections. This year was no different. Despite politicians from both sides having thundered against the practice, little has changed. The current system loosely controls campaigns via advertising guidelines, which stipulate that they ought not be ‘conducted for party political purposes’.”

“Justin Trudeau now faces a landscape that will require deft political manoeuvring to strike deals and pass legislation,” writes Leyland Cecco after the Canadian prime minister was narrowly returned to power on Tuesday. “The result also shows a significantly weakened prime minister straining under both the heavy baggage of incumbency and extensive damage to his personal brand. In recent months, as the prime minister has been dogged by scandal – including accusations that he improperly pressured his attorney general to abandon the prosecution of a major engineering company and the emergence of Trudeau in blackface – he has largely abandoned his ‘sunny ways’ vision of government.”


What is it about ageing that is so confronting? That’s one of the questions that drove the Stella-prize winning writer Charlotte Wood to write her latest novel, The Weekend. In this episode of the Full Story podcast, Charlotte, Guardian Australia associate editor Lucy Clark and host Laura Murphy-Oates talk about the stigmas around ageing and how to flip the script for older women.


Sam Kerr is moving on from Australia. Photograph: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

The departure of the Matildas captain, Sam Kerr, will rob the W-League of its biggest and most marketable star but it isn’t all doom and gloom. The competition has been given the opportunity to shine a light on its many other prodigious talents.

The joy and pride stirred by Japan is the real value of this Rugby World Cup, writes Andy Bull. The Japanese team have spread happiness when their country needed it the most.

Manchester United have issued an indefinite ban to the supporter who allegedly racially abused Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold during the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Media roundup

At the top of the Australian Financial Review’s homepage this morning is news that Australia’s biggest employer groups are considering another freeze on the super guarantee. A man has died in a zipline accident at a park in the Daintree rainforest, the ABC reports. And Tiffany & Co is pursuing the NSW government for more than $100m in compensation for forcing it out of Martin Place to make way for Sydney’s metro rail line, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Coming up

Queensland politicians are set to debate proposed anti-protest laws. Protesters and unionists say the laws go too far, but the resources sector wants the state government to take measures further.

The family violence campaigner Rosie Batty will join Women’s Legal Services Australia in Melbourne to launch a five-step plan to reform the family law system.

If you’ve read this far …

Is this the worst job in the world? An ad posted by a wealthy Russian family asks for a butler who can “solve any issue”, is familiar with Jeeves and Wooster – and isn’t a Libra or Aries. The family does pay three times more than a gig at Buckingham Palace, however.

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