Morning mail: call for bushfire summit, White Island rescue, Trump charges revealed

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 11 December.

Top stories

Australia needs a national summit to address how the country should prepare for and resource bushfire emergencies in a changed climate, former emergency leaders say. It comes after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, rejected calls on Tuesday for additional help for volunteers. Asked how tens of thousands of volunteers were expected to continue without pay, Morrison said they “want to be there”. “What we’re saying long term is there needs to be a paradigm shift for how we deal with these fires,” said Greg Mullins, one of the former fire chiefs. “A big national conversation needs to be had. We need farmers, councils, the military, politics.” Meanwhile, a Sydney GP working in the suburbs hardest hit by bushfire smoke plaguing New South Wales has said she is devastated for her patients, many of them unable to afford air filters, air conditioning or masks.

A “frontline” Hong Kong democracy protester who recently fled the territory says he was ambushed in an Australian city by masked Chinese men. “They were nearby my house and waiting for me,” Jack* told Guardian Australia. “They knew my address, they knew where I was going to be. “I think they don’t want to hurt me, they just want to make me scared. It was like intimidation, a message that ‘we know where you are’.”

A commercial helicopter pilot who led a team that rescued 12 victims from the White Island volcano eruption has said he believed it was their last hope of survival. “We found people dead, dying and alive but in various states of unconsciousness,” said Mark Law, a tour company boss who flew to the volcano and spent an hour on the ground. Unsure whether emergency services would reach the island in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty because of fears for their safety, the team loaded the victims into the helicopters themselves and flew to the mainland.

Marie Fredriksson, the singer of Roxette, has died aged 61 following a long illness. Her family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we have to announce that one of our biggest and most beloved artists is gone.” There’s a case to be made that Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love is the greatest 80s power ballad of them all, and perhaps the greatest breakup song, writes Dave Simpson.


Westpac director Peter Marriott’s future will be in the balance on Thursday when shareholders gather at an annual meeting set to be dominated by the bank’s money-laundering and child-exploitation scandal.

The Morrison government is putting internet giants on notice about cyberbullying, outlining a plan to tackle the problem in a new cyber safety consultation paper released by the communications minister.

The Australian Electoral Commission rejected a complaint about fake how-to-vote cards that directed preferences to Peter Dutton because they informed voters how to cast their first-preference vote correctly.

The world

Adam Schiff, chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, right, speaks during a news conference. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Democratic congressional leaders have unveiled articles of impeachment against Donald Trump. Democrats outlined two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump has denied any misconduct. After the announcement he tweeted the phrase “witch hunt” in capital letters.

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting much faster than previously thought, threatening hundreds of millions of people with inundation and bringing some of the irreversible impacts of the climate emergency much closer.

The woman whose account claimed the UK hospital boy photo was staged claims she was hacked. A medical secretary has claimed her Facebook account was hacked after it was used to post false information claiming that a photograph of an ill boy on the floor at Leeds General Infirmary was staged for political purposes.

Turkey has joined Albania and Kosovo in boycotting Tuesday’s Nobel prize in literature ceremony for Peter Handke over his support for Slobodan Milosevic’s genocidal regime. War correspondents from Christiane Amanpour to Jeremy Bowen are protesting his win by sharing their harrowing stories from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

Recommended reads

Water at Goma is not just an art show, it’s a profound space to process climate anxiety, writes Mia Timpano. “Flying into Brisbane for the opening means flying into what one airline pilot describes to passengers as ‘significant fire activity’. ‘There will be an odour of that in the cabin,’ was the warning. ‘It’s nothing to be concerned about.’ But of course it is. And for many of us it’s becoming increasingly difficult to process the panic that the climate emergency induces. Water, the exhibition, is dedicated to this natural element, and it provides a much-needed moment to connect with an otherwise paralysing range of emotions.”

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment our friendships became more transactional and less intimate, writes Johanna Leggatt. “It’s not that we stopped communicating with friends. In fact, we’re all in constant contact, if that is what you would call it, promising to create windows to catch up in, texting questions that go unanswered and failing to respond to texts ... Another way to describe it is as a digital shouting match that replaces actual dialogue with non sequiturs, memes and emojis that ping relentlessly and forever around our devices, awaiting their ‘seen’ receipt, but rarely eliciting a substantive response.”


Under increasing pressure from the public and the opposition to create a federal anti-corruption body, the Coalition has put forward a proposal for a “Commonwealth Integrity Commission”. Critics, including one Coalition MP, say the proposed watchdog is weak and gives undue protection to politicians. Lawyer and columnist Richard Ackland analyses the current proposal and the case for a strong federal integrity commission on today’s episode of Full Story.


There has been much speculation about how the Wallabies will play under new coach Dave Rennie and who his assistants will be, but little mention of the most important role in the team – the captaincy. With a change of coach, is it also time to reconsider Michael Hooper’s position?

Australia’s summer of sport is already in danger of choking on the smoke haze caused by the devastating bushfires across NSW and Queensland. Will the poor air quality, which has become a very real health hazard for athletes and spectators, prompt a rethink of how the sporting calendar is scheduled?

Media roundup

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has “moved quickly to clean out Shorten loyalists and install new blood in his inner sanctum”, the Australian says. Facebook is moving ahead with encryption across its services, saying the Australian, United States and British governments are “demanding a fundamental weakening of the company’s products that would be a ‘gift’ to the world’s criminals, hackers and dictators”, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. “There is nowhere to hide” for bad superannuation funds, Jane Hume, the minister for superannuation, has told the Australian Financial Review.

Coming up

Protesters in Sydney will hold a “Sydney is Choking” climate emergency rally protesting government inaction on climate change a day after the city experienced air quality 11 times higher than “hazardous” levels.

The communications minister, Paul Fletcher, will speak at the National Press Club about e-safety and cybersecurity.

And if you’ve read this far …

Dinosaurs may have been fearsome and intimidating creatures that dominated the prehistoric Earth, but it did not stop them having their feathers ruffled by louse-like insects, researchers have found. One of the feathers discovered by scientists even shows signs of having been nibbled.

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