Morning mail: coronavirus 'tipping point', vanishing kelp forests, beyond GDP

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Lim Hwa-young/AP

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 24 October.

Top stories

The world is fast approaching a “tipping point” in the spread of the coronavirus, according to experts, who warn that the disease is outpacing efforts to contain it, after major outbreaks forced Italy and Iran to introduce stringent internal travel restrictions and South Korea’s president placed the country on red alert. Some of the countries most affected by the virus are scrambling to halt its progress two days after Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said the international community needed to act quickly before the narrowing “window of opportunity” closed completely. With almost 78,000 cases of Covid-19 now confirmed across the globe, experts say the situation will soon reach a critical threshold.

A Queensland man has admitted to splashing petrol on his former partner and threatening to burn their house down, in a court case successfully prosecuted by the victim because the state’s police refused to bring domestic violence charges. In 2017 police told the victim, Dani*, that there was a prima facie case against her former partner for threatening violence, but because there was “a low level of public interest” they would not bring a charge. Dani then took the rare step of hiring a barrister and prosecuting the criminal case herself.

“I will not be able to show my grandchildren what I saw.” Mick Baron, a dive instructor from Tasmania, has watched entire sea forests disappear in his lifetime. Giant kelp forests used to flourish along the Tasman peninsula. But the area is a global heating hotspot and now, the forests are all gone. “This is the cost of climate change,” Baron says in today’s episode of The Frontline, a major multimedia series from Guardian Australia about everyday Australians who are already living with the effects of the climate emergency.


Police shot dead a man in the Brisbane CBD they allege ran at them armed with a knife. The ethical standards command in Queensland police are investigating after the man died on Mary Street. A 26-year-old man he allegedly stabbed in the morning was being treated at hospital for injuries to his face and back.

Federal parliament is back sitting this week, but the controversial religious freedom bill is unlikely to be introduced. Instead the Senate inquiry into sports rorts has decided to call the head of the public service, Phil Gaetjens, and former sports minister Bridget McKenzie. Labor is broadening its attack on the grant programs, arguing the urban congestion fund was used to promote Coalition candidates.

Retail electricity prices are tipped to fall by 7.1% by 2022 – an average saving of $97 per household – according to the Energy Security Board, as cost of renewables drops.

Australians who pay for streaming services are also the most likely to pirate content, according to a survey published by content owners.

The world

Bernie Sanders addresses supporters in San Antonio after being declared the winner of the Nevada caucus. Photograph: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Bernie Sanders won the caucuses in Nevada, solidifying his frontrunner status in the race for the Democratic nomination. Sanders was bolstered significantly by Latino voters and has extended his lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Donald Trump’s popularity rating is meanwhile improving, with a new Gallup poll giving Trump a 49% approval rating and a disapproval rating of 48%.

Trump’s security advisor has been slammed for “politicising intelligence” on Russian meddling. Robert O’Brien has said he has not “seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything” to get the president re-elected, but also seemed to accept reports that Russia is backing Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

Reneging on Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland risks trade deals with the EU and the US, experts have warned.

A chess referee from Iran has fled to the UK after being warned that she could be arrested for being in breach of Iran’s strict dress codes during an international tournament in China.

Harry and Meghan have shown anger at the palace over the loss of royal branding. The Sussexes say the monarchy has no jurisdiction over use of word “royal” overseas.

Recommended reads

Last year, a few months after her marriage ended, Rose Hartley froze her eggs. “I was 34 with endometriosis and three separate doctors had told me that with an egg reserve as low as mine I’d be unlikely to conceive beyond my mid-30s. Considering I hadn’t been able to get pregnant at 31 after trying for over a year with my ex-husband, I believed them. It was now or never.”

If Australia’s resources were taxed the way Norway’s are, we could secure the future of our schools, writes Emma Dawson. “That the Australian people receive so little recompense for the extraction and export of our natural resources is indefensible. Australia is one of the most resource-rich nations on Earth: latest data from the Reserve Bank of Australia shows that mining makes up 10% of our economic output and 60% of our exports.”

Let’s move beyond GDP, suggests Fiona Stanley in her 2020 vision. “At the last OECD global forum on beyond GDP, more than 100 nations reported progress on developing indices to measure wellbeing, equity and sustainability as well as economic success. The underlying principle is that if these are national aspirations and can be measured well, policies that influence them can be developed, implemented and evaluated. Hence not only can we see the impact of these on GDP but also on total population measures.”


What happens when the oceans heat up? As we continue to see impacts from global heating around the world, research in the places first affected becomes increasingly more important. Off the coast of Tasmania the oceans are heating and it’s one of a handful of places around the world that have seen an increase of 2C in a short time. In this episode of Full Story, we go to Tasmania to see how this has impacted on fishing industries and marine ecosystems.


Former Mariners boss Phil Moss knew he would one day get the chop, but he’s turned it into a day that could have a lasting, positive effect on football in Australia.

Rehab and conditioning in women’s sport has long been based on the learnings of men. Now, the AFLW is now addressing a hitherto taboo topic: the menstrual cycle.

Media roundup

The Sydney Morning Herald reveals that the friend of the driver of the Sydney-to-Melbourne train that derailed says the driver “raised concerns about poorly maintained rail network”. “Australia’s farmers and the $130bn freight industry have ­demanded Labor make the economic case for its plan to deliver zero net emissions by 2050,” the Australian reports. On the ABC: “Police say 11 children were strip-searched at an under-18s music festival in western Sydney at the weekend, despite it coming under intense criticism at an inquiry into the practice.”

Coming up

The findings into the deaths of four people at Dreamworld in October 2016 will be handed down in a Brisbane court.

Forecasters expect Cyclone Esther to cross the coastline at the Queensland-Northern Territory border.

And if you’ve read this far …

The weird and wonderful world of hand dryers is a blast of fresh air. “I began to take photos and share them on Instagram. I now get sent images from across the globe,” says Samuel Ryde.

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