Morning mail: nuclear-powered submarine deal, NSW vaccination law, Pentecostal church’s jobkeeper windfall

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<span>Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters</span>
Photograph: China Stringer Network/Reuters

Good morning. There’s breaking news this morning about a major new security partnership between Australia, the US and the UK, which has big ramifications for the Morrison government’s submarine acquisition plans. There are plenty of Covid updates as well, while a Pentecostal church’s jobkeeper windfall has attracted attention.

Australia will get new nuclear-powered submarines under a security partnership with the US and UK aimed at confronting China. The initiative, called Aukus, was announced jointly by President Joe Biden and prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, after US briefings that described the agreement as binding the three English-speaking countries together. The deal is expected to mean the Morrison government will pull out of a $90bn contract with the French shipbuilder Naval Group. Australia had planned to acquire 12 new Attack-class submarines, with the first set to become operational in 2034, but Australia’s biggest defence acquisition has been plagued by delays, cost blowouts and disputes over local industry involvement.

Resistance to the NSW government’s push to make dining or shopping conditional upon full vaccination will find no support from the law, a legal expert has warned, as business leaders vow to flout the mandatory double-dose vaccination requirement. The absence of a Human Rights Act in NSW offers almost no scope for discrimination on the basis of vaccine preferences, Dr Ron Levy said, meaning the legal prospects for those seeking to push back against the move were “quite poor”.

Health workers across Victoria, the ACT and NSW are working shifts of up to 16 hours, with more than 2,000 frontline staff now in isolation. There are 1,190 health workers in NSW who are unavailable due to infection or exposure to Covid, with the nurse’s association’s Brett Holmes saying remaining staff “are working extraordinarily hard” to meet shortfalls. A crisis in country nursing homes is also leaving thousands of families stranded, with more than half of homes still losing money despite receiving Covid-related government funding. And Australians are self-reporting greater negativity about the future compared with during the first pandemic wave, according to national wellbeing survey.


Bushfire smoke in the Blue Mountains
A smoke cloud in the Blue Mountains. Scientists discovered via satellite data that a bloom of phytoplankton occurred in the Southern Ocean in October 2019 and lasted about four months. Photograph: Andrew Merry/Getty Images

A phytoplankton bloom larger than the entire Australian continent was sparked by the 2019-20 bushfires, researchers have revealed. Heavily reliant on iron traces carried by smoke particles far across the ocean, the blooms lasted several months.

A leading Pentecostal church has posted a $1.2m increase in revenue after receiving $660,000 in jobkeeper payments. Hope Unlimited church saw its revenues grow from $2.8m to $4m during 2020, and accepted the public payouts despite eligibility for the scheme depending upon a forecasted decline of 15% in revenue.

Scott Morrison has advised Christian Porter he wants the controversy surrounding his acceptance of funds from an unknown source resolved. The industry minister revealed this week that part of his defamation legal fees were paid by a blind trust.

The world

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte pulled Manila out of The Hague-based court in 2019 after it launched a preliminary inquiry. Photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP

The international criminal court has authorised a full investigation into the Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs”, suggesting there was a “reasonable basis” that a crime against humanity had been perpetrated.

The sole survivor of the 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people has told his trial attackers had “nothing personal” against their civilian targets, only that the attacks were revenge for French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.

The EU justice commissioner has called on member states to tighten legislation to protect dissident voices amid the fallout from the Pegasus spyware scandal, which has detailed the systematic targeting of journalists and politicians by several repressive states.

The Covid pandemic has delivered an unexpected boon to speakers of Guam’s indigenous language, with hundreds flocking to online classes to learn CHamoru, a previously dying language.

Recommended reads

If the mountains of aluminium tins and smell of lotus seed or red bean paste didn’t tip you off: it’s mooncake season. And while it’s spring in Australia, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a delicacy from the Chinese autumn harvest calendar. But what are mooncakes? Jess Ho provides the details: “To explain it in the simplest, possible way, it’s a small, round pastry stuffed with either sweet or savoury filling. There are many different variations of the mooncake, depending on where in Asia you’re from – the only common element being the symbolism of the moon.”

“It seems there have always been two NSWs – Sydney, and the rest of us.” Whether it’s forced council amalgamations, fire disaster response, or now, Covid vaccinations, as Tom Plevey argues, regional NSW is always the last to get a look in. “New South Wales has been set up to run off the image of Sydney and, if Sydney is looking good, then the whole state must be good, and with the concentration of power – political, social, corporate, media – in the Harbour City it’s been an easy facade to maintain.”

Australian house prices are going up faster than ever before. In scenes last seen just before the global financial crisis, homes in cities including Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra have seen hikes of 15% to 20% in the past year alone. But one man is sick of being blamed for the phenomenon, Greg Jericho explains, and that’s the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe. Instead, maybe state and federal governments should be in the spotlight.

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As more and more families face the new reality of remote learning, there’s an added blow for those already facing significant disadvantage, with new research from the Grattan Institute suggesting that the process widens educational gaps between the haves and have-nots. Laura Murphy-Oates takes up the topic on this episode of Full Story.

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


Melbourne Demons artwork
A Melbourne Demons mural by Damian Cazaly on a house in Kew before the 2021 AFL grand final in Perth. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Fifty-seven years is a long time to wait for a premiership. And with the Western Bulldogs enjoying their fairytale in 2016, it’s about time the Demons were due, writes Bridget Barker. Especially after years of enduring sly suggestions about jumping ship from a perennial lost cause.

Manchester City have made a bright start to their Champions League encounter with RB Leipzig, leading 3-1 at the break. Elsewhere, Liverpool trail Milan at home – follow our Guardian sport live blogs for all the latest.

Media roundup

Christian Porter could leave the frontbench as the prime minister seeks departmental advice over whether the former attorney general has contravened ministerial guidelines, the Australian reports. Steven Marshall is facing a backbench revolt just months before the SA state election, the Advertiser reports. And Tasmanian jails have accidentally released seven prisoners before their terms were served, writes the Mercury.

Coming up

There will be a public hearing at the inquiry into developing Australia’s space industry.

The Climate Energy Council’s energy storage forum will discuss battery storage, big and small, in accelerating Australia’s transition to a clean energy future.

And if you’ve read this far …

It started as a Kansas boy’s entry into a local fair but it ended up sparking a federal investigation. A moth caught the boy’s eye after he found it, dead but well preserved, on his patio. Except that it was an invasive species not previously believed to have reached the state.

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