Morning mail: volcano recovery mission, the UK votes, Tenterfield water crisis

Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 13 December.

Top stories

Police and the New Zealand defence force have launched a mission to recover the bodies of people believed to have died in Monday’s eruption on White Island. Eight members of the country’s armed forces are due to deploy at first light – despite the risk that the volcano could erupt again – in the hopes of recovering eight of the 16 bodies believed to be on the island. The operation started after a prayer was held at sea, which was calm and flat this morning, with no sign of wind. On Thursday a volcanologist said the volcano’s state of unrest had increased since the eruption and there was now a 50% to 60% chance of another eruption in the next 24 hours. Follow the mission on our live blog.

Voting in Britain’s “most important election in a generation” has entered its final hours. There have been reports of long voting queues across London as excited first-time voters weighed up their options and the European press weighed in with takes including: “Brutal, packed with untruths, uninspiring”, and calling the choice between “socialism or Brexit” a “Hamlet-like dilemma.” The exit poll, unveiled on the stroke of 10pm (9am AEST) as voting closes, will be the first moment of Britain’s election night to produce a tangible sense of where the voters stand. Here are the four most likely possible outcomes – from a thumping Tory win to a Jeremy Corbyn coalition. Follow the latest with our live blog. Between updates, check out some important pictures of dogs tied up outside polling stations.

The House judiciary committee bore down on a vote to advance impeachment against Donald Trump on Thursday with a meandering debate, punctuated by moments of partisan repartee – and fleeting mentions of Bill Clinton and Stormy Daniels – over proposed amendments to two articles of impeachment levelled against the president. Fury erupted earlier over a Republican member naming the alleged whistleblower who triggered the congressional investigation. Meanwhile Trump tweeted that Greta Thunberg, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, had an “anger management problem” and should “chill”.

For 72 days residents of the NSW town of Tenterfield have been told to boil their drinking water. Straight from the tap it reeks of bushfire smoke and heavy doses of chlorine. The community’s filtration system, built in 1932, cannot cope with turbidity levels in the Tenterfield dam that have been measured at 60 times the World Health Organisation’s limits. The town’s swimming pool has been closed indefinitely through weeks of extreme heat.


People are asking how long the bushfires and smoke in NSW and Queensland will last. The short answer is: the fires and smoke will continue. For the next three months, the below-average rainfall means no relief from the drought, and not enough to put out or prevent fires.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner is examining complaints that people’s private information was handed to debt collectors under the botched robodebt scheme.

BHP has bucked shareholder pressure to quit the Minerals Council of Australia and will remain a member of the lobby group despite disagreeing with it over the importance of putting a price on carbon emissions.

The world

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest to reject the presidential election in Algiers. Photograph: Ramzi Boudina/Reuters

Police and demonstrators have clashed in Algeria as tens of thousands of people took to the streets during a tense presidential election.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised in court for her silence over allegations of rape carried out against Rohingya people in Myanmar. Her silence “says far more than your words”, a lawyer said on the third day of the international court of justice’s hearing into accusations of genocide.

Livestock production needs to reach its peak within the next decade to tackle the climate emergency, scientists have warned. They are calling for governments in all but the poorest countries to set a date for “peak meat”.

A Russian television channel has abruptly cancelled a sitcom starring Ukraine’s president after an allusion to a crude joke about Vladimir Putin was aired in Russia’s far east.

Recommended reads

Sam Dawood’s models of menstrual cups and a tampon at the Vagina Museum. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images

What can we learn from a vagina museum? asks Zoe Williams. “‘There’s nothing wrong with that word: it’s not a dirty word.” Sarah Creed, curator at the Vagina Museum in north London, is ending a story about a gynaecologist friend whose child at nursery was told it was inappropriate to say ‘vagina’. Obviously I know there is nothing wrong with it. But would I wear a pussy pendant, by the Dutch artist Denise Rosenboom, which are apparently flying off the shelves? Would I have Sam Dawood’s period sculpture in my house? Or a model of the vulva, identifying all the parts?”

Brigid Delaney has been thinking about the hell of individuation and how dancing could be the cure. “One of my good friends recently suffered a bereavement, so a group of us hired a beach house and arranged to spend some time together. We ate and drank and talked – but mostly we danced. The house was large, had concrete floors and faced on to the Southern Ocean. Someone brought a small speaker, playlists had been prepared, everything from a mixture of bangers from our youth to the new Taylor Swift album. Starting in the late afternoon, we danced for hours and hours and hours, sliding in socks across the smooth floor. We danced all weekend.”


Why does Scott Morrison avoid talking about climate change? Only a few weeks into summer, a bushfire emergency has engulfed much of eastern Australia. But the PM has continued to downplay the links between worsening fire seasons and the climate crisis. Katharine Murphy explains to Laura Murphy-Oates why Morrison’s strategy is flawed, on today’s episode of Full Story.


Marnus Labuschagne after scoring a century. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Marnus Labuschagne’s third straight century put Australia on top in the first Test against New Zealand in Perth, with Australia ahead 248-4. After his 110 not out gave Australia the upper hand, they lost two late wickets in an enthralling final session against the pink ball at Optus Stadium.

Presenting the Anti-Sports Personality of the Year awards 2019. Spoiler alert: Australia’s Nick Kyrgios makes the list.

Media roundup

An amber alert has been issued for a missing Sydney toddler, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The Australian’s home-page splash is: “Google and Facebook have been ordered to strike a deal with media companies within a year to pay for their content or face tough new rules governing online platforms’ behaviour.” On the ABC: Australia could break its record for the hottest day recorded – 50.7C – next week.

Coming up

Jetstar ground crew and baggage handlers will strike across country on Friday and at the weekend.

And if you’ve read this far …

A bald eagle on Canada’s west coast has learned that its eyes may be bigger than its stomach after it was nearly drowned by an octopus it tried to eat. Employees at a fish farm investigating shrieks happened upon the bird and cephalopod locked in battle. “At first we just watched and we didn’t know if we should interfere,” said John Ilett, an employee at Mowi West Canada, told CTV News.