Afternoon Update: US and Australia deepen defence ties; Democrats win Georgia runoff; and a lonely book launch

<span>Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Penny Wong and Richard Marles have met their US counterparts in Washington in the first high-level defence talks between the allies since the Albanese government took power.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said after the meeting the US military will increase rotations of its air, land and sea forces to Australia and condemned China’s “dangerous and coercive actions” across the Indo-Pacific region.

It comes as Taiwan’s foreign minister backed China’s anti-Covid protesters, but also expressed concerns that Beijing could seek to scapegoat Taiwan if demonstrations restarted.

Top news

Multiple people walk in a shopping mall with the ones in the foreground blurred
Shoppers during the Black Friday sales in Melbourne. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP
  • Savings rate slumps as economy grows | Australia’s GDP expanded at an annual rate of 5.9% in the September quarter – the highest rate recorded this century as the economy accelerated from Covid-related lockdowns. But the growth came in weaker than forecast. Meanwhile, the amount people are saving sank for a fourth straight quarter as interest rate hikes and cost-of-living pressures bite.

  • Prosecutor backed over Higgins case | The ACT attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, has backed prosecutor Shane Drumgold amid ongoing public attacks in the wake of the Bruce Lehrmann trial. Lehrmann is contemplating suing the ABC over its decision to live broadcast a statement made by Brittany Higgins outside court after his trial was aborted.

  • Brian Houston trial continues | The Hillsong church founder spoke with a barrister about his father’s rape of a child and was told if the matter went to court “his father would surely be incarcerated”. But the offence was not reported to police, a Sydney court has heard. Houston is on trial for allegedly failing to report the abuse to police after his father confessed in 1999 to sexually assaulting the boy.

Raphael Warnock in a suit gesturing with one hand.
Raphael Warnock gestures during an election night party after a projected win in the US midterm runoff election between Warnock and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters
Fernando Santos and Cristiano Ronaldo at the game against Switzerland
Fernando Santos and Cristiano Ronaldo at the game against Switzerland. Ronaldo came on as a late substitute. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

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Imprisoned for being HIV positive

In more than 80 countries, people living with HIV still face criminalisation. We hear from two people who faced criminal charges in the US. Listen to this 32-minute episode.

What they said …


“At my first Salem’s Lot signing, I had one customer. A fat kid who said, ‘Hey bud, do you know where there’s some Nazi books?’” – Stephen King

The prolific novelist led a roll call of writers sending messages of support to debut author Chelsea Banning. Only two people turned up to her book launch, she tweeted, both of whom were her friends.

In numbers

“It’s a gender gap that’s beyond absurd. It’s actually a moral hazard for Melbourne,” Nicholas Reece, the city’s deputy lord mayor, said. The council says it will put up more women statues to improve gender balance in public art.

Before bed read

Qantas jet takes off
Australia desperately needs a long-term clean transport strategy, Audrey Quicke argues. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

It’s not just the super-rich taking flights that are plotting a descent not long after take-off. The French government has had enough, banning short-haul domestic flights between cities that are connected by a train or bus trip of less than two and a half hours.

So could Australia invoke a similar ban on the Sydney-Canberra route? Audrey Quicke thinks it’s a candidate, even if “without meaningful policy reform, the idea is unlikely to take off”.

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