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Morning mail: Biden pledges to halve US emissions, vaccine rollout rejig, ignoring advice

Imogen Dewey
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

Hello, it’s Imogen Dewey here with the main stories on Friday 23 April: all the action from the climate summit overnight, Australia’s (and the UK’s) deteriorating relations with China, and new flight rules amid India’s Covid crisis.

Scott Morrison told more than 40 world leaders at a virtual climate summit (after a technical glitch) that Australia is “on the pathway to net-zero” emissions, and blamed carbon taxes for destroying industries and jobs. Morrison earlier confirmed that Australia would not increase its emissions reduction target – in sharp contrast to Joe Biden, who vowed to slash US emissions by half to meet “existential crisis of our time”. Biden’s 2030 target is the strongest contribution yet towards meeting the 2015 Paris climate agreement and holding global heating below 2C, scientists say. In a break from the Trump era, the US president and summit host warned that “time is short” to address the climate crisis and urged other countries to do more. The Australian government is under pressure to do just this, but critics say the PM has instead employed “Trumpian misrepresentation”: Adam Morton examines exactly how well Australia’s climate credentials stack up.

Indian Australians attempting to return to Australia face more uncertainty after the federal government yesterday announced new flight restrictions, cutting the number of flights from India by almost a third. India is experiencing a record number of coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths a day, but the Coalition’s measures are seen as “very tough” for communities facing financial turmoil and prolonged separation from their families. Australia’s troubled vaccine rollout has meanwhile been rejigged to offer over-50s AstraZeneca jabs from May. National cabinet yesterday agreed to restrict Pfizer to under-50s, with priority access via state-run clinics for those in phase 1a and 1b. The EU has asked states to back legal action against AstraZeneca over supply issues, a move critics warn might further undermine confidence in the vaccine.

A review out today flags an “urgent” need to find safe ways for patients to withdraw from antidepressants. Despite millions of Australians taking them each day – the second-highest rate out of all OECD countries – there is little high quality evidence on effective ways to stop treatment. Clinical guidelines were based on “consensus” among specialists, rather than strong scientific evidence, the survey’s lead author said. “It is shocking, and this review also helps draw attention to the question of why people are staying on antidepressants for so long.” Melissa Davey, meanwhile, reports on how Australia’s mental health system is letting young people down. With a piecemeal care approach lacking in clarity exacerbating burgeoning youth mental health issues, an inadequate system can’t keep up.


More than 5,500 people subjected to strip searches in New South Wales have been left with a police record, despite officers not finding anything illegal. The state’s law enforcement watchdog warns the practice could lead to further targeting without cause.

China has threatened to take further action against Australia after the Morrison government cancelled Victoria’s two Belt and Road agreements, in a sign the diplomatic dispute between the two countries may worsen.

The behaviour of a WA judge and barrister who failed to declare their relationship strikes at the foundation of the justice system, according to a submission made to the high court.

Scripts of earlier versions of the controversial video series commissioned by the federal government included a bizarre reference to the 1950s as a “modern progressive society” and used the example of “borrowing leggings” rather than “touching your butt” to teach students sexual consent.

The world

A protest outside the UK parliament in support of Uyghur Muslims on Thursday.
A protest outside the UK parliament in support of Uyghur Muslims on Thursday. Photograph: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock

British MPs voted to declare that China is committing genocide against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang province. The motion passed on Thursday does not compel the government to act but is likely to mark a further decline in relations with China.

Russia has said it will recall many of its troops from Crimea and the border regions of Ukraine, rolling back an aggressive military buildup that had sparked fears that Moscow was preparing an invasion force.

Hundreds of ordinary people suspected of supporting opposition politicians in Uganda have been abducted off the streets by security services in the worst wave of repression in the east African country for decades.

A report has shown the Trump administration delayed more than $20bn in hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria killed thousands in 2017.

Apple is facing a ransomware demand after a group of cybercriminals stole confidential plans for the company’s upcoming products from a supplier. In other hacking news, the CEO of messaging app Signal claims to have hacked the phone-cracking tools used by police worldwide to extract information from seized devices.

And Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown has died aged 65.

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


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Media roundup

Data shows that NSW sexual assaults reached record highs after Covid lockdown ended, the ABC reports. The government’s “gas-led recovery” plan and climate policy came under fire last night on Q+A. The electoral commissioner has warned that NSW is vulnerable to cyberattacks on elections, the Daily Telegraph reports. And according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Alexei Navalny’s doctors are urging him to end his hunger strike.

Coming up

There’s a parliamentary inquiry into NDIS independent assessments.

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, will provide an update on changes to the country’s border and flight suspensions.