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Morning mail: calls mount for inquiry, 33 dead in Myanmar, fish react to music

Richard Parkin
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Stefan Gosatti/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Stefan Gosatti/AFP/Getty Images

Good morning. The historical rape accusation against Australia’s attorney general continues to dominate the news headlines. Here’s what else is new, this Thursday.

Scott Morrison is facing increasing pressure to establish an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegation made against the country’s top law officer, Christian Porter. The attorney general emphatically denied the allegation from 1988 during an emotional press conference on Wednesday. On 18 separate occasions Porter repeated that the complainant’s version of events “did not happen” but certain details remain unclear, including Porter’s version of when he first became aware of the allegations. Journalists from numerous media outlets have contested the attorney general’s statement that he was never “contacted in any substantive form” about the details of the allegations against him.

Meanwhile, the Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame has chastised Scott Morrison for his handling of claims including allegations raised by Brittany Higgins that she was raped by a staffer in the office of the defence minister, Linda Reynolds. Reynolds has not denied reports she called Higgins a “lying cow” after media coverage of the alleged incident.

Buckingham Palace has said it will examine the circumstances of allegations of bullying made against the Duchess of Sussex, reported by a British newspaper. A spokesperson said: “We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article.”

At least 33 people have died in Myanmar in the worst violence since the military coup, after government forces opened fire on peaceful protesters. Citizens wearing goggles, hard hats and homemade shields have been taking to the streets of cities across the country almost daily since the 1 February coup, with more than 1,300 people being detained, including the country’s ousted leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Australia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is shown trial vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine during a visit to the CSL serum lab
The federal government will not say how much is being paid to the four companies involved in distributing the Covid vaccine but says it conducted an ‘open’ and ‘competitive’ process to select them. Photograph: David Caird/AAP

The federal government has declined to reveal the cost of contracting the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, saying the details are “commercial in confidence”. The Department of Health has told Guardian Australia it is “committed to transparency” and that it would disclose the total expenditure at the appropriate time.

Rio Tinto’s chairman will step down, admitting he was “ultimately accountable” for the company’s decision to destroy 46,000-year-old sacred sites in WA’s Juukan Gorge. The chairman’s departure follows the resignations of the CEO, the head of corporate relations and the iron ore boss.

The NSW agricultural minister has announced a review of a $107,000 grant given to a body chaired by the brother of federal minister Angus Taylor, without the group even applying for the money.

The legal team of a Hobart woman serving 23 years for murder have claimed a “significant miscarriage of justice” in a bid to quash a 2010 decision that found Susan Neill-Fraser had killed her partner.

The world

Workers lower the coffin of a Covid victim in Brazil
Brazil is experiencing its worst moment of the coronavirus pandemic, with an explosion of cases. Photograph: Raphael Alves/EPA

Brazil’s failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic places the world at risk of more lethal variants, a leading neuroscientist has claimed. The country suffered its deadliest day yet with 1,726 deaths, and has passed a quarter of a million fatalities overall.

The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called his conviction for corruption “profoundly and shockingly unjust”, suggesting his appeal could go to the European court of human rights. Sarkozy was sentenced to three years prison on Monday.

Joe Biden’s administration has suffered its first significant political setback after his nominee for budget director, Neera Tandem, withdrew from selection following opposition from within the Democratic party.

Hundreds of Israeli political figures and soldiers face potential prosecution after the international criminal court announced an investigation into alleged war crimes inside Palestinian territories since 2014.

Recommended reads

Attorney general Christian Porter
‘It is essential that the public is assured the process is at arm’s length from all parties involved, and that it is conducted without bias, or the perception of bias.’ Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

NSW police have closed their investigation into a historical rape allegation facing the attorney general, citing insufficient admissible evidence. With the complainant dead, and a pall hanging over Christian Porter, natural justice demands an independent investigation, argues the NSW Council for Civil Liberties president, Pauline Wright: “Without an inquiry, the shadow of doubt will persist within the Australian public as to whether Porter is a fit and proper person to retain his role as Australia’s first law officer.”

For the Australian economy, 2020 was the worst calendar year of the past 60. And while the quarterly growth figures that the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, has been trumpeting look positive, annual numbers tell a different story, as Greg Jericho explains.

It’s not Thursday without the 10 funniest things on the internet. This week’s guest comedian is Michael Shafar, and, if you prefer an egg to the Kardashians or have ever dreamt of starting your own all-vegan salad app, then this week’s list is for you. Have it your way.

Listen

After a week of uncertainty, Christian Porter has confirmed he is the subject of a historical rape allegation – a claim he strenuously denies. On this episode of Full Story, political editor Katharine Murphy examines how the allegation came to light, and how the attorney general and prime minister have responded to it so far.

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

Sport

Nic White playing for the ACT Brumbies
Nic White is one of a number of Brumbies players high on Wallabies coach Dave Rennie’s list of Test candidates. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

It could be a case of back to the future for Wallabies coach Dave Rennie, if he wants his 2023 World Cup side to emulate the heroes of 1999. Then, the Brumbies and the Reds formed the bulk of the squad and, as Bret Harris writes, after just two rounds of Super Rugby AU, it could be the same franchises filling the Wallabies spots.

The Australian men’s T20 side has kept their series in New Zealand alive as captain Aaron Finch found much-needed form with a blistering 69 and under-pressure spinner Ashton Agar collected 6/30 to set up a 64-run win in the third ODI.

Media roundup

Collingwood’s coach, Nathan Buckley, has said he regrets being “dismissive” of former player Héritier Lumumba, the Herald Sun reports. Seventy-six Australian doctors have petitioned the NSW governor to pardon a woman sentenced to 30 years for killing her four infant children on the basis of new medical evidence, the Courier-Mail writes. And, speeding fines have nearly doubled in the past year, according to the NT News, with 53 Territorians fined every day.

Coming up

The Senate communications committee is due to table its report into press freedom.

NSW police will apply to the supreme court in a bid to ban an alternate Mardi Gras protest march by the group Pride in Protest.

And if you’ve read this far …

It’s the burning question we’ve all at some time or another wondered: what happens to the brain of a baby zebrafish when it hears the timeless 1990s banger, U Can’t Touch This. Thankfully, one Australian DJ/neuroscientist has answered the call – and the results of her pathbreaking study have been published for all to see.

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