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Morning mail: rape claim fallout, sex crimes squad briefs schools, myth-busting unit

Imogen Dewey
·7-min read
<span>Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

It’s 1 March, and this is Imogen Dewey with the main stories leading the day – plus a look at the littler-known Kelly sibling you should have heard of.

Legal experts are calling for an independent investigation of the historical rape alleged to have been committed by a federal cabinet minister, citing it as a “very serious” integrity issue. Geoffrey Watson, director of the Centre for Public Integrity, has challenged the government’s position that only police should investigate the serious offence, alleged to have occurred in 1988. Two more federal MPs have revealed they were made aware of the allegation before that: a Liberal MP sent a dossier on Wednesday, and a Labor MP contacted by the complainant, a friend, in 2019. Adam Bandt has called on Scott Morrison to stand the minister aside pending an independent inquiry. Malcolm Turnbull backed a coronial inquest into the death of the complainant, who took her own life in July. Anthony Albanese, while agreeing the matter is best handled by police, yesterday called it a “test” for Scott Morrison, who must decide if the minister should continue in his current position. He refused to say how he would handle a similar allegation against a Labor frontbencher, arguing that this was a hypothetical. But Liberal senator Sarah Henderson last night referred a rape allegation against an unnamed Labor member of parliament to the federal police.

The heads of hundreds of private schools across New South Wales will be briefed by the boss of the police sex crimes squad this week as the sector scrambles to address concerns raised by a viral petition that has gathered more than 3,000 testimonies of alleged sexual assault committed by high school students.

Health minister Greg Hunt confirmed the government “quietly” set up a “myth-busting unit” last year to address what he’s called “plainly ridiculous” misinformation surrounding the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine, amid increasing concerns about the spread of false information and conspiracy theories. He was announcing the arrival of the first 300,000 doses of the new AstraZeneca vaccinedue to start rolling out by next week. Meanwhile new data suggests the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be less effective in people with obesity. Dr Anthony Fauci is urging Americans to take whatever vaccine is immediately available to them; 20 million people in the UK have had their first dose; and some experts think Australia’s goal of vaccinating the entire adult population by October might just be feasible. Until then, Qantas has reportedly secured the support of at least three premiers to keep domestic borders open once the rollout reaches 4 million people from early April.

Australia

Two conservation scientists have been cleared of research misconduct by the University of Tasmania after a review sparked by complaints from logging industry representatives.

Chinese investment in Australia plunged by 61% last year, new data shows. But according to one researcher, this may be more about changed foreign investment settings than a strained economic relationship.

Thousands of Victorians may have missed out on early cancer diagnoses during the pandemic, potentially allowing the disease to progress past the chance of recovery and causing a “cancer spike” later on, the Cancer Council says.

The world

Benny Tai, a Hong Kong legal scholar, speaks to the press before being charged with subversion.
Benny Tai, a Hong Kong legal scholar, speaks to the press before being charged with subversion. Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA

Nearly every main voice of dissent in Hong Kong is now in jail or exile, after Hong Kong police charged nearly 50 pro-democracy campaigners and politicians with conspiracy to commit subversion. All face life in prison if convicted.

Donald Trump is making his first post-White House speech at a rightwing summit, the same day a Republican senator predicted that he won’t be the party’s nominee in 2024.

At least 18 people have been killed after security forces fired on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, according to the UN – the most deadly crackdown since the military seized power at the start of February. The demonstrators are not giving up.

More than 50,000 people have called for a parliamentary investigation into an “unfathomable” mechanism that allows the Queen to vet draft laws before they are approved by the UK’s elected representatives.

Denmark’s climate policies have been judged “insufficient” to meet its 2030 emissions target (an ambitious aim of 70% reduction in emissions). The body tasked with monitoring its progress says measures so far announced are only likely to take it a third of the way.

Recommended reads

&#x002018;Access to precious memories, such as photos with family and friends, could be lost at any time.&#x002019;
‘Access to precious memories, such as photos with family and friends, could be lost at any time.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Facebook’s Australian news wipeout showed it can delete our history at any time with devastating consequences – especially, notes Siobhan Ryan, for historians trying to track public and private life, from voter ads to debates between relatives. “Most people don’t leave a detailed archive of their lives in traditional, institutional archives, so historians turn to diaries, personal letters and oral histories as evidence.” And, increasingly, social media. So what does it mean for our records when that material is taken down?

Ned Kelly’s little sister was Kardashian-famous in her day, riding decoy for her brothers and running deliveries to the Kelly Gang before she was found dead in a waterhole. So, asks Rebecca Wilson, why haven’t we heard more about Kate? “As I dug further into the details of her death, I found more questions … was [it] suicide, an accident or murder?”

Listen

&#x002018;While there are significant gaps in our understanding of how bushfire smoke and air pollution affect pregnancy, we know much more than what was noted. Enough to know that much more health messaging is urgently needed.&#x002019;
‘While there are significant gaps in our understanding of how bushfire smoke and air pollution affect pregnancy, we know much more than what was noted. Enough to know that much more health messaging is urgently needed.’ Photograph: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

During the black summer bushfires Sonya gave birth six weeks early. When her doctor later told her bushfire smoke may have had something to do with it, she was shocked – she hadn’t been warned this was possible. Today on Full Story, Isabelle Oderberg explains how bushfire smoke and air pollution are harmful during pregnancy, and argues for better health information for pregnant women.

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

Sport

Striking jumpers offered the clearest sign of the AFLW’s inaugural Indigenous round, a visual representation of connection to country, community and family, and of the journey many women have taken to get to the top of their sport. But even as we celebrate the stories told, writes Kirby Fenwick, we can’t shy away from Australia’s complex history.

There was plenty of controversy in the Premier League overnighthere’s how it played out.

Media roundup

There are calls for the Morrison government to provide asylum to temporary visa holders from Myanmar as violence there continues, reports the ABC. According to the Australian, both commissioners for the aged-care royal commission have given conflicting recommendations ($) – a potential “political minefield” for the Morrison government. Its interest costs are meanwhile set to blow out by $15bn over the next two years, according to the Australian Financial Review, putting pressure on the RBA ‘“to consider more aggressive interventions in bond markets”. And fines for Covid breaches may be waived for teenagers in Victoria, says the Age, as part of a deal with the Greens to extend the government’s emergency powers.

Coming up

A pared-down and Covid-friendly Golden Globe awards ceremony will take place today.

A ban on single-use plastics comes into force in South Australia today.

And if you’ve read this far …

Check where you pitch your tent. A couple and a child caught the eye of UK emergency services after pitching theirs on a cliff edge (and breaching Covid restrictions) in a stretch of the North York Moors known for landslips.

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