Morning mail: Biloela family reunion, emergency departments ‘dysfunctional’, Australian spuds

Good morning! There’s good news today for the Biloela family and their supporters, with the family set to be released after nearly two years in detention on Christmas Island. We also have news on Australian emergency departments struggling with an overloaded system and more on the ongoing government mishandling of the vaccine rollout in the aged care sector. Hungry for more? Check out our recommended reads for everything you need to know about Australian spuds.

The Biloela family will soon be reunited on the Australian mainland, where the youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, is being treated in hospital after suffering sepsis and pneumonia while in detention on Christmas Island. The immigration minister, Alex Hawke, is set to announce today that the Murugappan family will be released from detention. Hawke will use his ministerial discretion to allow the family to return but the government is not expected to make any substantive changes to their visa status, which is still being argued in the courts. It’s expected the family will be initially reunited in Perth while Tharnicaa is in hospital.

Patients are being harmed due to delays in public hospital emergency departments due to an “overloaded and dysfunctional” system, burnt-out healthcare workers say. Emergency room doctors have revealed to Guardian Australia that a patient with a broken neck ended up slumping to the floor while waiting to be seen, and a patient requiring urgent surgery for a fractured pelvis and internal bleeding waited four hours for an assessment. The WA Australian Medical Association president, Dr Andrew Miller, says health workers in the public system fear retribution for speaking out, which is contributing to the broken system. “There should be no penalty for anybody who works in public health for raising the alarm and the public should be outraged that they are being silenced,” he said.

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Nato leaders have declared that China presents a security risk at their annual summit in Brussels, the first time the traditionally Russia-focused military alliance has asserted that it needs to respond to Beijing’s growing power. The final communique, signed off by leaders of the 30-member alliance at the urging of the new US administration, said China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order”.


Aged care minister Richard Colbeck
Aged care minister Richard Colbeck. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The federal government ignored warnings that it needed a system to track Covid vaccinations in the aged care workforce despite multiple approaches from an established provider.

The trial that will see pharmacists offer counselling on birth control options to those seeking emergency contraceptives has been “misrepresented”, says the creator of the program. The Monash University-developed trial aims to educate women seeking emergency contraception, not to push an anti-abortion agenda, Prof Danielle Mazza says.

An 11-year-old Australian girl collapsed due to malnutrition in a Syrian camp, and advocates say it’s only “a matter of time” before an Australian child dies. The incident has renewed calls from advocates to repatriate more than 60 Australian women and children from the camp.

The world’s biggest and richest democracies are acknowledging what the science demands in the climate crisis and pledging to act in a way they haven’t before. The contrast with the debate in Canberra is growing and it is no clearer if Scott Morrison will formally embrace a net zero target, writes Adam Morton.

The world

Vladimir Putin during the NBC News interview in Moscow
Vladimir Putin during the NBC News interview in Moscow. Photograph: Maxim Blinov/Sputnik/Kremlin pool/EPA

Vladimir Putin has refused to give any guarantee that the opposition leader Alexei Navalny will get out of prison alive. The Russian president also deflected a string of allegations about his government’s role in cyber-attacks on the west in an interview in the lead-up to his Geneva summit with Joe Biden.

Prosecutors in Canada have laid terrorism charges against a man accused of deliberately running over a Muslim family, killing four members from three generations.

The international criminal court’s chief prosecutor has sought authorisation to investigate crimes against humanity during the Philippines’ deadly “war on drugs”. Police are accused of unlawfully killing thousands of civilians between 2016 and 2019.

Recommended reads

A jacket potato with butter
Is there any better and more versatile winter vegetable? Photograph: John Shepherd/Getty Images

With summery salad days decidedly behind us, and crisp, carb-loading nights ahead, home cooks naturally look to the vegetable kingdom; from king edward to royal blue … we’re of course talking about ’taters. If you’re a follower of international recipes, you’ll have noticed that the varieties called for in recipes from the likes of Nigel Slater and J Kenji López-Alt will often be tricky to track down at the shops down under. But that doesn’t mean you should feel any less confident in cooking from their books. Here’s Alice Zaslavsky guide on how to translate international potato varieties.

On page one of Jacqueline Bublitz’s debut novel Before You Knew My Name, there’s a dead girl, but she won’t be left at the crime scene and she won’t be silenced by the usual routine. Alice Lee is dead, yes – she tells us so – but in this book the voice of the victim, rather than the identity of the perpetrator, is prioritised. “I didn’t set out to write a crime novel,” says the New Zealand-born author, “so I wasn’t actually even trying to subvert anything by giving Alice the microphone. What I wanted to do was explore who this young woman was before she died, who she was before this terrible thing happened her, and to give her a voice that wasn’t only about the worst thing that happened to her.”

It’s not unrealistic to expect 50C days in Australian cities by the end of the decade. Extreme heat highlights the socioeconomic divide between those who can afford air conditioning and private transport and those who seek relief in public shopping centres and swelter on trains and busses. One of the most important ways we can reshape our cities and make them work better for all of us is by regenerating natural systems and incorporating living ecosystems into the urban environment, James Bradley writes.


David Dungay Jr’s name has become a rallying cry at Black Lives Matter protests across Australia. Now the family of the Dunghutti man, who died in custody in 2015, is teaming up with the barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC to take their case to the UN Human Rights Commission, arguing that Australia has breached its international human rights obligations. Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam explains the legal reasoning behind the case and what it could mean for the Dungay family and all families affected by a death in custody.

Full Story

David Dungay Jr’s family take their fight for justice to the United Nations

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


Super Netball coaches tend to keep a low profile. There is no punching of walls, no screaming expletives at umpires and no post-game altercations. Usually they fly under the radar but round seven saw the spotlight shift from players to coaches.

Media roundup

The NSW government has backflipped on a plan to scrap the Powerhouse Museum at Ultimo and has pledged half a billion dollars to transform the institution into the heart of a new cultural precinct, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Australia is considering a UK proposal to scrap a working holiday visa requirement for British backpackers to work in the agricultural sector ($), the Australian reports, as the two countries try to finalise a free trade agreement.

Coming up

Scott Morrison is in the UK for talks with his British counterpart Boris Johnson, leaving Michael McCormack in the role of acting prime minister as federal parliament returns today.

The former soldier Ben Roberts-Smith will continue giving evidence in his defamation case against three newspapers.

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