Morning mail: Indigenous pension debate, climate conviction urged, Bird of the Year takes flight

Good morning. The Guardian/BirdLife Australia bird of the year poll is back. A legal challenge seeks to lower the pension age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. A group of 70 former diplomats has warned Scott Morrison that failing to act on climate change will “cost us dearly”. In Germany, Social Democrats edge ahead of Angela Merkel’s CDU in the federal election as the vote count continues.

The vote for the Australian bird of the year kicks off today with a lineup of 50 Australian native birds, featuring some unique and much-loved species threatened by climate change and a few urban “bullies” that dominate as cities grow. Sean Dooley, the national public affairs manager for BirdLife Australia, says the 2019-20 bushfire season brought a “seismic shift” for Australia’s birds because the disaster was so extensive, affecting so much habitat, particularly in NSW. “The damage to a lot of bird populations from something like this would take decades to recover and that’s assuming we have good conditions,” he said. “And we know that’s not going to happen, this will only get worse.”

A Victorian legal challenge aims to lower the eligibility for the age pension for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, arguing that given the nine-year gap in life expectancy it is inequitable and discriminatory to hold both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to the same retirement age. Meena Singh, senior adviser at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that if the case succeeds, it will be a win for the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. “This is a group of people who have grown up in the shadow of the stolen generation. A lot of people of this age have experienced really difficult lives,” she said. “So it’s trying to give some measure of dignity back to more people in their later years.”

Hundreds of soldiers could be deployed to deliver fuel to petrol stations running dry across the UK due to panic buying and a shortage of drivers under an emergency plan expected to be considered by Boris Johnson on Monday. On Saturday night, the UK government announced it would issue temporary visas to 5,500 poultry workers and 5,000 truck drivers. Industry leaders have warned of shortages of drug supplies to pharmacies, as well as of Christmas turkeys to supermarkets as result of labor shortages following Brexit.


The shadow minister for women, Tanya Plibersek, has criticised “woefully inadequate” budget for the Respect@Work anti-harassment portal, especially compared with the widely panned “milkshake and taco” website to educate schoolchildren about sexual consent, which the government spent $3.8m on and then removed in response to criticism.

A group of 70 former diplomats has warned the Morrison government that Australia’s “inertia” on climate commitments “undermines our reliability in the minds of our strategic allies”. They warn that failing to act will “cost us dearly as trading partners seek to impose carbon tariffs on imports of our goods and services”.

Australian farmers should also benefit from actions that reduce emissions and limit climate damage, a report by the Grattan Institute says. The Australian government should establish a fixed-price carbon trading desk for small farmers and fund practical advice and research for livestock producers if agriculture is going to thrive in a net zero future.

Reverend Tim Costello has lauded the tribunal ruling that found benevolent institutions are allowed to advocate for political change, saying it would free charities from “always looking over their shoulders”. The landmark decision in the case of Global Citizen is likely to embolden charities to directly pursue political change without fearing their benevolent status – and the associated fundraising benefits – will be at risk.

The world

The race to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor of Germany after 16 years in the role remains undecided as results continue to come in. Exit polls and early counted results put the Social Democrats ahead of the Christian Democrats by a wafer-thin majority.

Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm, Boyzone’s Shane Lynch and S Club 7’s Hannah Spearritt are among the latest stars to file phone-hacking claims against Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, as the scandal that has dogged the company for more than 15 years continues to rumble on at the UK high court.

The US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said the Biden administration’s decision to deport thousands of Haitians was justified by the coronavirus pandemic, a point disputed by advocates and public health experts.

Recommended reads

‘We need to take action on emissions, and Australia’s not living up to its international responsibilities.’ Greg Mullins in 1979, aged 20, in his NSW Fire Brigades uniform
‘We need to take action on emissions, and Australia’s not living up to its international responsibilities.’ Greg Mullins in 1979, aged 20, in his NSW Fire Brigades uniform. Photograph: Greg Mullins

The year 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest on record. By 2040, those conditions – temperatures 1.5C above normal, contributing to the worst bushfire season the east coast has ever seen – will be average. It’s a grim future that has turned Greg Mullins, the longest-serving fire commissioner in Australia, into a climate campaigner. “I’m deeply worried about my grandsons and what they’re inheriting from us,” Mullins said. That worry is at the heart of his new book, Firestorm, written after that terrible summer of bushfires and the resulting royal commission.

You might think that making a salad is easy, but it isn’t. With so few ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide. When it comes to classic green salads, the lettuce must be carefully chosen and perfectly dressed – neither under nor over. Chef Neil Perry shares his secrets for a well-balanced dressing, along with two recipes – chicken with ramen noodle, and a prawn, tomato and nectarine combo.

Horror series Evil bears more than a passing resemblance to The X-Files, not only in its premise, but also in the way it toys with genre conventions. But it is something distinctly its own, too. While paying homage to the 90s monster-of-the-week genre, this genuinely creepy procedural is more than it first appears. It swings between sly comedy and surreal, nightmarish scenes of horror, and cheerily deconstructs horror tropes and internet urban legends.

A picture in time. Nuclear tests conducted at Maralinga from 1956 left swaths of South Australian countryside obliterated and contaminated for decades.


Jonathan Freedland hosted a special Guardian Live event where he spoke to the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. As the US commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the pair talked about her memories of the day, given she was the senator for New York at the time; how US politics has changed since then; and whether or not retaliation by American forces has made the US and the world a safer or more dangerous place.

Full Story

Hillary Clinton in conversation with Jonathan Freedland

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


Having won three Tests in a row, the Wallabies may have re-established themselves as one of the leading teams in world rugby, but they are now in danger of becoming a one-man band. There is an urgent need to develop a Plan B in the event the opposition finds a way to contain Samu Kerevi or if he is injured, writes Brett Harris.

Lewis Hamilton claimed his 100th Formula One Victory in the Russian Grand Prix. He beat his title rival Max Verstappen into second, and, with this remarkable career achievement, he has already surpassed Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins.

After his dominant defeat of Anthony Joshua on Saturday night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Oleksandr Usyk is ready for some time off. At a press conference after the biggest fight in his career, the heavyweight boxing champion said he “wanted to live”.

Media roundup

Quad leaders agreed to ramp up infrastructure investment across the Indo-Pacific region to compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a move Scott Morrison says should not antagonise China but bolster a “free and open” region, AFR has reported. The Queensland government has launched a new advertising campaign urging residents to get vaccinated so they can go for brunch and travel again, but it still can’t say what the pass mark will be for the state to reopen the borders in time for Christmas, the Courier-Mail has reported.

Coming up

There is a court mention for a Sydney anti-lockdown protester accused of punching a police horse.

The NSW coronial inquiry into deaths and property damages during the 2019-2020 bushfire season continues.

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