Morning mail: AstraZeneca doses wasted, Labor leads Coalition in polls, Australia v the climate

·6 min read
<span>Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

Good morning. Scott Morrison’s poll troubles, wasted AstraZeneca vaccine doses and pressure for a papal apology all lead the agenda today.

Nearly 1,000 vaccine providers have confirmed destroying expired AstraZeneca supplies, with more than 31,000 doses going to waste nationally. Wastage rates have been low until now, but waning uptake and ongoing local production have prompted fears a larger proportion of Australia’s 7m AstraZeneca stock could fail to go to use. Meanwhile businesses in Victoria have urged the state’s government to drop deep clean mandates, in line with emerging evidence of the “small role” surface transmission plays in spreading the virus. Hospitals in regional NSW are bracing for rising infections, with 60% of the state’s new cases recorded outside of Sydney.

The federal Coalition has trailed Labor in eight of the past Guardian Essential polls, with Scott Morrison’s government facing a 53-47 deficit on a two-party preferred measure. A major communications blitz by Clive Palmer’s United Australia party has also produced a fillip in the polls, with UAP securing 5% of respondents’ primary vote, while One Nation slid to 3%.

Pope Francis has confirmed he will visit Canada, amid increasing calls for an apology from the Catholic church over the historic Indigenous child abuse crisis. For more than a century, over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their families into residential schools, a systematic program that has prompted apologies from the country’s government, as well as the Presbyterian, Anglican and United churches. No formal apology has been issued by the Catholic church, but the discovery earlier this year of 1,300 unmarked graves on school properties sparked fresh calls for a reckoning from former administrators of the program.

Australia

Former Australian prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd
Former Australian prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd questioned how broadly the department was interpreting their reporting obligations. Composite: Mick Tsikas/Joel Carrett/AAP

Freedom of information disclosures have revealed both Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd’s frustrations with the foreign influence register, with the former calling it “such a difficult website” and the latter slamming officials’ “ridiculous”, “sweeping interpretation” of the act.

Australia lies open to the risk of foreign interference during elections, Labor’s deputy chair of parliament’s intelligence committee has suggested, accusing the government of failing to clarify agency responsibility for the issue.

Scott Morrison faces ongoing calls to release the modelling underpinning the Coalition’s plan for net zero emissions, with technology sector leader Mike Cannon-Brookes calling the “technology not taxes” document “inaction, misdirection and avoiding choices”.

The world

Tensions between the US and China over the democratic island of Taiwan have increased, with China saying Taiwan has no right to join the UN. The response was sparked by US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s address marking the 50th anniversary of Taiwan’s exclusion from the UN general assembly, saying that it deserved “meaningful participation”.

Three police officers have been killed and 70 more believed injured in Pakistan, after gunmen from a banned Islamist party fired upon them, in Lahore. Violent anti-French protests stemming from the country’s defence of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad are behind the militant group’s outlawing.

Israel has approved 3,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, a day after emphatic criticism of the project by US president Joe Biden. The decision, made by a committee within the defence ministry, is expected to test the country’s fragile governing coalition, sections of which strongly oppose settlements.

Spain’s state rail company has announced plans to open a high-speed service between London and Paris, challenging Eurostar’s operation across the Channel tunnel.

Recommended reads

“George Upjohn is constantly tired, his muscles ache, and he will start chemotherapy in two weeks.” The former pilot is facing a fight for his life due to a grade three brain tumour, so his Centrelink disability support application had been denied was gobsmacking, Luke Henriques-Gomes writes. Potentially thousands of cancer suffers are denied disability payments due to fine print that specifies that conditions must be “fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised” before payments can begin – unless claimants are terminally ill. And according to ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie, exemptions such as George’s are part of a “long-term deliberate government policy”.

“There remains little evidence that Australia is about to enter a period of high inflation.” But for all the hand-wringing and prognoses of doom from would-be economic Cassandras, says Greg Jericho: “there is zero evidence of this occurring, and certainly not here in Australia.”

There have been many great Michael Caine impersonations, but what else can we learn from the legendary actor? Ben Russell has also done some acting, and he’s our guest curator for this week’s ten funniest things on the internet. His list also includes Michael Caine, sensual canoe work, and a magic ball, called Fushigi.

Listen

Cop26 has been billed as the world’s “best, last chance” to rein in global heating. On part four of Australia v the climate, our expert panel explores the role of the fossil fuel lobbies, and their influence over Australia’s climate politics over past decades.

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

Sport

It’s been years since Formula One has enjoyed a championship race this tight. But as Verstappen v Hamilton goes right down to the wire, Giles Richards explains, “nerveless, flawless execution will be imperative”.

On the heels of their emphatic victory over the West Indies, England have reiterated their World Cup credentials, with an imperious eight-wicket win against Bangladesh. Buoyed by his side’s performance in the field, opener Jason Roy made short work of his opponent’s bowling.

Media roundup

Labor is divided over whether to take an ambitious climate change position to the next federal election, the Financial Review claims, or to pursue a small target strategy, as many in the party still blame the issue for contributing to the shock 2019 election loss. And Tasmania has once again broken property sale records, the Mercury reports, with nearly $4.5bn worth of property going under the hammer in the first nine months of 2021.

Coming up

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is set to release provisional data on the changing patterns of mortality during the Covid pandemic and recovery period.

Victoria’s proposed electoral boundaries will be released.

And if you’ve read this far …

Plagiarism is a sticky situation in which many university students have found themselves. But it’s especially unwelcome when you’re the prime minister of Luxembourg. A detailed media investigation has revealed that 54 pages of Xavier Bettel’s 56-page master’s thesis were extensively plagiarised – including 20 pages taken directly from the website of the European parliament. The 48-year-old, who submitted the work over two decades ago, has said the work was written with a clear conscience – but that perhaps “it could have … been done differently”.

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