Morning mail: Omicron in Australia, federal climate intervention, Baarka’s debut EP

·7 min read
<span>Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Good morning. Omicron is here in Australia as it spreads across the globe. The federal government is set to introduce some of the toughest “anti-troll” legislation in the world. And EU ministers meet to discuss the tragedy on the Channel.

Two international travellers in NSW quarantine have tested positive to the new Omicron Covid variant, becoming the first cases in Australia. The travellers, who arrived from southern Africa and landed in Australia on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha on Saturday, are both fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. They are in isolation in special health accomodation. Here is what you need to know about Omicron. Australia is the latest country to detect it. Three cases have been found in the UK, the Netherlands has at least 13 and Israel has banned foreign visitors amid surges in cases.

EU ministers are meeting in Calais to discuss how to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats, but without the UK home secretary, Priti Patel, whose invitation was rescinded after a diplomatic row with France. France has invited representatives from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Commission to the meeting, which was called last week after 27 people hoping to claim asylum in the UK died making the perilous crossing. Meanwhile, in northern France, friends and relatives of those who died are desperate for answers.

The Australian government is set to introduce some of the toughest “anti-troll” legislation in the world but experts say its focus on defamation will not help curb the rates of online bullying or cyberhate. Yesterday Scott Morrison announced that his government would introduce legislation to parliament this week that would make social media companies reveal the identities of anonymous trolling accounts and offer a pathway to sue those people for defamation. With the government divided over voter ID, integrity and religious discrimination legislation, as Katharine Murphy writes, this is a bill everyone can get behind. The laws would require social media companies to collect personal details of users, and allow courts to access their identities to launch defamation cases. It is unclear what personal data would be collected, but there are indications it would include a phone number, email address and user’s contact name. In a huge overhaul, the legislation would also change who is responsible for defamatory posts, from organisations that run the pages – such as news organisations – to the social media companies themselves.


A fossil fuel plant
Australia’s latest move on emissions is ‘a global embarrassment’, Victoria’s energy, environment and climate change minister says. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

The Morrison government has used sweeping new powers to override state and territory government support for an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government has deployed newly passed laws to overturn the participation of five states and territories in the global Under 2 Coalition.

The descendants of people displaced by nuclear testing at Maralinga bought out shares in a company that is planning to build a uranium mine on their country to lodge an in-person objection to the project, after the company allegedly refused to meet with them.

Scott Morrison enters the final parliamentary sitting week of the year facing fresh questions about the Coalition’s record of administering discretionary grants to government electorates. New analysis has found that since 2013 the bulk of government grant money has gone to government-held seats.

The world

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen arrives at federal court in New York after completing his three-year prison sentence. Photograph: Lawrence Neumeister/AP

Prosecutors in New York could “indict Donald Trump tomorrow if they really wanted and be successful”, the ex-president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen said on Sunday.

Talks between world powers and Iran on salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal will resume in Vienna on Monday after a five-month hiatus but expectations of a breakthrough are low. The talks could liberate Iran from hundreds of western economic sanctions or lead to a tightening of the economic noose and the intensified threat of military attacks by Israel.

As attacks on Palestinians worsen, the Guardian speaks to farmers, settlers, Israeli human rights activists and the mother of a three-year-old boy left injured in a raid. The Israeli human rights agency B’Tselem claimed this month that the state has “harnessed settler violence to promote its policy of taking over Palestinian land for Jewish use”.

Recommended reads

Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci
Lady Gaga has a field day as Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci. Photograph: Fabio Lovino/AP

In the new film House of Gucci, Lady Gaga rules in Ridley Scott’s at-times ridiculous drama based on the true-life sagas of the Italian fashion dynasty, according to film critic Mark Kermode . “House of Gucci is a little too well behaved to become a cult classic,” Kermode says. “But Gaga deserves a gong for steering a steely path through the madness – for richer, not poorer; in kitschness and in wealth.”

After overcoming personal tragedy, the rapper Baarka has clawed her way back – with a politically potent debut EP dedicated to First Nations women. “I just want to represent my sisters because we’ve been so underrepresented, especially in hip-hop,” Baarka says. “If somebody who can come from ice addiction, jail, motherhood and poverty [can do it, then they] can do it too.”

Tag, conkers, Simon says and hide and seek are not just for children, there are adults who take them very competitively, too. Amelia Tait meets the competitors for whom kids’ games have become a career.


In less than a year, millions of football fans will descend on Qatar to cheer on their favourite teams in the 2022 World Cup. They’ll be greeted by dozens of shiny new hotels, restaurants, roadways and seven glistening new football stadiums. It will be a proud moment for Qatar, and for the entire region, which has never previously hosted a World Cup. Pete Pattisson, who has been reporting on the preparations for nearly a decade, says this new infrastructure has come at a cost. Pattisson’s reporting shows 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in the course of World Cup preparations – many from sudden, unexplained causes. Pattison tells Michael Safi about some of the workers who have lost their lives, and why the wage and labour changes introduced by Qatar’s government fall short.

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


Daniel Sturridge
Perth Glory star Daniel Sturridge. Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, for the greatest travelling roadshow the A-League Men has to offer. Touring until 15 January, your favourite team from Western Australia, Perth Glory, will be bringing their purple-powered wares to a ground near you. Don’t miss out on a chance to see Bruno Fornaroli, Brandon O’Neill and special marquee attraction Daniel Sturridge across nine different dates.

Media roundup

Hotel quarantine could be back on the table as Omicron arrives in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. There are concerns the religious discrimination laws will allow women who use IVF or surrogacy to be refused employment ($) by religious bodies, according to the Australian. And the Herald Sun says potential Liberal candidates now have to disclose their sexual history, links to dating websites and drug and alcohol habits as part of the party’s vetting process.

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