Morning mail: Indigenous vaccination rates lag, Texas abortion ban, hospital pressure

Good morning. WA’s premier has locked horns with his federal counterparts, Texas has ushered in radical new abortion legislation, and Angus Taylor is facing fresh scrutiny over the allocation of federal grant funding.

Covid vaccination rates among Indigenous Australians are lagging badly, with new figures showing that across large swathes of Western Australia less than 10% of Aboriginal adults are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, WA premier Mark McGowan has accused the Morrison government of being “on [a] mission to bring Covid into Western Australia”, responding angrily to a warning from the federal attorney general, Michaelia Cash, that the legal basis for state border closures would diminish as vaccination rates increased. Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has suggested restrictions could ease in September as the state approaches 70% vaccination rates, despite a continued uptick in new cases in both Victoria and New South Wales.

Abortion has become all but banned in Texas, after last minute attempts in the US supreme court to halt radical new legislation failed. President Joe Biden has said the bill that passed the state’s Republican-dominated legislature “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade”, with pro-choice activists claiming abortion access in the US’s second most populous state will be “thrown into absolute chaos”. The new legislation bars abortion once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, normally around six weeks, with no exceptions for victims of either rape or incest.

The energy minister, Angus Taylor, and resources minister, Keith Pitt, are facing scrutiny from a Senate inquiry, after freedom of information documents revealed a company with close Liberal-party links received $21m in federal grants, having asked for information regarding “eligibility criteria” and the “application process” well before the program guidelines were officially released. Empire Energy’s managing director has said the company followed “due and proper process at all times”.

Australia

News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch
Lachlan Murdoch has been invited to appear at a Senate inquiry into YouTube’s ban of Sky News videos for breaches of its Covid misinformation policy. Photograph: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch has been called before a Senate inquiry, to explain his editorial direction of Sky News Australia, following the broadcaster’s temporary banning by YouTube for alleged misinformation regarding Covid-19.

Leading Australian scientists and engineers have urged the Morrison government to “get on with it” when it comes to emissions reductions, stating that “mature, low-carbon technology” already exists to curb high-emitting industrial sectors.

An independent scientific panel found that Adani’s conservation plans for the endangered black-throated finch were “superficial”, a fact the Queensland government attempted to keep secret, despite originally commissioning the study.

The world

Taliban fighters at Kabul's main airport
Taliban fighters patrol the Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul after the full US military withdrawal. Photograph: Marcus Yam/LOS ANGELES TIMES/REX/Shutterstock

Women will not feature in the cabinet or other top positions within the Taliban’s new government, a senior spokesperson has confirmed, despite claiming positions would be filled “on merit”.

Salman Rushdie has made a deal to publish his next work of fiction as a serialised novella on the subscription newsletter platform Substack. “I got very attracted to the idea recently, in this strange year and a half, of trying out things I’ve never done before,” he said when the deal was announced.

Israel has dubbed a US plan to reopen its Jerusalem consulate as “a bad idea”.
Historically a base for diplomacy with Palestinian authorities, President Biden has pledged to reopen the consulate as part of ongoing support for a two-state solution.

A leading Opec member has urged fellow oil producers to contemplate “energy transition”, by embracing renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuel dependency.

The world’s largest known triceratops skeleton, Big John, is set to go under the hammer at an auction house in France. Painstakingly put together from over 200 bones, the 2.6m and over 700kg “miracle of nature” is expected to fetch €1.5m.

Recommended reads

Pictures recovered from a roll of film in the backpack
A composite of images from Richard Stiles’ camera showing Steve Robinson’s last mountain ascent before he died. Composite: Richard Stiles

Two decades ago Richard Stiles escaped an avalanche in New Zealand, but friend Steve Robinson wasn’t so lucky. Now the rediscovery of a missing backpack containing a roll of film has revealed Robinson’s last mountain ascent before he died. “Twenty-four years ago, Robinson and his friend Richard Stiles were having a breather on the side of the mountain when an enormous block of ice crashed into the snow and set off an avalanche. Stiles leaped out of the way and survived, but could see no sign of Robinson – or his backpack. Until he saw those pictures on Facebook on Saturday night,” writes Tory Shepherd.

The Australian economy is nearly 10% bigger than it was at this stage one year ago. But before you reach for the champagne, Greg Jericho cautions, a Covid buffeting still looms. “When you consider that during the mining boom years the highest annual GDP growth ever reached was 4.9%, you don’t need to have a degree in economics to know something is amiss – because we sure as heck are not in a boom right now.” And while a post-lockdown correction is definitely at play, a fall in government investment incentives puts a load of pressure on private sector investment to fuel future growth.

When it hit the shelves in 2018, Boy Swallows Universe was an instant Australian literary sensation. And when playwright Tim McGarry broached the subject of adapting the novel for the stage with author Trent Dalton, he received succinct feedback: “good luck to you, mate”. But shorn from its initial six and a half hours, McGarry has woven a multilayered tapestry, befitting the novel’s own complexity and chutzpah, Andrew Stafford writes.

They’ve featured in plenty of other people’s ten funniest things on the internet, but now it’s the turn of Aunty Donna to share with us their favourite online funnies. So if you like beer, women and big shiny trucks – or just premium prices – take a gander.

Listen

Hospitals at breaking point. As the Delta strain endures, some of New South Wales’ largest hospitals are approaching the stage where staff exhaustion is beginning to compromise patient care. On this episode of Full Story, reporter Elias Visontay hears from doctors, nurses and patients on the crisis.

Full Story

Inside the NSW hospitals at breaking point

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

Sport

Wallabies players after defeat to the All Blacks
The Wallabies lost the opening two Bledisloe Cup matches at Eden Park but still have a chance in the Rugby Championship. Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Australia and New Zealand meet once again, with the Bledisloe already decided. But, the third Test in Perth is anything but a dead rubber, Bret Harris explains, because it doubles as a Rugby Championship match – a competition Australia could yet win.

Due to a Covid-related anomaly, the Socceroos road to Qatar 2022 will now continue in Qatar. And with Australia losing home advantage a well-drilled Chinese opponent looms as just one potential banana-skin in Group B, John Duerden writes.

The Premier League transfer window has closed. And while big ticket signings such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku have dominated the headlines, for many clubs quiet and steady work away from the limelight has been the story.

Media roundup

Police have fined nine men as part of their investigations into illegal parties in Sydney’s eastern suburbs that have led to dozens of Covid-19 cases, the SMH reports. The widow of former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has accused the Coalition of grossly mismanaging the NDIS, reports the Australian. And, a hospital accused in Queensland parliament of providing substandard care was warned of declining standards by a whistleblowing doctor nearly a year ago, the Courier Mail writes.

Coming up

The World University Rankings will be released.

A sentence hearing will take place for UTS professor Dianne Jolley, who was found guilty of sending herself fake letters.

And if you’ve read this far …

They’re calling it a nanogenerator, and according to Swiss scientists it could just be the breakthrough technology that foot-powers an energy revolution. By turning humble wooden floorboards into a nanocrystal and silicone-coated electricity generator, researchers are hoping simply walking around one’s apartment or house could be enough to power household utilities. But with the technology only at proof-of-concept stage, they’ve been keen to stress: it’s still one step at a time.

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source: theguardian.com