Morning mail: Washington locks down, Andy Murray positive for Covid, internet drama

Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey, bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 15 January.

Top stories

Donald Trump’s impeachment risks bogging down the early days of the Biden presidency as as Washington heads into a militarised virtual lockdown ahead of next week’s inauguration. With warnings of more violent protests being planned following the pro-Trump deadly mob attack on the US Capitol last week, some Republican members of Congress who voted for the unprecedented second impeachment of the president fear they are in personal danger. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has reportedly cloistered himself in the White House in “self-pity mode” and has fallen out with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. And it has been revealed that a White House liaison sought out derogatory information regarding E Jean Carroll, a woman who alleges she was raped by Trump.

A woman and her three young children have been found dead at a home in Melbourne’s north. Victoria police said the woman’s husband, and the father of the three children, was assisting with the investigation but people should not presume culpability on that basis because “that would be grossly unfair”. Officers attended the house in the suburb of Tullamarine just after midday on Thursday and found the bodies of a 42-year-old woman, her seven-year-old daughter, her five-year-old daughter and her three-year-old son. The acting deputy commissioner, Robert Hill, said there were multiple “possibilities” that police were investigating.

Andy Murray has tested positive for coronavirus before his flight to Melbourne to compete at the Australian Open, putting his presence at the tournament in doubt. Meanwhile, US tennis player Tennys Sandgren has arrived in Melbourne after Tennis Australia reportedly intervened so he could board a charter flight despite testing positive for coronavirus. Sandren explained on Twitter that his first positive test was in November and he was now “totally recovered”. Tennis Australia is in the midst of a large operation to transport 1,200 players and their staff across 15 separate charter flights into Melbourne and Adelaide. All the competitors must quarantine for 14 days, but they will be allowed out of their rooms after a negative test in order to train under strict conditions for five hours each day.

Queensland is considering using mining camps for quarantine amid fears over the Brisbane hotel Covid-19 cluster. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk suggested accommodating returned travellers and staff in “four-star” camps might reduce the likelihood of virus spread in the community. Further south, an Adelaide couple who tried to avoid border restrictions have been rescued after walking 40km in outback South Australia – the Royal Flying Doctor service saying they were lucky to be alive. And while the Covid vaccine is voluntary in Australia, in some circumstances still to be decided, it could become a requirement. So who – if anyone – might be asked to get the jab?


‘A disaster from the the beginning’: Chevron’s Western Australia Gorgon plant, which received $60m in government funding, has been troubled from the start, conservationists say. Photograph: Ray Strange/AAP

An LNG plant in Western Australia is facing calls to shut down until its faulty carbon capture system is fixed. Environmental groups have blasted the state government for its failure to penalise Chevron’s Gorgon plant for increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Labor fears a humanitarian crisis on Australian coal ships stranded off China, and is calling on the Morrison government to work to repair the relationship with Beijing as exporters face a “grim” year due to growing political tensions.

The mother of a child with special needs has won a two-year battle against Centrelink after the agency demanded she pay back more than $27,000 in carer’s payments.

Australia’s freedom of information regime has been labelled “dysfunctional” in a scathing audit. An Australian Conservation Foundation report out today urges an investigation into how ministers treat requests for government documents.

The world

Millions are facing disaster from flood, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather, as governments fail to take the measures needed to adapt to the impacts of climate breakdown.
Millions are facing disaster from flood, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather, as governments fail to take the measures needed to adapt to the impacts of climate breakdown. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Nasa says 2020 was the hottest year on record, and the UN has warned countries are adapting too slowly to climate breakdown. A new report says not enough funding is being made available to deal with extreme weather, and that millions of people worldwide are facing disaster.

Russia’s prison service says it has orders to detain Alexei Navalny, days before the opposition politician is due to return to Russia after recuperating in Germany from a suspected FSB poisoning.

Nicolas Sarkozy has been hit by claims his ex-wife was given a fake €3,000-a-month job while he was in government. The former French president’s entourage have vehemently denied accusations the role was “fictitious”.

Italians have responded with anger, perplexity and calls for the entire government to be sent packing after the country was plunged into political mayhem. The Giuseppe Conte-led administration is on the brink of collapse after the former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, pulled his small Italia Viva party from the ruling coalition.

Recommended reads

TikTok artist Lubalin
‘TikTok artist Lubalin brilliantly captures the drama of low stakes online fights. But internet discord is increasingly spilling into everyday life.’ Composite: Lubalin/Sascha Steinbach/Roberto Schmidt/TikTok/EPA/AFP/Getty Images

“Noxious internet drama makes me nostalgic for the good old days of passive aggressive notes,” writes Brigid Delaney. “The note under the door or attached to the windscreen is annoying – triggering even – but it’s also private. No one else need get involved or know. These real-life disputes were once governed by ancient and unspoken rules: speak at a normal volume, don’t scream, play the ball not the man, look for a mutually acceptable solution.’ But on the internet, everything is a drama … and all of us are inhabiting that wild world for an increasing amount of time each day.”

Nine months and half a summer later, the gloss (and in some cases, the timber) of Australia’s redecorating boom is starting to fade. So, how should you care for your outdoor furniture? “The most attention people pay is the day they buy it,” authoritatively titled furniture restorer the Wood Doctor told Ally Jackson. If you’re the sort of person to take this as a challenge, she’s found you some solutions to carry your pieces through the rest of this summer – and beyond.


Journalist and author Gabrielle Chan has looked closely the weaknesses in global supply chains. In today’s episode of Full Story, she asks what we can learn from small businesses that helped fill the gaps exposed by the pandemic. (The interview is based on her essay for our Fire, Flood and Plague series, which you can read here.)

Full Story

Gabrielle Chan on the challenges and opportunities in Australian food production

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


Nathan Lyon
Much rides on Nathan Lyon when the Australian spinner marks his 100th Test against India at the Gabba on Friday. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The Gabba is a fitting venue for Nathan Lyon’s 100th Test milestone, writes Adam Collins ahead of the final match in the series, which begins today. “The quiet offspinner has found his voice but Lyon knows his actions with ball in hand will talk loudest.”

The Premier League has postponed Sunday’s Aston Villa v Everton match after a coronavirus outbreak. Villa’s entire first-team squad and support staff have been in isolation since last week after nine players and five backroom staff tested positive for the virus.

Media roundup

A gender non-binary option will be available on census night for the first time this year, the SMH reports, while the statistics bureau has revealed plans to also start asking Australians their sex at birth to better measure diversity. Greg Sheridan says Joe Biden’s choice of Kurt Campbell as Indo-Pacific co-ordinator (aka “Asia Tsar”, per the Australian) is “the best thing that has happened for Australia since the Democrat triumphed over Don­ald Trump in the presidential ­election”. Liam Mannix is accusing the federal government of avoiding simple vaccine questions, asking in the Age if the wide rollout is a “concession” its strategy may not provide herd immunity.

Coming up

The Australian Institute for Health and Welfare is releasing its report on suspected child abuse and neglect in 2019 and 2020.

The research ship RV Investigator is due back after a six-week voyage into the Southern Ocean studying the role of marine life in sequestering carbon.

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