Morning mail: stimulus spending delays, Trump ‘symptom-free’, NGV Triennial returns |


Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 8 October.

Top stories

Only a 10th of the $6.7bn earmarked in the budget for new infrastructure spending will be delivered this financial year, budget papers have revealed. More than a third of what was billed as an economy-kickstarting “jobmaker” package won’t materialise until 2022-23 – and Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is already telling media he will push for earlier additional funding. Former MP Tony Windsor has also accused the Coalition of trumpeting $600m for a NSW roads initiative that was announced in 2013 by Labor treasurer Wayne Swan. Scott Morrison has acknowledged the budget’s assumption that a vaccine will be available late next year has been challenged by some, but declared the government would deliver all the budget’s big-spending elements even if that and other rosy assumptions turned out to be wrong.

A top US immunologist has quit his role at the National Institutes of Health, accusing the Trump administration of “ignor[ing] scientific expertise and overrul[ing] public health guidance”. Dr Rick Bright’s words are backed by the US epidemiologist who led the global fight against smallpox, who stated that Trump’s “political interference” was responsible for “slaughter” in the US. Elsewhere, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has blamed the president for “the greatest failure to detect an enemy attack since Pearl Harbour”. Twenty-seven of the president’s closest aides and advisors have now been confirmed as being Covid-19 positive, despite the White House physician, Dr Sean Conley, describing Trump as “symptom-free for over 24 hours”.

Covid-19 hospitalisations in France are at a three-month high, with 7,500 people in hospitals around the country, on a day when the French government confirmed a record 18,746 new positive infections. Scotland has banned pubs from serving alcohol indoors for 16 days, and officials in the north of England are considering a similar measure after a 60% rise in hospital admissions. Berlin has announced the first curfew in the city for 70 years due to spiralling coronavirus cases.


A fire at Churchill, Victoria on Black Saturday in 2009
A fire at Churchill, Victoria on Black Saturday 2009. A new study suggests there is little evidence to support wide-scale thinning of forests to cut bushfire risk. Photograph: Rhys Smith/Newspix / Rex Features

Forest thinning fails to reduce bushfire risk, analysis of Victoria’s Black Saturday fires has suggested, despite contrary claims from forest industry groups. The study’s authors said that preemptive thinning often left more fuel on forest floors, which in some instances could even “exacerbate fire risks”.

The Coalition government has been condemned for allocating more than $39m to a sport initiative for Indigenous boys, run by the non-Indigenous Clontarf Foundation, while failing to adequately fund Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to meet the new Closing the Gap targets. The government has set aside only $46.5m over four years to help such organisations build their capacity.

Special clauses representing a potential breach of Crown’s Barangaroo casino licence were overlooked by billionaire owner James Packer who didn’t “give it a thought”, the NSW inquiry has heard. The clauses were to prohibit Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho from buying a stake, due to concerns over his connections with organised crime.

The world

Protesters gather outside a court in Athens
Thousands gather outside a court in Athens to hear the landmark verdict from a five-year trial against the Golden Dawn party. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/AP

Thousands have gathered outside a court in Athens to celebrate the landmark ruling after a five-year trial that found seven Golden Dawn party leaders guilty of operating a criminal gang under the guise of being a political group. Described as the biggest trial of European fascists since Nuremberg, the verdict saw 68 defendants found guilty of murder and weapons possession.

Tens of thousands have fled popular tourist destinations along Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula ahead of Hurricane Delta and its “life-threatening storm surge”. Cancun has been described as a “ghost town”, with the hurricane expected to continue into the southern US.

Fearing a sharp decline in the island-state’s already low birthrate, Singapore has announced a one-off baby bonus to incentivise couples to conceive. The Asian republic currently has one of the world’s lowest birthrates at 1.1 births per woman.

There has been an outpouring of grief for a 28-year-old nurse from Texas, who has become the latest of hundreds of US medical staff to die from Covid-19, after succumbing to the virus in early July. Adeline Fagan worked in a paediatric ward helping deliver babies.

Recommended reads

Angela Tiatia Narcissus 2019 pigment print on cotton rag 160.0 x 244.0 cm © Courtesy the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney
Three years in the making, the National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial has had to adapt to the new world it will open in. Pictured: Narcissus (2019) by Angela Tiatia. Photograph: Angela Tiatia

Three years ago the National Gallery of Victoria set all sorts of attendance records with its blockbuster Triennial. And while in the context of the coronavirus pandemic such events feel depressingly unachievable, the NGV has just announced its second Triennial will be back, bigger than Ben Hur, to finish 2020 with a much-needed morale boast to an arts sector that has been devastated by recent closures, writes Stephanie Convery. “Artists and designers are problem-solvers by nature – a challenge comes up or something that might be an impediment and they’re very good at finding a way to work through that.”

Older Australians made up more than 75% of the nation’s Covid-19 fatalities. In October the the royal commission into aged care quality and safety castigated the aged care regulator as “unfit for purpose” – too often its interests were aligned with those of providers rather than vulnerable elderly residents, writes aged care advocate Sarah Holland-Batt. “A year on [from a slew of pre-Covid aged care scandals], the aged care regulator’s systemic dysfunction hasn’t been rectified; if anything it has been magnified by the pandemic.”

“I spent most of my childhood killing time, waiting for something to happen. Something good. But it never seemed to come along.” When Australian rock’n’roll legend Jimmy Barnes joined a band, it rescued him from an adolescence of joining gangs. And while fame eventually knocked down his door, for a long time on the road, the going was tough, as this excerpt from his third memoir tells. “In the old days before we had money, we’d travel in cars that were real bombs, held together with gaffer tape and prayers. Blowing smoke and leaking oil across the country, we’d drive on dirt roads without a turn for hundreds of kilometres.”

Jimmy Barnes will be answering your questions at Guardian Australia’s book club on Friday 9 October at 1pm AEDT, on Zoom. Register here


Covid-19 and the White House. After a turbulent week in which the president of the United States was rushed to hospital – infected with the same virus that had killed over 200,000 of his countrymen – Full Story asks: how exactly did the disease get inside the White House?

Full Story

US election 2020: how Covid-19 reached the White House

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


Geelong Cats legends Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood
Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood are two of Geelong’s elderly statesmen, with a combined count of over 650 AFL appearances. Photograph: Dylan Burns/AAP

Nearly a decade ago Geelong etched their names as one of the AFL/VFL’s greatest ever clubs with a grand final win over Collingwood. Now, on Saturday night they’ll be facing the same opponents – this time hoping to prove there’s still bite in the old Cats.

The Australian women’s cricket team has equalled a world-record 21 ODI wins in a row, with an emphatic 232-run victory over New Zealand, made even more notable by the absence of both Ellyse Perry and skipper Meg Lanning. It is Australia’s biggest victory in the format in 15 years.

Media roundup

The federal government’s budget allocation of $1.6bn for additional home care packages “doesn’t touch the sides”, according to aged care workers, the ABC reports. Expected to help provide an additional 23,000 home care packages, insiders point out that waiting lists presently exceed 100,000. A Brisbane medical company has won contracts worth $30m from the US government to provide rapid Covid-19 tests, but claims Australia will have to wait much longer for the tests after discussions with the Queensland state government fell “on deaf ears”, writes the Australian. And Australians with foreign spouses could see their applications for partner visas denied on the basis of English-language proficiency, with the government announcing additional test requirements, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Coming up

The federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese will deliver his budget speech in reply tonight. We’ll be covering it, plus all today’s politics news, on our live blog.

James Packer is scheduled to continue giving evidence at the NSW inquiry into the suitability of Crown Resorts to operate a casino in the state.

Western Australia’s treasurer, Ben Wyatt, will hand down the 2020 state budget.

And if you’ve read this far …

Imagine purchasing a rare scroll of calligraphy, penned by Chinese leader Mao Zedong, valued at around $420m, for just $90. A 49-year-old Hong Kong man has been arrested for purchasing the scroll, which was reported stolen from a high-end art dealer’s personal collection. A happy ending, no? Except that the buyer thought the scroll to be a fake, so cut the rare treasure in half to help it fit in his own display.

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