Home » Morning Mail: Turnbull Backs Independents, Russia-US Talks, Cherry Season Delayed

Morning Mail: Turnbull Backs Independents, Russia-US Talks, Cherry Season Delayed

Good morning. Malcolm Turnbull welcomes climate-focused Liberal challengers, Russia calls for urgent talks with the US over Ukraine, and Nitram dominates the Aacta awards.

Former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has described the trend of climate-focused independents contesting traditional Liberal seats as a “very, very healthy development”. Turnbull, who led the Liberals to victory at the 2016 federal election, said “clearly a lot of traditional Liberal party voters feel the party has moved way off to the right”, and said governments being forced to work with crossbenchers was positive for “diversity in our parliaments”. Moderate Liberal candidates face challenges from at least five climate-focused independents at the forthcoming federal election. Scott Morrison’s federal Coalition currently holds a one-seat lower house majority.

Russia has called for a high-level “discussion of strategic security on the [European] continent” with the United States, after a virtual summit between Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden appeared to make little progress on the issue. Biden said he was hoping to announce “meetings at a higher level” involving four Nato members, as he also ruled out sending US troops in response to the build up of over 100,000 Russian troops along the border with Ukraine.

A former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption has recommended an investigation into the purchase of more than $1m worth of environmental offsets as part of the WestConnex motorway project. A consultant who who worked on the project’s environmental assessment is part owner of the property on which the offsets are situated. A second consultant who holds shares in the offset site was employed as a conservation officer in the NSW environment department at the time the land, near Kempsey on the state’s north coast, was purchased in 2014. The consultants told Guardian Australia it was their understanding the offset requirements for WestConnex had not been developed at the time the property was purchased, but barrister Geoffrey Watson told Guardian Australia: “the department needs to investigate this matter to make sure its controls were appropriate.”

Australia

A complaint has been filed about comments on the Queensland prison officers’ union Facebook page which the Greens say are ‘indicative of a toxic work culture’. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

Social media posts allegedly by Queensland prison officers are being investigated, including calls for violence against “maggot” inmates. Greens MP Michael Berkman has described the posts as “degrading, discriminatory, and violent” and called for an inquiry.

A man who left 90% of his $30m estate to his GP in a will altered just months before his death appeared “on the ball”, the solicitor who drafted the will has told a Sydney court. The GP denies striking a deal with the man, in exchange for keeping him out of hospital.

A 25-year-old Victorian man has been charged with allegedly threatening Gold Walkley winning journalist, Mark Willacy. The investigative reporter has extensively covered alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

Justin Kurzel’s controversial Port Arthur massacre film Nitram has won eight Aacta film awards, including best film and best film director. Last night’s ceremony was dominated by tributes to David Gulpilil.

The world

José Antonio Kast during the first presidential debate in Santiago, Chile, on 3 December. Photograph: Agencia Makro/Getty Images

The father of far-right Chilean presidential frontrunner, José Antonio Kast, was a Nazi party member, documents confirmed by German officials have suggested. Kast, who also has close family ties to the Pinochet regime, narrowly leads his leftist opponent ahead of a 19 December runoff vote.

Boris Johnson faces further scrutiny over his government’s honesty, with his former press secretary resigning following footage emerging of staffers exchanging jokes about a party at Downing Street during the height of lockdown in the UK.

Finland’s prime minister has apologised for going clubbing, hours after a close contact tested positive for coronavirus. The 36-year-old Social Democratic leader, Sanna Marin, denies contravening social distancing guidelines but says she “should have used better judgment”.

A two-and-a-half-year restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch, has revealed a hidden sketch, detailing a series of changes to the 34 characters depicted in the painting. Use of a “calcium map” helped reveal the sketch, made with calcium-rich paint.

Recommended reads

The upheaval to society brought about by the pandemic has prompted many to reconsider their day-to-day lives. Photograph: Vadym Drobot/Alamy

How has the pandemic made you rethink your life? That’s the question the Guardian Australia health and wellbeing team are asking – so please send us your submissions. Have you reconsidered the way you work; the way you live? The relationships around you; or the life choices those around you make? Let us know.

Death, taxes, and rising Australian property prices. If it’s beginning to sound like a broken record, that’s because it is, Greg Jericho explains: “Sydney house prices are now completely divorced from wages. In the past two years, wages in New South Wales increased 3.5% while at the same time apartment prices grew 17% and house prices a stunning 40%.” So is the trend set to reverse any time soon? On current evidence, not just yet.

For many in Australia, it’s not the festive season until there are cherries. But thanks to a record-breakingly wet and cold November, in 2021 this may not be the case. As cherry grower, Barisha Batinich explains: “It’s caught some of our early areas off guard a bit, because we’re usually 60% through my whole farm at this stage, and really I’m only just 10% of the way at the moment.” So what does this mean for the NSW town of Young, the “cherry capital of Australia”? Ann Ding gets to the pip of things – and throws in some cherry recipes for good measure.

Listen

It’s a bill set up to protect the vulnerable from online trolls. But could powerful exclusions, including media companies, undermine the legislation’s effectiveness? On this episode of Full Story, reporter Paul Karp dissects the issue with Laura Murphy-Oates.

Full Story

Who will be protected by the government’s anti-trolling law?

Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen audio.guim.co.uk/2020/05/05-61553-gnl.fw.200505.jf.ch7DW.mp3

00:00:00

00:24:13

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

Sport

The Canterbury Bulldogs have parted ways with NRL forward John Asiata by mutual consent. Photograph: Albert Perez/AAP

NRL tsar Peter V’landys styles himself as a decisive leader, but on the issue of Covid vaccinations Australian rugby league’s boss has passed the onus of leadership onto clubs, Nick Tedeschi writes.

In the Ashes battle of Australia vs Joe Root there’s a clear and immediate winner, even after just one day’s play at the Gabba. As Barney Ronay explains: “There is always talk about ‘targeting’ an Ashes captain. A simple dismissal isn’t enough. Captains must be assailed, hauled from their plinth like a tinpot town-square statue.”

Media roundup

Three in five Australian employers say vaccination status will affect their hiring decisions, the Age reports, with almost a third admitting to sacking unvaccinated workers. Scott Morrison will bring forward $1.3bn in manufacturing funding, according to the Australian, countering Anthony Albanese’s move to make manufacturing a core part of Labor’s election platform. And, Queensland’s peak medical body has called for 1,500 new hospital beds, the Courier Mail writes, as part of a plan to reduce strain on frontline workers.

Coming up

A Senate inquiry into the state of media concentration in Australia will hand down its long-awaited report.

And if you’ve read this far …

It’s a $66m beauty pageant. But authorities in Saudi Arabia are planning a major crackdown ahead of the popular regional event – after the discovery of Botox injections and other illegal “enhancements” led to the disqualification of 40 camel contestants. Camel breeding is a major business across the Middle East, but facial fillers, body part rubber banding, and lip or nose stretching has sadly become widespread in recent years.

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