Morning mail: Doha strip-search outrage, record US early voting, Kerr’s ‘betrayal’ | Australia news

Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 26 October.

Top stories

Australia is demanding answers after women were taken from a Qatar Airways flight and subjected to a strip-search and medical examination at a Doha airport. Female passengers, including 13 Australians, were ordered to disembark the plane and undergo the medical examination after a newborn baby was apparently found dead in the Hamad International airport. Most of the women were “very upset” when they returned, a fellow passenger on flight QR908 to Sydney said, following intrusive inspections to see if they had recently given birth. The Australian government has registered “serious concerns” with Qatari authorities over the incident. Qatar Airways told Guardian Australia it could not comment.

Australia’s biggest companies are being run by a “directors’ club”, a major new study has found, and proves boards are not punished for poor performance. More than a third of vacancies on the boards of the top 300 listed companies in Australia are filled by directors of other companies in the same group, according to data compiled by proxy advice firm Ownership Matters. It comes as corporate Australia readies for an annual shareholder meeting season that got off to a torrid start last week with the AGM of the troubled casino group Crown.

Nearly 60 million Americans have cast an early vote, with a record-shattering turnout expected by next week’s election. Activists and analysts say the almost certain confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court on Monday represents a “power grab” by Republicans facing possible wipeout at the ballot box, though a party chair has rejected the president’s doubts Republicans can hold the Senate. “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” a Trump aide blithely admitted, as the country’s top infectious diseases expert raised hopes of an approved virus vaccine by the end of the year. Meanwhile the group behind contentious billboards in Times Square featuring Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is refusing to cave to legal threats.

Australia

WWF-Australia says the proposal to allow landholders to clear up to 25 metres from their fence line will fragment forests and make it even harder for koalas to get around.



WWF-Australia says the proposal to allow landholders to clear up to 25 metres from their fence line will fragment forests and make it even harder for koalas to get around. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Tens of thousands of hectares of bush could be at risk under a “gratuitous” New South Wales land-clearing plan, making life even harder for koalas already under threat.

The Victorian government has built less than 10% of the new public housing units it pledged by 2022, as analysis suggests there are nearly 30,000 children among the 100,000 people on the ballooning waiting list.

The Morrison government is expected to come under pressure over its delay in progressing a national anti-corruption commission this week, with an independent MP introducing her own bill and Labor likely to intensify its question time attack.

Labor holds a two-seat majority in Queensland and the most recent polls suggest a close contest on 31 October. But Queensland is a deeply complex state. More than 20 seats could flip this Saturday and minor parties are likely to shape the next parliament.

The world

The Alicante villa of John Gilligan, whose gang murdered the campaigning reporter on the outskirts of Dublin in 1996, but who was never convicted in connection with her killing.



The Alicante villa of John Gilligan, whose gang murdered the campaigning reporter Veronica Guerin on the outskirts of Dublin in 1996, but who was never convicted in connection with her killing. Photograph: Policia Nacional

A revolver found in a raid on the Spanish villa of convicted Irish drug trafficker John Gilligan may have been used to murder Veronica Guerin. A Dublin court acquitted Gilligan of ordering the journalist’s murder in 2001 despite “grave suspicions” about his involvement.

France is recalling its envoy to Turkey after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made “unacceptable” comments, suggesting Emmanuel Macron, his French counterpart needed mental health treatment.

The attempted hijacking of a Liberian-registered crude oil tanker has been reported off the Isle of Wight, where police and coastguards are currently dealing with the incident.

The Spanish government has declared a six-month state of emergency and ordered a nationwide curfew in an effort to contain the second wave of the coronavirus, while Italians have been strongly advised to stay at home.

Recommended reads

“These letters provide a snapshot of the distressed end of Kerr’s term as governor general, of his deteriorating relationship with the palace, and of his dramatic turn against Malcolm Fraser.”



‘These letters provide a snapshot of the distressed end of John Kerr’s term as governor general, of his deteriorating relationship with the palace, and of his dramatic turn against Malcolm Fraser.’ Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA

Newly released letters written by the former Australian governor general show he regarded his forced resignation under the Fraser government as the ultimate betrayal. Sir John Kerr’s letters to the Queen’s private secretary are “a raw display of devastation”, writes Jenny Hocking. “A common theme emerges: the involvement of the palace in every step Kerr took, and every decision he made, regarding the dismissal of Gough Whitlam and its gathering aftermath, including even his own resignation … They tell a poignant story of personal decline.”

“Most food wasn’t made to be sealed in plastic and bounced on the back of a scooter for 20 minutes before it gets to you.” Still, Adam Liaw is prepared to admit we need to take the changes 2020 has forced on our eating habits in our stride. He rates the best and worst dishes to order in, with several surprises and one universal truth: “Getting burgers delivered generally sucks.”

Australia’s theatres are slowly reopening, but will subscribers return? “Production costs of putting on a show remain the same, whether you’re playing to 50 people or 500,” writes Fiona Gruber. “This is a crucial factor influencing theatre companies’ programming and projection of box office revenue for 2021. How many tickets can they reasonably expect to sell? Covid has disrupted the subscription funding model a majority of companies rely on … and it hasn’t helped that the only money spent from a $250m rescue package for the arts has gone to the screen industry.”

Listen

Port Augusta once supplied 40% of South Australia’s electricity through its huge coal-fired power station. But the town saw the writing on the wall for fossil fuels and began to campaign for a transition to renewable energy to secure jobs for future generations. In this episode of Full Story, Jake Morcom and Adam Morton discuss what went wrong for the town’s promising renewables projects.

As Tom Morton explains, “the Upper Spencer Gulf has become a social laboratory for Australia’s energy transition.” Despite the problems, he says there’s no doubt a major transformation is happening.

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

Sport

“One Norm Smith medal guarantees a player’s place in the history. Win two, and you’re set for life as one of the greats. Win three, and your name is Dustin Martin”



‘One Norm Smith medal guarantees a player’s place in the history. Win two, and you’re set for life as one of the greats. Win three, and your name is Dustin Martin.’ Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

“If it is true that grand finals do not build character but instead reveal it, then Dustin Martin is the quintessential man for the moment,” writes Scott Heinrich. “We always suspected it, but now we know there has never been anyone like him.”

It started with an illegal outstretched leg and finished with a frantic flourish that was very nearly a Penrith comeback for the ages. Ultimately, though, last night’s grand final confirmed Melbourne Storm as the dominant NRL team of this century.

Britain’s Tao Geoghegan Hart has sensationally claimed Giro d’Italia glory, gaining time gradually but inexorably on Australian Jai Hindley after they entered the final stage almost level.

Media roundup

The IMF is urging Australia to embrace “long-standing recommendations” in its economic recovery from Covid-19, reports the Australian Financial Review. Analysis from the Australian suggests Melbourne’s lengthy lockdown is costing taxpayers $200m and 1,200 jobs per day. And Gladys Berejiklian’s approval rating is still high but her reputation has taken a hit, says a new poll for the Sydney Morning Herald and Nine News.

Coming up

The House of Representatives will sit and Senate estimates will return. Follow all the latest developments with our live blog

A coronial inquest will resume into the death of Nathan Reynolds, a 36-year-old Aboriginal man who died from an asthma attack in a minimum-security section of a jail on Sydney’s outskirts in 2018.

And if you’ve read this far …

A new archives discovery reinforces the image of the king as a ‘pathological monster’.



A new archives discovery reinforces the image of Henry VIII as a ‘pathological monster’. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

A chilling find shows how Henry VIII planned every detail of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. In an obscure, newly discovered passage in a Tudor warrant book, the king specifies that Boleyn should die by having her head “cut off”. Some say this shows real kindness – as far as having one’s head cut off might be less awful than being burned alive. On the other hand, stipulations now revealed for the first time make it unpleasantly clear how thoroughly he wanted his wife to be killed.

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