Morning mail: Morrison’s FoI fail, coercive control warning, Queensland Origin victory |

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 19 November.

Top stories

The prime minister’s office met just 7.5% of its legally required deadlines for freedom of information requests, new data shown to Guardian Australia confirms. Critical to ensuring government transparency, Australia’s freedom of information laws compel a response within 30 days. But with Scott Morrison successfully meeting less than one in 10 requests, experts are calling for stronger penalties than just “name and shame”. “The Morrison government’s record on and enthusiasm for open, transparent and accountable government is at the low end of the scale,” FoI specialist Peter Timmins said. A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office said meeting FoI requests needed to be balanced against “competing and time-critical national issues”.

Joe Biden will meet virtually with frontline healthcare workers to discuss approaches to curbing the United States’ increasing death toll from the coronavirus. Nearly 250,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, with over 11.4m positive infections recorded. Meanwhile, pharma giant Pfizer has flagged that it will apply for emergency authorisation of its coronavirus vaccine “within days”, claiming the final results from its late-stage trial show it to be 95% efficacious. In Italy, hospitals are battling with acute shortages of intensive care specialists on a day in which the nation recorded its worst single-day death toll, 731, since April. Neighbouring Switzerland has confirmed its beds are at full capacity, while France has announced plans for a nationwide €1.5bn vaccination program from as early as January.

Family violence experts have cautioned against criminalising coercive control, despite pushes for such moves from the family of Hannah Clarke, who was murdered alongside her three children in Queensland earlier this year. The perpetrator in that attack exhibited 17 different types of controlling behaviour – such as monitoring or controlling appearance, access to children or finance – and mother Sue Clarke has told Guardian Australia police powers to arrest or charge for behaviours other than direct physical violence could have saved her daughter’s life. But family violence prevention specialists remain hesitant to back this approach: “It’s a complex social problem, family violence isn’t something that can be fixed by any one law,” said Lynda Memery.


The Australian newspaper seen in a supermarket
Philip Morris has paid News Corp Australia tens of thousands of dollars to run four online articles as part of an international campaign to change tobacco laws. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Recent articles sponsored by Phillip Morris and published in the Australian could breach national tobacco advertising promotion laws, public health advocates have warned.

A review of New South Wales sexual assault laws has made dozens of wide-ranging recommendations, including stipulating that a person does not consent if they don’t “communicate consent through words or actions”.

The federal government has refused to comply with a Senate order to produce briefing documents, associated with the controversial purchase of land for Sydney’s second major airport at 10 times its market value.

The New South Wales government has announced a major overhaul of stamp duty – the system of property taxation first introduced in 1865. But critics warn an optional system might see the state miss out on major tax benefits over coming years.

The world

Pro-democracy protesters spray paint signage on Thailand’s police headquarters
Pro-democracy protesters spray paint signage on Thailand’s police headquarters. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

More than 10,000 protesters have marched on Thailand’s police headquarters, following violent clashes on Tuesday that resulted in the shooting of several pro-democracy protesters by police. Activists continue to call for reform of the country’s monarchy.

Iran has admitted to breaching the 2015 nuclear agreement, confirming the installation of uranium-enriching centrifuges at one of its underground plants. Joe Biden has committed to re-entering the nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama.

The prison block housing Julian Assange has been locked down due to the coronavirus, after three inmates tested positive to the disease. Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said she is “extremely worried about Julian”.

Prosecutors in the forthcoming trial of the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd want to introduce evidence showing a similar incident from 2017, in which Derek Chauvin is alleged to have used unreasonable force in arresting a 14-year-old boy.

Recommended reads

Frances Drake
Frances Drake, is passionate about helping other women who have done time in prison. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

The death of her teenage son started Frances Drake on a harrowing downward spiral – from “the luckiest woman alive” to a heavy user of ice. And while the drug initially made her feel she “could cope again” as she tells Guardian Australia, “very quickly it ravaged my body and I became very sick”. Now, after a spell in jail, she wants to help other at-risk women navigate the treacherous pitfalls of inadequate support and precarious post-prison living.

The Covid-19 pandemic has already brought plenty of heartache to millions of Australians. But could the federal government be entrenching some of this pain for Australian families through its stance on wages? Greg Jericho seems to think so: “In the midst of a recession, at time when wages are growing slower than ever before and the jobs are increasingly becoming part-time and insecure, the government is working to keep such conditions in place.”

A return to straight songwriting marks a new chapter for Tim Minchin, one of Australia’s greatest recent proponents of theatre and comedy. And while, as Bernard Zuel’s review says, at times he feels like a man at the crossroads, amid the frustration of projects thwarted Minchin has come to channel a Randy Newman-esque bite in his first studio album.

Nobody wants to see a Twitter account hacked. Unless of course you’re everyone that isn’t Kris Jenner, and then hilarity ensues. For this week’s 10 funniest things on the internet, non-comedian Benjamin Law is our guest selector, and if you’ve ever wanted to see what remote Pakistani villagers make of Cheezels, this is your week.


Modern monetary theory. In the face of Australia’s first recession in nearly 30 years, is it time to question whether orthodox economics’ historical solutions are still fit for purpose? On this episode of Full Story, economics reporter Martin Farrer and University of Newcastle professor Bill Mitchell outline a leading alternative perspective.

Full Story

What is modern monetary theory and could it fix Australia’s problems?

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


Maroons players celebrate after winning State of Origin  game 3 against the NSW Blues
Maroons players celebrate after winning State of Origin game 3 against the NSW Blues at Suncorp Stadium. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

“The worst Queensland team ever” has sealed a remarkable State of Origin series, winning game three 20-14 in front of a packed home crowd in Brisbane. And as Nick Tedeschi writes, “arguably the greatest upset in Origin history” was one that would only “add to the Queensland mythology”.

And, not only was it some game – it was possibly also a world record crowd since the Covid pandemic arrived. And as Emma Kemp describes it, for a world starved of engrossing top-tier sport in 2020, State of Origin was a pretty good showcase of “the greatest game of all”.

Germany have vowed to stand by their coach, Joachim Löw, after Die Mannschaft were handed their worst-ever loss in a competitive fixture, a 6-0 thrashing by Spain in the Nations League.

Media roundup

A former SAS specialist – one of hundreds of witnesses at an inquiry into alleged war crimes perpetrated by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan – has said that former colleagues accused of extrajudicial killings “should go to jail”, according to the ABC. And, a failed backburning operation was responsible for one of last summer’s worst bushfires, consuming more than 63,700 hectares, the Sydney Morning Herald claims. A former RFS captain has called the decision to stage the operation in adverse conditions “ludicrous”.

Coming up

The Australian defence force will release a long-awaited report by Maj Gen Paul Brereton detailing allegations that the nation’s special forces committed war crimes during multiple deployments to Afghanistan from 2006 to 2016. We will have a live blog wrapping up the findings and reaction from mid-morning.

And if you’ve read this far …

It’s the image threatening to confound everything you thought you knew about marine hierarchies: an otter eating a shark. And while the fearless critters have been known to take on manta rays, the snap surprised even otter aficionados. “To my knowledge … this is the first documented horn shark capture by a sea otter,” a stunned Michael Harris said. And while it escaped to tell the story, the shark in question did look a little dog-eared afterwards.

Sea otter eating shark
‘The first documented horn shark capture by a sea otter.’ Photograph: Be Sea Otter Savvy

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