Morning mail: stranded travellers return, Epstein docs unsealed, Trump hacked | Australia news

Good morning, this is Imogen Dewey bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 23 October.

Top stories

The foreign affairs department has again revealed the identities of Australians stranded overseas by adding their email addresses into the wrong field – the third data breach in as many months. The latest incident occurred on Wednesday when the Australian embassy in Paris sent an email to Australians stuck in France who had registered their wish to return home with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It comes as more than 150 passengers boarded a Qantas flight in London on Thursday, bound for Darwin and nearby quarantine facility at Howard Springs. More than 32,000 Australians globally have registered their wish to return home. National cabinet capped weekly arrivals at 4,000 in July, lifting that limit to 6,000 in September after public pressure. But the Australian Human Rights Commission yesterday said the cap may break international law.

The Victorian government is recruiting intelligence and data experts to conduct covert surveillance of businesses and ensure Covid-19 compliance. An expression of interest circulated among the intelligence community this week indicates 25 new positions created to select workplaces for enforcement and surveillance operations – a significant escalation of capacity to punish employers who fail to comply with restrictions. The news comes at a delicate time for the Andrews government, which has been criticised for taking an overly punitive approach to enforcing restrictions, and for the state’s extended lockdown. Some industries are expecting to be told they can reopen this Sunday.

A court document containing potentially sensitive information about Ghislaine Maxwell and her relationship with the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was unsealed on Thursday morning in New York, just moments before a court-imposed deadline. About a dozen long-awaited Maxwell files have been unsealed, with the first filing involving Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer alleging the British socialite avoided a question “about allegedly ‘adult’ sexual activity” related to Jeffrey Epstein. She also denied introducing Britain’s Prince Andrew to underage sex partners, in the defensive and combative deposition made in court in April 2016 as part of a civil case.

Donald Trump’s Twitter account was reportedly hacked last week after a Dutch researcher claimed he guessed the US president’s password. The president on Thursday leaked his own unedited and bad-tempered TV interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes on Facebook ahead of the show’s Sunday broadcast date and just hours before the final presidential debate with Joe Biden in Nashville. Biden says if he wins, he is planning a special commission to suggest reforms to the US supreme court. Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee voted unilaterally on Thursday to advance Amy Coney Barrett’s supreme court nomination to the full Senate despite Democrats’ refusal to sit in the hearing room for what they called a naked “power grab”.


More than 95% of the $252m New South Wales grant scheme went to councils in Coalition seats, says Greens MLC David Shoebridge. In what may well be the NSW equivalent of the federal sports rorts scandal. A handful of emails is all that explains how the money was allocated.

Australia Post chief Christine Holgate has been stood down and the board put on notice pending an investigation into how the organisation spent $12,000 on Cartier watches as a reward for four senior managers.

Outgoing finance minister Mathias Cormann is using his last weeks in politics to talk up a “green recovery” from the pandemic. His latest remarks, delivered amidst a campaign to lead the OECD, stand in stark contrast to his role in the Coalition and its heavily criticised record on climate policy.

Former high court justice Dyson Heydon has been accused of inappropriate behaviour by four more former staff, but is unlikely to face repercussions because none of the four want the matters investigated.

The world

Much of the old ice in the Arctic is now disappearing, leaving thinner seasonal ice. Overall the average thickness is half what it was in the 1980s.

Much of the old ice in the Arctic is now disappearing, leaving thinner seasonal ice. Overall the average thickness is half what it was in the 1980s. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

For the first time since records began, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia has yet to start freezing in late October. Scientists are alarmed, saying there could be knock-on effects across the region.

China has warned Canadian lawmakers to halt their “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, in the latest episode of a rumbling diplomatic feud between the two nations. Canada this week concluded China’s actions against ethnic Uighurs constituted a genocide and called for sanctions.

Poland has ruled that abortion due to foetal defects is unconstitutional, paving the way for the governing PiS party to move ahead with a legislative ban. The US today signed an anti-abortion declaration with a group of about 30 largely illiberal or authoritarian governments – including Poland.

Recommended reads

Gemma Carey stands in front of a bookshelf facing the camera

Gemma Carey, author of No Matter Our Wreckage: ‘I wrote a memoir about child sexual abuse, so I asked for this. Or did I?’ Photograph: Allen & Unwin

“I wrote a memoir about abuse. That doesn’t mean you’re entitled to every detail,” says Gemma Carey. In the weeks since the publication of her book, No Matter Our Wreckage, the Australian author and academic has been asking herself a lot of questions about boundaries, privacy, and the “tricky tightrope” of what, exactly, she owes her reading public. “Some details, quite often, are frankly beside the point. This is not trauma porn; our lives are not here for your voyeurism.”

The ninth novel from Gail Jones shows just why she’s held in such high regard, writes Bec Kavanagh. This story of three generations of a Kalgoorlie gold-mining family’s search for meaning “manages to not only weave in commentary on the toxic legacy of colonisation, but also the devastation of war and toxic masculinity without once veering away from the lives of her characters.”

“One Saturday night, following a grey, unremarkable day, I felt compelled to lose myself in a task. I wanted to feel the magic that comes with the process of making something simple. I poured myself a glass of wine, turned on some Frank Sinatra and started to knead.” Elizabeth Hewson shares three pasta recipes for a meditative Saturday night.


What matters on 3 November is not which candidate gets more votes in the US election, but who secures the 270 electoral college votes needed to get to the White House. In this episode of Full Story, Lauren Gambino, political correspondent for Guardian US, discusses Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s possible paths to power.

Full Story

US election 2020: Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s possible paths to power

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


With Cameron Smith perhaps just one final game away from retirement, the breakup of a great Melbourne Storm dynasty is nearly complete, writes Nick Tedeschi. But of all NRL clubs, this one is uniquely positioned to continue a stunningly long run of success well into the future.

Formula One star Lewis Hamilton has criticised the appointment of a Black Lives Matter critic to a F1 Grand Prix role. “We should be including people who are with the times,” he said. Vitaly Petrov, the first Russian driver to compete in Formula One, has been critical of Hamilton’s strident anti-racism stance.

Media roundup

Former PM Paul Keating doesn’t buy the theory the Queen was involved with the Whitlam dismissal, says the Australian. NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office has no record of disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire disclosing any side hustles, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Tasmania will join WA in its high court fight against Clive Palmer to argue Covid-19 border closures are “reasonably required”, reports the Mercury. And work on Melbourne’s long-awaited airport rail link could kick off in months, says the Herald Sun.

Coming up

Scott Morrison’s national cabinet meeting with state premiers via teleconference will today consider lifting flight caps on returned travellers.

A repatriation flight from London is due to land in Darwin, where almost 200 passengers will quarantine at Howard Springs.

And if you’ve read this far …

Composite of celebrities and halloween costumes, including Ellen and Keanu Reeves

‘If you have gone grey in lockdown, you could just go to the party with your hair as a costume and say you’re Keanu’s very cool, almost-the-same-age girlfriend.’ Photograph: Matt Baron/Peter Dazeley/Getty Images, REX/Shutterstock, IStock, Fox

Pick your fighter: Bad Ellen, Keanu Reeves’ girlfriend, skeleton staff. Bridget Delaney runs through the ultimate 2020 Halloween party looks and imagines what it’d be like if they all met in the same room: “… Particularly if all the guests got very method.”

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