Morning mail: airline price hikes investigated, Covid commission 'hijacked', the Muslim Game of Thrones

Richard Parkin
·7 min read
<span>Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 13 August.

Top stories

The ACCC is investigating whether international airlines have been cancelling economy-class tickets to force passengers into paying higher prices to get home during the pandemic. Meanwhile, a medical expert has told the aged care royal commission that government failure will lead to the deaths of hundreds of Australians living in aged care, on a day that Victoria announced 21 more deaths and 410 new cases of the coronavirus. Prof Joseph Ibrahim highlighted Australia’s death rate in residential aged care – now the second-worst in the world – saying: “What we’ve seen with Covid is that the system is broken at a high level because it’s not the aged care workers that have failed us in this.” The use of sedatives within aged care facilities is also in the spotlight after allegations a Melbourne-based provider had been heavily sedating patients to keep them in their rooms. And, as Gay Alcorn writes, “the revival of state parochialism has been swift and intense” as hard state borders are being introduced across the country.

The Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has released her first campaign video, paying tribute to her mother’s strength in supporting her decisions to become first a lawyer then a politician. The pick shows Joe Biden believes black voters are the key to him winning the November election, our Guardian experts panel argues, but the real challenge will be black voter participation. Nevertheless, Harris has a tough-on-crime history, and progressive black columnists, including Derecka Purnell, are concerned about her selection for a divided party.

The Coalition’s national climate policy has been slammed by industry leaders as having “no real purpose” after it was revealed that major polluters including BHP, Anglo American and Tomago Aluminium were given licence to increase emissions by 1.6m tonnes last year – an increase of 12% over two years, which critics say makes a mockery of present emission-reduction attempts. The companies faced no penalties for emissions increases but offsets to mitigate these rises bought by the government through the emissions reduction fund cost taxpayers $27.6m. The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, added to the chorus of criticism, saying: “If you pull someone over for doing 90 in a 40km/h school zone you should fine them, not lift the limit to 110.”


Centre Alliance triumvirate
Rex Patrick, left, with Centre Alliance colleagues Rebekha Sharkie and Stirling Griff. The Liberals may try to bring the two remaining MPs into the fold. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

The federal Coalition could look to entice two Centre Alliance parliamentarians to join their number after the sudden departure of Rex Patrick from the formerly Nick Xenophon-led political party that presently occupies key crossbench positions.

Leading bushfire scientists have called on Australia to establish a national fires monitoring agency, arguing that inconsistencies in how states measure conflagrations are hindering national responses.

Australia’s Tafe system is “crumbling from neglect and policy vandalism”, a major report into the sector has stated. Despite generating an estimated $90bn annually in economic benefits, Tafe continues to suffer swingeing cuts to its $5.7bn funding.

The world

Protesters in Minsk, Belarus
Hundreds march in solidarity with protesters injured in the latest rallies against the results of the country’s presidential election in Minsk. Photograph: AP

More than 6,000 protesters have been arrested in Belarus after three nights of demonstrations since the reported landslide re-election of the 26-year president, Alexander Lukashenko. Opposition leaders have been jailed or forced to flee, with the EU threatening sanctions.

The self-reported “archbishop” of Florida, who has been selling a “miracle cure” for Covid-19 involving industrial bleach, has been arrested in Colombia. Donald Trump famously echoed the controversial pastor’s claims that bleach can “clean” the body of the disease.

Namibia has rejected a German offer of compensation for the historic mass murder of thousands of indigenous people, the Herero and Nama, between 1904 and 1908. The figure is believed to have been around €10m.

It’s being billed as the “Muslim Game of Thrones” and, with broadcasts to 72 countries and 1.5bn views on YouTube, Ertuğrul – the 13th century historical drama loosely based on the founder of the Ottoman empire – has all the hallmarks of an epic.

Recommended reads

“It looked like Pompeii.” That was the feeling for one family from Cudgewa in country Victoria as they fled the devastation of the summer’s bushfires. But while the twin crises of fires and pandemic have made 2020 a forgettable year for many, for some the urgent need for rebuilding as well as for stimulus offers a unique opportunity for regional development coupled with future-proofing sustainability, writes Lane Sainty: “Then we’ll see the pain we’re going through at the moment deliver something better at the end of the tunnel.”

“The days are bleeding together and I no longer know what the passage of time is”. Forget timelines, life under coronavirus is more a timesoup, writes Josephine Tovey. For one friend in Melbourne the working-from-home days are a monotony broken “only by exercise, cooking, reading, sleeping, eating, as well as an activity she simply calls ‘balcony’”.

Australian wages are growing more slowly than ever recorded. And while wages growth figures are historically bad, they might just be the best we will see for a while, writes Greg Jericho: “None of this is much of a shock. And neither is it expected to be short-lived.”

And if it feels like you could do with a laugh, read no further than the latest instalment of Guardian Australia’s funniest things on the internet, featuring James “Jam” Colley. It turns out that what floats our chosen comedian’s particular boat is “calamity, disaster, rude words and incredible commitment to silliness”.


The national Covid-19 commission was designed to help steer the federal government through the economic and social recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But the prioritisation of large-scale investment in gas has critics worried the commission’s central purpose has been hijacked. On this episode of Full Story, reporter Christopher Knaus investigates the commission’s performance thus far.

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


The 2020 Tour Down Under rides through bushfire-ravaged scenary
Scenery around Adelaide Hills during this year’s Tour Down Under was described like ‘something out of a film about the end of the world’. Photograph: Reuters

Think cycling and you imagine a sport that’s the natural ally of climate change. But at the elite level, professional cycling has a long way to go in terms of its carbon footprint, with major polluters long using the sport for brand-washing, writes Kieran Pender.

Only the second player to win three golf majors before the age of 24, Jordan Spieth has had a lean few years since. But is one of golf’s hot properties fading prematurely or is the competition simply getting tougher?

Media roundup

First-year university students could lose access to study loans if they fail more than half their subjects, says the Sydney Morning Herald, under a radical new proposition to curb unpaid Help debts. The chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank says the capital strength of the bank and the resilience of customers leaves him upbeat about Australia’s prospects of recovery, reports the Financial Review. And Clive Palmer has launched a last-ditch effort to extract $30bn of damages from the WA government, reports the West Australian, taking his long-running dispute to the NSW supreme court.

Coming up

Economists expect the jobless rate to jump to 7.8% from 7.4% when labour force figures for July are released.

The royal commission into aged care quality and safety hearings continue. The morning session will finish the focus on the coronavirus.

And if you’ve read this far …

With habitat loss at record levels, elephants and humans are increasingly on a collision course. And while some anti-pachyderm methods have prompted global outcry, one low-cost and outside-the-box approach seems to be garnering results: fences, made of bees. Bees? Yes. Bees.