Morning mail: resistance to reopening plan, Australia grants Afghanistan visas, and tips for Zoom

Good morning. Scott Morrison is facing more resistance on the plan to reopen as NSW braces for another day of record Covid cases. Evacuation efforts continue in Afghanistan as Australia grants more than 100 visas to former local staff, a day after rejecting them. And as you sip your morning coffee, find out how caffeine became the world’s most dominant drug.

Scott Morrison insists that growing case numbers is not a reason to abandon the national plan to open up the country once vaccination rates hit 70% and 80%. But some state leaders are not so sure, warning that the worsening Covid crisis in New South Wales could be a dealbreaker. On Sunday, NSW hit yet another record of 830 new cases and three deaths, bringing the toll in the current outbreak to 71.

The Australian government says it has granted humanitarian visas to more than 100 Afghan nationals who worked at its embassy, a day after telling them their visa applications had been rejected. The conflicting information has created confusion as thousands try to flee the Taliban regime. A lawyer for hundreds of former F interpreters and Australian support staff has accused the government of trying “to spin this to the media”, before informing his clients. The Biden administration has ordered commercial airlines to help transport people evacuated from Afghanistan while the UK plans to establish offshore asylum centres for Afghan refugees in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey.

Greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s industrial sites have risen 24% since 2005, and need to be addressed now if the country is to have a chance of reaching net zero by 2050, a new report from Grattan Institute says. The Melbourne-based think tank recommends policy changes such as improving Australia’s failing “safeguard mechanism”, creating an “industrial transformation future fund” similar in design to the national green bank, and expanding state energy savings schemes. The report comes as the Morrison government invited industry to have its say on the design of a promised new “safeguard crediting mechanism”, which it says will help big energy-using businesses adopt new technologies to cut costs and emissions.


On average about 68% of new Covid cases in NSW in the past week have been “under investigation”, which means it was unknown how much time they had spent in the community while infectious and how big a risk they posed to others. Guardian Australia examined how many ‘under investigation’ cases are being resolved by comparing daily briefing figures with later NSW Health updates.

The bill to ban imports of products made with forced labor is scheduled for debate shortly after the Senate resumes on Monday. Independent senator Rex Patrick initially proposed to ban imports of goods made in China’s Xinjiang region due to concerns about the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims – but he changed course after a bipartisan committee said it would be better not to target a particular geographic region.

NSW police has apologised for sending an email with sensitive information to a wrong person. Personal information about a woman fined for a lockdown breach was sent to a man with the same name as the woman’s lawyer, who happened to have won a case himself against the police over a privacy breach.

The world

Facebook Twitter Franco-American entertainer Josephine Baker receiving the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de Guerre after the second world war. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Josephine Baker, a famed French-American dancer, singer and actor who worked with the French resistance during the second world war, will be the first Black woman to be laid to rest in France’s hallowed Panthéon mausoleum. The remains of Baker, who was born in Missouri in 1906 and buried in Monaco in 1975, will be moved to the Panthéon in November.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven said on Sunday he will step down, after seven years in power. The unexpected announcement came before next year’s general election and after Löfven in June became the first Swedish leader ever to lose a motion in parliament.

Ho Chi Minh City is preparing to enter lockdown as Covid cases in Vietnam’s most populous city surge. Residents will be under stay at home orders from Monday, with the army and police deployed.

Former US president Donald Trump received unusual boos and jeers at his rally in Alabama after he told supporters: “I recommend taking the vaccines.” The state is currently struggling with the Delta outbreak and surging hospitalisations among the unvaccinated.

Matt Gaetz, the Republican Florida congressman under sex trafficking investigation, got married. Gaetz has repeatedly denied the allegations he paid a 17-year-old girl for sex.

Recommended reads

Facebook Twitter Prue (Shannen Doherty), Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) and Piper (Holly Marie Combs) in Charmed. Photograph: United Archives GmbH/Alamy

Charmed, the late 1990s TV series that follows a coven of witches in San Francisco, has for far too long been relegated to the status of Buffy’s less sophisticated, more mainstream, younger sister. It’s time to elevate this oddly relatable show about three sister witches who juggle life and magic to its equal place next to Buffy in the cult TV hall of fame, writes Isabelle Oderberg.

With many parts of Australia still in lockdown, connecting with others via Zoom can feel increasingly challenging. After 18 months of video conferences, virtual classes and online events, lessons have been learned when it comes to making digital connections feel a little less alienating. Professionals share their insights into solving some common video chat dilemmas.


When Michael Pollan was researching caffeine for his book about naturally occurring drugs, he decided to give it up for three months. Through his research and his experiences, Pollan came to a view of caffeine that acknowledged its downsides but also embraced its considerable benefits. He tells Rachel Humphreys the remarkable story of how caffeine became the world’s dominant drug, and the only one which we have incorporated into day-to-day conventional life.

Full Story How we all got hooked on caffeine Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen 00:00:00 00:26:49

You can read Pollan’s long read, The invisible addiction: is it time to give up caffeine? here.

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


Cricket Australia’s decision to retain Justin Langer as national coach risks perpetuating a dysfunctional relationship between the Test legend and his players, potentially threatening Australia’s chances at the Ashes, writes Sam Perry. “The team’s current standing no longer needs to be the fault of one party … Their partnership is repeatedly producing middling results, at best. If CA has designs on improving this, Langer’s position must consequently be untenable,” he writes.

Juventus vice-president has assured that Cristiano Ronaldo will remain at the club this season, amid reports the Portuguese star requested to be left out of the starting match against Udinese on Sunday in his bid to secure a move away from Turin.

Media roundup

Parcel and grocery deliveries across the country face disruption, with the Transport Workers Union threatening a 24-hour national strike on Friday unless transport giant Toll backs down on proposals to cut overtime and use cheaper contractors, the Australian reported ($). New research shows Australia is on the verge of an electric cars boom, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, pointing to record sales in the past six months and forecasts of greater choice. And researchers are building a “honey library” to spot fakes of the Tasmanian leatherwood honey, the ABC News reports.

Coming up

A pared back federal parliament will sit in locked down ACT.

The trial of Northern Territory policeman Zachary Rolfe, accused of murdering an Aboriginal teenager, is due to start but faces a last-minute delay.

And if you’ve read this far …

The weekend’s best photos from around the world picked by the Guardian’s picture editors: open water swimmers crossing the Borsphorus, a campaign to save Geronimo the alpaca, and an Afghan refugee giving birth on board a US evacuation plane.

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