Morning mail: koalas endangered, UK warns Russia of sanctions, AEC wins on Twitter

Good morning. Foreign ministers of Australia, the US, India and Japan are meeting in Melbourne today to discuss Indo-Pacific security and China-Russia relations. Koalas have been declared an endangered species, and rapid test shortages have left some aged care residents isolated from loved ones.

The Australian government has officially listed the koala as endangered after a decline in its numbers due to land clearing and catastrophic bushfires shrinking its habitat. The status will provide additional protection for the country’s iconic animals. But the government is yet to adopt a long-overdue recovery plan that will set out actions needed to prevent its extinction. “The koala has gone from no listing to now being declared endangered on the Australian east coast within a decade,” said Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia’s chief executive. “That is a shockingly fast decline. The status is a grim but important decision.”

Some families have been forced to space out visits to their elderly relatives at the aged care facilities due to the shortages of free rapid tests. Aged care provides have had to prioritise their stocks for residents and workers, rather than essential visitors who have to buy their rapid tests from retailers. Not everyone can afford them. The aged care sector has been calling on the government to set up a national coordination centre to ensure consistent supplies of PPE and rapid tests.

In the Lives Lost to Covid, we remember Ralph Cordingley, a great-grandfather and an “old-school gentleman” who sucked the marrow out of life until the end. He caught the virus in his Queensland nursing home and died at the age of 85. “There was no reason to believe he wouldn’t have lived longer … he was fully cognitive and smart,” says his daughter, Deborah.

The British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has warned Moscow of tough sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine during tense talks that Russia’s foreign minister compared to a conversation of “the mute with the deaf”. Truss’s visit is the latest in the European diplomatic effort to prevent a potential Russian offensive in Ukraine. France’s President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Moscow this week on a similar mission. And the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is expected there next week.


Facebook Twitter Scientists say building a rehabilitation centre on the mainland would be more helpful for the little penguins of the WA’s Penguin Island. Photograph: Dr Joe Fontaine/Dr Erin Clitheroe

Plans to build a $3.3m “discovery centre” on Penguin Island in Western Australia will push the threatened bird colony to breaking point, conservationists say.

Cooler weather and rain over the past 10 days brought a much-needed relief to the heat-stressed Great Barrier Reef, reducing the threat of another coral bleaching outbreak, the reef management authority said.

Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protests, including last year’s Melbourne rallies and last week’s Convoy to Canberra, have been a boon for Rebel News, a Canadian far-right outlet, in Australia. Its audiences on social media have grown exponentially.

The AEC’s increasingly popular Twitter account is breaking the rules to combat misinformation and educate the public about the electoral process. Its style is clear but chatty, direct but upbeat, and is described as “personable” with a “firm but friendly” approach by the man behind the AEC’s digital engagement.

The world

Facebook Twitter Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai in July 2020. He has said Hong Kong will become ‘a cage, like Xinjiang’. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

The International Federation for Journalists has called on international governments to support fleeing Hong Kong journalists as the fight for democracy and media in the territory feels as though it has “entered its endgame”, after a year of crackdowns, arrests and forced closures of outlets.

France has announced plans to build 14 nuclear reactors in an attempt to end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and make the country carbon neutral by 2050.

Spanish police have busted a drug ring suspected of simulating sailing boat accidents, including an attack by orcas, to smuggle hashish from Morocco to Spain.

Libya is likely to have two parallel administrations as political crisis in the divided country deepens after its eastern-based parliament appointed a new prime minister and the interim incumbent refused to step aside.

Recommended reads

Facebook Twitter Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey as a pair of brainwashed soldiers in The Manchurian Candidate. Photograph: United Artists/Allstar

Rightly considered one of cinema’s greatest paranoid thrillers, John Frankenheimer’s 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate is a film that remains hugely engaging – and surprisingly topical. Adapted from Richard Condon’s novel of the same name, its famous title lingers in the zeitgeist, still used to speculate on puppet-mastering foreign powers and their political influence, writes Luke Buckmaster.

When you think of Joe Rogan, a range of unpalatable things spring to mind: supplements, MMA, Jordan Peterson, pro wrestling, cannabis … and now vaccine misinformation. Rogan is also the most successful podcaster on Earth, with about 11 million listeners an episode. Brigid Delaney steps into hiss world to find out what his appeal is by consuming no other media except for his podcast for five days.

The Grass Hotel, Craig Sherborne’s latest novel, is a mother’s bitter and turbulent internal monologue to her son, as her mind – and her language – succumb to dementia. “It leaves us with a persuasive articulation of familial power dynamics, their emotional turbulence, and the psychical cling – like ash in water – of our parents,” writes Jack Calil in his review.


The pandemic has deepened a crisis in care. Workforces across childcare, aged care and nursing are reeling from its impact, as providers struggle to fill severe staff shortages and workers fight for more pay and better conditions. Gabrielle Jackson talks to Lenore Taylor and Mike Ticher about what’s being done – or not done – about why we pay the least for the jobs we value most.

Full Story Why do we pay the least for the jobs we value most? – with Lenore Taylor Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen 00:00:00 00:20:56

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


Facebook Twitter Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany celebrate gold in the luge team relay. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Austria leads the medal tally at the end of the sixth day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, while Germany has won the most gold medals so far.

Media roundup

The number of female managers in Australian businesses has increased but women remain significantly under-represented at more senior levels of organisations and, generally, are paid less, the AFR writes, citing the latest Workplace Gender Equality report. The national median house price in Australia surpassed $1m for the first time in December. The Sydney Morning Herald looked at what this price tag can buy on overseas property markets.

Coming up

Quad foreign ministers are meeting in Melbourne. Scott Morrison is expected to join them.

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