Morning mail: teacher’s abuse exposed, Trump threatens Twitter, NRL returns | Australia news | #teacher | #children | #kids

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 28 May.

Top stories

The New South Wales government has quietly paid out millions of dollars to more than a dozen former schoolchildren who it admits were abused by a paedophile teacher who rose through the ranks of the state’s public school system over three decades while preying on young Indigenous boys. Since April 2018, lawyers from the state’s education department have signed out-of-court settlements with 14 men from across western NSW. The men, who are all Indigenous, are predominantly based in Dubbo. The department has never publicly disclosed the settlements, which in some cases included confidentiality clauses preventing disclosure of the value of the payouts. Nor has it acknowledged the existence of a serial paedophile in the public school system, a step that might have encouraged others to come forward.

360 people have been arrested in Hong Kong, as thousands of armed police clashed with demonstrators engaged in day-long protests, sparked by China’s plans to introduce sweeping anti-sedition laws in the former British territory. Those arrested have been charged with offences including unauthorised assembly and possession of objects such as petrol bombs, with police firing pepper-spray bullets into assembled crowds, gathered to prevent the passing of a law criminalising ridicule of China’s national anthem. The EU has called on China to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy, but on Wednesday US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, paved the way to revoke the territory’s preferential trade and financial status, telling Congress the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China.

Two-thirds of Australians in households where the main breadwinner has lost employment are living below the poverty line, a major new report has found. The research commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Services also suggests those already relying on social security before Covid-19 were five times more likely to be living in poverty, with Acoss calling for a thorough overhaul of the benefits system in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia

Power lines



The Australian Energy Market Commission is considering allowing electricity retailers with pandemic-affected customers to put network charges on hold. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Electricity retailers could be allowed to put network costs on hold amid fears bankruptcies could spark “financial contagion”, the Australian Energy Market Commission has announced. More than 20,000 households have registered for payment plans since March, placing financial stress on retailers.

Building product suppliers Boral have been hit with a major shareholder class action, just days after the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, used emergency powers to change regulations to shield companies from such legal challenges. Boral have been accused of making misleading or deceptive statements to the market.

Suburban Sydney could be poised for a major “rat plague”, as empty offices and closed restaurants in the CBD drive rat populations towards the periphery, with one leading rat-catcher saying callouts are up by at least 30% during the lockdown, with declining food stocks also driving some rats to cannibalism.

The world

Donald Trump



Some of Donald Trump’s tweets now feature a link highlighting false claims. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Trump has threatened to “close down” social media platforms that “silence conservatives voices”, a day after Twitter affixed warning labels to several of the president’s tweets, suggesting that he had posted misleading information.

Boris Johnson’s beleaguered chief adviser Dominic Cummings is facing further scrutiny for flouting UK lockdown, with senior government minister, Penny Mordaunt, criticising “inconsistencies” in his account of his movements.

A French medical study has raised hopes that even mild cases of the coronavirus can lead to longer-term immunity, in a finding that could have major consequences for public health response strategies.

Two hikers, lost for 18 days, have been rescued in New Zealand, with police hailing a “fantastic outcome” after an extensive search was hampered by bad weather in the 450,000-hectare Kahurangi national park in the South Island.

Recommended reads

Making house



‘Our homes are a world we can change, even if it’s only in small ways, like a lick of paint or new monstera.’ Photograph: Louise Beaumont/Getty Images

If you’re lucky to have a steady home at this time, improving it has become a compulsion. After Josephine Tovey’s flatmate moved out with almost all the interior furnishings, the imperative to make a home was thrust upon her. “I’m surprised by how quickly I have become a home obsessive. I trawl Facebook Marketplace at every hour of the day for bargains, like a teenager who has just discovered Pornhub.”

“It’s probably been the hardest time of my life,” says Tina Case, who runs a family daycare centre on the central coast of NSW. “The financial stress has just been so overwhelming.” But the source of her pain has not been Covid-19 itself, but the $1.6bn government package designed to save her business. In part three of our special investigation, Stimulus under scrutiny, we look at why the federal government’s childcare recovery package has sent some operators to the brink of collapse. 

The latest construction data released illustrates that even before the coronavirus crisis, Australia’s economy was in dire need of stimulus, writes Greg Jericho: “The failure of the construction sector – and by extension the failure of the economy – prior to the coronavirus lays at the feet of the government, for it desired a return to surplus above economic growth and determined the best way to stimulate the economy was through tax cuts and the Reserve Bank cutting interest rates.”

The coronavirus pandemic has encouraged many Australians to revisit classic novels. For author of The Erratics,  Vicki Laveau-Harvie, the Australian book you’ve finally got time to read is Clive James’ Sentenced to Life. “Poetry may be the antidote to what many of us feel: we are glued to screens, numb with fear, lost in elastic expanses of time. Poetry’s density can steady us. It contains worlds.”

Listen

Alan Jones



Alan Jones, seen here in 2012, records his last radio broadcast this week, after four decades in Australian media. Photograph: Warren Clarke/AAP

The rise and fall of Alan Jones. A divisive and polarising figure across his four decades in broadcasting, on this week’s episode of Full Story, Guardian Australia’s media reporter, Amanda Meade, explores the controversial shock jock’s legacy.

Full Story

The rise and fall of Alan Jones, Australia’s leading shock jock

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

Sport

The most dissected and debated recommencement in Australian sport is finally upon us. The NRL becomes Australia’s first major league to return to the field on Thursday night, despite there being no end in sight to the Covid-19 pandemic, Larissa O’Connor writes. Follow the grand return with our liveblog from 7.30pm (AEST).

LeBron James has joined a chorus of athletes expressing anger over the death of George Floyd, with the NBA star, F1’s Lewis Hamilton and Colin Kaepernick all taking to social media to condemn the death of the 46-year-old after a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck.

Media roundup

Queensland is poised to lose $769m in tourism revenue for every month its borders remain closed, claims the Australian, with interstate visitors constituting nearly half of the state’s domestic market. Workplace reforms will be put before parliament with or without union and employer buy-in, reports the Age, with the industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, set for a crucial meeting with the ACTU next week. And, a 51-year-old Sydney man has been charged for the murder of Nicole Cartwright on her birthday in 2018, after the two met on a dating app, in what police called a “callous and heinous” act, writes the ABC.

Coming up

Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, will appear before the Senate select committee on Covid-19 today, as well as the heads of Apra and Asic.

And if you’ve read this far …

It’s no Big Merino, but lockdown boredom may have just delivered Australia its next “Big Thing”. For Townsville’s Farvardin Daliri, the few months of downtime allowed the Iranian-born academic and artist to put the finishing touches on his Big Kookaburra – a 4.5m, 750kg sculpture, now complete with animatronic laughter.

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