Morning mail: ACT warns against ‘freedom day’, giant coral found, Covid rule confusion

Good morning. The chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, Andrew Barr, has accused New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian of putting young people at risk by not toughening restrictions in greater Sydney, and has called on his colleagues to stop presenting 70% or 80% vaccination targets as “freedom day”. Berejiklian on Thursday told locked down residents across the state there are “exciting things to look forward to” when she introduces freedoms for vaccinated people once targets are met in coming weeks. Ahead of what is likely to be a testy national cabinet meeting today, Barr told Guardian Australia political leaders needed to be more frank with the community about when it will be safe to move past lockdowns, given the Doherty Institute modelling painted a much more nuanced picture than simply hitting certain vaccination rates.

All Australians aged over 16 will be eligible for Pfizer vaccine from 30 August, coinciding with the anticipated arrival of an extra 5m doses of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines in September. Australia has now reached the milestone of more than half of eligible Australians having received at least one dose. The regional NSW lockdown was extended for at least a week until 28 August as the state set a new daily record of 681 cases on Thursday. Childcare providers across NSW are seeking urgent guidance, saying they are concerned centres may be inadvertently contributing to the spread of the virus. The call came as hundreds of Covid cases were reported in children across the state and more than 160 childcare centres were closed nationally.

Australian-based charities with staff in Afghanistan have said their workers’ links to the west could make them a target for the Taliban and expressed their disappointment in the response from the Australian government after its first rescue mission brought back only 26 people. Australia has reserved 3,000 places within its existing humanitarian intake for Afghan nationals fleeing conflict in that country, but Scott Morrison said on Thursday the figure was “a floor, not a ceiling” and “we think we can achieve more”. Dozens of Afghan nationals who are partners of Australians and have been waiting for their partner visa applications to be processed fear being left behind in Afghanistan. As Australia prepares to ramp up Kabul evacuations, the foreign affairs department on Thursday urged Australian citizens, permanent residents and visa holders to travel to the airport if safe to do so “to wait for a planned evacuation flight”.

At 10.5 metres wide, four centuries old and twice the size of its nearest cousin, an “exceptionally large” coral has been discovered on the Great Barrier Reef by a group of scientists and community members taking part in a marine citizen science course. The traditional owners named the coral Muga dhambi, which translates to “big coral”.

The ACT has cancelled the Sponsors Race Day because jockeys would have had to travel from regional NSW to attend, prompting concerns that spring racing carnivals in Sydney and Melbourne could be called off too.

A gas company that won $21m in grants to frack in the Beetaloo Basin paid for a charter flight for the head of a Liberal party fundraising body to inspect its operations alongside the energy minister, Angus Taylor, documents handed to a Senate inquiry show.

The Morrison government wants to keep its own taxpayer-funded legal costs from the robodebt scandal secret despite no longer facing court action over the program. The government issued a blanket refusal to answer the questions posed by a Senate inquiry, claiming public interest immunity.

Consumer group Choice has called for a star rating system to tell people at the point of sale how long their purchase will last, with 88% of Australians found to be in support of such a plan.

The jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has written from behind bars before the first anniversary of his poisoning with a nerve agent on 20 August last year. He urged western politicians to take meaningful action against global corruption and to impose personal sanctions against oligarchs “in the entourage of Vladimir Putin”.

The northern Spanish city of Gijón has cancelled its century-old bullfighting festival after it was accused of “crossing various lines” due to two of the bulls slain this week being named “Feminist” and “Nigerian”.

US officials thought their British counterparts “were out of their minds” in aiming for herd immunity as part of Boris Johnson’s initial policy on dealing with the coronavirus, according to a new book about the global response to the pandemic.

OnlyFans, the subscriber-only website synonymous with pornography, has announced it will ban adult material from the site after pressure from its payment processors.

As Hong Kong braces for more draconian Covid-19 travel restrictions, the Australian actor Nicole Kidman reportedly received an exemption from the government to skip mandatory 21-day hotel quarantine, prompting online backlash.

Diversity and inclusivity have recently become fashion watchwords, and brands have responded by designing lines of adaptive clothing for differently abled people. Retailers such as The Iconic and EveryHuman have aimed to create “a more inclusive Australian fashion landscape” and “greater choice for people with disability”, but cost is still one of the major limitations of adaptive clothing.

There aren’t many movies that feature working-class characters and the minutiae of working-class day-to-day life in quite the hauntingly recognisable way that director and screenwriter David Koepp managed with Stir of Echoes. Set in suburban Chicago and starring Kevin Bacon, this 1999 thriller is a masterful transformation of a mundane working-class neighbourhood into a place of menace, writes Amra Pajalic.

The Brisbane-based writer Nick Earls has a large and diverse oeuvre of novels, young adult fiction and short stories. Empires, his latest release, dives deep into how we imagine the past and the impact history has on our present as it dextrously shifts between continents and skips across time, from now to the era of Napoleon and Beethoven. Meditating on the way we imagine the past and exploring how it is subtly but profoundly ingrained in the present, this is a book that both provokes and entertains, writes Joseph Cummins.

As Covid-19 cases in New South Wales hit record highs, the premier insists people understand the rules. But with different rules for different areas all across the state, is it really all that easy to understand? Lenore Taylor and Mike Ticher speak to Gabrielle Jackson about confusing rules, mixed messaging and finding a clear way to communicate in a pandemic.

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

Deep within the the Australian Institute of Sport, a team of engineers have been toiling away to give Australia’s Paralympians an advantage in Tokyo. The workshop may lack the grandeur of the AIS’s training facilities, but its machines, including nine 3D printers, and its people – six engineers and a machinist – could prove to be Australia’s secret weapon at the Paralympics, which begin on Tuesday.

Despite pleas for people to stay home during lockdown, Sydney commuter numbers are on the rise. Almost 90,000 extra trips were taken on Sydney’s public transport on Wednesday compared with the same time last month, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. ACEM, the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia, has called for a separate quota for essential skilled workers to enter the country. Dozens of overseas doctors offered contracts by SA Health to ease the strain on emergency departments caused by a Covid outbreak have been unable get to Australia due to restrictions on arrival numbers, according to the Advertiser.

The federal court will hold a hearing in West Australian premier Mark McGowan’s defamation case against Queensland mining magnate Clive Palmer.

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