Morning mail: Morrison apologises, vaccine rollout errors, Facebook leak

Good morning! There’s plenty happening today on Wednesday 24 March. Thankfully rain is easing on the east coast but there is still danger in flood waters. Vaccine rollouts aren’t going to plan in Australia and Facebook’s moderator guidelines have been leaked.

Scott Morrison has apologised for an attack on News Corp claiming the media company was dealing with an active claim of workplace harassment in order to counter a line of questioning from a Sky News journalist. In a midnight Facebook post Morrison said, “I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company … I was wrong to raise it.” The comments came in light of the news the Coalition staffer sacked for allegedly masturbating over a female MP’s desk was a longtime Liberal aide who had worked on numerous committees and had input into combatting sexual harassment in parliament.

Australia’s Covid vaccine rollout has experienced “significant” week one delivery errors, including a failure to send needles to accompany the vials, the federal health department has admitted. The government said in an email to GPs “we have heard that a number of practices have received their vaccine, but not received their consumables [needles, syringes and sharps disposal containers] … we are working on an improved system.” Australia remains well behind on its vaccine distribution goal with just half of the 60,000 target administered. But the nation’s position was strengthened when the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved the locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine. Infectious disease expert Prof Peter Collignon says Australia should be able to reopen so long as the vaccines prove effective against severe disease – because that’s what overwhelms health systems and kills people. “Realistically that kind of reopening is not going to happen for another year.”

Facebook’s bullying and harassment policy explicitly allows for “public figures” to be targeted in ways otherwise banned on the site, including “calls for [their] death”, according to a tranche of internal moderator guidelines leaked to the Guardian. Public figures are considered to be permissible targets for certain types of abuse “because we want to allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary of people who are featured in the news”, Facebook explains to its moderators. Users are also permitted to praise mass murderers and “violent non-state actors” in certain situations.

Days of sustained rain have led to fears for wombats and echidnas, which can become trapped in their habitat by flood waters. The extent of the damage for native species won’t become clear until the waters recede. The damage to other animals is more immediately apparent. Taree dairy farmer Rod Littlemore listened helplessly to his cows bellow as the flood waters rapidly rose around them. “It’s the helplessness of hearing them bellowing because they are obviously stressed, and you cannot get to them to do anything for them. That’s the real heartbreaking thing.” Thankfully the rain is easing and there is help on the way for flood-hit communities.

While many animals have suffered through the flooding, some, like Gookie the emu, had a helping hand. Paul Zammit’s dinghy became a Noah’s Ark of sorts when he and friends evacuated 400 animals from his private menagerie.

A senior German government official has dismissed claims from Australian government ministers that carbon border charges could become a new form of protectionism.

The ABC managing director, David Anderson, has said the defamation action against journalist Louise Milligan’s reporting on Christian Porter, will be vigorously defended. He said her journalism was in the public interest and of the “highest quality.”

A senior Saudi official issued what was perceived to be a death threat against the independent United Nations investigator, Agnès Callamard, after her investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Boulder police released the names of the 10 people shot and killed at a Colorado grocery store on Monday and said the victims were aged between 20 and 65. The suspect was in stable condition at a hospital after being injured in the shooting and was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

A pro-Trump lawyer is defending herself against a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit by arguing that “no reasonable person” could have taken her wild claims about election fraud last November as statements of fact.

The ABC’s three-part docuseries, Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire, about the 1979 Luna Park tragedy which killed seven people, is gooseflesh-raising TV, writes Luke Buckmaster. The pace of film editing has dramatically intensified over the decades. Some programs are cut so fast you can barely imagine it getting quicker. “This hair-trigger editing is integral to the effectiveness of a prolonged sequence in the ABC’s riveting three-part series Exposed: The Ghost Train Fire – a sequence that ranks among the most horribly compelling scenes I have seen in an Australian documentary.”

Junior doctors are the engine of the public hospital system, doing much of the grunt work and receiving little praise except from some astute colleagues and discerning patients, writes Ranjana Srivastava. “They (like all other doctors) don’t receive rostered breaks and it is common to go hungry. The decision of whether to run to the bathroom or queue at the cafeteria is all too real. Despite this, when patients or relatives need urgent attention, their needs are initially met by junior doctors who are everywhere their bosses can’t be or sometimes don’t want to be.”

We’re accustomed to living our lives publicly, but chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone have gone all in. They are living centre stage, in full public view, in Greenhouse by Joost, an 87sqm, zero-waste “future home” in Melbourne’s Federation Square. So, what’s it actually like to live there? “We just keep an eye on everything, and you can actually smell in the house if something’s going wrong; the aquaponics is out of balance or things like the mushroom wall is too hot. Instantly you know what you’ve got to look at,” Barrett says

Days of heavy rain and flooding along Australia’s east coast have caused widespread damage and triggered the evacuation of thousands of residents from western Sydney and the mid-north coast. With the weather finally easing and the recovery set to begin, reporter Graham Readfearn explores what may have caused the disaster – and what that might tell us about life in a climate crisis future.

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

In 1962, the NSW Waratahs refused to play Queensland in the old, amateur interstate series because they considered the Reds not good enough. Now, ahead of the weekend’s latest meeting of the two old rivals, the tables have turned and Queenslanders are questioning whether the Waratahs are worthy opponents.

Sydney FC is close to ticking the final box with W-League premiers’ plate within reach. Last weekend’s downpour may just have delayed the Sky Blues’ pursuit of the one piece of silverware that has eluded them for 10 years.

Mona founder David Walsh has apologised over a controversial artwork ($) that has now been scrapped from Dark Mofo. The work would have soaked a British flag in the blood of First Nations peoples, reports the Hobart Mercury. The West Australian says the state’s health system is at breaking point ($) with two of Perth’s major hospitals unable to take in all emergency departments patients. The NSW government last month considered lowering the amount of water in Warragamba Dam ($) in a bid to save up to 1,800 homes in the event of an overflow, according to the Australian. And the ABC says defence minister Linda Reynolds has withdrawn from a high-profile international conference in New Delhi next month.

The Victorian royal commission into Crown Resorts will hold its opening hearing.

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy and his economics team will come under the scrutiny of a Senate estimates hearing.

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