Morning mail: drug regulation failing, EU rage at Brexiters, out of the ash

Eleanor Ainge Roy
Australia is now falling behind other countries in transparency of the pharmaceutical industry, a study has found. Photograph: Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 7 February.

Top stories

Self-regulation by the pharmaceutical industry has led to less transparency, a report by Sydney University’s Charles Perkins Centre has found. In 2015 changes were made to reporting requirements in the pharmaceutical industry’s code of conduct. “Once a leader in transparency, Australia is now falling behind other countries,” the study published in BMJ Open on Thursday concluded. “This study provides a clear example of the limitations of a self-regulatory system, which can be quietly changed in such a way as to reduce overall public reporting of industry funding in the healthcare sector. We recommend that countries insist on legislation rather than self-regulation to promote long-lasting public transparency around industry spending.”

More than 16,000 people on the contentious ParentsNext program received a payment suspension in the first six months of its operation, representing 21% of the 75,000 participants. The suspension rate for Indigenous parents – who are targeted for eligibility and make up 19% of participants – is higher at 27%. The suspensions are considered particularly concerning because all ParentsNext participants have children between six months and five years old and generally have no other source of income. The Australian Human Rights Commission claims that the program is “inconsistent” with Australia’s human rights obligations and social services and legal groups have called for it to be overhauled or scrapped.

A Liberal Senate candidate has been revealed as the driving force behind a self-styled “grassroots” campaign opposed to Labor’s proposed changes to the franking credit system. The Defenders of Self Funded Retirees was set up last year and has taken out newspaper and Facebook ads and made submissions to parliament. But although it purports to be a “community group”, one of the chief organiser’s of its activities is Robert Gunning, a leading light in ACT Liberals. The group’s advertising material refers to Labor’s “tidal wave of taxes”. One expert in electoral procedure said the close involvement of Liberal figures meant the group’s ads were electoral material but as such could run into trouble because they failed to include the proper authorisation number.


European council president Donald Tusk. Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

The EU’s frustration with Westminster erupted into the open as Donald Tusk warned of a “special place in hell” for politicians who promoted Brexit “without even a sketch of a plan”, just 24 hours before his crunch meeting with Theresa May in Brussels. The European council president insisted that the EU was not “making any new offer” to Britain, and demanded a “realistic suggestion” from the prime minister on how to end the impasse.

Global warming could temporarily hit 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for the first time between now and 2023, according to a long-term forecast by the UK’s Met Office. Until now, the hottest year on record was 2016, when the planet warmed 1.11C above pre-industrial levels.

Venezuelan troops have barricaded a bridge on the country’s border with Colombia in an apparent attempt to prevent the entry of humanitarian aid requested by opposition leaders trying to force Nicolás Maduro from power. The aid, sent by the US, is being viewed by the Maduro camp as a prelude to military intervention.

The wife of Vladimir Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has accumulated a property empire worth well over $14m, and is designing a riverside palace on an exclusive Moscow estate, with the project being overseen by a Russian tycoon who has previously done business with Donald Trump, the Guardian can reveal.

The vast majority of the world’s largest species are being pushed towards extinction, with the killing of the heftiest animals for meat and body parts the leading cause of decline, according to a new study.

Opinion and analysis

Chris Pang, Geraldine Viswanathan and Ronny Chieng. Composite: Getty Images/Shutterstock

The media regularly, proudly crowns “our” Cate, “our” Baz and “our” Nicole. But when Australian actors of colour become successful abroad, we don’t seem to want to claim them. Debbie Zhou draws attention to the huge oveseas successes of Australians Chris Pang, James Wan and Geraldine Viswanathan – and questions why so many of us may not ever have heard of them.

Amethyst DeWilde is back for a moving instalment in the Life on the breadline series, in which she writes about the restorative process of finding her voice again, after a decade of poverty stripped her of hope and confidence.Poverty silenced me,” she writes, but now she has a belief “that I do contribute, I do matter and also that I do have something to say”.


Former Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho falls after making the first puck drop at a Russian hockey game. Photograph: Dmitry Golubovich/AP

Perth Glory midfielder Neil Kilkenny talks to Guardian Australia about the impact coach Tony Popovic – and his perfectionist methods – has had as the club, now sitting atop the A-League, chasing a maiden title. “He’s come in and demanded the most of us every day, to do things properly every day – not every second day or every third day – and if you demand the players to be at their best every day eventually it becomes natural to them; and that’s how you create consistency” Kilkenny says.

From his Russian tumble to a Spanish prison sentence, the erstwhile United manager José Mourinho has had a dim week. But at least it’s entertaining, writes Marina Hyde. “José’s connection to the game of football is beginning to feel increasingly incidental. Mourinho is now one of that class of people who seem to be eternally seeking an answer to the question: how much money is enough?”

Thinking time: a decade on from the Black Saturday tragedy

The burnt-out remains of a houses in the Kinglake region on 12 February 2009. Photograph: Luis Ascui/Getty Images

“Half the town is on medication, and the other half should be.” That’s bushfire survivor Anne Dixon’s dark-humoured attempt to describe how people from the mountain-top hamlets around Kinglake are coping 10 years on from Black Saturday. The district, north of Melbourne, was the epicentre of the tragedy – 120 lives were lost in the Kilmore-to-Kinglake fire, from an overall state toll of 173 on 7 February 2009, with 1,242 homes destroyed. While trees have grown back and houses have been rebuilt, for many life has never, and will never, be the same.

“You would be amazed at the number of people who said, ‘Oh, you must be better off now you’ve got a new house’ – it’s not like you moved from your old house to your new house and take everything with you,” Dixon says. “We’ve gone back to the very beginning and had to start over again,” she says. “You’ve got to buy everything, including a blooming bath plug and veggie peeler.”

Media roundup

A fed-up Queensland doctor is warning patients to stay away from Redland hospital, the Courier-Mail reports, saying the hospital is short on beds and functions in a perpetual state of crisis, putting patient safety and wellbeing at risk. Four women have accused the chief executive of Victoria’s Aboriginal Legal Service, Wayne Muir, of rape, indecent assault and sexual harassment, the ABC reports. Muir has strenuously denied the allegations. The Age reports that wind, solar and hydro accounted for more than 21% of all electricity generated in 2018 – the highest share since the 1970s. This was up from 17% seen in 2017 and a huge increase from about 8.5% of all generation in the early 2000s.

Coming up

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, which swept through Victoria in 2009, killing 173 people and destroying 2,000 homes.

A coroner’s report into 13 Aboriginal child and youth suicides in the Kimberley will be released in Perth today.

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