Morning mail: Hong Kong siege, Craig Foster backs medevac, gender pay gap

Richard Parkin
Photograph: Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 19 November.

Top stories

Hundreds of protesters have been trapped on a university campus in downtown Hong Kong during the most prolonged and tense confrontation between police and demonstrators in more than six months of unrest. Red Cross volunteers have been allowed on to the campus to ferry out the injured, but a regional police chief has told journalists: “Other than coming out to surrender, I don’t see, at the moment, there is a viable option for them.” Parents of activists have formed human chains in front of police cordons after a night of upheaval in which roads were blocked, a bridge was set alight and a police officer was shot with a bow and arrow. When a group of protesters tried to escape, police fired teargas and rubber bullets, preventing them from leaving. Another group abseiled off a footbridge to a road below, where they were met by motorbike riders helping them flee.

The former Socceroos captain Craig Foster has called on the federal government to continue the medical evacuations for refugees, inviting anyone supporting a vote to repeal the legislation to travel to Papua New Guinea and Nauru and “see the devastation first hand”. Labor, the Greens and key crossbenchers have expressed their opposition to any changes, but the Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie could hold the key to any upcoming vote. A poll commissioned by the Australia Institute suggests nearly two-thirds of Tasmanians support keeping the medevac policy in place. Federal parliament has two sitting weeks remaining before the year’s end, and Foster, having met with refugees in Port Moresby, has called on MPs “to uphold the basic right of humans to access adequate care”.

Men take home an average of $25,679 a year more than women. That’s the startling figure from research that suggests company secrecy about pay is exacerbating the gender pay gap. Women’s average full-time total remuneration is more than 20% less than men’s, while nearly 40% of companies that have undertaken pay gap analysis have failed to address discrepancies. “We need companies to re-evaluate jobs and classifications of women based on a proper job-worth analysis,” Prof Marian Baird said, “rather than relying on traditional gender roles to determine the value of their work.”

Australia

One of the grant recipients under the Coalition’s regional jobs scheme was a former Nationals candidate who also appeared in an ad spruiking the program before the May federal election. John Lever received a $300,000 grant for his crocodile leather export business – two other known LNP donors also secured grants.

A coral scientist has accused the Institute of Public Affairs of misrepresenting her work through a YouTube film that the rightwing thinktank claimed debunked scientific claims of mass coral bleaching.

The NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, has been accused of being “shrill and misleading” after claiming a reduction in strip-searches could lead to an increase in knife crime, despite fewer than 1% of all searches being conducted for that reason.

The world

Smoke rises from forest fires in Altamira, in the Amazon basin. Photograph: Joao Laet/AFP/Getty Images

Deforestation in the Amazon is at the highest rate in a decade, according to government data that shows almost 10,000 sq km were lost in the year to August – an increase of 29.5% over the previous 12 months.

Residents of a poor Istanbul neighbourhood have been visited by an anonymous benefactor paying off debts at grocery stores and leaving envelopes of cash on doorsteps amid soaring rent and food prices that have been blamed for a spike in suicides in the area.

The Trump impeachment inquiry is investigating whether the president lied to special counsel Robert Mueller on a day in which Donald Trump said he would “strongly consider” testifying, most likely in writing.

Pernod Ricard is facing accusations from staff that its drinking culture is making workers unwell, with the French alcohol giant before a labour court.

Recommended reads

Giraffes at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Photograph: Brendan Esposito/AAP

Zoos are a booming business across Australia and, while animal welfare standards have shifted dramatically, is there an element of “conservation con” going on? Or are zoos a critical potential bastion for species survival, in a world in which species are dying off in the wild at alarming rates? Celina Ribeiro speaks to conservationists, zoo managers and scientists to assess the role zoos can play.

The gross state product figures for 2018-19 are in and the big economic performer is Tasmania. With growth nearly double the national average, the Apple Isle is more than pulling its weight – which is good news, given that national household living standards are below 2011-12 levels and private sector growth is stagnating, writes Greg Jericho. “Unlike in previous years when we had a two-speed economy, with the mining and non-mining states taking it in turns being the ones growing fast, now we mostly have a one-speed economy – and that speed is slow.”

Sport

Matthew Glaetzer at the World Championships in Poland. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Training for an Olympics is always stressful but for the Australian cycling star Matthew Glaetzer a cancer diagnosis put things in perspective. Having caught it early, the 27-year-old is now convalescing but he’s grateful to have future goals down the track.

The W-League may have returned without Sam Kerr but, as Ella Reilly writes, the opportunity to watch young stars including Mary Fowler and Shadeene Evans explode on to the scene means there’s plenty still to excite in season 2019-20.

Media roundup

Catastrophic fire conditions are expected in South Australia today, with temperatures soaring above 40C in what’s expected to break a November day record, the Adelaide Advertiser reports. The NSW government and the rail unions could be on a collision course, with unions claiming $1.6bn worth of new trains from South Korea have been “specifically designed to get rid of guards”, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. And Vegemite is about to go global, claims the Courier-Mail, with international shipping to the US, the UK and Canada for the first time, amid concerns that the treasured recipe has changed.

Coming up

Josh Frydenberg will deliver the 2019 Ceda annual dinner address, reviewing the past year, the state of the economy and the government’s priorities for 2019-20.

The NSW Bureau of Meteorology and NSW Health will hold a press conference to inform the community of developing heatwave conditions for the state this week and the poor air quality now affecting Sydney and other parts of the state.

And if you’ve read this far …

It’s super slippery and it could render the toilet brush redundant. A new spray-on coating developed by scientists could reduce water levels needed to flush toilets. “I was very happy to see how easily the faecal matter slid off our coated surface,” Tak-Sing Wong of Penn State University told the Guardian.

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