Morning mail: Morrison's poll shock, Iran protests, bushfire recovery cash

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 13 January.

Top stories

Scott Morrison has suffered a massive hit to his personal approval rating and been overtaken as preferred prime minister by Anthony Albanese in the first published opinion poll of 2020. The Newspoll, published on Monday, confirms that a horror summer in which Morrison chose to holiday in Hawaii during the extended bushfire crisis that has claimed 28 lives and more than 2,000 homes, and fumbled meetings with victims, has significantly impacted his popularity. Satisfaction in Morrison fell eight points and dissatisfaction increased 11 points, both movements outside the poll’s margin of error of 2.5%. Just 4% of voters were “uncommitted” when asked how Morrison is performing. Meanwhile, the government will pledge $50m to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the bushfire crisis, with a promise of more to come, as environment groups warn that some species may have already been driven to extinction. The commitment, to be drawn from the government’s $2bn bushfire recovery fund, will be described as a downpayment to be spent immediately on priorities in burned areas and to start longer-term restoration of lost habitat.

Riot police have been deployed in parts of Tehran after teargas was used to clear the streets of protesters angry at the government’s admission it had mistakenly shot down a passenger jet killing all 176 people on board. Images of dozens of demonstrators taking to the streets in the capital and other cities including Isfahan were circulating on social media as activists called for mass mourning rallies, raising the possibility of fresh clashes with security forces.

Australia’s peak welfare body is calling on the federal government to boost emergency payments for those affected by bushfires, saying it is concerned the current amount is “seriously inadequate”. The Australian Council of Social Service is calling for the payment, which has not increased since 2006, to be boosted from $1,000 to $3,000, and from $400 a child to $1,000 a child.


What are the underlying causes of Australia’s shocking bushfire season? As Australia’s unprecedented bushfire season continues to unfold, competing arguments have been made about the principal causes of the human and environmental tragedy – particularly when it comes to the role of climate change.

Firefighters in Victoria have mourned the loss of a veteran, Bill Slade, as calmer conditions allowed firefighters across three states to strengthen containment lines for the hundreds of fires still burning across the country.

The disgraced cardinal George Pell has reportedly been moved from his central Melbourne prison to a high-security facility in regional Victoria after a drone was flown over the jail. It has been speculated that the drone may have been used to get pictures of Pell, which could be worth a significant sum.

The world

Residents look on as Taal volcano erupts on Sunday in the Philippines. Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

A volcano near the Philippine capital has spewed ash up to 15km into the sky, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people, the cancellation of flights and warnings of a possible explosive eruption and volcanic tsunami.

Nancy Pelosi says her caucus will meet on Tuesday to decide when to transmit two articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. The articles of impeachment were approved before Christmas but Pelosi delayed sending them to the Senate while Democrats sought to negotiate trial rules with Republicans, who hold the upper chamber.

The UK Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has said she wants to abolish the House of Lords and would not stand in the way of another Scottish independence referendum.

Prince William has expressed sadness over tensions with his brother, saying “we’re separate entities”, before Monday’s crisis summit called by the Queen. Harry and Meghan are meanwhile seeking to register the “Sussex Royal” brand as a global trademark for a range of items and activities.

Recommended reads

“When I first saw the headlines about Megxit, I greeted them as a glimmer of good news in a sea of bad,” writes Tim Adams. “A couple of the royals, I thought, had finally had the guts to criticise the grace and favour lifestyle, and all the perverse expectation and deference that went with it. How many seasons of The Crown – or Shakespeare plays – did anyone need to watch to understand that Britain’s hereditary principle was a blueprint for brutal family meltdown, played out for public entertainment? At last, I thought, a couple of them had called time.”

“It’s too early to say whether Scott Morrison is speaking with a forked tongue when he says the government will ‘evolve’ its climate change policy,” writes Sarah Martin. Despite his ill-judged family holiday to Hawaii, and what was arguably a tardy national response to the fires, Morrison is not politically naive. He knows that the political pressure over climate change is only becoming more intense, and will be most profoundly felt in inner-city seats held by moderate Liberals. Like a verbal Rorschach test, Morrison’s media appearances on Sunday were open to interpretation, but designed to give the government wriggle room.”


As a bushfire hit the tiny Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota on the last day of the year, thousands of people were trapped with nowhere to go. This is the story of what they did and how they became one the largest groups of civilians to be evacuated by the Australian navy.


Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Spain in the ATP Cup final. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic has now beaten Rafael Nadal 29 times in 55 matches but he agreed that none matched the intensity of the 6-2, 7-6 (4) win that propelled Serbia towards victory in tennis’s inaugural ATP Cup in Sydney on Sunday, writes Kevin Mitchell.

Manchester City have reclaimed second place in the Premier League, demolishing Aston Villa 6-1 as Sergio Agüero crowned himself the highest overseas scorer in Premier League history, his hat-trick taking him past the record previously held by Thierry Henry.

Four years after facing expulsion from the A-League, Wellington Phoenix have transformed from putrescent to poster boys, writes Jonathan Howcroft.

Roger Federer has issued a cautiously worded response to mounting criticism, including from climate activist Greta Thunberg, over his sponsorship deal with Credit Suisse.

Media roundup

The minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, has rejected the call made by the voice co-design senior advisory group member Josephine Cashman for a national register of Aboriginality, the Australian reports. In the Sydney Morning Herald: the Australian warship Toowoomba has departed for the Middle East as part of a coalition that will monitor the Straight of Hormuz, which passes Iran; and dam inflows in Sydney have “plunged to levels far below the previous worst drought”, while water demand has stayed the same. International investors are putting pressure on Westpac to appoint a new chairman, the Australian Financial Review reveals.

Coming up

Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced.

The Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum begins in Canberra, drawing together parliamentarians from across the region to explore security, trade and regional cooperation.

And if you’ve read this far …

A Canadian gameshow contestant has lost a chance to play for $10,000 after saying Popeye’s favourite food was chicken – not spinach. She was, however, offered $10,000 of free food by Popeyes, the US restaurant chain.

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