Morning mail: Nato 'brain death', Labor recriminations, Tsiolkas on Damascus

Richard Parkin
Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 8 November.

Top stories

Emmanuel Macron has launched a remarkable broadside at Donald Trump, saying the US’s recent actions in Syria signified “brain death” for the Nato alliance, while flagging that European nations may not be able to rely on the US to defend its allies. The French president accused Washington of “turning its back on us” by not consulting leading European powers such as Britain, Germany or France before paving the way for Turkey to launch a polarising military offensive into Syria. Macron described Europe as “on the edge of precipice” and in need of its own military force.

A Queensland venture that was awarded a $1m government grant to boost regional jobs is losing money and facing deregistration, and the project is unlikely to happen for at least two years. One of 200 companies to receive a federal investment grant, Dindarr Pty Ltd had no previous experience in the transport sector but was looking to set up “fast, low-cost ferry and bus services” between Cairns and the Yarrahbah Indigenous community. The company’s director, Peter McAllister, confirmed he has already had to lay off three bus drivers, but remained confident total staff could number 12 by mid-2020.

Anthony Albanese will attempt to draw a line under Labor Party recriminations, as he publicly presents an internal review’s key findings into the May federal election loss. Weak strategy, poor adaptability and an unpopular leader were the key factors offered by the report. Albanese will also use his press club address to outline future recommendations, including caps on individual donations and legislation governing truth in political advertising.


The Northern Territory and federal governments are failing to make gains on child protection issues, despite spending $500m annually, the Productivity Commission has said. Inadequate coordination between agencies and dual or multiple service provision were major issues undermining effectiveness, the report stated.

Scott Morrison’s promise to introduce a waste export ban could be doomed to fail, groups representing the waste and recycling industry have warned state and territory environment ministers, citing a lack of investment in local waste processing facilities.

Key farming areas could become “more marginal and unproductive” due to worsening drought, which must be accepted as an enduring feature of the Australian landscape due to climate change, drought coordinator Maj Gen Stephen Day has said.

The world

Former US national security advisor John Bolton. Photograph: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

A potentially key witness in the Trump impeachment inquiry has failed to front, with former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly “willing” to appear but requiring the committee to clear the way for him to do so, via the courts.

Boris Johnson has offered a “cast iron” pledge to block any attempts for a second Scottish independence referendum, calling Nicola Sturgeon and Jeremy Corbyn “yoke-mates of destruction”.

Hundreds of far-right extremists around the world could be identified, after an apparent online leak from a neo-Nazi website, Iron March. At least nine fascist groups around the world, including in Australia, are understood to be linked to the website.

Italian farmers have descended on Rome en masse, protesting against the damage caused by wild boar. About two million feral pigs are estimated to be roaming free across Italy, and have been deemed responsible for an average of 10,000 road accidents annually.

15,000-year-old pits to trap mammoths have been unearthed in Mexico, with archaeologists discovering more than 800 bones from up to 14 animals in one pit.

Recommended reads

A master of squalor and cruelty, acclaimed author Christos Tsiolkas has turned his hand to Jerusalem and Antioch post-Jesus, in his new book, Damascus. “This is a novel that mourns what the world might have been, had bickering Christians back then agreed on a kinder version of Christ’s message,” writes David Marr. It’s a novel treating a “lifetime’s reckoning” with the seminal messenger of Christianity, Paul: “a stuttering zealot with a high-pitched voice … who masters himself, his rivals and his last doubts to remake the world”.

What does treasure hunting look like in the 21st century? Well, for starters, some modern-day bullion chasers prefer the term “archaeo-metal detectorist”, writes Jeff Sparrow, who speaks to three fascinating Australians, hunting everything from lost wedding rings to Spanish doubloons.

There are two months left of the 2010s – which begs the question: what will now look like later? Imagine in 30 years the 2010s as a theme party, writes Brigid Delaney. Maxi dresses, salmon-pink shirts for men, sneakers instead of stilettos – for drinks there are espresso martinis, prosecco and hyper-local small batch gin. Food is poke bowls, cronuts and share plates. “Since being banned by President Donald Trump at the end of the decade, vaping has gone underground. So in a smoky cloud of nostalgia that feels very 2017, vapers inhale a cinnamon and strawberry donut flavoured Juul.”


Rainbow lorikeets – firmly in the top 10 in the bird of the year poll. Photograph: MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images

Australia has the most diverse birdlife on Earth and Australians in cities, suburbs and country towns have a special relationship with our boisterous and beautiful feathered friends. In this episode of Full Story, Birdlife Australia’s Sean Dooley talks to Laura Murphy-Oates about what makes these relationships unique and listeners call in to tell their best avian anecdotes. But with an endangered bird currently in the lead for the 2019 Australian bird of the year, Dooley and Murphy-Oates consider whether we are looking after our diverse birdlife well enough?


A once-in-a-generation athletic prodigy has opened up about years of physical and emotional abuse, detailing her treatment by now-disgraced coach Alberto Salazar, Sean Ingle writes.

Scottish Rugby Union has been fined £70,000 for its verbal brinkmanship during the Japan World Cup. CEO Mark Dodson was found to have brought the game into disrepute by suggesting the nation faced being disadvantaged by hosts Japan.

And it wouldn’t be Friday without your weekly David Squireson Louis Fenton’s foul-mouthed A-League tirade.

Media roundup

The NSW police minister, David Elliot, has denied manhandling a 17-year-old P-plate driver after an alleged road-rage incident but confirms he “blew up” at the boy, writes the Australian. Cracks found on 737 aircrafts owned by Indonesia’s Lion Air have prompted renewed calls for Qantas and Virgin Australia to inspect their entire fleets, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. And the longest murder investigation in Australian history is set to go to court later this month, with the West Australian calling for the trial to be viewed publicly, online.

Coming up

Environment ministers meet on Friday in Adelaide, where they are expected to announce a timetable to end the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres.

Coroner Harriet Grahame will release her recommendations following an inquest into six drug-related deaths, amid continued calls for pill-testing at music festivals.

Australia take a 1-0 lead into the third and final match of the Twenty20 series against Pakistan in Perth today. Follow every ball with our liveblog.

And if you’ve read this far …

An amateur photographer in Finland has stumbled across an extremely rare natural occurrence that left a beach covered in “ice eggs”. “Thanks to the photographer who shared the photos and observations, now the world gets to see something most of us would never be able to see.”

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