Morning mail: Trump snubs Nato, Taylor inquiry call, Wilderness Society questions

<span>Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 5 December.

Top stories

Donald Trump has cut short his attendance at the Nato summit in London, calling the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” after footage emerged of world leaders joking about Trump during the summit. A group including Trudeau, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron were filmed discussing Trump informally during a function at Buckingham Palace, prompting the US president to cancel his final press obligations after two days of talks characterised by sharp disputes with allies. Johnson later bristled in response to questions as to whether he takes the US president seriously, and pointedly did not refer to him in his closing comments.

A Senate committee has recommended that Scott Morrison order an inquiry into the energy minister, Angus Taylor, after it found that Taylor “consciously used his position as an MP and minister” to try to influence an investigation into clearing of grasslands at a property he and his family part-own. “It is inconceivable that Mr Taylor was unaware that he and his family stood to benefit directly from his actions,” the interim report states. In a dissenting report, Coalition senators said the evidence showed Taylor had acted appropriately and in accordance with the rules, and accused the Labor-Greens dominated committee of a partisan attack.

The former Greens leader Bob Brown has called for an independent inquiry into the Wilderness Society after a deficit of $1.7m last year prompted the organisation to reduce its campaign staff by nearly 20. In a letter to the organisation’s directors, Brown and four other life members expressed “profound concern” for the 43-year-old organisation. Brown, a founding member, former director and the face of the organisation’s groundbreaking early 1980s campaign to save the Franklin River, told Guardian Australia the scale of the loss was unprecedented.


Jacqui Lambie
Jacqui Lambie during Wednesday’s debate on the medevac legislation. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

New Zealand’s offer to take refugees in offshore detention may still be on the table but Scott Morrison has denied making a “secret deal” with Jacqui Lambie, after the independent senator’s support enabled the repeal of medevac laws.

Major multinationals and Australia’s biggest accounting firms have failed to inform the public sufficiently about their tax obligations, a senior ATO official has warned.

Three climate activists have been denied bail and will remain in custody for two weeks in what is being regarded as a “Queensland first”. Members of the activist group said they believed the decision was out of step with other similar cases.

The world

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili memorial
Protesters rally in front of the German embassy in Georgia, holding portraits of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili. Photograph: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA

Two Russian diplomats have been expelled from Germany, with state prosecutors reporting “sufficient evidence” links them to the assassination of a Chechen separatist in Berlin in August, in what’s being described as a “second Skripal case”.

Gene editing to immunise Chinese twins against HIV may have created unintended mutations, the public release of controversial research suggests. The Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui is accused of ignored ethical and scientific norms in creating the twins.

Spanish authorities have detonated a grenade found thrown on to the grounds of a centre for unaccompanied foreign minors, just weeks after the facility was singled out by the far-right Vox party’s leader.

Greenpeace claims radiation hotspots have been detected near the former Fukoshima nuclear plant, which the Japanese government was planning to use as the symbolic start of the torch relay for the 2020 Olympics in March.

Recommended reads

Oral storytelling has formed the backbone of Indigenous history, knowledge and customs for millennia but in an increasingly digital world contemporary artists are embracing modern forms to tell ancient stories, writes Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore. To celebrate its 30th anniversary, one of the nation’s most respected dance troupes, Bangarra, is embracing video and soundscapes to explore Indigenous concepts of country, language and kinship.

The latest GDP figures seem to suggest the economy is doing better but further inspection reveals the underlying weakness, writes Greg Jericho: “The past two quarters have seen the rare case where government spending is contributing more to economic growth than that of households. That generally happens only during recessions or sharp downturns such as the GFC.”


It’s a Dutch festive tradition that’s come under increasing scrutiny but, with its connotations of blackface and stereotypical depictions of black people, is time nearly up for Zwarte Piet, the afro wigs and the red lipstick?


Alex de Minaur
Alex de Minaur celebrates after winning a rubber during the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup. Photograph: Kiko Huesca/EPA

He was the ATP’s most acclaimed newcomer of 2018 but it’s been a season of frustration for Alex De Minaur. For Australia’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, a persistent groin injury caused second-season blues. He speaks to Linda Pearce about getting back on track and what it will take to mix it with the world’s best in 2020.

The former England fast bowler Bob Willis has died aged 70. Willis was England’s second hero of the 1981 Headingley Test, alongside Ian Botham, and one of its best pacemen. Matthew Engel pays tribute.

Fresh from winning the Ballon D’Or for best female footballer, Megan Rapinoe has called on male stars to stand up for injustice in the game. “I want to shout: ‘Cristiano [Ronaldo], Lionel [Messi], Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], help me!’” Rapinoe has been a vocal critic of racism, sexism and homophobia, inside and outside football.

Media roundup

The Liberal MP Gladys Liu has demanded the party pay back $100,000 she donated during her election campaign, the Age reports, claiming the money was a loan, not a gift. The Advertiser reports on protesters who say the Coorong is “on life support” and that mooted plans to reduce the Murray’s flow from NSW to South Australia could spell ecological disaster. And the Mercury says the business case for a second Bass Strait electricity cable is both “technically feasible and commercially viable”, claiming thousands of jobs could be created through the project.

Coming up

A severe fire danger rating is in place for much of south-eastern NSW, while parts of Queensland are bracing for very high temperatures.

Today is the final sitting day of parliament for the year.

And if you’ve read this far …

The trailer for Daniel Craig’s final Bond film has arrived, but is the mood surrounding No Time to Die a little flat? Bad guy Blofeld is back, so is love interest Dr Madeleine Swann. It all looks like standard puff, writes Stuart Heritage. “I hate that I’m excited about this stupid film.”

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