Morning mail: vale Clive James, Morrison call 'inappropriate', four Arias for Tones and I

Helen Sullivan
Photograph: Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 28 November.

Top stories

Clive James, the broadcaster, poet and television critic, has died aged 80 after a long illness. The Australian died at his home in Cambridge on Sunday, his agent confirmed. United Agents said: “Clive died almost 10 years after his first terminal diagnosis, and one month after he laid down his pen for the last time. He endured his ever-multiplying illnesses with patience and good humour, knowing until the last moment that he had experienced more than his fair share of this ‘great, good world’. James began writing criticism for literary magazines before becoming the Observer’s television critic in 1972. There his deadpan tone made for a markedly new approach to reviewing programs; he later said he had become unpopular in the office for laughing out loud at his own jokes while writing them.

Scott Morrison’s phone call to a police chief is an inappropriate attempt to use his position to make a political decision, a senior judge and former anti-corruption commissioner David Ipp says. The prime minister came under fire on Wednesday for calling the NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, to discuss an active investigation into one of his cabinet ministers, Angus Taylor. Ipp, who served on the NSW court of appeal and as an Independent Commission Against Corruption commissioner, said the call was clearly not appropriate. He said it appeared to have been made to aid Morrison’s party-political decision making rather than the interest of the state.

French journalists arrested while filming an anti-Adani protest claim Queensland police had them “under surveillance” and sought to repeatedly block filming near Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal. In the documentary Sur le Front des Océans, the journalist Hugo Clément detailed the claims. Charges of “trespassing on a railway” were eventually dropped amid public outcry and an intervention by the French ambassador, but Clément and three others were given restrictive bail conditions banning them from going near Adani sites. Those bail conditions were branded an abuse of power and as attempts by police to shield corporate interests.


Tones and I has won four Aria awards. In the six months since Dance Monkey, Toni Watson’s second single, was released it has been streamed close to 1bn times.

The NSW government was advised six months ago that Sydney’s water storage levels could be at “emergency levels” by May unless it started planning immediately.

A Senate committee has recommended that the federal government establish a national horse traceability register after a heated national debate about the treatment of retired racehorses.

Young people on welfare are regularly skipping meals and couchsurfing, with a new survey finding that the majority are living on less than $14 a day after paying rent.

The world

‘Part of the west Antarctic ice sheet may be in irreversible retreat,’ a researcher has said. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The world may already have crossed a series of climate tipping points, according to a stark warning from scientists. This risk is “an existential threat to civilisation”, they say, meaning “we are in a state of planetary emergency”. Tipping points are reached when particular impacts of global heating become unstoppable, such as the runaway loss of ice sheets or forests.

UK Labour has obtained official documents showing that the US is demanding that the NHS will be “on the table” in talks on a post-Brexit trade deal, Jeremy Corbyn has said. The opposition leader said the uncensored papers gave the lie to Boris Johnson’s claims that the NHS would not be part of any trade talks, and revealed that the US wanted “total market access” after the UK left the EU.

Fewer women in the US are having abortions than at any time in the past nine years, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found the abortion rate declined 26% over the entire period of the study.

Turkey’s newly established “safe zone” in northern Syria is unsafe for civilians, according to a report by a human rights watchdog, citing ongoing fighting and abuses including executions and home confiscations.

Recommended reads

Tourists take shelter in the rotunda at Observatory Hill as an electrical storm batters Sydney. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

“More than once in the last few weeks I have woken with the fleeting fear my house is on fire,” writes Josephine Tovey. “The unprecedented, severe early fire season devouring great swathes of bushland up and down Australia’s east coast has sent rolling waves of bushfire smoke across Sydney. It has been seeping through open windows and into air conditioning systems, clinging to hanging washing and the backs of our throats, shrouding the tops of buildings and obliterating iconic views. Cities can feel insulated from the whims of the natural world, but the suffocating smoke is a reminder that urban areas are hugely vulnerable to the climate crisis.”

The latest construction figures provide yet more evidence of the weakness in the economy over the past year, writes Greg Jericho. “They also are a solid support to comments by the governor of the Reserve Bank who has again subtly called for more action from the public sector. On Tuesday night the head of the RBA, Philip Lowe, spoke about unconventional monetary policy. It was the type of speech that had investors watching closely for some sign of whether the bank was contemplating measures such as negative interest rates or quantitative easing. The upshot was that the RBA has been contemplating it, but only in thought, not deed.”


On Today in Focus Rachel Humphreys heads to Uxbridge, where the 25-year old Labour candidate Ali Milani is campaigning to unseat Boris Johnson. Plus, Jonathan Freedland on antisemitism in the Labour party.


The former Major League Baseball player Aubrey Huff is taking Bernie Sanders’ run for the White House seriously, teaching his sons to shoot in case the Democrat wins the presidency in 2020 and introduces socialism to the US.

Finally. A true message about the meaning of sport: it’s not just about winning – it is about the journey, the fight to improve, bettering ourselves. How refreshing. Who is this socially conscious messenger? Who is it that wants to win but is much more concerned about the children? Pep Guardiola, of course, writes Max Rushden.

Media roundup

More than 20 heads of department at Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital have urged the premier to scrap strip-searching and adopt a pill-testing trial, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Christmas bells, the red and yellow wildflowers, are blooming in Lake Cathie, south of Port Macquarie, the ABC says, two weeks after a fire destroyed more than 3,500 hectares in the area. “One of Australia’s most powerful clan leaders, Galarrwuy Yunupingu, is seeking what could be $700m in compensation from the commonwealth over the Gove mine in the Northern Territory,” is the Australian’s online splash this morning.

Coming up

The former foreign minister Julie Bishop will discuss Australia’s relationship with China at the Sydney launch of the new Quarterly Essay.

And if you’ve read this far …

What could be more essential to this late November morning than … quotes from the 2019 Bad sex awards. Mary Costello, in The River Capture, writes: “He clung to her, crying, and then made love to her and went far inside her and she begged him to go deeper and, no longer afraid of injuring her, he went deep in mind and body, among crowded organ cavities, past the contours of her lungs and liver, and, shimmying past her heart, he felt her perfection.”

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