Morning mail: Sydney’s ‘soft lockdown’ gamble, US ferocious fires, Australian fashion’s hidden workforce


Good morning. There are calls for tougher restrictions for Sydney residents stuck in lockdown, with predictions it could drag on for a while yet. Find all the latest Covid news here in your morning mail, plus stories about the oldie-but-goodie Knightriders, and a new graphic novel to take your mind off it all.

NSW Covid restrictions will last months under a “soft lockdown” approach that relies on people doing the right thing without clear guidance, a top epidemiologist says. Prof Tony Blakely says the state needs to tighten its definition of essential workers and prioritise vaccinating those people if it wants to contain the Delta variant outbreak within weeks rather than months. “With the current measures, case numbers will keep bubbling along and NSW will be in a soft lockdown until vaccination numbers get high enough to upset the balance, but that could be months away,” Blakely said.

Gladys Berejiklian says she is hoping to make an announcement today or tomorrow regarding the restrictions. Meanwhile, the joint commonwealth and state government package unveiled on Tuesday – to cost more than $500m a week during the Sydney lockdown – sparked a fresh row between the federal and Victorian governments, with the latter accusing Scott Morrison of a “double standard” that favoured his home state.

Firefighters in the US are battling blazes from Arizona to Washington state that are burning with a worrying ferocity, while officials say California is already set to outpace last year’s record-breaking fire season. Experts are warning that the region is caught in a vicious feedback cycle of extreme heat, drought and fire, all amplified by the climate crisis. Death Valley in California registered what could prove to be the highest reliably recorded temperature on Earth – 54.4C. The scorching temperatures in Arizona have led to a surge in the deaths of migrants making their way into the US from Mexico.

The energy minister, Angus Taylor, has appointed Katherine Vidgen, a founding chair of a major gas and oil producer, to Australia’s clean energy regulator. Pre-empting criticism of appointing someone with a background of investing in oil and gas projects to the body designed to help cut back Australia’s emissions, Taylor highlighted Vidgen’s investment banking credentials and her experience as overseeing “both conventional and new energy investments”, with a focus “on helping traditional industries decarbonise their operations”.


Facebook Twitter Australia has launched an all-out lobbying offensive against a Unesco recommendation to have the Great Barrier Reef placed on the world heritage in-danger list. Photograph: Brett Monroe Garner/Getty Images

Ambassadors from more than a dozen countries will be flown to the Great Barrier Reef for a snorkelling trip on Thursday as part of the Morrison government’s lobbying campaign to keep the reef off the world heritage in-danger list.

The family of an Aboriginal man who died in a NSW jail say their “complete shock” has been compounded by Covid restrictions that prevented them from visiting him in person for 18 months before his sudden death.

The “Wuhan lab leak theory” origin story of Covid-19 spread quickly around the world. It was widely discussed but largely dismissed, and Australia played a role in the feedback loop promoting the theory, which has now taken on a new life.

Two St George Illawarra NRL players who broke Covid rules by attending an illegal barbecue have said they understood what they were doing was wrong but did not think it would turn out to be such a big deal.

The world

Facebook Twitter Rudy Giuliani told a furious Trump: ‘You’ve got to go declare victory now,’ according to book by Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post. Photograph: Nathan Posner/Rex/Shutterstock

A drunken Rudy Giuliani repeatedly urged Donald Trump to “just say we won” on election night last November, according to a new book.

At least 140 Cubans, including activists, protesters and journalists, have reportedly been detained or disappeared in the aftermath of Cuba’s largest demonstrations in decades.

More than 70 people have died and 1,300 have been arrested in South Africa as unrest triggered by the jailing of the former president Jacob Zuma intensified.

England could be forced to play without spectators after Uefa opened an investigation into the chaotic and violent scenes at Wembley before the Euro 2020 final.

Recommended reads

Facebook Twitter Emma Do and Kim Lam have released a graphic novel about the hidden workforce of Australian’s fashion industry. Photograph: Huizeng Hu/Getty Images

Thanks to the pandemic, many of us are now familiar with both the benefits and perils of working from home. That’s old hat in the garment business: for decades, Australia’s fashion industry has relied upon the labour of outworkers sewing in their lounge rooms, kitchens and sheds. This hidden workforce is mostly made up of new migrants who pick up orders through word-of-mouth referrals. A fashion writer, Emma Do, paired up with an illustrator, Kim Lam, to create Working From Home, or may ở nhà, a graphic narrative nonfiction book exploring the stories of Vietnamese outworkers past and present.

“My three-year-old keeps attacking his little brother. How can I stop him?” Matt Beard looks at why kids are violent in Sharing the Load, a column about parenting children of all ages. “As deeply held as our beliefs about violence and the perpetrator-victim dichotomy are, they’re not helpful to us as parents for an obvious reason,” he writes. “We’re not dealing with adults. We’re not dealing with people who can reason, or who we can hold responsible for their actions. We’re dealing with a three-year-old who is – no matter how smart – pretty stupid, morally speaking. And this means we need a different way of framing the child who hits and our response to them.”

George A Romero’s sprawling, overlooked 1981 film, Knightriders, has an outrageous setup but never punches down, writes Nick Buckley. “ It shows how communities existing on society’s fringes, like artists and performers, are often at the forefront of creating a better and more equitable future; and are a haven for people the world at large has failed to make space for. The troupe’s town crier Pippin is queer but not camp; its mechanic Angie might be a grease monkey, but isn’t painted as a butch tomboy; and its hyper-masculine heroes are often sensitive or flawed.”


A few years ago scientists noticed something odd about the endangered Australian songbird, the regent honeyeater – they were mimicking other birds, and unable to sing their own song. Environment reporter Graham Readfearn and Dr Joy Tripovich explain how this bird lost its song, and whether teaching it how to sing again could help save it from extinction.

Full Story Could bringing back its love song save one of Australia’s rarest songbirds? Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen 00:00:00 00:19:06

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Facebook Twitter Gaetan Barlot and Anthony Jelonch of France embrace as France celebrate winning the rugby union Test match against the Wallabies in Melbourne. Photograph: Scott Barbour/AAP

France has beaten Australia 28-26 in a drama-filled match. The Wallabies led by a point with three minutes on the clock, but Les Bleus won a scrum penalty at midfield, allowing Melvyn Jaminet to slot the winner from directly in front of the posts.

Ash Barty has made a lifelong impression without pretence, agendas or grandstanding, writes Mel Jones, who first met the Wimbledon winner when she took a break from tennis to play cricket.

A slew of records are ready to fall into the lap of NSW as the team seeks to establish an era of State of Origin dominance. Game three tonight on the Gold Coast presents Brad Fittler’s Blues with an opportunity to rewrite the history books.

Media roundup

Australia’s energy market operator will set an ambitious target for the electrical grid to handle 100% renewable energy by 2025, reports the Age, in the lead-up to new CEO Daniel Westerman’s first public address. Concerns have been raised about public confidence in Queensland’s Covid tracking app after police accessed its data after an officer was thought to have had a gun and taser stolen, despite government promises it would only be used for contact tracing, according to the Brisbane Times. The NT News say there are growing calls for Bradley Murdoch to reveal where the body of Peter Falconio is, 20 years after his murder.

Coming up

Australia’s largest mining companies will front a federal parliamentary inquiry on job security.

NSW and Queensland will play the final match in this year’s State of Origin.

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