Morning mail: spies target Australian politicians, US sues Google, the perfect knife | Australia news


Good morning, this is Tamara Howie bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 21 October.

Top stories

The Asio chief, Mike Burgess, says foreign spies are trying to “deceptively cultivate” Australian politicians at every level. Burgess says he will write to all federal politicians to warn they are “attractive targets” for spies trying to steal secrets and manipulate policy-making. “You’ve got foreign governments who covertly direct people to develop relationships, to try and curry favour, and one day they’ll call in that favour – and some good people may not even understand they’ve been influenced in a way that is counter to our national interests,” he told a parliamentary committee, where he reaffirmed previous warnings that there were more foreign spies and proxies operating in Australia now than at the height of the cold war.

The US justice department has filed a lawsuit against Google, accusing the tech company of abusing its position to maintain an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising. The suit alleges that Google is a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet” that has used “pernicious” anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies. “Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet,” the suit says. “That Google is long gone.” The antitrust suit is the most significant legal challenge to a major tech company in decades and comes as US authorities are increasingly critical of big tech’s business practices.

A doctor who called homosexuality a “disordered form of behaviour” and who campaigned against legal abortion, transgender rights and gay marriage has emerged as the frontrunner for Liberal National party preselection in the safe federal seat of Groom. Guardian Australia understands the LNP’s increasingly influential “Christian soldiers” faction has thrown its support behind David van Gend, who in an article in the Spectator, described the Black Lives Matter movement as a “demoralising slander of our culture” and disputed scientific evidence on global heating.

Joe Biden has criticised Trump over his renewed attack on Dr Anthony Fauci, saying Americans are “tired of your lies about Covid”. “We need a leader to bring us together, put a plan in place, and beat this virus — but you have proven yourself yet again to be incapable of doing that,” Biden said. Trump has called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter before election day over dubious reports of alleged corruption. Thankfully the bitter blows of words between the two will be moderated with a mute button at the upcoming debate on Thursday. Meanwhile, Melania Trump has cancelled campaign rally appearances due to a “lingering cough” from her Covid infection.


Families who hold land along the southern boundary of the second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek are planning public protests over planning decisions. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Hundreds of residents left in “indefinite limbo” are set to protest amid claims that wealthier landholders have received favourable planning decisions near the Western Sydney airport. A group of families have called for an end to secretive backroom dealings as two separate scandals have raised serious questions about the way the massive airport development has been handled.

The independence of the NSW anti-corruption watchdog is threatened by the fact politicians sign off on its funding, with some of the arrangements legally “contestable”, the auditor general has said in a landmark report.

The Victorian government has backflipped on a decision to allow 500 racehorse owners to attend the Cox Plate after the proposal was slammed by a public that has been locked down for three months. The decision was reversed just five hours after it was announced.

Officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have not briefed Scott Morrison on the QAnon conspiracy theory and say they are unaware that Twitter has suspended the account of a family friend of the prime minister.

The world

Peter Madsen sits up against a fence surrounded by police

Peter Madsen sits up against a fence surrounded by police in Albertslund, Denmark. Photograph: Ritzau Scanpix/Reuters

A Danish man convicted of torturing and murdering a Swedish journalist on his homemade submarine has been recaptured after escaping from his suburban jail by taking a psychologist hostage with a fake home-made explosive device.

A parent accused of organising a campaign against the French history teacher decapitated outside his school last week exchanged text messages and phone calls with the killer, according to French media.

The EU has launched legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their “golden passport” schemes for wealthy investors, saying they were illegal and undermined EU citizenship.

Recommended reads

Restoration Australia has returned for another season of genteel Victorian houses, crumbling cottages and rambling pastoral homesteads. But Walter Marsh asks the question – is it an easy watch about heritage glow-ups or another coat of whitewash? “Set against the sidelining of Juukan Gorge and the Djab Wurrung embassy, one can’t help but be reminded that even in 2020 there remains a disconnect in this country over the kinds of ‘heritage’ we value and protect.”

Baby Done is the latest enjoyable and sassy New Zealand comedy from Curtis Vowell and Taika Waititi, which takes a humorous look at impending parenthood. “The film is not about the fear of being a bad parent, or even of being a parent per se, but rather how one’s existence changes when a little person emerges – the start of the bub’s life inevitably signalling the end of certain aspects of the parent’s,” Luke Buckmaster writes.

How does a chef get through one of the most challenging times the hospitality industry has ever faced? For the Merivale executive chef Dan Hong – behind restaurants including Mr Wong, Lotus and Queen Chow – getting through the day requires a good night’s sleep and a sharp blade. Here he shares how he gets both.


Mozhgan Moarefizadeh and her family

Mozhgan Moarefizadeh and her family, who fled Iran in 2013 and have been refugees living in Jakarta since. Photograph: Muhammad Fadli/The Guardian

Australia’s border policies continue to be felt in a country where almost 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers endure a “painful, hopeful wait” to be resettled. Today’s Full Story shares the first two episodes of the five-part podcast the Wait, which investigates the life in limbo for Indonesia’s refugees. Nicole Curby co-hosts the podcast with the Iranian refugee Mozhgan Moarefizadeh, who has been waiting in Jarkata since 2013. With Moarefizadeh’s access and insight, the pair take listeners into the forever in-between.

Full Story

The Wait part 1: a paradox and a dilemma

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


The Women’s Big Bash League starts this weekend and it has come a long way since its inception, writes theAdelaide Strikers bowler Megan Schutt. “I remember the first time the prospect of a Women’s Big Bash League was mentioned to me. I was sceptical … It’s amazing to think that here we are, just five short years later, about to start the latest edition of what is undoubtedly the world’s best women’s cricket league.”

There is a curious irony in the fact that, six months after Nathan Cleary almost put paid to the NRL season’s restart, he is now integral to positively shaping its outcome. Even without the Dally M medal, the Panthers halfback is certain to have a big say in the destination of the 2020 premiership.

Media roundup

The mother of an 11-year-old girl who took her own life after her alleged sex abuser was granted bail has told the West Australian that the police and courts “let my baby down.” The Australian reports that Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, instructed lawyers to withhold from the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry an email which appears to contradict his evidence that he was not told about private security guards. The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed Icac appointed a new commissioner for the inquiry into the former MP Daryl Maguire due to fears of a conflict of interest because Gladys Berejiklian was a witness.

Coming up

NSW parliament sits for another day as Gladys Berejiklian continues to insist she’s done nothing wrong in relation to the Daryl Maguire scandal.

Senate estimates hearings continue in Canberra.

The ACCC boss, Rod Sims will speak, at the National Press Club.

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