India flights to resume as crisis worsens

The federal government will resume repatriation of Australians stranded in India next week, after fierce criticism from across the political spectrum of threats to jail and fine returning citizens.

The plan:

  • The first repatriation flight will leave Australia for India almost as soon as the ban is lifted on May 15, with up to 200 passengers flown to Darwin’s Howard Springs facility (ABC); 
  • Roughly 900 “vulnerable” Australians will be prioritised, but will need to deliver two negative Covid-19 tests before returning;
  • Only one chartered flight a week is planned, down from two a week prior to the ban;
  • Around 9000 Australians wish to come back from India.

The decision comes despite the pandemic worsening in India, with a record 3980 deaths and 412,262 new cases recorded on Thursday (Channel News Asia).

Coming up:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will seek to increase state quarantine caps in today’s national cabinet meeting with state and federal leaders.

He is open to other states accepting flights from India once the travel ban is lifted (The Age). 

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Porter strikes out at ABC

Former attorney-general Christian Porter has moved to strike out parts of the ABC’s defence in defamation proceedings concerning rape allegations.

An application filed on behalf of Porter:

  • asserts that the ABC’s defence contains material that is scandalous, frivolous or vexatious in nature, is evasive or ambiguous, or otherwise an abuse of the process of the court;
  • seeks to strike out one paragraph of the defence and three schedules, and prevent publication of the three schedules until further order of the court (The New Daily). 

In March, Porter launched defamation action against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan for publishing “false accusations” regarding a rape allegation (The Monthly). 

The ABC filed its defence this week, and the parties are due to face off in court for the first time this morning.

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Hayne sentenced over sexual assault

Former NRL player Jarryd Hayne has been sentenced to five years and nine months’ jail for sexually assaulting a woman in her Newcastle home.

He will have to serve at least three years and eight months behind bars after being found guilty in March of two counts of sexual assault with his hands and mouth, which left the victim bleeding.

In a victim impact statement on Thursday, the woman said Hayne left her feeling “dirty and violated”.

The judge said Hayne may find a jail “deniers” program helpful as he “does not accept that he did anything wrong”.

One of Hayne’s supporters at the courthouse appeared to spit at the victim as she exited, and a photographer was punched in the head in a scuffle (SMH).

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Masks on in NSW, masks off in WA

The NSW government has introduced mandatory masks on public transport and in public indoor areas to manage a Covid-19 outbreak, just as West Australians are granted permission to remove theirs.

In NSW:

  •  A second case of community transmission was recorded on Thursday — the wife of a Sydney man who tested positive a day earlier (SMH);
  • The infected man has the same Covid-19 strain as a man who travelled from the US, but authorities are still trying to determine the connection;
  • New Zealand has paused the travel bubble with NSW for at least 48 hours (NZ Herald), while most states have imposed restrictions on those who have visited exposure sites.

In WA:

  • Mandatory mask rules have been eased following no new local cases for a fifth straight day (The West Australian); 
  • Masks will still be required in Perth and Peel on public transport.
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Rio Tinto shareholder backlash over payouts

Rio Tinto shareholders have revolted over payouts to former executives who quit after the company destroyed the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge rock shelters to expand an iron ore mine.

More than 60% of shareholders at annual general meetings in London and Sydney voted against the company’s remuneration report (CNN). 

Former CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques enjoyed a 20% pay increase from 2019, earning almost $13m despite having to step down over the scandal.

To assuage concerns, company executives will now earn part of their pay based on the company’s compliance with environmental, social and governance issues.

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We have always understood ... ‘one country, two systems’.

In what we can only assume is a slip of the tongue, Prime Minister Scott Morrison endorses China’s vision for unification with Taiwan (Guardian Australia). Good thing he didn’t misspeak on anything important, like an issue poised on a geopolitical knife edge with the potential to blow up into World War III.

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Japanese town spent Covid-19 relief funds on building a statue of a giant squid

A coastal town in western Japan has drawn ire on social media for using some of the coronavirus relief funds it was given by the government to build a statue of a giant squid in the hopes of boosting tourism ... Construction of the pink cephalopod began in October 2020, and the finished statue was finally moved to its current home in March (CNN).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.