Roberts-Smith pleads his case

Ben Roberts-Smith has provided an emotional first day of testimony, as the first witness in the defamation trial he brought against media reporting on his alleged war crimes.

The case for the claimant:

  • Roberts-Smith broke down in tears recounting his Victoria Cross-winning mission in Afghanistan (Guardian); 
  • The former SAS soldier denied involvement in the murder of an Afghan man in order to “blood a rookie”, claiming he hadn’t even heard of the term until a few years ago (ABC); 
  • He described as “ridiculous” claims he hauled a man with a prosthetic leg outside to shoot him, as carrying a non-compliant person would have left him vulnerable;
  • A charity co-founded by billionaire Kerry Stokes is collecting donations for the legal fight of SAS soldiers who face prosecution over the alleged murder of Afghan civilians (Crikey). 

The case for the defence:

  • The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times and three journalists are relying on a truth defence focused on six unlawful killings of prisoners (SMH); 
  • Nicholas Owens SC, representing the media outlets, said it was implausible that the 21 current or former veterans who will give evidence are all simply jealous of Roberts-Smith as claimed;
  • The defence has subpoenaed telecommunications records relating to two “burner” phones used by Roberts-Smith in a bid to prove that he is collaborating with witnesses.
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Melbourne reboot

Melburnians are waking to a set of new freedoms today, after the city’s two-week lockdown was lifted overnight.

What we know:

  • Masks are still required to be worn outdoors, as authorities investigate four new Covid-19 cases recorded on Thursday (Nine); 
  • Private household gatherings are still prohibited, while specific businesses such as gyms will remain closed due to their elevated risk of transmission (The Conversation); 
  • A second Australian has died of blood clot complications likely linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, from over 3.6 million doses (SBS); 
  • The federal government is withdrawing Covid-19 emergency payments because of the eased restrictions (ABC); 
  • Victoria is facing a second emergency, as a man in South Gippsland drowned during extreme flooding (7News).
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$10bn for ageing subs

The navy’s ageing Collins-class submarines will be completely ­rebuilt to extend their life for ­another decade, in a refit projected to cost up to $10bn.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton doubled the ­initial plan to extend three boats, as delays plague the new French Attack-class submarines, with the first not due to enter service until 2035 (The Australian). 

In a reference to China, Dutton highlighted “threat in our own region” in justifying the plan, along with a push to increase the number of US troops in Australia (ABC). 

Defence officials are in discussions to establish a joint US marines and ADF training brigade based in Darwin, while US navy vessels could be based at HMAS Stirling near Perth.

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Morrison’s Singapore stopover

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong have discussed prioritising students in a potential travel bubble between the two countries.

In the first visit by a foreign leader to Singapore since the start of the pandemic, Morrison and Lee agreed that students would be first in line for travel (The Straits Times). 

Lee said they would need to agree on mutual recognition of vaccination certificates, and that immunisation rates had to increase before the bubble could begin.

Singapore is much further along in its immunisation program, with almost two million people out of an adult population of about 4.7 million fully vaccinated (ABC). 

Lee also addressed rising geopolitical tensions in the region, advising that Australia doesn’t have to “become like” China to work with them (The Age). 

The leaders also signed bilateral agreements on healthcare, hydrogen, and fin-tech.

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Climate change ‘exfoliates’ cave painting

The world’s oldest cave painting is rapidly decaying due to salt erosion likely caused by climate change, according to archaeologists.

The painting on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi depicting humans with animal characteristics on a hunt is dated to nearly 44,000 years ago (Reuters). 

Warming temperatures, prolonged drought and heavy monsoon rains have helped speed up salt crystallisation in the cave, which Australian and Indonesian archaeologists conclude is “exfoliating” the painting.

Small teams are monitoring the growth of salt crystals and working to address them.

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Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers.

Australian swimmer Maddie Groves determines that the best way to stop misogynistic perverts from eyeing her while she does her job, is to withdraw from Olympic trials altogether (The New Daily).

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Postscript: In Praise of Small Menus

The best way to experience a restaurant, I have always felt, is by eating exactly what it wants to feed you. I do not want choices. I want the best thing. A restaurant might have five or 10 best things, but it cannot have 45. There are many infuriating things about the world, but one of the more fixable is the sensation of acute regret from having ordered wrong. Why are there possibly wrong orders (Grub Street)?

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