Australia pursues Russia over MH17 downing

Australia and the Netherlands have initiated fresh legal proceedings against Russia for the downing of flight MH17.

What we know:

  • The two countries launched proceedings at the International Civil Aviation Organization, naming Russia as responsible (Al Jazeera); 
  • The organisation has the power to introduce sanctions against a member that breaks international laws – including demanding they pay compensation to victims’ families (ABC); 
  • The Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people onboard, including 196 Dutch and 38 Australians;
  • Australia and the Netherlands will rely on “overwhelming” evidence that the crash was caused by a Russian missile in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists;
  • The countries say the evidence showed the missile could only have been fired by a trained Russian crew;
  • Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said Russia’s voting power in ICAO must also be suspended;
  • The Dutch government said the timing of the case isn’t connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but did refer to the ongoing war in its announcement (Euronews); 
  • It comes after the Australian government on Monday imposed further sanctions on wealthy Russians, including the owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich, in response to the invasion of Ukraine (SBS). 

Court overturns coalmine ban

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reaffirmed his support for coal, as a court overturns a decision to ban the extension of a Hunter Valley coalmine.

What we know:

  • Morrison told a Sky News town hall he wants coal power stations to “run as long as they possibly can” (The Guardian); 
  • It comes as a court overturns a decision to block a five-year extension of the mothballed Dartbrook coalmine near Aberdeen (ABC); 
  • “A five-year extension would not be in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development or inter-generational equity and, as such, is not in the public interest,” a 2019 statement from the Independent Planning Commission said in the original decision;
  • The NSW Land and Environment Court upheld an Australian Pacific Coal appeal and the minister has now approved the extension;
  • An independent assessment of the proposal in 2019 found it assumed a coal price that failed to take into account the structural decline of coal markets needed to safeguard a liveable planet (Renew Economy); 
  • It comes as the federal government is set to learn whether it has successfully overturned a block of the Vickery coalmine expansion, which was prevented on the basis it owes children protection from climate change (7News);
  • Environment Minister Sussan Ley will today announce details of a $128.5m budget package that includes support to fast track mining projects in select areas (Canberra Times).

Bowser battle to cut petrol tax

The Morrison government is considering tax relief and cutting petrol excise in this month’s budget to address cost of living concerns.

What we know:

  • The Coalition may scrap plans to extend the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset and spend the money upfront on relief, and is looking at petrol excise as well (AFR); 
  • Some Coalition backbenchers as well as the Liberal premiers of South Australia, NSW and Tasmania have called for the tax on petrol to be scrapped (MacroBusiness); 
  • The motoring industry opposes cuts to excise as it argues it will hurt road funding, while Labor and the Greens have not committed to a position;
  • Low carbon experts warn scrapping fuel excise would slow the transition to electric vehicles (The Driven); 
  • Petrol prices have doubled since December 2019, with the war in the Ukraine exacerbating the situation;
  • Richard Denniss, chief economist of The Australia Institute, said profit growth in fossil fuel companies should be taxed with a special levy to stop them benefiting from Russia’s invasion (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Rideshare firms Uber and DiDi are the latest companies to increase prices due to the rising cost of petrol, both imposing fuel surcharges on consumers (The New Daily).

Warne’s death triggers heart health boost

The sudden death of cricketer Shane Warne from a suspected heart attack has prompted Australians to visit doctors and research heart health.

Warne died of a suspected heart attack while on holiday in Thailand last week ( 

Traffic to the Heart Foundation’s website searching for heart attack content doubled in the 24 hours after reports of the spin bowler’s death.

The most clicked content last week was the warning signs of a heart attack and a Heart Age calculator that allows people aged between 35-75 to estimate their risk of heart disease.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Karen Price said doctors had reported a significant rise in men making appointments with their GP.

“Fifty to 60 per cent said people came in talking about it [Shane Warne’s death] and then wanted to know information about their own heart health,” he said.

Gemma Figtree, professor of medicine at Sydney University, also highlighted Labor senator  Kimberley Kitching’s death from a suspected heart attack last week as “a stark reminder of the fact that we have not solved cardiovascular disease” (The Age). 


Assange denied extradition appeal

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been denied permission to appeal a decision to extradite him to the US.

The UK Supreme Court said it would not hear a challenge to a High Court decision that will allow his deportation to face trial over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records (Reuters). 

The High Court had overturned a lower court’s ruling that Assange should not be extradited because his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide.

“The application has been refused by the Supreme Court and the reason given is that application did not raise an arguable point of law,” a Supreme Court spokesperson said.

It comes as Assange is to marry lawyer Stella Moris in Belmarsh prison on March 23, with just four guests allowed to attend (The Guardian).


Karl, seriously … I was asked about Covid. I’m here to talk about Covid. I want to talk about Covid.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard begs Karl Stefanovic to stop asking him about his government’s bungling of the flood response, and instead ask him about his government’s bungling of the pandemic (


Postscript: Meet ‘Super Mario’, the man who’s lived on cruise ships for two decades

Eliminating all “non-value-added activities” from his life, such as taking out the garbage or doing laundry, Salcedo enjoys cruising on his own terms, rarely disembarking on stops and eschewing other large-group actives that most of his vacationing shipmates enjoy. The peculiar reality he’s built for himself, untethered from worldly problems or relationship obligations, has made him “the happiest guy in the world” (AEON).


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