Albanese tests positive for Covid

Anthony Albanese has tested positive for Covid-19, upending Labor’s election campaign as the Opposition Leader isolates at home for a week.

What we know:

  • Albanese said he returned a positive result during a routine PCR test (ABC); 
  • The Labor leader said he was feeling fine so far, and was “grateful to know that I will have access to the world's best health care if I need it, because of Medicare”;
  • He will be forced to postpone visits to a raft of marginal seats;
  • Albanese will instead intensify media appearances in a bid to keep the Labor campaign in the national spotlight through radio, television and online interviews from home (The Age); 
  • He spent Thursday in the seat of Bennelong meeting locals, and wore a mask earlier during a visit to the Symons House retirement village (Nine); 
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not need to isolate despite coming face-to-face with Albanese during the leaders’ debate on Wednesday, as he is not considered a close contact under the guidelines;
  • Morrison tweeted that “everyone’s experience with Covid is different and as Labor’s campaign continues, I hope he does not experience any serious symptoms”;
  • Morrison is expected to redirect his attacks to the broader Labor movement rather than Albanese specifically (ABC); 
  • The diagnosis means Labor’s frontbench will have to take the lead campaigning on the ground for the next week.
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Putin declares Mariupol ‘liberated’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in the biggest battle of the Ukraine conflict, declaring the port city of Mariupol “liberated” after a two month siege.

What we know:

  • The declaration comes despite thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians entrenched in a giant steel plant, ignoring an ultimatum to “surrender or die” (AP); 
  • The last Ukrainian defenders in the city are holed up in a maze of underground passages in the mill, with Putin ordering his forces to blockade the site and wait them out; 
  • “There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities. Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly comes through,” Putin said;
  • The capture of Mariupol allows Moscow to complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014, and free up more forces to join the larger battle now under way for Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, the Donbas;
  • Moscow’s forces stand along a 480km front from the northeastern city of Kharkiv to the Azov Sea;
  • US President Joe Biden pledged US$800m in additional weaponry for Ukraine, including heavy artillery, howitzers and tactical drones (Reuters); 
  • It comes as the tennis world is shaken by a ban on Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon, with men’s world No.1 Novak Djokovic condemning the decision as “crazy” (Sky Sports). 
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Seven foots bill for Roberts-Smith ally

A retired SAS soldier testifying as part of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial has told the federal court his legal fees are being paid by the Seven Network.

The former soldier revealed under questioning that he only learned the Seven Network was footing the bill for his solicitors’ and barristers’ fees earlier this week (The Guardian). 

Roberts-Smith is suing for defamation over media ­reports that portray him as committing war crimes, including murder.

The soldier told the court that no people were found hiding inside an Afghan tunnel during a 2009 SAS raid, contrary to evidence given by other witnesses who were on the mission.

He said the two men shot dead during the operation were noted by troops on the operation as legitimately engaged and lawfully killed.

The Seven Network is owned by billionaire Kerry Stokes, who is paying Roberts-Smith’s legal costs, the general manager of 7Queensland and Seven Brisbane before he stepped down to focus on the trial 12 months ago.

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NSW independents rattled by trans stand

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet’s comments about transgender people have threatened the future of his minority government, with key independent MPs reconsidering their support.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said he will no longer guarantee supply and confidence for the Perrottet government if the Premier continues to make comments about transgender children and sport (SMH). 

Fellow independent Greg Piper meanwhile said he was appalled by Perrottet’s comments and would consider his options.

Perrottet this week weighed into the debate on excluding transgender people from women’s sports, arguing it was a matter of physiology that “girls should play sport against girls”.

The debate was triggered by comments by the Liberal federal candidate for Warringah Katherine Deves that invoked Nazism and the stolen generation.

The Coalition is in minority in the lower house, needing 47 MPs to govern outright, but only has 45 and relies on the support of the crossbench.

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Ramos-Horta returns to power

Independence leader Jose Ramos-Horta has declared victory in Timor Leste’s presidential election, calling for unity after securing 62% of the vote.

The Nobel laureate defeated the incumbent Francisco “Lu Olo” Guterres in the second round of voting (Reuters).  

Ramos-Horta was previously president from 2007 until 2012 and has also held the post of prime minister.

The two men have blamed each other for years of political instability.

Ramos-Horta vowed to heal divisions and “pursue dialogue, patiently, relentlessly, to find common ground to find solutions to the challenges this country faces”.

He said he expected East Timor to become the 11th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “within this year or next year at the latest”.

The result could also prompt concerns among the Australian security establishment that the country will shift closer to China (Crikey). 

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One way to avoid domestic violence is to marry well.

In the latest episode of deleted social media posts coming back to haunt a candidate, it turns out Kimberly Hone, the Nationals’ pick for the NSW seat of Richmond, has some rather depraved opinions (ABC).

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Postscript: Taiwan TV News Accidentally Reports China Has Invaded: ‘Please Don’t Panic’

A news ticker mistakenly declared “Communist forces strike New Taipei City with guided missiles,” during an alarming mix-up at a Taiwanese television studio on Wednesday morning … “Naval vessel explodes, facilities, ships damaged at Port of Taipei,” the breaking news read. “Arson and explosives placed by suspected special forces at Banqiao Station, no casualties,” it continued (Newsweek).

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