Julian Assange will apply for bail this week, seeking to be released from Belmarsh prison after a British judge rejected a US bid to extradite him. District judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected arguments that the charges against Assange were politically motivated and that he would not get a fair trial in the United States, but blocked extradition on the basis that he was at risk of taking his own life in isolation. Assange will appear in court again on Wednesday, with his lawyers expected to refer to the high rates of Covid-19 in the high-security prison, arguing conditions there are detrimental to his physical and mental health, The Guardian reports. US authorities have indicated they will appeal against the extradition ruling, delaying an outcome for some time. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says Mexico will offer Assange political asylum – which could raise a red flag for that bail application.
Head of the government’s Energy Security Board Kerry Schott is calling for national unity on energy policy, with urgent reforms needed as the market switches from coal to renewables (or as she writes in The Australian, “calm down and get on with it”). With official projections showing renewable energy generation set to double in the next decade, and 60 per cent of Australian coal-fired power stations tipped to close within the next two, the ESB says governments and industry must co-operate to reform the electricity grid, or risk price blowouts and power failures. The nation’s energy ministers will consider reforms put forward by the ESB to ensure the orderly phasing out of coal, with an accompanying report noting that the transition “would be less difficult if there was an agreed national emissions reduction trajectory”. Schott told Guardian Australia that she would support the government committing to net zero by 2050, suggesting that they were “moving in that direction without actually saying so”.
NSW will not lock down the Sydney suburbs involved in a growing coronavirus cluster, while Victoria will keep its border closed all month, as the two states deal with their coronavirus outbreaks in their distinctive styles. Acting NSW Premier John Barilaro – who, by the way, has had it up to here with being lectured by WA – said the current restrictions were strong enough to deal with the current situation. The unknown number of Victorians on the wrong side of the border will be stranded there for at least another three weeks, although those who got back on January 1 may be wishing they were still up there too: it’s only Day 5 of their 14-day isolation and families are feeling the “quarantine blues”. In more pain for the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced England’s third national lockdown, saying the weeks ahead “will be the hardest yet”. Scotland will also go into a full lockdown at midnight.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has suggested US President Donald Trump could face a criminal inquiry over his demands to “find 11,780 votes”, though there may be a conflict of interest in his office launching the investigation. On ABC’s Good Morning America, Raffensperger said that data Trump cited to claim there was rampant voter fraud was “just plain wrong”, and of the “hundreds and hundreds” of votes cast by dead people, “We found two.” While Raffensperger’s office will not be launching a probe, he indicated that the Fulton County district attorney was interested in pursuing legal action. The monumental Georgia Senate runoff will take place tomorrow morning (Australian-time), with FiveThirtyEight putting both races in toss-up territory, but each Democrat holding a slight edge.