Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 24 December.
The economic impacts of the Covid-19 recession have weighed more heavily on the minds of Australians than the pandemicâ€™s potential health repercussions, voter surveys have found. Across the five months since August, the economy remained the number one political issue for 41% of respondents, followed by 27% who replied health, and 10% who said climate change. In greater Sydney, a 10-visitor rule will remain in place for Christmas, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed â€“ with different rules in place for the northern beaches â€“ while NSW health officials are also scrambling to find out how a Covid-positive Qantas crew member flew into Sydney without being tested or quarantined.
A Brexit trade deal is expected to be announced today, following nine months of tense negotiations between the EU and UK. European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and British PM Boris Johnson are believed to have been in constant contact over the past 72 hours, regarding nearly 2,000 pages of trade text, but the possibility of an 11th-hour obstruction still remains, experts caution. The UK exits the single market and customs union in eight daysâ€™ time, but the 27 respective governments of the EU may take a week to translate, scrutinise and sign off on any final treaty.
Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has criticised a request by the attorney generalâ€™s department to sign on the register of foreign interest as â€œridiculousâ€, insisting he is â€œnot an agent of foreign influenceâ€. Ruddâ€™s engagement with UK broadcaster, the BBC, reportedly triggered the request, prompting the 63-year-old to list 35 nations where he has engaged professionally with â€œentities or individuals that are closely associated with these jurisdictionsâ€. The former Labor leader said an â€œexpansive interpretationâ€ of the act poses significant headaches for media organisations like News Corp Australia, with foreign attempts to influence media a matter of â€œpublic concernâ€.
Western Australia will face a marine heatwave in 2021, with ocean temperatures of more than 1C above average expected in April. The prognosis for vulnerable fish, seagrass and coral populations is not known, but scientists predict the damage to commercial fisheries will not be as severe as in 2011.
New South Walesâ€™ Independent Planning Commission is under fire from environmentalists, after approving a fourth fossil fuel project in the state in the past five months.
A â€œsignificant numberâ€ of Australians flying home for Christmas have been stranded after Singapore and Hong Kongâ€™s decision to ban travellers from the UK. Foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, has said the government is looking into alternative arrangements.
Supermarkets in the UK are planning to airlift in hundreds of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables, amid shortage fears following Franceâ€™s recent Covid-related blockade.
Donald Trumpâ€™s pardoning of four US security guards responsible for a 2007 massacre has prompted outrage in Iraq, with leading human rights activists calling the president â€œmore of a criminalâ€ than the â€œcriminalsâ€ he absolved.
Nearly one in five â€œpremature deathsâ€ in India last year was caused by pollution, a major Lancet report has concluded. Six of the worldâ€™s 10 most polluted cities are in India, with 1.7m people succumbing to diseases such as lung cancer or heart disease in 2019.
The dredging of an inland shipping route to link the Baltic and the Black seas has raised concerns over radioactivity, with scientists warning that sludge from the river close to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster site could be disturbed.
Tristan Williams usually loves Christmas. But after Covid decimated the Australian arts sector, the former dancer has been hit by an added challenge â€“ finding out his Centrelink has been cut off just days before Christmas. â€œIâ€™m scared. Scared of how long I could potentially have to wait and what that means. Will I be able to pay my rent in time? Will I have food to put on my table?â€ He shares his story, as part of our ongoing series, Dreams Interrupted.
For the past eight years Mardin Arvin has spent Christmas in limbo, caught in Australiaâ€™s immigration regime. After meeting community advocate Omid Tofighian on Manus Island, the native Farsi speaker finally found a translator for his writing. And as he walks the corridors of detention in a Melbourne hotel, he documents his hopes for the year ahead, once again. â€œMy wish is that I celebrate Christmas in 2021 as a free man; to celebrate the day out of detention; to celebrate a proper Christmas for the first time in my life. I also wish I could see my mother again after eight years.â€
Gardening. The TV lifestyle shows and self-help books tell you itâ€™s a wonder panacea for all that ails you. But is it all itâ€™s cracked up to be? â€œA puppy will destroy a weekendâ€™s work in minutes. A storm will snap delicate trees, hot weather will wilt roses, drought will dry once-lush lawns.â€ The garden-shy Brigid Delaney and gardening-enthusiast Stephanie Convery work through the pros and cons in our summer series, Prove Me Wrong.
Launched during lockdown, our regular column The Funniest Things on the Internet was a hit with many readers. But if you desperately wanted to help curate cyber chuckles for others, hereâ€™s your chance. But first, here are this weekâ€™s picks from Guardian Australian staff.
2020. A year like no other. From global pandemic to the end of the Trump presidency. From the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, to the ongoing climate crisis. Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner is the special guest on Full Story this week.
The 2020-21 W-League season starts next week. â€œThis seems like a perfectly ordinary sentence,â€ writes Samantha Lewis, but in the context of 2020 itâ€™s not much short of a minor miracle. And in spite of Covid-19 a lot has changed in womenâ€™s football in the interim.
From teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga to the evergreen Zlatan IbrahimoviÄ‡ â€“ the Guardian continues to count down its annual 100 best male footballers in the world; and there are plenty of surprising faces with just the top 10 to be revealed.
The head of the Australian defence force Covid-19 taskforce has denied statesâ€™ access to troops to patrol borders, the Age reports, with high-risk weather events, counter-terrorism and hotel quarantine deemed higher priorities across Christmas. South Australiaâ€™s tourism sector is expecting a holiday boom to end 2020 on a higher note, writes the Adelaide Advertiser, with bookings up over 150%. And, NSW has attempted an audacious bid to steal the Gabba Test match, according to the Daily Telegraph, as Cricket Australia continues crucial talks with the Queensland government over travel restriction challenges.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will update case numbers linked to the northern beaches coronavirus cluster at 11am.
And if youâ€™ve read this far â€¦
Heâ€™s been called Australiaâ€™s grumpiest cat. But in a modern-day Christmas miracle, Chester, the much-maligned moggie, described as â€œdemonicâ€ and â€œthe least-loved cat in Australiaâ€ has found a home in time for Yuletide. After a series of bad matches, the eight-year-old with a penchant for biting and swiping is off to live with retiree Wilma. â€œIâ€™ve been wanting another cat for a while and I just thought he looked cute,â€ Wilma said.