Morning mail: Lord Howe Island wind ban, Facebook's working hell, Israeli election | Australia news

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 18 September.

Top stories

Josh Frydenberg overruled his department when he blocked two wind turbines on Lord Howe Island in 2017, forcing the world heritage-listed island to continue relying on diesel fuel for the bulk of its electricity. The former environment minister took the unusual action of blocking the project under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, deeming it “unacceptable”. It was one of only two projects that Frydenberg rejected while environment minister, both of which were criticised by the broadcaster Alan Jones. Many other projects, including Adani’s groundwater plan and the Abbot Point coal terminal, were approved with conditions.

The task of moderating Facebook continues to leave psychological scars on the company’s workers, months after efforts to improve conditions, the Guardian has learned. A group of current and former contractors who worked for years at the social network’s Berlin-based moderation centres has reported witnessing colleagues become “addicted” to graphic content and hoarding ever more extreme examples for a personal collection. They also said others were pushed towards the far right by the amount of hate speech and fake news they read every day.

A judge will today reveal her reasons for slapping a $140m asset-freezing order on the controversial businessman and political donor Huang Xiangmo, after an application by the Australian Taxation Office. At an urgent hearing in Sydney on Monday, federal court judge Anna Katzmann ordered Huang not to dispose of assets worth up to the $140.9m claimed by the ATO, including more than $6m worth of property in Sydney and an apartment in Hong Kong.


Jeremy Corbyn has set out his plans to secure a better Brexit deal from the EU. Photograph: Lesley Martin/PA

The UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has said he would “carry out whatever the people decide” in a second EU referendum, with remain as an option, if he became prime minister. Meanwhile the government declined to rule out a fresh suspension of parliament if it lost its supreme court case.

The United States government has filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, over the publication this week of his memoir.

Benjamin Netanyahu could be scrambling for his political survival over the coming days, after Israel election exit polls suggested he might struggle to form a governing coalition. Follow our live blog for the latest updates.

An MIT scientist, Richard Stallman, has resigned over emails that appeared to show him downplaying another academic’s alleged participation in the purported sex trafficking of minors by Jeffrey Epstein.

Air pollution particles have been found on the foetal side of placentas, indicating that unborn babies are directly exposed to the black carbon produced by motor traffic and fuel burning.

Opinion and analysis

Michel Cohen

Michel Cohen, who disappeared with $50m swindled from the New York art world. Photograph: Unknown/BBC/Top Hat/Michel Cohen

For years, the documentary maker Vanessa Engle has been on the trail of a notorious swindler who escaped from prison and disappeared into thin air. Then one day, the phone rang. “You probably haven’t heard of Michel Cohen. Do a search and you get Michael Cohen, the Trump fixer who went to jail. Wrong one,” writes Sam Wollaston. “Though this one did go to jail, too. He’s French, born in 1953 on an estate in a poor suburb of Paris and his first job was to sell the Encyclopedia Britannica door to door, which he was very good at. Cohen later went to the US and started selling French paté, then prints. He got into the art world, became a dealer, sold Picassos, Monets, Chagalls. For a while he lived the dream … then he disappeared, having swindled the New York art world out of $50m.”

Perhaps we should explain climate change to politicians as we would to small children, writes hydrogeologist Emma White. “When I was an undergrad learning geology, the maxim that was thumped into me wasn’t how to build a mine or drill for oil and gas, it was simply: ‘The present is the key to the past.’ The thing that took a while to accept was that the past was really, really, long. It’s hard to comprehend the scale of geologic time: the timespan for continents to crash together and rip apart, for tiny sea creatures to live, die and condense into kilometres of limestone, or streams to carve epic canyons carrying mountains to the sea … Through all the corridors of conceivable time, evidence indicates the climate has never changed as rapidly as we see today.”


The England cricketer Ben Stokes has described a front-page article in the UK’s Sun newspaper about a family tragedy 31 years ago as “disgusting” and “immoral”. Stokes said the paper’s decision to publish the story, which described in detail events in New Zealand when his mother’s ex-husband killed their two children before taking his own life, would have “grave and lifelong consequences” for his family.

The biggest threat to the All Blacks’ World Cup supremacy could well be themselves, writes Matt McIIlraith. Or their discipline, to be exact.

Thinking time: A festival of double standards

Tamil asylum seekers Nadesalingam and Priya and their Australian-born daughters, Tharunicaa and Kopika.

Tamil asylum seekers Nadesalingam and Priya and their Australian-born daughters, Tharunicaa and Kopika. Photograph:

The Biloela Tamil family case is heartbreaking and traumatic. It has also exposed several double standards, with the Coalition saying there can be no exceptions but it is happy to help au pairs, while Labor has chosen to fight on this case but ignore hundreds more, writes Helen Davidson. “When Priya’s final bridging visa expired, the family were detained in a now infamous pre-dawn raid on their home in the quiet Queensland town of Biloela. They were flown thousands of kilometres away to Melbourne’s immigration transit accommodation, and put in a compound for families, under guard and with strict visiting rules. The government suggests it is not really detention, yet refers to it as detention in literature, and the occupants are not allowed out.

“The denial of refugee status has legal explanations, however flawed or unfair they may be. But the family’s treatment, and the treatment of potentially thousands of others who have been rejected but are exercising their right to legal challenge, does not have a logical explanation. The Tamil family are not the only people in detention. They are not even the only people with children in detention. Over the past 18 months the family has been subject to a number of micro cruelties – such as denial of a birthday cake for two-year-old Tharunicaa, arbitrary rule changes around visits, the allowance and then withdrawal of external childcare, an alleged lack of vitamins and dental care leading to painful teeth issues for Tharunicaa, and the alleged delay in medication for Priya.”

Media roundup

The Australian says the ACCC is “seeking approval from Josh Frydenberg to conduct another ­inquiry into banks after persistent complaints that consumers are not being treated fairly”. The Sydney Morning Herald reveals the NSW government is moving ahead with plans to build a third cruise ship terminal in Sydney, despite fierce local opposition. And the Financial Review reports that BHP has brushed off the government’s complaints about big business “pandering to activist shareholders” and will press on with plans to take more responsibility for its carbon emissions.

Coming up

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and Virgin boss Paul Scurrah will appear at the National Press Club in Canberra to argue for changes to airport passenger fees.

The Icac inquiry into an alleged plan by the ALP’s NSW head office to circumvent donation laws continues in Sydney, with the Labor party’s lawyer Ian Robertson appearing as a witness.

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