Morning mail: London mail bombs, massacre denials, the Aldi effect | Australia news

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 7 January.

Top stories

Three improvised explosive devices have been found at separate transport hubs in London. The Metropolitan police’s counter-terrorism command launched an investigation after the packages were found in the post room at Waterloo station, London City airport and Heathrow airport. Irish police are assisting the Met with the investigation. A source said that, although the belief was that the packages had been sent from Ireland, investigators were not jumping to the conclusion that the motive was to further the cause of Irish republican terrorists. At this early stage of the investigation, police believe that whoever sent the packages did not mean to kill. The A4-sized white postal bags containing yellow Jiffy bags were found to be capable of igniting a small fire when opened.

Sabotaged inquiries fed mass massacre denials in Australia. In 1927, between one world war and the other, Western Australia held a royal commission with a gruesome name. The “Royal Commission of Inquiry into Alleged Killing and Burning of Bodies of Aborigines in East Kimberley and into Police Methods When Effecting Arrests” was set up to determine how many Aboriginal people died at the hands of police and colonists at Forrest River, just the year before. It was one of two official investigations in the Kimberley into some of the later mass killings of Australia’s violent frontier history. But during those inquiries witnesses vanished, and killers went free. There is reluctance – even today – to acknowledge that the slaughter of Aboriginal people took place. In Victoria’s Gippsland, Elizabeth Balderstone is well aware of a gruesome history. She lives just steps from a small waterway where up to 150 Gunaikurnai people were killed, turning the water “red with blood”.

Labor has accused Peter Dutton of breaching ministerial rules by failing to pay taxpayers for the value of his mobile office caravan’s refurbishment. Dutton declared that Kedron Caravans in Brisbane had refurbished the caravan’s interior but the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has revealed he is not among those who paid for gifts valued over $300 in 2017. Under the relevant rules, gifts above that value must be purchased by ministers, paying the difference to the department. The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus said: “It is clear this gift would be worth more than $300.” He said Dutton was “flouting the rules on gifts”.


Staff members empty a ballot box in Glasgow during the Brexit referendum

Staff members empty a ballot box in Glasgow during the Brexit referendum. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

The European council president, Donald Tusk, has claimed external powers meddled in the Brexit vote, and called for EU member states to do more to protect the upcoming European elections. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels with the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, Tusk said he agreed with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who used an editorial in the Guardian and other newspapers to call on European countries to be alert to malign influences. “There are external anti-European forces, which are seeking – openly or secretly – to influence the democratic choices of Europeans, as was the case with Brexit and a number of election campaigns across Europe,” Tusk said. “And it may again be the case with the European elections in May.”

Donald Trump’s declaration of an emergency on the Mexican border will be rejected by the Senate, Mitch McConnell – the most senior Republican in the US upper chamber – has admitted.

Hotels around the world at the centre of sexual assault allegations are continuing to be promoted on TripAdvisor, despite some complainants contacting the travel company to warn them of alleged attacks.

Twenty-two of the world’s 30 worst cities for air pollution are in India, according to a new report, with Delhi again ranked the world’s most polluted capital.

Fashion has bid farewell to Karl Lagerfeld at his final Chanel show at Paris fashion week, for which the Grand Palais was transformed into a winter wonderland.

Opinion and analysis

Protesters with a giant Aboriginal flag

‘Our history is neither simple nor pure. Our collective refusal to speak the truth of this history has allowed for the development of a fictitious national identity.’ Photograph: Glenn Hunt/EPA

“Truth-telling has an impact on every aspect of the lives of our stolen generations,” writes Karen Mundine, the chief executive of Reconciliation Australia and Richard Weston, the chief executive of the Healing Foundation. “This includes their ability to access services and support systems. It has the capacity to build social capital, goodwill and unity, through processes of creating shared understanding of our history and building knowledge so that we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It also helps inform better policy that reduces the impacts on our people’s health and welfare.”

Cardinal Pell’s child sexual abuse conviction has been the catalyst for criticisms of women’s lack of authority in the Catholic church. But why has it taken a crime of this magnitude for criticism of the church patriarchy to gain traction, asks Beatrice Alba. “Perhaps it’s partly timing – with the rise of online activism and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, many feminist causes are gaining mainstream support. The church’s exclusion of women from the priesthood and the sexist notions embedded in religious dogma violate our 21st century principles of equality and social justice. Yet the marginalisation of women in religion has come under surprisingly little scrutiny.”


It’s good that Australia will not support a World League concept, writes Brett Harris, but the irony of Rugby Australia’s stance should not be lost on Pacific Island nations. Australia is after all one of the Sanzaar nations which have effectively shut out Pacific Island participation in Super Rugby since the inception of the competition in 1996.

The arrest and charging of Penrith’s Tyrone May is just the latest in a long list of incidents that have damaged the NRL’s reputation in an off-season of shame.

Thinking time: The Aldi effect

An Aldi illustration

‘The checkout assistants, who had been trained to memorise the price of every item in the store, were so fast that shoppers experienced what some would come to call “Aldi panic” – the fear that you cannot pack your goods quickly enough.’ Illustration: Christophe Gowans/Guardian Design

When Aldi arrived in Britain, Tesco and Sainsbury’s were sure they had nothing to worry about. Three decades later, they know better, writes Xan Rice. On a Thursday morning in April 1990, in the suburb of Stechford in Birmingham, a strange grocery chain started trading in the UK. It only stocked 600 basic items – fewer than you might find in your local corner shop today – all at very low prices. For many products, including butter, tea and ketchup, only a single, usually unfamiliar brand was offered. To shoppers accustomed to the abundance of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which dominated the British grocery sector with thousands of products and brands, delicatessens, vast fridges and aisles piled high with fresh fruit and vegetables, the range would have seemed dismal.

The managers of this new shop, which was called Aldi, had not bothered to place a single advert announcing its arrival – not even an “Opening soon” sign outside the store. Strip lights illuminated the 185 square metre store, and from the ceiling hung banners listing prices for the goods stacked on wooden pallets or displayed in torn-open cardboard boxes on metal shelves. Most people were confident Aldi would fail in Britain, where there was a discernible snobbery about discount stores. The British supermarket giants, whose 7% profit margins were the world’s highest, were even more dismissive. For a long time it looked like he was correct. But today, the boasts of Tesco and Sainsbury’s read like a classic example of business hubris. In 2017, Aldi overtook the Co-op to become the UK’s fifth largest retailer.

Media roundup

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the body of the Sydney dentist Preethi Reddy has been discovered in a suitcase in a car parked in an eastern Sydney laneway, after she went missing on Sunday. The Australian reports that Scott Morrison will announce during a trip to Christmas Island today that 57 men who are allegedly “considered threats to community safety”, but are eligible for medical evacuation, will be sent to the island’s North West Point detention centre – the most secure of three detention centres on the island reopened to accept medical evacuees – if their transfers are approved. The Daily Telegraph splash headline is Blood Sport, on a story saying the NSW Labor leader, Michael Daley, has “desperately reignited the stadiums wars, boldly declaring he will summarily sack the board of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust”.

Coming up

The Matildas play their final Cup of Nations match against Argentina in Melbourne. Follow the game, which kicks off at 6pm AEDT, with our live blog.

The journalist and feminist writer Anne Summers will speak at the National Press Club today on the politics of women’s representation.

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