Morning mail: Trump amnesty offer, fears over encryption laws, invasive species threat | Australia news

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 21 January.

Top stories

The US president, Donald Trump, has raised the possibility of one day granting amnesty to migrants living in the US illegally, after Democrats rejected his latest plan to fund a wall along the southern border and reopen the US government. In a remark that angered Republicans while not being taken seriously by Democrats, Trump suggested legal status could be given to millions of undocumented people as part of a future grand bargain on American immigration law. The president floated the idea in a tweet on Sunday that stressed he was, for now, only offering to extend legal protections for some refugees and people who were brought to the US illegally as children. The US is now more than four weeks into its longest government shutdown.

Australia’s home affairs department is seeking to calm concerns about the encryption legislation rushed through parliament at the end of 2018, promising to help pay for the costs of new surveillance capabilities and to consult the tech industry on implementation. This month the department has contacted industry participants seeking help to write guidelines for the new regime. But despite the assurances, the industry fears that without further amendments to clarify the scope of “systemic weaknesses”, the notices to build new capabilities will compromise other tech users.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has funded its first project. The not-for-profit that was awarded a controversial $443.3m grant for the Great Barrier Reef by the Turnbull government will on Monday announce a research survey that will be carried out by a government agency. A 25-day health survey of remote parts of the reef by the Australian Institute of Marine Science is the first venture awarded money through the Reef Trust partnership set up by the government last year. The announcement comes after publication of an official audit last week that found serious failings in departmental processes when the government selected the foundation without a competitive tender.


Demonstrators hold Greek flags during a rally outside parliament in Athens.

Demonstrators hold Greek flags during a rally outside parliament in Athens. Photograph: Miloš Bičanski/Getty Images

Up to 100,000 Greeks converged on Athens on Sunday to demonstrate against a name-change deal with neighbouring Macedonia. Police fired rounds of tear gas into the crowd and demonstrators, some draped in giant Greek flags. Greece’s leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, blamed the clashes on “extremist elements” of the ultra-right Golden Dawn party.

Donald Trump may have talked to Michael Cohen in advance about Cohen’s false testimony to Congress on their pursuit of a property deal in Russia, the president’s attorney said on Sunday. Rudy Giuliani said it would have been “perfectly normal” for Trump to discuss the testimony with Cohen.

Downing Street has hit out at MPs trying to delay article 50 to avert a no-deal Brexit. Number 10 has said it is “extremely concerning” that MPs could attempt to override the government to suspend or delay the article 50 process to leave the EU.

The women who produce Spice Girls T-shirts sold to raise money for Comic Relief’s “gender justice” campaign earn the equivalent of 60c (AUD) an hour, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

Democratic Republic of the Congo opposition politician Martin Fayulu has called on his followers to conduct a peaceful campaign of civil disobedience following the rejection of his appeal against election results by the country’s highest court.

Opinion and analysis

‘Australia foxes and feral cats are driving more native species to extinction than any other impacts.’

‘Australia’s foxes and feral cats are driving more native species to extinction than any other impacts.’ Photograph: Hugh Mcgregor/PR Image

Invasive species are now the number one risk to Australia’s endangered wildlife – a greater risk than climate change, land clearing or energy production. And we are losing the fight. Extra funding would be helpful, but it’s not a cure all, with experts calling for more innovative approaches to biosecurity. Andreas Glanznig, chief executive of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, says: “We are at crisis point and innovation and new game-changing ideas are key to movement. Business as usual will see a fast-downward spiral.”

We are paying Scott Morrison $527,000 to run a caretaker government, writes Oliver Yates.Morrison’s barely legitimate government is forcing Australia to wait until May to remove them from office. Without an election we are forced to pay this caretaker government, with caretaker ministers, a record $350,000 a year each while the prime minister earns $527,000. The party has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the Australian people. The prime minister should start that process by calling the election.”

Arwa Mahdawi writes that though she has been considering going vegan, there’s one thing that really puts her off it: Peta. “The animal rights organisation seems to launch itself into the headlines every few months with an obnoxious advertising campaign. Peta’s latest act of tofu terrorism is a new puerile ad featuring men vigorously waving vegetable genitalia. It’s possible Peta’s antics were effective once, when veganism was a niche lifestyle, but it has become mainstream enough that Peta’s chest-beating no longer just seems obnoxious, but old-fashioned and unnecessary.”


We may have already seen the most remarkable performance from a British athlete in 2019. Ultrarunner Jasmin Paris has become the first woman to win the one of the toughest endurance contests in the world. She also beat her nearest male rival by 15 hours and set a course record time by 12, while pumping milk for her baby daughter at feeding stations.

Greek prodigy Stefanos Tsitsipas has beaten veteran Roger Federer to reach his first quarter-final of a grand slam. The victor declared himself “the happiest man on earth”. Tsitsipas’s 6-7 (11), 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (5) win in three hours and 45 minutes represented a changing of the guard. Meanwhile, the unseeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has won a marathon three-setter against Sloane Stephens 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals and match her best show in grand slams.

Thinking time: Not telling

Somewhere in Australia: an undisclosed location near Gareth Hutchens’s favourite beach.

Somewhere in Australia: an undisclosed location near Gareth Hutchens’s favourite beach. Photograph: Gareth Hutchens for the Guardian

Guardian Australia’s Gareth Hutchens refuses to reveal where his favourite beach is for our series on Australia’s best beaches. There’s a near-perfect wave on the east coast of Australia somewhere, he writes. To get there, you have to turn off a highway on to a dirt track. At the end of the track, leave your car and take your board and wetsuit. Push through the scrub and make your way down a long path towards the ocean. Hutchens writes that he was surfing there on his own once when nature seemed to stop. The only sound was the gentle slap of water against his board.

“Then, like black buses, three large whales surfaced from the darkness. They all took a breath of air with a deafening release of pressure from their blowholes, then continued on their way languidly. The waves started up again when they disappeared from view. That wave will become better-known one day. Houses will be built on the clifftop. The place will be overrun with holidaymakers trampling the succulents that live in the sand. But at this point in history it’s still unspoiled.”

You still have four more days to vote for your favourite seaside spot in Guardian Australia’s best beaches poll.

Media roundup

The federal government has announced more than $5.5bn worth of projects and commitments since the midyear budget update, equivalent to over $160m a day, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. Pauline Hanson will withhold preferences from Clive Palmer in his intended seat, according to the Australian, dealing his hopes of a return to parliament a potentially fateful blow. A Sydney family has been charged by police for their alleged roles in a syndicate that saw the theft of baby formula, Manuka honey and vitamins worth over $1m, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Coming up

The trial of former ATO assistant commissioner Michael Cranston, charged with abusing public office over his son’s alleged multimillion dollar tax fraud, starts in Sydney.

The Australian Open tennis tournament heads into the fourth-round matches in Melbourne.

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