Morning mail: lockdown extension looms, ABC rejected Porter offer, Afghanistan 20 years on

Good morning. The latest Covid outbreak continues to cause concern, with a potential lockdown extension in Melbourne and alerts in NSW. We also have the latest on the ABC v Porter case and news on conflicts around the world.

A decision on extending the Victorian lockdown is expected today, with health authorities concerned that the virus is spreading differently than during previous outbreaks. Officials met last night to discuss extending the lockdown as the NSW health department issued an alert after an infected Melbourne patient visited parts of the state, including Goulburn and south coast. The Covid-19 variant in Victoria’s outbreak is seemingly being transmitted between people during “fleeting”, casual and limited contact, authorities said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Australians who have been vaccinated against Covid would be able to leave the country and return with less strict quarantine requirements under a plan that could be trialled within six weeks. And in Canberra, the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, was forced to correct the record after he wrongly claimed that only six aged care facilities across the country had not been visited as part of the national vaccination rollout.

The ABC rejected an offer from Christian Porter to settle his defamation case weeks before the minister agreed to enter mediation, Guardian Australia can reveal. The former attorney general has claimed a victory in the high-profile case but it is understood he originally made an offer for a relatively modest financial settlement without an apology or a retraction of the article. The offer was rejected by the broadcaster in early May. Guardian Australia approached Porter’s lawyers asking whether an offer of settlement, including a financial payment, was made to the ABC by Porter but did not receive a response. The news comes as a friend of the woman who made an historical rape allegation against Porter – an allegation he strenuously denies – separately sent the former attorney general a legal concerns notice on Tuesday over comments he made during a press conference which she says “impugned my honesty and integrity”.

In Covid news abroad, the UK has hit a milestone with no deaths for the first time since July last year. Downing Street believes it can forge ahead with the 21 June unlocking despite a chorus of warnings from scientists about rising case rates linked to the Delta variant first identified in India. The variants are to be named after letters of the Greek alphabet instead of their place of first discovery in a move to avoid stigma. Meanwhile, India is aiming to triple its vaccination supply and scale up to 10m jabs a day by July.

Australia

NDIS minister Linda Reynolds. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Linda Reynolds has conceded the government does not have parliamentary support for its controversial plan to introduce independent assessments to the NDIS. The independent senator Rex Patrick told Guardian Australia the proposal had “all the hallmarks of a very crude, bureaucratic cost-cutting exercise, inflicted on vulnerable Australians by the same team that delivered robodebt.”

The former sports minister Bridget McKenzie selected projects but did not approve final grants under the $100m sports rorts program, Sport Australia has argued, claiming its own guidelines that suggested otherwise were wrong. The agency insists it retained final say on approvals despite a flurry of changes requested by McKenzie in a court defence concerning a $500,000 grant.

The explosives company Dyno Nobel has changed its blasting policies to allow workers to call a halt if they fear damaging Indigenous heritage at mining sites. The announcement comes days after a similar decision by its competitor Orica and a year after Rio Tinto blew up Juukan Gorge.

The world

Abuna Yemata Guh rock church and the Gheralta Mountains
The alleged attack took place in a small rural settlement on steep slopes below the fifth-century stone church of Abuna Yemata in Tigray. Photograph: Sergi Reboredo/Alamy

Eritrean soldiers killed 19 civilians in a village at the foot of an internationally celebrated rock-hewn church in Tigray three weeks ago, witnesses, relatives and local residents have claimed, in the latest alleged atrocity in the war-torn Ethiopian region.

US Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan to turn Echo speakers and Ring security cameras into a shared wireless “mesh network”. Critics have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in a tricky opt-out process.

A Belarusian opposition activist, Stsiapan Latypau, stabbed himself in the throat with a pen during a court hearing after claiming investigators had pressured him to plead guilty or face his family and friends being arrested.

Recommended reads

Special Operations Task Group soldiers make their way to a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Sha Wali Kot
Special Operations Task Group soldiers make their way to a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in Sha Wali Kot. Photograph: Corporal Raymond Vance

As coalition troops prepare to finally withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 long years of wearing, wearying fighting – with the Taliban re-ascendant and with a seat at the table for peace talks – former soldiers, key officers and the publics on whose behalf those soldiers fought are asking how the “good” war went bad and how “elite” soldiers came to commit heinous acts of wrong. Allegations of war crimes reportedly committed by Australians in Afghanistan face a very public reckoning this month, when a defamation action brought by the Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith begins.

For 14 seasons, Julia Zemiro hosted the SBS music trivia show RocKwiz. In the notoriously fickle land of television, it was one hell of an innings. RocKwiz eventually hung up its hat in 2016 but Zemiro is still a regular on our screens. Her TV hosting gigs take her around the country and, no matter where she’s headed, Zemiro always packs one thing: a yoga mat, which helps her stay centred on the road. Here, she tells us about the soothing properties of that bright orange mat, as well as the story of two other very important belongings.

As GPs, Mariam Tokhi and Lester Mascarenhas have known for years that healthcare for refugees and asylum seekers is difficult to access, costly and of variable quality. “But now we need you to hear it,” they say. “Not just because everyone deserves good care. But because in the midst of a pandemic, we all can see that our health is interdependent. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to think about others, because our fates are connected … And that includes making vaccinations available and accessible to those from diverse backgrounds, with poor English language skills and limited health system literacy.”

Listen

The NSW government last week announced changes to laws around sexual assault and consent that could dramatically change how survivors experience the court system. In today’s Full Story, Saxon Mullins, the director of advocacy at the Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy Initiative, and a sexual assault survivor, explains how these laws could work and why they are necessary.

Full Story

Saxon Mullins on the fight for affirmative consent laws

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.

Sport

The Queensland Reds made a crucial tactical shift to record a drought-breaking 40-34 win against the Chiefs in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman match at the weekend. But whether the first win for an Australian side over New Zealand opposition for 457 days was a breakthrough or an aberration remains to be seen.

Media roundup

The Sydney Morning Herald say the NSW government has attempted to “cover up how it artificially inflated the state’s budgets by tens of billions of dollars”. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price will fight for a seat in the Senate for the Country Liberal party ($) despite resistance from within the Coalition, reports the Australian. And WA Today reports Covid has been transmitted between hotel guests in quarantine at Perth’s Pan Pacific but health authorities are still unclear how the virus spread between the two rooms.

Coming up

Senate estimates hearings continue.

Fiona Cornforth will deliver a National Press Club address about the stolen generations report.

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