Morning mail: airlines unprepared for international travel, Rural Network launches, spooky doll hour

Good morning. Today we launch Guardian Australia’s Rural Network to bring you local perspectives on big issues affecting the country. We also have the latest on the challenges facing international travel and insight into some of the spooky corners of the internet.

Airlines are stuck “in a holding pattern” and are unable to start planning to resume routes into Australia because of a lack of information from the government about new rules and passenger limits. Barry Abrams, the executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia, says foreign airlines won’t be able to ramp up operations for international travel into Sydney when 80% vaccination is reached because they will need several months to recall laid-off staff and retrieve planes that have been parked in deserts. Passenger allowances are a key factor in determining the financial viability of routes, and Abrams warned that carriers that had not flown to the country in more than a year had not yet begun allocating aircraft or staff to Australian. “Without any clear plan here, there is simply no logical reason for an international airline to begin considering increasing its flights into Australia,” Abrams said.

Guardian Australia is today launching our new Rural Network to tell the important stories from regional and rural areas. “The idea is to expand our reach by appointing a highly experienced rural and regional editor to anchor our reporting and to set up a network of trusted contributors and, we hope, collaborating independent regional news organisations,” says Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor. “We think this will give us ‘eyes and ears’ in different places and provide us with insights we would not otherwise get.” We kick off the new series with two stories about Australia’s agricultural sector, which is set for a record $73bn year but is threatened by labour shortages and border restrictions. Meanwhile, new analysis shows regional economies will be “disproportionately affected” by climate risk compared with urban regions but the agriculture sector can reach net zero emissions by 2040 by scaling up existing Morrison government programs. Stay informed and sign up for the newsletter or join the Facebook group.

Helmand’s new Taliban governor, Talib Mawlawi, has called on the UK and Nato nations to recognise the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate leaders and then come back, but with money not guns. “All those foreign countries invaded and killed our women and our children and our old people, and destroyed everything,” he said. “Now the international community should help us with humanitarian aid and focus on developing education, business and trade.” The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, says the bloc has no choice but to engage with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and will maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul. “Maybe it’s a pure oxymoron to talk about human rights but this is what we have to ask them,” Borrell said. “To have any chance of influencing events, we have no other option but to engage with the Taliban … engaging means talking, discussing and agreeing when possible.”

Australia

A resident and staff member at a nursing home
International border restrictions are beginning to hurt the aged care sector’s ability to find staff, the chief executive of RSL Lifecare says. Photograph: Resolution Productions/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

Australia’s aged care workforce is facing staffing issues due to international border closures. While Australia’s aged care homes are on track to meet Friday’s deadline for mandatory staff vaccination, the supply of aged care workers remains a critical problem.

A quarter of cyber incidents over the past year have targeted critical infrastructure and essential services. The Australian Cyber Security Centre report reveals ransomware incidents have increased 15% and cybercrime losses have hit $33bn.

Australia has weathered the economic downturn from Covid better than most developed countries but could face a slower recovery when community transmission is higher, the OECD has warned.

Major developed countries cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation faster than Australia over the past decade, according to a new report, which challenges the Morrison government’s claim Australia is doing more to combat the climate crisis than other nations.

A record 19,113 babies were born in NSW in the second quarter of 2021. The 9% increase from the same time in 2020 came despite expert predictions the Covid pandemic was unlikely to spark a baby boom.

The world

Zheng Zeguang
Zheng Zeguang was due to attend a meeting of the broadly pro-Chinese all-party group on China. Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

The new Chinese ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, has been barred from parliament after the imposition of sanctions on British MPs by Beijing.

The investigation into the assassination of the Haitian president Jovenel Moïse has taken a sensational turn after the country’s chief prosecutor asked a judge to charge Haiti’s prime minister, 71-year-old Ariel Henry, in connection with the crime.

The most senior US general took steps to prevent Donald Trump from “going rogue” and launching an attack on China, according to a book by the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

Recommended reads

Osher Günsberg
Osher Günsberg shares with us three important items. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

You may know Osher Günsberg as the host of The Bachelor franchise but this weekend he’ll be back on screen helming a very different sort of program. Osher Günsberg: A Matter of Life and Death explores Australia’s suicide crisis. It’s a topic of personal importance for the TV personality, who has experienced his own battle with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Being on camera is part of his job, but in his spare time Günsberg likes to get behind the lens. He’s a keen photographer and rates a vintage camera as his most prized possession. He tells us the story of that “holy grail” find and talks about two other important belongings.

Spooky Doll Hour is a Facebook group for the terminally online but even here the boundary between irony and earnestness becomes increasingly blurred, writes Patrick Lenton. The premise of Spooky Doll Hour is really simple: it’s a small Facebook group where you can share pictures, memes and videos of spooky dolls – for one hour only. They are often memes either about spooky dolls or using spooky dolls – but it’s simplistic to just call it a spooky doll meme page. The premise might be simple but the “why” of it all is more complicated: the way it engages the community, and that community’s adherence to arbitrary rules, all point to a deeper level of humour.

Listen

By striving for tranquility rather than gratification you are less likely to ruin your own day and you’ll be more pleasant to others. In today’s Guardian Australia Reads, our lifestyle editor, Alyx Gorman, recommends this piece by Brigid Delaney on an ancient way to pursue happiness.

Guardian Australia Reads

The secret to happiness in uncertain times? Give up pursuing it

Will Gladys Berejiklian’s Covid reopening plan pay off? In this episode of Full Story, Laura Murphy-Oates speaks to Guardian Australia reporter Anne Davies about whether the gamble to open up the NSW economy will pay off as the infectious Delta variant continues to spread.

Full Story

The NSW experiment: will Gladys Berejiklian’s plan pay off?

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

Sport

“If there is one surefire way to make a sport look second rate in the eyes of the general public, it is when an administrator treats his own sport as second rate. That is what Andrew Abdo and the NRL have achieved by moving a preliminary final in order to avoid a clash with the AFL’s grand final,writes Nick Tedeschi.

Media roundup

Hospitals have been overwhelmed across the country, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting emergency departments received a record number of seriously ill patients in the three months leading up to the Delta outbreak. A veteran nurse has also told the West Australian of the struggles facing staff as WA’s public health system reaches crisis levels. The Courier-Mail reports that a positive Covid case was deliberately kept from government staff for 10 days over fears the revelation would “spark hysteria”.

Coming up

Defence department and Australian National Audit Office officials will appear at a public hearing in Canberra.

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