Morning mail: Vow to stop Boris Johnson breaking law, bushfire crisis, the ‘ship of horrors’ | Australia news

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 13 September.

Top stories

Boris Johnson has been accused of seriously misleading the British public with his controversial £100m Get Ready for Brexit advertising campaign, with MPs calling on the head of the civil service to take action and halt the expensive and potentially inaccurate campaign, given the uncertainty surrounding the 31 October departure date. The outgoing Speaker, John Bercow, urged Johnson not to break the law preventing a no-deal Brexit, and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, reported that Johnson’s envoys were yet to offer a credible plan that would justify reopening formal negotiations over the Irish backstop.

Queensland authorities warn that dire weather conditions could last weeks or even months, putting the state at risk of another bushfire crisis. While conditions have eased in NSW, parts of the state remain on hire fire danger alert. Authorities say it is the worst start to the bushfire season on record, with winds and hotter than average temperatures forecast in the coming days. Queensland’s acting fire commissioner, Mike Wassing, has said the state is in the grip of no ordinary bushfire season. “What we’ve seen is extraordinary dry conditions, with the extremes of high winds and high temperatures. This will continue for weeks and potentially months. There is no outlook for rain.”

A proposed shipment of more than 5,000 Australian cattle bound for China has been halted after suspicions that ear tags – used to trace cattle origin – had been tampered with. Department of Agriculture officials have categorically ruled out disease as being the cause for the delay, and will conduct an investigation into the case to ensure exports meet China’s strict protocols. It follows a second investigation within the live export sector after confronting footage emerged of Australian cattle being improperly slaughtered in Indonesia last month during Eid.


A protester carries the banned Papuan flag as he meets an Indonesian soldier in the city of Fakfak

A protester carries the banned Papuan flag as he meets an Indonesian soldier in the city of Fakfak. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A leading West Papuan activist is feared “abducted” by Indonesian police, after supporters reported a joint strike force raid by police and military on the home of Buchtar Tabuni. A witness told Guardian Australia the death toll from recent clashes has risen to eight, with footage showing soldiers firing on demonstrators.

Russian state security services have conducted nationwide raids on opposition headquarters, four days after pro-Putin candidates suffered massive losses in Moscow city elections.

Israel has been accused of planting spy devices near the White House, a claim the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has strongly rejected.

Heavy storms have killed two people and wreaked destruction in eastern Spain, with some locations recording the heaviest rainfall on record.

A transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Cancún was forced to divert to Ireland after a pilot spilled coffee inside the cockpit. The hot drink damaged an audio control panel, causing electrical burning and smoke, preventing safe communications.

Opinion and analysis

Hillsong church congregation

Worshippers celebrate Easter Day at a Hillsong church. Photograph: The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

When she was five years old, Rebecca Varcoe loved to listen to the music of the Hillsong church. Now she’s 30 and grappling with this music, this church and this God. “I have become obsessed with a song I used to listen to as a child. It’s called Shout to the Lord, and we used to sing it at church most Sundays. Shout to the Lord was written by a woman named Darlene Zschech, from the Hillsong church. Darlene and this song are enduring symbols of my own deep hypocrisy – so just bear with me.”

Reported rapes in the UK have doubled in a year, yet prosecutions are at their lowest level for a decade. With new figures showing that only 1,925 cases ended in a conviction from 54,000 reports filed, thousands of vulnerable women are being badly let down by the Crown Prosecution Service, writes Julie Bindel. “As a lifelong feminist campaigner against male violence, I feel more pessimistic about the prospect of ending rape – which is what any civilised society should aim for – than I did 40 years ago.”


Super Netball, Lightning v Swifts

Karla Pretorius and Helen Housby’s personal contest could go a long way to deciding Sunday’s Super Netball grand final. Photograph: Jono Searle/Getty Images

A single match-up rarely dictates the outcome of any game but in Sunday’s Super Netball grand final the contest between the Swifts’ Helen Housby and the Lightning’s Karla Pretorius could do precisely that, writes Erin Delahunty.

The Rabbitohs and the Roosters’ rivalry goes back to NRL’s foundation, writes Matt Cleary. With 35 premierships between them and finals footy on the line a new chapter could be written Friday night at the SCG.

Tim Paine’s decision to send England in to bat first was nearly vindicated, as a rejuvenated Mitchell Marsh took four for 35, before Jos Buttler belted England to 271-8 at stumps on day one at the Oval in the final Ashes Test.

Thinking time: The deep sea ship of horrors

A cargo ship in inclement sea

A cargo ship sails on the Mediterranean Sea during a thunderstorm. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A battered 38-year-old trawler with more than a dozen documented safety violations, a sullen, angry, alcoholic captain, work shifts lasting over 24 consecutive hours and, suddenly, water filling the engine room. As investigators would hear, racial abuse, brown drinking water and inadequate safety equipment were the least of sailors’ problems on the fateful night of 14 August 2010, as an inevitable tragedy unfolded that cost the lives of six seamen.

With a notorious track record of callous disregard for its staff, how did the company that owned the ill-fated trawler escape punishment? Ian Urbina examines the Russian dolls-style corporate structure of the Sajo Group, and the “ship of horrors” voyage of the Oyang 70.

Media roundup

National party MPs are calling for a nationwide rollout of cashless debit cards for welfare recipients, report the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, as the party meets to debate policy including welfare reform. A researcher gathering accounts of modern-day slavery has urged a comprehensive audit of businesses surrounding Adelaide Central Market, writes the Adelaide Advertiser, amid allegations of human trafficking and forced marriage. And the foreign minister, Marise Payne, has made a direct plea to her Iranian counterpart to free three Australians detained in Tehran, reports the Australian.

Coming up

Australia’s Boomers play Spain for a place in the Basketball World Cup final. Follow our live blog of the eagerly anticipated semi-final in China from 17.30 (AEST), for a 18.00 tip-off.

Annastacia Palaszczuk will visit fire-damaged areas of south-east Queensland.

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