Australian news: stories you may have missed during the coronavirus crisis

Australian news: stories you may have missed during the coronavirus crisis

As Australia’s coronavirus outbreak continues – but with the cautious optimism of a slowing rate of infection – a lot of important news has slipped under the radar.

Here are the stories you may have missed over the past week.

Pell verdict on Tuesday

The high court will hand down its judgment in George Pell’s final appeal on Tuesday in Brisbane.

The final arguments from both sides finished up in March, and we will find out at 10am on Tuesday whether his conviction on five counts of child sexual abuse will be upheld or overturned.

XPT train was doing 100km/h in a 15km/h zone

The Sydney to Melbourne train that derailed in February, killing two people, was travelling at more than 100km/h in a section limited to 15km/h.

That section was part of a diversion, introduced that afternoon, from the normal route with a speed limit of 130km/h, according to the preliminary report on the crash, which came out on Friday.

Read the full story here.

Chris Dawson pleads not guilty to murdering wife Lynette

Chris Dawson formally pleaded not guilty on Friday to murdering his then wife on Sydney’s northern beaches nearly 40 years ago.

The former teacher and Newtown Jets rugby league player has repeatedly claimed that Lynette Dawson is still alive and several people have seen her since her disappearance in January 1982. The matter is scheduled to return to court on Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

Earliest known Homo erectus skull discovered

The oldest known skull of Homo erectus was discovered by Australian researchers on Friday. The fossil has been dated at two million years old – 200,000 years older than the previous record.

Read the full story here.

Victoria renews logging

Late on Wednesday night, the federal and Victorian governments decided to extend five regional forest agreements that exempt the logging industry from conservation laws.

Environmental groups immediately criticised the move, given the summer’s devastating bushfires will already have deforested large swathes and impacted wildlife.

Read the full story here.

Nine days in North Korean detention

You may remember Alek Sigley, the Australian student (and lover of Korean literature) who was arrested in North Korea over nine harrowing days in 2019. After days of diplomatic wrangling, he was released, but wouldn’t share the details of what happened.

Now, writing for Guardian Australia, he has.

I saw the black Mercedes-Benz, which had a black plastic bag covering its licence plate. ‘Fuck, you’re in deep shit now,’ I thought to myself.

Read the whole article here.

Big polluters increased emissions

One in five of Australia’s biggest polluting sites actually increased their greenhouse gas emissions last year, above the government limit.

Under the safeguard mechanism, companies that breach their limit have to buy carbon credits or pay a penalty. But the Australian Conservation Foundation found that 729,000 tonnes of emissions went unpunished.

Read the full story here.

Queensland panel recommends legal voluntary euthanasia

A year-long inquiry has concluded that Queensland should legalise voluntary assisted dying. On Tuesday, the state’s health committee found a majority of Queenslanders are in favour of voluntary euthanasia for terminally-ill adults.

Read the full story here.

Water flows into Menindee

In good news, water has flowed into the drought-stricken Menindee Lakes, the site of infamous mass fish kills last year.

For the first time in years, significant flows and water releases are under way, meaning the lower Darling River will finally reconnect with the Murray.

Read the full story here.

Government allows coalmining under Sydney reservoir

The New South Wales government has approved the extension of coalmining under the Woronora reservoir.

It’s the first approval in two decades for coalmining directly beneath one of greater Sydney’s reservoirs, and environment groups say it could affect the quality of drinking water.

Read the full story here.

Death in custody

An Aboriginal man, aged 30, died in Victoria last week after he was arrested and taken to a regional police station.

Police said the man was arrested on Thursday last week in Horsham. When he was taken to the police station, his “condition deteriorated”, and he died in hospital on Sunday.

Read the full story here.

2019 was the century’s worst year for the environment in Australia

The annual Australia’s Environment report came out on Monday, finally confirming something we may have already seen coming.

Unprecedented bushfires, record heat, record low river inflows, dry soil, low vegetation growth and the 40 new species that were added to the threatened species list meant that 2019 was the worst year since 2000.

Read the full story here.

In other environmental news, land-clearing approvals in NSW increased 13-fold since the Coalition government changed laws in 2016, according to a secret report provided to the state cabinet.

$550m to be refunded from robodebt

In an exclusive obtained by reporter Luke Henriques-Gomes, we revealed the government will refund hundreds of millions of dollars under the botched robodebt scheme.

Confidential government advice obtained by Guardian Australia revealed that the government has already privately admitted that 400,000 welfare debts worth $550m were wrongly issued.

Read the full story here.

Christchurch shooter pleads guilty

Last Thursday, the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre suddenly changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, after being charged with the murder of 51 people.

The shock announcement meant that Australian Brenton Tarrant was immediately convicted of all charges. He had originally been set for trial on 2 June, but that has now been called off. He will be sentenced later this year.

Read the full story here.

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