Morning mail: Bahamas battens down, farm lobby on reef science, Australia’s dirty fuel | Australia news

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 2 September.

Top stories

Hurricane Dorian has strengthened to a “catastrophic” category five storm, as it began pounding the northernmost islands of the Bahamas. Officials warned of probable devastation from 290km/h sustained winds and a storm surge of up to six metres. Its path may take it close to Florida’s east coast on Monday before turning north and skirting the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas, but US authorities warned its track was highly unpredictable. The Bahamas National Hurricane Centre said Dorian was the strongest hurricane to hit the islands in modern times. “Once the winds get to a certain strength we’re not going to to be able to respond,” the head of the national emergency management agency warned.

Queensland’s most influential farm lobby group has backed calls for a review of consensus science on the Great Barrier Reef, as the state’s agricultural sector intensifies its campaign against proposed water quality regulations. AgForce’s chief executive, Michael Guerin, said the organisation agreed with the controversial scientist Peter Ridd’s calls for the science “to be more thoroughly examined and tested”. “We are not scientists and have no position on the science,” Guerin said. “However, when eminent reef scientists call into question the research conducted by their peers, we as a community would be foolish not to listen.”

The EU will push Australia to clean up its petrol standards as part of negotiations on a new free trade agreement. Australia’s standards, the lowest of all developed nations, allow for dirtier fuel than India and China, preventing the sale of a range of European vehicles with higher standard engines. Europe will also use the trade deal to cement Australia’s support for emissions reduction targets, with Europe flagging it wants the “respect and full implementation of the Paris agreement” underscored.


Passengers walk to a terminal as protesters block the roads leading to Hong Kong’s international airport

Passengers walk to a terminal as protesters block the roads leading to Hong Kong’s international airport. Photograph: Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters

Demonstrators in Hong Kong attempted to lay siege to the airport on Sunday, as riot police pursued the pro-democracy protesters. About two dozen flights were cancelled and more than 40 others delayed as staff and passengers struggled to reach the airport.

The anti-immigration Alternative für Deutschland party made strong gains in two state elections in Germany on Sunday, increasing its support significantly but failing to oust the mainstream parties.

The UK is preparing to end family reunification for asylum-seeking children if it leaves the EU without a deal, potentially leaving vulnerable young migrants stranded alone in other European countries.

The death toll in a mass shooting in Texas on Saturday has risen to seven, with details emerging of how a 17-month-old child was shot in the face.

The German president has asked forgiveness from Poland during a series of events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war.

Opinion and analysis

A billboard advertising Lisdoonvarna’s matchmaking festival

A billboard advertising Lisdoonvarna’s matchmaking festival. Photograph: Rory Carroll/The Guardian

“It seemed a match made in hell. The village did not fancy the asylum seekers. The asylum seekers did not fancy the village,” writes Rory Carroll of a matchmaking Irish village that, 16 months later, has found harmony with the asylum seekers. “Residents of Lisdoonvarna in County Clare, on Ireland’s west coast, rejected a government plan to settle asylum seekers there in a lopsided vote: 197 against, 15 in favour. Authorities ignored the vote and bussed in dozens of people from Africa, Asia, eastern Europe and the Middle East to a hastily converted hotel in April 2018. It was a forced union laden with irony: Lisdoonvarna was famous for a venerable matchmaking festival that draws tens of thousands of visitors each September.”

In a now familiar ritual, Donald Trump emerges from the Oval Office, walks down a driveway and engages in a three-way conversation with a melee of reporters and the whirring engine of the Marine One helicopter. Yet less than a minute’s walk away, the White House press briefing room sits silent. On 11 September it will be exactly six months since Trump’s press secretary last stood at that lectern to brief the media. Trump has embraced the notion that he is own best spokesman. His freewheeling riffs before boarding Marine One allow him to pick and choose his questioners, air multiple grievances and give the impression of transparency while skating past substantive policy discussion.


Ash Barty is out of the US Open after a hugely disappointing defeat in the round of 16, losing 6-2, 6-4 to Qiang Wang. Serena Williams and Britain’s Johanna Konta progressed to the quarter-finals, while Roger Federer had a comfortable straight-sets win over David Goffin.

Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters are destined for an NRL grand final rematch, writes Matt Cleary. With one round remaining the two best teams of last season are once again the pair to beat.

Thinking time: Pain and Prejudice

Gabrielle Jackson

Pain and Prejudice, the new book by Guardian Australia’s Gabrielle Jackson, is an investigation into gender bias in medicine. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

When Guardian Australia’s Gabrielle Jackson was diagnosed with endometriosis at 23, she didn’t know enough to ask the right questions. “I assumed my gynaecologist had all the answers, and listened carefully to his thoughtful explanations. I thought I knew it all. Or at least that he knew it all. But I was wrong.” After a century of diagnosis, medical science still has no idea what causes endometriosis or how it works, and we are no closer to a cure. “It was only after more than a decade of feeling weak, second-rate, wimpy and writing myself off as a hypochondriac that I started to formulate the questions that needed to be asked,” writes Jackson in the lead-up to the release of her book Pain and Prejudice. “This time the questions weren’t about what was happening to my body. They were about how there could possibly be such a lack of knowledge about a disease that has been in the medical textbooks for more than a century.”

Jackson discovered the treatment of women’s health by the mainstream medical establishment was worse than she imagined. Women wait longer for pain medication than men, wait longer to be diagnosed with cancer, are more likely to have their physical symptoms ascribed to mental health issues, are more likely to have their heart disease misdiagnosed or to become disabled after a stroke, and are more likely to suffer illnesses ignored or denied by the medical profession. “Why are women still being treated as hysterical, overly emotional, anxious and unreliable witnesses to their own wellbeing,” Jackson asks. “Why don’t they trust us? The answer turns out to be quite simple. They don’t really know much about us.”

Media roundup

The Australian leads with “Sri Lankan boat surge”, reporting that Border Force officials intercepted a boat on 7 August, the sixth such venture since May. The information was revealed as the government resists public pressure to allow a family of Sri Lankans taken to Christmas Island on Friday to stay in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that leaked emails show a key report into the bungled Barwon-Darling water-sharing plan, which was due to be submitted to cabinet today, is “no longer on track”. The Australian Financial Review finds that residential property sales in Sydney and Melbourne are rebounding to near boom-time peaks, thanks to low interest rates.

Coming up

There will be a hearing in the federal circuit court today on the Biloela asylum seeker family.

Jaymes Todd is to be sentenced for the rape and murder of the aspiring Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon.

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