Morning mail: women demand change, Labor’s pay gap pledge, Swiss burqa ban |

Good morning. It’s 8 March, and this is Imogen Dewey with the latest from an embattled federal parliament, as Australia asks what’s next in the fight for equality.

International Women’s Day has landed after a traumatising week for many. We asked 12 women what still needs to change. Not surprisingly, many pointed to the recent revelations out of Canberra, where calls for an independent inquiry into rape allegations against Christian Porter continue, and defence minister Linda Reynolds has extended sick leave amid an ongoing controversy over rape allegations by Brittany Higgins against a coworker.

Amy Remeikis has discovered that even women who leave parliament are followed by a culture of silence and gaslighting. “Their businesses and jobs, their connections and in some cases, their mental health, in some way or another, still depend on staying quiet.” Sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins, appointed to lead a review into parliament’s workplace culture, believes Australia is at a “turning point” on sexual harassment and assault. “I’ve never seen any moment like this,” she said.

Academics Megan Davis and Marcia Langton stress that any meaningful equality efforts must confront Australia’s unjust treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and ensure they have a seat at the table for decisions on political and workplace reform.

Today, Labor will pledge to force companies to publicly share data relating to the gender pay gap. “We must remember IWD started as International Working Women’s Day. Over a century later women are still being exploited for our labour, particularly if we are further marginalised by virtue of our race, sexuality, disability and so forth,” says activist Celeste Liddle. She’s backed up by a new report from the Grattan Institute that found Australian women were hit by a “triple whammy” during the Covid-19 induced recession: more likely to lose their jobs, do a lot more unpaid work, and less likely to get government support.

Speaking of the Covid crash: state economies are planning to lean heavily on consumer spending for economic recovery; Queensland is going as far as to hand out 15,000 travel vouchers in an attempt to stimulate domestic tourism.


A boy rides a bike in the sun
‘People really need to understand that it is extremely dangerous to live in these kind of temperatures because the body struggles to cool down from those extremes.’ Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

How much heat can western Sydney bear? Geography and development makes it far hotter than the city’s east, but there’s little agreement on the solution to increasingly “dangerous” temperatures.

Australia has cut ties with Myanmar following last month’s violent military coupredirecting aid and suspending its limited bilateral Defence Cooperation Program.

The Morrison government is facing growing backlash from the disability community over a plan to introduce “independent assessments” to the national disability insurance scheme by the middle of the year.

When the world found out about the history of the use of neck chains on Indigenous people in 1905, they were banned. But they were reinstated just a year later and used for another 52 years. Chris Owen investigates the history of a barbaric practice.

The world

People protest against Switzerland’s ban on wearing a full face veil in public
People protest against Switzerland’s ban on wearing a full face veil in public spaces, which has been approved in a national referendum. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA

Switzerland has narrowly voted to ban women from wearing the burqa or niqab in public spaces, following France, Belgium and Austria. Muslim groups have criticised the move, which they say will further stigmatise and marginalise their community.

China has called on the US to drop Trump-era sanctions, and warned against “bullying” and interference in what Beijing considers internal affairs, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.

The US will retaliate for last week’s missile strike against an airbase in Iraq when it chooses, defence secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday – adding that Iraq should “choose to do the right thing” and investigate quickly.

A string of British ports have said they will not be ready for Brexit customs checks by the July deadline, and are urging the government to delay the next wave of red tape.

Recommended reads

“Fans of Seinfeld understand the perverse pleasures of spending time with the Costanza family – watching these pugnacious people bicker and yell and jump down each other’s throats.” But for a true masterclass in the art of the squabble, says Luke Buckmaster, turn to Mother and Son. “This great Australian sitcom is so devoted to arguments that watching it feels almost like a form of assault.”

A new gameshow has vaulted him into the mainstream, but Dominic Di Tommaso has been all over social media for years. And the parkour pro is now worlds away from his childhood as a competitive figure skater. “Ice skating isn’t very cool,” he tells Jenny Valentish. “It’s one of those things that definitely ostracised me a bit.”

“I cannot stand the toxic atmosphere of glee around the link between coronavirus and obesity,” writes Zoe Williams. “It is not news that there is a connection between Covid mortality rates and a country’s obesity level. For a lot of people … it is a sound moral outcome – undisciplined people who had it coming got it … Fat-shamers have felt enabled by Covid, and it’s hard to fight back.”


A line of people on skis amid mist and darkness
The Disaster of Dyatlov Pass is one of Russia’s biggest unsolved mysteries. Photograph: Georgiy Krivonischenko courtesy

In 1959, 10 experienced hikers were mysteriously killed in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Conspiracy theories circled for years – and today’s on Full Story, a volcanologist explains how an unlikely pairing of science and the movie Frozen may have helped solve the (very) cold case.

Full Story

How a Disney movie helped solve a decades-old adventure mystery

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


‘With six consecutive wins under their belt and the kind of confidence that such success breeds, the only question is what next?’
‘With six consecutive wins under their belt and the kind of confidence that such success breeds, the only question is: what next?’ Photograph: Rob Prezioso/AAP

Challengers are ever present but the Magpies look primed to go all the way this AFLW season. “In such a short season, there’s little room for error, for lapses in judgment or missteps. The pointy end requires not just precision, strength and focus,” writes Kirby Fenwick. “It requires belief.”

Decay sets in after a drubbing: a heavy A-League loss to their crosstown rivals is symptomatic of a greater malaise at Melbourne Victory, writes Jonathan Howcroft.

Media roundup

Gine Rinehart has topped the Australian Financial Review’s International Women’s Day Rich Women List. The New Daily reports that parliament has been flooded with “gut-wrenching” stories and complaints pleading for further increases to the jobseeker payment. And according to the Saturday Paper, experts believe that at the current rate Australia’s vaccine rollout deadline is impossible.

Coming up

The Sussexes’ interview with Oprah Winfrey airs on Sunday night in the US – inspiring plenty of commentary even before the fact.

The ABC will air the second part in their Inside the Canberra Bubble series tonight, likely to keep the controversies in parliament firmly in the spotlight.

And if you’ve read this far…

Learn from the mistakes of leading royal commentators and consider watching the Oprah interview before you weigh in. Four commentators gave interviews to a fake news company created by two YouTuber pranksters on Friday, two days before the interview was aired. The duo insisted that they weren’t leading the commentators on or “feeding them lines”, simply asking “broad stroke questions that you simply cannot answer if you have not seen the interview”.

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