Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 28 February.

Top stories

The spread of the coronavirus around the world could trigger economic damage on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis, analysts have warned, amid growing concerns over the fallout from the deadly disease. On Thursday Scott Morrison announced Australia was enacting its emergency response plan, as “there is every indication the world will soon enter the pandemic phase of the virus”. The implications may be profound for Australians travelling overseas and the broader Australian economy. Among other global developments, Saudi Arabia has closed the two holiest shrines of Islam to foreign travellers and the UK’s chief medical officer warned that schools and offices could be closed for two months.

The Great Barrier Reef remains at risk from widespread coral bleaching despite momentary cooler water temperatures, US and Australian researchers have confirmed. “Everything is falling in line for a short, sharp bleaching event, but the severity of it is difficult to predict,” Townsville-based scientist Dr William Skirving said, estimating there was an 80% chance that most of the reef would experience bleaching during the first week of March. Dr Katharina Fabricius, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said: “The reef is still on a knife edge. The future of the reef now seems to depend on flukes of the weather.”

The government will signal a shift away from investment in wind and solar and towards hydrogen, lithium, and carbon capture and storage as Angus Taylor sheds more light on its technology roadmap in a speech on Friday. The emissions reduction minister has been critical of emissions target-setting, claiming the “top down” global approach has “failed”, instead preferring a technology investment roadmap indicating to the private sector “what future energy and emissions-reduction technologies the government will prioritise”.


Crew members prepare to disembark the Diamond Princess in Yokohama

Crew members prepare to disembark the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Yokohama. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

The services giant Broadspectrum has been attacked for a lack of transparency, with Australian cleaners donning hazmat suits to protest against the offer of an “all expenses paid” trip to Japan for NSW school cleaners that potentially involved working on the coronavirus-riddled Diamond Princess cruise ship.

State health ministers have called on the federal government to postpone a plan to outsource aged care assessment teams until the aged care royal commission is over. The federal government has denied its proposal will effectively privatise the industry.

Keith Pitt has rejected a call from fellow National John Barilaro for a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin, as tensions rise over conflicting claims to the water finally flowing down the river after recent rain.

The world

Julian Assange supporters

Julian Assange supporters protest outside court in London. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Julian Assange’s lawyers have argued his motivations for publishing classified documents were explicitly political, given “political offences” are exempted from the UK-US extradition treaty.

Plans for a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal in a landmark court ruling because ministers did not adequately take into account the UK government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis under the Paris agreement.

Nancy Pelosi has announced “wholehearted support” for whoever the Democratic nominee will be, allaying concerns that party centrists might move to block any nomination for Bernie Sanders.

Texts allegedly written by actor Johnny Depp contained death threats against his then wife Amber Heard, London’s high court has heard. In November 2013, Depp allegedly sent a text to actor Paul Bettany saying: “Let’s burn Amber.”

Recommended reads

Boxer Davey Browne in the ring

Boxer Davey Browne in the ring. Photograph: Supplied by Amy Lavelle

Nobody in boxing talks about concussion. At the inquest into the 2015 death of Sydney boxer Davey Browne Jr it was revealed the 28-year-old was already concussed when struck with a fatal blow. “I found it difficult to control my rising anger as, almost to a man – and they were all men – the officials who were responsible for Davey’s safety that night told the coroner in evidence they did not know the symptoms of concussion”, Stephanie Convery writes.

Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade has seen a kaleidoscope of rainbows and glitter across the years, but has it ever seen a 690kg guide dog? Meet Gulliver, the 4.3m assistance animal with a flashing cloak, flying the flag for the vision-impaired at one of the nation’s most optically spectacular events, which this year will feature audio describers.

Brigid Delaney has seen the future of sex toys – and she’s amazed. “The sex tech industry is growing fast – it is worth $30bn as of 2020 – while the sexual wellness industry at large is forecast to hit $122.6bn by 2026,” she writes. After two days in a trendy Melbourne co-working space designing sex toys, it’s clear the future of sex looks a lot different to that found in shady, old-school sex shops.


Queensland police have a problem with domestic violence, after comments on the murder of Queensland woman Hannah Clarke and her three young children sparked widespread anger. This episode of Full Story breaks down some big misconceptions around domestic violence and explains how these attitudes, when held by police, can impede justice for victims.

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s news podcast, released every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Australia’s T20 women’s team has finally put on a show befitting their quality, with openers Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney smashing a record 151-run partnership, sweeping aside Bangladesh.

A takeover bid from a London-based cryptocurrency organisation has failed after Perth Glory’s chairman undertook due diligence. But just how did football and tokenised ecosystems come to meet? Cartoonist David Squires explains.

Media roundup

Two wealthy Australian businessmen have been named in an Italian court case dealing with the ’Ndrangheta mafia, the Age reports. A leading virologist has warned that a coronavirus pandemic is inevitable, the Australian reports, stating cheerily that “at some point … we’re all going to get infected”. And Tasmania appears set to get an NBL team for the 2021-22 competition, the Mercury says, with a local council set to approve the sale of the Derwent Entertainment Centre to the Chargers franchise.

Coming up

The New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is in Sydney today to meet Scott Morrison, with immigration matters, coronavirus and climate change likely to be on the agenda.

Coronial inquest findings into the death of Indigenous man Eric Whittaker, who died in custody while shackled to a hospital bed, will be handed down in Sydney today.

And if you’ve read this far …

It proved too good to be true. A Chinese news broadcaster reported that Beijing was preparing to send 100,000 ducks to Pakistan to help solve the nation’s worst locust invasion in two decades, with the story attracting 520m views online. But it was later disavowed. Although ducks are proven bug-busters, experts said they would struggle to cope with Pakistan’s desert conditions.

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