Morning mail: land clearing blamed for koala deaths | Australia news

Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Tuesday 10 April.

Top stories

Land clearing in Queensland is 15 times more destructive to the state’s koala populations than urban sprawl, analysis by WWF has found. The loss of koala habitat for housing and infrastructure was considered a key reason the koala was added to the “vulnerable” species list in 2012. But the analysis by the conservation scientist Martin Taylor has challenged the idea that the state’s koala populations are most at threat by the growth of Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Taylor concludes that of more than 5,000 estimated koala deaths owk g to loss of habitat in Queensland from 2012 to 2016, almost 94% occurred outside the heavily developed south-east.

Queensland is in the middle of heated debate about new tree-clearing laws. The Palaszczuk government has tabled a bill to restore many of the restrictions that were removed by the Newman government in 2013. Taylor said once-thriving populations of koalas in the south-east corridor had “collapsed” over several decades. But he said the scale of that threat to koalas was now dwarfed by the clearing of agricultural land.

The multicultural affairs minister, Alan Tudge, has criticised Barnaby Joyce’s foray into the Coalition’s simmering leadership debate as the government recorded its 80th consecutive loss in the Guardian Essential poll. Speaking on the ABC’s Q&A program, Tudge was critical of Joyce’s comment earlier on Monday that Turnbull would need to consider a leadership transition if his performance did not improve by Christmas. “I don’t think it was a particularly useful contribution from Barnaby this afternoon,” Tudge said. The conservatives Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton both used Monday’s negative Newspoll milestone as a trigger to express interest in the top job.

Donald Trump has condemned the “heinous” chemical attack on a Damascus suburb, and said he would decide within 24 to 48 hours whether to launch military reprisals against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. “We cannot allow atrocities like that,” the US president said. He had “not much doubt” about who was behind the poison gas attack in Douma that killed more than 48 people and affected hundreds more. The UN security council was due to meet on Monday afternoon in New York, where the US and its allies were expected to accuse Moscow of covertly endorsing the Syrian government’s repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg will defend the social platform as a “positive force in the world” when he addresses Congress on Tuesday, while admitting he made a “big mistake” in not doing enough to protect users’ privacy. “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” Zuckerberg’s statement reads. “But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well. That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.” In two days of hearings, Zuckerberg will be grilled over the company’s privacy policies in the wake of revelations that Cambridge Analytica had access to data on 87 million of its users.

Bill Cosby faced a topless protester on the first day of his sexual assault retrial, after the first trial collapsed in June last year when the jury failed to reach a verdict. The TV comic faces three charges of aggravated indecent assault in a Pennsylvania court, where he was seemed startled by protesters who brandished placards saying “Take rape seriously” and “Justice for survivors”. Cosby’s case is likely to be remembered as the first major celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.


Ariarne Titmus assumed the mantle of the best long-distance freestyle swimmer in the Commonwealth with victory in the women’s 800m final, before Bronte edged Cate in the battle of the Campbell sisters and Mitch Larkin underlined his credentials as the dominant force in backstroke on another hugely successful night in the pool for Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Cricket Australia is preparing for its most decisive week in years as it scrambles to get bidders to the table for the next six-year television rights package. But there is a risk of it becoming a disaster it can ill afford, and a poor result at the negotiating table would dwarf any reputational damage CA endured after the ball-tampering saga.

Thinking time

Darling river

When the waters of the Darling river drop, local Wilcannia elders say crime levels spike. The Barkandji are “the people of the river” and it has sustained them for thousands of years, but the river is now in crisis, they say. Anne Davies reports on the campaign to secure water rights for Indigenous communities along the river, who hope they can provide jobs and skills in the same way that stewardship of land has created jobs as rangers.

Six months ago Timothy Disken lay in a coma in Canada, with doctors unsure whether he would survive emergency brain surgery. Now, the swimmer is a dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and has so far won the equal-highest number of individual golds of any Australian athlete competing on the Gold Coast. “I’ve surprised myself, to be honest, with how well I’ve bounced back,” he says.

While the jobs boom has slowed slightly from its peak this year, there are a lot of figures to cheer about. Employment and hours worked are up, vacancies in the private sector are growing and the vacancy rate is higher even than in the mining boom years. But this is a changing economy, writes Greg Jericho. While growth in jobs for professionals continues apace, the news if you’re a labourer, salesperson or community and personal service worker is not so good.

What’s he done now?

Donald Trump has said he “will not rest” until he has secured America’s borders and restored the rule of law, in a three-minute Twitter video that calls California’s sanctuary bill “the jail-break bill”, accuses the state of withholding information on terrorists from the FBI and says California politicians are violating the constitutional rights of their citizens.

Media roundup

Front page of the Age

The Age reveals China is planning to build a military base on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. The paper reports negotiations between the countries are in the preliminary stages. The Australian says Peter Dutton proposed cutting the annual immigration rate by 20,000 last year but was rebuffed by Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison. And in part two of the the Daily Telegraph’s podcast series on the life and death of David Breckenridge, the paper investigates who could have murdered the “unlikely” victim.

Coming up

The federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, will meet his Western Australian counterpart, Alannah MacTiernan, and WA farmers to discuss the footage that revealed horrific conditions on a live export ship that left Perth bound for the Middle East.

The annual Apra awards, which recognise the best Australian songwriters over the past year, will be held in Sydney.

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