Morning mail: Novavax vaccine delay, key evidence in Ben Roberts-Smith trial, celluloid classic

Good morning. Australia’s vaccination program has hit another hurdle and Covid testing labs are “drowning” from record testing turnouts. Thankfully we have the Olympics to add some entertainment amid lockdown uncertainty – including the viral success of one wild Australian swim coach. Stay tuned to Guardian Australia’s live updates throughout the day.

One of the federal government’s key vaccine deals has been hit with major delays, with 51m doses of Novavax not expected until 2022. The vaccine was initially touted as a “primary” vaccine, but will now form part of the booster strategy. The company, which has never brought a vaccine to market, has reported supply issues as a major hurdle and has not yet applied to the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for approval. The government is now focusing on securing more Pfizer shots, which will now be made available for supermarket workers in south-west Sydney. NSW will also set up walk-in clinics for AstraZeneca vaccine shots in south-west and western Sydney. Premier Gladys Berejiklian foreshadowed the state’s strict lockdown would continue but with some possible changes after the state recorded 145 new cases and two deaths yesterday.

As the vaccine rollout in Australia continues to navigate hurdles, abroad more EU nations are moving to restrict access to venues without proof of vaccination. Ireland and Italy are among those joining France in requiring vaccine passes to enter bars and restaurants as a range of policies are being tried out across Europe to push reluctant people into receiving jabs. Meanwhile in the US, the government has announced the Department of Veterans Affairs will become the first federal agency to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations among staff and researchers have found the number of Covid cases across the US may have been undercounted by as much as 60%.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last 24 hours, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the viral video of swim coach Dean Boxall’s wild celebration after Ariarne Titmus beat defending champion Katie Ledeckie to win gold at the Toyko Olympics in the women’s 400m freestyle. Titmus said she was unsurprised when she heard about Boxall’s sudden viral stardom, saying, “That’s just the way Dean is. He’s very passionate about what he does – he really becomes quite animated.” You can follow all the Olympic action at our live blog, or sign up for daily updates.


The first Afghan witness in Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial has told court he saw his uncle’s body being dragged into the bush after ‘a big soldier’ kicked him down a steep embankment.
The first Afghan witness in Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial has told court he saw his uncle’s body being dragged into the bush after ‘a big soldier’ kicked him down a steep embankment. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

“A big soldier” kicked a handcuffed Afghan villager down a steep embankment, before the man’s body was later seen being dragged into an orchard, a court has heard in a pivotal day of evidence in Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial.

The ongoing “failure” of Australia’s top legal officers to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years old has seen almost 500 under-13s sent to jail in the past year alone.

Covid tests are being flown interstate for diagnosis as labs in Sydney are “drowning” from the record testing turnouts that have led to result wait times of up to 10 days.

Laws allowing the home affairs minister to cancel the Australian citizenship of a dual national suspected of terrorist activities are being challenged in the high court, with his lawyers arguing this power should be reserved for a judge.

The world

Fifty-two people are being held in prison units in England and Wales in conditions that a UN human rights expert has said may amount to torture. Concerns have been raised that the close supervision centres expose inmates to prolonged and indefinite periods of isolation.

Flash flooding of the type seen in London this weekend will become a more common occurrence as the climate crisis worsens, scientists have warned. The UK government has also been warned that measures to cope with the impacts of extreme weather are urgently needed.

Tunisia’s president Kais Saied has been accused of staging coup after suspending parliament and dismissing his prime minister.

Recommended reads

Low-budget indie horror film Lake Mungo is a forgotten Australian treasure.
Low-budget indie horror film Lake Mungo is a forgotten Australian treasure. Photograph: After Dark Films

Has Australia completely forgotten about its best and scariest homegrown film, Lake Mungo? Little trace is left of the 2008 indie movie in its home country, despite it developing a cult following overseas for being truly terrifying. It’s set up in a documentary style, but unlike it’s counterparts in the post-Blair Witch horror movies, it doesn’t rely on jump scares to spook. “AKA Mungo largely foregoes shocks in favour of a spine-tingling atmosphere of dread. The film-makers don’t rest on the format as a vehicle for cheap thrills – this is the rare low-budget spooker that convincingly doubles as a portrait of bereavement,” writes James Robert Douglas.

There is a moral cost to doing the greatest good for the greatest number, particularly when it comes to Sydney’s lockdown, writes Sheila Ngoc Pham. “Over the past few years I’ve been lecturing to postgraduate university students about the ethics of public health interventions. I discuss how utilitarianism is the philosophical basis which often underpins our decision-making in Australia: the greatest good for the greatest number. But I always make a point of discussing the moral cost of utilitarianism. That even when we decide an intervention is justifiable, it is unconscionable to not acknowledge that for a majority to gain, a minority will probably suffer.”


It’s been a tumultuous start for the Tokyo Olympics with protests outside the opening ceremony, a series of controversies around sexism and racism, and some athletes testing positive for Covid-19. Despite ongoing concerns about an outbreak, athletes are persevering, with predictions of a record year for the Australian medal tally. In today’s Full Story, deputy sports editor Emma Kemp discusses the highs and lows of the Olympics so far, and what to watch out for in the Games ahead.

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


When the Olympic Games were postponed last year Jack McLoughlin almost walked away from swimming. Luckily, the Australian swapped retirement for the podium and won silver in the 400m freestyle on the opening day of swimming finals.

Media roundup

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had told the Australian it’s too early to tell if Australia will fall into a recession due to Covid, despite treasury estimating that lockdowns in three states are costing the economy $2.15bn a week. The ABC spent $26.3m on legal costs over the past four years but denied a freedom of information request by the Daily Telegraph to detail what the money was spent on. And the Sydney Morning Herald report former special forces soldier Ben Roberts-Smith displayed a contentious Crusader’s cross on his uniform while on duty in Afghanistan.

Coming up

Parliamentary inquiry into mobile payments and digital wallets.

Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial continues with cross-examination of an Afghan witness.

And if you’ve read this far …

A Florida man startled beachgoers when he washed ashore inside a hybrid bubble-running wheel device. Reza Baluchi told the coast guard he was headed 1,600km north in a running wheel contraption but ended up 48km south.

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