Morning mail: Labor still leads, Ardern deal on extremism, the danger of Palmer

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Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 16 May.

Top stories

The final Guardian Essential poll before the election puts Labor ahead of the Coalition 51.5% to 48.5%, and finds a majority of voters think Bill Shorten will be the winner on Saturday. The two-party-preferred measure shows no change from last week but the Coalition’s primary vote is fractionally up at 38.5% (from 38%) and Labor’s is up from 34% to 36.2%. Scott Morrison remains ahead of Shorten as preferred prime minister, but he has dropped three points in a week, slipping back to where he was just after the leadership spill last August. If Labor does win, it will face a demand from the Greens for $1bn to help workers and communities transition away from coalmining, export and power production, making a shift to renewable energy jobs central to any post-election negotiations.

World leaders and heads of global technology companies have pledged at a Paris summit to tackle terrorist and extremist violence online, in what they described as an “unprecedented agreement”. Wednesday’s event was two months to the day since the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand in which 51 people died. Known as the Christchurch Call, the agreement was organised by New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Britain, Canada, Australia, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Norway and Ireland signed the pledge, along with the European commission, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube. The US has refused to sign, citing concerns for free speech.

Australians’ Medicare details are still being illegally offered for sale on the darknet, almost two years after Guardian Australia revealed the serious privacy breach. Screenshots of the Empire Market show the vendor Medicare Machine has rebranded as Medicare Madness, offering Medicare details for $US21. Other vendors charge up to $US340 by offering fake Medicare cards alongside other fake forms of identification – such as a New South Wales driving licence.


Europe must reposition itself to stand up to the challenges posed by its three big global rivals, China, Russia and the US, Angela Merkel has said before her final European election as German chancellor. “The old certainties of the postwar order no longer apply.”

The fight to prevent Alabama from implementing a near-total ban on abortion is set to rage for months after the state senate made it a crime to perform the procedure at any stage of pregnancy.

Heavy metals and a cocktail of dangerous chemicals continue to poison Europe’s seas, with more than three-quarters of areas assessed showing contamination, according to a report by the European Environment Agency.

Israeli soldiers have shot and wounded 16 people at the Gaza frontier, on a day of rallies commemorating the mass displacement of Palestinians during the war that led to Israel’s creation in 1948.

Scientists have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code. The lab-made microbe, a strain of bacteria normally found in soil and the human gut, is similar to its natural cousins but survives on a smaller set of genetic instructions.

Opinion and analysis

As we embark on the final sprint to Saturday night, we need to talk about Clive Palmer, writes Katharine Murphy. Palmer’s fantasies have real-world consequences due to his incredible advertising spend and his preference deal with the Coalition, and we should be concerned about the rapid rise of a political shopfront for a billionaire that offers voters tag lines instead of detailed policies. “You wouldn’t think it could happen – that saturation advertising could make you a player in Australian public life rather than the potency of your ideas – but it clearly has happened.”

This week it emerged that the US government is discussing sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East for possible military action against Iran. The principal driving force behind this is Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, a man who thinks there is no problem to which the answer isn’t war, writes Owen Jones. “Bolton could exploit Trump’s ignorance of policy, an area in which he excels. While any war would not be popular with Trump’s base he could be convinced by Bolton that it is possible to escalate up to a point, then pull back at the brink … Feeling blasé about the danger? Well, consider this: all that stands between Bolton’s violent fantasy being executed is Donald Trump himself.”


Derby County have set up a showdown with Aston Villa to decide the last place in next season’s Premier League, after beating Leeds 4-2 in a pulsating Championship play-off semi-final second leg.

The Bulgarian boxer Kubrat Pulev has been fined, suspended and ordered to take sexual harassment prevention classes after kissing a reporter. Pulev, 38, kissed Jennifer Ravalo without consent when she was interviewing him following his victory in March over Romania’s Bogdan Dinu.

Thinking time: Why is Australia a poor, rich country?

Australia is now the wealthiest country in the world, yet poverty rates have remained persistently high over decades of economic growth, with more than three million Australians, including 739,000 children, living below the relative poverty line. Why and how does poverty remain entrenched while wealth bounds on? The answer isn’t only about economics, but also about culture. Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive officer of the Australian Council of Social Service, explores the toxic forces at play behind Australia’s shameful poverty rates, including misogyny, violence, racism and class discrimination.

“For too long, it has been a political sport to vilify and demonise people who need to rely on income support. Politicians have persisted in generating tabloid media stories that paint people as lazy and drug- and alcohol-afflicted, and suggest welfare fraud is rife. The facts are ignored.

“Our political leaders need to accept their responsibility to confront these forces and help support people struggling to move out of poverty. Politicians would do well to listen to people affected by poverty and get behind them, rather than stomping around, preaching about the ‘dignity of work’ and blaming people for their own misfortune.”

Media roundup

Pacific states have discussed the impending “global catastrophe” that is climate change, with some blaming their much larger neighbour, Australia, the ABC reports. At a meeting in Fiji convened by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, Pacific leaders discussed their lives on the “front line of climate change”. Outgoing Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart has warned that bad apples remain in the state’s police service, the Courier Mail reports, and he would have sacked them if he could. The Australian carries a long interview with Labor leader Bill Shorten, saying he has often been underestimated but ambition continues to pulse through his veins. “I’ve been interested in politics since my teenage years,” says Shorten. “So at some point in my late teens, I thought I’d like to be prime minister.”

Coming up

Scott Morrison will address the National Press Club at in Canberra.

The ABS will publish data on April’s employment and unemployment figures this morning.

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