Morning mail: Putin confronted by Austria’s leader, flood-related scams, Sydney’s last video shop

Tuesday: Austrian chancellor becomes first western leader to hold face-to-face talks with Russian president since invasion of Ukraine. Plus: Australia’s top travel experiences

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Good morning. Putin meets Austria’s chancellor in his first face-to-face visit with a western leader since the invasion of Ukraine. Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese will be out campaigning in marginal seats, with jobs and healthcare on the election agenda. And Lonely Planet selects Australia’s top travel experiences.

The last Ukrainian soldiers defending Mariupol said they were “running out of ammunition” on Monday and expected to be killed or taken prisoner very soon by Russian forces surrounding the city. Writing on Facebook, the 36th brigade said its 47-day defence of Mariupol was coming to a tragic conclusion. “We were bombed from airplanes and shot at by artillery and tanks. We have been doing everything possible and impossible,” it said. Meanwhile, Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said he told Vladimir Putin that “all those responsible” for war crimes must be brought to justice and warned that western sanctions would intensify as long as people kept dying in Ukraine. After becoming the first western leader to hold face-to-face talks with the Russian president since the invasion, Nehammer said his trip to Moscow was not “a visit of friendship” and that the two had had a “direct, open and hard” conversation.

Scammers have allegedly fleeced at least $50,000 through cons related to devastating flooding across Australia’s east coast, with criminals impersonating charities, emergency services and government departments in dozens of frauds. New South Wales police have received multiple reports about scams they said were “unthinkable”, but no arrests have yet been made. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said at least 45 scam reports related to flooding had been lodged with its Scamwatch project in NSW and Queensland since 1 February.

On the first official day of the 2022 election campaign, Labor leader Anthony Albanese stumbled over Australia’s jobless rate and the cash rate. There are other numbers politicians – and voters – should know and care about besides the price of a litre of milk or petrol, or a loaf of bread. Meanwhile, Liberal moderates have expressed concern that Scott Morrison has flagged committing during the election campaign to a ban on transgender women playing women’s sport.


Citipointe college entrance sign
Some employment contracts have used wording which suggests they could sack openly LGBTQ+ people, such as clause at Citipointe Christian college. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

Peak legal organisations and trade unions have joined calls to reform aspects of Queensland’s anti-discrimination laws, including scrapping a clause used by some religious groups to justify contracts that suggest they could sack LGBTQ+ staff.

Compared with most other countries, Australia was relatively unscathed by the pandemic, although its health results were achieved by severe measures. Scott Morrison said 40,000 lives had been saved. But how is this figure calculated, is it the whole story and who gets the credit for this boast?

Councils across Sydney’s west say some parents are forced to send their children to private schools due to the New South Wales government’s failure to plan for population growth, warning that it is exacerbating educational disadvantage.

Australia’s coming flu season is likely to be worse than in previous pandemic years, with experts warning against complacency around influenza vaccines.

Choosing Australia’s top travel experiences is not easy, and while many usual suspects appear in Lonely Planet’s list, some may even surprise locals.

The world

Sweden and Finland are officially non-aligned militarily with Nato
Sweden and Finland are officially non-aligned militarily with Nato. Photograph: Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden’s ruling party has begun debating whether the country should join Nato, and neighbouring Finland expects to reach a decision within weeks, as Moscow warned that the Nordic nations’ accession would “not bring stability” to Europe.

A prominent New Caledonian indigenous party has said that if France wants to have an economic and political stake in the Pacific – given China’s “omnipresence” in the region – it needs to grant New Caledonia a fourth referendum on independence and treat the Pacific island nation as a partner, rather than a colony.

Six new alpine species of New Zealand’s most unusual and beloved insect – the wētā – have been discovered, but it is a bittersweet victory, with another piece of research describing the threat global heating poses for their snowy mountain habitat.

The first all-women media house in Somalia has been launched, creating a rare opportunity for female journalists in the country to research and publish stories they want to tell.

Johnny Depp has lost one high-profile defamation case involving his ex-wife, Amber Heard, in a London court. On Monday, the 58-year-old actor launched a sequel in Fairfax, Virginia, as part of an effort to refute career-damaging allegations that he abused Heard during their three-year marriage.

Recommended reads

Silhouette of Jodie Sharp surrounded by trees
Jodie Sharp gave up weed with the help of Marijuana Anonymous. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

Jodie Sharp’s days were all broken up the same way. “I smoked to go to work, smoked to do the washing-up, smoked for chill time.” Sharp used a little metal pipe, and she often ran her tongue over the hard skin on her lip where the pipe sat. Her lungs hurt, her gums bled. “I thought, ‘This is crazy. Why am I doing this at this time of my life?’” She was 60 years old and had been smoking marijuana for most of her adult life. But one day, waiting on the corner for her weekly £60 bag of weed, she saw herself from the outside, and felt “sick and tired” of what she saw. So she quit, and in time, began to dream again.

The Australian government has been releasing refugees from its onshore detention over the past month, ending several years of detention for many, in a move shrouded in secrecy. Mehdi, an Iranian refugee who was detained on Nauru and in Australia from 2013 until last month, asks: how is it that some refugees have been detained long enough, while others even more vulnerable remain prisoners offshore?

As Sydney’s “last, best” video shop closes, what’s the future for physical media in Australia, and for the communities who collect them?


From the cancellation of performances of Tchaikovsky to the exit of Ikea and McDonald’s from Moscow, there has been a rush to boycott all things Russian. But what impact do these official and unofficial economic protests have?

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


A pitch invader carrying a flare is tackled by security during the NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers at PointsBet Stadium
A pitch invader carrying a flare is tackled by security during the NRL match between Cronulla Sharks and Wests Tigers at PointsBet stadium. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Wests Tigers captain, James Tamou, wants the actions of a protester carrying a flare to serve as a wake-up call for NRL officials after four mid-match pitch invasions at Pointsbet stadium. The flare-carrying pitch invader was on Monday fined and sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to two charges in Sutherland local court.

Media roundup

One man is in custody after a young person was fatally stabbed and another injured during a brawl at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, the ABC reports. An environmental group has won a temporary injunction against the logging of two north-west Tasmania forestry coupes – in the wake of revelations Tasmanian logging may have been illegal for decades, the Mercury reports.

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