Morning mail: two dead in XPT train crash, Trump ally jailed, anger at Queensland police

Richard Parkin

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 21 February.

Top stories

Two people have died after the Sydney to Melbourne XPT derailed in Victoria on Thursday evening, with witnesses saying the train was travelling about 100km/h before it left the tracks near Wallan, approximately 45km north of Melbourne. There were 160 people were on board, with the two dead believed to have been travelling in the drivers’ carriage. Four others remain in a stable condition, with one person airlifted to Melbourne for medical care. “Initially we were all just stunned, people went flying, stuff went flying,” one passenger recalled.

Former Trump ally Roger Stone has been sentenced to 40 months prison, for obstructing the congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone is the sixth presidential aide convicted in a criminal case relating to the Mueller investigation, with Judge Amy Jackson finding the consultant “flat out lied” to congress, and that “his pride in his own lies [were] a threat to the very foundation of this democracy”. Stone could yet receive a presidential pardon, which Democratic impeachment leader Adam Schiff said would constitute a “breathtaking act of corruption”.

One in eight Australians are living in poverty, that’s the damning statistic from a new report by the Australian Council of Social Services, including more than 700,000 children. Unaffordable housing, a lack of jobs and the low rate of Newstart were “locking people in poverty”, Acoss’s chief executive Cassandra Goldie said. The report also found that the poverty gap – the difference between the poverty line and the average incomes of people in poverty – had risen to $282 a week.


Anthony Albanese will commit Labor to adopting a target of net-zero Australian emissions by 2050, without using carryover credits from the Kyoto agreement. Photograph: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Anthony Albanese is poised to commit Labor to a net-zero emissions target by 2050, saying that the nation’s bushfire emergency highlights the need for national leadership and a “real target”, dismissing any use of carryover credits from Kyoto to reach future commitments.

Advocates for victims of domestic violence have angrily criticised Queensland police, following a senior officer’s speculation that the perpetrator of a gruesome car fire attack that killed his wife and three children had perhaps been “driven too far” and that police would keep an “open mind” about his possible motivations.

Myanmar’s commander in chief – recommended for prosecution over genocide and war crimes by the UN – has met and exchanged gifts with Australia’s ambassador. Human Rights Watch has condemned the meeting, saying it lent legitimacy to a military accused of mass atrocities.

The Great Barrier Reef is facing a third major coral bleaching inside half a decade, if high ocean temperatures do not drop inside the next fortnight, scientists have warned. Around two-thirds of the reef are between 2-3C above average temperatures.

The world

A woman lights candles at a makeshift memorial in Hanau, near Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

The murder of nine people in the German town of Hanau by a suspected rightwing extremist has revealed the “poison” of racism and hate, chancellor Angela Merkel has said. The gunmen targeted two shisha bars before killing himself and his mother.

The Irish parliament is headed for deadlock over electing a new taoiseach, with no nominee expected to win a majority in votes following the 8 February election. The stalemate could lead to an unprecedented grand coalition between centrist rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael after the former ruled out working with Sinn Féin.

Doctors will know within a few weeks whether drugs used for HIV or Ebola could prove effective against the coronavirus, following World Health Organisation trials conducted inside China. The current death tolls from the virus stands at over 2,100.

Elizabeth Warren’s flagging bid to become the Democratic presidential candidate has revived, after the Massachusetts senator raised $2.8m in donations following a fiery Democratic debate performance in Las Vegas earned her widespread praise.

Recommended reads

It was the swimming pool at the centre of one of Australia’s most racially charged episodes, but 55 years after Moree pool became a major flashpoint during Charlie Perkins’ 1965 Freedom Rides, it is dividing the community once again. With its $9 entry fee – the second highest for a council-run pool anywhere else in New South Wales – local elders claim the facility is effectively pricing out Indigenous people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, with youth holiday program operators maintaining it is cheaper to arrange a bus and travel 100km to a pool in nearby Narrabri. Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam reports from Moree – hear more about this story on this week’s episode of Full Story.

“It’s stressful to be you”. That’s the verdict from old friend Chris after Brigid Delaney loses her phone in an Uber, leaves her laptop in a taxi and ruins her styled-for-TV-hair in the rain, on a day where she ends up not being on TV. Oh, and her life coach tells her to take up the xylophone “as a relaxing hobby”.

Welcome to Can’t Do Tomorrow – a festival involving over 140 street artists stretching across three floors of a giant old warehouse in Melbourne’s inner-west. Normally a transient event in soon-to-be demolished buildings, after securing a four-year lease to the site, the ten-day festival is just the first of several ventures aiming to give street culture “the recognition it deserves”, writes Ben Eltham.


He’s the volunteer firefighter who told the prime minister to “go and get fucked”, but after his own political leanings were revealed has Paul Parker gone from hero to villain for many? In her first episode of The Frant for Guardian Australia, Jan Fran unpacks it all.


The Women’s T20 World Cup offers an opportunity to lay an easily locatable marker that signals the future viability and vitality of the sport. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

The seventh Women’s T20 World Cup gets underway in Sydney tonight, and with clean air in cricket’s summer programming the tournament could boost the prominence of the women’s game astronomically, writes Geoff Lemon.

Roger Federer will miss up to four months of tennis including the French Open, after the 38-year-old Swiss announced he needs minor surgery on his right knee. The 20-slam champion maintains he still has Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics in sight.

Media roundup

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has apologised after conceding the state government’s signature Metro project could go over budget by up to $3bn, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Sport Australia’s Kate Palmer has agreed to give evidence to the inquiry into the sports grants debacle, writes the ABC, with the former chief executive expected to be heavily critical of the government’s process in selecting grant recipients. And, a team of scientists at the University of NSW could be close to a major clean energy breakthrough, the Australian says, by developing a hydrogen-boron fusion technology that produces no emissions or waste and is potentially limitless.

Coming up

The case of the Tamil family from Biloela, who are facing deportation, will be heard in the federal court. The family are currently at Christmas Island.

The Women’s T20 World Cup begins today with Australia taking on India in Sydney. Follow every ball tonight with our liveblog, as play starts 7pm (AEDT).