Good morning. Melbourne is in lockdown, China and the US are at odds, and there’s more tension between the UK and the EU it’s Groundhog Day Friday 28 May, and this is Imogen Dewey with the main stories to see out your week.

Victorians are waking up in lockdown (again) after the government opted for tough measures to contain a growing Melbourne-based Covid-19 cluster. For those in the state, here’s a list of the latest rules and exposure sites. Amid mounting concern this wave could have become “uncontrollable”, the Morrison government is under attack over “failed” quarantine arrangements and the sluggish pace of the national vaccine rollout. Families of residents at an unvaccinated Melbourne aged care home were “flabbergasted” by comments from the aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, who claimed earlier yesterday that those not yet vaccinated had “chosen not to take the jab”. And Victoria’s vaccine hotline crashed for hours, inundated with calls after the state government’s decision to open up vaccinations to those aged over 40 (announced with the lockdown).

The Biden White House’s decision to look into whether coronavirus could have escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan has opened a new divide in already tense US-China relations. Beijing reacted angrily, railing against the “notorious track record” of US intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq. So what is known so far about the origins of Covid-19 and what does this means for the lab leak theory? Check out our explainer here.

And a group of not-for-profit and philanthropy experts has warned that a planned crackdown on charities by the Coalition will muzzle the sector and restrict dissent. The federal government is pursuing regulatory change that would allow charities to be deregistered if a volunteer commits a summary offence, the most minor of legal breaches – a change that could threaten the right of almost 59,000 registered not-for-profits to engage in political advocacy.


A Centrelink sign
Employment consultants have offered a scathing assessment of the mutual obligations system. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

Australia’s job agency providers are generally unsatisfied with the welfare mutual obligations scheme, a draft review says, concluding it did not “improve the likelihood of employment”.

A leading mouse expert is reassuring city slickers (ie, people in Sydney) that the plague affecting parts of rural NSW is not spreading to the city – despite increased sightings recorded on a tracking map.

A Senate hearing yesterday revealed that a senior adviser from Scott Morrison’s office attended a meeting in April 2019 to discuss dismissing the Liberal staffer who Brittany Higgins has accused of sexual assault. Labor scrutinised Morrison’s claim that his office had been unaware of the allegation until February 2021 because before then its staff had believed the man was dismissed for a “security breach”.

Australia’s disability discrimination commissioner has revealed he took part in the national disability insurance scheme trial of independent assessments and found the experience “unsatisfactory”.

Christian Porter’s defamation bid against the ABC yesterday suffered a hammer blow after a federal court judge ruled that his star barrister would have to stand down from the case.

The world

The Ryanair plane lands at Vilnius airport
The Ryanair plane lands at Vilnius airport in Lithuania after being diverted to the Belarusian capital under the escort of a MiG-29 fighter jet. Photograph: EPA

Russia has retaliated against a ban on carriers entering Belarus’s airspace by refusing to grant permission to European planes flying to Moscow. The move follows Sunday’s “hijacking” of a Ryanair plane flying between Greece and Lithuania, and the arrest of two passengers onboard.

The UN’s main human rights body will launch an investigation into “systematic discrimination and repression” in Israel and Palestine, with the aim of identifying what it said were the root causes of Gaza bloodshed.

Facebook has been accused of “discriminatory and racist” behaviour after it deleted historical photos from a group that publishes archival photos of men and women from Papua New Guinea.

Joe Biden’s administration has been condemned by environmentalists for opting to defend the approval of a Trump-era Alaska oil and gas drilling project – though a “cataclysmic day” for three major oil companies has sparked climate hope worldwide.

And as EU tourists complain of fingerprinting at the UK border, where they say they are being detained and treated “like criminals”, Switzerland has walked out of seven-year treaty talks with the EU.

Recommended reads

An illustration of a praying mantis
‘After watching the video I wished I had been decapitated. Don’t get me wrong: I love mantises so much it is pathetic.’ Illustration: Florilegius/Alamy

She bites into her mate’s head like an apple and cleans her face “like a cat”. Helen Sullivan looks closer at the praying mantis: her reproductive rituals, experiments with “tiny homemade 3D glasses” and folkloric meanings around the world. “The symbolism that feels truest to me is South Africa’s: their appearance in the home means your ancestors are present: it is a blessing … Except when they are mating. Oh god, don’t remind me of the mating.”

Rainbow, reusable bubblewrap has become a playground must-have as pop its and other sensory silicone fidget toys take over TikTok. As one expert notes, fidgeting behaviour is quite widespread and the fact it’s becoming more recognised has led to an increase in innovation around these products. But are they a passing fad, a concentration aid, or both? Sarah Ayoub investigates.

“As Beautiful as Any Other is an education and a gift,” Bec Kavanagh writes of the debut memoir from the tsunami scientist and writer Kaya Wilson. “He couples personal insight and lived experience with a highly intellectual understanding of the factors at play in the way cis-society understands and relates to transgender people, using his own experience to reflect more broadly on masculinity, misogyny and #MeToo; on intergenerational shame and the dehumanising politics of the Australian postal vote for marriage equality … He writes with an expectation that people can do better, and provides plenty of opportunities for them to do so.”

Plus: readers and children’s authors share what The Very Hungry Caterpillar (and its author, Eric Carle) meant to them.


Deaths in custody protesters
The federal government has been criticised for taking too long to produce information which could drive policy reform as required by the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody more than 30 years ago. Photograph: Richard Milnes/Rex/Shutterstock

This week the Australian Institute of Criminology told the Senate it would report on Aboriginal deaths in custody every six months, up from every two years. Today on Full Story, Lorena Allam and Calla Wahlquist explain why this matters, and what led to this win for families who have campaigned for decades.

Full Story

Why better reporting on Aboriginal deaths in custody matters for families seeking justice



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


Naomi Osaka has surprised the tennis world by declaring days before the start of the French Open that she won’t be speaking to press due to the mental health impact. “It’s a big loss for tennis,” writes Tumaini Carayol. “The grand slam winner is one of the sport’s most engaging characters and her silence will be keenly felt.”

The AFL is again scrambling to keep its season on track as Victorians enter a seven-day circuit-breaker lockdown in response to the growing Covid-19 cluster.

Media roundup

The Age reports that Avalon airport is earmarked as a likely location for a “village-style quarantine facility” for international travellers. Experts have told the Sydney Morning Herald that demystifying Covid vaccine side-effects might boost uptake levels. According to the Australian, an Icac investigation “has expanded to the highest levels of Gladys Berejiklian’s cabinet”. And the Financial Review has named Australia’s 200 richest people.

Coming up

A parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s skilled migration program, Victoria’s budget estimates hearings and the disability royal commission continue.

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