Wednesday: Returned travellers spot holes in Sydney’s hotel quarantine program. Plus: animals, aliens and the 2020 news you may have missed

Good morning, this is Tamara Howie bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 23 December.
Top stories
Australians returning from overseas have described weaknesses and complacency in Sydneys hotel quarantine system, which they fear could contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Most travellers had positive impressions of the program, but some spotted potential issues, including bus drivers not wearing masks while transporting passengers from the airport to hotels. The latest outbreak has devastated families with sudden border closures and cancelled holidays, with tourism businesses in regional Australia reportedly losing up to 85% of summer bookings. But while some industries have been left in limbo by the pandemic, social media platform OnlyFans has seen a boom in popularity of content makers.
In international coronavirus news, US top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has had his vaccination jab and says he hopes this will encourage millions of other Americans to do the same. However, the road ahead is still bleak with California recording a half-million coronavirus cases in the past two weeks, overwhelming emergency rooms, and the UK recording its highest daily death toll since early May, with 691 deaths yesterday, and travel bans still in place across Europe from the UK. France is expected to reopen its border with the UK but only to its own nationals. And South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of Covid-19 infections which appears to be driven by a new and more infectious variant of the disease, similar to that in the UK.
Australias transport emissions are almost back to pre-pandemic levels after a drop due to lockdowns, exposing the countrys lack of policies to decarbonise the sector, new analysis shows. Energy data analysed for the Australia Institutes regular National Energy Emissions Audit shows the pandemics main effect on emissions was in the transport sector as people travelled less and stayed at home. But the report also found the amount of electricity being generated from renewable sources such as solar and wind continues to break records.
Investor groups and class action lawyers have denounced a Liberal-dominated parliamentary inquirys recommendation to permanently water down laws requiring listed companies to keep the market fully informed and called the recommendations an early Christmas present for corporate criminals.
Online platforms will need to remove severely harmful, abusive or bullying content within 24 hours or risk being blocked under the federal governments proposed online safety legislation.
Farmers in north-west NSW have launched a legal challenge against a decision by state authorities to approve the controversial $3.6bn Narrabri gas project. The Environmental Defenders Office will argue in court that the NSW government agency did not properly assess the projects impact on climate change.
Nicole Kidman has spoken about how playing the role of an abused wife in the hit TV show Big Little Lies gave her an insight into the plight of those suffering domestic abuse and hardened her resolve to use her voice to raise awareness. She has written a column exclusively for the Guardian in her role as UN women goodwill ambassador on the issue.
The world
Pakistani workers are working in appalling conditions making clothes for Boohoo. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian
The fast fashion brand Boohoo is selling clothes made by Pakistani factory workers who say they face appalling conditions, 24-hour shifts and are paid as little as 50c per hour, an investigation by the Guardian has found.
Trump loyalists Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham have urged the US president to block Joe Bidens goal to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal and Paris climate agreement. The pair are are reportedly pressing Trump to submit the deals to the chamber for ratification, in a last-minute attempt to scupper Democratic plans to take America back into the accords.
Vladimir Putin has signed legislation that will grant former presidents of Russia lifetime immunity once they leave office. The bill gives former presidents and their families immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during their lifetime and exemption from questioning by police or investigators, as well as searches or arrests.
An Italian judge who was killed by gunmen in the Sicilian mafia in 1990 will be beatified as a martyr, the Vatican has announced.
Recommended reads
Guardian Australia staff attend a gin-tasting at Gin Lane in Sydney. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian
Can non-experts guess the botanicals in a bottle of gin? Grant Collins, owner of Gin Lane in Sydney, selected six spirits from independent distilleries around Australia to put four Guardian Australia staff to the test with mixed results. Each of these gins is like a postcard from the place it was made, said one of the tasters.
This Christmas, there will be many families with an empty place at the table. Grieving relatives who could not spend the last moments with their dying loved ones or give them a proper funeral, deserve empathy for their sacrifice this year, writes Dr Ranjana Srivastava: I supported the [Victoria] lockdown but also struggled with the consequences for my patients. Indeed, for many frontline workers, the hardest part has been watching the public health interest clash with deeply human needs while appreciating the role of each.
You could be forgiven for not wanting to relive 2020, a year when horrendous bushfires and the global pandemic tainted almost everything. But moments of hope and humour seeped through, from the Black Lives Matter protests to TikTok parodies of Canberra press conferences. Here are the best and worst moments of Australian politics.
Animals running rampant, alien life and that infamous Zoom call these are just some of the news stories you might have missed amid the chaos this year. Columnists Brigid Delaney and Van Badham join host Gabrielle Jackson to discuss the news that flew under the radar in 2020.
Full Story is Guardian Australias daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.
We go again is one of the catch cries of modern football. The motto has been doing the rounds ahead of the new A-League season, as the competition stuck in a strange stagnance tries to move forward.
Rugby league players planning to take legal action against the sports authority for failure to protect them from neurodegenerative disease will have significant hurdles to overcome in the case, lawyers warn.
Media roundup
The Australian Open will look different to fans in 2021, according to the Herald Sun, with new Covid restrictions limiting free movement around the Melbourne Park site and splitting fans into three zones. Russian operatives attempted to hack NSW Health, Serco Asia Pacific and Rio Tinto through a compromised IT management system as part of one of biggest hacking attacks in history, which included breaches in several US government and IT agencies, reports the Australian. And the ABC reports Western Australian police have vowed to outnumber bikies at the funeral of slain rebels boss Nick Martin to ensure community safety.
Coming up
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will announce at 11am whether there will be Covid restrictions for Sydney over Christmas.
Claremont double murderer Bradley Robert Edwards is due to be sentenced.
And if youve read this far
Videos of Christmas light displays in Melbourne have gone viral with the light displays synchronised to the Daniel Andrews Get on the Beers remix the song that became Victorias soundtrack of the pandemic.