Good morning, this is Stephen Smiley bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 19 August.

Top stories

America’s military authority is waning and it is ill-prepared to go to war with China in the Indo-Pacific region, a new report from the United States Studies Centre has warned, arguing that Australia must move towards a shared reliance on a network of allies, in particular Asian militaries such as Japan’s, for its security. The report, Averting Crisis, says US defence strategy in the Indo-Pacific region is in “the throes of an unprecedented crisis”, created by a mismatch between Washington’s ambition to remain the region’s dominant military power and an overstretched armed force with falling and failing resources. The report comes as an estimated 1.7 million people in Hong Kong – a quarter of the population – have defied police orders by staging a peaceful march after a rally in a city park. After two months of clashes that have prompted severe warnings from Beijing and failed to win concessions from the city’s government, huge crowds filled Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon and spilled on to nearby streets, braving torrential downpours.

Australia’s role as a leader in the global fossil fuel trade is underscored by a report that finds it is the world’s third biggest exporter and fifth biggest miner of fossil fuel-related emissions. While political debate sometimes emphasises that Australia is responsible for 1.2% of global emissions at home, the analysis by progressive thinktank the Australia Institute says Australia is responsible for 7% of global fossil fuel exports based on their carbon dioxide potential.

Scott Morrison will use a speech today to suggest that the “trust deficit” in politics is worst among middle-income Australians, as he calls for greater use of corporate skills and diversity of viewpoints in the public service. In the address, which will be delivered to the Institute of Public Administration, the prime minister will suggest government ministers “must not allow a policy leadership vacuum to be created”, while warning public servants they must be “an enabler of government policy not an obstacle”.


Bomb aftermath Kabul

At least 60 people were killed during a wedding reception suicide bomb attack in Kabul. Photograph: Hedayatullah Amid/EPA

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bombing at a wedding hall in Kabul that killed at least 60 people and injured more than 200. Survivors said the bomber was standing by a stage where children and adults were dancing and clapping when he detonated his explosives vest.

A UN panel of experts has uncovered fragments of British-made laser guidance missile systems at an air raid site in Yemen, in a strike that it concluded breached international humanitarian law. The attacks took place in 2016, a month after then foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he was content to allow the export of weapons systems to Saudi Arabia.

More than two dozen rescue workers are battling to save two cavers trapped in a cavern in the Tatra mountains in Poland, after a narrow tunnel flooded with water. A representative of the rescue service said it had not yet been possible to establish contact.

New Zealand authorities are asking drivers to check their dashcams for footage of any hitchhikers near where the Australian surfer Sean McKinnon was killed. A man has faced court charged over the 33-year-old’s shooting murder at Raglan on Friday.

And a French waiter has been shot dead at a pizzeria on the outskirts of Paris for being “too slow with a sandwich order”, according to witnesses. Police have opened a murder investigation.

Opinion and analysis

Protesters hold up banners

Supporters of the gender-diverse birth certificate bill rally outside the Victorian parliament. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

There’s a strange dissonance inherent in being a living, breathing, three-dimensional trans person at a time when the concept of your existence is framed as an abstract topic for debate, writes Allison Gallagher. “Given that so much of the reactionary media’s focus is on the supposed idea that young people are being pressured into medical changes they will live to regret, it crosses one’s mind that the end goal here is about creating and maintaining a situation in which young people cannot imagine a future for themselves where they are comfortably trans, happy, supported. I have no business assuaging fears by arguing that trans people are just like anyone else. What I do have business telling you is that I am filled with deep gratitude that I was given the support and resources to transition when I did, around six years ago.”

Leaked UK government documents show that a disorderly Brexit must be avoided at all costs, writes Matthew d’Ancona. “Now that we know the full detail of the government’s Operation Yellowhammer assumptions about a no-deal Brexit, the term ‘Project Fear’ must be expunged from the respectable political lexicon. If you look to the heavens and see a UK-sized breeze block plummeting towards you, it is not ‘alarmism’, or – as Boris Johnson would put it – a failure of character and confidence, to try to avert its descent.”


Day five of the second Ashes Test

Rory Burns of England drops Pat Cummins of Australia off the bowling of Jack Leach of England during day five of the second Ashes Test. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

England got close but Australia held out, with the second Ashes Test at Lord’s ending in a draw. Despite Jack Leach and Jofra Archer claiming three wickets apiece, England ultimately ran out of time. In a scenario that two days ago was unthinkable, it was Marnus Labuschagne who ultimately shepherded the Australians to safety, batting through 30 overs to allow Australia to head for Leeds with their 1-0 lead intact.

Michael Cheika gave the Wallabies every chance to regain the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday night, except – that is – a game plan for wet weather. While the coach stuck with the team that upset the All Blacks 47-26 in Perth the previous week, giving the players the opportunity to bring back the Bledisloe and end a 16-year drought, the squad was ill-suited to rainy Auckland.

Thinking time: ‘The word “wife”: it’s a golden cage, swallow the key’

Jada Pinkett Smith

Jada Pinkett Smith in Beverly Hills. Photograph: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Imagine the scene. You’re a middle-aged woman, sitting around the table with your husband, your mother and your teenage daughter. Your husband is saying how hard he tried to give you the best 40th birthday party ever, and you didn’t appreciate it. Then you announce that you never wanted to get married in the first place because marriage is a trap, but your mother forced you into it because you were pregnant. Grandma responds that this is news to her, but agrees that your wedding was horrible. Your daughter is just staring at all of you and saying wow a lot.

Well, you don’t actually have to imagine it, because this is a real conversation that Hollywood stars Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith had at home in Calabasas, California, with their daughter, Willow and, Jada’s mother, Adrienne. And they weren’t alone: the conversation was recorded on camera as an episode of Jada’s series, Red Table Talk, an online discussion show which has become the breakthrough unscripted hit in social-media television.

Media roundup

The Australian reports that the Coalition’s commanding post-election opinion poll edge over Labor has slipped, with the latest Newspoll showing the government has a narrow 51-49 lead on two-party-preferred basis. The Age and Sydney Morning Herald report that China’s ambassador to Australia has warned the Morrison government not to interfere in its affairs by supporting “violent radicals” in Hong Kong. And the ABC reports that the AFP has confirmed it tipped off Cambodian police in a case that led to a Brisbane schoolteacher being sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Coming up

Josh Frydenberg will outline a road map for reforming the financial services sector by implementing the recommendations of the Hayne royal commission.

Asic will hold a public hearing in the lead-up to updating its responsible lending guidance. Witnesses will include NAB and ANZ representatives.