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What we learned: Saturday 24 December

05:43

With that, we will wrap the blog for today. Here were the main developments:

  • The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, said floods would peak at levels above the 1931 high-water mark. About 190 gigalitres of water was predicted to flow through the river at Renmark, which is a lower peak than the 220GL originally forecast.

  • Frustration grew among Qantas passengers stranded in Azerbaijan. Many took to social media urging the airline to provide an update about when they would be leaving the country they found themselves unexpectedly after their emergency landing Friday.

  • After 1pm, Qantas announced they had deployed a recovery flight from Australia for the stranded passengers.

Have a lovely Christmas eve, for those who celebrate!

 

05:42

De Minaur enjoys Agassi-like Open build-up

Borrowing a page from the playbook of four-time champion Andre Agassi, Alex de Minaur will spend Christmas Day pounding the pavement in pursuit of Australian Open glory.

Believing it’s high time for he or Nick Kyrgios to bust the 47-year men’s home title hoodoo in Melbourne, de Minaur planned to hit the practice courts four days out from Australia’s United Cup opener against Great Britain on December 29-30.

Agassi famously used to run up and down the mountains outside Las Vegas on Christmas Day until he threw up.

But while that was in the cool of winter, de Minaur is upping the ante in the Sydney summer heat after flying in from his Spanish base of Alicante.

The world No.24 said:

Every year I normally tend to spend Christmas in Oz. Normally, more often than that, on the tennis court just getting extra reps in and this year I will be again.

As they say, no rest for the wicked. There’s nothing better than getting some good old-fashioned gains.

Not content with last-16 appearances at Melbourne Park and Wimbledon this year, the 2020 US Open quarter-finalist craves a deep, deep run at his home slam.

The 23-year-old’s victory over former world No.1 Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters in November was a timely confidence booster entering the Australian summer.

De Minaur said.

I think I’m very close. My level’s there. It’s just a bit of self-belief that needs to happen for me to really cement myself right there.

So I’m going to do, as always, everything in my power and hopefully I can start off the year with a good run at the AO.

I want to get high in the rankings. My whole career has been a lot of going step by step so the next step is to really push for the top 15, top 10.

That’s what my real goals are.

– AAP

Alex de Minaur during the Davis Cup match against Canada in November. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Alex de Minaur during the Davis Cup match against Canada in November. Photograph: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

 

05:17

South Australia bracing for flooding and heatwave

Thousands of residents in South Australia’s riverland region are on high alert ahead of an expected peak in the rising Murray River in the coming days.

About 190 gigalitres of water is predicted to flow through the river at Renmark in the next 48 to 72 hours, South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, said today.

However, as well as major flooding the state is also expecting a heatwave. The SES say they will change the hours of their sandbagging sites to accomodate the hot weather.

They will close at noon instead of 3pm over the next three days.

 

05:02

Police allege aged care worker involved in murder

A teenage worker has been arrested and charged with murder after the death of a 70-year-old aged care resident in Western Australia.

Police allege the 19-year-old from Orana was an employee at an aged care facility in the great southern region, where the victim lived.

The female resident died in Albany, southeast of Perth, on 28 November, while the man was taken into custody on Friday after an extensive investigation.

He is due to appear in Perth magistrates court on Saturday.

AAP

 

04:46

Thunderstorm warnings have been issued for the Hunter region of NSW.

Meanwhile a severe heatwave is expected for Tasmania and will last into Wednesday.

 

04:44

The obligatory Christmas posts to social media from Australia’s politicians have begun.

Here are a couple of the early ones:

 

04:41

One-in-50 year flood hits remote NT town

A one-in-50-year flood has hit a remote town in the Northern Territory as authorities warn more rain is on the way for the rest of the state.

In the span of six hours, 157mm of rain inundated the town of Timber Creek, around 300km south-west of Katherine.

Everyone in the remote community has been accounted for although a number of people had to be rescued from flood waters, the NT chief minister, Natasha Fyles, said on Saturday.

They included a 74-year-old woman who was washed 60m off a bridge and rescued from the roof of her car.

The woman was shaken from the incident but otherwise uninjured.

About 70% of the Timber Creek community spent the night at the local basketball court as heavy rains lashed the remote town.

The heavy rain and storms are coming from ex-cyclone Ellie, which was downgraded to a tropical low after making landfall in the early hours of Friday.

In the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, Timber Creek received 241mm of rain, while Bradshaw to the north-east received 208mm.

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning the heavy rain will continue for some days. Motorists are advised to reconsider driving on the Victoria and Stuart highways.

Floods are also expected in South Australia’s Riverland. For more on that story read the full report here:

Related: South Australia floods expected to inundate thousands of homes as NT town hit by one-in-50-year deluge

 

04:01

Premature twins make it home for Christmas

Fraternal twins born four months early will be home for Christmas after more than 100 days in a Brisbane hospital.

Aashay and Aalyia Goel barely survived birth. Aashay was born at just under 800 grams and Aalyia at just under 700.

Their mother, Dr Neha Goel – a practising GP – said it was “touch and go” for the pair. At one point they both had sepsis and the sister had meningitis.

At times I wished I didn’t have a medical background.

It would have made things a lot easier for me to process. I was overwhelmed with having my babies in hospital.

Aashay isn’t out of the woods yet, he will need oxygen at home but Goel says her son is doing much better.

It’s been a long road but it’s so nice to have them here and together again.

While Goel is lucky, eight other sets of twins will spend Christmas in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Dr Luke Jardine, acting director of neonatology at Mater Mothers’ hospital Brisbane, said it would be the first Christmas together ever for some new families.

It can be an emotional and challenging time, along with a sense of hope their baby is being cared for in hospital.

-AAP

The Mater private hospital in Brisbane. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP © Provided by The Guardian The Mater private hospital in Brisbane. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

 

04:00

Thunderstorm warnings have been issued for parts of Queensland and New South Wales.

 

03:40

Criminal history checks urged for dating app users

A criminologist has called for dating apps to introduce criminal history checks on users as the federal government is set to hold a summit into the security measures used by the platforms.

Dr Rachael Burgin, a lecturer of criminology at Swinburne law school, said there was a clear need for dating apps to implement robust verification systems and criminal checks.

It is too easy for perpetrators to use apps … to hunt for victims.

That needs to be stopped. We need to completely ban people with violent criminal histories or alleged histories, with any sort of civil intervention order in place, from these apps.

Burgin said dating apps need to be proactive to prevent abuse as they have a responsibility to keep users safe, and that the onus shouldn’t be on users.

We shouldn’t be waiting until there’s an absolute tragedy before we start reflecting on the way technology is used or can be used by perpetrators. We need to design for it.

The federal government has announced it will hold a summit with state governments, peak bodies and advocates in January, focusing on reforming security and verification policies on dating apps.

A spokesperson for the federal communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said safety on dating apps has been a “growing community concern”. The spokesperson said research, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology in October, has shone “a light on the issue”.

The AIC report found three-quarters of survey respondents had been subjected to sexual violence on dating apps in the last five years.

Sexual harassment was the most common form of behaviour reported, according to the research. Abusive and threatening language and unsolicited sexual images were also common.

For more on this story, read the full report Eden Gillepsie and Tamsin Rose.

A criminologist has said there is a clear need for dating apps to implement robust verification systems and criminal checks. Photograph: Valeriy_G/Getty Images/iStockphoto © Provided by The Guardian A criminologist has said there is a clear need for dating apps to implement robust verification systems and criminal checks. Photograph: Valeriy_G/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Related: Call for dating apps to require criminal checks as Australian government plans summit on safety

 

03:29

Decade-high number of women killed in December

A sharp rise in the number of women allegedly killed by men this month has prompted calls for greater investment in family and domestic violence prevention, ahead of the dangerous Christmas period.

At least 10 women have been killed this month in Australia, more than three times the average rate of one woman a week.

The chief executive of Safe and Equal, Tania Farha, said the increase was “really alarming” coming into summer – typically the busiest time of year for domestic violence services and police.

The latest deaths come after a relative decline in homicides. There were 61 women killed by family and domestic violence related homicide in 2021 – the latest official reporting period – a decrease of 28% from the previous year.

For more on this story, read the full report by Caitlin Cassidy and Stephanie Convery.

At least 10 women have been killed this month in Australia. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP © Provided by The Guardian At least 10 women have been killed this month in Australia. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Related: ‘Horrific’: decade-high number of women killed in December demands ‘serious investment’ in prevention

 

03:10

Former Sydney Swans ruckman Barry Round remembered

Inaugural Sydney Swans captain and 1981 Brownlow medallist Barry Round has died at the age of 72.

Round passed away on Saturday after going into palliative care earlier this week.

The former star ruckman will be remembered as an icon of the AFL/VFL, with one of his most important achievements being the way he galvanised players after South Melbourne’s move to Sydney in 1982.

Round joined Footscray (now Western Bulldogs) as a 17-year-old and between 1969 and 1975 played 135 senior games.

He played 193 games with South Melbourne/Sydney from 1976-85 and coached and played for Williamstown in the VFA.

Round was captain of the Swans from 1980-84, and he tied with Footscray legend Bernie Quinlan for the 1981 Brownlow medal.

In 2003, he was selected in the South Melbourne/Sydney Team of the Century as first ruckman.

He was an inaugural inductee into the Swans Hall of Fame in 2009 and elevated to Bloods Champion in 2022.

Swans president, Andrew Pridham, said Round was a “big man who leaves behind a legacy which will forever live in the folklore of our club.”

He was an outstanding player and forged such a decorated career. But his impact at the Swans reaches far beyond the playing arena.

He was among those who led the club through the turbulent relocation era in the early 1980s and his support and influence were crucial to the move ultimately going ahead, in the face of much opposition.

-AAP

Barry Round at the 2022 Australian Football Hall of Fame dinner. Round played 438 games in the VFL. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Barry Round at the 2022 Australian Football Hall of Fame dinner. Round played 438 games in the VFL. Photograph: Michael Willson/AFL Photos/Getty Images

 

02:45

Frustration grows among Qantas passengers stranded in Azerbaijan

02:41 Natasha May

Qantas passengers stranded in Azerbaijan are facing a nervous wait for more information as to whether the airline will be able to get them to London in time for Christmas.

The flight from Singapore to London made an emergency landing at Baku Airport due to concerns there was smoke in the cargo hold. Qantas says that initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke and the incident was likely a sensor fault.

However, it remains unclear how long the plane will stay in Baku. It’s not a regular destination for Qantas, so the airline does not have ground staff at the airport.

Many stranded passengers are taking to social media urging the airline to provide an update, as they say they have not heard anything since 4pm yesterday local time (about 13 hours ago).

Guardian Australia spoke to Kendall and Julia Brown who said they spent 11 hours in the airport terminal from 7am yesterday morning, before they got to a hotel at 7pm, where they spent the night.

The Browns were hoping to have received an update from Qantas this morning, but are yet to receive any new information on when they will be leaving.

Qantas deploys recovery flight from Australia for stranded passengers in Azerbaijan

02:34

Qantas is sending a recovery flight to passengers stranded in Baku, Azerbaijan, which left Sydney just before midday this morning.

Qantas has issued a statement saying:

The recovery flight, which is being operated by an Airbus A380, departed Sydney at 11:40am this morning for Baku Airport.

The aircraft will then pick up customers at Baku Airport and continue on to London. It is expected to arrive at Heathrow early on Christmas morning.

The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this.

Qantas also thanked the Australian government and seven foreign governments for “urgently processing the necessary flight path approvals for this one-off recovery flight.”

Qantas engineers are also travelling from London and Sydney to inspect the A380 in Baku, with a suspected faulty sensor in the cargo hold.

Qantas has also apologised to customers:

We have apologised and thank them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans. They have spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and been provided meals and transport. We’re providing regular updates to customers on the recovery plan.

We’d also like to thank the pilots and crew who operated the disrupted service for their professionalism and their support to customers.

 

01:52

Lack of staff creating problems for mothers in Queensland

Pregnant women in regional Queensland are not receiving adequate care due to chronic maternity workforce shortages, the Australian Medical Association says.

Three of the four obstetricians at Rockhampton hospital have resigned while the Gladstone and Biloela maternity units have been on bypass for months, AMA Queensland president, Dr Maria Boulton, said.

She is calling on Queensland Health to improve working conditions for staff so they have an incentive to stay instead of leaving.

Our regional hospitals are facing intense workforce pressure.

Staff have stepped up and are doing the best they can, with some doing the work of three people. This is not sustainable. This is not safe.

Boulton said staff have been shuffled around to plug gaps, which has led to hospitals being short-staffed.

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are human. They need to have breaks. They get tired. They get sick.

Queensland Health should also lift its ban on employees working in other public hospitals on their days off, Boulton said.

The Australian Medical Association says women in regional Queensland are not receiving adequate care. Photograph: JGI/Getty Images/Tetra images RF © Provided by The Guardian The Australian Medical Association says women in regional Queensland are not receiving adequate care. Photograph: JGI/Getty Images/Tetra images RF

 

01:41

“We’ll get there”: Queensland health looking for specialists to cover shortfall

Queensland minister for agriculture Mark Furner says Queensland Health is currently working to find maternity specialists after reports about a lack of maternity health specialists in Central Queensland Health.

There have been reports that a lack of obstetricians has meant women were teaching themselves how to give birth in the event they were forced to divert from one service to another due to a lack of available specialists and could not reach medical care in time.

Furner told reporters on Saturday that Queensland Health had hired four new obstetricians with a search underway nationally and internationally for staff, saying “we’ll get there”.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in health or any other capacity, it’s always difficult, particularly in this period, finding staff.

Even in my portfolio of agriculture, we’re struggling to finding staff to fill the requirements on farms, the same applies to health. That is why health is advertising and looking for specialists both nationally and internationally as well.

Queensland minister for agricultural industry development, Mark Furner. Photograph: Darren England/AAP © Provided by The Guardian Queensland minister for agricultural industry development, Mark Furner. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

 

01:06

Rabuka officially sworn is Fijian PM

Sitiveni Rabuka has officially been voted in as Fiji’s new prime minister, ending the rule of Frank Bainimarama after 16 years.

The Fijian parliament voted Rabuka in on Christmas Eve after days of political turmoil with the previous FijiFirst government refusing to concede and the army called in to help police maintain law and order.

He won the ballot 28 votes to 27 against Bainimarama.

Rabuka obtained the numbers to rule in a tripartite coalition headed by his centre-right People’s Alliance party.

The more liberal democratic National Federation Party added its five seats to the tally while the kingmaking, Indigenous-focused Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) sided with the coalition after days of deliberations.

FijiFirst commands 26 seats and People’s Alliance 21 in the 55-member parliament.

– AAP

People's Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian People’s Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

South Australian floods to peak at levels above 1931 flood level, premier says

01:03

The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, says “things are going as well as we hope despite the difficult circumstances”.

We are in a position to be able to predict that the peak river flows will be closer to the 190-gigalitre level rather than the 220-gigalitre level.

Though there is some uncertainty around those numbers, Malinauskas there is growing confidence that flood water peaks will come in at the lower level.

It means less homes being inundated. It means less people being displaced. But it still does mean a substantial body of water at a level that we haven’t seen in our state for a long, long time, indeed.

It does also put us in a position to be able to confirm that the peak of the river flows going through Renmark will occur at some point in the next 48-72 hours, and that peak will be just above the 1931 flood level that was experienced close to a century ago.

The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, discusses the flood levels. Photograph: ABC © Provided by The Guardian The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, discusses the flood levels. Photograph: ABC

 

00:59

East coast expects to swelter through heatwave over Christmas

East coast Australians thinking about donning the ugly Christmas jumpers may want to think again as warm temperatures hit the capitals across the country.

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra are all expecting temperatures from the high 20s to low 30s on Christmas Day.

Across the country Adelaide, Perth and Hobart are also forecast to have sunny skies and maximum temperatures from the high 20s to low 30s.

In the Top End, Darwin is expecting a storm and a maximum of 32C.

Christmas Day’s warmer weather marks the start of a low-intensity heat wave that is expected to sit across the south of the continent, including Tasmania, until Wednesday.

It will also mean a continuation of the hot weather Western Australia has seen in December, sparking several bushfires.

The Bureau of Meteorology has already issued a heatwave warning for WA, with high temperatures gripping parts of the state from the north to the south.

Back east, temperatures are expected to peak at about 36C in Melbourne and 40C in Adelaide on Tuesday; with 28C forecast for Sydney and 32C in Canberra on Monday; and 32C for Hobart on Wednesday.

Despite the warmer spell, flood warnings across NSW and Victoria remain as South Australia braces for the floodwater to flow down the Murray River.

Christmas Day forecasts:

  • Melbourne, 30C, sunny

  • Sydney, 28C, partly cloudy and chance of thunderstorms

  • Darwin, 32C, storms

  • Canberra, 31C, sunny

  • Hobart, 26C, sunny

  • Adelaide, 32C, sunny

  • Perth, 30C, sunny

  • Brisbane, 28C, partly cloudy and a high chance of showers

– AAP

The Adelaide skyline at sunset. The city is forecast to reach a top temperature of 40C on Tuesday Photograph: Richard Fairless/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian The Adelaide skyline at sunset. The city is forecast to reach a top temperature of 40C on Tuesday Photograph: Richard Fairless/Getty Images

 

00:56

NT, SA residents brace for flooding

Ex-cyclone Ellie is bringing heavy rain to parts of the Northern Territory, with the weather bureau issuing a warning for flash flooding.

The category-one storm made landfall in the early hours of Friday and has since been downgraded to a tropical low.

But the Bureau of Meteorology is warning up to 250mm of rain could still fall across the Carpentaria, Tanami and Barkly districts this weekend.

Tropical cyclone Ellie earlier in the week. Photograph: BOM © Provided by The Guardian Tropical cyclone Ellie earlier in the week. Photograph: BOM

Up to 120mm could lash parts of the state within six-hour periods, while thunderstorms and heavy winds could also affect the towns of Tennant Creek, Wadeye, Nauiyu, Lajamanu, Elliott and Kalkarindji.

The bureau is advising NT residents to secure loose outside objects, seek shelter if conditions deteriorate, and avoid driving into water of unknown depths and currents.

It comes as separate flood warnings remain in place for northeast parts of South Australia.

Up to 220GL of water has reached the SA border from the Murray River, with the river expected to stay at a major flood level for some weeks.

Those in Renmark and surrounding towns should prepare their homes for flooding and consider leaving the area, SA’s State Emergency Service has advised.

The emergency service is warning the flood water will remain in the region for some weeks, so people choosing to stay must have enough food, water, fuel and medication.

– AAP

 

00:55

Virgin staff to consider industrial action in January as ‘last resort’

Virgin airline staff are threatening strike action from next month after calls for a pay rise have been ignored by the airline.

In a survey of its members reported in the Australian, the Australian Services Union found 88% were having difficulty paying basic living expenses and nearly one-in-four said they had gone without meals to get through financially.

It also found two-in-five workers could not afford Christmas presents and one in nine were behind on their mortgage or rental payments.

Staff agreed with a wage free in 2020 as the company struggled with bankruptcy at the outset of the pandemic.

But as services have picked up in response to an easing of restrictions, the Australian Services Union says the airline has refused to discuss pay and conditions with its workforce despite rising inflation.

The union said it would consider a campaign of action beginning in January.

Virgin airline staff are threatening strike action from next month. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP © Provided by The Guardian Virgin airline staff are threatening strike action from next month. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

 

00:53

Strong winds expected ahead of Sydney to Hobart

Supermaxis in the Sydney to Hobart will have favourable northerlies for most of their journey, but the fleet has been warned about the likelihood of strong winds later in the race.

A fleet of 109 yachts will set sail from Sydney Harbour from 1pm local time on Monday.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Saturday forecast predominantly nor’easter winds becoming fresh to strong on Tuesday and Wednesday.

That will assist the four supermaxis, with the line honours winner likely to finish on Wednesday morning, potentially close to a race-record time.

Conditions are set to be more varied and challenging for the rest of the fleet later.

A cold front is expected to bring a south-westerly change on Wednesday with winds tending southerly by Thursday morning.

Strong wind warnings are likely from late Tuesday with a potential gale wind warning on Wednesday.

Winds will tend from east to north easterly from Thursday as a ridge of high pressure develops.

– AAP

Andoo Comanche (right) leads LawConect at the start of the 2022 SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on 6 December, a warm-up event for the Sydney to Hobart race. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP © Provided by The Guardian Andoo Comanche (right) leads LawConect at the start of the 2022 SOLAS Big Boat Challenge on 6 December, a warm-up event for the Sydney to Hobart race. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

 

00:50 Paul Karp

Liberals deny incumbents to blame for election loss

Liberals have hit back at their party’s election review, calling it a “whitewash” designed to shift blame on to defeated MPs in order to downplay the unpopularity of Scott Morrison.

Despite the review acknowledging that the choice between Morrison and Anthony Albanese was “the most influential driver of voting intention”, critics have taken aim at a controversial finding that “some (not all) local members did not maximise the advantages of incumbency”.

Scott Morrison concedes defeat on the night of the federal election. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Scott Morrison concedes defeat on the night of the federal election. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

“The standing of a number of incumbent MPs in key seats was not what should be expected leading into a campaign,” it said.

The comments appear to blame six MPs defeated by teal independent candidates for succumbing to “a very sophisticated and well-resourced grassroots activist network” in previously safe inner-city seats.

One senior Liberal told Guardian Australia:

In all the seats with teal challengers, generally incumbent members were personally popular and a frequent reaction … on polling booths was ‘we wish we could vote for our MP but we just can’t with Scott Morrison as prime minister’.

There were clearly challenges in the last term of parliament, such as Covid restrictions, but to suggest for a second we lost to teals because of issues with incumbents papers over the more substantial problems of policy and leadership the party faces.

For more on the internal reaction to the party’s review of the previous election, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s political reporter Paul Karp.

Related: Liberals hit back at election review ‘whitewash’ that attempts to blame incumbents for losing seats

 

00:47

Fijians get new prime minister

Sitiveni Rabuka is set to be sworn in as Fijian prime minister after more than a week of turmoil following the election.

Parliament is expected to reconvene on Christmas Eve to vote on a new prime minister, with People’s Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka solidifying his numbers in a tripartite coalition.

The Social Democratic Liberal party, which holds the balance of power, reaffirmed its decision to side with the coalition over the FijiFirst government on Friday.

The party’s management board had to reconvene and vote a second time this week after non-current members voted in the first ballot.

Prime minister Frank Bainimarama has so far refused to concede the election, with his attorney general saying the cabinet remained in power until a new prime minister was voted in by parliament.

Bainimarama and the police commissioner had seized on reports of stonings against minority Indian Fijians to bring in the army to assist in maintaining law and order in the coup-marred nation. Little details of the attacks have been revealed.

Opposition parties have cast doubt about the severity of the reports, with National Federation party leader Biman Prasad saying the reports were exaggerated.

Tensions between Indigenous Fijians – about 60% of the population – and Indo-Fijians, the descendants of indentured Indian labourers who make up about one-third, have marred politics.

– AAP

 

00:45

River rising in South Australia as flood waters head west

Flood waters in South Australia are rising with 230GL expected to reach Renmark in the Riverland region over the coming days.

The flood peak in Renmark is expected on 28 December as it makes its way to Berri and Waikerie.

The South Australian Emergency Service is urging those living or staying along the river to relocate as soon as possible.

Fourteen flood levees had failed in upriver areas as of Thursday. Though no homes were threatened, many of the levees protected key electrical infrastructure.

Some background to this story here:

Related: Non-essential activity on Murray River banned in South Australia with flood waters to peak at Christmas

The levee holding the river back in Mannum earlier this week. Photograph: Sia Duff/The Guardian © Provided by The Guardian The levee holding the river back in Mannum earlier this week. Photograph: Sia Duff/The Guardian

 

00:40

SA premier says 3,620 homes without power as of 4am

Malinauskas says the state is well-prepared to deal with the unfolding situation.

He says there are 25,000 overnight bed stays for emergency relief, 5,000 people have been doorknocked to make sure they understand what is taking place, $50m in flood relief is ready to support those affected and three emergency relief centres are ready to go.

Malinauskas says there are 3,620 homes without power as of 4am and six out of 11 crossings along the River Murray closed. It is anticipated eight of 11 crossings will close over the next week

In terms of the actual timing of the peak, now that we have a degree of confidence that the peak will arrive in Renmark in the next 48-72 hours, we can predict with a degree of confidence that the peak will reach Mannam around about 7-10 January.

The closer the event comes, the more confidence we have around the data, but we also are very mindful of the fact that it is variable. The river operates in different ways. In fact, this flood in itself will change the way the River Murray operates in the state of South Australia. So, changing conditions mean variable forecasts, but we are getting ever-increasing levels of confidence, and that allows people to plan accordingly, but most importantly it provides an opportunity for our emergency services to be in the appropriate state at the appropriate time in the right location.

 

00:35

A minor earthquake was recorded near Benalla overnight.

Meanwhile ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie is creating stormy conditions across northern Australia this weekend, with weather warnings in place across the NT.

 

00:21

SA premier says government is ‘preparing for the worst’

Malinauskas says the state government is “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

As of this morning, there have been 1,479 inquires at emergency relief centres, with two already open in Berri and Mannam with a third centre to open on 5 January at Murray Bridge.

He says 234 personal hardship grants have already been issued, along with 46 accomodation grants. Some of the 25,000 overnight emergency accomodations beds are starting to be used.

And that remains in train but we have got a lot of capacity there that we’ve got for the worst-case scenario.

Though the flood will be higher than the 1931 flood peak it will not rise higher than the 1956 flood peak.

I hope that, at some point in the next month, we can sit back and look on this moment and say, “Jeez, the government was overprepared in some areas”. That would be a criticism that I would welcome. But there’s still a long way to go yet. So, we’ve still got some weeks of difficulties ahead of us.

SA premier to give update on flood situation

23 Dec 2022 23:45

The South Australia premier, Peter Malinauskas, is expected to hold a press conference this morning to provide an update on the flood situation along the River Murray.

We’ll have you the latest when it happens.

 

23 Dec 2022 23:33 Luke Henriques-Gomes

Job agencies join calls to scrap elements of ParentsNext program

Job agencies running the contentious ParentsNext program have called on the Albanese government to scrap compliance from the scheme, with one suggesting the current system is “morally questionable”.

In submissions to a parliamentary inquiry looking at the employment services system, the Human Rights Commission has also argued stopping social security payments under the program was “contrary to Australia’s human rights obligations”.

The parliamentary inquiry examining the new Workforce Australia services system is currently investigating the $110m-a-year ParentsNext program, which is mostly aimed at single parents, most of whom are mothers, who receive parenting payments.

The program, which was established by the former Coalition government, is controversial because it requires people on parenting payments with children as young as nine months to attend compulsory appointments and activities. They can have their payments suspended if they do not meet these obligations.

While a number of job agencies called on the government to keep the controversial “targeted compliance framework” that can see a participant’s welfare suspended or cut completely, others were scathing of the system. Those job agencies did not go as far as advocates, such as the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children and the Australian Council of Social Service, which have called on the government to redesign the scheme as voluntary and scrap all compliance.

For more on this story, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s Social affairs and inequality editor Luke Henriques-Gomes.

Related: ‘Morally questionable’: compliance element should be scrapped from controversial ParentsNext scheme, MPs told

 

23 Dec 2022 22:31

Anti-theft plates to be rolled out in Victoria

Victoria will issue anti-theft number plates to stop people from stealing or cloning the plates.

The general-issue plates will feature a built-in hologram of a “VIC” logo, similar to the markings embedded on Australian bank notes.

The police minister, Anthony Carbines, said in a statement that thieves would be unable to remove the hologram, making it harder for criminals to duplicate number plates or place them on another vehicle of the same make and model.

We know that number-plate theft has been a growing problem in Victoria.

These new directional security markings add an additional layer of security that will stop theft and help reduce crime.

The plates will be rolled out from December 30 and the government expects about 430,000 to be issued each year.

There will be no extra cost to drivers who order standard-issue plates with the new security markings.

– AAP

 

23 Dec 2022 22:06

The South Australia State Emergency Service has published images from the Riverland region as it warns people in the area to leave before hundreds of gigalitres of water hit the area.

 

23 Dec 2022 21:36

Sensor fault believed responsible for grounding Qantas plane

An intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit is thought to be responsible for forcing a Qantas flight heading from Singapore to London to make an emergency landing in Azerbaijan.

Flight tracking services on social media reported the A-380 aircraft making a 180 degree turn near Tbilisi in Georgia squawking 7700 (meaning an emergency situation) and landing in Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku on Friday.

A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to reporters on Friday afternoon the plane had touched down in Baku without incident.

Our flight from Singapore to London has made an unscheduled landing at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan after pilots received an intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit.

Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to continuing its journey.

The airline said the the alarm intermittently alerted pilots to the potential of smoke in the cargo hold but initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke.

Although it was considered likely to be a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution.

Passengers are spending the night in Baku and are expected to resume their flight in the morning.

– AAP

 

23 Dec 2022 20:54

Good morning.

Passengers on a Qantas flight from Singapore to London are still stuck in Baku, Azerbaijan, after their aircraft made an emergency landing due to concerns there was smoke in the cargo hold.

The A380 reversed course near Tbilisi in Georgia before landing at Baku international airport yesterday. The airline said initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke.

“Although it was considered likely to be a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution,” the spokesperson said. “Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to continuing its journey”.

Also in the news today, Liberals have hit back at their party’s election review over comments saying some “local members did not maximise the advantages of incumbency”. The Liberals attacked the review as a “whitewash” designed to shift blame on to defeated MPs in order to downplay the unpopularity of Scott Morrison.

“Every single one of the people who lost metro seats added to the Liberal party vote substantively, while the Liberal brand itself was a drag on the vote,” they claimed.

Late yesterday the Victorian environmental watchdog investigating REDcycle charged the operators behind the botched plastic bag recycling program for failing to provide information about the locations of warehouses that secretly stockpiled hundreds of millions of bags.

We also await the Yuletide wisdom of Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton, who will be giving their first Christmas messages as prime minister and opposition leader respectively late this afternoon.

Let’s get into it.

Follow live.
With that, we will wrap the blog for today. Here were the main developments:
The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, said floods would peak at levels above the 1931 high-water mark. About 190 gigalitres of water was predicted to flow through the river at Renmark, which is a lower peak than the 220GL originally forecast.
Frustration grew among Qantas passengers stranded in Azerbaijan. Many took to social media urging the airline to provide an update about when they would be leaving the country they found themselves unexpectedly after their emergency landing Friday.
After 1pm, Qantas announced they had deployed a recovery flight from Australia for the stranded passengers.
Have a lovely Christmas eve, for those who celebrate!
De Minaur enjoys Agassi-like Open build-up
Borrowing a page from the playbook of four-time champion Andre Agassi, Alex de Minaur will spend Christmas Day pounding the pavement in pursuit of Australian Open glory.
Believing it’s high time for he or Nick Kyrgios to bust the 47-year men’s home title hoodoo in Melbourne, de Minaur planned to hit the practice courts four days out from Australia’s United Cup opener against Great Britain on December 29-30.
Agassi famously used to run up and down the mountains outside Las Vegas on Christmas Day until he threw up.
But while that was in the cool of winter, de Minaur is upping the ante in the Sydney summer heat after flying in from his Spanish base of Alicante.
The world No.24 said:

Every year I normally tend to spend Christmas in Oz. Normally, more often than that, on the tennis court just getting extra reps in and this year I will be again.

As they say, no rest for the wicked. There’s nothing better than getting some good old-fashioned gains.


Every year I normally tend to spend Christmas in Oz. Normally, more often than that, on the tennis court just getting extra reps in and this year I will be again.
As they say, no rest for the wicked. There’s nothing better than getting some good old-fashioned gains.
Not content with last-16 appearances at Melbourne Park and Wimbledon this year, the 2020 US Open quarter-finalist craves a deep, deep run at his home slam.
The 23-year-old’s victory over former world No.1 Daniil Medvedev at the Paris Masters in November was a timely confidence booster entering the Australian summer.
De Minaur said.

I think I’m very close. My level’s there. It’s just a bit of self-belief that needs to happen for me to really cement myself right there.

So I’m going to do, as always, everything in my power and hopefully I can start off the year with a good run at the AO.

I want to get high in the rankings. My whole career has been a lot of going step by step so the next step is to really push for the top 15, top 10.

That’s what my real goals are.


I think I’m very close. My level’s there. It’s just a bit of self-belief that needs to happen for me to really cement myself right there.
So I’m going to do, as always, everything in my power and hopefully I can start off the year with a good run at the AO.
I want to get high in the rankings. My whole career has been a lot of going step by step so the next step is to really push for the top 15, top 10.
That’s what my real goals are.
– AAP
South Australia bracing for flooding and heatwave
Thousands of residents in South Australia’s riverland region are on high alert ahead of an expected peak in the rising Murray River in the coming days.
About 190 gigalitres of water is predicted to flow through the river at Renmark in the next 48 to 72 hours, South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, said today.
However, as well as major flooding the state is also expecting a heatwave. The SES say they will change the hours of their sandbagging sites to accomodate the hot weather.
They will close at noon instead of 3pm over the next three days.
Police allege aged care worker involved in murder
A teenage worker has been arrested and charged with murder after the death of a 70-year-old aged care resident in Western Australia.
Police allege the 19-year-old from Orana was an employee at an aged care facility in the great southern region, where the victim lived.
The female resident died in Albany, southeast of Perth, on 28 November, while the man was taken into custody on Friday after an extensive investigation.
He is due to appear in Perth magistrates court on Saturday.
AAP
Thunderstorm warnings have been issued for the Hunter region of NSW.
Meanwhile a severe heatwave is expected for Tasmania and will last into Wednesday.
The obligatory Christmas posts to social media from Australia’s politicians have begun.
Here are a couple of the early ones:
One-in-50 year flood hits remote NT town
A one-in-50-year flood has hit a remote town in the Northern Territory as authorities warn more rain is on the way for the rest of the state.
In the span of six hours, 157mm of rain inundated the town of Timber Creek, around 300km south-west of Katherine.
Everyone in the remote community has been accounted for although a number of people had to be rescued from flood waters, the NT chief minister, Natasha Fyles, said on Saturday.
They included a 74-year-old woman who was washed 60m off a bridge and rescued from the roof of her car.
The woman was shaken from the incident but otherwise uninjured.
About 70% of the Timber Creek community spent the night at the local basketball court as heavy rains lashed the remote town.
The heavy rain and storms are coming from ex-cyclone Ellie, which was downgraded to a tropical low after making landfall in the early hours of Friday.
In the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, Timber Creek received 241mm of rain, while Bradshaw to the north-east received 208mm.
The Bureau of Meteorology is warning the heavy rain will continue for some days. Motorists are advised to reconsider driving on the Victoria and Stuart highways.
Floods are also expected in South Australia’s Riverland. For more on that story read the full report here:
Related: South Australia floods expected to inundate thousands of homes as NT town hit by one-in-50-year deluge
Premature twins make it home for Christmas
Fraternal twins born four months early will be home for Christmas after more than 100 days in a Brisbane hospital.
Aashay and Aalyia Goel barely survived birth. Aashay was born at just under 800 grams and Aalyia at just under 700.
Their mother, Dr Neha Goel – a practising GP – said it was “touch and go” for the pair. At one point they both had sepsis and the sister had meningitis.

At times I wished I didn’t have a medical background.

It would have made things a lot easier for me to process. I was overwhelmed with having my babies in hospital.


At times I wished I didn’t have a medical background.
It would have made things a lot easier for me to process. I was overwhelmed with having my babies in hospital.
Aashay isn’t out of the woods yet, he will need oxygen at home but Goel says her son is doing much better.
It’s been a long road but it’s so nice to have them here and together again.
While Goel is lucky, eight other sets of twins will spend Christmas in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Dr Luke Jardine, acting director of neonatology at Mater Mothers’ hospital Brisbane, said it would be the first Christmas together ever for some new families.
It can be an emotional and challenging time, along with a sense of hope their baby is being cared for in hospital.
-AAP
Thunderstorm warnings have been issued for parts of Queensland and New South Wales.
Criminal history checks urged for dating app users
A criminologist has called for dating apps to introduce criminal history checks on users as the federal government is set to hold a summit into the security measures used by the platforms.
Dr Rachael Burgin, a lecturer of criminology at Swinburne law school, said there was a clear need for dating apps to implement robust verification systems and criminal checks.

It is too easy for perpetrators to use apps … to hunt for victims.

That needs to be stopped. We need to completely ban people with violent criminal histories or alleged histories, with any sort of civil intervention order in place, from these apps.


It is too easy for perpetrators to use apps … to hunt for victims.
That needs to be stopped. We need to completely ban people with violent criminal histories or alleged histories, with any sort of civil intervention order in place, from these apps.
Burgin said dating apps need to be proactive to prevent abuse as they have a responsibility to keep users safe, and that the onus shouldn’t be on users.
We shouldn’t be waiting until there’s an absolute tragedy before we start reflecting on the way technology is used or can be used by perpetrators. We need to design for it.
The federal government has announced it will hold a summit with state governments, peak bodies and advocates in January, focusing on reforming security and verification policies on dating apps.
A spokesperson for the federal communications minister, Michelle Rowland, said safety on dating apps has been a “growing community concern”. The spokesperson said research, published by the Australian Institute of Criminology in October, has shone “a light on the issue”.
The AIC report found three-quarters of survey respondents had been subjected to sexual violence on dating apps in the last five years.
Sexual harassment was the most common form of behaviour reported, according to the research. Abusive and threatening language and unsolicited sexual images were also common.
For more on this story, read the full report Eden Gillepsie and Tamsin Rose.
Related: Call for dating apps to require criminal checks as Australian government plans summit on safety
Decade-high number of women killed in December
A sharp rise in the number of women allegedly killed by men this month has prompted calls for greater investment in family and domestic violence prevention, ahead of the dangerous Christmas period.
At least 10 women have been killed this month in Australia, more than three times the average rate of one woman a week.
The chief executive of Safe and Equal, Tania Farha, said the increase was “really alarming” coming into summer – typically the busiest time of year for domestic violence services and police.
The latest deaths come after a relative decline in homicides. There were 61 women killed by family and domestic violence related homicide in 2021 – the latest official reporting period – a decrease of 28% from the previous year.
For more on this story, read the full report by Caitlin Cassidy and Stephanie Convery.
Related: ‘Horrific’: decade-high number of women killed in December demands ‘serious investment’ in prevention
Former Sydney Swans ruckman Barry Round remembered
Inaugural Sydney Swans captain and 1981 Brownlow medallist Barry Round has died at the age of 72.
Round passed away on Saturday after going into palliative care earlier this week.
The former star ruckman will be remembered as an icon of the AFL/VFL, with one of his most important achievements being the way he galvanised players after South Melbourne’s move to Sydney in 1982.
Round joined Footscray (now Western Bulldogs) as a 17-year-old and between 1969 and 1975 played 135 senior games.
He played 193 games with South Melbourne/Sydney from 1976-85 and coached and played for Williamstown in the VFA.
Round was captain of the Swans from 1980-84, and he tied with Footscray legend Bernie Quinlan for the 1981 Brownlow medal.
In 2003, he was selected in the South Melbourne/Sydney Team of the Century as first ruckman.
He was an inaugural inductee into the Swans Hall of Fame in 2009 and elevated to Bloods Champion in 2022.
Swans president, Andrew Pridham, said Round was a “big man who leaves behind a legacy which will forever live in the folklore of our club.”

He was an outstanding player and forged such a decorated career. But his impact at the Swans reaches far beyond the playing arena.

He was among those who led the club through the turbulent relocation era in the early 1980s and his support and influence were crucial to the move ultimately going ahead, in the face of much opposition.


He was an outstanding player and forged such a decorated career. But his impact at the Swans reaches far beyond the playing arena.
He was among those who led the club through the turbulent relocation era in the early 1980s and his support and influence were crucial to the move ultimately going ahead, in the face of much opposition.
-AAP
Qantas passengers stranded in Azerbaijan are facing a nervous wait for more information as to whether the airline will be able to get them to London in time for Christmas.
The flight from Singapore to London made an emergency landing at Baku Airport due to concerns there was smoke in the cargo hold. Qantas says that initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke and the incident was likely a sensor fault.
However, it remains unclear how long the plane will stay in Baku. It’s not a regular destination for Qantas, so the airline does not have ground staff at the airport.
Many stranded passengers are taking to social media urging the airline to provide an update, as they say they have not heard anything since 4pm yesterday local time (about 13 hours ago).
Guardian Australia spoke to Kendall and Julia Brown who said they spent 11 hours in the airport terminal from 7am yesterday morning, before they got to a hotel at 7pm, where they spent the night.
The Browns were hoping to have received an update from Qantas this morning, but are yet to receive any new information on when they will be leaving.
Qantas is sending a recovery flight to passengers stranded in Baku, Azerbaijan, which left Sydney just before midday this morning.
Qantas has issued a statement saying:

The recovery flight, which is being operated by an Airbus A380, departed Sydney at 11:40am this morning for Baku Airport.

The aircraft will then pick up customers at Baku Airport and continue on to London. It is expected to arrive at Heathrow early on Christmas morning.

The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this.


The recovery flight, which is being operated by an Airbus A380, departed Sydney at 11:40am this morning for Baku Airport.
The aircraft will then pick up customers at Baku Airport and continue on to London. It is expected to arrive at Heathrow early on Christmas morning.
The aircraft operating the recovery flight is one of the operational spares that Qantas has on standby over the holiday season to help recover customers in the event of an unexpected disruption like this.
Qantas also thanked the Australian government and seven foreign governments for “urgently processing the necessary flight path approvals for this one-off recovery flight.”
Qantas engineers are also travelling from London and Sydney to inspect the A380 in Baku, with a suspected faulty sensor in the cargo hold.
Qantas has also apologised to customers:

We have apologised and thank them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans. They have spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and been provided meals and transport. We’re providing regular updates to customers on the recovery plan.

We’d also like to thank the pilots and crew who operated the disrupted service for their professionalism and their support to customers.


We have apologised and thank them for their patience while we finalised the recovery plans. They have spent the night at the Marriott Hotel and been provided meals and transport. We’re providing regular updates to customers on the recovery plan.
We’d also like to thank the pilots and crew who operated the disrupted service for their professionalism and their support to customers.
Lack of staff creating problems for mothers in Queensland
Pregnant women in regional Queensland are not receiving adequate care due to chronic maternity workforce shortages, the Australian Medical Association says.
Three of the four obstetricians at Rockhampton hospital have resigned while the Gladstone and Biloela maternity units have been on bypass for months, AMA Queensland president, Dr Maria Boulton, said.
She is calling on Queensland Health to improve working conditions for staff so they have an incentive to stay instead of leaving.

Our regional hospitals are facing intense workforce pressure.

Staff have stepped up and are doing the best they can, with some doing the work of three people. This is not sustainable. This is not safe.


Our regional hospitals are facing intense workforce pressure.
Staff have stepped up and are doing the best they can, with some doing the work of three people. This is not sustainable. This is not safe.
Boulton said staff have been shuffled around to plug gaps, which has led to hospitals being short-staffed.
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are human. They need to have breaks. They get tired. They get sick.
Queensland Health should also lift its ban on employees working in other public hospitals on their days off, Boulton said.
“We’ll get there”: Queensland health looking for specialists to cover shortfall
Queensland minister for agriculture Mark Furner says Queensland Health is currently working to find maternity specialists after reports about a lack of maternity health specialists in Central Queensland Health.
There have been reports that a lack of obstetricians has meant women were teaching themselves how to give birth in the event they were forced to divert from one service to another due to a lack of available specialists and could not reach medical care in time.
Furner told reporters on Saturday that Queensland Health had hired four new obstetricians with a search underway nationally and internationally for staff, saying “we’ll get there”.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re in health or any other capacity, it’s always difficult, particularly in this period, finding staff.

Even in my portfolio of agriculture, we’re struggling to finding staff to fill the requirements on farms, the same applies to health. That is why health is advertising and looking for specialists both nationally and internationally as well.


It doesn’t matter whether you’re in health or any other capacity, it’s always difficult, particularly in this period, finding staff.
Even in my portfolio of agriculture, we’re struggling to finding staff to fill the requirements on farms, the same applies to health. That is why health is advertising and looking for specialists both nationally and internationally as well.
Rabuka officially sworn is Fijian PM
Sitiveni Rabuka has officially been voted in as Fiji’s new prime minister, ending the rule of Frank Bainimarama after 16 years.
The Fijian parliament voted Rabuka in on Christmas Eve after days of political turmoil with the previous FijiFirst government refusing to concede and the army called in to help police maintain law and order.
He won the ballot 28 votes to 27 against Bainimarama.
Rabuka obtained the numbers to rule in a tripartite coalition headed by his centre-right People’s Alliance party.
The more liberal democratic National Federation Party added its five seats to the tally while the kingmaking, Indigenous-focused Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) sided with the coalition after days of deliberations.
FijiFirst commands 26 seats and People’s Alliance 21 in the 55-member parliament.
– AAP
The South Australian premier, Peter Malinauskas, says “things are going as well as we hope despite the difficult circumstances”.
We are in a position to be able to predict that the peak river flows will be closer to the 190-gigalitre level rather than the 220-gigalitre level.
Though there is some uncertainty around those numbers, Malinauskas there is growing confidence that flood water peaks will come in at the lower level.

It means less homes being inundated. It means less people being displaced. But it still does mean a substantial body of water at a level that we haven’t seen in our state for a long, long time, indeed.

It does also put us in a position to be able to confirm that the peak of the river flows going through Renmark will occur at some point in the next 48-72 hours, and that peak will be just above the 1931 flood level that was experienced close to a century ago.


It means less homes being inundated. It means less people being displaced. But it still does mean a substantial body of water at a level that we haven’t seen in our state for a long, long time, indeed.
It does also put us in a position to be able to confirm that the peak of the river flows going through Renmark will occur at some point in the next 48-72 hours, and that peak will be just above the 1931 flood level that was experienced close to a century ago.
East coast expects to swelter through heatwave over Christmas
East coast Australians thinking about donning the ugly Christmas jumpers may want to think again as warm temperatures hit the capitals across the country.
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra are all expecting temperatures from the high 20s to low 30s on Christmas Day.
Across the country Adelaide, Perth and Hobart are also forecast to have sunny skies and maximum temperatures from the high 20s to low 30s.
In the Top End, Darwin is expecting a storm and a maximum of 32C.
Christmas Day’s warmer weather marks the start of a low-intensity heat wave that is expected to sit across the south of the continent, including Tasmania, until Wednesday.
It will also mean a continuation of the hot weather Western Australia has seen in December, sparking several bushfires.
The Bureau of Meteorology has already issued a heatwave warning for WA, with high temperatures gripping parts of the state from the north to the south.
Back east, temperatures are expected to peak at about 36C in Melbourne and 40C in Adelaide on Tuesday; with 28C forecast for Sydney and 32C in Canberra on Monday; and 32C for Hobart on Wednesday.
Despite the warmer spell, flood warnings across NSW and Victoria remain as South Australia braces for the floodwater to flow down the Murray River.
Christmas Day forecasts:
Melbourne, 30C, sunny
Sydney, 28C, partly cloudy and chance of thunderstorms
Darwin, 32C, storms
Canberra, 31C, sunny
Hobart, 26C, sunny
Adelaide, 32C, sunny
Perth, 30C, sunny
Brisbane, 28C, partly cloudy and a high chance of showers
– AAP
NT, SA residents brace for flooding
Ex-cyclone Ellie is bringing heavy rain to parts of the Northern Territory, with the weather bureau issuing a warning for flash flooding.
The category-one storm made landfall in the early hours of Friday and has since been downgraded to a tropical low.
But the Bureau of Meteorology is warning up to 250mm of rain could still fall across the Carpentaria, Tanami and Barkly districts this weekend.
Up to 120mm could lash parts of the state within six-hour periods, while thunderstorms and heavy winds could also affect the towns of Tennant Creek, Wadeye, Nauiyu, Lajamanu, Elliott and Kalkarindji.
The bureau is advising NT residents to secure loose outside objects, seek shelter if conditions deteriorate, and avoid driving into water of unknown depths and currents.
It comes as separate flood warnings remain in place for northeast parts of South Australia.
Up to 220GL of water has reached the SA border from the Murray River, with the river expected to stay at a major flood level for some weeks.
Those in Renmark and surrounding towns should prepare their homes for flooding and consider leaving the area, SA’s State Emergency Service has advised.
The emergency service is warning the flood water will remain in the region for some weeks, so people choosing to stay must have enough food, water, fuel and medication.
– AAP
Virgin staff to consider industrial action in January as ‘last resort’
Virgin airline staff are threatening strike action from next month after calls for a pay rise have been ignored by the airline.
In a survey of its members reported in the Australian, the Australian Services Union found 88% were having difficulty paying basic living expenses and nearly one-in-four said they had gone without meals to get through financially.
It also found two-in-five workers could not afford Christmas presents and one in nine were behind on their mortgage or rental payments.
Staff agreed with a wage free in 2020 as the company struggled with bankruptcy at the outset of the pandemic.
But as services have picked up in response to an easing of restrictions, the Australian Services Union says the airline has refused to discuss pay and conditions with its workforce despite rising inflation.
The union said it would consider a campaign of action beginning in January.
Strong winds expected ahead of Sydney to Hobart
Supermaxis in the Sydney to Hobart will have favourable northerlies for most of their journey, but the fleet has been warned about the likelihood of strong winds later in the race.
A fleet of 109 yachts will set sail from Sydney Harbour from 1pm local time on Monday.
The Bureau of Meteorology on Saturday forecast predominantly nor’easter winds becoming fresh to strong on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That will assist the four supermaxis, with the line honours winner likely to finish on Wednesday morning, potentially close to a race-record time.
Conditions are set to be more varied and challenging for the rest of the fleet later.
A cold front is expected to bring a south-westerly change on Wednesday with winds tending southerly by Thursday morning.
Strong wind warnings are likely from late Tuesday with a potential gale wind warning on Wednesday.
Winds will tend from east to north easterly from Thursday as a ridge of high pressure develops.
– AAP
Liberals deny incumbents to blame for election loss
Liberals have hit back at their party’s election review, calling it a “whitewash” designed to shift blame on to defeated MPs in order to downplay the unpopularity of Scott Morrison.
Despite the review acknowledging that the choice between Morrison and Anthony Albanese was “the most influential driver of voting intention”, critics have taken aim at a controversial finding that “some (not all) local members did not maximise the advantages of incumbency”.
“The standing of a number of incumbent MPs in key seats was not what should be expected leading into a campaign,” it said.
The comments appear to blame six MPs defeated by teal independent candidates for succumbing to “a very sophisticated and well-resourced grassroots activist network” in previously safe inner-city seats.
One senior Liberal told Guardian Australia:

In all the seats with teal challengers, generally incumbent members were personally popular and a frequent reaction … on polling booths was ‘we wish we could vote for our MP but we just can’t with Scott Morrison as prime minister’.

There were clearly challenges in the last term of parliament, such as Covid restrictions, but to suggest for a second we lost to teals because of issues with incumbents papers over the more substantial problems of policy and leadership the party faces.


In all the seats with teal challengers, generally incumbent members were personally popular and a frequent reaction … on polling booths was ‘we wish we could vote for our MP but we just can’t with Scott Morrison as prime minister’.
There were clearly challenges in the last term of parliament, such as Covid restrictions, but to suggest for a second we lost to teals because of issues with incumbents papers over the more substantial problems of policy and leadership the party faces.
For more on the internal reaction to the party’s review of the previous election, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s political reporter Paul Karp.
Related: Liberals hit back at election review ‘whitewash’ that attempts to blame incumbents for losing seats
Fijians get new prime minister
Sitiveni Rabuka is set to be sworn in as Fijian prime minister after more than a week of turmoil following the election.
Parliament is expected to reconvene on Christmas Eve to vote on a new prime minister, with People’s Alliance Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka solidifying his numbers in a tripartite coalition.
The Social Democratic Liberal party, which holds the balance of power, reaffirmed its decision to side with the coalition over the FijiFirst government on Friday.
The party’s management board had to reconvene and vote a second time this week after non-current members voted in the first ballot.
Prime minister Frank Bainimarama has so far refused to concede the election, with his attorney general saying the cabinet remained in power until a new prime minister was voted in by parliament.
Bainimarama and the police commissioner had seized on reports of stonings against minority Indian Fijians to bring in the army to assist in maintaining law and order in the coup-marred nation. Little details of the attacks have been revealed.
Opposition parties have cast doubt about the severity of the reports, with National Federation party leader Biman Prasad saying the reports were exaggerated.
Tensions between Indigenous Fijians – about 60% of the population – and Indo-Fijians, the descendants of indentured Indian labourers who make up about one-third, have marred politics.
– AAP
River rising in South Australia as flood waters head west
Flood waters in South Australia are rising with 230GL expected to reach Renmark in the Riverland region over the coming days.
The flood peak in Renmark is expected on 28 December as it makes its way to Berri and Waikerie.
The South Australian Emergency Service is urging those living or staying along the river to relocate as soon as possible.
Fourteen flood levees had failed in upriver areas as of Thursday. Though no homes were threatened, many of the levees protected key electrical infrastructure.
Some background to this story here:
Related: Non-essential activity on Murray River banned in South Australia with flood waters to peak at Christmas
SA premier says 3,620 homes without power as of 4am
Malinauskas says the state is well-prepared to deal with the unfolding situation.
He says there are 25,000 overnight bed stays for emergency relief, 5,000 people have been doorknocked to make sure they understand what is taking place, $50m in flood relief is ready to support those affected and three emergency relief centres are ready to go.
Malinauskas says there are 3,620 homes without power as of 4am and six out of 11 crossings along the River Murray closed. It is anticipated eight of 11 crossings will close over the next week

In terms of the actual timing of the peak, now that we have a degree of confidence that the peak will arrive in Renmark in the next 48-72 hours, we can predict with a degree of confidence that the peak will reach Mannam around about 7-10 January.

The closer the event comes, the more confidence we have around the data, but we also are very mindful of the fact that it is variable. The river operates in different ways. In fact, this flood in itself will change the way the River Murray operates in the state of South Australia. So, changing conditions mean variable forecasts, but we are getting ever-increasing levels of confidence, and that allows people to plan accordingly, but most importantly it provides an opportunity for our emergency services to be in the appropriate state at the appropriate time in the right location.


In terms of the actual timing of the peak, now that we have a degree of confidence that the peak will arrive in Renmark in the next 48-72 hours, we can predict with a degree of confidence that the peak will reach Mannam around about 7-10 January.
The closer the event comes, the more confidence we have around the data, but we also are very mindful of the fact that it is variable. The river operates in different ways. In fact, this flood in itself will change the way the River Murray operates in the state of South Australia. So, changing conditions mean variable forecasts, but we are getting ever-increasing levels of confidence, and that allows people to plan accordingly, but most importantly it provides an opportunity for our emergency services to be in the appropriate state at the appropriate time in the right location.
A minor earthquake was recorded near Benalla overnight.
Meanwhile ex-Tropical Cyclone Ellie is creating stormy conditions across northern Australia this weekend, with weather warnings in place across the NT.
SA premier says government is ‘preparing for the worst’
Malinauskas says the state government is “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
As of this morning, there have been 1,479 inquires at emergency relief centres, with two already open in Berri and Mannam with a third centre to open on 5 January at Murray Bridge.
He says 234 personal hardship grants have already been issued, along with 46 accomodation grants. Some of the 25,000 overnight emergency accomodations beds are starting to be used.
And that remains in train but we have got a lot of capacity there that we’ve got for the worst-case scenario.
Though the flood will be higher than the 1931 flood peak it will not rise higher than the 1956 flood peak.
I hope that, at some point in the next month, we can sit back and look on this moment and say, “Jeez, the government was overprepared in some areas”. That would be a criticism that I would welcome. But there’s still a long way to go yet. So, we’ve still got some weeks of difficulties ahead of us.
The South Australia premier, Peter Malinauskas, is expected to hold a press conference this morning to provide an update on the flood situation along the River Murray.
We’ll have you the latest when it happens.
Job agencies join calls to scrap elements of ParentsNext program
Job agencies running the contentious ParentsNext program have called on the Albanese government to scrap compliance from the scheme, with one suggesting the current system is “morally questionable”.
In submissions to a parliamentary inquiry looking at the employment services system, the Human Rights Commission has also argued stopping social security payments under the program was “contrary to Australia’s human rights obligations”.
The parliamentary inquiry examining the new Workforce Australia services system is currently investigating the $110m-a-year ParentsNext program, which is mostly aimed at single parents, most of whom are mothers, who receive parenting payments.
The program, which was established by the former Coalition government, is controversial because it requires people on parenting payments with children as young as nine months to attend compulsory appointments and activities. They can have their payments suspended if they do not meet these obligations.
While a number of job agencies called on the government to keep the controversial “targeted compliance framework” that can see a participant’s welfare suspended or cut completely, others were scathing of the system. Those job agencies did not go as far as advocates, such as the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children and the Australian Council of Social Service, which have called on the government to redesign the scheme as voluntary and scrap all compliance.
For more on this story, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s Social affairs and inequality editor Luke Henriques-Gomes.
Related: ‘Morally questionable’: compliance element should be scrapped from controversial ParentsNext scheme, MPs told
Anti-theft plates to be rolled out in Victoria
Victoria will issue anti-theft number plates to stop people from stealing or cloning the plates.
The general-issue plates will feature a built-in hologram of a “VIC” logo, similar to the markings embedded on Australian bank notes.
The police minister, Anthony Carbines, said in a statement that thieves would be unable to remove the hologram, making it harder for criminals to duplicate number plates or place them on another vehicle of the same make and model.

We know that number-plate theft has been a growing problem in Victoria.

These new directional security markings add an additional layer of security that will stop theft and help reduce crime.


We know that number-plate theft has been a growing problem in Victoria.
These new directional security markings add an additional layer of security that will stop theft and help reduce crime.
The plates will be rolled out from December 30 and the government expects about 430,000 to be issued each year.
There will be no extra cost to drivers who order standard-issue plates with the new security markings.
– AAP
The South Australia State Emergency Service has published images from the Riverland region as it warns people in the area to leave before hundreds of gigalitres of water hit the area.
Sensor fault believed responsible for grounding Qantas plane
An intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit is thought to be responsible for forcing a Qantas flight heading from Singapore to London to make an emergency landing in Azerbaijan.
Flight tracking services on social media reported the A-380 aircraft making a 180 degree turn near Tbilisi in Georgia squawking 7700 (meaning an emergency situation) and landing in Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku on Friday.
A Qantas spokesperson confirmed to reporters on Friday afternoon the plane had touched down in Baku without incident.

Our flight from Singapore to London has made an unscheduled landing at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan after pilots received an intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit.

Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to continuing its journey.


Our flight from Singapore to London has made an unscheduled landing at Baku Airport in Azerbaijan after pilots received an intermittent fault indicator in the cockpit.
Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to continuing its journey.
The airline said the the alarm intermittently alerted pilots to the potential of smoke in the cargo hold but initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke.
Although it was considered likely to be a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution.
Passengers are spending the night in Baku and are expected to resume their flight in the morning.
– AAP
Good morning.
Passengers on a Qantas flight from Singapore to London are still stuck in Baku, Azerbaijan, after their aircraft made an emergency landing due to concerns there was smoke in the cargo hold.
The A380 reversed course near Tbilisi in Georgia before landing at Baku international airport yesterday. The airline said initial investigations have found no evidence of smoke.
“Although it was considered likely to be a sensor fault, the aircraft diverted to Baku as a safety precaution,” the spokesperson said. “Engineers will inspect the aircraft prior to continuing its journey”.
Also in the news today, Liberals have hit back at their party’s election review over comments saying some “local members did not maximise the advantages of incumbency”. The Liberals attacked the review as a “whitewash” designed to shift blame on to defeated MPs in order to downplay the unpopularity of Scott Morrison.
“Every single one of the people who lost metro seats added to the Liberal party vote substantively, while the Liberal brand itself was a drag on the vote,” they claimed.
Late yesterday the Victorian environmental watchdog investigating REDcycle charged the operators behind the botched plastic bag recycling program for failing to provide information about the locations of warehouses that secretly stockpiled hundreds of millions of bags.
We also await the Yuletide wisdom of Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton, who will be giving their first Christmas messages as prime minister and opposition leader respectively late this afternoon.
Let’s get into it.

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