News live update: 8,300 homes lose power as Cyclone Jasper hits north Qld; Israel ambassador critical of Australian ceasefire support – latest | Australia news

News live update: 8,300 homes lose power as Cyclone Jasper hits north Qld; Israel ambassador critical of Australian ceasefire support – latest | Australia news

8,300 homes have lost power in north Queensland

Ben Smee

Turning back to Tropical Cyclone Jasper:

Laura Boekel from the Bureau of Meteorology said there had never been a cyclone recorded this early in Queensland during an El Niño year.

Cyclone season typically starts in November but the El Niño phenomenon usually corresponds with cyclones developing later in the season.

Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni says about 8,300 homes in north Queensland have already lost power.

Key events

Master Builders welcomes government’s commitment to housing

More reactions are coming through following the release of the mid-year economic outlook.

Master Builders has applauded the government for its commitment to tackling inflation and boosting housing supply, but stressed “all policy levers to tackle the housing crisis must be pulling in the same direction”.

CEO Denita Wawn said one of the biggest challenges in tackling inflation and the cost of living is pressures in the housing market – including rental inflation. She welcomed the $6.5bn in funding commitments to improve housing supply and affordability.

It’s now up to the states to follow through on their commitments to address challenges within the planning and approvals system.

Builders and tradies have a big job ahead of them to ensure we can build enough homes to meet our Housing Accord objectives.

Wawn said the industry will continue to work with governments at all levels to ensure “we can put further downward pressure on the cost of building and the time it takes to build”.

This can be done by kickstarting private investment and reducing the cost of building homes through better approaches to planning, reducing backlogs, minimising taxes and charges, and improving productivity in the industry by simplifying building regulations and the industrial relations environment.

Acoss calls on Labor to increase income support and scrap stage-three tax cuts

The Australian Council of Social Services (Acoss) is calling on the government to support people on low incomes, in response to today’s mid-year economic outlook.

In particular, the council is calling for action at the May budget to boost income support, permanently lower the cost of energy bills, and scrap the stage-three tax cuts “which will only further fuel inflation”.

Acting CEO Edwina MacDonald said the “skyrocketing” cost of rent and energy has “created a tsunami of financial distress that is pushing people on the lowest incomes to the absolute brink”.

Community services are at a breaking point, unable to keep up with the demand from people in desperate need of support. The government’s projections today show at least 100,000 more people will be unemployed next year.

It’s disturbing to see an expectation of almost no real spending growth when we know we need to do more to meet the community’s needs for essential services, income support, and to manage the climate transition over the years to come.

Acoss is also calling for income support payments such as JobSeeker and Youth Allowance to be increased by at least $78 a day.

Triple zero call takers vote for industrial action in Victoria

Triple zero call takers in Victoria have voted to take industrial action but insist emergency responses will not be impacted, AAP reports.

From next Monday, workers will wear union uniforms, stop reporting or recording false alarm codes and relay union messages over radio.

They say they will also undertake work stoppages that do not affect emergency responses in addition to other actions.

They’re pushing for better staffing, access to accrued leave, improved training, more pay based on experience and raising the base salary for trainees which is currently $48,000 per year.

The United Firefighters Union, Victorian Ambulance Union, Communications Workers Union and United Workers Union are representing workers during negotiations.

Victorian Ambulance Union Secretary Danny Hill said it was an “insult” that emergency workers are paid $48,000.

Severe storms expected across Tasmania, Victoria and NSW

While Queensland braces for Tropical Cyclone Jasper, wet weather and severe storms are being forecast for southern parts of the country.

The Bureau of Meteorology said severe storms are likely today across Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, including Melbourne and Hobart. This will bring humid conditions and heavy rain that could lead to flash flooding, damaging wind gusts and large hail.

The Tasmanian SES warned of dangerous weather conditions earlier today, and health authorities in Victoria are on alert for cases of thunderstorm asthma.

Shadow treasurer responds to mid-year economic update

The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, is speaking to reporters from Canberra, following the release of the mid-year economic update earlier today.

You can catch all the details below, if you missed it:

Taylor claimed there was “more tax, more spend, more immigration, more mortgage pain [and] more inflation pain” in the budget.

Focussing in on immigration, Taylor said an extra 130,000 people are expected to arrive in the coming years:

It has gone up to over 1.6 million to from 1.5 million in the budget, and the problem here is this – Australia is a proud immigrant nation, there is no doubt about that, but that you have to get the balance right between the number of people and the spend on infrastructure, the services required and right now, Australians understand that that balance is out of whack. It is simply not working.

The shadow finance minister, Jane Hume, added that the government is asking for a ‘pat on the back’ for not spending money:

They are telling you that they have saved and re-prioritised. Well, a saving is not a saving if you are spending it on something else. Reprioritisation is simply a fancy way of saying ‘we have spent the money on something else’.

Here is the latest on Tropical Cyclone Jasper, from the Bureau of Meteorology:

  • 60mm of rainfall has fallen at the Boulders since 9am, with the cyclone already producing damaging wind gusts throughout far north Queensland.

  • Locally intense rainfall, which may lead to “dangerous and life-threatening flash flooding”, is forecast to develop this afternoon or evening along the coast from Cape Flattery to Port Douglas.

  • Isolated six-hourly rainfall totals between 250-300mm are likely, with 24-hourly totals between 400-500mm possible.

  • Between Cape Flattery and Ingham, six-hourly rainfall totals between 100-150mm are likely, with isolated falls up to 250mm along the coast.

  • Destructive wind gusts of up to 140km/h may develop between Wujal Wujal and Yarrabah, including Cairns, from this afternoon.

  • A flood watch is current for the north tropical coast, parts of Cape York and gulf country.

  • A storm tide (an abnormal rise in sea level, over and above the normal tide levels) is expected between Cooktown and Innisfail on the high tides today.

🌀 Latest track map for 11am. Tropical Cyclone Jasper is producing damaging wind gusts on the Far North Queensland coast. Destructive winds may develop during the afternoon. 60 mm of rainfall has fallen at the Boulders since 9am this morning. Track map:

— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) December 13, 2023

Australian aid agencies welcome Australia’s calls for a ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza

Eight Australian aid and humanitarian agencies welcome a joint statement signed by prime minister Anthony Albanese calling for “urgent international efforts” towards a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza. Australia also joined 152 nations in backing a UN resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.

In a joint statement, NGOs Plan International Australia, ChildFund Australia, Save the Children Australia, Oaktree, Oxfam Australia, ActionAid Australia, Caritas Australia and Union Aid Abroad said:

With more than 18,000 people – including over 7,000 children – killed in Gaza in the last two months according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, and those who have survived facing catastrophic conditions without access to enough clean water, food or medical supplies, the urgency of this call cannot be overstated. Every day we do not have an immediate and permanent ceasefire more civilians and children will die.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Animal groups renew call to ban duck hunting

Animals Australia, BirdLife Australia, RSPCA Victoria and Wildlife Victoria have come together to renew calls to ban duck hunting in the state, citing new data.

The 2023 Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey, released on Tuesday, revealed five of the eight game species of ducks continue to show significant long-term declines in abundance.

It also indicated three major indices for waterbirds (total abundance, number of species breeding and wetland area index) show significant declines over time.

Researchers noted that long-term trends more accurately predict population status than yearly fluctuations.

The animal groups said the data was “further critical evidence” of the need for a ban on hunting.

An Australian native wood duck at Harrington Park, Sydney, Australia.
An Australian native wood duck at Harrington Park, Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

RSPCA Victoria chief executive, Liz Walker, said her organisation has long held animal welfare concerns around wounding from hunting and the latest data also highlights sustainability concerns that cannot be ignored. She said:

The release of this latest survey data highlights the fact that duck hunting will put additional pressure on species that are already threatened by global warming. There is now so much evidence to support a ban on duck hunting in Victoria, and we are calling on the government to finally put one in place.

Kate Millar, from BirdLife Australia echoed Walker’s comments:

The latest survey clearly shows that despite a series of good seasons, waterbird and game species numbers have not increased to where we would expect them to be. With a return of drier, El Niño conditions there can be no justification for increasing the hazards faced by waterbirds through continued duck shooting.

In August, parliament’s select committee on Victoria’s recreational native bird hunting arrangements recommended a complete ban on the sport.

The government has about two months left before it needs to make a call on next year’s hunting season.

Online predator warning as kids plug in Christmas gifts

Families are being warned to be mindful of keeping children safe from predators on gaming and other smart devices over Christmas.

Reports of online child exploitation incidents spike after holiday periods as young people spend more time on their devices, Australian federal police said.

While many parents think apps and games designed for children are safe, they often have online functions such as in-game chat and direct messaging. These functions are popular methods for child sex offenders to connect with potential victims.

After gaining kids’ trust, criminals can encourage them to move to more private platforms with image-sharing functions.

Kids playing a computer game
Federal police have urged parents and carers to be wary of predators on gaming and other smart devices. Photograph: Milan_Jovic/Getty Images

“With just 3% of parents and carers listing online grooming as a concern, it’s never been more important to understand the challenges children and young people can face,” said AFP Commander Helen Schneider of the Centre to Counter Child Exploitation.

The AFP-led centre received more than 40,000 reports of online child exploitation incidents in 2022/23.

– Australian Associated Press

Israel ambassador critical of Australian support for ceasefire

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Israel’s ambassador to Australia has criticised Canberra’s decision to back a United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying he found it “difficult to understand”.

As reported earlier, Australia was among 153 countries to back the UN statement which “demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and demanded that “all parties comply with their obligations under international law … notably with regard to the protection of civilians”.

It came just hours after Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese released a joint statement with Canada’s Justin Trudeau and New Zealand’s Chris Luxon, which again called for “ efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire”. The PM’s joint statement also emphasised that: “We recognise Israel’s right to exist and right to defend itself.”

The two actions were highlighted by Amir Maimon, Israeli’s ambassador to Australia, in a post to the platform X today. He said he found it “difficult to understand how Australia can support Israel’s right to defend its people from terrorist aggression, while also voting in support of a ceasefire that will embolden Hamas and enable it to resume its attacks on Israelis”.

[Australia’s UN] vote comes a day after Israel returned the remains of two murdered hostages from Gaza, and rocket-fire continued to rain down on southern Israel. This war can only end with Hamas being totally defeated and the liberation of all our hostages.

Read more here:

Mostafa Rachwani

Mostafa Rachwani

Man and boy killed in plane crash

Authorities have confirmed a man in his 30s and a young boy have died in a light plane crash near Grafton in northern NSW yesterday.

The aircraft – reportedly described by authorities as a “homemade-type plane” – crashed on a rural property at Lilydale yesterday morning at about 9am after clipping powerlines. It hit the ground next to the Clarence River and caught fire.

Read more:

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Advance Australia targets Mark Dreyfus over indefinite detention case

Earlier in December Guardian Australia revealed that Mark Dreyfus personally approved the intervention of the Australian Human Rights Commission in the high court case on indefinite detention in favour of the plaintiff, NZYQ.

The Albanese government argued against the ultimate ruling that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful. Dreyfus approved the independent AHRC’s involvement on the proviso that it make clear its support for the opposite result was on its own behalf, not the commonwealth’s position.

This has not stopped the Coalition and now Advance Australia is targeting the attorney general.

In a petition published on its website, Advance Australia executive director, Matthew Sheahan, said:

The prime minister must sack … Mark Dreyfus RIGHT NOW. [He] sent taxpayer-funded lawyers into the high court to argue for the release of violent sex offenders and paedophiles from immigration detention. So the next thing Dreyfus should sign is his letter of resignation. His job is to put you first and keep Australians safe. But he unleashed an ‘us versus them’ mission to undermine the safety of Australians. Dreyfus is NOT on your side.

The form letter petition argues Dreyfus’ decision “has contributed to the release of nearly 150 dangerous individuals onto our streets, and puts our families at risk”.

As the AHRC president, Rosalind Croucher, wrote to Dreyfus: it is not unusual for it to be involved in litigation with “high political sensitivities” and decisions of the Coalition government to block its intervention arguably interfere with its independence.

A watch and act message has been issued for Nathalia, north-east of Shepparton in Victoria, due to an out-of-control grass fire.

The grass fire is at Evans Road, travelling in a south-easterly direction.

People are urged to stay close to a building where you can shelter, as conditions can change suddenly, and monitor conditions.

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