NSW Health warns of rise in invasive bacterial infections – as it happened

Last modified: 07: 50 AM GMT+0

Warning as cases of meningococcal disease and invasive group A streptococcus rise. This blog is now closed

What we learned today, Friday 6 January

And that’s where we’ll wind up on this Friday evening. Here’s what we learned today:

Look after yourselves this weekend, folks.


Body found in water at Sydney’s Little Manly Beach

Police were called to Little Manly Beach in Sydney at about 3pm this afternoon after reports that a body had been seen in the water.

Police are currently working to recover the body. The person is yet to be formally identified, and the circumstances surrounding the death are being investigated.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.


Road trains delivering supplies to flood-hit WA face week-long 12,000km return trips

Triple road trains delivering essential supplies to Western Australia’s flood-stricken Kimberley communities face week-long 12,000km return trips from Perth as they are forced to detour halfway across the country due to washed-out roads and bridges.

Instead of travelling directly from Perth to the Kimberley region – a 4,600km return trip – trucks will be forced east to Port Augusta in South Australia, before travelling the length of Australia to Katherine in the Northern Territory, then heading back west to WA.

Along the way, drivers will face the usual hazards of kangaroos, emus and other wildlife, along with the risk of bushfire and flood hazards. The journey will take up to a week and incur a diesel bill of about $12,000.

The Western Roads Federation, the peak road transport industry body in WA, said it was the equivalent of driving from Paris to Vladivostok.

Here’s the full story:


Covid deaths in aged care surpass 100 per week again

The number of Covid-related deaths in residential aged care has again surpassed 100 per week, spiking to levels not seen in months.

The latest data, published late Friday, shows 738 active outbreaks are occurring within the aged care sector, with 3,949 active cases among residents and 1,661 staff cases.

The number of Covid-related deaths in aged care rose to 4,612 as of 5 January. That’s an increase of 120 in the past seven days, the data shows.

Covid was the cause of 5.8% of all deaths in aged care facilities in the past week.

An analysis of weekly data reports shows deaths have rapidly increased from October, when as little as eight per week were recorded. The death rate is the highest it has been since mid-August, when 143 deaths were recorded in a single week.

That’s where we’ll leave that press conference. In summary: the Kimberley flood crisis is not over yet, and it looks like a tough few days ahead, particularly for the towns of Broome and Derby.

Broome and Derby face days of flood isolation

Dawson warns that the major flooding situation is not over yet:

Be under no illusions: Derby will be an island in the next few days. It will be cut off. Those roads will be closed. The weather and the water is coming towards it. So there will be days of isolation for Broome and Derby over the next few days. This is only starting. We have days of this ahead of us.

The road from Broome to Derby is likely to be closed in the next 24 hours, Dawson says.


WA authorities are trying to relocate Aboriginal people from floods in culturally sensitive way, minister says

WA’s emergency services minister, Stephen Dawson, is asked about allegations that the government has conducted rescue and assistance efforts for Aboriginal communities in a culturally insensitive way. He responds:

We’re very conscious of when we move people from communities who have to relocate that we do it in a sensitive way and that we do it to culturally appropriate places.

We’ve also worked with the Aboriginal Interpreting Service in Western Australia to make sure that our messaging can be translated because, of course, it’s important to remember that many people in these communities, for them English might be their third or fourth language. And so we’ve had to adapt … And we’ve had to do things sensitively and sensibly.

As I said, I understand frustrations from people. I’m frustrated too, as the community is too, because this weather event continues to go on and it has hampered our efforts to get people and supplies on the ground as quickly as we would have liked to.


As WA’s north floods, the state’s south faces high fire danger

In weather whiplash, Klemm also reminds the south of the state that there is high fire danger closer to Perth.

We currently have 71 total fire bans in place across the southern half of WA with eight of those in the Perth metropolitan area. There is an increased bushfire risk today, so it’s extremely important that people remain alert and prepared with their bushfire plan.

There are currently five bushfire active alerts on emergency WA and the fire in the shire of Donnybrook … was downgraded this morning as the fire is now contained and controlled.


WA emergency services have relocated 105 people from flood-hit areas and plan to move more

So far, emergency services have relocated 105 people and has plans in place to relocate 86 adults and 38 children from Fitzroy Crossing to Derby.

Klemm says conditions are expected to improve later today, which will allow rescue crews to get larger aircraft in to relocate larger groups of people.

No new requests for assistance have been received since Thursday afternoon.

Klemm says:

The aircraft resupply plan has also been created and is supporting road transport … I want to reassure people in the Kimberley that a range of agencies are working very hard to ensure food and medical care is getting to those people that need it most. Weather conditions are making any form of transport difficult, but DFES and other agencies are looking at every possible option to keep essential supplies flowing.

A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules at Perth airport
A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules at Perth airport before flying to northern WA to assist the flood-affected community of Fitzroy Crossing. Photograph: LSIS Jarrod Mulvihill/Australian Defence Force


WA emergency services says ‘significant operation in full swing’ in flood-hit areas

We’re now hearing from WA’s Fire and Emergency Services commissioner, Darren Klemm:

A significant operation remains in full swing to resupply communities impacted by flooding and really relocate people who want to leave those areas.

We continue to work closely with traditional owners and leaders on a daily basis to share key information and obtain cultural guidance for emergency services. We are also in contact with leaders of remote communities to ensure they have adequate food and medical supplies.


Power cut and water warning issued for flood-hit communities

Due to safety concerns regarding water levels and their impact on power transformers, Horizon Power has switched off electricity supply to around 120 customers in Fitzroy Crossing, including the caravan park. Damaged power infrastructure won’t be fixed until flood waters recede.

The Water Corporation advises that people should avoid contact with flood waters, which may have been contaminated by wastewater due to heavy rainfall, and that people should follow basic hygiene procedures, including washing, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting anything that might have come in contact with flood water.


WA working with federal government on flood recovery payments

The IGA in Fitzroy Crossing has been inundated with flood water, Dawson says, but the Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation has been helping out, and providing meals and bedding in the region.

On emergency assistance payments, Dawson says:

The state government is working closely with the commonwealth government to expedite recovery payments, and we’re activating this process as quickly as we can. Our staff and local government representatives will soon be on the ground working through impacted towns and communities to do a rapid damage assessment. It will be done as soon as it’s safe to do so.


More than 100 people evacuated from remote communities amid WA floods, minister says

We’re now hearing from Western Australia’s emergency services minister, Stephen Dawson, with the latest on the Kimberley floods.

Scores of people have been relocated from remote communities and from Fitzroy Crossing in the last 24 hours.

Dawson says authorities have endeavoured to relocate people to safe areas as close to where they actually live as possible.

Flood waters in the Kimberley region of Western Australia
Flood waters in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Photograph: Andrea Myers/AAP


US senators urge Biden not to sell nuclear submarines to Australia

Two top US senators have urged President Joe Biden not to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, warning it would diminish US national security given the vessels are “scarce”.

The intervention confirms the US is under pressure not to sell its submarines before Australia is able to build its own as part of the Aukus alliance – meaning it could be decades before Australia gains nuclear submarines.

A spokesperson for the Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, played down the leak, saying “the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines is taking shape, and an announcement remains on track to be made in the first part of this year”.

The Australian government is due to announce whether it plans to buy nuclear submarines from the US or UK by March.

According to US news site Breaking Defense, Democratic senator Jack Reed, the chair of the US Senate armed services committee, and the then ranking Republican senator James Inhofe, now retired, sent Biden the letter in December.

Read the full story here:


Severe weather warnings remain for parts of Western Australia and Northern Territory

Here is the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest update on the weather system bringing all that rain in Western Australia: ex-tropical cyclone Ellie will move further inland today to the WA north interior before weakening early next week.

Major flooding continues in the Fitzroy River and west Kimberley, and severe weather warnings are still active in parts of WA and the Northern Territory.

Ex-TC Ellie will move further inland today into WA's North Interior before gradually weakening early next week.

Major flooding continues for Fitzroy River & the west Kimberley.

Severe Weather Warnings remain for parts of WA and NT.

Latest warnings: https://t.co/4W35o8i7wJ pic.twitter.com/JIOvNMXOSG

— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) January 6, 2023


Kimberley farmers face significant stock losses after record floods

Farmers in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia are expecting significant stock losses as record flood waters continue to spread.

AAP reports that the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association is unsure how many of the estimated 700,000 cattle found in the region have died due to the devastating rains.

The association’s chair, Jak Andrews, runs Yeeda Station, east of Fitzroy Crossing, and said most of the damage had been experienced in the surrounding area, but the flooding was yet to peak near Derby.

Andrews, on the flooded station, told AAP:

We’re not expecting the peak of this river to come down until probably Monday.

We’re hoping to have helicopters airborne tomorrow to move cattle to higher ground before that peak comes through.

Fortunately, there are no reports of loss of human life, but there’s certainly infrastructure and livestock losses.

Flooding near Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia
Farmers in the Kimberley region say they are going to need help once the initial flood emergency is over. Photograph: Patrick Davies/Facebook

Andrews said the flooding was causing anxiety for pastoralists.

A number of properties are reporting significant losses ... infrastructure damage, entire station complexes being submerged. There’s no doubt that the losses will be significant.

Andrews said station operators were going to need help once the initial emergency was over.

The state MP Neil Thomson echoed the calls for help, saying the challenges would come after the flood waters recede.


NSW Health warns of rise in invasive bacterial infections

NSW Health has issued a warning about increases in cases of two invasive bacterial infections in the last few weeks: meningococcal disease (IMD) and invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS).

Cases of IMD were above average in NSW towards the end of 2022, and cases of iGAS have increased around Australia and overseas, NSW Health said in a statement.

The infections are rare but severe, and both of them can cause death or permanent disability, so the agency is advising the community to be aware of the signs and symptoms.

The executive director of Health Protection NSW, Dr Richard Broome, said:

In their early stages, invasive bacterial infections including IMD or iGAS sometimes mimic symptoms of viral infections like Covid and influenza, and can also follow or occur at the same time as a viral infection.

Rapid intervention and effective treatment for invasive bacterial infections are available and can be lifesaving. We urge people to pay close attention to symptoms, trust their instincts, and seek urgent medical care if symptoms worsen or if they or the people they care for appear very unwell.

You can read all about the symptoms of meningococcal disease here and invasive group A streptococcus here.

Between September and December of 2022, 137 cases of iGAS were notified in NSW.

There were 36 cases of meningococcal disease reported in NSW in 2022.


Western Australia records 29 Covid deaths and 6,675 new cases this week

There were 252 people in hospital with Covid-19 this week, including six people in intensive care.

This is our WA COVID-19 weekly update.https://t.co/xk8mxfiqM1 pic.twitter.com/37Xc84TSP0

— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) January 6, 2023


This is a lovely piece about the wonder and joy that comes from letting wild animals into your orbit and “getting to know the locals”. (I’d like to think my local family of magpies would agree.)

It’s going to be a warm weekend in Victoria, so here’s the Melbourne water quality (read: swimming) report.

Those poor-rated beaches are St Kilda and Elwood, at which swimmers and locals have been reporting oily water and dead fish coming out of the local creek and into Port Phillip Bay for the last two days. The EPA is investigating where the pollutants are coming from.

Beach Report water quality forecast for Saturday: 34 beaches rated good, two rated poor. On the Yarra, Warrandyte is rated good - other locations are rated poor. Check water quality at your beach here https://t.co/GZHd1NFt5R pic.twitter.com/Sv4X7NIaCf

— Environment Protection Authority Victoria (@VicGovEPA) January 6, 2023


South Australia records 20 Covid deaths and 4,954 new cases this week

There are 185 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including 10 in intensive care and one person on a ventilator.

Weekly case numbers are down on last week, when the state recorded 7,671 cases.

South Australian weekly COVID-19 update 06/01/23.

For more information, visit https://t.co/XkVcAmeZ6V pic.twitter.com/mFYp83ptzk

— SA Health (@SAHealth) January 6, 2023


Our video team has put together this footage of the flooding in the Kimberley in Western Australia.

The Fitzroy River peaked at 15.81 metres earlier this week, about 1.8 metres above the previous record. It’s expected to be an extraordinary 50km wide at its most swollen.


Problems continue for fruit farmers in Goulburn Valley

Flood recovery efforts continue in one of Australia’s key fruit-growing regions, but flow-on effects, storms and logistical problems continue to hinder producers, AAP reports.

Already facing one of the toughest seasons on record due to floods, labour shortages and supply chain challenges, Victoria’s Goulburn Valley was slammed with massive hailstorms in November and December.

Michael Crisera, a grower services manager at Fruit Growers Victoria, said:

In some parts of the storm the trees were actually stripped of all leaves and fruit.

The December storm damaged more than $50m of produce across 1,500 hectares, Crisera said. Floods have also prevented access to orchards in the region in the spring, delaying spraying efforts and leading to crops lost to disease.

The Goulburn Valley produces roughly 90% of Australia’s pears and almost 50% of its apples. Crisera said this would have impact on fruit volumes, meaning a short supply this season.

The challenges have compounded supply-chain headaches for fruit producers, with increased freight costs at home and Covid-19 wreaking havoc on export markets.

The Victorian agriculture minister, Gayle Tierney, visited the Goulburn region this week, assuring farmers the state’s flood assistance packages would apply to the recent hailstorms.

An Australian Defence Force Bushmaster in Shepparton during recent flooding
An Australian Defence Force Bushmaster in Shepparton during recent flooding. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP


Abandoned yacht from Sydney to Hobart race washes up on Tasmanian island

A yacht abandoned at sea after suffering damage in the Sydney to Hobart race has washed up on a remote Tasmanian island, where authorities will attempt a salvage mission.

Water police rescued the crew of Huntress on 28 December after the 40-foot vessel struck an unidentified object that sheared off part of its rudder. The yacht was left to drift at sea and has washed up near Christmas Beach on Cape Barren Island in Bass Strait.

Sydney to Hobart yacht race competitor Huntress ashore on Christmas Beach, Tasmania
Sydney to Hobart yacht race competitor Huntress ashore on Christmas Beach, Tasmania. Photograph: Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania

Marine and Safety Tasmania earlier this week issued an alert saying the yacht was 15 nautical miles off the state’s north-east coast and salvage operations were expected to commence on Wednesday.

It confirmed later on Wednesday the yacht had beached on Cape Barren Island and salvage attempts would be made on Saturday. Read the full story here:


Thanks so much Mostafa for all your work today. I’ll be with you, dear readers, here in blog-land until early evening this Friday.

And with that, I leave the blog with the always great Stephanie Convery, thanks for reading.



HEAVY RAINFALL (24-hour totals up to 120mm) that could lead to flash flooding & DAMAGING WINDS with gusts above 90km/h are possible over Lasseter & Tanami districts today, spreading further east over the weekend.

More details https://t.co/0GnyMYSM0U pic.twitter.com/UkcGEXoBc7

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) January 6, 2023

Return to pre-pandemic migration levels ‘optimistic’, expert says

The government expects a return to pre-pandemic migration levels this year but the projections may be too bullish given the uncertain global environment, AAP reports.

A new report from the Centre for Population is predicting a full recovery in migration numbers this year of about 235,000 people per year on average.

But Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, told ABC Radio the migration assumptions were quite optimistic and she was not confident migration would rebound to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as the forecasts suggested.

Because there’s a lot outside of the government’s control – logistics when it comes to getting on a plane, the logistics of being able to afford the price of a plane ticket, and so on.

The final report, released on Friday, revealed the lasting effects of the pandemic on the population as an effective pause on migration accelerated the ageing trend. As well as longer life expectancies and declining fertility rates, Australia is experiencing a wave of baby boomers entering retirement.

The ageing population is expected to weigh on the economy and pose budgetary challenges as a shrinking tax base contrasts with a growing need for healthcare and other government services.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, also told ABC Radio the population report highlighted the demographic challenges ahead, including the need to equip the workforce to support an ageing population.

We need to get the workforce issues right because we want to get our workforce in as good condition as it can be – the right size, the right level of skills and training people for good, secure, well-paid jobs – so that people are making a contribution to looking after people in the later stages of life.


ACT records 1,436 new Covid cases and four deaths

The ACT has reported 1,436 new cases over the past week, with four lives lost in that time.

There are 7 people in ICU and 73 people in hospital.

Weekly ACT COVID-19 update – 6 January 2023
🦠 COVID-19 case numbers
◾ New cases this week: 1,436 (463 PCR and 973 RAT)
◾ Total cases since March 2020: 228,422
🏥 COVID-19 hospital numbers
◾ Active cases in hospital: 73
◾ In ICU: 7
◾ Ventilated: 2
◾ Lives lost: 4 pic.twitter.com/geT1G4exMu

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) January 6, 2023


CSIRO warns of fire risk across Australia

It’s hard to imagine, but flood-ravaged parts of Australia could still face dangerous grassfires this summer and all it will take is a few hot, dry days, AAP reports.

After the wettest year on record in some parts and ongoing flooding in Australia’s north-west and south, the prospect of fires any time soon seems incongruous. But Dr Andrew Sullivan, a fire expert with the CSIRO, says the risk of grassfires – fast-moving blazes that have been among Australia’s most deadly – remains very real.

And just a few days of hot, dry weather could create the right conditions.

You can get extensive fires burning through grasslands the same year as extensive rain and growth because it grows really quick and it dries out really quick.

He says annual grasses that grow, flower, set seed and then die every year have now completed their life cycle and are turning brown. Regardless of factors like how much moisture is in the soil and how much rain falls this summer, that dead material is still lying there.

The critical factor is whether or not places that have had heavy growth get the hot dry conditions that will dehydrate dead vegetation and make it ripe for combustion.

You don’t need a great period of time. If you get three or four days of hot, dry, windy weather at the end of January or February, there’s a potential that stuff will burn really well, regardless of what the general climate is doing.

The same isn’t typically true for forests, which take much longer to dry out.

It’s not until you’ve had at least two to three continuous years of rainfall deficit that you’ve got the potential for catastrophic fires burning through forest lands.


The rain may have dampened things at the cricket today, but it hasn’t stopped the PM enjoying himself:

I’m at the SCG this morning for the @mcgrathfdn Pink Test. Sad to say there’s not a lot of play yet because of the weather. Great to stop by @SEN_Cricket commentary box with @GerardWhateley and @Bowlologist. Thanks for having me, hopefully the rain clears and the covers come off. pic.twitter.com/FkSpeQBOv6

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 6, 2023

Jim Chalmers says aged care industry ‘a mess for some time’

The federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has conceded that Australia’s aged care industry remains a mess, with a new report showing that seven in 10 operators are operating at a loss.

Appearing on ABC Radio, Chalmers was responding to the StewartBrown aged-care financial performance survey sector report, published by the Australian newspaper, which showed aged care centres lost $21.29 a bed a day on average over the September quarter compared to $7.30 over the same period 12 months earlier.

Chalmers said the government was trying to “clean it up”:

Aged care has been a mess for some time and what we’re trying to do in the Albanese government is to clean it up.

Labor’s first budget in October set aside $2.5bn over four years to reform the sector, including better food for residents and increasing the on-site hours of registered nurses.

The head of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association, Tom Symondson, also told ABC Radio that the annual losses added up to $1.4bn for the industry.

It’s not chickenfeed. It’s a very significant number.

We know that aged care has been under huge pressure for years – decades, in fact. Covid has made it worse, but it was already struggling before that.


Save the Children says Australia has ‘clear moral obligation’ to return citizens stuck in Syria

Save the Children Australia, an advocacy group that called for the repatriation of children stuck in Syria, has said it is still a “clear moral obligation and international legal requirement” for citizens to be returned to Australia.

The group said in a statement that the charges laid against a woman today showed that repatriation can be balanced with the safety of the community.

It is possible to repatriate its citizens while balancing any potential risks and ensuring the safety of the wider community.

If there is evidence that any of the women have committed crimes then the appropriate place for them to be charged and prosecuted is in Australia, where we can put our faith in the country’s robust judicial and national security architecture.

No child is responsible for the alleged actions of their parents. It is now more important than ever that these children are given the appropriate support to ensure their safe integration into Australian society.


Michelle Gunn becomes first female editor in chief of the Australian

The Australian newspaper has just confirmed that it has appointed its first ever female editor in chief in Michelle Gunn.

Gunn has been the editor of the Australian since May 2020 and, before that, was editor of the Weekend Australian for eight years.

The executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, Michael Miller, said in a statement Gunn understood “The Australian’s relationship with its audience.”

Her leadership and deep understanding of The Australian’s relationship with its audience will ensure its trusted and news-breaking journalism sets the national news agenda.

Michelle Gunn and Anthony Albanese during the 2022 Economic and Social Outlook Conference in Melbourne in November.
Michelle Gunn and Anthony Albanese during the 2022 Economic and Social Outlook Conference in Melbourne in November. Photograph: James Ross/AAP


Mariam Raad granted bail after being charged with entering and remaining in Syria

AAP is reporting that the New South Wales woman who was repatriated to Australia from a Syrian refugee camp has been granted bail after being charged with entering and remaining in parts of Syria that were under Islamic State control.

Mariam Raad, 31, was arrested on Thursday in Young, in the state’s south-west, where she had been living since being returned in October.

Australian federal police and NSW police investigators from the NSW joint counter-terrorism team executed warrants at her home and a home in Parklea, in Sydney’s north-west, where a relative lives.

She was charged with entering, or remaining in, “declared areas” – in this case Syria, which was under the control of the terrorist group IS – in breach of federal law.

She faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Raad faced Griffith local court via an audio-visual link on Friday after being held in custody in Wagga. She was granted bail on Friday and was forced to surrender her passport.

Among 12 bail conditions, she was banned from contacting anyone in prison or associated with a terrorist group, barred from viewing or distributing material on things including terrorism and related propaganda, and cannot attempt to acquire a firearm.

She’s due to appear at Young local court on 15 March.

It will be alleged in court that Raad travelled to Syria in early 2014 to join her husband – Muhammad Zahab – who left Australia in 2013 and joined IS.

It will be further alleged Raad was aware of her husband’s activities with IS and willingly travelled to the conflict region.


We are currently seeking to confirm reports that the Australian newspaper will get its first ever female editor in chief:

🚨 News Corp masthead The Australian gets its first ever female editor-in-chief Michelle Gunn, according to an internal memo.

— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) January 6, 2023

RSL Australia president supports NSW push for mandatory cashless poker machines

The president of RSL Australia has come out in support of the New South Wales government’s push to implement mandatory cashless poker machines.

Greg Melick was on RN Breakfast this morning, where he also accused the group that operates RSL clubs, RSL and Services Clubs Association, of giving the brand a “bad name.”

RSL Australia is a registered charity that supports veterans, while the RSL and Services Clubs Association runs the actual clubs themselves.

I think it’s sensible legislation and it’s necessary.

If we can’t force them to stick to certain guidelines and ethical practises, I would like to see them stop using the name.

If we can’t reach some appropriate arrangement, we’d approach government to legislate to prevent them using the name.


Kimberley flooding emergency prompts road train rule change

The flooding emergency in the Kimberley has prompted the authorities to temporarily tweak the rules for long road trains in Western Australia and South Australia to ensure food and essential supplies reach WA’s north and the Northern Territory, AAP is reporting.

Normally banned road trains up to 53.5m in length will be permitted to travel through parts of eastern WA and SA until late February.

Road access to the town of Derby was cut after flooding forced authorities to close a 700km section of the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Halls Creek, isolating the town of about 3,000 people.

Authorities say it’s likely the freight route south of Broome is also impassable at low-lying Roebuck Plain and it could take many weeks for it to drain.

Flooding at Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley area of Western Australia.
Flooding at Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley area of Western Australia. Photograph: Sally Towne

“This temporary access will allow increased freight capacity on alternative road networks to keep essential freight moving and ensure communities in northwest Australia have access to food and essential supplies,” federal acting transport minister Madeleine King said.

It comes as ex-tropical cyclone Ellie continues to dump heavy rain with strong winds on the Kimberley region, where falls of up to 400mm have been recorded in and around Broome over a 48-hour period.

The slow-moving weather system has moved to the south-east and is expected to move further inland towards the Northern Territory on Friday afternoon.

Parts of WA’s north-east could receive up to 150mm of rain within 24 hours, creating the risk of dangerous flash flooding, the Bureau of Meteorology said.


Bill Shorten says national security ‘paramount’ to government’s decision making

Bill Shorten has rejected claims the government has “questions to answer” on the repatriation of women and children from Syria, after a woman was charged with entering and remaining in parts of Syria that were under the control of Islamic State.

Shorten was on Sunrise, responding to deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley, who insisted there were issues here, even though NSW police noted in their statement yesterday that there is “no current or impending threat to the Australian community” as part of their work.

Shorten said national security had always been “paramount” to the government’s decision making, and emphasises that there were children who “didn’t have any say in the matter”.

Bill Shorten
Bill Shorten rejected claims the government has ‘questions to answer’ on the repatriation of women and children from Syria. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Shorten also implied Ley was “point scoring” in bringing up any apparent danger the community faced, he wasn’t going to “scare people with a whole lot of smoke”:

National security has been paramount in all decisions, and just like our predecessors did in 2019 when they bought some people back, we want to make sure that it’s all done in a way which keeps people safe.

When we talk about the brides, there’s also little children there. They didn’t have any say in the matter. I think anyone who knowingly went to aid Isis deserves the full weight of the law. But I’m not convinced that every little child over there you know that no one asked them, to be straight I think that we can monitor them better here in Australia than you can little kids getting radicalised in the Middle East.

Has information emerged about one of these women who went across there and she’s been charged, yes. Is the system working? Well it wouldn’t have been possible to charge her if he wasn’t here. I think that the system is working as it should be.

Despite all of this, despite all of the smoke and all of the sort of points scoring, the reality is that there’s been no suggestion that anyone who’s come back here is causing any actual threat to safety. The police are monitoring them all.

So I’m not going to run around scaring people with a whole lot of smoke when the reality is that the information has come to light the police authorities have joined the counterterrorism task force to do their day job.


Albanese government and Business Council agree to disability employment pilot

The Albanese government has announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Business Council of Australia to create and implement a “new disability employment pilot”.

The pilot program is a direct outcome from the national jobs and skills summit held in September, with the agreement following a $3.3m investment from the government in the pilot.

The minister for social services, Amanda Rishworth, said the collaboration would improve employment outcomes for people with disability, while also testing new ways to drive organisational cultural change and develop corporate capacity to open up development and advancement opportunities.

There are 2.1 million Australians with disability of working age, but only 53.4% are in the labour workforce. We also know 93% of working-age people with disability face difficulties finding work due to the lack of suitable employment and perceived limitations of their disability.

This new employment pilot seeks to address this and provide significant benefits to people with disability, employers and businesses, the economy and the broader community.


Chalmers also addressed Acoss’ criticism that indexation of welfare payments is insufficient to improve the wellbeing of people on jobseeker, and calls to ditch the stage three tax cuts.

On welfare, Chalmers said:

There has been a big increase as a consequence of the indexation made necessary by this higher inflation. And so that indexation is flowing through I think in welcome ways to people who are on payments. There will always be an appetite to do more and to do better when it comes to these payments. And we will always do what we responsibly can to support people, particularly people on low and fixed incomes.

Chalmers noted he, social services minister Amanda Rishworth, and former minister Jenny Macklin, are part of a committee considering the adequacy of payments ahead of the budget.

Asked if abolishing stage three would require a fresh mandate at the next election, Chalmers replied:

It’s not something I’m contemplating because ... our position on those tax cuts hasn’t changed. And it’s not the only factor frankly in the budget which people are talking about right now, in welcome ways. As we get towards the budget, that I’ll hand down in May, there’s a lot of pressure on the budget when it comes to aged care, health care defense, spending the NDIS, the cost of servicing the trillion dollars of debt that we inherited from our predecessors.

Chalmers said the October budget made “a good start making the budget more sustainable while we provided some responsible cost of living relief” and promised “you will see more of that in May”.

An important detail between those two Covid updates is the apparent spike in deaths across New South Wales and Victoria, with both recording jumps compared to the week before.

NSW recorded a jump of over 40 deaths while Victoria recorded a jump of over 30 deaths, but both can be attributed to delays in reporting over the Christmas and new year holidays, with numbers returning to pre-holiday levels.

The weekly Covid numbers are in. They appear to show a continued ebbing of the November/December wave in cases, while deaths are back to the high levels of pre-Xmas suggesting a delay in reporting over holidays. pic.twitter.com/HS5fqte4ch

— NickdMiller ❔ (@NickdMiller) January 5, 2023


Victoria records 12,349 new Covid cases and 108 deaths in the past week

Victoria has recorded 12,349 new cases in the past week and 108 deaths, another slight drop in cases but jump in deaths:

This week we reported 12,349 new cases with a daily average hospital occupancy of 689 and 32 patients in ICU.

108 deaths were reported in the past 7 days.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives. pic.twitter.com/EBrEppJ3nf

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) January 5, 2023


NSW records 19,793 new Covid cases and 77 deaths in the past week

NSW Health has released Covid numbers today, with 19,793 cases recorded in the past week, a drop on the 27,665 recorded the week before. There has been a jump in deaths though, as the health department noted might happen due to delays in reporting over the holidays.

COVID-19 weekly update – Friday 6 January 2023

In the 7 days to 4pm Thursday 5 January:
-19,793 new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded: 9,170 rapid antigen tests (RATs) and 10,623 PCR tests
-77 lives lost pic.twitter.com/oEXDMFkwVg

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) January 5, 2023


Chalmers says Covid had ‘extraordinary impact’ on population growth expectations

Chalmers also addressed the findings of the population report, which is set to be released today.

Asked about Australia’s ageing population, Chalmers said:

It is a huge challenge ... The way that our population changes and evolves and grows over time is really crucial to our society but also to our economy as well. And Covid has had an extraordinary impact on our expectations for population growth: whether it’s fertility, whether it’s migration, whether it’s the slowest population growth a couple of years ago, in the depths of Covid, that we’ve had for more than a century. All of these things are really crucial determinants when it comes to thinking about and planning for our future. And so we need to make sure as a government and as a society that we’ve got the services and the infrastructure to keep up with population growth ... One of the most important things that we can do and that we are doing is to build the kind of workforce that can support a population which is getting bigger but also getting a bit older as well, and some of those trends have been exacerbated by Covid.

Chalmers pointed to the migration review being conducted by the home affairs department, Labor’s childcare subsidies, and addressing skills shortages as ways to expand the workforce and increase skills to support an ageing population.


Jim Chalmers briefly comments on Raad’s arrest

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has commented on the arrest of Mariam Raad for allegedly entering a declared area in Syria.

Chalmers told ABC News Breakfast:

This is obviously part of an ongoing effort from our counterterrorism authorities. You’re right, that it does apply to conduct which [allegedly] occurred in 2014. Our understanding is that there has been no threat to the community since she returned and there’s obviously a process to go through now which involves the AFP and others. And so I don’t have much to add beyond that .

Our assurance for the Australian people ... is that we will always do what is in the interest of community safety. And making these decisions for the right reasons and well-founded decisions. And so people can expect us to continue to monitor and take all of the necessary steps.

Labor has come under criticism from the Coalition for allowing women and children to return from Syrian camps.


Mariam Raad due to face court

AAP is reporting that the New South Wales woman who was repatriated to Australia from a Syrian refugee camp is due to face court after being charged with entering and remaining in parts of Syria that were under the control of Islamic State.

Mariam Raad, 31, was arrested on Thursday in Young, in the state’s south-west, where she had been living since being returned in October.

Australian federal police and NSW police investigators from the NSW joint counter-terrorism team executed warrants at her home and a home in Parklea, in Sydney’s north-west, where a relative lives.

She was charged with entering, or remaining in, “declared areas” – in this case Syria, which was under the control of the terrorist group IS – in breach of federal law.

She faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Raad is due to appear via an audio-visual link in Wagga Wagga local court on Friday.

It will be alleged in court that she travelled to Syria in early 2014 to join her husband – Muhammad Zahar – who left Australia in 2013 and joined IS.

It will be further alleged Raad was aware of her husband’s activities with IS and willingly travelled to the conflict region.

The husband, a former Sydney maths teacher who rose through the ranks of IS, is believed to have died in Syria in 2018.

The woman was until last year living in the Al Roj Internally Displaced Persons camp in northern Syria, which has been under Kurdish control since the defeat of IS.

The investigation into the woman began when she was in Syria and continued after she returned.

You can read more on the story at the link below:


China reportedly considering allowing Australian coal imports to resume

AAP is reporting that Australia-China relations appear on the mend amid reports Beijing will allow coal imports to resume for the first time since 2020.

It’s the latest positive step between the two nations after the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in November and the Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, met with her counterpart in Beijing last month.

Australian coal exporters are becoming more confident it’s more than just a rumour, despite similar reports last year that China was considering resuming purchases of Australian coal coming to nothing.

The sector is encouraging China to move decisively and not risk missing out on its next round of purchase contracts.

Coal operations at the Port of Newcastle.
Coal operations at the Port of Newcastle. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

Australia China Business Council president David Olsson said it would pave the way for more business dealings in the future.

Now that high-level government-to-government meetings between Australia and China have recommenced, we have a better environment in which to address trade restrictions that are in place between the two countries.

The resumption of high-level meetings sends a strong, positive signal to the Chinese system and business community about Australia’s role as a business partner for China.

Australia-China Relations Institute research principal Roc Shi said while the economic impact of the resumption of the coal trade might not be huge, it would be a step forward.

The change is more important politically than economically ... This action signals China has made the first step towards mending the relationship.

Technically, it is not difficult for the Chinese government as the ban has never been officially announced ... however, the implication is significant as it indicates China’s willingness to improve the bilateral relationship.


Good morning

Good morning, Mostafa Rachwani with you for the first Friday of the year, which will also bring us the first batch of Covid figures for the year.

Eyes will be on the spread of the XBB.1.5 variant which has been found in Australia, with authorities on the lookout for how far it can reach. While there is no evidence the new variant is more severe than previous iterations, the World Health Organisation said it was concerned about XBB.1.5 given how easily it can be shared.

Elsewhere, after drip-feeding morsels of details, we will finally get a look at the 2022 population report in full today, with all the details adding up to paint an interesting picture of the future of Australia. We already know we are an ageing population, that Melbourne is on track to overtake Sydney, and that growth has slowed due to the pandemic – a fuller picture should become clear today.

On the Gold Coast, a young Sydney boy remains in a coma following the fatal helicopter collision earlier this week. Nicholas Tadros, 10, was in the helicopter taking off, and is still in a critical condition.

And road rules are being relaxed in north-western Western Australia so the emergency supplies can get in, as the region faces its worst ever flooding. Emergency evacuations continued in the Kimberley yesterday, as the Fitzroy River’s flood peak bore down on tiny Noonkanbah.

The emergency services minister, Stephen Dawson, told reporters that it was the worst flooding the state had ever seen, as helicopters spent the day saving people from their rooftops:

People in the Kimberley are experiencing a one-in-100-year flood event, the worst flooding WA has ever seen.

This situation is still changing and it’s proving to be extremely challenging.

We’ll bring you more on that, and everything else happening in the country, stay tuned.


Stephanie Convery and Mostafa Rachwani (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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