bushfires red gully WA
(Image: Nikki Woods/Supplied by DFES via AAP)

BURNING ISSUE

Residents of Ocean Farms Estate north of Perth have been issued an evacuation order as the Red Gully bushfire flares up again. The ABC reports that the blaze had temporarily been downgraded on Saturday but then intensified on Monday, and has now burned through more than 9000 hectares of land.

The news comes as the former-tropical cyclone Imogen continues to deluge northern Queensland, where communities face potential “intense” falls, flash flooding and “damaging to destructive winds”, while AAP reports that parts of Victoria and eastern New South Wales are also recovering from heavy rain and flooding.

PS: According to The Guardian, Labor’s climate spokesman Mark Butler has slammed the Morrison government’s decision to maintain Tony Abbott’s 2030 emissions pledge as falling “in line with more than 3C of warming”, a contrast with improved submissions from countries such as Chile, Norway, the UK as well as the EU.

STATE COVID-19 WATCH: EXPOSURE SITES GROW

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, several regional NSW communities have been added to the list of exposure sites after a man with COVID-19 travelled from Broken Hill to Orange via Nyngan before learning he was at risk after visiting the Berala BWS on Christmas Eve.

Elsewhere, ABC reports the Victorian government has ordered its public health team to review the timeline for sending public servants back to work after three new (quarantining) cases were identified and the state’s exposure list grew to include the Sikh temple in Keysborough and the cafe at IKEA Springvale. The Age notes the state will now allow residents holidaying in Queensland to drive home directly through NSW, although they have been warned to stop “only when necessary” and keep a record.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has revealed three returned travellers have recovered after testing positive to the UK’s new COVID-19 variant, as the UK enters its third national lockdown, and governments such as Vietnam’s begin banning travellers from countries with the new strains.

PS: The Andrews government has also called on other states and territories to similarly mandate testing for quarantining airline staff, while The West Australian ($) reports WA is not mandating weekly testing for overseas transport workers.

SHOT AND CHASER

Health Minister Greg Hunt has told The Daily Telegraph ($) the government plans to roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech in early March, a few weeks earlier than its original plan.

The new schedule follows pressure from Labor and other groups to begin deliveries as soon as the Therapeutic Goods Administration approves the drug, with The New Daily reporting Anthony Albanese saying “It makes no sense for the TGA to have recommended, as it is likely to do, in January, the approval of the Pfizer vaccine, but then for the rollout to not occur until March”.

US SENATE IN THE BALANCE

Finally, as you can see on The Guardian’s live blog, voting has begun in Georgia’s two crucial run-off elections, both of which the Democrats would have to win to take control of the Senate.

Polls close today at 11am AEST, although as Crikey explained yesterday results are expected to be tight and legal challenges are likely.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

My mother tells the story about how I’m fussing [after falling from a pram at a civil rights march] and she’s like, ‘Baby, what do you want? What do you need?’ And I just looked at her and I said, ‘Fweedom’.

Kamala Harris

The vice-president-elect and “progressive prosecutor” that once argued to keep non-violent offenders imprisoned as a source of cheap labour offers up a very touching, very real childhood anecdote that bears more than a passing likeness to an MLK anecdote.

CRIKEY RECAP

British justice takes the politics out of Assange trial on the way to setting him free

“The news came through from London around 11pm last night Australian eastern, and in a pretty torturous manner itself — a verbal summary of the magistrate’s own multi-part ruling in which every single ground of the Assange defence was thrown out, save for just about the last: his team’s claim that the regime Assange would be subject to would drive him to suicide. This the magistrate upheld, and it was enough to deny extradition.”


Why is the government hiding the Holgate ‘Cartier’ report? Here are a few clues

“It’s well known that the Morrison government is a fan of taking out the rubbish — dropping an unflattering report or announcement on a day when people aren’t paying proper attention.

“As such, four days before Christmas the government announced it would not release a report into expenses at Australia Post under fallen chief executive Christine Holgate.”


‘Rolling the dice’: experts warn against ‘dangerous’ Sydney cricket Test 

“On Thursday, up to 12,000 sports fans are expected to file into the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to watch Australia play India in the third Test.

“Despite attendance numbers being cut to 12,000 from 24,000, experts remain deeply concerned about staging a potential super-spreader event while Sydney is in the middle of an outbreak. It’s politically risky, too.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Pressure mounting on Scott Morrison to ask US to drop Assange charges

Leader of US right-wing Proud Boys group arrested over torched BLM banner

Proof super rises hurt workers’ pay packets ($)

Qantas reopens international bookings on vaccine hopes

Australia to toughen export controls over fears technology could fall into hands of foreign armies

Mourners stranded on wrong side of border by ‘callous and insensitive’ rules

Two children dead, others injured in ‘horrific’ crash near Dubbo

Liberal MP Gladys Liu the target of foreign interference plot ($)

Gulf states sign ‘solidarity and stability’ deal at GCC summit

THE COMMENTARIAT

Scott Morrison should change his mind and call Trump to end bizarre Assange sagaRex Patrick (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Prime Minister Scott Morrison has indicated his preference for legal processes to take their course while Australian government action is limited to routine consular assistance. Morrison said that if the British appeal process upholds Judge Baraitser’s ruling, Assange would be free to return to Australia. Well, of course he would. He’s an Australian citizen. What the Prime Minister didn’t mention was that the US prosecution would still be active and Assange could face a new round of extradition proceedings as soon as he arrived at an Australian airport.”

The ACTU’s remarkable chutzpah over superannuation ($) — Aaron Patrick (The Australian Financial Review): “Complaints about declining pay rises underpin the entire industrial agenda of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. They are its primary argument to increase compulsory superannuation from 9.5% to 15% of wages. The irony, or dishonesty, of the campaign is demonstrated by a 70-page analysis of the wages-super relationship by two Australian National University academics, obtained by The Australian Financial Review journalist John Kehoe.

For the Afghan peace talks to succeed, a ceasefire is the next — and perhaps toughest — step forwardNematullah Bizhan (The Conversation): “Since the peace talks began in September, however, there has been little progress. The two sides have only agreed to the rules and procedures for future talks, while no discussion on a ceasefire has taken place. In fact, violence surged in Afghanistan while the talks were underway. The number of civilian and security force deaths last year remained very high.”

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