NSW flood storm
(Image: AAP/Darren Pateman)

STORM WATCH

Thousands of western Sydney and south-east Queensland residents could be evacuated due to extreme weather, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that at least 1000 residents from western Penrith, Jamisontown, and Mulgoa have already received evacuation orders.

The Bureau of Meteorology warns that a strong high pressure system across NSW’s north-east and a low pressure trough in the west will both continue tonight, while flooding across parts of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley — specifically near Penrith — has already exceeded the November 1961 floods.

The ABC also notes an emergency alert has been issued for parts of the Gold Coast facing flash flooding.

The NSW Education Department has closed about 137 schools today, Newcastle Airport has suspended flights, and Gladys Berejiklian has warned of the “one-in-50-year” weather event’s impact on the Warragamba Dam, which will see 75% of its storage capacity flow into the catchment.

Berejiklian says dam levels will have to be reduced to around 20-25% to account for upcoming rainfall, while The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott has blamed his cabinet colleague, Water Minister Melinda Pavey, for not releasing more water ahead of the storm.

For the latest updates, see BOM’s national weather warnings, ABC Emergency’s postcode/suburb guide, or NSW State Emergency Service’s interactive Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley map.

A SHOT IN THE ARM

According to the ABC, the Therapeutic Goods Administration yesterday approved domestic production for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, with the first batches from two Melbourne plants to be released “in the next few days”.

The news comes ahead of Phase 1B of the national rollout starting today, to cover more than six million Australians and include: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over, other Australians aged 70 and over, younger Australians with underlying health conditions, and frontline healthcare workers.

Federal health authorities have expressed confidence this phase of the rollout will meet targets despite international supply issues and delivery delays from NSW’s storm.

FORMER HOUSEMATE OF HIGGINS’ ACCUSED SPEAKS OUT

An ex-housemate of the former Liberal staffer accused of raping Brittany Higgins in Parliament House has alleged the man sexually harassed her while living together.

The Australian ($) reports that Kriti Gupta only learned on March 10 that her former housemate was the alleged rapist, and last week gave a statement to the Australian Federal Police. The paper notes that the AFP has interviewed several people in relation to the claims but has not laid any charges against the alleged perpetrator.

The news comes ahead of Four Corners’ latest investigation into Higgins’ claims tonight, titled ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell: The Brittany Higgins story, who knew what when’.

AUSTRALIANS TRAPPED IN MYANMAR

Finally, the ABC reports that two Canadian-Australian citizens, business consultants Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, are under house arrest in Myanmar after trying to leave the country on a relief flight on Friday.

The news comes after opponents of the country’s military rule yesterday held candlelight vigils, after security forces killed four more people in pro-democracy protests. Almost 250 people have been killed since the February 1 coup.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

We want the ABC to be credible, and we want it to be the home of good journalism, not activism.

This is not about a culture war. It’s not about any particular agenda other than ensuring that the ABC complies with its editorial standards.

Andrew Bragg

Ahead of grilling ABC’s managing director at Senate estimates tomorrow, the Coalition senator makes sure not to engage in his party’s anti-ABC culture war by invoking activist journalism ($).

Bragg’s comments come ahead of Four Corners’ latest expose on parliament’s harassment culture tonight; as Christian Porter sues the ABC for defamation; and after his government stripped the broadcaster of more than $780 million.

THE DIRTY COUNTRY: CORRUPTION IN AUSTRALIA

Last week, we launched a new multi-part series, The Dirty Country: Corruption in Australia. If you missed it, catch up on our latest instalment. We’ve made it free to all readers so please share widely.

Pork-barrelling: the heart of democracy, or ineffective corruption?

“Moreover pork-barrelling punishes not merely taxpayers through misallocation of funds, but voters in electorates not regarded as meriting pork-barrelling — and particularly those in safe seats held by opposition parties.

“In the case of the sports infrastructure grants funds rorted by Nationals MP Bridget McKenzie, both safe Coalition and safe Labor seats received less funding than seats the Coalition had identified as target seats in the 2019 election.”

CRIKEY RECAP

What’s the go with the new Sydney airport? Another land deal raises questions

“Half a billion dollars. A secretive fund with links to a major Chinese developer. And one of the most lucrative pieces of land in the country. Who is behind the latest land deal raising questions next to the new Sydney airport?

“A mysterious fund controlled two relatively unknown property figures has stumped up $499 million for one of the biggest and most important development sites next to the airport.”


Another Taylor shocker: Auditor lambasts dodgy handout to energy company that couldn’t do the job

“A grant where an eligibility criterion was that you were the company named in the criterion — and you still failed to meet it. One handed out before the ‘strategic study’ that was supposed to justify it. To a company that admitted it couldn’t do what it was being paid to do, when other, better rated projects missed out.

“Welcome to the world of Angus Taylor and Scott Morrison’s fossil fuel obsession, unmasked in forensic detail by the auditor-general.”


Sounds of silence. After just a few months Brereton’s ‘brave’ report slips out of view

“It was November when the Brereton report dropped — a comprehensive, highly redacted account of dozens of alleged civilian murders and a toxic warrior culture among the elite echelons of the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan.

“But months later that moment is all but forgotten. When reports dropped this week that Special Air Service soldiers facing the sack after the report had been quietly given a medical discharge, they barely made a ripple.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Birmingham’s phone in message scam ($)

Labor accuses Attorney-General Christian Porter of ‘part-time’ work arrangements

Kristina Keneally slams ‘laughable’ government plan to bring in more skilled migrants

‘Prosperity and low emissions’: Former chief scientist backs climate policy

Peter Dutton charged taxpayers $465 for flight on day he was special guest at private event

Pakistan PM Imran Khan tests positive for COVID-19, urges people to vaccinate

US defence chief Austin makes unannounced Afghanistan visit

Asian Americans hold anti-racism rally after eight killed in Atlanta spa shootings

Several killed in government attack on hospital in northwest Syria

THE COMMENTARIAT

Floods leave a legacy of mental health problems — and disadvantaged people are often hardest hitSabrina Pit (The Conversation): “Yet again, large swathes of New South Wales are underwater. A week of solid rain has led to floods in the Mid-North Coast, Sydney and the Central Coast, with several areas being evacuated as I write. As a resident of the NSW Far North Coast, which has had its share of devastating floods, many of the tense scenes on the news are sadly familiar.”

Yes, the Queensland Greens are still a VERY white partyJonathan Sri (Jonathan Sri): “When I first put my hand up to be a Greens candidate, one of the key factors that motivated me was a frustration at how overwhelmingly white Australia’s political class is. To state the obvious, our multicultural society is not reflected by equally diverse legislatures. Comparatively few Australian politicians identify as people of colour or First Nations, and even compared to other Anglosphere colonies like the US and Canada, our politicians are disproportionately of western European ancestry. The Greens are certainly part of this problem.”

Resistance is futile: former chief scientist zeroes in on Australia’s green energy futureAlan Finkel (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Like others, I dream that my great-grandchildren, whom I might never meet, will grow up living on a planet just as magnificent as it was when I was young. Fulfilment of this dream will require that we preserve our planet’s unique beauty in the face of global warming, armed with ambition and realism. We do not have time for fatalism or despair.”

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Peter Fray

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