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Hell and high water

Good morning, early birds. Coastal NSW residents should prepare for possibly life-threatening flooding as Queensland's deadly "rain bomb" moves south, and Australia will provide so-called "lethal aid" to Ukraine. It's the news you need to know, with Emma Elsworthy.

Queensland flood rain bomb
(Image: AAP/Jason O'Brien)


Coastal NSW residents should prepare for possibly life-threatening flooding — with Sydney’s coast to cop the worst of the weather on Wednesday — as the Queensland flood, known also as a “rain bomb“, moves south, The Brisbane Times reports. An area half the size of Tasmania — reaching from Hervey Bay to northern NSW and west to Toowoomba — has been inundated so far, with 100mm of rain recorded in Brisbane yesterday, The Australian ($) says. Queensland schools in 14 local government areas will be closed today because of the rapidly evolving emergency, Guardian Australia adds, and Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam is now at a staggering 177% capacity, causing the dam’s manager to begin controlled releases yesterday morning. Brisbane’s lord mayor says there is still “at least 24 hours of danger” ahead in the Queensland flood.

Meanwhile in NSW, Lismore on the north coast has been ordered to evacuate after the floodwaters topped the levy banks this morning, ABC reports, while a local man is still missing. Six people have died in the torrential weather event so far, after an SES volunteer was swept away on Friday en route to a rescue. So why is this happening? ABC’s weather reporter Kate Doyle reports a “blocking high” has kept the low-pressure system pinned over south-east Queensland since mid-last week. In the northern hemisphere, blocking highs have been linked to the warming climate, according to a 2018 paper looking into extreme weather in Greenland.


Australia will provide so-called “lethal aid” to Ukraine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says. That means we’ll send funds to NATO so the alliance can put more and better weapons in the hands of Ukrainian forces, Guardian Australia continues. He made the comments at a peace vigil in Lidcombe at the weekend. Morrison says we are also considering booting Russian diplomats and stopping trade to send a message, continuing “Russia must pay a heavy price” and nothing is off the table. According to the federal parliamentary library, we imported $86 million worth of Russian crude oil last financial year — about 1% of our total imports. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told the AFR “fuel and food prices will rise, flowing through to inflation” and Australian exporters, not consumers, will benefit from the unrest.

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Labor’s opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Penny Wong indicated to ABC’s Insiders yesterday that she had concern China would do likewise in Taiwan, saying matters in the “status quo … can only be resolved peacefully”. Wong also said China fell short of its responsibility as a “global leader” on the UN council by not condemning Russia’s invasion, and confirmed Labor’s defence spending would be no less than 2% in what she called a changing strategic circumstance. So will China invade Taiwan? One thing is for sure, The Atlantic’s Michael Schuman writes that the Chinese Communist Party will never accept the separateness of Taiwan. But President Xi Jinping will observe the pain — and cost — of Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s deadly move, and bide his time.


Labor’s decent lead ahead of the Coalition has narrowed by one point in the latest Newspoll, The Australian ($) reports, but both Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese (44%) and Prime Minister Scott Morrison (43%) have jumped in approval ratings. Labor’s primary vote is at a post-election high of 41% — that’s compared to the Coalition’s 35%. When it comes to who the preferred leader is, Morrison remains the favourite at 42%, while Albanese is at 40% — a two-point jump. Interestingly, the United Australia Party (UAP) has leapt ahead of One Nation, now commanding 4% of the popular vote (UAP achieved 3.4% in the last election). That makes the UAP the largest fringe party (the Greens are well ahead at 9%). Newspoll speaks to 1525 voters.

Speaking of the UAP — it appears chairman Clive Palmer has COVID-19. Palmer, 67, was taken to hospital last week and is now reportedly receiving treatment at home for pneumonia too, The Australian ($) says. Palmer is a known COVID-19 vaccine sceptic who told reporters a few weeks back that he is not vaccinated. Last week the SMH reported Palmer has spent 100 times more than Labor or the Coalition on advertising, some $31 million since August. Regular Worm readers would be accustomed to seeing the loud yellow strap on the front pages of the newspapers further down — the chair of the Centre for Public Integrity said it’s the media’s responsibility to question whether to accept the ad dollars.


It was called the “ship of gold” — the SS Central America was stocked full of hard-earned California gold from the state’s gold rush in 1857, headed home to New York to offer miners and their family a totally different shot at life. But the ship sailed directly into a hurricane, and Mother Nature took it for her own. The SS Central America sat at the bottom of the ocean near South Carolina for over a century, holding one of the world’s largest and most precious treasures entombed in its ghostly hull. Then in the late 1980s, research scientist Tommy Thompson decided to do something. He raised US$12 million from 161 investors to fund an expedition down to the seabed — and when his crew got there, they were met by a luminous sight.

Gold nuggets, ingots and coins worth tens of millions of dollars were brought up to the surface, but investors never saw a dime. Thompson disappeared for years until he was arrested in 2015 in a Florida hotel. The plea deal was simple, investigators said. Two years in jail and tell us where 500 gold coins are. But Thompson refused. He’s been in jail ever since, holding on to a near-priceless secret. But the ship of gold held many souls too, as so many went down with it — for the first time photographs show the faces of those people on board. A survivor later recalled that, at the moment the ship began to sink, miners cast away their hard-earned gold — some thinking it would help them float, others knowing they couldn’t take it with them to their “watery grave”.

Hoping the coffee is hot and the breeze is cool today, folks.


The water hasn’t gone down yet, and we haven’t seen the full extent of the damage to our community due to catastrophic flooding. We have started a fundraiser to help local residents and businesses who have been affected.

Peter Dutton

The defence minister seems to have forgotten himself after setting up a GoFundMe for those affected by the Queensland flood. Pundits were quick to point out — erm, isn’t providing financial assistance in a natural emergency the role of government?


Why invasion is a crime neither Russia nor its president will pay for

“Russia is breaking the law, but what are the consequences? Under the UN Charter, acts of aggression are the domain of the Security Council, which has power to decide on measures in response, including armed force. Member states are bound to assist.

“In the case of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, that’s what happened: the Security Council said it was illegal and everyone got together to kick the Iraqis out. Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a right of veto over any decision the council wants to make.”

By his TV satire, you will know him: when Ukranian fiction became today’s fact

“So opens Servant of the People, a show about a non-politician who is swept unexpectedly to the Ukrainian presidency. It premiered in 2015, roughly four years before its star, Volodymyr Zelenskyy was swept unexpectedly to the actual Ukrainian presidency.

“Now that Russia has invaded and Ukraine is at war, the story of the naive but good-hearted man trying to change a system he doesn’t fully grasp plays as unbearably poignant.”

End alumina exports, expel diplomats… if Morrison is serious, here’s what he can do

“Seize Rusal’s 20% stake in the Queensland Alumina Limited plantRusal is Russia’s giant aluminium producer, which earns billions in profits and holds a one-fifth stake in Rio Tinto’s QAL plant in Gladstone, Queensland. Rusal’s board and management can direct their complaints to the Kremlin.

“End exports of alumina to RussiaRussia relies heavily on alumina exports from Ukraine and Australia — in our case, around half a billion dollars worth a year. Time to shut off its supply, which will in turn inflict significant damage on Russian exports of aluminium products, mainly to Europe.”


Wellington Airport won’t open to international flights for another month (Stuff)

New research points to Wuhan market as pandemic origin (The New York Times)

Four stories you may have missed amid Russia-Ukraine crisis (Al Jazeera)

Macron to launch re-election race, as rivals face pro-Russia allegations (The Guardian)

Germany to raise defense spending above 2% of GDP in response to Ukraine war (The Wall Street Journal) ($)

Poland, Sweden refuse to play Russia in World Cup qualification playoffs after invasion of Ukraine (CNN)

North Korea launches a ballistic missile, South Korea says (The New York Times)

Canadian researchers discover first possible case of deer spreading COVID-19 virus to a human (CBC)

Iranian ambassador to UK removed from post over hijab incident (The Guardian)


The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a huge wake-up callAlexander Downer (AFR): “This represents the first time a European country has been invaded unprovoked since 1941. Europeans had assumed that this sort of warfare was behind them: that two world wars and the evolution of international law and multinational institutions such as the European Union and NATO would guarantee such unprovoked attacks would never happen again. Europe is shocked, and so are foreign policymakers in the US. But, second, Putin has exposed the weakness of America, and the West more generally. This is a consequence of treating dangerous autocrats with soft, comforting rhetoric. You can’t imagine Russia invading a democratic country of 45 million people if Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

“Reagan’s slogan was ‘peace through strength’. Well, we now have ‘war with weakness’. I had assumed Biden and his allies would collectively persuade Putin that the wrath of the West would undermine the stability and prosperity of Russia and in turn threaten Putin’s position. That may well be what happens in time. But let us draw breath and think about this. While Western countries have been convulsing themselves in debates about transgender pronouns and salami-slicing their societies into South African-style racial groups, autocratic governments have increasingly judged that the West is a paper tiger.”

Memes could help you talk to your teen about the war in UkraineDaisy Turnbull (The Age): “At its heart, parenting really is just a social experiment. You take some of what your parents did (dinners together wherever possible, the news trumps any other TV show) and add some new theory into the mix (‘positive parenting’ or ‘pressure-free veggies before dinner’) and, eventually, your kids may become parents one day and do the same with their children. But like any experiment, the result (18-year-old leaving home) can be affected greatly by external factors — not only with each generation (for example, technology), but even year by year. The last two or three years have had too many external factors. Pandemics, lockdowns and now war in Ukraine …

“For teenagers especially, social media, and the memes that populate it, are often how they connect and process the world around them. If your teen engages with topics like the chance of World War III, it may not be through the news that you consume, but that is not to say they aren’t interested or want to talk about it. Seeking a meme is not the same as hiding under a doona. It is a self-protective way of coming out from under it.”


The Latest Headlines


Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison will speak at a lunch event held by the Queensland Media Club and then do a question-answer session.

  • Author Indyana Schneider discusses her new book, 28 Questions, described as a “queer When Harry Met Sally for the Sally Rooney generation”. You can catch this one online too.

Kulin Nation Country (also known as Melbourne)

  • Bundjalung author and chair of the judges Melissa Lucashenko will announce the 2022 Stella Prize longlist. You can catch this one online too.


Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

We’ve pushed our journalism as far as we could go. And that’s only been possible with reader support. Thank you. And if you haven’t yet subscribed, this is your time to join tens of thousands of Crikey members to take the plunge.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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4 months ago

isn’t providing financial assistance in a natural emergency the role of government?

Well, this is kind of the point. Dutton’s (and Morrison’s) view of the role government is to facilitate and leverage funds from ‘the private sector’ to pay for helping Australians in times of crisis.

This will be a useful event to promote that philosophy. Party donations? Taxes? They’re to pay for the scumbags to be reelected. Priorities!

4 months ago
Reply to  Mercurial

And you credulously report Alexander Downer from the AFR? You should point out his previous article, just last week, was titled ‘Four Reasons why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine.’

4 months ago
Reply to  Mercurial

Not only that he blames pronouns?

4 months ago
Reply to  Mercurial

“This sort of warfare”? As opposed to “other sorts”?
More pontification from Reaganophile “Lord Bugger of Timor-Leste & Howard’s Minister for Foreign Affairs” (overseeing Children Overboard, ‘The Invasion of Iraq Because Saddam Has WMDs and Sponsors Al-Qaeda Terrorism – Ignore Those In-the-Field Experts’, AWB and NPA) : when it comes to this invasion of the Ukraine – “Europeans had assumed that this sort of warfare was behind them” after ’41?
…. After what ‘The Land formally known as Yugoslavia’ (including Bosnia, Kosovo etc) suffered through, 20+ terrifying years ago? Sure the “invasion” may(? Kosovo?) have been missing – but the type of “warfare” they endured was somehow “different” to this?
Is there a diplomatic colour coded gradation of “preferred sorts of warfare” – for those caught in the middle – below the level of “Politicians and their armed forces”?

…. On “dangerous autocrats”? “We have to invade Iraq because …….”?