Two die as Sydney floodwaters rise

Another two deaths have been recorded in NSW as Sydney floods, with the Perrottet government considering stamp duty concessions for people who move away from floodplains.

What we know:

  • Two bodies were found in floodwaters in Western Sydney, bringing the death toll in NSW to eight, with 40,000 people across the state under evacuation orders (7News); 
  • Manly Dam began overflowing on Tuesday, with students at nearby Mackellar Girls college among those evacuated after students saw a car floating by their window;
  • Sydney is enduring its wettest start to the year on record (ABC); 
  • The NSW government is working on a proposal to waive stamp duty if residents of flood-ravaged areas buy in an area away from floodplains (SMH); 
  • But Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said it was not realistic to relocate people, arguing it’s better to improve flood modelling and raise the Warragamba Dam wall;
  • Western Sydney councils lack the resources to deal with the floods, grappling with back-to-back disasters in a continual crisis management cycle (The Conversation); 
  • In Queensland, where 13 people have died in the floods, residents in the south-east are bracing for more thunderstorms today (7News);  
  • The floods have created mountains of waste, sparking environmental and vermin fears in both Queensland and NSW (The Guardian). 
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Aboriginal man shot as police trial goes on

The prosecution has begun its closing address in the murder trial of police officer Zachary Rolfe, while NT police have been involved in another shooting of an Aboriginal man.

What we know:

  • The prosecution told the jury Rolfe intended to kill or cause serious harm when he shot Indigenous man Kumanjayi Walker during an attempted arrest (The New Daily); 
  • Prosecutor Philip Strickland SC said the officer had become “preoccupied” with a video of the teen threatening other police with an axe before the arrest;
  • He accused Rolfe of lying under oath about seeing Walker stab his colleague and fearing for his life when he fired shots two and three;
  • Strickland highlighted Rolfe’s attempts to join elite tactical response group and commando regiments, saying his career aspirations showed “an obvious desire to become involved in direct action”;
  • If a guilty verdict is reached, it would be the first time an Australian police officer has been convicted on a murder charge involving an Aboriginal person in custody (7am). 
  • It comes as another Indigenous man has been left in a critical condition after being shot by police in Palmerston (ABC). 
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Biden bans Russian oil

The US and UK are banning Russian oil and the EU has unveiled a plan to end reliance on Russian gas, as international sanctions expand to cover fossil fuel exports.

What we know:

  • US President Joe Biden announced the US will ban all Russian oil imports, warning it may result in a “Putin price hike” at petrol pumps (AP); 
  • The UK, which relies on Russia for about a third of its imports, will also phase them out by the end of 2022 (Bloomberg); 
  • Energy giant Shell says it will stop buying Russian oil, natural gas and shut service stations in the country (The Independent); 
  • Oil prices surged further, up more than 27% since the beginning of March (Reuters); 
  • The EU has announced measures to cut Russian gas dependence by two-thirds this year, accelerating the rollout of renewable energy, biofuels and hydrogen (Politico).
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Japanese encephalitis moving south

Victoria has recorded its first ever death from the Japanese encephalitis virus, as authorities warn the disease is spreading south due to climate change.

The Victorian man in his 60s died from the mosquito-borne virus, an autopsy confirmed.

It follows a national alert from Australia’s acting chief medical officer about the spread of JEV in multiple states on Friday (Nine). 

The virus can cause inflammation of the brain in around one per cent of cases who become infected.

Anyone who develops a sudden onset of fever, headache, vomiting as well as seizures or disorientation is encouraged to seek urgent medical attention.

It is thought that heavy rains fuelled by climate change in central and south-east Australia is the reason the virus is spreading south (SBS). 

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Funding pulled after uni’s male, pale, stale awards

Australia’s largest medical philanthropic foundation has banned the University of Melbourne from receiving any more funds in protest after the university handed out six honorary doctorates to white men last week.

The Snow Medical Research Foundation will stop donations to the University of Melbourne after giving it $16m over two years (AFR $). 

The university has not awarded a single honorary doctorate to a woman or someone of colour since 2018.

“The message that sends to women and people who are not white is that you can work as hard as you want but white men will get the award before you,” said Tom Snow, chairman of the Snow Medical Research Foundation.

Among the six men who received honorary doctorates last week were Allan Fels, former chairman of the ACCC, and Leigh Clifford, a former Qantas chairman.

A spokeswoman for the university said other awardees, including three women and an Indigenous man, were unable to attend the ceremony and would be handed their awards later.

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It’s amazing what a bit of water over that grey country along the Darling-Barka can do.

As coastal NSW grapples with historic rains, the Darling-Barka in the far west of the state is having its own “flood” event — for the first time in a decade there is actually water in the creek (ABC).

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Postscript: Are Kids Ready for Virtual Reality?

Neuroscientist Jenifer Miehlbradt knelt down next to a brown-haired 6-year-old boy. She fitted a visor over his eyes and head, fastened a sensor to his back, and with the push of a button, launched him into a virtual sky (Nautilus).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.