Sydney endures a year’s worth of rain

Sydney is in the grip of its third major flood event this year, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison bows to pressure to provide flood aid for Queensland.

What we know:

  • More than 100mm of rain fell on Sydney in 24 hours, with the city suffering flash flooding and bursting rivers (9News); 
  • Evacuation orders have been issued for Chipping Norton and parts of Camden in the south-west and parts of Woronora and Bonnet Bay in the Sutherland Shire;
  • Thousands have fled their homes as weather bureaus warn flooding of the already swollen Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers may exceed levels reached last month and in 1988 (SMH); 
  • Up to 140mm of rain in six hours is forecast for areas along the central and southern NSW coastal regions, and severe storms are expected for NSW’s north-east;
  • Sydney yesterday reached its annual average rainfall, just three months into the year (7News); 
  • It comes as Morrison agreed to another $385m in flood funding for Queensland, a day after rejecting demands from the Queensland and NSW governments for support (AFR $); 
  • Morrison reversed his position after lobbying from Queensland MPs fearful of the electoral consequences;
  • As state capacity has been hollowed out at the federal, state and local level, governments increasingly lack the practical resources to help in disaster recovery (The Monthly). 
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Covid inquiry calls for royal commission

The Senate committee tasked with scrutinising the federal government’s response to Covid-19 has handed in its final report.

The report by the Labor-dominated committee recommended (ABC): 

  • Creating a Centre for Disease Control to coordinate responses to future outbreaks;
  • Hold a royal commission into the government’s management of the pandemic;
  • Review pandemic planning every two years and undertake pandemic preparedness exercises;
  • Review the National Covid-19 Aged Care Plan and give a wage rise to aged care workers;
  • Address overcrowding, food security, fuel security, water security and quarantine facilities in remote Indigenous communities that left them exposed in the pandemic;
  • Immediately end government funding for the COVIDSafe app.
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Park Hotel detainees released

The remaining eight refugees in Melbourne’s Park Hotel have been granted bridging visas along with 12 other detainees across the country.

Three people in a detention centre in Broadmeadows have also been released while six have been freed in Pinkenba (SBS). 

The last female refugee in Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre has also been released.

It follows 20 people being freed from immigration detention last weekend.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the “compassionate policy” of the federal government refusing “illegal arrivals” to settle had allowed 19 detention centres to close.

Greens senator Nick McKim said the release of detainees “on the eve of an election is a deeply cynical move and it proves once again that their detention and torture was always a political decision”.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre founder Kon Karapanagiotidis warned that 10 people still remain “detained in hellholes” onshore.

Mehdi Ali, who spent nine years in onshore immigration detention before his recent release from the Park Hotel, wrote of the difficulties of restarting life after prolonged captivity (The Saturday Paper). 

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Governor-General lobbied for charity

Governor-General David Hurley lobbied Prime Minister Scott Morrison about a leadership program controversially allocated more than $18m in budget funding.

The money was awarded to the Australian Future Leaders Foundation Limited, which was only registered as a charity in April 2021 and is yet to run any leadership programs (ABC). 

It appears to have no office, website or staff, and executive officer Chris Hartley allegedly boasted that he secured federal support more than a year before it was publicly announced (ABC). 

Hartley claimed the Governor-General had delivered a PowerPoint presentation to Morrison to secure his support.

“The government should explain why it is that we've got $18m paid over to an entity which, as yet, doesn't seem to be operational,” Labor senator Penny Wong said.

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Toyota faces $2bn class action bill

Toyota could have to pay $2bn to customers as part of a class action that challenged the auto giant over faulty diesel particulate filters.

The Federal Court found Toyota customers bought vehicles with defects and as a result, the value of their cars was reduced by 17.5% on the average retail price (The New Daily).

The defect in diesel particulate filters caused the vehicles to spill foul-smelling white smoke.

The class action covers more than 264,000 Hilux, Fortuner and Prado vehicles sold between October 2015 and April 2020.

“I hope today’s judgement provides a degree of comfort to people who, like me, have had to deal with the disappointment, inconvenience and extra cost of owning these vehicles,” said Ken Williams, the lead applicant in the case.

If each customer claimed the full amount of $7474.59, the bill for Toyota could reach about $2bn.

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What matters is not how much you spend, it’s what your solutions are.

Clive Palmer reveals that he plans to spend $70m in total on the upcoming federal election campaign. Given the UAP leader spent nearly as much in the 2019 election without his party winning a single seat, perhaps Palmer’s “solutions” aren’t quite as appealing as he thinks (SBS). 

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Postscript: US zoo fears teen gorilla’s exposure to phones is behind anti-social behaviour

Amare, a 415-pound gorilla at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, has been staring a little too frequently at the screens of cellphones from visitors who show him pictures and videos through the glass wall – including selfies, family photos, pet videos and even footage of Amare himself. He has apparently become so distracted as a result that last week, when another teenage gorilla rushed at him in a show of aggression, Amare did not appear to notice (The Guardian).

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