Thousands of people have fled the central Queensland town of Gracemere as more than 130 bushfires burn across the state. Catastrophic fire warnings were issued for the Central Highlands, Capricornia and Coalfields regions for the first time on Wednesday, with premier Annastacia Palaszczuk calling conditions “unprecedented [and] uncharted”. In Sydney, three people died in the city’s wettest November day since 1984. Several suburbs recorded more than 100mm of rain in only a few hours, more than the city’s average monthly rainfall. In completely unrelated news, prime minister Scott Morrison disavowed the National Energy Guarantee policy he championed as recently as September on the grounds that federal Labor’s carbon emissions reduction target of 45 per cent was too high.
New migrants will be forced to wait four years to access Newstart welfare payments under new laws due to pass through federal parliament. In a House of Representatives vote on Wednesday, government and Labor MPs passed a bill establishing a four-year residency period before migrants can access the unemployment benefits. Labor supported the bill after securing amendments enshrining one or two-year wait times for other welfare measures such as paid parental leave and carers’ payments. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor negotiated with the government to avoid “[opening] the door for parties like One Nation and Fraser Anning to negotiate with the government on it”. Greens immigration spokesperson Nick McKim said the deal was unnecessary, as “we could have prevented this bill from passing through the parliament at all if Labor had held firm”.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has cancelled a planned trip to the G20 economic summit in Argentina as the federal government tries to head off a parliamentary push to question the eligibility of home affairs minister Peter Dutton to sit in Parliament. The defection of Chisholm MP Julia Banks to the crossbench on Tuesday left the government with just 73 votes on the floor of the House of Representatives, increasing the likelihood that Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers would ask the High Court to review Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament due to a potential fiduciary conflict of interest. Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, threatened on Wednesday to refer independent MP Kerryn Phelps and two Labor MPs to the court if they voted for Dutton’s referral. Phelps responded by saying she “won’t be intimidated” by the government and that she would “make my decision when it comes to parliament”. Dutton is absent from parliament this week after being injured while repairing a fence.
Matthew Guy has resigned as Victoria’s opposition leader after the state Liberal Party fell to a crushing defeat at Saturday’s election. In a statement, Guy congratulated premier Daniel Andrews and said “now that the parliamentary party has been called together, they will elect a new leadership team”. While counting is still under way in several seats, the Liberals suffered a swing of almost 6 per cent, losing a swathe of seats in rural areas and its eastern Melbourne heartland. The state Coalition also looks to have lost several upper house seats to various micro-parties.
Former New South Wales Labor leader Luke Foley has withdrawn his threat to sue the journalist who accused him of groping her. Foley resigned as state opposition leader earlier this month after reporter Ashleigh Raper released a statement through the ABC saying Foley touched her inappropriately at a parliamentary Christmas function in 2016. Foley denied Raper’s allegations when he resigned, saying at a press conference that he intended to launch defamation proceedings in the Federal Court and recontest the next state election as the member for Auburn. In a statement, Foley said “it's in nobody's interest for this matter to be the subject of long running court proceedings and I won't put everyone through this”.
And Gurrumul Yunupingu, Amy Shark and Courtney Barnett have won big at the 2018 ARIA awards. Yunupingu, who died last year aged 46, posthumously won best male artist and best independent release for Djarimirri, with his daughter Jasmine leading a musical tribute. Shark, who won album of the year, best pop release and best female artist for her album Love Monster, said in her acceptance speech that “the sex of a human doesn’t define their worth or ability”. Speaking backstage after winning best original soundtrack, Jimmy Barnes said he wanted his memoir, Working Class Boy, to draw attention to Australian families “struggling with poverty, with alcoholism, domestic violence. Sixty-odd women have been killed this year and we’re worried about terrorism?”