The Senate hearing into the “sports rorts” scandal has heard evidence, presented by the Australian National Audit Office, that 43 per cent of projects were ineligible for grant funding. The evidence is at odds with the defence repeatedly put forward by the now ex-sports minister Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, that all approved projects qualified. The ANAO also revealed that Morrison’s office had a direct hand in funnelling $100 million in funding to marginal or target seats, with colour-coded spreadsheets and “dozens” of emails being shared between his office and that of McKenzie. Of 290 projects that were funded, 272 had already commenced work before agreements were signed, which would usually make those project applications void.
China travel ban extended: The government has extended the temporary travel ban for all non-Australians travelling from China for another week. The decision was made as the death toll of the coronavirus, now labelled COVID-19, climbed by a further 242 people as of yesterday. Scott Morrison said his government had “not taken the decision lightly” and that the ban would be reviewed on a weekly basis. The original ban was due to end on Saturday, but would now last until at least February 22. The Chinese embassy expressed “deep regret and dissatisfaction” in their response to the news, describing it as an “overreaction”. Tourism operators have also warned the extension will further impact the industry.
Man found dead, woman missing in floodwaters: The body of a 75-year-old man has been found in the Mary River in the Sunshine Coast, which burst its banks in the heavy rains of the past week. The man was an experienced kayaker known for going out in flood conditions. The search has also resumed for a 26-year-old woman, Yang Chen, who went missing on Wednesday while walking near Gorge Falls in the Tallebudgera Valley. It is feared she may have slipped and fallen. South-east Queensland has been hit by flash floods following heavy storms this week, while the northern part of the state is bracing itself for another heatwave.
Too early to call end of drought: Sydney Water is keeping level-two water restrictions in place, despite the deluge of rain that has inundated Greater Sydney and the surrounding regions with more than 700mm of rain over the past week. While the Nepean Dam is overflowing and Warragamba catchment has increased by more than 30 per cent, Sydney Water representatives say it is too early to see if recent falls are a temporary drought relief or the beginning of long-term drought recovery.
All NSW fires contained: For the first time since the fire season began in September last year, all fires in New South Wales have been contained thanks to recent heavy downpours across the state. More than 30 fires have been extinguished this week because of the rain, leaving only 24 blazes still burning.
Matildas one step closer to Tokyo 2020: In soccer, the Matildas drew 1-1 with China overnight in an Olympic qualifier. The draw places the Matildas at the top of Group B to face off with Group A runner up Vietnam in March. China will go on to play fellow Group A team, South Korea.