A senior United States diplomat has testified that he was ordered by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into political rivals. On Wednesday the US Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told the impeachment inquiry that Trump made a White House meeting for Ukraine's president conditional on his willingness to launch investigations into Trump’s political rivals, including former vice-president Joe Biden, who is running to become the Democratic nominee for president. He provided further testimony, as well as email and call records, which implicated the Vice President, Trump’s chief of staff, and the secretary of state. “Everyone was in the loop,” Sondland said. “It was no secret.” Speaking outside the White House, Trump repeatedly said he told Sondland over the phone “I want nothing” on Ukraine.
Bushfire threats spread: The Country Fire Service fought more than 45 fires across South Australia on Wednesday, where more than a dozen locations hit record November temperatures. A watch-and-act is in place for at least one Yorke Peninsula fire. Power was cut in parts of the state due to the catastrophic conditions, with more than 6000 properties still without electricity. In Victoria, a “Code Red” fire danger day has been issued for the Mallee and Northern Country districts, the first such warning issued in Victoria in 10 years. Residents were told by Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp to leave last night or early this morning. Dozens of blazes continue to burn in New South Wales and Queensland. The news comes as the NSW government is to announce the first Level 2 water restrictions for Sydney in a decade, with new limits on watering gardens, washing cars and filling pools in response to stored water levels reduced to new lows.
Nationwide gun amnesty: All states and territories have agreed to launch the first-ever continuous nationwide gun amnesty in Australia, reports the Adelaide Advertiser ($). At a meeting of police and emergency services ministers in Adelaide on Wednesday, it was agreed that gun owners would be able to hand in their weapons, no questions asked from the second half of 2020. The news comes as New Zealand introduces a permanent gun amnesty after the expiry of a gun buy-back scheme implemented in the wake of the Christchurch massacre.
Westpac scandal: Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer told media on Wednesday that he was "utterly horrified" by AUSTRAC accusations that the bank was oblivious to child exploitation circuits in South-East Asia. Westpac is to be taken to court over allegations the bank contravened the laws when it processed more than 23 million transactions, including the breaching of money-laundering and counter-terror laws, sparking calls for Hartzer and other senior management to go ($).
Prince Andrew interview fallout: Prince Andrew has asked the Queen for permission to withdraw from royal duties because the Jeffrey Epstein scandal has become a “major disruption”. The Duke or York has faced a growing backlash following a BBC interview in which he was questioned about his relationship with the sex offender and victims. Australian universities RMIT and Murdoch have cut ties with Prince Andrew's [email protected] program.