New concerns surround the government’s increased use of legislative powers to bypass the parliament and create laws that cannot be amended or overturned. The federal government has embedded special powers in new Covid-19 laws to make unilateral changes to non-pandemic-related legislation, using what are known as ‘Henry VIII clauses’ – named for the unchecked power they involve.
Heavy rainfall has brought relief to communities ravaged by fires and drought in Queensland and New South Wales. The downpour reduced the number of active fires in New South Wales by almost one-third in a day, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service. As a result 62 active fires in the state on Wednesday night, including 20 not contained, were reduced to 42 active fires by Thursday night, with 17 uncontained. “Today we were over the moon to see rain arrive across many parts of New South Wales, with decent fall in the State's north. Fingers crossed we see this rainfall remain steady and reach the firegrounds in southern NSW over the weekend,” RFS officials wrote on Facebook. Multi-day totals of 200mm fell across southeast Queensland and northern NSW, causing flash flooding in some areas but expected to increase water levels in rivers and catchments. Charles Sturt University Professor Max Finlayson warned that forecast rainfall in the wake of such extensive bushfires could wash sediment, ash and nutrients into NSW waterways.
University quarantine: Australian universities are planning to use regional campuses or student accommodation to quarantine thousands of international students from China. International Education Association of Australia chief executive Phil Honeywood told The Age universities and student accommodation providers are preparing for when the travel ban is lifted on the estimated 100,000 Chinese students due to resume their studies in Australia this year. "They've told me they'll have chartered buses to take students from their accommodation to the quarantined teaching area and bring them back, to make sure they're not interacting with the wider community," he said. The unprecedented disruption to universities could cost them $3 billion. The travel ban has also prevented a Chinese mother from seeing her critically injured son in Melbourne, where doctors are preparing to turn off his life support.
Sports grants: The Coalition spent the entirety of another $150 million sports grant fund without opening up the process to public applications, reports Guardian Australia. The female facilities and water safety stream program was expected to open for applications, but was all spent during the 2019 election campaign, including $25m for a new pool in the marginal Western Australian seat of Pearce.
Joyce rebellion: Barnaby Joyce warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday that he has enough support in the Nationals to block Coalition legislation in the House of Representatives. According to The Australian, Joyce told Morrison that the failure to put any of his supporters into the ministry, or to reinstate former resources minister Matt Canavan to the portfolio he resigned from ahead of Joyce’s unsuccessful party room leadership challenge this week, meant they were prepared to use their balance of power to vote down government legislation.