The first hearings for the bushfire Royal Commission begin today, with the initial two weeks to focus on climate change, the impact on communities, and Commonwealth responsibilities. The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements will today hear from experts from the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and from financial and risk management organisations. Because of social distancing restrictions, all hearings will be held electronically and streamed online. The commission has also begun compiling material for its 2019-20 Bushfire History Project, with the public encouraged to upload photos and videos of the bushfires and recovery efforts. A group of 33 former fire and emergency services chiefs want the inquiry to record as fact that climate change was the main driver of the 2019-2020 bushfire season.
Hong Kong Police used water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray to disperse thousands of demonstrators on Sunday, more than a hundred people arrested as residents filled the streets to protest new national security laws under consideration by the Chinese government. A group of 20 Australian politicians, including Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, joined 166 other international figures in signing a letter decrying the new national security laws as a “comprehensive assault on the city's autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”. Meanwhile, the United States embassy in Australia has walked back comments by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the superpower would “simply disconnect” with Australia if Victoria’s decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative impacted telecommunications. A Victorian government spokeswoman said the state would not engage in telecommunications projects under the plan. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said the state government should never have signed the agreement.
Western Australia will today experience a second day of wind gusts of up to 130km/h and falls of up to 100mm of rain, as the remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Mangga combine with a cold front to unleash wild weather across more than half of the state. The West Australian reports that homes were ripped apart and debris sent flying into cars in the state’s mid-west. About 50,000 households were left without electricity after power network outages across the state, including about 37,000 homes and businesses in Perth. Tides are predicted to swell before reaching a peak of eight metres tomorrow. The state on Sunday was also battling three bushfires, which have now been brought under control.
A large number of Australian students return to school today, with all children at public schools in NSW and Queensland back in the classroom. Tasmanian kindergarten to Year Six students, along with Year 11 and 12 students, will also return, with students in Years 7 to 10 join them on June 9. In the ACT, Years 3, 4 and 10 go back to school, with Years 5, 6, 8 and 9 to return on June 2. In Victoria children in prep to Year 2 and Years 11 and 12 go back tomorrow, with the rest due back on June 9.