Australia news live: severe weather warnings for Qld and Victoria as NSW residents begin flood cleanup; hackers release more Medibank data on dark web

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Aaand he’s back. Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has been reinstated.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has defended a Liberal party candidate who railed against Aboriginal recognition, climate change, abortion and described a senior MP as a “prick”.

Speaking in Bentleigh on Sunday, Guy said Timothy Dragan – the Liberal candidate for Narre Warre North – had apologised for comments reported by the Age on Sunday, including that Australia should not recognise First Nations people because “we won this land fair and square”.

Asked if he was confident having Dragan on his team, Guy replied:

He’s apologised for silly comments. He’s not alone in this world for making silly comments and he’s apologised for the ones he made … Some of those were disrespectful. I know they were disrespectful. I saw what was printed. He apologised for those as he should. But the first thing you’d ask if someone who makes any disrespectful comment is for an apology. And he gave that and I think that’s fair and reasonable.

Elon Musk reinstates Donald Trump’s Twitter account

Elon Musk has just announced he’ll be reinstating former US president Donald Trump’s Twitter account, after running a Twitter poll on whether or not he should.

Updated at 20.18 EST

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Victorian Liberal leader criticised over decision to dump upper house candidate

Tim Smith, once a close ally of Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has criticised the decision to dump an upper house candidate who is a member of a conservative church from the Liberal party a week before the state election.

Renee Heath is still expected to be elected to parliament, given she occupies the top position on the Liberal party’s ticket for the eastern Victorian region.

But her involvement with the City Builders Church, where her parents are pastors, has repeatedly come under scrutiny, including in an investigation published by the Age on Saturday.

The report prompted Guy to announce she would not sit in the Liberal party room if elected.

Smith, the current member for Kew, who will not contest the election after crashing his car while drunk last year, has weighed in on the decision:

I hadn’t wanted to comment on the election, but given @MatthewGuyMP attempt to cancel Renee Heath I’ve changed. Guy has no power to do what he’s proposed. This is Andrew Thorburn on steroids.
This is cultural Marxism and whilst I’m a member of our Party I’ll call this crap out.

— Tim Smith MP (@TimSmithMP) November 19, 2022

The Age on Sunday reported nine senior Liberal Party members wrote to Guy and other party leaders weeks ago warning about Heath’s candidacy and received no response.

Speaking in Bentleigh on Sunday morning, Guy says he does not remember receiving any letters:

Frankly, that matter has been dealt with.

Guy says Heath’s preselection went through the appropriate “checks and balances”:

As [state director] Sam [McQuestin] says today, the material that [Heath] had presented to them is how they have to judge someone – you can’t judge things on things they don’t know that’s not fair and reasonable.

Here’s McQuestin’s statement:

I have reviewed all correspondence and information available to me regarding the pre-selection of Ms Renee Heath.

None of that information shows Ms Heath’s ongoing and recent engagement with Pastor Jonathan David and his organisation.

On November 11, I had a conversation with Ms Heath to discuss questions Ms Heath had received from 60 Minutes.

Yesterday morning, it was clear that the responses Ms Heath provided during that conversation were inconsistent with reports in The Age newspaper.

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Australia’s sports minister and Coalition counterpart to attend FIFA World Cup

Federal sports minister, Anika Wells, and her Coalition shadow counterpart Anne Ruston are heading to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this week, in a bid to promote Australia’s hosting of the Women’s World Cup next year.

Wells said she hoped Qatar’s hosting of the men’s tournament would be a “powerful influence for social and cultural change”, and plans to talk about human rights reform in the Middle Eastern country.

“Qatar’s hosting of the event has enabled it to show signs of progress towards advancing reform in human rights, particularly labour, which we hope will continue beyond Qatar’s World Cup host year,” she said on Sunday.

Australia’s campaign kicks off on Wednesday morning, with their first game against reigning champions France.

“Australia and Qatar have a positive bilateral relationship, based on trade and investment, aviation and education. The visit will be a valuable opportunity for minister Wells to engage in conversations on human rights reforms in Qatar,” her office said.

Wells said she would promote the 2023 women’s World Cup, to be co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand next year, as well as cheering on the Socceroos.

“The Australian government is also committed to advancing human rights globally and Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup has provided opportunities to promote meaningful reform in human rights which we hope will continue beyond the tournament,” she said.

“Major sporting events can be powerful influences for social and cultural change, and I hope that is the case with the FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cups.

Updated at 20.10 EST

Flood warnings have been issued across NSW and Victoria

Flood warnings have been issued across New South Wales and Victoria as rain continues in parts of these states.

This WATCH & ACT – RIVERINE FLOOD – Prepare Now has been issued for King River

Minor flooding is likely along the King River at Docker Road Bridge Sunday morning, with further rises to the moderate flood level possible.

More details at

— VICSES News (@vicsesnews) November 19, 2022

Thunderstorms and damage wind warnings have been issued over northwest Queensland.

A “vigorous” cold front is sweeping across the southeast from South Australia and across Victoria.

Another vigorous cold front and associated westerly airstream are forecast to cross southern and eastern parts of South Australia today. Locally damaging wind gusts are to redevelop across southern parts of the state today. Keep up to date here:

— Bureau of Meteorology, South Australia (@BOM_SA) November 19, 2022

⚠️ Severe Weather Warning for Damaging Winds ⚠️
Westerly winds averaging 40-60km/h with gusts to 100km/h are possible over western districts of Victoria, extending eastwards during the day.
See latest warnings:

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) November 20, 2022

Flood warnings have also been issued for the Macquarie River in Tasmania.

Out west new fire danger ratings have been issued for parts of Western Australia.

☀️ Fire Danger Ratings have been forecast for WA. You can find which Local Government Authorities are affected and relevant community safety messages on

— DFES (@dfes_wa) November 19, 2022

Updated at 19.48 EST

Treasurer pledges movement on industrial relations, anti-corruption commission

The federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has spoken to reporters in Queensland ahead of parliament returning for the next fortnight.

He says parliament will be considering bills on a national anti-corruption commission, cheaper child care, a disaster fund, “progress for older people who want to work more” and the government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws.

Chalmers says under the previous government “wage stagnation and wage suppression” was a “deliberate design feature” of its economy policy – but the current government is cautious on negotiations with the senate crossbench.

We take no outcome for granted in the Senate. We will continue to engage in a meaningful way and in a respectful way with colleagues in the Senate, particularly the crossbench, because this is the Parliament’s big chance to get wages moving properly again.

We cannot do that without fixing a broken bargaining system and that’s what our industrial relations changes are all about.

Updated at 19.14 EST

Medical data from 1,500 customers released after Medibank refuses ransom demand

Michael McGowan

Michael McGowan

Cyber criminals have released the data stolen from about 1,500 Medibank customers, including details of sexually transmitted infections and treatment for mental health.

On Sunday the private health insurer confirmed the Russian-linked hackers had released a fifth tranche of stolen patient data, after the company refused to pay a US$10m ransom.

The data was released in four folders on the dark web labelled labelled ‘sexually transmitted diseases’, ‘HIV’, ‘psycho’ and ‘viral hep’. In a statement, Medibank confirmed the data included chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma, people with cancer, people with dementia, people with mental-health conditions, people with infections and people who have sustained injuries, amongst other conditions.

Medibank’s chief executive officer, David Koczkar, said Medibank was working to determine the accuracy of the leaked data. He said that some of the data was from previously released files, and that some previously released data had not matched the company’s records.

Koczkar said:

We will continue to support all people who have been impacted by this crime through our Cyber Response Support Program. This includes mental health and wellbeing support, identity protection and financial hardship measures.

For more on this story:

Updated at 19.47 EST

No end to rain as New South Wales residents assess flood damage

Major flooding is forecast to continue along several river systems in NSW as flood-hit communities survey the damage and authorities warn it could be months before the deluge comes to an end.

More than 70 NSW local government areas are subject to disaster declarations.

The latest emergency warning was issued early on Sunday for the township of Euabalong on the Lachlan River where residents were warned to shelter in “a sturdy raised structure” as evacuation routes are likely to be cut off.

“You may now be trapped without power, water, and other essential services and it may be too dangerous for NSW SES to rescue you,” the SES warning said.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the Lachlan River at Euabalong may reach around eight metres with major flooding higher than the 1952 flood.

The NSW State Emergency Service performed eight flood rescues in the 24 hours to 7am on Sunday and received 255 calls for help.

“We are expecting to see the impacts of flooding for weeks, even months to come as this water makes its way downstream across several river catchments,” assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said.

Major flooding is expected to continue along several river systems, including the Lachlan, Darling and Murrumbidgee, affecting towns including Forbes and Condobolin in the central west, Bourke in the northwest and the Riverina town of Hay.

Prolonged major flooding in Forbes isn’t expected to ease until early next week.


Major flooding expected along Lachlan River

Ashley Sullivan, chief superintendent of the New South Wales state emergency service, has given an update on flood waters to the ABC.

He said river levels around Forbes and further downstream have receded. Emergency services are now supporting communities in the area with damage assessments and cleanup operations.

The second cleanup here in Forbes in as many weeks. A huge many impact of this community, particularly in Forbes from the major flooding they have experienced.

Sullivan said major flooding is expected along the Lachlan River, with “significant amounts” of water in western and southern New South Wales presenting a “significant risk” to communities.

Meanwhile the Esk River has cut off communities, but Sullivan said the SES are sending resources into Avalon where there are concerns about the levees in the community.

We have seen some levees fail and early this morning we did see the levee breach.

We have helicopters and personnel heading into those communities are supporting and evacuating those that want to be evacuated. Out to a major town with support.

Sullivan said it is expected flood waters will peak at Condobolin along the Lachlan River around Monday with a sandbagging effort underway.

For more on this story:

Updated at 18.57 EST

NSW authorities find body of Eugowra man lost in flood waters

New South Wales police have found the body of an 85-year-old man lost in flood waters on Saturday.

Authorities were searching for Ljubisa “Les” Vugec late on Saturday afternoon in a wide-ranging search in Eugowra.

A body was found on the outskirts of town.

No formal identification had taken place but it is believe to be Vugec.

He was last seen at his Eugowra home on Monday morning and was reported missing when family members couldn’t contact him.

The find brings the death toll to two after the body of 60-year-old Diane Smith was recovered from floodwaters days earlier.

– with AAP

Updated at 18.25 EST

PM prepared to extend parliament sitting days to deliver IR reform

Prime minister Anthony Albanese says he is prepared to extend parliament this year in a bid to deliver on the government’s industrial relations reform.

The legislation will be debated in the Senate in the coming fortnight, having passed the lower house.

We might have to sit extra days and that’s fine, I don’t mind the parliament sitting at all.

That’s what we’re paid to do, so if the Senate needs extra time to give consideration to any matters before it, then I’d welcome that.”

Albanese said the bill demonstrated it had struck the right balance, as both employers and unions had disagreed with aspects of the legislation.

We’ve sat down constructively with employers over many weeks now, and we’ve sat down with unions as well.

I know that there’s some disagreement from employers, there’s some disagreement from some unions, that to me says we’re getting the balance right.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said there was consensus among independents that the process for the industrial relations legislation had been rushed.

The multi-employer bargaining arrangements are just the start of this bad bill.

We should apply a lot of scrutiny and the bill should be voted down.

Albanese also flagged a decision on a possible price cap on gas to help ease cost-of-living pressures for struggling families also bearing the brunt of rising inflation and interest rates, would come before the end of the year.

We’re having a look at a range of options which are there.

I’ll be briefed when I get back to Australia. We’ve said that we’ll look to make an announcement before Christmas and we intend to do that.

– from AAP

Updated at 18.05 EST