Australia news live updates: thousands of NSW nurses walk off job; NSW flood risk remains; Ukraine’s Zelenskiy to address parliament; 28 Covid deaths

11.23pm EDT


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Question time begins

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11.12pm EDT


Over in environment estimates, the government is being asked why the State of the Environment report has not been tabled.

The State of the Environment report is a major assessment of the condition of Australia’s environment that is produced by experts every five years.

The last one in 2016 (along with every other official report on the environment produced since) found Australia’s environment was in a state of serious decline.

The environment minister, Sussan Ley, received the report late last year and the law requires her to table it within 15 sitting days of the date she receives it.

That means that we will not reach day 15 before the federal election. Officials have told the committee that the due date for tabling, based on the current parliamentary calendar, is 5 May.

The minister can of course decide to table it before the 15th sitting day and senators want to know if she plans to do this to ensure it is released before the election.

Labor senator Jenny McAllister asks government senator Jane Hume if she thinks “it’s appropriate that this be withheld from voters prior to the election”:

There is a view that it is being withheld. That the clock is being deliberately run down.

Hume says that might be McAllister’s view but she doesn’t think it’s the truth and that Ley will comply with her statutory requirements.


Well thank god she’ll comply with the law, really that’s the least we can expect.

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10.45pm EDT


ACT records two Covid deaths and 1,194 new cases

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10.41pm EDT


It’s a surprise double header at the high court this afternoon.

Just seconds after the chief justice Susan Kiefel announced that Diana Asmar would not get special leave to challenge the takeover of Victorian Labor, the court moved on to consider the NSW Liberal preselection mess.

Prime minister Scott Morrison and premier Dominic Perrottet have asked that a challenge to NSW Liberal preselections be sent straight to the high court, not the NSW court of appeal, which is due to hear it tomorrow.

Their counsel, Guy Reynolds, announced that the solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue, would like to make an application on behalf of attorney general, Michaelia Cash, supporting removal to the high court.

Donaghue argued there is a dispute about whether courts can hear internal party disputes, and this relates to federal law because parties are governed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Once the case is in federal jurisdiction for that reason, the court will need to consider whether there is a “matter” for a court to decide, and that is a constitutional question for … the high court.

Kiefel described this argument as “very tenuous” and warned that the effect of the high court taking the case would be to further delay it.

Donaghue responded that only the high court can resolve the different strands of cases in the federal court and courts of appeal – which disagree on whether they can hear internal party disputes.

Matthew Camenzuli, who is challenging the preselection, wants the case heard in the court of appeal. His counsel, Scott Robertson, rejected the claim there is a constitutional question.

Kiefel said she’d give the application a read and come back at 2pm.

at 10.45pm EDT

10.37pm EDT


The worst of the rainfall has left the NSW northern rivers area, thankfully, with locals now assessing the damage in many communities.

Some areas, such as Cape Byron, collected almost 300mm in two days, while not far away Ballina got about 440mm. (Alstonville collected almost double that, at 870mm over four days, according to Weatherzone.)

The Bureau of Meteorology’s daily chart shows the event over three days (though they perhaps need other colours for 200mm, and so on. 100mm is pretty meh these days.)

Peter Hannam

How the rainfall stacked up in the 24 hours to 9am this morning in NSW – and the two previous days. @BOM_NSW

March 31, 2022

At least the river flood levels at places such as Grafton and Lismore are peaking and now falling:

Peter Hannam

Flooding of the Clarence River at Grafton appears to have peaked at 5.62m or just above major flood levels and is slowly falling. Lismore, too, is seeing the Wilsons River dropping. @BOM_NSW

March 31, 2022

The bureau is going to have to update March records for a lot of sites, including Sydney. The Harbour City has been under a cloud, it seems, for most of March, with record rainfall counted at its Observatory Hill location:

Peter Hannam

#Sydney recorded 554mm of rain in March, easily beating the previous top of 521.4mm in 1942 (when 280.7mm fell on a single day). Typically, there’d be 1.4 days of 25mm-plus but this month, Sydney had TEN such days. The 26 days of rain tally was also double the average. #NSWFloods

March 31, 2022

The records at Obs Hill go back to 1858, one of the country’s longest series.

And if you’re wondering, the monthly rainfall data ends at 9am on the last day of the month. The current bucketing, in other words, will count towards the April tally – which we hope won’t set another range of records.

at 10.40pm EDT