And with that, we are going to put the blog to bed. Before we go, let’s recap the big headlines from the day:
Thank you for spending part of your day with us. Have a wonderful Friday evening.
An update on the severe storms in QLD here:
Australian stock exchange bounces back
The local stock exchange has snapped its five-day losing streak, with gains nearly across the board, AAP has reported.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Friday finished up 74.7 points, or 1.02%, to 7,421.2, while the broader All Ordinaries added 76.7 points, or 1.01%, to 7,652.3.
For the week, ASX200 finished down 1.0%, however. It’s also down 2.2% so far in 2024, after a 7.1% gain in December.
The Australian dollar was also bouncing back, buying 65.77 US cents, from 65.52 US cents at Thursday’s ASX close.
The queues for petrol in Kalgoorlie are hundreds of metres long after the city was hit by a blackout. Watch the video below:
NSW fire hydrants stripped of metal parts
Nearly a tonne of metal has been stolen from fire hydrants across western Sydney in a few months, rendering some inoperable, AAP has reported.
Fire and Rescue NSW has found 38 hydrants with missing components from apartment buildings and other sites across a dozen suburbs since November.
The missing parts are mainly brass and copper fittings, which are valuable when sold for scrap metal.
FRNSW and police have identified the removal of about 850kg of metal fittings, which can sell for as much as $10 a kilogram.
One plumber, aged in his 40s, has been arrested and charged with 18 counts of theft following the hydrant-stripping.
The fittings were important structural components and their loss might render the hydrants unusable and firefighters unable to properly respond to emergencies, authorities said.
Director general of NSW Department of Primary Industries leaving role
The man responsible for overseeing NSW agriculture and managing threats such as fire ants has departed abruptly from his role, AAP has reported.
Scott Hansen was two months away from marking a decade as the director general of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) when it was announced on Friday that he was leaving.
The reason for the change, made by regional NSW secretary Rebecca Fox, was not immediately given.
“The department thanks Mr Hansen for his service and significant commitment through some of the toughest conditions NSW’s primary producers and our regional communities have faced during the past 10 years,” a departmental spokesman said in a statement.
Deputy director general Sean Sloan will step into the director general role as the department looks for a new leader.
The BoM is warning about a severe heatwave for parts of Queensland, with maximum temperatures in the low-to mid thirties, increasing to the mid-to high thirties by the start of the new week.
The BoM has put out an update on the severe weather forecast for the north of Australia. You can watch it here:
Unemployment rate steady despite full-time job losses
Thousands of full-time workers lost their jobs over the holiday period but despite this decline the unemployment rate remains stable, AAP has reported.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday reveals the number of full-time jobs in December plummeted nearly 107,000, marking the largest monthly fall in employment since the COVID-19 lockdowns.
However, the jobless rate managed to hold steady at 3.9% because of outsized job growth in the months before with 52,000 more employed in December than September.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil says the innocuousness of the unemployment rate is masking concerning trends in the labour market.
While the number of Australians employed full-time declined, part-timers surged by more than 41,000, suggesting employers are hiring on a casual and insecure basis rather than offering permanent jobs.
The data also reveals 80,000 fewer women were employed full-time than in November and 42,000 entered part-time work while the overall underemployment rate increased to 8%.
Current estimates suggest it could take one of several tracks across the coast and end up over Tenant Creek in the Northern Territory, or bounce off the coast and make ground at New Caledonia. Residents as far north as Cooktown and as far south as Mackay should be on alert, he said.
If it does make landfall in Queensland, Hannify said residents should be prepared for “catastrophic flooding, obviously a storm surge in the vicinity of the low, and obviously very destructive wind gusts”.
“It’s not a guarantee, but certainly a risk for the Queensland coast to have a severe tropical cyclone crossing during next week.”
Senior Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Felim Hanniffy has given an update on the cyclone building off the coast of Queensland.
Hanniffy said the storm is expected to intensify into a “serious tropical cyclone”, of at least category three. It could cross the Queensland coast at that size, he said.
“The atmosphere is certainly conducive for significant tropical cyclone development in the Coral Sea,” he said.
“I think the bottom line is for next week there’s a high chance of tropical cyclone development in the Coral Sea and a severe tropical cyclone at that.”
But there’s still “a lot of uncertainty” about the direction the storm will head over the next week, he said.
Many thanks for joining me on the blog today, I’ll leave you with Cait Kelly to take you through the rest of today’s news. Take care!
Wong holds final talks as part of Middle East visit
Foreign minister Penny Wong held her final round of talks as part of her Middle East visit today, this time meeting with key officials in the United Arab Emirates.
Posting to X this afternoon, Wong said this:
The UAE is a key partner for Australia in the region. We cooperate across a broad range of sectors and Australia welcomes expanding ties, including the commencement of trade agreement negotiations.
I spoke with His Highness Sheikh [Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan], and we agreed on the importance of increasing humanitarian assistance to Gaza and finding a pathway out of the conflict.
We discussed averting regional escalation and supporting a political process that meets Israel’s security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
I also met with HE Reem Al Hashimy and thanked her for the UAE’s assistance in repatriating Australians in the region and ongoing cooperation on defence and security. We agreed to continue to explore opportunities to further strengthen our relationship.
The WA department of fire and emergency services has issued further advice on the widespread power outages affecting Kalgoorlie and the wider Wheatbelt, Goldfields and Great Southern regions.
Here is the latest from them:
There are 8,800 homes and businesses still without power across the network, including 3500 in Perth Hills, 700 in parts of the Goldfields and 2000 in the Wheatbelt
Crews are at work and aim to repair extensive damage to the network “in the next few days”.
“There will be some customers who remain without power for a longer duration,” DFES said.
Police are increasing patrols in the area to assist the community
People should treat all damaged infrastructure as if it is live
Customers who have experienced an outage longer than 12 consecutive hours can apply for an extended outage payment once power is reconnected
Water supply disruptions are continuing – people may experience a total loss of water or low pressure
Power has been restored to some ambulance stations, however some people remain unable to call triple zero (000)
Major hospitals are operational
Branches from Westpac, NAB, ANZ, CBA and Bankwest have power and will be open for business in Kalgoorlie
Non-essential travel should be postponed, and people planning travel to the area should reconsider
Peregrine’s final moments tracked in Canberra
Canberra’s Deep Space Station Network tracked Peregrine’s final moments, as the moon lander burned up on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.
The lander’s mission to reach the lunar surface was foiled by a fuel leak not long after launch – but it would have been the first US moon landing in 50 years.
Please enjoy this footage of of the network’s antenna, Deep Space Station 36, ‘watching’ it go down:
DSN outreach manager, Glen Nagle, said the US company Astrobotic and NASA would make official announcements about the re-entry, but that they were proud to have played their role. He said:
In our control room, people were watching and expressed how fascinating it was seeing the steadiness of the spacecraft’s signal throughout the final moments.
On our screens the signal [was] dropping fast, which was very evocative of what would have been Peregrine’s final plunge into Earth’s atmosphere. Suddenly the signal was gone, signalling for us the end of the mission.
Editor of the Kalgoorlie Miner Neil Watkinson has had one of the biggest 24 hours of his career.
Power died in their office just before 6pm on Wednesday evening and didn’t return until this morning. But against the odds they managed to get a paper out.
“There were two key elements,” he says.
We have a battery system backup that kicks in if the power goes out, but it only has a limited life. We could have our computers on but didn’t have power to the server – internet, or email, and most reporters didn’t have phone reception.
For some reason I’m still not entirely sure of, my phone was able to mobile hotspot for the entire day. I was expecting one or both to go out at any point in which case we would’ve been completely blind. We developed all these alternate strategies – down to a plan where we might physically take a photo of the text we had written and text that photo to the subs [in Perth] who would rewrite it all out. That would’ve been insane.
With no air conditioner in 42 degree heat they were able to “keep the Kalgoorlie Miner chugging for another day”.
The paper came on the truck this morning. Everyone was hot and bothered but we were out on the ground amongst the community, doing what we have always done.
Repair of Kalgoorlie power lines could take up to a week, mayor says
Glenn Wilson, mayor of the Kalgoorlie-Boulder council, is providing an update on the widespread outages following Wednesday night’s storm.
As we reported earlier, the main transmission line for Kalgoorlie’s power sustained significant damage and there are five power lines down. The community has been told the outage may last for up to one week as these are repaired.
Thousands are without power, with the outage also affecting the water supply and some mobile connectivity.
Speaking on a Facebook livestream, Wilson thanked the community for their patience, and the local power agencies and emergency services for their efforts.
He said the council looks forward to working with premier Roger Cook to look at safeguarding Kalgoorlie’s energy reliability for the long-term, to prevent things like this from happening.
To have our backup go down [as well] is not good enough.
There was a previous week-long power outage in 2017.