- Major thunderstorms with fierce winds and torrential rain are smashing Victoria
- The 'once in a lifetime' storms hit the state Friday, with conditions set to worsen
- An evacuation order was issued for parts of the state's north-east due to rainfall
- Flash flood warnings have been issued for at least a dozen Melbourne suburbs
- The heaviest rain in the area so far is over the Strathbogie Ranges in NE Victoria
Published: 17:57 EST, 1 December 2017 | Updated: 03:26 EST, 2 December 2017
The towns of Myrtleford and Euroa in northeast Victoria have been told to prepare to evacuate after the area received a season's worth of rain in a day.
Locals are preparing by sandbagging their homes while some have already fled as rivers and creek swell.
Premier Daniel Andrews urged all Victorians to stay vigilant and look after each other, particularly those in the flood-threatened centres.
'Some of these rainfall totals we've seen are well and truly an entire summer's rain almost in just a 24-hour period,' he told reporters in Melbourne.
Among the flooded streets, an expensive Maserati luxury sports car was spotted trapped in floodwaters on Dudley Street under a rail bridge.
The low-lying spot is notorious for trapping vehicles in Melbourne during spells of rainfall.
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A luxury Maserati sports car was spotted drenched in the floodwaters
The car had been ditched by its driver as water spilled into the interior
The expensive Maserati had been ditched in floodwaters in Seddon
Melbourne residents took to social media to share photos of their flooded neighbourhoods
Artists from La Flor Sagrada Tattoo Parlour knock off work to watch the streets fill with water
Commuters struggle with their umbrellas as they cross a nearly-deserted Bourke St in the rain
Pedestrians used umbrellas to take shelter as the rain began to hit in Sydney
The rain hit Sydney about 3pm on Saturday, and there are severe weather warnings in place for other parts of New South Wales
'That is unprecedented and it really has put a significant strain on many different communities,' Mr Andrews said.
'Make that phone call, look out for loved ones and be as well informed as you possibly can.'
Residents have already been evacuated from a number of towns, and thousands more are bracing to leave before the weather worsens again.
Victoria's northeast and alpine regions have copped the heaviest rainfalls so far, including 200mm at Strathbogie and 170mm at Euroa.
Emergency financial relief has been offered to residents who have been forced to leave their homes, according to the Herald Sun.
Up to $540 per adult and $270 per child is being offered.
Two relief centres have also opened at Myrtleford and Eurora offering shelter for residents and their pets.
Victoria will be lashed with three months-worth of rainfall in just two days over the weekend
Melbourne and large parts of Victoria have descended into chaos as storms smash the state
A lone commuter crosses the tram lines on Bourke Street, while most people stayed inside
Major flood warnings are in place for the Ovens and King rivers and the Seven and Castle creeks, while there are moderate warnings for the Goulburn and Kiewa and rivers.
Several major roads have been closed in Melbourne and Victoria as a result of the rain, including parts of the Hume Freeway.
The rainfall had eased in most areas on Saturday morning but the Bureau of Meteorology warns it is likely to pick up again in the evening.
Steady drizzle fell across Melbourne overnight but senior forecaster Rod Dixon said city hadn't been as wet as it could've been.
'In Melbourne we did escape the worst of it,' he said on Saturday.
'The rainfall guidance was suggesting Melbourne would potentially cop some of those couple of hundred millimetre falls.
'As the situation's developed those heavier totals have been a bit further east. Nevertheless we still had some reasonably heavy totals.'
At least 40mm of rain is expected to soak Melbourne and the surrounding areas on Friday
Areas outside the city proper were also pelted with rain, and large hailstones could be next
Lanes and alleys in some Melbourne suburbs resembled streams as they filled with rainwater
Mr Dixon said the metropolitan area has recorded between 20 and 40mm of rain and about the same is expected on Saturday.
'If we get that, that's generally over a month's worth of rain over a couple of days,' he said.
Low lying areas around Myrtleford in Victoria's alpine region were ordered to evacuate on Friday night as floodwaters rose.
Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley reminded people to remain vigilant into Saturday as more rain is forecast.
The SES received more than 1500 calls for help on Friday and hundreds more overnight.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said people needed to use common sense and look out for each other to 'get through this very difficult period.'
The premier spoke to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who offered the state federal assistance should it be needed.
Many Melbournians have stayed heeded warnings to stay inside this evening, and many have taken the option of ordering dinner in.
Mobile food delivery service UberEats is no longer accepting orders due to high demand.
FIVE DAY FORECAST
SATURDAY: Min 22 Max 28. Rain
SUNDAY: Min 19 Max 17. Late shower
MONDAY: Min 18 Max 23. Possible rain
TUESDAY: Min 19 Max 23. Showers
WEDNESDAY: Min 18 Max 25. Showers
SATURDAY: Min 17 Max 23. Storm
SUNDAY: Min 12 Max 20. Showers
MONDAY: Min 10 Max 18. Showers
TUESDAY: Min 10 Max 20. Showers
WEDNESDAY: Min 11 Max 20. Rain
SATURDAY: Min 17 Max 35. Sunny
SUNDAY: Min 22 Max 37. Mostly sunny
MONDAY: Min 19 Max 27. Possible rain
TUESDAY: Min 17 Max 29. Sunny
WEDNESDAY: Min 16 Max 32. Sunny
SATURDAY: Min 19 Max 21. Shower
SUNDAY: Min 22 Max 18. Storm
MONDAY: Min 21 Max 17. Storm
TUESDAY: Min 20 Max 30. Shower
WEDNESDAY: Min 18 Max 31. Sunny
SATURDAY: Min 17 Max 19. Rain
SUNDAY: Min 14 Max 29. Showers ease
MONDAY: Min 13 Max 32. Showers
TUESDAY: Min 13 Max 24. Late Shower
WEDNESDAY: Min 14 Max 22. Shower
SATURDAY: Min 14 Max 20. Shower
SUNDAY: Min 13 Max 21. Possible rain
MONDAY: Min 13 Max 22. Possible rain
TUESDAY: Min 13 Max 23. Sunny
WEDNESDAY: Min 13 Max 23. Sunny
SATURDAY: Min 13 Max 14. Rain
SUNDAY: Min 12 Max 15. Showers
MONDAY: Min 11 Max 17. Shower
TUESDAY: Min 10 Max 19. Sunny
WEDNESDAY: Min 11 Max 19. Late rain
SATURDAY: Min 27 Max 33. Storm
SUNDAY: Min 25 Max 32. Storm
MONDAY: Min 25 Max 33. Storm
TUESDAY: Min 27 Max 34. Sunny
WEDNESDAY: Min 27 Max 34. Sunny
Roads have been closed, public transport has shut down and people are stranded in their homes and offices throughout the CBD, with some areas almost completely submerged
Victorians were warned the storm, which is expected to deliver three months of rain by Sunday
A relief centre has been set up at the Myrtleford Senior Citizens Centre, the safest evacuation route along the Great Alpine Road (pictured is a motorist driving through deep floodwaters)
An elderly couple became trapped in their car in floodwaters near Seymour on Friday night, rescued by a farmer in a tractor who plucked them to safety.
The rain has lead to the cancellation of a number of major events, including the Great Victorian Bike Ride and Taste of Melbourne.
More than 1,500 riders remain stranded at a Maffra campsite on Friday with plans to transport the group back to Melbourne and Trafalgar over the weekend.
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said they were committed to the safety of their riders and organisers.
'We're very disappointed that we can't continue riding but the wellbeing of our riders, volunteers and wider team always comes first,' Mr Richards said.
The freak storm – delivering three months of rain in just three days – left many streets flooded
The four day forecast shows heavy rain expected in much of Victoria and into southern NSW
This creek at Moonee Ponds was full to the brink, but the ducks did not seem to mind the floods
This pair of pooches got soaked while walking with their owner in the Melbourne downpour
A rain event of this forecasted magnitude hasn't been seen in metropolitan Melbourne since 2005 and in regional Victoria since 2010 (bigger than the above storm, from earlier this year)
Australia: Scott Morrison saga casts scrutiny on Queen’s representative
In the past fortnight, Australia has been gripped by revelations that former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to several additional ministries.
The move has been labelled a “power grab” by his successor as prime minister, and Mr Morrison has been scolded by many – even his own colleagues.
But the scandal has also dragged Australia’s governor-general into the fray – sparking one of the biggest controversies involving the Queen’s representative in Australia in 50 years.
So does Governor-General David Hurley have questions to answer, or is he just collateral damage?
Governors-general have fulfilled the practical duties as Australia’s head of state since the country’s 1901 federation.
Candidates for the role were initially chosen by the monarch but are now recommended by the Australian government.
The job is largely ceremonial – a governor-general in almost every circumstance must act on the advice of the government of the day. But conventions allow them the right to “encourage” and “warn” politicians.
Key duties include signing bills into law, issuing writs for elections, and swearing in ministers.
Mr Hurley has run into trouble on the latter. At Mr Morrison’s request, he swore the prime minister in as joint minister for health in March 2020, in case the existing minister became incapacitated by Covid.
Over the next 14 months, he also signed off Mr Morrison as an additional minister in the finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios.
Mr Morrison already had ministerial powers, so Mr Hurley was basically just giving him authority over extra departments.
It’s a request the governor-general “would not have any kind of power to override or reject”, constitutional law professor Anne Twomey tells the BBC.
“This wasn’t even a meeting between the prime minister and the governor-general, it was just paperwork.”
But Mr Morrison’s appointments were not publicly announced, disclosed to the parliament, or even communicated to most of the ministers he was job-sharing with.
Australia’s solicitor-general found Mr Morrison’s actions were not illegal but had “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
But the governor-general had done the right thing, the solicitor-general said in his advice this week.
It would have been “a clear breach” for him to refuse the prime minister, regardless of whether he knew the appointments would be kept secret, Stephen Donaghue said.
Critics push for investigation
Ultimately, Mr Hurley had to sign off on Mr Morrison’s requests, but critics say he could have counselled him against it and he could have publicised it himself.
But representatives for the governor-general say these types of appointments – giving ministers the right to administer other departments – are not unusual.
And it falls to the government of the day to decide if they should be announced to the public. They often opt not to.
Mr Hurley himself announcing the appointments would be unprecedented. He had “no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated”, his spokesperson said.
Emeritus professor Jenny Hocking finds the suggestion Mr Hurley didn’t know the ministries had been kept secret “ridiculous”.
“The last of these bizarre, duplicated ministry appointments… were made more than a year after the first, so clearly by then the governor-general did know that they weren’t being made public,” she says.
“I don’t agree for a moment that the governor-general has a lot of things on his plate and might not have noticed.”
The historian says it’s one of the biggest controversies surrounding a governor-general since John Kerr caused a constitutional crisis by sacking Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.
Prof Hocking famously fought for transparency around that matter – waging a lengthy and costly legal battle that culminated in the release of Mr Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen.
And she says the same transparency is needed here.
The Australian public need to know whether Mr Hurley counselled the prime minister against the moves, and why he didn’t disclose them
The government has already announced an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions, but she wants it to look at the governor-general and his office too.
“If the inquiry is to find out what happened in order to fix what happened, it would be extremely problematic to leave out a key part of that equation.”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Mr Morrison’s predecessor – has also voiced support for an inquiry.
“Something has gone seriously wrong at Government House,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“It is the passive compliance along the chain… that did undermine our constitution and our democracy… that troubles me the most. This is how tyranny gets under way.”
PM defends governor-general
Prof Twomey says the criticism of Mr Hurley is unfair – there’s was no “conspiracy” on his part to keep things secret.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for anyone to expect that he could have guessed that the prime minister was keeping things secret from his own ministers, for example.
“Nobody really thought that was a possibility until about two weeks ago.”
Even if he had taken the unprecedented step to publicise the appointments or to reject Mr Morrison’s request, he’d have been criticised, she says.
“There’d be even more people saying ‘how outrageous!'” she says. “The role of governor-general is awkward because people are going to attack you either way.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also defended Mr Hurley, saying he was just doing his job.
“I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of [him].”
A role fit for purpose?
Prof Hocking says it’s a timely moment to look at the role of the governor-general more broadly.
She points out it’s possible the Queen may have been informed about Mr Morrison’s extra ministries when Australia’s parliament and people were not.
“It does raise questions about whether this is fit for purpose, as we have for decades been a fully independent nation, but we still have… ‘the relics of colonialism’ alive and well.”
Momentum for a fresh referendum on an Australian republic has been growing and advocates have seized on the controversy.
“The idea that the Queen and her representative can be relied upon to uphold our system of government has been debunked once and for all,” the Australian Republic Movement’s Sandy Biar says.
“It’s time we had an Australian head of state, chosen by Australians and accountable to them to safeguard and uphold Australia’s constitution.”
But Prof Twomey says republicans are “clutching at straws” – under their proposals, the head of state would also have been bound to follow the prime minister’s advice.
“It wouldn’t result in any changes that would have made one iota of difference.”
Australia election: PM Morrison’s security team in car crash in Tasmania
A car carrying the Australian prime minister’s security team has crashed in Tasmania during an election campaign visit.
Four police officers were taken to hospital with “non-life threatening injuries” after the car and another vehicle collided, authorities said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was not in the car, but the accident prompted him to cancel the rest of his campaign events on Thursday.
The other driver involved was not hurt.
Tasmania Police said initial investigations suggested the second car had “collided with the rear of the police vehicle, while attempting to merge”. It caused the unmarked security vehicle to roll off the road.
The two Tasmania Police officers and two Australian Federal Police officers were conscious when taken to hospital for medical assessment, the prime minister’s office said.
“Family members of the officers have been contacted and are being kept informed of their condition,” a statement said.
“The PM is always extremely grateful for the protection provided by his security team and extends his best wishes for their recovery and to their families.”
Australians go to the polls on 21 May. Mr Morrison – prime minister since 2018 – is hoping to win his conservative coalition’s fourth term in office.
Polls suggest the opposition Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, is favoured to win. However, Mr Morrison defied similar polling to claim victory at the last election in 2019.
Mr Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition holds 76 seats in the House of Representatives – the minimum needed to retain power.
Political observers say the cost of living, climate change, trust in political leaders, and national security will be among key issues in the campaign.
In recent weeks, the prime minister has faced accusations of being a bully and once sabotaging a rival’s career by suggesting the man’s Lebanese heritage made him less electable. Mr Morrison has denied the allegations.
Mr Albanese stumbled into his own controversy this week when he failed to recall the nation’s unemployment or interest rates.
Sydney airport warns delays could last weeks on third day of travel chaos
Long queues at Sydney airport’s domestic terminals have continued for a third day, with some passengers missing international connections, as the airport warns delays resulting from a surge in travellers and a shortfall in security staff could continue for weeks.
Chaotic scenes were reported in the departure halls as early as 4.30am on Saturday, with some frustrated travellers, many of whom heeded the pleas of airport chiefs to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight was due to take off, claiming only one security line was operating.
While the queues that formed early on Saturday are understood to have cleared later in the morning, the airport apologised to affected travellers.
“Traffic numbers are picking up and the close contact rules are making it hard to fill shifts and staff the airport. We appreciate your patience,” Sydney airport said on its Twitter account.
A wave of families travelling as the term two school holidays begin this weekend, combined with close contact rules that are understood to be taking out about 20% of security shifts in any given day, are driving the problem.
Certis, the company that Sydney airport contracts for its security operations, is desperately trying to recruit personnel, while the airport has reallocated back office, IT and retail workers to the departure hall to comb queues so they can prioritise passengers at risk of missing their flight.
“We are working around the clock to resolve these issues and have teams in the terminals bringing passengers forward in order of priority,” a Sydney airport spokesperson said.
He added that the airport is “anticipating it will [be] busy right through the school holiday period and peak over the Easter and Anzac Day weekends, in some cases at 90% of pre-Covid passenger levels”.
“We’re deeply grateful to passengers for their ongoing patience and we’re sorry to everyone who has been inconvenienced,” the spokesperson said. “We would also like to thank passengers for getting to the airport early and treating staff and each other with kindness and respect.”
The Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was forced to clarify comments he made on Friday that passengers were “not match fit” and that those forgetting to remove laptops and aerosols from their bags at the security check contributing to the delays.
“Just to be clear, I’m not ‘blaming’ passengers,” Joyce said. “Of course it’s not their fault,” he said.
Qantas shed thousands of staff during the pandemic, and outsourced ground crews in a decision that was challenged in court.
On Saturday, Qantas also apologised to a Melbourne family left stranded in Sydney, after domestic flight delays caused them to miss an international trip.
Javiera Martinez, her partner Daniel Capurro and their three children were supposed to be flying to Chile on Friday to visit relatives they had not seen in three years.
But after their 8am Qantas flight from Melbourne was delayed by half an hour, baggage handling and airport transfer delays in Sydney meant they couldn’t make their 11.30am LATAM Airlines flight to Santiago.
Martinez said the airline’s procedures at the airport were chaotic.
“We think Qantas didn’t behave appropriately. I got berated by the person at the counter – they never apologised, they never assumed any responsibility at all,” she said. “It was a rude conversation. We have been mistreated badly I would say.”
The PCR tests they need to travel have now expired and they will have to take them again as they wait for seats on the next flight to Santiago from Sunday.
The airline has apologised and paid for a night’s accommodation in Sydney.
“We sincerely apologise that the family missed their connecting flight on another airline due to delays moving through Sydney airport on Friday,” a Qantas spokesperson said.
The family is among many affected by hold ups amid the busiest travel period in two years, with Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane airports warning passengers to arrive two hours before domestic flights.
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