Marles will ‘make right decision in Australia’s interest’ over deploying navy vessels to Red Sea, Farrell says – as it happened | Australia news

Marles will ‘make right decision in Australia’s interest’ over deploying navy vessels to Red Sea, Farrell says – as it happened | Australia news

Sarah Basford CanalesMarles will ‘make right decision in Australia’s interest’ over deploying navy vessels to Red SeaEarlier this morning, trade minister Don Farrell left open the possibility Australia could deploy navy vessels to the Red Sea amid ongoing attacks against commercial shipping from Iran-backed militia.This week the US asked Australia to send a warship to the region as part of its duties as a member of the international naval security taskforce, the combined maritime forces.It comes as the Yemen-based and Iran-backed Houthis warned they would target all ships heading to Israel through the sea, which lies between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula, regardless of their nationality.Speaking to Sky News, Farrell said:
We generally focus our activities in our own region and as we know we’ve got the ships in the South China Sea at the moment. My understanding is that the, our defence minister, Richard Marles, has received the request and we will give due consideration in the days and the weeks ahead … [Marles] will make the right decision in Australia’s interest as to whether we do or we don’t deploy in the Red Sea.
Trade minister Don Farrell. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The GuardianUpdated at 02.29 GMTKey eventsShow key events onlyPlease turn on JavaScript to use this featureWhat we learned this 17 DecemberAnd with that we will close the blog for the day. Here is what we learned:
Severe weather and flood warnings were issued across far north Queensland as it deals with the effects of ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper.
A 10-year-old girl was left fighting for her life after being struck by lightning amid the wild weather.
Meanwhile, QFES responded to 532 requests for assistance across the state, and had trouble accessing multiple groups of people for rescue operations due to the flooding.
A number of Australians have been stranded in Tuvalu after Fiji Airways cancelled all flights to and from the Pacific Island nation, due to damage to the airport’s runway.
Dodgy NDIS providers will be in the sights of a new taskforce that will target businesses charging exorbitant prices for services, support and equipment.
Two major shipping lines have suspended their movements in the Red Sea, raising concerns about the impact this will have on the cost of goods in Australia. This week the US asked Australia to send a warship to the region, and trade minister Don Farrell said defence minister Richard Marles would “make the right decision in Australia’s interest”.
Farrell also said he expects China will lift all of the $20bn in trade sanctions the Albanese government came into by next year, and that Australia’s support for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza was the “sensible thing to do”.
Pro-Palestine rallies took place in both Sydney and Melbourne, with thousands in attendance calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Thanks for joining us – we will be back here tomorrow for more rolling coverage.Updated at 05.05 GMTAustralian High Commission to monitor situation in TuvaluThe Australian High Commission in Tuvalu has posted this advice to social media, for any Australians who are stranded in the Pacific Island nation:
The Australian High Commission will continue to monitor the situation and will provide any updates via the official Facebook page when they come to hand. We also recommend regularly checking the Fiji Airways Facebook page for updates.
Any Australians needing to contact the Australian High Commission can do so via direct Facebook message.
A number of Australians have been stranded in Tuvalu after Fiji Airways cancelled all flights to and from the country, due to damage to the airport’s runway. You can read more here.Updated at 04.45 GMTThe Queensland Bureau of Meteorology has issued two severe thunderstorm warnings:One warning is for heavy to intense rainfall in the far north, where flooding is already occurring. The second is for an area in the south-east where damaging wings, large hail and heavy rainfall is forecast.⚠️Latest #Qld severe thunderstorm warning. Two areas of focus:- the far north for heavy to intense rainfall, & now also an area in southeast for damaging winds, large hailstones & heavy rainfall. Please see latest details Heed advice of emergency services— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) December 17, 2023Updated at 04.37 GMTUpdates for major flooding warnings in far north QueenslandHere is the latest warnings on major flooding in far north Queensland:Major flooding is occurring at Peets Bridge, with renewed river rises being recorded following a peak this morning. The Mulgrave River is at 8.8m and rising, and is likely to peak near 8.9m this afternoon. It is expected to stay above 8m this evening.Meanwhile the Mulgrave River at Gordonvale is currently at 19.95m and rising, with moderate flooding. It is likely to peak at 16.10m this afternoon, and remain above the moderate flood level of 14.6m into the evening.Rainfall totals of up to 480mm have been recorded in the Mulgrave and Russell River catchments in the 24 hours to 9am today, local time. Since 9am this morning up to 75mm has been observed in both catchments.Heavy rain is expected to continue for the rest of the weekend before easing late Monday.Updated at 04.28 GMTEmergency alert for Douglas amid widespread floodingAn emergency alert has been issued for Douglas in far north Queensland, where localised widespread flooding is occurring.Residents are being urged to prepare their properties, check on others and avoid travelling on the roads where possible.The Douglas Shire Council warned:
Prepare to move to higher ground if required, as conditions could change quickly.
Updated at 04.10 GMTPhotos are coming through on social media from today’s pro-Palestine rally in Sydney, which has marched through the CBD after meeting in Hyde Park:The world is watching. We will not look away.We won’t stop protesting Israel’s genocide until there is a permanent ceasefire and a free Palestine. Thousands here at Hyde Park, Sydney today.— Eleanor Makepeace (@EllyMakepeace) December 17, 2023Toddler dies after being hit by carA toddler has died after being struck by a car in Melbourne’s south-east, AAP reports.The tragedy took place on McFees Road in Dandenong North just after midday.CPR was performed but the two-year-old died at the scene.The driver stopped and is assisting the investigation.Victoria police said the exact circumstances have not been determined and anyone with dashcam footage is urged to come forward.Updated at 03.44 GMTWarning of ‘dangerous flood’ in CairnsAn emergency alert has been issued for the Bluewater Estate at Trinity Park in Cairns, amid heavy rainfall and flash flooding in far north Queensland.The Cairns regional council has advised a “dangerous flood” is now occurring at the estate. Residents should leave immediately, or get up “as high as you safely can”.Updated at 03.34 GMTQueensland SES receives 532 calls for assistance amid floodingThe Queensland SES has responded to more than 500 requests for assistance during the last 24 hours. A number of water rescues have been conducted, and in some instances, crews haven’t been able to reach families due to the flooding.A Queensland Fire and Emergency Service spokesperson said in the 24 hours to midday today, there were 532 requests for assistance across the state, with most being in the far north.Almost 300 of these relate to flooding requests, and the rest are structural issues – such as damaged roofs, trees down, wash outs, re-supplies and evacuations.On top of this, there were also 48 requests from other agencies for assistance.Early this morning crews attempted a rescue a family inside a house from Mount Molloy, however could not reach them due to flooding around Mossman.
We were liaising with occupants and they were told to find a safe space at a higher level in their house.
An occupant was rescued from a car in floodwaters at Mena Creek, with no injuries reported. A separate group of people in Mena Creek relocated to a neighbours house, after crews were unable to reach them for a rescue operation due to the flooding.Meanwhile around 3am, QFES assisted Queensland Police with door-knocking about evacuations in Gordonvale. A 90-year-old was evacuated.NSW bushfire updateFirefighters and aircraft flying for the NSW Rural Fire Service are continuing to battle the Duck Creek Pilliga Forest fire, after it broke containment lines yesterday afternoon.People in the Jacks Creek area on the north-east edge of the fireground are being advised to monitor the situation and prepare their properties.Firefighters & aircraft continue to work on slowing the spread of the Duck Creek Pilliga Forest Fire after it broke containment yesterday afternoon. People in the Jacks Creek area on the NE edge of the fireground are advised to monitor the situation & prepare their properties.— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 17, 2023Updated at 03.14 GMT‘NEVER safe’ to enter flood watersMultiple people in far north Queensland have been rescued after deliberately driving into flood waters, the Fire and Emergency Service said.QFES has urgently appealed to the public via social media to never enter flood waters:
Repeat after us: It is NEVER safe to enter floodwater.
Our FRS swiftwater technicians have responded to incidents across FNQ to rescue people who have deliberately driven into floodwater. This is reckless and careless, and not on.
We cannot be clearer on how dangerous this is, not only for those deliberately entering the water, but also for our emergency services who risk their lives to save you.
Stop this behaviour and think of others.
Repeat after us: It is NEVER safe to enter floodwater.Our FRS swiftwater technicians have responded to incidents across FNQ to rescue people who have deliberately driven into floodwater. This is reckless and careless, and not on.We cannot be clearer on how dangerous this is,…— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) December 17, 2023Updated at 03.02 GMTMelbourne rallyImages are coming through on social media from the pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne, at the State Library.Today marks the the 10th consecutive week of pro-Palestine demonstrations in Melbourne:Tens of thousands out in Naarm/Melbourne for the 10th week running demanding an end to Labor’s political and military support for Israel, and an end to Israel’s genocide in Gaza, apartheid in West Bank, and occupation of Palestine ??— Chris Woods ?️‍⚧️ (@tophermwoods) December 17, 2023Updated at 03.14 GMTAid payments available to Jasper victimsMore Queensland residents and local councils affected by ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper will be eligible for financial assistance under expanded eligibility criteria.The payments are being jointly funded by the federal and Queensland governments to support people and councils with recovery and reconstruction costs.Queensland’s deputy premier, Cameron Dick, says residents of Yarrabah can apply for grants of $180 for individuals and up to $900 for families of five or more to cover the costs of essentials such as food, clothing and medicine.The councils of Mareeba, Tablelands and Yarrabah can now access funding for counter-disaster operations and the reconstruction of essential infrastructure such as roads, bridges and flood ways.Dick said:
The extension of this assistance to Mareeba, Tablelands and Yarrabah follows previously announced support measures for Cairns, Cook, Douglas, Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal.
I ask all Queenslanders to continue following the advice of their local council and emergency authorities as we assess the ongoing damage in the aftermath of this cyclone.
The Bureau of Meteorology said this morning the cyclone had moved back over the Cape York Peninsula and was now weak, with only a low risk of it redeveloping before Friday.But the bureau said there “remains uncertainty around the strength of the system next weekend” and there “is a moderate risk of redevelopment from Saturday”.Updated at 02.36 GMTDay four of first Test beginsToday is day four of the first Test in Perth. Australia will resume on 84/2, giving them a commanding 300-run lead over Pakistan with six sessions of play remaining.You can follow all the action live on our separate live blog with Jonathan Howcroft:Updated at 02.07 GMTMajor flood warning updates for far north QueenslandThe Bureau of Meteorology said major flooding was likely at Cairns airport this afternoon. The Barron River is expected to reach the major flood level of 3.5m.In the Barron River catchment, 513mm of rain was recorded in the 24 hours to 9am today, local time.Rainfall totals of up to 500mm were recorded across the Johnstone River catchment, where the McAvoy Bridge peaked at 7.5m this morning.The South Johnstone River at Mourilyan Mill is likely to remain above the major flood level of 10m today.Updated at 02.19 GMTRed Sea tensions pose ‘significant threat’ to oil and cargoPaul Zalai, director of the Freight and Trade Alliance, spoke to ABC News about major shipping lines abandoning movements in the Red Sea, raising concerns about the cost of goods in Australia.We had all the details on this earlier in the blog here.Speaking to the ABC, Zalai said the FTA was hoping for a swift resolution because this was a “significant threat”, particularly for oil and cargo.Q: Are there contingencies for this sort of threat?Zalai said there was – if there was a prolonged period of closure, ships can go around the Cape of Good Hope at the bottom of Africa, adding an extra 10 days to voyages:
The full magnitude will probably be known pretty quickly. We are waiting to see what the maritime insurers do. If they declare the area a war zone, that means the cargo on those ships will not be insurable and commercially, the shipping lines will be left with no option but to abandon the Suez Canal and Red Sea as a shipping lane for that period of time.
Zalai said in the past shipping lines had added surcharges in these circumstances:
Our importers and exporters can expect higher costs again.
Updated at 02.22 GMTNewell Highway closed after fire breaks containment linesThe Duck Creek Pilliga forest fire in NSW broke containment lines yesterday and continued burning to the east and north overnight, the Rural Fire Service says.Because of this, the Newell Highway has been closed this morning between Coonabarabran and Narrabri, with smoke reducing visibility on the road:Yesterday the Duck Creek Pilliga Forest Fire broke containment lines on the eastern edge of the fireground & over night has continued to burn east & north. The Newell Hwy has been closed this morning between Coonabarabran & Narrabri as smoke has reduced visibility on the road.— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 16, 2023Updated at 02.23 GMTTwo detainees on roof of WA detention centre ‘came down last night’As we flagged earlier in the blog, prison guards at Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre were last night negotiating with two detainees who escaped on to the roof and were refusing to come down.A spokesperson from the WA Department of Justice said that both people had voluntarily came down last night, and at the time, all the other young people were safe in their units:
The negotiations weren’t rushed as staff take their time to bring about a safe resolution.
Both young people voluntarily came down last night. There were no injuries.
Whilst some damage occurred the Centre has not experienced any issues that caused security concerns. Operations have returned to normal.
Updated at 02.23 GMTSupporting UN ceasefire motion the ‘sensible thing to do’, Farrell saysSarah Basford CanalesTrade minister Don Farrell has said Australia’s support for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza was the “sensible thing to do” after criticism from some within the Jewish community.Farrell, appearing on Sky News’ Sunday Agenda, was asked whether the decision was “a bit naive” after the 7 October attack by Hamas against southern Israel and with hostages still being held by the militant group.On Wednesday Australia joined 152 other nations in voting in favour of a United Nations resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire after earlier abstaining from a similar motion in late October.The Albanese government’s move was a break from the US position, which voted against the motion with nine other nations, and garnered criticism from the opposition and the Israeli embassy in Australia.The Israeli ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, criticised Canberra’s decision, saying he found it “difficult to understand how Australia can support Israel’s right to defend its people from terrorist aggression, while also voting in support of a ceasefire that will embolden Hamas and enable it to resume its attacks on Israelis”.The death toll in Gaza now stands at more than 18,000 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry.The trade minister said he didn’t believe the shift was an “unreasonable” one given the circumstances:
Right from day one, Australia has condemned the murderous assault by Hamas terrorists in the south of Israel, we’ve continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself but, like most countries around the world, we are concerned about the number of civilian deaths in Gaza as Israel moves further and further into Gaza.
It’s an extremely difficult set of circumstances. There are no easy solutions here but the government believed that that was a sensible thing to do in the circumstances.
Updated at 02.34 GMT

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