news

Tuesday afternoon's news in under 5 minutes.

black saturday class action
The class action was brought by Maurice Blackburn on behalf of 10,000 people. (AAP Photo: Andrew Brownbill)

We’ve rounded up the most important headlines this afternoon — so it’ll only take you two minutes to catch up on the news.

1. Black Saturday class action payout

By ABC NEWS

Victoria’s Supreme Court has approved a $494 million payout to victims of the deadly 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, in what is considered to be the biggest class action in Australia’s legal history.

The blaze killed 119 people, destroyed 125,000 hectares and more than 1,000 homes.

The action, which involved about 5,000 people,was taken against power distributor SP AusNet and asset manager Utility Services Group. The defendants have denied liability.

The case came about after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission found the Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire was caused by an ageing SP AusNet power line.

Parties including SP AusNet and the Victorian Government had agreed to the $500 million settlement but it required the court’s approval.

In his summary, Supreme Court Justice Robert Osborn said the decision to approve the settlement was taken in part because it would result in substantial compensation for group members.

A version of this post originally appeared on the ABC website and has been republished with full permission.

2. North Korea goes offline

By ABC NEWS

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Workers remove a billboard poster for The Interview in Hollywood. (AFP: Veronique Dupont)

North Korea is experiencing mass internet outages as debate rages over who ordered a cyber attack on Sony Pictures.

North Korea has repeatedly denied being behind the hack that caused Sony to halt the release of the film The Interview, which depicts a fictional plot to kill the country’s leader.

The source of North Korea’s internet problems remains unknown, but US internet analysis firm Dyn Research said the nation was “totally offline”.

“For the past 24 hours North Korea’s connectivity to the outside world has been progressively getting degraded to the point now that they are totally offline,” director Doug Madory said.

“There’s either a benign explanation – their routers are perhaps having a software glitch; that’s possible. It also seems possible that somebody can be directing some sort of an attack against them and they’re having trouble staying online.”

A version of this post originally appeared on the ABC website and has been republished with full permission.

3. “Conscious uncoupling” judged the worst word of 2014

By ABC NEWS

The Plain English Foundation has released its annual list of the year’s worst words and phrases, with 2014 particularly rich in euphemism and spin.

This year the phrase “conscious uncoupling”, used by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin when the couple announced their separation, topped the list.

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The phrase “conscious uncoupling”, used by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin when the couple announced their separation, topped the list of ‘worst word’s and phrases’.

The foundation publishes the list to highlight the importance of clear and ethical public language.

Winners are decided by staff votes, chosen from a shortlist of doublespeak, buzzwords and “fancy pants” language.

A version of this post originally appeared on the ABC website and has been republished with full permission.

4. Sydney siege victim memorials

Memorial services for both Sydney siege victims, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, are taking place today.

Mr Johnson’s funeral took place in the Sydney CBD at 11am, while Ms Dawson’s memorial service will begin at 3pm at the University of Sydney.

You can read about Mr Johnson’s service here, and Ms Dawson’s service here.

5. NSW Opposition Leader has resigned over letter from siege gunman

New South Wales Opposition Leader John Robertson has stood down after revelations he provided electoral help to the Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis.

Mr Robertson had been facing growing internal pressure to resign after it was revealed he sent a letter to a government department on behalf of Monis in 2011.

Monis was killed after he held 17 people hostages in the Lindt Chocolate cafe in central Sydney for more than 16 hours last week.

Opposition leader

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Former NSW Oppostion Leader John Robertson.

It emerged on Monday that Mr Robertson had sent a letter asking for Monis to have a supervised visit with his children while an apprehended violence order (AVO) and family court proceedings were against him.

Earlier today Labor MPs were said to be gathering support for a leadership change if Mr Robertson did not step down.

Labor’s treasury spokesman Michael Daley is a likely contender.

Environment spokesman Luke Foley, a member of the Upper House, is also favoured by some MPs, but would need to secure a seat in the Legislative Assembly.

Speaking to media outside Sydney’s Trades Hall, Mr Robertson said he was proud to have led reform initiatives to rid Labor of corruption.

However, he acknowledged that he had lost confidence of key party members.

Mr Robertson recognised that the most recent controversy over Monis had upset many but said being a local member carries a responsibility to represent all constituents.

The Labor caucus will meet on January 5 to elect a new leader.

The new acting leader, Linda Burney, said it was too early to say whether or not she would put herself forward for the position.

“I’m not going to speculate at this point what I’ll do,” she said.

“Obviously what I need to concentrate on now is reassuring staff and going forward with the plans that we have in place for the 2015 election.”

A version of this post originally appeared on the ABC website and has been republished with full permission.

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5. Prime Minister Tony Abbott warns that terror threat remains high.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has spoken to the press in Sydney this afternoon, offering his condolences to the families of siege victims Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.

He praised Ms Dawson as a “brilliant and beautiful woman… snatched away from us too soon.”

He said that Australians should be proud of the way we have come together in support of the victims and the families of those involved in last week’s Martin Place siege  and praised the response as characteristic of our compassion and decency in the face of violence and fear.

tony abbott presser

“The terror threat remains high,” he warned. And again reiterated that there are “people who can do us, and would so us harm.”

He urged Australians to contact the National Security hotline on 1800 123 400, if they saw anything untoward.

He said that while an attack was likely, people should try their best to get on with things.

“Christmas is above all a time of hope and one of the best ways we can respond to this security challenge is to celebrate as normal.”

Catch up on more headlines in this 90-second news update from the ABC:

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