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"We predicted exactly what's happening now." Former fire chief tried to warn the PM about the bushfire crisis months ago, & more in News in 5.

With AAP.

1. “We predicted exactly what’s happening now.” Former fire chief tried to warn the PM about the bushfire crisis months ago.

Former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner Greg Mullins claims he and his colleagues tried to warn the government for months about the likelihood of a significant bushfire crisis unfolding this summer.

Speaking to ABC radio, Mullins said he sought a meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in April and again May about the need to secure more water-bombing aircraft to fight what he predicted to be a “horror” fire season. The meetings never took place.

“If they [the government] had spoken to us back then, maybe they could have allocated more money to have more of those aircraft, but they didn’t and they’re probably not available now,” he said.

“It is very, very disappointing that we weren’t listened to earlier because we actually predicted exactly what’s happening now. Measures could have been taken months ago to make the firefighters more effective and to make the community safer.”

Four people have been killed, at least 200 homes destroyed and more than a million hectares consumed in the blazes that have torn through NSW over the past week.

On Thursday, Mullins was joined by former fire chiefs from across Australia for a joint press conference, in which they urged the federal government to declare a climate emergency amid the unfolding bushfire crisis.

Mullins said Australians were in a “new age of unprecedented bushfire danger”.

“We’d like to see Labor, the coalition government, Greens and the crossbenchers all come together and declare a climate emergency,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“Climate change is the key reason why fire seasons are lengthening, fires are harder to control, and access to international firefighting resources like large aircraft is becoming more difficult.”

Appearing alongside him was former Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Lee Johnson, ex-Country Fire Authority Victoria chief executive Neil Bibby and former Tasmania Fire Service chief fire officer Mike Brown.

Together, they are part of a coalition of 23 fire and emergency leaders from every state and territory, known as Emergency Leaders for Climate Change.

Mullins slammed what he saw as an unofficial gag order from federal and state governments on speaking about climate change.

“If it’s not time now to speak about climate and what’s driving these events – when?” Mr Mullins said.

“This fire season is going to go for months, so do we just simply get gagged? Because I think that’s what’s happening.

“It’s okay to say it’s arsonists’ fault, or that the greenies are stopping hazard reduction burning, which simply isn’t true, but you’re not allowed to talk about climate change. Well, we are, because we know what’s happening.”

2. A man has been charged over threats he made to RFS volunteers.

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A man has been charged after he allegedly threatened two Rural Fire Service volunteers on the NSW mid north coast.

The 44-year-old is reported to have threatened the pair with physical harm and harm to their property on Thursday morning, NSW Police said.

It’s understood the volunteers were in a briefing at the time of the incident at about 7.45am.

The accused was arrested shortly before midday in Elands and police located what is believed to be a knife when searching him.

He has since been charged with two counts of intimidation and possession of a knife in a public place.

He is due to appear at Forster Local Court on Friday.

Elands is between two bushfires – one north at Lyrebird Lane in Ellenborough and the larger out of control Rumba Dump fire which is south of the area.

Both were at ‘watch and act’ alert level on Thursday evening.

3. Minister’s ‘contempt’ for climate question.

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The NSW emergency services minister has treated a question about the link between bushfires and climate change with “the contempt it deserves”, he says, telling parliament it’s a matter for the environment portfolio.

David Elliott criticised Labor for not asking about the welfare of emergency service workers when the climate change issue came up during Question Time on Thursday.

He initially thanked opposition environment spokeswoman Kate Washington for her “constructive question” on whether he accepted climate change was influencing the frequency and severity of NSW bushfires.

However, Mr Elliott said he would have to defer to those in the environment portfolio because he was so focused on the welfare of 1500 firefighters.

“I find it offensive that they have not asked one question about the welfare of emergency service workers,” he said when Opposition Leader Jodi McKay stood up and pressed him for an answer.

“I’m going to treat that question with the contempt it deserves.

“I’m quite comfortable with the government’s approach to climate change and certainly the way that we manage the environment.”

There are calls for greater action to tackle global warming as catastrophic bushfires roar across NSW and Queensland, with former fire chiefs on Thursday urging the federal government to declare a climate emergency.

But Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week said it was “inappropriate” to discuss the issue while the fires raged.

She insists the coalition is prepared to discuss climate change at a later date.

NSW bureaucrats attending a conference dedicated to minimising the impacts of climate change on Tuesday were reportedly told in an email not to discuss the link between climate change and bushfires.

But Environment Minister Matt Kean told the Sydney Morning Herald that was a “miscommunication”.

4. Australia seeks de-escalation in Hong Kong.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has called for Hong Kong police to respond “proportionately” to protesters who have paralysed parts of the city.

Vehicles and buildings have been torched and petrol bombs hurled police stations this week in some of the worst violence seen in five months of unrest.

Demonstrators are angry about the Chinese government meddling in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Senator Payne said she was “deeply concerned” by the increasing violence and urged the parties to find a solution that supports and upholds Hong Kong’s freedoms.

The minister called for accountable law enforcement and the unbiased application of justice.

“It is crucial for all sides – police and protesters – to exercise restraint and take genuine steps to de-escalate tensions,” Senator Payne said.

“It is essential that the police respond proportionately to protests.”

Police said violence had reached a “very dangerous and even deadly level” and on Wednesday confirmed 64 people were injured in clashes

Hong Kong’s Independent Police Complaints Council has limitations in its ability to oversee the police, according to an international expert panel.

They called for independent investigation into police responses to the protests, a recommendation which Senator Payne endorsed.

“These steps are essential for any meaningful dialogue and restoring the trust of Hong Kong’s people,” the minister said.

She emphasised Australia has a substantial stake in Hong Kong’s success.

“The city is home to one of our biggest expatriate communities globally and our largest commercial presence in Asia,” Senator Payne said.

5. October jobs numbers are worse than they’ve been for three years.

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The economy lost 19,000 jobs in October for the workforce’s worst month in three years, pushing unemployment higher and increasing chances of more RBA rate cuts.

The number of people with full-time work fell by 10,300 and those in part-time work by 8,700, according to Thursday’s data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, to mark the largest monthly total of job losses since September 2016.

Economist consensus had been for 16,000 jobs to be added and for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at a seasonally adjusted 5.2 per cent.

In the event, it rose to 5.3 per cent and the Australian dollar dropped 0.6 per cent against the US dollar after the data was released, hitting a new four-week low of 67.97 US cents.

The figures offer more evidence that three Reserve Bank rate cuts since June and government tax offsets have failed to lift consumer spending or give businesses the incentive to expand, hire more people, or offer more hours.

Underemployment rose by 0.2 percentage points to 8.5 per cent during October – increasing the labour market slack that has kept a lid on wages growth.

Total underutilisation is now back at the recent high of 13.8 per cent.

Economists said another rate cut early next year was increasingly likely.

The RBA does not meet in January so, chances of a December cut still slim, that suggests a February move.

“The data clearly confirms that there is plenty of slack in the economy; (and) reinforces our view that the RBA will cut the cash rate again, in early 2020, to further support domestic demand,” BIS Oxford chief economist Sarah Hunter said.

Full-time opportunities have accounted for just 54 per cent of employment growth over the past year, according to Indeed.com’s APAC economist Callam Pickering, well below the level of full-time job creation in 2017 and 2018.

Mr Pickering said a further slowdown in employment growth was likely.

“The Australian economy has created a lot of jobs this year but not the high-quality roles that were created in the past,” he said.

“That is a common feature of a soft economy and a trend that should persist into early next year.”

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 0.3 points in NSW to 4.8 per cent, as employment decreased by 10,300 people.

The jobless rate in Victoria rose by 0.1 points to 4.8 per cent despite 2,900 more people finding work, while it decreased by 0.1 points in Queensland to 6.5 per cent even as 14,000 people lost work.

Tasmania’s unemployment edged 0.2 points lower to 5.9 per cent while Western Australia and South Australia recorded no change.

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