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"I am not relying on evidence." Liberal Senator heckled on Q&A for climate change response, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. “I am not relying on evidence.” Liberal Senator heckled on Q&A for climate change response.

Many Australians affected by the bushfire crisis were in the ABC Q&A audience last night, and emotions were high as talk turned to climate change.

It was Hamish McDonald’s first time in the hosting chair, and he certainly wasn’t eased into the job.

Climatologist Michael Mann had just been talking about summer’s weather conditions and how they weren’t the “new normal” but that things would get worse if Australia and the rest of the world did not work together to lower carbon emissions.

McDonald then asked Liberal Senator Jim Molan if climate change was caused by humans.

Initially he said: “I accept the climate is changing. It has changed and it will change. What it’s producing is hotter and drier weather and a hotter and drier country.

“As to whether it is human-induced climate change, my mind is open.”

McDonald pressed him further, asking if he questioned the science and he replied, “I respect very much scientific opinion but every day across my desk comes enough information for me to say that there are other opinions”.

“What is the evidence you are relying on?” McDonald asked.

“I am not relying on evidence, Hamish,” Senator Molan replied.

He was heckled and jeered by the audience, many of whom had lost their homes and who sat there listening to Molan with their hands on their face in frustration.

Professor Mann replied with, “You should keep an open mind but not so open that you brain falls out”.

2. 72 Australians have arrived on Christmas Island after being evacuated from Wuhan, China.

The first Australian citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan have landed on Christmas Island.

Seventy-two people were on board the first of four charter flights expected to take more than 240 evacuees to the Indian Ocean island, The Australian reports.

The Airbus left Western Australia’s RAAF Base Learmonth, near Exmouth, on Monday night, and touched down on Christmas Island about 9pm local time (1am Tuesday AEDT).

Those on board were among the 243 who had earlier been evacuated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus, via a Qantas flight that arrived at the Learmonth base about 4pm local time on Monday.

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After landing on Christmas Island the evacuees – who wore face masks and included men, women and children – were met by army and medics and taken to buses, the newspaper reported.

They are to remain on the island for at least 14 days.

Of the 243 passengers, five are under two years old while 89 are younger than 16.

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said the plan was for passengers to be isolated in small family groups on Christmas Island.

“There won’t be a full mingling,” he said in Canberra yesterday.

“If someone does get unwell their family might have to start again for 14 days but we wouldn’t want to expose the whole group to that.”

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the government would “consider what might be necessary” when asked if a second flight would be organised from Wuhan.

There have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia, and more than 17,000 cases and 360 deaths globally.

Foreign travellers who have left or passed through China will be denied entry to Australia to limit the spread of the virus.

3. Barnaby Joyce will run in spill for Nationals leadership this morning.

Barnaby Joyce wants to get his old job back and at 9am will try to do just that.

The Nationals partyroom will meet in Canberra where backbench MP Llew O’Brien will call for a leadership spill, opening up Michael McCormack’s job.

Barnaby Joyce, the party’s former leader, told Mr McCormack on Monday afternoon he would have a tilt at the role.

“You can’t just sit back and say ‘I wish things were better’,” Mr Joyce told Sky News.

barnaby-joyce
Barnaby Joyce wants his old job back. Image: Getty.
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"I have respect for Mr McCormack, I think he does a good job.

"The National Party has to be on the balls of its toes as we face some of the most challenging times. We have to speak with our own voice."

Mr Joyce has the support of backbencher Matt Canavan, who resigned from the ministry on Monday evening.

"We need a bulldog, we need a fighter," he told reporters in Canberra.

"I think Barnaby has proven himself as a stayer."

The Queenslander wouldn't say if he thinks Mr Joyce has the numbers to win.

"I have not lobbied other members ... I have no idea about the overall make up of the result tomorrow."

Mr McCormack had earlier dismissed speculation his job was at risk and was confident he would continue as leader.

Nationals chief whip Damian Drum said Tuesday's spill motion would need to be seconded to trigger a vote on Mr McCormack's leadership.

"Barnaby would realise that, in my opinion, he doesn't have the numbers," he told the ABC.

"There's not much point in challenging if you don't have the numbers."

But Mr Drum admitted Mr Joyce had made no secret of his ambitions to return to the leadership.

"At the moment, Michael is the leader. Michael is doing a ripping job and he has fantastic support within the room," the Victorian MP said.

Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester, who is in line for a return to cabinet, also threw his support behind Mr McCormack.

Radio commentator Alan Jones spoke out in support of Mr Joyce in an opinion piece for The Daily Telegraph, calling him the only person who can save the Nationals.

"There are only two people in the National Party with any traction, west of the Great Divide -- Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan," the 2GB presenter wrote.

The party must also choose a new deputy leader to replace Bridget McKenzie.

Queensland frontbencher David Littleproud is the frontrunner.

NSW backbencher David Gillespie is the only confirmed candidate but has struggled to get the support of colleagues in the past.

Mr Littleproud, who has the water, drought and emergency management portfolios, is the Nationals' most senior cabinet minister aside from Mr McCormack.

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4. Mother of three children killed by drunk driver "doesn't hate" the man behind the wheel.

The grief-stricken mother of three children killed at the hands of an alleged drink-driver says she won't hate the man who was behind the wheel.

Samuel William Davidson, 29, was allegedly three times the legal blood alcohol limit on Saturday night when his ute hit and killed four children.

Abdallah siblings Sienna, 8, Angelina, 12, and Antony, 13, died at the scene in Oatlands alongside cousin Veronique Sakr, 11.

sydney car crash four dead
Four children were killed in the crash. Image: AAP.

Leila Geagea, the mother of Sienna, Angelina and Antony, said she forgave Davidson as she visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday.

"I think in my heart I forgive him. But I want the court to be fair. I'm not going to hate him because that's not who we are," she told reporters.

"It feels very unreal. I feel like I'm still waiting for them to come home."

Father Danny Abdallah pleaded with drivers to be more careful as he came to grips with the loss of three of his six children with Leila.

"I don't know what to say. I'm numb, probably that's what I feel at the moment. All I want to say is please, drivers, be careful," he said.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Oatlands crash site on Monday night to lay flowers and show support for the grieving families, according to the Seven Network.

The fatal crash has sparked a renewed push for a road rules overhaul in NSW.

Sydney University professor David Levinson says the NSW government should look at lower residential speed limits and tougher drink-driving penalties.

"We need a more serious response to driving under the influence. It's not taken seriously enough in our society," Prof Levinson told AAP on Monday.

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"Speed limits are also relatively high. If you hit someone at a high speed you do more damage and are more likely to kill them."

Pedestrian Council of Australia chief executive Harold Scruby told AAP on Monday there should be no tolerance for drink-driving.

5. 28 koalas from Kangaroo Island brought to SA mainland.

Twenty-eight koalas have been transferred from bushfire-ravaged Kangaroo Island to establish a disease-free colony on the South Australian mainland.

The koalas will be housed at the Cleland Wildlife Park in the Adelaide Hills where special enclosures have been built.

Kangaroo Island koalas are free of chlamydia and have a low rate of an AIDS-like disease which is widespread among the state's mainland populations.

Usually, koalas taken from Kangaroo Island can't be returned because of the risk of introducing these diseases.

But with large amounts of wildlife habitats destroyed, the government has taken special steps to ensure they remain healthy and to potentially allow their offspring to be released into the wild.

"The koalas came from the western end of the island, where most, if not all, of their habitat has been lost in the recent bushfires," Environment Minister Davie Speirs said.

"These rescued koalas will be nurtured back to health by experts and will be housed at Cleland Wildlife Park as the disease-free population."

Mr Speirs said the rescued koalas would also further the understanding of the debilitating diseases plaguing koala populations Australia-wide.

"Their offspring may become part of a rewilding program in future years," he said.

Feature image: ABC.

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