Australia news LIVE: Australia becomes first country to ban engineered stone; Cyclone Jasper weakens to tropical low

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  • Australia backs July 1 ban on engineered stone but gives builders grace period
  • Nine Israelis killed in ambush, support for Hamas grows in West Bank
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Jasper weakens to tropical low after hitting Queensland coast

Heavy rains and damaging winds have hit Queensland’s tropical north coast as Tropical Cyclone Jasper weakened to a tropical low.

Residents took shelter as the category 2 storm hit and winds of about 100 km uprooted trees and brought down powerlines.

The intensity of the storm was reduced to a tropical low late last night, and is due to continue to weaken as it moved inland.

But life-threatening flash flooding was still expected, with the state’s far north facing up to 300 mm of rainfall over six hours and 500 mm in 24 hours.

Emergency authorities initially said there had been “some damage” and flooding and there were power outages.

A watch-and-act warning urged residents in Douglas Shire, Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire, Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire, Mareeba Shire and parts of Cook Shire to remain indoors.


Australia backs July 1 ban on engineered stone but gives builders grace period

Back in Australia, builders will be given a grace period beyond the July 1 deadline for a world-first ban on engineered stone if they have already signed contracts to use the product linked to the deadly lung disease silicosis.

Most of the nation’s workplace health and safety ministers agreed to prohibit the use, supply and manufacture of engineered stone from July 2024 while Canberra vowed to ban imports from an unspecified date, in a deal celebrated by unions and health experts.

A Safe Work Australia report delivered to ministers found there was no safe level of the dust emitted when engineered stone slabs are cut.Credit: Eddie Jim

But not all ministers agreed to the deadline, with sources suggesting Tasmania was the hold-out.

Australian Council of Trade Unions assistant secretary Liam O’Brien declared the ban would save lives.

“Engineered stone is a fashion product that is killing the workers who make it. With alternatives readily available, why are we risking the lives of tradies for a fashionable finish in our kitchens?” he said.

Keep reading about the ban here.

Nine Israelis killed in ambush, support for Hamas grows in West Bank

Palestinian militants carried out one of the deadliest single attacks on Israeli soldiers since the Gaza invasion began, killing at least nine in an urban ambush, the military said Wednesday, a sign of the stiff resistance Hamas still poses despite more than two months of devastating bombardment.

The ambush in a dense neighbourhood came after repeated recent claims by the Israeli military that it had broken Hamas’ command structure in northern Gaza, encircled remaining pockets of fighters, killed thousands of militants and detained hundreds more.

Israeli soldiers prepare to enter the Gaza Strip, at a staging area near the Israeli-Gaza border.Credit: AP

The tenacious fighting underscores how far Israel appears to be from its aim of destroying Hamas – even after the military unleashed one of the 21st century’s most destructive onslaughts. Israel’s air and ground assault has killed more than 18,600 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health officials. Gaza City and surrounding towns have been pounded to ruins.

Nearly 1.9 million people have been driven from their homes.

Here’s the latest on the situation, from AP.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Thursday, December 14. I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started:

  • Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall as a category 2 storm with winds of up to 100 km uprooting trees, but has since weakened to a tropical low overnight.
  • Australia is the first country to ban engineered stone, but builders will be given time after the July 1 deadline if they’ve already signed contracts to use the product.
  • The federal government has angered Israel and pleased Palestinian advocates by breaking with the United States to vote in favour of an immediate ceasefire in the war in Gaza.
  • A $62 billion tax windfall from workers and businesses has put Treasurer Jim Chalmers within “striking distance” of a second successive budget surplus.
  • In state news, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas lashed the federal government because it allocated just 1 per cent of its $11 billion priority infrastructure spending to projects in the state.
  • NSW Supreme Court has overturned the state’s tough anti-protest laws, ruling that criminalising activities that cause partial closures around ports and train stations was constitutionally invalid.
  • Tesla is recalling nearly all vehicles sold in the US to update software and fix a defective system, supposed to ensure drivers pay attention when using the autopilot function.
  • In other overseas news, the US Federal Reserve kept its key interest rate unchanged for a third straight time and is likely done raising rates.

Let’s get into it.

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