Australia news live: local missile manufacture to begin in 2025, Conroy says; baby flown to hospital after Irukandji sting

Banana farmers seek retail support after flooding and rain

A month of devastating weather is set to impact banana quality and supply from far north Queensland, a veteran farmer has warned, AAP reports.

But Diane Sciacca, who has grown bananas for almost 40 years, hopes consumers will understand and support the industry in their time of need.

Record rainfall and flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Jasper last month is still impacting supply chains in Australia’s largest banana growing region.

Bananas are farmed commercially in NSW, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. But the far north’s Tully, Innisfail, Lakeland and Atherton Tablelands account for 94% of banana growing areas.

Sciacca says trucks are taking twice as long to navigate rural roads that have been severely damaged or closed in the recent storms which may increase the cost of supply.

She said the quality of bananas may also be impacted by constant rainfall and strong winds:

We will see some light quality issues with the fruit in the coming weeks so hopefully we’ll get some support from the retailer to help us with variations on quality that doesn’t affect eating quality, especially with back to school.

Our biggest call-out at the moment is to understand the value of bananas for children going back to school.

Severe storms are also possible across far north and north Queensland today, and in south-east Queensland near the NSW border, including the Gold Coast:

?QLD Storm Forecast for Tue 16/1. Severe storms with heavy rain possible across Far North and North Qld, & in SEQld near the NSW border, including the southern Gold Coast.

QLD Warnings:[1][2]

— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) January 16, 2024[3]

Large parts of western New South Wales are likely to experience severe storms today, continuing into tomorrow morning.

Severe storms are also possible across north-east NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

? Thunderstorm forecast for TODAY (Tuesday): Severe storms are likely across the West today, and continue into Wednesday morning. Severe storms also possible across Northeast today, risk easing overnight.

Primary hazard will be heavy rainfall with possible flash flooding.[4]

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) January 16, 2024[5]

Police outline deadly road crashes

Jason Hogan, manager of the crash investigation unit, is detailing the four serious collisions that occurred on NSW roads over the past 24 hours. Here is what he outlined:

On Monday afternoon in Cowra, a Nissan Pathfinder crossed to the incorrect side of the road and collided with a Holden Commodore. The 77-year-old driver of the Commodore died at the scene, and the 56-year-old driver of the Pathfinder was airlifted to Westmead hospital.

Also on Monday afternoon, a male driving a Holden Commodore on the Sturt Highway at Hay in the Riverina has reportedly conducted a U-turn in front of a semitrailer carrying a fully laden trailer.

The vehicles collided after the truck driver tried to evade but couldn’t. The driver of the Commodore and his front-seat passenger died, while two passengers in the rear are in hospital with injuries.

On Monday night, a double fatality took place in Baulkham Hills. Police believe speed may have been a factor when a Nissan lost control and crashed into the rear of a Ford Falcon.

The Nissan lost control and hit a telegraph pole. Both 17-year-old passengers were killed, and the 17-year-old driver was taken to hospital. The three occupants of the Falcon were not injured.

This morning at Berkshire Park, a stolen tip truck was involved in a crash with another truck.

Police said this scene was still live with the investigation ongoing, but both drivers were seriously injured.

Senior police officers are speaking to the media from western Sydney about the death of five people on NSW roads in the past 24 hours.

Supt Anthony Boyd said there had been four major collisions, resulting in the death of five people and serious injuries to six others.

He is urging people to take responsibility for their driving behaviour over the busy holiday period:

The accidents in the last 24 hours are all related to driver behaviour, not related to any factor other than people making poor decisions on the roads and causing serious-injury collisions.

Your behaviour whilst you are driving a motor vehicle is your responsibility.

You will be held accountable when you drive in a manner which is dangerous, outside of the road rules.

Community warned to be vigilant as fire ants take advantage of wild weather

The Invasive Species Council is warning communities in south-east Queensland and northern NSW to be on alert for fire ants.

It says the recent heavy rain and wild weather across the region could accelerate the spread of the deadly pest.

Advocacy manager Reece Pianta said:

Fire ants are more active before or after rainfall and can form large floating rafts which move with water currents to establish footholds in new areas.

We have recently seen evidence of this rafting behaviour on cane farms south of Brisbane.

Fire ants on a Queensland cane farm

Pianta said fire ants were easier to spot during this time, calling on people to keep an eye out in their backyards and communities and report anything they find.

Ongoing containment and suppression mean it is still possible to eradicate fire ants from Australia if we all do our part.

Fire ant outbreak in NSW contained but helicopter baiting continues