Not a cent from the government's $4-billion disaster recovery and mitigation fund has been handed out in two years, despite earning $700 million in interest.
Labor Senator Murray Watts grilled officials from the National Recovery and Resilience Agency at senate estimates about why the Emergency Response Fund, which has grown to $4.7b, was yet to be used.
"This fund is nearly two years old, it's earnt the government over $700 million in interest and not a cent has left the Commonwealth for recovery or mitigation processes," Senator Watt said.
NRRA deputy chief executive Nico Padovan said the money, of which $150 million was available annually for natural disaster relief, was a "fund of last resort".
Booster rollout needs new funding
Doctors say more work and a new funding deal is needed to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine booster program is rolled out properly.
The COVID-19 vaccine booster shot program could start in less than two weeks after the medicines regulator gave the green light.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval for Australians 18 and over to receive a top-up dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those who were vaccinated at least six months ago.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is now preparing advice on the rollout.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid said the government would need to review funding arrangements for GPs involved in the booster program.
Thunderstorm asthma warning
Victorian health authorities have issued the first thunderstorm asthma alert for the season, with authorities warning hospitals are already dealing with COVID-19 patients.
"Our hospitals are experiencing significant demand due to COVID-19, so it's important you stay well," the warning says.
Those at risk are being advised to avoid being outdoors during storms and the winds that precede them, and remember to take preventative medication.
A thunderstorm asthma event in 2016 killed nine people and saw thousands more hospitalised.
Daryl Maguire back in ICAC witness box
The man who prompted the downfall of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is next in line for a grilling from the state's anti-corruption watchdog, as it looks into whether their secret relationship was a breach of public trust.
Former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire was originally under the microscope when the Independent Commission Against Corruption launched public hearings into his business dealings last year.
But when Ms Berejiklian in the witness box sensationally revealed their clandestine relationship, which spanned several years, it sparked a separate investigation into her own conduct which resulted in her stepping down on October 1.
Ms Berejiklian will give evidence on Friday and Monday.
In world news...
Sunao Tsuboi has died aged 96. He was a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing who made opposing nuclear weapons the message of his life, including in a meeting with President Barack Obama in 2016.
US authorities have told British judges that if they agree to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges, the WikiLeaks founder could serve any US prison sentence he receives in Australia.
US food safety officials have blocked a rising number of meat shipments from Australia since 2019 due to faecal contamination.
US actor Alec Baldwin fired a vintage Colt pistol loaded with a live lead round in the accidental fatal shooting last week of a cinematographer on the New Mexico set of his movie Rust, authorities say.
Heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles will speak at the opening ceremony of the COP26 United Nations climate summit to welcome world leaders, his office says, a day after Queen Elizabeth pulled out on doctors' advice.
The United States has issued its first passport in which the holder's gender is listed as "X", a "gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons," the US State Department says.
- with Australian Associated Press