Australian federal election to be held 21 May

Morrison locked the date in today after visiting the Governor-General in Canberra. It sets up a six-week campaign that will pit Mr Morrison's Liberal-National Coalition against a Labor Party led by Anthony Albanese.

Mr Morrison said he did not think his government was "perfect" but that the public would judge it on what it had done over the last term.

"Our government is not perfect - we've never claimed to be, but we are up-front and you may see some flaws but you can also see what we have achieved for Australia in incredibly difficult times," he said.

Australian spy chiefs meet with Solomon Islands PM over China deal

Late Wednesday, Sogavare's office issued a statement revealing he'd hosted a "positive" meeting with a special envoy sent by the Australian government.

Sogavare's office said the men discussed "Australia's core security concerns" about the security agreement, which Australia fears could lay the legal groundwork for a Chinese military presence in Solomon Islands.

Samoa receives more Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines

70,200 doses were delivered yesterday to support Samoa’s national vaccine rollout, particularly for booster doses.

Samoa is currently experiencing community transmission of Covid-19 for the first time, making the arrival of these vaccines all the more important.

Australia will provide 111,150 doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to Samoa, through a partnership with UNICEF, to procure vaccines for partner countries in the Pacific by the end of 2022.

Australia confirms new mass bleaching event

It is the fourth time in six years that such severe and widespread damage - caused by warm sea temperatures - has been detected.

Only two mass bleaching events had ever been recorded until 2016.

Scientists say urgent action on climate change is needed if the world's largest reef system is to survive.

There are particular concerns that this bleaching event has occurred in the same year as a La Niña weather phenomenon. Typically in Australia, a La Niña brings cooler temperatures.

Australia to roll out fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose ahead of winter

The decision comes amid a steady rise in cases fuelled by the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron strain and concerns of co-circulation of Covid-19 and flu viruses during colder months as most social distancing restrictions end.

A second booster shot will be offered from 4 April to people who had their previous booster shot at least four months ago and are over 65 years, Indigenous Australians over 50, people with disability or severely immunocompromised, Health Minister Greg Hunt said during a media briefing.

Flight from Apia to Australia pulled

The Samoa Observer reports the flight was due to leave yesterday but the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour advised passengers of the postponement.

The ministry's Chief Executive Officer Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling said they plan to inform "directly those who were scheduled to travel to make their way to attend a preparatory meeting".

Pulotu said there are other additional preparations that need to be undertaken by the departing seasonal workers, such as added health clearance before their new travel date is announced.

Australian Prime Minister to declare floods a national emergency

The declaration gives the federal government power to intervene and deploy resources.

It is a legislative power that Morrison sought after the 2019-2020 bushfire crisis.

Morrison is also set to outline more money to help communities recover from floods on the east coast when he visits Lismore today, as government ministers expect anger from residents whose lives have been upturned.

The federal government has been criticised for the pace and scale of its response to the floods.

Sydney rainfall breaks record as flood emergency continues

The weather station on Observatory Hill in the CBD has recorded 822mm of rain so far this year.

That's about 70 percent of the amount that would normally fall in a year, or what would have accumulated by August.

The wet start has broken the previous record of 783mm up to 8 March, which was set in 1956.

The third wettest start to the year was recorded in 1990, when 754mm of rain fell.

Reprieve from the weather is forecast for Thursday as the east coast low moves offshore.

Samoa’s Patrol Boat Nafanua II “beyond economical repair”

A joint statement by the Samoa Government and the Australia High Commission said the ownership of Nafanua II is being transferred from the Government of Samoa to the Australian Government “as we look at options for disposal.”

The Australian-donated vessel which is worth T$30 million is in Cairns.

It was towed from a reef near Salelologa Wharf in Savaii where it ran aground in August, 2021.

The patrol boat was transporting police officers to help quell tensions between some villagers and supporters of the Human Rights Protection Party on Savaii went it hit the reef.

Samoa's Nafanua II remains in dry dock in Australia

The patrol boat remains "high and dry" at Portsmith shipyard allegedly "amid an international stalemate about who is going to pick up a multi-million-dollar repair bill."

An Australia Defence spokesman is quoted by the Samoa Observer saying that Samoan authorities had been provided with an assessment of the damage but he did not say if the Australian taxpayers would pay the bill.

Samoa Minister of Police, Faualo Harry Schuster, told the Samoa Observer that government was still awaiting a report from Australia on the Nafanua II maintenance status.