MORNING RUSH: news, weather, sport, traffic and online buzz

9am That's it from me this morning, see you bright and early for another Rush tomorrow!

8.58am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

* It’s been 100 days since the Abbott Government came into power. While the latest Newspoll and Fairfax Nielsen polls have Opposition on top, the PM says "we've made a strong start". 

*A huge drop in jobs on big construction projects is expected to further slow Australia's growth, putting more pressure on the budget which is now expected to blow out by more than 50 per cent, or $20 billion, this year to $50 billion.

Australia’s chances of bringing home The Ashes are looking pretty good, with David Warner adding another century to the Aussies’ score and England’s best bowler Stuart Broad taken to hospital after being struck by a ball.

*Actor Peter O'Toole has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. The Lawrence of Arabia star was nominated for eight Academy Awards over the course of his career, but never managed to snare the golden trophy.

8.56am Here’s what’s making news in the Mercury today

* Wollongong City Council is one of 36 NSW councils to notify the state regulator of its intent to apply for a rate rise next year.

*Owners of 27 properties along Wollongong’s Crown Street are in line to benefit from $300,000 of Wollongong City Council funding, to be handed out in grants of up to $20,000.

* Did you don your Christmas best and head to the annual Santa Pub Crawl on the weekend? Check out the crazy outfits and slightly wet revelers in our online gallery.

* Another Fairy Meadow family has had their home stripped of its Christmas lights. Kris Rice said while her display didn't cost the earth, it had great sentimental value.

* The Wollongong Hawks beat the Sydney Kings 69-63 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Saturday. Read our match report here.

8.53am Let's see what's happening on the roads and in the skies.

WEATHER: It’s a bit grizzly out there this morning, with cloudy skies and isolated showers expected for the early hours, a chance of thunderstorms later on and a maximum temperature of 22 degrees in Wollongong - what happened to last week’s beautiful weather?! Winds will increase to 25km/h in the late afternoon and ease up later in the evening.

TRAFFIC: It’s clear between Nowra and Wollongong this morning, but take care on the wet roads. A car has broken down at Engadine on Heathcoate Road near Forum Drive, while an earlier truck breakdown at Blakehurst on the Princes Highway approaching King Georges Road has closed one of three lane of northbound traffic.

Sydney commuters should expect heavy delays at Montery on the Grand Parade at Robinson Street, with one of two city-bound lanes closed due to another truck breakdown.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

8.50am Wise words from WIN Entertainment Centre this morning - those skivvy-wearing singers are always popular!

8.46am The University of Wollongong's December graduations kick off this morning. Today, among others, commerce, business and nursing grads will get in their gowns. Congrats!

8.38am Make a difference this weekend by supporting the Hawks' free throw charity event

8.34am As the numbers of babies and toddlers hospitalised for swallowing coin cell batteries escalates, Australia’s biggest battery specialist retailer cautions families to be even more vigilant this Christmas. Battery World Australia warns, they might be as shiny and even the same size as five-cent pieces but these batteries can be potentially fatal to young children.

8.27am The Lion King is back in Australia, more than 10 years after it debuted. Has anyone been up to see it? I missed it the first time round and can't wait to catch it. Read a review here.

8.20am China has become the third country to land a spacecraft on the moon. It's the first in 37 years!

8.17am The tent embassy at Sandon Point celebrated its 13th anniversary over the weekend. Check out the gallery of the event here.

8.11am The City of Wollongong Christmas Carols are on this Saturday night at the Botanic Gardens from 6pm. Food, drinks and LED candles can be bought throughout the evening, but entry is free! Are you a Christmas carols fan? After working in retail for years as a teenager and hearing the same 10 songs on a loop every hour, there are a few tunes that get my eye twitching.

8.05am TRAFFIC ALERT: Traffic lights at Sylvania on Port Hacking Road and Evelyn Street are working again.

8.03am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

* It’s been 100 days since the Abbott Government came into power. While the latest Newspoll and Fairfax Nielsen polls have Opposition on top, the PM says "we've made a strong start". 

*A huge drop in jobs on big construction projects is expected to further slow Australia's growth, putting more pressure on the budget which is now expected to blow out by more than 50 per cent, or $20 billion, this year to $50 billion.

Australia’s chances of bringing home The Ashes are looking pretty good, with David Warner adding another century to the Aussies’ score and England’s best bowler Stuart Broad taken to hospital after being struck by a ball.

8am Here’s what’s making news in the Mercury today

* Wollongong City Council is one of 36 NSW councils to notify the state regulator of its intent to apply for a rate rise next year.

*Owners of 27 properties along Wollongong’s Crown Street are in line to benefit from $300,000 of Wollongong City Council funding, to be handed out in grants of up to $20,000.

* Did you don your Christmas best and head to the annual Santa Pub Crawl on the weekend? Check out the crazy outfits and slightly wet revelers in our online gallery.

* Another Fairy Meadow family has had their home stripped of its Christmas lights. Kris Rice said while her display didn't cost the earth, it had great sentimental value.

* The Wollongong Hawks beat the Sydney Kings 69-63 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Saturday. Read our match report here.

7.56am Let's see what's happening on the roads and in the skies.

WEATHER: It’s a bit grizzly out there this morning, with cloudy skies and isolated showers expected for the early hours, a chance of thunderstorms later on and a maximum temperature of 22 degrees in Wollongong - what happened to last week’s beautiful weather?! Winds will increase to 25km/h in the late afternoon and ease up later in the evening.

TRAFFIC: It’s all clear from Nowra to Wollongong this morning. An earlier truck breakdown at Blakehurst it still affecting northbound traffic, and a blackout at Sylvania is affecting motorists in all directions. Take care in the wet conditions.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

7.53am Reporter Dominic Geiger spoke with Fr Chris Riley about the new new Cordeaux Heights Centre For Youth, run by Youth Off the Streets. Read the full story here.

7.49am Head down to Thirroul Bowlo next Monday for the chance to stock up on all your Christmas seafood.

7.44am If you're in charge of feeding the family this Christmas, check out these recipe ideas for ham, turkey, pudding, potatoes, tarts and pavlovas.

7.40am LOCAL SPORT: Shellharbour ended a three-game losing skid and Lake Illawarra booked their place in the South Coast one-day final with round nine wins on Saturday. 

7.37am TRAFFIC ALERT, SYLVANIA: Traffic lights are blacked out on Port Hacking Road at Evelyn Street. Motorists in all directions are affected.

7.35am It's the last week of school - cue cheers from children and groans from parents. While Friday is the official last day, pupil free days mean a lot of schools finish of Wednesday, so make sure to double-check your dates.

7.30am I am led to believe this is about the time to share a cute animal pic. This monkey is making a snowball. That is all.

7.26am The SMH travel writers have complied a list of their fave places in 2013. Bora Bora is definitely at the top of mine.Have you visited any of these spots? 

7.22am Have you taken a spin on the outdoor ice rink in Crown Street Mall yet? Check out our gallery of kids finding their ice legs here.

7.19am Did anyone head to the Bon Jovi show in Sydney last night? I feel inspired to belt out Livin' On A Prayer 

7.16am Stuck on what to buy Dad for Christmas? Well, if he's the bookish type, some of the country's best authors have revealed their favourite books of 2013.

7.12am If you can brave the crowds and secure a choc-top, then Boxing Day at the movies can be a good way to spend your day off work. Here's a list of some of the best coming out on December 26.

7.06am Wearing nothing but their Movember mustaches, 12 Illawarra men have dropped their pants for a 2014 calendar celebrating their stylish upper lips. All proceeds from the calendar go to the Movember Foundation. Check out the pics here.

7.03am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

* It’s been 100 days since the Abbott Government came into power. While the latest Newspoll and Fairfax Nielsen polls have Opposition on top, the PM says "we've made a strong start". 

*A huge drop in jobs on big construction projects is expected to further slow Australia's growth, putting more pressure on the budget which is now expected to blow out by more than 50 per cent, or $20 billion, this year to $50 billion.

Australia’s chances of bringing home The Ashes are looking pretty good, with David Warner adding another century to the Aussies’ score and England’s best bowler Stuart Broad taken to hospital after being struck by a ball.

7am Here’s what’s making news in the Mercury today

* Wollongong City Council is one of 36 NSW councils to notify the state regulator of its intent to apply for a rate rise next year.

*Owners of 27 properties along Wollongong’s Crown Street are in line to benefit from $300,000 of Wollongong City Council funding, to be handed out in grants of up to $20,000.

* Did you don your Christmas best and head to the annual Santa Pub Crawl on the weekend? Check out the crazy outfits and slightly wet revelers in our online gallery.

* Another Fairy Meadow family has had their home stripped of its Christmas lights. Kris Rice said while her display didn't cost the earth, it had great sentimental value.

* The Wollongong Hawks beat the Sydney Kings 69-63 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Saturday. Read our match report here.

6.58am Let's see what's happening on the roads and in the skies.

WEATHER: It’s a bit grizzly out there this morning, with cloudy skies and isolated showers expected for the early hours, a chance of thunderstorms later on and a maximum temperature of 22 degrees in Wollongong - what happened to last week’s beautiful weather?! Winds will increase to 25km/h in the late afternoon and ease up later in the evening.

TRAFFIC: It’s all clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. Take care in the wet conditions.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6.54am Website Daily Life has named its 20 Women of the Year for 2013. Top of the list Kate, the woman at the centre of the ADFA Skype scandal, for speaking out against the cultural problems in the Defence Force.

6.51am Beyonce's surprise album has gone to number one in 106 countries over the weekend. You can only buy it 112. Can that woman do no wrong?

6.48am It's the season of giving so we’d like to give you a $100 Coles Group and Myer Gift Card. Simply subscribe to an Illawarra Mercury Print and Digital subscription package for just $25 every 4 weeks. With this subscription package, you’ll get the best of both worlds with the Mercury delivered to your door each morning, plus full access to the Digital Edition. Hurry, offer ends December 18, 2013. Subscribe by calling 4221 2234 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

6.45am The Spirit of Chirstmas is on at the Town Hall from 11am this morning. Starring John Bowles and Michelle Fitzmaurice A perfect production to wind up the first season at the Town Hall - a complete Christmas show starring Australian music theatre star and former Young Talent Time star, John Bowles, along with award winning graduate of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, singer Michelle Fitzmaurice. 

6.40am Is Australian Christmas the inferior Christmas? Sure, we don't have snow and Santa is probably sweltering as he makes his way through the outback, but we have delicious seafood and the chance to go outside to play a game of backyard cricket with a drink in hand. What do you think?

6.35am A garden group run by volunteers who "blitz" backyards into living, breathing supermarkets has been awarded Wollongong's highest environmental award honour.

6.32am There's just over a week left until Santa shimmies down our chimneys, so why not add a a gift to donate to the less fortunate to your last-minute shopping list? 

All donations for the Shellharbour Mayor’s Giving Tree appeal can be placed on the giving box located on the ground floor at the Customer Care Desk at Stockland Shellharbour and under the giving tree which will be located on level one of Council’s Administration Building, Lamerton House. 

Donations will also be accepted at Blackbutt Youth Centre and at the public libraries throughout the city. Residents are encouraged to leave any unwrapped gifts at any of the locations until 21 December 2013. St Vincent de Paul staff will distribute all gifts in the week before Christmas. 

6.30am TRAFFIC ALERT, BLAKEHURST: A truck has broken down on the Princes Highway approaching King Georges Road. One of three northbound lanes is closed. Sydney commuters should exercise caution.

6.26am The wait is nearly over for the thousands of students anticipating their HSC results, which are released on Wednesday. Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has shared his experience of the nail-biting wait for his results - which came by post!

6.21am WORLD NEWS: Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest at a state funeral in his childhood home of Qunu, bringing an end to 10 days of national mourning in South Africa. 

6.18am TRAFFIC ALERT: Access to Keira Street between Market and Crown Street and Crown Lane will be closed from Monday to Wednesday nights until mid December for building work associated with the West Keira shopping complex. Night work will continue until Dec 18, weather permitting. Detours will be in place to direct motorists and pedestrians around the work. Motorists are reminded to follow reduced speed limits and the directions of traffic controllers.

6:15am Can you spot yourself in our gallery of Shellharbour's Carols by Candlelight?

6:12am LOCAL SPORT: Keira took out Saturday's Illawarra Twenty20 at Reed Park, with Jono Cook hitting seven sixes in an unbeaten 103 to lead the team to an emphatic victory over Dapto.

6.09am WORLD NEWS: Peter O'Toole, star of Lawrence of Arabia, has died this morning at the age of 81 after a long illness.

 6.06am Here’s what’s making national headlines today, courtesy of the SMH:

* It’s been 100 days since the Abbott Government came into power. While the latest Newspoll and Fairfax Nielsen polls have Opposition on top, the PM says "we've made a strong start". 

*A huge drop in jobs on big construction projects is expected to further slow Australia's growth, putting more pressure on the budget which is now expected to blow out by more than 50 per cent, or $20 billion, this year to $50 billion.

* Australia’s chances of bringing home The Ashes are looking pretty good, with David Warner adding another century to the Aussies’ score and England’s best bowler Stuart Broad taken to hospital after being struck by a ball.

6.04am Here’s what’s making news in the Mercury today

* Wollongong City Council is one of 36 NSW councils to notify the state regulator of its intent to apply for a rate rise next year.

*Owners of 27 properties along Wollongong’s Crown Street are in line to benefit from $300,000 of Wollongong City Council funding, to be handed out in grants of up to $20,000.

* Did you don your Christmas best and head to the annual Santa Pub Crawl on the weekend? Check out the crazy outfits and slightly wet revelers in our online gallery.

* Another Fairy Meadow family has had their home stripped of its Christmas lights. Kris Rice said while her display didn't cost the earth, it had great sentimental value.

* The Wollongong Hawks beat the Sydney Kings 69-63 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Saturday. Read our match report here.

6.02am Let's see what's happening on the roads and in the skies.

WEATHER: It’s a bit grizzly out there this morning, with cloudy skies and isolated showers expected for the early hours, a chance of thunderstorms later on and a maximum temperature of 22 degrees in Wollongong - what happened to last week’s beautiful weather?! Winds will increase to 25km/h in the late afternoon and ease up later in the evening.

TRAFFIC: It’s all clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. Take care in the wet conditions.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6am Good morning Illawarra! Welcome to the Morning Rush. Emma Spillett is having a break this week, so Kate Walsh will be rushing with you today.

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