PM on lunch duty as Australia takes Christmas breather

Dominic Giannini and Duncan MurrayAAP
Beachgoers celebrated Christmas in style despite cloudy skies over Sydney and storms elsewhere. (Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS)
Camera IconBeachgoers celebrated Christmas in style despite cloudy skies over Sydney and storms elsewhere. (Steven Saphore/AAP PHOTOS) Credit: AAP

Many Australians made the most of blue skies for a classic beach Christmas despite widespread and severe thunderstorm warnings.

For others, morning volunteering and church services marked the start of the big day, as the nation cherished celebrating in its own way.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese got into the spirit, serving lunch to the homeless at the Exodus Foundation in Sydney's west where he was joined by NSW Premier Chris Minns.

"This is the spirit of Christmas," he declared.

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Mr Albanese wished all Australians a safe and happy day, noting many were doing it tough especially after floods damaged Queensland's far north.

"This is a festive time, but for many Australians it will be a very difficult time," he said.

The prime minister called for a harmonious Christmas, after protesters stormed the stage at Carols by Candlelight bearing Palestinian flags on Sunday night.

"I have a very firm view that Australia's social cohesion is absolutely critical and we need to bear that in mind in all of our actions," he said.

"This is a time in which we come together as a nation ... where people have come, from different faiths, from different parts of the world to make Australia their home.

"It's important that be cherished and nourished and that we don't seek to divide."

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton also wished Australians both a safe and merry Christmas.

"I wish all Australians a happy, relaxing and safe Christmas in the company of family and friends," he said.

"Whether we're Christians or not, at Christmas we give thanks for the things that we hold dear in life: our family, our friends, our faith and our great fortune to be an Australian," he said.

As the wild weather continued on Christmas Eve, emergency services conducted hundreds of flood rescues across metropolitan Sydney, while thousands were without power in southeast Queensland.

Despite sunny skies in the middle of the day which saw many flock to iconic Sydney beaches, there was a chance of severe thunderstorms along the entire NSW coast heading into Christmas night.

Queensland also faced likely thunderstorms for central and southern areas on Monday evening and possible storms south of Ingham and east of Longreach.

Emergency services urged people to stay safe and not drive into flood waters.

NSW SES Deputy Commissioner Debbie Platz said more than 600 volunteers responded to incidents on Christmas Eve and many were standing by for the work to continue.

"We expect that over the next 24 hours these severe weather patterns will continue right across NSW," she said.

"This is a reminder for everyone - if it's flooded, forget it.

"Do not drive or play in any flooded areas."

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