Distasteful: Australia PM faces backlash over extremely poor remark

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for telling an audience he is “blessed” not to have children with disabilities. Mr Morrison made the remark during a town hall debate ahead of Australia’s election, after being asked a question by a woman with an autistic son. Opposition MPs and others said the comment was upsetting, with one saying “every child is a blessing”. Government MPs said the context of the comment had been lost in the backlash. During Mr Morrison’s debate with Labor leader Anthony Albanese, the woman – identified as Catherine – asked about funding for a disability … Continue reading Distasteful: Australia PM faces backlash over extremely poor remark

Scott Morrison criticised by New Zealand band over song use

A New Zealand band has hit out at Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison for performing what they called a “cynical” rendition of their song. Rock band Dragon said his cover of April Sun in Cuba was “an attempt to humanise [himself] come election time”. He performed the 1977 hit song as part of a pre-election interview. The segment showed Mr Morrison strumming a ukulele and singing the start of the chorus, before admitting he could not remember the rest. Mr Morrison came under fierce criticism for vacationing in Hawaii in 2019 while Australia battled its bushfire crisis. “Maybe if his … Continue reading Scott Morrison criticised by New Zealand band over song use

Australian government secures copyright of Aboriginal flag after row

The Australian government has bought the Aboriginal flag’s copyright in a bid to “free” the symbol of identity from bitter fights over who can use it. Indigenous artist Harold Thomas created the flag in 1971 as a protest image but it is now the dominant Aboriginal emblem and an official national flag. Despite this, many Aboriginal people say the flag has been “held hostage” by copyright deals that limit its display. The flag can now be reproduced by anyone without fear of legal threats. “Over the last 50 years we made Harold Thomas’ artwork our own – we marched under … Continue reading Australian government secures copyright of Aboriginal flag after row

New Zealand closes borders to new arrivals over ‘unprecedented’ Omicron risk

New Zealand has temporarily cut off the only pathway home for overseas citizens and visa holders, citing the risk of the Omicron variant. Officials announced on Tuesday evening that new spaces in the country’s managed isolation and quarantine system (MIQ) would not be released. The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said on Wednesday that while the pause was “temporary” there was no date for when spaces would again be available, meaning New Zealand’s border would be closed for an indeterminate time to citizens without an existing booking. “Pausing the next MIQ lobby is a temporary position while MIQ is under … Continue reading New Zealand closes borders to new arrivals over ‘unprecedented’ Omicron risk

Protesters set Old Parliament House in Canberra on fire

Australia’s former parliament building in the capital Canberra was briefly set alight on Thursday by protesters during a demonstration for Aboriginal sovereignty, police said. No-one was injured in the fire, which engulfed the Old Parliament House’s front doors before it was put out. It follows a fortnight of protest activity at the site, police said. Protest violence on this scale is rare in Australia, but flare-ups have become more common during the pandemic. Some of the protesters had identified themselves as part of anti-government and “sovereign citizen” groups, observers said. Prime Minister Scott Morrison condemned the violence, saying: “This is … Continue reading Protesters set Old Parliament House in Canberra on fire

Update: Sixth child dies in hospital after bouncy castle tragedy

A sixth child has died from injuries suffered in a bouncy castle accident in Australia last week, police say. Chace Harrison, 11, had his life support switched off at a Hobart hospital on Sunday, three days after the accident. He was among nine students who fell 10m (32 ft) from an inflatable castle when it was lifted up by wind at a school fair in Devonport, Tasmania. Two children remain in a critical condition in hospital. The other five children who lost their lives were 11-year-old Addison Stewart, and 12-year-olds Zane Mellor, Jye Sheehan, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, and Peter Dodt. … Continue reading Update: Sixth child dies in hospital after bouncy castle tragedy

OMG: Four children killed in bouncy castle tragedy

Four children have died and five others are injured after falling from a bouncy castle that was blown into the air in Australia, police say. The accident, caused by a wind gust happened on Thursday at a primary school fun day in Devonport, Tasmania. Police said the children had fallen from a height of about 10m (32ft). Authorities have not given ages for the children but said two boys and two girls had died. Tasmania Police Commander Debbie Williams described the scene as “very confronting and distressing”. “It appears a wind gust caused the castle to lift into the air,” … Continue reading OMG: Four children killed in bouncy castle tragedy

New Zealand passes law making it easier to change sex on birth certificates

New Zealand’s rainbow community will be allowed to change the sex recorded on their birth certificates without providing evidence of a medical procedure, after a bill to recognise the right for gender minorities to self-identify passed into law. “Today is a proud day in Aotearoa’s history,” internal affairs minister Jan Tinetti said. “Parliament has voted in favour of inclusivity and against discrimination.” While self-identification on birth certificates was introduced in 2018, applicants had been required to prove they had undergone medical treatment to align their sex and gender identity. The births, deaths marriages and relationship registration bill, which passed unanimously … Continue reading New Zealand passes law making it easier to change sex on birth certificates

Tragic: Four children, aged one to 10, die in Melbourne house fire

Four children have died in a fire that tore through a home in Melbourne’s south-west, in the early hours of Sunday morning. As investigators from the Victorian arson squad dug through the remains of the home on Mantello Drive in Werribee on Sunday, police confirmed a 10-year-old and three-year-old boy, and a six-year-old and one-year-old girl had died in the fire. Emergency services were called to the fire at about 1am on Sunday. Despite about 40 firefighters attending the scene, crews described feeling “helpless” as they arrived, with Country Fire Authority official Damien Molloy telling reporters that by the time … Continue reading Tragic: Four children, aged one to 10, die in Melbourne house fire

Update: Australian missing 4-year-old girl Cleo Smith found alive after weeks of searching

A 4-year-old girl allegedly abducted from her family’s tent at a campsite in remote Western Australia more than two weeks ago has been found alive.Cleo Smith, 4, has been found by police after going missing for more than two weeks. Cleo Smith was found by police in a house not far from her own home in Carnarvon, a small town about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the campsite, in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Western Australia police said.Western Australia Police Force Officers collected more than 50 cubic metres of trash from roadside bins as far north as Minilya to as far … Continue reading Update: Australian missing 4-year-old girl Cleo Smith found alive after weeks of searching

Update: Police offer A$1m reward amid fears Cleo Smith was abducted

Australian authorities are offering a A$1m ($750,000; £540,000) reward for information on the whereabouts of a four-year-old girl they fear may have been abducted from a remote campsite. Cleo Smith was last seen sleeping in her family’s tent at the Quobba Blowholes coastal camp in Western Australia early on Saturday morning. Her mother said she discovered the tent open later that morning and the girl missing, along with her sleeping bag. Teams are searching by air and sea. “Someone in our community knows what happened to Cleo,” Western Australia Police commissioner Col Blanch told a news conference on Thursday. “Someone … Continue reading Update: Police offer A$1m reward amid fears Cleo Smith was abducted

Australian boy, 3, rescued after four days lost in bush

A three-year-old boy who went missing in the Australian bush four days ago has been found safe after a search. Anthony “AJ” Elfalak was spotted by police helicopters on Monday, drinking water from a creek on his family’s property in rural New South Wales. The little boy, who has autism and doesn’t speak, had been last seen at the house on Friday, his family had feared that he had been abducted. But rescuers found AJ on a riverbank about 500m from his house on the vast property in Putty, in the state’s north. In footage shared by New South Wales … Continue reading Australian boy, 3, rescued after four days lost in bush