Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus' escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia's early action to close its borders last March.

"I think that we'll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

Australia rebukes Google for blocking local content

After media reports said Australian news websites were not showing up in searches, Google confirmed it was blocking the sites for a small number of users.

The search engine said it was conducting experiments to determine the value of its service to Australian news outlets.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies are fighting the Australian government over plans to make them pay for news content.

Google said the tests affect about 1% of Australian users, and will be finished by February.

Australia presents vehicles to Tonga army

The Defence Advisor Commander, Jason McBain said the Australian Defence Force is providing the vehicles as part of ongoing support to His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

According to the Australian High Commission, the support is made available under the Australian Defence Cooperation Programme - Tonga.

Australia has five Defence Force personnel posted to and living in Tonga who partner with His Majesty’s Armed Forces in training, maintenance as well as operational and security planning.

Mother and three children found dead at Melbourne home

Officers were called to the home about 12.20pm yesterday, where they discovered the bodies of Katie Perinovic, 42, her three-year-old son Matthew and two daughters Claire and Anna, aged seven and five.

The husband and father, Tomislav Perinovic, 48, called emergency services to report the deaths.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Bob Hill said the man was "assisting police with their enquiries", but stressed the investigation was ongoing and it was "very important we do not speculate".

Giant 867kg pumpkin smashes Southern Hemisphere record

The Atlantic giant pumpkin grown by Dale Oliver weighed in at 867 kilograms.

Festival organiser John Leadbetter said it was a great achievement for Oliver and the festival.

While it did produce a record-breaking pumpkin this year, entries to the festival were down due to unfavourable growing conditions.

"It's just been too hot for it. We had hot, dry weather, and then we went to hot, humid weather, and they don't like that. They like to be dry and cool," Leadbetter said.

Brisbane lockdown to be lifted at 6:00pm but some restrictions to remain

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it had been a "great effort" by Queenslanders over the past three days.

"This is the best news we could have hoped for, absolutely the best news," Ms Palaszczuk.

ABC News reports no cases were reported since 6:00pm on Friday, when Queensland authorities imposed a snap lockdown to slow the potential spread of a UK coronavirus variant.

The highly contagious strain was detected in a cleaner who spent five days in the community in early January after contracting the virus at Brisbane quarantine hotel.

Australia to begin mass vaccinations in February

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said regulators were now expected to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of January.

He announced the plans on Thursday as the cities of Sydney and Melbourne battled to control new clusters.

By March, four million Australians could be vaccinated, he said.

"We are now in a position where believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February," Mr Morrison said.

Following regulatory approval, the first of the country's order of 10 million Pfizer vaccine doses should be issued in a matter of weeks.

Tonga repatriation flights to resume

A flight with about 280 passengers from Auckland, New Zealand is expected to arrive on 14 January.

That flight is expected to include 21 people from Samoa who will be repatriated separately on the same day on a Lulutai Airlines flight.

According to a government statement, a charter flight will arrive from Sydney Australia on 22 January  to fly out 152 seasonal workers back to Australia.

Five touring players in isolation after restaurant visit

Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Shubman Gill, Prithvi Shaw and Navdeep Saini - all part of India's Test squad to play Australia - will be isolated from other players but are still able to train.

Both teams are investigating to determine whether bio-secure protocols for the tour have been breached.

The third Test begins on 6 January.

The tour is being played with restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Australia changes national anthem to reflect indigenous past

The anthem will no longer refer to Australia as "young and free" - in an attempt to reflect the country's long indigenous history.

The announcement was a surprise but welcomed across the government.

Mr Morrison said he hopes the change will create a "spirit of unity".

People inhabited Australia for tens of thousands of years before it was colonised by mostly white English settlers in the 18th Century.