2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Australia joins US diplomatic boycott

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was in response to "human rights abuses" in China's Xinjiang province and "many other issues that Australia has consistently raised".

Athletes would still attend, he added.

China has condemned the US announcement and threatened to retaliate, without giving further details.

On Monday, the US said it would not send diplomats to the Games in Beijing over concerns about China's human rights record.

Australia donates essential Covid-19 supplies to Tonga

Australian High Commissioner Rachael Moore handed over the consignment of medical supplies worth AUD$224,000 to the CEO for Health, Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola. 

Dr ‘Akau’ola said, “"They have been very helpful and these PPE and medical supplies are truly appreciated.”

The 3.7 tonne consignment includes PPE kits, serology point of care COVID-19 test kits and oxygen concentrators. 

Australia introduces contentious religious anti-discrimination legislation

Religious freedom has been in the spotlight in Australia for years amid concern from some that the likes of churches, schools, and workplaces are unable to express their religious beliefs.

In a move seen as targeting religious voters with an election just months away, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the legislation would protect people who express their religious faith outside of the workplace as long as it did not cause financial damage to their employer.

Silver Ferns to travel to England

The Ferns will play England, Australia and South Africa.

Subject to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the four international sides will take to the court on 15, 16, 18 and 19 January at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Teams will play each other head-to-head once, with a third and fourth place game and a final to decide the winner.

Silver Ferns head coach Dame Noeline Taurua said the series was an important part of the squad's preparation for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, which get underway in July 2022.

Australia to ease border ban on some foreign citizens

Skilled migrants and international students, as well as Japan and South Korean citizens, will be among those allowed entry from 1 December.

All must be fully vaccinated.

Australia has implemented some of the world's tightest border controls since March last year, including on its own citizens.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Monday's announcement an "important step forward".

Under the relaxed rules, eligible visa holders will be allowed to return to Australia without needing a special exemption.

Man arrested over Australian couple’s disappearance

Russell Hill, 74, and Carol Clay, 73, were last heard from on 20 March last year when they called a friend from their remote campsite in Victoria.

Despite one of the state's largest missing person investigations, there has been no trace of the hikers since.

On Tuesday, Victoria Police said they had arrested a 55-year-old man from Melbourne in connection with the case.

He is being questioned by police but has not been charged.

Investigators believe Mr Hill and Ms Clay went missing shortly after the call to their friend using a high-frequency radio.

Unvaccinated travellers banned from entering the Northern Territory

Only children under the age of 12, NT residents, a small number of essential personnel and people arriving on compassionate grounds will be able to access an exemption under some of the country's strictest rules, which will come into effect on Monday.

"Previously, arriving from a green zone you didn't have to be vaccinated," Chief Minister Michael Gunner said today.

"On Monday that route is closed."

Gunner said the small number of unvaccinated travellers would still need to isolate on arrival and get tested.

Absconding seasonal worker posters under review after backlash

Around 12,000 seasonal workers have come into Australia over the past year from Vanuatu, Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands but of those, more than 1000 have absconded.

However, the government's campaign, which featured posters, faced serious public backlash, with critics saying it created fear and shame among workers.

Bundaberg Pastoral care worker Jeff Smith said the campaign was one of fear.

"Every word on that thing is fear driven, there is no compassion," he told Pacific Beat.

Australian man wrongly identified as abduction suspect sues TV station

In a missing child case that gripped the nation, Cleo Smith, 4, was rescued from a stranger's home on 3 November.

Police had charged Terence Kelly with her abduction.

But hours after his arrest, Seven wrongly published photos of Terrance Flowers, another Aboriginal man.

His lawyers said Seven had significantly injured his character and reputation by misrepresenting him as the main suspect.

Australia beat New Zealand by eight wickets in final

Mitchell Marsh plundered a ferocious 77 not out from 50 balls as Australia overhauled what appeared to be a challenging 173 with seven deliveries to spare in Dubai.

The all-rounder shared a dominant stand of 92 with opener David Warner and continued to attack after the opener was bowled for 53 from 38 balls.

Marsh was dropped on 68 but at that stage only 15 runs were needed from 19 balls, the highest chase in a Men's T20 World Cup final a near certainty.