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Australia news LIVE: Man arrested over disappearance of Victorian campers; search for William Tyrrell continues; Victorian vaccination rate nudges 90 per cent

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Key posts

  • High country arrest an ‘incredible outcome’: Missing Persons Network CEO
  • Religious Australians to get protection to make ‘statements of belief’
  • Landmark sexual consent laws pass NSW Parliament
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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High country arrest an ‘incredible outcome’: Missing Persons Network CEO

As mentioned earlier, Victorian police have arrested a Melbourne man in his 50s in relation to the disappearance of missing campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay.

The pair vanished in a remote part of north-east Victoria in March last year. No charges have been laid.

The chief executive of the Missing Persons Network, Valentine Smith, was on Nine’s Today show earlier and said the arrest is an “incredible outcome” given the difficulties with this particular investigation (i.e. the remoteness of Victoria’s Wonnangatta Valley, the lack of witnesses and the time it took to discover the couple’s burnt-out campsite).

“It’s certainly an incredible outcome because there’s so much work that’s gone into this case,” he said.

“I’ve been watching it from day one, and there was unfortunately an eight-day loss of time due to all sorts of circumstances. The time it was reported and … when the police could get an investigative response team into the area.

“[But] they put the resources in. The detail and expertise of the Victoria Police missing persons cold case unit, with Inspector Andrew Stamper at the head, was an outstanding effort.”

Religious Australians to get protection to make ‘statements of belief’

Australians will be able to make statements of religious belief under the protection of federal law in draft changes to a bill that sparked a warning about the risk to people who lose their jobs or suffer hurt because their sexuality is at odds with someone’s faith.

The federal government ended months of uncertainty yesterday by releasing a draft law to shield people who make a statement of belief as long as it is made in good faith, is in line with the teachings of their religion, is not malicious and does not vilify or harass.

The federal government has unveiled its reworked religious discrimination bill. Credit:Getty

Prime Minister Scott Morrison plans to introduce the Religious Discrimination Bill to Parliament personally within days to deliver on a pledge three years ago to protect religious freedom, but he faces major barriers in the Senate after LGBTQI activists called for a halt to the plan.

The revised bill includes a new provision to protect the right of religious schools to positively discriminate in their employment practices, with a clear intention to override state laws, including those being pursued by the Victorian government.

More on this issue here.

Landmark sexual consent laws pass NSW Parliament

Clearer boundaries for consensual sex have been enshrined in law after the NSW Parliament passed historic consent reforms to ensure more effective prosecutions of sexual offences.

The affirmative consent reforms mark a major overhaul in the state’s laws, which will require a person to show they took active steps to find out if a person consented to sex before they can rely in court on a mistaken but reasonable belief in consent.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the new laws passed would simplify sexual consent legislation in a “common sense” way, for both victim-survivors and the judicial system.

“This requirement is not onerous,” he said. “Under our reforms, if you want to engage in sexual activity with someone, then you need to do or say something to find out if they want to have sex with you too. It’s that simple.”

Read more about the new laws here.

Man arrested, 4WD impounded over campers’ high country disappearance

The man arrested over the disappearance of campers Russell Hill and Carol Clay is an airline pilot.

Detectives yesterday impounded a four-wheel-drive they believe could be linked to the disappearance of the campers, who vanished in Victoria’s high country in March last year.

The vehicle seized by police in Gippsland, east of Melbourne. Credit:Nine News

Special Operations Group officers arrested 55-year-old Jetstar pilot Greg Lynn about 5.30pm on Monday in remote Arbuckle Junction, in Gippsland, about 170 kilometres east of Melbourne, according to police.

Police sources – who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly – said Mr Lynn, who did not resist arrest before being taken into custody, was familiar with the area where Mr Hill and Ms Clay went missing.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Wednesday, November 24. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • The man arrested over the disappearance of two Victorian campers is an airline pilot. Detectives arrested the 55-year-old Jetstar pilot yesterday and impounded a four-wheel-drive they believe could be linked to the disappearance of Russell Hill and Carol Clay, who vanished in Victoria’s high country in March last year. Jetstar says the pilot has been stood down. He will face police questioning today. Meanwhile, public health experts say Victoria’s restrictions on the unvaccinated should end when the state surpasses a 90 per cent double-dose vaccination rate (which could happen as soon as today). Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has suggested restrictions could remain in place until at least April next year (unlike NSW which will start opening up the economy to the unvaccinated from next month). Victoria reported 827 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday and 19 deaths.

The investigation into the disappearance Russell Hill and Carol Clay focused on a four-wheel drive. Credit:The Age

  • Landmark sexual consent reforms have passed NSW Parliament. The changes will require a person to show they took active steps to find out if a person consented to sex before they can rely in court on a defence of mistaken but reasonable belief that there was consent. NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has backed the reforms, saying they are not onerous and are common sense. Meanwhile, the rain that has been battering much of NSW can now be attributed to La Nina. The Bureau of Meteorology officially declared the cold weather event yesterday, saying residents of Australia’s east coast should brace for more rain, floods and even cyclones over the next few months. NSW yesterday reported 173 new cases of COVID-19 and two deaths.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman.Credit:James Brickwood

  • The federal government has ended months of uncertainty by releasing the latest draft of its religious discrimination laws. The government wants to shield people who make a statement of belief as long as it is made in good faith, is in line with the teachings of their religion, is not malicious and does not vilify or harass. Prime Minister Scott Morrison will personally introduce the bill to Parliament in the coming days.

Scott Morrison’s government has unveiled its draft religious discrimination laws. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

  • It’s been confirmed that tourists won’t have to be slugged $150 for a COVID-19 test to enter Queensland. Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says an official text message from a government-run testing clinic will be accepted as evidence of a negative PCR test. Under Queensland’s road map, interstate travellers will be permitted to enter the state as long as they return a negative PCR test in the previous 72 hours.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.Credit:Getty

  • The Northern Territory recorded three new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. That brings the current cluster in the Top End to 40. NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner says Katherine will be in some form of lockdown until at least early December.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

  • WA Premier Mark McGowan has likened recent threats to him to religious fundamentalism. Local detectives have charged two men after they allegedly left a number of threatening messages on the Premier’s phone. It’s been reported that the threats related to beheading Mr McGowan and his family.

WA Premier Mark McGowan.Credit:Matt Jelonek

  • And the ACT reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. Six coronavirus patients are in hospital in Canberra. Of those, three are in intensive care. Two are on a ventilator.

Canberra continues to lead the nation when it comes to vaccination rates. Credit:Louie Douvis

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