Official weather forecasts for Australia out on Thursday showed no substantial rains for at least three months, providing grim news as firefighters battle to get more than 100 bushfires raging across the east coast under control. Wildfires in New South Wales and Queensland states have killed four people, destroyed hundreds of homes and wiped out 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush over the past week.
Fire chiefs in Australia have warned of “the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen”, saying New South Wales – the country’s most populous state – faces an unprecedented “catastrophic” fire day on Tuesday. Sixty fires are currently burning in across the state, 40 of which are running out of control. There are also nearly 50 fires burning in Queensland, and fires in Western Australia and South Australia.
Hundreds of koalas are feared to have burned to death in an out-of-control bushfire on Australia’s east coast, wildlife authorities said on Wednesday. A bushfire believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike on Saturday near the town of Port Macquarie some 400km (249 miles) north of Sydney has ravaged an area of more than 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) with authorities battling to bring it under control.
About 1,000 people a day are climbing Uluru, the world-famous red rock at the heart of Australia, as tourists rush for a last chance to ascend the landmark before a ban comes into force. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is sacred to the Anangu nation, the traditional owners of the Unesco-listed rock, who have spent years encouraging people to not climb it out of respect.
Australia’s biggest newspapers have run front pages designed to appear heavily redacted as part of a campaign against government secrecy and legislation that puts reporting and press freedom at risk. The protest is designed to put public pressure on the government to exempt journalists from laws restricting access to sensitive information, enact a properly functioning freedom of information system, and raise the benchmark for defamation lawsuits.
Donald Trump called Scott Morrison to ask for help in an investigation aimed at discrediting the Mueller inquiry, and Morrison agreed to assist. The call, first reported by the New York Times but confirmed by the Australian government, happened shortly before the Australian prime minister flew to the US to visit Trump last week. White House sources also confirmed the report, the Australian ABC reported.
Abortion has now been decriminalized in almost all of Australia after the country’s most populous state voted to overturn a 119-year-old law. On Thursday, lawmakers in New South Wales — which is home to Sydney — voted to pass a bill that decriminalizes abortion and makes terminations available to people who are less than 22 weeks pregnant.
An Australian hiker who was injured in a 6m (20ft) fall down a waterfall says he had to “carry” his broken leg while crawling for two days to be rescued. Neil Parker, 54, was bushwalking alone near Brisbane on Sunday when he slipped, leaving his wrist broken and lower leg “clean snapped in half”.
Australian intelligence determined China was responsible for a cyber-attack on its national parliament and three largest political parties before the general election in May, five people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Australia’s cyber intelligence agency – the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack.
Australian authorities are sounding the alarm about the health of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral. The government agency in charge of managing the reef has downgraded the long-term outlook for the reef’s ecosystem from “poor” in 2014 to “very poor” in 2019. A World Heritage-listed natural wonder, the reef contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs.