Australia news live: Bridget McKenzie praises Victorian Nationals’ vote against Indigenous voice; Andrew Constance’s bid to replace Jim Molan in Senate fails | Australia news

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Lorena Allam

Lorena Allam

‘Light a fire in the nation’: Indigenous Australians stand up to hate and push for voice on Uluru statement anniversary

At sunset on Friday, in the small community of Mutitjulu at the base of Uluru, Anangu (people) were lighting fires.

Not just because it was cold – a biting wind was cutting across the clear skies of a desert winter – but because they wanted to show the gathering the power of country and their unbreakable connection to it.

They were also honouring fires that were lit on the same spot in 2017, when the Uluru statement was first delivered, igniting a movement for change.

The people of Mutitjulu had invited the 60 or so members of the advisory group to the government on enshrining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to parliament in the constitution to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Uluru statement, which lies at the heart of the move towards a referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament later this year.

Members of the group discussed their role in engaging with First Nations communities and the broader Australian public – and expressed concern at the rise in racist abuse in recent weeks.

Read the full story here:

Third teenager comes forward over fire in Sydney’s CBD

A third teenager has come forward to assist police with their inquiries after a fire engulfed a seven-story building in Sydney’s CBD on Thursday.

Police said three boys, one aged 12 and two aged 13, were in the building at the time the fire started. Police have not yet confirmed the cause of the fire, nor have any charges been laid.

The first two teenagers handed themselves in at Paddington and Kings Cross police station on Thursday night.

On Friday, the acting assistant NSW police commissioner, Paul Dunstan, had said three or four other young people were present during the fire.

“We asked them to come forward with their parents and put their side of the story,’ he told reporters.

Teenager in critical condition after car crash

An update on the tragic car crash that killed four people in Victoria’s west this morning.

An ambulance spokesperson has confirmed the teenage girl who survived the crash remains in a critical condition.

She was flown to the Alfred hospital with upper body injuries after the driver of a car, carrying five females, lost control and hit a tree on Saturday morning.

Police cordoned off the area to allow major collision investigation unit detectives to probe the crash.

Sussan Ley ‘thrilled’ with Maria Kovacic’s selection as Liberals seek to address gender imbalance

The deputy leader of the Liberal party, Sussan Ley, has welcomed Maria Kovacic’s preselection as a step forward in addressing the gender imbalance in the Liberal party.

The only way we can address – and rectify – the gender imbalance in our parliamentary ranks is by preselecting more women and I am thrilled that my home division, the New South Wales branch, has chosen to do that today.

Former NSW Liberal party president to enter the Senate

Former Liberal party president for New South Wales Maria Kovacic will replace the late senator for NSW Jim Molan, who died in January, after winning a preselection vote today.

Kovacic, who is in the moderate wing of the party, beat former transport minister Andrew Constance by 266 votes to 248 votes.

Kovacic ran for the federal parliament at the last election but was defeated in her bid to become the member for Parramatta, which was taken by Labor.

As a community leader in Western Sydney & an accomplished businesswoman with more than 20 years of experience in the commercial, public & NFP sectors, Maria Kovacic is a formidable woman & a fitting replacement for the late, great Major General Jim Molan AO DSC. Congratulations!

— Sussan Ley (@sussanley) May 27, 2023

Fire and Rescue NSW still working to fully extinguish Sydney CBD fire

Fire and Rescue New South Wales have said they are working to fully extinguish the fire in the Sydney building that was struck by a “once in a decade” inferno before it will be demolished.

Overnight, the front wall of the building moved 75mm inwards, which a Fire and Rescue spokesperson told reporters was a positive, given if it falls it won’t be “on the street”.

Fire and Rescue NSW said firefighters remain on the scene this morning as light smouldering from deep within the rubble continues.

The spokesperson said once the demolition is complete “to a level”, evacuated residents from the surrounding buildings will be allowed to return and businesses reopened.

Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Australia ‘deeply concerned’ about delayed verdict for democracy advocate detained in China

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, has issued a statement marking two years since Australian writer and pro-democracy advocate Dr Yang Hengjun faced a closed trial in Beijing on charges of espionage.

He had been detained for more than two years before he faced his single-day trial from which media and diplomats were barred.

Wong said:

Dr Yang is still awaiting a verdict and the Australian Government remains deeply concerned about delays in his case.

Today, our thoughts are with Dr Yang and his family.

Australia has consistently called for basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment for Dr Yang, in accordance with international norms and China’s legal obligations.

We will continue to advocate for Dr Yang’s interests and wellbeing, and provide consular support to Dr Yang and his family.

Yang Hengjun and his wife, Yuan Xiaoliang
Yang Hengjun and his wife, Yuan Xiaoliang. The Chinese Australian writer faced a single-day closed trial in Beijing more than two years ago and has yet to receive a verdict. Photograph: AP

Four dead after car crash in western Victoria

Four people have died and a teenager is fighting for life after a car crash in Victoria’s west.

A car carrying five females was travelling along Wannon-Nigretta Falls Road at Bochara about 9.30am on Saturday when the driver lost control, hitting a tree. Four people died at the scene.

The fifth, a teenage girl, was flown to the Alfred Hospital with upper body injuries in a critical condition, an Ambulance Victoria spokesman said.

Police cordoned off the area to allow major collision investigation unit detectives to probe the crash.

Victoria police urged anyone who witnessed it to contact them.

– Australian Associated Press

More room for koalas to spread out on NSW north coast

A pre-election promise by the New South Wales government to protect the state’s koala population from extinction has taken another step forward, with the purchase of a parcel of land for dedicated habitat.

AAP reports Koala-preferred bushland covering 4500 hectares near Port Macquarie on the state’s mid-north coast has been purchased by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Research shows koala populations in the wild will dwindle to the mere hundreds by 2050 if steps are not taken to protect them.

NSW Environment Minister, Penny Sharpe, said on Saturday the opportunity to buy large parcels of private land featuring koala habitat along the NSW coast are extremely rare, and described the move as “a big win”.

Here’s Sharpe:

Permanent protection of this property as part of the national parks estate will not only secure the koala-preferred habitat– it will also enable us to lessen the increasing and cumulative threats faced by koalas.

Bridget McKenzie praises Victorian Nationals’ formal vote against voice

A bit more on the Victorian Nationals, who have formally voted to oppose the Indigenous voice to parliament at the start of National Reconciliation Week.

The decision was made at a conference in Ballarat on Saturday attended by state and federal Nationals MPs.

“An historic morning as the Victorian Nationals formally vote to oppose Albanese’s divisive Voice to Parliament,” senior federal Victorian MP Bridget McKenzie tweeted.

The senator posted a photo of herself standing alongside federal Nationals Leader David Littleproud, federal Coalition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and the Victorian Nationals leader and state opposition Aboriginal affairs spokesman, Peter Walsh.

Later this year, Australians will vote on enshrining an Indigenous voice to parliament in the constitution. The federal Nationals announced their decision to oppose the voice last year, saying it would do nothing to help Indigenous people in their communities.

“I am immensely proud of our Victorian Nationals who have today boldly stood for a united Australia,” McKenzie said later in a statement.

Price said: “Victorians who do not support the voice can have faith in the Nationals who know it is not racist to oppose it.”

National Reconciliation Week runs until 3 June and is organised by the not-for-profit Reconciliation Australia, which is responsible for building and promoting reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

The incoming tide is covering the mudflats and sandbanks at Toondah Harbour and creeping up the mangrove branches.

Ospreys and sea eagles are fishing and a cloudless sky is framing Cassim Island – a bank of mangrove-covered sand – in a tranquil scene a watercolour painter would die for.

But a fight to stop a controversial $1.3bn plan to develop this area – part of an internationally-significant protected wetland – is about to reach a climax that has been building for eight years.

If approved by the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, this watercolour would be transformed forever with shops, restaurants, boardwalks, high-rise homes and a 200-berth marina that would build out over the mudflats and carve out a 50ha chunk of the wetland listed under the international Ramsar convention, stopping 200m short of Cassim.

Read more of Graham Readfearn’s feature here:

Victoria police arrest man over hit and run collision

Police have arrested a man over a hit and run collision on Dunnings Road in Point Cook, in Melbourne’s north-west, which left a woman critically injured.

Police say the driver fled the scene after crashing into a the woman’s vehicle at about 11pm on Friday. They subsequently arrested a 25-year-old man.

Detectives are investigating a hit-run collision that occurred on Dunnings Road in Point Cook just after 11pm.

Investigators are asking anyone that may have been travelling along Dunnings Road prior to the collision come forward.

Details ➡

— Victoria Police (@VictoriaPolice) May 27, 2023

Leigh Miller of the major collision investigation unit told the ABC:

We just are too often going to these collisions. It is happening daily. People aren’t driving to the conditions, it was slightly wet tonight. But you have also got to obey the road rules. We have people that are speeding, drinking, inattention, we really need people to concentrate.

The road toll is almost out of control this year and we just don’t know when it’s going to stop.

The United States growing movement to ban books has trickled to Australia, with an award-winning graphic novel depicting same-sex relationships and sexual experiences becoming first book to be referred to the Classification Board in ten years.

AAP reports the board is reviewing its decision to class the novel, Gender Queer: A Memoir, as “unrestricted” following an appeal against its rating as a book for mature audiences.

Maia Kobabe’s illustrated memoir – journey of self-discovery, trauma and queer identity – has been removed from shelves in Queensland’s Logan City Council libraries, following an appeal from councillor Scott Bannan and commentator Bernard Gaynor.

Gaynor said:

This battle is not over and we will succeed in having it removed from Logan City Council libraries altogether.

When the board initially classified the book as unrestricted, Sydney bookseller Kinokuniya celebrated it as an important novel.

This book means so much to so many of our staff – we were firmly invested in a positive outcome.

Victoria’s National party will oppose voice to parliament

Not all are marking the start of National Reconciliation Week with a push to vote “yes” in the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament.

Victoria’s National party voted this morning to join their federal counterparts in opposing the voice.

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament was an opportunity for “us all to come together to support reconciliation and a stronger, more united Australia”.

Today is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum to count Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the population. This year we’ll have a referendum on the Voice. An opportunity for us all to come together to support reconciliation and a stronger, more united Australia.

— Mark Dreyfus (@MarkDreyfusKCMP) May 27, 2023

Australians are marking the start of National Reconciliation Week which is shaping up as particularly significant this year with the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament fast approaching.

This year, the theme is “Be a Voice for Generations”.

Today we launch National Reconciliation Week 2023.

Be a Voice for Generations means carrying on the work of those who came before us and using our power, our words, and our actions to create a better, more just Australia for generations to come.

— Reconciliation Australia (@RecAustralia) May 26, 2023

Heavy metals, nicotine, arsenic found in retail vape products

Widely available vape products have been found to contain toxic heavy metals, carcinogens and nicotine, according to new tests, AAP reports.

Queensland’s Health and Environment Committee tested the chemical composition of 17 e-liquids available from retailers in the state.

All samples contained toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, chromium, antimony, aluminium, iron and nickel, along with known carcinogens like formaldehyde.

Nicotine was present in all samples, but ranged from less than 200 mg/kg to 47,000 mg/kg.

The Queensland health minister, Shannon Fentiman, said the results were confronting, given the rising popularity of vape products with younger people.

These results make it clear that what is inside them is extremely dangerous.

Burney criticises Dutton over referendum stance

Burney also criticised opposition leader, Peter Dutton, for “playing politics” on the Indigenous voice to parliament.

Next week … in the House of Representatives there be a vote on the constitutional alteration bill to allow us to have the referendum later this year.

If Peter Dutton was fair dinkum about supporting reconciliation, if he was fair dinkum about uniting and not dividing, then Mr Dutton would vote in favour of the bill next week. And Mr Dutton would vote “yes” in the referendum later this year.

In 1967 we were counted. In 2023, we seek to be heard: Linda Burney

Burney says last night the Uluru Statement from the Heart was re-committed to as a “generous invitation from Indigenous Australians to walk together to a better future”.

In 1967 we were counted. In 2023, we seek to be heard.

We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country; from Uluru to referendum day, in 2023, Australians will again vote in a referendum, this time for constitutional recognition through a voice.

This time being asked whether we should change the constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice.

Linda Burney, the Labor minister for Indigenous Affairs, in the Northern Territory.
Linda Burney, the Labor minister for Indigenous affairs, in the Northern Territory. Photograph: Dean Sewell/Oculi

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