TIME Australia

Australia Court Rules the Month-Long Detention of Migrants at Sea Was Legal

Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney
Protesters hold placards at the 'Stand up for Refugees' rally held in central Sydney Oct. 11, 2014 David Gray—Reuters

The case brought attention to Australia's controversial immigration policy

Australia’s High Court ruled Wednesday that the nearly month-long detention of 157 ethnic Tamils from Sri Lanka aboard a sea vessel last year was legal under the government’s Marine Powers Act.

The narrow 4-3 decision means that the detainees, of whom 50 were children, will not receive damages for their alleged false imprisonment, according to the judgment summaries.

Hugh de Kretser, executive director of Australia’s Human Rights Law Centre, which formed part of the Sri Lankans’ legal team, expressed his disappointment with the decision.

“Incommunicado detention on the high seas is a clear breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, today’s decision confirms that our domestic law allows the Government to breach those obligations.”

Liberal Party MP Scott Morrison, who held the post of immigration minister when the Sri Lankans were detained, tweeted his approval of the decision.

The Sri Lankans had boarded a boat in India last June but were intercepted 16 days later in the Indian Ocean by an Australian customs ship.

After weeks of being held on the ship, the group was transferred to the Curin detention center in Western Australia because the Indian government said they would consider taking them back, according to Reuters.

When the group refused to meet with Indian officials, they were moved to another immigration center, this time on the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru, where they will remain until their status as refugees is decided.

The ethnic Tamils were heading to Australia to claim refugee status, claiming they had a well-founded fear of persecution in Sinhala-majority Sri Lanka following the end of the island-nation’s bloody civil war in 2009.

The case highlights Australia’s controversial immigration policy in which immigrants are often processed at offshore camps in Papua New Guinea, Christmas Island and Nauru.

Canberra says the restrictions are in place for the safety of immigrants risking their lives to reach its shores by sea.

TIME Australia

The Aussies Just Made the Queen’s Husband a Knight

The First World War exhibition open - London
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, attends the opening of "First World War in the Air" exhibition at the RAF Museum in Hendon, England, on Dec. 2, 2014 Eddie Mulholland—The Telegraph/PA Wire/AP

That's like "giving a Beyoncé CD to Jay-Z" says Aussie comic Adam Hills

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott spent Monday morning mired in controversy after his office kicked off Australia Day celebrations by making Britain’s Prince Philip a Knight of the Order of Australia.

Australians have long been acquainted with the 93-year-old royal, who is notorious for uttering headline-worthy gaffes. During a trip to the Lucky Country in 2002, the Duke of Edinburgh, as he is officially titled, asked an Aboriginal man: “Do you still throw spears at each other?”

Nevertheless, Abbott praised Prince Philip’s “long life of service” during a flag-raising ceremony in the Australian capital, Canberra, on Monday morning.

“This honor recognizes the contribution of the Duke of Edinburgh to Australia throughout the Queen’s 62-year reign,” read a statement released by Abbott’s office. “For three quarters of a century, Prince Philip has served the Crown, and the wider Commonwealth.”

Following the announcement, Australians took to social media to slam the decision to give the nation’s top honor to the Prince rather than an Australian.

Abbott attempted to defend the decision during an Australia Day function in Canberra.

“Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” he told reporters, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

TIME Australia

Watch Non-Australians React to the Taste of Vegemite Pizza

"I hate this"

With Australia Day just around the corner, Pizza Hut has Down Under has launched a pizza that is quintessentially Aussie, or so they say.

It’s called the the Mitey Stuffed Crust and is filled with gooey melted cheese and an astringent brown paste made from leftover brewer’s yeast known as Vegemite.

Pizza Hut made a hilarious ad that shows backpackers in a hostel wincing in disgust as they try the new culinary delight (or travesty), with some saying it tasted like “medicine,” “petrol” or even “fish jam.”

Not so the Aussies. “The Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza works unbelievably well with any of our topping combinations and we couldn’t think of a more quintessentially Aussie pizza to launch in time for Australia Day,” stated Fatima Syed, Pizza Hut Australia’s head of marketing.

And many have gone to Twitter in equal amounts of delight and disgust.

TIME Papua New Guinea

Hundreds of Asylum Seekers Are on Hunger Strike Over Australia’s Resettlement Plan

(FILE) Manus Island Detention Centre
In this handout photo provided by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, are seen facilities at the Manus Island Regional Processing Facility, used for the detention of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, primarily to Christmas Island off the Australian mainland, on Oct. 16, 2012, on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea Handout—Getty Images

Several are refusing water and have sown their lips shut

Nearly 700 detainees, or almost two-thirds of those held in an Australian offshore detention center on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Manus Island, are on hunger strike to protest Canberra’s plan to permanently resettle them on the island.

The hunger strike comes in the wake of a vow by Australia’s recently appointed Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, that Manus Island detainees would “never arrive in Australia,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

During the past week, hundreds of detainees have abstained from food, and some from water, over the government’s plan to move them to the nearby town of Lorengau. As many as 14 have sown their lips together, the Herald says.

Visiting Australian medical staff and refugee rights groups say that health facilities on Manus Island center are not equipped to handle the hunger strike.

“They don’t have the capacity to handle a hunger strike of even one-tenth of that size,” said Doctors for Refugees member Barri Phatarfod.

[Sydney Morning Herald]

TIME Australia

Dolphin-Eating Sharks Close Australian Beaches for 7 Days Straight

Two great whites have shut down the beaches in Newcastle

Two great white sharks have been spotted in the waters of Newcastle, Australia, prompting officials to shut down the beaches for seven consecutive days.

The sharks, one estimated around three meters long, the other five meters, have been spotted chasing, attacking and feeding on dolphins, whose carcasses now float in the water and wash up on shore.

Newcastle City Council announced that it is “not safe for anyone to be in the water,” and will not re-open the beaches again until at least 24 hours have passed since the last sighting.

[The Sydney Morning Herald]

Read next: Marine Biologists Capture Rare Photo of a Shark Birth

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Australia

A Guy Got Arrested by 10 Cops for Wearing an ‘I’m With Stupid’ T-shirt

He was charged with public nuisance

A man from Queensland, Australia, was arrested Thursday by a group of 10 police officers for wearing an “I’m With Stupid” T-shirt while he stood and waved next to campaigners from the state’s Liberal National Party (LNP).

Iain Fogerty, who runs a Twitter account parodying Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, was charged with public nuisance, the Courier Mail reports.

Campaign teams for the Australian Labor Party and the LNP had set up opposing rallies on either side of the road in a central part of the Queensland capital, Brisbane, when Fogerty began standing next to the LNP crowd in his T-shirt.

Labor Senator Claire Moore described the arrest as “just ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Fogerty’s Twitter feed is going crazy with parody photos of people wearing “I’m With Stupid” T-shirts.

[Courier Mail]

TIME Australia

Crews Race to Control South Australia’s Worst Bushfire in 3 Decades

The blaze has been burning since Friday

Thirteen homes have been destroyed in the worst bushfire in South Australia since 1983.

That number is expected to rise to more than 30 homes as specialist crews of firefighters assess the damage in the Adelaide Hills and try to control the blaze, which has been burning since Friday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reports.

But it is a race against time as weather conditions are expected to hamper efforts on Wednesday, with high temperatures and winds expected.

More than 1,100 properties lie in the affected area and authorities say they will have a better idea of the damage as the day goes on.

Fire crews are working to protect pockets of homes from the blaze and will increase their efforts to control the fire from the air.

[ABC]

TIME animals

See a Python Eat Enough Food for 3 Months at 1 Sitting

The meal could take a week to digest

And you thought you ate too much over the holidays.

Australia’s Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Facebook page posted images of a python with “about the biggest prey item it could eat”: A whole baby wallaby.

Images show the snake wrapping around the wallaby to suffocate the creature before eating it whole. The meal would take almost a week to digest and could sustain the snake for up to three months. Here are the (somewhat graphic) images:

TIME Australia

Australia Hunts for Killer Great White With a Spear in Its Throat

The victim’s friend says he managed to fire a spear at the shark.

Authorities are searching for a shark that killed a 17-year-old on Monday off Cheynes Beach in Western Australia.

Jay Muscat, 17, died after he was bitten in the leg while spearfishing, the second deadly shark attack in Australia in two weeks, the Associated Press reports. A friend who was spearfishing with him says he managed to fire a spear at the shark.

“The shark turned and came for me, I pushed the speargun down its throat and fired the gun!,” he wrote on Facebook, according to the AFP. “This is something no one should ever have to see.”

A spokesman for the state fisheries department, Carlo Vittiglia, told the AP that the shark is believed to be a great white up to 16-feet long. In recent years, there have been an average of two deadly shark attacks a year in Australia.

[AP]

TIME Australia

Lost Family Survives on Rainwater for 11 Days in Australian Outback

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, Timothy Van Lonkhuyzen, Ethan Van Lonkhuyzen, Tom Wagner
In this Dec 22, 2014 photo provided by Queensland Police, Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, left, with his sons Timothy, 5, second left, and Ethan, 7, third left, speaks to farmer Tom Wagner, center, and a park ranger in the remote Expedition National Park, northwest of Brisbane in Australia. APAP

They rationed what little food they had

An Australian father and his two young sons have been rescued after managing to survive for 11 days lost in the remote outback by rationing what food they had and collecting rainwater.

Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, 37, was on a camping trip with sons Ethan, 7, and Timothy, 5, in a national park in Queensland, Australia when their vehicle became stuck. With no cell reception or transportation, Lonkhuyzen rationed food packed for four days and set out plastic containers to collect rainwater, reports the Guardian.

“Steven told me they had some water with them in the car but that they were lucky there was lots of rain while they were stuck out there,” said Acting Superintendant Mick Biachi, who coordinated the police search.

A local rancher heard radio reports of the missing family and recalled having seen the vehicle days earlier. He jumped on a motorbike and drove to find them.

“It’s pretty indicative of the way country people pitch in and help each other,” Bianchi said.

The children were treated at a local hospital, but are expected to make a full recovery.

[The Guardian]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser