Ill cricket fan is Australia captain for a day

Around Christmas last year, seven-year-old Australian cricket super-fan Archie Schiller was lying in a hospital bed, breathing through a tube as he recovered from his third heart surgery.

But this year the seven-year-old was able to forget, just briefly, the troubles of his congenital heart disease.

On Wednesday, he strode onto the Melbourne Cricket Ground as honorary co-captain of the Australian cricket team as they took on India.

He was captain for the Boxing Day Test – his country’s biggest cricket match of the year.

Thousands of spectators watched as the little boy shook hands with the Indian captain at the coin toss, signalling the start of the match.

“He was just on top of the world to be out there with the team, I’ve never seen him smile so much,” his mother Sarah Schiller told the BBC.

For the young cricket fan, he was granted his dream “to captain Australia” by Cricket Australia and the Make-A-Wish Foundation charity.

He joined in warm-up drills prior to the match and struck up friendships with the players.

“He said he felt included in what was going on and he loves this sport so much. He sleeps now with his baggy green [cap] on – he would sleep in his team blazer if we allowed him to,” Mrs Schiller said.

“He handled the day absolutely beautifully. When he got there, he just put on his whites and said, ‘See ya Mum and Dad, I’m with my mates now'”.

Ms Schiller said the entire Australian cricket team engaged with him and “that was just a big thing for him, to have him go there and spend time with people he idolises.”

Archie was diagnosed with a heart condition at birth, and underwent open-heart surgery at three months and he has undergone 13 surgeries in total.

He has missed months of school as a result, and in his daily life, finds it hard to keep up with his schoolmates.

“He’ll try his hardest, he’ll go and go and go, but he just isn’t able to get up and run like the other kids. But he just wants to be a part of things,” Mrs Schiller said.

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She added that Archie had previously only travelled to Melbourne from his home in Adelaide for operations.

“He can’t quite believe that he doesn’t have to go to the hospital this time,” she said.

“Last Christmas, we thought we wouldn’t get back home from the hospital so to be together this year as a family, it’s just perfect.”

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Murder charge in Australia podcast mystery

Australian police have charged Chris Dawson with the murder of his wife, whose disappearance in 1982 has been featured in a popular crime podcast.

The 70-year-old arrived in Sydney to a media throng on Thursday after being extradited from Queensland.

Mr Dawson has previously denied killing Lynette Dawson, the mother of his two children, saying she abandoned the family for a religious group.

A podcast, The Teacher’s Pet, has brought global attention to the case.

Mr Dawson appeared in Sydney’s Central Local Court via video link on Thursday, where he was denied bail.

His lawyer said he would make a formal bail application at a later date.

Police arrested the former high school teacher on Wednesday, following a three-year reinvestigation into the case.

Mrs Dawson’s family told local media they felt “absolute massive relief” over the arrest.

No trace of Mrs Dawson has ever been found since she vanished from her Sydney home 36 years ago.

Two separate inquests since then concluded that she was killed by a “known person”.

One inquest in 2003 found that her husband had sexual relationships with teenage students during his marriage.

However, prosecutors had previously said there was insufficient evidence to lay charges.

On Wednesday, New South Wales police said a reinvestigation had led to the arrest.

Supt Scott Cook said new evidence including witness statements, had helped investigators “tie pieces of the puzzle together”.

Australian media reported that some of the testimony came from one of Mr Dawson’s former schoolgirl lovers.

The 16-year-old girl had moved into the family home days after Mrs Dawson’s disappearance. The pair later married, but have since separated.

The case has attracted intense interest in Australia and internationally, largely as a result of The Teacher’s Pet podcast.

The series, produced by The Australian newspaper, has attracted more than 27 million listeners since its debut in May.

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The ‘Asian traits’ humour that became a phenomenon

For many people of Asian descent living overseas, a Facebook group called Subtle Asian Traits has become a cultural phenomenon.

Its jokes and memes – especially about life as a first-generation migrant – have made the page wildly popular. Almost a million people have joined the group since it began in September.

The posts, which can be made by anyone, have also sparked conversations about cultural identity.

Its rapid success has stunned the group’s founders – nine Chinese-Australian high school students who live in Melbourne.

“We were always sharing memes and jokes about Asian culture and growing up in a foreign country and kind of just wanted a place to share them together,” co-founder Kathleen Xiao, 18, tells the BBC.

Anne Gu, 18, another founder, says they were thrilled when the group hit 1,000 members but “now it’s just gone insane”.

“We didn’t think at all that it would get this big, or so serious,” she says, referring to its growth into an online community for Asian diasporas.

She says the initial idea had been to simply share jokes about family life, Asian cultural “quirks” and bubble milk tea. (There are a lot of memes about this very popular drink.)

What are Subtle Asian Traits?

The posts span a range of topics, but they often focus on Asian culture as experienced by the children of migrants.

That’s why most members are young people from Australia, the US, Canada and the UK, rather than those living in Asia.

Ms Xiao believes that the page is so popular because it identifies “just little things in our lives that no one talked about before”.

Many memes are about household customs – such as boiling tap water for drinking or using a finger to measure the perfect amount of water needed to cook rice.

Other jokes centre on the experience of being a first-generation Asian person in a Western society, and “how we struggle, sometimes, to reach a balance between our two cultures”, says Ms Gu.

There are memes about “not being Asian enough”: bilingual mishaps, struggles with Chinese homework, rebelling against family rules and traditions.

Then there are posts referencing experiences of casual racism or being made to feel “not white enough”.

A common source of humour is “Asian parents” – who are stereotypically portrayed as cautious, strict and overbearing.

As a Chinese-Australian millennial, I burst out laughing at one of the group’s most popular posts. It was captioned: “One day I told mother I didn’t eat breakfast”.

It bore an uncanny resemblance to texts from my own mother, particularly phrases like: “I did not have a good sleep last night because of this.”

Ms Gu says the page is designed to be “relatable”. Some users have sent the administrators messages of thanks.

“One girl said it was the first time she felt like a sense of belonging,” she says.

Ms Xiao says the page helped her realise her experiences were common.

“Growing up in a foreign country, it’s just something you don’t talk about because you’re afraid that people won’t understand you, or that you’ll be made into a minority,” she says.

Finding ‘the balance’

Like other internet groups which attempt to offer insights on cultural identity, there are some inherent challenges.

Some initial criticism suggested that the group wasn’t inclusive of all Asian cultures, as most posts related to East Asia.

Ms Gu says the administrators have since prioritised including more diverse content. And in the group’s rules (of which there are five, because four is an unlucky number in Chinese culture), users are encouraged to “be inclusive to all Asian races”.

Other critics have said that memes about “tiger” parents or bad driving serve to reinforce negative stereotypes. One user on Reddit equated the humour to internalised racism and “self hate”.

Ms Gu acknowledges that some of the humour plays off stereotypes, but argues that most post-makers “have generally come to terms with their cultural identity”.

“They understand the balance,” she says. Such posts can also help people “to experience potentially negative experiences in childhood in a more humorous and positive light… like a healing through humour”.

She adds that the page has also deepened her own cultural pride – something she had not expected.

“I hope it gives others the confidence too, to not be so shy about their culture,” she says.

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Australia PM bans minister-staff sex

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull has said he will prohibit sex between ministers and their staff, after it was revealed his deputy had an affair with a former staffer.

In a press briefing, he condemned Barnaby Joyce for a “shocking error of judgement”.

Mr Joyce will take a leave of absence from Monday amid scrutiny over whether he breached ministerial standards.

Both Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull deny that any rules, as defined, were broken.

But the prime minister said he would overhaul the “truly deficient” ministerial code of conduct.

“Ministers must behave accordingly. They must not have sexual relations with their staff – that’s it,” he told reporters.

Mr Turnbull earlier told parliament that Mr Joyce would not fill his post as acting leader next week when the prime minister travels to the US.

The scandal has dominated Australian politics since last Wednesday when Mr Joyce’s affair with media adviser Vikki Campion was publicly revealed.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Joyce would be on leave for a week from Monday. Opposition parties called on him to resign.

The high-profile conservative had only returned to parliament in December after briefly losing his job over his New Zealand dual citizenship.

‘World of woe’

Mr Turnbull said his deputy had caused “terrible hurt and humiliation” to his estranged wife, Natalie Joyce, their four daughters, and Ms Campion.

“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office,” he said.

“In doing so he has set off a world of woe for those women, and appalled all of us. Our hearts go out to them.”

On Tuesday, Mr Joyce publicly apologised to all six for what he called a “searing personal experience”.

Mr Turnbull said such behaviour was not acceptable “today, in 2018”, and ministers must oversee respectful workplaces.

Joyce takes cover

Hywel Griffith, BBC News Sydney correspondent

It’s unlike Barnaby Joyce to step away from the front line. He’s a hardened battler who normally revels in the noisy confrontation of politics.

Mr Joyce is the man who took on Johnny Depp, a man he called a “dipstick”, and won; the politician who survived the citizenship row and was re-elected with an increased majority.

The man in the Akubra hat was riding high until his extramarital affair was exposed and he lost authority within his own party.

With the storm around him showing no sign of slowing, Mr Joyce will hope his impromptu holiday can somehow calm matters.

But his opponents are unlikely to stop sniping, just because he’s taken cover.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a motion calling on Mr Joyce to resign – although it has no power to force such a move.

Mr Joyce has faced questions over the timing of two unadvertised jobs within his party that were taken up by Ms Campion last year.

Under the code of conduct, Mr Turnbull must approve any ministerial department job given to the partner of a frontbencher. No permission was sought for Ms Campion.

However, both Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull maintain that Ms Campion was not the deputy prime minister’s partner at the time.

Mr Joyce was due to step in as acting prime minister while Mr Turnbull is on his trip to the US, in line with usual convention.

The role will instead be taken up by Mathias Cormann, the government’s leader in the Senate.

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‘Rewilding’ Australia’s landscape

Around the world, natural environments are being “rewilded” with native animals once banished by habitat destruction and pests. Australia has joined the trend.

In 1841, the Western Quoll officially disappeared in New South Wales (NSW).

Once found across almost three-quarters of Australia, a devastating loss of habitat and relentless attacks by feral cats and foxes saw it retreat to a few areas in Western Australia.

But there are now bold plans to bring back the cat-sized carnivorous marsupial and other mammals to parts of Australia’s most populous state.

The animals will live in vast enclosures cleansed of predators in western NSW as part of a Noah’s Ark-type project designed to save some of the nation’s unique creatures.

Time machines

Free of invasive species, the havens will be akin to wildlife time machines resembling the countryside as it would have been before European colonists arrived with exotic animals that have caused ecological carnage.

“This is one of the most exciting and large-scale re-wilding programmes ever undertaken in Australia and quite possibly the world,” said environmentalist and scientist Tim Flannery, a director of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC).

AWC already manages sanctuaries in other parts of the country, and is working alongside the NSW government and the University of New South Wales to create new refuges for several threatened species.

“Australia has the worst mammal extinction record on the planet,” Mr Flannery told the BBC.

“We have lost 10% of our fauna already, and there is another 10-15% that is restricted to offshore islands or tiny pockets whereas once they were widespread,” he says.

The predator-free reservations will be surrounded by two-metre high electric fences.

There will be three “re-wilding” centres at the Mallee Cliffs and Sturt national parks in the south-west and north-west of the state, respectively, and the Pilliga Nature Reserve north of Coonabarabran.

The habitat in these parks is particularly suitable for the largest range of species to be reintroduced, says NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman.

“The final list of species for each park will be confirmed following further discussions, but among the species likely to be included are the Greater Bilby, Brush-tailed Bettong, Burrowing Bettong, Greater Stick-nest Rat, Bridled Nail-tail Wallaby, Numbat, Western Barred Bandicoot and Western Quoll,” he said in a statement.

The Greater Bilby was last recorded in NSW more than 100 years ago and can now only be found in the deserts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The burrowing nocturnal omnivores are known as “ecosystem engineers” that help to retain water and nutrients in the landscape, promoting healthy vegetation and digging holes that provide shelter for other animals.

The Greater Stick-nest Rat is no longer found on Australia’s mainland, surviving only on islands off South Australia.

NSW’s safe haven plan should last for decades, says deputy chief executive of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Michael Wright.

“This is a long-term project,” Mr Wright told the BBC.

“The costs will run into the millions of dollars because of firstly establishing the enclosures, then the intensive pest eradication work, [and] the cost of trans-locating species for reintroduction into those enclosures.

“[It is] a very worthwhile project to turn the tide on the pandemic of extinction not just in NSW but across Australia since European settlement,” he says.

Political party the NSW Greens has welcomed the programme but believes the state government is ignoring the major cause of extinction – habitat loss.

“As an engineer and a scientist, of course, it is always really exciting to see initiatives to protect and enhance our biodiversity and especially from a government which has an abysmal record on the environment,” explains Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi.

Habitat destruction

“On the one hand the government is reintroducing extinct species in NSW; on the other hand, they have actually been decimating the environment,” says Ms Faruqi.

“We must have a consistent and precautionary approach to stop habitat destruction otherwise the reintroduced species will face the same fate as their predecessors.”

Protecting fragile ecosystems is critical but so too is the control of feral pests. Mr Flannery believes it may take a “century to get there”.

If vegetation is eaten or degraded by rabbits, for example, the Bilby and other native animals struggle to survive.

Wild cats and foxes have killed countless millions of indigenous mammals, birds and reptiles. These most unwanted of introduced species have been trapped, shot, poisoned and targeted by grim biological viruses, such as myxomatosis in the early 1950s, yet still their numbers soar.

The “lost” native animals will begin returning to NSW later this year.

“It’s great to see bilbies and banded hare wallabies and these other animals that most of us have only read about in books,” says Mr Flannery.

“One day I do hope that we will be able to see these animals living beyond the fence.”

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Cricketer’s brother ‘framed’ terror suspect

The brother of Australian cricket star Usman Khawaja has been arrested for allegedly framing another man over a fake terror plot.

Police in Australia have charged Arsalan Khawaja, 39, with forgery and an attempt to pervert justice.

In August, police charged a Sri Lankan student in Sydney over an alleged plan in a notebook about killing Australian politicians.

Mohamed Kamer Nizamdeen was detained for a month before being released.

The 25-year-old PhD student had claimed that that he was framed by a rival at his workplace, the University of New South Wales.

On Tuesday, police alleged Mr Nizamdeen had been “set up in a planned and calculated manner” by Mr Khawaja.

Mr Khawaja, who worked in the same department as Mr Nizamdeen, had been partly motivated by a “personal grievance” over a woman, police said.

Wrongful detainment

Mr Nizamdeen endured more than four weeks in solitary confinement after he was arrested on terrorism charges.

Police accused him of plotting the attacks in his notebook. An alleged hit list included the former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House.

However he was released in October after police failed to connect his handwriting to the writing in the notebook.

Mr Nizamdeen, who has returned to Sri Lanka, has indicated he plans to seek compensation from authorities for his wrongful detention.

On Tuesday, New South Wales police expressed “regret” for Mr Nizamdeen’s experience.

“We feel very sorry for him and what has happened to him,” Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said.

Mr Khawaja was arrested on Tuesday in suburban Sydney. Police had questioned him over the notebook last month.

His brother Usman Khawaja is one of Australia’s leading batsmen. He is set to play in the test series against India, beginning on Thursday.

Speaking hours after the arrest, he asked for his family’s privacy to be respected.

“It is a matter for police to deal with. Out of respect for the process it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment,” he said.

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Fierce debate over monster coal mine

It would be one of the biggest mines on the planet, occupying an area nearly three times larger than Paris, where world leaders hammered out a landmark agreement to combat climate change in late 2015.

If the A$16.5bn (£10bn; $12.5bn) project goes ahead in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – and latest indications are that it will – the coal produced there will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year than entire countries such as Kuwait and Chile, claim its opponents.

Delayed for six years by a stream of legal challenges and environmental impact assessments, the so-called Carmichael mine – to be developed and operated by the Indian mining giant Adani – has polarised Australians.

Supporters, who include local communities, the federal and Queensland governments, and, naturally, the resources industry, insist that it will bring jobs and prosperity to a depressed region of Queensland.

Critics, on the other hand, among them environmentalists and climate scientists, warn that the 60m tonnes of coal to be dug up annually from Carmichael’s 45km (28-mile) pits will exacerbate global warming and threaten the already ailing Great Barrier Reef.

They also say Australia is out of step with international moves to decrease reliance on fossil fuels, in line with the Paris agreement to limit average temperature rises to “well below” two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

India itself recently forecast that 57% of its electricity would come from renewable sources by 2027. Britain plans to close all its coal-fired plants by 2025, while Canada aims to do so by 2030.

In Australia, by contrast, the conservative government is talking up “clean coal” – a commodity most experts consider a pipe dream – and attacking renewable energy as unreliable and expensive. It has also ruled out any kind of emissions trading scheme.

Does coal have a place?

Already the world’s biggest exporter of thermal coal (the type used to generate electricity), Australia is now eyeing new markets in Asia.

In collaboration with Japan, which manufactures power stations, it is “actively encouraging developing countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to build new coal-fired generators so we can sell coal to them”, Richard Denniss, chief economist at the Australia Institute, a progressive think-tank, told the BBC.

With its long gestation and massive scale – six open-cut and up to three underground mines sprawling across 250sq km of arid landscape, with the entire operation engulfing almost twice that area – Carmichael has become a flashpoint for pro- and anti-coal forces.

The former contend that its coal will provide millions of Indians with cheap, reliable electricity, lifting them out of “energy poverty”. Royalties from the mine will also give a much-needed boost to the Queensland government’s finances.

The latter see it as a symbol of Australia’s reluctance to commit to the radical action which scientists say is required to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

Frank Jotzo, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, warns: “The opening up of new mining areas like the Galilee Basin is fundamentally incompatible with the global goal of well below two degrees.”

Like others, Prof Jotzo is unconvinced by arguments to the contrary. For instance, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who has called coal “a very important part… of the global energy mix and likely to remain that way for a very long time” – has said that developing Carmichael would not push up global supply.

Mr Turnbull has also said that, far from reducing global emissions, calling a halt to Australian coal exports could actually increase them, since the likes of India would import dirtier coal from elsewhere.

‘Clean’ coal argument

According to the Australia Institute, the quality of coal in the Galilee Basin – an area bigger than the United Kingdom – is among Australia’s poorest. (“Dirty” coal has a lower energy content, meaning more of it has to be burnt.)

The federal Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, claims there is a “moral case” for Australia to supply coal to developing nations.

Others point to the serious health costs of pollution caused by burning coal, and to forecasts that climate change will hit the world’s poorest hardest. Critics also say solar energy could power remote Indian villages more easily and cheaply.

Until relatively recently, some were predicting that Adani would walk away from the Galilee, frustrated by funding difficulties, the lengthy environmental assessments and the court actions, one of which concerned the mine’s impact on the yakka skink, an endangered reptile.

One by one, though, the company has cleared the regulatory hurdles, albeit with 190 state and 36 federal conditions now attached to the project.

Last December came the high-profile announcement that the last major element had been approved: a rail line to transport coal from the mine, 400km inland, to the export terminal, near the Great Barrier Reef.

An Adani spokesman notes that the company has already spent A$1.3bn on the project, including more than A$100m on legal fees – “without putting one shovel in the ground”. Those figures, he says, “show the company’s commitment”.

Lately, opposition has focused on news that the federal government is considering giving Adani a cheap A$1bn loan to build the rail link – infrastructure which some fear could become a “stranded [obsolete] asset”.

Prof Jotzo told the BBC: “It’s questionable whether this mine will still be a viable proposition in two decades’ time, whereas infrastructure such as a rail line or port expansion [also planned by Adani] would have a lifetime of 50 to 100 years.”

With construction of the mine expected to begin by late 2017 – assuming final legal appeals, including one by a local indigenous landowners’ group, are rejected – activists are gearing up for a campaign of mass protests.

One of the biggest issues galvanising opponents is the potential impact on the Great Barrier Reef, both indirectly through intensifying climate change, and directly through dredging of the seafloor to expand port facilities and increasing shipping across the reef.

As for jobs, Adani’s own economist has admitted in court that, rather than creating 10,000 positions, as the company has promised, the mine will employ fewer than 1,500 people.

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Adani to Proceed With Scaled-Back Version of Contentious Australian Coal Mine

HOBART, Australia — After months of protests over whether Australia should subsidize one of the world’s largest coal mines, the Indian mining giant Adani announced on Thursday that it would scale the project back and finance it itself.

The Carmichael mine had been projected to produce 60 million tons a year from the coal-rich Galilee Basin; now the output will start at 10 million tons and rise to 27.5 million, the company said, putting it more in line with other mines in the area.

“The project stacks up both environmentally and financially,” said Lucas Dow, Adani Australia’s chief executive. “We will now deliver the jobs and business opportunities we have promised for North Queensland and Central Queensland, all without requiring a cent of Australian taxpayer dollars.” The company had previously asked for a taxpayer-financed loan of a billion Australian dollars, about $730 million.

Critics of the plan — and they are legion — said the company was trying to rush ahead and break ground because of polls indicating that the next federal election could be won by the Labor Party, which is likely to oppose the mine. There are still obstacles in place, involving water and other issues, but the company maintains that they are procedural and will soon be resolved.

Resistance to the mine remains strong. It has become an environmental cause célèbre across Australia, with legal challenges, protests and celebrities painting “Stop Adani” on their cheeks.

The concerns have focused on potential damage to the Great Barrier Reef, because of a port connected to the mine along Australia’s North Queensland coast, and more broadly on coal’s damaging contribution to climate change.

Opposition to the project does not appear to be diminishing along with its scale.

“We can’t afford a coal mine of any size,” said Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“Make no mistake,” she added. “Many on both sides of politics understand burning the coal from the Adani mine and the broader Galilee Basin will be terribly damaging for our climate.”

Australia is especially vulnerable to climate change as the world’s driest inhabited continent, and its effects are becoming abundantly clear.

Bush fires are currently raging across Queensland. Sydney was pummeled on Wednesday by extreme storms and flash flooding. An extended drought is contributing to a spike in rural suicides.

Fisheries are also rapidly shifting, city-size sections of the Great Barrier Reef are bleaching and dying from overheated water, and scientists are predicting another year of severe damage to the global wonder — all while Australia’s governing coalition resists addressing carbon emissions.

[Read More: Australia Wilts From Climate Change. Why Can’t Its Politicians Act?]

Indeed, Matthew Canavan, a Queensland senator and Australia’s minister for resources and Northern Australia, praised Adani for its persistence even as he noted the spread of wildfires.

A Greens party senator, Larissa Waters, who wore #StopAdani earrings to the Senate, responded with outrage.

On Twitter, she said Mr. Canavan’s message of congratulations “as his hometown burns is tragic irony and neglect.”

Frustration with the government’s position on climate change has been building ever since conservatives in the governing Liberal Party toppled Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in August over an energy plan that included moderate measures for controlling emissions.

On Friday, hundreds of students from all over Australia are planning to leave school and protest what they describe as politicians’ failure to recognize climate change as an emergency.

As many environmentalists have noted, a recent United Nations report says the world must stop using coal entirely to keep climate change in check.

Some argued on Thursday that the government still had a chance to stop the mine from going forward.

“The federal and Queensland governments must resist Adani’s pressure to rubber-stamp water approvals and extinguish native title rights,” said Imogen Zethoven, a spokeswoman for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

But Adani and the state and federal governments do not seem likely to give in. Company officials insist that they have everything they need to show they comply with the final rules and requirements, which they described as routine.

The company argues that the demand for coal, primarily in India, is there, and that reducing the mine’s footprint has made the costs manageable.

“Today’s announcement removes any doubt as to the project stacking up financially,” Mr. Dow said.

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Wildfires Burn Across Eastern Australia in Sweltering Heat Wave

More than 100 wildfires burned across Queensland in eastern Australia on Thursday, the second day of evacuations and rapidly changing conditions affecting thousands of people during a sweltering heat wave.

Conditions improved on Thursday, but residents remain in danger as the heat wave is expected to continue for days, said Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland’s premier.

On Wednesday, when there were as many as 190 fires, the government rated the danger “catastrophic” for the first time in the state’s history. Schools were closed and there were scattered reports of property damage, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths.

“What we experienced yesterday was off the charts,” Ms. Palaszczuk said Thursday. “No one has ever recorded these kinds of conditions ever in the history of Queensland.”

In Gracemere, by the eastern coast, residents were ordered to evacuate within hours on Wednesday. They were allowed to return on Thursday after firefighters succeeded in saving the town’s homes.

“Evacuating a town of eight and a half thousand people in just over a couple of hours is pretty extraordinary,” Ms. Palaszczuk said. “Everyone listened, everyone got out, and thankfully everyone is safe.”

Elsewhere, the authorities woke up 50 residents in Campwin Beach at 2 a.m. Thursday and forced them to evacuate, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“It was just heat and people running up the street and it was just crazy,” said Vicky Crichton, a resident.

As fires spread on Thursday, the Queensland police and fire services used Twitter and Facebook to frequently update residents on the paths of often unpredictable fires. They occasionally instructed residents of certain communities to “LEAVE NOW” or “LEAVE IMMEDIATELY.”

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Wolf Creek star faces trial on rape charge

Australian actor John Jarratt is to stand trial over an alleged rape in Sydney in 1976, a court has ruled.

Mr Jarratt, best known for his role in horror film Wolf Creek, was charged by police in August.

It is alleged that the actor, then aged 24, raped an 18-year-old woman at a house in a suburb of inner Sydney.

Mr Jarratt, now 66, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer told a court that it would be a “short, sharp” trial.

The actor stood and nodded on Thursday when told by a magistrate that his trial would begin late next year, Australian media reported.

Police began investigating the case last December after being contacted by the alleged victim.

Mr Jarratt is a veteran actor of Australian film and television, appearing in numerous roles over more than four decades.

He first played Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek in 2005 – a film about a killer who pursues backpackers in the outback. He has reprised the role in a sequel and a TV series.

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