Australia

Captain Kohli, PM Modi lead tributes to Indian cricketers

Kohli had returned home to attend the birth of his daughter after the opening test loss, leaving behind a deflated side who were skittled out for 36 in Adelaide - their lowest innings score in 88 years of test cricket.

Under stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, India levelled the series in Melbourne and drew in Sydney before triumphing in Brisbane to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

"WHAT A WIN!!! Yessssss. To everyone who doubted us after Adelaide, stand up and take notice," Kohli tweeted after India's three-wicket victory at the Gabba.

Australia rebukes Google for blocking local content

After media reports said Australian news websites were not showing up in searches, Google confirmed it was blocking the sites for a small number of users.

The search engine said it was conducting experiments to determine the value of its service to Australian news outlets.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies are fighting the Australian government over plans to make them pay for news content.

Google said the tests affect about 1% of Australian users, and will be finished by February.

Brisbane lockdown to be lifted at 6:00pm but some restrictions to remain

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it had been a "great effort" by Queenslanders over the past three days.

"This is the best news we could have hoped for, absolutely the best news," Ms Palaszczuk.

ABC News reports no cases were reported since 6:00pm on Friday, when Queensland authorities imposed a snap lockdown to slow the potential spread of a UK coronavirus variant.

The highly contagious strain was detected in a cleaner who spent five days in the community in early January after contracting the virus at Brisbane quarantine hotel.

Australia to begin mass vaccinations in February

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said regulators were now expected to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of January.

He announced the plans on Thursday as the cities of Sydney and Melbourne battled to control new clusters.

By March, four million Australians could be vaccinated, he said.

"We are now in a position where believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February," Mr Morrison said.

Following regulatory approval, the first of the country's order of 10 million Pfizer vaccine doses should be issued in a matter of weeks.

Australia changes national anthem to reflect indigenous past

The anthem will no longer refer to Australia as "young and free" - in an attempt to reflect the country's long indigenous history.

The announcement was a surprise but welcomed across the government.

Mr Morrison said he hopes the change will create a "spirit of unity".

People inhabited Australia for tens of thousands of years before it was colonised by mostly white English settlers in the 18th Century.

Victorians race to get home ahead of Covid border closure

Acting Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan told Victorians the state would close its border to all of NSW from 2 January because of an increase in case numbers in NSW, where 10 new cases were confirmed on Thursday.

"Obviously this is going to cause some disruption for Victorians who may be holidaying, we do apologise for this disruption, however as I said, these difficult decisions are about protecting our community," she said.

"It is a decision based on the public health advice.

Sydney residents urged to stay home amid new outbreak

Officials are scrambling to trace the source of the infection, which so far has been found in 28 cases across the city's Northern Beaches region.

The New South Wales (NSW) government has urged all locals to wear a mask in public areas and to be on "high alert".

Local residents now face curbs on travel to Australia's other states.

The new cluster has sparked national concern and cast uncertainty over many Australians' plans for a relatively normal Christmas.

Prior to Wednesday, the country had recorded just one locally acquired case in the past fortnight.

Shark attack in Western Australia kills man

The attack happened near Cable Beach in the north of the state. The man was pulled from the water but was later pronounced dead.

"Police can confirm that tragically the man has died," Western Australia police said in a statement.

The beach has been closed and the public is being urged to avoid local waters. It is the eighth fatal shark attack in Australian waters this year.

A search for the shark is under way, but its species is not yet known.

Australian police target online paedophile network with links in New Zealand

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the operation was one of Australia's most significant efforts targeting child exploitation.

Investigators identified links through the online forums to alleged child sex offenders residing in Europe, Asia, United States and Canada, and New Zealand, with 146 international referrals made as a result of this investigation, AFP said.

Victoria records 10th day in a row with no new cases

There are now just four active cases in Victoria.

Two of those are 'mystery' cases with an unknown source of infection.

Health authorities carried out 10,653 Covid-19 tests in the past 24 hours.

Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday lifted restrictions across a number of industries, as well as easing some of the limits on social gatherings in Melbourne.

Gyms, cinemas and libraries have been cleared to reopen, but with strict limits on the number of patrons.