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Australia

Last night Australian Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi asked No supporters to be "vigilant" at an event launching the Coalition for Marriage's campaign at the Sydney Convention Centre.

A new TV ad was played at the event and has been posted online, and this morning Sydneysiders could not miss "Vote No" sprawled across the sky.

"We are under assault because we are on the right side of legal and moral history," Senator Bernardi told an audience of more than 1,000 people.

"If the state redefines marriage it also redefines how you can speak, think, advocate, and believe about marriage," Senator Bernardi said.

Mr Shelton, head of the Australian Christian Lobby and spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage, said the Coalition for Marriage did not organise the skywriter and he was not sure who had paid for it.

The sky message attracted a lot of attention on social media both for and against the No campaign. abc.net.au
Girls at public schools across the state of Western Australia will be allowed to wear pants and shorts to class, no longer restricted to only dresses, skirts or skorts.

The Education Department, in response to a complaint from an 11-year-old student, announced last week that it would amend a statewide dress code to offer girls more uniform options.

Students and parents have long voiced complaints about the policy, but the pushback has gained renewed momentum.

After Krystina Myhre, of Perth, discovered that her 11-year-old, Sofia, could not wear shorts to school, they wrote to the state’s education minister, Sue Ellery, calling for a change.

“My daughter and her friends have been quite unhappy about it for some time,” said Ms. Myhre, who is also a representative of Girls’ Uniform Agenda, a group that campaigns for girls to have the option of wearing shorts and pants.

The rule restricted their movement, she said, making them worry about their body and space. nytimes.com
The Nationals have voted down a motion to ban the burqa and other facial coverings in government buildings and other public spaces.

North Queensland federal MP George Christensen, who brought the motion to the federal conference, argued it was needed for security reasons but also noted the party was “bleeding to the right” on issues such as this.

The motion was defeated 55-51 by a vote of delegates at the conference in Canberra.

Christensen claimed facial coverings raised safety concerns, citing evidence from a number of incidents overseas and in Australia.

“There is also the issue of it encouraging isolationism,” he said.

The motion follows Pauline Hanson’s stunt in parliament last month, where the One Nation senator wore a burqa in the Senate. theguardian.com
New government data shows Australia’s kangaroo population is close to hitting 50 million.

In 2016, there were almost 45 million kangaroos in Australia, compared to about 27 million in 2010.

It’s understood the huge rise in numbers in recent years is mainly due to environmental conditions; high rainfall has resulted in more food.

Experts are now encouraging people to hunt the Australian native animal and eat more kangaroo meat.

According to a report published by the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, kangaroos are seen as national pests.

They damage fences, compete with domestic livestock for food and water and trample crops. news.com.au
The Australian government is planning a two-year trial of random drug tests for welfare recipients starting in January 2018.

If approved by parliament, the trial will enlist 5000 people who apply for government income support because they can’t find work or are studying.

The group will be required to undergo random saliva, urine or hair tests to see if they have consumed illicit drugs, including methamphetamine, MDMA, cannabis or heroin.

If they test positive, 80 per cent of their welfare money will be moved to a BasicsCard, which can only be used to pay for food, rent, childcare and other essential items, and if they test positive more than once, they will be referred to a medical professional for addiction treatment.

On Sunday, the government finalised the three locations where the trial will take place: Canterbury-Bankstown in New South Wales, Logan in Queensland, and Mandurah in Western Australia, areas with relatively high levels of unemployment and drug use.

The aim of the policy is to help job seekers “to receive the help they need to get on a path towards securing a job and building a better future for themselves and their families,” the minister for social services Christian Porter said in a statement last week. newscientist.com
A wounded kangaroo was slashed across the neck with a knife 18 times as it cried in pain and tried to escape before bleeding to death.

Horrifying footage posted online shows a Chinese man approach the animal whose leg was injured as his laughing friend filmed on his phone. 

The man, brandishing a hunting knife, avoided several attempts by the kangaroo to strike out at him as it tried to escape from the hillside in the Australian bush.

He eventually grabbed the stricken marsupial by the tail as in snarled at him, before holding it down with his foot.

The man then stabbed and slashed at the kangaroo's neck 18 times until it finally went limp and stopped crying out in pain. dailymail.co.uk
Thousands of people rallied for marriage equality in Australia’s second-biggest city of Melbourne on Saturday ahead of a postal survey on same-sex marriage which could lead to its legalisation.

Australia is one of the only developed English-speaking countries not to have legalised same-sex marriage, despite strong popular support and the backing of a majority of lawmakers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week urged supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage to show mutual respect as their campaigns turned increasingly vitriolic.

Rally organiser Anthony Wallace from activist group Equal Love said 15,000 people attended the event, making it one of the largest gay rights rallies in Australian history.

The rally is an annual event, which this year began and ended at the Victorian State Library, where a mass same-sex wedding ceremony was held.

Australians will vote over several weeks from mid-September in the non-compulsory postal ballot on whether to legalise same-sex marriage. reuters.com
Brace yourself for an overload of "oohs" and "aahs" from the softer touches among us.

Adelaide Zoo has announced five adorable meerkat pups were born in the early hours of July 24 — the first meerkats born at the zoo in seven years — weighing just 100 grams each.

They spent their first weeks of life in their burrow under the care of parents Miney and Swazi, and have only just started venturing outside.

"Miney and Swazi are doting first-time parents, tending to the pups' every need and taking turns at sentry duty guarding their burrow," Adelaide Zoo meerkat keeper Jenna Hollamby said.

The sex of the pups will be confirmed when they are eight weeks old, at which point they will also receive vaccinations.

Despite their cuteness, however, meerkats are known to be aggressive and highly territorial so keep adoring fingers well away. abc.net.au
A jury has begun its deliberations over a former Auckland youth group leader facing sex charges against two underage females.

Samuel Patrick Dockary, 23, claimed one of the complainants was "keen as a jellybean" and also instigated some of the sexual activity the pair took part in.

However, despite admitting kissing and taking part in oral sex, he denied having sex with either complainant.

The evidence in the trial was wrapped up in the Hamilton District Court this morning after seven days, with Judge Kim Saunders delivering her summing up for the jury.

In his interview with police, Dockary accepted the contact did hurt the complainant but the pair were in love and he immediately stopped what he was doing.

However, he denied a claim by one of the women that he said he was "breaking her in". nzherald.co.nz