The Australian and international news stories you need to know today, Thursday March 4.

Christian Porter takes leave as SA coroner calls investigation "incomplete."

Federal Attorney-General Christian Porter has taken sick leave after strongly denying a rape allegation dating back to when he was a teenager.

An emotional Mr Porter on Wednesday revealed himself to be the unnamed subject of media reports about the alleged sexual assault of a woman he knew briefly 33 years ago.

"It just didn't happen," Mr Porter told reporters in Perth. "Could I have forgotten or misconstrued the things that I have read, which are said to have occurred? Absolutely not."

The woman - remembered by the attorney-general as a "bright, happy person" - went to police last year but withdrew the complaint before taking her own life in June.

NSW Police has closed its criminal investigation into the allegations over a lack of admissible evidence to proceed.

South Australian coroner David Whittle has asked SA police to further investigate the death.

Police had provided the coroner with a case file on Monday, but the investigation was found to be "incomplete", Mr Whittle said.

"This was particularly evident having regard to information contained in recent media reports," the coroner said in a statement.


"The investigation is continuing and once that investigation has been completed to my satisfaction I shall determine whether to hold an inquest."

Mr Porter, who said he had not been contacted by police or shown the full details of the claims against him, said if he had decided to stand down it would have undermined Australia's system of justice.

"There wouldn't be much need for an attorney-general anyway because there would no rule of law left to protect in this country."

Michaelia Cash will act as federal attorney-general and industrial relations minister.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Linda Reynolds doesn't deny calling Brittany Higgins a "lying cow."

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has not denied reports that she referred to alleged rape victim and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins as a "lying cow".

The Australian reports Senator Reynolds made the comment in front of staff when Brittany went public with her allegation of rape against a former colleague inside Parliament House in 2019.


In a statement sent out last night to various news outlets, Reynolds didn't dispute the term. Instead she clarified the context.

"I have never questioned Ms Higgins account of her alleged sexual assault and have always sought to respect her agency in this matter.

"I did however comment on news reports regarding surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented."

"I have consistently respected Ms Higgins's agency and privacy and said this is her story to tell and no one else's.

"Ms Higgins's allegations are very serious and that is how they must be treated to ensure her legal rights are protected. I welcome her decision to progress this matter with the Australian Federal Police."

PM's conscience questioned by Grace Tame over rape claim.

Australian of the Year Grace Tame has pointedly questioned the prime minister's conscience over his recent handling of sexual assault allegations.

"It shouldn't take having children to have a conscience," Ms Tame told the National Press Club on Wednesday, referencing Morrison's comment that 'you have to think about this as a father first.'

"And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn't guarantee a conscience," she continued. 

Asked if the prime minister was creating an atmosphere where survivors are believed she replied "clearly not."


Tame also rebuked the nation's top military officer for suggesting young women should avoid being attractive or alone to stop sexual predators. 

Defence chief Angus Campbell told three trainee officers to avoid the "four As" - alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive. 

"That's not helpful rhetoric at all. That feeds the idea that this is something that a victim has to foresee and stop themselves, as if they're to blame," she said.

Blast at Dutch COVID-19 test centre.

Dutch police say a coronavirus testing centre north of Amsterdam appears to have been intentionally targeted after an explosion went off at the facility before it opened.

The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, 55km north of the capital, shattered windows but caused no injuries, police from the province of North Holland said in a statement.


The incident comes shortly before national elections on March 17 widely seen as a referendum on the government's handling of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD Party is likely to remain the largest, according to opinion polls.

The metal remains of the explosive, about 10cm by 10cm in size, were found on the front of the building and "must have been placed" there, police spokesman Menno Hartenberg told Reuters.

The region around Bovenkarspel, a rural town, is currently suffering one of the Netherlands' worst COVID-19 outbreaks, with 181 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with around 27 per 100,000 nationally.

Russian virus strain hits Qld quarantine.

Two people have tested positive for the Russian strain of COVID-19 in Brisbane quarantine hotels, with another 75 guests now being tested for the virus.

Queensland Health says the two confirmed cases arrived on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Brisbane on February 17.

A third person, who was on the flight, tested positive for COVID-19 and is now undergoing genomic testing to see if it's the Russian strain.


Queensland Health says the outbreak is contained in quarantine and the Russian virus strain is not particularly dangerous.

"The Russian variant is not considered a variant of concern, but as the variant is very new, we are remaining cautious while we learn more about its incubation period and transmissibility," it said.

Sydney Westfield displays Nazi symbols in shop window.

A face mask emblazoned with Nazi symbols on display in a shop window in Miranda Westfield in Sydney's south has caused disgust amongst shoppers.

Images began circulating on social media on Wednesday, depicting the masks decorated in swastikas and the Nazi eagle.

"As soon as the centre was made aware, the team spoke with the retailer who expressed it was a genuine mistake," Westfield Miranda said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia.

"The mask was immediately removed from display and will not be available for sale."

Nathan Buckley regrets his reaction to AFL racism.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley admits he inadvertently became a part of the systemic racism at the club when he dismissed the complaints of former Magpie Heritier Lumumba in 2017.

The damning 'Do Better' report that was leaked to the media earlier this year painted a picture of systemic racism at Collingwood across many years.

Lumumba's personal allegations of racism were a key driver to the investigation being launched.


Buckley regrets the comments he made in 2017 after the release of the Fair Game documentary that focused on Lumumba's fight to call out racism at the club and says his comments were "dismissive" and that he needed to be "better than that".

"What I now understand is that is a form of systemic racism," Buckley told the AFL website when asked whether it was hard to look back at those comments and what he would do differently now. 

"The dismissing and denial of experience is not a direct act but in many ways it reinforces the pain and trauma that Heritier felt and that Andrew and Leon have spoken about. 

"It's feeling like they don't have a voice or they don't have somewhere to go, and that's the systemic aspect of it.

Supreme Court to rule on Mardi Gras march.

NSW Police will take the organisers of a Mardi Gras protest march to the Supreme Court in a bid to stop this weekend's gathering.

The march is due to take place on Saturday afternoon ahead of the official Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which has been moved to the Sydney Cricket Ground due to COVID-19.


A NSW Police spokeswoman confirmed the protest had been deemed unauthorised as it proposed to draw well over the number of people allowed to attend political gatherings under current COVID-19 rules.

"As such the commissioner has applied to NSW Supreme Court to prohibit the assembly," she said.

The current limit on political gatherings is 500. More than 1000 people have already RSVPed to attend the march, with another 3000 interested.

Leaders want jab rollout clarity from PM.

State and territory leaders are finalising their agendas as they prepare to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday.

The federal government says it will ramp up the coronavirus vaccine rollout in coming weeks, which is going slower than promised in most areas of the country.

But NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is concerned that her government has been left in the dark on key aspects of the rollout, including which aged care homes in her state have had vaccinations.

"It would help us enormously if we knew which aged care facilities had received the vaccine," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

The Sunshine State is also annoyed at federal authorities over plans for a regional COVID-19 quarantine camp.


The Wagner Group wants to build a facility, which would host up to 1000 travellers and 300 staff, at Wellcamp Airport near Toowoomba.

The federal government is refusing to support it without detailed information, and the Queensland government says it's unable to provide more detailed information without in-principle support.

Roads turned into rivers in WA as tropical cyclone hovers off QLD.

Streets in WA's Wheatbelt region have been turned into rivers after a deluge of rain on Tuesday night - 40mm in 30 minutes.

By noon on Wednesday farms around Bejoording had recorded up to 120 millimetres.

Northam shire president Chris Antonio told the ABC it had been at least a decade since Northam had seen that level of flooding.

There's been no major damage recorded, but the heavy rain is continuing today.

In Queensland, Tropical cyclone Niran is this morning hovering off the north Queensland coast as a category two system. 

Areas between Cape Flattery and Innisfail are being told to prepare for gale force winds onshore as the system intensifies. 

Around the world.

- Prince Philip is "slightly improving" although it "hurts at moments," Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall says. 

- Tokyo's Olympic organising committee chief wants a decision this month over whether overseas fans can attend the Games, but the chances seem highly unlikely.

- With AAP

Feature image: Paul Kane/Getty/Sam Mooy/Getty.