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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have stepped back from senior royal duties, & more in News in 5.

— With AAP.

1. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have stepped back from senior royal duties.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to”step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family”, Buckingham Palace have announced in a statement.

“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” the statement said.

“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.

“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment.

 

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“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution. We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen. It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.” – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex For more information, please visit sussexroyal.com (link in bio) Image © PA

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“We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to the Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.

“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.

“We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”

The news comes as the couple have returned from a six week holiday in Canada with Meghan Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland.

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The Duke and Duchess have been open in recent months about the “struggle” that has come with leading lives in the spotlight.

Watch: Meghan Markle speaks about her struggles in the spotlight. Post continues after video.

In an interview with an ITV journalist in October 2019, Markle said she had been warned about the British tabloids.

“I had no idea which probably sounds difficult to understand here,” she said.

“It’s not just enough to survive something, you’ve got to thrive. I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.

“The biggest thing that I know, I never thought this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair. And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile.”

Listen: The Quicky on what it means when royals stop being royals. Post continues after audio.

2. Scott Morrison’s uncomfortable error on Kangaroo Island.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison made an uncomfortable mistake while addressing residents on Kangaroo Island after their devastating bushfires last week.

As fires escalated on Friday, two people were killed, and more than 150,000 hectares of land was destroyed.

Pilot Dick Lang and his son Clayton died while trying to return to their family property, a statement from their family said.

But during his visit to Kangaroo Island on Wednesday, the Prime Minister commented, “thankfully we’ve had no loss of life”.

A person then replied, “Two. We’ve lost two”.

Morrison responded, “Two. Yes two, that’s quite right. I was thinking about firefighters firstly.”

The Prime Minister has been criticised in recent weeks for his response to the fires, with angry locals vocally challenging his level of support. In Cobargo last week, when a resident refused to shake his hand, he reached and shook it anyway.

3. Third Victorian dies fighting bushfires.

A father-of-two confirmed as having lost his life fighting Victoria’s bushfires, has become the state’s third fatality of the crisis.

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Forest Fires Management worker Mat Kavanagh was killed when he and a colleague were involved in a crash on the Goulburn Valley Highway while on duty on January 3.

The 43-year-old died at the scene, while his colleague was taken to hospital and has since been released.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville confirmed on Wednesday his death was related to the bushfires, following a police investigation.

“Mat was a dedicated and respected member of Forest Fire Management Victoria for around 10 years and was on duty as a part of our fire response on the day,” she told reporters.

“He is being remembered for his friendly and welcoming nature, his passion for the environment and nature and his love of fly fishing.”

Mr Kavanagh is survived by his wife Jude and two children.

Forest Fires Management Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said Mr Kavanagh had worked in many roles at the organisation including as a firefighter, a roads management officer and most recently in fire prevention.

On the morning of the accident, he had extinguished seven unattended campfires.

“He was doing critically important work stopping new fires in the environment and we have 2800 people doing that every day right across the state,” Mr Hardman said.

“It’s a devastating loss for everybody in the sector but for those people who knew Mat it’s going to take a long time – I can’t imagine what the family are going through and what Mat’s colleagues are going through. It’s such a very sad day.”

Mick Roberts, 67, from Buchan and Maramingo Creek timber worker Fred Becker were also killed while battling bushfires this summer.

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More than 400 homes have been destroyed as the fires rage across East Gippsland and the state’s northeast.

More than 1.2 million hectares have been scorched in fires across the state, with 12 still burning.

4. Qantas alters flights after missile attack.

Qantas will divert flights to avoid Iranian airspace following a missile attack on two US-led military bases in Iraq.

The US Federal Aviation Authority on Wednesday also barred US airliners from flying over Iraq and Iranian airspace in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

The FAA said it issued the ban “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations”.

Qantas’ non-stop flights between Perth and London are the only route affected, the airline said.

However, some passengers due on the QF9 Perth to London leg will be bumped to save fuel as the flight will take 50 minutes longer, a Qantas spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Singapore Airlines has also said it will divert all flights from Iranian Airspace.

Iran launched more than a dozen missiles on two US-led bases, in Erbil in northern Iraq and Al-Assad in the west, in response to the killing of Tehran’s most senior military leader Qasem Soleimani.

5. Vic biodiversity gets ‘unprecedented’ hit.

Victoria’s massive bushfires are expected to have an “unprecedented” impact on local biodiversity, the state’s environment minister has declared.

But Lily D’Ambrosio says it’s too difficult to know how many animals have been killed so far in the blazes, predominantly in the state’s east.

“Let’s be clear, these are unprecedented fires and we anticipate that we will see an unprecedented impact on our biodiversity,” the minister told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

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“Whether that’s threatened species, both flora and fauna, we anticipate that there will be a significant impact.”

Ms D’Ambrosio says environmental officials won’t have an accurate estimate of how many animals have been killed until they are able to access remote fire-ravaged areas for assessments.

“It will take some time for us to actually ascertain the full extent of the impact,” she said.

WWF-Australia has estimated about 1.25 billion animals have been killed directly or indirectly by the fires nationally.

The Environmental Protection Authority is working closely with farmers to ensure they have safe spots to bury livestock they may have lost, the Victorian minister added.

But she said the state government is open to making changes that could make it easier for farmers to do the “very, very tough job” of burying their animals.

“We are all ears and we will always be listening to those communities,” she said.

The comments come as RSPCA Victoria on Wednesday launched a bushfire appeal to help fund its work caring for animals affected by the blazes, after being inundated with offers of support.

The organisation has emergency supplies, inspectors, veterinarians, nurses and animal attendants ready to go to fire-hit areas once they become accessible.

“Over the past week we have done a lot of preparatory work so that our people can enter the fire grounds when it is safe to do so,” chief executive Liz Walker.

The organisation is coordinating with other agencies through the Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Action Plan, which dictates their roles and responsibilities.

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