New statement from Queen Elizabeth says she's 'entirely supportive' of Meghan and Harry's exit, & more in News in 5.

– With AAP.

1. New statement from Queen Elizabeth says she’s “entirely supportive” of Meghan and Harry’s exit.

Queen Elizabeth has said she is “entirely supportive” of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wish for a more independent future following crisis talks involving the most senior members of the royal family.

The Queen was joined at Sandringham by Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry and described the meeting as “very constructive”.

The Queen said there will now be a “period of transition” with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex living in Canada and the UK.

“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family,” the 93-year-old monarch said in a six-sentence statement that mentioned the word “family” six times.

“Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.

“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives.”

meghan markle prince Harry income
Queen Elizabeth has said she is "entirely supportive" of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wish for a more independent future. Image: Getty.

The Queen ended her statement with: "These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days."

Notably, the formal titles of the couple - the Duke and Duchess of Sussex - were not used by the monarch.

It is also unusual for the Queen to issue a statement in her own name - when not paying condolences after the death of a foreign head of state or sympathising following a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

The crisis talks between the family comes after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced last week their plan to step down as senior royals and to become financially independent.

The shock announcement by Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, exposed divisions in the Windsor family and prompted soul-searching over what it means to be royal in the 21st century.

Watch: Meghan Markle speaks to a reporter about her struggles. Post continues after video.

Video by ITV

The couple consulted neither the Queen nor Prince Charles before their announcement, made on Instagram and their own website - a step seen as impertinent and premature by a family whose roots go back through a thousand years of European history.

Meghan is currently in Canada with their eight-month-old son Archie. She had been expected to join Monday's discussion by telephone.

It is still unclear how they will pull off a partial pullback from royal roles - which some media have dubbed "Megxit".

2. Concerns koalas endangered after bushfires.

Wildlife experts have been urged to fast-track their decision on whether koalas are now endangered, amid the unprecedented bushfire crisis.

A panel will also be established to create a recovery plan for the marsupial which was already considered vulnerable before bushfires destroyed key habitats in NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

"Everything that can be done to rescue and recover koala habitat will be done," Environment Minister Sussan Ley said at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on Monday.

"Including innovative approaches that look at whether you can actually put a koala in an area that it hasn't come from."


More than one billion animals are thought to have perished in the fires, prompting the federal government to give wildlife and environmental groups an initial cash injection of $50 million.

The money will be evenly split with $25 million to an emergency intervention fund and $25 million for frontline environmental groups.

Australia's threatened species commissioner Sally Box will put together the recovery panel which will meet on Wednesday.

The panel will include university experts as well as Zoos Victoria, CSIRO and state and territory representatives.


Dr Box said the panel would consider the impact the fires have had on Australia's threatened animals, map affected areas and create a long-term plan to restore habitat.

Unburned areas will also be used to help protect animals, including by ensuring feral predators are controlled around the perimeter of properties.

Environmental groups have welcomed the initial money but say much more will be needed as the magnitude of the devastation becomes clear.

Australian Conservation Foundation's James Trezise says species will need to be safeguarded for the future.

"That means protecting critical habitats, long term funding for recovery actions and stronger national environmental laws," he said.

The Wilderness Society says Australia's approach to looking after vulnerable species needs a complete overhaul to ensure they don't become extinct.

"For over 20 years, Australia's wildlife and iconic natural places have suffered a death by a thousand cuts under Australia's failed nature protection system, and these fires may have pushed many species over the brink," the society's Suzanne Milthorpe said.

The Greens say the $50 million is "petty cash" given the environmental catastrophe.


"This can't just be a fluffy PR exercise from the environment minister because the whole world is talking about Australia's koalas being burnt and killed," Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a statement.

"Our beautiful environment and wildlife is what makes Australia the place people want to come and visit, it deserves more than this token announcement."

The public response to the plight of animals has been strong, with the WIRES wildlife rescue organisation receiving close to $14 million in online donations.

3. Bushfires could cost Australia $5 billion

The bushfire crisis will cost Australia $5 billion in direct losses and lop off 0.2 to 0.5 per cent from its economic growth, Westpac has estimated.

The bank sees the cost of the disaster as comparable to the 2009 "Black Saturday" fires in Victoria, which destroyed 2,029 homes while causing a far greater loss of life with 173 direct fatalities.

"That would put the cost in terms of insured and uninsured losses at around $5bn," Westpac said.

As of Friday there have been 10,550 insurance claims lodged with an insured valued at $939 million, Westpac said.

A rough rule of thumb for disasters is that the total cost is about double the insured loss, the bank said.

"Assessing the economic impact of disasters is always very difficult, particularly when the full extent of the damage is still unknown," it cautioned.

But the most severely affected areas only account for about one per cent of the Australian economy, the bank said.


In terms of agriculture there have been thousands of livestock killed, downed power lines have disrupted dairy production and some vineyards have been burned while others will have smoke taint.

But most of the fires have been in forest rather than agricultural areas, and overall the agricultural impact will be minimal compared to the ongoing drought, Westpac said.


The wider impacts on tourism and consumer confidence, and from the airborne pollution, could be even more economically damaging, however.

The widespread global media coverage and the smoke pollution in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne is likely to have a significant effect on Australia's image as a holiday destination and cut into tourism, Westpac said.

The economic costs of the health effects from the smoke pollution are harder to quantify but could also be significant, Westpac said.

Westpac expects the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut the cash rate twice this year but the bushfires are "unlikely to have a significant bearing on the RBA's decisions".

S&P Global Ratings, meanwhile, said on Monday that the bushfires posed no danger to the AAA credit ratings of the federal government and the states of NSW or Victoria.

"We believe there is capacity within our current ratings on the sovereign and these state governments to absorb the fiscal costs, which are relatively small compared with their budgets," S&P said.


4. Top model possible juror in Weinstein case

Supermodel Gigi Hadid could be selected as a juror in Harvey Weinstein's rape trial after telling a New York judge she would be able to "keep an open mind on the facts".

Hadid, who lives in Manhattan, turned heads as part of the latest pool of 120 potential jurors summoned for the case.

The 27-year-old said she has met Hollywood mogul Weinstein and actress Salma Hayek, a potential witness, but she could remain impartial.


She was asked to return on Thursday for additional questioning.

Surrounded by photographers as she left the courthouse, Hadid said: "I'm not allowed to talk about jury duty. I'm sorry."

Gigi Hadid at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. Image via Getty.

Weinstein, 67, is accused of raping a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and sexually assaulting another in 2006.

Hadid was questioned during an initial screening process on Monday, now on its fifth day, that has been hampered by a host of challenges and distractions.


They include defence requests for the judge to step aside and for jury selection to be held in secret, both of which were denied, and a noisy protest outside the courthouse.

Both sides hope to deliver opening statements before the end of the month. If convicted at a trial expected to last into March, Weinstein could face life in prison.

About 120 prospective jurors are being summoned to court each day. Last Tuesday, they were introduced as a group to Weinstein and were read a list of names that could come up at trial, including actresses Hayek, Charlize Theron and Rosie Perez.

As his New York trial was getting under way a week ago, Los Angeles prosecutors announced new charges in a separate case against Weinstein.

5. Tasmania keen on indigenous fire plans.

Tasmania plans to work more closely with members of the Aboriginal community to better manage the land in preparation for bushfire seasons.

The state government on Monday announced it would invite indigenous people to give advice about cultural burning methods to the Statewide Fuel Reduction Steering Committee.

"As our nation suffers from devastating bushfires, we should draw on the deep connection Tasmanian Aboriginals have with the land," Premier Will Hodgman said in a statement.


"(We want to) share this knowledge in improved land management practices to help reduce the impact of wildfires in our community."

The government has established a $100,000 pilot grant program to allow aboriginal communities to use cultural burning methods in their local area.

Three specialist positions for indigenous people have also been opened within the state's parks and wildlife service.

Massive deadly bushfires on mainland Australia this summer have prompted calls for a re-think of fuel-load and hazard reduction methods.