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News in 5: Royal baby news labelled 'appalling'; Key to Dreamworld tragedy; QLD abortion laws.

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1. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are facing criticism for the timing of their royal baby announcement.


Following rumours that the Duchess of Sussex is pregnant, Kensington Palace has confirmed that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are expecting a baby.

Most people reacted to the news with excitement, but many others were deeply upset by the timing of the announcement as it took place on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

The timing was called insensitive, with some asking why the news couldn’t have been delayed a day or two.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for Harry and Meghan and this new royal baby… but I’m definitely conflicted that they chose to announce their pregnancy on International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Poor taste,” wrote one Twitter user.

“A bit insensitive if you ask me. It’s baby loss and bereavement day,” read another comment.

“The news of the royal baby is wonderful but could @RoyalFamily not have waited till tomorrow to announce, given that today of all days is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, when grieving couples across the globe come together to mourn their lost babies?” said another.

While one person labelled it “appalling”: “I thought it was bad enough that they couldn’t wait more than three days to knock Eugenie back into place. #appallingtiming.”

Ruth Bender Atik, national director of Britain’s Miscarriage Association, told The Sun she doesn’t believe the royals realised the remembrance day fell yesterday.

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“For many people who have the deep sadness and grief of losing a baby, there was also that moment of joy when they wanted to announce their pregnancy.

“I can understand how people feel. It can be deeply hurtful but I have to be sure they had no idea of the significance of the day.”

The pregnancy was announced on the Kensington Royal Instagram account yesterday after the couple arrived in Sydney.

The palace wrote: “Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019.”

“Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” they added.

Their baby will be the seventh-in-line to the throne.

2. Labor is calling for immediate laws protecting gay teachers from discrimination.

Labor wants laws protecting gay teachers from discrimination at religious schools brought in immediately, but the coalition isn’t backing down yet.

Instead, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government will first protect gay students from any religious school discrimination before considering other law changes.

Labor frontbencher Penny Wong will on Tuesday lead debate on a motion in the Senate calling for the immediate introduction of laws banning the rights of religious schools to discriminate against gay staff.

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“Many religious education institutions have made clear that they do not use, nor do they want, these exemptions,” her motion says.

She is also calling on the government to release the full report of the religious freedoms review, which recommended laws be changed to allow schools to discriminate against gay staff and students.

“They are important issues, but the issues we need to address right here and now relate to the children and ensuring we protect them against discrimination,” Mr Morrison told parliament on Monday.

“There are many other issues that will be addressed as a result of the religious freedoms review, and there will be a time and a place to address those issues.”

Religious schools in most states have been able to exclude LGBTI students since 2013, but have not been using the powers.

The coalition and Labor party rooms will meet on Tuesday morning where the issue is expected to be discussed.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also thinks the laws need to change.

“I don’t think there’s any room for discrimination, be it a student or against a teacher,” he told the ABC.

“I do think we need to ensure that there is no discrimination in either our workplaces or in our schools.”

Former prime minister Tony Abbott said he was mystified by the debate, saying there was no evidence gay kids had been discriminated against.

“Let’s be very careful that anti-discrimination laws designed as shields are not converted by activists into swords.”

Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr Glenn Davies said in a speech on Monday he supported clarification on the student issue, but on the issue of staffing “church schools should not be forced to play by secular rules”.

3. A 425kg monument in Newcastle toppled over and killed a three-year-old girl.

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A waitress claims a young boy was riding a sandstone war memorial like a horse before the 425 kilogram headstone toppled over on top of a three-year-old girl, killing her.

Lisa Robbins told Newcastle Local Court on Monday a group of children were running around the monument when she saw the boy, aged about 10, sitting on top of the headstone “rocking back and forwards, just like he was riding a horse”.

Deputy state coroner Liz Ryan is investigating the death of Indy Lee Henderson, who was killed on Saturday, November 26, 2016, at Blackhead Bowling Club between Forster and Taree on the NSW mid-north coast.

The inquest is expected to focus on the decision to build the war memorial monument, its construction and maintenance.

Indy, from the western Sydney suburb of Airds, had been attending a 50th birthday party for her grandmother, Shiralee Walker.

The coroner told Ms Walker and Indy’s mother, Tamica Harrower, that she knew Indy was a much-loved little girl and hoped the inquest would provide answers about what happened on that day in the gardens of the bowling club at Hallidays Point.

Ms Robbins told the court she had just finished her shift at 7pm and was having a drink when she saw the boy straddling the monument.

“I didn’t think it looked safe. I thought he might fall off and hurt himself,” Ms Robbins said.

The waitress said she was watching for only a few minutes when the boy did fall off and a lot of people were suddenly running towards the monument.

Ms Robbins said she saw the headstone topple over but did not see what happened to Indy.

Another witness, Lavinia Cronin, said she saw a number of children on top of the monument, swinging off it.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Anna Mitchelmore SC, had earlier told the inquest Indy had been described by her mother as a “happy kid, always laughing and having a joke”.

Ms Mitchelmore anticipated evidence given during the inquest would show the monument’s headstone was “structurally unstable” when it collapsed and fell on top of Indy.

She said there was conflicting evidence as to how the headstone, which was built in 1997, had been dislodged but it seemed a child or children had been sitting on top of the monument and “may have been rocking”.

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Ms Mitchelmore said it appeared the headstone was not securely fixed to the monument’s base before toppling over on to Indy.

Indy was taken to the Manning Rural Referral Hospital but could not be saved.

“The critical issue in this inquest relates to how the headstone was fixed to the base,” Ms Mitchelmore said.

She said it appeared silicone was used as the only fixing agent, not cement mortar.

The inquest resumes on Tuesday.

4. A $3000 upgrade could have been the key to avoiding the Dreamworld tragedy.

Dreamworld’s failure to install a safety feature that would have cost no more than $3000 was the “primary” cause of the 2016 Thunder River Rapids ride tragedy.

A safety audit undertaken following the deaths of four guests at the Gold Coast theme park concluded if a water level sensor had been installed during a safety upgrade earlier in the year, the tragedy would have been prevented.

Cindy Low, Kate Goodchild, her brother Luke Dorsett and his partner Roozi Araghi died when a water pump suffered an “earth fault” for the third time in a day on October 25, 2016, causing water levels in the ride to drop dramatically.

That left an empty raft stranded on the ride’s conveyor before the raft carrying the four victims collided with it and flipped on its side.

An inquest at the Southport Coroners Court into the deaths was shown the report by Safety Related Control Systems on Monday.

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It determined installing a water level sensor during an upgrade in February and March 2016 would have added only $2000 to $3000 to the total cost of the works.

“The primary cause of the tragic incident was the lack of a suitable safety-rated water level detection system intergrated to the upgraded conveyor system,” the report found.

“Such a safety system could easily have been provided and at a minimal cost.”

Contractors who undertook the upgrade said they were never asked to install a sensor.

The inquest heard Dreamworld was considering installing a sensor in a future second stage of the safety upgrade.

It was also revealed the drive motor for the water pumps on the ride, which had been installed in 2006, had a recommended operational life of 10 years.

An electrician who performed regular maintenance on the ride for Dreamworld said he had been scheduled to inspect the water pump two days after the tragedy occurred.

In an email to Applied Electro, Dreamworld electrical supervisor Scott Ritchie made a request for a technician to attend the park due to ongoing faults.

Applied Electro electrician Michael Takac told the inquiry any electrical system faulting as much as the pumps on the Thunder River Rapids ride had been was “concerning”.

“It could be multiple things, an earth fault is pretty hard to find … my advice would be to stop the machine. Investigate it further and identify the fault,” he said.

The manufacturers of the pump’s drive tested the equipment shortly after the tragedy but were unable to determine what had caused the fault.

Wayne Cox, who was supervising Dreamworld’s engineers on the day of the tragedy, said he had been informed of only one of two prior malfunctions on the ride that day.

Mr Cox was unaware his staff had merely reset the pump on both occasions without requesting an electrical specialist attend the site.

The inquest was shown documents revealing there had been nine problems with rafts logged in the weeks leading up to the tragedy, seven of which concerned the two rafts involved in the fatal incident.

Mr Cox said if he had been aware of those issues he would have removed the rafts to determine what problems they may have.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

5. Queensland MPs will debate laws to decriminalise abortion over three days.

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The Queensland parliament has set aside the entire sitting week this week to debate laws to decriminalise abortion in the state.

The measures would see abortion removed from the criminal code and made a health issue, allowing women to terminate pregnancies up to 22 weeks’ gestation.

The Labor government and the LNP opposition have granted their MPs a conscience vote on the issue, meaning at least a few LNP members would need to vote for the laws to ensure they are passed.

The debate is expected to be longer than usual and will likely take the whole three-day sitting of parliament.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington have called for a respectful debate on the delicate issue.

Ms Palaszczuk on Monday said the issue was sensitive for many MPs but she hoped history could be made this week.

“I want to ensure that if any member of the House wants to speak, they are given the opportunity to speak,” she said

“This is a very emotional issue for many people but this is also our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take this out of the criminal code.”

The premier has previously indicated her support for the change while Ms Frecklington has flagged she’ll be voting against it.

Under the changes, abortion would be allowed after 22 weeks, with the approval of two separate doctors.

They would also enforce safe zones around clinics and medical facilities offering the procedure to stop staff and patients being harassed by anti-abortion activists.

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