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Steve Irwin Still in Running for Award

2:45 PM, Jan 7, 2004   |    comments
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SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin is still in the running for Australian of the Year, despite criticism for feeding a 13-foot crocodile while holding his baby son. Irwin, TV host of the "Crocodile Hunter" wildlife program, has been nominated by his home state, Queensland, for the top national award. State Premier Peter Beattie said Tuesday he wouldn't retract his nomination of Irwin. "He has been one of the best ambassadors for Queensland in the modern era. He is known internationally," Beattie said. Irwin fed the crocodile while cradling his 1-month-old son, Robert, during a media event at his reptile park in Queensland. Police have said Irwin won't be charged with violating any laws, but the Queensland Families Department said it was investigating the incident. The Australian of the Year award is decided by the Australia Day Council, a non-governmental citizens group that promotes celebrations for the country's national day Jan. 26. Often the award goes to charity workers, academics or top athletes, such as former tennis champion Patrick Rafter. Some child welfare groups have accused Irwin of putting his son in danger. He's denied this and has even suggested that he would do the same again to educate his son about crocodiles, but with "no cameras around." Australia Day Council director Marjorie Turbayne said that while Irwin remains on the shortlist, she had deep personal misgivings. "From my own personal point of view, and nothing to do with Australian of the Year, it's not something that should be encouraged," she told reporters. "He's a very nice young man and I'm sure very caring about his family. But it's a bit strange."

Associated Press

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