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Ban Ki-moon: 'No kangaroos in Austria'

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Ban Ki-moon: 'No kangaroos in Austria'
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with drag performer Conchita Wurst. Photo: APA (Schlager)
15:24 CET+01:00
It was a simple slip of the tongue, but it got tongues wagging today, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon confused Austria with Australia. (Includes video of Conchita Wurst.)

The UN head was in Vienna, Austria for the opening of a major conference on landlocked developing countries, and was expressing his gratitude to the host country - but accidentally thanked Australia instead during a sidelines news conference.

After being tipped off by aides, Ban apologized, noting he knows full well that there are "no kangaroos in Austria".

In addition to attending the conference, Ban actively promoted human rights in cooperation with the Austrian winner of the Eurovision Song Contest, the cross-dressing drag performer 25-year-old Conchita Wurst - played by Austrian Tom Neuwirth.

"I dream of a future in which we do not have to talk about sexual orientation, skin colour or religious beliefs," Wurst said on Monday during an appearance at the UN building in Vienna. 

"Unfortunately, there are still many people and countries who believe that human rights apply only to a few," said the bearded lady.
 
She raised the roof for Ban and several hundred UN staff, belting out Cher's Believe and Rise Like a Phoenix, the song that won her the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this year.
 
Wurst has used her Eurovision fame to promote a message of tolerance, with performances in front of the European Parliament and at LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) events around Europe.
 
Ban paid tribute to her efforts, saying: "I will continue to fight against transphobia and homophobia. I will stand strong for equality. I hope more of you join our global 'Free and Equal' campaign."
 
This week's UN conference brings together 32 nations with a combined population of 450 million people looking at improving transportation networks and access to markets.

Among those present was Robert Mugabe, the 90-year-old president of Zimbabwe, and Bolivian President Evo Morales. Neither attended Wurst's performance.
 
'Freak show'
 
Meanwhile, Irish entertainer and long-time host of the Eurovision Song Contest in the UK Terry Wogan was sharply critical of Wurst, when he was interviewed in connection with his successor, Graham Norton.

"The inspired, logical choice for my replacement was Graham," Wogan says.

"Norton says my only advice to him was not to start drinking before song seven."

"He made it his own from year one – although I’m bound to say that the Bearded Lady who won this year, reducing Graham to tears, might have had a slightly different effect on me."

"I’ve always seen the Eurovision as a sometimes foolish farce, but not as a freak show."

One Russian lawmaker described Wurst's win as "signifying the end of Europe". Some church leaders blamed Wurst for flooding in the Balkan region.

However Austrian President Heinz Fischer said it was "not just a victory for Austria, but above all for diversity and tolerance in Europe".

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