Australian news, and some related international items

Coming refugee crisis as sea levels rise on Pacific Islands

antnuke-relevantFiji PM Warns Of Syria-Style Refugee Crisis If Rich Nations Don’t Do More On Climate, Thom Mitchell,  New Matilda, 2 Oct 15  Frank Bainimarama has taken aim at advanced nations for ignoring the plight of Pacific Islanders in pursuit of short-term economic growth. Thom Mitchell reports.

The Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has hit out at developing nations for their “unacceptable” progress in reducing carbon emissions as part of a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he warned of a humanitarian refugee crisis on the scale of the current migration out of Syria if more is not done.

The talks come as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop seeks a place for Australia on the UN Security and Human Rights Councils, but Bainimarama warned that developed nations like Australia are not listening to the voice of Pacific Island nations, whose human rights are threatened by rising seas and hostile weather patterns.
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“It is simply not acceptable for advanced economies to build a high standard of living on the degradation of the earth and the seas,” Bainimarama said.

The choices we face may be politically difficult in the short run, but the consequences we are already seeing – environmental degradation, unbearable heat, drought, powerful tropical storms and unpredictable weather patterns – are simply unacceptable,” he said.

“[Fiji] plans to move some 45 villages to higher ground, and we have already started.

“We have committed to resettle people from other low-lying, South Pacific Island States that face the prospect of being swallowed up by the rising ocean and falling inexorably to oblivion.

“Should that happen, the people of those Island States would be refugees as desperate and lost as the hundreds of thousands fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq,” he said.

As New Matilda reported in June, experts in migration law, like those at the University of New South Wales’Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, are already warning that the “disasters on steroids” climate change will bring is likely to create a need for special refugee visas.

It is clear by now that international pledges nations have made through the United Nations climate change process will not be enough to keep the global rise in temperature to less than two degrees, which is the level accepted as ‘safe’ by Australia and around 200 other nations:

October 2, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Uranium deal with India is bad for Australian business

cliff-money-nuclearAustralia-India nuclear deal

14 September 2015  By Ron Walker, currently a visiting fellow at the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy at ANU. Ron is a former DFAT officer who worked for 20 years in Australia’s nuclear diplomacy. Among the positions he occupied were the first Head of the Nuclear Safeguards Branch and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Besides its collateral damage to Australia’s security, commercial and diplomatic interests, the soon-to-be ratifiedAustralia-India nuclear cooperation agreement notably fails to meet its objectives.

The aim was to give a green light to Australian uranium exports to India. Two objectives were to be served, one commercial, the other diplomatic. A vast new market was to be opened for Australian uranium exporters and India was to be convinced Australia was a reliable partner, worthy of a closer relationship.

Instead, as has been exposed in the Joint Parliamentary Committee, the Australian side gave away so much in the course of the negotiations on safeguards against nuclear proliferation and left open such loopholes for Australian uranium to end up in bombs or otherwise help their manufacture, that this proposed treaty does not do what Australia’s 23 existing nuclear safeguards treaties do.

Unlike them, it does not give Australian exporters legally watertight guarantees that the trade will be subject to effective controls against misuse of the uranium in ways Australian companies neither want nor could afford. So many deficiencies in the proposed treaty have been exposed it amounts at best, not to a greenlight but to a blinking yellow one. Not ‘all is guaranteed safe’ but ‘proceed carefully at your own peril’. And JSCOT’s main recommendation is a red light: no uranium exports to be permitted for the foreseeable future.

How Australian companies will respond and what risks they will be prepared to take remains to be seen, but no responsible government would have placed them in this situation.

The Indian Government has every reason to feel it too has been dudded. Instead of a reliable supply, there is a big element of precariousness. As for a demonstration of the Australian Government’s trustworthiness as a close partner, the contrary impression is conveyed of a bumbling inability to manage our own end of the deal.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, politics international, uranium | Leave a comment

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) shows big hurdles in selling uranium to India

India-uranium1Miles to go: exporting uranium to India M V Ramana – 11 September 2015 Plans to export uranium from Australia to India may have hit their most significant hurdle so far in the form of Report 151 of the federal Parliament’s influential Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). After much deliberation and expert testimony, the Committee has put forward a number of recommendations that India has to abide by before Australian uranium is sold to India. The history of India’s nuclear programme and the country’s stand in various diplomatic fora suggest that there is little chance of India agreeing to these conditions.

The first three recommendations laid out in the JSCOT report are particularly important. The first and second recommendations pertain to India acceding to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and negotiating a fissile material cut-off treaty as well as a nuclear arms limitation treaty for the Indian subcontinent region. The third recommendation is focused on the safety and efficacy of the safeguards and standards of nuclear facilities in India arguing that a series of key checks and balances must be put into practice and proven to work before any uranium sales. If taken seriously, these recommendations will make it all but impossible for the Australian government to sell any uranium to India. Continue reading

September 13, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott un-moved by Pacific islands plight with rising seas

Tony Abbott faces down Pacific island nations’ calls for tougher action on climate change
ABC Radio AM  By Eric Tlozek in Port Moresby, 11 Sept 15  
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has held his Government’s line on climate change despite pleas from low-lying Pacific island nations for a stronger stance on emissions and temperature rises.

Both Mr Abbott and New Zealand prime minister John Key refused to go further than their existing commitments on global warming at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.

Some Pacific island leaders say they are disappointed in the leaders for putting economic growth ahead of the survival of communities in small Pacific nations.

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“Australia and New Zealand have made no additional commitments when it comes to climate change,” Mr Abbott told reporters after the meeting last night……….

Pacific island nations had said the meeting was their last chance to highlight the threat they face from climate change, before the UN Climate Conference in Paris.The Australian response disappointed leaders who say some people are already being forced out of their homes by rising salinity, lack of water, or damage from severe storms or high tides………

September 13, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Tony Abbott has ‘a very good story to tell’ Pacific Islanders, about climate change

Abbott-liar‘I’ve got a very good story to tell’: Tony Abbott confident of placating island leaders on climate change September 10, 2015  Political editor, The Age Tony Abbott has entered a retreat with leaders from Pacific island nations confident he can reassure those who say their survival is threatened without a stronger commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

“I think I have got a very good story to tell on climate change to tell the Pacific Islands Forum,” the Prime Minister said before entering a day-long meeting with 15 Pacific island leaders.

Led by the president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, several of the leaders have warned that anything short of a commitment to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 per cent would represent a betrayal of their people.

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…..Both Mr Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will resist the push led by the smaller island states to go beyond a commitment to the goal of limiting the global rise to 2 degrees.

Fairfax Media has seen successive drafts of the leader’s declaration where a reference to a 1.5 degree commitment is removed. The final draft will be released after the leaders’ retreat.

September 11, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Will Tony Abbott ignore the cautionary message of committee on uranium sales to India?

Abbott-nukemonk India uranium red-light a test for Tony Abbott, SBS News, 8 Sept 15, While Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Minister Bishop have been strong supporters of selling Australian uranium to India, many others, including key Australian diplomats and insiders, remain far more circumspect. By  Dave Sweeney
  The plan has drawn sustained opposition and concern, most recently from the federal Parliament’s influential Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), which has unambiguously stated that much more work is required before any Australian uranium makes a passage to India.

India-uranium1The JSCOT report followed a detailed examination and expert testimony and states that while the federal government can ratify the deal it must not advance uranium sales or supply to India before key checks and balances are put into practice and proven to work.

In short, the committee charged with advising the government on Indian uranium sales has reached the unambiguous conclusion that the government can sign but not sell.

The question now is whether the Abbott government will follow due parliamentary process and act in the public interest or will it ignore these concerns and JSCOT’s advice and seek to fast-track the agenda of the under-performing uranium sector?

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott signed a uranium deal with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi in September 2014, he praised India’s “absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record”. Yet India’s record on nuclear proliferation tells another story. India acquired its nuclear arsenal by breaking a promise not to use a Canadian reactor for military purposes. It remains outside the globe’s key non-proliferation frameworks and the region remains on nuclear high alert amid tensions with nuclear rival Pakistan.

Instead of addressing real questions about India’s nuclear weapons program and inadequate nuclear safety standards Mr Abbott resorted to cricketing clichés, declaring that Australia and India trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards because of “the fundamentally ethical principle that every cricketer is supposed to assimilate – play by the rules and accept the umpire’s decision”.

The JSCOT process received strongly critical submissions from a who’s who of nuclear arms control diplomats and experts including John Carlson (former long serving Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office from 1989 to 2010), Ron Walker (former Chair of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Prof. Lawrence Scheinman (former Assistant Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency). These are veteran players in global nuclear diplomatic and regulatory regimes, not anti-nuclear activists.

Nuclear arms control expert Crispin Rovere noted that “this treaty appears less like the deepening of a bilateral partnership and more like one of a client state being dictated to in an expanded Indian empire. It is a major display of weakness on the part of the Australian Government, and a failure to stand up for Australia’s national interests in this area”.

8 SEP 201…….As it currently stands, the government has inked an agreement that puts absolutely no constraints on India’s nuclear weapons program, fails to advance non-proliferation outcomes and doesn’t even provide effective scrutiny of Australian uranium.

One thing we can all agree on is that Australia has a key role to play in supporting India’s legitimate energy aspirations, but this cannot be advanced by a retreat from responsibility on nuclear safeguards and security. The government must read and heed the JSCOT report and Australia’s uranium must remain away from India’s nuclear reactors and weapons – to do otherwise would be profoundly irresponsible.

JSCOT has just clean bowled this dangerous and deeply deficient sales plan. Mr Abbott must now heed his own words, “accept the umpire’s decision” and start the long walk back to pavilion for a serious re-think.

September 8, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) not happy with plan to sell uranium to India

India-uranium1Caution urged on uranium sales to India, Herald Sun  September 8, 2015 THE government needs to consider greater safeguards and stronger diplomatic efforts before Australia sells uranium to India, a new report says. THE treaties committee report, tabled in parliament on Tuesday, said India should be encouraged to become a party to the comprehensive test ban treaty and separate its civil and military nuclear facilities.

Uranium should not be sold to India until it puts in place an independent nuclear regulator and best practice safety inspections of nuclear facilities, the report said.Committee chairman, Liberal MP Wyatt Roy, said in the report there were some “significant risks” to selling uranium to India.India was outside the “nuclear non-proliferation mainstream” and Australia should use all diplomatic steps to ensure it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.There were weaknesses in the way India’s nuclear facilities are regulated “that jeopardise nuclear safety and security”.

“The committee has made a recommendation that the sale of uranium to India only commence when these weaknesses have been addressed,” Mr Roy said……..Two Labor members of the committee said the full separation of India’s civil and military nuclear facilities and the setting up of a new independent watchdog should be done before the treaty is ratified.The majority committee view was that these two matters should be addressed after ratification.”We consider it essential that any nuclear agreement with India should be at least as rigorous as all the agreements Australia has concluded with other countries,” Labor’s Melissa Parke and Sue Lines wrote.Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the deal should not go ahead.”It puts the interest of a small and marginal industry ahead of global security,” he said……..

September 8, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international | 1 Comment

Pacific Island Forum will be dominated by Australia’s Inaction on Climate Change

Australia’s inaction on climate change set to dominate Pacific Island talks, Guardian, 6 Sept 15  Australia and New Zealand are expected to face strong criticism from Pacific Island leaders disappointed the nations are not doing more to combat climate change.


The issue will likely dominate this week’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Port Moresby, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris later in the year.

Pacific leaders want the world to work on restricting the global warming temperature rise to 1.5C, fearing a 2C target will risk the survival of many tiny islands.

Natural disaster recovery will be fresh on their minds. The summit starts on Monday, six months after Cyclone Pam, which flattened much of Vanuatu and caused heavy flooding on Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

Host nation Papua New Guinea is grappling with the opposite problem – what could be its worst drought in 20 years and a potential food crisis.

The prime minister, Peter O’Neill, has said El Niño conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are also experiencing a dry spell………

The Pacific Island Forum runs from 7-11 September.

September 6, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Increasing danger of #nuclear submarines in Indo Pacific oceans

submarine,-nuclear-underwat‘the more submarines you put in the same body of water, the higher the probability they might collide’.

Indo-Pacific nuclear sub threat to rival Cold War AFR, by John Kerin, 3 Sept 15  The Indian and Pacific Oceans are becoming increasingly crowded with nuclear armed and conventional submarines increasing the risk of collision and nuclear conflict.

The warning is contained in a new Lowy Institute of International Affairs paper to be released on Friday which argues the region faces the greatest threat of a miscalculation involving nuclear armed submarines since the Cold War era.

“The regional contests for influence between the United States and China and China and India do not yet have the existential or ideological ‘life or death character’ of the Cold War,” the paper by Professor Rory Medcalf of the ANU based National Security College and Brendan-Thomas Noone from the Lowy International Security Program says.

“But quite literally below the surface a new and dangerous competition is emerging as China and India in particular start deploying nuclear weapons at sea………. Continue reading

September 3, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

India pushing to hurry up uranium purchases from Australia

India-uranium1India pushes for early implementation of nuclear deal with Australia, Economic Times By PTI | 1 Sep, 2015 NEW DELHI: India today conveyed to Australia its eagerness to conclude negotiations for early implementation of the bilateral nuclear deal besides pushing for joint production of defence equipment.

In her talks with Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj particularly emphasised on scope for nuclear cooperation between the two countries and said the atomic deal must be taken forward.

Both Swaraj and Andrews also discussed first ever naval joint exercise to be held later this month at the Bay of Bengal. …….

September 2, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | 1 Comment

Abbott snubs UN climate talks in December

Abbott-xmasAbbott won’t attend UN climate change talk PRIME Minister Tony Abbott won’t attend the United Nations climate change summit at the end of the year.

INSTEAD, he will send Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to Paris for the talks to nut out a post-2020 global approach to dealing with climate change.

Labor says if world leaders like US President Barack Obama can find time to attend there is no excuse Mr Abbott can’t as well.

August 12, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Labor Senator Wong fights TPP’s Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses

logo-anti-TPPISDS clauses give foreign investors the right to sue governments if the company’s business interests are adversely affected by national policy. The Asian arm of the tobacco multinational Philip Morris is challenging the Australian government over plain packaging laws, despite the company already losing a case in the Australian courts.

Penny Wong backs fight against free-trade clauses that let companies sue Australia 

Labor’s trade spokeswoman supports motion to remove investor state dispute settlement clauses from existing trade agreements Labor has committed to remove investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses from existing trade agreements, including the Chinese and Korean free trade agreements (FTA) recently signed by the Abbott government.

The motion was supported by the opposition trade spokeswoman, Penny Wong.

The motion, moved by New South Wales MP Pat Conroy, would also mean a Labor government would work to reform ISDS tribunals to remove “perceived conflicts of interest” of judges determining disputes.

Conroy said: “When the Productivity Commission, the chief justice of the high court and a range of academics say ISDS must be reformed, it is time to fix this system that undermines our sovereignty.” Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian mining companies’ shameful record in Africa

Australia sells itself as a nation that can teach the world about responsible mining – Afghanistan is one willing student – but the record suggests our corporations have a callous disregard for the rights of civilians.

Why is it left to US NGOs to expose Australian mining’s wrongdoing in Africa? , Guardian , 27 july 15

There are hundreds of Australian mining companies working in Africa, but just one full-time Australian journalist. What does that mean for accountability? Australian miners are making a killing overseas. With little regulation or oversight, billions of dollars are being made in some of the most remote places on Earth.

The necessity of partnering with autocratic regimes has proved no impediment to investment. Human rights have been breached. Victims are largely invisible.

None of this should be surprising. If Australian companies operating internationally are mentioned in the media, it appears in the business pages and discusses the strengths of a CEO or share price. Rio Tinto, for example, receives largely uncritical coverage despite in the 1980s the corporation facing serious allegations of human rights abuses around the world, including in Papua New Guinea.

Two American non-profit media organisations, the Centre for Public Integrity and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, recently bucked the trend and released a stunning report, Fatal Extraction, on Australian mining companies working in Africa (in which no allegations were made against Rio Tinto). How revealing that this research was led from America and not Australia itself.

The findings of the report, produced in collaboration with African journalists on the ground, were shocking.

From the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Malawi, grim details of death, maiming and police and army brutality were revealed. Continue reading

July 29, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Australia’s Federal Government welcomes Iran nuclear deal (Video and Audio)

diplomacy-not-bombsIran nuclear deal welcome: Australia (AUDIO and Video) The federal government has welcomed the landmark nuclear deal Iran thrashed out with major international powers.
By AAP, Reuters  THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SAYS IRAN’S NUCLEAR DEAL IS A STEP FORWARD IN CURBING THE COUNTRY’S NUCLEAR WEAPONRY AMBITIONS.Parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Steve Ciobo says the landmark deal thrashed out with Tehran to ensure Iran does not obtain a nuclear bomb was a positive outcome built on the work of past two years.

“It settles the issue with respect to Iran’s nuclear ambitions to ensure there isn’t an opportunity for Iran to develop nuclear weaponry,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Central Europe correspondent Kerry Skyring speaks to SBS Radio from Vienna:

July 18, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian uranium miners’ toxic track record in Africa

[Paladin’s] Langer Heinrich Uranium mine[Namibia] … 

Craton Mining and Exploration [copper] is a subsidiary of Australian-based International Base Metals…..

Rio Tinto owns Rössing Uranium Mine…

[Australian] Deep Yellow Limited (DYL)  the Aussinanis uranium project.

Aussies in toxic trail By Shinovene Immanuel, Ndanki Kahiurika 10 July 15      NAMIBIA, a mining frontier for decades, continues to struggle with mining companies which subject workers to dangerous working conditions.

Among the alleged culprits are Australian multinationals. Well-established Australian companies face allegations of treating Namibian workers differently by subjecting workers to health risks which would be deemed unacceptable back home.An International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ (ICIJ) investigation, in collaboration with The Namibian, found that Australian mining companies have been implicated in instances of death, disfigurement, and the displacement of people across Africa. They have also been responsible for environmental destruction.

That mining in Africa provokes controversy, even violence, is not new. Chinese companies receive regular criticism. Canada, too, has been forced to confront allegations of violence and even slavery linked to its mining companies.

The ICIJ investigation looked at Australia’s increasing role in exploring and developing mining projects on the African continent because it has been less examined.


What ICIJ uncovered and pieced together suggests a troubling track record on the part of Australian companies in the rush for Africa’s minerals, including practices that would be impermissible, even unthinkable, in Australia and other parts of the developed world.  Continue reading

July 11, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment


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