Australian news, and some related international items

Surprise surpise – Turnbull doesn’t agree with New Zealand PM on nuclear weapons ban, on immigrants

Ardern and Turnbull agree to disagree on nuclear weapons ban 2 Mar 18 Jacinda Ardern and Malcolm Turnbull have agreed to disagree on efforts to ban nuclear weapons, and whether Australia should deport Kiwi-born criminals.

The two leaders have held bilateral talks in Sydney.

Political editor Barry Soper told Larry Williams it was a charm offensive, and nothing substantial has come out of it.

He says the issues that were outstanding going into the talks remain outstanding, after them.

“It’s important, I guess, to keep a very good relationship with them but I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be bullied and to some degree, I think that’s what the Australians do to them.”


March 2, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | 1 Comment

New Zealand Prime Minister may urge Malcolm Turnbull to join UN nuclear weapons ban

NZ may lobby Aust on nuclear weapons ban   SBS News 27 Feb 18  “……….Australia could be in for a lecture from New Zealand on nuclear weapons disarmament.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Australia for talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the end of the week.

She’ll be accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, seven cabinet ministers and a business delegation.

Ms Ardern delivered a major foreign policy speech to the New Zealand Institute of Public Affairs on Tuesday and announced her government will reinstate the cabinet position of disarmament and arms control minister.

Last July, 122 countries voted in the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons.

Ms Ardern flagged in the speech her government was looking at an early ratification of the treaty. “In a modern context, the greatest challenge comes from North Korea, situated right here in our region,” she said.

“At a time when risks to global peace and security are growing and the rules-based system is under such pressure, we must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament.”

Australia has refused to sign up to the treaty ban and did not take part in the negotiations.

The country relies on the deterrent protection from the US’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

New Zealand has long adopted a firm line in opposing development of nuclear capabilities, which at times puts the small Pacific nation at odds with some allies.

……… Asked if she’ll raise the issue with Mr Turnbull, Ms Ardern told reporters in Wellington: “I have no qualms having conversations about it.”……. NZ also has an ongoing offer to resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, which has previously been rejected……..


February 28, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange loses bid to have UK arrest warrant withdrawn 


Why is the Australian government giving no help to this Australian citizen?

 ABC News 14 Feb 18A British judge has upheld an arrest warrant for Julian Assange, saying the WikiLeaks founder should have the courage to come to court and face justice after more than five years inside Ecuador’s London embassy.

Key points:

  • Mr Assange can seek to appeal, though his lawyers did not say whether he would
  • He faces arrest if he leaves Ecuador’s London embassy
  • His attorney argues that arresting him was no longer proportionate or in the public interest

Judge Emma Arbuthnot rejected arguments by Mr Assange’s lawyers that it is no longer in the public interest to arrest him for jumping bail in 2012 and seeking shelter in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Prosecutors there were investigating allegations of sexual assault and rape made by two women, which Mr Assange has denied.

Judge Arbuthnot did not mince words in her ruling at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, saying that by jumping bail, Mr Assange had made “a determined attempt to avoid the order of the court”.

She said Mr Assange appeared to be “a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice”.

Mr Assange can seek to appeal, though his lawyers did not immediately say whether he would.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation last year, saying there was no prospect of bringing Mr Assange to Sweden in the foreseeable future.

But the British warrant for violating bail conditions still stands, and Mr Assange faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Mr Assange’s lawyers had asked for the warrant to be withdrawn since Sweden no longer wants him extradited, but the judge rejected their request last week.

His attorney had gone on to argue that arresting him was no longer proportionate or in the public interest.

Lawyer Mark Summers argued the Australian was justified in seeking refuge in the embassy because he had a legitimate fear that US authorities want to arrest him for WikiLeaks’ publication of secret documents.

Judge Arbuthnot dismissed another plank of Mr Assange’s case — a report from a UN working group which said the 46-year-old was being arbitrarily detained.

“I give little weight to the views of the working group,” the judge said, noting that Mr Assange had “restricted his own freedom for a number of years”.

Julian Assange’s bid for freedom
While court hearings for Julian Assange’s bid for freedom are interesting steps in a long running saga, the end game is far more complicated, writes Lisa Millar.

Mr Assange’s lawyer had argued that the five-plus years Mr Assange had spent inside the embassy were “adequate, if not severe” punishment for his actions, noting that he had health problems including a frozen shoulder and depression….

..The ruling leaves the long legal impasse intact. Apart from the bail-jumping charge — for which the maximum sentence is one year in prison — Mr Assange suspects there is a secret US grand jury indictment against him for WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents, and that American authorities will seek his extradition.

Mr Assange’s lawyers say he is willing to face legal proceedings in Britain, but only if he receives a guarantee that he will not be sent to the US to face prosecution. That is not an assurance Britain is likely to give. ……


February 14, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange remains stuck in London, still at risk of extradition to USA

Julian Assange ‘has suffered enough’, his lawyers tell British judge, SMH, Nick Miller, 6 Feb 18, London: Julian Assange has suffered enough and shouldn’t face prison for absconding from justice, his lawyers have told a court.

The Wikileaks editor is depressed, in constant pain from an infected tooth, and has been stuck in the Ecuador Embassy in London’s Kensington far longer than the maximum 12-month jail penalty for breaching bail, his barrister said.

On Tuesday Assange lost a legal bid at Westminster Magistrates Court to quash the arrest warrant that has awaited him since he entered the Ecuador embassy in June 2012.

However his lawyers immediately launched a new push to end the UK government’s attempt to bring him to justice – arguing that it is against the public interest to punish him for refusing to leave the embassy.

It is a criminal offence for someone on bail to refuse to surrender to police without “reasonable cause” – and Assange refused to leave the embassy despite a court order for his arrest.

 But Assange’s barrister Mark Summers QC told Judge Emma Arbuthnot that it was not in the interests of “justice and proportionality” to bring an action against Assange.

Assange went into the embassy after he exhausted his line of appeal against a decision to extradite him to Sweden to face rape allegations.  Sweden last year ended its investigation into the allegations, and the European arrest warrant against Assange was cancelled. However the British warrant for his arrest still stood – and judge Arbuthnot said she was not persuaded it should be quashed simply because the underlying investigation had stopped.

Mr Summers said Assange was not “thumbing his nose” at justice and his five and a half years in the embassy were “adequate if not severe punishment for the actions that he took”.

Assange had genuine fears – later proved correct – that the US were keen to prosecute him over his work with Wikileaks, Summers said.

If arrested he would face rendition to the USA, treatment similar to that meted out against Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning – and possible “persecution, indefinite solitary confinement and the death penalty”, Summers said in a written submission……….

Judge Arbuthnot said it was a “very interesting” case.

She will rule on the public interest application on February 13.

Outside court, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said whether or not the warrant is quashed Assange would not leave the embassy until he had an assurance he wouldn’t be extradited to the US.

“Mr Assange remains willing to answer to British justice in relation to any argument about breaching bail, but not at the expense of facing injustice in America,” she said.

“This case is and always has been about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real.”

February 7, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

New Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “less problematic”

‘Hallelujah’ moment: Revised TPP to be signed in March Radio New Zealand, 23 Jan 18 The revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is to be signed in March, the Trade Minister has confirmed. Australia’s Trade Minister, Steve Ciobo, said the 11 nations, including New Zealand, are “finally at the finish line” following talks between officials in Tokyo………

The rebranded the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), covers nearly 500 million people and the 11 countries involved make up 14 percent of global economic activity, or about $US10 trillion.

If the trade pact is successfully concluded, lower barriers and standardised rules are expected, making it easier for businesses to sell their goods and services in these markets.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the agreement the “right deal”.

The country’s trade minister said it included an improved arrangement on autos with Japan and the suspension of intellectual property provisions that had been a concern…….
Trade specialist Stephen Jacobi  said it was a less problematic deal than the initial one.

“It suspends a number of the more problematic areas of TPP, particularly intellectual property provisions and some aspects of the investor state settlement that was very controversial in New Zealand.

“It’s taken the hard edge off TPP … in those areas.”

Mr Jacobi said [New Zealand] parliament needed to ratify the agreement, but while he did not think there would be major issues passing it in New Zealand there would still be critical voices in this country.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Professor Hugh White warns on risks of an alliance between Japan and Australia

An Australian-Japan alliance?, Hugh White

Policy paper

In this Centre of Gravity paper, Professor Hugh White explores the potential and risks of an alliance between Japan and Australia. Japan is one of Australia’s most important economic partners, a close ally of the US and might be prepared to sell Australia a highly advanced submarine fleet. Yet, for all the overlap of values, Professor White cautions that there is not necessarily an overlap of interests. In particular the rise of China poses difficult questions for the long term potential for the relationship, and for Australia’s desire to avoid having to choose between the US and China.

January 20, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

India Enters Australia Group, Inches Closer to Joining Nuclear Suppliers Group

BY THE WIRE STAFF ON 19/01/2018   The Ministry of External Affairs hopes India’s ‘credentials’ are taken into account as and when a decision is taken (on its NSG application). New Delhi: India on Friday joined the Australia Group which aims to stop the development and acquisition of chemical and biological weapons, a move that may take the country an inch closer to joining the Nuclear Suppliers’ group (NSG).

This is the third multilateral export control group – after the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Wassenaar Arrangement – that India has become a member of.

In a press release, the 42-member Australia Group said there had been “very strong support” for India’s membership at its plenary meeting in June 2017. Following that, “consensus was reached intersessionally” to admit India to the club. “India then reaffirmed its intention to join the group,” said the announcement.

The Ministry of External Affairs said that the series of multilateral export control groups that India has joined “helps in establishing our credentials” for joining the NSG. India joined the MTCR in June 2016, followed by the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017.

Stating that India remains engaged with other countries over its application to join the NSG, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We hope that our credentials are taken into account as and when a decision is taken (on NSG application)”……..

January 20, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

1985 rift with France, over French nuclear testing, and the sinking of Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior

Pacific rift: When nuclear tests made France a dirty word, SMH, Damien Murphy, 1 Jan 18  “…….the 1985 sinking of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior by French operatives, union outrage, peacenik panic and maintenance of uranium exports shaped Australia’s response to Paris’ decision to start letting off bombs as far away as possible from La Belle France.

In a June 5 report to cabinet about possible resumption of French tests, the minister for foreign affairs, Gareth Evans and the minister for Pacific Island affairs, Gordon Bilney, said memories of the Rainbow Warrior were strong and New Zealand could be expected to postpone official visits and suspend military-related co-operation with France.

 The ministers were concerned about Australia looking as hard-nosed as New Zealand.
“New Zealand will obviously be hoping that Australia’s response is similar to theirs,” the ministers said. “Wellington’s response may have an impact in Australia if it is significantly stronger than ours.”

The ministers advised treading softly so as not to make nuclear testing dominant in the bilateral relationship and stop the French from taking retaliation.

“Three specific areas of current Australian interest could be targeted by the French: Australia’s (United Nation’s) Security Council bid, market access for special Australian products such as kangaroo meat, and Australia’s candidature for the position of secretary-general of the South Pacific Commission.”

On June 13, president Jacques Chirac announced the resumption of nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

The Keating government hardened up its act.

On June 22 cabinet decided to recall Australia’s ambassador and Australian Defence Force staff from Paris, suspend Australian ship and aircraft visits to French territories and ban French ship visits and “not progress” collaboration on military logistics and equipment or exchange classified information.

Cabinet maintained the policy of not negotiating any new uranium contracts with France while it was conducting nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

“These measures are in line with the government’s consistent policy on this issue, which has been to respond in a measured, graduated way, leaving open every avenue for France to respond to South Pacific concerns,” an attachment to a cabinet minute noted.

Later, when 50 per cent of Australian Defence Industries was acquired by the Australian branch of a French engineering firm, presumably time had healed the Pacific rift with France.

January 3, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian govt prioritised BHP’s Olympic Dam mine’s business above the dangers of French nuclear testing

French nuclear test tensions threatened Olympic Dam expansion plans, declassified Cabinet documents reveal, Peter Jean, The Advertiser, January 1, 2018  

December 31, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull’s silence on the Nobel Peace Prize win – he is an international embarrassment

PM silent on Nobel prize when world needs him to speak up, PETER BOYER, Mercury, Malcolm Turnbull is rarely stuck for words, but the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to an organisation founded in Australia has left him speechless.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian Government’s White Paper warns on climate change dangers in our region

Australia facing climate disaster on its doorstep, government’s white paper warns
Foreign policy paper says climate-related conflict and migration could put Australia’s economic interests under pressure,
Guardian, Katharine Murphy, 23 Nov 17, Climate change is creating a disaster on Australia’s doorstep, with environmental degradation and the demand for sustainable sources of food undermining stability in some countries, especially “fragile states”, according to the Australian government’s first foreign policy white paper in more than a decade.

The new white paper, released on Thursday, contains warnings over the disruptive effects of climate change in Australia’s immediate region, noting that many small island states will be “severely affected in the long term”, and the coming decade will see increased need for disaster relief.

The white paper notes the demand for water and food will rise, with the world’s oceans and forests under intense pressure. It notes climate change and pressure on the environment could contribute to conflict and irregular migration, impacting specifically on Australia’s economic interests.

Despite the obvious challenges for Australia and the world posed by Donald Trump’s presidency, and a live debate in this country about whether Australia needs to rethink the American alliance, the white paper makes a strong case for the United States to remain engaged in the region to counterbalance China’s increasingly assertive posture.

It notes that the postwar alliance with the US “is central to Australia’s security and sits at the core of our strategic and defence planning”.

 While the white paper makes the case that it is in Australia’s interests to pursue a cooperative relationship with China, it contains language critical of China’s military posturing. It characterises the disputes that have emerged in the South China Sea as “a major fault line in the regional order”………

November 24, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Pacific Islanders call on Australia and other nations, as climate change submerges islands

Pacific Island nations urge world leaders to act as islands expected to sink

AUSTRALIA’S tropical island neighbours may exist today, but their leaders have urged us to help them from sinking., Matt Young@MattYoung  14 Nov 17 
A LARGE swath of Pacific Island nations are slowly being eaten away until residents will be forced to evacuate and the islands eventually sink into the sea — and it’s coming sooner than we think.

This modern-day Atlantis is thanks to sea levels across small island nations that have seen a dramatic rise over the past few decades, a rate of up to 3-4 times larger than the global average. Tuvalu, in the western Pacific Ocean, will reportedly be uninhabitable by 2050, while its island neighbour Kiribati, is expected to be fully submerged by 2100.

The Maldives, which has the lowest elevation in the world and a population of 427,000, may also have sunk by the end of the century.

It has led experts — including Professor Tim Flannery, climate change expert and Professor at La Trobe University — to believe we are “on a trajectory that will see those nations compromised”.

Five reef islands in the Solomon Islands have already been lost forever while a further six have been completely eroded. Last year, the island of Nuatambu had already lost half of its habitable area.

Professor Flannery told The Maldives, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu were most at risk.

“It’s very much on their minds, they’re trying to work out how to deal with it,” Mr Flannery told

Scientists are convinced more and more of these tiny islands at risk of sinking into the sea in the next 30 years and Pacific Island leaders have gathered to urge its neighbours, including Australia, to take action to save their dwindling nations……

November 15, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment

Malcolm Turnbull urges Hong Kong to put pressure on North Korea

Malcolm Turnbull calls North Korea ‘criminals’, urges Hong Kong to help, SMH, Lindsay Murdoch, 12 Nov 17,  Hong Kong: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused North Korea of being one of the world’s most “cunning, sophisticated criminals,”  involved in many serious crimes, including drug trafficking, in his strongest condemnation yet of the dictator Kim Jong-un.

And Mr Turnbull told US president Donald Trump and China’s president Xi Jinping during a leaders’ retreat in Vietnam that their relationship is one of the “single most priorities for the world today,” urging them work together to pressure North Korea over is nuclear weapons program……

November 13, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian uranium company Paladin to leave costly environmental mess in Malawi

Paladin has ignored our requests to provide its estimate of the cost of rehabilitating Kayelekera, but we can safely say that the figure will be multiples of the US$10 million bond. Just keeping Kayelekera in care-and-maintenance costs US$1012 million annually.

As things stand, if Paladin goes bankrupt and fails to rehabilitate Kayelekera, either rehabilitation will be coordinated and funded by the Malawian government (with a small fraction of the cost coming from Paladin’s bond) or the mine-site will not be rehabilitated at all.

It does Australian companies investing in mining ventures abroad no good whatsoever to leave Kayelekera unrehabilitated, a permanent reminder of the untrustworthiness and unfulfilled promises of an Australian miner and the indifference of the Australian government.

The company’s environmental and social record has also been the source of ongoing controversy and the subject of countless critical reports.

Julie Bishop, the WA government, Paladin and its administrators from KPMG need to liaise with the Malawian government and Malawian civil society to sort the rehabilitation of Kayelekera. An obvious starting point would be to prioritise the rehabilitation of Kayelekera if and when Paladin goes bankrupt and its carcass is being divided up. (picture below shows uranium sludge going to river)

Australian uranium miner goes bust ‒ so who cleans up its mess in Africa? By Morgan Somerville and Jim Green, Online Opinion, 8 November 2017

Perth-based uranium mining company Paladin Energy was put into administration in July and the company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Critics of the uranium industry won’t miss the company if it disappears. Other uranium mining companies won’t miss Paladin; in an overcrowded market, they will be pleased to have less competition.

But the looming bankruptcy does pose one major problem. Paladin’s Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi, the ‘warm heart of Africa’, needs to be rehabilitated and Paladin hasn’t set aside nearly enough money for the job.

Under the leadership of founder and CEO John Borshoff, described as the grandfather of Australian uranium, Paladin has operated two uranium mines over the past decade. The Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia was opened in 2007, and Kayelekera in 2009.

They were heady days ‒ there was an endless talk about a nuclear power ‘renaissance’ and the uranium price tripled between June 2006 and June 2007. Continue reading

November 8, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Pacific Islands leaders will pressure Australia at UN climate meeting

UN climate meeting: Pacific Islands leaders set to put heat on Australia  Germany is hosting UN climate talks this week, but the main focus will be the front line of global warning – the Pacific region. By Rosemary Bolger

 Australia is expected to face renewed criticism when its Pacific Island neighbour Fiji chairs a key UN climate meeting from Monday.

The Conference of the Parties 23rd meeting takes place in the German city of Bonn and will be chaired by Fiji – the first time a Pacific nation has chaired such a major meeting.

Pacific Island leaders are expected to make the most of the global spotlight on the region, which is under threat from rising sea levels.

While Australia has provided a $300 million climate change package for the Pacific, the region’s leaders are demanding a moratorium on new coal mines.

Fiji-based lecturer on international politics Dr Wesley Morgan said he expects the government’s support for the planned Adani coal mine in North Queensland to be a target.

“Australia will be facing a lot of heat. Pacific Island countries and Pacific Island leaders are outraged that Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, is planning to subsidise the construction of the world’s largest export coal mine.”

The Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said the planned Adani coal mine will produce more emissions a year than the Pacific Islands combined.

“I think the controversy surrounding that Adani mine is going to put extra pressure on the Australian Government as those Pacific countries want to see Australia move away from coal, not having a big neighbour in the region effectively subsidising what will be the world’s biggest coal mine,” he said.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg is leading Australia’s delegation to the Bonn meeting and will defend the mine. Continue reading

November 6, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics international | Leave a comment