Written by  //  September 30, 2017  //  Australia, Immigration/migration  //  1 Comment

New York Times Topics: Australia ; BBC Australia country profile ; Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) ; Austrialia on

What is Australia up to?
Cleo Paskal outlines the West’s fears as a key ally develops closer links with China
(Chatham House) Something is going on Down Under. In the past few months, a constant stream of serious Washington players have passed through Australia, including Vice-President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senator John McCain, former CIA Director David Petraeus and former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
This many high-level visits in such a short period of time is highly unusual. The reason was summed up by the oft-repeated message: watch out for China and don’t forget who your real friends are. …  This overlapped with growing Australian concerns about Chinese influence. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax Media published an in-depth investigation into Chinese state-linked interference in Australia. Using data from the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, they highlighted cases of ‘naked influence-buying’.
ASIO’s director-general told the Australian parliament that the scale of foreign interference in Australia was ‘unprecedented’ and had ‘the potential to cause serious harm to the nation’s sovereignty, the integrity of our political system, our national security capabilities, our economy and other interests’. Australia’s Attorney General travelled to Washington where he received intelligence briefings on the degree of Chinese state-linked interference in Australia’s political, business and academic sectors before returning to Australia and announcing he would propose major changes to the laws on foreign influence buying.

3 August
With the release of the transcript of the January call between Trump and Malcolm Turnbull, we can appreciate Mr. Turnbull’s difficulties in dealing with Trump and can only wonder how the relationship was ‘re-set’ in May
Jonathan Chait: Australia’s Prime Minister Slowly Realizes Trump Is a Complete Idiot
(New York Magazine) The transcript of Donald Trump’s discussion with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull obtained by the Washington Post reveals many things, but the most significant may be that Trump in his private negotiations is every bit as mentally limited as he appears to be in public.
At issue in the conversation is a deal to settle 1,250 refugees who have been detained by Australia in the United States.
Australia has a policy of refusing to accept refugees who arrive by boat. The reason, as Turnbull patiently attempts to explain several times, is that it believes giving refuge to people who arrive by boat would encourage smuggling and create unsafe passage with a high risk of deaths at sea. But it had a large number of refugees who had arrived by sea, living in difficult conditions, whom Australia would not resettle (for fear of encouraging more boat trafficking) but whom it did not want to deport, either. The United States government agreed under President Obama to vet 1,250 of these refugees and accept as many of them as it deemed safe.
In the transcript, Trump is unable to absorb any of these facts.

5 May
Donald Trump, Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull bury the hatchet
(Market Watch) The meeting between Trump and Turnbull, at a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, marked their first public attempt to reset their relationship after sparring over an Obama administration agreement with Australia to resettle refugees in the U.S.
Trump played down the testy phone call he had with Turnbull, held shortly after he took office in January.
“We have a fantastic relationship. I love Australia. I always have,” Trump said as he met with Turnbull on the mothballed USS Intrepid aircraft carrier in New York. “You guys exaggerated that call,” he said to reporters. “That was a big exaggeration. We had a great call.” He said the issue of the agreement on refugees had “been worked out.”
  Trump Meets With Australia’s Turnbull in Effort at Reset
Meeting was the first public chance to recalibrate relationship after sparring over refugee resettlement
(WSJ) Both leaders share successful backgrounds in business, but Mr. Turnbull is an avowed internationalist in favor of free trade and immigration. He has repeatedly warned that protectionism embodied by Mr. Trump’s “America First” trade policies is “not a ladder to get us out of the low growth trap, it’s a shovel to dig that hole deeper.”
Mr. Turnbull has also expressed disappointment at Mr. Trump’s early decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and urged China—Australia’s major trade partner—to consider joining an amended agreement in place of the U.S.
Mr. Turnbull will also bring with him a request from small Pacific island nations worried about rising sea levels for the U.S. not to abandon the 2015 Paris agreement combating climate change risks. Mr. Turnbull has previously favored policies mitigating climate shift, while also seeking to expand Australia’s position as the world’s leading coal exporter.
Australia is an important strategic staging post for the U.S., hosting a Marine task group, warplanes and aircraft each year for training. It also provides a base for U.S. satellite and submarine communications, and spying ground stations feeding into the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance between the U.S. and other allies including Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
Australia’s government has also been urging Mr. Trump to maintain Washington’s engagement and alliances in Asia-Pacific region, wary of instability triggered by North Korean weapons tests and China’s territorial assertion and construction of artificial atolls in the flashpoint South China Sea. Marine Osprey transport planes arrived in the country’s tropical north Wednesday, following on from U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth warplanes and 1,250 Marines who arrived two weeks ago.
The Great Barrier Reef: In hot water
For the second year in a row, expanses of coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have lost their vivid colours. The biggest culprit is warmer ocean temperatures linked to climate change. Corals are marine animals that get their colour from the algae that live within them. The higher temperatures stress algae, causing bleaching. Reefs can revive over several years. But back-to-back bleaching has given the reef no time to recover


22 September
Political climate change: Malcolm Turnbull praises UN for progress on arms, global warming, refugees
While Tony Abbott was dubious, Mr Turnbull is an unrestrained enthusiast, branding the UN’s field presence in deprived and strife-torn areas, “hugely important work”.
Mark Kenny
(Sydney Morning Herald) NEW YORK: A moderate Malcolm Turnbull has emerged on to the world stage as the great multi-lateralist, celebrating global progress in securing higher living standards while praising the usually maligned United Nations for successes on climate change, arms control, and refugee assistance.
In his first-ever address to its General Assembly in New York, Mr Turnbull has dispensed with the usual conservative coolness towards the UN’s perceived ineffectiveness and encroachment on nation states, to laud its performance in solving complex international problems.
“In less than a generation, billions have been lifted out of poverty and billions more enabled to connect to each other and to a world of knowledge and ideas in a manner barely imaginable a generation ago,” he said.
“Economic freedom between markets and within them, supercharged by the Internet, innovation and technology, have enabled the longest run of economic progress in the history of the world.”
With the exception of Syria in particular, he asserted that the UN has performed remarkably well.
“Over the past five years, the UN system has produced a global Arms Trade Treaty, a pivotal global agreement on climate change, a transformational set of Sustainable Development Goals, and a global blueprint for disaster-risk reduction.”
10 July
Australia PM Turnbull’s conservatives win tight election
(BBC) Votes are still being counted, but the Liberal-National coalition is expected to win enough seats to govern.
However, a strong swing against it has left doubts about its agenda and Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
The coalition still remains short of the 76 seats it needs to claim a majority in the lower house, the House of Representatives.
8 July
Australia’s ruling alliance close to victory
(BBC) The ruling Liberal-National coalition appears to be inching towards victory in the Australian election.
Counting continued on Wednesday in electorates where the result has been too close to call.
The Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) says the government has won 71 seats in the lower house and could reach an absolute majority of 76.
The close result surprised many analysts, who thought the coalition would retain key marginal seats.
4 July
(Quartz) The Australian election ended in a cliffhanger. The country is still in limbo as national elections, called early by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, left his conservatives without enough seats to form a government. The Liberal-National coalition looks set to lose the majority it won in 2013, but the final result isn’t expected for days.
Turnbull and Shorten court independents with hung parliament in play
Australian election 2016: prime minister is ‘quietly confident’ of winning an overall majority but Labor sources say hung parliament is most likely outcome
But what does it mean? Key election policy issues analysed by our expert panel
Health, economy, immigration, Indigenous affairs, young people, retirees, environment, society and education: our panel looks at key policy areas across society and examines what the results mean for Australia


14 September
How it all went wrong for Australian PM Tony Abbott
(BBC) The government started its first term two years ago on a strong note.
It delivered on an election promise to repeal Labor’s levy on the country’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, dubbed the carbon tax. It also dumped a 30% tax on coal and iron ore mining profits.
Tough immigration policies, including turning boats carrying migrants back to Indonesia, stemmed the flow of asylum seekers.
The moves were popular with the public but Mr Abbott’s regular mantra that he had “stopped the boats” and “axed the tax” eventually wore thin.
His inability to explain tough budget measures and his failure to get all of the budget savings through a hostile senate showed through in regular opinion polls.
Policy reversals
Unpopular policy measures included a plan to charge people an extra A$7 (US$5; £3.25) for every visit to their local doctor; a major cut to university funding; and a proposal to make young people wait some time before they could receive unemployment benefits.
Policy reversals also damaged Mr Abbott’s credibility.
In February, he dropped one of his signature policies – a paid parental leave scheme – when it became clear that it would be difficult to fund and wasn’t that popular with women voters who wanted child care subsidies instead.
Away from the economy, Mr Abbott appeared to be out-of-step with the public on issues such as gay marriage (many Australians want to see it legalised – Mr Abbott is firmly against it).
More recently, he misjudged the public’s willingness to accept refugees from war-torn Syria, belatedly announcing Australia would take in 12,000 Syrians over the next year.
Australian PM Tony Abbott ousted, replaced by Malcolm Turnbull
(Globe & Mail) Australia’s beleaguered prime minister was ousted from power in an internal party ballot on Monday as the ruling conservative party attempts to win back a disenchanted public by replacing the nation’s polarizing, gaffe-prone leader with his more moderate rival.
The change in leadership continues an extraordinarily volatile period in Australian politics. The Liberals were elected in 2013 as a stable alternative to the then-labour government. Labor came to power under Kevin Rudd at elections in 2007, only to dump him for his deputy Julia Gillard in 2010 months ahead of elections. The bitterly divided and chaotic government then dumped Gillard for Rudd just months before the 2013 election.
Australian leader Tony Abbott ousted by Malcolm Turnbull after party vote
The former lawyer and banker is set to be sworn in as the fifth prime minister in five years after winning a vote of Liberal party MPs and senators by 54-44
(The Guardian) Abbott, a conservative who firmly opposes same-sex marriage and the use of emissions trading schemes to tackle climate change, rose to power in part because he capitalised on the leadership upheaval in the opposing Labor party.
Turnbull, a moderate who supports same-sex marriage and strong action on global warming, was ousted by Abbott as Liberal opposition leader in 2009 amid damaging party divisions over climate policy.
12 September
No joke: Pacific outrage at climate inaction
The tasteless joking between immigration minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the threat of rising sea levels to Pacific Islands — caught on a microphone after the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting — sums up the Australian government’s attitude to the victims of its climate inaction.
The 46th PIF leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby ended without reaching agreement on a united position to take to the Paris climate summit later this year. Pacific Island leaders could not convince Australia and New Zealand to agree on more ambitious targets.
The 1.5 degree target had already been agreed to in the Suva Declaration, which was signed at the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) the previous week. The rival PIDF grouping includes Pacific island states, but excludes Australia and New Zealand, which are much richer than their small island neighbours, and use this to influence the PIF.
After signing the declaration, Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama said: “Our disappointment and frustration at the world’s failure to act runs through this entire document..” Bainimarama boycotted the PIF meeting. The September 10 Sydney Morning Herald reported that he said this was due to “the refusal of Australia and New Zealand to step back and allow the Pacific island nations to determine their own futures free from outside interference.”
11 September
Sounds very familiar
Australia’s treaty-making process is broken. The China free trade deal is a case in point
Peter Whish-Wilson
By the time a free trade agreement like Chafta reaches parliament it has already been agreed to. Democracy demands more than a ‘take it or leave it’ approach
Throughout the negotiation stage there is no substantive debate about what constitutes our national interest, and how negotiations can best achieve this. It is taken by many to be article of blind faith that trade deals are fundamentally good.
The deal is then signed by the trade minister with great pomp. A glossy pack of facts and figures is produced with superficial modelling of the supposed benefits and MPs are sent out with their talking points to sell the deal. Then the text is released for public scrutiny, at last.
At this point, the deal is presented as take it or leave it.
The government doesn’t want you to know that there have been long-standing criticisms made of their trade agenda from some of the biggest policy heavyweights in the country. For instance, in 2010 the incoming government brief prepared by Treasury said that the “potential benefits of the free trade agreements currently under negotiation have been oversold and the negatives largely ignored”, which is exactly what we are seeing now.
10 September
‘I’ve got a very good story to tell’: Tony Abbott confident of placating island leaders on climate change
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.
8 September
‘We cannot be bought on climate change,’ Pacific island leader warns Tony Abbott
Port Moresby – Several small island states could walk out on the Pacific Islands Forum if Australia and New Zealand force them to compromise on a declaration demanding an ambitious target to combat climate change. The president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, issued the ultimatum on the eve of the summit of 16 Pacific Island leaders on Tuesday, declaring: “We cannot negotiate this, no matter how much aid. We cannot be bought on this one because it’s about the future.” Mr Tong raised the prospect of either states walking out or Australia being asked to leave the forum if its two more powerful members forced a compromise on the commitment of island states to the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
14 July
The Tony Abbott and Stephen Harper mutual admiration society
Tony Abbott and his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper form a mutual admiration society. They are two conservative leaders who share remarkably similar personal and political instincts.
Whether it’s their views on climate change, their stern rhetoric on the evils of terrorism, their belief in smaller government, their claim to sensible economic management or their distrust of many popular causes, the political lines of both leaders could be interchangeable.
Neither leader is personally popular with voters. They are regarded as too ideological and not particularly appealing personalities. Their combative manner attracts a particularly vitriolic assessment of their characters from their many political critics.
2 February
Ex-Aussie PM Kevin Rudd wants John Baird to help him fix WHO, other UN organizations
Baird the right person to help ‘structurally alter the rules’ of international health agency: Rudd


17 November
Obama Is Driving a Wedge Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Climate Change Deniers
(New Republic) By announcing a U.S.-China agreement on limiting greenhouse gas pollution and a domestic pledge of $3 billion to a climate fund for developing countries, Obama is hoping to press other polluting nations to make similar commitments. Or, at the very least, he’s trying to make it more politically uncomfortable for allies to continue with business as usual.
There are already signs he’s succeeding at the latter. Just look to two of the world’s most powerful climate change deniers—Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott—for evidence.
At the very end of the G-20 talks in Australia, Harper broke with his usual ally on climate issues to announce Canada’s commitment to the Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer nations adapt to global warming. Until this point, it wasn’t clear whether Canada intended to make a donation to the fund. Abbott—Canada’s natural ally against clean energy growth—opposes it.


Australia’s new government — All change down under
(The Economist) Mr Abbott, leader of the conservative Liberal Party, the senior coalition partner, will head a government that will take Australia to the right. He is a social conservative in the mould of John Howard, the last Liberal prime minister, whom Labor unseated in 2007 after 11 years of government. Mr Abbott opposes gay marriage (Mr Rudd supported it) and wants Australia to keep the British monarch as its head of state (Labor favours a republic). He promises to continue the tough stand against asylum-seekers that Mr Howard took 12 years ago.
Mr Abbott has given less away about how his government will manage the economy. He refused to release his policy costings until 48 hours before the five-week campaign ended. They included a pledge to cut spending on foreign aid by A$4.5 billion ($4 billion) over four years. The money will go instead to infrastructure projects in Australia, mainly roads in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, the three biggest cities. As well as “stopping the boats”, one of Mr Abbott’s most heavily-worked campaign slogans was to present himself as “an infrastructure prime minister who puts bulldozers on the ground and cranes into our skies”.
Conservative leader Abbott sweeps into power in Australian elections
(Reuters) – Australia’s conservative leader Tony Abbott swept into office in national elections on Saturday as voters punished the outgoing Labor government for six years of turbulent rule and for failing to maximize the benefits of a now fading mining boom.
The election was pitched as a choice on who is best to lead the A$1.5 trillion ($1.4 trillion) economy as it adjusts to an end to a prolonged mining investment boom, fuelled by China’s demand for its abundant natural resources.
Abbott built up a strong opinion poll lead on the back of promises to rein in government spending, scrap an unpopular tax on carbon emissions, and stop the flow of refugee boats arriving in Australia’s northwest. His campaign had support from media magnate Rupert Murdoch and his Australian newspapers, which have urged voters to reject Rudd’s Labor government. Australia’s other major newspaper group Fairfax also called for a change of government, saying Rudd had painted Abbott’s planned spending cuts as dangerous European-style austerity and said his government was best placed to manage an economy that is slowing but remains the envy of much of the developed world.
G20: Australia leaves world’s media puzzled over silence
Foreign minister Bob Carr cancels media briefing at the end of the summit, with Australia about to assume presidency Considering that voting was going on while the G20 was closing, it hardly seems surprising. Mr. Carr was, as it turned out, a lame duck.
Senator Assange
Australia’s national elections are Sept. 7 – the culmination of a 30-day campaign crammed with everything from sexting scandals to Islamophobic gaffes by parliamentary candidates. Apart from Australia’s usual collection of small parties, the big race is between the Liberal-National coalition, led by Tony Abbott and now in opposition, and the Labor Party of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (who recently took back his leadership post from Julia Gillard).
The economy is the core issue, but the election has also veered towards Australia’s policy on “boat people,” with Mr. Rudd vigorously defending his government’s tactics to discourage such immigrants and keep asylum seekers in detention centres.
As for the leaders: Mr. Abbott has long fought an image as a sexist, and has proposed a generous parental leave policy; Mr. Rudd’s platform argues that Labor has kept Australia out of recession. Adding fizz to the race is Julian Assange.
Although the Wikileaks founder is holed up at the London embassy of Ecuador, which has granted him political asylum, he has set up a Wikileaks party, with a platform focusing on transparency and human rights, and is running for a Senate seat.
19 August
Kevin Rudd support sinks to record low in latest Newspoll
(The Australian) VOTER support for Kevin Rudd has sunk to its lowest level on record, leaving Labor headed for a large election loss with Tony Abbott now virtually equal as preferred prime minister.
After two weeks of presidential-style campaigning – in which the Prime Minister’s personal support has continued to plummet and the Opposition Leader’s has steadily risen – Mr Rudd is in a worse position than when he was removed as Labor leader in June 2010.
18 August
Australia’s refugees show their business sense
This year Australia welcomed the 800,000th refugee to be resettled since the country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1901.
This former penal colony has harnessed their verve and risk-taking, while some of Australia’s richest people, including Westfield shopping mall king Frank Lowy, arrived seeking sanctuary from cruelty overseas.
As Australia’s political leaders promise increasingly severe measures to deter a steady flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat before the election next month, refugees and their families continue to quietly go about their business.
They have become a vital cog in the economy and are more likely than anyone else to start their own companies.
16 August
Coalition unveils hardline plan to deal with asylum seekers and refugees
Policy would see temporary visas issued to refugees, with no guarantee of permanent residency, and curtail rights of appeal
(The Guardian) The opposition has announced a hardline plan to deal with more than 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat and are already being processed by Australia, which will strip them of the right to permanently settle in the country, and the right to have a decision on their asylum claim reviewed by the courts.
The policy, unveiled on Friday morning by Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, would see a return to issuing temporary protection visas (TPVs) for asylum seekers who are given refugee status. Morrison had told the Australian newspaper that there would be “no guarantee” this would lead to permanent residency.
15 August
Greens: Abbott’s One-Stop-Shop to Sell Out Great Barrier Reef (Australia)

Tony Abbott’s planned one-stop-shop for development approvals, announced today to begin in Tasmania, is code for fast-tracking damaging mega projects across the country, say the Australian Greens.
“Tony Abbott plans to remove the vital layer of federal approval that protects our most important environmental assets, which was first put in place to save the iconic Franklin River from being dammed by the state government in the 1980s,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.
“Now with a scourge of mining proposals threatening Tasmania’s globally renowned old-growth forests, Mr Abbott wants to make it as easy as possible to rush these through for tick off.
8 August
Great Barrier Reef: Time is running out for natural wonder due to man-made crisis

It faces a catastrophe. A ­combination of climate change, powerful storms and pollution is hammering it from all sides
The latest threat is industrial ­development. There are plans to build huge coal ports next to the reef and run up to 7,000 huge bulk carriers through it on a ­shipping “superhighway”.
The plans are a result of Australia’s “resources boom”. Unprecedented ­quantities of coal and iron ore are being dug-up in the endless Outback.
They are shipped across the sea to countries such as China to help make consumer goods for our high streets.
The boom means Australia has avoided the recessions that have hit Britain and the US, and has made the country rich.
Small mining towns have sprung up in remote areas and truckers, miners and other blue-collar workers are earning six-figure salaries.
9 August
Great-Barrier-Reef-2136688 World Heritage queries proposed dredging of Great Barrier Reef
UN body expresses surprise that the government did not inform it of its upcoming decision on expansion of coalport
“We sent a letter yesterday to the Australian government to ask for information on the issue. They should know we are watching and curious to see what is happening, to ask if there has been an environmental impact statement and to remind them of the World Heritage meeting in June.”
Patry is referring to the World Heritage committee gathering in Cambodia, which warned that the Great Barrier Reef would be listed as ‘in danger’ next year unless Australia met targets to not build new ports and to minimise expansion of existing ports.
(Avaaz) Australia’s legendarily irresponsible mining industry has a new plan: while the planet faces catastrophic climate change, build the world’s largest coal mining complex, and then build a shipping lane to that port straight through the greatest ecological treasure we have – the Great Barrier Reef!
6 August
Decade-long Australia mining boom turns to bust
(AP) — The Australian mining boom built over a decade on Chinese hunger for energy and raw materials is turning into bust for many business owners as China’s cooling growth reverberates through a country accustomed to winning from the rise of an Asian economic giant.
Endowed with vast mineral resources, Australia has been the envy of the Western world for avoiding recession during the global financial crisis while other wealthy countries drowned in debt. But the country now faces a potentially painful transition as it weans itself off a heavy reliance on its two biggest exports, coal and iron ore.
Australia’s dilemma underscores that China’s long run of supercharged growth has given it enough weight in the world economy to create not only winners, but losers too when its own fortunes change.
1 August
Campaign that toppled Julia Gillard could now come back to haunt PM Kevin Rudd
KEVIN Rudd’s return to power was helped along by a myriad of complaints about his predecessor Julia Gillard.
But now he is facing the problem of raising expectations that he will have to dash.
The former prime minister was attacked for making incompetent tactical decisions and having a political “tin ear” by the increasing number of vocal critics within Labor who either actively supported Kevin Rudd or coalesced around him as the only viable option to save the party.
Gillard was criticised for making ill-thought out policy decisions, ignoring key sectors of the community and being too willing to engage in “class war”.
From her announcement of the election date several months ahead of time to plans to target high-earners’ super as part of a Budget savings drive, announcements were proffered as proof of Gillard’s hopelessness by her critics.
11 July
Vicious blokey Australian culture did not lead to Julia Gillard’s demise – she did
The longest serving female Australian cabinet minister in modern times, Amanda Vanstone, says it was not sexism that ousted Julia Gillard from the post of Prime Minister, but a lack of trust among the public.
13 June
People are fed up with continued growth in asylum-seeker numbers
THE Australian people are completely fed up with the boatpeople saga. Chief among their concerns is a decent humanitarian desire to stop the drownings that accompany the people-smuggling trade.
But that is not the whole story. The Australian people in their overwhelming majority want the national government to reassert national sovereignty over our borders. …
Many Western countries are toughening up their approaches to stop illegal immigration, or the rorting of legal systems. Canada, which has a far smaller rate of boat arrivals than Australia, has now instituted a system of effective temporary protection visas, mandatory detention, declining welfare benefits and the like.
Visas for spouses have been cut down hugely in Denmark and Britain because these are rorted so heavily, and asylum-seeker rules were tightened in Germany.
France and many other European nations have taken comparable action.
In our own region, no nation is remotely as generous, or remotely as soft a touch, as Australia.
15 January
Australian wildfires spare observatory
(Planet Ark) Raging wildfires destroyed at least another 28 homes and licked at Australia’s leading optical space observatory on Monday, officials said, but spared giant telescopes that have mapped far-away galaxies and discovered new planets. …
More than 140 fires are burning across vast areas in the north and west of New South Wales state (NSW), Australia’s most populated state, and in the island state of Tasmania despite cooler weather giving firefighters some respite. …
The biggest blaze, with a perimeter of 100 km (60 miles), destroyed around 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of bushland and 28 homes around the Warrambungle National Park in NSW.
That fire also forced the evacuation of the Siding Springs Observatory, which houses 15 major telescopes.
12 January
The government drops its promise of a budget surplus
(The Economist) WHEN she visited fire-ravaged Tasmania on January 7th Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, flew into one of the country’s worst-ever heatwaves (see article). Back on the mainland, Ms Gillard prepared for a season of political heat. Her minority Labor government faces an election in the second half of the year. And already it has been forced to ditch a key pledge that it had hoped would sell to voters its credentials as a strong economic manager: a budget surplus for 2012-13.
10 January
Australian heat wave sears new colors onto maps
(Planet Ark) Australia’s record-breaking heatwave has sent temperatures soaring, melting road tar and setting off hundreds of wildfires – as well as searing new colors onto weather maps.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has added dark purple and magenta to its color-coded weather forecasting map to represent temperatures of 51 to 54 degrees Celsius (123.8 to 129.2 Fahrenheit), officials said.
Australia’s farmers on the front line of global weather extremes
(CNN) — This week’s burst of catastrophic bushfires in Australia continues a run of extreme weather events that, aside from the toll in human suffering, is pushing up the cost of doing business in the Australian agricultural sector.
Australia is one of the world’s most efficient food producers, particularly of grain, meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables and wine. It vies with other exporters such as Brazil, Argentina, Canada and New Zealand for a large slice of the $1 trillion a year global market for imported food.
And in a world where contaminated soil, acid rain, poisonous water, disease and pestilence blights much of the food production capacity in the big consuming nations of China and India, Australia’s reputation for a clean and relatively unstressed growing environment has given it a marketing edge.
But over the last decade its primary producers have had to run a gauntlet of climatic extremes that is testing both their resolve and their resources. With 20% of Australia classified as desert, farmers have always had to be conscious of how, when and where to use their soil, water, fertilizer and other agricultural inputs.
8 January
George Monbiot: New Weather, New Politics
The extremes now hammering Australia leave old perspectives stranded.
Climate change denial is almost a national pastime in Australia. People like Andrew Bolt and Ian Plimer have made a career out of it. The Australian – owned by Rupert Murdoch – takes such extreme anti-science positions that it sometimes makes the Sunday Telegraph look like the voice of reason.
Perhaps this is unsurprising. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal – the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. It’s also a profligate consumer. Australians now burn, on average, slightly more carbon per capita than the citizens of the United States, and more than twice as much as the people of the United Kingdom. Taking meaningful action on climate change would require a serious reassessment of the way life is lived there.

2 February 2012
Australia is now a key player in U.S. defence plans in Asia
At first glance there was not any connection between U.S. President Barack Obama’s stated intention last November to establish a permanent, rotating presence of 2,500 Marines near this tropical city and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s shock announcement Wednesday that U.S. combat forces expect to quit Afghanistan early beginning next summer and would be gone by the end of next year.
But there is.


1 December
China Boom Turns Australia Upside-Down
(Reuters|Planet Ark) Australia, industrialists here warn, has caught a bout of “Dutch Disease.” The term was first used to describe the impact that North Sea oil discoveries had on the economy of the Netherlands in the 1960s. Energy exports surged — but so did the Dutch currency, and much of the manufacturing sector was pummeled.
Down Under, the dizzying boom in exports of raw commodities to Asia has sent the Australian dollar up nearly 50 percent since 2006: It’s at parity with the U.S. currency today, up from just 70 cents in 2006.
That in turn has pushed up labor and other costs in the manufacturing sector as skilled workers switch to higher paid jobs in the resource sector. And for companies like Hammer’s, it makes it far tougher to compete on price with foreign providers of goods and services.
The upshot: an estimated 100,000, or 10 percent, of the nation’s manufacturing jobs have vanished in the past two years, according to the influential lobby Australian Industry Group. The distortions of the commodities-dominated economy are dire, AI Group chief executive Heather Ridout warned in a speech last month.
30 May
No worries?
(The Economist) With two decades of unbroken growth behind it, record prices for its minerals and an insatiable market on its doorstep, Australia can afford to be carefree. Or can it, asks John Grimond?
HAPPY THE COUNTRY that never makes the front pages of foreign newspapers. Australia is one such. Only a dozen economies are bigger, and only six nations are richer—of which Switzerland alone has even a third as many people. Australia is rich, tranquil and mostly overlooked, yet it has a story to tell.
The next Golden State
With a bit of self-belief, Australia could become a model nation
On a lighter note:
Australia’s Burping Cows More Climate Friendly Than Thought
(Planet Ark) Australia’s huge cattle herd in the north might be burping less planet-warming methane emissions than thought, a study released on Friday shows, suggesting the cows are more climate friendly. Scientists at Australia’s state-backed research body the CSIRO say the amount of methane from cattle fed on tropical grasses in northern Australia could be nearly a third less than thought.
Australia evacuates as cyclone hits
Tens of thousands of Australians living along the Queensland coast continued to sandbag and evacuate their homes today as Cyclone Yasi barreled toward land. Emergency shelters in the affected areas were overrun with people and struggling to provide enough supplies to those in need. Queensland is still struggling to recover from mass flooding that destroyed 30,000 homes last month. The New York Times (2/2)
28 January
Australia Imposes New Tax To Fund Flood Recovery
(Reuters/Planet Ark) Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a new income tax to raise A$1.8 billion, at a rate of 0.5 percent on annual income exceeding A$50,000 ($49,900) and 1 percent on income over A$100,000. Flood-stricken households are exempt.
Australian floods spread to Victoria state
(CBC) More than a dozen communities still at risk, Red Cross says
12 January
Breaking the riverbanks
(The Economist) The floods’ economic impact will be harsh. Some economists reckon they could cut Australia’s growth this year by up to 1%. With Western Australia, Queensland has counted as one of Australia’s two commodity-rich boom states, driving a so-called “two-speed economy”. Last year, Queensland accounted for 62% of Australia’s exports of black coal. Many mines have now been flooded, and railway lines ruined. Coal exports from Gladstone, the main port city, have plunged. Sugar cane and cotton, two other important commodities, have been badly hit.
3 January
Australia hit by devastating floods
(FT) Large parts of Australia’s coastal northeast disappeared under floodwaters in a spreading disaster that has brought some of the highest floods on record and forced thousands from their homes
Australian floods to last weeks
(The Telegraph,UK) Military aircraft ferried supplies to an Australian town slowly sinking beneath swollen rivers on Monday, as record flooding in the country’s northeast severed roads and ports, curtailing coal exports and devastating farmland.
2 January
‘Biblical’ floods hit Queensland and leave tens of thousands homeless
(The Guardian) Worst rains for 50 years leave Queensland homes and businesses facing invasion of snakes and killer crocodiles


The Crisis Down Under
(Project Syndicate) The Great Recession of 2008 reached the farthest corners of the earth. Here in Australia, they refer to it as the GFC – the global financial crisis.

This illustration is by Pedro Molina and comes from <a href=""></a>, and is the property of the NewsArt organization and of its artist. Reproducing this image is a violation of copyright law.
Illustration by Pedro Molina

Kevin Rudd, who was prime minister when the crisis struck, put in place one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country in the world. He realized that it was important to act early, with money that would be spent quickly, but that there was a risk that the crisis would not be over soon. So the first part of the stimulus was cash grants, followed by investments, which would take longer to put into place.
Rudd’s stimulus worked: Australia had the shortest and shallowest of recessions of the advanced industrial countries. But, ironically, attention has focused on the fact that some of the investment money was not spent as well as it might have been, and on the fiscal deficit that the downturn and the government’s response created.
Of course, we should strive to ensure that money is spent as productively as possible, but humans, and human institutions, are fallible, and there are costs to ensuring that money is well spent. To put it in economics jargon, efficiency requires equating the marginal cost associated with allocation (both in acquiring information about the relative benefits of different projects and in monitoring investments) with the marginal benefits. In a nutshell: it is wasteful to spend too much money preventing waste.
16 November
Pacific politics revamped from an island perspective
Melanesian grouping of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands reconsider their regional links
(The Guardian) They’ve come a long way from trading fish and coconuts. There’s discord in the Melanesian Spearhead Group over the accession of Fiji to the chairmanship, a battle that reflects recognition of the growing importance of Melanesia as global demand for resources heats up.
… Whether Melanesian countries will drift from their traditional partnerships with Australia and New Zealand, and further towards the influence of China and other Asian powers, is unclear. Bainimarama is outspoken in his view that Fiji no longer needs assistance from Australia and New Zealand as he strengthens links with China, which impose fewer restrictions on aid.
7 September
Two weeks later, Australia PM Julia Gillard to form minority government‎
Julia Gillard will stay as Australia’s prime minister after winning the backing of two key independent MPs.
(FP and BBC) After two weeks of political deadlock following inconclusive parliamentary elections, incumbent Julia Gillard gained enough to support to form a minority government and remain as Australia’s prime minister. The announcement came after two independent lawmakers pledged their support to Gillard’s Labour party.
The thin majority means that the defection of a single lawmaker could bring down the government. Despite this, Gillard plans to push ahead with Labour’s ambitious environmental agenda, including new taxes on iron ore, coal mining profits, and carbon emissions. It was former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s abandonment of these goals that largely led to his ouster in a party coup in June. Gillard has pledged to give Rudd a senior cabinet position.
23 August
Australia’s “kingmakers” meet to discuss next government
(Reuters) – A handful of independent and Green MPs who will decide the make-up of the next Australian government hold their first meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether to support the Labour Party or conservative opposition’s bid for power.
Latest counting gives Labour 72 seats to the opposition conservative’s 69 — with 76 seats needed to form the government — but poll experts predict both will end with 73, leaving three independents and a Green MP holding the balance of power. (Globe & Mail) Australia’s Labor shoots itself in the foot
Cliff-hanging on
AUSTRALIA faces a period of political turmoil after the Labor government, headed by Julia Gillard, lost its parliamentary majority in a general election on August 21st. Just two months after Ms Gillard unseated Kevin Rudd as prime minister and Labor’s leader, the party has been overwhelmed by a popular swing to the conservative Liberal-National coalition, under Tony Abbott. A hung parliament now seems likely. Both leaders have embarked on a frantic round of horse-trading with a Green parliamentarian and possibly four independents, who seem likely to hold the balance of power and thus the power to decide which side forms the next government. The result may not be known for days.
20 August
Australia’s ‘mad monk’ has a prayer
Tony Abbott’s risk-averse and tightly managed election campaign has not only elevated him from his status as an underdog, but the opposition leader is now within striking distance of winning this weekend
Australian opposition would end Security Council bid
Australian opposition leaders say they would drop a campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council 2013-2014 lineup if they win elections scheduled for August. The candidates say the move would save the country $40 million. The bid was initiated by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and endorsed by his successor Julia Gillard. The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)/Australian Associated Press (7/20)
11 July
Arid Australia Sips Seawater, but at a Cost
After its worst drought, the country is turning to desalination plants, but environmentalists worry about the energy-hungry plants’ effect on climate.
In one of the country’s biggest infrastructure projects in its history, Australia’s five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion on desalination plants capable of sucking millions of gallons of seawater from the surrounding oceans every day, removing the salt and yielding potable water. In two years, when the last plant is scheduled to be up and running, Australia’s major cities will draw up to 30 percent of their water from the sea.
9 July
Where Next For Climate Policy In Australia?
Australia faces an election within months and new Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said she will announce additional steps on fighting climate change before the poll.
6 July
Captain to stand trial over Australian oil spill
A cargo ship captain and four companies, including a British firm, were ordered today to stand trial over an oil spill off Australia’s coast. Containers on the Pacific Adventurer tumbled overboard in a March 2009 storm, piercing the hull of the ship, which spilled 71,300 gallons of oil in Queensland waters.
26 June
Australia PM waters down mining tax
(FT) Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, has caved in to the demands of the powerful mining industry and watered down the controversial resource super profits tax as she clears the decks for a national election as early as August.
26 June
WHILE Julia Gillard was bunkered down in Canberra yesterday on day three of her prime ministership, Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan was half a world away, preparing to stand in for his boss at the G20. More
New Australian PM vows to revive carbon debate
New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard moved to revive a stalled carbon trading scheme on Thursday, pledging more consultation with industry and voters to win support for an issue that has split the nation.
Gillard, in her first comments to the media after former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stepped down earlier on Thursday, said she believed in climate change, backed renewable energy and that the nation needed a price on carbon emissions.
But she also said emissions trading laws would lead to a significant structural shift in the resources-rich nation and they needed to be explained properly to the community.
24 June
Australia gets first woman PM
(Reuters) – Australia appointed its first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard, who vowed on Thursday to end division over a controversial mining tax, resurrect a carbon trade scheme and call elections within months.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd made an emotional and ignominious exit, quitting just before the center-left Labor Party was to dump him in an internal ballot and less than three years after a stunning election victory in 2007.
The outcry over Australia’s planned mining tax
(BBC) The sudden and brutal dumping of Kevin Rudd as Australian prime minister has led to a thaw in hostilities between the government and the mining industry over a contentious new tax.
17 June
Miners holding firm against tax
(The Australian) Australia’s biggest miners have called for the Rudd government to sign tax guarantees similar to those in developing and unstable nations after the first round of top-level negotiations on the resource super-profit tax failed to make progress yesterday.
While Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson all confirmed the government was prepared to give special treatment to different projects and resource sectors, the chief executives of BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto Australia and Xstrata Australia collectively declared the government was not negotiating and had given “no formal acknowledgement” that their key concerns “will be addressed”.
3 May
Relief Well Was Used to Halt Australian Spill
To plug the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP may try to use a relief well, but a similar spill last year near Australia showed how difficult it can be to execute the maneuver.
The Australian accident, known as the Montara spill, began Aug. 21 with a blowout of high-pressure oil similar to the one in the gulf. With the well spewing 17,000 to 85,000 gallons per day, precious weeks passed before the relief wells were started. When efforts got under way, the first four attempts — drilled on Oct. 6, 13, 17 and 24 — missed the original well.
Miners warn of Australian tax impact
(FT) Australian miners and analysts on Monday warned that Canberra’s plan for a 40 per cent tax on profits generated by resource companies would cut deeply into earnings and dividends and jeopardise the viability of already approved projects.
Mergers and acquisitions in Australia’s mining sector could also be curtailed if the tax, which Canberra said at the weekend it wanted to introduce in 2012, is approved by the country’s parliament.
27 April
Australia shelves key emissions trading scheme
The Australian government has put plans for a flagship emissions trading scheme on hold until 2013 at the earliest.
The move comes after the scheme was rejected twice by the Senate, where Prime Minster Kevin Rudd’s government does not have a majority. Mr Rudd, who came to power promising tough climate action, blamed opposition obstruction and slow global progress on emissions cuts for the plan’s delay.
Australia is one of the highest per capita carbon emitters in the world.
22 April
Australia’s floods: The drought ends, the shouting starts
Should Australia save its rivers or its farmers?
(The Economist) After a decade of drought, said to be Australia’s worst in a century, the plains that were brown and parched just weeks ago are now smiling green. Waves of water from two magically timed floods, in northern NSW and southern Queensland, are slowly making their way south towards the Murray and Darling rivers, bringing the desert back to life with birds, frogs and plants that many outback folk had given up hope of ever seeing again. Australia’s biggest river system is shared by four states and feeds two-thirds of the country’s irrigated farmland. But with both rivers depleted from drought, climate change and the plundering of their waters, the floods are also watering a political dispute over how their bonanza should be managed: to save farmers’ livelihoods or the rivers themselves.
19 March 2010
Getting to the bottom of the Montara spill
The Montara oil spill which erupted on August 21 last year off the northwest Australian coast was the result of a mismanaged concrete pour six months earlier, according to evidence given during the first week of an official inquiry.


4 November
Australia Puts Its Refugee Problem on a Remote Island, Behind Razor Wire
The new Christmas Island refugee detention center has come to symbolize what many call one of Australia’s defining fears: the arrival of boat people from Asia .
27 October
A Drought-Stricken Land Offers Help With Water
To meet the challenge of huge increases in irrigated cropland areas in Asia, the hard-earned expertise of Australia may come in handy.
Intense drought has forced Australians to adapt and think about how to manage water. Despite usage restrictions and the building of new desalination plants, water remains scarce. At the end of August, reservoir storage levels in some metropolitan cities were as low as 28.4 percent of maximum capacity. The Pykes Creek reservoir in the state of Victoria, with a capacity of 22 billion liters, or 5.8 billion gallons, was barely 2.5 percent full.
The International Water Management Institute projects huge increases in irrigated cropland areas to meet rising demand for grain: a 30 percent expansion in South Asia by 2050 and a 47 percent expansion in East Asia.
22 October
Doubts emerge over Montara spill study
Doubts have emerged over the reliability of tests showing no contamination of marine life from the Montara spill, off the Western Australia coast, according to reports.
9 February
Fires, floods pressure Australia govt on climate
CANBERRA, Feb 9 (Reuters) – Australia’s deadliest wildfires increased pressure on the national government to take firm action on climate change on Monday as scientists said global warming likely contributed to conditions that fuelled the disaster.
At least 130 people were killed in wildfires, set off by a record heatwave in southern Victoria state over the past week days, while large areas of Queensland state remain flooded by tropical downpours.
8 February 2009
Australian bushfires: ‘Black Saturday’ blaze worst inferno in country’s history
(Telegraph U.K.) Raging bushfires that have devastated towns and farmland across southeastern Australia have become the most deadly in the country’s history after the death toll reached 76.

17 April 2008
As Australia dries, a global shortage of rice
(NYT) … six long years of drought have taken a toll, reducing Australia’s rice crop by 98 percent.
Drought affects every agricultural industry based here, not just rice — from sheepherding, the other mainstay in this dusty land, to the cultivation of wine grapes, the fastest-growing crop here, with that expansion often coming at the expense of rice.
The drought’s effect on rice has produced the greatest impact on the rest of the world, so far. It is one factor contributing to skyrocketing prices, and many scientists believe it is among the earliest signs that a warming planet is starting to affect food production.

19 August 2002
Australia slammed over environment
Australia is in the grip of a vast ecological crisis caused by government inaction, a new report on the country’s environmental record has warned.
The report, commissioned by a number of environmental and conservation groups, describes Australia as being a “continent in reverse”.
It highlights a loss of plants and animal life, the clearing of land, the degradation of inland waters and the burning of fossil fuels as major causes of pollution.

One Comment on "Australia"

  1. forex robot June 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm · Reply

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