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Anthony Albanese in Tokyo for tense Quad talks after Joe Biden says US would defend Taiwan
Labor leader in tight position after China said dialogue with US, India and Japan would be test of new Australian prime minister’s ‘political wisdom’

20-21 May
Australia election: conservative government voted out after nearly a decade
Anthony Albanese’s Labor party defeats the ruling Coalition, but may lack the numbers to form majority government
(The Guardian) The biggest surprise of the night was the surge in support for the Greens. By Saturday evening, the party – which has struggled to win more than the one seat it first picked up more than a decade ago – was on track to win as many as three more, all in progressive areas of Brisbane.
Australia ousts conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison
(WaPo) Australia delivered a stinging defeat to the country’s ruling conservative coalition on Saturday in what amounted to a personal rebuke of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s abrasive brand of leadership.

8 May
Australia PM to ‘ensure’ no Chinese base on Solomon Islands
China’s growing clout in the Pacific has become a hot political issue in Australia ahead of May 21 elections.
(Al Jazeera) The China-Solomons deal has not been publicly released but a leaked draft alarmed countries in the region, particularly sections that would allow Chinese naval deployments to the Solomons, located less than 2,000km (1,200 miles) from Australia.

4 April
In Solomon Islands, Australia’s largesse faces China challenge
Canberra is facing questions about the limits of its economic diplomacy as Pacific neighbour boosts ties with Beijing.
(Al Jazeera) When the Solomon Islands, an impoverished nation located 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) east of Australia, announced the drafting of a new security deal with China late last month, Australian officials warned the move could undermine security in the South Pacific and manifest Canberra’s long-held fears of a Chinese military base in its back yard.
As the region’s largest aid donor – Australia last year spent a record 1.7 billion Australian dollars ($1.3bn) in development assistance in the South Pacific, as well as billions more on security, health, logistics and telecommunications in the Solomon Islands – Canberra could have imposed economic penalties to pressure Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to rethink the deal.

16 January
Serbia’s Leader Denounces Australia’s Treatment of Djokovic as ‘Orwellian’
In the tennis star’s homeland, even those who didn’t support his decision to remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus said that he had been mistreated.

13 January
Australia’s stances on climate crisis and asylum seekers ‘backwards’, Human Rights Watch says
Human rights report slams Australian treatment of refugees as in previous years, and addresses climate for the first time
Australia’s “backwards” positions on global heating and asylum seekers are becoming increasingly unacceptable to the world, a leading human rights group says.
Human Rights Watch launched its annual world report on Thursday, again finding “serious human rights issues” in Australia, despite its overall record as a strong, multicultural democracy.
For the first time, Human Rights Watch focused on climate, an area where Australia was found particularly wanting. The report criticised Australia’s per capita emissions, among the worst in the globe, its huge exports of fossil fuels, and the tax breaks afforded to fossil fuel companies, which have increased 48% since the Paris agreement in 2015.
The report yet again slammed Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, including those transferred to Australia and detained in hotel rooms for extended periods, where “access to sunlight, space to exercise, and fresh air is limited”. The plight of asylum seekers was given recent global exposure by the short-term detention of tennis star Novak Djokovic.
Australia’s rates of Indigenous incarceration – accounting for 30% of all adult prisoners, despite making up just 3% of the general population – and the at least 11 deaths in custody last year were also condemned. The report included the shocking statistic that Indigenous children are 17 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous children, and criticised Australia for ignoring calls by 31 United Nations member states to raise the age of criminal responsibility to the internationally recommended minimum of 14.

6 January
Novak Djokovic: refugees hope tennis star’s hotel detention will cast light on their ‘torture’
‘We came for safety, not to play tennis’. Refugees and asylum seekers speak out against their harsh treatment
(The Guardian) Novak Djokovic’s wrangling with authorities over entering Australia has inadvertently highlighted a different plight: those of the refugees and asylum seekers stuck for months, and years, at the Park Hotel.
The infamous detention hotel in Carlton, Melbourne, where the tennis star is likely to spend the weekend as he awaits a court hearing over his visa cancellation has been described by detainees as a “torture cell”.

2021

11 December
First Fires, Then Floods: Climate Extremes Batter Australia
By Damien Cave
(NYT) Life on the land has always been hard in Australia, but the past few years have delivered one extreme after another, demanding new levels of resilience and pointing to the rising costs of a warming planet….
The Black Summer bush fires of 2019 and 2020 were the worst in Australia’s recorded history. This year, many of the same areas that suffered through those epic blazes endured the wettest, coldest November since at least 1900. Hundreds of people, across several states, have been forced to evacuate. Many more, like Ms. Southwell, are stranded on floodplain islands with no way to leave except by boat or helicopter, possibly until after Christmas.
Many of the same areas that suffered through horrific bush fires in 2019 and 2020 are now dealing with prodigious rainfall that could leave some people stranded for weeks.
There’s a tendency to think of such extremes as “natural disasters” or “acts of God” that come and go with news reports. But Australia’s nightmares of nature ebb and flow. Its droughts and floods, though weather opposites, are driven by the same forces — some of them timeless, others newer and caused by humans.

Australia joins Beijing Winter Olympics diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights abuses
Scott Morrison says athletes will compete in next year’s games because sport and politics should not mix
(The Guardian) Confirming the diplomatic boycott, Morrison raised human rights abuses in Xinjiang as one of the factors Australia had “consistently raised”. He said the Chinese government had not made itself available to talk through Australia’s concerns about human rights.

26-29 November
Cleo Paskal: Foreign Intervention Complicates Solomon Islands Unrest
The problem was sparked by perceived CCP interference. It can’t be solved by Australia taking a similarly heavy hand.
(The Diplomat) After days of unrest and looting in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, security personnel from Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) have now arrived, responding to a request to “secure” the country from Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare. More are scheduled to come, including from Fiji.
But even before the forces landed, there were concerns that the move was not only unnecessary but unwise, and possibly even dangerous.
…the political position of many in the Solomons is based on their sense of self. In this case, it means that, as devout Christians, their interpretation of their faith doesn’t allow them to deal with a system that they view as anti-faith. Communist China is viewed as actively persecuting people of faith and as “systemically atheist,” as per communist doctrine.
Taiwan, as a democracy, is viewed as part of a system that respects the faith of individuals, and so is fine.
That’s why a man like Malaita’s Premier Daniel Suidani is such a problem for the CCP and its proxies in the Solomons. His geopolitical position is a by-product of his deep faith. It’s not his stand on China that defines him, it’s his faith in God. And it’s because of his faith in God that he feels he has to stand up to China, no matter the personal cost.
So, when [Malaita’s Premier Daniel] Suidani  fell sick a year ago, and needed medical care outside the country, and the central government tried to make him bow to China in order to get the funds for his care, he said no. He effectively showed he’d rather die than take money from China. That kind of inner strength is exactly why the CCP is petrified of people of faith, and is trying to destroy Tibetan and Uyghur culture, both of which are strongly rooted in religious faith.
In the end, through friends as far away as India, and the personal intervention of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on compassionate grounds, Suidani made it to Taiwan for the medical care he needed. There was no financial assistance from Australia, New Zealand, or any of the other regional powers that send streams of consultants to the region to talk about democracy and fighting corruption.
Cleo Paskal: Solomon Islanders need freedom from PRC, not Australian troops
What we have is an expeditionary force seemingly acting at the behest of a despised local administration backed by a callous and rapacious foreign power. Beijing must be sitting back, munching on popcorn and enjoying the show.
(Sunday Guardian) Last week in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, demonstrations against the corrupt, CCP-linked Prime Minister Sogavare turned violent. At the request of Sogavare, Australia and Papua New Guinea have sent troops to “restore order”.
But in another part of the Solomons, less than two weeks before, locals were showing they could create the sort of peace that is truly durable.
Too bad no one outside the country noticed because how they did it holds the key for resolving the current crisis. And it doesn’t involve Australians. Or Chinese. Or even Papua New Guineans. It involves Solomon Islanders.
… a couple of weeks ago, in Malaita, they held a deeply important, open to all, reconciliation ceremony to heal the wounds left festering after the Malaita Massacre.
At the same gathering they unveiled a memorial to Maasina Ruru (roughly “rule of relationship of siblings together”), the multiethnic network that fought for independence from the British.
The current foreign power distorting local economics and politics is China. Again, there has been concern and pushback across the country about the effects of CCP influence.
In 2019, soon after the central government switched from Taiwan to China, the Malaita Provincial Government (MPG) issued the Auki Declaration which read: “MPG strongly resolves to put in place a Moratorium on Business Licenses to new investors connected directly or indirectly with the Chinese Communist Party.”
… The leaders and people of Malaita, through a deep understanding of each other—and under a shared canopy of respect and faith that leads them towards reconciliation—have been working towards healing wounds created almost a century ago by a callous and rapacious foreign power. They are strengthening themselves to face up to the next one, alongside their similarly concerned siblings in the rest of the country.
And this is the situation the Australians walked into —fully armed and ignoring the quarantines they’ve been saying are so important. It is possible few of the young soldiers on the streets on Honiara have ever heard of the Malaita Massacre. But you can be sure locals looking at them remember.
The only foreign engagement needed is the sort of thing that helps at a community level—humanitarian response, transparent and accountable investment, some sound journalism that helps clear up and dissuade corruption. That sort of thing.
The Australians will need to tread very carefully if they don’t want to create the sort of situation that will require Solomon Islanders to once again knit their country back together in a reconciliation ceremony a hundred years from now.
Solomon Islands violence recedes but not underlying tension
(AP) — Violence receded Friday in the capital of the Solomon Islands, but the government showed no signs of addressing the underlying grievances that sparked two days of riots, including concerns about the country’s increasing links with China.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare sought to deflect attention from domestic issues by blaming outside interference for stirring up the protesters, with a thinly veiled reference to Taiwan and the United States.
External pressures were a “very big … influence. I don’t want to name names. We’ll leave it there,” Sogavare said.
Honiara’s Chinatown and its downtown precinct were focuses of rioters, looters and protesters who demanded the resignation of Sogavare, who has been prime minister intermittently since 2000.
Sogavare has been widely criticized by leaders of the country’s most populous island of Malaita for a 2019 decision to drop diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of mainland China. His government, meanwhile, has been upset over millions in U.S. aid promised directly to Malaita, rather than through the central government.

24 November
AUKUS’ Reception in the Indo-Pacific
Shihoko Goto, Manjari Chatterjee Miller, and Susannah Patton discuss the implications of AUKUS for countries in the region.
(The Diplomat) AUKUS adds to growing array of minilateral arrangements in Asia today and has drawn a variety of reactions from across the region, ranging from wary to enthusiastic. What are the regional sensitivities around AUKUS? What does AUKUS mean for Australia’s broader regional role? How will AUKUS contribute to regional debates on a security architecture? In this webinar, recorded on November 17, 2021 three experts from the region discuss these and other questions.

28 September
World’s biggest clean energy project to power Singapore from Australia
A colossal US$22-billion infrastructure project will send Australian sunshine more than 3,100 miles (5,000 km) to Singapore, via high-voltage undersea cables. Opening in 2027, it’ll be the largest solar farm and battery storage facility in history.
Australia’s Northern Territory has abundant space and sun; Singapore is pressed for space, and looking to transition to renewable power. The two could soon be connected in one of the largest and most ambitious renewable energy projects ever attempted.
The Australia-Asia PowerLink project, led by Australia’s Sun Cable, plans to create a mammoth “Powell Creek Solar Precinct” on 12,000 hectares (29650 ac) of arid land about 800 km (500 miles) south of Darwin. The site, chosen because it’s one of the most consistently sunny places on Earth, would be home to a mind-boggling 17-20 gigawatts of peak solar power generation and some 36-42 GWh of battery storage.

23 September
Does AUKUS Augment or Diminish the Quad?
AUKUS fits into a growing network of minilaterials crisscrossing the Indo-Pacific and rooted in shared strategic interests.
(The Diplomat) The newly created trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) has become instantly, probably understandably, controversial across the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The planned acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines clearly adds to the heft of Australia in terms of its naval deterrent capabilities against China’s growing naval power, which has been on aggressive display for the last few years, though it will take some time for Australia to deploy those new capabilities. More importantly, it also adds to a further strengthening of other minilaterals in the Indo-Pacific including the Quad involving Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.
in reality, AUKUS is both relevant and important in the context of the Quad for a couple of reasons. The three leaders themselves, while announcing the trilateral security partnership, emphasized the importance of ongoing partnerships such as with ASEAN, the Quad, and other Indo-Pacific partners including from Europe, including France, which has a direct material stake in the Indo-Pacific. Just as the Quad has a shared vision of ensuring a region that respects freedom and the rule of law, AUKUS is also founded on a similar vision.

18-21 September
Australian documents showed French submarine project was at risk for years
(Reuters) – France should not have been surprised that Australia cancelled a submarine contract, as major concerns about delays, cost overruns and suitability had been aired officially and publicly for years, Australian politicians said.
Paris has recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington, saying it was blindsided by Canberra’s decision to build nuclear-powered submarines with the United States and Britain rather than stick with its contract for French diesel submarines. read more
Yet as early as September 2018, an independent oversight board led by a former U.S. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter had advised Australia to look at alternatives, and questioned whether the project was in the national interest, a 2020 public report from the country’s Auditor-General shows.
Australia defends scrapping of French submarine deal, Macron and Biden to talk
(Reuters) – Australia on Sunday defended its decision to ditch a multi-billion-dollar order for French submarines and opt instead for an alternative deal with the United States and Britain, saying it had flagged its concerns to Paris months ago.
Canberra’s move enraged Paris, triggering an unprecedented diplomatic crisis that analysts say could do lasting damage to U.S. alliances with France and Europe. It has also riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
Cleo Paskal: AUKUS is a big deal, for everyone
The newly announced Australia, United Kingdom, United States defence and security partnership is about more than just the nuclear submarine fleet that the US and the UK will now help Australia to develop.
It will extend to deeper and broader cooperation in air, ordinance, AI, cyber, submarine cables and more. This is important as the Australian subs themselves may not be ready until 2040.
At the same time, the US and Australia announced a range of bilateral agreements. Prime Minister Scott Morrison saidAustralia will “rapidly acquire long-range strike capabilities to enhance the ADF’s ability to deliver strike effects across our air, land and maritime domains”. This will include Tomahawk cruise missiles “enabling our maritime assets to strike land targets at greater distances, with better precision”.

12 April
Michael Mann slams Murdoch press for “horrifying” misinformation on climate and bushfires
One of the world’s leading climate scientists has told a senate hearing into Australian media diversity that the Murdoch press has served as a “megaphone” for climate disinformation and has done so to aid the agendas of Donald Trump and Scott Morrison. … The senate committee is investigating the current state of media diversity in Australia generally, but has given significant attention to the dominant role of News Corp outlets in some segments of the media and how it as used this dominance for influence.
Ex-Australian PM: Murdoch and Trump Did Putin’s Job For Him

9 March
Australia’s Ex-PM Turnbull Renews Calls To Sever Ties With British Monarchy Following Meghan-Harry Interview
(Forbes) A referendum on Australia becoming a republic was defeated in 1999, despite being favored in opinion polls. The 1999 referendum, however, only proposed to replace the British monarch with another figurehead with limited powers, instead of a president with executive powers.

25 February
Australia passes law to make Google, Facebook pay for news
(AP) — Australia’s law forcing Google and Facebook to pay for news is ready to take effect, though the laws’ architect said it will take time for the digital giants to strike media deals.
The Parliament on Thursday passed the final amendments to the so-called News Media Bargaining Code agreed between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.
In return for the changes, Facebook agreed to lift a ban on Australians accessing and sharing news.
Rod Sims, the competition regulator who drafted the code, said he was happy that the amended legislation would address the market imbalance between Australian news publishers and the two gateways to the internet.
The legislation was designed to curb the outsized bargaining power of Facebook and Google in their negotiations with Australian news providers. The digital giants would not be able to abuse their positions by making take-it-or-leave-it payment offers to news businesses for their journalism. Instead, in the case of a standoff, an arbitration panel would make a binding decision on a winning offer.
Facebook last week prevented Australians from sharing news, but also blocked access to pandemic, public health and emergency services.
Australian scientists warn urgent action needed to save 19 ‘collapsing’ ecosystems
A ‘confronting and sobering’ report details degradation of coral reefs, outback deserts, tropical savanna, Murray-Darling waterways, mangroves and forests
(The Guardian) A groundbreaking report – the result of work by 38 scientists from 29 universities and government agencies – details the degradation of coral reefs, arid outback deserts, tropical savanna, the waterways of the Murray-Darling Basin, mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and forests stretching from the rainforests of the far north to Gondwana-era conifers in Tasmania.
The list of damaged ecosystems extends beyond the continent to include subantarctic tundra of world heritage-listed Macquarie Island and moss beds in the east Antarctic.
The study’s lead author, Dr Dana Bergstrom from the Australian Antarctic Division, said 19 out of 20 ecosystems examined were experiencing potentially irreversible environmental changes, including the loss of species and the ability to perform important functions such as pollination.

19 February
Australia’s ABC News shot to the top of the App Store charts following Facebook’s news ban
(The Verge) Facebook’s ban was in response to an expansive Australian regulatory measure that will force tech platforms to pay Australian media companies for the content users share (and that platforms earn ad revenue from). Facebook took issue with the change and prohibited Australian news and media organizations from sharing news posts, and Australian users from seeing news from international sources as well. The ban also seemed to accidentally wipe out the posts from government pages and some other sites.

10 February
A Chinese City on Australia’s Northern Border?
Plans for the city on the PNG Torres Strait island of Daru are unlikely to come to fruition. It does, however, underscore ongoing interest from China for infrastructure projects in PNG and Australia’s political concerns.
(Future Directions) Reports on a leaked document detailing a proposal to build “New Daru City” on the Papua New Guinean Torres Strait island of Daru, circulated across Australian media on 5 February. The proposal was put forward in April 2020 by WYW Holding Ltd. (WYW), a private company registered in Hong Kong. A spokesman for Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, however, told media that the Prime Minister was unaware of the proposal while adding that PNG would welcome multi-billion-dollar foreign investment projects, as long as they comply with PNG laws and bring benefits to the local populace.
While the New Daru City Project looks unlikely to go ahead, its proposal does highlight ongoing strategic concerns for Australia. Such concerns were already raised in December 2020 when the PNG Government agreed for China to undertake a feasibility study to build an industrial fisheries complex on Daru Island. Sitting atop the Torres Strait and within 200 kilometres of the Australian mainland, there are concerns that Beijing’s interest for infrastructure projects on that island are more geopolitical than economic, especially if those projects were to include any kind of port facility.

9 February
Why Australia’s ‘world-class’ quarantine system has seen breaches
(BBC) Australia’s hotel quarantine system has been an extremely effective first line of defence against Covid-19. … But a series of isolated local cases in recent months – all from hotel quarantine leaks – have caused alarm.

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