Tim Fischer says US has ‘downgraded’ Australia by not appointing American ambassador
(Translation appears in Arabic section)
Canberra: The 16-month delay in the United States posting an ambassador to Canberra is a sign that Australia has been “downgraded”, says former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer.
Mr Fischer told Fairfax Media that the delay in the US posting an ambassador to Australia is a sign of tensions between the nations.
The US has not replaced its former ambassador to Australia, John Berry, since he left the post in September 2016. Deputy chief of mission James Carouso has acted as ambassador since September 2016 but Admiral Harry Harris is tipped to be the next US ambassador to Australia.
“This is now bordering on a diplomatic insult,” Mr Fischer said. “We’ve been downgraded, despite all the nice noises. We are a low priority.”
Chinese newspaper publishes ‘disturbing’ warning to Australia over South China Sea dispute
China: China appears to be pushing back against Australia taking sides on the contested South China Sea, with one Chinese academic taking a “disturbing” dig at the “interference”.
A Chinese commentator warned Australia that its “interference” in the area may prompt China to “adopt strong countermeasures which will seriously impact Australian economic development”.
The piece published by the Communist Party-owned newspaper the Global Times said Australia’s “bigoted actions have jeopardised not only China’s national interests, but also Australian long-term interests, bringing Canberra’s structural contradictions and strategic dilemma to a worse level”.
It said Australia’s “kissing up to the US” had led to an imbalance in Australian strategy and squeezed its strategic space.
“This will poison its relations with China, shake up foundation for its strategic balance between China and the US and reduce its independence of foreign policy.
Once Sino-US relations are strained, Australia will have to choose between the two countries and fall into a deeper strategic plight.”
Australia slips to $628m trade deficit
Sydney: Australia slipped to a $628 million trade deficit in November, from a revised $302 million deficit in October.
Exports were flat for the month while imports were up 1.0 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said.
Drugs worth $415 million seized by Australian Navy in Christmas season operation
Perth: The Royal Australian Navy has seized almost eight tonnes of hashish and 69 kilograms of heroin from drug smugglers in the Arabian Sea, in a Christmas season operation which turned up a bounty with an estimated $415 million value.
The crew of the HMAS Warramunga intercepted and boarded three suspect vessels in an operation planned and coordinated by the Combined Maritime Forces' Combined Task Force.
The drug haul includes the largest quantity of hashish seized by an Australian ship on Middle East maritime security operations.
Commanding Officer of HMAS Warramunga, Dugald Clelland, said planning for the operation had been underway for months.
"The crew prepared extensively for a task like this and we were able to employ our helicopter and boarding crews to locate and board three suspect vessels."
"A thorough search by the boarding parties uncovered a large quantity of hashish and heroin intended for distribution around the world," Commander Clelland said.
The seizures will have a significant impact on both a national and global scale, the Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East John Frewen said.
Australians injured in Egypt balloon crash
Egypt: A number of Australians are among at least 12 people injured when a hot air balloon carrying foreign tourists over Egypt's ancient city of Luxor crash-landed, killing a South African.
Strong winds on Friday forced the balloon off course above the southern city, home to some of Egypt's most famous pharaonic temples and tombs.
The balloon took off around sunrise and flew about 45 minutes at an altitude of 450 metres before the pilot lost control over a mountainous area, officials said, adding that the pilot was also injured.
Tourists from Australia, France and Brazil were among those injured, it said, citing an unnamed medical official.