Russian, Iran negotiators hope for result in three weeks
(See Translation in Arabic Section)
Vienna - M E Times Int'l: Parties to the Iran nuclear agreement on Saturday adjourned the third round of negotiations in Vienna aimed at bringing the United States back into the accord, with the Russian side expressing "cautious and growing optimism" and saying they hoped to achieve concrete results within three weeks.
The deal, which curbs Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, has been on life support since then US President Donald Trump bolted in 2018. The remaining partners to the 2015 accord have been engaged in negotiations since early April to try to revive it.
The third round of talks started on Tuesday and, after several days of technical discussions between expert groups, delegations met on Saturday. Representatives of the parties still in the agreement (Iran, China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom) who met for just over an hour noted the "indisputable progress" achieved, Russian ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov said on Twitter adding that he was cautiously optimistic. "It's too early to be excited, but we have reasons for cautious and growing optimism. There is no deadline, but participants aim at the successful completion of the talks in approximately three weeks. Is it realistic? We will see," he wrote. The delegations would return to their respective capitals and resume talks from next Friday, Iran's foreign ministry said in a statement.
A diplomatic source from the E3 powers of Britain, France, and Germany said the talks had taken place in a "serious and focused atmosphere despite outside turbulences".
"We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but not impossible. "As E3, we will redouble our efforts to make this deal possible." Earlier, a European diplomat said that the American, European, Russian and Chinese delegations held a joint meeting on Saturday morning, but without Iranian representation as Tehran has refused to negotiate with the US directly. As well as bolting from the accord, Trump's administration slapped sweeping sanctions on Iran, which in turn started ramping up its nuclear activities. New US President Joe Biden supports the JCPOA -- the acronym for the agreement with which Iran was in compliance before Trump's sanctions -- but has called on Tehran to roll back its measures before Washington ends sanctions.
Australians could face jail or fines if they return from India
Canberra: The health ministry said the ruling had been made "based on the proportion of people in quarantine who have acquired a Covid-19 infection in India".
Earlier this week, Australia banned all flights from India.
There are an estimated 9,000 Australians in India, 600 of whom are classed as vulnerable.
This will be the first time Australians have been criminalised for returning to their country, Australian media report.
One doctor told ABC that the government's move was disproportionate to the threat posed by those returning from India.
"Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas... to have absolutely no way of getting them out - this is abandonment," GP and health commentator Dr Vyom Sharmer said.
From Monday, anyone who has been in India within 14 days of their intended arrival date in Australia will be banned from entering the country.
So in an emergency situation, the government can make something a criminal offence overnight. At the height of the pandemic last year, the government beefed up its Biosecurity Act to give the health minister near unconditional powers bypassing parliament.
That's why citizens now trying to flee a danger zone can face jail for trying to come home. A legal challenge to this two-week ban will take time and be costly - public outrage and pressure may be the only effective remedy.
The ministry said it had agreed with India to send emergency medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protective equipment.
"Our hearts go out to the people of India - and our Indian-Australian community," the statement added.
India has seen cases soar to 19 million and deaths total 200,000. The past week has seen more than 300,000 new cases reported each day.
Australia has implemented a series of strict measures to keep the virus out of the country since the pandemic began in February 2020. While the country is enjoying near zero infections rates and has had far fewer fatalities than most countries, the strict lockdown policies have left many Australians stranded overseas.
The ban on Indian arrivals this week has marked an escalation - the first time the country has stopped evacuations and blocked citizens from returning home altogether. It has intensified calls for more to be done to get Australians home.
National Cabinet reports on Australia’s response to COVID-19 in India
Canberra: National Cabinet members met on Saturday to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy and the escalating crisis in India.
They spoke about the catastrophic increase of COVID-19 cases in India and welcomed the Federal Government’s support to that besieged nation including oxygen concentrators, PPE and oxygen tanks and consumables.
Cabinet members noted measures have been put in place to restrict entry into Australia of people who have previously been in high-risk countries. These measures will be reviewed before May 15.
They noted that India was the first country to meet the threshold of a high-risk country. The Commonwealth will consider further measures to mitigate risks of high-risk travellers entering Australia.
In Australia there has been more than 16.8 million COOVID-19 tests and 2,179,544 vaccine doses. Administration sites have increased with 4,500 general practices as well as general practice respiratory centres and Aboriginal health services administering vaccinations.
PM Scott Morrison passes on his sympathies to Israel on social media
Sydney: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken to social media to pass on his sympathies to those in Israel impacted by the deadly stampede.
The prime minister said "I send Australia's heartfelt condolences to our friends in Israel following the tragic loss of life at Mount Meron in northern Israel, with many more injured.
You are in our thoughts as you grieve at this terrible time."
‘Off the couch, onto terror attacks’: Violent extremism to escalate post-COVID
Canberra: Security Expert Daniel Lewkovitz says a “great evil force” drawn from multiple sources is posing an increasing terror threat as the world begins to move past the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Lewkovitz said lockdowns had forced people to spend more time at home which would increase the opportunity for radicalization. His comments come after Australia’s top intelligence agency warned it is likely the nation will see an ideologically or religiously motivated terrorist attack within the next 12 months. Extremist messages resonating with Australians are largely race based according to the ASIO boss who noted white supremacism was a racist narrative which was supported by some. Mr Lewkovitz said approximately 40,000 Islamist attacks had been carried out since 9/11 and religiously motivated violence remained a significant threat.
Multi-billion childcare boost to slash costs for eligible families
Canberra: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is expected to unveil a $1.7 billion boost for eligible Australian families as part of a plan to encourage mums back into the workforce.
The Morrison government will cover 95 percent of out of pocket expenses for families with more than one child in care.
The announcement is expected today and could save parents with two kids in childcare four days each week up to $124.
Police seize getaway car of men who robbed Abdallah family home
Sydney: Police have seized the getaway car used in the robbery of a Sydney family who lost three children in a horror crash last year.
A man broke into the Abdallah family home in the city's north-west on Wednesday and stole several sentimental items.
The robber fled the scene in a stolen white Audi - driven by another man - which was found abandoned in Blackett, a suburb west of Sydney.
Both men remain on the run.
Faststream open for teachers and graduates
Sydney: The first teaching career fast track program in NSW opened on Wednesday for applications for aspiring graduates and current teachers who want to turbocharge their careers to become a principal within 10 years.
The FASTstream program, beginning in Term 1 2022, aims to attract high-quality teaching staff to regional NSW and other hard-to-staff parts of the state.
Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said bringing our best teachers to regional NSW will benefit both the students and the community.
“The FASTstream program will incentivise up-and-coming teachers and graduates by preparing participants for principal roles in up to 10 years, fast tracking the existing average of 20 years.
“Research shows that highly effective educational leaders raise the achievement of a typical student by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year. So by bringing in more fantastic teachers, we will see a lift in student results over time, and the community will benefit.”
In the program’s inaugural year, 30 current teachers and 20 teaching graduates will be selected to participate.
Berejiklian laughs off being heckled
Sydney: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has brushed off an insult from a heckler who yelled at her in the street.
Ms Berejiklian told the Kyle and Jackie O radio program she took the taunt in stride.
“The other day, someone yelled at me, it was very funny … I like to walk a lot, and it was during lunchtime in the city.
“This young kid rolls down his window and he yells, ‘Gladys, you s-u-c-k’,” she said, spelling out the word “suck”.
“I just said to my team, ‘We’re driving on the way back’.”
Ms Berejiklian was asked about a range of other topics in the lighthearted interview, including her take on alcohol.
The Premier said she had lived a relatively sheltered life and had never drunk enough alcohol to have a hangover.
Australia can’t remain a ‘hermit kingdom’ shut off from the rest of the world
Sydney: New South Wales Treasurer Dominic Perrottet told Sky News the “biggest challenge” facing Australia is the closure of international borders with the nation having become “a victim our of own success” in eliminating the virus.
“If you look at the restrictions that are still in place in our state, the number one impact is international borders being closed,” he said.
“We can’t live here in a hermit kingdom on the other side of the world in Australia, we’ve got to get moving as fast as we can.
“The concern I have is you see other jurisdictions, the US, the UK where they’ve been living alongside the virus … we don’t want to be in a position where their economics move ahead faster because we keep those borders closed well into the future”.
Mr Perrottet said he expects health and treasury departments will soon be discussing “what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated before health has the confidence to open international borders”.
“This is going to be a very difficult conversation that we’ve got to have with the Australian people because unlike other countries around the world we’ll be opening our borders and letting the virus in."
Two damning reports slam Treasurer’s workers compensation agency, iCARE
Sydney: NSW Labor is demanding the NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet immediately fix iCare after two separate inquiries today slammed the Treasurer’s scandal-plagued workers’ compensation insurer.
The NSW Upper House’s Law and Justice Committee has released its report into the iCare fiasco after it last year unmasked systemic wrongdoing at the Treasurer’s troubled agency.
NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said the reports highlight the need for urgent action: “iCare has failed tens of thousands of sick and injured workers. And iCare has failed all of our State’s employers, ” Ms McKay said.
“Too many people injured have had to battle iCare to get back on the job. Meanwhile 326,000 businesses have had to pay for iCare’s lavish salaries and exorbitant spending. That has to end.
“The Treasurer has to fix his failed agency immediately. NSW deserves a workers compensation system they can trust.”
The Committee’s inquiry was undertaken by representatives of NSW Labor, the Coalition, One Nation and the Greens Party. They made a total of 22 findings. All were agreed to unanimously.
NSW Labor’s Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business Daniel Mookhey said both reports paint a horrible picture: "The Treasurer let an arrogant management team and incompetent board run riot until the NSW workers’ compensation system veered into a financial disaster.
Victoria should 'copy Gladys' homework' on running a hotel quarantine program
Melbourne: Victoria Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien says the state government should go to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian for “lessons” on how to run a hotel quarantine program.
“I keep saying the state government here in Victoria should be going to Gladys and getting lessons, copying her homework because she’s done it well,” he told Sky News.
“I understand the government doesn’t back itself and that’s why its building a hotel quarantine facility outside Melbourne.”
Mr O’Brien said the state government’s proposal that the federal government pay for a purpose-built quarantine facility outside Melbourne is “not the way that mature governments should go about negotiating with each other”.
“You have to ask ‘where’s the skin in the game for the Victorian state government?’ He said he believed the facility should be established via a partnership between the state and federal governments because “these people coming home, yes, they’re Victorians, they’re also Australians.”
Joe Biden touts the 'biggest job plan in America since World War II'
President Joe Biden said the $2 trillion infrastructure plan he is pushing is “the biggest job plan in America since World War II” and a complete overhaul of roads, dangerous pipes, and internet facilities.
Speaking at a rally in Georgia, he said the plan "creates jobs rebuilding and modernising our roads, our highways, our bridges, our ports, our airports, it will provide clean drinking water for every American, ten million homes in America".
“There are 440,000 school day care centres that have lead pipes where drinking the water is a danger, we’re going to replace 100 per cent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every child can have a turn at the faucet and know what they’re drinking is clean water