China responds to Peter Dutton's 'sensational remarks' after he labelled Chinese spy ship …
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney – M E TIMES Int’l: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has responded to Defence Minister Peter Dutton's "sensational remarks" regarding a Chinese surveillance ship detected along the Western Australian coastline.
Mr Dutton on Friday described the vessel as a "warship with intelligence-gathering capacity" which has been tracking "very close to the coastline" for the last week or so.
The warship travelled as far south as Exmouth on May 8 before turning around and working its way north towards Darwin.
"I think it is an aggressive act and I think particularly because it has come so far south. For it to come south of Exmouth is without precedent," Mr Dutton told reporters on Friday.
"And for it to hug the coastline the way which it has and heading up toward the north, now we don't know whether it deviates and goes directly north, but at the moment it's heading in a north-easterly direction."
Mr Zhao was pressed about the ship sighting and said he had no information about the specific situation, adding "China always abides by international law and international practice".
"The relevant Australian politician should see the relevant situation objectively and calmly, and not make sensational remarks," he told reporters.
A Chinese military expert accused Australia of "hyping up" the detection of the warship to win votes ahead of the election.
"Even if the Chinese ship does appear off the West coast of Australia, it does not violate any international law," the expert told China's mouthpiece The Global Times, on the condition of anonymity.
"Australia should respect the right of all countries to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international seas and airspace.
"Why is Australia hyping up this incident and even describing it as an 'aggressive act'? It really reflects the common logic of Western politicians: I can threaten your security, but you have no right to respond."
The military expert added there is "no doubt" the Australian government is using this threat "to win votes ahead of the election by being tough on China".
Longest serving foreign minister Alexander Downer says Beijing would see an 'opportunity' in change of government
Australia’s longest serving foreign minister Alexander Downer says a change in government would be "welcomed" by communist China.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, relations between China and Australia have deteriorated over a series of provocative trade tariffs imposed by Beijing upon Australian exports.
The trade blows followed an Australia-led diplomatic push to launch an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
Wine, beef, lobsters, coal and barley were among the products hit by Chinese sanctions and relations were further strained after the Coalition axed China’s Belt and Road agreement with the Victorian government over national security concerns.
Mr Downer said due to the current government’s strength on China, any new administration would be welcomed by the Communist country.
“The Chinese leadership doesn’t like the Morrison government because it stood up to them,” Mr Downer told Sky News Australia’s Chris Kenny.
“When the Chinese tried to bully Australia with trade sanctions, the Morrison government didn’t flinch, they’ve been really very resolute in dealing with China.
“Any change of government in Australia, as the Chinese would see it, would have to be an opportunity for them.”
Mr Downer pointed to Labor’s record on foreign affairs and their history in dealing with China.
“Whether Labor in government would provide that opportunity, well if they win we will see,” he said.
“Because they are very unclear about what they would do.
“Their history is not a history in being robust in standing up to the Communist regime in Beijing, so who knows.”
Mr Downer served as foreign minister in the Howard government from 1996 until 2007.
China calls WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 'irresponsible'...
China has called out World Health Organisation's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for labelling its zero-COVID strategy "unsustainable".
The response came after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been discussing with Chinese experts for a different approach in light of the increased transmissibility of new variants.
"When we talk about the 'zero-COVID', we don't think that it's sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future," Mr Tedros said in a news briefing on Tuesday.
"We have discussed the issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus. I think a shift will be very important."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded to Mr Tedros' "irresponsible" remarks as he defended the Chinese's government's "successful" epidemic prevention policy.
"We hope that relevant people can view China's policy of epidemic prevention and control objectively and rationally, get more knowledge about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks," Mr Zhao said.
"The Chinese government's policy of epidemic prevention and control can stand the test of history, and our prevention and control measures are scientific and effective.
"China is one of the most successful countries in epidemic prevention and control in the world, which is obvious to all of the international community."
Senator Rex Patrick calls on Marise Payne to show 'solidarity' with Ukraine and reopen Australian Embassy in Kyiv
Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called on Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne to show “solidarity with Ukraine” and immediately reopen the Australian Embassy in Kyiv.
The embassy was closed in the Ukrainian capital on February 13 and moved to Lviv before it was shut up again on February 22 amid a warning for all Australians to leave the country immediately over fears of a Russian invasion.
President Vladimir Putin's troops invaded two days later and advanced into Kyiv with several major bombing attacks but Moscow's military presence in the capital has since backed off.
Senator Patrick said the Federal Election campaign was no reason for the reopening of the Australian Embassy in Ukraine to be delayed.
“The reopening of Australia’s Embassy in Kyiv would be an important demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine and allow the provision of more effective consular services to Australian citizens in that embattled country”, Senator Patrick said.
“This should not be a decision left until sometime after Australia’s federal election.”
Senator Patrick said many Western governments have begun returning to their embassies in the Ukrainian capital.
“Some 27 nations have reopened diplomatic posts in Kyiv with South Korea being the latest,” he said.
“The Canadian Embassy, which shares a building with the Australian Embassy, is also tipped to shortly reopen.”
The German Foreign Minister on Tuesday reopened her nation's embassy in Kyiv and the United States have diplomats making trips to its embassy ahead of a planned return.
Senator Patrick warned Australia could become the last Western embassy to reopen in Kyiv which would fail to send the “diplomatic support we should be extending to Ukraine”.
Albanese: Australia is a ‘diverse country’
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese says he has considered potentially being the first Italian-Australian Prime Minister, noting Australia is a “diverse country” as he appealed to multicultural Australians.
Mr Albanese was questioned on whether he had thought about being the first Italian-Australian Prime Minister and how that would “change the country”.
“I have, absolutely, and I am heartened by the response that I have, particularly from the Italian community,” he said.
“We’re a diverse country.”
The Coalition's Plan for protecting our borders
Today, the coalition released its plan to protect our borders, by MP Karen Andrews, the Minister for Home Affairs, and MP Alex Hawke, the Minister for Immigration…
A re-elected Coalition Government will ensure Australia’s borders remain safe and secure by:
• Maintaining Operation Sovereign Borders: the strong and proven policy that saves lives, and tackles people smuggling and irregular migration.
• Sustaining the three vital pillars of our border policies: regional processing, boat turn-backs where it is safe to do so and temporary protection visas.
• Continuing to take a hard line stance against non-citizen criminals: by cancelling or refusing the visas of those who commit serious crimes, and strengthening the grounds for doing so.
• Providing support for genuine refugees: continue to deliver one of the world’s most generous humanitarian programs, in addition to providing 31,500 places for those displaced by the Afghanistan crisis.
• Boosting front line border staff: to stop drugs, weapons and other illegal goods from entering our shores.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said Labor’s promise to abolish temporary protection visas, a key pillar of Operation Sovereign Borders, demonstrated the clear choice at this election between strong borders and weak borders.
“Make no mistake, a change of government means a change to Australia’s strong border protection policies,” Minister Andrews said.
“The Coalition’s strong border policies stopped the boats, ending deaths at sea and the illegal trade of people smuggling.
“When the last Labor Government dismantled our strong and effective border policies, lives were lost, chaos erupted and thousands of children were locked up in detention.”
A re-elected Morrison Government will also pass new laws to charge foreign criminals for the cost of their own immigration detention.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said weak laws passed by Labor in 2009 meant every criminal’s detention – other than people smugglers and illegal foreign fishers – was a burden to taxpayers.
“Because of changes Labor made last time they were in government, murderers and drug dealers are getting a free ride courtesy of the taxpayer – and that ends if the Morrison Government is re-elected,” Minister Hawke said.
“We are reversing Labor’s weak laws because we don’t believe foreign criminals deserve free rent, food and medical treatment while we go through the process of deporting them.
“We have cancelled or refused visas to over 10,000 serious criminals through our reforms to the Character Test and as we go through the process of deporting even more, the free ride they are getting now ends.”
Coalition support for multicultural media
A re-elected Coalition Government will provide $5 million through the Public Interest News Gathering program to support eligible local newspaper publishers with the rising costs of newsprint, including multicultural, First Nations and independent suburban newspaper publishers.
Quotes attributable to the Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts:
“The Coalition Government recognises the important role our local newspaper publishers play in keeping Australia’s communities informed. We also understand they are under pressure due to the dramatically rising costs of newsprint driven by ongoing volatility overseas.
“We will commit $5 million through the Public Interest News Gathering program to support eligible local newspaper publishers with the rising costs of newsprint, including independent suburban, First Nations and multicultural newspaper publishers. We will move urgently to deliver the funding, with payments expected to be made early in the new financial year.
“This builds on the $10 million the Coalition has committed to support regional newspaper publishers.
“The Coalition remains concerned about the impact Labor’s safeguard mechanism will have on increasing costs for paper manufacturing in this country and the flow-on impacts that will have for the future of our local newspapers.”
Quotes attributable to the Hon. Alex Hawke MP, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Communities:
“The investment is in recognition of the important role multicultural media play in supporting the effective settlement of migrant communities, assisting with ongoing cultural connection, and to support the sector as it faces significant pressures in rising costs and modernisation.
If re-elected, the Morrison Government further commits to engaging with the sector to support their long-term viability as print and digital publishers, and support their work to modernise and better engage with mainstream advertisers”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, at a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland.
Finland wants to join Nato, leaders announce
By Hannah Rodger @hrwritesnews Westminster editor, the Herald
FINLAND'S leaders have announced they support the country joining Nato, less than 24 hours after signing a new security pact with Britain.
The announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Helsinki to sign a deal that would see the UK go to Finland’s aid, including with military support, in the event of an attack on the country.
Finland has previously opted to stay neutral and keep out of Nato for fear of antagonising Russia.
But public sentiment for joining the western military alliance has grown in the country since Russian president Vladimir Putin began his attack on Ukraine in February.
Finland shares an 830-mile land border with Russia, with major city St Petersburg only a few hours drive from the divide.
In a joint statement on Thursday, president Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin said: “Finland must apply for Nato membership without delay.”
They said they hoped a decision could be taken “rapidly within the next few days” to formally apply.
During his time with Mr Niinisto on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the new accord between Britain and Finland was more than a “stop gap” while the country deliberated over Nato membership.
He said it was an “enduring assurance between two nations” to face the “challenges of today, the threats of tomorrow, side by side”.
The Prime Minister’s confirmation that British troops could enter Finland if attacked could be a precursor to Helsinki being included under Nato’s section five agreement granting collective defence.
The agreement ensures that should one member be attacked, all members should come to their partner’s assistance.
Mr Johnson told a press briefing in the Finnish capital on Wednesday that the security deal will see each other “always come to one another’s aid”.
He added: “What it says is that in the event of a disaster, or in the event of an attack on either of us, then yes, we will come to each other’s assistance, including with military assistance.”
Queen Elizabeth II pulls out of Parliament opening over 'episodic mobility problems'
Queen Elizabeth II will not attend the State Opening of Parliament due to "episodic mobility problems", Buckingham Palace has announced.
Prince Charles will instead deliver the 96-year-old's speech on Tuesday, which outlines the UK Government’s legislative agenda for the year.
The monarch has been forced to cancel several public appearances since being hospitalised in October for an unspecified illness.
"The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems, and in consultation with her doctors has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.
"At Her Majesty's request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, The Prince of Wales will read The Queen's speech on Her Majesty's behalf, with The Duke of Cambridge also in attendance."
The Queen has attended the constitutional ceremony every year since 1964.
She missed the event in 1959 and 1963 while pregnant with her sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward respectively.
The announcement she would not attend the State Opening was made just weeks away from her Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which marks 70 years on the throne.
A spokesperson for the Queen said she is “looking forward” to taking part in the celebrations, which begin from June 2, however, her attendance will not be confirmed until the last minute.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have confirmed they will travel to the UK with their two children Archie Harrison and Lilibet Diana for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
Their confirmation came shortly after Buckingham Palace announced that only working members of the royal family will attend the traditional balcony appearance.
Parramatta’s plan to future-proof CBD gets seal of approval
City of Parramatta Council’s plan to create more jobs and homes in the CBD has been given the tick of approval by the NSW Government, with the focus now on securing funding to deliver the services and facilities needed to support the growing population.
The Parramatta CBD Planning Proposal, which has been in development since 2013, will see the boundaries of the CBD expanded and heights of residential and commercial buildings increased to enable the delivery of an estimated 43,000 new jobs and 12,000 new dwellings over the next 40 years.
The Plan also aims to protect key elements that make the City liveable, including the retention of vibrant streets and natural light in public spaces. New rules guiding development around heritage items have also been included.
“Over the last decade, Council has worked tirelessly with the NSW Government, community, landowners and developers to create a blueprint for development that acknowledges the specific needs of our unique City,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Donna Davis said.
“While today’s announcement will enable us to start putting our long-anticipated plans into action, there is more work to do. In order for the transformation of our City to be truly successful, we call on the NSW Government to endorse our supporting CBD Infrastructure Contributions Plan as soon as possible.
“This will ensure developers pay their fair share, so we have the necessary funding to deliver the infrastructure, facilities and services needed for our growing community.”
Council estimates that it could be left hundreds of millions out-of-pocket in community infrastructure funding over the next 40 years if its CBD Infrastructure Contributions Plan is not endorsed alongside the Planning Proposal.
Council notes that the NSW Government has rejected proposed controls for some precincts and introduced changes to the Planning Proposal that may negatively impact the number of new jobs and homes that can be delivered, including limits on the amount of office space.
Council will consider its response to these changes in the coming weeks.
“The future of our CBD hinges on getting these plans right, so we won’t rest until our vision for the City is realised,” Cr Davis said.
For hi-res images and 3D animated flythrough, please click here.
Historic reforms to the law on preparing documents for the transfer of ownership
Consumers and industry across Australia will benefit from a more level playing field and competitive electronic conveyancing system, thanks to the Electronic Conveyancing (Adoption of National Law) Amendment Bill 2022 being approved by NSW Parliament.
The legislation amended the Electronic Conveyancing National Law (the ECNL), to introduce a requirement for Electronic Lodgment Network Operators (ELNOs) to interoperate.
Interoperability will promote competition in the ELNO market, encouraging innovation and efficiency in land transactions and provide choice for consumers.
Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello said the changes mean ELNOs would be required to work together to support customers anywhere across Australia.
“Before these changes, competing ELNO systems did not ‘interoperate’, so buyers, sellers and banks needed to use the same operator to interact with each other which resulted in unbalanced competition between providers,” Mr Dominello said.
“This is an historic and important reform. Mandating interoperability is expected to deliver net benefits of $83.6 million nationally as a result of reduced prices and time and cost savings delivered by a competitive eConveyancing market.
“This reform will result in more choice and fairer prices for customers and greater efficiencies in the property and financial sector.
“NSW is working hand in hand with all other states and territories to ensure governments across Australia are taking steps to make the conveyancing process more efficient and remains secure, with checks and balances to protect landowners and those purchasing property against fraud.
More security for coastal farmers
Farmers and landholders who have coastal-draining properties will have greater water security following the NSW Government’s harvestable rights increase coming into effect today.
Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson, said some landholders would now be able to capture more of the rainfall runoff from their properties, boosting their operations and helping them better prepare for droughts and bushfires.
“When it comes to managing water my view is healthy rivers, healthy farms and healthy communities, not one or the other. The NSW Government is committed to growing the economy and this is great news for our coastal farms and businesses,” Mr Anderson said.
“As of today landholders, under strict conditions, can store more water for stock watering, domestic use and certain types of agriculture, supporting farming, local jobs and regional economies.
Water captured through increased harvestable rights will be restricted to certain uses. There are limitations on where new dams can be built to balance the needs of the environment and downstream water users.
The increase allows farmers to capture rainfall runoff, subject to specific safeguards including that any increase is used only for domestic and stock use and extensive agricultural activities. It comes after a NSW Government review which included hydrological modelling and extensive community consultation.