Taiwan defiant as China readies military drills over Pelosi visit
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney – M E TIMES Int’l: Taiwan struck a defiant tone Wednesday as it hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a furious China gearing up for military exercises dangerously close to the island's shores in retaliation for the visit.
Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday despite a series of increasingly stark threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory and had said it would consider the visit a major provocation.
"Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will... continue to hold the line of defence for democracy," Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.
China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.
"Today, our delegation... came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan," she said at the event with Tsai.
The administration of President Joe Biden said in the run-up to the visit that US policy towards Taiwan remained unchanged.
While the White House is understood to be opposed to Pelosi's Taiwan stop, its National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said she was entitled to go where she pleased.
After Pelosi touched down Tuesday night in a military aircraft following days of feverish speculation about her plans, the Chinese foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns.
"China will not sit idly by."
The drills will include "long-range live ammunition shooting" in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China and straddles vital shipping lanes.
"Some of the areas of China's drills breach into... (Taiwan's) territorial waters," defence ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang said at a press conference Wednesday.
Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, which sets the government's China policies, accused Beijing of "vicious intimidation" that would "seriously impact the peace and prosperity of the entire East Asia".
Japan, a key US ally in the region, said Wednesday it had expressed concern to China over the exercises, while South Korea called for dialogue to maintain regional peace and stability.
China on Wednesday announced curbs on the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan -- citing the detection of pesticide residue and the coronavirus. It also halted shipments of sand to the island.
"This is a complete farce. The United States is violating China's sovereignty under the guise of so-called 'democracy'... those who offend China will be punished," he said.
Outside the Taiwanese parliament, 31-year-old computer programmer Frank Chen shrugged off the Chinese warnings against Pelosi's visit.
"I think China will take more threatening actions and ban more Taiwanese products, but we shouldn't be too worried."
"The United States uses Taiwan as a pawn in its confrontation with China, to try to drag China down so (it) can dominate the world," Lee Kai-dee, a 71-year-old retired researcher, told AFP.
China has vowed to annex self-ruled, democratic Taiwan one day, by force if necessary.
Meeting of national cabinet
Today, National Cabinet met virtually to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, Monkeypox (MPX), Foot and Mouth Disease and the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit.
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly provided an update on the current COVID-19 situation, including the uptake of vaccine booster doses and COVID-19 treatments.
The Commonwealth, State and Territory leaders discussed the continuing impact of COVID-19 on health system capacity and that they would work together to plan and prepare for likely future waves of COVID-19.
First Ministers agreed to continue to work together to manage the response to Monkeypox, following an update from Professor Kelly on the emerging situation.
The Chief Medical Officer declared MPX a Communicable Disease of National Significance on 28 July following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (23 July).
Internationally, there have been ten MPX deaths reported this year.
First Ministers also discussed the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in Indonesia and work to ensure FMD preparedness in Australia.
The Commonwealth is providing a $14 million biosecurity package to bolster Australia’s frontline defence and provide more technical support for countries currently battling FMD and Lumpy Skin Disease.
Through this package, the Commonwealth continues to increase its biosecurity measures, including additional biosecurity officers, detector dogs, sanitation foot mats and increased messaging at airports.
First Ministers agreed to continue to work collaboratively on FMD preparedness to protect Australian livestock and businesses from the devastating impacts of this disease.
The Prime Minister also provided an update on the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit and National Cabinet discussed how states and territories would work together on priorities issues for consideration at the Summit.
The National Cabinet remains committed to working together on national priorities and will continue to meet as necessary.
Adam Bandt urges Paul Keating to defend Labor's 'drift to the right' and challenges former PM to National Press Club debate
Greens leader Adam Bandt has hit back at Paul Keating and accused the former prime minister of attempting to “re-write history”.
Mr Bandt savaged the Labor Party during his address to the National Press Club on Wednesday accusing it of drifting further to the right of Australian politics beginning with the Hawke-Keating governments.
The Greens leader said the ALP had become a “neo-liberal party”, a claim which drew the considerable ire from the former prime minister who called Mr Bandt a “bounder and a distorter of political truth”.
“How could any reasonable person describe the universality of Medicare as an exercise in conservative neoliberalism,” Mr Keating told the Nine newspapers.
But Mr Bandt doubled down and mocked the former prime minister for “boasting” about his privatisation record including selling off the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and vaccine manufacturer CSL.
“Paul Keating's had a few choice words to say about me, about that. Paul Keating's got a sharp tongue but a short memory,” Mr Bandt said on Thursday.
“Paul Keating is Labor's patron saint of privatisation.”
He then challenged the elder statesman to debate on Labor’s drifting economic ideology and accused him of being responsible for massive government service cuts since he left office.
“I am happy to debate Paul Keating anywhere, anytime, about Labor's record in bringing economic rationalism and neo-liberalism to this country,” he said.
“Paul Keating's entitled to his views but he's not entitled to rewrite history.
Albanese government passes climate change bill in the house of representatives
The Albanese Government’s Climate Change Bill 2022 has passed the House of Representatives today.
The Bill will enshrine into law an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
It has brought together business, industry, unions, farmers, community and conservation groups, all of whom have asked the Parliament to put Australia on the path to net-zero emissions.
For nine years, Australia has stumbled from one policy to another, and this overdue legislation will provide energy and investment certainty and usher the next generation of economic growth and opportunity.
It locks in 43 per cent as Australia’s target to reduce emissions and ensures a whole-of-government approach to drive towards that target.
It ensures accountability through an annual update to Parliament by the Climate Change Minister on the progress being made towards the target and empowers the Climate Change Authority to provide advice to Government on future targets.
Passing this Bill in the House of Representatives only 75 days after the election is an important step towards implementing the Albanese Government’s Powering Australia plan to create jobs, put downward pressure on power bills and reduce emissions by boosting renewable energy.
“This Bill records the Government’s ambition to take the country forward on climate action – and it reflects our determination to bring people with us,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.
“It will help open the way for new jobs, new industries, new technologies and a new era of prosperity for Australian manufacturing.”
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said: “As we said in the Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC, we expect that with government, business and the community all pulling in one direction, our emissions reduction can be even greater” said
“I want to thank all members of the House of Representatives that voted in favour of the legislation and their constructive contributions in its formation.
“The passing of this bill in the House of Representatives starts a new era of climate and energy certainty, one that is well overdue.”
The Bill will now proceed to the Senate to be debated in upcoming sitting weeks.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton hits out at 'ideologically opposed' Anthony Albanese's stance on nuclear energy
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has hit out at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for being “ideologically opposed” to nuclear power in Australia.
After gaining support from the Greens for the government’s Climate Change Bill, Mr Albanese slammed the Coalition for being “obsessed” by nuclear reactors while ignoring the biggest nuclear reactor of all - the sun.
Mr Dutton fired back, arguing Mr Albanese was making it a partisan issue and that he should look to other nations that have implemented it as part of the energy mix.
“He’s made it very clear they’re ideologically opposed to it,” Mr Dutton told 2GB on Thursday.
“Bob Hawke was strongly in favour of it, I’ve spoken to John Howard who is strongly in favour of it.
“If you look around the world, Justin Trudeau - one of the great left wing heroes for this Prime Minister - they can’t meet their emissions targets without nuclear.”
During his National Press Club address on Wednesday, Greens leader Adam Bandt declared his party’s support for the government’s Climate Change Bill - which enshrines its emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050 into law.
The Greens had initially threatened to block the bill over the “weak” 43 per cent 2030 emissions reduction target and concerns that it could be ratcheted back by future governments.
Labor then amended the bill to clearly enshrine the 43 per cent target as a floor or a minimum requirement rather than a ceiling to higher goals, but the Greens continued to steadfastly refuse to support the legislation if it failed to act on coal and gas.
The Coalition will take a stronger emissions target to the next election and will formally consider nuclear power as part of Australia’s energy mix.
Australia is currently banned from using nuclear energy with a restriction placed on the domestic industry since the former Howard Government introduced a moratorium in 1998.
In the wake of the Federal Election, shadow climate and energy minister Ted O’Brien confirmed the opposition would also increase its 2030 emissions reduction target beyond the current 26-to-28 per cent goal.
“This week we have announced we should have a discussion around nuclear energy,” Mr Dutton said.
“The latest technology provides zero emissions, it’s a cheap technology. The nonsense that Chris Bowen is carrying on with about nuclear being expensive compared to wind and solar - it’s a nonsense argument.
“We have to stick to the facts instead of the emotion on this issue and we’re going to lose industry, there are going to be smelters, and others are closed down under this government, the jobs will go offshore, and the emissions will still go into the air.
“If we want a situation where we are going to have blackouts and brownouts and rationing like we are seeing in Germany, then keep going down the path the government is taking us.”
Round four NCI partnership grants help young people plan future careers
More young people can improve their career outcomes thanks to the latest of the Australian Government’s National Careers Institute (NCI) Partnership Grants.
Minister for Skills and Training, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP, said the competitive, merit-based grants program provides funding for organisations to deliver innovative career guidance services for people at all stages of their careers.
“Round four of the NCI Partnership Grants program will fund projects with a focus on helping young people with their education, training and employment decisions,” Minister O’Connor said.
“More than $2.4 million will go to nine projects that will make sure young people get all the opportunities they deserve to get into a rewarding career.
“The program is a step in the right direction to address workforce shortages by inspiring local youth on their career pathways.
“The nine new projects will be delivered around Australia and cover industries including agriculture, early childhood education, and health.
“Many projects will also help disadvantaged groups of young people and those whose careers have been impacted by COVID-19, including young women, disengaged youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and migrants.
“Projects will be delivered by education, training, employment and careers organisations, community groups, Aboriginal corporations and local governments to help young people to improve career outcomes and create education and training pathways.”
Round four is specifically focused on supporting young people with their career decisions. This round builds on the previous NCI Partnership Grants funding rounds and is an important service to help people make career decisions.
There are now 79 projects supporting people across Australia. These projects help women to re-enter the workforce or change careers, young people plan their next steps, and students in primary school and Years 7–10 improve their career outcomes.
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott puts name forward for deputy Liberal leadership
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott has publicly thrown his hat in the ring to be the state's next deputy Liberal leader following the resignation of Stuart Ayres.
Mr Elliott, who will take on one of Mr Ayres's portfolios as Western Sydney Minister, said he was "prepared to put my name forward" to also fill the deputy leadership hole.
"The parliamentary Liberal Party has had a very traumatic period over the last couple of years and certainly in recent weeks with the loss of a number of ministers," he said.
"I've said to the Premier, 'I'll make myself available.'
"Of course, it's a matter for the party room but I believe I've got the leadership qualifications and experience in the military and the private sector to bring something to the party room leadership team."
The Baulkham Hills MP is likely to face challenges from Treasurer Matt Kean, Roads Minister Natalie Ward and Alister Henskens — who holds multiple portfolios.
Mr Elliott said it would be up to his party colleagues to decide "what qualities they want to prioritise" in choosing a new deputy.
"It is certainly my intent to provide (Premier) Dominic Perrottet, whether I'm deputy or not, with as much energy and as much frank advice and as much encouragement and loyalty as I possibly can."
The NSW government was plunged into crisis yesterday when Mr Perrottet announced Mr Ayres had resigned.
Flying electric aircraft by 2024 a realistic timeframe for short-haul trips, insiders say
It might seem ambitious, but passenger airlines could be using electric aircraft for short trips within two years, an aviation expert has said.
It comes as Rex Airlines announces plans to trial the emerging technology by 2024 on selected regional routes.
"The technology is working. It's been proven in trial flight, and we can do a lot in two years," Aviation Projects managing director Keith Tonkin said.
It is not just Rex making the switch to electric.
Across Australia there are several other airlines and aircraft manufacturers working towards a similar goal using a number of different aircraft.
"There's some companies in Australia that are really heavily involved in the battery charging systems and infrastructure elements of the technology," Mr Tonkin said.
Driven by environmental concerns
Like many other recent technological innovations, the current push towards electric is being driven by environmental concerns.
"There's a worldwide effort towards reducing carbon emissions from all aircraft operations, which contributes about 2 per cent of the world's carbon pollution," Mr Tonkin said.
But there are hurdles to overcome before reaching that future. Foremost is passenger perceptions around safety.
"There's definitely a stakeholder engagement perspective to it," Mr Tonkin said.
"I think it's just a matter of educating people about the benefits of the new system … and then once we get started, it'll be okay."
Rex Airlines plans to retrofit existing aircraft in its fleet and switch fuel cells for batteries.
But Mr Tonkin said ideally a new aircraft would be specifically designed and built around the new propulsion system.
"It's the same as retrofitting a car with a battery electric engine. It's not ideal," he said.
Battery weight a hurdle
Centre for Aviation chairman emeritus Peter Harbison said battery weight was a major issue.
"The problem with electric operations in aircraft is that they basically rely on batteries, and batteries are heavy," he said.
"If you wanted to fuel an A380 for a long-haul flight, you need a battery that weighed something like 500 tonnes, which is more than the weight of the aircraft itself at the moment.
"But on smaller, shorter sectors, it is going to be possible quite soon … within the next two to five years, to have aircraft that can operate short haul on electric power."
Safety regulations must be met
Mr Harbison said the technology would also allow other companies to operate flights using smaller planes and transport up to half a dozen passengers.
He believed heavy safety regulations in aviation would allay passengers' fears about electric technology being used in the air.
"You can be absolutely assured that nothing is going to be flying people around that has not been vetted incredibly thoroughly," Mr Harbison said.
"And of course, we're not alone in this in the world. There are lots and lots — some very, very big — companies working on this at the moment because they recognise that this is the future."
"I'll be flying in an electric aircraft by the end of this decade, that's for sure."
$20 Million funding boost to help victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence
More victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence will receive critical support thanks to a $20 million funding boost announced by the NSW Government today.
The package announced today is part of the joint $140 million commitment from the NSW Government and Commonwealth under the National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Responses 2021-23.
Minister for Women’s Safety and the Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence Natalie Ward said this new funding will provide additional support to specialist front-line services across NSW, as well as trialling some innovative new programs.
“Over half of the funding is for services that directly assist victim-survivors, giving them the help they need to recover from their traumatic experiences and start a new chapter in their lives,” Mrs Ward said.
“A number of projects are focused on improving outcomes for Aboriginal women, either through expanding existing programs and ensuring these communities have a seat at the table in the development of future policy.”
Federal Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth thanked service providers for the work they do in supporting victim-survivors and said more will be done to boost the frontline workforce and improve access to family, domestic and sexual violence services.
“In addition to the National Partnership with states and territories, the Australian Government will generate 500 new jobs for frontline and community sector organisations to address staffing shortages in shelters and crisis support services,” Minister Rishworth said.
“This will mean better access to critical support services for victim-survivors, including in regional, rural and remote areas.
“One woman dies every ten days at the hands of her former or current partner. This is unacceptable and I’m committed to working with states and territories to end violence against women and children.”
Julia FINN MP calls for state government to change
MP Julia FINN, State Member for Granville, has not minced her words nor hide her feelings at her disappointment with the recent announcement of the 2022 State Budget by the NSW Liberal Government.
The State Member for Granville has even stated that after this 12th Liberal Budget, there is a clear choice for the people of NSW – to change the future of NSW, the Government must change.
Finn called the budget, an attempt to make up for the last 12 years of waste and mismanagement and a budget about the best interests of the NSW Liberals and Nationals.
In a recent press statement released by Finn, it said that, by 2025-26, the NSW Liberals hope to saddle every single person in NSW with over $21,500 each in debt, and interest repayments of over $700 every year, per person.
This is due to the fact that the state government debt has blown to $182.2 billion in gross debt.
She adds that, the NSW Liberal government has no plan to help families deal with the cost-of-living crisis; or help boost high quality local jobs; or to future proof the NSW education system; or to reverse the Americanisation of the NSW economy; and no plans to bring discipline and responsibility to the management of state finances.
According to the State Member for Granville, in the last 12 years of being in power and four premiers later, the Liberal government has seen to the cost of living being high, debt has blown out to $182.2 billion in gross debt, resulting in the state AAA credit rating being shredded;
She alleges amongst other things, that the privatisation has led to an American-style user-pays-more model. Education outcomes have gone backwards and there is a chronic teacher shortage and the health system is in crisis
However, Finn, was happy to announce that after six years, there is a Service NSW office in the area and is at Stockland Mall.
Services provided here will be driver knowledge and driving tests, vehicle and other registrations and transfers, holding or picking up license plates, applying for NSW Photo Cards, various Fair Trading and Births, Deaths & Marriage services, applying for international driving permits and applying for or replacing a driving license.
Finn adds that she was happy to note that many local sports clubs were successful in applying for a Local Sports Grant.
The program is intended to increase regular and on-going participation in sport; increase participation and access for women, girls and population groups under-represented in participation including, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; address barriers to participation in sport or structured physical activity and assist sport clubs to provide quality service to their members and meet community needs.
Finn has also encouraged members of her constituency to get in touch with her should any local government matter arise.
Borrowers to feel the heat as RBA raises rates again, but new customers get cheaper deals
As the Reserve Bank raises interest rates for the fourth time in four months, home loan borrowers are bracing for more repayment pain.
The official interest rate is now at its highest level in six years, at 1.85 per cent, up from a record low of 0.1 per cent at the start of May.
Some economists say the RBA is only halfway through its rate-hiking cycle, with the goal of reaching, or even exceeding, 3 per cent by the end of the year.
As the cost of money goes up, the big four banks have dramatically raised interest rates for existing customers with variable-rate loans, and more rate rises are expected.
RateCity said bank customers could expect to see an average variable rate of 4.61 per cent if today's RBA rate rise was passed on in full.
It said the accumulated 1.75 per cent rise in borrowing costs that had occurred since early May would add an extra $472 a month to mortgage repayments for the typical borrower with a 25-year, $500,000 loan.
Borrowers with a $1 million mortgage would have to pay an extra $944 a month.
Fixed rates are rising
The rates offered for new fixed-rate loans are rising noticeably.
It comes as new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data show the proportion of new home loans being written with fixed rates has plunged to 9 per cent, down from the July 2021 peak of 46 per cent.
Sally Tindall, the research director at RateCity.com.au, said 90 lenders raised rates on fixed-term home loans last month before this latest increase.
"Fixed-rate hikes are coming thick and fast as the cost of funding continues to put pressure on the banks' bottom line," she said.
The financial comparison service Mozo said the fixed rates offered by some online lenders had already surged to as high as 8 per cent.
It will decrease its fixed-home-loan interest rates by up to 0.75 per cent for new customers and existing variable-rate customers who want to fix their interest rate, from 5 August.
And it will increase the ongoing interest rate on its savings and everyday transaction accounts by 0.5 per cent, to 2.25 per cent, on balances up to $250,000.
Refinancing surges, demand for new loans weakens
As the higher cost of borrowing sees demand weakening for new home loans, more existing borrowers are refinancing to try to eke out lower interest rates from their banks' competitors.
Mortgage broker Mortgage Choice said 42 per cent of borrowers who took out home loans in June were refinancing existing debt.
Discounts offered by banks for new borrowers saw refinancing jump 9.7 per cent in June to a record $12.7 billion.
Discounts offered for lower-risk borrowers
Research from financial comparison website Canstar shows almost one in two lenders are offering loans with slightly lower rates to borrowers with large deposits.
It says for borrowers with a 40 per cent deposit or the equivalent equity in their property, 49 per cent of lenders on its comparison site are offering interest rates that are on average 0.21 per cent below the rate being paid by borrowers with a deposit half that size.
Canstar financial analyst Steve Mickenbecker said as the economic outlook became more uncertain, lenders were competing harder for lower-risk borrowers.
"Property prices are widely expected to fall by 10 per cent to 20 per cent," he said.
"Lenders are looking for loans where there is a greater buffer for falls in property prices and almost half of them are rewarding these borrowers with lower interest rate offers," he said.
Is honesty Labor's only policy?
Interest rates have risen again, this time by half a percentage point, and from all accounts the Reserve Bank isn't finished yet. Today, economics reporter Gareth Hutchens on what we know of the new government's plans to ease the pain.
"Having enjoyed strong house price increases over the last couple of years, borrowers who have been in their houses for several years now own a healthy share.
"There may be a strong case for borrowers in this position to open up a negotiation with their lenders for a rate reduction," he said.
Late last month, ANZ reduced rates on new standard variable mortgages by up to 0.5 percentage points for borrowers with bigger deposits.
Ms Tindall told RN Breakfast that it paid for people to shop around, with 10 lenders cutting rates for new customers over the past three months.
"What we do know from all the data that comes through is that new customers, customers willing to switch to a different bank, often get the best deals," she said.
"Why? Because banks discount rates for new customers, not loyal existing ones."