Anthony Albanese is in San Diego for the announcement, which is expected on Tuesday morning.(Twitter: Anthony Albanese)
Australia: AUKUS nuclear submarine deal to create tens of thousands of jobs
(See translation in Arabic section)
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: On the eve of the highly anticipated AUKUS unveiling, Anthony Albanese has declared a "new dawn" for Australia's defence policy, with predictions the nuclear-submarine project will support about 20,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
The prime minister is in San Diego where he will announce the details of the deal with the US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tomorrow.
During a morning walk past the city's iconic USS Midway museum with Australia's navy chief, Mr Albanese remained tight-lipped about what would be announced, but talked up the massive project.
"It's a new dawn in San Diego and a new dawn tomorrow for Australia's defence policy tomorrow," Mr Albanese said.
While it is unclear how many of the submarines will be made domestically, the government insists the deal will boost jobs across Australian industry, the defence force and public service.
South Australia's premier has confirmed all the submarines that are built in Australia will be built in Adelaide.
It is estimated that at the peak, the AUKUS deal will support up to 8,500 direct jobs to build and sustain the submarines.
Tens of thousands of other jobs will be created across industry, defence and the public service.
Director of the Australian Sovereign Capability Alliance, Martin Hamilton-Smith, said it meant Australia had to urgently train and upskill domestic workers.
"Building these things is more complicated than building space shuttles," he said.
"But we need defence, the university sector, the public service and industry generally to stand up out and lead.
"It is one of the greatest opportunities that we've been presented with in recent decades.
"We need to pick up the ball and run with it."
Chief Engineer at Engineers Australia, Jane MacMaster, said given the current shortage of engineers, the government needed to create a targeted workforce plan to make sure there were enough skilled workers.
"We'll probably need to bring in specialists as skilled migrants or as advisers over the short to medium term," she said.
"I think we'll also probably need to train additional engineers up, either through undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications.
"The other thing we'll need to do is to start looking at micro-credentials, so looking at how we can upskill existing mechanical, electrical and electronics engineers, to give them a bit of nuclear engineering and the nuclear physics skill set that they would need to work with these systems."
Critics warn of 'profound' impact of submarines
Ahead of the AUKUS announcement, opponents such as Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation are warning of numerous negative consequences from the AUKUS project.
"We believe there are profound environmental, economic and public health costs, as well as significant escalation in regional tension," he said.
"We believe that it's a step that enmeshes Australia into American war-fighting plans, reduces Australian sovereignty."
Over the weekend, the ABC revealed the defence department believed Port Kembla in New South Wales was the best location for a future nuclear-powered submarine base.
"There'll be a lot of division in that community" Mr Sweeney told the ABC.
"I think a lot of people in any port that hosts these subs, that's been picked on for this, will be deeply concerned."
Labor MP Luke Gosling, the head of the newly created Parliamentary Friends of AUKUS group, has defended the soon-to-be-finalised deal, saying it is essential for Australia's security.
"We need to be working with trusted partners, historically trusted partners that will enable us to have better levels of protection, and that's what AUKUS will provide for our nation," he said.
Russian mercenary leader wants more ammunition amid continual fighting in Ukraine city
The chief of Russian mercenary group Wagner is calling for more ammunition amid claims his forces are close to the centre of the front-line city of Bakhmut.
In a video posted on an messaging app, Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen standing on the rooftop of a high-rise building in what he claims is Bakhmut.
As artillery boomed in the background, Prigozhin said that the most important thing now was to receive more ammunition from the army and “move forward”.
Wagner has spearheaded offensives against cities in eastern Ukraine including Bakhmut, in what has become the longest and bloodiest fight of Russia’s year-long assault. Both sides have suffered heavy losses around Bakhmut.
Prigozhin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, has been entangled in a power struggle with the defence ministry.
He repeatedly claimed battlefield victories ahead of Russia’s army, criticised Russia’s top brass and accused the military of not sharing ammunition with his ragtag forces.
In the video just released, he said he was ready to ask Russia’s top commanders for forgiveness but appeared to mock Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Earlier this week Wagner said its fighters had captured the eastern part of Bakhmut.
Some military experts questioned the sense of Ukraine’s continuing defence of the ravaged town but Kyiv officials say that the fall of Bakhmut could lead to further Russian advances in the east.
The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrsky, said that the fight for Bakhmut helps to buy time to prepare for a future counteroffensive.
Draft default market offer shows government action on energy prices working, but more to do
Today’s release of the draft Default Market Offer (DMO) for electricity shows that urgent Government action has helped to shield Australians from the worst energy price rises, but that further action will be critical to help households and businesses – including energy bill rebates.
The DMO, set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), is the maximum price that electricity retailers in NSW, South Australia and South-East Queensland can charge customers from 1 July 2023 - with the vast majority, around 90 per cent, on lower rates.
Today’s draft increases are up to 29 percentage points lower than the AER projected in late 2022, more than halving the increase that was expected before the Government acted on skyrocketing coal and gas prices.
This means hundreds of dollars (between $268 and $530) of additional increase avoided for households, and up to $1,243 additional increase avoided for small business customers.
But we know that every increase will still be tough for consumers and small businesses – and that’s why we will continue to work with the States and Territories to deliver energy bill relief in the May Budget.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen energy costs skyrocket globally, and Australia has not been immune.
Following AER advice last year that the DMO increases would be up to 51% without intervention, National Cabinet agreed a package of urgent actions to take the sting out of energy price rises – including gas and coal price caps.
While the Albanese Government prioritised consumers, businesses and industry, the Liberal/Nationals voted against these actions and every dollar of price relief – choosing higher bills over protecting Australians.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said while the Energy Price Relief Plan has had a clear impact in shielding Australians from the worst price rises, today’s draft DMO will still be a challenge for Australian families doing it tough.
Naplan testing starts earlier for NSW schools
Around 400,000 students across more than 3,100 NSW schools have begun NAPLAN tests from today.
This is the first year that NAPLAN will be held in Term 1 for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students. It means that parents, teachers and ultimately our students, will soon benefit from earlier results from NAPLAN tests.
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said these changes mean we will have a better picture of how a student is tracking earlier and can make sure that any extra support they need to catch up is provided sooner.
“The NSW-led review of NAPLAN in 2019 identified a number of improvements, that my state and federal counterparts have agreed to implement,” Ms Mitchell said.
“A big thank you to the teachers, NAPLAN coordinators and school principals for their efforts preparing for NAPLAN this year amidst the changes.
“Importantly, with NAPLAN being conducted earlier in the school year, results will be available earlier to teachers, schools, and the school sectors. Earlier access to data will be more useful to inform school and system teaching and learning programs.”
Recently, Education Ministers also agreed to streamlining reporting, so that NAPLAN results are easier for teachers, parents and carers to review.
From this year, each student’s NAPLAN report will show how they’re tracking against four categories: ‘Exceeding’, ‘Strong’, ‘Developing’, and ‘Needs additional support’.
Quake’s death toll nears 55,00 as Pakistan sends more relief aid
The head of Turkey's disaster and emergency management agency has raised the country's death toll from a magnitude 7.8 earthquake last month to 47,975.
Yunus Sezer said on Saturday that the death toll included 6278 foreigners, with Syrian nationals accounting for the largest share.
The February 6 quake affected 11 Turkish provinces and parts of neighbouring Syria. The United Nations has estimated Syria's death toll at 6000.
The quake was followed by a magnitude 7.5 temblor hours later as well as thousands of aftershocks.
At least 230,000 buildings were destroyed or badly damaged in Turkey. Experts have pointed at lax building code enforcement as a major reason why the earthquake was so deadly.
• Meanwhile, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has dispatched another ship, the PNS Moawin, with 550 tonnes of relief goods from Karachi to Turkey.
The ship carries 2625 family-sized fire resistant winterized tents and 38,370 blankets (367 tonnes for Turkey) with 179 tonnes of aid (22,000 blankets and 144 tonnes of donations including essential items) Syria.
The PNS Moawin is due to reach Mersin port in Turkey on March 23 and Lattakia port in Syria on March 31.
• The earthquake left children in the two countries "completely on edge" and fearing their "world is going to be turned upside down again" amid ongoing aftershocks, a spokesperson for UNICEF said.
Joe English, a communication specialist at UNICEF who visited Turkey and Syria, said the scale of destruction "knocked me sideways" with "buildings just completely flattened, pancaked, ripped in half".
But for many in Syria, the earthquake is just another catastrophe on top of the Syrian civil war.
Mr English said families in northwest Syria were already living in tents "because they have been displaced not once or twice, but multiple times by the conflict".
NSW students to get a financial literacy boost
School students in NSW will be given the opportunity to fine tune their financial literacy skills and learn about ways to secure their own future, including through initiatives like the new Kids Future Fund account, under a plan from the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government.
Under this Liberal and Nationals plan:
• The NSW Treasurer’s Financial Literacy Challenge, launched in 2022 for students from Kindergarten to Year 10, will be expanded to include Years 11 and 12 students under a new partnership with Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.
• Content for Kindergarten to Year 10 students will also be updated to ensure students understand, and are able to make the most of, financial initiatives such as the new Kids Future Fund account.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said that boosting financial literacy skills of students would help give them a head start in securing their own financial security.
“Students in Years 11 and 12 often have casual or part-time jobs, and are considering their next steps after school whether that be university, vocational education and training, or work,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This initiative will ensure students in all year groups can get crucial knowledge about managing their money, including taxes and super, emerging technology, and financial cyber security.
“We will ensure students have access to vital skills so they can futureproof their finances and give them a head start in life.
“This is all about empowering our children with the knowledge they need to set themselves up financially and ensuring they’re able to make the most of initiatives like the new Kids Future Fund, so they can make informed financial decisions based on their own circumstances.”
Treasurer Matt Kean welcomed the new partners and the increased focus on job-ready skills the expanded Challenge would deliver.
“This expansion will be targeted at older students who are our future entrepreneurs, innovators and industry leaders,” Mr Kean said.
“The Challenge provides students with the skills they can use when they enter the workforce and throughout their life as they make important financial decisions.”
Erdogan asks for "forgiveness" from the people of hatay for negligence in the early days of the earthquake
Lebanon - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked the people of Hatay for "forgiveness" for the shortcomings that occurred in the first days of the earthquake, according to "Russia Today" news agency.
Erdogan said in a speech in Hatay state, in southern Turkey, in front of a gathering of those affected by the earthquake: "We ask the people of Hatay to forgive us for the shortcomings that occurred in the first days of the earthquake. We will not leave Hatay alone, and we will always stand by our nation and our people, and we plan to construct 183,000 residential apartments and 15,000 rural homes in Hatay state."
According to the Turkish President, the number of collapsed and vulnerable buildings exceeds 270,000.
NSW Liberals urged away from ‘failure’ ahead of state election
The NSW Liberals have been given a pre-election warning to stray from mistakes of the past if they hope to clinch a win when the state heads to the polls.
RedBridge Group Australia director Kos Samaras said the party’s policies are failing to keep up with increasingly progressive younger voters.
“I think they fail to capture the hearts and minds of an emerging generation which has gradually over the past ten years,” he told 3AW.
“They’re only securing in most states one in five of these voters and to give you some context, (young people) will make up 50 per cent of the voters in Victoria by 2026.”
Mr Samaras went on to point out if the NSW Liberals lose the election on March 25, there will be no mainland state government led by the party.
“Historically, what’s happened is people have always been a little bit more Left-wing when they were younger and become more conservative as they’ve aged – this is not happening with this generation,” he said.
“People now who are well into their 30s are still voting for left wing parties.”
Premier Dominic Perrottet’s Liberal government is the Coalition’s third consecutive term in NSW.
Labor will need to pick up an additional nine seats to win a majority government in its own right.
Labor set to short-change parents and students in NSW
Families across NSW will be left wanting as new analysis reveals the extent of NSW Labor’s shortcomings on school building commitments, with some promised school projects at least 75 per cent underfunded.
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said families need to know that Labor’s sums don’t add up.
“Labor is throwing caution to wind when it comes to our students’ education, undervaluing school projects by tens of millions,” Ms Mitchell said.
“They need to come clean with parents, students and the communities they’ve made promises to on what they will miss out on in these projects or how they intend to fill the funding gap.
“This is just further evidence that Labor can’t be trusted, especially with their track record of closing 90 schools in the state when they were last in government.”
This comes after education spokesperson Prue Car admitted that Labor has not costed their wages policy and did not know the detail or breakdown of their Education Future Fund.
“More wages, staffing and infrastructure are the three key promises from Labor, and to see Labor refuse to detail or cost any of them is unbelievable,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Labor do not know how much their education promises will cost and we are already seeing the impact of that, with underfunded schools being spun to families across NSW.
“It’s only the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government that can continue to deliver the new and upgraded public schools our communities deserve.”
Enhanced accountability for political promises
A re-elected Liberal and Nationals Government will implement important new measures to increase government transparency and accountability on the delivery of election commitments.
The new measures include:
• Establishing a new website to provide the public with information on the status and delivery of state-wide and seat specific election commitments, to be updated twice a year;
• Producing an annual report on the progress of election commitments, which will be tabled in Parliament; and
• Tasking the Premier’s Implementation Unit in the Department of Premier and Cabinet with driving the delivery of commitments across government as its core focus.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said it’s critical that voters have confidence in governments delivering on their commitments.
“Good governments have a strong vision for the future, but voters rightly expect them to deliver on their plans and commitments and be transparent about any hurdles that arise,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This will raise the bar across the country when it comes to government transparency and accountability.
“We have a strong track record of delivering on our commitments, but this will set a new standard by allowing people to more easily track the projects, policies and commitments that matter to them and their communities.
“Trust in our democracy relies on the community having the confidence that what they vote for will actually be delivered.”
$180 million for small projects with big impact for regional schools
**Vision available to download here**
Families across regional NSW will see hundreds of projects delivered at their local public schools through a $180 million investment from a re-elected NSW Liberal and Nationals Government.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the commitment will more than double the Liberal and Nationals Government’s investment in small capital works projects at regional schools through the Regional Renewal Program.
“We’ve already invested more than $160 million in small projects that make a big difference to regional schools like upgrades to the tuckshop or a new shade sail – and we want to keep delivering,” Mr Toole said.
“The long-term economic plan of the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government means we can get behind the small projects that schools, local P&Cs and parents really care about and help bring them to life.
“This is about building projects we know local schools and parents want and need, while providing work for hundreds of local tradies in the process.”
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said she was pleased the Liberal and Nationals’ strong economic management means communities are supported through incredible programs such as this one.
“Schools play such an important role in their communities and this funding allows us to work with those communities to identify and deliver projects that are important to them,” Ms Mitchell said.
“Only a NSW Liberal and Nationals Government with a proven track record of delivery will make investment in the regions a priority and ensure this program is delivered.
“Families in the bush know that under Labor they will go backwards, given Labor’s track record of closing 90 schools when they were last in government. It’s only the Liberal and Nationals Government that will keep NSW moving forward.”
3D printed houses could be the rental crisis solution
3D printed houses could provide a more “efficient” and “accurate” way to build homes amid the current rental crisis, says Luyten 3D CEO Ahmed Mahil.
His comments come after his recent launch of the world’s first largest 3D mobile AI-controlled printer.
“We’re talking here about precision construction,” Mr Mahil told media.
“What is a house – it’s a roof above your head and walls. So, we’ve shown how you can make walls out of foam material, the most resilient material out there.
“It reduces the reliance on a sustainable supply chain but more importantly the price – the price of the build can be controlled to a large extent.”
Regional school tour to entice students to the bush
Hundreds of teaching students at university will be given a unique opportunity to get a taste of country life every year through a unique week-long tour of selected regional, rural and remote NSW public schools.
While up to 200 undergraduates will be given the chance to participate in the re-launched Beyond the Line program each year, a re-elected Liberal and Nationals Government will double this opportunity to 400 students a year.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the commitment was part of a dedicated strategy to encourage more teachers to work in the bush as part of the Liberal and Nationals Government’s long-term economic plan for the state.
“Having worked as a regional teacher previously, our regional, rural and remote communities are fantastic places to live and work and we want to be able to showcase that to the next generation of student teachers,” Mr Toole said.
“While we have the most comprehensive financial incentives on offer to encourage teachers to move to the bush, a tour of our country schools is the best thing we can do to give them first-hand insight into what it would be like to work in these great towns and school communities.”
Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said she was pleased to expand the Beyond the Line program to more students than ever before.
“I recently met with a Principal who grew up on the coast, but after visiting a remote school in far western NSW while on the Beyond the Line tour, fell in love with the local community, moved there and never looked back,” Ms Mitchell said.
“That is an incredible Beyond the Line program success story and it’s not the only one. To be able to give more aspiring teachers the opportunity to experience country life for themselves is incredibly exciting.
“While we have a plan to get more inspiring teachers into our regional classrooms, NSW Labor has nothing to offer our regional students or families.”
School tour locations for Beyond the Line will be based on availability but could include Lithgow, Dubbo, Coonabarabran and Tamworth. Applications will open in July ahead of the tour in September.
The application process will prioritise those studying in subject areas of higher demand, such as technological and applied studies, mathematics and science.