Chinese state company wins contract to redevelop Solomon Islands port, prompting cautious response

Samoa’s prime minister says port ‘might morph into something else’ and suggests Pacific countries may have to monitor situation

A Chinese state company has won a major contract to redevelop the port in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands, prompting a cautious response from Pacific neighbours.

The prime minister of Samoa, Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, raised concerns that the commercial port “might morph into something else” and suggested that Pacific countries may have to monitor the situation.

Continue reading...
After John Howard took Australia to war in Iraq, he was scarcely held to account. Instead, he was re-elected | Paul Daley

On the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Paul Daley maps out the events leading up to Australia’s involvement and the consequent fallout

Two decades after the US-led “coalition of the willing” invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, Australia seems to have drawn few lessons from the folly of its participation.

The preservation of the US-Australia alliance, the primary reason for the conservative Howard government’s participation, still largely impels Australia’s foreign and defence policies. If evidence of this was needed exactly 20 years after the invasion, witness this week’s $368bn commitment to the Aukus submarine deal which consequently provokes China into greater potential adversarialism against Australia alongside its joined-at-the-hip ally, the US.

Continue reading...
Penny Wong hits back at China’s claim Aukus nuclear submarines will fuel an arms race

Foreign minister set to visit south-east Asia and the Pacific to reassure countries Australia does not seek to escalate military tensions

The Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has hit back at China’s response to Aukus, insisting that its criticisms of the nuclear-powered submarine deal are “not grounded in fact”.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Wong also signalled that she planned to make further visits to south-east Asia and the Pacific to reassure the region that Australia does not seek to escalate military tensions.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Continue reading...
What is the Aukus submarine deal and what does it mean? – the key facts

The four-phase plan has made nuclear arms control experts nervous … here’s why

In a tripartite deal with the US and the UK, Australia has unveiled a plan to acquire a fleet of up to eight nuclear-powered submarines, forecast to cost up to $368bn between now and the mid-2050s. Australia will spend $9bn over the next four years.

From this year Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with US and UK navies, including within both countries’ submarine industrial bases. From 2027 the UK and the US plan to rotate their nuclear-powered submarines through HMAS Stirling near Perth as part of a push to step up training of Australians.

Embedded personnel and port visits: Australian military and civilian personnel will embed with the the allies’ navies. US nuclear-powered submarines will increase their visits to Australian ports, with Australian sailors joining US crews for training.

Submarine rotations: From 2027 the UK and the US plan to rotate one UK Astute class submarine and up to four US Virginia class submarines through HMAS Stirling.

Sale of US Virginia-class submarines: From the early 2030s – pending approval by Congress – the US intends to sell Australia three Virginia-class submarines, with a potential option for two more if required.

SSN-Aukus: A combination of UK submarine design and US defence technology will contribute to the development of the new SSN-Aukus submarine – intended as the future attack submarine for both the UK and Australia. Both Australia and the UK intend to start building SSN-Aukus submarines in their domestic shipyards before the end of this decade. The first such boat may enter into UK service in the late 2030s, but the Australian navy will receive its first Australian-built SSN-Aukus submarine in the early 2040s.

Continue reading...
‘Red flags’ raised over scheme to allow families of Pacific Island workers to join them in Australia

Families who relocate under federal scheme would not have access to Medicare, or relocation or housing costs, making move unviable for many, experts warn

Guest workers from Pacific Island countries will soon be able to relocate their families to Australia, but there are already concerns over “red flags” in the current design of the scheme that may make it unviable.

The federal scheme will pilot bringing up to 200 families on one- to four-year contracts starting this year, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. This comes after years of the workers – who fill the gaps in Australia’s agriculture, meat-works and aged care workforces under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme – being separated from their families.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoonemail newsletters for your daily news roundup

Continue reading...
Australia and Papua New Guinea pledge new security pact saying interests are ‘intertwined’

In contrast with security deal between China and Solomon Islands, the Australia-PNG agreement will be ‘public and transparent’, prime ministers vow

Australia and Papua New Guinea have pledged to clinch a new security treaty within four months, declaring the deal will also tackle the threat of climate change.

The security interests of both countries are “intertwined” and the agreement would help protect their “independence, sovereignty and resilience”, according to a statement issued by the two parties on Thursday.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Continue reading...
Anthony Albanese to push ‘family-first’ security treaty in address to Papua New Guinea parliament

Australian PM to call for ‘a swift conclusion to negotiations’ to treaty and say both countries should ‘work as equals with our fellow Pacific states’

Anthony Albanese will seek progress on a new security treaty during a visit to Papua New Guinea, pushing a “family-first approach” amid increasing competition with China for influence in the Pacific.

On Thursday the Australian prime minister will become the first foreign government leader to address PNG’s parliament and will say he sees the relationship as “a bond between equals”.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Continue reading...
Labor flags wastewater tests on inbound planes as mandatory Covid checks for China arrivals resumes

Health minister defends country-specific testing as necessary due to ‘absence of comprehensive information’ on Covid’s spread in China

Australia is planning to introduce wastewater testing for incoming flights in an attempt to gather more information about the possible entry of new Covid variants.

The health minister, Mark Butler, announced the measure on Monday in a round of interviews defending the decision to reimpose pre-flight Covid testing for passengers from China as necessary because of a “absence of comprehensive information” about the disease in China.

Sign up for a weekly email featuring our best reads

Continue reading...
‘A remarkable man’: Anthony Albanese confirms release of Sean Turnell from Mynamar jail

PM pays tribute to foreign minister Penny Wong for diplomacy that led to freeing of Australian economist after 650 days

Anthony Albanese has paid tribute to his foreign minister Penny Wong and to regional neighbours while confirming that the economist Sean Turnell has been released from prison in Myanmar and is on his way home to Australia.

Australia’s prime minister spoke to Turnell – a former adviser to the democratically elected civilian government led by ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi – after arriving in Bangkok on Thursday night.

Continue reading...
Chinese ambassador would ‘love’ to see Anthony Albanese meet Xi Jinping without preconditions

Xiao Qian says Canberra and Beijing have ‘good momentum but we need to keep the momentum’

China’s ambassador to Australia has suggested the leaders of the two countries might meet without “preconditions” in remarks that could help further thaw relations.

Xiao Qian on Tuesday night also offered to help detained Australian journalist Cheng Lei contact her family.

Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

Continue reading...
Letters from those left behind: Afghans who worked for Australia describe desperation as they hide from Taliban

These are the stories of interpreters, embassy staff, guards and aid workers still trying to get to Australia a year after the fall of Kabul

Afghan nationals who worked for the Australian military and government in Afghanistan before the fall of Kabul have pleaded for help to find safety, a year after the Taliban violently reclaimed power.

The Guardian has spoken with more than a dozen Afghan nationals trying to get to Australia, many of whom hold valid visas or are still waiting on applications, as Australia faces an overwhelming demand for humanitarian places.

Continue reading...
‘Every day I am fearful’: Afghans with Australian visas wait in limbo a year after the fall of Kabul

One man who served with Australian troops tells the Guardian he is stranded in a Dutch refugee camp while his family remain in hiding in Afghanistan

Sayed* cannot forget the chaos of his final hours at Kabul airport – the surging masses of people trying to board any flight they could, his own desperate, unsuccessful pleading to board an Australian flight – showing the 449 visa he’d been hastily granted to enter the country.

A year later, still clinging to that 449 visa, he is yet to find a way to Australia. He is stranded in a refugee camp in the Netherlands, his family remain in hiding in Afghanistan, fearful of the Taliban insurgents hunting him.

Continue reading...
Ambassador’s fiery speech was the sound of China laying out terms that Australia has already declined | Katharine Murphy

China’s rules of rapprochement unveiled in Canberra were: don’t squabble outdoors, don’t pick sides and don’t humiliate Beijing by failing to respect red lines

During 90 minutes of statecraft that was candid enough to be deeply chilling, China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, crystallised the central question in Australia-China relations.

Xi’s Australian representative – who was fluent, erudite, composed and periodically sardonic in response to preamble-heavy questioning at the National Press Club on Wednesday – floated a detente. How about more trade and less trash talk?

Continue reading...
Chinese ambassador to Australia says Beijing will use ‘all necessary means’ for Taiwan ‘unification’

Xiao Qian says reset of China-Australia relationship is possible and suggests Washington had turned Canberra against Beijing

China’s ambassador to Australia has warned Beijing is prepared to use “all necessary means” to prevent Taiwan from being independent, saying there can be “no compromise” on the “one China” policy.

Xiao Qian on Wednesday repeatedly blamed the US for the recent escalation in tensions. China’s decision to launch ballistic missiles in live-fire exercises in response to speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “legitimate and justified”, he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

Continue reading...
China ready to use ‘all means necessary’ to ensure ‘reunification’ with Taiwan: Xiao Qian – video

Xiao Qian, the Chinese ambassador to Australia, said China would 'not renounce' the use of force in Taiwan and would take 'all necessary measures' to retain the 'one China' principle at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Xiao said Taiwan was 'not an independent state' but a province of the People’s Republic of China. He said that while they were waiting for a 'peaceful reunification', China is willing to use any means necessary.

When asked what that would look like, he said: 'You can use your imagination'

Continue reading...