Tag: Australia

Indonesia confirms release of Abu Bakar Bashir, Islamist cleric involved in Bali bombings
Asia Pacific Focus

Indonesia confirms release of Abu Bakar Bashir, Islamist cleric involved in Bali bombings

Bali bombings: On Monday, Indonesian government confirmed the release of Abu Bakar Bashir, the radical Islamist who was arrested for his involvement in the deadly Bali bombings. Announcing Bashir’s release after completion his 15-year prison tenure, Rika Aprianti, spokeswoman of the corrections directorate general said in a statement that Bashir would be released on Friday “in accordance with the expiration date and the end of his term.”

The Islamist cleric was known to be the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiah (JI). He was arrested in 2011 for his association with the country’s militant training camps in Aceh province. JI was believed to be responsible for Bali Bombings. Among many attacks that JI undertook, the most deadly of all was plotting and execution of 2002 bombings in Bali nightclubs, which claimed over 200 lives. Among the killed were several foreigners (Australians). Besides, the Islamist operatives also attacked the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, which killed 12 people in 2003. Though Bashir denied any involvement in the Bali bombings. 

Last year, attempts were made by several rights groups for Bashir’s early release over health and humanitarian grounds. But the plan got canceled as the news led to huge backlash from people both in Indonesia  and in Australia. Besides, Bashir also refused to pledge allegiance towards Indonesia and renounce radicalism.

Security analyst Ridlwan Habib said that though Bashir’s position had lost significance over time but warned that extremists might try to associate their activities with him to gain credibility. He said, “Bashir is a senior figure in Indonesia’s jihadist movement, and it’s not impossible that his big name could be used.”

Antarctica rescue mission: China and US’s five day operation rescues sick Australian
Asia Pacific Focus

Antarctica rescue mission: China and US’s five day operation rescues sick Australian

Antarctica rescue mission: One of the most challenging rescue operation was carried out in Antarctica. The five day rescue mission saw collaboration between Australia and China to carry out medical evacuation of an Australian expeditioner from the Antarctica continent. The operation was successful along with help from the US. 

Kim Ellis, the Australian Antarctic Division director, called it one of the most challenging and complex evacuation done by his team. The mission that took precisely five days saw coverage of thousands of kilometres of the continent and use of ships, helicopters and planes. 

 When the operation commenced, the sick Australian expeditioner was in east Antarctica’s Davis research station. At the same time Chinese icebreaker was being transported to nearby Chinese research station. Its helicopters were then dispatched to transfer many Australian expeditioners at Davis to 40 km inland site. This was to make way for ski-way building to enable landing of US aircraft. US’s Basler, a ski-equipped aircraft, was being prepared for the mission evacuation. 

https://twitter.com/ausantarctic/status/1340870861847347202?s=21

Basler first made a 2,200 km flight to pick up an Australian doctor. It travelled from McMurdo research station to Australia’s Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey station. After that the plane flew to Davis’s ski-way where it picked up the patient and then returned to Wilkins Aerodrome. The 2,800 km round trip between Wilkins and Davis was covered by Basler in this frame. 

Meanwhile, Australian Airbus A319 passenger aircraft was at Wilkins to receive patient flown in by Basler. Patient was then transported to Hobart on 24th December. 

The fact that at present Australia doesn’t have ski-equipped aircraft in the icy continent made China and US jump in for the joint rescue mission. 

Ellis remarked that the operation saw “massive level of multinational cooperation and reflects the very best of that multinational activity that happens in Antarctica.” He also praised Australian expeditioners for their “courage, resilience and skill in deploying to these remote airways and ski fields” to enable evacuation. 

The details into evacuated patient’s condition haven’t been made public, but it is said to be unrelated to Covid-19. 

Raby, Former Australian diplomat blames Canberra for deterioration of ties with China
Asia Pacific Focus

Raby, Former Australian diplomat blames Canberra for deterioration of ties with China

Raby Former Australian diplomat blames Canberra: China, pointed out how the lack of strategy with its biggest trading partner has been costing Canberra both in terms of economic and political ties. Due to ongoing row between Canberra and Beijing over a series of issues, their relationship has spiralled downwards, hitting the lowest in decades. Raby categorically mentioned that his nation has been at the receiving end of this dispute as China imposed huge import duties on a range of goods imported from Australian, including barley, beef, wine, lobsters, cotton and timber. Beijing also completely blocked the delivery of Australian coal, transported in over 50 ships. Worst of all, he emphasised was zero direct contact between Chinese and Australian officials.

Raby, who has also worked at World Trade Organisation, said, “The problem with the Australian position is that it’s all tactics and no strategy.” He added that diplomacy “has been marginalized by the domestic foreign policy debate with respect to China. In other areas it’s been fine, but China policy has for many years been the domain of the security and defense establishment, and it’s that establishment that really is behind the current tit-for-tat retaliations with China, and the hardening of Australia’s positions against China.”

His recent book, titled “China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order”, Raby suggested that in order to combat the rising power of Beijing in the region, Australia should explore new markets but entirely shifting its focus away from China, hoping not to feel any economy jolt, would be a ‘wishful thinking’.

Raby, who served in Beijing as Australian diplomat from 2007 to 2011, argued that the Australian actions with respect to China demanded delicate diplomatic dialogue. He even slammed Australian PM’s raising the call for independent probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Raby said was a US agenda followed by Australia. He said the issue was pushed “at a time Trump was pummeling China over the ‘Wuhan virus.”

“We have, I believe, on a number of occasions made the Chinese leadership lose face, and I think that helps partly explain why the Chinese government’s reaction has been so tough,” Raby said.

This led to triggering of Cold War between to the two nations. Ruby said that Australia might need to work on its strategy towards China as so far it has been “incremental, reactive to others’ agendas, and as such, incoherent”. He highlighted that the recent military pact been Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga added fuel to fire. Raby said, “All the diplomacy around that (Scott’s) visit was deliberately aimed at China, – ‘Japan under new leadership will stand as firmly on issues with respect to China as the previous Abe leadership did.

Former diplomat even blamed the pandemic for its doing, as he said, “In any other year, leaders would be in the same forum three, four, five times a year, so there would have been that many opportunities for the Australian prime minister to engage with either Premier Li Keqiang or President Xi Jinping.”

Raby also blamed China for its provoking and non-engaging role in the ongoing diplomatic row, including Chinese ambassador’s promotion of fake picture of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife at an Afghan kid’s neck. He also said, “Clearly China is not engaging in ongoing ChAFTA discussions between trade ministers, so there are some serious issues. Dispute settlement through ChAFTA goes through consultation bilaterally, which of course we’re not able to do, and the alternative is the World Trade Organization. And really, I think these actions by China belong primarily with the WTO.

Australia-NZ travel bubble to be open by March 2021
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia-NZ travel bubble to be open by March 2021

Australia-NZ travel: New Zealand’s decides to start a two-way trans-Tasman travel bubble to bring global normality. The Morrison government stated, however it risked coming too late for Australian tourism workers to benefit from an inrush of Kiwis for the holidays.

On Monday, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern stated that explorers from Australia would be permitted to enter New Zealand without staying in quarantine before March 2021.

However, the travel industry, airlines, and the Australian government welcomed the decision to begin the bubble prior to when it was hindered by Melbourne’s Covid episode.

“We know there’s a huge demand for tourism between Australia and New Zealand and we’re anticipating adding huge measures of capacity across the Tasman once insights only when the final dates are affirmed,” a Qantas representative stated. 

However, Virgin airlines have announced that over 70 services to New Zealand seven days will be on sale from March 28. 

While the Morrison government spared travelers from New Zealand from the 14-day compulsory quarantine in mid-October, Jacinda Ardern stated that a few issues should have been settled before New Zealand offered reciprocal treatment for travelers from Australia. 

These included ensuring that the aircrews and travelers moving between New Zealand and Australia were quarantined from the individuals who had been in nations with a high number of covid cases, giving airlines time to get planes and teams together, and having courses of action set up to permit a large number of Kiwis to get back home in case of another flare-up in Australia

While Ardern stated that the permission was required from Canberra, the Morrison government should simply change the biosecurity order to permit Australians to head out to New Zealand once she sets a beginning date. 

Heading the alternate way, 1.4 million New Zealanders spent around $2.6 billion on Australian shores over a similar period.

Since Australia began permitting isolate free travel from New Zealand, 8858 travelers across 121 flights have arrived.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s travel industry director John Hart stated the bubble movement could support the economy by $70 million per week.

He urged New Zealand not to delay in declaring a beginning date, to assure explorers to book trips.

Hart stated that travel could have restarted in January, helping the travel industry administrators for the last part of summer, with Australia on target to meet the achievement of going 28 days with no instances of virus transmission by Christmas.

“While we had sought after a bubble to begin before Christmas, this is the following best thing,” he stated. 

Australian Tourism Industry Council leader chief Simon Westaway additionally stated the bubble might be too late for summer. He added it should make way to resume travel with Asian nations that had smothered the infection.

Australia-China ties to grow tense, Canberra’s new law empowers PM to veto agreements with foreign nations
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia-China ties to grow tense, Canberra’s new law empowers PM to veto agreements with foreign nations

Australia-China ties to grow tense: Tensions between Australia and China are likely to grow further as Canberra passed a new law on Tuesday, which empowers Australian Prime Minister to invalidate the exiting agreements with different nations. Scott Morrison’s government introduced the new law in order to safe guard the country’s national interest and check foreign investment in specific sectors such as infrastructure, telecommunications, energy and technology.

The law is applicable on Australia’s eight states and territories, along with other bodies such as local authorities and universities. Under the new, overall 135 deals with 30 countries would be reviewed by the Morrison government.

Many observers believed that the first agreement which would be directly impacted by the new law would be China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Australia. The agreement was signed in 2018 between Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria and Beijing to build trade-related infrastructure. 

“We didn’t agree with it in the first place, still don’t agree with it, and no doubt decisions on that will be made in due course,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters, referring to the Victoria’s BRI deal.

A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs late Tuesday asked Australia to take “an objective and logical view on the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative and refrain from creating obstacles that prevent fnormal communication between China and Australia.”

In August, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, emphasised that the BRI agreement be fitted both the nations. He said, “Australia should have an objective view of such cooperation and BRI, and not set up impediments for China-Australia cooperation.”

Bilateral ties between Canberra and Beijing have been spiralling downwards for sometime  but the latest incident took the relationship between the two to a new low. The slight Cold War between to the two began since April, when Morrison slammed China’s handling of coronavirus and supported US’ call for an independent probe into its origins. Besides, Beijing has been hitting back at Canberra with trade tariff on Australian barley and wine while completely blocking Australian coal shipments.

Even last week the two nations entered a row when Chinese diplomat shared on Twitter a fake photograph which showed an Australian soldier putting a blood dripping knife on the neck of an Afghan child. Morrison strongly condemned it as a repugnant act.

But there are ‘billions of dollars’ at stake here to get into an impulsive war of words. Australia, which is well aware of the fact that despite the diplomatic row, China is its biggest trading partner and any further escalation could impact the country’s trade. Hence, despite its fury, Canberra was still willing to let the matter be taken care of through diplomatic channels. 

But the new law might pull the stakes further up and trust far low. Morrison very well knows the sensitivity of the situation, especially when his government is being questioned over the latest report by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) which claimed that “credible information” supported that 25 Australian soldiers killed about 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners between 2009 and 2013

China should be utterly ashamed and apologize over the repugnant tweet, says Australian PM
Asia Pacific Focus

China should be utterly ashamed and apologize over the repugnant tweet, says Australian PM

Australian PM: On Monday, Australia’s PM Scott Morrison demands an apology from China over a Tweet carrying a fake photo of an Australian soldier holding the big knife over the throat of an Afghan child. 

As of late, a heightening in trade pressures between Australia and China and recommends a more souring of the overall relationship. Lately, a series of Australian businesses – from meat, grain, coal, and cotton to lobster, wine, and lumber has been the objective of anti-subsidy and against anti-dumping rules or had delayed deliveries. 

Morrison stated “It is completely outrageous and cannot be justified on any grounds… The Chinese regime should be ashamed of this tweet. It decreases them on the planet’s eyes,” Morrison stated in a press briefing. He said nations around the globe were observing how Beijing reacted to strains in Australia’s relationship with China. 

The tweet from Zhao Lijian, a representative with China’s foreign minister, seized on a report from a four-year-long official inquiry concerning the lead of Australian Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan. Zhao composed that he was “stunned by the homicide of Afghani people and detainees by Australian soldiers” and he called for responsibility. 

The tweet was joined by an incendiary photo that seems to portray an Australian soldier slashing the throat of an Afghan kid holding a sheep, along with the caption “Don’t be afraid, we are coming to bring you peace!”

Morrison told correspondents in Canberra, “The Chinese regime should be ashamed regarding this post. It lowers them on the international eyes,” “It is a bogus picture and an awful slur on our extraordinary soldiers and the people who have served in that uniform for more than 100 years. There are without doubt pressures that exist between China and Australia, yet this isn’t how you handle them.” 

Morrison also called for the resumption of dialogue between the Chinese and Australian ministers, which have been hardened this year, after Beijing condemned the Morrison regimes for an independent inquiry concerning the handling and origin of the coronavirus pandemic.

A four-year Australian Defense Force investigation beginning this month revealed evidence of 39 homicides of Afghan citizens or detainees by 25 Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2016. The report claimed troops would compel recruits to get their first kills by executing detainees in a training known as ‘blooding’. 

The Australian administration has established a special investigation over the charges stated in the report. Troops occupied with criminal indictments and being deprived of decorations.

China has imposed heavy tariffs on Australian wine, barley, and meat this year
Asia Pacific Focus

China has imposed heavy tariffs on Australian wine, barley, and meat this year

Australian wine: China has hit the Australian economy hard by imposing heavy taxes on Australian wine, barley, and suspending meat imports. The Chinese importers were advised to expect customs delays across seven classifications of Australian goods from coal to fish from November. 

Australian wine with tariffs will cost twofold of its actual price, making the market unsuitable for exporters, as per the trade minister, Simon Birmingham. 

Moreover, from Nov. 28, China has also decided to impose anti-dumping tariffs of 107.1% to 212.1% on imported wine from Australia, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced. 

Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham stated that the tariffs were untenable, and it was a painful step for several winemakers since it “will be unviable for some businesses, and their wine trade with China”. 

China takes 37 percent of Australia’s all-out wine trades, an industry worth AU$2.9 billion, the public authority said. 

A week ago, China planned a list of grievances about Australia’s foreign investment, human rights policy, and national security, saying Canberra expected to address its activities to reestablish the respective relationship with its biggest trading partners. 

“China’s recent remarks states that it’s more about their complaints around those issues, as opposed to indeed around anything any industry has fouled up,” Australia’s agriculture minister David Littleproud stated.

He added, “It simply doesn’t stress Australian exporters, it stresses exporters from around the globe.” 

On Friday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stated that the measures were in order with Chinese laws. China urged Australia to improve mutual ties between the nations. “They should consider whether they have regarded China’s interest,” he added. 

China started an anti-dumping probe in August as the Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association requested, however, in Canberra, the first decision to impose taxes was seen as a component of an example of punitive trade actions since Australia required an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Birmingham highlighted “the total effect of China’s international restrictions against various Australian goods and stated that if they were a reaction to different factors, then this would be “totally incongruent with the promises China has made to the World Trade Organization (WTO). 

The importers buying Australian wine will have to pay the customs authority of China, which will be determined dependent on various rates the authority has allocated to different organizations, the statement added. 

The rate expected of Treasury Wine was 169.3%, the highest among all the named wine companies in the announcement. The shares of Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. fell over 13% before being put on a trading standstill. 

The steps could shut down the Chinese market to Australia, expressed Tony Battaglene, CEO of Australian Grape and Wine Inc.

“Some will continue selling expensive wine if individuals are ready to pay for it. However, it turns out to be extremely intense when you’re competing with wine where they’re spending 12% or 14% duties, or zero taxes on account of New Zealand and Chile, and you’re spending 200%. Everybody will be struggling now, searching for different business sectors, Battaglene added.” 

An exporter of Australian wine in Shanghai reported Reuters: “I will quit bringing in Australian wines for 3 months to perceive how things work. Numerous merchants will end the business, as per what I know, since it is just not good for trade.” 

On Friday, Australia stated it was “very baffled” by China’s decision to force primer taxes on Australian wine, further heightening political pressures between the two nations. They will hold a conference with winemakers.

Australia Japan to reinforce defense ties amid the rising Chinese economy
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia Japan to reinforce defense ties amid the rising Chinese economy

Australia Japan to reinforce defense ties: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits Japan to hold a meeting with his Japanese ally, Yoshihide Suga, to reinforce defense ties between the two US partners to counter China’s growing economy and its developing confidence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two nations are near to conclude a Reciprocal Access Agreement, a lawful system to permit their soldiers to visit each other’s nations and conduct joint training and exercises. Morrison and Suga going to conclude the agreement on Tuesday. 

They are additionally expected to talk about the worsening Covid situation and the declining economy, Japanese authorities announced. 

Whenever marked, it will be Japan’s first such deal since the 1960 status of forces deal with the United States, which set bases for around 50,000 American soldiers to work in and around Japan under the Japan-US security agreement. 

Japan is dedicated towards maintaining and deepening its 60-year-old partnership with the US. As the foundation of Japanese discretion and security, however, has as of late tried to supplement its regional defense by venturing up cooperation with others, particularly Australia, in China’s developing sea activity that has spread from the East and South China oceans. 

Bach and Morrison are in Tokyo this week and utilized the opportunity to discuss adjacent to IOC member and Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates about the Olympics.

Japan clings to self-defense and boycotts first strikes under its postwar pacifist ideology, however, has supported its defense capacity and spending under the former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. 

Abe pushed Japan’s military weapons and cooperation agreement with the US as it progressively works alongside US troops and reinforced buying of expensive stealth fighters and various weapons from the USA. 

Suga, who took charge of Japan in mid-September following Abe’s resignation because of medical reasons, is continuing on his predecessor’s strategic and security policies.

Japan regards Australia as a semi-partner and the two nations for the first time consented to a defense agreement in 2007.

The two nations conceded to the sharing of military supplies in 2013, extending it in 2017 to include weapons after Japan eased limitations on arms supply transfers.

Japan has started the Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision of financial and security collaboration as a counter to China’s impact, and as of late facilitated foreign ministerial discussions among the nations known as the Quad that additionally incorporates Australia, the US, and India. 

They presently to bring in more nations in Southeast Asia and beyond that share matters related to China’s expanding assertiveness in the region. 

China denies violating any international laws in its actions in the regional sea and has condemned the Quad as a NATO in Asia against China. 

Japan and Australia both have reported economic challenges with Beijing and various sanctions being placed on many products.

Australia Tried To Mend Ties With China Over Expo Visit
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia Tried To Mend Ties With China Over Expo Visit

The recent visit by the Australian ambassador to the 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai is being seen as a desperate move to reconcile differences.  

Australian Ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher is visiting China, after Shanghai stopped exports for seven categories of key commodities of the Australian market. This has hit the Australian economy severely after the pandemic led slowdown in the economy. 

Some Chinese political analysts believe it clearly shows Australia’s need for the Chinese market. Since the onset of the pandemic, trade relations had started to sour between Australia and China. The skirmish that was sparked by Australia urging a formal inquiry into the origins of the Coronavirus, may now erupt into a trade war. 

The Chinese consumer’s sensibilities is greatly fueled by its sense of importance as a sovereign nation. This time; that has taken a beating, with Australia pointing fingers at China’s dubious dealing with the outbreak of the virus from its key meat market in Wuhan.

This has also shown in the way China has already asked traders to stop purchasing at least seven categories of Australian products – coal, barley, copper ore and concentrate, sugar, timber, wine and lobsters. The “most sweeping” halt will begin from tomorrow. 

It seems Australia is experiencing a foot-in-the-mouth moment where it now regrets its stand. The truth is, that, it cannot afford to lose China has its single largest export trade partner, lest it can rustle up replacements quickly. 

On its side, China has made it clear, they want Australia to speak for itself and not be a mouthpiece of the US. Earlier this year, Australia seemed to be participating in the Trump lead anti-China campaign. However, this anti-propaganda has landed it up in a deep soup. Decoupling is going to take time, as the Australian economy has been dependent on China for decades. According to some political bigwigs, Australia is not prepared to look for greener pastures.

Protests against George Floyd’s death spread across Australia with mass rallies for “Black Lives Matter”
Asia Pacific Focus

Protests against George Floyd’s death spread across Australia with mass rallies for “Black Lives Matter”

Supporting “Black lives matter” thousands of people have been protesting in Australia, inspired by the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, U.S. last week.

Rallies in Australia are also about the long going mistreatment and marginalization of Australian Aboriginal people. Protestors in Sydney were ready to resist an order but it was overturned by a court appeal at the last moment. The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled against the protest holding on Friday under the social distancing rules in place due to coronavirus.

The mass protests are being seen in Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Adelaide and many other Australian cities.

Banners saying “Black lives matter”, “I can’t breathe” and “Same story different soil” are the voice of protestors.

New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said regarding the protest cancellation in Sydney, “Freedom of speech isn’t as free as we would like it to be at the moment. Rules at the moment are clear.”

Why is Australia protesting? Not just in solidarity, enough indigenous deaths.

To some it may feel Australia is protesting just in solidarity. But it is actually seizing in the US protests, because Australia too has a history of lot many indigenous deaths, and people have had enough.

According to Committee to Defend Black Rights in 1987, one indigenous person in Australia was dying in custody every 11 days. This led to a royal commission investigate into this, finally pronouncing in 1991 the widespread incarceration of Aboriginal people and provided the circumstances around 99 deaths. Apart from further recommendations, nothing much was done in this relation, leading to massive uproar and disapproval in people against the government. The Guardian reports that since the report in 1991 almost 432 indigenous Australians have died while in custody.

Protests have been long going at various episodes against the death of indigenous Australians, asking for action against the police officers responsible. But the lack of government’s actions in the required direction have led the fury rise.

The recent protests in US post George Floyd’s death in police custody has infuriated the people like never before. The mass protests are spreading across nations and Australia is witnessing massive rallies in support of the targeted communities.

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