‘Things aren’t going back’: Australia braces for step-up in China’s Pacific push

The Australian government is bracing for China to step up its push to expand influence in the Pacific, with a senior figure privately conceding Canberra has a lot of work to do to regain lost trust and strengthen regional unity. Despite initial relief at a decision by Pacific island countries to defer a sweeping 10-country security and economic pact proposed by China, the Australian government now believes this may be only a temporary reprieve. “Things aren’t going back to the way they were,” said a senior Australian government figure who…

Our global food supply is at risk when high gas prices limit the creation of fertiliser | Andrew Whitelaw

If water is the source of life, fertiliser is the source of scaleable food production. The increasing cost of fertiliser is one of the largest contributors to a “cost-price” squeeze affecting the farmers of major agricultural products in Australia and globally. The cost of food is increasing in step with the cost of producing that food and, in the past quarter in Australia, we have seen food inflation increase by 2.8% – the fourth-highest quarter since the turn of the century. The price of wheat, the main staple for much…

China ambassador tells Australian protesters ‘no such thing as absolute freedom’

China’s ambassador to Australia has declared there is “no such thing as absolute freedom” as he defended his country’s human rights record during a speech in Sydney. Facing repeated interruptions from protesters, Xiao Qian said on Friday there was no reason the two countries should be enemies but they should respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – phrasing that indicates Australia should moderate its comments about Taiwan and Hong Kong. He described the meeting between China and Australia’s defence ministers in Singapore earlier this month as “very significant”, after…

‘Considerable strain’: how Australian officials saw the China rift

Australian officials stayed in “regular contact” with the Chinese embassy in Canberra to “explain our decisions” even when Australian ministers were subjected to a two-year diplomatic freeze, newly released documents show. The former Morrison government had been “willing to engage with China in dialogue at any time”, according to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing notes, which also described the relationship as being under “considerable strain”. Australian government ministers were blocked from meetings or calls with their direct Chinese counterparts for more than two years, although lower-level diplomats and…

Albanese to meet Macron in Paris for ‘important reset’ of Australia’s relationship with France

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will visit France to meet President Emmanuel Macron, and is considering travelling to Ukraine, during next week’s trip to Europe for the Nato summit. Albanese said he was also looking forward to “having further dialogue” with the Chinese government, but admitted the relationship would remain “problematic” for some time, despite a recent end to the freeze on diplomatic relations. “Already there have been some improvements but it’s a long way to go,” the prime minister told the ABC’s 7.30 program. Albanese will on…

Thaw or cold war: will Labor succeed in unfreezing Australia-China relations?

After the end of a two-year diplomatic freeze between China and Australia, the new Albanese government is embarking on a grand experiment: is a different tone enough to get the relationship on a better footing? Gone are Peter Dutton’s blunt declarations that Beijing wants to turn countries like Australia into tributary states, as is the prediction Australia would almost certainly join any US-led military action to defend Taiwan against invasion. Anthony Albanese’s government has reverted to Australia’s long-standing bipartisan position against any unilateral changes to the status quo. At the…

The sheer size of the China trading relationship is why Australia has to share its feasts and famines with Beijing | Satyajit Das

Concentration on security and regional influence has distracted from the economic relationship with China, a key foundation of Australian prosperity. A high proportion of Chinese growth has been engineered by a large government-sponsored debt-fuelled infrastructure and property bender. This underpins demand for Australian products and services boosting incomes. The data on bilateral trade reveals the importance of the China relationship. Despite trade restrictions on selected products, 35 to 40% of Australian exports go to China, and 20% of imports come from China. Chinese nationals normally constitute the largest number of…

Cabinet committee blocked plan to double Australia’s support to Pacific, election-eve leak reveals

The Morrison government has been hit by an election-eve leak that cabinet’s national security committee blocked a proposal by the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, to double Australia’s support to the Pacific. Labor said the “extraordinary” pre-election leak, first reported by the Australian newspaper, showed the government was “falling apart”, while Scott Morrison insisted the committee was “extremely tight”. The revelation was expected to trigger renewed debate about the government’s Pacific policy in the wake of China signing a security deal with Solomon Islands. Guardian Australia has confirmed that the…

China seeks to reset relationship with Australia after election

China will seek talks with whichever party wins Saturday’s Australian federal election, with diplomatic sources declaring that they see “a good opportunity” to ease tensions in the period after the vote. A Chinese diplomatic source, who did not wish to be named, said China was “genuine in our wish to improve the relationship” with Australia, although to date it has not publicly detailed any specific actions it is willing to take. The source also pushed back at a description by the defence minister, Peter Dutton, that a Chinese intelligence gathering…

It’s unprecedented for Dutton to label a Chinese spy ship sailing outside Australia’s territory an ‘act of aggression’ | Daniel Hurst

The defence minister, Peter Dutton, has called the presence of a Chinese spy ship off the coast of Western Australia “an aggressive act” but his department was far more sober in its assessment and international law experts have poured cold water on the claim. It is not the first time such Chinese vessels have been in Australia’s exclusive economic zone. So, given we are a week out from an election and the Coalition wants the narrative refocused through a “we live in uncertain times” lens, let’s put the politics aside…

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