Australia sees climate crisis as a national security issue, defence minister tells US

Australia’s defence minister, Richard Marles, has warned of the use of “force or coercion” in the South China Sea and “intensification of major power competition”, references to China’s rising power in the Indo-Pacific. Marles made the comments in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies on his visit to the US, committing Australia to closer cooperation with the US, higher defence spending and to address the climate crisis in part as a national security issue. It coincided with a separate announcement that the Australian and US governments…

Penny Wong: China and Australia take ‘first steps towards stabilising relationship’

Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, says Canberra and Beijing have taken the “first step towards stabilising the relationship” after the first face-to-face meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers since 2019. After a meeting with Wang Yi, her Chinese counterpart, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Friday, Wong told reporters Australia would continue to push for an end to Beijing’s “coercive” trade sanctions against a range of exports, and would also not recoil from any domestic policy decisions taken “on the basis of our national…

Live news: Australia and New Zealand to coordinate on electric vehicle fleet; danger from NSW floods continues

From 54m ago Australia and NZ to coordinate on electric vehicle fleet Royce Kurmelovs Australia will coordinate with New Zealand when it comes to procuring electric vehicles for its government fleet. Prime minister Anthony Albanese made the announcement on Friday when discussing opportunities for trans-Tasman collaboration in the area of renewable energy. Albanese said: If we are all competing against each other for procurement at the same time, we will end up paying more for it but not if there is cooperation between Australia and New Zealand. The PM went…

Penny Wong says she is open to meeting with Chinese counterpart at G20

Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, has signalled she is open to meeting her Chinese counterpart at a looming meeting of G20 foreign ministers, but she has warned any diplomatic thaw will require the removal of Beijing’s “coercive” trade sanctions against a variety of exports. Wong was asked during a visit to Singapore on Wednesday to disclose whether or not arrangements were now in place for a conversation at the G20 meeting in Indonesia later this week – and if so, what her message would be to China’s Wang Yi. Australia’s…

‘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…

‘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…

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…

Chinese-speaking voters critical of Coalition’s ‘militaristic’ stance on China in lead-up to 2022 election, WeChat study shows

The Coalition’s muscular position toward China is not going down well with Chinese-speaking voters, while Labor is facing criticism over its more generous approach to humanitarian immigration, an analysis of WeChat audience comments reveals. The study of more than 3,000 political news stories and associated comments appearing on the Chinese social media platform, WeChat, has been undertaken by researchers at Monash and Deakin Universities over the past 11 months, including during the election campaign. It provides an insight into the Australian political news reaching Chinese speakers and how they are…

Labor ‘gravely concerned’ by Karen Andrews’ claim about potential China election interference

Labor has raised grave concerns about the home affairs minister’s use of “privileged access to intelligence reporting”, after Karen Andrews publicly alluded to a potential attempt by China at interference in the federal election. The shadow minister, Kristina Keneally, has written to Andrews to remind her of “the vital convention that opposition is briefed on any developing matters of national security” during the election caretaker mode. The letter, seen by Guardian Australia, was sent after Andrews implied China might have timed the announcement of a security deal with Solomon Islands…

Penny Wong says better relationship with China possible if Coalition stops ‘playing politics’

Labor’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, says it may be possible for Australia to achieve a diplomatic thaw with China despite the substantial differences between the two countries – if Scott Morrison abandons his “desperate” pre-election weaponisation of national security. The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, this week met China’s new ambassador to Australia who has made several overtures for dialogue since arriving in Canberra in January. Subsequently, the shadow minister told the Guardian’s Australian Politics podcast that diplomatic engagement was important. Wong said if Labor won the federal election…