Trump Makes Last-ditch Bid To Block Biden Win As Congress Goes Democratic

Donald Trump on Wednesday launched a furious last-minute bid on the streets of Washington to reverse his election defeat, as Joe Biden was set to be certified president with an added triumph of his Democratic Party on track to win full control of Congress.

In a scene unprecedented in US democracy, Trump rallied thousands of supporters outside the White House moments before Congress meets to affirm Biden’s November election victory — traditionally a formality, but one which Trump hopes will overturn the results.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather for a rally in Washington
 AFP / Brendan Smialowski

Trump, rambling angrily with the occasional aside lauding his four-year tenure, warned “weak” Republicans not to certify Biden’s victory and put direct pressure on Vice President Mike Pence, who will preside over the session.

“We will never give up. We will never concede,” Trump told the cheering crowd, few wearing masks despite a spike in Covid cases.

“I hope Mike has the courage to do what he has to do,” Trump said, describing the US election as less honest than those of “Third World countries.”

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock

But as Trump was still speaking and Congress opened the session, Pence — dutifully loyal to Trump over four years and quiet since the election — said he would not intervene.

“The Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Pence said in a statement.

With political tensions running at fever pitch, there was a heavy police presence in downtown Washington and many business owners, fearing clashes, have boarded up doors and windows.

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff

“I can’t say I respect our election process anymore,” said Gail Shaw, 76, who drove down from New Jersey for the rally. “We will take our nation back.”

Biden won more than seven million votes more than Trump in the November 3 election and leads him 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines elections.

Trump has repeatedly alleged without no evidence that there was vote-rigging but his team has not been able to prove a single case in court.

IMAGES AND SOUNDBITES Hundreds of supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in Washington, DC, a day before a protest called by the outgoing US president who refuses to concede defeat in November 2020's election. The US Congress will meet Wednesday t

IMAGES AND SOUNDBITES Hundreds of supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in Washington, DC, a day before a protest called by the outgoing US president who refuses to concede defeat in November 2020’s election. The US Congress will meet Wednesday to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Trump.

There is little chance that Trump will succeed in reversing the certification as Democrats already controlled the House of Representatives.

But more than 100 Republican members of the House of Representatives and at least a dozen Republican senators have vowed to object to certification — threatening to delay the proceedings late into the night — with lawmakers from Arizona filing a first objection as the joint session of Congress got underway.

Outgoing president Donald Trump was due to address his supporters in Washington as Joe Biden's victory is certified

Outgoing president Donald Trump was due to address his supporters in Washington as Joe Biden’s victory is certified
 AFP / Brendan Smialowski

The session of Congress comes one day after voters went to the polls in Georgia and appear to have handed a pair of stunning victories to the Democratic Senate candidates over Republican incumbents.

Crowds of people gather as US President Donald Trump speaks to supporters before Congress meets to certify Joe Biden's election win

Crowds of people gather as US President Donald Trump speaks to supporters before Congress meets to certify Joe Biden’s election win

A Democratic sweep would result in a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden is due to be sworn in on January 20 and control of the Senate would give his Democrats the levers of power in the executive branch and both chambers of Congress and allow him to push through his legislative agenda.

“After the past four years, after the election, and after today’s election certification proceedings on the Hill, it’s time to turn the page,” Biden said in a statement.

“The American people demand action and they want unity. I am more optimistic than I ever have been that we can deliver both,” he said.

Democrat Chuck Schumer, who is poised to take over from Mitch McConnell as majority leader, said his first priority will be to pass $2,000 Covid relief checks for most Americans.

Democrats and Trump has supported the amount but McConnell killed the proposal in the Senate, saying $600 payouts approved last month were sufficient.

Georgia has been reliably Republican but Biden also won the state, by about 12,000 votes, and his win there is one of the victories that Trump has been contesting.

Trump’s unprecedented efforts to overturn the result have included making a call to Georgia’s secretary of state in which he said he wants to “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Biden’s margin of victory.

In Georgia, Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, the pastor at the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King once preached, was projected to defeat Republican Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old businesswoman appointed to the Senate in December 2019.

Warnock, 51, who would be just the third African-American to win a Senate seat from the South, was ahead by 53,430 votes out of nearly 4.4 million cast, or more than one percent.

Loeffler however refused to concede. “We’re going to make sure every vote is counted,” she told supporters.

In the other Georgia race, Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old video producer, claimed victory on Wednesday over Republican David Perdue.

Perdue, 71, who was elected to the Senate in 2014, has also refused to concede.

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Trump Could Still Start a Last-Ditch War With Iran

As he has done with most things, however, Trump took a bad situation and made it worse. Killing Soleimani was the right move, for example, but the clumsiness and confusion that followed—including Trump threatening to engage in war crimes by destroying Iranian cultural sites—created a moral and political void in which Iran was able to take the initiative and retaliate against U.S. bases in Iraq without further consequences.

And whatever the flaws of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—and I was one of the critics who had serious problems with the Iran deal—it at least temporarily stabilized the Iranian nuclear problem. The JCPOA was imperfect, but it was the only game in town, and Trump dumping it gave the Iranians the out they needed to go right back to their previous mischief.

Now Trump’s defense officials are making noises—while Trump himself is silent—about deterrence. But repeated bomber flights and stories about strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, particularly when they’re coming from a claque of mostly unqualified officials in an acting capacity who will not be around to fulfill these vague threats, are not much of a deterrent in the waning days of an administration that refuses to cooperate on basic matters of national defense with its successor.

Instead, Trump might be planning a final grand distraction before he is forced to relinquish his office.

The question is not whether Trump has the power to do any of this. He holds the authority of Article II of the Constitution until noon on January 20. As unsettling as it may be to realize this, Trump—like any American president—can launch anything, from a reconnaissance mission to a nuclear strike, even as Biden is standing on the steps of the Capitol waiting to be sworn in. Whether U.S. military leaders, including the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, would promptly execute orders they thought unwise or possibly illegal is another matter, but the authority of the president of the United States is not limited by losing an election.

Rather, the question is why Trump would ignite a war with Iran at the last minute, and what to look for if he has made such a decision.

The obvious reason Donald Trump does anything is because he thinks it will benefit Donald Trump.

At the least, it is one last chance for Trump to role-play the only part of the job he has ever liked: the strutting commander in chief. If Trump decides on war, he will issue orders, and there will be a great deal of saluting and generous use of the word sir, all of which (if we are to judge from his rants at rallies) he finds irresistible. From the border wall to the COVID-19 crisis, Trump’s fallback position when he is flummoxed by the complexity of governing is to call in the military and issue orders that cannot be countermanded by another branch of the government or by his own bureaucracy.

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Trump administration to execute man in hours as Kim Kardashian joins last-ditch calls to save death row inmate | US News

The Trump administration is planning an unprecedented five more federal executions before President-elect Joe Biden takes power, starting with a man set to be put to death today for his role in a crime committed when he was 18.

Brandon Bernard was convicted over his part in the 1999 killings of an Iowa religious couple, whose bodies he burned in the boot of their car.

He and four other teenagers abducted and robbed Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas.

Kim Kardashian speaks alongside Donald Trump during a criminal justice reform event in 2019

Bernard, now 40, would be the ninth federal inmate put to death since July, when Donald Trump ended a 17-year hiatus in federal executions.

If he receives a lethal injection as planned at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, it would be a rare execution of a person who was in his teens when the crime occurred.

Federal executions during a presidential transfer of power are also rare, especially during a transition from a death-penalty supporter to a president-elect like Biden opposed to capital punishment.

The last time executions were carried out during a lame-duck period was during the presidency of Grover Cleveland in the 1890s.

Defence lawyers have argued in court and in a petition for clemency from Mr Trump that Bernard was a low-ranking, subservient member of the group.

They say both Bagleys were likely dead before Bernard doused their car with lighter fluid and set it on fire, a claim that conflicts with government testimony at trial.

Bernard, they add, has repeatedly expressed remorse.

“I can’t imagine how they feel about losing their family,” Bernard said about surviving Bagley relatives in a 2016 video statement from death row.

“I wish that we could all go back and change it.”

He also described taking part in youth outreach programs and embracing religion, adding: “I have tried to be a better person since that day.”

The case has prompted calls for Mr Trump to intervene, including from one prosecutor at his 2000 trial.

That prosecutor now says racial bias may have influenced the nearly all-white jury’s decision to order a death sentence against Bernard, who is black.

A number of jurors have also since said publicly that they regret not opting for life in prison instead.

And Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West is among those who have asked Mr Trump to stop the execution, saying in a series of recent tweets that Bernard’s “role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved”.

The Justice Department has refused to delay Thursday’s execution of Bernard, another inmate on Friday and three more in January, despite eight officials who participated in an execution last month testing positive for the coronavirus.

The eight federal executions in 2020 is already more than in the previous 56 years combined. Federal executions are those ordered by the US government for federal crimes, as opposed to those carried out by individual states.

One of Bernard’s co-defendants, Christopher Vialva, was put do death in September.

Todd Bagley’s mother, Georgia, issued a statement after that execution, saying: “I believe when someone deliberately takes the life of another, they suffer the consequences for their actions.”

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Outsourcing Qantas jobs is ‘un-Australian’, say workers, as they make last-ditch bid to save 2,500 positions

Kym Meyer has worked as a Qantas baggage handler for 18 years and never thought he would be in the position of bidding for his job.

But Mr Meyer is one of 2,500 ground workers — doing the airline’s baggage handling, ramp work and cabin cleaning — who are fighting to keep their jobs after Qantas revealed plans in August to move to outsource the work.

The planned cuts come on top of 6,000 already announced redundancies across its workforce revealed in June, and workers and the unions are warning there is a risk for Qantas passengers if this work is outsourced.

The company, like many other airlines around the world, has said it needs to lower costs due to the massive financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Qantas workers impacted by the planned outsourcing move are employed across Australia, including at airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra.

They have now submitted a bid for their own jobs.

Kim Meyer has worked for Qantas as a baggage handler for 18 years.(Supplied)

Accounting firm EY has been working on the in-house bid on behalf of Qantas workers and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) since August.

“Everyone is prepared to help [the airline] get through this.”

Mr Meyer, who is also a TWU union member, had worked with Ansett for eight years before the company collapsed.

He is among tens of thousands of workers who were stood down by Qantas since late March when the coronavirus pandemic travel bans were introduced.

He has a wife and daughter and has been mainly relying on his wife’s income as a cleaner to pay the bills. The family had to pull $10,000 out of his superannuation savings in order to meet their mortgage repayments.

Mr Meyer hopes the company will listen to the workers and see they have a strong case.

Fear safety could be compromised

Mr Meyer fears what will happen to safety if jobs are outsourced.

“There’s no doubt that when airlines use a third party the safety’s not the same,” he said.

“Outsourcing is just labour hire. They need to make a profit for what they’re doing.

Leonie Piggott is another worker bidding for her job.

She has worked as a cabin cleaner with Qantas for two and a half and has been surviving on JobKeeper since she was stood down in March.

Lady wearing black jacket looks at camera concerned.
Leonie Piggot has worked as a cabin cleaner and is now on JobKeeper. She says it is “un-Australian” for Qantas to outsource Qantas jobs.(Supplied.)

She wants Qantas to reverse its decision to outsource jobs, especially for long-time employees.

“It’s un-Australian what they’re doing to 2,500 families,” she said.

“The jobs still exist. It’s not like the jobs aren’t there anymore.”

“We just want to go back to our jobs when international flights are up and running again.”

Ms Piggott, a TWU member, also fears safety could be impacted.

“They [Qantas] are just trying to outsource these jobs to save money, but they will get people who aren’t as highly trained,” she said.

“The safety standards won’t be as high as what Qantas staff have provided.”

Qantas to review worker bids

A Qantas spokesman said the company had received the in-house bid from its ground handling employees and thanked them for the work they had done preparing it.

“COVID has meant airlines have to make fundamental changes to their operations, and whether this work remains in-house or is done by specialist ground handlers, it has to be more efficient in the future,” he said.

Qantas has previously estimated about $100 million a year can be saved by outsourcing, and another $80 million saved by avoiding large spending on equipment.

It has also said outsourcing would allow it to match ground handling services with fluctuating levels of demand, on the basis that Qantas expects its flying schedule to be more variable during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

Qantas Group posted a $2.7 billion loss for the 2020 financial year and suffered a $4 billion hit to its revenue.

The airline is expecting another significant loss this financial year and expects revenue to fall by another $10 billion.

In October, Qantas chairman Richard Goyder told investors at the company’s annual general meeting that the union claim that outsourced ground handlers were unsafe was not true.

He noted that these ground handlers already support Qantas and Jetstar’s operations at 55 airports around the country.

And he said analysis of safety reports over the past two years showed that external ground handlers working for the Qantas Group were no less safe.

Mr Goyder had said the group’s use of outsourced providers was assessed by Australian regulator CASA, and its ongoing international accreditation through global body IATA required effective oversight of outsourced ground handling.

The airline also conducted audits of all ground handlers on their safety performance, including injury rates, he said.

Union says savings can be made in other ways

But TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said “Qantas workers should be allowed to do Qantas work”.

Mr Kaine also feared that safety and security standards could slip if jobs were outsourced.

A middle-aged man talks to microphones with people behind him listening and holding placards.
The national secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), Michael Kaine, says “Qantas workers should be allowed to do Qantas work”.(AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

“We only need to look at the appalling example of Swissport, the preferred bidder for the Qantas work, to see what could befall the airline,” he said.

“[This includes] chronically fatigued and underpaid workers, safety and security breaches, deliberate understaffing and high injury rates.

“Considering the amount of public money which has been pumped into Qantas since the pandemic hit, the community has a right to expect better standards.”

Mr Kaine said the Federal Government had given more than $1 billion to the aviation industry, including more than $800 million to Qantas, since the pandemic hit, with no conditions attached on retaining jobs or capping CEO salaries.

He said if 2,500 workers keep their jobs, big savings could be made by not having to give tens of millions of dollars in redundancy payments.

Workers had already identified areas of efficiencies with Qantas, which Mr Kaine said included changes to rostering. This, he said, had been done centrally but did not take into account systems specific to each airport.

There could also be changes such as “cross-utilisation” so that workers could be deployed across the airport between the ramp work on the tarmac and in the bag room.

The Senate recently set up an inquiry into the future of the aviation industry and will report back at the end of March.

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Essendon makes last-ditch attempt to keep Adam Saad

Damian Barrett is reporting that Essendon has opted to match Carlton’s offer for Adam Saad in a last-ditch attempt to keep him.

The dashing defender recently requested a trade to the Blues, knocking back an offer from the Bombers in order to move to a third club.

Barrett says Essendon is digging their heels in during negotiations and as a result, the entire Trade Period is being held up.

“Essendon is still trying to keep him,” he said on AFL Trade Radio’s Late Trade.

“They’ve made contact with him in the last 48 hours hoping that he changes his mind. He’s out the door and he’s not coming back.

“They didn’t value him enough to make him stay at the time, the deal they are now prepared to offer him is roughly in keeping with what Carlton has offered to him, but they didn’t offer it to him before Carlton did.”

Former Carlton list manager Stephen Silvagni said Essendon would be “kidding themselves” if they didn’t accept a deal with pick 8 involved.

“If the Essendon Football Club doesn’t take pick 8, they are kidding themselves,” he said.

“If it’s not on the table from Carlton, they are kidding themselves as well. Until we know whether pick 8 is on the table, we’re speculating.”

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Were the NSW Blues robbed a last-ditch chance to win game one against Queensland Maroons because of referee blowing full-time before siren?

“The referee gets a 10-second countdown from the match-day coach in their ear at the end of every half, based off the time-keeper,” an NRL spokesman told the Herald. “The referee calls full-time off that, not the siren or the scoreboard timer.”

The Blues were also unlucky not to receive a penalty after the Queensland defence piled on top of Tedesco and slowed the play-the-ball down enough to prohibit NSW from spreading the ball towards Josh Addo-Carr’s wing on the next tackle.

Queensland back-rower Felise Kaufusi could also find himself in hot water for not leaving the field immediately after he was sent to the sin bin for deliberately slowing down the play-the-ball with 13 seconds on the clock.

His slow exit, which only required him to walk about five metres to the sideline, provided Queensland with valuable extra seconds to rest before defending their line. It required the intervention of the touch judge before he left the surface.

Before the 2019 season, the NRL announced a rule change to deter players from dawdling after being sin binned.

“Failure to do so may lead to clubs being breached and fined under NRL rules and/or offending players may be charged with contrary conduct under the NRL judiciary code,” a NRL statement sent at the time said.

Gerard Sutton signals 10 minutes in the sin bin for Felise Kaufusi.Credit:Getty

Meanwhile, the Blues were left to rue a number of uncharacteristic errors in game one, leaving them with plenty of work to do ahead of Origin II at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.

“It gives us a chance to have a bit of an attitude adjustment and realise it’s a series now and be ready to go,” NSW coach Brad Fittler said.


“We’ll see what character we’re all made of. Last time we had to win a series in Queensland was 1994. It’s a long time since we’ve been able to do it. We’ll have to settle ourselves and find our best 17 next week at home. It’s do or die now. I trust in the group. They’ve got great character. They know now what sort of team they’re playing against.”

While it’s hard to deny the Wayne Bennett factor, Fittler insists the Blues were their own worst enemy.

“Everyone is aware of the ability of Wayne Bennett – he’s one of the best coaches of all time,” Fittler said. “But at the end of the day, we have to look at our own game and realise there are areas we could have done better. The ball is now in our court.”

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Hawthorn confirm last-ditch bid for GWS free agent

Hawthorn football boss Graham Wright has confirmed reports the club attempted a last-ditch move to lure Aidan Corr away from North Melbourne.

Corr, 26, announced his intention to join the Roos as an unrestricted free agent in September, but it emerged last week that the Hawks made a late play to sway him away from his nominated club.

Wright said Hawthorn always had interest in the defender, before they were ultimately unsuccessful in their bid to convince him to join the club.

“From our perspective we had spoken to Aidan throughout the year,” he said on AFL Trade Radio’s Late Trade.

“When he was going to be leaving GWS, he was considering us and North Melbourne so we were always in there with a chance.

“With things happening in the last month or so, we did make a call to see whether he’d be interested in reconsidering, but he’s obviously a very loyal young man and stuck with his original decision.

Amid the currently uncertainty around Adam Treloar’s position at Collingwood, Wright was asked whether Hawthorn could make a play for the midfielder.

While not completely ruling it out, Wright said it was unlikely they would be able to match the current terms of his deal at the Pies.

“Not at this stage,” Wright said when asked about the club’s potential interest in Treloar.

“Like everyone else, we’re an interested observer, just sort of following through and watching what’s happening.

“He’s a high quality player, he’s at a very good club and it appears there’s an impasse there – he’s a very highly paid player there and has a long tenure.

“It’s not something for us at this stage, we’ll always be of the opinion that you’ll never say never, but I think it would be unlikely.”

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Last-ditch bid to secure Aurora Australis for ‘floating museum’

They may be less than a week old and have no money but a group of Antarctic enthusiasts is making an 11th-hour bid to secure Australia’s retiring icebreaker the Aurora Australis for a floating museum.

An announcement from owners P&O on its future is reported to be imminent.

Nicknamed the “Orange Roughy”, it has spent three decades plying the waters of the icy Southern Ocean ferrying scientists and supplies to Australia’s Antarctic research stations and Macquarie Island.

A much-loved feature on the Hobart waterfront, the ship left its home port on a final voyage south in March.

Hobartians have flooded ABC Hobart’s Facebook page with ideas about its potential future use, with many keen to see a floating museum.

“Definitely keep it in Hobart waterfront and make it a tourist attraction as well as accommodation for visitors to keep paying its way. I’d stay there for sure,” said Steve George.

“Could be a great place to educate kids about Antarctica,” posted Ben Anderson.

As well as a museum Susan McKinnon said it could double as an event space.

Seth Isham was keen to see it turned “into a ferry from Hobart to New Zealand”.

Nick Boucher suggested: “Dive wreck!”

Wilkie seeks ‘stay’ on decision

The ship has serviced research stations for 30 years and is affectionately known as the “Orange Roughy”.(Supplied: Sarah Laverick)

Local MP Andrew Wilkie fears it may be sold off for scrap metal and urged authorities to step in.

“You can’t just go and knock over — a heritage building, governments have powers to stop that, governments have powers to stop the disposal of the vessel,” he said.

“Every winter, it’s been down there defining our sense of place. It really is an iconic part of the city. In Hobart we have the mountain, we have the river and we have the Aurora Australis.”

The MP is seeking a “stay of execution” on a decision and said the floating museum was just one worthy option on the table.

Expeditioners hold up flares with ship in the background.
Expeditioners farewelled the ship from Mawson research station earlier this year.(AAD: Matt Williams)

It is an idea former Antarctic expeditioner Dr Melanie Van Twest has been working on since her voyage in 2011.

She is part of a small band of Antarctic enthusiasts who established the Aurora Australis Foundation, which this week became incorporated and is applying for charity status.

The GP and archaeologist told ABC Radio Hobart they had been in talks to acquire the ship, using a local ship-broker.

“I don’t want to go too much into the negotiations at the moment because we are very respectful of P&O’s status as the ship’s owner,” she said.

“This is their ship and they have operated her in an outstanding, exemplary fashion for many, many years.”

Bid for consortium to buy ship

Dr Van Twest admitted it was ambitious and said if they could secure it and find it a berth accessible to tourists and visitors, money would remain the final hurdle.

Based on a scrap metal valuation, the foundation believes it could have a price tag of up to $2 million.

“It is only money, money can often be found, be raised and gathered over time but we really do need to first have the ship and have somewhere to put her,” she said.

“We’re very much hoping we can bring together a consortium of government, private interests, not just for money in bank but for support in kind to help us meet costs, like maintenance, port fees, all things that go into an ongoing operation.”

The Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, which owns several decommissioned ships, has helped the group come to grips with what might be involved in their proposal.

“The museum has been supportive, giving us advice and giving us figures, to say, ‘well this ship cost about this much to maintain, this much to clean her hull and about this much income from visitor traffic’, and it has really helped us pulled together some concept of what it is we are proposing here.”

A large red ship.
Andrew Wilkie says the ship is as much a part of the Hobart landscape as kunanyi/Mount Wellington.(ABC News: James Dunlevie)

Dr Van Twest first developed a passion for Antarctica on a six-week voyage which included the centenary celebrations for explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

“We’re a five-days-old organisation, though I’ve been working on this or several years, we don’t have any money behind us at this point but we are hoping there will be support because we are aware that she’s a ship that P&O are also very proud [of] and she means a lot to them as well.

“So, we are hoping we can come together and come to a successful conclusion that will be of benefit to all parties.”

P&O has been contacted for comment.

The ship’s replacement, the $2 billion Nuyina, is being built in Romania and is due to be in Australia in time for the 2020-21 season.

Artist's impression of new Australian icebreaker Nuyina at sea
New icebreaker RSV Nuyina has a $2 billion pricetag.(Supplied: Australian Antarctic Division)

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