Australia to have key role as US President Joe Biden uses Quad alliance to launch vaccine rollout in Asia-Pacific


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed that the leaders of the Quad nations will soon hold their first joint meeting since the group was founded in 2007, a sign of its growing importance.

The meeting between Biden, Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to take place this month via video conference.

“The Quad is very central to the US and our thinking about the region,” Morrison told reporters at Parliament House on Friday.

Rather than “big bureaucracy with a big secretariat”, Morrison said the alliance “will be four leaders, four countries, working together constructively for the peace, prosperity and stability” in the Indo-Pacific.

A massive vaccine distribution program would mark a new era for the Quad, which has previously focused on defence co-operation, particularly joint naval exercises.

The Biden administration sees the Quad as an attractive means of exerting influence in the Asia-Pacific because all its members are all established democracies and have a combined population of 1.8 billion – exceeding China’s.

The Quad’s small size and informal structure could also allow it to act with more agility than larger and more bureaucratic multilateral organisations.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently said the Biden administration sees the Quad as a “foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific region”.

The decision to elevate the Quad’s status represents an unusual embrace of a part of the Trump administration’s foreign policy approach – even as Biden ditches his predecessor’s “America first” rhetoric.

The Trump administration revived the Quad, which went into hibernation for almost a decade shortly after being founded, in its first year and instituted ministerial-level meetings for the first time.

The Quad has long been discussed as a potential “mini-NATO” for the Asia-Pacific region, while failing to live up to its promise.

“A lot of folks in the Asia-watching community have said the Quad was kind of a joke, that it doesn’t do much,” Derek Grossman, an expert on Indo-Pacific security issues at the RAND corporation, said.

“I think it’s going to be a very important forum for the Biden administration.”

As well as distributing COVID-19 vaccines, Grossman said the Quad could also play an important role in delivering infrastructure and co-ordinating action on climate change.

Daniel Russel, a key player in the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” policy, said: “This reflect’s the Biden team’s conviction that China shouldn’t be the only game in town.

“China’s dramatic rise and assertive behaviour has brought home the realisation for these four countries that they will benefit from a co-ordinated agenda to shape and influence regional trends and global governance,” Russel, a vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute, said.

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Mike Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said: “The Biden administration is sending an early and strong signal that China will face geo-political consequences for its coercive behaviour and that this administration is different to the Obama administration – that is to say, not naive about China.”

Green said the Quad represents “a fantastic bargain for Australia” given its population and military footprint is far smaller than that of its fellow member nations.

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New Zealand Warriors launch bold $2.5m bid for 20 home games in 2022


“We play 10 home games here in New Zealand next year, plus the Magic Round in Brisbane. But I’d love to buy as many away games from the Australian-based clubs and play a minimum 16 NRL games here. We’d love up to 20 games.”

George also wanted the NRL to schedule as many Warriors games in the 6pm Friday timeslot (8pm and prime time in New Zealand) as possible.

“If we’re playing consistently in that timeslot, it gives the game a really good launch pad,” George said. “It’s about relaunching the game in New Zealand, not just the Warriors. And the way to do that is to play as many games as we can in New Zealand.”

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George has started sounding out New Zealand-based companies about becoming commercial partners to help with the concept.

Purchasing 10 away game would set the Warriors back about $2.5 million to $3 million. Instead of covering the Warriors’ travel costs, the NRL would pick up the tab for teams flying the other way. The Warriors are losing about $300,000 for each game not played at Mt Smart Stadium during their time on the road.

Because fans on the Central Coast are already affiliated with rival clubs, George said there was no chance to convert those same supporters into Warriors members.

“We will be going to knock on the NRL’s door at some stage because it has really impacted on our financial position in the short, mid and long term,” George said.

“Our memberships are very low. The New Zealand-based members aren’t buying their memberships like normal because we are not home and I get that, but then the NSW people aren’t buying memberships to support us because we might not be here for long either.

“We are between a rock and a hard place.”

Unlike last year, no Warriors players want to return home early. The latest timeframe allows children attending schools on the Central Coast to finish term two, while the scheduled bye round for Origin II gives the Warriors players extra time to get settled.

with Sarah Keoghan

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F1 news 2021, Aston Martin new car launch, James Bond, Tom Brady, Sebastian Vettel, pictures, video


Sebastian Vettel said he believes he can win another Formula One world title as his new Aston Martin team unveiled their car on Wednesday ahead of a return to the grid.

Vettel, a four-time world champion for Red Bull, endured a miserable end to his six campaigns with Ferrari, finishing 13th in the 2020 standings.

The 33-year-old German is ready to move on to the next chapter of his career with Aston Martin – the historic British name returning to Formula One for the first time since 1960.

“It is not a secret that last year I wasn’t at my happiest,” Vettel said at Aston Martin’s launch, where the rebranded Racing Point team revealed its British racing green livery.

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Downhearted Liberals told to ‘stand up and fight’ at Labour Day campaign launch


“And when the question is asked of you in 2021 with the future of our state at stake, where were you? Were you fighting with us, were you standing up on behalf of the people of Western Australia, were you standing alongside our Liberal candidates on behalf of the people of WA, the answer needs to be yes.

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“You need to join us now in 2021, it is unprecedented, it will be difficult but we have the opportunity to make history here and now, join us.”

There were no new policies launched at the event – a few hundred metres down the road from one of the last Liberal government’s crowning infrastructure achievements, Optus Stadium – with the focus firmly on building Roe 8 and stopping Labor from getting ‘total control’.

Mr Kirkup acknowledged how his recent rhetoric that Premier Mark McGowan was going to win had been a tough pill to swallow for Liberal supporters.

“I’ll tell you this: if it means we need to make sure that the people of our state understand what it is at stake; if it is important for us to make sure that we get as many Liberals across the line as possible; if it is important to make sure that what stands between total control from the Labor party and the future of our state; and this is the sacrifice that I need to make, then it is worth it,” he said.

“The Liberal Party represents a thin line that stands between Labor’s desire for total domination, election without accountability, no checks and balances, and the very threat of our democracy at stake, there’s a thin line that will stop them and that is you.”

Liberal candidate for Murray-Wellington Michelle Boylan, who rubbished the party’s renewable policy over the weekend, standing behind Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup at the campaign launch on Monday.Credit:Peter de Kruijff

There were no elder statesman such as former Premier Colin Barnett at the event nor did Mr Hastie make an appearance.

Federal Liberals at the launch included Ben Small, Ben Morton, Vince Connelly, Ian Goodenough, and Michaelia Cash.

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Senator Cash led an all-women line-up of lead-in speakers – which included Deputy Leader Libby Mettam, Darling Range MP Alyssa Hayden, and Bicton candidate Nicole Robins – ahead of Mr Kirkup’s main address and said Mr McGowan needed to be held to account.

The Prime Minister was the most noted absentee from the launch but Mrs Hayden tried to channel Mr Morrison circa his 2019 ‘how good is Australia?’ victory speech as she revved up the crowd.

“How good is the local Liberal blue team, how good is our local Liberal volunteer team, how good are we,” she said.

The Liberals infamously grooved to Daft Punk’s One More Time at the 2017 campaign launch and dipped back into the early 2000s music catalogue with the Junior Senior dance track Move Your Feet as the Monday event’s main song.

‘Monstrous scare campaign’

Mr McGowan was in the safe Liberal seat of Nedlands for a policy announcement on Monday when he said the opposition was engaging in a monstrous scare campaign and the people of WA should just vote how they wanted to.

“We live in a democracy, people can vote in accordance with what they think,” he said.

“If they support the government, if they think we kept the state safe and strong, if they like our program for the election, well I’d urge people to vote for us.

“All the Liberal Party is doing is engaging in a monstrous scare campaign.

WA Premier Mark McGowan.

WA Premier Mark McGowan.Credit:Peter de Kruijff

“I just think people should be able to vote, it’s a democracy.”

The Premier said the Liberal Party did not believe in itself and questioned why West Australians should vote for them.

“They’re acting in a very non-West Australian away, this giving up, surrendering, throwing in the towel, cutting and running, it’s not the West Australian way,” Mr McGowan said.

“We [Labor] believe in ourselves, we believe in WA, we believe the state has a strong future and we want to guide that future.”

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Myanmar police launch most extensive crackdown; hundreds arrested


YANGON: Police in Myanmar launched their most sweeping crackdown in three weeks of nationwide protests against military rule on Saturday (Feb 27), arresting hundreds of people and shooting and wounding at least one person.

State television announced that Myanmar’s UN envoy had been fired for betraying the country, a day after he urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the Feb 1 coup that ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress toward democracy, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

Police were out in force early on Saturday, taking up positions at usual protest sites in the main city of Yangon.

Confrontations developed as people came out despite the police operation, chanting and singing. They scattered into side streets and buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air. Police set upon some people with clubs, witnesses said.

State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested across the country. It said police had given warnings before dispersing people with stun grenades.

“People blocked the roads without reason. Among those arrested, we will scrutinize those who organise the protests and take tough action,” it said.

READ: Myanmar’s UN ambassador vows to fight after junta fired him

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group said it believed the number of arrests was higher, with at least 10 prison buses carrying 40 to 50 people each taken to the Insein Prison in Yangon.

Several journalists were among those detained, their media organisations and colleagues said.

“People are protesting peacefully but they’re threatening us with weapons,” youth activist Shar Yamone told Reuters.

“We’re fighting to end this military bullying which has been going on for generation after generation.”

Police confronted protesters across the country. Among those detained in the second city of Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), media said.

READ: Myanmar’s UN ambassador appeals to world body for action to end military coup

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One woman was shot and wounded in the central town of Monwya, local media 7Day News and an emergency worker said. 7Day and two other media organisations had earlier reported that she was dead.

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died over the days of turmoil. The army says a policeman has been killed in the unrest.

Activists called for another day of protests on Sunday.

Saturday’s violence came a day after Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the UN General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for help to end the military coup.

MRTV television said he had been fired in accordance with civil service rules because he had “betrayed the country” and “abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.


Security forces in Tamwe Township during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Security forces in Tarmwe (6)

Security forces in Tamwe Township during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

However, the United Nations has not officially recognised the junta as Myanmar’s new government.

UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage”, adding on Twitter “It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action”.

China’s envoy did not criticise the coup and said the situation was an internal Myanmar affair, adding that China supported a diplomatic effort by Southeast Asian countries to find a solution.

The Myanmar generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure. Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd said it was cutting its presence in Myanmar over concern about rights violations and violence.

READ: Myanmar’s civil servant strikes start to bite
READ: Myanmar police raid protest district as World Bank halts some payments

Security forces in Tarmwe (1)

Security forces in Tamwe Township during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Security forces in Tarmwe (2)

Military vehicles outside a shopping centre in Tamwe Township during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols. 

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Moroccan intrigue in free online book launch


City of Logan residents can participate in the unveiling of a new Australian literary
offering.

City of Logan residents can participate in the unveiling of a new Australian literary offering.

Author Deborah Rodriguez will launch her latest novel The Moroccan Daughter in conversation with Sunday Mail columnist Frances Whiting.

This free online event can be viewed any time after 7pm on Thursday, February 25.

It can be accessed via Logan Libraries via author talk 

The author talk is being presented in partnership with Penguin Australia and Queensland public libraries including City of Logan libraries.

The Moroccan Daughter is a modern story of forbidden love set in North Africa.

Amina Bennis has come back to her childhood home in Morocco to attend her sister’s wedding.

The time has come for her to confront her strict, traditionalist father with the secret she has kept for more than a year – her American husband Max.

Amina’s best friend, Charlie, and Charlie’s feisty grandmother, Bea, have come along for moral support and there is also Samira, the Bennises’ devoted housekeeper for
many decades.

The four women are soon caught in a web of lies, clandestine deals and shocking confessions as things begin to unravel.

Ms Rodriquez, who is now based in Mexico, is the author of bestsellers including The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, The Zanzibar
Wife and Island on the Edge of the World.

She has also written two memoirs: The Kabul Beauty School about her life in Afghanistan and The House on Carnaval Street on her experiences following her return to North and Central America.

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NRL 2021: Fox League live launch, Matty Johns’ new show, what to expect in 2021, scheduling on Fox League


The new NRL season is just three weeks away.

And on Thursday, Fox League officially launches the 2021 campaign with the biggest faces in the game at Bankwest Stadium.

Fox League is the home of rugby league with every game of every round is live and ad-break free during play from Thursday, March 11 when the Storm face the Rabbitohs.

Fans can follow the launch live right here on foxsports.com.au or by following the hashtag #FoxLeague2021 for behind the scenes access, content and the best expert opinion.

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Japan rugby to launch new league in ’22


The Japan Rugby Football Union will launch a three-tier professional league from January 2022 in a bid to raise the domestic game to a new level.

The new format, which has yet to be given a name and fell short of the dramatic shake-up some had been calling for, will replace the current corporate rugby structure which features a 16-team Top League and nine-team Top Challenge League.

The revamped league will see 25 teams across three divisions, with 12 top tier clubs split into two conferences.

There will be promotion and relegation playoffs at the end of each season plus a championship game between the winners of the top division conferences.

“We want it to be the world’s best league,” Mayumi Taniguchi, director of the new league’s development office, told reporters Friday.

“We want to improve the Japan national team and Japanese players … We also want more competitive games.”

A shake-up of the domestic game was first mooted after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when hosts Japan reached the quarter-finals for the first time off the back of an unprecedented wave of public support.

Further calls were made for changes when the Sunwolves, Japan’s sole representative club in the Super Rugby competition, were disbanded last year, giving rise to fears that Japanese players would not get exposure to the game at the top level.

The season would begin in January to align with Southern Hemisphere competitions, allowing the top Japanese teams to arrange games against international opposition.

JRFU chairman Kensuke Iwabuchi stressed, however, they were still only in the discussion phase with unions and leagues outside Japan.

“The international calendar and league calendar are uncertain because of COVID-19 so we haven’t been able to confirm matches yet,” Iwabuchi added.

“We want to set the stage for Japan to compete at a world class level.”

The start of this season’s Top League competition was delayed on Thursday following COVID-19 outbreaks at six clubs.





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Space industry – Britain’s launch into the space race looks shaky | Britain


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Parents launch ‘i4give Day’ ahead of anniversary of Oatlands crash that killed four children


The parents of four children killed by a drunk driver in Sydney’s west want the anniversary of their deaths to be a day of forgiveness and celebration.

Siblings Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, 9, and their cousin Veronique Sakr, 11, were killed on February 1 last year when they were struck by an out-of-control ute that mounted a footpath where they were walking in Oatlands.

The children had been walking to the shop to buy ice-cream at the time of the crash.

The Abdallah and Sakr families have forgiven the driver, Samuel Davidson, as an important step in their grieving process.

At a ceremony in Sydney, the families on Sunday launched ‘i4give Day’, to be held each anniversary in memory of the children and to encourage people across the state to reflect on events and relationships in their own lives.

Along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his wife, Jenny, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, family members released four white doves and some butterflies in memory of the children.

Angelina, 12, Sienna, 9, Antony, 13, and Veronique, 11.(Supplied)

Danny Abdallah said the grieving families had found peace by forgiving, but that it hadn’t been easy.

“Friends, I am in pain, my days are empty, my heart is aching,” he said.

“Tears of hopelessness visit me each day. I am dying on the inside and it’s hard to take much more.”

Mr Abdallah said he faced a choice to take a “path of destruction or a path of construction”.

“I forgive myself and I forgive the offender for the greater good of my family,” he said.

“This has allowed us to live in a state of peace and grace, and I promise you if my children were here today they’d say, ‘Forgive him’.”

A woman wearing a white dress stands at a lecturn.
Leila Abdallah said the families “chose forgiveness and love over hatred”.(ABC News)

Leila Abdallah said she felt mixed emotions about the day and was both heartbroken by her loss but grateful the NSW Government was supporting the family’s initiative.

“We chose to turn our tragedy into a greater goodness. We chose to carry our cross with dignity. We chose forgiveness and love over hatred.

The Abdallah family are devout Maronite Catholics and credit God with helping them through their grief.

“For non-believers, forgiveness frees up your emotions. It brings healing to a hurting soul and allows you to have peace in your heart,” Ms Abdallah said.

She said the family’s wishes were for the entire community to “unite under the umbrella of this day”.

“It starts in your heart, spreads to the family and reaches to the community.”

A woman in a grey cardigan kneels in front of memorial flowers.
Ms Abdallah (right), while visiting the crash site one year ago.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Mr Morrison described the Abdallah family’s ability to forgive in the days after the accident as “breathtaking”.

Mr Morrison referred to the Lord’s Prayer and its message of forgiveness.

“We know [the words] by heart. We think we knew what they meant but when you have to face it, when you have to confront pain and suffering in the extreme, then you realise how truly difficult that is,” he said.

“To see someone not only say these words but live them, even in the midst of continued pain and grief, leaves me in awe.”

Ms Berejiklian said the families had given the country “a wonderful gift”.

“The gift of i4give Day will be something that is part of us forever.” 

A man flanked by police officers leaves hospital
Samuel Davidson has pleaded guilty to seven charges, including four of manslaughter.(ABC News)

Ms Berejiklian went on to quote Martin Luther King: “[Forgiveness] is not an occasional act, but it’s a constant attitude, something we live with every day,” she said.

Davidson has pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter and three other offences, including dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

He is accused of having a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, while court documents revealed he also had cocaine and MDMA in his system.

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