Trade Minister Dan Tehan reflects on one year since China imposed tariffs on Australian barley



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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says timeline on vaccines and international travel is not certain


Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not saying when all Australians will be vaccinated or when international borders will open again, 24 hours after his Treasurer handed down the government’s pandemic budget.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30, Mr Morrison said Tuesday’s federal budget was not dependent on the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. 

“There is a general assumption [in the budget] of a vaccination program [which is] likely to be in place by the end of this year,” Mr Morrison said.

“That will not have a material impact on what’s in this budget, and it would be a mistake to think it did.”

The government had initially set a target of delivering a first dose to anyone in Australia that wanted it by the end of October. 

But Australia’s vaccine rollout has been hampered by supply issues and by concerns over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the under-50s.

The budget includes $1.9 billion for Australia’s vaccination strategy over five years but does not set any firm targets. 

Under questioning from Labor in Parliament earlier on Wednesday, Mr Morrison did not say when all Australians would be immunised by either.

“That [the budget assumption] is not a policy statement nor is it a policy commitment,” he said.

The budget assumes borders will remain closed until the middle of 2022, aside from certain exemptions. 

A “gradual return of temporary and permanent migrants” is expected from mid-2022, with the potential for international students to travel sooner.

The budget also left the door open for more bubble arrangements like the one Australia shares with New Zealand, but said quarantine caps would operate “with the exception of passengers from safe travel zones”.

Mr Morrison said he could not guarantee Australians would be able to return home without quarantine after 2022.

“It’s impossible for me to make those sorts of predictions in the middle of a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,” he said.

“I can fully understand why people want greater certainty, but I can only provide the certainty that’s available.”

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NT Chief Minister ‘extremely angry’ at exiled Labor colleagues in wake of Labor scandal


Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said dishonesty from former members of his Labor team stopped him from “acting early and publicly” to address a growing political scandal plaguing his Government.

In a statement released on Sunday, Mr Gunner castigated Blain MLA Mark Turner, who has been expelled from caucus, and a Labor staffer who resigned in the wake of the scandal, for misleading the Government in the wake of growing rumours about them.

“I want to be clear with Territorians: I am extremely angry and disappointed in the behaviour of former members of my team in relation to this matter,” he said.

“What has become clear to me, is that former members of my team showed extremely poor judgement and did not meet my standards, or the standards of my caucus.”

But Mr Gunner has been accused by the Opposition Leader of failing a test of leadership by not properly investigating the matter — a failing Ms Finocchiaro said amounted to “a cover-up”.

“If you don’t investigate and you don’t deny, and you’ve known about it all week, and you don’t come clean with Territorians — that is a cover-up. I don’t know any other way to describe it,” Ms Finocchiaro said.

Independent Robyn Lambley has also called for Mr Gunner to resign over his handling of the matter, which first emerged publicly in a report in the Sunday Territorian on February 14.

Mark Turner has been removed from NT Labor’s parliamentary team.(

ABC News: Terry McDonald

)

On that day, Ms Finocchiaro issued a statement saying she had been made aware of “serious allegations” involving members of the NT Labor Party and called on Mr Gunner to address them.

Ms Finocchiaro later described the allegations as being related to a “cocaine sex scandal”.

In response, Mr Gunner repeatedly accused the Opposition Leader of spreading “internet gossip” saying there was no substance to the allegations.

However, on Wednesday evening Mr Turner addressed parliament and admitted to an inappropriate friendship with a “private citizen” that was “too intimate”.

He insisted he had not engaged in any illegal activity and had the Chief Minister’s support in making the statement.

But the Chief Minister on Thursday changed his position and told parliament Mr Turner had been banished from the party caucus and removed from his role as deputy speaker.

Mr Gunner also confirmed that one of his staffers — who he said categorically rejected any allegations of criminal activity — had resigned to “seek support for personal issues during a distressing time”.

On Sunday, Mr Gunner had also shifted his comments on the staffer saying he has since found out the ex-staffer had also acted dishonestly.

“He wasn’t entirely forthcoming with us about the extent of his relationship with the private citizen, and that was troubling … he wasn’t up front with us as we tried to work our way through this issue,” Mr Gunner said.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner is standing in front of a microphone with a serious expression. Behind him is the Australian flag.
Mr Gunner said he would hold a meeting on Monday to reinforce standards among party members.(

ABC News: Michael Franchi

)

Mr Gunner added that the staff member would have been sacked if he hadn’t resigned.

He said he was not aware of a police investigation involving Mr Turner or the former staffer.

He also repeated that there was no evidence to suggest that either Mr Turner or the staff member had engaged in illegal activity.

Mr Gunner has also denied that anyone on his staff worked with Mr Turner to “cover up” the extra-marital affair.

Text messages from Mr Turner to the woman at the centre of the scandal, which have been leaked to the media, suggested Mr Turner was taking advice from someone about comments she should make about the affair.

“At no point did any member of my team advise the Member for Blain on how to cover-up information. I strongly reject any suggestions to the contrary,” Mr Gunner said on Sunday.

Lack of action due to lack of evidence: Gunner

On Sunday, Mr Gunner said he first heard of rumours implicating party members early in the week of February 8. He said he did not act on the matter earlier because, up until last Wednesday, he was being misled by the two members in question.

“Without doubt, if people had been more forthcoming with us, we would have acted earlier and publicly, but we did what we could with the information we had,” he said.

“We did everything we could within our powers to test those rumours and they were strongly denied.

“I want to be clear: we have the same workplace HR processes as any other workplace. We went as far as we could with the ability that we had to work out what was going on here and it was strongly denied.”

When asked if he would have done anything differently to handle the matter after downplaying the allegations as rumours and internet gossip last week, Mr Gunner defended his actions.

“I think we’ve got to be extremely careful about elevating gossip to public debate,” he said.

“I don’t believe it’s controversial still to describe allegations without evidence as gossip. And I still don’t think it’s controversial to describe whether someone is or isn’t having an affair as gossip.”

Mr Gunner said he did not believe any further action needed to be taken to ensure appropriate standards within the Labor Party were upheld.

“We acted against our standards,” he said. “I don’t think our standards were at fault. I think individuals who didn’t meet those standards are at fault,” he said.

“But I’ll be having a meeting on Monday to double-down on that so there is absolute clarity about the standard here.”

Blain MLA’s party status at risk

On Sunday, Mr Gunner indicated the Mr Turner could be stripped of his party status, saying his decision to exclude the Member for Blain from caucus could be considered a recommendation to the party around that issue.

“I have let the president of the party know that that exclusion from our Labor parliamentary team could be considered by her as a recommendation,” he said.

“I am extremely disappointed by how this week evolved and how the story changed during the week. It would be fair to say that that anger is shared by my team.”

On the question of whether Mr Turner should remain in NT Parliament, Mr Gunner said that was a decision for Mr Turner.

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Victoria’s Health Minister provides an update on the state’s new positive COVID-19 case.




Victorian health authorities urge residents to remain vigilant and get tested after a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed in a man who recently completed hotel quarantine in SA.

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister ticks off Chinese envoy for commenting on host country’s foreign policy – NewsIn.Asia


Dhaka, May 11 (newsin.asia): The Bangladesh Foreign Minister, A.K.Abdul Momen, on Tuesday asked foreign envoys based in Dhaka to maintain decency and decorum when speaking in public.

“FM Dr.Momen told the media here that Bangladesh is a sovereign country which will determine the course of its foreign policy in the interest of its people. He urged foreign envoys in Dhaka to maintain decency and decorum while speaking in public,” the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry tweeted.

Though Momen did not name any envoy, it was obvious that he was referring to the Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming’s statement to the media on May 10 that Sino-Bangladesh relations will be “substantially damaged” if Bangladesh joins the ‘Quad’ which he described as an “anti-China group” comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia.   

Ambassador Li Jiming said that the Quad is not an economic group as it claimed to be, but is an anti-China security group. He quoted Japan and the US as saying so.  

Asked by Prothom Alo’s s Diplomatic Correspondent Raheed Ejaz to comment on the prospects of Bangladesh joining the Quad, Li said that the Quad is a “small group” which, though portraying itself as an economic group, is actually an anti-China security group.

The Ambassador then went on to warn: “It will not be a good idea for Bangladesh to participate in this group. Bangladesh-China bilateral relations will be substantially damaged if Bangladesh joins this small group.”

END  



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Federal government, media and NDP Opposition wanted COVID-19 disaster, says Alberta justice minister


Alberta’s justice minister is under fire for remarks he posted on Facebook that said the federal Liberal government, the media and the NDP opposition wanted the province’s health-care system to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. 

Kaycee Madu made the remarks last week, a few days after the UCP government introduced more restrictions to contain a surge of COVID-19 cases in Alberta.

In the comment section of another user’s Facebook page, Madu wrote that the government needed to act or run the risk of leaving Albertans “in field and makeshift hospitals, gasping for breath because we have [run] out of ventilators, manpower etc.”

“My point is that I don’t think it will be responsible to simply wait until we have a disaster on our hands,” wrote the member of the legislature for Edmonton-South West.  

“That’s what the NDP, the media and the federal Liberals were looking for and want. We simply couldn’t allow that to happen.”

NDP MLA David Shepherd, the Opposition’s health critic, said it was “disgusting” for Madu to claim the opposition and the media are cheering for the province to fail and for people to die. 

Shepherd, who represents Edmonton-City Centre, pointed out the NDP caucus had for months been calling for the government to bring in stricter measures. He suggested that cabinet, which includes Madu, delayed acting to avoid upsetting the UCP’s base supporters. 

“They’ve continued to make decisions that are more about their own political interests than supporting the public health on behalf of Albertans,” Shepherd said. 

“I think that’s what we’re seeing from this minister here. And that is why Alberta finds itself in such a bad situation in the midst of this third wave.”

‘The minister won’t apologize’

But a spokesperson for Madu defended the justice minister’s comments. 

“The minister was referring to the increasing tendency of different groups, including the NDP, to exploit the pandemic for their own political purposes,” press secretary Blaise Boehmer said in an email. 

“We see this every day with the NDP’s overcooked and incendiary rhetoric, both in the legislative assembly and on social media. The minister won’t apologize for stating the obvious.”

Madu’s comments don’t align with a new tone being set by Premier Jason Kenney, according to Duane Bratt, a professor of political science at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

Previously, Kenney would regularly target Prime Minster Justin Trudeau and the federal government for the lack of vaccines. But now shipments of vaccines are regularly arriving in Alberta.

Bratt said Madu’s Facebook post conflicts with the new message coming from the premier. 

“I don’t know what Madu was thinking,” he said. “It just makes him look bad.”

As far as political gaffes are concerned, Bratt said this one is minor. 

“But it does take away from the change in message, change in tone, that we’ve seen previously.” 

A spokesperson for the federal government said Albertans expect governments to do everything possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“The federal government has done this from the start and will continue to do what it takes, for as long as it takes,” said Annie Cullinan, press secretary to Jim Carr, the federal government’s special representative to the Prairies.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns Australia will only open borders ‘when it is safe to do so’


The Prime Minister is warning Australia’s international borders will remain closed for the foreseeable future, as his Treasurer notes this week’s federal budget assumes Australia will remain locked off to the rest of the world until at least 2022.

Australia’s borders were slammed shut in March last year as the coronavirus spread across the world, with the federal government trying to take advantage of the nation’s island geography to safeguard it from the worst of the deadly virus.

In an interview with News Corp, Mr Morrison said he did not believe Australians had an “appetite” for opening borders if it meant having to deal with more coronavirus outbreaks, lockdowns and social restrictions.

“We have to be careful not to exchange that way of life for what everyone else has,” he said.

In a later post on Facebook, he warned borders would only be opened “when it is safe to do so”.

“Australians are living like in few countries around the world today.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed those sentiments, confirming Treasury’s budget forecasts were based on borders opening “next year”. 

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Scott Morrison says he will proceed cautiously on opening international borders.

The admission has prompted criticism from the opposition, which argued it is the consequence of ongoing mismanagement of the coronavirus vaccination program and hotel quarantine arrangements.

“Three weeks ago, Scott Morrison said there could be international travel and home quarantine by as early as July,” Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“This morning, three weeks later, he’s saying Australia will be locked down forever — which is it?

“Australia needs a clear plan on vaccines and quarantine but all we’re getting from this Prime Minister is excuses and failure.”

The Prime Minister has previously said he would not put hard dates on vaccination milestones.

Qantas had been planning to restart international flights from October, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying his airline was in discussions with the federal government about when border restrictions would be lifted. 

Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would pursue more travel bubbles with countries, beyond the current arrangements with New Zealand, rather than totally open its borders.

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Welsh election results 2021: Mark Drakeford set to stay as first minister


Labour’s response to the Covid pandemic helped the party retain power after it won the most seats in the Welsh elections, Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford is set to continue as Wales’ first minister after Labour won 30 of the 60 Welsh Parliament seats.

The Conservatives had their best Senedd campaign with 16 seats while Plaid in third took 13 seats.

Welsh Labour leader Mr Drakeford has said his next Welsh government would be “radical” and “ambitious”.

He said people felt they’ve been “kept safe here in Wales” and that was a “strong theme” in the election.

“From the very first day of the campaign here in Porthcawl, people have been coming to the doorstep to tell us that they feel glad they’ve lived in Wales over the last 15 months,” said Mr Drakeford.

“A government I lead will continue to follow the science to do what our medical advisers tells us we should do, and that does mean doing things in a way that continues to keep Wales safe.”

The Welsh Government controls Wales’ Covid response and the relaxing of restrictions – such as meeting inside pubs and restaurants and travel rules – has tended to have been more cautious in Wales.

“But on other matters, our manifesto is a radical manifesto with a host of ideas that are ambitious for Wales,” added Mr Drakeford.

“I’ll be very keen to ensure that we give that the most powerful sense of momentum behind it to get those things happening here in Wales.”

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Prime Minister criticised on Q+A over abandoning Australians of Indian heritage during COVID-19 crisis


Australia may be set to resume flights from India next week to get stranded citizens home, but the Morrison government received a lashing on Q+A from guest Mannie Kaur Varma, who said Australians of Indian heritage are not being seen as equals by the Prime Minister.

Ms Varma said those in the Indian community felt abandoned by Mr Morrison, as she took aim in a show opening that mocked the PM’s love of curries, suggesting he thinks they are India’s major contribution to Australian society.

“First you grant us exemption to go to India to look after our loved ones who are fighting for their lives, then you abandon us and leave us in a country that is gasping for air,” Ms Varma said.

“In 2019 the Prime Minister said Australia is like a fragrant garam masala…for the Prime Minister, is the value of Indians reduced to just our food or does he see us as equals?”

Asked by host Hamish Macdonald how the flight ban and the threat of jail time for those returning from India made her feel, Ms Varma said the government ruling, under the Biosecurity Act, made it feel like Indian-Australians were not equal.

“What is going on in India is horrible and to know we are not treated the same as everyone else is just appalling,” she said.

Coalition Member for Reid in NSW, Fiona Martin, said the ruling was simply a case of following the health advice available to the government due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in returned travellers from India.

“Last month we saw over 40 per cent of people travelling home from India testing positive to COVID-19,” Ms Martin said, before adding other countries such as the United States (6 per cent) had a much lower rate.

Asked if those of Indian descent in her electorate had expressed similar feelings to Ms Varma, Ms Martin said that was not the case, but they did feel the threat of jail was overly aggressive.

“The penalty is what has been of concern by constituents, not the ban itself,” she said.

“As I mentioned, earlier in the week, I thought the penalty was a little heavy-handed and that part of it was problematic.”

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney, who herself has a sizeable Indian population in her Barton electorate in NSW, said she had heard similar gripes to Ms Varma’s.

She said constituents felt “abandoned” and pointed out that to become Australian citizens, those who hail from India had to renounce their India citizenship, making the government’s flight ban an even more egregious move.

“We’re not talking about people who are not Australian citizens,” Ms Burney said of the Australians stranded in India.

“They are Australian citizens and Australian governments are responsible for keeping their citizens safe and providing them with as much support as possible in difficult circumstances.

Ms Martin was quick to refute the notion of it being a political response.

“This is not a political response. This is a health response. This decision has been based on health advice,” she said.

While India and coronavirus opened the show, a large part was devoted to the discussion of coercive control and how Australia can tackle the issue moving forward, including making it illegal.

In a powerful opening to the topic, audience member Suzette Sutton said she endured abuse for 25 years during which she tried to take her own life twice. She asked how the issue could be solved in relationships that involve domestic violence.

SBS journalist Jess Hill said that criminalising coercive control would make the entire gamut of domestic violence visible — not just physical or sexual assaults — and that it would ultimately help victims.

“What we’re proposing with criminalising coercive control is to make the entire arc of what you were subjected to visible,” Hill said.

“Not just the physical incidents, not just the things that our criminal justice system recognises now, but everything from the start to the finish so that we understand what the risks are, what the damage has been and how dangerous the offender is.”

Ms Burney, herself a survivor of domestic violence, said she wanted Australians to understand just how crippling coercive control could be, adding that it should be criminalised.

“Something that I want people to understand is this often the basis to destroying a person,” Ms Burney said.

“It takes away who you are.

“I agree that coercive control should be criminalised. 

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Labor slams minister over Qld wind farm


The federal government has vetoed a $370 million green energy project in far north Queensland despite its potential to deliver hundreds of jobs and cheaper energy.

The Kaban Wind Farm and accompanying grid augmentation was expected to generate 250 jobs in the region and deliver more affordable power to households and businesses.

It was claimed the project would deliver power price savings of $461 million over 30 years.

The proposed energy hub to be based 80km west of Cairns was green-lit by the board of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility in December 2020.

But Minister for Northern Australia Keith Pitt exercised his ministerial powers and vetoed the project because it was “inconsistent with the objectives and policies of the Commonwealth government”.

Mr Pitt used powers granted to him under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility legislation, set up in 2016 by then-Northern Australia minister Josh Frydenberg.

At the time Mr Frydenberg told parliament the ministerial powers could only be used in relation to projects “contrary to the national interest”.

Mr Pitt reportedly told the head of the NAIF in March he was not convinced the project would result in lower energy prices.

The veto decision was attacked by Labor’s climate spokesman Chris Bowen, who accused the government of killing off the project because it was against their “non-existent energy policy”.

“North Queensland should be getting 250 new energy jobs and cheaper power bills, but they’ve been hung out to dry,” he said on Thursday.

“Queensland has the resources and the workers to continue to power the country and the world, but a government that is leaving them behind.”

Opposition Northern Australia spokesman Murray Watt said the NAIF had been struggling to fund projects for more than five years.

“The NAIF has been notoriously slow at getting money out to projects since it was announced six years ago,” he said.

“Now that it finds a project to fund, the minister secretly knocks it off.

“This government’s ideological obsession against renewables is costing jobs and lower power prices.

“They are holding regional Queensland back.”

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