Federal government tears up four Victorian government deals with foreign nations



The federal government says it has torn up four agreements between Victoria and foreign nations, including two linked to the state government’s contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal with China.

It is the first time the federal government has used new powers that allow it to cancel agreements that state and territory governments, local councils and public universities strike with other countries.

The move risks stoking a fresh brawl with Beijing after weeks of relative calm.

The BRI is a massive network of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects — including new ports, pipelines, railways and highways — stretching from Asia to Europe.

But Australia has become increasingly anxious that it has been used as a vehicle for cementing the Chinese government’s influence and commercial interests across a vast swathe of the globe.

The federal government has also scrapped an agreement between Victoria’s Department of Education and Training and an Iranian government agency, as well as a 1999 Memorandum of Understanding with the Syrian government designed to encourage scientific cooperation.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said these agreements signed by Victoria’s government were unfavourable to Australia’s foreign relations.

“I consider these four arrangements to be inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations,” she said in a statement.

Senator Payne said the federal government had scrutinised more than 1,000 agreements with foreign nations.

A Victorian government spokeswoman said: “The Foreign Relations Act is entirely a matter for the Commonwealth government.”

“Victoria will continue to work hard to deliver jobs, trade and economic opportunities for our state.”

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City of Logan First Nations artist shares her family’s untold story


Stories about conflicts in western Queensland that impacted Indigenous populations will be shared as Logan Art Gallery opens its next exhibition round.

Stories about conflicts in western Queensland that impacted Indigenous populations will be shared as Logan Art Gallery opens its next exhibition round.

Former Slacks Creek resident and artist Colleen Sam (Ngungurnnumma Kalkadoon) will display artworks based on her cultural identity and her family’s historic journey.

She is a descendant of the Kalkadoon (Kalkadunga) people who lived in the region around what is now Mount Isa.

My story: the unbroken spirit of the Kalkadoons is one of four exhibitions on display at the gallery from April 23 to June 5.

Colleen and designer Keith Weribone (Mandandanji) have partnered to form Moonks Indigenous Art on Furniture.

Artwork in the exhibition feature paintings, furniture and rarely shared stories from the Kalkadoon people, including some from the deadly conflicts of the late 1800s.

The stories, which highlight the struggle by Colleen’s family to preserve Kalkadoon cultural knowledge, have been handed down through four generations over 140 years.

Most have been kept as family secrets.

Colleen said the time was right to tell the stories rather than see the events covered only in history books.

“It is the first time we have shared it in a public setting,” she said.

The storytelling includes the capture of her great grandmother and aunt who spent the rest of their lives separated, and in servitude, on different Outback cattle stations.

Stories are told in the words of Colleen’s family and revolve around how they kept their culture alive and survived invasion, violence, captivity, forced labour, restrictions of movement and stolen wages.

Others have described the stories in terms of extinction, loss, oppression and attempts to tame the Kalkadoon people which they didn’t relate to, Colleen said.

“The European version is that they broke the Kalkadoons. That is not true. Our spirit is unbroken,” she said.

“We’re strong and we survived through everything.”

Colleen believes that telling the stories through art, design and film has created an important resource for younger generations.

Colleen received a grant through Arts Queensland’s First Nations Commissioning Fund to develop a film recording her family’s story.

She worked with First Nations media company Double Wire Productions and Pixel Frames to deliver this powerful story in film.

Colleen is also the artist behind the Young Peoples Gallery exhibition Mini Miners: finding ghost.

This exhibition features illustrations from her children’s book about mining trucks Wilfred, Jai, Joseph and Patrick investigating the vision of a mystery ghost truck.

The other gallery exhibitions on display include:

  • Michelle Hamer: Are you having a good night? explores the use of threatening language towards women through a series of handstitched and hand-drawn works.
  • Laila Aasand Bjornsson: The warp and weft of the forest – The Rochedale South artist has a background in weaving and textile arts and her oil paintings capture ‘the warp and weft’ of Daisy Hill Conservation Park.

The official exhibition opening will be staggered over three different sessions from 5pm Friday, April 23 in line with COVID-19 safe rules.

Bookings for all sessions are essential and can be made online at gallery opening bookings

Logan Art Gallery is on the corner of Jacaranda Ave and Wembley Road, Logan Central.

It is open from 10am to 5pm between Tuesday and Saturday. Entry is free.

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First Nations call for increased water ownership of Murray-Darling river system


First Nations groups say it is a national disgrace that almost no water in Australia’s largest river system is owned by Aboriginal people and are calling on the Federal Government to deliver on a 2018 commitment to help traditional owners buy water.

Brendan Kennedy, a Tati Tati man from Victoria and a traditional owner, says governments must act urgently to help First Nations people access water for cultural, spiritual, environmental and economic benefits.

“The state of ownership for traditional owners in the Murray-Darling Basin currently is absolutely disgraceful, it’s deplorable,” Mr Kennedy said.

A recent study by Griffith University reported that less than 1 per cent of the water in the Murray-Darling Basin was owned by Aboriginal Australians.

“Before colonisation we were 100 per cent the owners, the stewards, the managers of water,” Mr Kennedy said.

“The suffering of our people, it relates directly back to the deprivation and the lack of recognition of First Nations people to own our water.

Almost three years ago, the then water minister, David Littleproud, announced $40 million over four years to “allow [Indigenous Australians] to economically participate in water and ensure that they get not only economic, but also cultural outcomes”.

It was announced as part of a deal with Labor to secure the opposition’s support against a disallowance motion, that would have seen more water recovered for the environment in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt has told the ABC in a statement that the funding must “deliver real jobs and generate economic activity for Indigenous people across the Murray-Darling Basin”.

“Our government remains committed to work with Indigenous organisations to build consensus about the way forward,” the statement said.

The statement did not address the ABC’s question about whether the funding could be used for non-water assets.

Chair of the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations Fred Hooper called on Mr Pitt to rule out spending the money on anything other than water.

He estimated that $40 million would provide enough funding to buy about 6 gigalitres of water “on the best day” and acknowledged it would need to be shared among almost 50 First Nations groups throughout the Murray-Darling river system.

He called on the government to provide some certainty about how and when the funding would be distributed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment said since the funding for First Nations water had been announced there “has been wide-ranging consultation with many Indigenous peak organisations” — but would not specify which organisations.

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US, 13 Other Nations Concerned About WHO COVID Origins Report


The United States and 13 other nations issued a statement Tuesday raising “shared concerns” about the newly released World Health Organization report on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The statement, released on the U.S. State Department website, as well as the other signatories, said it was essential to express concerns that the international expert study on the source of the virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples.

The WHO formally released its report earlier Tuesday, saying while the report presents a comprehensive review of available data, “we have not yet found the source of the virus.” The team reported difficulties in accessing raw data, among other issues, during its visit to the city of Wuhan, China, earlier this year.

The researchers also had been forced to wait days before receiving final permission by the Chinese government to enter Wuhan.

The joint statement by the U.S. and others went on to say, “scientific missions like these should be able to do their work under conditions that produce independent and objective recommendations and findings.” The nations expressed their concerns in the hope of laying “a pathway to a timely, transparent, evidence-based process for the next phase of this study as well as for the next health crises.”

Along with the U.S., the statement was signed by the governments of Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, and Slovenia.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday further study and more data are needed to confirm if the virus was spread to humans through the food chain or through wild or farmed animals.

Tedros said that while the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, the matter requires further investigation.

WHO team leader Peter Ben Embarek told reporters Tuesday that it is “perfectly possible” COVID-19 cases were circulating as far back as November or October 2019 around Wuhan, earlier than has been documented regarding the spread of the virus.

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Six Nations 2021: Ireland coach Andy Farrell vindicated, England coach Eddie Jones feeling heat after defeat


Andy Farrell basked in the most impressive victory since he took over as Ireland head coach saying the 32-18 Six Nations win over England proved they were on the right track.

Farrell’s side out-thought and out-fought an England side captained by his son Owen to end in emphatic fashion a run of four straight defeats to the same opponents.

Farrell was in overall charge for the last two in 2020, but he said he had not been put off course by those losses in where he wanted to take the Irish.

Ireland finished this Six Nations with three successive wins having lost their opening two narrowly, to Wales and France.

“To get that result against a very good side like England reiterates we are on the right track,” he said.



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Wealthy countries – including the UK – are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, documents leaked to the BBC show



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Six Nations 2021: Ireland v England – Elliot Daly will replace injured Henry Slade at outside centre


Elliot Daly – normally a full-back – came off the bench for England’s win against France last Saturday
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday 20 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster; live text commentary and post-match video highlights on the BBC Sport website and app.

England’s Elliot Daly will replace the injured Henry Slade against Ireland in Saturday’s Six Nations match, making his first international start at outside centre since 2016.

Slade suffered a calf injury in training on Monday, making way for Daly – a replacement full-back in last weekend’s victory against France – to return to the starting XV.

Harlequins back Joe Marchant is among the replacements.

England’s forward pack is unchanged.

Before last weekend, Daly had been head coach Eddie Jones’ starting full-back since 2018 and prior to that the 28-year-old played on the wing. The match in Dublin will be his fifth England appearance at centre.

Jones has had uncapped Wasps centre Paolo Odogwu in his training squad throughout the tournament but instead opted to name Marchant on the bench after calling up the Quins back earlier in the week as cover for Slade.

England won the Six Nations title in 2020 but the best they can hope for this year is a second-place finish after losses to Wales and Scotland.

Slade had been instrumental to the improved England attack which helped them to a 23-20 win against previous tournament favourites France.

Daly will partner captain Owen Farrell in the centre, while Max Malins will get his second start at full-back.

Jones said: “This is our most important game of the tournament and we want to finish well.

“We’re anticipating a hard, tough game against Ireland and we’ve picked this team to cope with that.

“We want to take it to Ireland physically and play the rugby we want to play.”

England team to face Ireland

England: Malins; Watson, Daly, Farrell (capt), May; Ford, Youngs; M Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Sinckler, Itoje, Ewels, Wilson, Curry, B Vunipola.

Replacements: George, Genge, Stuart, Hill, Earl, Robson, Lawrence, Marchant.

A Six Nations table showing: Wales P 4 W 4 D 0 L 0 PD 63 B 3 Pts 19; Ireland P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 34 B 3 Pts 11; France P 3 W 2 D 0 L 1 PD 39 B 2 Pts 10; England P 4 W 2 D 0 L 2 PD 5 B 2 Pts 10; Scotland P 3 W 1 D 0 L 2 PD 1 B 2 Pts 6; Italy P 4 W 0 D 0 L 4 PD -142 B 0 Pts 0
France and Scotland’s round three fixture was postponed, leaving them with an extra game still to play

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England 23-20 France: Maro Itoje try earns England Six Nations win at Twickenham


England (13) 23
Tries: Watson, Itoje Cons: Farrell2 Pens: Farrell 3
France (17) 20
Tries: Dupont, Penaud Cons: Jalibert 2 Pens: Jalibert 2

England overhauled a stubborn, skilful France to snatch victory in a see-sawing Six Nations match at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones’ side trailed 17-13 at the break after dazzling scores from Antoine Dupont and Damian Penaud had put France in front.

The hosts’ pressure told in a cagey second half as Maro Itoje barged over for a 77th-minute score.

Even then France threatened to land a decisive counter-punch but Brice Dulin’s break was snuffed out.

Wales’ win over Italy earlier in the day means England’s victory is too late to salvage a Six Nations title defence.

But victory went some way to re-establishing England’s credentials as the northern hemisphere’s superpower, in world rankings at least.

The 2019 World Cup runners-up had slipped to fourth, below France, after defeats by Scotland and Wales in their opening three games of this year’s campaign.

Today’s victory takes them back above their opponents to third.

But, with Wales and Scotland upwardly mobile and France a few minutes away from a first win at Twickenham since 2005, any claims to being Europe’s number one side are far from conclusive.

France, who play unbeaten Wales in Paris next weekend, can still win the title for the first time since 2010.

Transition or tradition for poker-faced Jones?

Owen Farrell celebrates with Luke Cowan-Dickie, who was making only his fifth start

The question for Jones now is whether to stick or twist again.

The Australian has admitted that his side are in a period of transition, suggesting only around 70% of the current squad will feature at the next World Cup in 2023.

He brought the free-running full-back Max Malins and hard-carrying hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie into the starting line-up and his side seemed revived as they slugged it out with France in an enthralling first half.

Anthony Watson’s try, created by Henry Slade’s darting break and George Ford mis-pass on the wing’s 50th England appearance, was the least he and his side deserved.

SIx Nations table
France’s game against Scotland -originally scheduled for 28 February – was postponed to a later date after a Covid outbreak in the French camp

The second half featured more perspiration than inspiration from England. Owen Farrell’s boot kept them within range before Itoje burrowed over to break France’s resolve.

With the final-weekend trip to Dublin a dead rubber in title terms, will Jones opt for further surgery to his side or restore usual mainstays Elliot Daly and Jamie George who contributed to a strong final quarter?

It may be that this summer’s tour of North America, while the Lions take on South Africa, will instead be the chance he takes to test some of his fringe squad members.

Jalibert and Dupont shine in defeat

Matthieu Jalibert
Jalibert, 22, is part of an exciting crop of young French fly-halves with Romain Ntamack and Louis Carbonel rivalling him for the 10 jersey

France will come again. With two successive under-20 world titles behind them, a home World Cup in 2023 in front of them and a clutch of exciting young stars hitting their straps, the future is bright.

In recent years, France have often failed to live up to their reputation for incisive, imaginative rugby. On their last Six Nations visit to Twickenham, they lost by more than 30 points, failing to lay a glove on England.

But, finally, they have a generation of players to match up to a glorious past. Central to their win was the half-back partnership of Dupont and Matthieu Jalibert.

Jones had said earlier this week that he would settle for scrum-half Dupont having merely a tidy game rather than a special one. His hopes were thwarted in 81 seconds. Dupont attacked the short side, ran a superb support line and then gathered Teddy Thomas’ kick ahead for the first score.

The excellence of Dupont, player of the tournament last year, probably the best in the world this, came as no surprise. But Jalibert, making his seventh start, has come in under the radar.

Picked ahead of Romain Ntamack, he pulled the strings to perfection, providing a delicious basketball pass for Damian Penaud to stroll in for a superb second try.

This France side can mix steel with the stardust though. Drilled by defence coach Shaun Edwards, they repelled England’s attacks repeatedly in the second half only to be finally undone within sight of a landmark win.

Man of the match- Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson
Watson made three clean breaks, more than any other home player, and scored his 22nd England try

More to follow.

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International lawyer urges United Nations to immediately intervene in Australian Osama Al-Hasani’s extradition


A London-based lawyer has urged the United Nations to take immediate action to halt an Australian citizen’s imminent deportation from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, warning that his life is at risk if the transfer goes ahead.

Businessman and former Melbourne imam Osama Al-Hasani was arrested at his wife’s home in Tangier, Morocco, on 8 February, hours after arriving from his home in the United Kingdom to visit his four-month-old baby. 

The 42-year-old is currently being held in Tiflet Prison 2, about 60 kilometres east of Morocco’s capital, Rabat, and could be transferred to Saudi Arabia “at any moment”, his lawyer said after a Moroccan court approved the extradition request on Thursday.

“There is no information [the family] have been given about when he might be extradited … there are concerns that he could be extradited at any time and without any notification,” the family’s international lawyer, Haydee Dijkstal, told SBS News on Thursday.

“This is a big problem for the family and causing quite a lot of worry and anxiety.”

Mr Al-Hasani with his four-month-old child in Morocco, hours before he was detained.

Supplied

Ms Dijkstal sent an urgent letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment on behalf of the family on 5 March calling for immediate steps to be taken to stop the violation of his human rights.

The submission raised concerns that Dr Al-Hasani had been targeted by Saudi Arabia for criticising the government, giving rise to fears his right to freedom of expression and association was being violated.

“There are concerns that the motivation for Saudi Arabia’s request for his extradition might be based on his political expression that has been, in the past, critical of the government and its policies,” Ms Dijkstal said.

“There is a track record of individuals who speak out about topics of activism or opposition to the Saudi government, that they are targeted by the government and if they are detained, their rights are severely violated in detention.”

Dr Al-Hasani’s wife, Hana, described the details of his arrest, during which she said eight officers dressed in civilian clothes stormed the residence and insulted, abused, and beat him. 

She said the officers told Dr Al-Hasani at the time the arrest was based on a request from Saudi Arabia but declined to list any official charges.

He later learned that the extradition request was related to an alleged car theft in Saudi Arabia for which he was acquitted of three-years-prior.

Local media previously reported Dr Al-Hasani was targeted for allegedly participating in the organisation of “an activity of public opposition” to the Islamic sect Wahhabism, the dominant faith in Saudi Arabia. 

Hana said her husband was forced to leave his job at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade in 2015 due to political pressure. Speaking to SBS News earlier this month, Hana said she feared her husband’s “fate will be like that of Jamal Khashoggi”, referring to the Washington Post columnist who was allegedly killed by the Saudi government officials in 2018.

The dual Australia-Saudi citizen was allegedly only granted one 30-minute meeting with a Moroccan lawyer following his arrest and his wife has similarly only been permitted to visit him for five minutes since his arrest. 

During this meeting, Hana said her husband told her he had been pressured into signing a document allowing his extradition without a court hearing and before he had received legal advice. 

“Saudi Arabia’s evidenced pattern of abuse and violations demonstrates the credible and real risk that Mr Al-Hasani will not receive a fair trial in Saudi Arabia and that his fundamental due process rights and right to health and safety would be at significant risk in Saudi Arabia,” Ms Dijkstal said in a statement. 

“It is of worry that he has been pressured by authorities to sign a statement which waives his right to extradition proceedings in Morocco.

“In addition, he has been subjected to degrading treatment in detention causing significant anxiety and stress, and which has been exacerbated by limited and unreliable communication with his family, and particularly his wife.”

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesperson told SBS News Australian consular officials have visited Dr Al-Hasani and that they were concerned by the circumstances of his detention. 

Facing an ‘unknown fate’

Dr Al-Hasani, who is a father of four, was not present for the hearing in Rabat on Thursday and it is unclear when the extradition will take place.

Speaking to SBS News after the ruling, Hana said she feared for her husband’s life. 

“The fact he will be extradited to Saudi Arabia means simply that he is going to be tortured, and maybe worse than that, things I don’t want to think about right now,” she said via WhatsApp.

“I am so afraid for my husband, who is facing an unknown fate. Will I see him again or not? How will I raise my son without a father?”

Mr Al-Hasani was detained in Morocco on 8 February.

Mr Al-Hasani was detained in Morocco on 8 February.

Supplied

A statement released by lawyers on behalf of the family described Thursday’s ruling as an “extraordinary and disappointing decision” amid a “real and credible risk to Mr Al-Hasani’s fundamental rights, safety and security”.

It is concerning that the United Nation Special Rapporteurs had so far taken no steps to address Dr Al-Hasani’s case, the statement continued, noting the court’s decision was a violation of Morocco’s obligations under the Convention against Torture, to which they are a signatory. 

“The Government of Australia is called upon to publicly oppose the extradition of its own national to Saudi Arabia,” it said. 

Last week, Hana sent a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison pleading for assistance

The DFAT spokesperson told SBS News they were providing consular assistance to an Australian man detained in Morocco and that Australia’s embassy in Rabat was in direct contact with local officials, but declined to provide further comment due to privacy obligations.

It is understood consular assistance may include visits to prison, welfare checks and help with contacting family members but does not include legal advice. 

Before moving overseas, Dr Al-Hasani worked as a guest imam at a mosque in West Melbourne in the early 2010s where the President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Adel Salman, said he was “quite popular” for his recitals of the Qu’ran.

His Twitter profile, which has more than 5,000 followers, says he is an “Associate Professor of business information systems” and a “consultant for international business trade”.

Human rights group Prisoners of Conscience, which advocates on behalf of people detained in Saudi Arabia, has launched an online campaign calling for the immediate release of Mr Al-Hasani. 

“Those who assassinated Jamal Khashoggi and tortured prisoners of conscience, including women activists, will dare to do similar things to Dr Osama Al-Hasani,” they said on Thursday. “We can still save him if we keep on spreading his case.”

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First Nations students share what new Yugambeh school song means to them


First Nations and non-Indigenous students at St Francis Xavier primary school on the Gold Coast will now come together once a week to sing in Yugambeh language.

A new school song, titled We Are was written with Kombumerri elders and includes Indigenous words of the South East Queensland region.

Wiradjuri student Charlize Jack, 11, was gleaming with pride after hearing her peers join her in song.

“It’s special to our school and to the Aboriginal people, I loved it as well.

“It makes my parents also feel very proud of our school, that we are learning about our actual culture and respecting them and that we were not the first people here, there were other people.”

Wiradjuri student Zander Cranmer, 10, said the new song had been warmly embraced by the whole school.

“I felt proud that the school would think about Aboriginal people and make a song from Aboriginal people, I’m very proud of it.

Through art, Zander tells of the special connection, and responsibility, he maintains with animals and country.

“The goanna symbolises our tribe, the campsites symbolise the Aboriginal people taking care of the land and the hand symbolises the belonging of the land, of where I belong,” she said.

Kombumerri family Lann, Jan and Ray Levinge are valued members of the St Francis Xavier school community and helped advise the school on the wording of We Are.

A new building, Nyumbalabah — which means “place of learning” in Yugambeh — was also unveiled with Indigenous artwork by the Levinge family.

“All the animals on the boomerang are symbolic for us in this area. The Broadwater is on there, the oysters and our totem the night heron, so it’s all got real stories,” Lann Levinge said.

Jan Levinge volunteered for the school’s working bees, tuckshop and ladies and children’s dance classes during the 1970s — she is now a marriage coordinator at the adjacent Holy Family Parish.

Each room in the Nyumbalabah building has Yugambeh names, including Allunga (sun and gold), Wambiri (blue sea), Kimba (bush fire) and Jingella (green land).

“It’s for learning, counselling, mental health and helping the kids. There’s some offices in there so they can get together and work things out,” Mr Levinge said.

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