Singh rejects more extreme NDP policy resolutions — such as scrapping the military

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is standing by several controversial proposals from rank-and-file party members while rejecting more extreme ones — including a call to abolish the military — ahead of this weekend’s policy convention.

Singh’s tightrope walk has him hovering between the party’s grassroots and the broader Canadian public, with an eye to pleasing enough of both to boost New Democrats above their fourth-place ranking in the House of Commons in an election that could come this year.

A resolution from the NDP’s Spadina-Fort York riding association calls for the “phasing out” of the Canadian Armed Forces and proposes retraining service members for civil service roles.

“I don’t agree,” Singh said at a virtual press conference Wednesday.

He said the military provided critical support at long-term care homes during the COVID-19 outbreaks last year; he has since called for further deployments to assist in the vaccine rollout. 

Singh declined to take a stance on potential policy planks that demand the removal of all public statues of Sir John A. Macdonald and the addition of Indigenous symbols to the Canadian flag. He said he sympathized with the ideas behind them.

“We’ve got to be very aware of the message certain monuments and statues send in public spaces, and be open to moving with the times,” Singh said.

If the legacies symbolized by a particular figure, image or building name are unwelcoming or disrespectful of “Indigenous persons and diversity,” they may need to be relocated, redesigned or retitled, he said.

“There always will be a place for remembering our history, and sometimes that place maybe is best served in a museum or in history books, and not always in public places.”

Macdonald was Canada’s first prime minister but his role in establishing colonial systems, including Indian residential schools, has led to calls for multiple statues of him across the country to come down.

Backing opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21

Singh also said he backs a proposed resolution condemning Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans religious symbols such as turbans, kippas and hijabs for employees of the state deemed to be in positions of authority, including police officers and teachers. 

The law remains widely popular in Quebec — a province where the NDP hopes to make electoral gains beyond the one seat it currently holds there.

Singh called the law “discriminatory,” particularly against women, but acknowledged the importance of separating church and state.

NDP members from across the country have cast their ballots on more than 400 proposed resolutions to determine which will make the short list of 70 for delegates to vote on at the party’s first policy convention since the 2019 federal election, running Friday through Sunday.

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Cabotage policy – Let’s Get Clever

  • In need of FDI Malaysia cannot afford to play same old protectionist games
  • Potential data centre investments of US$2.9bil to US$3.6bil are at risk

Cabotage policy - Let’s Get CleverThere are two strong opposing views on the issue of the cabotage policy impacting the undersea internet cable industry, and both seem to have a strong argument with good intention that requires clarity.

However, on balance, the view that exemption from the cabotage policy for the industry is the right thing to do, must be given precedence for the sake of making our country an attractive investment destination for digital infrastructure, especially in light of our aspirations set out in the MyDigital Blueprint and for Malaysia to truly be the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

Let’s first discuss the view that the cabotage policy is detrimental in making Malaysia the choice for investment destination especially high value digital investment.

The global digital economy runs on top of the Internet, a digital infrastructure that spans the globe, consisting of data centers to house all the data and optical fiber cables that move data around the world. The only way for global data connectivity to take place in this digital infrastructure is via crisscrossing cables under seas and oceans to reach every country, and hence they are called submarine cables.

They are essential strategic assets for countries to be part of the global digital infrastructure, as economic activities riding on the back of submarine cables include e-commerce, data transfer, financial transactions, business processing, digital exports, social interactions, services delivery and communications impacting national security.

An RTI International report in August 2020 on Economic Impacts of Submarine Fiber Optic Cables and Broadband Connectivity in Malaysia showed submarine cables landing had contributed to a 6.9% increase in GDP per capita and a 3.6% increase in employment in the services sector between 2008 and 2015.

Read Also: Transport Minister, Wee Ka Siong, throws spanner in Malaysia’s Digital Economy 

Submarine cables are extremely expensive, require partners from different countries, and take three to four years from planning to be operational and ready for service. Maintenance of such cables is also an expensive affair and cable owners collaborate to share the costs.

Specialized ships, called submarine cable ships, are used to deploy the cable under the sea as well as maintain and repair these cables in case of breakage from earthquakes, storms or damage from ship anchors, mining and fishing. There are fewer than 60 such ships in the world today and therefore they have to be shared.

A cable ship is required to stay in one position at sea during a repair and is equipped with a Dynamic Positioning (DP) system consisting of thrusters and computer systems to precisely maintain its position without drifting, regardless of wind and sea conditions.

Depending on their capability to maintain their position accurately under different conditions such as weather, depth of the sea, ability for the ship to withstand equipment failure, flooding and fire, such ships are classified as:

  1. DP1 class ships – suitable for shallow water use with low risk of equipment failure but will have to abandon the repair job if any important equipment like the computer or thrusters fail, causing the ship to drift out of position.
  2. DP2 class ships – with a built-in redundancy such as two DP computer systems and multiple thrusters to maintain position accurately even after sustaining failure in one important system.
  3. DP3 class of ships – similar to DP2 class ships but can additionally handle a fire or flooding in one compartment.

Cable owners today require the use of DP2 class ships to minimize the risk of repair work being interrupted by equipment failure as well as prevent further damage to the cable, other cables or oil and gas pipelines nearby, which can happen if the ship repairing their cable happens to drift out of position.

Whenever there is a cable outage, the cable owner will immediately identify the nearest available ship capable of performing the repair as quickly as possible. However, very often the best available ship may not be registered, or flagged, by the country whose territorial waters lies in the area where the cable is located.


Practical cabotage exempt order by one transport minister abruptly reversed by another

This is where the issue of cabotage, a law which protects the local shipping industry from foreign competition, becomes relevant. In Malaysia, our cabotage law prevents foreign ships from picking up passengers or cargo from, say Penang to Port Kelang.

Unlike countries like the USA, Taiwan and Philippines, Malaysian cabotage law also covers maritime services, which includes submarine cable deployment and repair, which means when the best ship available for a cable repair is a foreign ship, a Domestic Shipping License Exemption (DSLE) is required and before this can be issued, local ship owners are asked for their consent through the Malaysia Ship Owners Association (MASA). In fact, any ship owner who thinks they can handle the repair job can block the issuance of the DSLE.

In the case of submarine cable repair, there is one Malaysian company in the business which has four cable ships and two barges for shallow water cable laying. All its vessels are DP1 class and this has been the key point of dispute resulting in long delays for arbitration as the cable owners want DP2 class vessels to repair their cables lying on the ocean floor.

When Malaysia started to attract data centre investments, one of the key issues highlighted by both foreign investors was the long delays in obtaining permits for submarine cable repairs – prior to 2019 the average was 27 days with one case taking longer than 100 days.

With data centres offering customers SLAs (Service Level Agreements) which include penalties for when services are down, you can imagine the scramble to get the cables repaired quickly and properly so that services can resume. Imagine paying penalty for over a 100 days to multiple customers! Do you think that company is going to be eager to land any future cables in Malaysia?

Local telecom companies with submarine cable investments like Telekom Malaysia and Time DotCom also appealed to the Government to exempt submarine cable repairs from cabotage.

Hence, in April 2019, the then Minister of Transport, Anthony Loke issued an exemption order. This was positively received by investors and local telcos and plans were made to land cables in Malaysia.

However, in November 2020, the current Minister of Transport, Wee Ka Siong revoked the cabotage exemption for submarine cable repair, much to the surprise of investors and local telcos.

This reversal is a step backward, as investors have expressed strong interest and some were in the final stage of committing investments, recognising that the exemption will reduce repair times and increase reliability.

Hence, the industry is shocked by the abrupt decision on the reversal of cabotage exemption without meaningful stakeholders’ consultation to protect a single company. It creates risks to Malaysia’s critical digital infrastructure and growing digital economy by making it less attractive for infrastructure investment.


Developing local capabilities in submarine cable repair?

Now, let’s look at the arguments forwarded by the other side, which mainly rests on the critical need to develop local capabilities.

The occurrence of submarine cable faults in Malaysia is between six to nine annually in the past few years and this shows the real domestic market opportunities is not high enough to make it feasible to invest in DP2 or DP3 vessels, which can cost upwards of US$15 million.

Furthermore, there are other maritime services within Malaysian waters with larger market opportunities and lower entry cost that local players can participate and build up capabilities to compete.

More importantly, investors look for certainty and stability when they choose investment locations. Digital infrastructure investments such as data centres and submarine cables are hugely expensive and require multi-decade commitments.

When government policies impacting investors are arbitrarily changed without prior consultation, there is no certainty or stability that would provide assurance to the investors.

When the other side of the divide says the delay in repair works has already been reduced to 10 days, and thereby harping on cabotage exemption is a minor issue, it misses the point in the sense that it’s not so much the delay but the changing of policy wilfully without consulting the relevant stakeholders is the issue, as it strongly signals uncertainty and increased risk on the part of the investors. What if other policies change suddenly and arbitrarily?

The impact in the reversal of cabotage exemption is immediate – two new cables were announced by Facebook and Google to be landing in Singapore and Indonesia recently, both without any landing in Malaysia.

There are also strong industry sources indicating three new cables originally planned to be landing in Malaysia are now, “under review”. Also under review are potential data centre investments between RM12 to RM15 billion in FDI. Emerging from the pandemic, Malaysia needs such investments more than ever and in doing so, we cannot afford to play the same old, same old protectionist games.

Submarine fault occurrence in Malaysia in a year as mentioned above is small but for every minute of outage, there are huge economic, reputational and opportunity losses to Malaysia, as the outage can run into days, weeks or even months.

The longer the time it takes to repair the submarine cables, the longer we will be in the state of being digitally disconnect, thus depriving Malaysians from the basic fundamental right of modern-day utility, which is connectivity.

What is needed now is not only the restoration of the cabotage exemption immediately but also, in the longer term, the critical need to have the legislation amended to remove submarine cable activities from our definition of cabotage for the sake of attracting more investments, especially the higher value digital investments.

To reiterate:

Everything boils down to one common denominator — transport

Did we not notice that industries in the transportation business got wiped out or almost wiped out by the recent gyrations of a global pandemic? Did we also not notice how just one ship blocking the Suez for 7 days put industries and people into distress, causing US$400 million (RM1.652 billion) an hour in trade delay and US$9.6 billion (RM39.65 billion) loss in westbound/eastbound traffic daily!

On the same note and in line with the theme on transportation, In this internet age where information will need to be transported, processed and acted upon, the single most important commodity that glues the data pods is your transport networks. In our case this is a combination of land-based terrestrial coupled with the massive and growing global undersea fibre optic networks. Try messing with just this one component in its functional chain and you will cause the same havoc. Cabotage and landing rights are the two significant show stoppers for tech Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in building capacity and investing in capabilities in any country.


This is an Service Level Agreement (SLA) and Service Level Guarantees (SLG) driven industry

The telecommunications service providers are operating at a 99.99% uptime at the minimum for their core networks. This is equivalent to about 53-minute outage for an entire year. So, when there is a fibre cut, the urgency is to get it fixed immediately. Negotiating at the point of catastrophy is not an option. What more if there is more than one party to negotiate with – how clever is that?


Data Centres and undersea cables are tied to the hip

From a regional and global perspective, it is very obvious for some time now that we have all the three pieces for a perfect land grab for Data Centre investments. Good affordable power source, low cost and more importantly stable geophysical land banks, good value for money skilled knowledge workers ready to build and maintain them. Whilst we have this part figured out why are we rocking the boat when it comes to undersea fibre cable network when this is clearly the highest point of failure in a broader ecosystems due to cuts and outages? Let’s get clever !


Tech FDIs need clarity and simplicity

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, AWS and the likes of them are in a trillion-dollar market transition which is growing and they will look for options. Don’t discount the global telco’s that are waking up to this demand for capacity. Countries that understand and manage this are going to be winners. We don’t even need to compete. Just be there with the right policy framework to support this wave. Insert one variation of the standard business practice or expectations and it’s a great excuse to look elsewhere with Malaysia losing big time. Let’s get clever !

Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is Chairman of MDEC. In the past he was also the Malaysia, Country Head of a Global Telecommunications Company.

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Oil prices fall as focus switches from Suez Canal blockage to OPEC+ supply policy

Oil prices fell on Tuesday as shipping traffic resumed through the Suez Canal after days on hold and attention switched to an OPEC+ meeting this week where the extension of supply curbs may be on the table amid new coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

Brent crude was down 15 cents, or 0.2 per cent, at $64.83 a barrel by 0115 GMT, after gaining 0.6 per cent on Monday. US oil was down 1 cent at $61.55 a barrel, having fallen 1 per cent in the previous session.

Ships were moving through the Suez Canal again on Tuesday after tugs refloated the giant Ever Given container carrier,which had been blocking a narrow section of the passage for almost a week, causing a huge build-up of vessels around the waterway.

With the likelihood that the disruption will prove minimal,the market is turning its focus to Thursday’s meeting of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia in Vienna, collectively known as OPEC+.

They will discuss whether to keep in place curbs on output that have kept millions of barrels a day off the market to support prices, a strategy that has largely worked in recent months.

Saudi Arabia is prepared to accept an extension of the production cuts through June, and is also ready to prolong voluntary unilateral curbs amid the latest wave of coronavirus lockdowns, a source briefed on the matter said on Monday.

“Market expectations for no change to output are largely priced in,” said Howie Lee, economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore. The revival of heavy coronavirus case loads in Europe “has put a brake on oil’s resurgence”.

More than 127.43 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and the death toll is approaching 3 million, according to a Reuters tally.

In Europe, rising numbers in a third wave of infections are alarming authorities, with France’s Finance Minister Bruno LeMaire saying “all options are on the table” to protect the public.

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Lessons for American Foreign Policy From the Capitol Riot

Hezbollah is part of Lebanese society, and some of the group’s members are elected to Parliament, but easing polarization does not mean unity at all costs, ignoring injustices and crimes. This is why, amid talk of unity and coexistence with Trump voters, those who rioted on January 6 are facing charges and will stand trial, and Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ardent Trump supporter who has voiced backing for violence against Democrats, was stripped of her committee assignments and may even face expulsion from Congress.

In dealing with heads of states or regimes in the anti-American camp, the Democrats’ approach can also be concerning. In 2007, Pelosi traveled to Damascus to meet with Assad, who had been subjected to sanctions and ostracized by the Bush administration for his regime’s alleged role in Hariri’s assassination. Syrian troops still occupied Lebanon at the time of the killing and were guilty of egregious abuses. Syria itself remained a dictatorship. But Pelosi dismissed George W. Bush’s criticism of her trip and, alongside her Democratic colleagues, insisted that increasing dialogue with Syria on issues such as Hezbollah, the insurgency in Iraq, and peace with Israel was a way to improve stability in the region.

Engagement is necessary in diplomacy, but engagement without pressure or concessions undermines the foundation of stability. Pursuing stability without justice achieves neither—the 10-year civil war in Syria is a devastating testament to that.

Conversely, in the aftermath of the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, Pelosi was adamant that accountability must be sought. “If we decide commercial interests override the statements we make and the actions we take,” she said, “then we must admit we have lost all moral authority.” Both Republicans and Democrats pushed the Trump administration to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable, standards that Pelosi did not apply to Assad.

Washington’s allies and partners should be held to higher standards than autocrats the U.S. doesn’t support, but accountability must apply to both. The Biden administration has now released a declassified report on the Khashoggi murder and imposed sanctions and a travel ban on Saudi officials. Although the report named the crown prince, no sanctions were imposed on him—the need for stability prevailed. Riyadh remains an important partner in the Middle East and the Biden administration needs to keep the Saudis close as it engages Iran. But if full accountability is not attainable, can injustices ever be redeemed?

American values and American interests will never fully align, and the U.S. will always be accused of hypocrisy as it upholds human rights. But after the events of January 6, Americans must, more than ever, understand that unearned forgiveness and a lack of accountability can perpetuate the rot in the system, erode norms, and undermine long-term stability and governance, at home and abroad.

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UK move to lift nuclear cap is ‘insurance policy,’ says minister – POLITICO

Britain’s foreign secretary has defended plans to lift Britain’s cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads.

Dominic Raab said the move — expected to be outlined Tuesday in a long-awaited review of security, defense, development and foreign strategy — gives the U.K. the “ultimate insurance policy” against “hostile states.”

The U.K. is reportedly planning to lift the current cap from 180 to 260 warheads, ending a post-Cold War trend towards gradual disarmament.

Raab cited potential Iranian nuclear proliferation as one of the reasons to increase British stockpiles.

Pressed to justify the decision on the BBC’s Today program, Raab said: “Because over time as the circumstances change and the threats change, we need to maintain a minimum credible level of deterrent. Why? Because it is the ultimate guarantee, the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states.”

His comments came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to unveil the findings of his sweeping review of Britain’s global policy, which is expected to focus on a pivot towards Asia following Britain’s departure from the EU.

When pressed on the most immediate threats to Britain, Raab expressed concern over the use of chemical weapons and a growing danger of cyberattacks — “not just people’s individual bank account … but also critical national infrastructure.”

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The discount airline tickets were a good photo op for Morrison, but a bad policy | Australian economy

One of the overriding problems with the Morrison government is it is led by a man clearly more focused on the announcement and the photo op than the policy. This was certainly the case last week when Scott Morrison announced cheap air fares in order, he said, to help tourist areas cope with the lack of international visitors.

While marketing of good policy can be quite useful, marketing instead of policy is invariably not. It always leads to bad policy; policy devised for no purpose other than to win votes and give the prime minister a chance to have his photo taken standing next to some prop.

It’s usually not so clear as was the case last week with the announcement of the Tourism Aviation Network Support package which involves subsidising 800,000 airline tickets to 13 destinations around the country.

So carefully crafted was the policy that they left off Adelaide and Darwin in the announcement, and didn’t make it clear if “Tropical North Queensland” meant just Cairns, or Townsville as well (it didn’t but then by Friday, it did).

Just minor details, I guess.

But what immediately became clear is that these 13 locations selected for the cheap flights were curious.

Morrison, while standing next to the very happy CEOs of Qantas and Virgin Australia, stated that “in the tourism sectors, we know it will continue to be tough, particularly in those parts of the country most reliant on international tourism and that’s why today we have brought together … this package, which gives a shot in the arm to the travel, tourism and the aviation sector”.

So right there in the announcement was the link between the fall in international travel and this new package.

As such it was rather weird that except for Melbourne via Avalon airport (why Avalon and not Tullamarine?), the four major destinations by international travellers were not included:

Graph not displaying? Click here

And it didn’t include the New South Wales north coast – such as Coffs Harbour – but it did include Merimbula airport on the NSW south coast.

But why?

OK. Let’s say you want to go on a holiday. You want somewhere peaceful, near beautiful beaches and where whale watching is possible.

Sounds great – Albany, Western Australia is just the place.

However, under the government’s tourism package you can get cheap flights to Merimbula, but not to Albany, despite many more people being able to get to Merimbula by car and both airports getting around the same numbers of travellers:

Graph not displaying? Click here

Or why not visit Mt Gambier in South Australia? It too has whale watching, lovely volcanic lakes and marvellous day trips along the Great Ocean Road.

It also has more travellers using its airport than Merimbula.

But sorry, no cheap flight there.

Same with Mildura. It’s also a lovely place to holiday – no whales, but the River Murray is (I speak from experience) a great place to unwind.

Its airport also gets about 150,000 travellers more a year than Merimbula, and has suffered much the same percentage fall in numbers as the NSW south coast destination.

Nope, sorry it misses out.

This is not to bag Merimbula, but to highlight that there really is no logic to the government’s policy – unless you might think that Merimbula sitting in a marginal seat, while Albany, Mt Gambier and Mildura do not, is logic enough.

But the problem with the policy is that not only are the regional locations not really the main destinations of international travellers, but that the regions are actually holding up better than are capital cities when it comes to visitors spending money:

Graph not displaying? Click here

As economist Scott Steel noted on Twitter, regional Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland all took in more money from domestic visitors in December 2020 than they did in December 2019.

But the areas that have suffered the biggest drop in visitor spending are the capital cities.

Why? Because capital cities are the places most people go for holidays, they are where most people live so that’s where most people go to visit relatives and friends, and that is where most businesses are and so that is where most business trips are.

Now sure, these cheap tickets will be snapped up, and the government will claim that as a win, but a look at the passenger number at Sydney airport (which is not a destination that receives a cheap trip) shows just how misguided this policy really is:

Graph not displaying? Click here

Compared to 2019, domestic passengers in December last year were down 71% and international passengers were down 97%.

That would suggest to me a traveller destination in need of assistance.

But I guess not enough of the tourism areas of Sydney are in marginal seats.

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Australia renews concerns over coal ships stuck off China amid import quota uncertainty | Australian foreign policy

The Morrison government has renewed its concerns with China over delays clearing dozens of ships carrying Australian coal, amid wider uncertainty over import quotas that will apply this year.

About 40 ships carrying coal of Australian origin were still awaiting clearance at Chinese ports as of 8 March – fewer than the more than 60 ships that were waiting in November – amid the protracted standoff.

Most of the coal is believed to be metallurgical, the kind used in steelmaking.

It comes as changes to China’s environmental laws threaten sales of iron ore, which have continued at record pace despite the trade dispute.

Analysis of UN trade figures by Guardian Australia shows the immense rise in exports to China, driven mostly by the iron ore boom but also fuelled by a growing desire for goods such as wine and travel by the country’s increasingly large middle class.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government remained “concerned about delays affecting vessels carrying coal, including from Australia”.

“We have raised our concerns with Chinese authorities on multiple occasions and continue to do so,” a Dfat spokesperson told Guardian Australia.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Labor’s trade spokesperson, Madeleine King, said her primary concern was “for the seafarers who are stuck off the coast with no clear plan for how they are able to unload their cargoes and get about their lives and potentially get home”.

She also called on the Australian government to step up efforts to diversify trade links, while noting China would continue to be an important economic partner because “there is no alternative market of the magnitude of the Chinese market”.

Guardian Australia understands the Australian government most recently raised concerns about barriers to coal exports on 2 March, which followed concerns about the vessels and the impact on crew welfare on 8 February.

Guardian Australia understands Canberra is yet to receive any official information about coal import quotas that China will apply to Australian coal in 2021.

Meanwhile, some of the coal that had been awaiting clearance has since been on-sold to Vietnam and India.

The Dfat spokesperson said the current impasse involved private commercial arrangements and that Australia urged all parties to reach a resolution as soon as possible.

“A quick resolution will allow vessels to unload in a timely manner to satisfy Chinese buyers and consumer needs and ensure the wellbeing of crew aboard these vessels,” the spokesperson said.

While China can buy coal elsewhere, it is heavily dependent on ore from Australia because it is one of the world’s biggest producers and closer and therefore cheaper to ship from than iron from other producing countries in Africa and South America.

Australia has also economically benefited from the collapse in 2019 of a dam at Brumadinho in Brazil, which killed 270 people. The mine’s operator, Vale, has been unable to restore production to previous levels.

This, together with surging demand from China’s construction industry, which is going through a post-Covid building boom, has created a shortage of iron ore in China, driving the price to as much as US$175 a tonne.

However, in a note to clients this week Marius van Straaten, a mining analyst at investment bank Morgan Stanley, said new emissions controls on steel mills could cut production by as much as 2.3% this year.

This could result in a “balanced or even over-supplied market on a full-year basis”, putting “significant downward pressure on the 62% Fe benchmark price”, he said.

Relations between China and Australia have been deteriorating for the past few years, with Beijing objecting to Canberra’s increasingly tight foreign investment rules, its ban on Chinese telco Huawei in the 5G network, and new foreign interference laws.

But the relationship sank to new lows last year after Beijing felt it was the target of Canberra’s early public calls for an independent investigation into the origins and handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chinese authorities subsequently rolled out actions targeting a range of Australian export sectors including coal, barley and wine.

Beijing has also taken umbrage at the Australian government’s statements criticising the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong and the repression of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang – with China describing such comments as meddling in its “internal affairs”.

In a sign of the ongoing tensions between the two countries, China in a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday said it was “deeply concerned” by Australia’s operation of offshore detention centres and called for them to be closed immediately.

Earlier in the week China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, specifically raised Australia’s record on Indigenous people when brushing off claims that China was engaged in a campaign of genocide in Xinjiang.

“Speaking of genocide, many people would have in their minds the native Americans of the 16th century, African slaves of the 19th century, the Jewish people of the 20th century, and the Aboriginal Australians who are still struggling even today,” Wang said at a press event on Monday.

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Biden border policy sparks worry over impact on pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 03: Joe Biden spoke during the 19th Annual HRC National Dinner at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on October 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 5:21 PM PT – Friday, March 12, 2021

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs is among several GOP lawmakers condemning the Biden administration’s immigration policy.

Republicans are increasingly slamming Biden’s return to “catch and release,” blaming it for a recent surge in illegal immigration, especially among unaccompanied minors.

Customs and Border Protection recorded a 28 percent increase in illegal border crossings in February from the previous month, a figure that’s expected to worsen. However, the Biden administration is unwilling to call it a crisis.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Friday, March 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


“Our focus here is on getting to the root of issues, taking actions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated. “We don’t feel the need to play games with what it’s called.”

As migrants are released into the U.S., border agents admitted CBP officers don’t test every individual they apprehend for COVID-19.

While humanitarian groups and local health officials are offering shelter, care and testing to sick asylum seekers, lawmakers fear the situation is more dire.

“The story we’re getting and we’re looking for confirmation is that hospitals are starting to fill up again in some of these COVID wards,” Biggs stated. “But they’re not American citizens or here legally, these are folks coming across the border.”

The congressman said he intends to make calls to verify if what he described is taking place in hospitals in Arizona’s 5th District or across the state.

OAN has so far been unable to obtain data to confirm the claims.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Department of Health Services’ latest figures show the number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are decreasing. As of Thursday, 831 people were in the hospital with the virus, with less than a third of patients in the ICU.

The actual number of infections is believed to be higher since asymptomatic individuals don’t typically get tested.

MORE NEWS: Buttigieg Proposes Raising Gas Tax To Pay For Infrastructure Bill

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Forcing job seekers to move is not just bad policy – it does nothing to address the economy’s real problems | Australian economy

On Tuesday, the prime minister took another turn putting the boot in to the unemployed, by suggesting they should be forced to take jobs in rural areas or face losing their jobseeker payments. Such a policy would do little to improve anything, and pointedly fails to address the major issue of falling full-time, ongoing jobs.

On Tuesday, speaking at the AFR Business Summit in Sydney, Scott Morrison suggested that “every day we hear the stories of employers, especially in regional areas, unable to fill positions. It’s got way past anecdotal.”

It is just anecdotal, of course. Take the minister for employment, Michaelia Cash, who told reporters in February that “you often hear, though, employers saying, ‘Joe applied for a job. He was qualified for the job’, or she, ‘and they said no’.”

It seems the biggest data set associated with this phenomenon is the number of people in the government saying that they have heard it exists.

In reality, as was revealed last month, 10,500 unemployed people in the six months to February had taken up a job fruit picking and a further 3,500 had applied but been knocked back.

But hey, why bother with figures when you are hearing so many things …

Last month when the government announced its meagre increase in the jobseeker base rate, it also announced increased mutual obligations. There was nothing that suggested unemployed would need to take up work in rural areas.

But on Tuesday Morrison suggested that the government was pursuing two responses to fix the problem he is hearing about so often.

One was to look at changes to temporary work visas, and the second that “to strengthen the mutual obligation requirements for job seekers receiving the jobseeker payment.”

He asserted that “if there is a job available, and you are able to do that job, then it is reasonable for taxpayers to expect that you will take it up, rather than continue to receive benefits. And if you don’t, then payment should be withdrawn”.

It is an extraordinary link given it would drastically change the way in which unemployed people are now expected to seek work.

Currently you have to actually apply for permission to move when on jobseeker. Moving to a place with lower employment opportunity can result in a suspension of payments.

The reality is most rural areas have lower employment opportunities than the cities. This is no shock. There’s a reason cities have more people than rural areas – that’s where the jobs are.

And while the pandemic and shutdown of high employing businesses such as food services and hotels has seen some relative increase in unemployment in cities compared to rural areas, what remains consistent is that people are much more likely to be unemployed for longer in rural areas:

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In no state is the median duration of unemployment longer in the capital city area than in the rest of the state.

In New South Wales, for example, all rural areas except for the capital region have longer unemployment duration times than those in Greater Sydney:

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The same is mostly true in Queensland, where aside from the eastern suburbs of Brisbane, the duration of unemployment is higher in rural areas, regardless of what the current unemployment rate may be:

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And yet aside from being a terrible policy that treats unemployed people as little more than faceless data points able to be shifted around the place with no regard for family, friendships or responsibilities, the problem with employment at the moment is not in getting people into temporary work.

The latest figures released by the bureau of statistics show that the number of main jobs (ie either people’s only job, or their highest paying job) is still more than 2% below what it was in December 2019:

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By contrast, there is now a record number of jobs that are a person’s second (or more) job:

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In the last half of 2020, the number of jobs increased by 655,600, and yet a third of them were “secondary jobs”. That is not a healthy sign, given only around 7% of all jobs are secondary ones.

It suggests there is not a lot of well-paid work around, and a lot of people – indeed more than ever before – need to work two or more jobs.

Suggesting the issue is in fact unemployed people who are not willing to work might play well with talkback radio, but it does nothing to address the actual problems of employment and the economy.

People live where the chances for work are best and as Australia’s entire history has shown, people are much more likely to move to the cities to get work, than move to rural areas.

But while there has been some good news on the jobs front, the major problem remains not temporary fruit picking work or even short-term casual labour of any type. The problem is ongoing, full-time work.

And the lack of that is not going to be solved by blaming the unemployed.

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NSW government accused of ‘policy of secrecy’ after two Indigenous people died in custody this past week

Two Indigenous people have died in custody in NSW in the past week, but the deaths only came to light when a bureaucrat was questioned in a parliamentary hearing.

An Indigenous man in his mid-30s died last Tuesday at Long Bay Hospital, which treats NSW prisoners.

Authorities believe his death was “natural” and that he had “multiple” medical issues.

“It was identified by Health and by our staff supervising him when he actually was unresponsive and then obviously support was immediately provided,” Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin told a Budget Estimates session on Tuesday.

An Indigenous woman in her mid-50s died in her cell at Silverwater Women’s Prison three days later.

Mr Severin said it’s believed she took her own life.

Both deaths will be referred to the coroner.

The NSW government did not notify the public or the media of the deaths, with the latter only revealed during questioning at Budget Estimates by Greens MP David Shoebridge.

The government does not publicise deaths in custody, Mr Severin said.

It is “not appropriate” to advise the public of deaths without any detail and “cause a lot of anger, a lot of angst and a lot of grief”, he said.

“We won’t put public statements out. That is not in any way to suggest that we are not 100 pre cent accountable,” Mr Severin said.

The government does inform the Aboriginal Legal Service and Department of Aboriginal Affairs of Indigenous deaths in custody, Mr Severin said.

Mr Shoebridge criticised the failure to notify the public.

“Two First Nations deaths in a single week is devastating and the government’s new policy of secrecy only adds to the growing concern about First Nations deaths in custody,” he said in a statement.

“The government’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement has not been to address deaths in custody but to hide them from public scrutiny.”

The woman was held in a cell with hanging points after a self-harm risk assessment did not identify her as high risk.

Mr Severin said that if prisoners are identified as high-risk they are not held alone in cells with hanging points.

He conceded there was no dedicated budget for removing ligature points, but said a scheme to remove them is funded through a minor works program.

Hanging points were identified as a risk in the 1991 report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody.

Mr Shoebridge said he understood making changes to the prison system takes time but that it was “inconceivable” that hanging points had not yet been removed from all cells.

“Now thirty years after the Royal Commission it is astounding that First Nations inmates are being placed in cells with known hanging points,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Of the 24 deaths in custody in NSW since 1 July 2020, four were Indigenous. Three of the 24 were categorised as unnatural.

The Aboriginal Legal Service has called for real accountability after the deaths.

“Any death in custody is an absolute tragedy. People who pass away in custody take their last breaths away from their loved ones, often in extremely distressing circumstances,” said Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.

“Our thoughts are with the families of these two people, and we encourage the media and the public to give them space to grieve and make funeral arrangements.”

Ms Warner said while identification of people who die in custody must be up to families, governments should be more transparent and timely in the information they share with the public.

“The NSW Government has an obligation to let people know things that are in the public interest, and this includes when there has been a death in their care,” Ms Warner said.

“One option would be for Corrective Services and Police to release basic details such as the date and location of death, and the age, gender and Aboriginality of the deceased person.

“No personal information should be released by Corrective Services NSW and the NSW Government unless there is consent from the family, after the family have had an opportunity to obtain legal advice.”

She also called for the ALS and the Coroner’s Court to be adequately resourced to provide support to families following a death in custody.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).

More information is available at Beyond and

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