Browsing articles in "Diplomacy"
Tuesday 11th August 2015 - 4:22 pm
Comments Off on PM defends “weak” emissions target

PM defends “weak” emissions target

by Alan Thornhill

If there is to be a significant reduction in emissions there will also a significant cost, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, told Federal parliament today.

He was speaking at question time after his government had been sharply criticised over its plan to reduce emissions by 26 per cent from the 2005 levels by 2030.

Its own Climate Council had recommended 40-60 per cent cuts from the 2000 levels.

Mr Abbott was asked to explain, at one point, why his government’s controversial decision is not “weak and dangerous.”

He said the cost, at some levels, could be in the order of $3 to $4 billion a year.

Mr Abbott said that would be “a massive hit” on the economy.

Critics attacked the government’s new policy early today, even before it had been announced.

The Greens described it as “weak.”

However its decision has won support, too particularly from business which has described it as “practical.”

The government is expected to announce its decision later today.

However in a statement early today, the Climate Council said the government’s decision is “out of step with the rest of the world.”

The Council also said it would disappoint other nations attending a climate summit that is to be held in Paris in November.

The statement quoted Professor Tim Flannery, who said:” these targets are vastly inadequate to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change and do not represent a fair contribution to the world effort to bring climate change under control.”

Labor, too, has criticised the government’s decision.

In a statement early today, the Climate Council said the government’s decision is “out of step with the rest of the world.”

The Council also said it would disappoint other nations attending a climate summit that is to be held in Paris in November.

The statement quoted Professor Tim Flannery who said:”these targets are vastly inadequate to protect Australians from the impacts of climate change and do not represent a fair contribution to the world effort to bring climate change under control.”

Labor, too, has criticised the government’s decision.

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Monday 27th July 2015 - 8:46 pm
Comments Off on “Grave fears” held for Vietnamese Asylum seekers:Greens

“Grave fears” held for Vietnamese Asylum seekers:Greens

by Alan Thornhill

The Greens are urging the Abbott government to explain what happened to 42 Vietnamese refugees who were intercepted off the West Australian coast last week.

Their immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said:” reports that Australian authorities handed these families over to the Vietnamese Government are extremely alarming.”

She said the Fraser government would never have done that.

“Turning our backs on these people is the complete opposite to what Australia did under the Fraser Government and further trashes our commitment to helping the many refugees in our region who are searching for a place to call home,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“Handing these people directly over to the Vietnamese Government constitutes refoulement, which is a breach of the (United Nations) Refugee Convention.

“The Abbott Government must come clean with what it has been done with these men, women and children.

“There are grave fears that those handed back to the Vietnamese authorities will be punished, jailed and further abused as a result of trying to escape,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“There has been an increase in people escaping religious persecution in Vietnam, particularly from Christian minorities,” she added.

” What has the Australian Government done to make sure these families sent back to Vietnam won’t face further persecution?

“Australia has a proud history of providing safety to refugees from Vietnam.

“But while Malcolm Fraser offered a helping hand, Tony Abbott has turned them away, handing them straight back to their persecutors.

“It is a very worrying sign that the Labor Party, only days after backing the Coalition’s ‘turn-back’ policy, has not been able to give clear condemnation of the treatment of these asylum seekers from Vietnam.

“The Greens have called on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to outline what assurances he has received from the Vietnamese Government that they will not harm or punish these men, women or children.”

So far there has been no response from the government.

Saturday 25th July 2015 - 7:03 pm
Comments Off on Labor takes “new directions” on asylum seekers

Labor takes “new directions” on asylum seekers

by Alan Thornhill

After an emotional – and at times tearful – debate, Labor’s 47th Annual Conference in Melbourne today accepted “new directions” in the party’s immigration policies.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, had effectively put his job on the line by proposing the changes.

These include turning back asylum seeker boats, when it is safe to do so, but gradually increasing Australia’s intake of asylum seekers to 27,000 a year.

Left-wing delegates fiercely opposed Mr Shorten’s proposals, as did thousands of protesters, who had gathered outside the conference venue, to demand that they be defeated.

Both groups argued for a ban on tow-backs.

But the Left’s motion was lost, at first on voices and later on a show of hands.

Mr Shorten – and his leadership team – had been adamant.

In a speech this morning he said:” Labor is absolutely committed to preventing people smuggling and ensuring vulnerable people do not drown at sea.

“Labor’s regional resettlement arrangement has been the most effective deterrent against the ability of criminal people smugglers to prey on vulnerable people but we must eliminate the risk of people drowning.

“Therefore provided it can be done so safely, a future Labor Government would retain the option of turning people smuggling vessels around at sea.”

Mr Shorten noted that – according to the UNHCR – there are nearly 60 million displaced people throughout the world.

He said: “This requires Australia to do more in our region as a responsible global citizen.

Under his plan, Labor would also commit $450 million over three years to the important work of the UNHCR.

This would make Australia the fifth largest donor to the UNHCR.

Mr Shorten said: “As part of this contribution, a Shorten Labor Government will take a leadership role within South East Asia and the Pacific to build a regional humanitarian framework to improve the situation of asylum seekers.

“This will include supporting the UNHCR in providing health and education services to asylum seekers and advocating for work rights for asylum seekers.

“By 2025, Labor will double Australia’s annual refugee intake to 27,000.

He noted that:” According to the UNHCR, there are nearly 60 million displaced people throughout the world.

“This requires Australia to do more in our region as a responsible global citizen, ” Mr Shorten said.

Wednesday 8th July 2015 - 2:38 pm
Comments Off on Forgive the debt:economists urge Angela

Forgive the debt:economists urge Angela

by Alan Thornhill

No-one should know better than Angela Merkel just what good debt forgiveness can do.

After all the German Chancellor’s own country has seen – and enjoyed – it twice – once after each of the World Wars.

The most recent case, in February 1953, was a major factor behind Germany’s own rise as the industrial powerhouse of Europe.

Over recent times, though, Ms Merkel has led European creditors in their strident demands for Greece to pay its crushing debts in full, regardless of the consequences.

But now, as The Nation magazine reports, five leading economists have sent her an open letter, urging the German leader to reconsider.

The five, led by Thomas Piketty, Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics, remind Ms Merkel that history will be watching what she – and other European creditors, do over the next few days.

They have reminded her, too, that most of the world knew that Europe’s financial demands crushed the Greek economy.

That, in turn, had led to mass unemployment, a collapse of the Greek banking system and made that country’s external debt crisis far worse, with the debt problem escalating to an unpayable 175 percent of GDP.

The economists also warned that:”The (Greek) economy now lies broken with tax receipts nose-diving, output and employment depressed, and businesses starved of capital.”

They say:” The humanitarian impact has been colossal — 40 percent of children now live in poverty, infant mortality is sky-rocketing and youth unemployment is close to 50 percent.

“Corruption, tax evasion and bad accounting by previous Greek governments helped create the debt problem.”

The economists note that the Greeks have already complied with much of their creditors’ calls for austerity — cutting salaries, government spending, slashing pensions, privatising, deregulating and raising taxes.

“But,” they say,”in recent years the series of so-called adjustment programs inflicted on the likes of Greece has served only to make a Great Depression the likes of which have been unseen in Europe since 1929-1933.

“The medicine prescribed by the German Finance Ministry and Brussels has bled the patient, not cured the disease.

“Together we urge Chancellor Merkel and the Troika to consider a course correction, to avoid further disaster and enable Greece to remain in the eurozone.

Right now, the Greek government is being asked to put a gun to its head and pull the trigger.

“Sadly, the bullet will not only kill off Greece’s future in Europe,” they warn.

“The collateral damage will kill the Eurozone as a beacon of hope, democracy and prosperity, and could lead to far-reaching economic consequences across the world.

“Right now, the Greek government is being asked to put a gun to its head and pull the trigger.”— Piketty, et al.”

The four other economists, who joined Piketyy in the appeal, were:-

* Heiner Flassbeck, former State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of Finance

* Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

* Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation Professor of International Political Economy, Harvard Kennedy School and

* Simon Wren-Lewis, Professor of Economic Policy, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford.

Monday 6th July 2015 - 8:36 am
Comments Off on Greece:what’s ahead?

Greece:what’s ahead?

by Alan Thornhill

Greece still faces an uncertain future, despite an apparently strong vote in Sunday’s referendum for rejection of a bail-out offer from its creditors.

With two thirds of ballots counted, the country’s interior ministry reported that at least 61 per cent were against accepting the deal offered, while only 39 per cent voted yes.

These creditors, led by Germany, had declared last week that a vote against accepting their offer would lead to Greece leaving the European Union.

There would be no further talks.

However the Greek Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis disagrees.

He said, in radio interview, that a bailout deal between Greece and its creditors is almost finalised.

He has also hinted that the two sides are still in private discussions.

It is not yet certain, though, that Greece’s creditors will, ultimately, accept the outcome of any talks of this kind.

If they don’t Greece would not merely be left out on its own, trying to repay its debts.

It could also be caught in a downward debt spiral, as it struggles with that heavy burden.

Those campaigning for a yes vote, in the referendum, had warned that a no vote could lead to Greece’s expulsion from the EU.

Greek banks have been shut since last week and capital controls put in place.

But many automatic teller machines still ran out of cash.

Even though withdrawals at them have been limited to €60 ($A88) a day.

Monday 29th June 2015 - 9:20 pm
Comments Off on Share prices tumble

Share prices tumble

by Alan Thornhill

Share prices tumbled in Australia today – along with those in Asia and Europe – after Greece closed its banks and imposed capital controls.

The All-Ordinaries index fell 119.50 points to 5416.6 on the day’s trading.

The $38 billion sell-off left investors looking at their second worst day’s trading for the year.

Stock market trading in Asia was described as “a sea of red” as investors, there, also took fright.

Greece is due to make a €1.6bn payment to the IMF on Tuesday – the same day that its current bailout expires.

Last week, talks between Greece and the eurozone countries over bailout terms ended without an agreement.

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras then called for a referendum on the issue to be held on 5 July.

At the weekend, the Greek government confirmed that banks would be closed all week, and imposed capital controls, limiting bank withdrawals to €60 euros ($A87) a day.

Chris Beauchamp, senior market Analyst at IG described Greece’s decision to shut banks over the weekend as:…the most dramatic element in a crisis that has spiralled out of control.”

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 2.25 per cent in late trade, after earlier plunging as much as 7.6 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei lost nearly 3 per cent.

London’s FTSE 100 index fell more than 2 per cent in early trade.

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany’s Dax share index and France’s Cac 40 were both down more than 4 per cent.

The Athens Stock Exchange is closed on Monday.

Wednesday 24th June 2015 - 6:00 pm
Comments Off on PM moves to “banish” Australian terrorists

PM moves to “banish” Australian terrorists

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government moved in parliament today to prevent Australians with dual citizenship returning to this country if they join foreign terrorist forces overseas.

They would, effectively, be stripped of their Australian citizenship.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had described this – in a television interview earlier in the day – as a “modern form of banishment.”

He also said shortly before his controversial bill was tabled in Parliament, that the government is still discussing what should be done, in cases in which the person involved holds only Australian citizenship.

Mr Abbott originally wanted to give his immigration minister power to revoke citizenship without conviction, in such cases.

However that plan was revised amid concerns it might breach the constitution.

Under the government’s revised bill, Australians will automatically renounce their citizenship if they train, recruit or finance terrorists inside or outside Australia.

It will be examined by the Parliament’s security and intelligence committee.

Tuesday 16th June 2015 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australians rate threat of terrorism as high

Australians rate threat of terrorism as high

by Alan Thornhill

Australians are deeply worried by the threat of Islamic terrorism.

So worried, in fact, that most support Australia’s military involvement in Iraq, even though they believe it raises that risk.

Both developments are evident in the results of a poll conducted by the Lowy Institute.

It found that 69 per cent of Australians rate the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ as a high risk to Australia’s security in the next ten years.

It also found that 55 per cent rate terrorist attacks on Australians overseas as a high risk, while 53 per cent regard domestic terrorism as high risk.

The poll found, too, that:” Most Australians (69 per cent) support Australia’s participation in military action against Islamic State in Iraq, even though a majority (55 per cent) believe that participation increases the risk of terrorism to Australia now, and only 20 per cent think it makes us safer from terrorism in the future.”

It also suggested that Australians will accept tighter security measures to offset these threats.

“Australians appear to accept some intrusions on their privacy in the interests of fighting terrorism and protecting national security”, Dr Michael Fullilove, the Institute’s Executive Director said.

Asked about ‘legislation which will require Australian telecommunication companies to retain data about communications such as phone calls, emails and internet usage, but not their content’, 63 per cent of Australians say this is ‘justified as part of the effort to combat terrorism and protect national security.

“Only one-third (33 per cent) say it ‘goes too far in violating citizens’ privacy and is therefore not justified,” Mr Fullilove added.


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Alan Thornhill

Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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