Australia news live: Aukus nuclear submarines deal ‘hurts peace and stability in region’, says China

China slams ‘blatant’ Aukus deal

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s mission to the United Nations has criticised the Aukus announcement, arguing it is a “blatant act” that “hurts peace and stability in the region”.

On Twitter, the Chinese diplomatic mission repeated Beijing’s longstanding claims – denied by Australia – that the agreement violates the objects of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

And it argued this “textbook case of double-standard will damage the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation system”:

The irony of #AUKUS is that two nuclear weapons states who claim to uphold the highest nuclear non-proliferation standard are transferring tons of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear-weapon state, clearly violating the object and purpose of the NPT. [END QUOTE]

The nuclear submarine cooperation plan released today by #AUKUS is a blatant act that constitutes serious nuclear proliferation risks, undermines international non-proliferation system, fuels arms races, and hurts peace and stability in the region.

— Chinese Mission to UN (@Chinamission2un) March 13, 2023

The Australian government has repeatedly pointed out its plans don’t breach the NPT. The three Aukus governments, pre-empting the criticism that China was likely to mount, said in their joint statement that they would “continue to work transparently” with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the “strongest non-proliferation precedent”. The Aukus statement said:

As a non-nuclear-weapon state, Australia does not – and will not – seek to acquire nuclear weapons;

Australia will not enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel as part of this program;

Australia will not produce its own nuclear fuel for its [nuclear-powered submarines];

The United Kingdom and United States intend to provide Australia with nuclear material in complete, welded power units that will not require refuelling during their lifetime;

The nuclear fuel that Australia receives cannot be used in nuclear weapons without further chemical processing, which would require facilities that Australia does not have and will not seek; and

This initiative will occur within the framework of Australia’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and Additional Protocol (AP) with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Key events

Announcements continuing in lead up to NSW election

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet and opposition leader Chris Minns are continuing their rounds today, pitching to voters ahead of the NSW election on March 25.

Minns was in Sydney’s southwest, announcing Labor’s plan to put 500 early childhood workers on university or diploma scholarships.

The $22 million package would provide 500 scholarships over three years of up to $25,000 for bachelor degrees or diplomas, to fund paid professional development leave and to launch a new study into childhood delivery models.

Minns said:

We know that in NSW early childhood education centres, those with diplomas or a degree is about 45 per cent – in Victoria, it’s above 60 per cent.

We’ve been speaking to the peak bodies and they regard this as an essential investment in early childhood education.

The announcement was made in the electorate of Liberal-held East Hills – the state’s most marginal electorate after Minns’ own seat of Kogarah.

Meanwhile, Perrottet announced $2m in funding for services to help those dealing with miscarriage or the heartbreak of stillbirth.

The funds would go towards over-the-phone, in-person and online services for bereaved families.

The announcement comes after Perrottet’s wife Helen revealed she had suffered three miscarriages. The mother of seven said she had been working before the first loss and there was little consideration for the “horrific” grief she felt.

She told Nine News:

They said ‘you can take a week off or whatever but you have to take sick leave. It should be bereavement leave.

– with AAP

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Third encephalitis virus death recorded in Victoria

Victoria has recorded its third death from the mosquito-borne Murray Valley encephalitis virus.

The health department on Tuesday confirmed the man, aged in his 70s, died earlier this month. Authorities believe he was potentially exposed to infected mosquitoes in the Shire of Campaspe, in Victoria’s north.

A spokesperson for the department sent condolences to the man’s family and urged people in affected areas to take caution:

People in areas experiencing increased mosquito activity should continue to take steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites – wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, using insect repellents, removing stagnant water around their home, and avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are observed, especially at dusk and dawn.

Murray Valley encephalitis virus and Japanese encephalitis virus in several LGAs in northern Victoria in recent months.

According to the state’s health department, most people infected with Murray Valley encephalitis virus do not have symptoms.

When they occur, symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches, and in serious cases, people can develop meningitis or encephalitis.

Flooding expected to ease at Burketown

Record major flooding at Burketown in Queensland is expected to be easing, with minor flooding along the Nicholson, Gregory and Leichhardt rivers also easing.

The Queensland BoM said that showers and isolated thunderstorms are forecast for the next few days along these catchment areas, but widespread significant rainfall is not expected.

Anecdotal information from Burketown suggests the river level was expected to have peaked above the 2011 record flood level of 6.78 metres on Sunday.

The river level along the Albert River at Burketown is expected to continue easing slowly over the next few days, but is likely to remain above the major flood level (6.00 m) during Tuesday and Wednesday, possibly longer.

The river level is expected to remain elevated through to at least the end of the week.

Disability royal commission publishes final progress report

The disability royal commission has published its seventh and final progress report, covering the six months from July-December, 2022.

The commission’s final report is due to the governor general by 29 September this year.

You can read the full report online.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Consumer sentiment remains grim as latest interest rate rise bites

Economic news out today is mostly fairly bleak, although it will likely be eclipsed by submarine coverage.

Consumers are in a funk and that dim outlook doesn’t look like brightening much as the full impact of the 350 basis-point increase in the Reserve Bank‘s interest rate won’t be felt for a while yet.

According to Westpac and the Melbourne Institute, their consumer sentiment index was unchanged at 78.5 in March, holding near its 30-year lows. It’s the second month in a row of a sub-80 reading, a back-to-back result that did not appear during either the Covid shock and the global financial crisis.

Westpac’s chief economist Bill Evans said:

Runs of sub-80 reads have only been seen during the late 1980s/early 1990s recession and in the ‘banana republic’ period of concern in 1986, when the Australian dollar was in free-fall after the federal government lost its triple-A rating.

ANZ and Roy Morgan’s weekly gauge of consumer confidence, meanwhile, slumped to its lowest level since April 2020, after the RBA announced a 25bp increase in the cash rate in March.

Slightly curious numbers, though, had people with a mortgage improving their outlook although they are still the least confident of the housing cohorts. On the other hand, those who own their home outright and renters reported sharp decreases of 4.1pts and 7.9pts, respectively.

Inflation expectations also picked up in the survey.

Modestly more upbeat, though, was NAB‘s latest monthly survey of business confidence and conditions.

True, business confidence fell back below zero in February, continuing a recent period of volatility. But business conditions remained strong with little change in the elevated levels of key subcomponents including trading conditions and employment, NAB said.

The bank said:

Conditions remain elevated across industries and states, with consumer-facing sectors clustered at a high level of around +20 index points and business-facing sectors clustered around +10 index points.

Could consumers merely be grumpy but still spending regardless?

Labour-cost growth, meanwhile, picked up further from a brief low of 2.1% in December to be running at 2.8% in quarterly terms, NAB said.

NAB’s chief economist Alan Oster said:

Business conditions remained at a very high level in the history of the survey in February.

Overall, the survey confirms the ongoing resilience of the economy through the first months of 2023, though we continue to expect a more material slowdown in demand later in the year when the full effect of rate rises has passed through.

That almost sounds cheery … unless, of course, there’s fallout from failing US banks or some unhappy response from China – our biggest trade partner by far – over that much-talked about subs deal.

Motorcyclist collides with emu in WA national park

A motorcyclist is in hospital with serious injuries after colliding with an emu in the Kalbarri national park, WA police have confirmed.

The collision reportedly occurred just before 8am this morning.

The man was rushed to Kalbarri hospital by St John WA, and it is understood that the national park, north of Geraldton, is currently closed.

Exclusion zone in Queensland town lifted

An emergency exclusion zone at Warwick, Queensland overnight has been revoked by police after a man was found dead inside a property.

Last night, police were called to a Warwick property following reports a man was observed with a firearm. No shots were fired and no threats were made, according to Queensland police, however an exclusion zone was declared to ensure community safety.

Around 8am this morning, police entered a residence where a 38-year-old man was found deceased. The exclusion zone was lifted shortly afterwards.

A report will be prepared for the coroner, and the man’s death is not being treated as suspicious.

This was the second emergency declaration in Queensland in recent days, with a separate man found dead in a residence near Townsville yesterday following a ten-hour standoff with police. Residents were warned to stay inside and lock their doors.

Lifeline 13 11 14 / Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

MPs chosen for Victoria’s duck hunting inquiry

Both an Animal Justice party MP and a member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party will sit on an inquiry into the future of duck shooting in Victoria.

Guardian Australia has been provided with a list of MPs chosen to sit on the select committee, which was announced at the same time the government approved a shortened duck hunting season last month, in response to the “increasingly contested” nature of the sport.

They include Animal Justice party MP, Georgie Purcell, a vocal critic of duck hunting, as well as Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP, Jeff Bourman, who supports the sport.

Greens MP Katherine Copsey, Labor’s Sheena Watt, Ryan Batchelor and Michael Galea, Liberals Bev McArthur and Evan Mullholland and Nationals MP Melina Bath round out the committee.

Bath last week branded the inquiry a “charade”, as she believed it was a “foregone conclusion” that the Andrews government will ban duck hunting.

The committee is expected to hold hearings to listen to the views of hunting, animal welfare and regional community groups, before publishing its final report by 31 August.

A hunter and his dog in the Wimmera during duck season in 2021.
A hunter and his dog in the Wimmera during duck season in 2021. Photograph: Doug Gimesy

Oscar winner crowned Miss Moomba in 1984

Yesterday there was a ton of buzz around the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, particularly the film Everything, Everywhere All At Once – which absolutely swept the awards. Among them was the best actress Oscar, awarded to Michelle Yeoh for her role in the film.

Now, archival footage has been published showing the award-winning actress’ connection to Australia. In 1984, she won a beauty pageant at Melbourne’s Moomba festival and was crowned Miss Moomba.

“Glowing with pride over her achievement”: Moomba Festival International Tourism Queen Michelle Yeoh proudly displays her prestigious boomerang-and-map-of-Australia trophy, March 1984

— australian kitsch 🦘 (@OzKitsch) March 14, 2023

Sydney train disruptions continue

Sydneysiders have been hit with even more train delays today. A warning urging commuters to “allow plenty of extra travel time” was given after urgent signalling work at Broadmeadow and train repairs on the north shore line at Waitara caused delays across the network, Elias Visontay is reporting.

The new disruptions follow the network-wide shutdown last Wednesday which left every train parked for 90 minutes.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged that an internal Transport for NSW document from more than a year ago warned that Sydney trains’ digital radio system components were “obsolete” and fixing the problem was a priority.

Labor’s transport spokesperson Jo Haylen said:

The Liberal government was warned a year ago that components in the digital train radio system were already obsolete. They knew that this could put the whole train network at risk but not enough has been done because there is no accountability.

Passengers are yet again paying the price because no one knows who is in charge.

Following the recent disruptions, train drivers are reportedly going to get analogue hand-held radios as a backup in case communications are temporarily severed again.

Commuters at Sydney’s Town Hall station last week after trains ground to a halt shortly before the afternoon peak.
Commuters at Sydney’s Town Hall station last week after trains ground to a halt shortly before the afternoon peak. Photograph: Roni Bintang/Getty Images

Thank you to Amy for taking us through the morning- and what a massive morning it was! After the Aukus announcement and all the subsequent commentary, let’s take a step back at some of the headlines you might have missed this morning:

  • Overnight, King Charles delivered his first Commonwealth Day message as monarch from the pulpit at Westminster Abbey – a departure from previous messages from Queen Elizabeth II, which were traditionally pre-recorded. You can read his speech in full here.

  • Independent MPs Allegra Spender and Zali Steggall are pushing the government to include an absolute cap or an explicit objective that emissions must come down under the safeguard mechanism.

  • Vast tracts of Queensland’s northwest remain flooded as communities face a long wait to return to their homes and assess the damage, AAP reports. Residents desperate to begin the massive clean-up have been urged to be cautious, with a number of saltwater crocodiles spotted near inundated towns. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned there would be heavy stock losses, and three-quarters of the houses in Burketown have water over the floorboards.

  • Meanwhile, the New South Wales Liberal party’s candidate for Swansea, Megan Anderson, has downplayed a comment she made denying climate change last week, calling it a “clumsy joke”.

We’ll continue to bring you the latest as the day continues.

Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese (L), with US president, Joe Biden, and UK PM, Rishi Sunak, at today’s Aukus announcement.
Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese (L), with US president, Joe Biden, and UK PM, Rishi Sunak, at today’s Aukus announcement. Photograph: Getty Images

Thank you to everyone for joining me this morning as we made our way through that tsunami of information. I am going to hand you over to Emily Wind now for the next little bit. I’ll be back when parliament resumes next week. Take care of you.

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

While we’re on the topic of China, Guardian Australia understands Australian officials contacted their counterparts in Beijing yesterday to offer a briefing on the Aukus plans, and that offer stands.

More broadly, Australian officials have been carrying out an extensive process of briefing countries in south-east Asia and the Pacific, some of which have shared the concerns about Aukus fuelling an arms race.

Australia has sought to reassure countries of the strategic rationale for the submarine plans, and the commitment not to have nuclear-weapons


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