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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Lone Wildlife’

Australia and France sign deal to build 12 submarines

December 20, 2016

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia and France signed an agreement Tuesday to build the world’s largest diesel-electric submarines in the Australian industrial town of Adelaide. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement in Adelaide, where they officially opened the Australian headquarters of DCNS, a French state majority-owned company that will design the Shortfin Barracuda subs.

Turnbull described the 56 billion Australian dollar ($41 billion) contract to build 12 subs as the largest capital project in Australia’s history. The contract is also DCNS’s largest outside France. A workforce of 2,800 people will begin building the first sub in an Adelaide shipyard in 2022.

“Security is uncertain around the world and that is why we are re-equipping our navy and our defense forces,” Turnbull told reporters. France beat German and Japanese rivals to secure the Australian contract in April.

France offered the Australians a diesel-electric version of the Barracuda-class nuclear submarine under construction for the French navy. Japan proposed a longer version of its Soryu-class diesel-powered propulsion system with advanced stealth capabilities.

Germany, which had publicly offered to build the entire fleet in Adelaide for AU$20 billion — less than half the navy’s expected cost — offered a larger variation of its Type 214 submarine made for Australian specifications called a Type 216. It promoted as its edge over competitors its partnership with German engineering firm Siemens which would have provided the submarines’ software and promised to create a digital shipbuilding center in Adelaide.

The French bid offered the same pump jet propulsion that gave its nuclear submarines their advanced stealth capacity. Other diesel-electric submarines are too small to be fitted with the same stern-heavy technology.

Australia’s Shortfin Barracuda Block1A will be 97 meters (318 feet) long and weight 4,500 metric tons (5,000 U.S. tons) — 2.5 meters (8 feet) shorter and 200 metric tons (220 U.S. tons) lighter than its French nuclear cousin.

Australia already has one of the world’s largest conventional submarines, the Australia-built Collins class, and the navy insisted that its replacement at least match its range of 12,000 nautical miles (22,000 kilometers). At 3,100 metric tons (3,400 U.S. tons) and 77 meters (253 feet long), the Collins will be dwarfed by the next-generation Shortfin Barracuda.

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Australia, Indonesia mull joint South China Sea patrols

Sydney

Oct 31, 2016

Australia is considering joint patrols with Indonesia in the disputed South China Sea, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday, in a move set to irk Beijing.

The possibility was raised by Jakarta during meetings between Bishop and Defense Minister Marise Payne and Indonesian officials including Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu last week.

“We have agreed to explore options to increase maritime cooperation and of course that would include coordinated activities in the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea,” Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“This is all consistent with our policy of exercising our right of freedom of navigation and that’s in accordance with international law.”

Ryacudu was cited by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying he had proposed a “peace patrol” with Australia.

“There are no intentions to disrupt the relationship (with China). It is called a peace patrol, it brings peace. It is about protecting fish in each other’s areas,” he said.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, despite rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors — most notably the Philippines, which took the case to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

The court ruled in July that there was no legal basis to China’s claims — a verdict Beijing dismissed vehemently.

Australia, like staunch ally the United States, has no claims of its own in the area, but insists that all shipping has a right to pass through seas it regards as international waters.

Last month the US sailed a warship near disputed territory in the South China Sea, with Beijing slamming the move as a “serious illegal act” and “deliberately provocative”.

Discussion on potential joint patrols comes amid uncertainty in the region with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte unsettling Manila’s traditional allies by signalling a shift away from Washington towards Beijing.

Unlike some Southeast Asian neighbors, Jakarta has long maintained it has no maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea and does not contest ownership of reefs or islets there.

But Beijing’s expansive claims overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone — waters where a state has the right to exploit resources — around the Natunas, a remote scattering of islands that are rich fishing grounds.

In June, Indonesian President Joko Widodo toured the islands on a warship, in a move seen as sending a strong message to China to respect Indonesian sovereignty.

Bishop said the Australian navy had already conducted joint exercises in the South China Sea with India and the US as “a regular part of what our navy does and it’s also part of our engagement in the region”.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Australia_Indonesia_mull_joint_South_China_Sea_patrols_999.html.

Recognize Palestine Walk reaches Australian capital

October 11, 2016

John Salisbury has reached the Australian capital Canberra in an effort to encourage the government to recognize the State of Palestine.

Starting at the Sydney Opera House on 2 October, Salisbury arrived at Parliament House today. He was greeted by fellow activists who held a reception for him.

On Facebook Salisbury wrote: “5am start this morning. Freezing cold as I set off in the darkness,” ahead of his final leg to the seat of government.

Supporters commended his efforts. Amal Moradi wrote on Facebook: “Amazing achievement, the world needs more John Salisbury’s.”

While Diane Dounas wrote: “Thankyou [sic] so much John for your incredible efforts to help bring about justice for the indigenous Palestinian people. You are a true hero!”

Salisbury submitted a petition calling on the Australian government to recognize the State of Palestine. “Congratulations on making it to Parliament House and being able to present those precious signatures, David. Now may our government please recognize and respond to the situation in Gaza and Palestine,” Maree Minter wrote in support of Salisbury’s initiative.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161011-recognise-palestine-walk-reaches-australian-capital/.

Australian activists march to get recognition for Palestine

October 4, 2016

Australian activist John Salisbury, joined by a number of Palestinian solidarity activists, launched the “Recognize Palestine Walk 2016” on Sunday, a 300-kilometer march from the Australian city of Sydney to the capital, Canberra.

The activists, set to arrive in Canberra on 11 October, aim to deliver a petition to the Australian House of Representatives, asking their government to recognize the state of Palestine.

Palestinian People Party official Shamekh Badra told Ma’an yesterday that the petition was signed by thousands of Australians, including politicians and academics, to support the Palestinian cause.

Badra stressed the importance of such efforts to gain international recognition of Palestine, saying a Palestinian state must be established to resist Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

On its website, the Australian Friends of Palestine Association quoted Salisbury as saying: “From 2-11 October 2016 I will once again walk from Sydney to Canberra in support of Palestinian human rights.”

“The walk will follow the path of a similar endeavor in 2014 led by Israeli academic Dr. Marcelo Svirsky and the same walk by myself in 2015. I will carry with me a petition asking our elected representatives to formally recognize the State of Palestine. Over 130 countries have formally recognized Palestine. Why not Australia?”…

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161004-australian-activists-march-to-get-recognition-for-palestine/.

Australia approved for $302 million SM-2 missile deal

by Richard Tomkins

Washington (UPI)

May 31, 2016

Australia has received State Department approval for acquisition of as many as 80 SM-2 missiles through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which manages the program, said the possible deal carries a total value of $302 million and would include vertical launch canisters for the SM-2 Block IIIB missiles, contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services.

“It is vital to U.S. national interests that Australia develops and maintains a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the agency said in its notification to Congress. “This sale is consistent with U.S. regional objectives.”

Australia plans to use the missiles for anti-air warfare test firings during Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trials for the Royal Australian Navy’s three new Air Warfare Destroyers now under construction.

The SM-2 Block IIIB missiles, combined with the destroyers’ Aegis combat systems, will provide enhanced area defense capabilities over critical Southeast Asian air and sea lines of communication.

The principal contractors would be Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Australia_approved_for_302_million_SM-2_missile_deal_999.html.

Prime minister says Australia to have July 2 election

May 04, 2016

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s election campaign will officially start soon with climate change policy and union corruption in the national building industry shaping into key battlegrounds for the July 2 poll.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Wednesday that he was likely to visit Governor-General Peter Cosgrove this weekend to lock down the date and officially start the election campaign. A heartening historical fact for Turnbull is that no Australian federal government has lost power after a single three-year term since the tumultuous early years of the Great Depression. But Australia is now in an extraordinary era of political volatility as it grapples to diversify an economy that thrived on a mining boom that has gone bust. If the opposition center-left Labor Party wins the election, it will mean Australia’s fifth change of prime minister in six years.

Turnbull replaced his unpopular predecessor Tony Abbott in a leadership ballot of lawmakers in the ruling center-right Liberal Party in September, only two years after the coalition government was elected.

The change of prime minister immediately boosted the government’s standing in opinion polls, but recent polls suggest the government is now running neck-and-neck with Labor. Ostensibly Turnbull has called an early election because a hostile senate has refused to pass legislation that would allow the government to create a building industry watchdog called the Australian Building and Construction Commission. The ABCC was disbanded in 2012 by a former Labor government, which is linked to the trade union movement.

While the plight of the ABCC seems an obscure issue to most voters, the political debate focuses attention on opposition leader Bill Shorten’s history as a union official. Before he entered parliament in 2007, Shorten was a senior official of the Australian Workers Union, one of five unions targeted by government-commissioned inquiry into union corruption. Labor condemned the inquiry as a politically motivated witch hunt.

Shorten rejected suggestions by inquiry lawyers that he had had conflicts of interests when companies made donations to his union while he was negotiating with them over workers’ pay. Even Labor supporters criticized him over news of the donations.

Australian National University political scientist John Wanna expects Turnbull will use the issue to focus on Shorten’s union past during the campaign. “He’s going to turn the attack on Shorten: ‘You’re just a union thug; you’re just a union hack; you’ve blocked us from bringing in a measure that would have made unions more accountable,'” Wanna said.

Labor is expected to exploit Turnbull’s past support for Australia adopting an emissions trading system to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Australia, on a per capita basis, is among the world’s worst polluters.

Turnbull’s support in 2009 for a then Labor government’s proposal to introduce an emissions trading scheme cost him the leadership of the Liberal Party. He was replaced by Abbott, who repealed a two-year-old carbon tax in 2014. The tax paid by Australia’s worst industrial polluters had been due that year to transition into an emissions trading scheme with market forces determining the price of a ton of carbon.

Labor again wants the emissions trading scheme to replace the government’s so-called Direct Action policy of paying polluters taxpayer-funded incentives to operate more cleanly, and Shorten has been reminding the public that Turnbull once described Direct Action as “an environmental fig leaf to hide a determination to do nothing.”

Turnbull’s coalition currently holds 90 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives, while Labor has 55 seats. Turnbull will be hoping that the early election will not only return his government but provide him with a more compliant senate that is more likely to pass his legislative agenda.

All 76 senate seats are up for grabs. The government currently holds 33 senate seats, Labor holds 25 and the left-wing Greens party holds 10. The remaining eight are either independents or sole senators representing minor parties.

Australia bushfires raze ancient World Heritage-listed forests

Sydney (AFP)

Jan 30, 2016

World Heritage-listed forests whose origins pre-date the age of the dinosaurs are being destroyed by raging Australian bushfires, with conservationists increasingly fearful they could be lost forever.

Firefighters in Tasmania — a state south of the mainland known for its cooler temperatures — have been battling bushfires for 18 days, with 95,000 hectares (234,750 acres) of land burnt so far, authorities said Friday.

While no properties have been destroyed and no one hurt in the infernos — which are so numerous that firefighters from across Australia and New Zealand have been flown in to help — parts of western Tasmania’s famed wilderness have been destroyed by the flames.

“The fires in western Tasmania are occurring in basically an ecosystem which is a remnant from the geological past, so they are of immense significance scientifically,” David Bowman, professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, told AFP.

“These systems were once more widespread and indeed grew on Antarctica billions of years ago, so they are living fossils… they go back to well before the age of the dinosaurs, they are a tangible connection to Gondwana.”

Gondwana was a land mass that included present-day Africa, South America and Australia and formed the southern part of an ancient supercontinent called Pangaea.

One of the last expanses of temperate wilderness in the world, the Tasmanian Wilderness was entered into the World Heritage list for its significant natural and cultural values in 1982 and covers nearly 20 percent of the island, or 1.4 million hectares.

It includes the Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, home to popular bushwalking tracks.

With the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) battling more than 70 blazes and access to remote areas difficult, a spokesman said the agency was not able to gauge how much forest had been burnt, although most of the fires are in the west and encompass vast swathes of protected land.

Species under threat include the southern beech forests, also known as nothofagus, the pencil pine — a distant relative of American redwoods — and the king billy pine, Bowman said.

Some species are only found in Tasmania, leading to concerns that if the ancient, slow-growing trees are obliterated by the blazes, they could take many years to regrow, if at all.

– ‘Even the soil is burning’-

Bowman warned that despite the firefighting efforts, only soaking rain could end the emergency as the soil of western Tasmania was drying and turning into so-called “brown coals” that burn tree roots.

Light rain now falling on the island has failed to douse the flames, with lightning strikes sparking more blazes, the TFS told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Lightning strikes were “insignificant sources of ignition” just a few decades ago, Bowman said. But three years ago, a major bushfire that destroyed more than 100 homes was also in part sparked by lightning.

Bowman said that from his assessment, the recent blazes in Tasmania, along with a trend of rising temperatures in Australia and across the world, reflected an increase in extreme fire situations that pointed to climate change.

But all may not be lost.

James Wood, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens’ seed bank manager, said last year the organisation had been able to collect thousands of montane conifer seeds.

“In these sort of circumstances, the seed bank’s take is that we may lose the ecology but we don’t necessarily have to lose the species so we can preserve them.”

But he warned that while it might be possible to overcome sporadic events, long-term environmental changes — such as those that appeared to be caused by climate change — were harder to protect against.

“For really protracted, long-term changes, there’s nothing we can do,” Wood told AFP, adding that even without the fires, warming temperatures were changing the landscape, including how plants and insects interact.

“We know that with climate change, even if we curb or stop CO2 emissions, the actual climate change implications are still going to wear on.”

Source: Terra Daily.

Link: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Australia_bushfires_raze_ancient_World_Heritage-listed_forests_999.html.

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