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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Lone Wildlife’

Syrian refugees: 12,000 new Australians settle in to adopted home

29.10.2017 Sunday

By Rebecca Trigger

After escaping her war-torn hometown of Aleppo, Talar Anjer-Koushian threw herself into Australian life — going to university, securing a fulltime job, and now volunteering to help other refugees establish themselves in their adopted home.

Talar was one of 12,000 asylum seekers granted visas in Australia under a special humanitarian intake of Syrians and Iraqis, fleeing terrorism and civil war — all of whom have now arrived on our shores.

Ms Anjer-Koushian said the biggest challenge after arriving in Australia was going back to university — she’s studying a masters in International Development in her fourth language.

She also managed to land a fulltime job last week, but says for many other Syrians, securing employment remains their biggest concern.

“We want to work, we want to give back, we don’t like just taking and sitting and being lazy,” she said.

All of the extraordinary visas announced by the then-Abbott government in 2015 were granted by March this year, but the final families only arrived in the latter half of the year.

The special visas have been granted to people in UNHCR camps, but also to people forced to flee and shelter in urban communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

‘We decided to leave, to have a life’

For Ms Anjer-Koushian, her life now is a stark contrast to what she was forced to leave behind.

Syria’s horrific civil war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, fueled the rise of the Islamic State group, and caused the biggest asylum seeker crisis since the last World War.

Once a vibrant and thriving commercial center, Aleppo has seen industrial-scale devastation, buildings damaged beyond repair, and basic services to its people cut off.

“We had days that we didn’t have water, electricity, it wasn’t safe to go outside,” she said.

“Electricity was a celebration, so whenever we had electricity we used to wake up even if it was in the middle of the night, just to watch TV, and just enjoy the lights.”

She said the worry was constant, and it was always dangerous to leave your home.

“You get used to it, you get the skills that help you to live with the conditions that you are put under,” she said.

“But when it was enough … we just couldn’t tolerate it, and we decided to leave, and to have a life.”

‘It needs time’: Syrian-Iraq refugees put down roots

Ms Anjer-Koushian said while many of her fellow refugees will be grateful for the chance at a new life, they will need help to adjust to a completely new environment.

“They might get afraid people won’t be welcoming of them, so they won’t approach others,” she said.

“They will be closed and always questioning themselves, ‘are we good enough, are we OK to approach and to talk to others, and form friendships and meet other people?

“Although Australians are really welcoming, from my experience everyone was really welcoming and helpful … so I think in time they will get over that.”

Despite learning about Australia from an uncle who lived in Perth for many years, Ms Anjer-Koushian still hit a few hurdles adjusting to the culture here.

“Sometimes being straightforward and being honest in my culture is not always that acceptable, you always turn around and you’re not straight to the point,” she said.

“Whereas here people don’t go around and around, they just tell you straight what their opinion is or what they think about a topic.

Volunteering to help others adjust

Now she is giving back — volunteering with the Australian Red Cross’s new Humanitarian Settlement Program to help new refugees acclimatize and understand how to thrive in their adopted country.

Of the new refugees arriving in Australia in 2016-2017, more than 6,500 were fleeing the Iraq-Syrian conflict, and many more are expected to come from the region in future years.

Red Cross migration support programs manager Vicki Mau said people who came to Australia through the humanitarian resettlement program had often been through extremely difficult experiences, but that also meant they were incredibly resilient.

“What we’re really trying to do is make it a smooth process for them,” she said.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-29/extraordinary-intake-syrian-iraq-refugees-12000/9090308.

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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.

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.

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