Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Tech giants face hefty fines under Australia cyber laws

August 14, 2018

Tech companies could face fines of up to Aus$10 million (US$7.3 million) if they fail to hand over customer information or data to Australian police under tough cyber laws unveiled Tuesday.

The government is updating its communication laws to compel local and international providers to co-operate with law enforcement agencies, saying criminals were using technology, including encryption, to hide their activities.

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Encryption within messaging apps has become a major headache for law enforcement agencies

The legislation, first canvassed by Canberra last year, will take into account privacy concerns by “expressly” preventing the weakening of encryption or the introduction of so-called backdoors, Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor said.

Taylor said over the past year, some 200 operations involving serious criminal and terrorism-related investigations were negatively impacted by the current laws.

“We know that more than 90 percent of data lawfully intercepted by the Australian Federal Police now uses some form of encryption,” he added in a statement.

“We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm.”

The laws have been developed in consultation with the tech and communications industries and Taylor stressed that the government did not want to “break the encryption systems” of companies.

“The (law enforcement) agencies are convinced we can get the balance right here,” he told broadcaster ABC.

“We are only asking them to do what they are capable of doing. We are not asking them to create vulnerabilities in their systems that will reduce the security because we know we need high levels of security in our communications.”

The type of help that could be requested by Canberra will include asking a provider to remove electronic protections, concealing covert operations by government agencies, and helping with access to devices or services.

If companies did not comply with the requests, they face fines of up to Aus$10 million, while individuals could be hit with penalties of up to Aus$50,000. The requests can be challenged in court.

The draft legislation expands the obligations to assist investigators from domestic telecom businesses to encompass foreign companies, including any communications providers operating in Australia.

This could cover social media giants such as Facebook, WhatsApp and gaming platforms with chat facilities.

The Digital Industry Group (DIGI), which represents tech firms including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Oath in Australia, said the providers were already working with police to respond to requests within existing laws and their terms of service.

DIGI managing director Nicole Buskiewicz called for “constructive dialogue” with Canberra over the adoption of surveillance laws that respect privacy and freedom of expression.

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Great Barrier Reef funding faces ‘potential’ review by National Audit Office — $444 million grant — Where’s the money?

August 13, 2018

The Turnbull government could face weeks more of scrutiny over its controversial $444 million grant to the non-profit Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with the National Audit Office considering a review of the unusual funding.

Josh Frydenberg, the Environment and Energy Minister, said on Monday he had asked the secretary of his department to write to the auditor to request “he consider such an audit as a priority”.

By Peter Hannam

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A clown fish on the Great Barrier Reef. The $444 million grant continues to attract attention.

Photo: Jason South

“The Auditor-General has publicly stated an interest in undertaking an audit of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Partnership which we would welcome.”

Tony Burke, Labor’s environment spokesman, said it “was an extraordinary step for the secretary of the department to be sending a letter like that to the Auditor-General at the exact same time that Josh Frydenberg is standing up in Parliament saying there is no problem here”.

The letter, however, did not go far enough because it only suggested an audit of the partnership after it was set up, he said.

“We also need to get to the bottom of how on earth the government decided that a private foundation employing six full-timers should be handed half a billion dollars in the first place,” he said.

Questions continue to swirl about the amount of preparation conducted by the government before the funding was announced just before the May budget.

Anna Marsden, the Foundation’s managing director, on Monday appeared to contradict Mr Frydenberg’s comments a day earlier to ABC’s Insiders program that there had been “extensive due diligence” on the group prior to the grant.

“I wasn’t (contacted). I wasn’t aware that the diligence process was underway, no,” she told ABC radio.

Asked if anyone else in the foundation was contacted, she replied: “No.”

The Foundation says it also welcomes the audit “in the interests of transparency and accountability”, a spokesman said.

Separate documents tabled in the Senate describe some of the activities of a steering committee meeting on May 17 between the CSIRO and the Foundation.

The expectation was that the $500 million over six years included “an expectation of 3:1 leverage” to deliver $100 million in private investment.

The Chairman’s retreat attracted 50 chief executives including Larry Marshall, the head of the CSIRO, and Paul Hardisty, head of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

It agreed the Foundation would launch a media campaign based on a message of hope, aspiration and national pride. “There is a desire for reassurance about what is being done to protect the reef to give people hope and a reason to engage,” one of the documents showed.

with AAP

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/great-barrier-reef-funding-faces-potential-review-by-national-audit-office-20180813-p4zx84.html

Social media manipulation — A global threat? — Social media used to enforce “norms” and “correct behavior” — But who is deciding what is “right”?

August 12, 2018

Technology-Enhanced Authoritarian Control with Global Consequences

The manipulation of public opinion over social media platforms has emerged as a critical threat to public life. Around the world, government agencies and political parties are exploiting social media platforms to spread junk news and disinformation, exercise censorship and control, and undermine trust in media, public institutions and science.

Now, a new report from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) at Oxford University, has found that despite efforts to combat computational propaganda, the problem is growing at a large scale.

“The number of countries where formally organised social media manipulation occurs has greatly increased, from 28 to 48 countries globally,” says Samantha Bradshaw, co-author of the report. ‘The majority of growth comes from political parties who spread disinformation and junk news around election periods. There are more political parties learning from the strategies deployed during Brexit and the US 2016 Presidential election: more campaigns are using bots, junk news, and disinformation to polarise and manipulate voters.’

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This is despite efforts by governments in many democracies introducing new legislation designed to combat fake news on the internet. ‘The problem with this is that these ‘task forces’ to combat fake news are being used as a new tool to legitimise censorship in authoritarian regimes,’ says Professor Phil Howard, co-author and lead researcher on the OII’s Computational Propaganda project. ‘At best, these types of task forces are creating counter-narratives and building tools for citizen awareness and fact-checking.’

Another challenge is the evolution of the mediums individuals use to share news and information. ‘There is evidence that disinformation campaigns are moving on to chat applications and alternative platforms,’ says Bradshaw. ‘This is becoming increasingly common in the Global South, where large public groups on chat applications are more popular.’

Automated bot accounts still continue to be a well-used tactic. Online commentators and fake accounts are used to spread pro-party messages, as well as being used to strategically share content or post using keywords to game algorithms and get certain content trending. They are also being used to report legitimate content and accounts on a mass scale, causing them to be taken down temporarily. ‘We suspect new innovation will continue to emerge as platforms and governments take legal and regulatory steps to curb this type of activity,’ says Howard.

Overall, the use of organised social media manipulation campaigns is a big business. ‘We estimate that tens of millions of dollars are spent on this type of activity,’ says Howard. ‘Some of the money may be spent on legitimate advertising on social media, but there is certainly a growing industry for fake accounts, online commentators, and political bots.’

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-07-20-social-media-manipulation-rising-globally-new-report-warns

Related:

Neuroscience may help explain a current lack of social and emotional skills, impulse driven decision making and mob-like behavior in society…

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Social media is making children regress to mentality of three-year-olds, says top brain scientist

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China’s social credit system ‘could interfere in other nations’ sovereignty’

System, criticised as an Orwellian tool of mass surveillance, is shaping behaviour of foreign businesses, report says

The Chinese government says its social credit system – whereby people can be blacklisted for transgressions such as smoking on trains, using expired tickets or failing to pay fines – is a way of encouraging moral behaviour by its citizens.
 The Chinese government says its social credit system – whereby people can be blacklisted for transgressions such as failing to pay fines – is a way of encouraging moral behaviour by its citizens. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

China’s social credit system, a big-data system for monitoring and shaping business and citizens’ behaviour, is reaching beyond China’s borders to impact foreign companies, according to new research.

The system, which has been compared to an Orwellian tool of mass surveillance, is an ambitious work in progress: a series of big data and AI-enabled processes that effectively grant subjects a social credit score based on their social, political and economic behaviour.

People with low scores can be banned or blacklisted from accessing services including flights and train travel; while those with high scores can access privileges. The Chinese government aims to have all 1.35 billion of its citizens subject to the system by 2020.

But a new report by US China scholar Samantha Hoffman for the ASPI International Cyber Policy Institute in Canberra claims the system’s impact beyond China’s borders has not been well understood, and is in fact already shaping the behaviour of foreign businesses in line with Chinese Communist party preferences. It has the “potential to interfere directly in the sovereignty of other nations”, she said.

She said recent incidents where Chinese authorities pressured international airlines in the US and Australia to use Beijing’s preferred terminology to refer to Taiwan and Hong Kong were high-profile examples of this new extension of the social credit system rules to foreign companies.

“The civil aviation industry credit management measures that the airlines are accused of violating were written to implement two key policy guidelines on establishing China’s social credit system,” she explains. “Social credit was used specifically in these cases to compel international airlines to acknowledge and adopt the CCP’s version of the truth, and so repress alternative perspectives on Taiwan.”

As of 1 January 2018, all companies with a Chinese business licence – a necessity for operating in the country – were brought into the social credit system through the new licence requirement to have an 18-digit “unified social credit code”. Through this business ID number, the Chinese government keeps track of all businesses, reporting transgressions on its National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System, Hoffman said. The system extends to non-profits, NGOs, trade unions and social organisations after 30 June.

“Companies don’t have a choice but to comply if they want to continue doing business in China,” Hoffman told the Guardian Australia.

Sanctions for companies so far have come in the form of fines, she said, citing the example of the Japanese retailer Muji, which was fined 200,000 yuan in May for labelling on products sold in China that listed Taiwan as a country. The fine cited a violation of PRC advertising law banning activity which damages “the dignity or interests of the state”, but the violation was also recorded on the social credit system’s National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System. This listing can trigger further fines from other state agencies, Hoffman said.

It is not clear whether foreign companies have access to the information kept on their social credit record, nor if foreign citizens could find out if their nation’s companies have made concessions or changed their behaviour as a result.

Guardian Australia unsuccessfully sought comment from Qantas, which announced earlier this month it would change the language used on its global websites in accordance with the Chinese government’s preferred terminology for Taiwan.

Hoffman is a visiting academic fellow at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Berlin. Her report, Social Credit: Technology-enhanced Authoritarian Control with Global Consequences, was published on Thursday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a security-focused thinktank which has urged the Australian government take a harder line on Chinese government interference in its democracy.

The report comes amid a difficult period in Australia-China relations; in the same week Australia’s parliamentary committee released a bipartisan report paving the way for the passage of new draft laws against covert, coercive or corrupt foreign interference.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/28/chinas-social-credit-system-could-interfere-in-other-nations-sovereignty

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Ethnic Uighur children in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province © Getty

  (Academic Freedom Chinese Style)

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South China Sea: China’s Illegal Message to Outsiders is ‘Leave immediately and keep far off’ — This is International Airspace Over International Waters

August 11, 2018

A U.S. Navy ocean surveillance aircraft recently visited the South China Sea on a routine maritime patrol in international airspace over international waters. China told the U.S. P-8 to leave — an illegal order since the claim of sovereignty by China in the South China Sea was disallowed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12, 2016.

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China has ignored international law in the South China Sea, much as Russia has done in Georgia and the Ukraine (Crimea).

Are we becoming a world where nations take what they want? Is the concept of international law dead? The answers could be “yes”.

Above: CNN Video

See also:

BBC Video:

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-45152525/south-china-sea-leave-immediately-and-keep-far-off

The Full CNN report:

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

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Above: China has built seven military bases near the Philippines in the South China Sea

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Philippines, China work on framework of joint oil hunt

http://manilastandard.net/news/top-stories/272639/philippines-china-work-on-framework-of-joint-oil-hunt.html

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Above: military intelligence planners say China may next declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea

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Banners declaring the Philippines a province of China appeared in various parts of Metro Manila on July 12. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the apparent prank.(Contributed photo)

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Wang Yi

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  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

(Why give away what you own?)

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One of the islands China built at Subi Reef — and then built a huge military base on top. This is an area china claims but that claim was not allowed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague in 2016

Can Taiwan counter China’s mounting pressure?

August 10, 2018

As China increases its pressure on Taiwan, Taipei is taking countermeasures to promote itself as a regional haven for democracy and civil rights. But is it sufficient to deal with Beijing? William Yang reports.

    
President Tsai Ing-wen and President Xi Jinping (Reuters/T. Siu, picture-alliance/Xinhua/L. TAo)

On July 24, China successfully lobbied five other members of the East Asian Olympic Committee to revoke Taiwan’s right to host its first-ever East Asian Youth Games next year.

Recently, a group of Taiwanese LGBTQ activists accused Beijing of pressuring the organizers of the Gay Games in Paris into banning the display of Taiwan’s flag.

Also, a performance by a Taiwanese high-school choir at the UN Center in Vienna was reportedly canceled due to pressure from the Chinese embassy in Austria.

On July 25, four major US airlines complied with Beijing’s demand to alter Taiwan’s description on their websites, changing the destination to “Taipei” instead of “Taiwan.” The total number of international airlines that have so far caved in to China’s demand is now 44.

Read more: Australia says China pressured Qantas over Taiwan status

China continues to lay claim to the island under its “one China” policy, which Taiwan rejects, and hostility toward Taiwan has only grown in Beijing since Tsai Ing-wen (Tsai pictured above, with Chinese President Xi Jinping) was elected as Taiwanese president in 2016.

Screenshot offizielle Website der Fluggesellschaft Delta (delta.com)China has forced a number of international airlines to use ‘Taipei’ instead of ‘Taiwan’ as their destination

Soft power

Despite Beijing’s continuous efforts to reduce Taiwan’s international space, the island’s government has shown no sign of surrendering to Beijing’s heavy-handedness.

On Sunday, President Tsai reiterated that her administration would not succumb to Chinese pressure and highlighted the growing international support for Taiwan.

While Chinese actions worry many people in Taiwan, analysts are of the view that Taipei has the means to safeguard its sovereignty. For instance, they say, Taiwan can use its good relations with allies like the United States, Japan and the European Union. Additionally, Taiwan’s economic ties with a number of countries around the world can help boost Taipei’s  global reputation.

“The non-diplomatic aspects of Taiwan’s international engagements have improved over the years,” Russell Hsiao, executive director of the Global Taiwan Institute in Washington, told DW.

“Although China has successfully prevented Taiwan from participating in the World Health Organization and other international bodies over the past two years, the support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations has definitely increased,” Hsiao added.

Read more:

China insists on airline demands after US dismisses ‘Orwellian nonsense’

US upsets China with new de facto embassy in Taiwan

Experts believe that despite taking a strong stance to counter Chinese pressure, the incumbent Taiwanese government can do a lot more to stop Beijing from using “bullying tactics.”

Timothy Rich, an associate professor of political science at Western Kentucky University, says that Taiwan needs to promote itself as a viable and open tourist destination to the world.

“[This way] Taiwan can position itself as an important international player,” Rich told DW.

Hsiao says there is no better strategy for Taiwan than to use its “soft power” in comparison to China’s authoritarian governance style.

Many experts agree that the level of democracy, freedom of speech, and civil and human rights is much higher in Taiwan than in China.

Read more: Taiwan scrambles fighter jets to monitor Chinese bombers

Growing support

Taiwan’s vibrant democracy makes it an ideal destination for hosting international summits, say observers. On August 1, Oslo Freedom Forum announced it plans to hold its first Asian edition in Taipei on November 10. Prominent human rights activists and journalists from around the world are likely to participate in the event. The conference organizers say that Taiwan’s free society makes it an ideal destination to host international summits.

“Taiwan is a great destination because of its multiparty political system,” Alex Gladstein, a chief strategy officer for New York-based Human Rights Foundation, told DW.

Gladstein hopes that the November conference will increase Taiwan’s clout in the international community.

Read more: Donald Trump signs Taiwan Travel Act, drawing China’s ire

Australia’s most populous state ‘100 percent’ in drought

August 8, 2018

New South Wales is suffering the worst drought in more than 50 years, with farmers among the hardest hit.

Some farmers have been forced to shoot livestock as grazeable land and crops become increasingly scarce [David Gray/Reuters]
Some farmers have been forced to shoot livestock as grazeable land and crops become increasingly scarce [David Gray/Reuters]

Australia’s most populous state is now “100 percent” in drought following the most intense dry spell in more than 50 years.

New South Wales officials released figures on Wednesday showing that every part of the state is affected, with almost one-quarter classified as being in “intense drought”.

Less than 10 millimetres of rainfall has been recorded in the 800,000-square kilometre state over the past month.

“There isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” Niall Blair, minister for primary industries, said in a statement.

Dry conditions are expected to continue for the next three months.

Farmers are among the hardest hit by the drought, which is the driest and most widespread in the state since 1965.

Starving livestock

There have been reports of farmers shooting cattle and hand-feeding animals because the ground is too dry for grass to grow.

“They are shooting their stock because they don’t want them to suffer. They are shooting them because they just can’t afford to feed them any more,” Tash Johnston, cofounder of Drought Angels NGO, told AFP news agency.

The government also relaxed restrictions on shooting kangaroos in a bid to help farmers as the animals compete with livestock for grazing land.

“Many farmers are taking livestock off their paddocks, only to then see kangaroos move in a take whatever is left,” Blair said.

“If we don’t manage this situation, we will start to see tens of thousands of kangaroos starving and suffering, ultimately leading to a major animal welfare crisis”.

Agriculture contributes more than US$11bn to the state’s economy annually and employs about 77,000 people.

Less than 10 millimetres of rainfall has been recorded in New South Wales over the last month [David Gray/Reuters]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/08/australia-populous-state-100-percent-drought-180808063522307.html

South China Sea progress between China and Asean will run into choppy waters yet

August 8, 2018

Emanuele Scimia says despite the breakthrough on a code of conduct in the South China Sea between China and Asean, the US will not cede influence in the region easily

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 4:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2018, 6:46am

 

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations now have a single text to negotiate a code of conduct in the South China Sea, where four Asean member countries – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – are locked in territorial disputes with Beijing. The announcement, which came on Thursday during the Asean-China ministerial meeting, was hailed as a milestone by both sides.

However, the concerned parties are a long way from reaching a consensus on a final document, and the United States is likely to try to sabotage any agreement that could weaken its position in the region.

China and Asean have worked to finalise a code of conduct in the South China Sea since 2002. The recent breakthrough may be the result of a convergence of diplomatic and economic factors. Beijing is fighting a trade war with the US, and looking for ways to absorb the shock of its conflict with Washington. In this respect, the easing of tensions in the South China Sea with its Southeast Asian neighbours could expedite the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a prospective regional trade agreement it backs, which could mitigate the risk of isolation for Beijing.

For their part, Asean claimants to the South China Sea are wary of US President Donald Trump’s real commitment to Southeast Asia, as well as his protectionist policies. The US was Asean’s third-largest trading partner in 2017 (China and the European Union topped the rankings), but it ran a trade deficit of US$55.6 billion. Given this imbalance, Asean countries have automatically become potential targets of Trump’s trade tariff campaign, which has thus far hit both enemies and friends, and may need Beijing’s help in case of a commercial spat with the US.

That said, disruption of Asean-China talks on the code of conduct may come at any time.

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It has been reported that Chinese leaders have proposed joint patrols, military exercises and energy exploration with Asean countries in the region. According to Agence France-Presse, Vietnam is the only claimant to have challenged China’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters and their transformation into military bases. Beijing and Hanoi are likely to clash over the latter’s request that the code of conduct be legally binding under international rules – a clause that the Chinese leadership has always opposed.

Vietnam is the only claimant to have challenged China’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that his country and Vietnam would join hands to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. Beijing has always been critical of Washington’s air and naval operations in the area.

The current geopolitical scenario in the South China Sea region is rather fluid, despite China’s success in mollifying other claimants, especially the Philippines, which won an arbitration case against the Chinese government in 2016. The ruling, handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and dismissed by Beijing, rejected vast Chinese claims to the contested waters.

In those days, the Philippines held joint naval drills with the US near a sector of the South China Sea where it has overlapping claims with Beijing. The exercises also saw the deployment of a US aircraft carrier. The Philippine navy was also involved in the Rim of the Pacific exercises until last Thursday. Three other Asean members – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – took part in the US-led drills, the largest of their kind in the world, from which China had been disinvited in May.

Manila’s air force is also taking part in the biennial Pitch Black, a premier multinational air power exercise in the Asia-Pacific region. Organised by Australia – a vocal opponent of China’s military rise in the Indo-Pacific arena – Pitch Black also involves the participation of aircraft from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

What’s more, Asean countries are taking countermeasures against China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea with a growing focus on coastal defence. Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have all expanded their coastguard capabilities and operations to counter Beijing’s military assertiveness in the region. Hanoi and Jakarta have also strengthened their arsenals of anti-ship missiles, and the Vietnamese navy has reinforced its fleet with Russian high-speed frigates and missile corvettes.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that an early conclusion of the code of conduct would be possible if future negotiations were not hindered by “external disturbances”. But Wang’s expectations will go unmet.

Meeting top Asean diplomats on Friday, Pompeo said that US would support the group in its bid to foster peace in Southeast Asia. However, last month, during the annual Australia-US ministerial consultations, Washington and Canberra emphasised that a code of conduct in the South China Sea should not prejudice “the interest of third parties or the rights of all states under international law”.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

The bottom line is that the US will never accept a status quo where China maintains military outposts in the disputed Spratlys and Paracels, turning the stretch of the South China Sea between the two groups of islands into a “Chinese channel”. In that event, Washington is likely to work to derail a final deal between Asean and Beijing.

Emanuele Scimia is an independent journalist and foreign affairs analyst

https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/united-states/article/2158455/south-china-sea-progress-between-china-and

Related:

  (propaganda)

  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

(Why give away what you own?)

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Above: China’s seven military bases near the Philippines in the South China Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.

Philippines: Australian Prof To Be Deported For Human Right Advocacy — More “Creeping China-Style Philippines” 

August 8, 2018

Prof Gill Boehringer

(Photo of Prof. Gill Boehringer)

Kristine Joy Patag (philstar.com) – August 8, 2018 – 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — An Australian professor was barred from entering the country on Wednesday for allegedly joining protests and fact-finding missions, said rights group Karapatan.

In a statement, the group said that 84-year-old Gill Boehringer, a law professor and human rights advcate, was held by the Bureau of Immigration upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, midnight of August 8.

The professor was told that he is on the Immigration bureau’s blacklist “for allegedly joining protest actions and fact-finding missions in the Philippines.” He will also be deported.

The Department of Justice has yet to respond to requests for comment and confirmation. A Bureau of Immigration spokesperson said the agency “will look into this” and promised to issue a statement soon.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, slammed the alleged detention and deportation of the elderly professor.

She said the government has been working “to prevent individuals from exposing the gross rights violations happening in the country, cowardly hiding beyond the rhetoric of exercising the country’s sovereign will.”

Karapatan said Boehringer has long been active in campaigning for human rights in the Philippines, including the plight of Lumads in Mindanao and the militarization of their communities amid martial law.

The Australian professor is also married to a Filipina and has frequented the Philippines.

Palabay called on the Immigration bureau to respect Boehringer’s right to due process and to have access to his family, lawyers and doctors.

“We call on authorities to stop Professor Boehringer’s deportation and immediately repeal all orders violating the people’s basic and fundamental rights, regardless of nationality,” Palabay added.

Deportation of missionaries

“It is deeply alarming how foreign nationals who express international solidarity with the Filipino people are barred [from] the country,” Palabay said.

She called for the repeal of the Immigration order used as grounds to deport foreign missionaries in the past months.

Australian nun Patricia Fox, who earlier caught the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte, is fighting a legal battle to be allowed to return to the country.

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Patricia Fox

Immigration ordered Fox deported and banned after its board of commissioners found that she violated the “limitations and conditions of Commonwealth Act 613, Section 9 (g) missionary visa and undesirable under Article 2711, Section 69.”

Fox has been in the Philippines in the past 27 years, extending assistance to farmers, people in jails and indigenous peoples.

Earlier in July, Immigration also sent home Zimbabwean missionary Tawanda Chandiwana and American missionary Adam Thomas Shaw who were said to be overstaying in the country.

The bureau has denied that it is conducting a crackdown on foreign missionaries in the country.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/08/08/1840765/australian-prof-held-be-deported-joining-protests-karapatan-says#z8sU03s0HzlkXzmZ.99

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Crippling drought hammers Australian farmers — Shooting their stock because they don’t want them to suffer

August 8, 2018

A crippling drought is ravaging vast tracts of Australia’s pastoral heartlands, decimating herds and putting desperate farmers under intense financial and emotional strain, with little relief in sight.

While the country is no stranger to “big drys” and its people have long had a reputation as resilient, the extreme conditions across swathes of Australia’s east are the worst in more than 50 years.

A smattering of rain earlier this week did little to ease one of the driest starts to the year on record, turning pastures to dust and destroying huge areas of grazing and crop lands.

With no feed, farmers have been forced to ship in grain or hay from other parts of the country to keep sheep and cattle alive, spending thousands of extra dollars a week just to stay afloat.

Some exhausted graziers spend hours each day hand-feeding their stock because the ground is too dry for grass to grow. Others have been forced to shoot starving cattle

DROUGHT: Jamie Marquet's dairy farm at Wallarobba in February. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

 DROUGHT: Jamie Marquet’s dairy farm at Wallarobba in February. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

“They are shooting their stock because they don’t want them to suffer. They are shooting them because they just can’t afford to feed them anymore,” Tash Johnston, co-founder of charity Drought Angels, told AFP.

Farmers have also had to ration water for their families and their herds because the dams on their properties are dry or nearly empty.

Many face the prospect of abandoning their homes altogether — some after being on the land for generations.

It is a scenario repeated across New South Wales state, where agriculture contributes more than Aus$15 billion (US$11 billion) to the state’s economy annually, employing more than 77,000 people.

Authorities on Wednesday officially declared the entire state in drought.

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Hay prices have skyrocketed in southeastern Australia due to a severe drought.   © Reuters

Conditions are similarly dire in Queensland to the north, where the state government says nearly 60 percent of land is suffering drought conditions.

“This would be the first time in two generations, back to the 1930s, that we haven’t got a crop up in the autumn or winter time,” Greg Stones, who runs a small farm of cattle, sheep, grain and crops near drought-hit Gunnedah, a five-hour drive north of Sydney, told AFP.

“The land is too dry… We’ve put cattle on the highway (near the farm) for the first time in my life (so) they get a bit of rough grass.”

With farmers facing ruin, the national government stepped in last weekend, pledging a Aus$190 million package of immediate relief measures.

It includes two lump sum payments worth up to Aus$12,000 per household, and changes to an assets test to grant support to thousands more farmers.

There was also cash for counselling and mental health services, with drought-related stress and even suicide a mounting concern, compounded by the isolation many feel on their remote properties.

“We are the land of droughts and flooding rains. We recognise that. It?s a very volatile and often capricious climate and Australian farmers are resilient, they plan for drought, they are good managers but it can become really overwhelming,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“They understand drought is part of the Australian climate and they manage for it, but this drought is longer and more widespread than any drought we’ve seen in over 50 years so that’s why we’ve got to provide additional support.”

– Shocking to see –

NSW Farmers’ Association president James Jackson welcomed the government measures, but cautioned it was vital to ensure ongoing support, particularly to address mental health.

Others said it was too little, too late.

“I think the only problem is it was probably a little bit late coming for some people. They didn’t act fast enough,” Col Barton, whose family has been on their farm east of Gunnedah since 1938, told AFP.

“All the climate gurus that know all about the weather still can’t tell us when (the drought? is) going to break. We’ve got no idea so we run blind. We’ve just got to plan and hope and pray that it rains.”

Australia’s weather bureau has warned there is no end in sight and the Red Cross has set up a relief appeal, while the Salvation Army is distributing food hampers.

It is not just farmers doing it tough, but also the towns that service them.

Murrurundi, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Sydney, has received less than 170 millimetres of rain this year and could run out of drinking water within months.

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Severe restrictions are in place, including three-minute showers and only two washing loads of clothes a week, with fears the town may need to truck in supplies.

Grazier Mark Wylie has spent Aus$30,000 in the past six weeks boring for groundwater, to no avail.

Even if he or Murrurundi authorities find a water source, he told local media: “It’s a finite resource, it won’t go on forever.”

Water diviner Glen Shepherd, who has lived in the town for more than three decades, said these were the driest conditions he had ever seen.

“It’s shocking to see,” he told AFP. “And the people in the city don’t realise, or they are starting to realise now, everything does come off the land — the bread, the cereal, the milk.

“If the drought doesn’t break, it’s going to happen,” he added, referring to farms going out of business.

AFP

Related:

Australian drought doubles hay prices in blow to cattle farmers

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Markets/Commodities/Australian-drought-doubles-hay-prices-in-blow-to-cattle-farmers

Markets like Japan, the U.S., China, South Korea and Indonesia, the world’s top importers of Australian beef, would likely be most affected by a price increase. 

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You don’t have to travel far to see the impact drought is having in New South Wales (NSW), Australia

With almost a third of the state in drought, or conditions approaching drought, farmers across the state are facing some very tough decisions.

As you will know, the situation is particularly dire in the Upper Hunter as well as

parts of the Central West, Central Tablelands and Far West.

I’ve been speaking regularly to farmers throughout these regions and I know farming businesses and their local communities are hurting.

No government will ever have the answers for a farmer looking out across their bare paddock with hungry and thirsty livestock. However, the NSW Government is supporting its farmers through a range of measures that build resilience and preparedness on farm.

Through the Farm Innovation Fund, part of the NSW Drought Strategy, we have approved $54 million worth of low-interest loans for drought preparedness and capital improvement work this financial year alone.

This money is being used to improve water infrastructure including dams, drilling bores, underground piping, irrigation facilities, livestock water as well as being used to buy silos and improve feed storage capacity.

Although we’re proud of what our farmers have accomplished with the Farm Innovation Fund, we also know when times get really tough the focus must turn to more immediate measures.

That’s why the strategy includes a rural resilience program, rural support workers and financial counselling, as well as subsidies for the cost of transporting donated fodder and for transporting stock off-farm for animal welfare purposes.

However, more recently farmers have told us that the situation is now so challenging that even with the right decisions – having de-stocked to minimum levels – they are having trouble meeting the costs that come with feeding and watering key breeding stock.

That’s why I was pleased to be able to announce this week a new measure – the NSW Drought Transport Fund – it will provide up to $20,000 in low interest loans, with a two-year interest and repayment free period to help farmers pay freight costs for fodder, water, or to move stock to agistment.

This is a new measure, created in response to the feedback we’ve had from farmers and one that will have an effect well beyond the properties which put it to use.

This additional fund will allow farmers to better manage core breeding stock, which will in turn enable a more rapid recovery when conditions improve.

Our farmers are no strangers to tough times – our commitment as a government is to do all we can to support them through those challenges and to help them make the most of their opportunities when conditions improve.

South China Sea: ASEAN actions not cause for celebration — “War clouds could be closer, not further away…”

August 7, 2018

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed on a so-called single  working text to continue negotiations for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the disputed South China Sea.

“I am pleased to announce yet another milestone in the COC process,” said Vivian Balakrishnan on Thursday, Singapore’s foreign minister, who is hosting the meeting of regional leaders.

They have also agreed on the “key modalities” for future rounds of negotiations, he said in opening remarks at the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting, one of several related meetings held alongside the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore this week.

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Balakrishnan said that the single draft negotiating text will be the basis for future COC negotiations and a living document, which means it will be continually edited and updated as needed. He added that ASEAN and China settled on the negotiating text in June when both sides held talks in Changsha in China’s Hunan province

Both sides hailed the development and said that COC negotiations will accelerate.

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Premature celebration

However, any celebrations that this is a major breakthrough should be carefully examined. ASEAN members have been trying to persuade China for several years to agree to a COC, which merely sets force non-enforceable rules on how each party should conduct itself in the South China Sea.

Related: Russia’s High Risk Global Oil Strategy

As far back as July 2012, China said it was open to launching negotiators over the COC. However, the same year China seized and took possession of Scarborough Shoal, which clearly lies within the Philippines’ (an ASEAN member) UN-mandated 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Since 2012, China has mostly waffled at agreeing to a COC, as it continued to develop installations on reefs and islets in the South China Sea, including putting in place military assets, in an obvious attempt to militarize and control the area. The South China Sea includes shipping lanes that send vital crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other goods to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

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The fact that China, the master at delaying tactics, has agreed to a working text on a COC after several years of artificial island building is disingenuous at best. Moreover, a formal and completed COC is still likely many years away, allowing China even more time to continue its building in the area.

China’s South China Sea actions has also set Beijing and Washington on a potential collision course as the US navy continues to send what it calls “freedom of navigation voyages” near China’s disputed claims. Angst over China’s moves have also caused the US, Japan, India and Australia to work together to find ways to challenge Beijing’s South China Sea assertions. However, at the end of the day, occasional naval voyages pale in comparison to actual infrastructure and military assets already in place.

Going forward, it appears that China will remain unchecked in its claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, referred to as its nine-dash line, at the dismay of rival claimants in the body of water: Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

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Pushing back

Despite diplomatic efforts by ASEAN over Beijing’s South China Sea buildup, several ASEAN members seem to be taking a different approach by strengthening their coastguards as a way to maintain a presence in the region without risking direct military engagement.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said in a report published on Wednesday that in an effort to stop maritime encounters, with China or each other, escalating into military conflicts, countries with claims to the disputed waterway have been transferring security forces from their navies to their coastguards. “The coastguards have become important strategic cushions between navies in ASEAN,” it said.

The primary reason for nations increasing their coastal forces has been “China’s aggressive maritime strategy,” including the construction of military outposts and distant fishing activities in other countries’ exclusive economic zones, the report said.

Related: A Price Spike Looms For Natural Gas

The use of civilian and coast guard maritime vessels however is already used to great effect by China. Often instead of sending its regular navy, officially called the People’s Liberation Army Navy, China sends its maritime defense vessels or coast guard to do its bidding.

Of the 45 major incidents reported in the South China Sea between 2010 and 2016, 32 involved at least one China Coast Guard or other Chinese maritime law enforcement vessel, the ASPI report added.

Concurrently, China is continually building up its so-called Blue Ocean navy. Peter Jennings, the ASPI director, and a former head of strategy for the Australian Defense Department, said in mid_July that China’s navy could challenge the supremacy of the U.S. Navy in the region within a year.

Oil and gas lurks in background

Oil and gas reserves set the backdrop for this ongoing and potentially explosive geopolitical quagmire. One Chinese estimate places potential oil resources in the South China Sea as high as 213 billion barrels, though many Western analysts have repeatedly claimed that this estimate seems extremely high. A conservative 1993/1994 US Geological Survey (USGS) report estimated the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea at 28 billion barrels – yet, this estimate, for its part, seems particularly low.

Moreover, the 1993/1994 USGS estimate states that natural gas is actually more abundant in the area than oil. According to the USGS, about 60 percent-70 percent of the area’s hydrocarbon resources are gas while the sum total of discovered reserves and undiscovered resources in the offshore basins of the South China Sea is estimated at 266 trillion cubic feet (tcf).

State-owned oil major China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), responsible for most of China’s offshore oil and gas production, claims that the area holds around 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 tcf of gas in undiscovered areas, although the figures have not been confirmed by independent studies.

By Tim Daiss for Oilprice.com

https://oilprice.com/Geopolitics/International/The-Next-Big-Energy-Standoff-Will-Happen-Here.html

Related:

  (propaganda)

  (This is what China cares about what people think….)

(Why give away what you own?)

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Above: China’s seven military bases near the Philippines in the South China Sea

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law. Vietnam has been unable to develop its own undersea oil due to China’s aggressive behavior.