Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

China Navy Ships Depart for Joint Drills With Russia

September 14, 2017

BEIJING — Four Chinese navy ships have departed for joint drills with Russia in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the two militaries that could challenge the U.S. armed forces’ role in the Asia-Pacific.

A destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship and submarine rescue ship departed Wednesday from the port of Qingdao, home to China’s north sea fleet, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The drills are being held in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Xinhua said.

The exercises are the second stage of an annual joint drill, the first part of which was held July 22-27 in the Baltic Sea — the first time the countries had exercised together in the northern European waterbody.

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Chinese and Russian destroyers take part in a previous joint exercise in 2014 / AP

Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the U.S. and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.

July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.

Both Russia and China say the exercises are not directed at any third parties.

The Chinese ships taking part in the exercises are among the country’s most advanced, components of a growing fleet that poses a significant challenge to the U.S. Navy’s traditional dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has long chafed at the American presence and is a strong critic of its alliances with Japan, Australia and other countries in the region.

China already has the world’s largest navy, with slightly over 300 vessels, compared to the U.S. Navy’s 277 “deployable battle force ships,” according to the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts it will have 313-342 warships by 2020.

While China’s ships are technologically inferior to those of the U.S. Navy, their sheer numbers allow China a significant presence on the open sea, institute professor Andrew S. Erickson wrote in a recent study.


Asia markets take breather, dollar holds up after rally — return of optimism to markets

September 13, 2017


© KCNA VIA KNS/AFP | Pyongyang has warned it will speed up its weapons programme in response to UN sanctions on Kim Jong-Un’s regime following recent nuclear and missile tests

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian investors eased off the pedal Wednesday after their recent gains while the dollar held up against the yen as North Korea kept itself in the mix by warning it would ramp up its nuclear weapons programme in response to fresh UN sanctions.While Tokyo was able to kick on thanks to a further weakening of the yen, traders were unwilling to track a record close for all three main Wall Street indexes.

The latest gains have been fuelled by relief that Hurricane Irma did not hammer Florida as badly as feared and that the North Korea crisis had settled somewhat after its recent provocative nuclear and missile tests.

However, Pyongyang continued to take up attention when it vowed Wednesday to accelerate its weapons drive after the “evil” Security Council sanctions.

President Donald Trump had earlier warned of more measures against Kim Jong-Un’s regime, while the European Union said it would push ahead with further moves.

In equities trade Tokyo ended the morning 0.5 percent higher as exporters benefited from the weaker yen. The greenback broke back above 110 yen Tuesday after last week’s sell-off saw it tumble to the 10-month lows around 107.30 yen.

Sydney added 0.4 percent and Seoul was 0.1 percent higher but Hong Kong slipped 0.6 percent.

In other currency trading the pound extended gains after hitting a one-year high against the dollar on the back of a strong British inflation reading, while it was also given support by the return of optimism to markets.

However, OANDA head of Asia-Pacific trading Stephen Innes issued a word of caution after the recent run of global volatility.

“Ultimately this buoyant risk sentiment should be cheered, but forex traders remain in the Nervous Nellie camp waiting for the next chaotic patch given the evolving narratives,” he warned.

“A word of caution to those enjoying this unexpected sea of tranquillity: the next few weeks and months come with significant risk.”

The release later this week of US inflation figures will be closely followed as the Federal Reserve ponders another interest rate hike and the winding in of its stimulus programme.

Analysts said policymakers could have a little more time to make a move in light of Hurricane Irma in Florida and last month’s Harvey in Texas, which could skew the data the Fed relies on to make its decision.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 19,869.82 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.6 percent at 27,819.68

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,372.92

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1971 from $1.1964 at 2130 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.02 from 110.18 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3289 from $1.3280

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP six cents at $48.29 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN six cents at $54.21

New York – DOW: UP 0.3 percent at 22,118.86 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,400.69 (close)

ASEAN Makes Free Trade Deal With Hong Kong

September 9, 2017


© AFP/File | Ministers gather at the ASEAN meeting in Manila, where it was announced the group is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November

MANILA (AFP) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to sign a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong in November, a Philippine government official said Saturday, following three years of talks.The Chinese special administrative region began free-trade negotiations with ASEAN in 2014, four years after the 10-nation economic bloc signed a similar trade deal with China in 2010.

Hong Kong also completed negotiations on an investment pact with ASEAN, said Philippine Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo.

“This would… send a positive signal for the international community of ASEAN’s resolute commitment to free trade and open markets,” Rodolfo told reporters.

He gave no details of the two agreements, which dealt with lowering import duties and cutting barriers to investment.

The agreement was reached as ASEAN economic ministers held a dialogue in Manila Saturday with Hong Kong government officials.

ASEAN, an economic bloc with a combined population of more than 600 million, is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner after mainland China, according to the territory’s Trade and Industry Department website.

Hong Kong also acts as an important entrepot for trade between mainland China and ASEAN, an economic grouping made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It has remained a separate customs entity from mainland China since the city’s 1997 handover by Britain.

ASEAN members have established a free-trade area among themselves aiming to slash tariffs on most goods to zero and minimise non-tariff barriers. They have also signed free-trade deals with key trading partners such as Japan and China.

Rodolfo said the Hong Kong deals are to be signed in November, when the Philippines hosts an ASEAN summit.

ASEAN also has free-trade deals with India, Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea.


Trump’s Looming Trade Crack-Up

September 6, 2017
His fight with Seoul would leave the U.S. a loser. Congress needs to assert its authority to stop him.

By Robert B. Zoellick
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 5, 2017 7:13 p.m. ET

Donald Trump’s trade policy is speeding toward a shipwreck. Under the Constitution, Congress has principal authority over trade, although it has delegated considerable powers to the executive. Congress needs to reassert control to block Mr. Trump’s crack-up.

The president threatened last week to abandon the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The immediate result would be to increase barriers to American exporters, especially farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and service industries. Without the FTA, Korea’s average tariff could be boosted to almost 14%, quadruple the average U.S. tariff. The European Union will retain free access to Korea through its trade deal.

Mr. Trump’s impulses are strategically incoherent. China has been squeezing Korean companies because Seoul has been installing missile defenses against North Korean rockets. When Mr. Trump seeks to cut off South Korea’s trade with the U.S., Seoul’s logical course is to accommodate Beijing to protect ties with its largest trading partner.

Combined with his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the president’s attack on the Korean FTA signals America’s unreliability as an economic partner. Asian countries will inevitably question whether America’s economic retreat is consistent with U.S. security commitments across the Pacific. No one will understand why Mr. Trump would fracture ties with Seoul—and provoke public hostility in South Korea—at a moment when North Korea’s threats necessitate tight cooperation and trust to thwart Pyongyang. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un will proclaim that he is Korea’s true national patriot, having shown his countrymen that America is selfishly thrashing the “running dogs” in Seoul.

The recently appointed South Korean trade minister, Kim Hyun Chong, is the same man who negotiated the FTA with the George W. Bush administration, who patiently renegotiated with Barack Obama, and who worked with Congress during both terms to forge closer links. South Korea’s economic and democratic development has been an incredible success story; Korea grew to become America’s sixth-largest trading partner for goods even without an FTA. But Mr. Kim wanted to lock in an alliance with America in the 21st-century competition for power in the Indo-Pacific. Especially in Asia, where respect and reliability in personal relations are valued highly, Mr. Trump’s shocking slap to America’s Korean friends will be noted and long remembered.

Mr. Trump’s tirade about South Korea is part of a much larger problem. He has repeatedly threatened to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, too. Conventional wisdom has treated these trade tantrums as passing storms, but the rationalizers have misread his purposes. Mr. Trump wants to reverse bilateral trade deficits, which he views as “losing.” In reality, trade deficits with other countries reflect a mix of relative growth rates, differential production advantages, supply chains, savings and investment, and currency exchange rates. The U.S. has a trade surplus with Australia, which has a surplus with China, which has a surplus with the U.S.—each reflecting comparative advantages. I have a “deficit” with my local supermarket, but I offset what I owe by earning money elsewhere, not by stocking shelves at night to pay for my groceries.

The U.S. cannot reverse trade deficits through new agreements. Mr. Trump’s negotiators will try to fix outcomes by having governments set market shares or through arrangements similar to barter, like the Soviet Union’s old Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. Neither Mexico, Canada, South Korea nor any other market economy partner will agree to a central-planning trade model. Even if they tried, bilateral trade patterns would still reflect global comparative advantages. Some 60% of America’s imports are for intermediate goods that contribute to U.S. competitiveness. Mexico’s trade surplus with the U.S. primarily reflects integrated auto production, which helps U.S. companies and workers to compete globally.

The administration’s Nafta proposals reveal its own contradictions. The U.S. demands more-open markets for American goods, pressing for provisions from the TPP that Mr. Trump denounced. But the U.S. also wants the ability to ignore its commitments. The administration, for example, wants to abolish neutral panels that apply agreed rules to resolve disputes about subsidies or selling goods below cost. The U.S. also wants to be able to raise new barriers when interest groups demand “temporary protection.” And the administration wants to ignore rules on treating investors fairly. Mr. Trump’s abandonment of investment protections could prove especially self-defeating if a new Mexican government reverses President Enrique Peña Nieto’s move to open Mexico’s energy markets.

Mr. Trump appears oblivious to these realities. His real aim may be to forge a domestic political realignment around matters such as trade protectionism, hostility to immigration and walling off Mexico. As he is unable to achieve simple solutions in North Korea, Afghanistan and the Middle East—and as his frustrations build with Congress and investigations—the danger is that he will lash out. Because his trade policy will not reverse bilateral trade deficits, the president will want to scrap “bad deals” that he can blame on others. He will destroy agreements to keep faith with his own false arguments—and to save himself.

Those in Congress who still want to give Mr. Trump the benefit of the doubt should ask how he plans to enact his new deals. Nafta’s passage in 1993 required a huge effort by President Clinton and relied heavily on Republican support. Mr. Trump is inept with Congress and will never fight for any Nafta. Democratic lawmakers will happily embrace Mr. Trump’s economic isolationism to reclaim voters they lost.

This trade policy will unravel vital ties across the Asia-Pacific region, hurt an ally facing a security crisis, destroy a North American partnership that should be the foundation for U.S. global power projection, and subvert confidence in the U.S. around the world. Congress can no longer wait for Mr. Trump to speak and act sensibly. It needs to assert its constitutional powers over trade to stop this president’s destruction.

Mr. Zoellick is a former World Bank president, U.S. trade representative and deputy secretary of state.

Australian military probes ‘rumors’ of possible war crimes in Afghanistan

September 2, 2017

SEPTEMBER 1, 2017 / 11:31 PM


MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s military watchdog has issued a public plea for information regarding rumors of possible war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported in July on an alleged cover-up of the killing of an Afghan boy as well as hundreds of pages of leaked defense force documents relating to the secretive operations of the country’s special forces.

On Friday, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force released a statement saying it was conducting an inquiry “into rumors of possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict” by Australian troops in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

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Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

“The inquiry would like anyone who has information regarding possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict by Australian forces in Afghanistan, or rumors of them, to contact the inquiry,” the statement read.

Australia is not a member of NATO but is a staunch U.S. ally and has had troops in Afghanistan since 2002.

As recently as May, Australia recommitted to the 16-year-long, seemingly intractable war against the Taliban and other Islamist militants by sending an additional 30 troops to Afghanistan to join the NATO-led training and assistance mission.

That brought Australia’s total Afghan deployment to 300 troops.

Reporting by Joseph Hinchliffe; Editing by Nick Macfie


Updated Thu at 10:27pm

A secretive Defence inquiry established to investigate the conduct of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has made a rare public appeal for information.

In July the ABC revealed that the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force was investigating the killing of a number of Afghan civilians by Australian soldiers, as well as allegations that Australian soldiers had covered up the death of an Afghan boy.

The inquiry began in May last year and is investigating the culture of Australia’s special forces, including allegations of unlawful killings committed in Afghanistan by Australian soldiers.

A free, instant messaging and phone calling service. The content of the messages are encrypted end-to-end, meaning no-one but us can read them.

The inquiry is headed by NSW Supreme Court judge and Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton, who called on anyone with information about possible breaches of the laws of war to come forward.

“While the inquiry has already spoken to many sources, we would like to hear from anyone else who has any relevant information,” Major General Brereton said.

“Whether you saw something yourself, or heard others talking about it, we would like you to contact us.”

The inquiry’s terms of reference refer to “rumours” about the conduct of Australian soldiers, but it is now clear it is investigating specific allegations.

They include the 2012 killing of an unarmed boy named Khan Mohammed, which was allegedly not reported up the chain of command by special forces soldiers, as well as allegations that an SAS member killed an Afghan businessman and then planted a weapon on his body.

The inquiry is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a man named Bismillah Azadi and his son Sadiqullah in an Australian raid in Uruzgan province in September 2013.

An internal Defence investigation following the killings found the Australians had acted in self-defence when Bismillah pointed a pistol at them.

His young son was found hidden in blankets and gravely wounded next to his father’s body. The boy died a short time later.

However, Bismillah’s cousin told an Afghan journalist engaged by the ABC that the man was unarmed and not a Taliban supporter.

Major General Brereton has assured anyone with information that their identity can be protected.

“The inquiry is being conducted in private and the identity of anyone providing information can be protected and kept confidential, and arrangements can be made for information to be received face-to-face,” Major General Brereton said.

At least one former soldier is known to have provided information to Major General Brereton’s inquiry.

Last year an Australian commando told the ABC he was ready to go to jail for his role in what he said was the unlawful execution of a prisoner of war in Afghanistan.

Special forces sergeant Kevin Frost claimed he had helped cover up the shooting of a captive and wanted those involved — including himself — to face punishment.

Mr Frost has provided details of the alleged incident to the inquiry.

Topics: defence-forcesdefence-and-national-securityunrest-conflict-and-waraustralia

Australia expands cashless welfare card to tackle alcohol, drugs

September 1, 2017


© AFP/File | Kalgoorlie town in West Australia’s Goldfields region, where cashless welfare cards will next be rolled out after a pilot scheme showed a sharp drop in problem alcohol, drug and gambling abuse

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia will expand the roll-out of cashless welfare cards after a pilot scheme showed a sharp drop in problem alcohol, drug and gambling abuse, the country’s prime minister said Friday.

The government introduced the debit card — touted as a world-first — last year to two remote communities blighted by high levels of welfare dependence coupled with significant social issues fuelled by drink and drugs.

An independent study into its impact in East Kimberley and Ceduna — both home to large Aboriginal populations — showed a big drop in alcohol abuse and family violence.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it would now be rolled out into a third site — the Goldfields region in Western Australia.

“This is an exercise in practical love, in compassion, in ensuring the taxpayers’ dollars are not being spent on substance abuse and drugs leading to violence,” he told reporters.

“But above all, in ensuring that those families are spending their money where they should be spending it — on the food, clothing and necessities of life and making them better able to look after those kids.”

The card is designed to limit people’s access to cash, with 80 percent of a recipient’s welfare quarantined and not able to be used to buy alcohol or to gamble.

The other 20 percent is credited to their bank accounts and can be withdrawn as cash.

Turnbull said two-thirds of all domestic assaults in the Goldfields area, where the card will next be introduced, were fuelled by drink, while alcohol-related hospital admissions and death rates were 25 percent higher than the national average.

“Many stakeholders have indicated their desperation to address the very significant harm caused by welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse in the region,” he said, adding that it had broad support from community leaders.

“Some noted that children feel safer on the streets than in their homes.”

The Australian Greens are opposed to the card, calling it an “ideologically driven attempt to manage the money and hence lives of people living below or near the poverty line on income support”.

But Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was open to the idea.

“We’ve got an open mind but the community has got to want to support it, there has got to be adequate support in the community,” he said.

“What I don’t want to see is genuine people who are down on their luck being treated with hard measures just to get a headline in the big cities.”

Singapore Jails Unruly, Drunk Australian for Six Months — Assaulted airport police officers while on a stopover in a nearly empty airport (but there’s more)

August 31, 2017

SINGAPORE — A Singapore court on Thursday sentenced an Australian man to 6-1/2 months in jail for assaulting airport police officers and other offences during a two-week drunken binge.

Handcuffed with his feet in chains, Jason Peter Darragh, 44, pled guilty in Singapore State Court to four charges, including one count of using criminal force.

The catalog of misdemeanors began on April 20 at Singapore’s Changi Airport when Darragh assaulted a policeman while on a stopover en route to Cebu, Philippines.

Image result for Jason Peter Darragh, photos

The next day, Darragh was charged for causing “annoyance” to a member of the public at the city-state’s party district and for using “abusive words” to a police officer.

He was finally charged on May 1 with “causing annoyance” to a woman by “loitering” around a taxi stand with his hand over his crotch.

Judge Tan Jen Tse said that he had to impose an “appropriate sentence to deter like-minded people from assaulting our police officers”.

Darragh was held in remand since May despite being offered bail of S$20,000 ($14,730). His lawyer, S.S. Dhillon said that he had refused bail to “reflect” on his actions.

He was originally charged with 11 offences in April, but the court only proceeded with four, although the others were taken into account during sentencing.

The charges he pled guilty to include physically and verbally abusing police officers and “causing annoyance” in a public place while drunk.

His lawyer told the court that the defendant was depressed and turned to alcohol after separating with his wife and two children.

Darragh’s parents had flown from Perth to attend the hearing and were able to speak with him through a window in the court. They declined to comment outside the court.

($1 = 1.3579 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Australia offers to train Philippine troops in IS fight

August 29, 2017


© AFP/File | Philippine Marines taking cover from sniper fire while on patrol at the frontline in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia Tuesday offered to help train the Philippines military to tackle Islamic militants terrorising parts of the country, calling the threat “deeply concerning”.Philippine forces have been besieging militants in the southern city of Marawi for almost 100 days. But the gunmen, flying the Islamic State group’s black flag, have defied military assaults including airstrikes and artillery barrages.

Australia, which has an extensive defence cooperation program with Manila, has already deployed two high-tech AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance, and is keen to provide further help.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she recently spoke to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who wanted to bolster resources for his armed forces.

“We would be ready to support the Philippines in the same way we are supporting Iraq in advising, assisting and training,” she said.

“We indicated what we have been doing in Iraq. I went through with the president in some detail the support we have given in Iraq, that does not include troops on the ground. That is advising and assisting.”

Australia is part of the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with 780 defence personnel based in the Middle East.

Bishop said it was “deeply concerning” for the entire Asian region that Islamic State had a presence in the southern Philippines, with the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia also offering support.

Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao island, home to 20 million people, on May 23 immediately after fighters flying the IS flag rampaged through Marawi.

Their assault on the city ignited an unprecedented urban war, which Duterte has warned is part of an IS campaign to establish a base in Mindanao.

Trans-Pacific Partnership countries consider amendments to stalled trade deal — 11 TPP countries still committed and awaiting the U.S. — Vietnam making reforms

August 29, 2017


SYDNEY (Reuters) – The 11 countries committed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership are considering amendments to the trade deal, three sources said on Tuesday, as officials meet in Sydney for talks to re-energize the stalled agreement.

Among the areas being discussed, Vietnam has raised the prospect of changes to labor rights and intellectual property (IP) provisions in the original pact, one source familiar with the talks told Reuters.

Vietnam had been one of the countries expected to enjoy the biggest economic benefits from TPP through greater access to U.S. markets.

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Vietnam’s Minister of Trade and Industry Tran Tuan Anh held a TPP conference on the sideline of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi on May 21, 2017. Credit HOANG DINH NAM / AFP / Getty Images

However, the original 12-member TPP, which aims to cut trade barriers in some of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, was thrown into limbo in January when U.S. President Trump withdrew from the agreement.

Trump’s move fulfilled a campaign pledge to put “America first” – a policy that aimed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

Although the remaining members have publicly said they remain committed to the deal, implementation of the agreement linking 11 countries with a combined GDP of $12.4 trillion has stalled – raising fears that other countries will follow the U.S. lead and withdraw.

Eager to keep all members onboard, representatives from the remaining countries are considering changes to the original TPP deal, three sources familiar with the talks said.

“We’re all open to evaluating what we can do and what viable alternatives there may be,” Edgar Vasquez, Peru’s deputy trade minister, told Reuters.

Delegates participate in the opening session of the Trans Pacific Partnership senior leaders meeting in Sydney, Australia August 28, 2017. Jason Reed

While no agreement is expected at the end of the three-day meeting, Vietnam’s desire to shelve the IP provisions around pharmaceutical data is likely to win broad support, with Japanese and New Zealand officials also indicating their support for the change, two other sources said.

The original TPP agreement was seen as particularly onerous on Vietnam, which be forced to make significant reforms, analysts said.

“There’s not much sense to agree to provisions they don’t really want such as stronger monopolies on medicines if they are not going to get access to the U.S. market,” said Patricia Ranald, research associate, University of Sydney.

The original TPP offered an eight-year window before competitors can have access to proprietary pharmaceutical data, which critics said would impede development of cheap generics.

Potential amendments, however, require delicate positioning.

While Trump has said he will not change his mind on TPP, the remaining members are hopeful a future U.S. president will commit to the agreement, a cornerstone of former President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia.

But analysts said wholesale changes, while ensuring the support of smaller members, would repel the United States.

“The more you change the agreement, it is going to be harder to get the U.S. to sign on when it is ready to,” said Shiro Armstrong, research fellow at the Crawford School of Economics in Canberra.

Reporting by Colin Packham and Alison Bevege in Sydney; Additional reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Wellington; Kaori Kaneko in Tokyo and Mitra Taj in Lima; Editing by Kim Coghill

Baseball bat attack by student at Australian National University — A statistics lecture turned violent

August 25, 2017

A statistics lecture turned violent after a student started attacking others with a baseball bat. The lecturer and several students were seriously injured before the man was stopped.

Australian university attack

A student has been arrested after assaulting three fellow students and a lecturer in an unprovoked attack during a statistics lecture at the Australian National University in the capital Canberra.

According to the Australian Federal Police, shortly after the lecture began the man stood up in his seat armed with a baseball bat and approached the lecturer at the front of the room. Three students rushed to intervene and restrain him. He assaulted four people, including the lecturer, leaving them with serious injuries, including broken bones.

Police Detective Superintendent Ben Cartwright praised the “incredible bravery on behalf of those students to protect the lecturer.” During the assault, one student succeeded in taking the bat away from the attacker and running away with it, he said.

Max Claessens, an 18-year-old student whose friend was inside the classroom, said his friend told him that the attacker had waited until the class had settled in before he suddenly pulled out a baseball bat and began hurting people.

Australian university attackMax Claessens spoke with reporters

“One of the students just randomly, out of the blue, got up with a bat, struck out at two or three students, before apparently going for the teacher. And obviously people were in a bit of shock so they ran out to get help before the guy – who wasn’t coming down and was going a bit crazy, to be honest – was restrained,” Claessens said.

Another student, Jolene Lavery, was walking past the room shortly after the attack. She described the situation, saying, “There was a man on a stretcher who was being offered morphine, so obviously in a lot of pain, with a lot of blood coming from his head. And a lot of people in shock as well. A lot of people getting blankets put over them and being looked after by the staff and emergency services.”

Australian university attackStudent, Jolene Laverty, described seeing the assailant being led away by police

Unknown motivation

The man was unknown to police and had no other weapons on him. Police have declined to speculate on whether the attack by the 18 year-old white male was racially motivated, as most of the other students were Asian.

“It is too early to determine the motivation behind this alleged assault and at this stage the police have not ruled anything out,” Detective Cartwright told reporters in Canberra.

Australian university attackPolice cordoned off the classroom

The Chinese Embassy told local newspaper the Canberra Times that consular staff were meeting with the university after the attack, but the nature of their involvement is not yet known.

University response

In response to the attack, and specifically the students who rushed to intervene, the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Marni Hughes-Warrington said, “I’m delighted and unsurprised to see such acts of bravery – we know one another, we really care for one another.”

“This is an isolated and random incident that’s happened in a very caring community. This is a very unusual thing,” Hughes-Warrington said.

cl/msh (dpa, AP)