Pacific nations ‘very positive’ on re-engagement, PM says – as it happened

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement, Albanese says

South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-engagement”, Australia’s new prime minister has said, as China undertakes a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among western powers, AAP reports.

The comments from Anthony Albanese – aired today in an interview with Sky News – came as Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was visiting Fiji for closely watched meetings with the island nation’s leaders and others from across the region.

Wang, who began his South Pacific tour on Thursday in Solomon Islands, is expected to discuss a wide-ranging draft agreement and five-year plan that would dramatically expand security and economic cooperation with South Pacific nations.

But Albanese said Australia’s own renewed diplomatic push had been well-received.

“The response has been very positive,” Albanese said when asked about Pacific leaders’ reaction to recent efforts, including a visit to Fiji last week by new foreign minister Penny Wong.

The prime minister said Australia’s previous government had “dropped the ball” on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also “a non-engagement on values”:

For our Pacific Island neighbours, the issue of climate change is an absolute national security issue.

Good evening

And that’s where we’ll leave you this Sunday. Here’s a recap of what we learned today:

Anthony Albanese has said South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-engagement” as China undertakes a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among western powers.

Albanese has also vowed to form a constructive relationship with parliament’s expanded crossbench and has warned against underestimating Peter Dutton as opposition leader.

A Bushmaster vehicle donated by the Australian government as part of military aid to Ukraine has reportedly been destroyed in fighting on the border between Donetsk and Luhansk.

Baby formula manufacturer Bubs Australia has assured Australians availability will not be affected by a decision to send supplies to the US to help meet a shortage.

A Sydney Harbour island is returning to Aboriginal hands, with the NSW government committing $43m to its clean-up and repair.

All residents in Western Australia and South Australia can receive a free flu jab in June.

And Australia has recorded at least 30 deaths from Covid-19 and more than 27,000 new cases today.

Join us again tomorrow for all the day’s news and current affairs. Have a lovely evening.

Damaging winds forecast for parts of SA

Damaging winds forecast for some parts of South Australia, including Adelaide. Please keep an eye on warnings for your area.

Severe Weather Warning for DAMAGING WINDS

For Adel Metro, W Coast, East Eyre Pen, Yorke Pen, Flinders, Mid N, Riverland, Murraylands, NW Pastoral and parts of MLR, Lower Eyre Pen and NE Pastoral

Issued 3:44pm Sun 29 May 2022
Next warning will be by 11pm https://t.co/iSKklAm9b4 pic.twitter.com/kxbrZ4eoql

— Country Fire Service (@CFSAlerts) May 29, 2022

Plan to set up defence training school in the Pacific

In addition to increased action on the environment, Anthony Albanese also touted a boost in aid and a plan to set up a defence training school in the Pacific.

During the election campaign, the Labor party said the school would involve forces from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is expected to remain until at least Tuesday in Fiji’s capital, where he is to host a meeting with foreign ministers from across the Pacific.

The draft agreement and a five-year plan leaked before that meeting, would give China a larger security footprint in the region.

Penny Wong warned Pacific leaders about the deal last week during her visit to Fiji:

We have expressed our concerns publicly about the security agreement.

Beijing last month signed a wide-ranging pact with Solomon Islands that western governments feared could give China a military foothold in the region.

Pacific ‘very positive’ on Australian re-engagement, Albanese says

South Pacific nations have been “very positive” about Canberra’s “re-engagement”, Australia’s new prime minister has said, as China undertakes a region-wide diplomatic offensive that is raising concerns among western powers, AAP reports.

The comments from Anthony Albanese – aired today in an interview with Sky News – came as Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi was visiting Fiji for closely watched meetings with the island nation’s leaders and others from across the region.

Wang, who began his South Pacific tour on Thursday in Solomon Islands, is expected to discuss a wide-ranging draft agreement and five-year plan that would dramatically expand security and economic cooperation with South Pacific nations.

But Albanese said Australia’s own renewed diplomatic push had been well-received.

“The response has been very positive,” Albanese said when asked about Pacific leaders’ reaction to recent efforts, including a visit to Fiji last week by new foreign minister Penny Wong.

The prime minister said Australia’s previous government had “dropped the ball” on the Pacific, both in terms of aid and also “a non-engagement on values”:

For our Pacific Island neighbours, the issue of climate change is an absolute national security issue.

There have been developments in the Chinese delegation’s tour of Fiji, including “an unfortunate kerfuffle”.

Unfortunate kerfuffle ahead of meeting between Henry Puna and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The ABC obtained permission from PIF to film the meeting opening (though an arrangement with FBC) but Chinese officials tried to block our camera operator- thanks PIF for standing firm on this pic.twitter.com/514kOWnW4P

— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) May 29, 2022

Bubs Australia’s decision to send baby formula to US won’t affect domestic supply

Baby formula manufacturer Bubs Australia has assured Australians availability will not be affected by a decision to send supplies to the US to help meet a shortage.

The company said the US Food and Drug Administration had “announced its discretion for Bubs to import six infant formula products into the United States effective immediately”. These included Bubs Supreme A2 Beta-Casein Protein, Bubs Organic Grass Fed, and Bubs Easy-digest Goat Milk infant formula and Follow-On formula products:

You can rest assured we have taken precautions to ensure our Australian infant formula supply will remain unchanged.

Due to our strong control of our supply chain security and our wholly owned production facility, we have already manufactured what is required and have been able to take steps to immediately increase the level of our future production, as needed.

Tax site problems could disrupt Hecs debt payments

There are concerns about what the downed ATO website will mean for those looking to pay off their Hecs debts before they are set to rise on 1 June.

While there are still two days to go before the deadline, the ATO website has been down since yesterday and it is unclear when it will be back up.

It was announced by the previous Morrison government that Hecs debts would rise with inflation from 1 June.

The ATO’s formula adds the CPI rate to those of the previous three-quarters divided by the same 12-month period a year earlier. With the CPI forecast to climb, the repayment rate will likely increase further too.

For more, see Guardian Australia’s previous report on the decision:

Tax office website still down

The Australian Taxation Office’s website has remained down today after it went offline at the start of the weekend.

A statement from the ATO posted to its social media notified users looking to make payments before 31 May that the website was down.

Another follow-up was posted today apologising for any inconvenience and explaining that technicians were still working on the issue.

UPDATE: Thanks for your continued patience while we work to resolve issues with our online services. Our technicians are still busy working on a fix. We understand the frustration this has caused & apologise for the inconvenience.

— ato.gov.au (@ato_gov_au) May 28, 2022

Wild weather forecast for WA

Damaging storms and high winds are forecast for parts of Western Australia’s south-east while, to the north, the Pilbara coast has been placed under flood watch, AAP reports.

A cold front moving across from South Australia is likely to deliver the wild weather this afternoon before easing into tomorrow morning, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

While the storm winds are expected to average between 50km/h and 60km/h, most concern is for stronger gusts in excess of 90km/h.

Towns in the line of fire along the state’s southern coastal strip include Balladonia, Eyre, Forrest, Israelite Bay, Rawlinna and the SA border community of Eucla.

Residents have been warned to find safe shelter away from trees, powerlines, stormwater drains and streams, and to stay inside away from windows, unplug electrical appliances and avoid using landline phones. Some roads are also likely to be closed.

Heavy rainfall is meanwhile expected in parts of the Pilbara as a cloudband and surface trough move east during the day.

The bureau says catchments are gradually becoming soaked as a result of heavy downpours in the 24 hours to 9am and more rain is likely inland and to the north during the day.

Up to 200mm is forecast over the flood watch area, while a further 100mm to 150mm is possible tomorrow and moderate-to-heavy falls will continue on Tuesday.

Flooding of low-lying areas and river level rises are expected.

Many roads and possibly primary and secondary highways are likely to be affected and some communities may become isolated.

Would-be tenants asked for police and credit checks

What is your marital status? Can you provide a police check? Do you own a lawnmower? These are some of the questions prospective tenants are being asked as they try to secure housing amid Australia’s rental crisis.

Guardian Australia has seen several examples of rental application forms requesting police and credit checks – which can require applicants to spend at least $65 – merely to be considered eligible to apply for a property.

While applicants are not required by law to divulge such information to secure a lease, agencies often state they will not accept applications without these details.

For more on how property managers are holding renters to ransom, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s inequality reporter, Stephanie Convery:

Bushmaster vehicle donated to Ukraine reportedly destroyed in fighting

A bushmaster vehicle donated by the Australian government as part of military aid to Ukraine has reportedly been destroyed in fighting on the border between Donetsk and Luhansk.

A video appeared to show the burnt-out wreckage of the vehicle in an empty field.

#Ukraine: The first verified loss of a Ukrainian Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle (with a EOS R400-Mk2 remote weapon station), donated by Australia.
This one was recently destroyed by the Russian forces in Trypillia, #Donetsk and #Luhansk oblast border. pic.twitter.com/wZ0iccKfHT

— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 28, 2022

The first of 20 vehicles, worth $50m, donated by the Australian government arrived in late April. They included two ambulance variants and came on top of $26.5m in military aid in the form of weapons and ammunition.

An early video posted by the Ukrainian military appeared to show them in operation soon after delivery.



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