Australia and Oceania

Sydney swelters in hottest day in three years

SYDNEY, Dec 9, 2023 (AFP) – Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese warned people to stay safe Saturday as a heatwave baked the eastern coast and sent temperatures in Sydney to a three-year high. Many people crowded Sydney’s beaches or sought relief in the shade as authorities warned the most vulnerable — including the elderly and very young — to shelter in cool buildings. Dozens of bush and grass fires were burning out of control across […]

Magnitude 7.1 quake strikes off Vanuatu, triggering tsunami warning

  Notable quake, preliminary info: M 7.1 – 123 km S of Isangel, Vanuatu — USGS Earthquakes (@USGS_Quakes) December 7, 2023 SYDNEY, Dec 7, 2023 (AFP) – A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck south of Vanuatu on Thursday, the United States Geological Survey said, triggering a tsunami warning. The offshore quake hit at 1256 GMT at a depth of 48 kilometres (30 miles), about 123 kilometres south of the town of Isangel and 338 kilometres […]

Australia and Papua New Guinea announce security deal

SYDNEY, Dec 7, 2023 (AFP) – Australia clinched a security deal with Papua New Guinea on Thursday, bolstering ties to a key Pacific neighbour that has been courted persistently by China. Canberra pushed for a more substantive treaty earlier this year, but Papua New Guinea baulked because leaders feared it undermined the country’s “sovereign rights”. The salvaged agreement focuses on Papua New Guinea’s domestic security, as stretched police struggle to stamp out arms trafficking, drug […]

US, UK, Australia defense chiefs tout deep space radar, AI in joint deal

By Josh EDELSON MOUNTAIN VIEW, United States, Dec 2, 2023 (AFP) – The defense chiefs of the United States, Australia and Britain met in California on Friday, touting high-tech co-operation on deep space radar, AI and quantum computing systems aimed at bolstering their armed forces in the face of growing global threats, including from China. The three men huddled in Silicon Valley — the heart of the US tech sector — to build on the […]

New Zealand to ban cellphones in schools to address literacy crisis

WELLINGTON, Dec 1, 2023 (AFP) – Cellphones will be banned in schools across New Zealand, conservative Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said Friday, as his fledgling government looks to turn around the country’s plummeting literacy rates. New Zealand’s schools once boasted some of the world’s best literacy scores, but levels of reading and writing have declined to the point that some researchers fear there is a classroom “crisis”. Luxon declared he would ban phones at schools […]

Australian officer charged with manslaughter after tasering 95-year-old

SYDNEY, Nov 29, 2023 (AFP) – An Australian police officer was charged with manslaughter Wednesday, after allegedly tasering a 95-year-old great-grandmother who later died in hospital. Dementia patient Clare Nowland died in May this year, following a nursing home confrontation with police that shocked Australians and made international headlines. She was allegedly shot with an electric stun gun as she slowly approached the officer with the assistance of her walking frame. Police said she was […]

Magnitude 6.5 quake strikes north of Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY, Nov 27, 2023 (AFP) – A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, with one witness saying the ground swayed “like you are on a boat”. The epicentre was detected at an estimated depth of 12 kilometres (seven miles) at 8:46 am local time (2146 GMT Monday), the USGS said. The quake hit about 20 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast, a short distance from the […]

Luxon sworn in as new prime minister of New Zealand

WELLINGTON, Nov 27, 2023 (AFP) – Former airline boss Christopher Luxon formally took office as New Zealand’s prime minister Monday, vowing to tame inflation and bring down interest rates. Luxon took over six weeks after his conservative National Party won national elections, ending a six-year Labour Party reign ushered in by Jacinda Ardern. Luxon, 53, once chief executive of Air New Zealand, was sworn in as head of a new coalition government by New Zealand’s […]

Wildfire engulfs homes in Western Australia

SYDNEY, Nov 23, 2023 (AFP) – Australian firefighters Thursday battled a runaway bushfire that has incinerated 10 homes and forced scores of people to evacuate in the northern outskirts of Perth during a fierce heatwave. Fire services issued emergency warnings for fire-swept areas north of the Western Australian capital, urging people to flee their homes if they can, or shelter in place if it is already too late to move. More than 500 emergency workers […]

Chinese sonar pulses ‘likely’ injured divers: Australia defence chief

SYDNEY, Nov 18, 2023 (AFP) – Australian navy divers were “likely” injured by sonar pulses emitted by a Chinese warship this week, the country’s defence minister said Saturday, accusing Beijing of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct at sea. Richard Marles said the HMAS Toowoomba — a long-range frigate — had been supporting United Nations sanctions enforcement efforts within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The divers had plunged into the water to clear fishing nets from the ship’s […]

Australian economist recounts ‘Kafkaesque’ time in Myanmar junta jail

SYDNEY, Australia, Nov 14, 2023 (AFP) – Days after Myanmar’s military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021, an Australian economist working with her received an anonymous email telling him the police were watching his room and that he should flee. Sean Turnell, an economics professor at Macquarie University, was detained soon after, as the military launched a sweeping and bloody crackdown on democracy protests and those who had worked with Suu Kyi’s […]

Australian ports reopen after cyberattack

SYDNEY, Nov 13, 2023 (AFP) – Major ports handling 40 percent of Australia’s freight trade have reopened, operator DP World said Monday, three days after they were crippled by a cyberattack. DP World cut its systems from the internet when the attack was detected Friday, preventing trucks from unloading or picking up cargo at ports in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle. “DP World Australia is pleased to announce that operations resumed at the company’s ports […]