Australia and Oceania

Australia hikes minimum wage as inflation soars

SYDNEY , Australia (AFP) — Australia raised the minimum wage by over five percent on Thursday, a slower-than-inflation increase as prices for basic goods soar. The Fair Work Commission set the new minimum rate at Aus$21.38 (US$14.75) an hour, a 5.2 percent increase. Inflation is forecast to hit seven percent by the end of the year, according to central bank governor Philip Lowe. Food, fuel and other costs have been pushed higher by Russia’s invasion […]

Fiji warns it faces ‘devastating’ climate change threat

Fiji faces its biggest threat from “devastating climate change” rather than geopolitical tensions, the country’s defence minister warned Sunday at a high-level security summit. This weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue, which brings together defence ministers from Asia and around the world, has been dominated by the United States and China sparring over Taiwan. It also comes as Beijing jostles with Western powers for influence over Pacific island nations. But Fijian Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu sought instead to focus […]

Australian PM says cabinet to address KFC ‘cabbage-gate’

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia’s prime minister joked he would huddle with top officials Thursday to discuss the soaring cost of lettuce and local KFCs’ decision to replace the verdant leaf with a cabbage mix on their Zinger Burgers. Dubbing the fast-food chain’s decision “crazy”, center-left leader Anthony Albanese quipped the situation had become a national “crisis”. Lettuce prices have soared by as much as 300 percent in Australian cities thanks to recent flooding and […]

China intercepted jet in international airspace: Australia PM

  SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia insisted Wednesday that its patrol plane was in international airspace when a Chinese warplane intercepted it and released a cloud of small aluminium strips, known as chaff. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese responded curtly when asked about a spat between Canberra and Beijing over the May 26 incident, which Australia’s government has described as “very dangerous”. “This incident occurred in international airspace. Full stop,” Albanese told a news conference. China’s […]

New Australia PM, Indonesia president ride bikes as diplomatic wheels turn

Australia’s new prime minister and Indonesia’s president rode bamboo bicycles together on Monday as they held talks to boost ties, as Canberra embarks on a diplomatic charm offensive aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Anthony Albanese hailed relations with Indonesia and vowed to strengthen them on his first bilateral trip since being elected last month, heading to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy in what has become a traditional tour for new Australian premiers. […]

China warns Australia risks ‘serious consequences’ after jet interception

  Beijing on Monday warned Australia to “act prudently” or face “serious consequences” after Canberra accused a Chinese fighter jet of dangerously intercepting one of its spy planes over the South China Sea. Australia has argued it is not unusual for it to undertake surveillance flights in the South China Sea — a region Beijing insists comes under its domain despite a 2016 Hague ruling that dismissed its claims. China’s stance has heightened tensions with […]

China’s diplomatic gambit heralds new ‘Battle for the Pacific’

by Andrew Beatty Agence France-Presse SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — A 10-day South Pacific island-hopping tour by China’s top diplomat focused world attention on a usually overlooked region, opened a new front in Beijing’s quest for global influence and challenged decades of Western primacy. On the face of it, Wang Yi’s trip was a failure. His centerpiece proposal — a regional pact to turbocharge China’s role in Pacific island security — was leaked to the press […]

Papua New Guinea’s Ulawun volcano erupts

KOKOPO, Papua New Guinea (AFP) — The Mount Ulawun volcano in northeastern Papua New Guinea erupted early Thursday, spewing ash high into the air before easing with no injuries reported. The country’s Geohazards Management Division reported “continuous forceful emissions of thick grey ash clouds” from the volcano for about 15 minutes. Mount Ulawun is one of the world’s most hazardous volcanoes, featuring on a list of 16 “decade volcanoes” targeted for research by volcanologists because […]

China fails to ink security pact with Pacific nations

Talks between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and 10 Pacific Island nations failed to reach an agreement on a wide-ranging security deal Monday, after sharp warnings the proposal would push the region into “Beijing’s orbit”. A virtual summit of leaders and foreign ministers was expected to discuss proposals to radically increase China’s involvement in the security, economy and politics of the South Pacific. But the effort appeared to have fallen short after some regional leaders […]

More than 200 cases of monkeypox worldwide: EU disease agency

The number of confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide has reached 219 outside of countries where it is endemic, according to an update released by the European Union’s disease agency. More than a dozen countries where monkeypox is unusual, mostly in Europe, have reported at least one confirmed case, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in an epidemiological note released Wednesday night. “This is the first time that chains of transmission are […]

Western powers sound alarm on China plan for South Pacific

Western powers sounded the alarm Thursday over leaked plans to dramatically expand China’s security and economic reach in the South Pacific, in what one regional leader called a thinly veiled effort to lock island states into “Beijing’s orbit”. If approved by Pacific island nations, the wide-ranging draft agreement and a five-year plan, both obtained by AFP, would give China a larger security footprint in a region seen as crucial to the interests of the United […]

Australia bidding to host UN climate summit, set new emissions target

Australia will present a more ambitious UN emissions target “very soon” and is bidding to co-host a COP summit with Pacific island neighbours, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Thursday, signalling a ground shift in climate policy. During a first solo overseas visit since her centre-left government was sworn in, Wong admitted that on the climate, “Australia has neglected its responsibility” under past administrations. She told hosts in Fiji’s capital Suva that there would be no […]