Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Australia-Philippines Ties Undergo 'Watershed' Moment Amid Rising Indo-Pacific Tensions

image from

I am very pleased to hear of official friendship between Australia and the Philippines. I have spent some time there, though only in Manila, and like the people.

I have observed many Filipinas married to older Australian men and the marriages do mostly seem to work out. And even in private hospitals, Filipina nurses are ubiquitious. So the people to people links are strong.

I also like that it is a tropical country due North of Australia, though the flight time is about 8 hours. And English is widely used there

So I would favour any assistance that Australia can give to the Philippines

Australia and the Philippines have become strategic partners following a pivotal meeting between the countries' leaders on Sept. 8.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was honoured to be able to facilitate the ramp-up in ties, which was a historic moment in relations between the two nations and would see both countries work as partners to maintain a stable region.

“Australia and the Philippines enjoy a long-standing relationship based on close cooperation and enriched by the 400,000 Australians with Filipino heritage," he said.

“Today is a watershed moment for relations between Australia and the Philippines. Our Strategic Partnership will facilitate closer cooperation between our countries and contribute to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”

The strategic partnership follows the announcement in August that Australia would look to work more closely with the Philippines on defence and security-related issues.

"The Philippines is a critical nation for Australia's interest," Mr. Albanese said on Sept. 7.

"We have strong economic relations with the Philippines. We also have strong cooperation when it comes to defence arrangements, and in addition to that, we have a strong diaspora in Australia."

Australia Looking To Elevate Ties

The announcement comes just weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles announced both countries would work to elevate diplomatic ties to a strategic partnership level.
Advertisement - Story continues below

Speaking in Manila on Aug. 25, Mr. Marles said that both countries were very ambitious about "working more closely together, about building our high-end interoperability, about seeing our defence forces become closer."

"We are two countries committed to the global rules-based order. We are committed to an idea of a world in which disputes are determined by reference to international law," the deputy prime minister said.

"Peace is maintained through the protection of deployable rules-based order and its functionality around the world, and in truth, around the world today, we see it under pressure."

Mr. Marles said that he saw Australia's deepening defence ties with the Philippines as a pathway to upholding the rules-based order

"What we will do is bring our military capability to enhance the rules-based order and to provide for its expression," he said.

"And in that sense, what we are about is peace. And so I think that message is as important now as it’s ever been."

China Tensions Create Impetus for Deepening Ties

The deepening military ties between the two nations come as the Philippines is experiencing an increasing ramp-up in tensions with Beijing over its attempt to claim Filippino territories in the South China Sea.

In August, the Philippino government condemned a Chinese coast guard ship’s “excessive and offensive” use of a water cannon to block a Filipino supply boat from delivering new troops, food, water, and fuel to the Second Thomas Shoal, a Philippine-occupied territory.

Beijing believes it has “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, as well as most of the islands within it.

This would include the Spratly Islands, an archipelago consisting of 100 islands and reefs that sit territorially within the waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The confrontation is the latest flare-up between the two countries, which has seen the Chinese Coastguard vessel use military-grade lasers and other methods to deter Filipino naval ships from the disputed regions.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a Facebook post that the Chinese ship's actions were “in wanton disregard of the safety of the people on board” and violated international law, including the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The “excessive and offensive actions against Philippine vessels” near the shoal prevented one of two Filipino boats from unloading supplies needed by its troops guarding the shoal, the Filipino military said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.

It called on the Chinese coast guard and Beijing's Central Military Commission “to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger people’s lives.”


Energy lawyers experience record boom as renewables transition takes hold

An explosion of green tape under the Albanese government’s energy reforms has sparked a race between top law firms to hire energy transition and construction lawyers, with one international firm poaching a full nine-person team from a rival practice.

As top-tier law firm Baker McKenzie acquires a whole team of partners, associates and paralegals from competing practice Norton Rose Fulbright, lawyers across the country are taking on mammoth caseloads, hiring in record droves, and paying high sums for top quality talent who are across the growing number environmental and energy matters.

When Anthony Albanese at the G20 Summit committed to tripling Australia’s renewable energy technology capacity, and a global emissions peak by 2025, lawyers were keenly listening in.

Newly appointed Baker McKenzie construction boss Emanuel Confos told The Australian the interest in the renewables sector had increased at an incredible pace, to the point that “everybody wants to get a piece of the energy market”.

“This is a booming industry. In the same way any industry booms, there are people out there making a lot of money,” said Mr Confos, who has more that 20 years experience in the fast-growing energy and renewables sector.

“There is getting approvals to build a solar farm, getting an offtake agreement to sell the electricity, package it up and sell it on. This is a big industry gain.”

Mr Confos said when the first large scale solar farm was built in Australia in 2010, “no one was really interested”.

“Now, every place I go, people want to hear about energy work,” he said. “It is at the forefront of everything. The stockmarket is interested, investment houses are interested. Everyone wants to get a piece of the energy market.”

Since Labor has come to power, the government has legislated Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target as 43 per cent below the 2005 level, and are targeting net-zero emissions by 2050.

The government also introduced a safeguard mechanism to force the nation’s 215 biggest-emitting facilities to cut nearly 5 per cent of their emissions each year until the end of the decade.

Baker McKenzie partner Aylin Cunsolo said federal government policies were boosting work levels across both the public and private sector. “It’s a policy decision to achieve net-zero emissions, and that is a policy decision both at a government level but also at the private sector level. Part of that is driven by global targets, as well as shareholder pressure,” she said.

Ms Cunsolo said the firm had landed deals with major brands such as Aldi and Fujitsu to assist in securing power purchase agreements that allow the companies to contract directly with a renewable energy project to acquire electricity and green products.

Her colleague, energy partner Harriet Oldmeadow, agreed, saying community expectations had contributed to the booming market. “In Australia, there is 100 per cent an expectation that we turn ourselves to net zero,” she said.

“One of the most critical things for our clients … is ESG (environmental, social, and governance) and advising clients on how they meet their ESG (targets).”

Pinsent Masons construction partner Rob Buchanan told The Australian there would be an international shortage of energy transition, construction and infrastructure lawyers as the sector continued to heat up.

“The level of work in Australia in the infrastructure space – including energy and road infrastructure – has resulted in lawyers like that becoming more sought after and attracting better salaries,” he said. “I think globally there is going to be a shortage of high-quality lawyers that service the energy community.”

Mr Buchanan said the bulk of the work coming from the public sector related to issues with network transition as coal-fired stations power down and clean energy gears up.

“In Australia, we’ve seen the initial wave of solar and wind go in, and it’s become apparent because Australian is much bigger and the population density is lower and a lot of these installations are going in the middle of nowhere, and so we’ve seen a lot of novel problems come out of that,” he said.

“The main one is the problem with our transmission network which was designed to hold stable, coal-power generated electricity with no variations.”

Herbert Smith Freehills partner Nick Baker said there is an “incredible demand at the moment for people with deep energy sector experience.”

“We have seen a significant increase in energy work coming from all parts of sector. Renewables remains hot while energy security and storage related transactions and issues have emerged and are dominating headlines,” he said.

“These trends are driving M&A, project development, environment and planning, social licence, and disputes work, although finance is slower to take off.”


Race-based land grabs must end

Most Australians were brought up believing that Crown Land is public land – shared for present enjoyment and preserved for future generations.

Some of it was roped off as ‘untouchable’ and everyone accepted this because it was fair and equal.

This mentally of shared public assets for the whole nation has been lost on various Indigenous groups, including those who have raided (or are presently attempting to raid) New South Wales’ Crown Land. They are taking it for themselves – fellow citizens and future generations be damned. It is a selfish act, which goes a long way to explaining the fury of non-Indigenous Australians who spent their lives respecting these areas only to watch them treated with cynicism.

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act of 1983 was implemented under Labor’s Neville Wran government. Mourned by those who sought financial gain from public land as a ‘champion of Aboriginal land rights’, Wran’s real achievement has been the butchering of the state’s natural assets along race lines with tens of thousands of land claims taking place.

Citizens may feel as if they are watching a racial collective in the process of acquiring public land to build the beginnings of an ethnostate – billions of dollars worth, at last count – upon which treaties can be negotiated if the Voice to Parliament falls into place. Nothing says ‘you don’t have a right to the land you were born on’ like watching racial groups snatch it away from public view to make a profit.

This particular 1983 Act is not a caretaker function. The land ceases to be public and becomes the private property of Aboriginal groups.

Would any other citizen or corporation be allowed to do this? Of course not. It is one of the growing racial privileges handed out by governments to polish their virtue badges at election time while creating a vast chasm (dare we call it a gap?) of inequality among Australian citizens.

There is no onus on the protection of this land once it has entered private control. Aboriginal groups can develop it, sell it, licence it, or find some other creative way to exploit what was formally a shared national treasure.

For far too long Australians have ignored this behaviour, but with land claims being lodged on every scrap of the state, it needs to be addressed, stopped, and the land returned to public hands where it can be protected.

Everyone is dispossessed. Aboriginal Australians are in no way special in that regard and yet it is used as the justification for this law. Nobody else can run around carving off blocks of land based on ancient history. It is nonsensical.

‘Some LALCs will sell the land to improve their bank balance. That’s their prerogative,’ said the NSWALC Deputy Chair.

2GB host Ben Fordham stumbled over this sentiment during a recent radio interview when he sensibly asked what the cultural significance was on the ludicrous claim made on a reserve near Balmoral Beach.

‘Aboriginal land claims are not based on cultural significance, that’s not the actual factor. It’s about, is it able to be claimed? Is it in the name of the Crown?’

It was a comment that Fordham accurately queried as a ‘land grab’.

‘The Aboriginal Land Rights Act was set up as recompense for all lands that have been removed from us,’ said the guest.

‘So, if there’s an opportunity there to get your hands on it, you may as well?’ Fordham clarified, seemingly quite shocked.

‘That’s exactly it. The land councils are here to try and acquire what land we can get back within our boundaries to really form the asset base that will pay for … to sustain our councils.’

If you feel sick you should. This is not a fair contract between citizens.

For those who have been suspicious of Native Title, it was difficult not to laugh and hold up a giant, ‘I told you so’ sign after a $100 million Native Title claim was slapped on Balmoral Beach.

It came as a shock to the affluent area, who no doubt thought that enduring endless ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies, voting ‘Yes’, and putting little ‘this is so-and-so land’ signs up everywhere would exclude them from the corporate side of Indigenous activism.

They were wrong.

Mosman Council opposed Sydney’s Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council and their 2009 bid for the 4,000sq/m Lawry Plunkett Reserve.

‘We are amazed this is even subject to a claim,’ Councillor Bendal said.

The land has been used by the public for over 100 years and is nestled between homes, but that isn’t going to save it.

The notion of race-based lockouts and acquisitions of previously public land is repulsive. There is no excuse for it in the civilised world and certainly the concept would never be applied the other way. Can you imagine a site of colonial heritage locking out just Aboriginal people because their presence would offend the spirits? It would never happen, and it should not be happening here.

We live in hope that one day these pieces of land claimed under Native Title will be returned to all Australians, but right now we are in the middle of an assault on Crown Land.

It has been revealed that there are currently over 3,000 Native Title claims in the Sydney area, and 40,000 for New South Wales. That’s 40,000 claims to take away collective public ownership and instead place Australian land into the hands of a network of race-based groups.

The island of Australia is getting smaller every day if you happen to be born with the wrong skin colour.


Queensland sugar lands in East London’s Tate and Lyle factory, reigniting trade between Australia and Britain after a 50-year hiatus

It’s a dockside scene that hasn’t been witnessed for half a century: Queensland sugar being unloaded on The Thames.

Overnight (AEST), a huge bucket that holds 16 tonnes of raw sugar in one scoop began to move the first of 33,000 tonnes of sugar grown in North Queensland’ s Burdekin area from a cargo ship docked in East London. It went straight onto a conveyor belt and funnelled inside the Tate and Lyle sugar factory for processing.

“This is fantastic,’’ said Mark Hampson, an executive from Queensland Sugar Limited.

“We were on the dock when this was loaded and to be here seeing it unloaded is special.”

Following the implementation of the United Kingdom-Australia free trade deal back in May, Australian beef and wine has begun to flow into Britain in increasing amounts. But for sugar, which had previously been hit with an eye watering tariff of up to 64 per cent, the free trade deal is particularly important.

This year, quotas permit 80,000 tonnes to be imported into the UK – but that will rise to 220,000 tonnes by October 2030, after which all tariffs will be eliminated.

Tate and Lyle refines around 600,000 tonnes of sugar a year but it had stopped importing Australian sugar, which had made up 20 per cent of its product, back in 1973 when Britain entered the European Economic Community.

The sugar off this one ship – and there is expected to be three or four shipments here from Australia to London over the next 12 months – is worth more than $35 million. The tariff that would have been imposed before May 31 would have been $18 million.

“That (cost) made it unviable for many years,’’ said Gerald Mason, senior vice president of Tate and Lyle Sugars.

He said this first shipment under the FTA had been “tricky” with new paperwork but he thanked the 4000 small family farmers in Australia and the 20 mills for working together to make the transport load possible.

“We are very thankful for that (co-operation), and this will get easier. This vessel is so important to us. How important? We will unveil a plaque here today, and the last plaque unveiled was by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.”

Australian High Commissioner to the UK, Stephen Smith, unveiled the plaque, watched on by the deputy high commissioner Elizabeth Bowes, who had been the chief negotiator during the FTA process.

Mr Mason, said the Australian raw sugar would help fill a void that had been left by Caribbean and Fijian producers which had struggled with the declining price of sugar in the European market following market reforms about 20 years ago.

“We like Australian sugar,” Mr Mason said, adding Australia’s high ethical standards and environmental processes were attractive.

“Having Australian sugar in our mix gives us a range of raw sugar. We are happy the colour is a nice golden brown, with lots of flavour and taste, and we can convert it to brown sugars and syrups we really like.”

Senator Murray Watt, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said: “The increased market access offered by the trade agreement will bring the agriculture industry closer to its goal of $100 billion in production by 2030.”




No comments: