Chief Correspondent, Sydney
Michael's Feed
Apr 15, 2010

Obama backs Karzai, but says still needs pressuring

SYDNEY (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said he was confident Afghan President Hamid Karzai can stabilize his war-torn nation but that Washington would continue to press him to introduce essential reforms to improve living standards.

In an interview with Australian television, Obama also said Karzai was capable of being a strong partner with the United States in the fight against Al Qaeda.

Mar 25, 2010

Verdict on China Rio trial on Monday, Australia says

SYDNEY, March 25 (Reuters) – Australia said on Thursday it
had been told by China that the verdict in the trial of four
Rio Tinto executives charged with bribery and stealing
commercial secrets will be handed down on Monday.

The case in Shanghai has raised tensions between Australia
and China, it’s biggest trading partner, and highlighted
Chinese sensitivities over its rich steel sector.

Mar 25, 2010

ANZ to invest $100 mln to complete Indonesian RBS buy

SYDNEY, March 25 (Reuters) – Australia and New Zealand
Banking Group <ANZ.AX> said it will invest $100 million in
Indonesia during 2010 to complete the acquisition of Royal Bank
of Scotland <RBS.L> businesses there.

“We are on track to complete the acquisition of the RBS
retail and commercial businesses in Indonesia in June 2010,
subject to regulatory approval,” ANZ Chief Executive Officer
Mike Smith said in a statement after a speech in Jakarta on
Thursday.

Mar 15, 2010

Climate report shows Australia getting warmer

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s top scientists on Monday released a “State of the Climate” report at a time of growing scepticism over climate change as a result of revelations of errors in some global scientific reports.

The scientists said their monitoring and research of the world’s driest inhabited continent for 100 years “clearly demonstrate that climate change is real.”

Mar 15, 2010

Australian cities must transform for population growth

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia circa 2050, population 35 million, climate change induced rising sea levels have flooded the Gold Coast resort region, apartment blocks are now used to grow food and people commute in monorail pods above the sea.

In another city, Australians live on floating island pods with apartments both below and above sea level, the population has shifted from land to the sea because of the sky-rocketing value of disappearing arable land.

Feb 19, 2010

Australian PM shifts focus to health in election year

SYDNEY, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Friday hinted he may call an early election over the populist issue of health, as media reported a new health plan to be released in March would be his centrepiece at 2010 elections.

Political analysts had believed Rudd’s embattled climate policy, twice rejected by a hostile Senate, could be the focus of his re-election campaign, but with voter support waning, health may now be a more attractive issue.

The government holds a commanding lead in opinion polls, but Rudd’s personal rating is the lowest since he was elected in 2007 and he needs a circuit breaker to stop a resurgent opposition before a national election due by the end of the year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the government had made its reforms of private health insurance, which will raise some A$1.9 billion in revenue over three years, a priority over its embattled carbon emissions trading scheme legislation.

"Climate change has slid down the order of election priorities with the government to dedicate next week in parliament to gaining a double dissolution (election) trigger on health," the Herald said.

A double dissolution election sees both houses of parliament dissolved for re-election, and if the government wins the poll it would then stage a joint sitting of both houses to pass the legislation which sparked the election.

Asked on television on Friday to rule out an early election on health, Rudd refused, saying "let’s just see what they (the Senate) do", adding his health reforms were a huge budgetary measure.

"I would much rather have that (money) to invest in the public hospital needs of our country," said Rudd, who has promised voters he will fix the country’s hospitals which are struggling to cope with patient demand from an ageing population.

HEALTH OVERTAKES CLIMATE

Rudd will unveil a wider public health reform plan, which will be "an election centrepiece", next month, said the Herald.

It would be easier for Rudd to campaign on health reforms which hit high income earners with a means test on a government rebate for private health insurance, rather than climate policy which many voters now oppose.

This could affect health firms like NIB <NHF.AX> and private hospital operators like Ramsay Health Care Ltd <RHC.AX> and Healthscope <HSP.AX>.

The opposition has vowed to defeat the health legislation in the Senate a second time.

Rudd has also promised a federal takeover of state-administered hospitals, but few political watchers expect him to carry it out, given its likely A$3-5 billion cost.

The government already has an election trigger over climate policy, which has been rejected twice in the Senate. A revised climate policy is also set for defeat in Senate.

Rudd has repeatedly said governments should go full term, but a new opposition leader Tony Abbott has rallied his conservative party and gained traction with voters.

In an attempt to win back voters, analysts say Rudd may also be forced to abandon plans for comprehensive reform of the A$278 billion taxation system that threatens to lift the tax impost, or reverse plans for a tough May 11 budget.

The government has already committed itself to an austere budget that locks in savings and promises a faster return to surplus, as well as a 2 percent cap on spending increases, as the economy recovers from the global financial crisis. (Editing by Jeremy Laurence)





Feb 16, 2010

Australia-China to resume free trade talks

SYDNEY, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Australia and China will resume
stalled free trade talks this month despite tensions over the
trial of an Australian mining executive in China, but
agriculture remains a stumbling block, Australia’s trade
minister said.

“The political will in my judgement is there,” Simon Crean
said on Tuesday in announcing the resumption of Free Trade
Agreement (FTA) talks in Canberra after a break of more than a
year.

Feb 15, 2010

Five Australians jailed for jihad plot

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Five Australian Muslims found with weapons and chemicals to make bombs and convicted of plotting a terror attack in Australia were jailed on Monday for terms ranging from 23 to 28 years.

The men were found guilty in October 2009 of conspiring to commit an attack between July 2004 and November 2005 in retaliation for Australia’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Feb 11, 2010

Rio says China partnership key ahead of bribe trial

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia urged China to deal transparently with the trials of four Rio Tinto staff accused of bribery and stealing commercial secrets, as the firm’s CEO said the Asian country remained a key part of its long-term plans.

Against a backdrop of investor concern over dealings with Beijing, China on Wednesday indicted the four China-based employees of Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto <RIO.AX>, the world’s second-largest iron ore producer. They include Australian Stern Hu, its top negotiator at the time of his arrest last year.

Feb 11, 2010

Australia urges Chinese transparency in Rio case

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia urged China to deal quickly and transparently with the trials of four Rio Tinto mining staff accused of bribery and stealing commercial secrets, amid growing investor concern over dealing with Beijing.

China on Wednesday indicted the four China-based employees of Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest iron ore producer, including Australian Stern Hu, its top negotiator at the time of his arrest last year.