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Live news updates: Australia must respect China’s sovereignty, ambassador says; at least 44 Covid deaths | Australian politics

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Australia must respect China’s sovereignty, ambassador says

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, has urged Australia to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

(That would tend to suggest not speaking out about Hong Kong and Taiwan.)

Xiao says:

First on the political front, is it important to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, political system and development mode. These are just some of the basic principles for sound and healthy relationships between two sovereign states.

Xiao went on to urge Australia not to see China as a security threat:

China’s development is an opportunity, not a so-called threat to Australia. And there’s every reason for China and Australia to be friends and partners, rather than adversaries, or even the so-called enemies.

Xiao stresses the need to “properly handle differences”.

He suggests the two countries should cooperate on areas of common ground, although “there are undeniably certain areas where China and Australia have different views”. He suggests constructive dialogue to minimise the differences if possible, and enlarge the common ground if possible.

He says Australia and China should handle “differences even disputes” so that they don’t affect overall relationship between the countries or overall cooperation between the two nations.

We’re on to questions now from Prof James Laurenceson. He’s asking about the 2020 deterioration, including the trade actions against Australia. Laurenceson says most Australians would view the Covid inquiry call as a fair and reasonable call.

Xiao says the Chinese government has publicly supported the need for scientists to determine the origin of the virus. But he says for certain countries to be calling it the “China virus” or that a Chinese laboratory deliberately or accidentally leaked the virus would be “absolutely unfounded”.

So if that happens, I think it’s fair and reasonable for 1.4 billion Chinese people to be very angry about it.

On the so-called “list of grievances”, issued by the Chinese embassy in late 2020, before Xiao’s arrival, he blames “twisted reports” in the media. He says it was wrong to present them as “preconditions” or “demands” for dialogue. He describes Australia’s ban on Chinese telco in the 5G rollout as “the first shot” that damaged normal business relations. Xiao says he doesn’t have his own “list” of demands.

China’s ambassador asked to address Xinjiang and detained Australians

Periodic interjections from protesters aside, Prof James Laurenceson put some direct questions about Xinjiang and detained Australians to China’s ambassador, Xiao Qian.

Laurenceson, the director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at UTS, was moderating the event. He brought up two Australians who are detained in China facing national security related allegations:

I think I had to nominate one area of most intense concern amongst Australians [it] would be the circumstances that a number of individual Australians find themselves in China. This would include, Mr Ambassador, UTS alumnus, Dr Yang Hengjun, and Cheng Lei, who like me, is a University of Queensland graduate.

It would also include folks in Australia’s Uyghur diaspora who have been saying for several years that they cannot reach friends and family members caught up in detention facilities in Xinjiang, or they don’t want to contact them because they are worried they are being surveilled. Some of them themselves may have Australian permanent residency, if not citizenship.

Laurenceson noted Cheng had been “cut off entirely from communicating with her family, including her two young children”. He asked the ambassador if he could understand why Australians would feel it was “perfectly reasonable for the Australian government, for example, to not entertain an extradition treaty with China or to warn Australians visiting China about the risk of arbitrary detention.”

I mean surely if a Chinese citizen was subjected to the same treatment in Australia, I imagine Beijing and the Chinese public would be up in arms. What would your message to those Australians be? Or if I could go one step further: is there any message of hope that you can give to those Australians who are worried sick right now about their loved ones?

The ambassador replied that national security related cases were not necessarily heard in open court in other countries, either.

For the individual case of the Australians in China, first of all, there’s been very intense communication between China and Australia through the diplomatic channels – in Beijing and in Canberra. And on these cases, these are individual cases and the Chinese relevant authorities are dealing with the cases according to Chinese laws and regulations.

Xiao played down the risk of arbitrary detention in China, saying there were “so many people from other countries” who enjoyed life in China including diplomats, media, tourists, businesspeople, and other visitors. He said as long as people respected rules and laws, there was “no reason for them to worry”.

Regarding Xinjiang, the ambassador repeated the Chinese government’s argument that “terrorism is a serious challenge” and “necessary measures have been taken”.

Xiao went on to make a general remark that he would not comment on the domestic affairs of Australia, including the recent federal election.

He said: “I absolutely support the territorial integrity of Australia.”

Even though he conceded it may not be a good example, Xiao added:

Tasmania is part of Australia – no one should ever challenge that.

‘No such thing as absolute freedom,’ China ambassador says

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador, Xiao Qian, was not impressed by the protesters who periodically interrupted his speech to raise human rights.

He told the event at the University of Technology Sydney:

Again, freedom of speech is different from actual freedom. In this world, there’s no such thing as absolute freedom. Freedom is freedom within rules and laws.

Just like we’re having a meeting today, we’re having a public event, and those who are attending should respect the law and order: keep quiet while we’re speaking. So, those number of people who are coming again and again to disrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of speech in my views, so this should not be welcomed.

South Australia records four Covid deaths and 2,311 new cases

South Australia has recorded four Covid deaths and 2,311 new cases in the past 24 hours.

There are 200 people in hospital and of those, 10 are in ICU.

Amanda Meade

Amanda Meade

Ita Buttrose puts Chris Kenny in his place as Sky News’s ABC doco draws blanks

Ita Buttrose singled out Sky News presenter Chris Kenny during her Andrew Olle address last week, scolding him for saying she was too old when she was appointed to chair the ABC, aged 77, in 2019.

“I know a bit about career obstacles,” Buttrose said as she glared at Kenny, who was on the Sky News table at the ABC function. “There was always a reason for someone to say no. I was either too young or too old. When I was appointed chair of the ABC, too old. Thank you Chris Kenny.”

Hello everyone, this is Cait Kelly – I will be with you for the rest of the day.

Let’s get into it!

I will hand over now to Cait Kelly, who will take you through the afternoon.

Take care and be kind to airport staff.

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

Actions taken by China against Australian exports were not sanctions, Xiao says

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, continues to defend the trade actions taken against a range of Australian export sectors on technical grounds. He objects to labelling these as “trade sanctions”.

The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said last night it was good the defence ministers had met this month, but repeated his call for Beijing to remove the trade sanctions, saying that would “go a long way towards restoring improved relations”.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian speaks at the University of Technology in Sydney on Friday 24 June 2022.
China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian speaks at the University of Technology in Sydney on Friday 24 June 2022. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP

Albanese told the ABC’s 7.30 program he looked forward to “further dialogue between ministers of our respective governments”, while predicting that it would remain “a problematic relationship”.

Beijing introduced steep tariffs, unofficial bans and higher screening requirements on Australian exports such as barley, beef, wine and coal in 2020, prompting Australia to denounce “economic coercion”. Some of those measures are now subject to challenges through the World Trade Organisation.

Xiao argues Chinese authorities were acting on anti-dumping concerns, after complaints from Chinese business groups. He also cites “reaction from the Chinese public”.

Some Chinese businesses had become more cautious because they were worried it might be too risky to continue the trade relations. Xiao adds:

But there’s no government official sanction measures, per se.

People urged to get booster shot amid rise in Omicron reinfections

The Australian chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, has urged people to get their booster shot in the wake of a growing number of reinfections from the Omicron variant.

Kelly told Sky News:

We are seeing reinfection, we know that Omicron, having had a previous dose of one of the other variants of Covid-19, did escape that immune protection from both a previous dose and from only two doses of vaccine.

Sub-variants of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 have now become the dominant strain in the UK [and are] growing particularly on the east coast of Australia.

But he said there had not been an uptick in the severity of the disease.

We will see reinfections over the coming weeks and months, unfortunately with that one, but what we’re not seeing is a large increase in severe disease.

That’s really due to the vaccine protection which can be boosted with a third and fourth dose.

Australia must respect China’s sovereignty, ambassador says

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, has urged Australia to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

(That would tend to suggest not speaking out about Hong Kong and Taiwan.)

Xiao says:

First on the political front, is it important to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, political system and development mode. These are just some of the basic principles for sound and healthy relationships between two sovereign states.

Xiao went on to urge Australia not to see China as a security threat:

China’s development is an opportunity, not a so-called threat to Australia. And there’s every reason for China and Australia to be friends and partners, rather than adversaries, or even the so-called enemies.

Xiao stresses the need to “properly handle differences”.

He suggests the two countries should cooperate on areas of common ground, although “there are undeniably certain areas where China and Australia have different views”. He suggests constructive dialogue to minimise the differences if possible, and enlarge the common ground if possible.

He says Australia and China should handle “differences even disputes” so that they don’t affect overall relationship between the countries or overall cooperation between the two nations.

We’re on to questions now from Prof James Laurenceson. He’s asking about the 2020 deterioration, including the trade actions against Australia. Laurenceson says most Australians would view the Covid inquiry call as a fair and reasonable call.

Xiao says the Chinese government has publicly supported the need for scientists to determine the origin of the virus. But he says for certain countries to be calling it the “China virus” or that a Chinese laboratory deliberately or accidentally leaked the virus would be “absolutely unfounded”.

So if that happens, I think it’s fair and reasonable for 1.4 billion Chinese people to be very angry about it.

On the so-called “list of grievances”, issued by the Chinese embassy in late 2020, before Xiao’s arrival, he blames “twisted reports” in the media. He says it was wrong to present them as “preconditions” or “demands” for dialogue. He describes Australia’s ban on Chinese telco in the 5G rollout as “the first shot” that damaged normal business relations. Xiao says he doesn’t have his own “list” of demands.

ACT records no Covid deaths and 1,038 new cases

The Australian Capital Territory has recorded 1,038 new cases of Covid-19 and no new deaths.

There are currently 99 people in hospital with Covid, one in intensive care, and none on a ventilator.

ACT COVID-19 Update – 24 June 2022

💉 COVID-19 vaccinations
◾ Aged 5-11 years (1 dose): 80.6%
◾ Aged 5-11 years (2 doses): 68.7%
◾ Aged 5+ years (2 doses): 97.3%
◾ Aged 16+ years (3 doses): 77.2% pic.twitter.com/pnS3jlKlAW

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) June 24, 2022

Queensland reports six deaths, 4,520 new Covid cases

Six people have died with Covid in Queensland, the state’s health department has reported.

Queensland also reported 4,520 new cases. There are 522 people in hospital and seven in ICU.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

A brief word on Victoria, factions and the nomination of deputy premier

A few words on the announcement from premier Daniel Andrews a short time ago, that he and his leadership team are endorsing Jacinta Allan as his deputy.

To most people this probably makes sense – she’s now one of the most experienced remaining ministers following today’s resignations.

But for those within the Labor party, it’s quite significant.

Allan, like the premier, comes from the left faction. If she becomes deputy, it will break with a tradition of having a leadership team consisting of both a member from the left and right of the party.

Andrews told reporters he doesn’t want to get into factional “games” and that Allan is the best person for the role.

But given the fractured relationship between factions it’s worth watching to see what happens at Saturday’s meeting.

China and Australia can ‘coexist peacefully’ with respect, ambassador says

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, says relations between the two countries “enjoy greater potential for cooperation”.

The focus of his address is the state of relations between Australia and China “and my personal views on what we could do in the immediate future”.

After the recent federal election, Australia has a new Labor government. This is a choice for the Australian people – and it’s a domestic affair of this country. Nonetheless, it has provided with an opportunity of possible improvement of our bilateral relations.

Australian government ministers were blocked from meetings or calls with their direct Chinese counterparts for more than two years as the relationship deteriorated, although lower-level diplomats and public servants kept in communication.

The high-level freeze finally ended when the new deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, sat down for an hour with China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, in Singapore earlier this month.

Xiao says recent face to face contacts – including the meeting in Singapore – were “obviously very significant for the bilateral relationship”.

The more important question, Xiao says, is: “How we can keep the momentum and put our bilateral relationship back on the right track?”

There continue to be interjections from members of the audience at the University of Technology Sydney, including about the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

After one audience member was removed for interjecting, Xiao was met with applause after saying:

I think I should continue.

He went on to say there is “no reason that we cannot coexist peacefully when we respect each other”.

Vaccine mandate for teachers dropped in Queensland, NSW likely to follow

Queensland is removing Covid vaccination mandates for teachers from next week and New South Wales is considering a similar proposal.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said that from 1am next Thursday, people will no longer need to be vaccinated to work in schools, childcare, prisons and airports or to visit jails, aged care and disability facilities. Individual employers will still be able to enforce their own mandates, she said.

Restrictions that have protected us have eased in sensible stages, and today I announce with the advice of the chief health officer, we are removing some of the last remaining Covid restrictions.

Mandates will remain in place for workers in healthcare, hospital, aged care and disability care facilities in Queensland.

In NSW, the education department will take a proposal to key stake holders to remove the vaccine mandate for all but staff who work in schools for specific purposes. Staff in those facilities will be required to keep up to date with Covid boosters.

If implemented, the policy change means that 965 casual staff who are currently not working due to vaccine mandates will be able to return to onsite teaching, and teaching staff who resigned due to the vaccine mandate will be able to reapply for advertised roles.

Protester interrupts beginning of address by Chinese ambassador to Australia in Sydney

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

A protester has interrupted the beginning of a speech by China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, in Sydney.

Xiao, who arrived in Australia in January, had only started addressing the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney when an audience member started shouting “Stop the genocide” and “Tibet remains colonised”.

The event includes an in-person audience – but the webinar was temporarily suspended. Two minutes later, when it resumed, Xiao said: “Obviously it is not a good start.”

An audience member shouted: “How about freedom of speech in China?”

Xiao resumed his speech.

It’s my pleasure really to be here for this event, although there are different views. And I respect the invitation from the UTS and ACRI. It is upon the invitation from UTS and ACRI that I come here it exchange views with you.

He said he would also listen to audience views through questions.

I think it’s a good opportunity – we have different views but they should be expressed in a way that is appropriate.

Andrews nominates Jacinta Allan to be deputy premier

Daniel Andrews has announced that the new leadership team will recommend that Jacinta Allan be named deputy premier. That recommendation has to be confirmed by the Labor caucus.

Allan and Andrews are both from the left faction of the Labor party, which breaks with a common practice of having the leader and the deputy be from different factions. But Andrews says it is not the first time the one faction has held both roles.

My recollection is that while, for instance, Rob Hulls [deputy premier under John Brumby] did a very good impersonation of someone from the left, he was not from the left. Likewise, while John Thwaites was a progressively progressive member of that government, he was not a member of the left. So, let’s not get into these sorts of games.

I am very confident, just as my senior leadership team colleagues are very confident, that the caucus will make the right decision.

Merlino continued:

Time comes for everyone, and in politics sometimes that is beyond your control. You lose preselection, you lose your seat at the election. For some lucky ones, and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky, we get to call time on a career.

There is never a right time. This is hard. It is hard to leave my beloved portfolio of education and mental health. It is hard to do it. But there does come a time for everyone … For me it is 20 years. For others, they have more energy, more ideas.

I know I can go 100 miles an hour, 100%, through to November, but I know deep in my heart I could not commit to another four years. The seat of Monbulk will always be a marginal seat … I did not want to have a by-election in the seat of Monbulk [but] I did not have four years in me to continue as a member of parliament.

He directed this comment at the press pack:

Thank you to the media. There are times I won’t miss you and times I will miss you. But thank you for the work that you do.

Merlino then stood up to give his final statement.

Thanks very much Dan. It is good to be here for the last time.



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