Australia

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes his first overseas trip since his upset victory in Australia’s general election earlier this month. His first stop will be in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Mark J. Rebilas / U.S. Navy

Australia’s ABC reports that Australian military helicopters were targeted by lasers in the South China Sea. The laser attacks apparently came from China’s maritime militia.

USAID

The Pacific region is the most dependent on international aid of any region in the world, with 6 percent of regional GDP coming from foreign aid. The common narrative is that China is dominant in that space.

But a recently completed project by Australia’s Lowy Institute found the truth to be a lot more complex.

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According to figures from the United Nations, Australia’s use of crystal methamphetamine is among the highest in the world. Recent news shows an increase in the amount of the drug that is being shipped into the country.

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President Trump was among the first to congratulate Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison after his surprise re-election on Sunday. After what was described as an extensive conversation, the President added a tweet. China’s reaction was decidedly less enthusiastic.

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Political commentators in Australia are moving on from their initial shock about this weekend’s elections. The center-right party of Prime Minister Scott Morrison stunned political pollsters by defeating the opposition Labor Party. One likely future battleground: renewable energy.

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Thousands of pounds of man-made trash wash up each year at Kamilo Point, on the southeast side of the Big Island. It’s pushed there by ocean currents and winds. Some other islands in the Pacific suffer from a similar problem, and there’s news this week of some alarming specifics.

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A new book out in Australia reports that 22 Australian nurses were raped by Japanese troops before they were machine gunned in February, 1942. The book also says that Australian officials gagged the sole survivor of the massacre.

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The Guardian reports that Australia has been accused of siphoning as much as two million dollars a week in oil revenues from its impoverished neighbor Timor-Leste.

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Australia's prime minister has just called for an election. That means that Australians will be going to the polls at a time when economic growth is slowing and political differences are growing.

Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon / U.S. Air Force

A small piece of forgotten history is being remembered today in the Asia Pacific. It’s a story that involves New Zealanders, Australians, and the Vietnam War.

Gavin Scott

Many of Australia’s most prominent news organizations and dozens of journalists face fines and even prison sentences for violating a gag order. A judge prohibited coverage of the trial of Cardinal George Pell; news of Pell’s conviction was a major news story in February. But, he had actually been convicted last December.

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Immigration remains a political issue in the United States, and that trend has spread elsewhere in the world. In Australia, the government announced some immigration policy changes this week.

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Australia and Papua New Guinea have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a joint naval base on Manus Island. The United States has also agreed to participate in what’s described as part of the effort to push back against China’s growing influence.

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Scientists in Australia have dated a set of ancient tattoo chisels to the dawn of Polynesian culture, 2,700 years ago. The tools were found in Tonga Tapu, and the scientists say that suggests that tattooing began in Tonga and Samoa, and then spread to the rest of the Polynesian Triangle, including Hawaii.

CSIRO / www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/10945

One of the largest suppliers of electricity for the island of O‘ahu is a coal-fired power plant. While Hawai‘i is committed to reduce its use of fossil fuels in coming years, it’s a different story for another location in the Asia Pacific.

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Both Australia and New Zealand have revamped their Pacific policies this past year, partly to counteract China’s growing influence, and partly to address the inevitable effects of climate change. New Zealand’s foreign minister and a former Australian prime minister offered proposals for low-lying island countries recently.

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The weather has been a bit chillier than usual recently across much of Hawai‘i. It’s been another story entirely when it comes to Australia.

CSIRO / www.scienceimage.csiro.au/image/10945

The United States and China are continuing trade talks this week in Washington. But Chinese trade elsewhere in the Pacific has moved to the top of the economic agenda for a U.S. ally.

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A court in Sydney, Australia issued a decision this week in a notorious case that’s gripped Malaysia for more than a decade. A case that involves murder, allegations of espionage and corruption at the highest levels.

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Australia appears to be the latest target of politically motivated cyber attacks. Foreign governments have been identified in previous attacks on France, Britain, Germany and the United States; now Australia’s prime minister blamed a “sophisticated state actor” for attacks on the networks of the country’s major political parties.

Lachlan Fearnley / Wikimedia Commons

In the latest step in its campaign to limit Chinese influence, the Australian government barred a wealthy Chinese businessman and political donor from re-entering the country. Huang Xiangmo has given millions to all of Australia’s major parties as part of a campaign to build support for Beijing.

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Two recent awards highlight Australia’s notorious off shore detention camps. A Kurdish journalist has won Australia’s richest literary prize for a book he wrote on his cell phone from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and an Australian doctor won a freedom of speech award after blowing the whistle on the willful neglect of refugees at another camp in Nauru.

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A Chinese trade delegation is heading to Washington this week for two days of meetings with U.S. officials. The discussions take place as a series of American companies are reporting that slower growth in China’s economy is hurting their profits—and that impact is also being felt in the Asia Pacific.

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This has been a week of weather extremes in parts of the United States. While frigid temperatures and heavy rain have swept across much of the country, weather extremes of a different kind are hitting parts of Australia.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just wrapped up an historic three day visit to Pacific neighbors Vanuatu and Fiji. Australia’s been pushing what it calls a Pacific “step up” to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

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You’ve probably heard warnings about box jellyfish that swarm off Hawaii beaches from time to time, but there’s a different species of box jellyfish now in the waters off Australia with venom 100 times more powerful than a cobra.

NASA Earth Observatory

January typically brings cold weather to much of the mainland U.S. and some rain to Hawaii. But in the southern hemisphere, it’s summer time. And for much of Australia, the weather lately has included broiling heat waves.

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It’s a scary scenario for anyone who lives in a condo or apartment building: a crack in a wall that begins to spread. In Australia, the experience of residents in one building has now turned into an international story.

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Every travel destination uses marketing to reach an audience of potential visitors. That includes the Hawaii Tourism Authority, as well as the government of Australia. But in the case of the land down under, there’s a bit of controversy about how some of that marketing money is being spent.

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