Australia, the United States and Papua New Guinea have agreed to expand the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island to counter rising Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific. Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Port Moresby on Saturday, US vice-president Mike Pence warned southeast Asian nations against buying into China’s Belt and Road initiative, saying “projects they support are often unsustainable and poor quality”. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison used the summit to lay out the case for free trade amid rising tensions between China and the US, warning on Saturday that “tit-for-tat protectionism and threats of trade wars are in no-one’s interests economically and undermine the authority of the global and regional trading rules that benefit us all”. The summit ended without leaders agreeing on a joint communique, with Pence and Chinese president Xi Jinping criticising each other over trade policy.
The federal government has awarded three-month contracts to charity and financial aid groups after funding cuts ahead of the Christmas season led to a public backlash. The department of social services disclosed on its website last week that temporary funding had been restored to 16 groups, including VincentCare Victoria, Anglicare South Australia and the Prisoners’ Legal Service. Social services minister Paul Fletcher was widely criticised last week after flagging cuts to food charities OzHarvest and Foodbank, while public anger at funding cuts to consumer rights groups, the Financial Rights Legal Centre and the Consumer Action Law Centre, on Wednesday led to more government sensitivity and their funding was quickly extended for another 12 months.
Actress Pamela Anderson has criticised prime minister Scott Morrison for making “smutty” and “lewd suggestions” about her on radio. Earlier this month Anderson appeared on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes, urging Morrison to allow Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to return to Australia. Morrison brushed off Anderson’s comments, telling Gold Coast radio station Hot Tomato FM that “I’ve had plenty of mates who have asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson”. In an open letter published on her website, Anderson said Morrison “trivialised and laughed about the suffering of an Australian and his family”, and made “smutty, unnecessary comments about a woman voicing her political opinion”.
And federal Labor’s shadow ministry will meet in Canberra today to agree on an energy and carbon reduction policy ahead of the next federal election. Fairfax reports that the policy will likely be modelled on the National Energy Guarantee, the draft Coalition policy that enjoyed broad support from businesses before being rejected to appease government conservatives. Labor’s policy will also likely include a commitment to cut electricity sector emissions 50 per cent by 2030.