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What we learned, Tuesday 22 March


Stormy rains are forecast to return to eastern Australia, including over flood-hit regions of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, ending the longest dry spell many areas have had for a month.

Last month’s widespread rains that were fed from an atmospheric river of moist tropical air dumped persistent heavy rain over towns like Lismore. This time, though, the forecast rain from Wednesday onwards is “going to be all storm-related”, Jordan Notara, a senior Bureau of Meteorology forecaster, said.

Japan’s ambassador has speculated that Australia’s proposed nuclear-powered submarines eventually could be involved in joint exercises with Japan in the East China Sea or the Sea of Japan.

It remains unclear when the first of the nuclear-propelled submarines envisaged under the Aukus partnership will be ready. Initially the Australian government said by around 2040, but more recently it has suggested the mid-2030s could be achievable, although this is still subject to ongoing talks with the US and the UK.

Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami, said the ties between the two countries were “far, far more than mere symbolism”.

He said the recently signed Reciprocal Access Agreement means that “in the years ahead” the various arms of the Japan Self-Defence Forces (SDF) “will be paying call to the bases, ports, and training grounds in Australia in greater numbers and with more hardware”.

Addressing a symposium hosted by the Perth USAsia Centre today, Yamagami then turned his attention to Aukus (which Japan has supported):

The adoption by Australia of nuclear submarines brings further areas of potential cooperation with the SDF into view, including joint exercises within the East China Sea or even the Sea of Japan.

Australia itself recognises the importance of this vital maritime area, a point reinforced by the Defence Minister’s speech to the National Press Club last year, in which he mentioned the Senkaku Islands for the first time in the context of China’s threat to Taiwan and the regional order. This comment certainly caught the attention of Tokyo, and was very warmly received.
With the security situation growing more severe in our region and more broadly across the world, like-minded countries will act in unison to mitigate potential threats by promoting deterrence.

With the security situation growing more severe in our region and more broadly across the world, like-minded countries will act in unison to mitigate potential threats by promoting deterrence.

A quick reminder: Peter Dutton, in that speech, said China’s president, Xi Jinping, was not bluffing about Beijing’s determination to take Taiwan by the 2040s, adding: “If Taiwan is taken, surely the Senkakus are next.”

Dutton was referring to uninhabited islets in the East China Sea administered by Japan but claimed by China, where they are known as Diaoyu Dao.

Yamagami described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “outrageous” and said: “I can assure you that Japan stands with Ukraine.”





The government has finally released the joint statement about Scott Morrison’s meeting with India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, last night.

As expected, there was no direct condemnation of Russia, with which India has longstanding ties.

But the joint statement includes the following form of words:

Leaders expressed their serious concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. They reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities. They emphasised that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states. They agreed to remain closely engaged on the issue and its broader implications for the Indo-Pacific.

Leaders expressed their shared commitment to a free, open and rules-based Indo‑Pacific, supported by a robust regional architecture, with ASEAN at its centre. They reaffirmed their commitment to an inclusive and prosperous region in which the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states is respected and countries are free from military, economic and political coercion.

The joint statement says Modi appreciated a briefing from Morrison on the Aukus partnership that brings together Australia, the US and the UK.

Leaders recognised Australia’s commitment to not develop nuclear weapons and to uphold the highest standards of non‑proliferation.

Morrison and Modi also called for “the immediate cessation of violence against civilian populations in Myanmar, the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including foreigners, and unhindered humanitarian access”.

They also “reiterated their firm commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, in view of the deteriorating humanitarian situation and also reaffirmed calls on those in positions of power across Afghanistan to adhere to counter‑terrorism commitments and human rights”.

It is unclear exactly when Australia and India will reach a deal on an interim free trade agreement. The joint statement says Morrison and Modi “welcomed the considerable progress made in the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations” and “expressed satisfaction on the large degree of convergence on many of the elements which are close to finalisation”.

Leaders re-committed to concluding an Interim CECA at the earliest and work towards an ambitious, full CECA by the end of the year to enhance trade and investment ties and deepen the CSP.







The Labor party is moving to install an Accenture managing director, the former high-profile Labor staffer Andrew Charlton, into the western Sydney federal seat of Parramatta, igniting anger among local branches and multicultural communities.

Insiders say the proposal of parachuting in Charlton, who worked as an economic adviser to Kevin Rudd, has been put forward by the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, and is under consideration by the party’s state executive.

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