Australia

Australia to expand labour scheme to all Pacific countries

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and foreign minister Marise Payne say the current cap of 2-thousand places will be lifted, although the new limit is not a given.

Talks to allow Papua New Guinea to join the scheme have also been confirmed.

Australia will also establish a new Pacific office within its foreign ministry.

Australia to increase military and police cooperation in Pacific

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled a new foreign policy strategy for the Pacific region, including increased military cooperation.

But Defence Minister Christopher Pyne told Fairfax Media this strategy also includes a new vessel to operate semi-permanently in the south west Pacific.

He said the ship could assist with preparation for and response to natural disasters and other resilience support.

Australia will also strengthen its links with police forces in the Pacific.

Australia lifting Pacific work scheme numbers

The assistant minister for international development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston, said under Australia's pledge to step up its relationship with Pacific nations it recognised that labour mobility was a key issue for them.

This was reflected in the 40 percent annual growth of the seasonal worker scheme, while a new Pacific labour scheme would also bring in 2000 workers over the next year, she said.

Pakistan cruise to series whitewash over Australia

Having dominated throughout Australia's tour of the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan inflicted more misery on Aaron Finch's side to complete a 3-0 success with five balls to spare.

Babar Azam starred again at the top of the order with his second half century of the series as Pakistan made a superb start under the lights, the hosts racing to 93-0 in the 13th over.

Babar's 50 came off just 40 balls and included a superbly executed upper cut for six off Nathan Coulter-Nile, the bowler only able to watch on as the ball sailed over the third-man boundary.

Better health services for PNGeans

In partnership with the National Department of Health, Australia is supporting Catholic Church Health Services (CCHS) and Anglicare to widen the health services offered at standalone sexual and reproductive health clinics across 18 provinces.

This is a true partnership, with Australia funding staff salaries and operations of facilities, PNG Government paying for medicines and the Catholic Church Health Services providing facilities.

Best of mates off field: Minister

Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Anne Ruston, said a mutual love for sport strengthens our two nations’ bilateral ties.

“The athletes showcased the best of what sport has to offer,” Minister Ruston said. 

“Australia and PNG may be fierce opponents on the field, but we are the best of mates off it.”

Minister Ruston said the Port Moresby matches marked the first time a women’s team competed alongside their male counterparts as the Australian PM XIII Women’s side.

New UN human rights chief blasts Australia over offshore processing

Michelle Bachelet included criticism of the centres on Nauru and Manus Island in her maiden speech at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The former president of Chile said the council had a responsibility to speak out against human rights violations without fear or favour.

She focused on migration in her address, saying an international agreement due to be signed this year provides for regional and international cooperation to set up prompt and humane reception for all arrivals.

Forum head hits out at Australian fossil fuel support

In a speech in Canberra, Dame Meg Taylor warned that climate change had brought truly desperate times to the Pacific Islands.

Dame Meg urged unity from Australia, saying the region could not afford to have one or two acting in ways that place the wellbeing of the region at risk.

At the Forum Leaders' Summit last week, Australia was the country that tried to water down a commitment to climate change action.

The government of Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was also planning to officially dump emissions reduction targets.

Tonga vs Australia league test finally confirmed

Mate Ma'a Tonga will take on the Kangaroos at Auckland's Mount Smart Stadium on October 20th, almost 11 months after a sold out crowd watched the Kingdom pipped by England at the same venue in the World Cup semifinals.

Tonga coach Kristian Woolf and Australia's Mal Meninga have both been supportive of the fixture but confirmation was delayed after New Zealand Rugby League officials expressed concerns the test could overshadow or affect ticket sales for the Kiwis vs Kangaroos clash at the same venue a week earlier.

Crocodile swamp search a 'people smuggling' case

Authorities have detained 15 people and think more are hiding in mangroves north of Cairns, say police.

The boat, believed to be from Vietnam, is the first people-smuggling vessel to make it to Australia "in more than 1,400 days", according to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Authorities are continuing a search.

They did not say how many people were aboard when the boat ran aground near Daintree on Sunday, nor if any have plans to appeal for asylum.

Local mayor Julia Leu told ABC that they were "putting themselves at risk in known crocodile habitat".