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Photostream : Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd meets Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (L) shakes hands with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd (R) after a meeting in Jakarta on March 29, 2011. Rudd will be attending the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Crime on March 30. (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (L) talks to his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd (R) after a meeting in Jakarta on March 29, 2011. Rudd will be attending the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Crime on March 30. (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) gestures as he walks next to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (R) during a meeting in Jakarta on March 29, 2011. Rudd will be attending the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Crime on March 30. (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in World News

 

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Photostream : Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono meets Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) looks at his watch as he is greeted by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace in Jakarta March 29, 2011. Indonesia and Australia will co-host a conference in Bali on Wednesday that will discuss an Australian proposal to set up a regional processing centre for asylum seekers arriving by boat, in East Timor. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) greets Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace in Jakarta March 29, 2011. Indonesia and Australia will co-host a conference in Bali on Wednesday that will discuss an Australian proposal to set up a regional processing centre for asylum seekers arriving by boat, in East Timor. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) meets Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential palace in Jakarta March 29, 2011. Indonesia and Australia will co-host a conference in Bali on Wednesday that will discuss an Australian proposal to set up a regional processing centre for asylum seekers arriving by boat, in East Timor. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in World News

 

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British to renew Australian defence ties

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague

 

Jan 14 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE AGE.COM.AU) — British Foreign Secretary William Hague says his nation has neglected its relationship with Australia during the past two decades.

Mr Hague will join UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox, as well as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith, in Sydney next Tuesday for the third Australia-UK ministerial talks, known as AUKMIN.

It will be the first visit to Australia by British cabinet ministers since David Cameron’s government took office in May.

Mr Hague said on his video blog Britain needed a strong relationship with “dynamic economies” such as Australia and New Zealand, which will host the two ministers late next week.

But the previous Blair and Brown Labor governments had neglected the relationship, with the last foreign secretary to visit being Douglas Hurd in 1994.

“I will be the first (British) foreign secretary for nearly 20 years to go to Australia,” Mr Hague said.

“So I think there has been a little bit of ministerial neglect that we are going to put right.”

Mr Hague said his top priority was the mission in Afghanistan, which involves 9500 British and 1550 Australian troops.

“Right at the top of the list is our work in Afghanistan to improve security and hopefully to bring to Afghan leadership a political process alongside the military work to bring lasting security and stability,” he said.

The talks also will focus on three other issues: changing power dynamics in Asia, particularly China; strategic cooperation, including intelligence sharing, cyberspace and the relationship with the US; and global counter-terrorism.

There is also expected to be a discussion over lunch on national security structures, the Middle East and Iran and nuclear proliferation.

The meeting is not expected to approve a new cooperation treaty but a number of defence documents will be signed, sources close to the talks say.

It will be the first AUKMIN to be held in Australia, with the previous one held in Leeds in November 2008. (*)

 

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in World News

 

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces troop boost for floods

Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Jan 14, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / SBS.COM.AU) — The number of defence force personnel involved in the Queensland flood operation will be doubled to 1200, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

“This will be the biggest deployment for a natural disaster since Cyclone Tracy,” Ms Gillard said at Amberley air base west of Brisbane on Friday.

Ms Gillard said, after talks with Defence Minister Stephen Smith and military chiefs, “Now is the right time to dramatically increase the number of defence personnel who are working in Queensland to assist with the Queensland floods.”

The prime minister on Friday spoke with ADF personnel at the air base, ahead of a visit to the flood-ravaged Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane.

“It’s so important at this time that townships that have been isolated can still get vital supplies,” she said. (*)

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in World News

 

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Australia PM pledges financial help for flood-hit Queensland

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard flies in a Black Hawk helicopter as she views flooding near the northern Australian city of Rockhampton, in this January 8, 2011 handout photograph. Gillard pledged financial support for Australia's flood-hit northeast on Saturday during a tour of the most heavily inundated parts of Queensland state, but warned the recovery would be slow. REUTERS/Australian Department of Defence/Handout

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SYDNEY, Jan 08 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged financial support for Australia’s flood-hit northeast on Saturday during a tour of the most heavily inundated parts of Queensland state, but warned the recovery would be slow.

In a series of visits by military helicopter, Gillard went to towns whose streets have been turned into waterways by a Christmas deluge that left an area the size of France and Germany combined under water.

The floods have swamped coal mines and hit agriculture hard, washed away roads and railways, killed four, and brought the country’s $50 billion coal export industry to a near standstill.

Some river levels have hit records and some are still rising with further rain forecast for this weekend. Months more wet weather is predicted, brought by the La Nina weather phenomenon.

“The scale of the floodwaters, the sheer size of this is best appreciated from the air and we are talking about huge areas, lots of water, a lot of it still very fast moving and so it’s going to be a long time back,” Gillard told a news conference in the flooded town of Rockhampton, 600 km (370 miles) north of the state capital Brisbane.

Asked how much it would cost Australia’s federal government, she said: “I’ve been very clear that we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Thousands have been evacuated from their homes, and in many towns locals and relief workers have taken to getting around the streets in boats. Authorities say around 200,000 people have been affected.

Gillard pledged funding to help improve flood protection for Rockhampton, a town of around 75,000 situated near the mouth of the Fitzroy River which peaked at 9.2 meters on Wednesday. On Saturday, it was still at 9.15 meters and predicted to stay above 8.5 meters until next Friday.

Rendering some highways flood-proof would be a priority, she said, after the state’s major rail and road links were seriously disrupted and in some cases washed away.

Earlier in the flooded town of St George, 450 km (270 miles) west of the state capital Brisbane, Gillard said A$4 million ($4 million) in emergency payments had already been paid and more was on the way to help “families who are doing it tough.”

Gillard pledged to work with state Premier Anna Bligh to “help Queensland through.” The Balonne River in St George was forecast to peak at near 13.4 meters over the weekend.

On Saturday a fourth person was confirmed dead in the latest flooding, a 55-year-old truck driver whose truck veered off a road while transporting water to the inundated town of Condamine. The scale of the disaster has prompted fears of disease in the largely tropical areas affected, and in some areas drinking water has been in short supply.

Flood warnings were still current on Saturday for more than 10 rivers in Queensland. Up to 200 mm of rain was forecast in some areas over the weekend, but forecasters said the worst would likely spare the areas most heavily affected by the floods.

The man tasked with overseeing the recovery, Major General Mick Slater, has warned it is likely to take years and said the damage cannot be properly assessed until the waters recede. While traveling with Gillard on Saturday, he said the crisis was “not over yet.”   (*)

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in World News

 

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A message from The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to The Prime Minister of Australia about the flooding in Queensland

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January 05, 2011 (KATAKAMI / PRINCEOFWALES.GOV.UK) — Clive Alderton, Private Secretary for Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs to the office of The Prime Minister of Australia: “The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have been deeply moved by news of the flooding in Queensland. The Prince of Wales has asked if you could kindly arrange for the following message to be delivered to the Prime Minister as soon as possible, please.”

The message from Their Royal Highnesses:

“My wife and I have been horrified by reports of the terrible flooding in Queensland. The scale of the disaster all but defies belief and, on behalf of us both, I just wanted you to know how much our hearts go out to the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives and property have been affected. I also wanted to say how enormously impressed we have been by what is, clearly, outstanding combined work of the military, emergency services, Federal and State authorities in ensuring that people are evacuated to places of safety.

As we all mark the start of a New Year I can only pray that the worst of the flooding is over and send you every possible good wish as you work for the recovery of the many communities involved.”  (*)

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in World News

 

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Photostream : New Year's Eve celebrations in Australia

Fireworks explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House during a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the New Year January 1, 2011. Local authorities planned for over 1.5 million people to crowd the Sydney Harbour foreshore and welcome in the new year under the massive fireworks display. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

The sky above the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city center lights up at midnight during the fireworks display to celebrate the New Year's Day in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

A curtain of fireworks cascades over the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the 9 pm fireworks display on new year's eve in Sydney, Australia, Friday, Dec. 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 31: Fireworks explode at Circular Quay during the preliminary 9pm session on December 31, 2010 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

The sky above the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the city center lights up at midnight during the fireworks display to celebrate the New Year's Day in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in World News

 

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