“I intend now to return to normal life but wanted to first publicly thank everyone who worked to ensure I was safe and well,” Alek Sigley said in a statement released by his family’s spokeswoman in Australia, a day after he was flew from Pyongyang to Beijing and then Tokyo to be reunited with his Japanese wife.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will visit the Solomon Islands next week, he said on Monday, as Western nations seek to rein in China’s influence on the tiny Pacific island and across the region. The visit comes as the United States and its allies are trying to ensure that Pacific countries that have diplomatic links with Taiwan, do not severe those in favour of establishing them with Beijing. The Solomon Islands is one of only a handful of Pacific countries to recognise Taiwan, a policy now in question after recent elections on the islands. China views Taiwan as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties. Morrison’s first overseas trip since winning re-election this month will also be the first time an Australian prime minister has visited the Solomon Islands since 2008. “The Pacific is front and centre of Australia’s strategic outlook,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement. He did not mention efforts to preserve Taiwan’s diplomatic alliances, but analysts say the issue has become a flashpoint in the region and is likely to be raised. “China is the Solomon Islands’ largest trading partner and this is adding a lot of pressure on lawmakers to switch allegiances,” said Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands programme director at the think-tank, the Lowy Institute. On Friday, a senior U.S. official said Washington would help Pacific countries in the face of China’s efforts to expand its influence. Those remarks threaten to inflame tension between the United States and China already
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison named his new cabinet on Sunday, with most positions staying the same, saying the government had “a significant agenda” to deliver and it was time to get back to business. “I have high expectations of my ministry and clear goals for each of their roles,” Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement. Incoming Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who served in the Army Reserves for almost three decades and rose to the rank of brigadier, replaces Christopher Pyne who has retired. Foreign Minister Marise Payne retains her position as does Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Attorney General Christian Porter. Morrison also created a national agency for Indigenous Australians which would report directly to new Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, the first Aboriginal cabinet minister. Mr Morrison said he intends to recommend Arthur Sinodinos, a senator from the eastern state of New South Wales, for the plum diplomatic post of ambassador to the United States, replacing Joe Hockey. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield will be Australia’s representative at the United Nations. A priority of the re-elected Liberal National coalition is to deliver tax cuts by July 1, a cornerstone of its election campaign, as the central bank has called for stimulus to aid a slowing economy. Morrison entered this month’s election at the head of a minority government after a series of defections, unable to pursue its legislative agenda without the support
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked his fellow Pentecostal churchgoers on Sunday after a miraculous election victory that defied years of unfavourable opinion polls and bruised a Labor opposition that had been widely expected to win. Morrison’s Liberal-led conservative coalition has won or is leading in 76 seats, the number needed to form a majority government, according to the Australian Electoral Commission. Slightly more than three-quarters of the roughly 17 million votes have been counted. A jubilant Scott Morrison hugged community members after an early Sunday service at the Horizon Church in Sydney’s southern suburbs, from where he was first elected to parliament in 2007. “You don’t get to be a prime minister and serve in that capacity unless you first are a member of your local electorate,” Scott Morrison said. He drew cheers later on Sunday when he arrived in the stands to watch his team, the Cronulla Sharks, in a rugby league match in his beachside electorate. Morrison told raucous supporters late on Saturday, who had earlier seemed resigned to defeat, that he had always believed in miracles. The result drew comparisons with Republican Donald Trump’s victory over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the first world leaders to congratulate Morrison. “Congratulations to Scott on a GREAT WIN,” Trump said on Twitter before calling the Australian leader.. Jacinda Ardern, the progressive prime minister of neighbouring New Zealand, also called to congratulate him, saying that Morrison
A conservative stronghold for a century, Australia’s hinterland is now cracking like the drought-parched earth, voters say, with once-safe districts in jeopardy ahead of Saturday’s election. Driven by anger on issues from climate change to water allocation, the splintering presents a problem for the governing conservative coalition that normally considers itself secure in rural areas but is trailing in national opinion polls. In Mildura, a city of 30,000 people on the edge of the outback and part of the safest of 16 electorates held by the coalition’s junior partner, the farmer-based National Party, nobody can recall it ever needing to campaign so hard. “If you just look at the distribution of posters, they’re up everywhere,” Stefano de Pieri, a politician-turned-chef who has run a restaurant there for almost 30 years, told Reuters from his kitchen by a bend in the Murray River. Mildura was one of five constituencies to spurn the Nationals at state polls in November and March, its disillusionment stoked by a deepening drought and a feeling the 99-year-old party of “the bush” was taking voters for granted. “There is a sense of Mildura wanting to go through a political renewal,” de Pieri added, a contrast from previous years, when the Nationals were seen as sure-fire winners. In the agricultural heartland beyond, the mood is similar. “Everyone I’ve talked to is not going to vote National Party,” said Leonard Vallance, the livestock president of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation. “They need a good shake and I think they’ll get