Daily News Roundup

October 7, 2021

 

THURSDAY, October 7

A six-hour closed-door meeting between top US and Chinese officials at an airport hotel in Switzerland has ended with an agreement for the presidents of both nations to hold a “virtual summit” before the end of the year, world news agencies report. 

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, at a hotel in Zurich on Wednesday local time.

Aimed at improving communication between the two countries, it was their first face-to-face encounter since an unusually public and acrid airing of grievances in Alaska in March.

US officials had suggested that the meeting was a follow-on from US President Joe Biden’s September 9 call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, prior to which the world’s top two economies appeared to have been locked in a stalemate.

Both Beijing and Washington said the talks on Wednesday were constructive and candid, with the US side saying the tone was very different from Alaska.

“We do have out of today’s conversation an agreement in principle to hold a virtual bilateral [summit] meeting before the end of the year,” a US official told reporters.

“Today’s conversation, broadly speaking, was a more meaningful and substantive engagement than we’ve had to date below the leader level,” the official said, adding that Washington hoped it would be a “model for future encounters”.

The official said the meeting shouldn’t be seen as a thaw in relations, however.

“What we are trying to achieve is a steady state between the United States and China where we are able to compete intensely but to manage that competition responsibly,” the official said.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Mr Yang told Mr Sullivan that confrontation would damage both countries and the world.

“The two sides agreed to take action … to strengthen strategic communication, properly manage differences, avoid conflict and confrontation,” the ministry statement said.

With relations having sunk to their lowest level in decades, an earlier White House statement said Mr Sullivan raised concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea, as well as on human rights and Beijing’s stances on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.

“Sullivan made clear that while we will continue to invest in our own national strength and work closely with our allies and partners, we will also continue to engage with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] at a senior level to ensure responsible competition,” the White House statement said.

Mr Biden’s call with Mr Xi in September ended a nearly seven-month gap in direct communication between the leaders, and the two discussed the need to ensure that their competition does not veer into conflict.

Mr Biden said on Tuesday that he spoke to Mr Xi about Taiwan and they agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement”, as tensions ratcheted up between Taipei and Beijing.

Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern part of its air defence zone over a four-day period beginning on Friday, the same day China marked a patriotic holiday, National Day.

The US has urged China to stop its “provocative” military activities near Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry, which had sought clarification from the US about Mr Biden’s comments, said on Wednesday that Washington reassured them that its approach to Taiwan had not changed and that its commitment to the democratically governed island claimed by Beijing was “rock solid”.

In his comments on Tuesday, Mr Biden appeared to be referring to Washington’s long-standing policy under which it officially recognizes Beijing rather than Taipei, and the Taiwan Relations Act, which makes clear that the US decision to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing instead of Taiwan rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means.

The White House said Mr Sullivan would also visit Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union officials, as well as Paris, and will brief the Europeans on his meeting with Yang.

With trade tensions also at the top of the US-China agenda, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in Paris for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development meetings, has said she hopes to hold discussions soon with Chinese counterparts.

On Monday, Ms Tai unveiled the results of a months-long “top-to-bottom” review of China trade policy, pledging to hold “frank” talks with Beijing about its failure to keep promises made in former US president Donald Trump’s trade deal and end harmful industrial policies.

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NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has been grilled in his first significant press conference as the state’s leader, with a TV reporter asking if it was “disrespectful” that he did not invite the chief health officer.

Mr Perrottet, sworn in as NSW premier on Wednesday after the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian, announced students across the state would return to school by October 25.

He also unveiled several other changes to the state’s road map out of lockdown.

With NSW reaching 70 per cent of its eligible population aged 16 and older fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on Wednesday, Mr Perrottet said he was able to announce the easing of a raft of restrictions.

However, NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant was a notable absentee from the press conference and 9 News reporter Chris O’Keefe pulled no punches with Mr Perrottet.

Dr Chant was front and centre of the Covid-19 updates and rule changes for most daily press conferences since the pandemic began in March last year.

“What does it say to your respect of Dr Kerry Chant that you wouldn‘t invite her here today as one of your first major (press conferences). It is a bit disrespectful isn’t it?” O’Keefe asked.

“Dr Chant is one of my favourite constituents in Epping,” Mr Perrottet fired back.

“We’ve always had a great relationship. But … we are moving away from 11am press conferences, the health numbers will now be provided (at 9am).”

But O’Keefe kept pressing and said “if it’s a health crisis the chief health officer should be here.”

“Well, it’s also an economic crisis as well,” Mr Perrotte snapped.

“I sat down with the Health Minister and Dr Chant yesterday. We went through some of these potential changes.

“We went through the opportunities to make some sensible amendments, some stable and steady amendments to the roadmap and I think the changes today are sensible.”

The awkward back-and-forth came as Mr Perrottet announced a raft of restrictions being eased.

Students will be back in the classroom by the end of the month.

“All schools will return by October 25,” Mr Perrottet said. “That’s great for kids and a major relief for parents and their sanity.”

Indoor pools will also be opened from Monday (October 11), while weddings and funerals will have their caps raised from 50 attendees to 100.

From Monday, 10 vaccinated adults will also be allowed to gather in homes (it had been five but has been raised), while 30 adults can gather in public outdoor spaces (up from 20).

At 80 per cent, Mr Perrottet also said the government would remove the requirement to wear masks in the office but teachers would still have to wear masks in classrooms.

That is because not all school children will be vaccinated.

NSW will also increase caps on gatherings at 80 per cent, with 20 adults allowed to gather in homes.

Outdoors, 50 people will be able to congregate, while 3000 people can attend ticketed outdoor events providing a Covid-safe plan has been submitted.

*Queensland has recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says.

She said there was one new case in hotel quarantine and another five cases on a bulk carrier ship off the western coast of Cape York.

There were 20,559 vaccinations conducted at Queensland government centres yesterday.

“We are so close to that 50 per cent mark being fully vaccinated,” Ms D’Ath said while visiting Mackay.

“Over the entire state, plus Queensland Health, our GPs, our community pharmacies, we have now delivered over 5 million doses, so that is wonderful but of course we want those numbers to keep going up.”

*Victoria has recorded 1,638 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and two deaths.

The deaths take the toll of this outbreak to 70.

The new infections were found from 77,238 test results processed on Wednesday — a record for the state.

They take the number of active cases across the state to 15,074, which is another record high.

The state is still likely days or weeks away from the peak of new infections, with the turning point expected later in the month.

The Burnet Institute modelling behind the state’s roadmap projects the seven-day average could be as high as 2,900 cases later this month. The average currently sits at 1,436.

No positive cases have emerged from the Royal Children’s Hospital after its cancer ward was declared a COVID-19 exposure site yesterday.

A parent visited the hospital for three days and later tested positive, prompting the hospital to order families to quarantine on the ward.

The chief executive of the hospital, Bernadette McDonald, said all children and staff had so far returned negative results. She said no staff had been furloughed as they were all wearing full personal protective equipment.

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Soul and rock star Tina Turner has sold the rights to her music catalogue to international music company Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) — the latest vocal artist to strike such a deal for their work. 

In a statement, BMG said it would “be a partner in all of Tina Turner’s music interests”  

The deal includes Turner’s artist’s share of her recordings, her music publishing writer’s share, neighbouring rights and name, image, and likeness.

The company has not disclosed how much it paid, but industry sources say the figure would be worth at least $68 million .

Turner is referred to as the “Queen of Rock and Roll” and is regarded as one of the greatest music artists of the 20th century. 

“Like any artist, the protection of my life’s work, my musical inheritance, is something personal,” Turner said in a statement. 

“I am confident that with BMG and Warner Music my work is in professional and reliable hands.”

The 81-year-old singer, known for her hit single What’s Love Got to Do with It and cover of The Best, launched her solo career in the 1980s.

Before that, Turner and former husband Ike Turner, who died of a cocaine overdose in 2007, enjoyed huge success in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The pair divorced in 1978 after a stormy marriage, in which she was physically and emotionally abused. 

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France says its ambassador to Australia will return to Canberra after having been withdrawn last month in retaliation for a federal government decision to scrap a $90 billion submarine deal.

Australia’s decision to tear up the deal in favour of a new security arrangement with the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, soured relations with the French government.

Australia has been accused of breaching France’s trust over the deal, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian describing the federal government’s actions as a “stab in the back”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has not returned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls and Trade Minister Dan Tehan has had a number of in-person meetings cancelled during his visit to Paris this week.

In the wake of the AUKUS announcement, France recalled its ambassadors in both Australia and the US, but Australia ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault will now return to Canberra.

“I have now asked our ambassador to return to Canberra with two missions, to help redefine the terms of our relationship with Australia in the future, and to defend our interests in the concrete implementation of the Australian decision to end the program for future submarines,” Mr Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

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Children across much of Africa are to be vaccinated against malaria in a historic moment in the fight against the deadly disease.

Malaria has been one of the biggest scourges on humanity for millennia and mostly kills babies and infants.

Having a vaccine – after more than a century of trying – is among medicine’s greatest achievements.

The vaccine – called RTS,S – was proven effective six years ago.

Now, after the success of pilot immunisation programmes in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi, the World Health Organization says the vaccine should be rolled out across sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission.

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It’s a scene you’d probably only see Down Under – a two-year-old boy wrestling with a two-metre python as his dad stands by and encourages him.

Matt Wright, who runs the Top End Safari camp in the Northern Territory, posted a video of his two-year-old son Banjo grappling with an olive python’s tail, one of the largest snakes in Australia.

Wright, who also hosts the wildly popular National Geographic show Outback Wrangler, captioned the video of his burgeoning wildlife warrior “learning the ropes”.

In the video, Banjo, dressed in his outback khakis, can be seen desperately trying to pull the olive python away from the family’s property.

“Pull him out buddy, pull him out,” Wright said, as Banjo holds onto the snake’s tail.

Banjo wrangles a python. Picture: Matt Wright

“Oh no, he’s wrapped up, here I’ll help you,” he added, as the python wraps himself around the pole and heads towards Wright’s feet.

Wright then lightly moves the python away from the pole, telling Banjo to pull the snake back towards the bushes.

When the snake refuses to be pulled back, Banjo drops the tail and yells, “Oh no, oh no” before running back to his dad.

Wright continues to encourage his son, grabbing Banjo when the toddler almost puts himself in a compromising position.

“Watch out, he’ll bite ya,” Wright said.

“What are we gonna do? Go back and grab the tail. There you go, grab the tail. Two hands! Two hands!”

Banjo appears to lose interest in taking the snake back to the bushes, with Wright trying to encourage his son again.

“Quick, grab him, he’s going to bite Dad,” Wright jokes.

The video was praised by plenty, with many comparing Wright’s relationship with Banjo to the late Steve Irwin’s relationship with Bindi.

Bindi, who now runs Australia Zoo with her brother Robert and mum Terri, was often taken out on wildlife expeditions with her dad, even when she was a toddler.