Australia news LIVE: PM joins Canadian, NZ leaders to call for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza; Minister weighs up July 1 nationwide engineered stone ban

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  • Albanese joins NZ, Canadian PMs to push for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza
  • Seven Palestinians killed in West Bank raid
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Concerns raised about China’s ‘pattern of dangerous actions’ against Philippines

Australia is concerned about a “pattern of dangerous actions” carried out by Chinese vessels against Philippines vessels and crews in the South China Sea, according to a statement.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government shares “graves concerns” of the Philippines government about the acts, including incidents near Scarborough Shoal and at Second Thomas Shoal between December 9 and 10.

a Chinese Coast Guard ship, left, uses its water cannons on a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel as it approaches Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on December 9.Credit: Philippine Coast Guard

“Actions by the Chinese Coast Guard and other Chinese vessels, such as water cannoning and ramming, endanger the peace and security of the region, threaten lives and livelihoods, and create risks of miscalculation,” the statement said.

“Australia has consistently opposed destabilising and coercive actions in the South China Sea, such as unsafe encounters at sea and in the air and the militarisation of disputed features.”

The statement said it was important all states should be able to exercise rights and freedoms, including freedom of navigation consistent with international law.

Ministers weigh up July 1 nationwide ban on engineered stone

Engineered stone could be banned nationwide by next July if state and territory ministers sign off on a draft agreement in a high-stakes meeting on Wednesday as the Commonwealth faces renewed calls to ban imports of the product.

The agreement, circulated among ministers ahead of the meeting, says they accept the findings of a major report on the substance, which is linked to lung disease in tradies, and agree to prohibit its use under work health and safety laws by the second half of next year.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke will meet with his state and territory counterparts to agree on a deadline for the use of engineered stone.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

While all states and territories have declared their support for a ban on the material, ministers have so far stayed silent on their preferred timeline.

But Construction, Forestry and Maritime Employees Union head Zach Smith suggested they would have “blood on their hands” if it wasn’t imposed by July.

“The road to this day has been paved with tragic stories of workers sentenced to death for simply doing their job,” Smith said.

Read more on this story here. 

Albanese joins NZ, Canadian PMs to push for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza

Australia, New Zealand and Canada support a pause in fighting in Gaza and efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire, their leaders said in a joint statement released on Wednesday.

The statement, which condemned Hamas’ October 7 attacks and recognised Israel’s right to defend itself, went on to ask that Israel respect humanitarian law in doing so.

“The recent pause in hostilities allowed for the release of more than 100 hostages and supported an increase in humanitarian access to affected civilians,” it said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made a joint statement with NZ leader Christopher Luxon and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“We want to see this pause resumed and support urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire. This cannot be one-sided. Hamas must release all hostages, stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and lay down its arms.”

The leaders, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, also recommitted to the push for a two-state solution but said there was no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza.

“We support Palestinians’ right to self-determination. We oppose the forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, the re-occupation of Gaza, any reduction in territory, and any use of siege or blockade. We emphasise that Gaza must no longer be used as a platform for terrorism,” it said.

Read more about the statement here.

Seven Palestinians killed in West Bank raid

Overseas, seven Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin overnight, including five in a drone strike during an Israeli raid, the Palestinian health ministry and the Palestinian official news agency WAFA said.

They said the dead included a 13-year-old who died after Israeli forces prevented an ambulance from transferring him to the hospital to receive medical treatment.

Israel’s military confirmed the drone strike, and said it had killed an unspecified number of Palestinians who were spotted hurling explosive devices and firing at its forces.

Israeli soldiers are seen during an army operation, in the Jenin refugee camp, West Bank.Credit: AP

Israeli troops were operating “to expose explosive devices planted under roads to attack the security forces”, the military said in a statement.

The troops found weapons, ammunition and explosive devices, tunnels and an observation control room, and dismantled a bomb making site, the statement said.

Before this attack, the health ministry reported that 275 Palestinians had been killed in the occupied West Bank since the October 7 attack on southern Israel by gunmen of the Islamist movement Hamas operating out of the Gaza Strip.

The UN General Assembly appeared set to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the two-month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas after the United States vetoed such a move in the Security Council.

Here’s more on the issue from Reuters.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Wednesday, December 13. I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started:

  • Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher will release the mid-year budget update today.
  • Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil says fast-tracking tradie visas could trigger a repeat of the 457 visa fiasco, and threaten Australia apprenticeships.
  • Leaders of Australia, New Zealand and Canada said in a joint statement they upport a pause in fighting in Gaza and efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire.
  • A report finds Australians are being swamped by a “Levyathan” of charges and micro-taxes on everything from wild goats to the nation’s biggest banks.
  • Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles has been forced to defend high commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith, insisting the London post will hold a function on January 26.
  • Australia’s first female vascular surgeon has put up her hand to try to wrest Josh Frydenberg’s former seat of Kooyong from teal independent Dr Monique Ryan.
  • Tropical Cyclone Jasper is expected to impact on Queensland’s coast in the coming hours, bringing intense rain and wind with the potential for major damage.
  • Turning overseas, the Palestinian health ministry says seven Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin overnight, including five in a drone strike.
  • And centrist political veteran Donald Tusk has become Poland’s next prime minister, marking the end of eight years of right-wing nationalist rule.

Let’s get started.

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