Australia and Tonga sign letters stipulating disbursement of AUD7 million COVID-19 package

This funding comes in support of Tonga’s Social and Economic Stimulus Package (Phase 3).

AUD2 million has been earmarked for social protection payments: to poor households, to the elderly and disabled, expanding social care-takers services, and community policing.

The remaining AUD5 million will be for continued support to businesses and employees who have been affected by the global outbreak of COVID-19, in support of Tonga’s COVID-19 Business Recovery Program.

Australia to resume repatriation flights from India

The government's controversial ban, which made it an offence for people to try and re-enter Australia after being in India within the prior 14 days, began on Monday and was due to finish on 15 May.

Morrison said the National Security Committee met yesterday and agreed it saw "no need to extend it beyond that date".

"The original decision to put in place that biosecurity order until the 15th of May has proved very effective and it will run its full course until that time without any change," he said.

Tonga patrol boat crew host Australian PM Morrison

The patrol boat is currently undergoing maintenance at the HMAS Cairns navy base.

According to the Australian High Commission in Tonga, PM Morrison was in Cairns to announce a $155 million upgrade to the Navy Base, HMAS Cairns.

“The upgrade will enable HMAS Cairns to be the maintenance hub for all of the Guardian-class Patrol Boats throughout the Pacific, supporting Australia’s future vessels.”

The crew of VOEA Ngahau Koula will sail home in the coming week after a period of training.

Australia's India ban criticised as 'racist' rights breach

From Monday, any Australian arriving in the country from India faces fines and up to five years in prison.

It comes after Canberra banned all flights from the virus hotspot until 15 May.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed accusations of racism.

"The same accusations were made against the government over a year ago when we closed the borders to mainland China," he told Sydney radio station 2GB.

"There's no politics or ideology in a pandemic... It's got nothing to do with politics, this is a virus."

Australia anticipates terrorist attack within 12 months - ASIO spy boss

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) director-general Mike Burgess said while the main security threat remained from Sunni Islamic extremist groups, the growth in right-wing extremism was also a major concern.

"Obviously, terrorism threat level remains probable," he said.

"Given the growth we've seen in nationalist and racist violent extremism we anticipate there will be a terrorist attack in this country in the next 12 months.

Australia upgrading bases, expands war games with US

At the same time, he has also defended comments made by Australia's new Defence Minister Peter Dutton that the possibility of conflict with China over Taiwan should not be "discounted".

Morrison was in Darwin to confirm a $747 million upgrade to defence facilities in the Northern Territory, part of $8 billion set to be spent on military infrastructure in northern Australia over the next decade.

The bases are often used for joint Australian-US military training exercises, including an annual rotation of thousands of US Marines.

Australia suspends travel from India

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced this afternoon that all flights from India to Australia would be temporarily halted, as the India continues to deal with a record-breaking Covid-19 outbreak that has plunged its medical system into chaos.

The pause which includes repatriation flights into the Howard Springs facility near Darwin, will last until 15 May and the decision will be reviewed before then.

Morrison said indirect flights through other cities like Doha, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had been paused by their respective governments.

UK and Australia agree 'vast majority' of trade deal

After talks on Friday in London the two said they aim to seal a deal by June.

"Both countries are confident the remaining issues will be resolved, and will now enter a sprint to agree the outstanding details with the aim of reaching agreement in principle," a joint statement said.

It is estimated a deal could add £500m ($694m) to UK GDP over the long-term.

Pacific Covid-19 response high on agenda for NZ and Australia during talks

Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs Aupito William Sio said outbreaks in some Pacific island countries, such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji, are overwhelming for the authorities there.

He made the comments following a meeting with Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja and New Zealand's Minister of State for Trade and Export Growth Phil Twyford in Auckland today.

Australia provokes China anger over scrapped deals

The federal government used new powers to rip up two deals made between the state of Victoria and China.

Canberra said it was backing away from the agreements to protect Australia's national interest.

The Chinese embassy in Australia branded the move "provocative".

It said the action by Canberra was "bound to bring further damage to bilateral relations, and will only end up hurting itself."

"It further shows that the Australian government has no sincerity in improving China-Australia relations," a spokesperson said in a statement.