Major Developments in Australasia & Pacific Islands, Thursday, October 22, 2020


1. The country’s second-largest independent gas producer Santos said today that third-quarter revenue fell 22.6%, hit by a drop in energy prices because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The firm reported revenue of USD 797 million for the September quarter, compared with USD 1.03 billion last year.

2. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned that Australia must prepare to counter prolonged and serious cyberattacks on critical infrastructure that could disrupt entire industries. He warned that a serious penetration of Australia’s energy sector could mean “widespread failure” of electricity networks, disrupting hospitals, transport, banking and food supplies. Security agencies believe China was probably behind a series of cyber raids this year on all levels of government, industry and critical infrastructure, including hospitals, local councils and state-owned utilities.


3. The Director-General of Health announced that the country has two new cases of COVID-19, both of which are imported. The first of the new cases arrived on October 19 from the Netherlands via Dubai. The second arrived on October 21 from Doha. Both individuals were tested on arrival as they developed symptoms on the flight. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility. New Zealand now has 58 active cases and has recorded 1,558 confirmed cases overall.

4. Residents in the country’s latest COVID-19 hotspot of North Shore are reverting to social distancing and wearing masks. A resident of Auckland, who was infected with COVID-19, became the country’s latest source of community transmission in the latest hotspot, North Shore.


5. The East New Britain autonomy committee expressed disappointment with negative statements on the subject of autonomy made by Prime Minister James Marape. A member of the committee Patrick Varagat said the committee was alarmed at the announcement the Parliament is preparing a law to prevent provinces from seeking autonomy or independence. East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga have been campaigning for years for greater power-sharing with the national government, while remaining provinces of PNG.

6. The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville has extended the State of Emergency put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Bougainville had recorded a single case of COVID-19 till date. The case was a returning student whose condition was picked up on arrival. Restrictions on movement and travel have been in place since April and will be enforced until December 17. Maritime borders will have increased security and flights into Bougainville would be monitored closely.


7. Pio Tabaiwalu, one of the founders of the main opposition party, Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) passed away after a long illness yesterday. Tabaiwalu was one of five candidates contesting the party leader’s position to be announced at SODELPA’s Annual General Meeting next month.


8. The Ministry of Health recalled 50 kgs of bags of sugar imported from India which have been found to be unfit for human consumption. The notice was issued by Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, following concerns about the safety of the product expressed on social media. The Ministry of Health’s statement reads: “The public is hereby advised that the recalled food product is not fit for human consumption.”


9. A successful bid for the take over of the Vale nickel plant in Goro is expected to be finalized shortly. Multiple bids by Sofinor of the Northern province keeps falling short, it is alleged that a viable offer is being finalized by a multi-national consortium. A Swiss-based commodity trading company Trafigura has allegedly mounted an offer, but the company has declined all comment on any possible involvement.

10. France’s highest administrative court rejected the campaign accounts of the Caledonia Together party for last year’s provincial elections. The French court has ruled that in the Northern province the party overspent the authorized sum by almost USD 2,000 or 2.7% of the total sum. Consequently, the head of the list Gerard Poadja, has been declared ineligible for a year. The Paris court also declared three other candidates from three other parties ineligible for failing to submit campaign accounts.


11. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the country’s economy to grow at a negative 11.4% in the fiscal year 2020-2021. The economies of the Asia and Pacific region have started to recover “tentatively, but at multiple speeds”. The IMF stated that the region’s economy is expected to contract by 2.2% in 2020 but rebound by 6.9% in 2021.


12. The Parliament unanimously voted to change the constitution to allow Tongan traditions and customs to be applied in the courts. Under the legislative change, introduced by the acting Justice Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, they want Supreme Court Judges to take account of the country’s traditional culture while making decisions. The Clause 89 amendment is subject to a final signature by King Tupou VI before it becomes law.


13. The total number of COVID-19 infections in the territory have crossed 5,000 while the death toll due to the virus rose to 19 yesterday. There are a total of 1,606 active cases of COVID-19, including 70 at a Tahiti high school, which was closed yesterday. At least 71 people are in hospital, including 18 in intensive care. The COVID-19 outbreak in the country has particularly worsened since the borders were reopened and mandatory quarantine requirements were abolished in July to boost tourism.


14. Another COVID-19 related death was recorded in Guam taking the territory’s overall death toll to 67 due to the virus. There are a total of 3,886 cases in the territory, with just under 1,500 being active. Governor Lou Leon Gurrero continued to appeal to the public to stay vigilant in adhering to measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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