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Australia and US must defend freedom and security, says Biden

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Biden and Albanese arrive at state dinner

Matthew Cranston

The state dinner for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the South Lawn of the White House allowed a small group of media inside the exclusive event attended by 325 people.

The grand marquee, about three tennis courts in size, was filled by the cream of Australian and American business leaders on Thursday (AEDT), including Macquarie Group chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake and the largest asset manager in the world, Blackstone’s Jon Gray.

Joe Biden speaks during the state dinner for Anthony Albanese in Washington. AP

Diplomats such as Australian ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd sat chatting to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and, across the candlelit table, US congressman Michael McCaul, who no doubt had the topic of a new US speaker on his mind after being quizzed by journalists on his way in.

Dinner had yet to start by 8.50pm (11.50am AEDT) as the crowd waited for the two leaders to toast each other.

When they finally took the stage, Biden described Australians as “bold of heart” as he toasted to “partnership and mateship and the future we will create together”.

Albanese said he didn’t know “how he is going to top this for date night” with partner Jody.

“It’s all down hill from here” he said.

Palaszczuk affirms backing for $5b CopperString project

Mark Ludlow

The Palaszczuk government says it is still committed to the $5 billion CopperString transmission line from Townsville to Mount Isa despite Glencore announcing it will close copper mines in the region within two years.

The mine closure decision cast doubt on the Swiss mining giant’s other operations in north-west Queensland, including its copper smelter and zinc assets, although Glencore said it was committed to further investment in Mount Isa.

Glencore’s shock decision raised concerns about the economic viability of the 1100-kilometre CopperString high-voltage line, which the state Labor government took over this year.

A spokeswoman for Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said the CopperString project – which will unlock the renewable energy zone near Hughenden, as well as connect mineral projects in Mount Isa – was still feasible.

Read the full story here.

At least 16 dead in US shooting


The US has suffered another mass shooting, with at least 16 dead in Lewiston, Maine, according to CNN.

Multiple law enforcement sources said at least 16 people were dead, with up to 60 injured.

Police have released footage of the alleged shooter.  Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office

Police are searching for the alleged shooter.


US and Australia must defend freedom, security: Biden

Mark Ludlow

Joe Biden says the United States and Australia must defend freedom and values, despite growing global uncertainty.

“We must continue to advance freedom, security and prosperity for all, continue the vital work in both our nations of building strong partnerships, of upholding nation-to-nation commitments and to native peoples, continue to defend the values of great democracies – freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom from fear – and continue to build a future worthy of our highest hopes, even when it’s tough, especially when it’s tough,” the Us president said on Thursday (AEDT) at the White House dinner for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Albanese said Australia had “no greater friend” than the United States.

“We stand as close as we have ever been and I think, after this week, closer than we have ever been,” he said.

“We are firm allies, strengthening defence cooperation through AUKUS and creating more economic opportunities for our peoples and our region. Australians are always ready to play our part. Most importantly, our nations are close friends – friends who admire each other’s qualities. I think we get each other.”

Inside the White House state dinner

Andrew Tillett

The White House state dinner for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is in full swing and media have been let in for a brief moment to capture the leaders giving their toasts.

A military band is entertaining the crowd with easy-listening music as guests mingle. Chandeliers hang from the marquee’s ceiling, with the drapes lit in a palette of pastels.

Guests are sitting at candlelit tables, while the centrepieces include a mix of American and Australian flowers.

Qld records $13.9b surplus

Mark Ludlow

The Queensland government has recorded a bigger-than-expected budget surplus for 2022-23.

The report on state finances tabled on Thursday showed Queensland’s budget surplus was $1.625b higher than the $12 billion forecast in the June budget.

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the larger surplus was due to the strong performance of the labour market and high coal prices.

“The $13.96 billion surplus is the largest surplus ever recorded in Queensland’s history,” he said.

“Our progressive coal royalty tiers are delivering for Queenslanders right across the state, as they rightfully should, at a time when coal producers are benefitting from extraordinary prices.”

A new coal royalty scheme delivered a $15 billion coal royalty bonanza for the Palaszczuk government, but miners claim the higher taxes will drive revenue out of the state.

Albanese commits $69m to Gladstone hydrogen hub

Mark Ludlow

The Albanese government has committed $69.2 million to develop the Central Queensland hydrogen hub in Gladstone.

The investment – which follows recent agreements for hydrogen hubs in the Hunter Valley and South Australia’s Spencer Gulf – will help build infrastructure including a hydrogen electrolyser, pipeline and underground hydrogen storage.

The hub could produce up to 292,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year by 2031.

The consortium building the hub will be led by state-owned energy company Stanwell Corporation, with industry matching the Commonwealth’s contribution for a total investment of $138 million.

Construction will commence early next year, with the project operational by mid-2027.

“Gladstone has strong foundations to host a thriving hydrogen industry, creating thousands of local jobs and position Australia as a renewable energy superpower,” federal Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said.

Victorian government to sell electricity to schools, hospitals and industry

Ben Potter

Victoria’s new Premier, Jacinta Allan, says the revived State Electricity Commission will sell energy to manufacturers, schools and hospitals as she ramps up the state’s clean energy transition amid a slowdown in new project commitments nationwide.

Allan will announce a 10-year strategic plan for the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) under which it will be responsible for buying and selling the output of a dozen solar, wind and battery projects around the state under long-term contracts.

The news was reported in The Age, owned by Nine Entertainment, which also publishes The Australian Financial Review.

The plan is much wider than announcements first made by former premier Dan Andrews to revive the SECV ahead of last year’s state election, which Labor won with an increased majority.

The agency will start by selling energy to government schools, hospitals and standalone services, and is expected to service all state government electricity needs by 2025.

Heavy industrial users that contract for large amounts of energy will follow. There are no plans for the SECV to sell electricity to households, The Age reported.


Business, political elite top White House guest list

Trudy Harris

Prominent business executives and politicians are among the guests on Wednesday night (Thursday AEDT) at the White House for a state dinner honouring Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Many of the guests highlight President Joe Biden’s push to boost ties between the US and Australia on critical minerals, technology and space.

Caroline Kennedy, US ambassador to Australia, and Edwin Schlossberg arrive at the dinner. AP

Attendees include Macquarie Group CEO Shemara Wikramanayake, Lynas chief executive Amanda Lacaze, BlueScope chief executive Mark Vassella, University of Canberra chancellor Tom Calma and CSIRO board member Professor Alex Brown.

Also at the dinner are New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn, former Federal Reserve governor Kevin Warsh, Peter V’landys, head of the Australian Rugby League Commission and Australian astronaut Andrew Thomas.

Top American businesspeople are also attending including Bechtel Group chairman Brendan Bechtel, Caterpillar’s Jim Umpleby, Brian Sikes of Cargill and John Stankey of AT&T.

The invitation list highlights Australia’s rising importance under the Biden administration, part of a broader US push to strengthen ties with allies in the Indo-Pacific region and boost American engagement to counter China’s military and economic presence.

Joe and Jill Biden (right) welcome Anthony Albanese and partner Jodie Haydon to the White House dinner.  AP

Biden’s senior Cabinet secretaries and advisers attended, including climate envoy John Kerry and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with state governors and members of Congress. Ambassador Kevin Rudd and wife Therese, and US ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy are also on the list.

Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, Venturehouse Group founder Mark Ein and Denny’s chair Brenda Lauderback were invited to the state dinner, the fourth hosted by Biden in office – and the third this year.

Joining them were Ryan McInerney of Visa and venture capitalist Jeremy Liew, as well as celebrities and executives from the entertainment and tech industries, including Motion Picture Association of America chairman Charles Rivkin, Australian rapper Kid Laroi and Alphabet chief financial officer Ruth Porat.

The US and Australia are also collaborating with Alphabet’s Google on a project to help deliver high-speed internet connectivity to Pacific islands. Also announced as part of the visit are plans by Microsoft to invest $5 billion in Australia to expand cloud computing and AI infrastructure over the next two years.

The dinner honouring Albanese aims to make amends after Biden was forced to scrap a visit in May to Australia as he dealt with a debt-limit crisis in Washington. Only three Australian prime ministers have been honoured with a state dinner at the White House since 2000 — with the last being then-president Donald Trump’s dinner for Scott Morrison in 2019.

Netanyahu: Israel is preparing a ‘crushing’ ground invasion


Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza, its prime minister has said as he cast the looming war in biblical terms.

Benjamin Netanyahu used a prime-time television address on Thursday (AEDT) to say Israel’s “hellfire” had “already eliminated thousands of terrorists”, adding every single member of Hamas was “doomed” and “this is only the beginning”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will lead “a crushing victory over our enemies”. AP

It was the first time the Israeli leader had explicitly referenced a ground invasion, but he would not be drawn on the timing of any operation, insisting only that he, his war cabinet and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) would make the decision when to begin.

He also made no mention of a humanitarian ceasefire despite growing international calls to help civilians trapped in dire conditions inside Gaza.

“It is my responsibility” to lead Israel to “a crushing victory over our enemies,” he said.

“We will realise the prophecy of Isaiah 60:18 – ‘Violence shall no more be heard in your land’.”

The biblical verse refers to a holy city of Zion being created in Israel for an oppressed people.

“Light will defeat darkness,” he added.

Netanyahu, who struck a defiant tone throughout his brief speech, has been facing questions over when Israel will invade.

The IDF are reportedly pushing for the green light as soon as possible, while media outlets close to the prime minister have said he is concerned that a ground invasion of Gaza will open up a second front with Hezbollah.

“I will not elaborate on when, how or how many,” Netanyahu said.

“I will also not elaborate on the various calculations we are making, which the public is mostly unaware of and that is how things should be.”

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