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Key posts

  • Australia seeks answers from US on spy balloon claims
  • Warning over $20b mortgage shock
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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US-made balloons flew 10 times over China, Beijing claims

Beijing has accused the United States of illegally flying balloons over China 10 times in the past year, escalating its response to Washington’s targeting of its balloon program.

Intelligence officials are gathering information from two unmanned aircraft shot down over Alaska and Yukon at the weekend after more flying objects were identified over Canada and the US.

A surveillance balloon seen over Taiwan in September 2021.Credit:NYT

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that US-made balloons had been detected 10 times since January 2022. On Monday, he gave a veiled warning that China could shoot down any US balloon that enters its airspace.

“It is nothing rare for US balloons to illegally enter other country’s airspace,” he said.

More about this here. 

The latest on Russia and Ukraine

To international news now, and Ukraine is going through ammunition faster than Western allies can supply it.

That’s according to NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.

The comments come ahead of an international meeting of defence ministers on Tuesday, European time. Kyiv hopes the talks will result in further ammunition and training deals.

with Bloomberg

Liberals announced $1.5 million in safety grants not approved by Home Affairs

The former Liberal government announced at least $1.56 million in Safer Communities grants in Labor-held target seats in the final weeks of the 2022 election campaign without submitting them to the Department of Home Affairs for vetting.

The $265 million Safer Communities program, which was criticised by the Australian National Audit Office for a lack of transparency, was topped up with $50 million by former home affairs minister Karen Andrews and assistant minister for community safety Jason Wood – who oversaw the grants – four days before the 2022 election was called.

Liberal MP and former assistant minister for community safety Jason Wood.Credit:Eddie Jim

Responding to questions on notice from Labor senator Deborah O’Neill, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed that 467 grant applications were approved under the Safer Communities program in rounds four, five and six of the program from May 18, 2019.

Read the full story here.

Australia seeks answers from US on spy balloon claims

Australian officials are seeking urgent clarification from their United States counterparts about whether they believe Chinese spy balloons or similar surveillance devices have flown over Australia.

US defence personnel have shot down four objects over America and Canada in the past week, beginning with the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on February 4.

A US State Department official said last week that China had “overflown these surveillance balloons over more than 40 countries across five continents”.

The official added that the Biden administration was directly contacting other countries about the scope of China’s program and to answer their questions.

“We know these balloons are all part of a PRC [People’s Republic of China] fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations,” the State Department official said.

“We are confident that the balloon manufacturer has a direct relationship with China’s military.”

More on this issue here.

Warning over $20b mortgage shock

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages face a $16,500 repayment cliff this year that, along with further interest rate rises from the Reserve Bank, could punch a $20 billion hole in the economy.

Analysis by KPMG suggests those people who took advantage of record-low fixed interest rates in 2020 and 2021 will this year confront a financial hit so large it will slow the economy more than expected by the RBA.

Home buyers on fixed-rate mortgages face a $16,500 jump in their repayments over 12 months, an analysis has found.Credit:Peter Rae

Politicians and some economists fear the economy could be plunged into recession over the next two years as the central bank unleashes its most aggressive tightening of monetary policy in more than three decades.

The Reserve has increased official interest rates at its past nine meetings, taking the cash rate to a 10-year high of 3.35 per cent. Financial markets expect the cash rate to peak at 4.1 per cent in August, suggesting another three rises of a quarter of a percentage point in coming months.

Variable mortgage rates have moved largely in line with the RBA’s increases, but many Australians took advantage of record-low fixed-rate loans during the depths of the COVID pandemic. More than 800,000 of those fixed mortgages are due to reset this year.

Read the full story here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Tuesday, February 14. I’m Caroline Schelle and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day with Broede Carmody.

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

  • In the final weeks of the federal election campaign, the Liberals announced $1.56 million in funding in grants in Labor-held seats without submitting them for vetting.
  • Australian homeowners with fixed-rate mortgages could face a massive spike in repayments..
  • Local officials want clarity from US counterparts about whether they believe Chinese spy balloons have flown over Australia. 
  • Speaking of possible Chinese surveillance, Beijing has claimed the United States has flown more than 10 balloons over its airspace without permission since the start of 2022. The White House says that claim isn’t true.
  • Elsewhere in international news, and NATO’s secretary general has warned that Ukraine is consuming ammunition faster than Western allies are supplying it.
  • And hopes are fading when it comes to finding more survivors in Turkey and Syria following last week’s devastating earthquake. Several children have, however, been pulled alive from the rubble in the last 24 hours or so. The death toll stands at more than 37,000.
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