Australia is now the first country to allow psychiatrists to prescribe certain psychedelic substances to patients with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Beginning Saturday, Australian physicians can prescribe doses of MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for PTSD. Psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, can be given to people who have hard-to-treat depression. The country put the two drugs on the list of approved medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Scientists in Australia were surprised by the move, which was announced in February but took effect July 1. One scientist said it puts Australia "at the forefront of research in this field." Chris Langmead, deputy director of the Neuromedicines Discovery Centre at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said there have been very few advancements on treatment of persistent mental health issues in the last 50 years. After years of waiting, medical marijuana sold in Louisiana The growing cultural acceptance has led two U.S. states to approve measures for their use: Oregon was the first to legalize the adult use of psilocybin, and Colorado's voters decriminalized psilocybin in 2022. Days ago, President Joe Biden's youngest brother said in a radio interview that the president has been "very open-minded" in conversations the two have had about the benefits of psychedelics as a form of medical treatment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated psilocybin as a "breakthrough therapy" in 2018, a label that's designed to speed the development and review of drugs to treat a serious condition. Psychedelics researchers have benefited from federal grants, including Johns Hopkins, and the FDA released draft guidance late last month for researchers designing clinical trials testing psychedelic drugs as potential treatments for a variety of medical conditions. New Zealand law to make medical marijuana widely available Still, the American Psychiatric Association has not endorsed the use of psychedelics in treatment, noting the FDA has yet to offer a final determination. And medical experts in the U.S. and elsewhere, Australia included, have cautioned that more research is needed on the drugs' efficacy and the extent of the risks of psychedelics, which can cause hallucinations. US growing largest crop of marijuana for research in 5 years "There are concerns that evidence remains inadequate and moving to clinical service is premature; that incompetent or poorly equipped clinicians could flood the space; that treatment will be unaffordable for most; that formal oversight of training, treatment, and patient outcomes will be minimal or ill-informed," said Dr. Paul Liknaitzky, head of Monash University's Clinical Psychedelic Lab. Canada now world's largest legal marijuana marketplace Plus, the drugs will be expensive in Australia — about $10,000 (roughly $6,600 U.S. dollars) per patient for treatment. Uruguay is betting on exports of medical marijuana Litnaitzky said the opportunity for Australians to access the drugs for specific conditions is unique. "There's excitement about drug policy progress," he said, "... about the prospect of being able to offer patients more suitable and tailored treatment without the constraints imposed by clinical trials and rigid protocols." Thailand approves medical marijuana
New program by Australia, IFC to mobilise $50 million to support post-COVID inclusive growth in Bangladesh
The IFC and the Australian High Commission in Dhaka have partnered together on a new project to help create more opportunities for inclusive and sustainable private investment flows in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Economic Engagement Program–Private Sector Development Partnership (BEEP-PSDP) project will support emerging needs after the COVID-19 pandemic and promote economic growth, resilience, and inclusivity by aiming to mobilize over $50 million of investment in key growth sectors. The collaboration aligns with the Bangladesh's development plans and the partners’ strategic priorities, with a focus on revitalizing the private sector and facilitating a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. "This project will build upon our strong track record in Bangladesh, while adapting to the new requirements that have arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Martin Holtmann, IFC Country Manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal. “We are excited about the opportunities this project will generate for enhancing the business environment and encouraging financial access and inclusion, particularly for women.” Jeremy Bruer, the Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh said the partnership demonstrates their dedication to supporting economic policies, strengthening institutions, and promoting inclusive private sector development in Bangladesh. “By working together, we can achieve a sustainable and fair recovery from the impacts of COVID-19,” he said. Bangladesh aims to become an upper-middle-income nation by 2031 and recognises the necessity of private sector creativity, technology education, and foreign direct investment (FDI). China lifts ban on Australian timber imports in another sign of improving bilateral relations The BEEP-PSDP project, which is expected to run from 2023 to 2027, is intended to improve competitiveness and diversification, enhance access and inclusion, and promote sustainability and resilience in key economic areas, such as energy, agribusiness, and housing. The project will work closely with the Government of Bangladesh, relevant ministries, and other development partners to promote public-private dialogue and collaboration for shared objectives under three pillars. The first pillar will focus on reforming laws and regulationsto improve the business environment to attract more inclusive private investment, especially in sectors affected by COVID-19. One of its goals is to create opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The second pillar will improve access and inclusion in the financial sector. The project will work closely with financial institutions to promote financial inclusion and speed up the transition to a greener financial sector. Bangladesh-Australia have huge opportunities to expand trade: BGMEA President This will include introducing new and inclusive financial products to increase access to finance, with a special focus on women borrowers and those who have limited access to banking services. The third pillar adapts and seizes strategic opportunities that fall outside the scope of the first two pillars.
Australia's House of Representatives voted overwhelming Wednesday for a referendum to be held this year on creating an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, an advocate aiming to give the nation's most disadvantaged ethnic minority more say on government policy. While the Voice would advocate for Indigenous interests, it would not have a vote on laws, and debate for and against the elected body has become increasingly heated and divisive. The 121-to-25 House vote that approved the referendum being held does not reflect the level of lawmakers' support for enshrining the Voice in the constitution. The opposition conservative Liberal Party voted in support of giving Australians a choice at a referendum but is also campaigning for the Voice to be rejected by the public. Also read: Australian lawmaker breaks ranks to support Indigenous Voice The Senate will vote on the bill in June, and the bill needs majority support to ensure that Australia's first referendum since 1999 takes place between October and December this year. A majority of senators have already flagged their support. Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman to hold the role, said the campaigning would begin in earnest with a successful Senate vote. She had "no doubt" the referendum would succeed. "A yes vote at a referendum ... will move Australia forward for everyone. It will be a new chapter in our country's story," Burney told reporters. Also Read: Australian opposition against Indigenous Voice in Parliament "And a yes vote will make a practical difference — I cannot stress that enough — the Voice will make a practical difference. Because the solutions to so many of our challenges can be found in the knowledge and the wisdom of local (Indigenous) communities," Burney added. Proponents hope the Voice will improve living standards for Indigenous Australians, who account for 3.2% of Australia's population and are the most nation's most disadvantaged ethnic group. Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan, a racism law watchdog, has warned that focusing the public debate on race emboldens racists and exposes the Indigenous population to abuse and vilification. The Liberal Party and the Nationals party, which formed a conservative coalition government for nine years until elections a years ago, argue the Voice would create a racial divide. Opposition leader Peter Dutton has told Parliament the proposal would permanently divide Australians by race. "It will have an Orwellian effect where all Australians are equal, but some Australians are more equal than others," Dutton said. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who committed his center-left Labor Party government on election night last year to holding the referendum, said "scare campaigns" against the Voice would not find traction among most Australians. "Australians won't succumb to their appeals to fear and their ever-more ludicrous invitations to jump at our own shadows," Albanese said in a recent speech. Speaking in support of the Voice, government minister Tim Watts urged his fellow lawmakers to address Australia's history of refusing to recognize or listen to its Indigenous people. Watts quoted his own ancestor as a cautionary example: John Watts, a 19th century colonial lawmaker who had justified state-condoned extrajudicial police shootings of Indigenous Outback tribes. "The natives must be taught to feel the mastery of the whites," John Watts had told the Queensland state Parliament in 1861. "The natives, knowing no law, nor entertaining any fears but those of the carbine (rifle): there were no other means of ruling them," John Watts had added. His descendant, Tim Watts, urged lawmakers in Parliament to: "Take this moment to be good ancestors." Opinion polls show the Voice has majority public support. But many observers say support is not yet high enough to indicate a successful referendum. Of the 44 referendums held since the constitution took effect in 1901, only eight have been carried and none since 1977. No referendum has ever been passed without the bipartisan support the major political parties. The Voice was recommended in 2017 by a group of 250 Indigenous leaders who met at Uluru, a landmark sandstone rock in central Australia that is a scared site to traditional owners. They were delegates of the First Nations National Constitutional Convention that the then-government had asked for advice on how the Indigenous population could be acknowledged in the constitution. The conservative government immediately rejected the prospect of the Voice, which it likened to a third chamber of Parliament.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday he's curtailing his upcoming trip to the Indo-Pacific, scrapping what was to be a historic stop in Papua New Guinea as well as a visit to Australia for a gathering with fellow leaders of the so-called Quad partnership so he can focus on debt limit talks in Washington. The scuttling of two of the three legs of the overseas trip is a foreign policy setback for an administration that has made putting a greater focus on the Pacific region central to its global outreach. Biden said he still plans to depart on Wednesday for Hiroshima, Japan, for a Group of Seven summit with leaders from some of the world's major economies. He will return to the U.S. on Sunday. “I’m postponing the Australia portion of the trip and my stop in Papua New Guinea in order to be back for the final negotiations with congressional leaders," Biden said at the start of a Jewish American Heritage Month event at the White House. He added, “The nature of the presidency is addressing many of the critical matters all at once. So I’m confident we’re going to continue to make progress toward avoiding the default and fulfilling America’s responsibility as a leader on the world stage.” Biden said he spoke to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier on Tuesday to inform him he was postponing a visit to Australia and invited him to Washington for an official state visit at a yet-to-be determined date. White House staff broke the news to Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape. White House officials did not offer an immediate response to questions about when Biden might reschedule visits to the two countries. “Revitalizing and reinvigorating our alliances and advancing partnerships like the Quad remains a key priority for the President,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “This is vital to our ability to advance our foreign policy goals and better promote global stability and prosperity. We look forward to finding other ways to engage with Australia, the Quad, Papua New Guinea and the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum in the coming year.” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has invited Albanese, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Pacific Island leaders to come to Hiroshima during the G-7. Albanese in an Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview said that the Quad leaders are now hoping to hold a meeting in Hiroshima. “We’ll also hopefully be able to find a time when the four of us can sit down,” Albanese said. “We will have to organize the logistics of the Quad meeting now in Sydney and we’ll be discussing with our partners in the U.S., but also Japan and India over the next day or so.” Biden had been scheduled to travel on to Papua New Guinea to meet with Pacific Island leaders and then to Australia for a meeting of the leaders of the Quad partnership, made up of the U.S., Australia, India and Japan. The Papua New Guinea stop would have been the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the island country of more than 9 million people. The Quad partnership first formed during the response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 230,000 people. Since coming into office, Biden has tried to reinvigorate the Quad as part of his broader effort to put greater U.S. focus on the Pacific and counter increasing economic and military assertiveness by China in the region. Biden announced his decision soon after he wrapped up a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies, D-N.Y., for talks on the debt limit standoff. Earlier Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby expressed administration officials' frustration that the debt talks are having an impact on the president's dealings on the international stage. “We wouldn’t have to have this conversation. I wouldn’t have to answer these questions if Congress just did the right thing,” Kirby said. Some Republican lawmakers questioned Biden's decision to travel overseas considering the consequences of the debt limit talks. “I think he should not leave and he should focus on the debt limit here at home,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. With the brief stop in Papua New Guinea to meet with Pacific Island leaders, Biden had hoped to demonstrate that the United States is committed to remaining engaged for the long term in the Pacific Islands. The area has received diminished attention from the U.S. in the aftermath of the Cold War and China has increasingly filled the vacuum — through increased aid, development and security cooperation. Biden has said that he’s committed to changing that dynamic. Last September, Biden hosted leaders from more than a dozen Pacific Island countries at the White House, announcing a new strategy to help to assist the region on climate change and maritime security. His administration also recently opened embassies in the Solomon Islands and Tonga, and has plans to open one in Kiribati. As vice president, Biden saw up close how domestic politics can complicate foreign policy during the 2013 government shutdown. President Barack Obama was forced to bail on attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the East Asia Summit in Brunei as well as a visit to Malaysia and the Philippines in the midst of a government shutdown as he negotiated with GOP leaders. President Bill Clinton opted to skip his scheduled participation in the APEC summit in Japan in the midst of the 1995 government shutdown. He opted to send Vice President Al Gore in his place.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has ruled out a so-called Quad summit taking place in Sydney without President Joe Biden, saying the four leaders will talk at the Group of Seven meeting this weekend in Japan. Albanese said Wednesday he understands why Biden pulled out of the summit to focus on debt limit talks in Washington since they are crucial to the economy. The summit including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had been scheduled for May 24. “The blocking and the disruption that’s occurring in domestic politics in the United States, with the debt ceiling issue, means that, because that has to be solved prior to 1st June — otherwise there are quite drastic consequences for the U.S. economy, which will flow on to the global economy — he understandably has had to make that decision,” Albanese told reporters. Biden “expressed very much his disappointment” at being unable to come to the Sydney summit and to the national capital Canberra a day earlier to address Parliament, Albanese said. The four leaders will soon be together in Hiroshima, Japan, for the Group of Seven summit and are planning to meet there, he said. Also Read: Quad voices deep concern at "deteriorating situation" in Myanmar “The Quad is an important body and we want to make sure that it occurs at leadership level and we’ll be having that discussion over the weekend," Albanese said. He said Modi will visit Sydney next week, noting the Indian leader was scheduled to give an address to the Indian diaspora at a sold-out 20,000-seat stadium on Tuesday. But Kishida will not visit. Also Read: Quad FMs, wary of China’s might, push Indo-Pacific option “Prime Minister Modi will be here next week for a bilateral meeting with myself. He will also have business meetings, he’ll hold a very public event ... in Sydney,” Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “I look forward to welcoming him to Sydney,” Albanese said. “Prime Minister Kishida of Japan was just coming for the Quad meeting. There wasn’t a separate bilateral program.” Also Read: Beijing wants Dhaka not to join Quad Albanese said it was “disappointing” that Biden decided he could not come. “The decision of President Biden meant that you can’t have a Quad leaders’ meeting when there are only three out of the four there,” Albanese said.
Bangladesh and Australia have immense potential to enhance bilateral trade by further deepening collaboration and cooperation, said Faruque Hassan, President of BGMEA. Trade between the two countries had grown considerably over the past years and more opportunities still lie ahead that could benefit both sides if reaped together, he said. He came up with the observations during a meeting with Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Australian government, in Dhaka on May 15. Brendan Hodgson, Director, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives Section at Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Megan Jones, Assistant Secretary, Indian Ocean and South Asia RegionalAustralian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia; and Louisa Bochner, Adviser, office of the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs ; Jeremy Bruer, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh were also present at the meeting. The meeting was also attended by Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, State Minister for the ICT Division, Government of Bangladesh; Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury, MP, Deputy Minister for Education, Government of Bangladesh; and Russell T. Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS). They had discussions about different issues, including potential areas of expanding trade and investment between Australia and Bangladesh. Issues relevant to Bangladesh’s RMG industry including its prospects and preparedness to continue the growth momentum were discussed during the meeting. BGMEA President Faruque Hassan briefed the Australian Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs about the huge progress made by Bangladesh’s RMG industry in terms of workplace safety, environmental sustainability, and workers' rights and welfare. He said Bangladesh was interested in importing more cotton and wool from Australia to meet the growing demand of the RMG and textile industry. The BGMEA President informed the Australian Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs about about the BGMEA’s initiative to organize the Bangladesh Apparel Summit in Australia on 18th July 2023 and called on him to expend support in organizing the event. He also sought cooperation from Australia in developing knowledge and skills of the students of BGMEA University of Fashion and Technology (BUFT) in textile, apparel, fashion, design and business through collaboration with leading Australian universities and fashion institutes. He expressed thanks to the Australian government for its decision to continue duty-free market access for Bangladesh. “It would support Bangladesh in maintaining the momentum of its economic growth after the LDC graduation,” Faruque Hassan added.
Welcoming Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook, Australia has said it seeks a region where “no country dominates, and no countries are dominated,” and the country thinks building a region like that requires efforts by all countries in the region. “We welcome the Bangladesh government’s Indo-Pacific Outlook in that context. I particularly welcome the point in the Indo-Pacific Outlook that argues for an inclusive region,” Australian Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts said while responding to a question from UNB in a group session. He laid emphasis on a “strategic equilibrium” where each country is able to make its own choices about its future -- “free from coercion”, and where sovereignty is respected. Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook echoes many of Australia's shared principles for the region, he said. Watts said Australia's vision for the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region is “peaceful, prosperous, and resilient” -- a region that is governed by rules, norms and international law. “I think that reflects the Australian government's desire for a region where the interests of small nations are respected, and where all countries can make decisions for themselves, and where their sovereignty is respected,” he said. Also Read: A seamless transition into an Indo-Pacific is to our collective advantage: Jaishankar
Britain's free trade agreements with New Zealand and Australia will come into force by the end of this month, the leaders from the three nations said Friday. The announcement came while the prime ministers from the two Southern Hemisphere nations are in London for the coronation of King Charles III. The deals are part of Britain's efforts to expand its economic ties after it left the European Union. Both deals were first agreed to in 2021. New Zealand officials say its deal will help boost sales of products like wine, butter, beef and honey, and will increase the size of its economy by up to 1 billion New Zealand dollars ($629 million). New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was a gold-standard agreement. "The market access outcomes are among the very best New Zealand has secured in any trade deal,” Hipkins said in a statement. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the deal with New Zealand reflected the close relationship between the nations. “This deal will unlock new opportunities for businesses and investors across New Zealand and the United Kingdom, drive growth, boost jobs, and, most importantly, build a more prosperous future for the next generation,” Sunak said in a statement. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it would mean more market access for its exporters. “So for beef, for our sheep products, for our seafood, for our other products it will mean much greater access to the British market,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview. Albanese said it would also mean greater access for younger Australians to work in Britain and vice versa after the terms of a working holiday arrangement were expanded. A similar scheme between New Zealand and Britain has also been expanded, increasing the length of working visas from two years to three years and the maximum eligible age from 30 to 35.
Following a boundary change, Melbourne has surpassed Sydney as Australia's most populated city for the first time since the 19th-century gold rush. Sydney has proudly maintained the position for over 100 years, reports BBC. However, as the population in Melbourne's outskirts grows, the city borders have been stretched to cover the Melton region, it said. According to the most recent government figures, Melbourne has a population of 4,875,400, which is 18,700 higher than Sydney. Read More: Australian lawmaker breaks ranks to support Indigenous Voice The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines a city's "significant urban area" as any linked suburb having a population of more than 10,000 persons. "Until the 2021 census definition, the Sydney significant area had a higher population than Melbourne. However, with the amalgamation of Melton into Melbourne in the latest... classification, Melbourne has more people than Sydney - and has had since 2018,” Andrew Howe of Australian Bureau of Statistics told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, which described the redrawn boundary as "a technicality". Greater regions of a city, according to the Bureau of Statistics, take into consideration its "functional area" and include individuals that routinely socialize, shop, or work inside the city but may live in small towns or rural areas around it, the report also said. The federal government, on the other hand, anticipated that Greater Melbourne will surpass Greater Sydney in 2031-32. Read More: Ten journalists visiting Australia for skills, capacity building in mass media It is not the first time Melbourne has held the title of Australia's largest city. Melbourne grew rapidly and outnumbered Sydney until 1905 as a result of the late 19th century gold rush, which saw people flock to the state of Victoria.
The Australian defense minister says his country has made no promises to the United States that Australia would support its ally in any future conflict over Taiwan in exchange for American nuclear-powered submarines. U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of Australia and the United Kingdom announced in San Diego last week that Australia would purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet amid growing concern about China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific. Australian critics of the deal argue that the United States would not hand over as many as five of its Virginia-class submarines without assurances that they would be made available in the event of a conflict with China over Taiwan. Beijing says the self-ruled island democracy, which split with China in 1949 after a civil war, is obliged to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary. Also Read: Chinese ships cut internet of Taiwan's outlying islands But Defense Minister Richard Marles said his government had given the United States no assurances over Taiwan. “Absolutely not, and I couldn’t be more unequivocal than that,” Marles told Australian Broadcasting Corp. ’s “Insiders” news program on Sunday. Also Read: US approves selling Taiwan munitions worth $619 million “I want to make it really clear that the moment that there is a flag on the first of those Virginia-class submarines in the early 2030s is the moment that that submarine will be under the complete control of the Australian government of the day and again, no one would have expected that to be any different. I mean, that is obviously the basis upon which this is happening,” he added. Australia, like the United States, has a policy of “strategic ambiguity" in refusing to say how it would react to a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Australia and the U.S. have also shared a bilateral defense treaty since 1951 that obliges them to consult if either comes under attack but does not commit them to the other's defense. Former Australian Prime Ministers Paul Keating and Malcolm Turnbull are among the critics who question how Australia could maintain its sovereignty with such heavy reliance on U.S. technology and military personnel under the submarine deal. The AUKUS deal — named after Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — provoked an angry reaction from China, which accused Australia of going down a “path of error and danger." Marles said while the submarines could be used in the case of a conflict, the main intention was for them to protect vital trade routes through the South China Sea and contribute to regional stability. “Nuclear-powered submarines have obviously the capacity to operate in the context of war, but the primary intent here is to make our contribution to the stability of the region,” Marles said.