Turnbull takes record delegation to China

Malcolm Turnbull will lead Australia’s biggest-ever trade and business delegation to China next week.

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About 1000 business leaders will join the prime minister, three ministers and two state premiers on the two-day visit, which will include talks and banquets with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

The visit comes amid a slowing of the Chinese economy, which is crucial for Australian jobs and growth, and concerns continuing about China’s militarisation of islands in the South China Sea.

Business chiefs will be seeking to build on the China-Australia free trade agreement which came into effect in December, cutting tariffs across many economic sectors.

The Chinese economy is changing from one based on growth in exports to a greater consumer focus.

Australia is seeking to open more doors to trade in food and agriculture, financial services, aged care, education and urban services.

As Chinese visitors to Australia top the one million mark, the prime minister will launch a new Tourism Australia promotion in Shanghai.

He’ll also launch an innovation “landing pad” for start-ups.

Over two days he is expected to have about four hours of talks with the two Chinese leaders.

In global security talks, Mr Turnbull is expected to underline Australia’s position that China’s actions in the South China Sea are raising anxieties and tensions among its neighbours.

Australia believes disputes of the ownership of the various reefs should be settled by international law and the economic growth of the region depends on peace and stability.

Fifteen Australian chief executives will sit down with their Chinese counterparts for a business roundtable, which will report to the prime minister.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tasmanian leader Will Hodgman will also be involved in trade and investment talks.

Giants vow to go after Swans in AFL

GWS look up to their cross town AFL rivals, but have vowed to go after the Swans in Saturday’s Sydney derby.

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The Giants (1-1) have lost seven of the eight previous derbies to Sydney (2-0) and all three SCG encounters between the two sides, but are full of confidence after an upset win over Geelong.

The vast experience gap between the clubs has closed considerably this season, with Sydney bringing in several youngsters to replace five departed veterans and GWS acquiring crafty forward Steve Johnson.

Sydney have, however, kicked 38 goals to 17 in their first two games.

“They are a very impressive outfit as a team and as a club,” Giants’ forward Rhys Palmer said on Friday at the SCG.

“We sort of look up to them and the way they go about it.

“We do respect them quite a lot, but we know we have some really good players and we’ve got to stick to our strengths.

“We want to go after them and we’ll always respect opposition, but we know what we want to do and we’ll definitely take it up to them tomorrow night.”

Palmer is one of just four Giants outside former Swan Shane Mumford to have won at the SCG, doing so twice during his Fremantle days.

He said the key to doing well at the SCG started in the midfield.

“They (Sydney) have got a great midfield, (Dan) Hannebery, (Kieren) Jack, (Josh) Kennedy, so we’ve got to beat them and nullify their influence on the game,” Palmer said.

The red-hot Swans have a good idea of what to expect from GWS.

“Looking at the game last week against Geelong, they were very strong inside – they won the contested ball considerably,” Swans’ forwards coach Brett Kirk told AAP.

“They showed some speed and Tom Scully is having a really good start to the season.”

Palmer said Mumford hadn’t talked up playing against his old club.

“He’s been talking to (Giants general manager football operations) Wayne Campbell about a new contract for a couple of weeks now, so he’ll be looking to continue his great form,” Palmer said.

“Playing against your old side, you like to do your best and prove them wrong.

“We saw Stevie J doing it last week and I’m sure ‘Mummy’ will be doing it tomorrow night.”

Both teams have brought back a veteran.

Forward-midfielder Ben McGlynn replaces Dean Towers in the Swans’ line-up and Giants key defender Joel Patfull comes in for the injured Caleb Marchbank.

Sydney legend Adam Goodes and former Swans’ ruckman Mike Pyke will do a halftime lap of honour.

Shark scares surfers at Margaret River

A great white shark has given a group of top surfers an almighty scare, less than a year after Mick Fanning’s much-publicised drama.

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The shark, estimated to be 4.5m in length, paid the surfers an unwelcome visit on the eve of competition starting at the Margaret River Pro in WA.

The incident prompted World Surf League organisers to again outline the safety measures that were upgraded in the wake of Fanning’s close encounter last July at the J-Bay Open in South Africa.

His final was called off after Fanning had to fight off a shark and fellow Australian Julian Wilson paddled over to offer help.

Friday’s first round of competition in the men’s and women’s events went ahead without incident.

But American Kanoa Igarashi has described the frightening encounter late on Thursday, when he and a handful of other professionals were surfing Margaret River’s famed Mainbreak.

“We were in the water about 10 minutes before dark, which was a really bad idea,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“We went over a wave and me and Caio (Ibelli) are looking out and see this fin emerging out of the water – it looked like a submarine – it kept growing,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“Then it was flustering and thrashing, making so much water and then it just shot down and I looked over at Caio and he had the most scared face I’ve ever seen. No one said a word.”

Igarashi said the true size of the shark dawned on him when what he thought was a second marine creature several feet away from the main fin turned out to be its tail.

He said they bolted to shore.

In the wake of the incident, surfing organisers repeated the measures put in place following Fanning’s scare.

Each competitor has an allocated jetski driver, plus there is a safety boat for equipment caddies and watercraft for all event photographers.

The event is also trialling a new prototype for underwater surveillance.

Fanning has started his mid-season sabbatical and is not competing at Margaret River.

Australian Matt Wilkinson is the man to beat in WA off the back of winning the first two rounds of the world tour.

He won his round-one heat, while Wilson posted the best day-one score among the men of 17.10.

Three heats of the men’s first round are yet to be run.

American Courtney Conlogue took the women’s lead at the end of last month by winning Bells Beach for the first time.

She also won her opening-round heat on Friday, while Hawaii’s reigning world champion Carissa Moore posted the best score of 15.77.

Unis not consulted over 457 visa changes

Universities were not consulted about changes to temporary foreign worker visas until after the overhaul was announced.

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The decision to replace 457 visas and slash the list of 650 occupations which qualify by 200 was scrutinised by an advisory council including industries, unions and state governments, but universities were not represented.

“The universities had an opportunity then to respond to the announcements and we’re working through a process with them to understand the nature of their concerns,” immigration department deputy secretary Rachel Noble told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Universities have flagged concerns the changes will inhibit their access to the best and brightest minds from around the world including researchers, academics, and newly-graduated PhD scholars.

Labor senator Kim Carr was incredulous the research sector wasn’t consulted sooner on the visa changes.

“Blind Freddy could have told you what their reaction would be,” he said to immigration officials.

Immigration boss Michael Pezzullo said he relied on the employment, education and training departments to determine which jobs needed to be filled.

It was his team’s job to go and fetch the talent from overseas.

“We’re basically the HR department of Australia so we go out and recruit folks,” he said.

“We’re not the personnel strategy or workforce strategy, if you want to think of it in those terms, so we take advice from the relevant expert line department.”

It was also up to the ministerial skills council to collate the list of occupations.

“We expect them to be across their brief and understand what Australia’s skills needs are,” Mr Pezzullo said.

He said government departments could consult on changes “to the nth degree” but people would always have issues.

“But you haven’t consulted, that’s the point. No degree here, none whatsoever,” Senator Carr quipped back.

He then quizzed the immigration chief about how much correspondence he’d received following the visa crackdown.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve been sort of overwhelmed but we have noticed the level of noise and the level of concern in some sectors and it can all be addressed,” Mr Pezzullo said.

Ms Noble said it was not the government’s intention to curtail research co-operation in Australia, and any unintended consequences could be rectified when the occupation list was revised every six months.

Trump becomes first sitting US president to visit Western Wall

Wearing a black skullcap, he paused in front of the holiest site where Jews can pray, then placed what appeared to be a written prayer or note between its stones, as is custom.

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Trump was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders during the hugely symbolic visit.

Allowing them to do so could have led to accusations that Washington was implicitly recognising Israel’s unilateral claim of sovereignty over the site, which would break with years of US and international precedent.

Security was tight, with the usually bustling Old City, where the Western Wall is located, essentially on lockdown and the plaza leading to the site cleared.

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As Trump’s convoy of dozens of cars entered the square around 4:00 pm (1300 GMT), armed security forces were positioned on nearly every building nearby as well as on the outer wall of the Old City.

In the nearby Jewish Quarter, barriers had been erected to make viewing the square impossible from ground level, and some residents said they had been told not to go onto their roofs overlooking the Western Wall.

Simon, a 20-year-old American studying in a nearby Jewish seminary, said he was “excited” by Trump’s visit but disappointed he would not see him.

Around a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jewish men had crammed into a tiny terrace on top of one house looking over, seemingly having been granted permission.

Related reading’A great honor – peace’

Trump was accompanied by the Western Wall’s rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovitz, during his visit.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism and is married to one of the president’s top aides Jared Kushner, visited the women’s side of the wall.

Trump, who is Protestant, is the first US president to have Jewish members of his immediate family.

Under strict interpretation of Jewish law, men and women must pray separately at the wall. The rule has been repeatedly challenged by progressive Jewish movements seeking equal prayer rights.

Trump wrote “This was a great honor — peace!” before signing his name in the wall’s guest book.

Rabinovitz presented him with a gold-leafed Book of Psalms stamped with the president’s name, according to pictures released by the holy site’s administration.

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Speaking later in the day, Trump said he had been “deeply moved” by the visit.

“Words fail to capture the experience,” he said ahead of dinner at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.

“It will leave an impression on me for ever.”

The Western Wall is the last remnant of the supporting wall of the second Jewish temple, built by King Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

It is situated below the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, referred to by Jews as the Temple Mount and considered their holiest.

The visit to the Western Wall drew controversy before Trump even left Washington, when US officials declined to say whether it belonged to Israel.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Mexicans turned away

Israel occupied east Jerusalem, where the Western Wall is located, and the West Bank in 1967 in moves never recognised by the international community.

It later annexed east Jerusalem and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The traditional American position has been that Jerusalem’s status must be negotiated between the two sides.

Trump visited the wall as part of his first trip abroad as president, which includes stops at important sites for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

On Saturday and Sunday he was in Saudi Arabia, and later stops will include the Vatican.

Before visiting the Western Wall, Trump toured the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

A group of six Christian Mexicans hoping to see the church discussed ways to get out of the Old City with Israeli police, after being told they could not visit.

Group member Mauricio Guerra said he was “very disappointed” not to be able to visit the site as he had only one day in Jerusalem.

“We have travelled here to see the church,” he told AFP.

“We as Mexicans have Trump as our neighbour and now he is following us here as well,” he laughed, with Trump having pledged to build a wall between the United States and Mexico during his campaign.

“He is our cross (to bear)” he said, holding his arms wide to imitate a crucifixion.

“You can do what you like with a wall on the border, but don’t ask us to pay for it!” Guerra added of Trump’s many claims that Mexico would foot the bill.

Icebreaker contract not so bad: department

Federal bureaucrats have rejected the findings of an audit that Australia’s new $1.

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9 billion Antarctic icebreaker isn’t good value for money.

The contract to build a replacement for the Aurora Australis – which is chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division – was awarded to a Dutch company, with the new ship to be built in Romania.

An audit published in March found the environment department’s tender process largely non-competitive after one of the two competing companies withdrew before the contract was awarded.

It also found the cost of operating the new icebreaker would be significantly higher over the 34-year contract than what the government pays now to lease the Aurora Australis.

But department head Gordon de Brouwer told senators on Tuesday the figures the auditor used weren’t comparable, with some taking into account fuel and insurance costs and others not.

“We reject the ANAO report,” he told the Senate committee hearing.

“We’ll take the learnings from it but we reject … that it’s not value for money.”

The department has not investigated options for terminating the contract and starting the tender process afresh.

West Australian Liberal senator Linda Reynolds told the officials she was very disappointed to see the work go offshore.

“We already have the capability in Western Australia to fabricate that ship,” she told them.

“Defence have shifted focus to Australia-first and they’re finding we’ve got the capability to do more than perhaps government departments in Canberra thought we did.”

Officials said the bulk of the $1.9 billion would be spent on operations and maintenance over 30 years, which would support Tasmanian businesses.

Come clean on Middle East air strikes: HRW

Human Rights Watch has demanded the Defence department come clean on the extent of civilian casualties in its past air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

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The department has begun a new transparency drive publishing fortnightly reports on its website.

Its first report, a day before the May 9 budget, carried a brief description of seven strikes on the Iraqi city of Mosul between April 18-30.

The second report, released on Tuesday, detailed 12 operations on Mosul between May 1-18.

It says the focus was on west Mosul.

“The rate of effort has increased since the previous report to align with Iraqi Security Forces offensive operations,” Defence said.

Neither publication specifically mentioned any reports of civilian casualties and a spokesman for Defence Minister Marise Payne said the department would respond to any allegations of that nature.

Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Elaine Pearson said the reports were a good first step and urged the department to provide backdated reports from the past two-and-a-half years.

Senator Payne’s spokesman ruled out issuing backdated reports.

Ms Pearson called on Senator Payne to detail any past investigations into civilian casualties.

“We urge you to immediately release details on civilian casualties caused by Australian air strikes, and if you are not collecting such information, to start doing so without delay,” she said in a letter to the minister.

Ms Pearson said reliance on video assessments taken from the air wouldn’t give the full picture of casualties, especially in densely populated areas.

“The government should actively seek this information and not wait for it to be publicly reported before beginning an investigation,” she said.

Documents released under freedom of information in March said the federal government did not collect “authoritative” data on the enemy or civilian casualties.

Ms Pearson said the government should also collaborate with Airwars, a non-government group monitoring air strikes and civilian deaths in the Middle East.

It estimates 3530 civilians have been killed in coalition air strikes.

The US-led coalition acknowledges an estimated 352 civilian deaths.

Airwars last year rated Australia one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition.

The US is the only member of the coalition against Islamic State militants that has admitted to causing civilian casualties.

Missile ready for mass production: NKorea

North Korea says it’s successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, and says it met all technical requirements and can now be mass-produced, although US officials and experts are questioning the extent of its progress.

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The US, which has condemned repeated North Korean missile launches, says Sunday’s launch of what North Korea dubbed the Pukguksong-2 was of a “medium-range” missile, and US-based experts doubted the reliability of the relatively new solid-fuel type after so few tests.

US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the test did not demonstrate a new capability, or one that could threaten the US directly. But the test was North Korea’s second in a week and South Korea’s new liberal government said it dashed its hopes for peace.

US officials have been far less sanguine about the test of a long-range KN-17, or Hwasong-12, missile just over a week ago, which US officials believe survived re-entry to some degree.

North Korea said that launch tested the capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead” and put the US mainland within “sighting range.”

Western experts say the Hwasong-12 test did appear to have advanced North Korea’s aim of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland, even if it is still some way off from achieving that capability.

The UN Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss Sunday’s test, which defies Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

Washington has been trying to persuade China to agree to new sanctions on North Korea, which has conducted dozens of missile firings and tested two nuclear bombs since the start of last year.

US President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible over its weapons programmes, although US officials say tougher sanctions, not military force, are the preferred option.

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, said the latest missile test was supervised by leader Kim Jong Un and verified the reliability of Pukguksong-2’s solid-fuel engine, stage separation and late-stage guidance for a nuclear warhead. It said data was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead.

“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he (Kim) approved the deployment of this weapon system for action,” KCNA said.

“Now that its tactical and technical data met the requirements of the Party, this type of missile should be rapidly mass-produced in a serial way …, he said.”

South Korea’s military said the missile flew about 500 kilometres and reached an altitude of 560 kilometres.

It said the test would have provided more “meaningful data” for North Korea’s missile programme, but further analysis was necessary to determine whether Pyongyang had mastered the technology needed to stop the warhead burning up on re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

US-based experts said the Pukguksong-2 would have a maximum range of about 1,500km and questioned North Korea’s assertion that the reliability of the solid-fuel missile had been proven, given limited testing.

“Entering mass production at this early in the development phase is risky, but perhaps a risk North Korea feels comfortable managing,” said Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

More signings to come for reborn Bullets

The Brisbane Bullets are poised to announce more player signings next week after unveiling Adam Gibson and Daniel Kickert as their first recruits for their comeback NBL season.

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Gibson, who spent the past four seasons with the Adelaide 36ers, has signed for three years while former Melbourne United big man Kickert has penned a two-year deal.

“I think their signing sends a very clear message right from the outset that we’re fully determined to put together a playing roster that is going to be highly competitive in our return to the NBL,” chief executive Mitchell Murphy said.

But it is just the start for the Andrej Lemanis-coached Bullets, who are deep in negotiations with several other players and are set to reveal further additions to the team in the coming days.

For Gibson it is a return to where it all started.

The 29-year-old Tasmanian made his professional debut in Brisbane in 2005, won the NBL title with them two years later and was there until the club’s dying days, when former owner Eddy Groves’ childcare empire collapsed and the club eventually dissolved, robbing the competition of one of its most iconic franchises.

“I always wanted to come back to Brisbane and I’ve got no doubt that if Brisbane had have stayed around this whole time I’d be a one club player,” Gibson said.

“When the opportunity arose I was definitely excited and jumped at it with open arms.”

Gibson said he was thrilled to have signed alongside Kickert, who made last season’s All-NBL First Team and enjoyed a successful eight-year career in Europe before joining Melbourne in 2014.

“Having Kicks on board to start this whole thing is massive – I think the best big man in the league last year,” Gibson said.

“Just having him there starts us on the right track and with some future signings to come, within time, we’re definitely going to have a great base.”

Murphy said the Bullets intend to fill all three of their import spots and will make an announcement regarding the team’s training base – one of the key decisions to be reached in Brisbane’s NBL rebirth – by the end of the month.

“It’s a mammoth task to rebuild this club in a short space of time but we’re in a very, very good position at the moment,” Murphy said.

Syrian rebels seize IS stronghold al-Rai

Syrian rebel forces have taken over a town near the Turkish border that had been the main stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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The monitor said factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), some supplied with arms by Turkey and other foreign backers, captured the town of al-Rai after fierce battles with the militants.

“This is the beginning of the end of Daesh (Islamic State), those who have bet the FSA have been decimated are now proven wrong. It’s a victory for the Free Syrian Army,” said Abu Abdullah from the Nour al Din al Zinki brigade that participated in the assault on the heavily defended border town.

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“We will continue our path to al Raqqa and all the towns occupied by Daesh,” he said referring to Islamic State’s acronym in Arabic and its defacto capital.

The rebels said their next step was advancing towards the Islamic State-held city of al Bab, south of al Rai and northeast of Aleppo.

The recent gains by the mainly non-jihadist rebels is a boost to Turkey, which has sought to prevent Syrian Kurdish-led forces from expanding their stretch of territory along the border.

It was the first retreat by the Islamic State militants since they made major advances in that area last May against rival insurgents and captured areas close to the Azaz border crossing with Turkey.

Amaq news agency, which is linked to the militants, conceded that forces it described as “US- and Turkish-backed opposition brigades” had taken the town after days of intense “US bombing and Turkish artillery” fire.

The news agency said al-Rai fell after heavy clashes and two suicide bombings that led to many casualties among Islamic State opponents.

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The Sunni militants have used suicide bombings to hold back offensives by the Syrian army and their allies by deploying small groups of fighters to disrupt supply lines.

That is a change of tactics from ambushes and lightning attacks after the loss of significant territory, defence experts say.

A sustained rebel advance by mainstream rebel groups near the Turkish border this week that allowed the moderate non-jihadist rebels to capture a string of villages eroded Islamic State’s last foothold in an area identified by the United States as a priority in the fight against the group.

Combat terrorism through prosperity: SBY

Australia and Indonesia should work together to combat terrorism by lifting people around the globe out of poverty, a former Indonesian president believes.

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Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is visiting Canberra, also praised Australia’s acceptance of Muslims as an inspiring example to a world troubled by Islamophobia.

He believes there is a direct link between a more prosperous world and a peaceful one, and is urging Australia to promote sustainable development goals.

“Then more poor will graduate to middle class and become the owner of a dignified life,” he told a defence policy conference on Friday.

Hundreds of millions of people were trapped in insecurity, injustice and marginalisation which led to hopelessness, he said.

“In some of these areas, fertile minds can become corrupted.”

In the digital era, the world was facing a “unique new battleground” in the struggle between tolerance and hatred.

Dr Yudhoyono – who is widely recognised as instrumental in improving the Australia-Indonesia relationship – paired the two nations as models of “open and free multicultural nations”.

“I know that Muslims in Australia feel free, respected and welcome,” he said.

“And this is an inspiring example to a world troubled by Islamophobia.”

The national security of the neighbours was also interrelated, as confirmed by the 2002 Bali bombings.

However, while reflecting on the improved relationship between Jakarta and Canberra – which had been elevated far above mutual mistrust over the past decade – Dr Yudhoyono issued a subtle warning to Australian governments.

Don’t leave Indonesia out of the loop.

The then-president recalled how he’d found out the United States was planing a marine force in Darwin while being interviewed by reporters at the APEC conference in 2011.

“It was a surprise to me,” he said.

“In any situation where Australia or their allies decide to deploy larger forces, especially in the northern part of Australia … it is critical to communicate with Indonesia.”

Dr Yudhoyono – who was president from 2004 to 2014 – was invited to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute conference as the keynote speaker, something former ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley described as amazing.

“It is an extraordinary thing, that at this very Australian gathering, the most significant speech has been made by you,” Mr Beazley told the former president.

“I cannot think of any foreign interlocutor that Australia has had over the years who has understood us so well.

“All I can say is that we don’t actually deserve it but it is good that we got it.”

Jobs growth tipped to rebound in March

Jobs growth is tipped to have picked up pace after stalling for months, but the unemployment rate is unlikely to improve.

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The March unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 5.9 per cent from February’s 5.8 per cent, according to an AAP survey of 13 economists.

But the number of Australians with a job is expected to have risen by 20,000 in March.

That follows a gain of just 300 jobs in February, and a fall of 7,900 in January and 1,400 in December.

“We’ve had three soft numbers. The pace of growth in employment is back more in line with where the indicators are,” Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk said.

Stellar jobs growth in the final quarter of 2015 is now drifting back to a more normal level, he said.

A surprise fall in the unemployment rate in February was closely related to a fall in the participation rate – a measure of the number of people either employed or actively looking for work.

Mr Smirk said that move looked questionable, suggesting there’s some issues with the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey itself.

“So it’s looking for a bit of a rebound,” he said.

The participation rate is expected to have risen to 65.0 per cent from 64.9 per cent in February, which would dilute the impact of jobs growth on the unemployment rate.

The Reserve Bank this week tweaked its language around the 2015 jobs improvement, suggesting the bank suspects it may now be in the past.

But Mr Smirk said the RBA focuses on broader trends, and the March labour force figures alone won’t shape the central bank’s May rates decision.

“Overall it’s a reasonably robust report outside the two states suffering the most from the readjustment from the mining boom, WA and Queensland,” he said.

The ABS will release its employment report on Thursday.

EMPLOYMENT REBOUNDS, JOBLESS RATE RISES

* Unemployment rate to rise to 5.9pct in March

* The number of people with jobs tipped to rise by 20,000

* Participation rate forecast to rise to 65.0pct

(Source: AAP survey of 13 economists)

NSW projects should use Aust steel: Greens

The NSW government is being urged to ensure Australian steel is used in all of the state’s construction projects amid the Arrium crisis.

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The troubled miner and steelmaker went into voluntary administration on Thursday, putting up to 7000 jobs at risk – including 2800 in NSW.

“The potential collapse of steelmaking in Whyalla shows why NSW parliament can’t delay and must immediately legislate for local steel procurement,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said on Thursday.

Mr Shoebridge said a recent Greens bill that placed a mandate on government infrastructure projects to use locally manufactured steel would secure the future of BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla steelworks in the NSW Illawarra region.

“We want to bring the bill on for a vote in May when parliament returns,” he said.

“The NSW parliament has an opportunity to lead the way, and an obligation to adopt this as a template for procurement bills around the country to protect our steel industry.”

Mr Shoebridge criticised the government for using “steel imported from Spain” for major infrastructure projects such as the CBD and South East light rail developments.

“The cost of saving a few dollars by buying steel dumped on the Australian market by international companies is being paid by workers, their families and the communities who will all suffer if the domestic industry is allowed to fail,” he said.

BlueScope Steel’s 4500 workers and thousands of others in the Illawarra won a reprieve last year after the state government gave the troubled steelmaker $60 million in payroll tax relief.

Port Kembla workers also agreed to 500 job cuts, wage freezes, and workplace restructuring to help save the plant.