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Australian exports could be damaged amid escalation of tensions in south china sea

IT’S one of our greatest assets, but Australia’s remoteness could prove a major Achilles heel amid escalating tension in the South China Sea.

Two thirds of Australian exports are shipped through critical routes in the disputed region which has become a source of tension in recent months.

Now experts fear a flare-up could see freedom of navigation blocked by an aggressive China in a move that could lead to a $5 trillion meltdown if global trade flows are disrupted.

Chatham Houses Asia Programme Associate Fellow Bill Hayton said the impact of such a worst-case scenario would be massive for Australia and is currently the subject of back room meetings between world leaders.

It could have massive impact. If Australia was to do something that displeased China, China has the capacity to impose blocks on Australian exports to Japan, Korea or Taiwan, he said adding that it could hamper the ability of Australia as a trading nation.

It may be that ships could find other routes but these things would add costs to food in the shops and other things. Its all a bit theoretical at the moment but . How much do you value independence or do you want to put your trust in China being nice for the next 30 years? Its a tough one to call really.

Watch the worlds major shipping routes in this fascinating map

Created by London-based data visualisation studio Kiln and the UCL Energy Institute

Australia exported $318 billion worth of goods in 2015, with 99 per cent of those shipped. The government has claimed two thirds of those pass through the South China Sea, meaning access to the region is of critical economic as well as military importance.

While much of those goods may be destined for China itself, obstruction of the routes could cost around $20 billion a year, according to one report. The economic impact of having to divert $5.3 trillion worth of annual trade through the region would be unprecedented.

Its a particularly thorny issue for Australia which is economically tied to China but defensively tied to the US. Mr Hayton said the overwhelming concern is that Chinas vagueness about its intentions has leaders rattled.

China is obviously a critical trading partner for Australia. I think China hopes to use its economic weight to try to keep Australia quiet really, and stop it speaking out on issues like the South China Sea.

It can be very difficult for the countries concerned about Chinas rise to take concrete steps to do something about it.

On Wednesday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop slammed China for creating an environment of tension and mistrust in the region.

This is not in the interest of any state and will lead to reputation and other costs for claimants engaging in such behaviour, she said.

Her comments came after the US-based Asia Maritime Transparency Initiatives Greg Poling said buildings shown on satellite images meant China was clearly prepping for a future conflict.

This is militarisation, he told Reuters. They (China) keep saying they are not militarising but they could deploy fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles tomorrow if they wanted to.

A spokesman for Chinas defence ministry said the building was normal and nothing to do with militarisation. However a verified social media account tweeted that they were for self-defence, saying: If someone were flexing his muscles outside your door, wouldnt you get a slingshot ready?

Mr Hayton said the skirmishes are part of a broader debate over who gets to write the rules when it comes to territory and navigation playing out between China and the US.

There have been various closed door meetings but everyone has to be careful because they dont want to provoke an open row but at the same time everyone is very concerned, he said. The sense is that we dont know what Chinas intentions are. We dont like what we have seen therefore we have to make plans for the worst.

Australia has recently committed to spending $50 billion on 12 submarines from French company DCNS as part of a plan to build a regionally superior weapon. It comes as Chinas Navy grows to more than 70 submarines making it comparable with the US.

The submarine project starting now but starting production in 2022/23 will be a significant part of the contribution we make around the world to peace and security and the support for our values because Australia has a values based foreign policy, he said.

Australias 2016 lotto hotspots have been revealed

THEY say winning the Lotto is all about luck. But it could in fact, be all about location.

Lotto has revealed this years hot spots and it looks as though Victoria is the luckiest state.

Statistics released by Lotto revealed between December 1 2015 and November 30 2016, there were 503 division one prizes, equating to more than $971 million, won by Australians.

There were 156 division one winners in Victoria, with more than $244 million handed out across the state.

According to Lotto, there were less winners in NSW, but they won a lot more money. In past year, $268 million was handed out in division one money.

The biggest sum given out in the last year was a $70 million Powerball prize, which was won by a Queenslander from Pialba in Hervey Bay in January.

The places where people were most likely to win the lotto were Melbourne, Sydney, Gladstone and Boyne Island in Queensland, Cloverdale in Western Australia and Findon in South Australia.

Reflecting back on the year, theres certainly a number of division one winning stories from 2016 that have really resonated with people, Tatts Group Lotteries spokeswoman Elissa Lewis said.

We kicked off the year with a big lotto bang when after seven weeks of jackpotting the mind-blowing $70 million Powerball prize was won in the Queensland suburb of Pialba by Hervey Bay grandparents.

After six missed calls following the draw, the couple finally twigged that it was Golden Casket phoning about their staggering windfall and couldnt believe their luck.

The grandparents said the best thing they ever won was a chook raffle.

Weve always been mindful of money, and skimped and saved where we could. We dont get tempted to buy the cream puffs. But we won't have to be frugal anymore I can toss out all those specials catalogues, the grandparents said.

We havent done much travel in our lives, but now were off. You wont see us around here for long.

After the grandparents won the powerball, a man with young children from Adelaide Hills in South Australia won Australias first Set for Life prize and will be given $20,000 every month for 20 years.

A man from a coastal NSW town found out he won $30 million in Oz Lotto after NSW Lotteries tried to contact him for two weeks.

Im gobsmacked at the moment. Ive got butterflies in my stomach, he said at the time.

Itd be just my luck that Id have a heart attack on the way home or get cleaned up by a truck.

Ill pay off my debts, maybe buy a new car and some big boys toys, and Id like to travel.

After a three-day search for a $40 million Oz Lotto prize winner in May, a married couple from Victorian dairy farming town Leongatha were found.

Its always been our plan that if we won the lottery, even $1 million, that we would share the money with many good causes. And now that plan has just grown a bit bigger. Giving some back is what were all about we fully believe in that, the couple said.

The biggest change for us after winning will be being able to retire and not being under the clock. Its amazing what you can do with more time to enjoy the things you love.

Ms Lewis said just because Victoria sold more winning tickets, it didnt mean people from other states had less of a chance of winning.

Its exciting to reveal where the most lotto wins occur, but its important to remember that lottery games are entertaining games of chance and every number on your ticket has an equal chance of being drawn, no matter where you buy your ticket, Ms Lewis said.

The next big prize will be the $31 million NYE Megadraw on December 31.

Winning that would be the best way to ring in the new year.

Hear the reaction when you are told you have won $20 million dollars.