Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently toured drought stricken areas of north-west New South Wales and southern Queensland, promising that his government was close to finalising subsidies to farmers affected by the drought. The National Climate Centre says in the past two years “most of Queensland and New South Wales inland of the Great Dividing Range as well as much of South Australia have received less than 70% of their long-term average rainfall, with a substantial area having received less than half the average for the period.”
The Tony Abbott government has done something no other government in the world has done before, asking UNESCO to take one of the nation’s unique natural areas off the World Heritage list. In Tasmania, 170,000 hectares of forest was given World Heritage status in June last year. Environmentalists have long considered the areas, which mostly border existing World Heritage areas, worthy of protection. Among them are well-known forests such as the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys.
At a major speech in parliament on February 12, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was “serious about Aboriginal policy … no less serious than it is about stopping the boats”. He pledged to close the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous outcomes in health, education and employment.
A farmer from Wyoming, who featured in the documentary Gasland, is touring Australia to warn locals about the health and environmental consequences of fracking for coal seam gas (CSG). John Fenton will speak about his experience of living with polluted ground water, polluted air and other effects of the gas industry. Fenton’s first meeting will be on February 22 in Sydney and will include 10 meetings in areas most affected by CSG mining, including regional NSW, Brisbane, Wollongong and Melbourne.
Queensland woman Sheila Oakley has been left blind in one eye after being tasered by police outside her home on February 6. Oakley underwent surgery after the metal barb from the Taser hit her in her left eye, the Guardian reported on February 7. A senior constable, who is reported to be a qualified Taser instructor, fired the Taser. Police said the woman was holding a table leg when they arrived at her home.
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings sacked Greens ministers Nick McKim and Cassie O’Connor from cabinet on January 15 — the same day that she announced a state election would be held in March. The Greens have shared power with Labor since a minority government was elected in 2010. But the deal has proven unpopular with Labor voters and Giddings has ruled out a power-sharing deal with the Greens in future.
Journalists have confirmed that up to five boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia have been turned back to Indonesia since December 10.
This is the last issue of Green Left Weekly for the year. We are taking a break for a few weeks and the next issue will be out on January 22. Early next year, GLW will be celebrating its 1000th issue. This is a huge milestone for an independent newspaper that does not rely on advertising to survive. Instead, it is the support of hundreds of people who write for, distribute and donate money to the paper year after year that keeps it going.
The Socialist Alliance condemns the violation of Indonesia's national sovereignty through the actions of the Australian government in tapping the mobile phone of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and nine of his closest advisors, including his wife. These actions are a reflection of how Western nations such as Australia treat poor nations with neo-colonial contempt.
Another round of United Nations climate talks were being negotiated in Warsaw, Poland, this week when the strongest typhoon recorded to hit land swept across the Philippines before moving on to Vietnam. Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, has killed an estimated 10,000 people in the area of Tacloban, mostly from the strong tsunami-like storm surges that accompanied the typhoon. Entire villages were flattened and a large rescue effort is underway to evacuate survivors.