In countries across the Western world policy-makers are looking to improve workers’ standard of living in the face of more globalised labour markets and pressure from corporate powers to do the reverse. In New Zealand the government has opted to support the people who generate the wealth of their society- the workers. The country’s Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has announced that the minimum wage will be raised to 16.50 NZD an hour (11.60 USD), in a move expected to benefit 164,000 workers. Although the Ardern government may be in its early stages, this marks an important departure from the years of National Party rule and will hopefully set a tone for the next few years.
The Adani Group is an Indian-based coal company that is seeking to expand their operations in the Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. However, Adani have claimed that they do not have the capital to expand but this has been not been a cause of concern for the company as the Australian federal government has said that they would provide a A$1 billion taxpayer-funded loan to help finance the project. Unsurprisingly environmentalists in Queensland have been agitating against the expansion for some time now but the government in Canberra has take no notice. It appears, though, that Canberra will now take notice because of the Queensland state elections.
Australia will become the latest country to legalise same-sex marriage after the country voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding postal vote to back the move. The turnout was a remarkable 79.5% and found that, of these around 12.7 million people, 61.6% backed equal marriage and only 38.4% voting against. Although the plebiscite won’t change the law in and of itself, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants to change the law by Christmas but as others have pointed out Turnbull has previously been less clear on the timeline for legalisation. Although there should be time for celebrating a big step forward, we must not take our eyes off the ball as full equality is still a long way off.
Despite finishing second in the recent general election Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party will lead the next government of New Zealand after reaching an agreement with the centre-left Green Party and the conservative populists of New Zealand First. The move will result in New Zealand’s first government not led by the National Party since 2008 and as a result much attention has been paid to what the priorities of the next administration will be. In recent days Ardern has been more explicit in what her government will do and on the whole the Left should welcome the announcements, although there are some caveats that need to be added.
The current debate around citizenship that is lingering in the Australian political discourse stems from a section of the constitution that should have been removed years ago. The question about citizenship is essentially a masked point about loyalty to the people of Australia. Not only is this unjustifiable mistrust of the perceived ‘Other’ harmful to the fabric of society, the examples of recent weeks illustrate how this section of the constitution has been disruptive to Australian public life in a way that is highly ironic given one of the purposes of such a provision.
One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.
Last week I covered a news story about how Britain had recently passed a law that would retroactively pardon thousands of gay and bisexual men who had been prosecuted for ‘indecent acts’, also known as homosexual sex. At the time of writing I said: “work on this issue still needs to be done”. Admittedly I was referring to Northern Ireland and Scotland, but the same is true around the world; men convicted of the crime of having sex with other men should have those convictions overturned. For a number of years activists in New Zealand had been lobbying the government to get exactly that, and on Thursday the government agreed.