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.
Elections to the Generalitat have thrown up a result that will only continue the ongoing political crisis. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament back in October by invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. Regional elections were scheduled to take place as a result of this invocation and Rajoy hoped that this would undermine the ability of separatists to claim that they were acting on behalf of the Catalan people. The election results, however, have thrown a spanner in the works as the Catalan people have endorsed parties opposed to the status quo.
The United Nations General Assembly has convened an emergency session in New York to, among other things, vote on a motion tabled by Yemen and Egypt to condemn the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The result was expected to be overwhelming and so it was. The vote was 128 in favour, 9 in opposition and 35 abstentions. The 9 opposed were Guatemala, Israel, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Togo, Honduras and the US. Countries that abstained included Argentina, Australia, Canada, Mexico and Poland. The vote matches the overwhelming vote of the UN Security Council on Monday that was vetoed by the United States. The fallout will be one to watch.
The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that existing laws making provision for civil partnerships and civil marriages violate non-discrimination rules. As a consequence same-sex couples have been permitted to get married and heterosexual couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships. The court case was brought by a lesbian couple who had been prohibited from entering into a same-sex marriage, however the Supreme Court ruled that the distinction between civil unions and marriages couldn’t be legally upheld. According to Reuters, the court said in its ruling “people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations, in which it is not relevant”. The ruling will allow for same-sex marriages to take place from 2019.
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.
After the German election in September it was widely expected that Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance would form a coalition with the Greens, a centre-left environmentalist party, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a centrist party of classical liberals. The so-called ‘Jamaica coalition’ would likely have been a formal agreement between the CDU/CSU and one of the smaller parties with the third party brought in on a confidence and supply arrangement. As the weeks have passed the news about the negotiations has been that in some areas they have been contentious but nobody expected the news out of Berlin today. The coalition talks have failed and now it is unclear what lays ahead.
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.