New Zealand Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern meets the cast of “Mary Poppins, The Musical” on Oct. 15 in Auckland. New Zealand general election, delayed a month due to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns, is Saturday. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The New Zealand general election is this Saturday, Oct. 17, and current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to do well. Ardern’s center-left Labour Party has polled consistently far above her main rival, the center-right National party. One recent poll had Labour at 47 percent — and National at 32 percent. These polls reflect Ardern’s popularity.

New Zealand’s electoral system (the mixed member proportional system) means that the Labour Party may get close to winning a majority in parliament. New Zealand has traditionally had close ties with a small group of English-speaking countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia — all of which are more or less suspicious of China.…  Seguir leyendo »

The author, Behrouz Boochani, in 2016 while at Australia’s Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea, where he was held for six years. Credit Ashley Gilbertson for The New York Times

Growing up in a Kurdish family in the Ilam Province of Iran, I never expected my life to be affected by Australia’s history of white supremacy and settler colonialism. I had little awareness of Australia, a faraway country founded as a penal colony, and built on the massacres of its Indigenous people and on European migration. It was to be decades before I would hear about the White Australia policy, an official state immigration policy, in effect between 1901 and 1973, barring nonwhite people from immigrating to the country and intent on making Australia a white nation.

Yet the xenophobic legacy of the White Australia policy had a significant impact on the trajectory of my life and choked the lives of thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants who were held by Australia in offshore detention centers in its former colony Papua New Guinea and on the island of Nauru, a former protectorate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Refugee, artist and musician Farhad Bandesh has been held in immigration detention by Australia for seven years.

Years ago, during one of those hot Manus Island days, a few Australian guards entered the refugee prison camp. They snatched a broken guitar from the hands of a young musician and exited with an air of invincibility and sense of victory. The young man followed them for a whole 100m stretch in the prison and begged them to return his guitar. But every time he asked one of the officers they replied in absolute terms that he should forget about his guitar. In response to the question of why the guard was taking his guitar, he received the reply: “Having a musical instrument in prison is prohibited because you might hang yourself by using the strings.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A kangaroo roots through charred ground in search of food on Kangaroo Island in South Australia in January. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

In the Australian bush southwest of Sydney, a wedge-tailed eagle is gliding over the paddocks. He’s on the hunt for prey. Watch a “wedgie” for long enough and you’ll see them suddenly swoop, dive-bombing toward the ground, before lifting aloft a rabbit, wallaby or small kangaroo.

There’s no sign of that today. Today, he circles, looping over hillsides filled with blackened trees. There’s no prey to find.

We’re on Tallygang Mountain Road, in an area called Wombeyan Caves. The bushfires swept through this part of Australia in early January, during a fire season which consumed more than 12.6 million hectares (about 50,000 square miles) of bush, mainly in the country’s eastern states.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘A free press is universally recognised as essential to the way any democracy should work – that’s why it is hard-wired into most democratic constitutions.’ Photograph: David Gray/AAP

For any law to be effective, there needs to be clarity. Most legislation is so mind-numbingly formal and technical because it is drafted to avoid any confusion about exactly what the law allows, what it forbids, who it applies to and the consequences of breaching it.

Yet, when it comes to the role of the media in Australia, legislated confusion abounds.

A free press is universally recognised as essential to the way any democracy should work – that’s why it is hard-wired into most democratic constitutions. The First Amendment to the US constitution protects press freedom there. The Human Rights Act does it in the United Kingdom.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the day New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, closed the country’s borders to everyone but citizens and permanent residents, I attended an evening choir practice. At the time, there were just 28 covid-19 cases in a country of about 5 million people, but on that night in March, there was a sense that the tide was about to turn for the worse. Hand sanitizer was offered; chairs were pushed farther apart. As our voices joined together in “Homeward Bound,” I was unable to stop the tears from sliding down my cheeks.

As temporary visa holders, my family and I were effectively trapped.…  Seguir leyendo »

La primera ministra de Nueva Zelanda, Jacinda Ardern.

La primera ministra de Nueva Zelanda, Jacinda Ardern, ha declarado que el país ha “eliminado” el COVID-19 “por el momento”. Ardern anunció también que el país abandona el nivel de Alerta 1 a partir de la medianoche del 8 de junio, lo que permitirá que se levanten todas las restricciones relativas a la distancia social y al desarrollo de actividades económicas.

“Podemos afirmar con seguridad que, por el momento, hemos eliminado la transmisión del virus en Nueva Zelanda. Pero esta eliminación no es algo que se logre de una vez y para siempre, sino que se trata de un esfuerzo sostenido”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on April 7. “Today is not about ideologies,” he has said. “We checked those at the door.” Credit Lukas Coch/EPA, via Shutterstock

Until four months ago few leaders seemed more influenced — even inspired — by President Trump’s worldview than Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison.

Mr. Morrison’s government was climate-denying, globalism-bashing and displayed an increasingly authoritarian bent. His rhetoric, even if it lacked the sriracha of Trumpetry, riffed on Trumpian themes.

And given a good crisis, Mr. Morrison’s administration seemed as determined as the White House to miss no opportunity to make matters worse — as it did with its grossly inept response to Australia’s summer of apocalyptic wild fires.

Having seen this almost impossibly low bar set for government action, many Australians have felt relief tinged with astonishment knowing that their country is today among the world’s most successful in dealing with the coronavirus epidemic.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign on the side of a road in Rye, Victoria, Australia, on April 19. (Scott Barbour/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Australians like to see themselves as rebellious people, distrustful of authority — but the coronavirus has changed that.

While small protests against the lockdowns have erupted in the United States, and some in Britain have insisted on their right to party, in Australia we’re mostly doing what we’re told.

In Sydney, public transport use is down to levels not seen for nearly 100 years. Attendance in government schools in Victoria is down to just three percent. In parks, walkers and joggers dutifully arc around each other like passing ships.

Australians have been told to stay at home, apart from a list of designated tasks, including exercise, seeking medical help, buying supplies and performing necessary work.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the Old Testament, the Bible recounts the 10 Plagues of Egypt, disasters inflicted by God to force the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. In the past few months, Australia has been forced to endure plagues of its own, afflicted with terrifying bush fires, drought and smoke pollution that choked the skies. Now, the emergence of a global pandemic feels very much like another plague lapping at our shores after the summer that destroyed so much.

As of Thursday, there were 5,133 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Australia. Most cases have been in returned travelers — people who have traveled by plane or been passengers on cruise ships — rather than from pockets of local transmission.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si se mide con cualquier estándar razonable, Australia está muy lejos de la mayoría de los demás países. Sídney está más cerca del Polo Sur que de Singapur. Volar en vuelo directo desde Washington, DC, o de Bruselas a Canberra sigue estando más allá de nuestras capacidades técnicas; siempre hay una escala en algún punto.

De todos modos, para mejor y para peor, la geografía es menos importante de lo que solía ser. Puede que Australia sea remota, pero está muy presente en el mundo. De hecho, ya está en la primera línea de dos retos globales que darán forma a la agenda internacional en las décadas venideras.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents look on as flames burn through bush on 4 January 2020 in Lake Tabourie, NSW. Photo: Getty Images.

The 2019–20 fire season in Australia has been unprecedented. To date, an estimated 18 million hectares of fire has cut swathes through the bush – an area greater than that of the average European country and over five times the size of blazes in the Amazon.

This reflects previous predictions of Australian science. Since 2008 and as recently as 2018, scientific bodies have warned that climate change will exacerbate existing conditions for fires and other climatic disasters in Australia. What used to be once-in-a-generation fires now re-appear within 10–15 years with increased ferocity, over longer seasons.

In a country known for climate denial and division, debate has erupted around bushfire management and climate change.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia’s raging bushfires have already taken a great toll. At least 28 people have died this season, and more than 3,000 houses have been destroyed, displacing thousands of people and decimating communities.

The longest-lasting impact of the conflagration, however, may remain to be seen. We will not know how much environmental damage has been done until burned areas can be surveyed, but the toll on biodiversity is expected to be immense. Using average population density values for native birds, reptiles and terrestrial mammals, I have estimated that more than a billion of these animals have been killed. The estimate is conservative, as it does not include bats or other classes of vertebrate.…  Seguir leyendo »

Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images Ember and thick smoke from bushfires, Braemar Bay, New South Wales, Australia, January 4, 2020

Australia is no stranger to bushfire. In 1994, in Sydney, I lost a house to one, and in 2002, just north of Sydney, I fought off another. But I’ve never experienced anything like the current fire season before. These bushfires have been burning since September, taking lives and property across the nation, but the worst came in late December, just as families were settling into their holidays.

The high summer period between Christmas and Australia Day (January 26) is Australia’s grandes vacances. Offices close and people resort to campsites and holiday shacks on the golden, unspoiled beaches so characteristic of our country, to fish, barbeque, and let the kids run wild.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australia has been burning for more than two months. Sobering images show summer vacationers sheltering from the flames while awaiting rescue, the burned wreckage of homes and businesses, and the charred bodies of kangaroos and koalas. The fires are leading to political controversy over the Australian government’s refusal to acknowledge the climate change threat — and what Australia should do about it.

Climate change has contributed to the devastation

Australia’s landmass is nearly the size of the contiguous United States, and fires this year have consumed some 25 million acres — slightly less than the size of Indiana, and far more acreage than the devastating fires in California or Brazil last year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Des soldats australiens soignent un koala souffrant de brûlures à cause des incendies qui ravagent le pays, à Kingscote, le 7 janvier. TRISTAN KENNEDY / AFP

On croirait l’apocalypse. Une catastrophe nationale est en train de se produire, qui, chaque jour, crée de nouveaux chocs. « Le ciel est en feu », « Une telle rapidité et une telle furie », « On dirait une zone de guerre ». Voilà quelques-unes des phrases employées pour saisir la violence des incendies par ceux qui les combattent.

Cela fait maintenant trois mois que le feu ravage des terres déjà grillées par la sécheresse et des arbres assoiffés par des vagues de chaleur précoces [l’été débute en décembre dans l’hémisphère Sud]. La surface de forêt rasée à ce jour est six fois supérieure à celle de la forêt amazonienne détruite pendant toute l’année 2019.…  Seguir leyendo »

Control burning by volunteer fire fighters along the Princess Highway in Meroo National Park, New South Wales, Australia.Credit...Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

Every state in Australia has been touched by fire since the season started in September. The fires have burned over 12 million acres, an area larger than Maryland. Four hundred and eighty million animals are estimated to be killed or badly injured. Thousands of people have been evacuated. At least 24 have died.

This is just the midpoint of our normal fire season, which used to run from October to March but now is almost year round.

As I write this, my parents are living without power in an evacuation center in Narooma, a town of 2,600 people on the east coast of New South Wales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Apocalyptic scenes are playing out across Australia as bushfires have burned millions of acres and ravaged more than 1,000 homes in New South Wales alone.

The bright orange haze may look like something out of a dystopic science fiction film — or even Dante’s Inferno — but this is Australia’s current reality. A total of 20 people have died, and the photographs of human suffering are foreboding: native Australians have poured out of smoke-shrouded towns as the flames creep nearer, while people along the coast have taken refuge on beaches.

These are scenes from an Earth that is becoming uninhabitable amid raging wildfires, severe hurricanes and floods, record droughts and rising sea levels that have already submerged islands.…  Seguir leyendo »

I’m visiting my mother in the little country town where I grew up in Gippsland, a region of Australia that’s currently on fire. That’s not very specific, so let me narrow it down: I’m in one of the south-easternmost parts of Australia that is currently on fire.

Gippsland is a big area, roughly two New Jerseys. The closest fire is 50 miles away from us today, lending the sky a gray hue and the sun an orange tint. The official weather forecast is: «Mostly sunny but smoky.»

People here keep one eye on their phones, watching the online maps that show flames slowing chewing their way through half a million hectares to the north and east, but there’s no immediate danger.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bushfires burn between the townships of Bemm River and Cann River in eastern Gippsland, Victoria. (Darrian Traynor/AFP/Getty Images)

Much of Australia’s forested East Coast was already on fire by the time images emerged last month of Scott Morrison, our prime minister, holidaying in Hawaii. Sydney was blanketed in smoke. I’d been frantically updating emergency-services maps, checking on friends and relatives in four states, making sure my parents knew which kind of masks to get. I wondered whether Morrison realized he was on the verge of a Hurricane Katrina moment — whether he would rush back with a swift response, if only out of fear for his own political reputation.

“I don’t hold a hose, mate,” he said on talk radio from Hawaii.…  Seguir leyendo »