No, Australia Is Not Actually an Evil Dictatorship

Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida who has made a name for himself as an extreme opponent of vaccine mandates, announced at the end of last month that Australia was “not a free country.” This was surprising news — most of all to Australians.

We have mostly spent pandemic lockdowns alternating between boredom, frustration, wine, a lot of Netflix and trying to locate our trousers before Zoom meetings. Recently, we’ve also become aware of a disturbing myth that appears to be enthusiastically fostered on the American right: Our experience of the pandemic, apparently, has been that of a violent police state.…  Seguir leyendo »

An orphaned joey that was rescued during the bushfires in Wytaliba, New South Wales in 2019. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

In November 2019 I wrote about the bushfires and burnoffs and calling for better political leadership. A few weeks ago we lit the first hazard reduction burn around our house since those fires. It brought up a few memories and feelings.

It’s two years now since the first fires came. They had been near Armidale and Tenterfield for a couple of weeks; then they were much closer. A hot day, a big wind and an ember from kilometres away landed high on the Leather Jacket Ridge that runs through the middle of Wytaliba, our 3,500-acre community. Over the next week, with calmer and cooler conditions that fire burned slowly downhill to our settlement areas.…  Seguir leyendo »

French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stand on the deck of HMAS Waller, a Collins-class submarine operated by the Royal Australian Navy, in Sydney in 2018. (Brendan Esposito/AFP)

The new AUKUS security partnership led to an immediate diplomatic fallout between France and the United States. But beyond the concerns about NATO and the Western alliance, or questions about great-power competition in the Pacific, some analysts see another worry: Will sharing nuclear submarine propulsion technology with Australia set back the nuclear nonproliferation regime?

What does this deal mean for nonproliferation? Have such transfers of nuclear submarine technology occurred in the past? Here are four things to know.

1. What does the deal involve?

The first major AUKUS initiative will help Australia acquire a conventionally armed submarine fleet that’s powered by nuclear reactors.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Queensland-New South Wales border sign in Australia on Sept. 2. (Jono Searle/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“State against state, mate against mate” is the slogan of State of Origin, an annual rugby league tournament held between the states of Queensland and New South Wales. As the slogan suggests, the matches are fiercely contested, but the banter between the states’ political leaders is traditionally light-hearted.

After all, we’re all Australians.

Well, that was up to the arrival of covid-19. The past 18 months have reinvigorated the tribalism of Australian politics. Even the “footy” league series quickly became mired in unpleasantness, as the two state premiers argued over pandemic border restrictions.

As covid-19 continues to rise in Australia, so has parochialism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does YouTube, that great repository of cat videos and plumbing tips, have more exacting standards of journalism than Australia’s official media regulator?

That was the conclusion some have drawn after YouTube introduced a temporary ban on Sky News Australia — the channel controlled by media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

While YouTube declined to identify the at-fault programs, the platform deleted a series of Sky News videos promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as treatments for covid-19.

YouTube’s speedy action has been contrasted to the approach of Australia’s broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). The authority is tasked with enforcing broadcast standards, but critics say its powers are limited and often not enforced.…  Seguir leyendo »

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison removes his mask before speaking at a conference following a national cabinet meeting, at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on July 2. (Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Most people know someone who did well in life when young, only to fail later. Beguiled by their early success, they took their foot off the accelerator, believing that fate would always be kind.

Welcome to the story of Australia. The country has enjoyed great success in the battle against covid-19, but now finds itself falling victim to complacency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison deserves some of the blame. Back in March, he declared that the vaccine roll-out was “not a race.” Four months later, it seems clear that he was wrong.

With fewer than 6 percent of the population fully vaccinated, Australia is now dead last among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to the latest calculations by the website Our World in Data.…  Seguir leyendo »

An aerial view of coral bleaching taking place along the Great Barrier Reef on Australia's northwestern coast. (ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)

Score one for the Tasmanian devils.

Or rather, score seven — since that’s the number of the squirmy little marsupials that conservationists discovered inside the pouch of a mother devil last week, making them the first of their kind to be born in the wild in mainland Australia in more than 3,000 years.

The accomplishment — the result of a decade of work to “rewild” parts of the continent’s ecosystem — is certainly worth celebrating. But I hesitate.

Don’t get me wrong; I feel a rush of excitement watching videos of the toothy little carnivores skulking about their ancestral habitat. Yet news such as this always comes with a heavy dose of sadness.…  Seguir leyendo »

Teela Reid and her grandmother. (Teela Reid)

Australia has earned a lot of misplaced praise for its response since covid-19 hit our shores. The real success story is how First Nations prioritized people over politics to pull through the pandemic.

Australia is a sacred place that belongs to more than 250 sovereign First Nations. In February 2020, before the Australian government had grasped the gravity of the pandemic, the response from Indigenous communities was swift and the message was clear: Keep our Elders safe!

Our First Nations’ Elders are the heartbeat of our Ancestors. They are the cornerstone of our kinship circles. Elders connect us to our past, ground us in the present and empower us into the future.…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign warns people at a beach in Sydney on Dec. 19. (Mark Baker/AP)

Last week, Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, singled out Australia’s response to the covid-19 pandemic as an example of success. “They really do get the cases almost to nothing,” he said. “We’ve never had that in the United States.”

Indeed, local transmission in Australia is limited to the occasional, isolated case. There are just 43 people in hospital. With 909 total deaths since the pandemic began, the rate of death per 100,000 in Australia stands at 3.6, compared with 163 in the United States and 188 in Britain.

Australia is hardly a perfect country.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘What if another Tarrant decides to show up?’ writes Ramia Abdo Sultan. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

As the news on the Christchurch massacre unfolded in 2019, I was at work, ironically dealing with a different type of aggression, namely that of a client detailing the injustices she was experiencing at the hands of her partner, and the exit plan she would soon take. Being safe was the most important thing in all of this. It didn’t matter where she and her children would end up - being safe was all that mattered.

As she left my office, I wondered how humans could ever come to be so inhumane - why did certain people feel it was OK to inflict harm on others and potentially get away with it.…  Seguir leyendo »

People are tested for covid-19 on March. 4 in Otara in Auckland, New Zealand. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Life in New Zealand is almost back to normal. While the United States has seen more than half a million deaths from covid-19 — with a death rate of more than 160 per 100,000 of population — New Zealand has lost only 26 people at a rate of 0.53 per 100,000.

Two months ago, one of us, Richard, went to a New Year’s festival with more than 12,000 fellow revelers — something barely imaginable in the United States, where most concerts are online-only. Meanwhile, teachers, including Matthew’s parents, have been instructing in person since May without requiring masks or social distancing measures.…  Seguir leyendo »

Facebook and Google have negotiated with the Australian government about a new law that will require tech companies to compensate news sites for their content. Credit Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Last week Facebook carried out what may have been the single largest content takedown in its history. Any content that looked vaguely like news, even if it very much was not, disappeared from the platform in Australia. The company was demonstrating its opposition to a law now passed by the Australian Parliament that could require technology companies to compensate news organizations for their content.

The action was a high-stakes tactic designed to improve Facebook’s bargaining position with Australian lawmakers, and it worked: The company quickly negotiated amendments to the legislation and has now committed to restoring news sharing to the site.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Facebook app icon on a smartphone in Sydney on Thursday. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

People and governments everywhere have wondered whether the world has allowed American tech giants to become too powerful and too central to the way our societies work. What would happen if they suddenly chose to use that enormous power to win an argument with a democratically elected government?

Well, this week it happened. Facebook, angry about proposed legislation that would force it to pay media companies for the content shared on its site, wiped clean Facebook pages around Australia. The country’s 17 million users woke on Thursday morning to find they could no longer post links to any news items — either local or international.…  Seguir leyendo »

A New-Media Showdown in Australia

In the face-off this week between the news media and social media in Australia, I think I am on Rupert Murdoch’s side for once. Unless I am on Mark Zuckerberg’s.

It is an awful choice. Do I root for the wizened media titan who controls News Corp and his longtime efforts to wrest power from the tech giants that have made mincemeat of the journalism economy?

Or do I stand with the King of Facebook and the bedrock internet principle that sharing hyperlinks should be free and open, even though Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation has become the prime distributor of lies and hate speech, threatening to swamp us all?…  Seguir leyendo »

A sign announcing a state government lockdown due to covid-19 is seen at Scarborough Beach in Perth, Australia, on Monday. (Richard Wainwright/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Government officials from Western Australia announced on Sunday that millions of people in the southwest part of our state would plunge into a strict, five-day lockdown after the first case of community transmission in 10 months was detected in a hotel quarantine security guard. The guard had unfortunately contracted the new strain of the coronavirus first identified in Britain.

It may seem strange to act so aggressively for a single case, but we Australians complied. There were no complaints of infringing on freedoms. No marches against masks. My city of Perth came to a standstill. The roads were quiet, and our beaches were deserted.…  Seguir leyendo »

The New Zealand government sided with its “mates” this week, objecting to China’s caricaturing of alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers. This is consistent with New Zealand shifting more into line with the US-led Five Eyes security alliance and its quickly escalating cold war with China.

The problem is that it is also a further degradation of New Zealand’s much vaunted “independent foreign policy” and risks undermining the relationship with China, which could ultimately hit citizens in the pocket.

Previously, New Zealand has managed a nimble high-wire act, balancing the interests of our major trading partner, China, and the traditional Anglo-American defence allies.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s nearly two weeks since Australian defence force chief Angus Campbell released the Brereton report, alleging war crimes perpetrated by Australians in Afghanistan. Two immensely difficult and challenging weeks not just for the ADF but for Afghan-Australians.

The US-led “war on terror” and intervention in Afghanistan has been ongoing for nearly two decades now, and follows the Soviet invasion in 1979. In almost 40 years of conflict, the people who have suffered the most are Afghans.

Beyond any doubt, the Brereton report has added to that suffering. For us Afghans and Afghan-Australians, it has reawakened old traumas, stirred up our grief for the land of our ancestors and, although these atrocities were committed by just a few, it has shaken our faith in Australian values, fairness, honour and truth-telling.…  Seguir leyendo »

El laboratorio del fin del mundo

Las apariciones de Nueva Zelanda en la escena mundial son fugaces: victorias en rugby, decorado para la película «El señor de los anillos», una desafortunada masacre en una mezquita de Christchurch en 2019, un carismático primer ministro, éxitos notables contra el Covid-19. Pero, como dicen los propios neozelandeses, al menos los de origen británico, «un bonito país, pero lejos de casa». Si observamos más de cerca y vamos allí a estudiarla, lo que llevo haciendo desde la década de 1980, esta nación de cinco millones de habitantes puede verse también como el laboratorio experimental de algunas tendencias fundamentales que están transformando el mundo occidental.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s now official, and much as we have been prepared for it from well-informed media reports, the news is shocking: the report by Justice Paul Brereton reveals that there is credible information to substantiate 23 incidents of alleged unlawful killings of 39 people, perpetrated by 25 Australian special forces soldiers, predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment.

Those alleged to have been unlawfully killed were all people under control – in lay terms, prisoners, farmers and other civilians.

Importantly, Brereton found that none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the “heat of battle”, none were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken, and every person spoken to by the inquiry thoroughly understood the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement under which they operated.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Women’s Work’ Can No Longer Be Taken for Granted

Last week, as Americans were obsessing over the results of the presidential election, a New Zealand law aimed at eliminating pay discrimination against women in female-dominated occupations went into effect. The bill, which takes an approach known as “pay equity,” provides a road map for addressing the seemingly intractable gender pay gap.

Unlike “equal pay” — the concept most often used to address gender pay disparities in the United States — the concept of “pay equity” doesn’t just demand equal pay for women doing the same work as men, in the same positions. Such efforts, while worthwhile, ignore the role of occupational segregation in keeping women’s pay down: There are some jobs done mostly by women and others that are still largely the province of men.…  Seguir leyendo »