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June 21, 2016

Australian Labor Party promises A$80 million in suicide prevention

Australian Labor Party promises A$80 million in suicide prevention

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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The Australian Labor Party on Sunday announced plans to invest A$80 million towards suicide prevention if they win the upcoming federal election.

During his launch speech on Sunday, opposition leader Bill Shorten said his party hopes to cut the suicide rate in half and break down stigmas around mental health.

Under Labor’s plan, Mr. Shorten said, A$72 million would be used to introduce twelve suicide prevention programs to areas with high suicide rates. Of these twelve, three or more would be based in indigenous communities.

Mr. Shorten also said his plan will provide more support to rural areas, including drought-affected parts of New South Wales. This comes after A$35 million of funding was cut from the area last month.

Despite these cuts, the Turnbull government insists mental health is still a high priority. On July 1 the Primary Health Network received A$360 million to fund counselling services across the country. This money is to be be distributed to communities based on their individual needs, and is intended to put vulnerable areas first.

Australia’s suicide rate is currently at its highest in thirteen years.



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May 26, 2015

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten moves towards legalising same-sex marriage

Australian Opposition Leader Bill Shorten moves towards legalising same-sex marriage

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

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File photo of Bill Shorten, 2015.
Image: Nick-D.

Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten announced today, they will present a private bill to Parliament next Monday to legalise same-sex marriage, with the support of deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

This move towards same-sex marriage follows the Greens‘ initial announcement this morning, saying they planned senate debate of a marriage equality bill in June.

Bill Shorten announced his plan to bring same-sex marriage to Australia through a statement, saying, “I have given notice that I will move a Private members Bill in the House of Representatives on Monday which will finally bring about marriage equality in Australia”.

The Irish referendum which saw a majority of voting citizens support same-sex marriage over the weekend has brought the issue back to the front of public debate In Australia.

On the possibility of a similar process in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “Referendums are held in this country where there’s a proposal to change the constitution […] I don’t think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect.”

In order for the bill to pass through Parliament, votes are not only needed from the Labor party, but also the Coalition MPs. Tony Abbott has said it is up to the Coalition party room whether MPs will be permitted to have a conscience vote, rather than being required to vote their parties’ position.

Talking about the effect the private bill will have, along with the freedom to vote, Bill Shorten says, “It will challenge the deeply held personal beliefs of MPs and senators on both sides of politics. This is why Labor members have the freedom to vote their conscience, a freedom Tony Abbott is currently denying his party.”



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August 8, 2014

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

Australian government prepares legislation to restrict travel of Australian fighters overseas

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Friday, August 8, 2014

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On Tuesday, the Australian Cabinet approved the “Counter Terrorism Foreign Fighters Bill” which is to be introduced into the Australian Parliament between August 26 and September 4. The bill follows after the “National Security Legislation Amendment Bill” which was introduced into the Parliament on July 16 and is now before the Australian Senate.

Attorney-General George Brandis mentioned at a joint press conference in Canberra on Tuesday, he has “been asked to develop — in consultation with relevant stakeholders, in particular, in the telecommunications sector — a system of mandatory data retention. That legislation has been approved in principle and is in development from today and is to be introduced into Parliament later in the year”. As Tony Abbott mentioned, “the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act […] are now off the table”.

The proposed legislation would change the “Commonwealth Crimes Act“, to include provisions currently found in the separate “Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act”. It would expand the definition of armed hostilities, to keep up-to-date with the current terrorist activities, from “The Terrorism, Incursions and Recruitment Act” of 1978. An important provisions of the proposed laws would make traveling to places with active terrorism an offence, as defined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. With stated intention of “preserving national unity”, Tony Abbott cancelled controversial changes to section 18C of the discrimination act which George Brandis had promoted.

“Not everyone who goes to the Middle East is a bad person”, cautioned Labor Party leader Bill Shorten. “I think we have to be very careful in this complex situation about demonising Australians of Middle-Eastern backgrounds […] So I think we need to be balanced in our approach, maintain our national security but also not try and blame everyone or tar everyone with the same brush.”

“There’s no question that Australia needs to be vigilant against terrorism but we must insist on ways to protect Australians from terrorism without overturning the fundamentals of our justice system”, said Greens Senator Penny Wright. “Clearly we would need to see the detail of any legislation but as it’s been described so far, it seems that this legislation could see Red Cross and other humanitarian workers in declared zones having to face court to prove they’re not terrorists. This law could also see Australian journalists reporting from countries like Syria or Iraq presumed guilty of terrorism.”

Penny Wright also warned against removing the legislation’s sunset clause. “The Australian Greens would be very concerned about any legislation that further restricts civil liberties and removes scrutiny and oversight. There’s a very important balance to strike between security and freedoms, and we would not want to see very legitimate security concerns be used to permanently erode human rights.”

There has been a significant increase in Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) cancellations of Australian passports over the last year. To make it easier for ASIO to complete security assessment of suspected individuals, the government-announced proposals include the power to temporarily suspend an Australian passport, or foreign passport of a dual national, on ASIO request, a change recommended by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.



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June 15, 2014

Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

Abbott open to possible Australian assistance in Iraq

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott allowed for potential Australian support in any military action the United States may take in resolving the current conflict in Iraq, during and after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday.

File photo of Tony Abbott in 2010.
Image: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy).

The President had said all options were on the table for dealing with the Al-Qaeda splinter group of Sunni militants who have violently overrun many areas of the war torn county.

A major Al-Qaeda foodhold in Iraq “would be a humanitarian disaster for the people of Iraq, quite apart from being a very serious problem for the region and the wider world” said Abbot to ABC Radio, emphasising the consequences this conflict could have on the already unstable region.

Whilst the United States has not requested Australian aid, Abbott expressed concern the situation could become a problem for Australia and the rest of the world. In remarks to Sky News, he said, “I want to do what we reasonably can to protect Australian citizens, Australian interests and Australian values, and there is a very strong community of interests and values between the United States and Australia and our other principal allies”.

Abbott advised this conflict in Iraq would allow terrorist organisations to gain a stronger position globally, as the war in Syria allowed terrorist groups to hoard large amounts of weapons and money.

Abbott’s position on this issue in Iraq has been met with criticism from different members of parliament. Opposition leader Bill Shorten warned “Australia always needs to weigh up the use of our highly professional and dedicated soldiers as to whether or not it is in the Australian National interest”. Greens leader Christine Milne said Australia should focus efforts on diplomatic solutions through nonviolent action and the United Nations to bring about long-term stability and reconciliation in Iraq.

However Peter Jennings, head of think tank the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, supported Australia’s offer of support, though acknowledging Australia could do little as a main player in this conflict. Jennings also advised that providing intelligence via surveillance may be a way for Australia to help in a supporting role.

According to recent information from the Australian federal government’s service Smartraveller, at least 90 Australians were on holiday in Iraq despite a no-travel warning for that country.



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November 27, 2006

Labor government retains power in Victorian election

Labor government retains power in Victorian election

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Monday, November 27, 2006

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Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks

The Victorian Government has declared victory for a third term, with Steve Bracks now the state’s longest-serving Labor Premier. Following last weekend’s state election, despite a primary vote swing of 4.4 per cent against the State Government, the Liberal Party were unable to get the substantial shift neeeded to unseat Bracks’ government.

Premier Steve Bracks told the ABC that the win is a historic result. “Only the second time in 150 years that a Labor Party has won three consecutive elections,” he said. Labor’s Victorian president Bill Shorten said the party expected to lose some seats after achieving a record win in 2002.

Opposition leader Liberal Ted Baillieu conceded defeat but said the election result showed a renewed confidence in his team. “I look forward to working with them to keep this Government accountable,” he said. He urged the Liberal Party to work towards the 2010 campaign.

Votes are still to be fully counted but the National Party have achieved eight Lower House seats, while the Greens and Labor are still battling to see which party obtains the inner-city seat of Melbourne. The Age reports that Mr Bracks could have a majority of 22 seats in the new parliament — down from 36.

The Bracks government was elected in 1999. Bracks is now Labor’s longest serving Victorian premier, exceeding John Cain Jr‘s 3,047 day reign.


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May 22, 2006

PM John Howard\’s nuclear push causes alarm

PM John Howard’s nuclear push causes alarm

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Nuclear Power for Australia?

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian nuclear debate

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced he wants a “full-scale nuclear debate”, and three of his senior federal government frontbenchers – Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Resources Minister, Ian Macfarlane, and Environment Minister Ian Campbell – have all suggested Australia, which has around 40 per cent of the world’s known uranium reserves, should consider enriching uranium – a step in processing that would allow it to be used as reactor fuel as well as for nuclear weapons.

However there is strong opposition for nuclear power in the Australian community. The Australian Greens have rejected the Prime Minister’s assumption that nuclear power might be ‘desirable’ for Australia. The Greens say they challenge Mr Howard to show “true leadership on climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.”

Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said Mr Howard was “playing politics” by floating the idea and testing public opinion before developing a government position.

“Instead of pandering to US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – the two most unpopular leaders in the world today – Prime Minister Howard should demonstrate real leadership and put some authenticity into the government’s response to climate change and terrorism,” Senator Milne said. “Nuclear power and nuclear proliferation are a threat to both.”

Senator Milne challenged advocates of nuclear power to explain what they will to do about nuclear waste, how large a public subsidy they are prepared to pay to prop up nuclear power, and why the Sustainable Development Commission was wrong when it recommended last month against expanding nuclear power in Britain.

“Australians have already had to subsidise uranium mining companies to clean up after mines have closed, while last week’s Budget papers revealed that ANSTO can’t estimate the cost of decommissioning the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor,” Senator Milne said. “When will advocates of nuclear power admit that it is too slow, too expensive and too dangerous to be a solution to climate change? Nor is there any safe way to dispose of the waste. It is not even safe to transport, a concern supported by the head of the International Energy Agency…” said Senator Milne in a media release.

“Instead of turning to nuclear power, Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, invest in renewable energy, adopt a national energy efficiency target and improve public transport.

“Several studies examining options to achieve deep cuts in Australian greenhouse emissions all show this goal can be achieved, cost effectively, without resorting to nuclear power,” said Senator Milne in a media release.

Greens leader Bob Brown says the Prime Minister is sending a message of approval for Indonesia to become a nuclear power. “Australia and our region are essentially nuclear-free. Mr Howard is abandoning that security to grab uranium profits and facilitate an Australian role in nuclear enrichment,” Senator Brown said. “This robs Australia of its moral strength to argue against Indonesia resurrecting the Soeharto plan for 12 nuclear reactors and to advance its interest in Russian-built floating nuclear power stations.”

A Nuclear Symbol

“This will make our region much less secure for the next generation of Australians,” Senator Brown said. “John Howard has talked up regional terrorism. Now he is promoting nuclear power proliferation in our neighbourhood. At best his logic is faulty, at worst he is taking Australia into a future unnecessarily menaced by the nuclear threat,” Senator Brown said.

Labor MP Kelvin Thomson says John Howard’s push towards nuclear power generation could heighten the risk of a terrorist attack. “The problem with nuclear power is that more of it that is around, the easier it is for terrorists to get access to it and I’m not satisfied that in this day and age we can be absolutely certain that terrorists can’t access it,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Thompson said the Government should be focussing its interest on “much safer and environmentally-friendly” abundant renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Mr Thomson said Australia was a potential world-leader in solar power. “Surely you exhaust all the other alternatives first before you say let’s go down the nuclear road,” he said.

“The problem with nuclear power is that more of it that is around, the easier it is for terrorists to get access to it,” he said. “I’m not satisfied that in this day and age you can be absolutely certain that terrorists can’t access it.”

Union leader Bill Shorten, a federal Labor candidate at the next election, believes the issue is unpopular with the electorate. A survey in 2005 found 47 percent of Australians supported nuclear power and 40 percent opposed it.

Professor Frank Muller from the University of New South Wales, said the framework to manage nuclear power needs to be put in place first. He says it could take decades before a nuclear power plant could operate. “So it actually takes even longer to provide a greenhouse benefit than it does to build a power plant,” he said. Professor Muller says nuclear power stations are expensive to build, and safety is a major issue.

Opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said: “John Howard’s nuclear fantasy is Australia’s nightmare,” Mr Albanese told reporters. “Intractable problems with nuclear energy when it comes to economic costs, safety, disposal of waste and contribution to nuclear proliferation remain up to some 50 years.”

Mr Albanese said that if Mr Howard was serious about nuclear power he should say where a nuclear power plant would be built, and where the waste it produced would be stored. “If he’s so confident that nuclear energy is safe… I’m sure he’ll have coalition MPs volunteering to have a nuclear reactor in their electorate and to store their waste in the electorate,” he said.

Mr Albanese said the current Labor policy remained opposed to nuclear energy in Australia.

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