Week in Brief: 1-7 April 2018

7 April 2018

Week in Brief: 1-7 April 2018

Australia

Commonwealth Games kicks off on the Gold Coast

Image credit: Dan Mullan (Getty Images)

The 2018 Commonwealth Games kicked off this week on the Gold Coast, with athletes arriving from all across the Commonwealth to compete in the multi-sport event.

The opening ceremony drew a nationwide television audience of over two million to Channe 7—a record number for 2018.

While most enjoyed the ceremony which explored Australia’s 65,000-year history and featured an indigenous smoking ceremony, some have criticised it, claiming it glossed over history.

Prince Charles opened the Games with a message from the Queen remarking on how the Commonwealth Games connects people from all over the world.

Prince Charles said: “My wife and I could not be more delighted to join you all here on the Gold Coast and many millions watching from homes across the Commonwealth. I’ve been asked by Her Majesty to convey a message. Ancient stories told by indigenous people remind us that even though you may be half a world away we are all connected. The Friendly Games have shown the ability of sport to bring people from different countries and backgrounds together.”

AEC reveals Victoria and ACT redistributions; Labor may gain three seats

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) announced redistributions of several federal electorates in Victoria and the ACT on Friday, changes which may threaten the Coalition Government’s majority at the next election.

Under section 59 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, one of the ways an electoral redistribution occurs is when a change in population changes the number of members to which a state is entitled.

A determination was made in made in August 2017 that Victoria and the ACT would both gain a seat, and that South Australia would lose a seat, due to population changes.

The new ACT seat will cover southern Canberra, and will be named Bean after the First World War historian C E W Bean. Victoria will gain a seat in Melbourne called Fraser, named after the late Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. The AEC is expected to announce which seat will be removed from South Australia next week.

To accommodate these changes, the electoral boundaries of all 37 seats in Victoria will be changed, altering the demographics and political support in each seat.

According to Antony Green, this means that the seats of Dunkly and Corangamite (which is being renamed to Cox after the swimming and life-saving instructor May Cox) in Victoria will be notionally Labor-supporting seats.

Along with the new seat of Fraser, which is expected to be a safe Labor seat, this places the Government’s single-seat majority in the House of Representatives in danger at the next election.

The changes also include several proposed renamings of electorates and will bring the total number of seats in the House of Representatives to 151.

How does redistribution work?

Section 24 of the Australian Constitution requires that the number of members of the House of Representatives is determined as follows:

1. Create a quota by dividing the total population of Australia by the twice the number of Senators

The current population of Australia is 23,729,561 as at 28 July 2017 (when the determination was made).

Sections 7 and 8 of the Australian Constitution say that there must be at least six senators from each Original State — this was increased in 1984 to 12. The Senate (Representation of Territories) Act 1973 gave the NT and ACT two senators each. So, the total number of Senators is 76.

The quota would be 24,896.236 / (76 x 2), which is 164,788.61806.

2. Divide the population of each state by the quota

This gives the number of seats a state is entitled to — provided that the Original States (South Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia, and Queensland) have at least five members.

New South Wales has 7,861,100 people — they get  7,861,100  / 164,788.61806 members, which is 47 members!

Similarly:

  • VIC  has 6,323,600 people; they get 38 members;
  • QLD has 4,928,500  people; they get 30 members;
  • WA has 2,580,400 people; they get 16 members;
  • SA has 1,723,500 people; they get 10 members;
  • TAS has 520,900 people; they get 5  members (because of the minimum of 5 rule);
  • ACT has 410,300 people; they get 3 members;
  • NT has 246,100 people; they get 2 members;

Which gives us a total of 151 members from next election!

For more reading, check out the AEC website.

Members of the ‘Colt’ family face court on sexual charges

Six members of the ‘Colt’ family have recently appeared in a Sydney court, after being arrested in both Western Australia and South Australia. Two others were also arrested in regional New South Wales.

The family was initially discovered in southern New South Wales in 2012, where it was discovered that many of the children had parents that were related. There were also accusations of sexual abuse by other family members.

They were each given pseudonyms, including the last name ‘Colt’, by the NSW courts. Those arrested are currently facing multiple charges.

Live export ban for 63,000 sheep considered

After footage has emerged showing substandard conditions for a live sheep export shipment, the Federal Agriculture Department has threatened to block the shipment from leaving Fremantle harbour.

Emanuel Exports, the company responsible for the shipment, has a ship in Fremantle harbor loaded with 64,000 sheep which is due to leave port on Monday.

However, it was revealed earlier this week that 2,400 sheep had died from heat stress on an Emanuel Exports shipment from Western Australia to the Middle East.

After reviewing footage of the conditions of sheep on the shipments provided to him by Animals Australia, the federal Agriculture Minister made a public statement declaring himself “gutted” at the suffering of the animals.

An assistant secretary in the federal Department of Agriculture’s Exports Divison, Narelle Clegg, has since written a letter to Emanuel Exports, demanding their ship stay in port unless it meets animal welfare guideless (including plans for veterinarians and properly trained crews onboard), and meeting general  Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) standards.

Naturopath sentenced to at least seven months for role in starving child

Sydney-based naturopath Marilyn Bodnar was sentenced to 14 months’ imprisonment for providing extreme diet advice that almost killed an eight-month-old child in 2015.

The 62-year-old advised the child’s mother to adhere to a diet of raw vegetables, fruit and seeds, after the mother sought advice on treating the child’s eczema.

In the Downing Centre District Court Judge Peter Berman said that “once it became clearly apparent that there was a risk of harm … it was a seriously criminal thing to do to ignore the [harmful] effect of her advice.”

The prosecution alleged that the child was days from death when admitted to Westmead Children’s Hospital in May 2015. He was suffering from severe malnourishment and developmental issues.

Bodnar plead guilty to an accessory charge of causing danger of death to a child, and expressed remorse for her role in the child’s treatment. She will be eligible for parole on 4 November 2018.


World

Skripal daughter releases statement as father recovers and US imposes sanctions

Yulia Skripal, the daughter of the ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury last month, has released a public statement through British police, her first comment on the nerve attack which lead to Russian diplomat expulsions across the West.

Ms Skripal said she is “glad to say my strength is growing daily”, and issued thanks for the messages of goodwill she has received, requesting privacy for her and her family as she recovers from the “disorientating” episode.

Sergei Skripal himself is said to no longer be in a critical condition, and is recovering rapidly after weeks of heavy sedation and no improvement.

This comes as the United States imposes sanctions against 24 Russians tied with President Vladimir Putin in further moves to punish Russia for alleged interferences in the 2016 election.

The seven oligarchs and 17 senior government officials, an assortment of billionaires, former Putin judo partners, bank heads and gas giant CEOs, have had their US assets frozen, with Americans prevented from doing business with any of the sanctioned parties.

Israeli troops shoot 10 more dead in latest Palestinian demonstrations

10 Palestinian protesters have been shot dead, and a further 200 wounded after Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators along the Israel-Gaza border.

A continuation of the violence from last week’s protests, dubbed as a six-week “March of Return” leading up to the anniversary of the Nakba, the recent deaths raise the death toll for the past week to 32 people.

While the protests were somewhat smaller than last week, attendance was estimated to be 20,000 people strong, and was marked by burning tire smoke in an attempt to conceal protesters from the Israeli line of sight and small groups of young men throwing rocks from slingshots.

As violence swelled in the afternoon, Israeli troops used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protestors, allegedly to prevent the breaking of the fence on the Israeli-Palestinian border.

Amid condemnation from the United Nations and the European Union, Israel has defended the actions of their troops, with Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev blaming Hamas for the violences, describing the protests as an attempt to attack Israel.

Former South Korean president Park Geun-hye sentenced to 24 years for corruption

Former South Korean president Park-Geun-hye was convicted this week, and sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment for corruption.

Park was impeached in December 2016, and removed from office after her appeal to the Constitutional Court failed in March 2017.

Seoul Central District Court convicted Park of bribery, extortion and abuse of power, among other charges.

In addition to her imprisonment, the Court ordered Park pay a fine of 18 billion Won (approximately $22 million). Park has one week to decide whether to appeal.

Homosexual historical records in New Zealand expunged

As has been the case in many countries, New Zealand had previously considered homosexuality to be a crime.

Although it was decriminalised in 1986, those convicted before then still had these offences listed on their criminal records.

The New Zealand Parliament has unanimously passed the Criminal Records (Expungement of Convictions for Historical Homosexual Offences) Bill 2017 allowing these records to be expunged.

It isn’t an automatic process, and people are required to apply individually, but the justice department approximates that around 1000 people will be eligible to have their records cleared.

They follow in the footsteps of other jurisdictions that have passed similar laws, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and multiple states in Australia.

Trump to deploy National Guard to Mexican border

President Trump has announced plans to deploy 2,000 to 4,000 National Guard members to the Mexican border in support of the US Border Patrol, an attempt to further stop illegal crossings and drug trafficking.

The Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis, authorised the Department of Defence to fund up to 4,000 National Guard members for deployment to the Mexican border to by 30 September.

Texas and Arizona have been the first states to respond to the directive, with Texas deploying 250 National Guard members to the border, and Arizona scheduled to deploy 150 next week.

This is not the first time that a US President has deployed the National Guard to the Mexican border; the last deployment under President Barack Obama, Operation Phalanx, involved 1,200 National Guard members at a cost of $110 million, and resulted in 18,000 apprehensions at the border.

The move has met with protest in Mexico, with the Mexican senate passing a unanimous motion urging the Mexican government to end cooperation on migration and security with the Trump administration, and condemning President Trump’s aggressive rhetoric towards Mexico.

Sugar tax implemented on soft drinks in Britain

Britain has recently imposed a sugar tax on soft drinks, in a bid to battle obesity and tooth decay.

It works on a grams of sugar per 100mL calculation, with those that have eight grams or more hit by a tax of 24 pence per litre (about 44 Australian cents).

Some companies have decided to change their recipe to avoid the tax; but both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have elected to keep theirs how it is.

Money raised from the tax is planned to be spent on sports facilities and breakfast clubs. About £240 million ($441 million AUD) is hoped to be raised each year.