Australia. The extreme weather was noticed in January in Australia, which was then hit by both forest fires and floods. Forest fires devoured hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the southern part of the country and on the island of Tasmania in early January. Record temperatures of over 49 degrees were measured and the fire was beaten by heavy winds. According to Countryaah, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes in the states of Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Two people died, which was few compared to previous years. The material damage was also less than before. According to the authorities, this was due to more accurate weather forecasts and better planning and firefighting. The heat and drought persisted in the southern states until the monsoon rains came in late January. During the latter part of January, Queensland and northern New South Wales were hit by a cyclone that caused torrents and floods in several areas, including Brisbane. At least six people died, thousands were evacuated and several areas were isolated for a few days.
In January, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced parliamentary elections until September. A few months later, she reformed the government and kicked off several ministers who supported her representative Kevin Rudd, with whom she has long had a power struggle. Gillard won a vote against Rudd in 2010 and took over the prime minister’s post from him.
In March, Gillard made a formal apology to the people affected by forced adoptions from the 1950s to the 1970s. Tens of thousands of children of unmarried mothers, often teenagers, were adopted by the authorities in accordance with the laws of the time. The children were given to childless married couples. Gillard pledged the equivalent of SEK 30 million in state aid to increase access to specialist assistance for people affected by the adoptions.
After a period of power struggle in the Labor Party Labor, where some members wanted to remove Gillard in favor of Representative Rudd, Gillard announced in June a party leader vote. She lost the vote to Rudd with the numbers 45 to 57 and left both the assignment as party leader and the Prime Minister post. Several ministers resigned with her.
On June 27, Kevin Rudd was installed as prime minister. He presented a new government with more female ministers than ever before. According to opinion polls, the change of party leadership increased Labor’s voter support, which was what Rudd’s supporters had hoped for in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But it was even between Labor and the main opponent, the Conservative coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party. The media wondered if Rudd would advance the election to increase the chances of victory.
In July, Rudd announced that no boat refugees arriving in Australia will be granted a residence permit in the country. Instead, they will be sent to collection camps in Papua New Guinea while an asylum investigation is in progress. Australia had signed an agreement with Papua New Guinea to receive the refugees for financial compensation. A similar agreement was then signed with the small Pacific nation Nauru, which had also previously received boat refugees who first arrived in Australia. The tough refugee policy was a way for Rudd to try to get public opinion with him before the parliamentary elections. Many Australians are critical that large numbers of boat refugees have arrived in the country in recent years. The government also wants to try to stop the refugee smugglers who charge to transport migrants in dangerous boats, which are not infrequent in the Pacific.
In August, Rudd announced parliamentary elections until September 7, a week earlier than the date set by Representative Gillard. The election campaign was about the economic downturn that the country was expecting, refugee policy and climate issues. As the election approached, opinion polls showed increased support for the conservative opposition alliance, led by Tony Abbott. The opposition promised to abolish the criticized carbon tax that Labor had introduced in 2012 and also the mining taxes.
The election became a landslide victory for the coalition between the Liberal Party and the National Party, which gained over half of the seats in the House of Representatives and returned to power after six years with the Labor administration. Labor made one of their worst choices in a long time, and Rudd announced his departure. In October, Bill Shorten was elected Labor leader. For the first time, the party leader was elected by all members of the party, not just by the MPs as before. It was hoped that this would contribute to a more united party than in the years before which was characterized by the power struggle between Gillard and Rudd.
On September 18, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott was sworn in as new prime minister for the Conservative coalition government. He was criticized for forming a government consisting of only one woman and 18 men. The only woman was Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who was also the deputy leader of the Liberal Party. Abbott said the issues he prioritized most were abolishing the carbon tax that Labor introduced and stopping the asylum seekers coming by boat.
During the election campaign, Abbott had also promised to prioritize the issue of Aboriginal people who are in many ways disadvantaged in society. After ten days in power, the new Prime Minister established the Indigenous Advisory Council for Indigenous Affairs. Abbott appointed a Labor politician who himself is Aboriginal to lead the Council, which will create jobs and reform the welfare system.
In October, the worst fires in several decades ravaged the south-eastern state of New South Wales. Tens of thousands of acres and over 200 homes were destroyed in the flames. Hundreds of people were forced to leave their homes. The state declared an emergency permit to be able to make quick decisions on forced evacuation and shutdown of gas and electricity in the area. The worst hit was the Blue Mountains, west of the country’s largest city Sydney, whose skyline was also covered with smoke and ash from the fires. The fires led to a debate between the UN and Abbott about the impact of climate change. The UN climate chief said that there is a connection between forest fires and rising temperatures. Abbott rebuffed it and said she “talks in the night cap”. Forest fires have always occurred in Australia, but according to Australia’s own climate scientists,
Indonesia called home its ambassador to Australia in November, interrupting military cooperation with the country, after media revealed that Australian intelligence service must have intercepted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang’s Yudhoyono’s phone. Several ministers, the vice-president and the president’s wife must also have been intercepted. The media information came from American revelator Edward Snowden. Yudhoyono said the interception was a “wounding act” that damaged the ties between the two countries, which are important trading partners and cooperate militarily. The interception will take place in 2009, under the previous government. Abbott later began talks with his Indonesian colleague to end the conflict.
In December, Australia closed its most important military base in Afghanistan and brought home its last combatants. Australia had been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001. Prime Minister Tony Abbott praised the Australian soldiers, but pointed out that the price was high: 40 dead and about 260 seriously injured. As of 2014, Australia will have about 400 people remaining as instructors and advisors to the Afghan security forces.
In December, the Supreme Court put a stop to same-sex marriage in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The court revoked the law on allowing same-sex marriage, adopted by the ACT local parliament in October. The local law violated the federal, which states that a marriage can only be entered into between a man and a woman. The Court ruled that it is for the national parliament to decide on a legislative amendment. In 2012, Parliament had voted against legalizing same-sex marriage. The approximately 30 gay couples who had been married in ACT had their marriage canceled.