As the first month of 2015 sinks in, all of the politicians are anywhere but in Canberra. Although it may be slow at the moment, this is shaping up to be a huge year in Australian politics, and global politics and international relations as a whole – maybe even bigger than the Bachelor in 2014, although let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.
So what’s been happening since the end of last year for all those people gallivanting across the globe or working away those summer days? On the day of the Sydney siege the mid-year budget review was announced, and still went ahead. The results were as promising as the rumours that Beyonce and Jay-Z were going to break up…there has been a huge budget blowout (I think many of us know those feels) of $40.4 billion. This blowout has consequences for all Australians, but it is unclear at the moment what the government will put forward to try to reduce this deficit as the dwindling poll results continue.
So as the future leaders of Australia, what will the results be for us? Unemployment is set to rise, making it harder to snatch grad positions. The tertiary education reforms have been rejected by the Senate, which was a win for us students. However, Christopher Pyne is set on bringing this policy back to the senate, and with only a 31-33 balance the tide could turn very easily, especially considering the unpredictable nature of the now-defunct PUP bloc. Worthy of note is that Pyne spent 8 million on advertising for our favourite higher education reforms – not smart. Other ways the budget will affect students is the abolition of 175 different government bodies, so for students hoping to get into the public sector the competition will be greater and the likelihood of employment will be sparse. At the moment this is how the budget mid-year review will affect students but with such a huge deficit it is predicted that more unpopular taxes and cuts will be introduced this year, possibly leading to more future budget policies directly affecting students.
Also of importance to students are the changes to the Medicare rebate. The Abbott government wanted to increase the cost of doctor’s visits of less than ten minutes by $20. They have since abandoned that policy, but that level of sneakiness is on par with covertly trying to decrease the size of killer pythons or changing the classic Cadbury crème egg. We’re onto you, Cadbury! Uh, I mean Abbott!
The Abbott government’s relentless pursuit of domestic fiscal goals has resulted in a cut to Australia’s international foreign aid budget. In the context of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the international community has cause to frown. Showing a modicum of logic, the Senate did vote down the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme in the name of fiscal prudence.
In other political news, troops have been sent to Iraq to help the Americans and it seems as if more troops will be sent there this year as the threat of ISIS continues to grow. With the recent attacks around the world including the Charlie Hebdo killings and of course the Sydney siege, some predict that Australian troops may engage in further wars in the near future.
In November, Australia hosted the 2014 G-20 Summit in Brisbane. A key focus of Australia’s representatives at the G-20 was our relationship with Asia. Recent Free Trade Agreements with South Korea and China seem to indicate good things, though the extent to which these agreements positively affect Australians is yet to be seen.
Australia’s political fan girls swooned and sighed over Barack Obama’s address at the University of Queensland, discussing everything from economic growth to rather pointed jabs at Australia’s lack of climate action. Just days ago China and America make a landmark agreement on global warming agreeing to reduce their carbon emission by 2025 and 2030. China had changed its long-standing view of anti-climate change to making a decision that took the world by shook the world. Obama’s speech had a strong focus on its student crowd, and drove home the importance of climate change to his agenda by announcing that his government would make a 3 billion USD contribution to the Climate Change Fund.
And then there was Putin. Abbott’s attempt to diplomatically confront (“shirtfront”) Putin over MH17 was an abject failure. The coolness and awkwardness directed towards to Putin by foreign leaders was unbearably cringe-worthy, though Canada’s Stephen Harper stuck it to him. Putin’s entourage of Russian warships caused a bit of drama, but essentially revealed that he was resorting to late nineteenth-century gunboat diplomacy.
New years resolutions are a lot like election promises; they’re usually quite grand and we make them with sincerity, but as the year drones on, exactly how many are we able to keep? Time will tell.
Words by Leah Roberts