Australia. In February, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced a ban on sexual relations between ministers and their staff. The decision was made following the revelations that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had an infidelity affair with his press secretary, who became pregnant. History has evolved into a political scandal. In addition, when a woman accused Joyce of sexual harassment, he resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and as party leader of the Conservative National Party. In public, Barnaby Joyce apologized to his wife – then left her and moved in with his mistress.
As the new Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, Michael McCormack was appointed.
In April, the Australian media company Fairfax Media stated that China had discussions with Vanuatu about setting up a military base there. According to Fairfax Media, a military establishment in Vanuatu, located east of Australia, would affect the balance of power in the region that is currently dominated by the United States. According to Countryaah.com, Canberra is the capital city of Australia, a country located in Australasia. Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu denied the information.
In a report in the journal Nature, researchers determined that the mass deaths among the corals in the Great Barrier Reef were worse than expected. Nearly one-third of the Great Barrier Reef, according to the researchers, had fundamentally changed and risked never fully recovering. The cause of coral death, which worst hit the northernmost part of the reef, was rising surface water temperatures caused by climate change and an unusually severe variant of the El Niño weather phenomenon in 2016.
Even the sea turtle’s survival was threatened by climate change as almost only females are born during heat waves. According to a study published in the journal Current Biology, 99.1% of turtle cubs from the Great Barrier Reef’s northernmost beaches were females.
To protect the Great Barrier Reef, Australia invested $ 500 million in April. However, the effort was criticized by the climate movement 350.org, whose founder Bill McKibben said it doesn’t matter as long as the plans for the disputed coal mine Carmichael in Queensland continue.
In May, Vatican CFO Cardinal George Pell was brought to trial in a Melbourne court. Pell was charged with multiple cases of sexual abuse in Australia during his time as priest and archbishop during the 1970s and 1980s. Pell is regarded as the third highest ranked person in the Catholic Church.
Parliament’s intelligence committee chairman Andrew Hastie in May singled out Sino-Australian businessman Chau Chak Wing for paying bribes to former UN Ambassador John Ashe, who in 2015 was arrested on suspicion of receiving money from several Chinese businessmen who wanted to influence the UN’s operations.
In 2017, Chau Chak Wing was also accused by two Australian media companies of donating millions of dollars to Australian politicians. According to Andrew Hastie, Chau Chak Wing had links to the Chinese Communist Party, something that Chau himself has denied.
Last spring, last year’s debacle surrounding the dual citizenship of politicians led to new resignations in parliament. Among other things, Labor’s member Katy Gallagher was forced to leave Parliament because she had British citizenship when she was elected. Australians with dual citizenship may not sit in Parliament for loyalty reasons under a 1901 rule.
China was back in focus in June when Foreign Minister Julie Bishop criticized the great power for persuading Australia’s largest airline Qantas to refrain from calling both Taiwan and Hong Kong and Macao independent countries.
In the same month, 21 asylum seekers from Australia’s refugee camps in the island nation of Nauru flew to the United States, according to an agreement that Australia signed with former US President Barack Obama. Also in January, the United States received refugees (40 people) from the Australian camp on the island of Manus in Papua New Guinea.
According to information from the TT news agency, in July, around 1,600 people were still in the refugee camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Under the designation Super Saturday, the general elections were held in July to replace five elected representatives who have left their seats in Parliament due to dual citizenship. According to the Australian Election Commission (AEC), four of the seats went to the opposition party Labor, while the fifth seat went to the Center Alliance party. The election result was a defeat for the Conservative coalition government.
In August, Australia banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from building new telecommunications networks in the country. The decision was made with regard to national security, as there were suspicions that Huawei had close links with Chinese authorities and could therefore be used for espionage. China-Australia relations have become increasingly strained since Australia accused China of interfering in its policy.
After a week of fighting within the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Turnbull called for two party leader polls in just a few days’ intervals. In the first vote, Turnbull won over challenger Peter Dutton. Dutton’s defeat caused him to resign as Minister of the Interior.
In a second vote, held after Peter Dutton gathered support from the party, Turnbull was excluded from the candidates. The election was instead between Peter Dutton, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Finance Minister Scott Morrison. Winning became the Social Conservative Morrison, who replaced Turnbull as the country’s prime minister and as leader of the Liberal Party. Soon after, Julie Bishop resigned as Foreign Minister. Malcolm Turnbull left his seat in Parliament, triggering a filling election with the government losing its scarce majority.
The filling election was held in October in the Southern New District. In the election, independent candidate Kerryn Phelps won over Liberal candidate Dave Sharma. As a result, the coalition government lost its majority in Parliament. Despite that, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the government, which hoped to get support from at least one independent MP, would continue to govern the country until the May 2019 election.
In November, one person died and at least two were injured in Melbourne when a man in the car first hit people and then went under attack with a knife. The terrorist group IS took action through its propaganda channel Amaq.
The fire department stated in December that extremely dangerous conditions existed in Queensland where over 100 forest fires raged. Later that month, warnings were issued for more forest fires as the summer heat wave hit new records. For example, in the city of Marble Bar in southern Australia, 49.3 degrees were measured.