Australia. To combat the perennial drought in Australia
and increase water levels, Prime Minister John Howard in
January allocated the equivalent of SEK 58 billion over a
ten-year period that would go to the country's most
important rivers, Murray and Darling, among others. Control
of this over-exploited river system, which is used to
irrigate over 70 percent of the country's crops, would be
taken over by the federal authorities. Howard would also
invest SEK 41.5 billion on, among other things, new water
pipes to reduce water leakage.
CountryAAH, the annual climate report from the country's
meteorological institute showed in January that global
warming is affecting Australia more than any other
continent. Ever since 1910, Australia's temperature rise had
been the fastest in the world. In the southern and
south-eastern parts, bush and forest fires raged from
December to February, when the Australian summer occurs. At
least one person was killed and a number of homes and large
areas of land were destroyed. In addition, affected the
multi-million city of Melbourne of extensive power outages.
In May the long-awaited rains came, but they soon led to
extensive flooding, which in the state of Victoria was the
worst in 17 years.
Following a disclosure of widespread alcoholism and
sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern
Territory, the federal government in June decided to
introduce a six-month ban on alcohol and hardcore in some
Aboriginal communities. The federal government also, after
approval by the House of Representatives, took over the
management of 73 Aboriginal communities in the Northern
Territory that had previously been largely self-governing.
Compulsory health checks were introduced for children under
16 years. In addition, the social allowance would be
withdrawn for parents who did not send their children to
school or who used the subsidy for games and alcohol.
The reason was that a public inquiry stated that many
Aboriginal children had been sexually abused and also forced
into prostitution. Contributing reasons for this were -
according to the investigators - alcohol abuse, poverty,
poverty and health problems. Unemployment is close to three
times higher in Aborigines than in other Australians. Their
health is much worse and their life expectancy is shorter,
according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to Digopaul,
some Aboriginal leaders called the measures racist and
authoritarian, and criticized the government for making its
decisions without consulting the Aboriginal people.
Opposition politicians also criticized the decision, but
opposition leader Kevin Rudd said he was prepared to
cooperate with the government on this issue.
In August, one of the Aborigines from the "stolen
generation" was awarded damages in what was seen as a pilot
case. The man, who was forcibly placed in a foster home in
1957, was awarded the equivalent of SEK 2.9 million in
compensation from the Supreme Court of the State of South
Australia. He was one of about 100,000 children stolen from
his families and placed with whites. This so-called
assimilation policy continued until the end of the 1960s.
The Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm returned the remains
of ten Aborigines to an Australian delegation in October.
The skeleton had been plundered from graves in Australia by
Swedish expeditions in the 1910s. In 2004, Sweden had
reclaimed the remains of 15 other Aborigines. Australia has
also demanded two skulls to be found at the History Museum
in Lund. In recent years, Australia has requested to bring
back thousands of skeletons from museums around the world,
but many do not want to return them.
Securing oil supplies is a decisive factor for Australia
continuing to have soldiers in Iraq and the Middle East.
Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said this surprisingly in an
interview with Australian broadcaster ABC in July. Prime
Minister Howard denied that the oil plays any role for
Australia's involvement in Iraq. The reasons were, he said,
to help stop the violence and to introduce democracy.
Soldiers in Iraq and environmental policy became two of
the most important issues before the parliamentary elections
on November 24, and at the same time the subjects in which
the prime ministerial candidates had the most diverse
opinions. Opposition leader Kevin Rudd from Labor promised
to take back Australia's soldiers from Iraq, as opposed to
the incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader John
Howard, who argued for keeping them there. Rudd also pledged
to sign the Kyoto Protocol to limit carbon dioxide
emissions, which Howard repeatedly refused.
Labor also promised to repeal a new criticized law that
will make it easier to dismiss employees. The Liberals opted
for new tax cuts, but despite that and the country's good
economic development, 68-year-old Howard lost power after
eleven years. The election became a major victory for Labor,
which received 53 percent of the vote and at least 83 of the
House's 150 seats.
After the election victory, Rudd said he would take home
the 550 Australian soldiers in Iraq. However, the troops in
the Persian Gulf, as in Afghanistan, would remain. The
change of power meant that the US government lost one of its
closest allies in the war on terror. Instead, 50-year-old
Rudd was expected to strengthen relations with Asia,
primarily China. The new prime minister speaks fluent
Mandarin after being a diplomat in China. He also speaks
Swedish since working at the Australian Embassy in Stockholm
in the 1980s.
Rudd presented his government on November 29 with Julia
Gillard as Deputy Prime Minister. She became the first woman
on the record. Former Rock star Peter Garrett was named new
Environment Minister. Rudd also appointed a special minister
for climate and water issues.
At the same time, the Liberal Party elected former
Secretary of Defense Brendan Nelson as new party leader
after John Howard, who even lost his parliamentary seat in
In addition to signing the Kyoto Protocol, Rudd himself
went to the UN Climate Conference in Bali in December, where
new emission agreements were discussed. Rudd was also
expected to give the Aborigines a formal apology for how
they were treated, something Howard had refused to do.