The Trade Pacific Partnership Lives

The TPP – Trade Pacific Partnership – has almost died a few times, but now lives again, with 11 countries on board. The massive deal sets up new trade rules for a diverse range of countries, including Australia, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The US was supposed to be on board but Trump pulled the plug, and then Canada retreated too.

The deal is designed to cut tariffs (taxes for importing and exporting stuff), and have universal laws and regulations for trade among the eleven countries that have signed on. It all fits into the Turnbull government’s general formula that more trade and exports equals more Aussie jobs. Overall, the deal should be most beneficial to Aussie farmers, who are likely to sell more beef, sugar, rice, dairy and wheat.

The big critique of the deal is that it will frighten governments from making substantial trade policy decisions on their own terms. The regulations mean that companies could potentially sue the Aussie Government if they feel they’re being excluded from the Australian marketplace. The most famous example of this was when international tobacco company Philip Morris sued the Australian Government for demanding it use plain packaging cigarettes. Will fear of litigation prevent governments from making their rules about certain products?  Trade Minister Steve Ciobo says the concerns are ridiculous. The Labor Party would like to see the economic modelling proving that this deal is of benefit to Australians. So far, that information hasn’t been made public (most likely because truly concrete economic proof of future benefits can’t really exist).

The Future is Clean

After record investment into the renewable energy sector last year, the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) is now predicting that Australian will hits its modest Renewable Energy Target (RET) sooner than expected. However, there are some concerns that investment may dry up after 2020, and momentum will be lost, when the Turnbull’s government’s new energy policy the ‘National Energy Guarantee’ swings into effect. (We did a deep dive on the NEG when it was first announced. You can find that here.)

Internal debate about energy policy remains at the heart of the government. This week, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg predicted there’d be over a million electric cars on Aussie roads by 2030. In fact, he reckons electric cars will disturb the automotive industry the same way the iPhone disrupted the communications industry. Some of Frydenberg’s climate sceptic  colleagues disagreed and suggested that a Tesla electric car actually produced more emissions than an ordinary Toyota Carolla. They were wrong.

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and the debate on changing the date has reached fever pitch. We’ve done deep dives into the Change the Date debate in the past. Protest marches will sit alongside the celebrations around the country.

Health Insurance Is Going Up Again

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that health fund premiums will go up an average weighted of 3.85% in April. The average family will have to pay an extra $143 a year. Hunt claims it’s the lowest raise since 2001, thanks to reforms the Turnbull government introduced last year, which dealt with the cost of prostheses. Bill Shorten and Labor says it’s a ‘kick in the guts’, citing inflation and wages moving at just 2% increases. On average, premiums have increased 5.6% ever year since 2010.

Sydney Rail Workers Threatening Strike

An attempt by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union to have their Sydney rail workers strike for 24 hours next Monday has been blocked by the Fair Work Commission, after lawyers for the government of NSW were able to prove that such action could potentially cost the state $90 million. Negotiations are ongoing. The employees are seeking a pay rise of 6%, and have deep concerns about the amount of overtime they are consistently asked to work.

Larry Nassar Jailed for 175 years

In the United States, former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to jail for up to 175 years for the abuse of over 150 girls and women in his care. Those who knew and allegedly protected Nassar are under close scrutiny.

Vice President Mike Pence Visits Israel

US Vice President Mike Pence visited Israel this week and it was an absolute lovefest. He said everything Israelis wanted to hear. He validated Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, said the US was committed to making their relationship as strong as possible, and promised to fix the Iran deal or cancel it. Slow  News Weekly did its best to explain the Israel Palestinian conflict in a deep dive here. The Trump administration’s almost exclusive support of Israel over Palestine remains historically significant, and renders the United States almost useless in its decades-old role as negotiator between the two states.

The visit was criticised by international media when female journalists were separated from their male colleagues and forced to stand behind them. There were also incidences of   female reporters undergoing excessive body searches and interrogation by security.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Fantasy Writer, Passes Away at 88

Famed writer Ursula K. Le Guin has passed away. She was particularly noted for her feminist contributions to science fiction and fantasy in novels such as “The Left Hand Of Darkness” (featuring an alien race with no fixed sex) and the highly-influential “Earthsea” series. This week, the literary mourned the passing of a giant.

“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

We’ll be back next week. If you like this blog, share it around. And check out the Patreon page to add your support.

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