This month is coming to a close but several local and international events and activities are either just initiated or left hanging for the next month.
Australia’s 20-year Military Plans
Australia plans to allocate more budget on the improvement of its military capabilities.
Amidst tension in the region, terrorism, cyber-warfare and climate change, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes that it is necessary to increase its military capabilities as movement of other countries may lead to instability and threaten Australia’s interest.
According to the Prime Minister the defense spending strategy covering 2% of the country’s GDP by 2021 “is a plan to become more powerful on land and in the skies, and more commanding both on seas and beneath them. It is a program to be more resilient in the cyberspace, to be more innovative with technology, and to have a greater situational awareness thanks to our advanced intelligence capabilities.”
The government plans to spend about 25% of the additional spending budget towards the Navy. The largest investment, A$50 billion, will be made for “regionally superior” submarines. The government will announce this year if the submarines will come from Japan, Germany or France. It will be Australia’s largest purchase and so far, it is the biggest defence contract made in the world.
Other additional naval vessels and fighter jets, unmanned drones are in the works. Australian Defence Force intends to increase to a total of 62,400 personnel.
Three strategic defenses were outlined namely: security of northern borders and communication lines, security of immediate region, and maintenance of “rule-based global order” especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
It is important to note that while Australia reaffirms its US commitment it, the country remains ambivalent calling for China to be clear about its defence policies.
Reports of a Possible Snap Election
News of a “double dissolution option” surfaced this week.
The current administration’s coalition cites opposition senators blocking Federal Government efforts to address the country’s growing debt and also removal of corruption in the construction industry.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said that the Greens cooperate with the government better than the Labor group.
On the other hand, Opposition leader Bill Shorten said that “the government is threatening a early election to cover up for a lack of an economic plan.”
A double dissolution election could be called on May 11, at the latest with elections happening not later than July 16.
The Liberal coalition is confident to win votes from the public as reflected on surveys done by the party. Meanwhile both the Labor and Greens said they will be ready for an election if it does happen earlier than expected.
Drugs Seized on the Gold Coast
After news of the largest drug bust in Australia just last week, another drug bust happened this time on the Gold Coast.
About 27 kilograms of MDMA tablets, more popularly known as “Ecstacy” or “Molly” valued at $1.8 million.
Police also found methamphetamine cannabis, prescribed medication, two guns, ammunition and $426,000 cash.
Goald Coast Rapid Action Patrol Mick Stenner said that they will continue to target distributors of drugs in their community as MDMA is responsible for many lives lost across Queensland.
MDMA is an acronym for an illegal drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or more popularly known as ecstasy or molly. The drug is also known on the street with several names such as E, XTC, X, Adam, hug, beans, carity, lover’s speed and love drug.
According to the National Drug and Alcohol website the use of the drug gives a similar energizing effects as amphetamines and also hallucinogen mescaline like psychedelic effects. The US categorises use of the drug as Schedule 1, meaning no medical benefit and high potential for abuse. Although some studies about possible benefits in may bring for people with trauma or anxiety are still underway.
Heavy MMDA users experience long lasting effects such as confusion, depression and problems with memory and attention.
Meanwhile, charges had been made against the 29-year old from Miami for drug related offences, and other offences related to tainted property and carrying of weapons and explosives.
Medical Marijuana is Now Legal
On other drug related news, Australia made a historic move of making it legal to grow cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley believes that this is good news for advocates “who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medical cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals.”
One such advocate group is the United in Compasion started by the mother of Daniel Haslam, Ms. Lucy. A year ago, Mr. Haslam died of terminal bowel cancer. He made headlines before his death due to his use of medical marijuana to alleviate pain and nausea.
Australian Senator Richard Di Natale thanked Ms. Lucy for all her efforts in the advancement of legalizing medical marijuana in the country saying that (her) “family’s grief, pain and suffering has not been in vain and this is a legacy that Dan will leave here in Parliament.”
Ms. Ley added that now, it is possible for patients in Australia to “seamless access to locally-produced medicinal cannabis products from farm to pharmacy.”
However, it is still unclear when cannabis would be ready for use of patients carrying the prescription. Regulations are still needed to be in place along with production licenses.
The health minister also warned the public that only medical marijuana is legal. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in the country.
Australia now joins several other countries who made medical marijuana legal on certain conditions.
Water Desalination Talks in Victoria
The Victorian government is mulling over finally putting into use the A$5.7 billion processing plant built back in 2012.
The said processing plant can turn salt water into drinking water. It was built years ago when a threat for drought caused the Victorian government to build several processing plants despite opposition. It was not put into full use because the drought did not happen as predicted.
Operation costs of the water plant in Wonthaggi is estimated at $620 million in 12 months even if it is not being used for its purpose. An additional of at least $27million may be added to the annual cost once it become fully operational.
However, due to current trends showing that Australia, and most of the world, may suffer severe water shortage use of the plant may be inevitable.
Governments are also thinking about other means such as water recycling due to the amount of electricity the water plants need to operate – an estimated 90 megawatts of power each year.
The plant operator, AquaSure said it will offset the amount of energy it uses by purchasing renewable energy certificates.
The technology may be a good answer for countries with the money to invest in such water plants. However, the amount of energy it would need and the effect it would cause in the environment might just put more small islands and developing countries in jeopardy due to climate change. Hopefully developed countries can find a more sustainable way on how to deal with water scarcity.