2015: A Year in News, Pt. 4

Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. Northumbria University graduate. Opinionated, my aim is to fuel debate. My favourite questions in life are Why? How? And What? My Favourite answers tend to start with It depends or Yes & No.

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Australian history repeats itself

A story that Vada covered this year was the leadership challenge that toppled Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott by long-time rival Malcolm Turnbull.

In an event similar to the bitter Kevin Rudd/Julia Gillard leadership crisis of the Australian Labor Party, it appeared the Liberals were to follow a similar path. Turnbull had previously been leader of his party when they were in opposition but was removed from his post by Abbott following a leadership spill in 2009. Turnbull lost to Abbott by one vote.

Turnbull later served in Abbott’s cabinet as Communications Minister. In February, a spill motion against now Prime Minister Abbott was defeated. Abbott suffered throughout the year in the polls.

In September, following 30 consecutive polls placing the government far behind the Labor Party, Turnbull resigned from government and challenged Abbott for the leadership. Turnbull won the ballot 54-44 and with that was sworn in as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia. Turnbull reshuffled the cabinet, bringing more women to the top team.

Turnbull declined to call an election and plans on serving out the current term – this means that Australia has had four Prime Ministers and only two elections since 2010.

With both leaders of the Labor Party and the Liberals now favouring equal marriage, there is renewed hope for LGBT Australians.

2015 7

Donald Trump

As the U.S. presidential race gets underway, the Democrats have a clear front-runner in Hilary Clinton over nearest rival Senator Bernie Sanders, but it’s the Republicans who have a wide choice of candidates.

The Republican list includes President George. W. Bush, Jnr’s brother Jeb Bush; Libertarian and son of former candidate Ron Paul, Rand Paul; outspoken New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Texas Senator Ted Cruz (who had to renounce his duel Canadian citizenship); and billionaire business owner Donald Trump, who has on many occasions before considered running for president.

Trump, however, came under criticism for his comments about Mexicans and ended up losing his NBC show The Apprentice. Despite this, his poll ratings in the Land of the Free went up. More recently, after the attacks in Paris, Trump called for a national register of Muslims and a ban on new Muslims entering the country.

At the end of the year, Trump leads the Republican candidates with 40% in the polls. Senator Cruz comes in a distant second on 18%.

The race for the party nominations will continue until the summer, with the election in November. President Obama is constitutionally barred from seeking another term in office.
2015 9

Same Sex Marriage

On 27 June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of lifting the ban on same sex marriages and Vada was there (metaphorically speaking) in the court room. The landmark ruling was handed down after a 5-4 vote. Each of the four justices wrote their own dissent, whilst Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority, which read, ‘No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family.’ ‘In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.’ ‘Their hope, is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilizations oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.’

Shortly after the ruling, President Obama called the plaintiff Jim Obergefell to congratulate him.

However, if you thought that settled the issue, then you were mistaken. In early December, six of the Republican hopefuls for the party nomination signed a pledge promising to support legislation within their first 100 days of office in the White House that would use the guise of ‘religious liberty’ to give individuals and businesses the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people.

Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio, Dr Ben Carson, Carly Florina, Senator Rick Santorum and Governor Mike Huckabee all vowed to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defence Act (FADA). It would prohibit the federal government from stopping discrimination by people or businesses that believe ‘marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman’.

In other marriage equality news, Ireland put the U.S. to shame when it became the first country in the world to bring in marriage equality following a referendum. The result of which was 62% yes to 38% no. All but one of the 43 Parliamentary constituencies voted yes, with an overall turnout of 61%. Compare this to the 56% turnout for the Good Friday agreement.

Ireland, which was once dominated by the Catholic Church, ignored instructions from its Cardinals and Bishops. Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton said, ‘The People of Ireland have struck a massive blow against discrimination.’

However, in Slovenia on 20 December, the country voted no to marriage equality 63.5% to 36.5%, hailed as a victory for the conservatives backed by the Catholic Church. Though the country is considered the most liberal of the ex-communist nations, LGBT rights are a contentious issue in the predominantly Catholic country of two million people. This vote represents a split between East and West Europe.

2015 6

Justin Tredeau

In October, attention turned to Canada as the 42nd general election took place. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was seeking an unprecedented fourth term in office. He faced Tom Mulcair’s New Democratic Party, the official opposition, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

Trudeau won the election with a 20% swing to his party, pushing Harper into second place, with Mulcair third. Trudeau became the second youngest Prime Minister, aged 43, and the first child of a previous Prime Minister to hold the office.

Shortly after his victory, the hashtag #PILF started trending. Trudeau is pro-choice, a feminist and pro-decriminalisation of marijuana.

Upon winning the election, he withdrew air support in Syria. However, following the attacks in Paris, he pledged non-military support to the French.

Trudeau is certainly one to watch in future years.

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