We are almost at the half way point of 2018. There is no way to predict what we will witness as the next six months unfold, and who are we to speculate? Last month, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump met in the Oval Office to discuss prison reform – so what happens next this year is anybody’s guess.
However, what we can confidently discuss is five captivating news stories that are playing out as this month draws to a close. Here they are (in no particular order).
1.Children are being separated from their parents at the USA’s southern border
Back in April, America’s attorney-general Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” towards migrants who cross the border into the US illegally (regardless of whether they are seeking asylum or not).
The children of these migrants can not be held in federal jail so they are being held in separate locations from their parents, under the watch of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Reporters who have toured these facilities have witnessed children being detained in cages, a practice that human rights groups have called inhumane.
Melania Trump has stated that she “hates to see children separated from their families”, and former First Lady Laura Bush has gone a step further. In a Washington Post editorial, Laura Bush called this practice “immoral” and likened it to America’s actions during WWII, saying
These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history” – Laura Bush
Amnesty International is now calling on the American government to reunify families and immediately halt this policy. But will their plea fall on deaf ears?
2. The Tampon Tax Bill passes in the Senate.
On Monday the 18th of June, the Greens bill to deduct 10% of the tax currently placed on sanitary products passed in the upper house.
The Senate passed the bill without putting it to a formal vote. However, the Coalition Government does not currently support the removal of the tax, and so the bill is not expected to make it past the House of Representatives.
Those in favour of axing the tax argue (and rightly so) that sanitary products are essentials, and therefore women shouldn’t be taxed for purchasing them. Greens Senator Janet Rice drew attention to the hypocrisy of the situation, saying
“It is frankly ridiculous that while items like sunscreen, folic acid, toothpaste, lubricants, condoms and even Viagra are exempt from GST, sanitary products are not” – Janet Rice
The Labor Party has promised to axe the GST placed on sanitary products if it emerges victorious in the next election. Whether Labor will follow through with this promise if they win remains to be seen.
3. Outpourings of grief as vigils are held for Eurydice Dixon
On June 18th vigils were held across the country for 22-year old Eurydice Dixon, as well as in Princes Park in Carlton North where her body was found. Jaymes Todd, a 19 year old man, remains accused of her murder after turning himself in to the police.
Her death has shocked and angered the nation, with some people highlighting the tragic comparisons between the death of Ms. Dixon and the death of Jill Meagher in 2012. It has also renewed discussions about violence perpetuated against women, and the culture of ‘victim blaming’.
In the aftermath of Jill Meagher’s murder, 23 changes were recommended to Victoria’s parole system, and parole laws were significantly tightened. It is too early to speculate about what changes, if any, may result from Ms. Dixon’s heartbreaking death.
4. Remote and rural Australian communities left with uranium in their water
In Laramba, an Aboriginal community situated north of Alice Springs, drinking water has contained more than twice the acceptable level of uranium for over a decade. They aren’t an isolated incident either.
Both Willowra and Wilora, communities located in central Australia, have drinking water that contains excess uranium, and that water provided to the majority of the 72 remote Aboriginal communities does not meet the aesthetic guidelines of the Power and Water Corporation.
Whilst there is not yet any hard evidence, experts are concerned that poor water quality can lead to people consuming more sugary and unhealthy drinks instead, which can lead to poor health and obesity-related illnesses.
After letters, emails, and phone calls all directed through the proper channels, residents of these communities are still waiting for the pressing health issue to be addressed years later. Hopefully a spotlight on the issue hastens a result and clean water.
5. McDonald’s set to stop stocking plastic straws in the UK
Fast food giant McDonald’s has announced that plastic straws will no longer be available in their UK and Northern Island restaurants by September this year, and that they would be beginning a trial of paper straws in America. Paper straws break down safely in the environment, unlike plastic straws. The latter merely break down into smaller ‘microplastics’ which are unwillingly consumed by marine wildlife
The burger chain also plans to test alternative straws in its French, Swedish and Norwegian outlets.
Bring on September!