Atiu island gets an airport overhaul, gay Aussie couples get state-funded relationship counselling and we interview the MP who represents Australian Italians.
Coalition politics is a way of life in New Zealand. With elections due by the end of the year, NZ’s biggest parties – incumbent National Party and opposition Labour – are busy number crunching. Prime Minister John Key governs alongside a hodge-podge of partners but this time around he hopes to govern with just one ally, possibly the social conservative NZ First Party. Labour’s uneasy alliance with the Greens may struggle to garner enough votes.
Agriculture has always been at the heart of New Zealand’s economy. This year the country’s dairy industry is leading the way in exports – the government predicts the sector will export nearly nz$17bn (€10.3bn) worth of product. Having signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, it’s Asia’s biggest economy that most of these products will go to.
While New Zealand’s conservative leadership resumed military cooperation with Washington last autumn, relations with the US may sour if Labour wins. The party looks less favourably at cooperating with America on military matters and some predict a Labour-Green win could lead to NZ withdrawing from the controversial UK/US “Five Eyes” multilateral intelligence agreement, which it joined in 1956.
Atiu island, otherwise known as the “land of the birds”, is preparing for an increase in flights of a less feathered variety with the news that its airport (pictured) is receiving a nz$4m (€2.4m) overhaul. It means Cook Islands airline Air Rarotonga will be able to fly its 34-seater Saab 340 onto the island rather than having to rely on its 15-seater Embraer Bandeirante. The money will also be spent on improving the surrounding roads and villages of the third-largest island in the Cooks, which is renowned for its limestone caves, sandy beaches and coffee. Ewan Smith, managing director of Air Rarotonga, says: “Upgrading the runway at Atiu will act as a catalyst for expanding accommodation and other tourism infrastructure.”
The recent death of Vanuatu’s minister of internal affairs, Patrick Crowby, was not just a national tragedy, it was also a headache for the country’s treasury. After three consecutive years of deficit, the cost of holding an unexpected by-election to find Crowby’s replacement risks denting the government’s already limited budget. To mitigate this problem, Vanuatu’s Electoral Commission has proposed that new political candidates are forced to undergo health checks in Australia before they are allowed to register for the ballot. The commission’s chairman, John Taleo, has said the tests should focus on diabetes and high blood pressure.
Italian oil giant Eni has one year to finish drilling two new wells south of Timor-Leste. This will extend the small Kitan field – so far Timor-Leste’s only oil exploitation project since it gained independence.
Same-sex couples may not be able to marry in Australia but they will soon be eligible for state-funded relationship counselling. In July the federal government begins a au$20m (€12.8m) scheme aimed to strengthen the relationships of those who are newly married, intending to marry or in long-term lgbt partnerships. The 12-month trial encourages 100,000 couples to apply for “relationship vouchers”, which give them au$200 (€128) worth of counselling services. Behind the project is Australia’s minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, who wrote a book about the benefits of marriage, entitled Maybe ‘I Do’: Modern Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Italy’s parliament includes representatives of Italians who are living abroad. Marco Fedi represents those in Australia and the wider region.
What has Italy’s current economic climate meant for Italians living abroad?
During the four years of the Berlusconi government we have had major cuts in terms of teaching Italian, culture and our consular networks. At the moment there is a propensity to cut expenditure and Italians abroad seem to pay a higher price than in Italy.
How engaged are Italian Australians in the politics of their homeland?
There is a lot of confusion. First thing I have to do is tell them what is happening, which I find hard. The next is to explain that not everything is lost. Italians living abroad were vital in providing a majority for the Prodi government in 2006. That situation could easily replicate itself.
How can Italy make itself more appealing to foreign investors?
If you look at Destinazione Italia – the programme that is supposed to attract investors from abroad to Italy – the main obstacle is bureaucracy. If we simplify that it would make Italy really attractive.
How do you compare the handling of illegal immigration in Australia and Italy?
There are no common policies in place in Italy. The regional governments and provinces have different approaches. There isn’t an overall coordinated approach or policy. Australia has got the policies but doesn’t acknowledge that the current level of debate focuses just on stopping the boats.