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By Georgina Pickers

NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

Australia gained the annual Presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) from Russia in 2013.  Significantly Queensland’s capital Brisbane will host the 2014 G20 Summit in November 2014.

Several thousand delegates and media are expected.  While the media hype warns of extreme security measures, these will, if by necessity, impact on locals living in or within nearby precincts.  How restrictive they will be, remains unknown.

The Queensland government and Australia has come under international scrutiny by international environmental experts and organisations as to the health and future of the Great Barrier Reef.  Factors such as the dispersal of dredging spoils and development of the Abbott Point and Gladstone export infrastructure are worrying as to the long term health of this World Heritage listed icon surrounded by Marine Parks.  While development is essential to the economic development and future health of the State the scale of these projects surely has negative impact to inshore reefs, sea grass beds and the species whose very existence depends on them.

The recently introduced Queensland “Bikie Laws” while on one hand have made inroads into the activities of motor cycle gangs – most driven over the Qld. NSW border, have alienated those who choose to ride a motor cycle and have no association with gangs.  A social gathering, or riding in small groups on the street, without ‘gang colours’ now attracts police attention.   While evidence supports these groups have undertaken unlawful activities, showing no respect of authority, it is unfortunate that the majority of the motor cycle community who wear leather are regarded as suspicious or somehow ‘guilty by association’

Queensland presents a vulnerable ‘back door’ as a potential illegal entry point into Australia.  The huge sea areas of the Torres Straits containing numerous islands and proximity to PNG surely offers people smuggling  opportunities.  If not now but in the future.

Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, former Senator of South Australia (1995-2008) has been appointed Australian Ambassador – Women & Girls.  Ms Stott is particularly focusing on violence against women and empowerment of women in the Indo-Pacific area.

A new Colombo Plan was announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.  The plan will allocate $100 million over 5 years.  A pilot program will bring 40 undergraduates from Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Hong Kong on scholarships up to a year of study.  More than 700 Aussie undergraduate students will benefit from a range of study experiences overseas, returning home ‘Asia-literate’

Australia has allocated $43 million dollars to aid South Sudan, following renewal of that country’s internal conflict.  Five billion dollars in aid has been budgeted for the Middle East region, including 12 million in aid for the flow-on effects of the Syrian civil war.

World Aids day was observed on December 1st.  Foreign Minister Julie Bishop joined UN Aids Ambassador, Aung San Suu Kyi in urging the removal of stigma and discrimination faced by those living with HIV.

Many people in Australia, including members of Queensland’s African community mourned the passing on December 6th, 2013 of Nelson Mandela.  His forgiveness, love, conciliation and human touch leaves an enduring legacy as an example to us all.      

International Relations and Peace Advisor Report February 2014

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