‘People don’t want to talk about war’: Taiwan civil defence battles invasion risk denial

from our special correspondent in Taiwan – Emerging civil defence groups in Taiwan have vowed to make the island’s population better prepared for a potential attack by Chinese troops. Two years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted an unprecedented grassroots mobilisation in favour of civil resilience, a large number of Taiwanese are still afraid that the act of preparing for war could in itself raise the risk of an attack. FRANCE 24 reports.

It looks like an assault rifle but sounds rather like a toy. There is a world of difference between the clanking sound of the M4 carbine airsoft replica and the explosive boom of a real firearm. But that doesn’t prevent some clients at the Camp 66 airsoft shooting range in Taipei from dressing in tactical clothing to get a stronger feel of modern warfare. Due to severe legal restrictions on gun practice and ownership, airsoft clubs are the only way for Taiwanese civilians to get some technical skills that, they hope, could prove useful in the event of a Chinese invasion.

“I started airsoft shooting because I’ve heard since my childhood that training in Taiwan’s army isn’t good enough,” says Bill Huang, a 19-year-old mechanical engineering student wearing a “Taipei city police” tactical vest. He began practicing airsoft shooting during the summer of 2022, a few months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked a revival of interest in civil defence in Taiwan.

“I believe skills from airsoft training would be useful for civil defence because airsoft guns operate just like real guns. If one day the government gives me a gun or any other rifle, I will be able to use them and defend my country,” Huang said.

Bill Huang (R) and his friend Brian pose at the Camp 66 airsoft shooting range. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

He came to the Camp 66 shooting range with a friend who looks like he parachuted in from a war zone, with his military helmet complete with tactical communication headset and a replica of the M4 carbine that is standard issue in the US military.

When his “assault rifle” gets jammed, a former US Marine working as weapons instructor at Camp 66 is here to help.

“These are definitely not firearms. But the replicas are very faithful to the original models, and it allows people to get used to load, unload, and manipulate them,” says Richard Limon. “Most important, it teaches them to handle firearms carefully.”

Retired US Marine Richard Lemon checks an airsoft replica at the Camp 66 range.
Retired US Marine Richard Lemon checks an airsoft replica at the Camp 66 range. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

Taiwan didn’t get a “wake-up call” moment like Ukraine had in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and sent troops to back separatists in Donbas. The country has nothing similar to the Territorial Defence Forces trained by Kyiv shortly before the 2022 invasion. 

Taiwan’s old civil defence scheme, which reportedly has hundreds of thousands of volunteers in existing crisis response teams, is facing “systemic failure” because of budget and training issues, according to analysts. 

The overhaul of civil defence was not an issue in the campaign for the January 13 presidential election, which has focused more on domestic social and economic issues rather than cross-Strait relations. Despite different rhetoric, all three candidates – as well as an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese – are in favour of broadly maintaining the status quo in the island’s thorny relations with China. 

Tony Lu poses with an AK-47 airsoft replica at Camp 66. He's known across Taiwan for having fought in Ukraine's international legion in 2022. He is now urging his fellow countrymen to get prepared in case of a Chinese invasion.
Tony Lu poses with an AK-47 airsoft replica at Camp 66. He’s known across Taiwan for having fought in Ukraine’s international legion in 2022. He is now urging his fellow countrymen to get prepared in case of a Chinese invasion. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

The recent surge of interest in civil defence preparedness came from a bottom-up movement, not a government initiative.

“Most participants in civil defence activities I met were frustrated by the lack of reaction from the Taiwanese government after the recent Chinese incursions,” says Wen Liu, a scholar at Academia Sinica‘s Institute of Ethnology who recently took part in some 50 civil defence workshops and interviewed dozens of participants for her research paper.

Getting prepared for a Chinese invasion

The legal framework preventing citizens from getting their hands on firearms is not the main issue, according to Liu. She points instead to the government’s reluctance to name its potential enemy across the Strait and frame the conflict as “Taiwanese against Chinese” because of historical reasons.

The island has lived under self-rule for 70 years since supporters of the Chinese nationalist party, the Kuomintang, fled there after losing to the Communist party in the civil war. Taiwan’s constitution still refers to itself as the “Republic of China”.

Liu notes that it’s only in June 2023 that Taiwanese authorities released an updated civil defence booklet with a section on how to tell the difference between Chinese and Taiwanese soldiers based on their uniforms, camouflage and insignia.

Close-up picture of Taiwanese firing airsoft guns at the Camp 66 range.
Close-up picture of Taiwanese firing airsoft guns at the Camp 66 range. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

“A lot of people in Taiwan have become accustomed to Chinese intimidation and don’t even want to talk about it. Since there was no invasion in the last 70 years, they believe that nothing will happen if they carry on as usual,” says Liu. To them, building a strong civil defence aimed at countering a Chinese invasion could be seen as provoking escalation with Beijing.

“The most important thing with emerging civil defence groups is that they strengthen the people’s psychological awareness. It also shows international allies that Taiwanese are not split over their will to resist,” adds the researcher.

The locals’ willingness to take up arms against a Chinese invasion is especially scrutinised by Washington, whose military help would be crucial to repel a large-scale attack. 

Portrait of Taiwanese scholar Wen Liu, an assistant research professor at Academia Sinica.
Portrait of Taiwanese scholar Wen Liu, an assistant research professor at Academia Sinica. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

It remains anyone’s guess what the attitude of the wider Taiwanese population would be in the event of an invasion by China. Public surveys on that sensitive issue are considered unreliable. Researchers interviewed by FRANCE 24 said the 2022 craze for civil defence training was now going flat or even going down, but there is no solid data on the subject.

Civil defence attracts younger people

A spokesperson for the Kuma Academy, one of the main NGOs organising classes about first aid, cognitive warfare, executing evacuation orders, and the like, said the group had “reached out” to 500,000 people, but didn’t provide a monthly breakdown. The group aims to train 3 million people – more than 10 percent of Taiwan’s population.

Airsoft clubs and new activist groups like the Kuma Academy have attracted mostly young Taiwanese, according to T.H. Schee, a tech entrepreneur and expert in crisis response.

“Most are in their 20s or early 30s. They are the age group more likely to openly prepare to resist a Chinese invasion. This is very different from the existing  disaster reaction groups, where most volunteers are over 50 years old. The older generation doesn’t like to name enemies because they know that politics and governments can change – that one day even your own government could be your enemy,” says Schee.

TH Schee prepares to train in the 4SC CrossFit room he recently opened in Taipei. The poor physical conditions of many Taiwanese young people could hinder civil resilience, according to him.
TH Schee prepares to train in the 4SC CrossFit room he recently opened in Taipei. The poor physical conditions of many Taiwanese young people could hinder civil resilience, according to him. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

Drawing on his own experience coordinating rescue efforts following the 1999 earthquake and the 2009 typhoon, he argues that both emerging groups and existing disaster reaction organisations should work together for the sake of civil resilience.

“You can’t protect your neighbourhood only by yourself (…) A key aspect of civil defence is to know what person in your local group can do what. Such knowledge and the maintenance of communication would be indispensable to avoid chaos and manage a proper resistance movement in case of an invasion,” he says.

Another challenge for Taiwan’s civil defence is the population’s general physical condition, which he sees as fairly poor.

Taiwanese people attend a CrossFit class in Taipei on October 4, 2023.
Taiwanese people attend a CrossFit class in Taipei on October 4, 2023. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

“Practicing airsoft shooting or first-aid training can be effective for psychological preparedness, but I’m afraid some young people would not last a day or two if a war breaks out, because they are not fit enough. I know that not everyone in Taiwan needs to be a soldier, that would not be practical,” says Schee.

“But if we manage to have 5 or 6 percent of the population who are really in good shape, die-hard prepared people, that could change the course of the war.”

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‘A lesson for Taiwan’s coastal defence’: How France’s ill-fated 1884 invasion is remembered

from our special correspondent in Taiwan – The Taiwanese military regularly holds drills on what it calls “red beaches” – coastal areas deemed vulnerable to large enemy landings. As Beijing threatens to seize the island by force, Taiwanese historians and military planners are looking at past invasion attempts. Some say that a daring French amphibious attack on Tamsui, north of Taiwan, still has valuable lessons for the country’s defence planners despite taking place 140 years ago.

The sound of crashing surf almost covers the noise of airplanes landing and taking off every few minutes from Taoyuan international airport, the main transport hub to get into Taiwan. Fishermen on the Zhuwei beach throw their lines, staring at the horizon under thick, dark clouds. This stretch of sand on Taiwan’s northern coast looks deceptively normal, but it’s at the centre of sophisticated war games by Beijing and Washington.

These simulations often include an attempt by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to land troops there in a bid to capture Taiwan’s main airport as well as the port of Taipei, whose cranes are clearly visible from the beach. Both infrastructures, which would be critical in case of an invasion to bring in reinforcement, are within a 10km radius. The centre of Taiwan’s capital with its presidential office and government institutions is only 35km away.

The port of Taipei is visible from Zhuwei’s beach. Taiwan’s main international airport is located a few kilometres from where this picture was taken. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

Taiwan is a rugged island with deep jungles and high mountains, geography that military planners describe as a nightmare for invading forces – similarly to the gruesome battles between US and Japanese soldiers on small Pacific islands during World War II. The relative proximity of government headquarters to the coast has made the option of a “decapitation strike” very enticing to military planners considering invading the island throughout its history.

An old bunker on a beach near Taoyuan airport. There are no signs of recent defensive structures on this so-called
An old bunker on a beach near Taoyuan airport. There are no signs of recent defensive structures on this so-called “red beach”. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

Among the last to have actually tried it were French forces in the late 19th century, during the heyday of European gunboat imperialism. The battle of Tamsui saw about 600 French marines landing on a beach 25km east of Zhuwei at the mouth of the Tamsui river, which flows right into Taipei.

The attack came as part of the wider Sino-French war, while another group of French troops was bogged down near Keelung, a port in northeast Taiwan. France’s strategic objective was to seize Taiwan as a bargaining chip to obtain the withdrawal of Chinese troops from northern Vietnam. China was then an empire ruled by the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).

‘Decapitation strike’

“The landing in Tamsui was the operation that Chinese communists have been dreaming of: a daring military raid aimed at quickly penetrating into Taipei,” professor Shiu Wen-tang, a retired researcher from the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, told FRANCE 24.

Shiu Wen-tang shows Qing-era cannons in a fort overlooking the mouth of the Tamsui river. Back in 1884, the French had superior artillery power, but the Qing infantry forces pushed them back to sea
Shiu Wen-tang shows Qing-era cannons in a fort overlooking the mouth of the Tamsui river. Back in 1884, the French had superior artillery power, but the Qing infantry forces pushed them back to the sea. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

“The topography hasn’t changed much. Military planners in Beijing know the island very well, thanks to their satellites. They’ve sent thousands of secret agents and corrupted Taiwanese generals … They are aware that the hills around are bristling with missiles,” he adds.

Chinese god offering help

The raid didn’t end well for the French. After successfully going ashore in the early hours of October 8, 1884, French marines faced tough resistance from Qing soldiers when they tried to move inland. Despite heavy covering artillery fire from their gunships, the invading forces were forced to retreat after a few hours of fighting.

View on Shalun beach, where French marines landed ashore in 1884. The landing itself went well, but they were quickly ambushed as they moved inland.
A view of Shalun beach, where French marines landed in 1884. The landing itself went well, but they were quickly ambushed as they moved inland. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

Professor Shiu shows us several small memorials commemorating that rare Qing victory over Western invaders. Some are classic murals depicting battle scenes with historical notes. Others look a bit more strange, at least to Western eyes. An engraved artwork in a temple shows a Chinese divinity hovering over Qing troops as they repel French soldiers.

Details of the engraved artwork in the Qingshui temple representing the French assault on Tamsui.
Detail of an engraved artwork in the Qingshui temple representing the French assault on Tamsui. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

On the shore of the Tamsui river, a sculpture of a bird painted in the colours of the French flag sits atop yellow naval mines.

“This is where Qing forces operated their line of naval mines, which prevented enemy gunboats from going up the river into Taipei. The French failed to approach this location by sea. That’s why their commanders sent the marines. They got pretty close but, in the end, they didn’t reach the mines,” says Shiu.

This memorial is located where the Qing engineers controlled a line of naval mines preventing French ships from sailing into Taipei.
This memorial is located where Qing engineers controlled a line of naval mines preventing French ships from sailing into Taipei. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

As Taiwan prepares to defend its “red beaches”, does the failed French invasion hold lessons 140 years later? The country’s defence establishment is certainly aware of this historical battle, says Jiang Hsinbiao, a policy analyst at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research.

“One of the lessons for Taiwan’s military is that it is necessary to destroy the enemy’s landing ships while they are still travelling at sea to prevent their soldiers from landing,” Jiang told FRANCE 24.

A porcupine bristling with missiles

This fits with the “porcupine” doctrine that Taiwan’s armed forces have been working on, given that the military balance is tipped in favour of the PRC’s forces, far superior in number. Instead of investing in expensive but vulnerable kit – ships, jets or tanks – the new doctrine suggests a focus on asymmetrical warfare.

The porcupine metaphor encapsulates a fundamentally defensive strategy, with a large number of widely dispersed missile launchers playing the same role as the animal’s coat of sharp spines.

“Taiwan is currently implementing its ‘porcupine’ doctrine by stockpiling Patriot and Tien Kung surface-to-air missiles, as well as anti-ship ammunition like the Harpoon and Hsiung Feng [missiles] (…) Missile launchers have been spread all over the island to deter the enemy,” says Jiang.

Landing vehicles drive on a beach during a military drill in Taoyuan on March 23, 2023.
Taiwanese landing vehicles drive on the beach during a military drill in Taoyuan on March 23, 2023. © Sam Yeh, AFP

There are only a dozen or so “red beaches” across Taiwan, which allows defense planners to better determine potential invasion routes. Most of the island’s coastline is too rugged for large military landings, according to military analysts. The Taiwanese military regularly conducts anti-landing drills with drones, tanks, and mechanised infantry.

“The width of a typical ‘red beach’ is such that only one battalion (between 600 and 800 soldiers) can land at a time. If the subsequent landing troops echelon cannot land in time, the enemy will not be able to consolidate their beachhead. They would be easily annihilated by the defence forces,” says Jiang. “The PRC’s military will not be able to attack Taiwan by amphibious landing only; it will be accompanied by airborne warfare.”

A screengrab shows a simulated Chinese attack on Taiwan conducted by Major Maxwell Stewart for the Centre for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) in June 2023.
A screengrab shows a simulated Chinese attack on Taiwan conducted by Major Maxwell Stewart for the Centre for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) in June 2023. © CIMSEC

Invasion simulations have resulted in different outcomes, some showing PRC troops being repelled with the assistance of US forces, others showing the fall of Taipei only 31 days after the establishment of a beachhead near Taoyuan airport.

‘A contest of will’

As we walk on the very spot where French marines landed, Shiu Wen-tang says that the 1884 failed invasion still holds valuable political lessons. Overconfidence was clearly a major factor in the French defeat. Landing only 600 marines to fight thousands of entrenched troops was an outright mistake. The PRC’s military is expected to use their superior numbers but they could well underestimate their Taiwanese rivals on other aspects.

Shiu Wen-tang reflects on the ill-fated invasion of Tamsui on Shalun beach, where French marines landed in 1884.
Shiu Wen-tang reflects on the ill-fated invasion of Tamsui from Shalun beach, where French marines landed in 1884. © Mehdi Chebil, FRANCE 24

A key political lesson for the Taiwanese side is that it must rely on a strong level of civilian-military trust to withstand the first invasion shock without falling into chaos. Eleven years after the French defeat, Japanese forces conducted their own amphibious landing near Keelung in northeastern Taiwan. Qing defenders were then demoralised. Law and order quickly broke down, and the Japanese invaders seized the island with limited casualties.

“This stands in sharp contrast to the Battle of Tamsui, where the Qing imperial administration had efficient leaders who were trusted by the local population,” notes Shiu. “In the end, war is always a contest of will. If a people is not willing to resist, then they have already lost.”

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The world hitting ‘peak baby’ and other stories you might have missed this year

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 2022 was full of big stories. 

After two years dominated by COVID-19, these headlines took attention away from a pandemic that stubbornly rages on.

We’ve compiled a list of your 15 most-read for the year.

Anthony Albanese led Labor back from the political wilderness in 2022. (AP: Rick Rycroft)

After almost a decade in the political wilderness, Australian voters returned Labor to office in 2022, led by Anthony Albanese.

While self-described “bulldozer” Scott Morrison had made a last-ditch pitch to voters to keep him in power, his unpopularity would play a key role in a raft of Coalition seat losses.

Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just one of those high-profile candidates sent packing, amidst a so-called “teal” (independent) wave.

A disgruntled-looking Novak Djokovic spreads his arms wide as he looks down at the court  after a point during a match.
The federal government spectacularly deported Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open. (AP: Kamran Jebreili)

Confusion reigned in January when nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was granted an exemption to travel to Australia without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

With Melburnians having spent more than 260 days in lockdown, there was also a fair share of public anger at the seeming double standard.

The federal government subsequently stepped in, announcing that it would deport the 34-year-old, with Djokovic spending the night in immigration detention as his lawyers appealed.

The fiasco made headlines around the world, with the world number one eventually deported on the eve of the tournament. 

A man in a suit stands in front of a red backdrop.
At least 6,702 civilians have died since Russia invaded Ukraine. (AP: Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo)

News first broke in February that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorised a military operation in the Eastern European country.

As of December, war still rages in Ukraine, with scores of civilians dead and millions displaced.

A recent UN report, released on December 4, estimated that 6,702 civilians had died, with Russian forces killing at least 441 in the first weeks of the invasion.

All is not going to plan for Putin, however, with discussion recently turning to the possibility of Ukraine recapturing all of its southern territory — even liberating Crimea.

A huge grey cloud rises from a submarine volcano, as a forked bolt of lightnight hits the left side of the rising ash plume.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted off Tonga in January, causing widespead chaos.(Reuters: Tonga Geological Services)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption came to a powerful climax in the middle of January, causing tsunamis locally as well as in New Zealand, Japan, the US, Russia and Peru, to name a few.

Australia’s east coast and islands were also issued tsunami alerts, while at least six people were reported dead.

NASA later declared that the Tongan tsunami was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold smiles with the police badge behind them.
Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in a deadly siege in rural Queensland in December.(ABC News: Lewi Hirvela/Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Two police officers and a member of the public lost their lives in horrific circumstances in December, after police were called out to a property in Wieambilla, west of Brisbane, searching for a missing Dubbo man.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said Constable Rachel McCrow (29), Constable Matthew Arnold (26) and neighbour Alan Dare (58) were killed in a “ruthless, calculated and targeted execution”.

“Just such a tragedy, this should never happen,” Leavers said.

“They’re both under 30, they’ve hardly lived life and their lives have been cut short.”

Rapid antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19
Should you be asking for an antibody test to see if you’ve been infected with COVID-19?(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

This article starts with a scene from the start of the year that could well describe the situation today.

Omicron cases are much higher than official numbers, and it’s increasingly difficult to access a PCR test to find out whether or not the scratch in your throat is COVID or hayfever.

So how do you know if you’ve actually been infected with COVID-19?

Antibody tests can answer that question (depending on the time frame in which the test is done, and whether you mounted a detectable response to infection), but experts like AMA vice-president Chris Moy say there should be a clear clinical reason for conducting them.

A good example of when an antibody test might be appropriate is if someone is experiencing symptoms consistent with long-COVID.

hundreds of little human models in a big crowd
The world is now inhabited by over 8 billion people, but there may never be more children alive than there are today. 

By the time you read this paragraph, the world’s population grew by around 20 people, writes Casey Briggs.

That’s about the best way to wrap your head around what it means for the world to be inhabited by eight billion people.

But while population growth has been rapid — increasing by seven billion in the last two centuries — we are now at “peak baby”, meaning there will never again be more children alive than there are today.

That’s in part because fertility rates are plummeting across the globe, although trends differ geographically: just eight countries are projected to be responsible for more than half the world’s population increase by 2050.

a young girl smiling and holding an umbrella
Charlise Mutten, 9, was on holiday in the Blue Mountains before she was allegedly murdered by her mother’s fiancé.(Supplied)

Five days after nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was last seen in the Blue Mountains, police charged 31-year-old Justin Stein with her murder.

Police alleged Stein, who was engaged to Charlise’s mother, acted alone, after Charlise’s remains were found in a barrel in the bush near the Colo River.

A number of inconsistencies in Stein’s story raised suspicions, including his purchase of 20 kilogram sandbags from a hardware store, and fuel for his boat.

Charlise lived with her grandmother in Coolangatta in Queensland, but had been holidaying in NSW with her mother and Mr Stein.

Stan Grant speaks about not being seen as a human being image
Stan Grant wasn’t afraid to talk about the big issues facing First Nations people in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. (Four Corners )

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Stan Grant’s analysis focused on the stuff “we aren’t supposed to talk about”: colonisation, empire, violence, Aboriginal sovereignty and the republic.

He wrote of his anger at the ongoing suffering and injustice of First Nations people — in particular those “languishing in cells. Those who take their own lives. Those who are caught in endless cycles of despair”.

He also reflected on the inevitable online abuse he and his family would receive in the wake of his column, before resolving not to be scared into silence.

“Why? Because a voice is all we have. Because too often that voice is silenced.”

A framed photograph of Shane Warne on the cricket pitch says 'THANK YOU SHANE'.
The news that 52-year-old Shane Warne had died of a heart attack prompted a global outpouring of grief. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

For many, “Warnie” was larger than life, a once-in-a-generation cricketer famous for reinvigorating the art of leg spin, as well as his embodiment of the “Aussie larrikin” trope.

So it was with great shock that many responded to the news that he had died of a heart attack in Thailand, aged just 52, leaving behind the three children he had with his former wife Simone Callahan.

It led to an outpouring of grief around the world, with Premier Daniel Andrews offering a state funeral and the MCG rebranding the Great Southern Stand the “Shane Warne Stand” in the Victorian’s honour.

The Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl, with drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
Taylor Hawkins (left) had been the Foo Fighters’ drummer for the last 25 years.(AP: Kevin Winter)

The announcement that Taylor Hawkins had died at age 50 came just hours before the Foo Fighters were due to take the stage at a Colombian music festival in Bogota.

Hawkins had been the band’s drummer for the last 25 years, taking over from original drummer William Goldsmith in 1997.

Apart from founder Dave Grohl (formerly of Nirvana), he was arguably the most recognisable face of the band, and is survived by his wife Alison and their three children.

Water rises over a riverfront restaurant precinct, making the restaurants look like part of the river
South-east Queenslanders were hit with “unrelenting walls of water” in February. (Supplied: Shae Laura)

In February, south-east Queensland was battered by what Premier Anastacia Palaszcuk described as “unrelenting walls of water”.

Multiple lives were lost as thousands of homes flooded, tens of thousands were evacuated, schools were closed and businesses were left without power.

It was just the start of a series of floods that would occur in Queensland and New South Wales over the coming months, devastating communities in both states.

A woman with long brown hair and a green blouse smiles while looking at the camera.
Julia Hunt wants to destigmatise public housing in Australia.(Supplied: Julia Hunt)

Victorian Liberal MP Wendy Lovell offended many in March when she told parliament that social housing should not be placed in affluent suburbs.

This article explores the stigma of growing up in social housing, and its increasing association — from the 1970s onwards — with “crime and criminality, disorder, anti-social behaviour [and] welfare dependency”.

Author Bridget Judd explores the efforts of youth worker Julia Rudd and others to combat “postcode discrimination”, writing: “For those living in public housing, it’s not an abstract policy discussion, it’s home.”

Rain on the lense
BOM didn’t have good news for us about the long-term weather outlook. (Matt Grbin)

Natural disasters (and the ongoing effects of climate change) were in the headlines again in October, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) releasing a long-range forecast — until April 2023 — for Australia’s “upcoming severe weather season”.

The state-by-state forecast warned of an increased risk of widespread flooding for eastern and northern Australia, as well as an increased risk of an above-average number of tropical cyclones and tropical lows.

None of it read like great news, as many of us are experiencing currently.

The Queen shaking hands with Liz Truss in a living room
Liz Truss was sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II just two days before the monarch died. (Reuters: Jane Barlow)

Liz Truss’ prime ministership might have lasted just 44 days, but it will be remembered for the most dramatic series of events.

Truss was famously sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6, just two days before the monarch died.

She then implemented a raft of economic measures that saw the world’s sixth-biggest economy abruptly crash, saved only by extraordinary interventions from the Bank of England.

After a series of humiliations and U-turns, the British tabloid the Daily Star then set up a live feed of an unrefrigerated iceberg lettuce, asking who would last longer, the lettuce or Truss.

The lettuce won. 

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