The small Queensland town of Biloela has rallied to the defence of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker family that is set to be deported after being seized in an Australian Border Force raid. The Tamil couple, who married in 2014 after fleeing Sri Lanka, and their two Australian-born children, were taken in an early morning ABF raid last Monday. The family was flown to immigration detention in Melbourne, 1500 kilometres away, and allegedly coerced into signing documents assenting to their “voluntary removal”. Biloela locals have started a change.org petition urging the government to “return this family to Biloela, their home, where they are wanted and welcome”. The United Nations has criticised Australia’s eagerness to deport Tamil refugees to Sri Lanka in the past, noting in October that at least one such case faced “a serious risk of return to danger or persecution”.
China’s National People’s Congress has abolished presidential term limits, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely. The constitutional change, approved by all but five of 2964 delegates, reverses the two-term presidential limit introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1982 and allows Xi to stay in power after his second term ends in 2023. The vote prompted a social media crackdown, with the government censoring words and phrases that could be construed to criticise Xi or the reform, and continues Xi’s efforts to consolidate power and re-emphasise communist ideology.
Former deputy prime minister Wayne Swan will run for the Labor Party presidency against incumbent Mark Butler. Swan, who announced in February that he would not recontest the seat of Lilley at the next election, entered the race on Saturday. Swan, a member of the party’s right faction, will urge Labor to adopt a more aggressive focus on economic inequality and redistribution, saying “I want to make a contribution to winning the battle of ideas with the radical right that have taken over the Liberal Party”. Butler, from the party’s left, will continue his push for Labor to democratise, saying “too many important decisions are taken by a few factional power brokers, rather than by our many members”. The pair will face off at Labor’s national conference in July.
Another cache of classified government documents was accidentally leaked into unauthorised hands after being left in ex-government filing cabinets, a Canberra resident has revealed. Speaking to The Sunday Canberra Times, the anonymous man said he bought two filing cabinets in a Fyshwick ex-government furniture store in 2013 containing documents belonging to the then-department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. The files contained “all the personal details [of employees] like home addresses and phone numbers, as well as previous positions held, CVs and security clearances”, and were returned to the department several days after the breach was discovered. “Unfortunately they didn't buy the cabinet”, the man said.
The union movement has launched its largest advertising blitz since WorkChoices in 2007. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has rolled out an eight-week television ad campaign with the tagline “it’s time to change the rules”, arguing that “big business has too much power” and contrasting penalty rate cuts with CEO bonuses. ACTU president Sally McManus will further outline the campaign in an address to the National Press Club on March 21, flagging the organisation’s intent to push for a more militant unionism ahead of the next federal election.
And the 2018 NRL season has kicked off with the Penrith Panthers securing a 24-14 come-from-behind victory over the Parramatta Eels. The win sets up a premiership-winning year for the Panthers, who have lulled their competitors into a false sense of security by not winning a premiership for 15 years. The AFL resumes in 10 days’ time, but you will not read about it here.