Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: MH370, the Ukraine, and Brandis and bigots

malaysian airlines
By Jeroen Westram via Wikimedia Commons

The main focus of so much current affairs reporting this week still revolved around MH370with the tragic if not unexpected announcement by Malaysian officials “beyond a reasonable doubt” that flight 370 crashed into the Indian Ocean, bringing an end to a farcical fortnight. As Malaysian authorities bumbled through the investigation, the media excitedly grasped for any terrorism angle possible (at times I was reminded of those heady post 9/11 years when it seemed even  reports about  highway pile ups  finished with “authorities do not think the incident is terror related”),  though as time passed even they had to admit it was unlikely. Other outlandish theories involved pirates or UFOs, with more likely options being technical failure or pilot suicide. Hopefully once the plane is recovered the issue will be settled once and for all.

(Ed’s note: Take a read of Alexandra’s Tselios’ piece on the “140-characters-or-less” method Malaysian Airlines dealt with alerting the families of those aboard MH370)

Ukrainian armed forces withdrew from Crimea this week after Russian soldiers who Vladimir “5’4 and definitely not compensating” Putin claimed were never actually in Crimea stormed Ukrainian army and naval bases. In sad news for Geiger counters everywhere, the US continued with their recent policy of only fighting wars against third world countries, imposing sanctions on members of the Russian regime. One Putin aide, Vladislav Surkov, said of the sanctions “The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.” (Presumably then returning his Allen Ginsberg books to the air tight gay containment chamber Russian legislation requires.) In a further attempt to cool tensions, television presenter Dmitry Kiselyov told viewers “Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash”. With the Pro-Russian camp labelling the Ukrainian government fascists and some in the opposite camp comparing Putin’s land grab to Hitler’s Anschluss, maybe the best way to solve the situation is for someone on The UN Security Council to invoke Godwin’s Law and draw a line under the whole affair.

In what can only be seen as an attempt to remind a world occupied elsewhere that they exist, North Korea carried out mid-range missile tests this week. In conjunction with the short-range missile test to express their anger at US-South Korean war games last month, it seems North Korea might be attempting a brave new type of diplomacy. Is this the start of a peaceful new era, in which international conflicts are contested with elaborate but basically harmless fireworks displays, with the victor decided by Hans Blix and his team of international firework inspectors? He may get a lot of bad press but Kim Jong-un for the Nobel Peace Prize I say.

Back in “the Lucky Country”, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison supported PNG’s decision to end an inquiry into human rights abuses at the Manus Island detention centre. The cheek of these people! We put them up in an island resort and organise activities like police brutality to help with their homesickness and all they can do is complain. Some say compassion towards those less fortunate than you is the marker of an advanced society but they are wrong. The true corner tone of any great society is the sanctity of the queue, whether waiting for a soggy burger or trying to escape from a war zone. We’ve all let out that passive/aggressive sigh as someone pushed in front and prolonged our wait for tickets to Big Mama’s House 5 and an exxxtra large cola. Sure we might not be able to tell who exactly the asylum seekers pushed in front of from our point at the head of the queue, but we’ll sure as fuck keep tutting.

The Government continued this humanitarian stance with Attorney-General George Brandis announcing changes to legislation to help provide protection for those most oppressed amongst us – bigots. Brandis outlined plans to repeal section 18c and modify 18d of the Racial Discrimination Act adding ““People have the right to be bigots you know. In this country people have rights to say things that other people find offensive or bigoted,” with PM Tony Abbot saying ”it is in the nature of free speech that sometimes some people will not like it”. Cynics might suggest this is more about doing a favour to Liberal party cheerleader Andrew “I’m not a racist but…” Bolt who was found to have contravened section 18c in 2011, but I for one expect to see George Brandis and The Budgie Smuggler on the steps of parliament, hand in hand with Julian Assange and Feiz Mohammad as they all tenderly look into each others eyes and say “I might not agree with your opinion but I respect your right to say it.”

(Ed’s note: If you missed Maria Tedeschi’s article for TBS, it’s worth a read: Brandis will rip heart out of Racial Discrimination Act)

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