Current Affairs Wrap: Pipe Bombs, spying and Bolt

In a fortnight where the annual Lowy Institute poll has revealed that around 50 percent of Australian adults support spying on friendly nations, Labour Senator John Faulkner has accused the Department of Parliamentary Service of spying on him after it was revealed CCTV footage from the corridor outside Faulkner’s office was collected as part of a disciplinary investigation. It will be interesting to see whether Faulkner and those 50 percent or so of Australians hold similar principles if and when legislation about proposed increases in intelligence agencies’ abilities to spy on Australian citizens enters parliament.

In another amusing parliamentary mirror of the privacy vs security debate, Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan smuggled a fake pipe bomb into Parliament in an attempt to highlight new security regulations that allow MPs and senators, their families and staff, and federal department employees to enter the building without being screened. Heffernan, who labelled the changes ”stupid, dodgy and risky,” has previous experience with such shenanigans, having tried to smuggle a knife into the NSW Parliament in 2009. If successful in his mission, maybe Bill will celebrate by wearing a replica suicide vest into Parliament, replete with a giant party popper-esque explosion of streamers as he presses the detonator.

In asylum seeker news, Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles has signalled offshore processing will continue under a Labour government. Marles said of offshore processing, “It is the single most effective deterrent in seeing people not risk their lives at sea and we cannot, from a position of compassion, abide a situation where we are seeing that tragic loss of life at sea on our borders.” So, in the interests of “compassion” I’ll expect to see that same Labour government imprison cyclists without helmets for pursuing a legal activity in an unsafe manner. After asylum seekers were allegedly threatened with machetes by locals on Manus Island last week, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison described the incident as “a low-level non-physical exchange.” It’s amazing, almost magical in fact, how, depending on the target, a protest becomes an “assault” and alleged assault with a deadly weapon becomes “a low-level non-physical exchange.”

A report by the ATO has suggested many of Australia’s richest people use a series of trusts and “complex business arrangements” to avoid tax. While I would never make allegations about her own tax arrangements, the reports suggestions do put comments made by “mother of the year” Gina Rinehart and others about millionaires and billionaires unfairly propping up society into perspective.

We finish this week with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull labelling conservative commentator Andrew “I’m not racist but…” Bolt as “quite unhinged” and “bordering on demented.” The comments came after Bolt suggested in both his column and a TV interview with Tony Abbott that Turnbull might be after the PM’s job. Turnbull went on to say of Bolt, “He proclaims loudly that he is a friend of the government – well, with friends like Bolt, we don’t need any enemies.” Some may suggest that, especially considering the way Abbott usurped him to gain power in the first place, maybe Turnbull should be questioning himself about the friends he keeps…

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