Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: ISIS, FIFA, UKIP and JOHO

Tony Blair
Image: Müller via Wikimedia Commons

Dominating the news has been Jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). As ISIS seized control of a number of cities in Iraq, ex-British PM Tony Blair called for western intervention and moved to defend the 2003 invasion of the country in which he played such a prominent role. Blair labelled charges that the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which ISIS was formed in direct response to, were responsible for the current situation as “bizarre.” He went on to blame the Syrian civil war and western inaction towards that conflict saying, “The civil war in Syria with its attendant disintegration is having its predictable and malign effect. Iraq is now in mortal danger. The whole of the Middle East is under threat.” Some may suggest that even if there is some truth in that statement, Blair’s close ties to Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad while in office (who he even considered offering a knighthood in 2002) still leave him complicit. One thing though seems certain – with Blair now consistently calling for military action against him, Al-Assad must feel let down. If alleged war criminals can’t count on each other, who can they count on?

Prime Minister Tony “I am a conservationist” Abbott visited North America this past fortnight. Abbott and similarly-minded Canadian PM Stephen Harper took the opportunity to voice their opposition to carbon pricing and emissions trading. Despite a recent report by the World Bank that found found 39 countries had adopted such schemes, Abbott said, “There is no sign – no sign – that trading schemes are increasingly being adopted. If anything, trading schemes are being discarded, not adopted.” Obviously an innocent mistake – what reason would a man who labelled climate change as “crap” in 2009 have to cloud the issue in any way? Though some suggested his stance may cause friction with US President Barack Obama, the pair co-authored an Op-Ed piece titled “Obama and Abbott: The US and Australia make common cause in the Pacific.” This, along with Abbott’s championing of the “Five Eye”s security agreement, shows he does at least have one eye on the future (see what I did there?) A spirit of co-operation will be important in the future, as I imagine, at least if Tone gets his way, that things will get quite cosy after sea levels rise and humanity struggles for ever-dwindling resources.

Back in Australia, Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey likened criticism of the budget to “class warfare” and labelled the current welfare system “unsustainable,” though a recent report by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found that since 2001 the percentage of working age Australians reliant on welfare had fallen from two percent to 18.5 percent. Hockey went on to suggest high income earners and corporations may consider Australia’s progressive tax system unfair. Some may argue a recent report by Oxfam which found “the richest one percent of Australians now own the same wealth as the bottom 60 percent” obliterates this argument, but I can see where Joe’s coming from. It must be awfully annoying for them to find and retain a creative account to fiddle their taxes for them.

(Ed’s note – OK, I gave Joe the title ‘JOHO” – no offence Joe, just fitted the by-line)

Liberal Senator Cory “common sense lives here” Bernardi has been talking up recent successes of conservative factions the Tea Party in the US and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in EU elections. Bernardi said of the successes, ”The message seems very clear, the people want something different to what establishment politics is offering,” and suggested they were proof major parties were ignoring “mainstream” views. Whether the views of Bernardi, a man who has equated same-sex marriage with legalised bestiality, or the organisations he admires are truly “mainstream” is questionable, although I suppose UKIP’s “racist populism” as a disgruntled ex-member of Indian heritage described it, doesn’t sound too far off Australia’s current asylum seeker policy.

In sports news, the 2014 FIFA World Cup is well under way in Brazil. 32 nations will fight it out for international football’s biggest prize. The tournament, which it is estimated will cost the host over US$11 billion and that has inspired nationwide protests, promises to be a lucrative success for corruption-riddled FIFA and their corporate partners, but with police having arrested social activists without explanation and allegedly using excessive force against protesters, maybe not so much of one for the people of Brazil.

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