Michael Burrill

About Michael Burrill

Michael Burrill is a 24-year-old writer and contrarian. His hobbies include cheap Australian lager and existential dread.

Current Affairs: The Budget emergency, “border emergency” and (yes) a real one, the wildlife emergency

Beheadings, bombings, the budget emergency and boat people…Michael Burrill brings the news of the world to TBS in this week’s Current Affairs Wrap.


This week as the war on terror…oh wait, civilians have already been killed by bombing raids which is quite terrifying. So the war on “extremism”…oh wait, the Saudi Arabian regime espouses Salafism. Alright, the war against tyranny…oh wait, both Saudi Arabia and UAE have well-documented oppressive dictatorships. This is getting complicated. So I’ll just go with the terms of PM Tony Abbott, terms so simplified that even PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie can understand them. “The goodies vs the baddies.” This week the goodies continued their bombing missions on the baddies. In response, some of the baddies, the al-Nusra front, declared the raids as a “war against Islam” and allegedly joined forces with former enemy IS. A feel-good story for jihadists everywhere, proving that even in this topsy-turvy modern world, intense hatred of the infidel CAN conquer all…while the rest of us may wonder how causing two jihadist groups previously at each others throats to join forces fits with the supposed plan to degrade them…

On to the debate over the “humanitarian mission with military elements” and degradation of rights at home. Labour (minus Melissa Parke) once again capitulated like jelly on a hot day, joining the government to block parliamentary debate on military intervention in the Middle East and to pass the bill granting ASIO new powers. MP Andrew Wilkie described this as “another step towards a police state” and accused the government of “wanting to capitalise on and exploit the current security environment.” The aforementioned government moved to officially commit ADF forces to Iraq this week despite the decision basically being announced weeks ago. Julie Bishop explained the gap by saying, “we want to ensure that we have in place the appropriate legal framework to cover the immunities and privileges and protections that our personnel would need.” I wouldn’t worry so much, JB. If Wilkie’s accusations about John Howard are to be believed then we don’t prosecute war criminals in this country. We give them cushy pensions and induct them into the Order of Australia…

As the year’s other breakout conflict bubbles away in Ukraine with a resurgence of clashes despite the ceasefire, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a “reset ” of relations with the US but went on to accuse NATO of a “cold war mentality.” With Russia arming and assisting separatist rebels, and NATO arming and assisting the Ukranian government, and Russia also arming Bashar al-Assad while the US and allies are arming certain Syrian rebels, it would seem both sides harbour a cold war mentality. Most worrying of all, Lavrov echoed plans by the US to upgrade their nuclear arsenal. Thank God for the UN Security Council…oh wait, they basically are the UN Security Council. Sure some will ask, “Why are you worrying about this when that ISIS is beheading people over in Iran or wherever it is?” Don’t get me wrong, beheading is a grizzly way to die but it’s inefficient. You can’t behead millions of people into dust and shadows full stop, let alone instantly.

Before all the talk of bombings and beheadings there was a “budget emergency.” A report by United Voice and the Tax Justice Network found big corporations have avoided up to $80 billion of tax in Australia over the last decade. Some may question why, in the midst of the supposed budget emergency, the most vulnerable amongst us were demonised when time and time again big business and the super rich seem to shirk their responsibility…but I guess with all the money they save on tax, they have even more to spend on lobbyists or even newspapers…democracy in action. Despite looking as though the least popular welfare measures will fail in parliament, and a bipartisan committee suggesting they may violate human rights, the government stood by them in principle. Backbencher Ewen Jones pledged his support saying, “Are we better to say to them, ‘Look there’s your dole, go home, eat Cheezels, get on the Xbox‘?” Some may say that while self-described “obese” Jones can happily eat foie gras while turning his own liver into one with fine wines as he enjoys the never-ending age of parliamentary entitlements, sometimes when you’re living your very own ACTUAL budget emergency and trying to survive off 40 bucks a day, Cheezels and sitting at home on the Xbox are all you can afford.

Before we demonised the “bludgers” there were the “boat people,” as this week the torture (or “enhanced interrogation techniques” as they call them in the CIA) and murder of an Australian-Afghani “boat person” on his return to Afghanistan highlighted the plight such people face. A plight only further illustrated by a report from the International Organisation for Migration, which estimated around 40,000 migrants have died in the last 14 years trying to reach more privileged countries. IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said of people smugglers, “Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers,” and went on to add, “Undocumented migrants are not criminals. They are human beings in need of protection and assistance, and deserving respect.” In Nauru, asylum seekers have alleged sexual abuse by guards and protested moves by the Australian Government to start outsourcing their abuse to the Cambodian government. For all the recent talk by our politicians of how moral their actions are in sending desperate asylum seekers, whose claims have been deemed genuine, to one of the world’s poorest countries, run by a brutal and allegedly corrupt ex-khmer Rouge commander – while lining that despot’s pockets – this doesn’t seem very moral to me. And for all their further talk (when they aren’t feeling confronted by burqas) about our open multicultural society, our politicians seem intent on it becoming a soggy service station pie, still frozen in the middle, sneering “What you lookin’ at mofo?” to the world and each other.

Lastly this week, the rotting elephant carcass in the room: the environment. As a WWF report found that 50 percent of the world’s wildlife had died in the last 40 years, Professor Ken Norris, a contributor to the report, said this was “a consequence of the way we choose to live.” With world leaders twiddling their thumbs as the window for action on human-induced climate change begins to creak shut, and humans all over degrading and destroying nature, we “luckily” have people in power like Tony Abbott and his friends in the logging (the ultimate conservationists according to the PM) and mining industries. People with their fingers on the pulse of the environment…even if they are just checking whether it’s dead or not yet.


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