In this week’s Current Affairs Wrap, Michael Burrill tackles climate change, metadata and Iraq, Andrew Wilkie’s asylum seeker outrage and the passing of ex-PM Gough Whitlam.
This week the Australian Government announced it had reached an agreement for Australian special forces to be deployed in Iraq. Julie Bishop said the special forces will “advise and assist” Iraqi forces. But with recent news of SAS soldiers assaulting peace protestors and this week the revelation that a drunk SAS member pulled his gun on an ASIS spy he was meant to be protecting, some may question whether these are really the people we want giving advice in such a volatile country. From aiming guns at your supposed comrades to arming your enemy, coalition weapon drops ended up in the hands of IS. Though jihadists aren’t usually known for their sense of humour IS supporters had some fun on social media thanking “Team USA.” I’m sure whatever they seized will fit in nicely with the rest of the US made weapons they seized from the Iraqi army.
Despite PM Tony Abbott and co claiming the expansion of metadata surveillance is needed to target the estimated 160 Australian IS fighters and supporters, The Australian Communications and Media Authority found over 500,000 requests were made for metadata (which can generally be accessed without a warrant) last year. Evidently it’s being used to target a lot more than 160 people, and this is just under the current regime. Some will point as they always do, to the 17-year-old IS member from Bankstown or to recent deadly events in Canada as proof of the need for such laws. But Liberal Democratic party senator David Leyonhjelm was having none of it as he described jihadists as “dickheads” and “clowns” adding, “These people are not sophisticated criminals, they’re easy to catch, we don’t need new laws.” I’m inclined to agree with him. Hit and runs, suicidal one man missions on heavily guarded buildings or a lost 17-year-old don’t seem like actions of strength and cunning to me, they seem like actions of weakness and idiocy.
On to an actual threat to the continued existence of our species, climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that 2014 looks like it will be the warmest year on record with the Climate Council blaming climate change for increasing the probability of extreme bush fires. Obviously concerned, our politicians have been arguing over the Renewable Energy Target – a policy which, whether it stays as Labour’s original target or changes to the government “real 20 percent,” provides only a minimal decrease in Australia’s overall emissions. When it comes to bombing poor brown people or increasing state power they are so eager to act you can’t even get them to debate. But when it comes to addressing climate change, they in stead get bogged down in a vicious debate as to whether their response should be ineffectual or non existent.
When not bombing poor brown people overseas, some of our politicians enjoy tormenting poor brown people trying to escape from those countries we’ve bombed. A fact Andrew Wilkie isn’t happy with, as he referred the whole Cabinet to the International Criminal Court this week. Wilkie described asylum seeker policy as “a crime against humanity” while Scott “the life ruiner” Morrison labelled Wilkie an “attention-seeking advocate” presumably then turning up the volume on whichever Muppets film he was watching in an attempt to drown out the anguished cries of children reverberating around his skull. Whatever the case, as we all know, generally leaders from rich Western countries don’t have to answer for war crimes or crimes against humanity at the ICC – in fact, sometimes they even get Nobel Peace Prizes.
Lastly this week, the death of ex-PM Gough Whitlam lead to a round of political point scoring and agenda pushing. Anthony Albanese reacted with outrage when the Greens used Whitlam’s picture next to their logo. Albanese accused the Greens of attempting to co-opt Gough who he described as a “Labour man.” Probably why he didn’t seem to have any problem with Julia Gillard using her tribute to spruik her own political legacy. And on the Right, Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones gave their respects by blaming Whitlam for a “culture of entitlement” and “dole bludgers” respectively. Classy stuff all round, guys…