Current Affairs Wrap: Ferguson, ABC cuts, coalition of common sense, the Middle East and refugees

Michael Burrill updates TBS on the world’s news, from Ferguson to Israel, PUP and our larrikin Libs in this week’s Current Affairs Wrap.


Rioting occurred in Ferguson, Missouri this week after the white police officer responsible for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury. Brown family lawyer Benjamin Crump said “This process is broken. This process should be indicted,” and went on to accuse the prosecutor Robert McCulloch (who’s father was a police officer killed on duty) of having a “symbiotic” relationship with the local police. Brown’s parents called for peaceful protest while President Barack Obama said of rioters, “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.” Whatever one thinks about the explosive response, to paint it as being purely down to flawed character rather than a manifestation of the anger and alienation bubbling at the heart of these issues seems short sighted. In a week where police shot 3 people in Queensland and the president of the Law Council of Australia declared Indigenous rates of imprisonment a “national emergency” it would be similarly short sighted to view Ferguson as a symptom of a uniquely American disease.

On home turf, Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed his government has “fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people” despite being battered over another broken promise, funding cuts to the ABC and SBS. Tone then went on to deny he had broken any promises, labelling the cuts an “efficiency dividend,” a claim rubbished by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Liberal backbencher Craig Laundy, who accused the PM of employing “verbal gymnastics.” Leader of the (token) Opposition, Bill Shorten, criticised the cuts and claimed he would raise ABC funding in government, but refused to confirm he would return funding to its pre-cut level due to the unknown consequences of the Liberal’s “vandal” like economic management – which sounds quite similar to Tone’s technique in opposition. Christopher Pyne has been up to some gymnastics of his own, following his petition to keep open an Adelaide ABC studio that was being closed due to his government’s funding “efficiency dividends.” Pyne reacted to whistleblower Freya Newman‘s sentence (a 2-year good behaviour bond with no conviction recorded) by tweeting, “I’m not convinced the sentence in the Freya Newman case sends a clear message that breaching another’s privacy is wrong,” while the government of which he is a member continues to gleefully “efficiency dividend” the public’s privacy.

Elsewhere in parliament, expecting his very own lackie with which to cause trouble in the senate, Clive Palmer angrily reacted to intellectual and theologian Jacqui Lambie’s departure from PUP, claiming Lambie was “sent in there by someone to cause trouble.” Lambie’s new independence means the “coalition of common sense” may fly again as David Leyonhjelm attempts to gain support for a new attempt to reduce the Renewable Energy Target. I would have thought raising it would have been the “common sense” move, but if its use by our politicians is anything to go by, “common sense” rather counter-intuitively may be a synonym for idiocy. Whatever the case, it seems the deciding vote will be Ricky Muir’s and while he currently opposes any changes to the RET, a man whose main political principle is his enthusiasm for what can presently only be described as “eco death humidifiers” doesn’t fill me with hope in regard to his environmental credentials.

Seemingly buoyed by the success of their dealings with the Palestinian population, the Israeli cabinet seems keen to alienate their own minorities, approving a bill which denies certain rights to non-Jewish citizens. Though it is unclear whether the bill (which has been openly criticised by Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin) will pass the Knesset, as ever I can only imagine the outcry if such changes were proposed by a country with non western allies. Elsewhere in the Middle East, another friend of the West, the Egyptian government, has jailed 78 minors for taking part in pro-Muslim Brotherhood protests. Sure our friends or friends of friends might be locking up minors for pursuing their supposed rights but nothing like that would ever happen here, right?

In completely unrelated news Scott Morrison may be forced to offer 31,000 refugees a pathway to permanent residency with “safe haven enterprise visas” if he wishes to pass new immigration legislation through the Senate. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights found the proposed legislation was “not in accordance with accepted standards of international human rights law.” In other muppety Morrison news, Scott and Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash have spent around $120,000 from September 2013 to September 2014 monitoring the media for references to them. What are they so concerned about? It’s not like they’ve been breaking international human rights laws or locking up minors for pursuing their supposed rights…

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