Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: Sydney siege, the Taliban, MYEFO and Cuba

Taliban
Image: AAP

In this week’s Current Affairs Wrap, Michael Burrill talks gun control in the wake of the Sydney siege, Pakistani retaliation against the Taliban, Hockey’s MYEFO and Obama-Castro relations.

 

This week, a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place involving 17 hostages tragically ended in the deaths of two of those hostages, cafe manager Tori Johnson, and barrister and mother of three, Katrina Dawson. The perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, considered by the Islamic community as an outsider and a charlatan, and out on bail for a number of violent and sexual offences, was also killed. Monis claimed membership of IS, but in reality it seems his actions were indicative of a disturbed lone individual rather than a snaking international conspiracy. Papers of ill repute and fringe political groups have attempted to use the incident to further their own agendas, including Senator David Leyonhjelm who claimed strict gun control had turned Australia into a “nation of victims” and went on to argue that relaxed gun laws may have prevented the siege. While ostensibly this may be true, Leyonhjelm makes himself look a bit of a “dickhead clown” (to use his own terminology) by conveniently overlooking the gun-related massacre that led to the tightening of those laws in the first place. Though others will claim the incident only proves the need for the new “anti-terror” laws, I’d suggest it proves they only provide a mirage of security at cost of our rights. To put things in perspective, four deaths can be attributed to terrorism-related incidents in Australia in over two decades, whereas on average one woman is killed due to domestic violence each week, with it also being the leading contributor to death, disability or ill health experienced by Australian women aged between 15 and 44. With this in mind, it seems the truly pressing issue is working out how Monis, a man charged with multiple sexual assaults and accessory in the particularly violent murder of his ex-wife, was out on bail in the first place.

To put things into even sharper perspective, a raid on an army-run school in Peshawar, Pakistan by the Pakistani Taliban left 148 dead (including 132 children). A Taliban spokesman claimed that the attack (which was even condemned by their allies in the Afghan Taliban) was revenge for government targeting of their “families and females.” In response, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif reinstated the death penalty for terrorism offences, saying, “We have resolved to continue the war against terrorism ’til the last terrorist is eliminated,” going on to add, “there will be no differentiation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban,” in reference to strategic support for the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups by his country’s intelligence services. It would be easy for us here in Australia to shrug this attack off as “just one of those things that happens in that part of the world” and focus on our own comparatively smaller tragedy, but really it illustrates the complex web of ethnic, religious and political interests competing in the middle east – a complicated mess only made messier by our government and its allies’ repeated political and military interventions.

Amongst billions of tragedies public and personal, the world goes on, so now back to the self satisfied sarcasm…

Treasurer Smokin’ Joe Hockey released his Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) this week, revealing a $43.7 billion increase in budget deficits (in comparison to previous budget forecasts) over the next four years. An instance of delicious irony considering he and his mates’ performance in opposition – a real three-course dinner of scoffs, head-shakes and giggles. In considerably less amusing news, another $3.7 billion will be cut from foreign aid, bringing the grand total to $11 billion (Ed’s note: Read Steph Lentz piece on TBS about this). It seems perverse that a decent amount of that money will be redirected to the bombing campaign against IS when the UN food programme can’t seem to scrape enough donations together to adequately feed the refugees of that conflict – particularly in a week where it has been revealed Hockey has reneged on a pledge to close one of the loopholes ( highlighted by Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan) that big business use to avoid paying billions worth of tax…

Possibly looking to his legacy, Barack Obama has reached a deal with Cuban leader Raul Castro to release prisoners on both sides and begin normalising relations between the two countries. Democrat Senator Bob Mendez was unhappy with the deal (brokered by Pope Francis) claiming, “President Obama’s actions have vindicated the brutal behaviour of the Cuban government.” This seems a bit rich considering the CIA torture report that was released last week. On that note, Dick Cheney, a man whose legacy is disintegrating like burning tissue paper, again denied that “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by the CIA were torture this week claiming, “We were very careful to stay short of torture.”   His loose definition of torture may lead some to question his definition of other terms like “hunting accident” but not wishing to be involved in a “hunting accident” myself I’ll keep my comments to a minimum.

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