Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: RET, Nauru, Yemen, spying scandal

Image: AAP

Michael Burrill shares the world’s news, in a week that saw little movement on the RET debate, the Moss Review, increasing violence in Yemen and espionage  allegations from the US against Israel.


As the government began to solicit suggestions on a post-2020 emissions reduction target and the policies that should be used to achieve it, they were accused of playing political games by both ex-Liberal leader John Hewson, and author of the Rudd government’s Climate Change review, Professor Ross Garnaut. This criticism came after Greg Hunt falsely claimed a fall in the estimated greenhouse gas reduction needed to reach the 2020 five percent targeted cut to emissions was “because Labor’s numbers exaggerated the abatement task by more than a billion tonnes of emissions.” In other climate change news, the Clean Energy Council attempted to break the impasse over the Renewable Energy Target, proposing that Labor and the Coalition “split the difference” and settle on a target of 33,500 gigawatt hours. For all the “robust” (as parliamentarians so love to describe it) debate going on, whatever the final decision, the RET will at most account for about two percent of total energy produced in Australia. I can’t help but think about warnings made in 2011, by Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency. “The door to reach two degrees is about to close. In 2017 it will be closed forever.” With two degrees Celsius flagged as the largest increase in global temperatures that can still be considered safe, sometimes it seems as though the aforementioned “robust debate” is largely an illusion to keep us all distracted while the world’s governments play tiddlywinks with our future. Those lacking a cheerful disposition such as my own may posit that the most certain way to make oneself carbon neutral is by sucking on the exhaust pipe of a running car.

Despite the Moss Review finding no substance to claims Save the Children staff fomented unrest on Nauru, and also uncovering a number of instances of sexual violence, Scott Morrison: Welfare Cop has shrugged off calls that he should apologise for the allegations. Though Officer Scott could initially point to his crafty disclaimer made at the time of the original accusations that he was “drawing no conclusions about any of these matters,” leaked transcripts of interviews conducted for the Moss Review revealed that the true cause of the unrest was a video in which he informed asylum seekers they would never reach Australia. In a desperate scramble to apportion blame elsewhere, Morrison then actively encouraged a member of his staff to dismiss ten Save the Children workers on suspicion alone. Public verbal gymnastics aside, I’d say that probably does warrant an apology. With condemnation of mandatory detention piling up, the Dole Constable and his successor Banal Pete may have thrown their ODESSA travel agency “Just following orders escape package tour” brochures away in frustration this week and began to pursue possible alternative future travel plans, after archaeologists found ruins in an Argentinian jungle that they believe were built as a Nazi hideout.

In Yemen, Houthi rebels (Shias allegedly backed by Iran) captured more ground as UN special envoy to the country, Jamal Benomar, warned that the Middle Eastern nation was on “the edge of civil war,” which, considering an armed rebellion has taken control of the capital Sanaa and large swathes of the country, seems a rather optimistic analysis. Neighbouring Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Saud al-Faisal went on to caution the Houthis, “If this issue is not solved peacefully, we will take the necessary measures to protect the region from their aggression.” Seemingly unhappy with the results of their rumoured bankrolling of Sunni militias, they later honoured those fighting words, launching air strikes in conjunction with Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, and “logistical and intelligence support” from the US. With ground operations likely to follow, Jamal Benomar may be pleased that civil war is now out of the equation, but plain old war seems to have taken its place.

Lastly this week, staying in the Middle East, Israel have been accused of spying on their closest ally, the US. Anonymous senior officials in the Obama administration alleged Israeli intelligence eavesdropped on secret negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program. While they couldn’t exactly criticise Israel for spying on them – given they have been previously embroiled in scandals such as the tapping of German PM Angela Merkel’s phone, and, amusingly, became aware of Israel’s misdeeds while doing much the same to their good mates – they claimed Israel passed the secrets onto Republican members of Congress, with one of the nameless officials saying, “It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy.” In response, both Israel and Republicans of course claimed ignorance. From tiddlywinks to Chinese (or should that be Israeli?) whispers, it’s like watching a bunch of 15-year-olds battle it out for social supremacy, except while I by no means intend to devalue the pain caused by the spread of malicious rumours about who fingered who on the bottom oval, so and so’s sexuality or other such bullshit, in this instance the implications are far more serious…


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