Michael Burrill’s #CurrentAffairsWrap covers the Zaky Mallah fallout, anti-terror legislation overseas and accusations from Nauru.
We start this week’s Current Affairs Wrap with the hysterical reaction to ex-terrorism suspect Zaky Mallah’s appearance on answer avoidance game show Q&A (or “Yes I will lie to you“as I refer to it). In a heated exchange with parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Steve Ciobo, Mallah claimed “the Liberals have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of ministers like him.” As the fan machine gunned faecal matter all over the place, people out of the loop could have been forgiven for assuming Mallah stood up screaming, “I PLEDGE MY ALLEGIANCE TO THE CALIPHATE, DEATH TO THE INFIDELS!” while holding a scimitar, as various media outlets stated that he implored Australians to join IS.
News Corp papers went one step further, also painting the ABC as IS sympathisers. The Government unsurprisingly basked in both the media frenzy and the ABC’s meek apologies. Tone, as he generally does, reacted with utter disgust that an impartial institution dare air opinions contrary to his own, asking Aunty, “Whose side are you on?”. T went on to label Q&A a “lefty lynch mob”, because as we all know, Salafi Jihadists and their sympathisers are known for their left wing tendencies. Though he refused to echo all of Tone’s sentiments, Malcolm Turnbull still seemed to think “why not?” as he threw himself atop the stacks on, saying, “I think this incident last night does raise issues about the safety of the audience“. Surely if Mallah is as much of a threat as Mal implies, then the increasingly powerful intelligence and law enforcement agencies should have him covered. With that in mind, it seems Mr Turncoat – sorry, Turnbull – is either criticising the ABC for not doing a job which he and his colleagues repeatedly assure us the aforementioned agencies have under control, or is tacitly admitting that no matter what powers they are granted, they can never entirely guarantee our safety.
Now, onto the man at centre of the shit storm, Zaky Mallah. If you wish to criticise the man for his previous conduct, for appointing himself a spokesperson for the whole Islamic community, for making misogynistic comments or for his support of IS’ Salafi Jihadist rival, Jabhat al Nusra (though a number of our allies are also guilty of that), then fair enough, go ahead. Conversely, if you want to criticise him for supporting or inciting people to join IS, you’re living in a paranoid fantasy. As for the vitriol hurled at Aunty, let’s pretend for a second that ABC editorial decisions are any of the Government’s business; if they are so worried about the airing of transgressive opinions, why the silence when they’re being expressed by wealthy white men like Fred Nile? I’d wager that if you look at the statistics, incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence are far more prevalent than those committed in the name of Salafi Jihadism.
If everyone would CHILL THE FUCK OUT for a second, they may see the confected outrage for a what it really is: an attempt to narrow debate and silence dissent. If you don’t believe me then listen to Peter Greste, someone who knows a thing or two about governments attempting to silence dissent. Greste compared the Government’s response to their “shoot the messenger” treatment of Gillian Triggs of late and said, “what we’re seeing is a closing down of the debate, and that worries me enormously“.
The debate which the Government is attempting to close down in this instance is the one surrounding their proposed citizenship revocation legislation, as details were finally released this week. Flag fetishists Tone, Banal Pete and The Brain Brandis must have been at full mast as, flanked by a decuplet of the national banner, they revealed the specifics of the bill to the press. The legislation (named the Allegiance to Australia Bill) stopped short of initial plans to grant Dastardly Duttley discretionary revocation powers, instead expanding an automatic revocation clause in section 35 of the Citizenship Act. If passed (which looks likely), dual citizens will lose their Australian citizenship if they join a proscribed terrorist organisation (as decided by The Brain Brandis), are convicted of certain offences, or engage in certain conduct. Though the changes may sidestep previous constitutional concerns, with Banal Pete the person who issues the “automatic” revocation (still based on suspicion rather than conviction for two of the criteria) and able to “overturn” revocations, the powers are still largely up to ministerial discretion. If that isn’t worrying enough, it seems citizenship could also theoretically be revoked for vandalism of Commonwealth property and some whistle-blowing.
One of the buzzwords in this debate has been “safety”. What of the safety of people in the countries we intend to “banish” these apparently dangerous people to? What of the safety for whistleblowers revealing information in the public interest? Don’t we already have a number of laws and resources supposedly aimed at keeping the community safe from criminals of every ilk? With this in mind, doesn’t singling out a particular group based on their political views, while sidestepping natural justice in the process, set a precedent which potentially calls into question the safety of free expression?
Anyway, back to the messenger marksmanship. This time on the international stage. First up, Nauruan Minister for Finance and Justice, David Adeang, had some criticism of his own for the ABC, accusing Aunty of “conspiring with the Nauru opposition to destabilise the government of Nauru”, after 7:30 accused Adeang and Nauruan President, Baron Waqa, of corruption. In the Middle East, Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Peter Greste’s tormenter and a man who Tone once again lauded as a forward thinking reformer in the region), will have been displeased after Germany rejected an extradition request (on politically motivated charges) for journalist Ahmed Mansour. In more Mid-East emissary evisceration, Israel rejected a UN report which accused both them and Hamas of war crimes. Bibi Netanyahu said of the report, “The report is biased. The commission that wrote it is under a committee that does everything but protect human rights“. So, accusing a report and the commission behind it of bias, despite that report addressing misdeeds on both sides… Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Back in Love It or Leave It Land, The Brain and a couple of mates were left looking a bit silly after Greens Senator Larissa Waters questioned whether the Pope’s encyclical on climate change would affect the stance of Tone and the 42 percent of his cabinet that share his Catholic beliefs. In response, Matt Canavan of the Nationals labelled Waters a”bloody bigot”, which seems like a compliment coming from the Coalition. While fellow National, Barry O’Sullivan, asked whether she was married. To finish, The Brain added, “I think Senator Waters, for you to reflect on the religious beliefs of any member of this parliament, whether they be in the government or whether they occupy any other office in this parliament, is disgusting“. So, it’s fine for Coalition members to “reflect” on their religious beliefs when it comes to same-sex marriage. Also, it would seem, perfectly reasonable when it comes to questioning another senator’s marital status. It’s even apparently completely acceptable for them to “reflect” on the religious beliefs of private citizens, as Tone did this week, when calling for “the easy-going versions of Islam that the world so hopes for”, implying that most Muslims are backwards nutters in the process.
But SHOCK! HORROR! When Larissa Waters “reflects” on the religious beliefs of those very same Coalition members , it’s suddenly disgusting. It’s quite confusing, must be some kind of riddle above my IQ grade…
Lastly, before anyone tries to tell me that the attacks in France ,Tunisia and Kuwait (which left around 70 people dead) prove the need for tough “anti-terror” laws, bear in mind that both France and Tunisia have introduced an expansion of such powers already this year. It’s almost as though it might be a bit more complicated than continuing with the dropping of bombs overseas and the erosion of rights at home. Keep shooting the messenger if you must, even though your conniption seems to have little effect on people getting literally shot.
But when the indignation passes, please ask yourself, who’ll be next in the firing line when all the messengers are silenced?
That’s all for this week, the kind which leads my father to state “you’ve gotta smile” in wry exasperation.
Personally, I think you should frown while you still can. The way things are going, it’s only a matter of time before they make it illegal…