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About Michael Burrill

Michael Burrill is a 24-year-old writer and contrarian. His hobbies include cheap Australian lager and existential dread.

In this week’s current affairs wrap, the returning Michael Burrill questions Ray Martin’s credentials to scope Q&A, and the blurring line between Abbott and Shorten.


As I return from a fortnight in which I undertook a deep and independent review of my life (it was found to be deeply inadequate, as usual), the fallout from Zaky Mallah’s appearance on Q&A continues.

Barnaby Joyce was forced to cancel his appearance on the show, with Malcolm Turnbull also pulling out of his scheduled participation on next week’s episode, as Tone enforced a ministerial boycott until the independent the conclusion of the review by Ray Martin and former SBS head, Shaun Brown.

Despite this apparent reverence for the review, Ray Martin has already upset some members of the Government after he labelled the boycott “silly”. Utilising a now familiar tactic, Senator James McGrath labelled Ray “an apologist for Q&A”, while McGrath’s colleague, Ian Macdonald, said “Ray Martin has respect in the community but these comments make you question whether he is the right person to conduct an independent review”. It’s childish really isn’t it? When Ray Martin, a man widely known for his involvement in A Current Affair (a show which is to serious journalism what dog shit is to the grooves in the bottom of shoes), makes you look juvenile on Sunrise (a show much like ACA), then “silly” seems about right.

Conversely, just as Joe Hockey referred to calls for a boycott of Alan Jones, after the “died of shame” debacle, as “the height of arrogance” , I doubt the Government will have paid much to attention to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s findings that Jones made inaccurate statements about climate change.

Particularly since making inaccurate statements about the environment seems to be a government policy. This shifty stance on environmental issues has left Barnaby Joyce in another awkward situation, as environment minister, Greg Hunt, approved a $1.2 billion coal mine in BJ’s electorate. Though Barn wasn’t too bothered about the impact the coal unearthed will have on the environment if burned, he described the decision to allow a mine on a prime agricultural land as proof “the world has gone mad”. Ever present personification of that mad world, Jacqui Lambie, challenged Barn to a Q&A showdown in a disorientating video, labeling him “the Liberals’ lap dog”. Though some may consider the video laughably amateurish, I’m sure that with Jacqui’s extensive knowledge of culture in the Islamic world, it’s actually a homage to avant-garde Algerian cinema of the late 50’s or something.

On another environmental issue BJ is displeased about, coal seam gas, another graduate of Big Daddy Palmer’s parliamentary scholarships, Glenn Lazarus, took centre stage. Lazarus told an anti coal seam rally that he was “prepared to go and squirrel grip, squirrel grip, the Prime Minister” and that “if that doesn’t work, I’ve got other things up my sleeve, like the grapple tackle, the chicken wing and even the crusher tackle”. Lazarus finally claimed that he is “prepared to use the Hopoate tactics”. So, an Australian senator jokingly threatened to subject the PM to what, at the very least, seems to amount to indecent assault. Mad world…I guess he just really cares about the environmental impacts of coal seam gas. What a service old Clive has done for Australia…

The other person inconvenienced by Tone’s boycott, Malcolm Turnbull, threw his “not Tone” campaign back into full effect. Mal tacitly criticised T’s terrifying rhetoric, as he told the Sydney Institute that IS are “not Hitler’s Germany, Tojo’s Japan or Stalin’s Russia”, and went on to add “We should be careful not to say or do things which can be seen to add credibility to those delusions”. Mal also claimed that labelling opponents of “anti terror” legislation “friends of terrorists” is “as stupid as describing those who advocate them as proto-fascists”. Now, I generally think Orwell references or Nazi quotes on propaganda are dropped so easily and so often in these debates that they have lost all meaning. But when it comes to the question of crypto fascism in Australian politics, it’s not just the legislation which leads people to talk of its existence. It’s the battalions of flags, the repeated attempts to stifle dissent and the demonisation of foreigners and marginalised groups. In particular, that demonisation was an issue raised by race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, who warned “I hold serious concerns about a deterioration of community harmony; a deterioration that warrants close attention from governments and leaders”. Reports that ASIO and a number of police departments have met with an Italian company that provides surveillance software to a number of oppressive regimes also aren’t a particularly good sign…

The friends we keep aren’t great either. The undemocratic behaviour of the Nauruan government has come under scrutiny again this week, with Julie Bishop forced to publicly air concerns over their prosecution of opposition politicians and attempts to silence protest. Jules told ABC radio that she had “raised our concerns directly with the president”. That must have been a difficult conversation, how do you effectively reprimand someone when you otherwise pay them to assist you in breaking international law and torturing asylum seekers? Egyptian President, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has introduced laws which criminalise journalists who publish information “about any terrorist operations that contradicts the official statements released by the relevant authorities”. While some might suggest it provides another example of why Tone’s repeated attempts to paint Sisi as an innovative reformer in the Middle East are laughable, the similarities in “national security” agendas seems to suggest T is sincerely drawing influence from Sisi…

It’s understandable that we sometimes need outside help, we’ve got more than enough work making indigenous people miserable. Work that continues on in earnest according to the stats ( Some may point to the summit discussing constitutional recognition this week as proof of further progress.

Both Tone and Short William attended the summit, along with a number indigenous community representatives. Indigenous sovereignty activists protested outside the summit, while one of the people attending, Noel Pearson, labelled it “stage-managed” and claimed “It was very clear at the end of it that the way forward had already been nutted out between Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott prior to the meeting. So a lot of the input by people speaking at the meeting was rather redundant because the prime minister and opposition leader had decided the parameters going forward”. With this in mind, it doesn’t really seem like that much of an improvement. It seems much like the status-quo, white people defining how indigenous people are recognised by society, just with better press officers dressing it all up in symbolic distraction.

T and Short William may agree on boats, jihadists and constitutional recognition, but as ever, they’re less cordial when it comes to unions. At his royal commission appearance, Bill rather unconvincingly stated that there was no conflict of interest in taking large amounts of money from companies which he later negotiated collective bargaining agreements with.Meanwhile, Tone took advantage of Bill’s royal commission adventure to spruik his new union legislation, saying “If anyone in the Labor Party wants to redeem themselves, they can get behind the Registered Organisations Commission Bill and help ensure that unions have the same high standards of governance which we’ve long had with companies”. Labor were of course having none of it, with Senator Kim Carr claiming the attacks on unions were politically motivated and that “This is a government that is setting a shocking precedent. The Labor party when it returns to office will be under incredible pressure to respond to this precedent”. One would imagine that if recent reports of Mafia donations to the Liberal party are anything to go off, a royal commission into political donations might cause a bit of a stir.

Kim Carr’s tough talk aside, due to the likelihood of also snaring Labor members, I doubt it’d ever happen . It’s rather depressing that 2 issues in need of serious examination, shady donations and union corruption, have essentially been reduced to schoolyard back and forth by our politicians. In another example of this dysfunction, Tone and Short William have posted some of the lowest approval numbers in recent polling history. Contrast the Australian people’s apparent displeasure with both major party leaders and polling results that suggest 75% of Australian voters support moves to strip the citizenship of some sole Australian citizens “involved in terrorism”. It suggests either the untrustworthy nature of polls, or a world gone mad in which people are so afraid or confused that they are willing to grant more and more power to people they distrust and despise.

I guess Barnaby was right…


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