Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: Shenhua Mine, Iran, Greece, Alan Jones


Our man Burrill’s wrap this week tackles the Shenhua coal mine blowback, the Greek bailout, Iran and Donald Trump’s dalliance with the Cartel.


As the world continued going mad this week, so did debate over the proposed Shenhua coal mine in Liverpool Plains. Despite ruling out the possibility of the Government changing their minds on the mine, Trade Minister Andrew Robb attempted to soothe any perception of tension in the cabinet after Barnaby Joyce’s dissent, saying, “Barnaby is a particular personality, and it brings with it great strengths and we want to continue to keep enjoying those strengths“. Andy attempted to put a further positive spin on things by claiming that the cabinet is full of “type A personalities”.

For those unaware of what a “type A personality” is, it’s something insufferable fuckwits label themselves in order to put a positive spin on their repellent behaviour. Not wishing to be outdone in the “type A personality” stakes, Labor refused to confirm any coherent policy direction on the issue and instead attempted to inflame any perception of tension in the cabinet.

Alan Jones was considerably less equivocal, as he warned Tone, “governments rise and fall, sometimes, on a single issue“. Lest he be accused of becoming a yoga huffing Q&A audience member, Alan fell back on his old friend xenophobia as he identified the aforementioned issue as “selling this country out to foreign interests”. Which seems to suggest that he’d be perfectly happy with “desecration” as he described it, as long as it’s Australian owned desecration. Either way, amidst all the real and “type A” concern about the environmental impacts of a coal mine on agricultural land, some basic points seem to be getting overlooked.

Firstly, coal mines contribute to accelerated climate change. Whether the mine is on agricultural land or not, accelerated climate change will affect agriculture. Secondly, in its current formulation, industrial agriculture contributes to accelerated climate change. I guess the Yellow Peril stealing food off Australia’s plate is an easy narrative to get behind, as opposed to accepting that the situation is a lot more complex, that even the thing people are looking to protect will have a negative effect on itself if left to continue as it is…

The convoluted discourse was also present in other environmental debates this week. Tone accused others of being “airy-fairy” on climate change, quite a claim from someone who can’t seem to decide whether or not he believes in it (and who concocted, and threw billions into, a climate policy which seems to have been designed to fail). There was slightly more truth in his claims, “when we make commitments to reduce emissions we keep them”, but he neglected to mention that that’s largely down to the repeated overestimation of emissions, which is a tactic used by both sides in politics. In a further example of saying one thing and doing the other, T also banned the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from investing in solar and wind projects this week. According to Greg Hunt, the CEFC will now ” focus on emerging and innovative technologies”. Presumably so the Government can cut funding to such technologies before they threaten to gain a market share.

Labor’s potential climate policy was another topic of discussion this week. For those disappointed they missed out on something increasingly elusive, a Labor policy announcement…don’t worry it was a leak. T seized on their plans to introduce some form of emissions trading, describing the suggestions in the leaked discussion paper as proof the Opposition intend to introduce “a triple-whammy carbon tax”. Labor strongly denied Tone’s claims. Now, bear with me a minute. Not only is an emissions trading scheme not a carbon tax, but the supposed “carbon tax” wasn’t one either. It was a carbon price, an attempt to place a real monetary cost on the environmental impacts that carbon emissions create. The idea that people would somehow be getting ripped off by that is kinda laughable when world governments give trillions in subsidies each year to the fossil fuel industry. How’s that for a fucking carbon tax? If the Labor leadership team hadn’t long ago sacrificed it’s vertebrae to their lizard gods, they might actually consider bringing up this point rather than pathetically scrambling to avoid being associated with a “carbon tax”. It’s exactly this spinal shortage which means that any ETS will be full of loopholes and weak punishments. As always, it’s all a bit depressing. Maybe if all these clowns were Chinese, people might start giving a shit…

They’re safe for now though, with the Pew Research Center finding Australians are more concerned by IS than climate change. That people in Iraq and Syria may consider IS the most pressing threat is understandable, as a recent spate of suicide bombings in Baghdad (that left around 30 dead) illustrates. But in Australia we’re talking about an organisation on the other side of the world, whose main form of retaliation against supersonic jets and unmanned drones seems to be making scary videos. That we consider such an organisation a bigger threat than something which will have effects on humanity as whole (including IS) shows how successful old Tone’s rhetoric has been.

Also above climate change on Australian’s list was Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an issue which seems to have been resolved this week as Iran reached an agreement with the US, China, UK, Russia, France and Germany. In return for dismantling some technology and cooperating with an extensive monitoring regime by the International Atomic Energy Agency, economic sanctions on Iran will be lifted, with the repeal of arms embargoes to follow. Though most have lauded the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (as the deal is known) as an historic step forward in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia weren’t as positive. Bibi Netanyahu said the deal would provide Iran with “a sure path to nuclear weapons” and went on to describe it as “a bad mistake of historic proportions”. US organisation, the Arms Control Association, disagreed with Bibi’s analysis, but perhaps Israel’s secretive development of nuclear weapons has provided him a unique insight. As for Saudi Arabia, its sizeable part in the spread of Salafism and current engagement in military action in Yemen (aimed at halting the spread of Iranian power in the region) should suggest what Saudi Arabia’s real concerns are, regardless of whatever “peace and stability” talk they may wrap them in. While they are many things one can criticise the Iranian regime for, the only other way to ensure Iran don’t gain atomic weapons would be another invasion.

We haven’t even cleaned up the mess from the last two yet…

In the fledgling US Presidential nomination race, string cheese man Donald Trump’s already bizarre campaign got weirder this week. Sinaloa Cartel boss, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (who recently escaped from prison) threatened Trump over his inflammatory rhetoric towards Mexicans, tweeting, “If you keep pissing me off I’m going to make you eat your words you fucking blonde milk-shitter“. It’s the perfect self perpetuating propaganda loop really. The rubber man can point to El Chapo’s tweets as proof that all Mexicans are a bunch of animalistic criminals, while the cartel boss can continue to use Don’s tweets and his responses to them as proof that he is a man of the people, a Robin Hood, rather than a brutal gangster.

I look forward to more heated exchanges between the two “type A personalities” in the future. It doesn’t end there though. There was further drama in the Trump camp as he tweeted a picture which contained people in SS uniforms. Though the incident was described as the mistake of a young intern, with the racially inflammatory language being thrown around by DT, I like to think of it as a photographic Freudian slip.

Lastly this week, sticking somewhat with the topic of Nazis, ex-Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, predicted the “further strengthening” of neo-fascists Golden Dawn, as Greece finally agreed a bailout package with the EU. Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, was forced to accept tougher terms (terms that even austerity fans, the IMF, think are too harsh) than those the Greek people recently voted against. Tsipras said of the deal, “I am fully assuming my responsibilities, for mistakes and for oversights, and for the responsibility of signing a text that I do not believe in, but that I am obliged to implement”. Though I’m sure certain European leaders will have taken great pleasure in finally crushing Tsipras (I’m looking at you Ange), such hubris could lead to further disasters down the road. I know it’s generally considered impolite to bring up Nazis when discussing Germany, but they, more than anyone, should know what can happen when a group of nations high on self-righteousness economically humiliate one another. Sure, Greece have to take some responsibility, yet I can’t help but think all this “why should we pay for their mistakes” sentiment is the kinda thing EU nations should have discussed before they joined a union based on economic and political cooperation…


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  1. Michael Burrill said:

    Cheers RainerI definitely don’t blame the German people. I don’t even entirely blame the German political establishment. I definitely agree that the Greeks have their own responsibility in all this and that most of all, responsibility lies with bankers and capitalists who have now washed their hands of it all. All that being said, Ange Merkel and friends’ “tough” stance of recent times has been severely short sighted and unhelpful. Similarly, the whole attitude of “this isn’t our problem” that has been prevalent throughout the EU goes completely against the supposed spirit of the thing and is equally short sighted and unhelpful. That was my point.

  2. Rainer the cabbie said:

    Great write up Michael, loved the Trump/”El Chapo” piece.

    Still, I totally disagree with the argument that the evil Germans are entirely responsible for the harsh terms introduced to Greece. Greek hatred for Germany is rampant, but as so commonly excersised, discriminating against a whole Nation and it’s policies is futile.

    Let’s face it, the debt crisis beleaguering Greece was caused by irresponsible Bankers, some of them in Frankfurt, who wrote totally irresponsible loans to pocket massive fees. A lot of these guys are now living in Malibu or in a Swiss ski resort, having afternoon drinks with their Greek neighbours, aka as the Greek expat elite.
    How that can be a fault of German people escapes my comprehension. Not only that but the creation of the EU was in part driven by uniting Nations to prevent conflict to arise as it did in WW1 and two. To then see tensions develop, on the base of Nationality, is disturbing at best.

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