Current Affairs Wrap: Donations, entitlements, Syrian Kurds and Turkey, Gina, Don

Michael Burrill tackles parliamentary funding, Turkey’s bombing of IS/Kurd targets and Gina’s firesale to China, all in this week’s Current Affairs Wrap.


We begin this week with Bronny Bishop bubbling briskly in a larger pan of boiling water over her use of parliamentary entitlements. She has again refused to resign, claiming the main reason for the trips was to carry out secret (rather conveniently) meetings as part of her then-position as Chair of the House Standing Committee on Families and Human Services, with Sophie Mirabella and Teresa Gambaro’s weddings apparently just a lucky coincidence. Labor attempted to up the pressure on Bron, with Tony Burke saying, “She has brought massive disrepute on the entire Parliament,” and that with her in the chair any semblance of respect for the speaker was “completely over”.

While I’m sure we’d all like to think that the Opposition will express their distaste with dignity and eloquence, I imagine in reality it’ll be much like a room full of ruthless teenagers taking apart a substitute teacher. It will not surprise me at all if Labor spend the first week of Parliament’s next sitting calling BB “the sneaker of the house” under their breath, collectively humming when she speaks, or seeing who can shout “PENIS!” the loudest when she has her back turned.

Though fellow Liberals have expressed varying degrees of public support for the speaker of the house, with unnamed senior members of the Government expressing their distaste to Aunty, things aren’t looking too good for her. While I obviously have no sympathy for Bronny, she is, to some extent, a scapegoat. MP’s from both sides of politics routinely manipulate and misuse entitlements, an issue which is obviously very emotive for the rest of us. Despite all their supposed concern, with Labor (who are attempting to channel those emotions for their political gain) and the Libs are both seeking to deflect any anger, neither are calling for meaningful reform of the parliamentary entitlement system.

From dodgy entitlements to dodgy donations, questions have been raised about money Kevin Andrews received (through his “Menzies 200 Club” fundraising organisation) from Clubs NSW while in charge of Coalition gambling policy.

Despite later explaining that policy in a video alongside Anthony Ball, the head of both Clubs NSW and Clubs Australia, Kev labelled any suggestion of bias “wrong and offensive”. Labor took the opportunity to make a vague call for reform, as they agitated for measures such as increased transparency and even a potential cap on donations and campaign expenditure. Though I would welcome such moves, my cynicism leads me to suggest this just might be another of those point-scoring exercises in which Labor float tough moves while in opposition but only deliver a slight increase in transparency when in power, essentially leading to a few more instances where politicians have to awkwardly shrug off questions about their shady backers while the rest of us look on powerlessly.

Someone else whose fundraising practices have been queried in recent times, Joe Hockey, has rejected the proposals, saying, “The parties are always in discussion about it, but the bottom line is if you decrease private fundraising, then you have to increase taxpayer-funded election campaigns“. While Joe obviously dropped that as some sort of terrifying outcome, it doesn’t sound too bad to me. High level corporate or private donors are giving up their money in the hope it’ll provide some sort of return and career politicians desire nothing more than re-election and the money which can help deliver that.

While the courts may have struck down the suggestion that the Treasurer is for sale, his ears definitely are. Whether the donors always achieve the outcome they want is beside the point, that their access to sizeable funds provides them with more access to politicians is undemocratic in itself. When one considers this in conjunction with the fact that when it comes to transparency of campaign funding, Australia ranks below poster child for the oligarchy – Russia – it’s hard not to welcome the possibility of more public funding.

Despite making some promising noises on taxing the super rich and reforming super tax incentives (though noises are all they are at this stage), Labor are still going to have trouble differentiating themselves from the Coalition after their national conference continued to sit on the fence over same-sex marriage and granted Short William the ability to utilise boat turn backs. When discussing another of those scant points of difference, Malcolm Turnbull refused to let his time away from Q&A interrupt his own struggle to differentiate himself from Tony Abbott. As T sought to label Labor’s proposed ETS an “electricity tax scam” (expect to hear a lot more of the phrase), Mal rather reasonably pointed out that whatever the rhetoric surrounding the topic, “there is no such thing as a cost-free way of reducing carbon emissions“. In a further contradiction of Tone’s stance, polling suggests that around 60 percent of Australian voters think that that the “carbon tax” had little or no effect on their power bills. How is it then that one of the only election promises T has managed to keep (and one he has repeatedly claimed as one of the main reasons he was elected) seems to be a policy most Australians think is stupid? Well, that’s because the main reasons Tone got elected were “budget emergency” and “stop the boats”. Similarly, if he is re-elected it’ll be “terrorists” and “stop the boats”. When you scare people into thinking they’re at present risk of financial meltdown or jihadieconomicmigrantapocalypse, global climate catastrophe a couple decades down the line seems less pressing…

Murky politics was front and centre in the Middle East this week as Turkey bombed both IS and Kurdish targets. Responding to IS perpetrated violence within their borders, Turkey joined the US-led bombing campaign, using the opportunity to also hit some targets linked with the PPK, a banned Kurdish dissident organisation in Turkey with links to Western allied Syrian Kurds. Those Syrian Kurds of the PYD and the military arm, the YPG, have been championed by Western leaders and media as moderate and able allies against IS. In return for their involvement, the US has agreed to a Turkish plan for a 90 kilometre safe zone along Syria and Turkey’s border. Though the plan is ostensibly meant to create a sanctuary for refugees and a place to train moderate fighters, some Kurdish leaders consider its true aim to be disruption of the creation of any autonomous Kurdish state. If that wasn’t enough of an illustration of how far out of depth the West is in the Middle East, Afghan intelligence suggest that head of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Omar, has been dead for two years. So, for all the supposed strategic value in carrying out extrajudicial killings of militant leaders (operations that often kill civilians in the process), value which is meant to outweigh the suffering and anger the drone program causes, the leader of the Afghan Taliban is dead for over two years without anyone knowing and with very little effect on the organisation. Fucking clueless…

Back on the Trump trail, Don’s lawyer caused the controversy this time round, threatening a website who drew attention to rape allegations made by DT’s ex-wife, Ivana. The lawyer in question, Michael Cohen, told the Daily Beast reporter, “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me?”. Cohen also said of the alleged incident, “You’re talking about the front-runner for the GOP, Presidential candidate, as well as private individual who never raped anybody. And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse”. So, even if we ignore the fact that spousal rape was made illegal in New York before the incident, it’s the kind of non-committal stuff you’d expect from old mate El Chapo’s lawyers, “Mr Guzman had no part in the death of Mr Ortega aka El Tortuga, though of course hypothetically if Mr Guzman had disemboweled Mr Ortega with a gold plated chainsaw, it would have been purely self-defense and therefore legal”.

Lastly this week, mother of the year Gina Rinehart spent $30 million on the 400,000 hectare Fossil Downs cattle station. According to a partner in Rinehart’s other agricultural interests (which Fossil Downs will be managed in conjunction with), the aim is to eventually export beef to China. So a super rich person who views most Australian’s with utter contempt, acting out of self-interest, buys up agricultural land and looks to export food overseas.

Where is the outrage from Alan Jones or his paranoid sub-pub racist listeners? Am I supposed to believe that owing to her white face and the convict slop that passes for her accent, suddenly the fact that large areas of agricultural land (or any land for that matter) are in the ownership of a commercial interest with no regard for society as whole, isn’t worrying?

People have it wrong. It’s not foreigners you should mistrust, it’s ourselves, the governments, the super rich and corporations. Perhaps you think that’s unfair. I think telling everyone to grin and bear it while they disembowel the world with a gold plated chainsaw is the unfair thing.


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