Michael Burrill

Current Affairs Wrap: Entitlements, Israel, Abetz, Trump

Michael Burrill’s Current Affairs Wrap tackles the PM’s plan to investigate parliamentary entitlements, the awkward Abetz family past, friction in the Holy Land and the ongoing Trump funnies.


We begin this week with the departure of Bron, chopper-lifted out of the speaker’s chair after another deluge of dodgy entitlements was uncovered. In the wake of, Tone declared her political career is “substantially at an end”. That being said, even if she retires at the next election, as some of her party members desire, she will then receive $255,000 and ten free domestic flights a year in pension. (It is unclear whether helicopters are included in the free flights.) Seeking to limit the damage caused by the scandal, T announced a “Root and Branch review” of the parliamentary entitlement system. In an attempt to assure voters of his commitment to reform, he said the review would be anything but a “quickie”.

It should give politicians enough time to quietly pay back any questionable entitlements. Or at the very least it should provide enough time for the issue to blow over, so they can quietly respond with what the 2010 Belcher review into parliamentary entitlements described as “a lack of political will”.

Some seem to be displaying that lack of political will already.

Short-William claimed, “Mr Abbott has blamed the system, but it was Mrs Bishop’s addiction to privilege that was the real culprit”. While Bronny has to take much of the responsibility, that she was able to get away with so much for so long (and according to her, within the rules) seems to suggest some larger, systemic issues.

Bill’s claim is somewhat weakened by Labor frontbencher Tony Burke’s own entitlements issues this week. On the other side of the house, Christopher Pyne refused to participate in a “Salem witch trial situation around members’ entitlements”. Calm down Chris, no one mentioned fire…well not yet anyway.

In some of the most disorientating moments of my thoroughly disorientated life, two members of the Government chastised others for racism and xenophobia. And not the “reverse” kind either. Tone, and please sit down before you read this, told critics of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership to dispense with “short-term, xenophobic politics”. It still makes my vision blurry. Andrew Robb went one better, accusing Alan Jones of racism over his views on the TPP and foreign ownership.

In response, Jones said, “If I am a racist for trying to ensure that the best of Australia isn’t sold to foreign interests then I’m happy to wear that tag”. Well. I guess all those nitrous-shelving Adam-do-Gooders were rather sane after all.

Tone further illustrated his deft approach to racial issues, as he rejected calls from indigenous community leaders for a process to reach indigenous consensus over any recognition proposal. T’s justification was, “My anxiety about a separate Indigenous process is that it jars with a notion of finally substituting ‘we’ for ‘them and us'”. What would be more “us” and “them” than the majority patting themselves on the back for implementing something which doesn’t satisfy the very group it purports to empower and recognise?

Israel has been having some race relations issues of their own this week (when aren’t they?) after a fire bomb attack by Jewish extremists left an 18-month-old Palestinian boy dead and his family severely injured. The incident is what some call a “price tag attack”, carried out as revenge for actions by Palestinian militants. Bibi Netanyahu condemned the attack, which he described as an “an act of terrorism in every respect”. In response to the firebombing and a separate stabbing attack by an Ultra-Orthodox Jew at a gay pride march (which left one dead), Bibi’s Government vowed to subject Jewish terror suspects to the same indefinite detention without trial regime used against Palestinian terror suspects.

It’s a win for equality, I suppose. When it comes to firebombing, I can’t help but think that Bibi’s condemnation rings a bit hollow. When so much of Israeli government policy seems to be geared towards collectively punishing Palestinians for the actions of a few, can it really be any surprise that some may feel justified engaging in “price tag” violence?

On the trail of Trump, this week Don claimed, “I think I would get along very well with Vladimir Putin”. The mind reels with the possibility of that dinner party. El Chapo, DT and Vlad, probably dining on the carcass of a Northern white rhino, spilling wine worth more than your worldly possessions combined, as they discuss upwardly mobile “management strategies”, whilst laughing at “the help”.

DT showed off those management skills this week as he fired a campaign staffer for racist Facebook posts. Good call, Don. We wouldn’t want anyone to think you condone racism, for it might detract from your message that Mexican immigrants are “rapists and murderers”.

I guess it should be no surprise then that, responding with the same confusing mix of denial of guilt (mashed with a tacit admission of guilt that characterised Michael Cohen’s words last week), the staffer in question, Sam Nunberg, detonated the zen-bomb: “I point out that all of these things were done before Mr Trump’s campaign if, I even did them, which I deny”.


Lastly this week, Peter Abetz, WA state MP and brother of Federal Senator, Eric Abetz, tried to find a bright side in his family’s Nazi history.

Pete said despite the part his great uncle Otto played in deporting French Jews to concentration camps, he wasn’t all bad, providing the example, “when the Americans were advancing on Paris, because he was so passionate about French culture, he actually negotiated with the Americans to, and the Wehrmacht, that the Germans would vacate Paris and not booby trap anything if the Americans gave them, I think, three or four days to withdraw”.

So, he valued nice buildings more than human life? What a guy…

If anyone from SBS is reading, although I’m not a regular viewer, the Abetz episode of Who Do You Think You Are? would be must see television.


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