Everything old is new again in Rob Idol’s Current Affairs Wrap with yet another round of mass shootings in the US and the abuse of parliamentary expenditure.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s TBS Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had another mass shooting in the US, a defection back home and an MP and Senator expense report card that might just make you reach for your bills in avarice.
Naked violence marched into the Southern Californian town of San Bernardino this week, after a husband and wife opened fire at a Christmas party, killing fourteen people and seriously wounding at least twenty-one others.
The two suspects (now identified as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik) shouldering assault rifles and handguns, opening fire at a function organised by Farook’s employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.
Following the shooting, the two fled the scene and were pursued by police, culminating in the deaths of Farook and Malik after a gunfight on the highway.
Further investigation found that at least three explosive devices were at the site of the shooting, however, they were all removed safely without detonation.
Whilst on the surface, the shooting initially appeared to be as simple as a dispute between Farook and either his employer or colleagues, investigators are now of the opinion that something more was in play. The two attackers were very prepared with an arsenal of weapons, multiple explosive devices and “assault style clothing.” Further to this, it now appears that Malik had pledged allegiance to ISIS on a now deleted Facebook post suggesting that it is shaping up to be a terror-related incident.
That being said, the FBI have made it clear that their belief at this stage is that the couple may have been self-radicalised and have no real ties to ISIS apart from the apparent inspiration that they provided. Searches of the couple’s house uncovered a further 12 pipe bombs and 2000 rounds of ammunition, suggesting that there may have been larger devastation planned.
The shooting has given more ammunition to the gun control debate with President Obama condemning not just the attacks but the pattern of mass shootings, suggesting that a problem of this magnitude exists solely within the borders of the United States.
Glancing at the evidence available, It’s pretty hard to argue with him.
Over 30% of the world’s mass shootings occur in the US; this from a country that represents only 5% of the world’s population. If those numbers weren’t alarming enough, there have now been more mass shootings this year in the United States than there have been days of the year (355 mass shootings and counting). There have actually been twenty days in 2015 where four or more mass shootings happened on the same day.
Obama’s gun control stance is certainly not shared across the other side of the political ideology coin.
It does appear that the New York Daily News is firmly for the Obama agenda, publishing a front cover in the wake of the latest shootings that has incensed pro-gun advocates and the entire Republican party (possibly the same thing). The cover had a simple message: “God Isn’t Fixing This”, alongside four tweets from Republican presidential candidates and House speaker Paul Ryan. The tweets all had, yep you guessed it, a reference to prayers for the victims of the shooting.
It seems a little unreasonable to admonish those who choose to pray for the victims, but that isn’t the point the NY Daily News were trying to make. Those in positions of power, like those whose tweets were highlighted, refuse to take action on gun control; their prayers, while welcome, aren’t going to solve this problem.
For some reason, my personal research on a variety of Facebook comments sections has unearthed a trend of those that found the cover despicable taking it as the Liberal media trying to blame God for the tragic events. Whereas anyone able to actually read would correctly conclude that no-one is blaming God; they are blaming those that still refuse to do anything about the problem.
There has been some unrest in the Liberal Party camp this week with the defection of high-profile former industry minister, Ian MacFarlane to the Nationals.
MacFarlane has publicly indicated that the reason for his shift of allegiance is simply as he believes the Nationals, and specifically Nationals leader Warren Truss, are best placed to assist in looking after the best interest of his electorate of Groom in QLD, which is a regional area.
However, swimming under the political derma is a much more interesting topic, which is the fact that Mr MacFarlane, as a casualty of the Turnbull coup against Abbott, was not invited to be part of the new-look Cabinet.
Apparently, and also unsurprisingly, the courting process with the Nationals commenced within a week of having the frontbench doors closed in his face.
This development has a few in the Liberal party worried as the Nationals are now claiming that this increase in their power base should equate to an extra cabinet spot (they currently have two), and it should be their new prize recruit filling the vacancy that he was so unfairly denied.
MacFarlane denies issuing Turnbull with an ultimatum, despite claims that he told the PM he would stay with the Libs if he got his front bench spot back. Denial or not, the move reeks of taking your bat and ball and going home because you weren’t allowed to open the batting.
On the topic of our invaluable and illustrious politicians, the latest expenditure report for MPs and Senators was released this week and it has unsurprisingly caused anger amongst the public as we discover how deep their snouts are in the trough.
Let’s have a look at a few examples (I’m not singling anyone out as I promise you that the report card on the majority would equally create anger and disgust). Since the Nationals have had some rare time in the media this week, let’s start with deputy leader Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Joyce managed to rack up a little over $1 million in claimed expenditure between January 1 and June 30, 2015. The bulk of Mr Joyce’s claims came from an office fitout in the amount of $670,897.24.
I’m sure the hard-working, and struggling, primary producers that he represents in Queensland can understand and justify what I can only assume was the inclusion of a crystal chandelier and platinum desk drawer handles in his office. I know from personal experience that anything less will simply not allow me to do my job.
The Bishop that some people actually like has managed to give her namesake Bronwyn a run for her money with a tidy $726,305.52 racked up over the same period. Whilst I’m sure I could, I think I would actually struggle to spend almost $350,000 in travel expenses in six months if I tried. That being said, based on my socio-economic position, I have a little bit more experience with being frugal and would have been unlikely to drop $30,000 for a jet for just me and my partner. Then again, I’ve never had the opportunity to try it with other people’s money.
Former deputy leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, is giving those majors a run for their money managing to come in fifth place with a grand total of $609,118.21 over the six-month period. Interestingly, over $500,000 of that figure was spent on office fitouts and facilities. I guess that whole argument about recycled materials being cheaper was a bald faced lie. As someone who recently took steps to drastically improve his own diet with a move towards an organic, sugar free and processed food free plan, I do understand where Mr Bandt is coming from. That stuff is damn expensive and has seen my own personal budget climb significantly. Unfortunately I still haven’t worked out how to claim that from the Australian taxpayer yet. Watch this space.
Ex-Attorney General Mark Dreyfus topped the list for the Labor party coming in at a respectable 7th place with a total of $528,487. Again, the bulk of this expenditure came from fitouts and facilities, illustrating very clearly that Canberra really hasn’t worked out how to organise wholesale prices through Ikea.
In fairness to Mr Dreyfus, he does have QC post nominals and anyone that has set foot in a QC’s office knows that over the top opulence just goes with the territory.
Based on the above, I’ve decided not to do a Weird and Wonderful report this week. The above is weird enough for me and so far from wonderful that any good news story would now be redundant.
If by any chance any of our MPs and Senators are reading this, how do you sleep at night? Almost fifty million dollars claimed in six months when basic services like health, education and housing are in real trouble sends a very clear message about your true priorities.
I hope, at the very least, that all of that furniture was purchased from Australian owned and operated manufacturers, but I doubt it, and it would only marginally decrease my disgust. You may not all be guilty of it to the degree of the examples I’ve given, but you all share that guilt by letting it happen. To steal a line from a TBS stablemate….Shame…Shame…Shame.