Rob Idol is back with the first Current Affairs Wrap of 2016 and he’s ringing in the new year with our new Federal frontbenchers who will, hopefully, not be partying as hard as their former colleagues…
Hello all and welcome to the first TBS Current Affairs Wrap of 2016. We hope you’ve all had a relaxing and fulfilling festive season! The world has celebrated the birth of a new year, save for a couple of PM Turnbull’s frontbenchers and the members of ISIS who threatened to spoil the party.
The champagne has been popped, kisses stolen and hangovers nursed; yes, 2015 is done and 2016 is upon us. The world celebrated in style, but it wasn’t without its issues.
German authorities evacuated two train stations in Munich prior to New Years celebrations, based on a credible tip that there was a militant attack planned for New Years Eve.
German police confirmed that they had received “very concrete information” from foreign friendly intelligence sources indicating that Islamic State had an attack planned with between five and seven suicide bombers. Thankfully, it appears that the attack did not occur.
Authorities in neighbouring Belgium also took news of an impending attack in Brussels seriously, choosing to cancel all official New Years celebrations in the Belgian capital, a city that also happens to be home to both NATO and the European Union.
Belgian authorities announced the arrests of six men on Thursday in relation to the proposed attacks. A Belgian court also extended the detention of two other suspects already in custody.
A few blocks from the world’s tallest tower in Dubai, a large fire caused significant damage to the Address Downtown hotel during New Years Eve celebrations. The fire started on the twentieth floor of the sixty-three storey hotel at around 9:30pm, rapidly spreading upwards through the remaining floors. Thankfully there were no fatalities, however, fourteen minor injuries were reported as a result of the ensuing panic. The incident did not prevent Dubai’s official New Years Eve celebrations from going ahead, with large fireworks and light displays proceeding just a few blocks from the fire.
New Years Eve celebrations back home went off without a hitch with around 1.6 million people flooding the Sydney CBD to watch our largest fireworks display. Those that battled the crowds were not disappointed, enjoying the $7 million display that lit up the Sydney sky with the Harbour Bridge as the centrepiece. NSW Police were happy to report that arrests were down on previous years.
Melbourne had a taste of international divadom with James Packer’s new squeeze, Mariah Carey, making an appearance on New Years Eve at Packer’s Crown Casino. Proving that one internationally renown lady on his arm wasn’t enough for his billionaire lifestyle, Packer was also accompanied by Foreign Affairs minister, Julie Bishop and her partner, David Panton. We’re not sure if Bishop’s request for “Hero” to be played as a tribute to Malcolm Turnbull went ahead.
Speaking of Turnbull, any hopes he had for a peaceful and reflective holiday break went out the window as he had to deal with the removal of two frontbenchers this week. The first, and the one he clearly wanted us to focus on, was the former Minister for Cities Jamie Briggs. Mr Briggs was involved in an incident where he committed an “error of professional judgement” that resulted in a public servant making an official complaint against him.
The incident occurred in a Hong Kong bar while Mr Briggs was visiting on official business. According to Briggs, he did not intend to act inappropriately and he did not act illegally, however he chose to resign as his behaviour “did not meet the high standards of ministers in his government.”
According to Turnbull, Briggs may be understating the incident somewhat.
Following Mr Briggs’ resignation and comments, the PM indicated that the complaint made was a “serious matter”, seemingly in contradiction to the played down version of events we received from the source. Briggs suggested that the incident was no more than a kiss on the cheek and a remark about the female public servant’s “piercing eyes”; inappropriate, yes, but not rising to the level of rhetoric coming out of the Turnbull camp. We may never know the story, but apparently Mr Briggs’ wife Estee may not either, describing his forced resignation as a complete exaggeration and overreaction.
With everyone focused on Briggs, “Magic Mal” pulled another misdirection trick out of his hat and unceremoniously pushed the other Mal (Brough), another frontbencher, out the door.
Mr Brough has been embroiled in an Australian Federal Police investigation centred on former speaker, Peter Slipper for some time. Brough has been accused of illegally taking copies of Mr Slipper’s diaries via James Ashby, a former Slipper staffer. PM Turnbull and Mr Brough have both agreed that he should step aside, pending the completion of police enquiries.
Brough’s inclusion in the new look Turnbull ministry seemed a strange move at the time, as the controversy that now appears to have brought him down was already very much in the public eye. The Labor Party have been pulling at this thread for some time, as it appears that Brough’s inclusion was a simple case of payback for being a numbers man for Turnbull during the Abbott coup.
Six months is a long time in the world of political loyalty; and with the polls suggesting that Turnbull has cemented his place in the top job for now, Brough has clearly outlived his purpose.
Wacky and Wonderful
As much as this is a continuation of the stories above in Domestic, it simply must be placed in the Wacky, but not Wonderful category.
Senator Eric Abetz, who was famously dumped from the frontbench by Turnbull following the ousting of former PM Abbott, has called on PM Turnbull to bring Abbott back to the frontbench to fill one of the two now vacant spots. Abetz has suggested that the move would help heal some of the still bleeding wounds inside the Liberal Party and that Abbott would “have the support of a lot of Australians.” As we all gasped in horror at the proposition as well as the incredibly creative mathematics wherein a handful of right-wing conservatives amounts to “a lot of Australians”, Turnbull promptly stepped in to steady the ship, shutting down the suggestion.
Turnbull rejected the suggestion stating that his focus is on bringing “fresh talent” to the cabinet. This confirmed what most of us already suspected, that Tony Abbott is neither “fresh” nor “talented”.
Homegrown heartthrob, Asgardian God of Thunder and wielder of Mjolnir, Chris Hemsworth has found himself in hot water with the political correctness brigade over his choice of attire for a Wild West themed New Year’s Eve party. Hemsworth and his wife, Elsa Pataky, came dressed as Native Americans and posed for a photograph behind a cardboard “Wanted” sign with older brother Luke standing alongside dressed as a sheriff.
Social media immediately erupted with claims ranging from cultural inappropriateness to the costume being likened to “blackface”.
Others were more measured, defending the couple as just having a little fun and not hurting anyone. In fairness, there has been no critical response from any representatives from the Native American community, the only ones that really have any right to be offended. In light of the backlash, I’m second guessing my plans to dress as Thor for my next bash.