This week, the Pope has called for a modern church (but not for all), David Cameron faces an inquiry and Bruce Springsteen stands up for equality.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had David Cameron in hot water, the Pope pushing for a more compassionate church, Shorten declaring war against the banks and Sweden’s hotline bling.
For once, I’m turning my eyes to England this week instead of the US. Specifically, British PM David Cameron who has found himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The recent Panama financial leaks have uncovered that Mr Cameron had a stake in an offshore fund until January 2010, which, crucially, he did not make it known to the House of Commons.
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, has indicated that he will be referring the PM to the Parliamentary Standards commission to investigate whether the code of conduct has been breached. Some have gone further, with the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, suggesting that Cameron should serve a jail term. The revelations have had an immediate impact on the polls with Cameron’s approval rating falling behind Jeremy Corbyn’s.
Pope Francis fronted the media this week with a 260-page treatise called “Amorise Laetitia” (The Joy of Love) designed to call for a less strict Church that showed more compassion towards “imperfect Catholics” including those who have been divorced and remarried.
Whilst the rhetoric is welcome from many corners of the Church, and outside it, as further evidence that the Church is becoming more socially progressive, the Pontiff also took the opportunity to make it very clear that the Church’s position on same-sex marriage has not changed and that there are “absolutely no grounds” to consider gay unions to be equal to heterosexual marriage.
Pope Francis may have missed an opportunity to reduce prejudice towards the LGBTI community, however, rock legend Bruce Springsteen certainly didn’t when he cancelled a concert in North Carolina this week. The cancellation is a protest against a new state law that has significantly diminished legal protection for gay and transgender people.
The law has negated a number of anti-discrimination measures in the US state that offered protection to the LGBTI community. It has also implemented a requirement that people can only use public toilets that match the gender listed on their birth certificates.
Springsteen has joined a number of high profile commentators and organisations such as Bank of America and Apple by standing up against the blatant attempt to marginalise those that identify as LGBTI. Tech giant PayPal also shelved plans to expand operations in North Carolina, removing around 400 jobs. TV streaming service Hulu has also opted to now film in Canada instead of North Carolina in response.
Fighting prejudice as an individual can be a long and lonely road, however, corporate pressure combined with the use of celebrity can be effective weapons to combat this type of bigotry. Hats off to all of the above, particularly The Boss, who is again on fire.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and his party have bolted from the political glue factory, following the latest Newspoll in which the Labor party have snatched the party preferred lead from the Government.
Shorten has capitalised on this news this week announcing (in concert with treasurer Chris Bowen) that if they win the election, they will be pushing for a Royal Commission into the financial services sector. The move, apart from being incredibly overdue in this country, will only look to strengthen Labor’s position as the Libs are stuck with the very difficult decision of whether to go after the banks, which would be seen as an almost sacrilegious move within the Liberal camp.
As expected, the Libs have come out in opposition to the Royal Commission suggesting that it will undermine the Australian banking sector. Federal Industry Minister Christopher Pyne responded by questioning Shorten’s motives, suggesting that the move is simply a “populist call.” He also questioned their integrity, reminding the public that the Labor party did not support a proposed Royal Commission into banking a year ago.
Treasurer Scott Morrison also came out in support of the industry, suggesting that the industry is already well regulated. He also suggested that Shorten was just playing politics with one of the “most fundamental institutions in our economy.” An interesting suggestion, given that the Liberal party is currently threatening a double dissolution over the ABCC bill, which is nothing but playing politics with an industry sector that just happens to contain a large portion of the Labor party base.
Levels of “regulation” aside, can anyone honestly say that we don’t need to have a good long at our financial sector? We have an incredibly collusive structure where the four major banks control the industry. The disparity of power between the industry and the consumer is absolutely obscene, and reeks of a system that does not have the level of competition we are promised in a true free market economy. As a large percentage of this country struggle to keep their heads above water, our banking sector continues to make record profits. How can we possibly accept that? Political motivation aside, I applaud the move by Labor and I don’t think I’m alone.
Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, had her children taken to Lebanon against her will by their father in 2014. Ali Zeid al-Amin, the children’s father and Lebanese native, took children Lahela and Noah back to his native country under the ruse of a short holiday. The short holiday was, in fact, a kidnapping plot, which has resulted in Sally not seeing her children since they left. Sally contacted 60 Minutes who travelled with her to cover the story and assist with investigative services.
This issue is far more common that most people realise, reportedly affecting hundreds of Aussie families every year.
Lebanon is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (as Australia is), which in this situation would have forced the return of the children to Australia. Desperation led Sally to allegedly engage the services of a child retrieval agency who specialise in re-kidnapping children in this situation and return them home, at a reported cost of around $120,000.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired resulting in the arrest of Sally and the 60 Minutes crew including well-respected journo, Tara Brown. The news has worsened for Tara and the 60 Minutes team who have now been accused of funding the operation.
On behalf of the entire TBS team, our thoughts go out to both Sally and the 60 Minutes team. Their bravery to try and right this injustice is incredibly admirable. Hopefully, we will see them all back on Aussie shores soon.
Wacky and Wonderful
Sweden has become the first country in the world have its own personal phone number. The number allows people from all over the world to be connected to Swedes who have registered as ambassadors for their country. (Can you imagine the Australian version? – Ed)
Since its introduction earlier this week, the hotline has received over 10,000 calls, with 35% of those coming from the US – presumably from callers looking for advice on how to construct their latest acquisition from IKEA. So if you’d like to know more about meatballs, or the variety of socially progressive policies that the Swedish government have implemented, give a Swede a call on +46 771 793 336. Best to keep the Swedish Chef impersonations to a minimum, though. It’s racist.
Representing mouth-watering irony, a small factory in Central Mexico is experiencing a boom of late, with the source of its success being a most unlikely one. The factory produces plaster masks of famous people and their new second best seller is a likeness of US Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump.
Trump has managed to offend most of the global population, however, Mexicans have copped more than their fair share from the human hairline. Speaking of which, the masks originally didn’t include “actual” hair however customer feedback has caused the factory to start including strands of artificial hair. They shipped 10,000 Trump Masks two weeks ago and they are expecting demand to keep rising. As soon as I work out how to buy one, I’ll let you all know!
Have a great week TBSers.