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Good morning and welcome back to the week that was. There’s been fresh violence in Syria and the return of the show that’s apparently better than sex…
Hello all, and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had more heartbreak in Syria, heartlessness on Manus, and the heart ruling over other organs after the Game of Thrones season six launch.
It’s fair to say that the ongoing violence in Syria has left most of us a little desensitised, however, the vicious increase in violence this week in Aleppo deserves more of our attention. Particularly given that the violence included an airstrike on the al-Quds paediatric hospital.
This airstrike was followed with another on a clinic in the Marja district of the city only twenty-four hours later. The perpetrators of the airstrikes? The Syrian government, otherwise known as the Assad regime.
The escalation in violence has resulted in a set of ceasefires near Damascus and in the northern reaches of Syria, however, these ceasefires have not been extended to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, as the Syrian military reports that there is still significant terrorist activity in the area.
Let that sink in for a little bit; the Syrian military won’t entertain a ceasefire in Aleppo to protect the city right after they bombed a children’s hospital and chronic disease clinic.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the airstrikes and shelling by the Syrian government in the past eight days has resulted in the deaths of at least 142 civilians, including 21 children. The shelling from the rebel side against the government has killed 84 civilians including 14 children. Yet people in our country and other western countries still have the gall to question the authenticity of the millions of Syrian refugees trying to flee and our humanitarian responsibility to help.
Speaking of such matters, the Papua New Guinean Supreme Court this week did something that our own government or court system have not had the courage to do, by ruling that Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea) is illegal under the PNG constitution. The ruling has called for the Australian and PNG governments to “take all steps necessary to cease and prevent the continued unconstitutional and illegal detention of the asylum seekers or transferees at the relocation centre on Manus Island and the continued breach of the asylum seekers or transferees’ constitutional and human rights.”
The decision may seem like a victory for asylum seekers and those of us who have been rightly disgusted by the actions of our own government, however, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has advised that the ruling will have no bearing on Australia’s border protection policies and the detainees will not be resettled in Australia under any circumstances.
The New Zealand government repeated an offer this week to take 150 of the asylum seekers, but the move was again rejected by the Australian Government with PM Turnbull suggesting that such a move would represent a “marketing opportunity” for people smugglers.
This week also saw an Iranian refugee detained at the Nauru detention centre commit suicide by setting himself on fire. The man who is understood to be named Omid, reportedly poured a 20-litre bottle of petrol over himself and cried “This is how tired we are, this action will provide how exhausted we are. I cannot take it anymore.”
The Australian government illegally detains some of the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, subjecting them to conditions that most of us couldn’t approach in our darker places. It refuses offers of help from far more benevolent nations than our own calling them “marketing opportunities.” It expresses empty gestures of sympathy when a 23-year-old man who wants nothing more than a safe place to live, commits suicide in one of the most horrific ways possible.
It remains silent and therefore complicit when members of the international community continue to support a regime that is literally murdering children for its cause. Are we really okay with this? I’m sure as hell not and as much as my pragmatic nature will usually cause my vote in an election to be based on a myriad of issues, this time, it won’t. Whilst these crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated by and condoned by the Australian Government, I cannot and will not vote for them; and at the risk of editorialising, I urge all of you to do the same.
South Australia received the news it has been waiting for this week with the announcement that French company DCNS has won a $50b contract to build 12 new submarines for the Australian military. The build will occur at Adelaide’s Osborne shipyards.
PM Turnbull made the official announcement from Adelaide earlier in the week in a decision that will reportedly create at least 2,800 new jobs in the embattled SA economy. The decision, whilst welcome for my fellow South Aussies, is largely a political one as SA firms up to be an important battleground in the upcoming Federal election; particularly for Industry Minister Christopher Pyne who is at serious risk of losing the Liberal safe seat of Sturt, which he has comfortably held for 23 years.
Many have questioned the decision, namely, if the Osborne shipyard can construct the vessels on time and on budget. As a proud Adelaidean who can see the desperate need for a boost to our economy, I am very happy with the decision. The more important question for me is, why build them at all? Will they be the difference in the event of a very unlikely large scale military attack on Australia? Hardly. Will the investment result in sustainable industry and job growth in South Australia? Not in the slightest. Could $50 billion be used more effectively right now?
In some good news from the Liberal government, it appears that Scott Morrison has caved to pressure and is preparing to block a Chinese bid for the purchase of Australia’s largest single landholding, the S. Kidman & Co cattle empire.
The deal was struck a few weeks ago with a Chinese-led group agreeing to purchase the iconic cattle company in conjunction with local investors in a deal worth around $300m. Whilst the Federal Government remained silent on the deal at the time, it was widely expected to gain the required sign off from the Treasurer, despite widespread uneasiness in the community.
It appears that we are in the thick of election season, with Morrison deciding to risk the ire of investors and the trade relationship with China to protect the Libs’ dwindling lead, not to mention their relationship with coalition partner, the National Party, who were less than impressed with the potential deal.
Foreign investment, particularly Chinese investment, is a crucial part of keeping Australia’s economy viable in the long term, however we simply must draw a line somewhere and that line is definitely in our agricultural industry, particularly given the current restrictions in agricultural asset investment for Australian Super Funds. It’s very rare that I agree with National Party leader Barnaby Joyce, but he absolutely hit the nail on the head this week when he said “Why is it that the investment that is so obvious to everybody from overseas is right under your nose and you’re not giving us a greater stake in it?”
Or from another perspective, would the Chinese government approve an Australian investment of the same magnitude and nature in China if the shoe was on the other foot?
Wacky and Wonderful
A Myanmarese woman has chosen an unconventional name for her new baby boy. The mother went into labor whilst on a Jetstar Asia flight from Singapore to Yangon which resulted in the six pound, seven ounces bundle of joy being delivered en route. Thankfully three doctors were on board and in conjunction with the Jetstar crew, successfully helped little Saw “Jet Star” into the world.
The mother opted to name the bub after the airline as a tribute to the crew who assisted with the delivery. The universe must have been smiling on the little boy; a tumultuous life might have been in the offing if his mother had chosen to fly with Virgin.
The launch of the much anticipated season six premiere of Game of Thrones produced an interesting statistic this week. Rival networks are used to experiencing a drop in viewership whenever GoT airs and as it turns out, even Pornhub is not immune, reporting a four percent reduction in online porn viewing starting from the hour prior to GoT airing and lasting until four hours afterwards. Pornhub has also reported that searches for GoT related videos increased by nearly 370 per cent on the day of the premiere, with actress Emilia Clarke leading the charge.
I think it’s safe to say that we might see the exact opposite occur during Scott Morrison’s budget delivery next week.
Have a great week TBSers!