This week, Bill Shorten’s star has started to rise, the Liberals have fallen from grace and Google’s gotten itself into a sticky situation.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had a tragic plane crash, a cabinet minister’s historic amnesia and an All-Australian week for “Good Guy” Bill Shorten.
Tragedy struck this week over the Mediterranean as EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed with 66 people onboard. Remains and debris believed to belong to the plane have been discovered by the Egyptian navy around 290 kilometres north of Alexandria.
The ill-fated plane was en route from Paris before contact was lost, just as Greek air traffic controllers were handing control to Egyptian air traffic controllers. Radar contact was lost soon after at 37,000 feet. Reports suggest that the plane then swerved erratically before plummeting 22,000 feet.
According to Greek authorities, no problems had been indicated, the plane had not deviated from its route and no distress call was broadcast. Of the 66 on board, the vast majority were Egyptian nationals followed by French nationals. One Australian-UK dual national was also on board. The cause of the crash is unknown at this stage, however the leading theory is a terrorism-related incident. No group has claimed responsibility to date.
Taiwan made history this week by swearing in Tsai Ing-wen, the island nation’s first female President. The 59-year-old holds a Masters Degree in Law from Cornell University in the US and a Ph.D from the London School of Economics, speaks English fluently and is regarded as the “most internationally-minded leader the island has seen so far.” (She also allegedly said, in response to media furore on why she’s never been married, “I won’t buy the whole pig just for the sausage.” Even if it is fake, bravo! – Ed)
Tsai Ing-wen is also reportedly a tough negotiator and comparisons have already been made to Germany’s Angela Merkel. She is also a staunch advocate for LGBT rights and is expected to use her position to push for more progress on that front.
She is the leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has been the loudest voice in the push for independence from China. This means there will need to be a careful management of relations with Beijing. considering they are still Taiwan’s biggest trading partner. Taiwan also has a strong trade relationship with the US, who have an increasingly tenuous relationship with China, adding to the political teeth-drying discourse that surely will be afoot. All signs suggest that she is indeed the best place person to try and walk the regional diplomatic tightrope.
It has been a HUGE week in the lead up to the July federal election.
Let’s start with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who this week attacked Labor for their pledge to double Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake by stating “For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language let alone English…these people would be taking Australian jobs, there is no question about that.”
The comments have sparked outrage from all corners of the country, however, the bellicosity didn’t seem to reach the PM’s doorstep as he opted not to offer a direct opinion on Dutton’s rhetoric. PM Turnbull did, however, take the opportunity to describe him as an “outstanding” minister. Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, also lent her support to Dutton.
Mr Dutton’s family have been in Australia for a long time, with his great-grandparents setting up as dairy farmers near Brisbane in the 1860s. Perhaps his colonial Australian roots lead him to believe that he and others like him have a greater claim to this great land of ours. Like many of my fellow Australians, I took Dutton’s comments as an insult to my grandparents: poor migrants escaping war with poor English skills who then went on to forge a life in Australia. My grandparents are but two of many refugees that have built this great country and have enriched the Australian life we all enjoy. Someone should remind him that around 50% of this country are first and second generation migrants.
If that wasn’t bad enough, this week saw the political sphere sink to a new low with the Australian Federal Police’s late night raids of Labor party offices, including the office of Labor Senator Stephen Conroy and one of his former advisors, Andy Byrne, who now works with Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare.
The raids were related to confidential NBN documents that were published by a variety of media outlets in December. The documents detailed delays in the rollout of the National Broadband Network and associated cost blowouts. The company charged with the rollout, NBN Co, demanded an investigation following the leaks in December.
The raids have caused many to question the political motivations behind them. The timing in the middle of an election campaign is suspicious, especially when you consider that only a few months ago, classified defence documents that formed part of the draft of the Liberal defence white paper were leaked from within the Liberal party ranks. For the record, I don’t recall any reports of Tony Abbott’s house being raided late at night, despite it being widely alleged that he was the source of the leaks.
So to summarise, the AFP have raided a senator’s office over leaks related to the mismanagement of the most important infrastructure project in this country, which detail how that mismanagement is going to increase the cost to taxpayers. This is information that, by any definition, should be completely transparent and made public in any democracy. And when leaks that are specifically related to national defence – the only area of public policy that has a completely justifiable claim to confidentiality – occur, the AFP are sleeping soundly in their beds. Nothing to see here…move along…
The fact that the raid has drawn public attention back to the failings of the NBN (a policy launched by former Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull) is the icing on what has been a pretty average week for the Member for Wentworth.
On the other side of the fence, Labor leader Bill Shorten has had his most successful campaigning week on record. His highlights included receiving a rather forceful pash from a supporter in Adelaide and being first on the scene to a car crash in the Hunter Valley, which saw him suspend his campaign for the remainder of the day as he stayed to comfort the 33-year-old mother involved in the crash. He then drove the mother and child home in his own car and continued to text the young woman for the rest of the day to ensure they were OK. The next day, he took to the streets of Penrith to shake hands with locals in exactly the same spot that Turnbull cancelled his own “street walk” last week. Whilst Shorten was on the streets, Turnbull was in the middle of a four-hour lunch with radio shock-jock Alan Jones.
Oh, and this happened.
Big Bill’s “Man of the People” approach appears to be trumping Mal’s “Ivory Tower” with a Seven News-ReachTel poll suggesting that Shorten’s preferred PM rating has jumped from 25.1% in February to 44.4%, with the two parties in a dead heat on a two-party preferred basis.
Wacky and Wonderful
The company that has innovated so much of the world we live in already has done it again. Google have patented new “sticky” technology designed to protect pedestrians from their self-driving cars.
The technology provides an adhesive layer to the front of the cars that will, in theory, activate on contact in the event of a pedestrian collision, causing the pedestrian to stick to the front of the car rather than being sent flying in order to minimise the injury sustained. Whilst the technology is designed for Google’s self-driving cars, Google have confirmed it can be used on any vehicle.
If they can start working on technology to force drivers to use their indicators, they can have what’s left of my money.
Mexican congresswoman, Martha Orta Rodriguez showed us that she’s not afraid to tackle the big issues. The lawmaker for the ruling PRI party is presenting a bill to her state’s congress that would see internet “memes” being criminalised, with creators facing up to four years in prison and fines of almost US$2000.
Unsurprisingly, the internet responded as the internet should and immediately launched a viral campaign of memes to poke fun at this clearly deluded individual. The proposal isn’t expected to pass, as it has been met with widespread criticism, primarily as the state that Rodriguez represents has more than 2.3 million people living in poverty – a somewhat higher priority.
Have a great week TBSers!