Oh, the week that was. Everything old is new again. Pauline Hanson, the Cold War and someone hitting the law where they don’t like it – in the stomach.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had more lunacy from the Trump camp, more tensions in the South China Sea as well as Pauline Hanson getting her moment to shine and a very millennial resignation from a former Communications Minister.
As we get closer and closer to the US Election, and the possible apocalypse that could come with it, I’m going to milk as much as I can before I’m left with a significant gap in the International section of the Current Affairs Wrap.
With that in mind, Trump is in the news again this week on a number of fronts including a report that he will reverse the historic deal struck with Cuba by Barack Obama that saw diplomatic relations and trade reopened with their socialist neighbour for the first time since the Cuba Missile Crisis. Trump has suggested that the deal wasn’t good enough as it was too “one sided” and benefited “only the Castro regime”. Trump has sent a clear message that he will reverse the deal unless Cuba meets his demands which include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people as well as the freeing of political prisoners. This from the man that seeks to effectively ban an entire religion from the US. Not to mention completely ignoring the fact that Cuba did release 53 political prisoners as part of the deal.
In what I’m sure is absolutely no coincidence, the speech that delivered such promises was presented to a crowd in Miami, largely made up of Cuban-Americans who likely left Cuba during its darker times. Trump went on to pledge that as President, he will “stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression.” Whilst by no means perfect, Cuba has come a long way in recent times. Having been there myself and actually spoken to and befriended Cubans still living there, my observations indicate that the continuation of the embargo that this agreement seeks to eventually lift, is doing far more damage to the Cuban people at the moment.
In a strange reversal this week, however, Trump finally admitted what everyone except for the tin-foil hat brigade accepted (or never questioned) some time ago, that US President Barack Obama was in fact born in the United States. He then went on to accuse Hillary Clinton of starting the “Birther Conspiracy” during the 2008 primary campaign – an accusation that has unequivocally, independently and immediately proven to be false. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised; he did accuse Clinton, along with Obama, of being the heads of Isis.
“Donald Trump’s birther event is the greatest trick he’s ever pulled”https://t.co/zvVQnxeiQ9
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2016
Tensions in the South China Sea continue to rise with Japan this week escalating their involvement by announcing their intention to conduct joint training patrols with the US as well as bilateral and multilateral exercises with other countries in the region. The move is sure to add further volatility to a region teeming with it, as Japan has no territorial claims or interests in the region. Their involvement, according Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, is borne out of their shared concerns with the US about China’s aggressive territorial claims in the area. “In this context,” Inada said, “I strongly support the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations, which go a long way to upholding the rules-based international maritime order”.
Japan has also committed to providing military aid to other countries in the region including the Philippines and Vietnam who do have territorial claims in the area. The move also represents a shift in Japanese policy, who have adopted a peaceful military approach following World War II, choosing to focus on the strength of their trade and culture. Nancy Snow from Kyoto University has indicated that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken on a “more interventionist” approach and strengthened military ties with the US.
Adding further complication to this extremely unstable situation is Russia, who have recently commenced joint exercises with China in the South China Sea. Russia has reportedly sent some of the strongest vessels in its fleet for the exercises, causing many to worry that the decaying political relationship between the US and Russia is now being dragged into this potential conflict. Whilst the joint exercises between the two nations are an annual event (with previous years seeing them take place in the Sea of Japan, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea), the choice of the South China Sea for this year’s exercises is very likely a deliberate move.
I suppose we all better get used to Pauline Hanson taking her share of the media spotlight with the controversial Senator this week delivering her even more controversial first speech to the Upper House since her return to the Australian political scene. Hanson took the opportunity to call for a ban on all Muslim immigration to Australia. She suggested that those that are already here that didn’t “assimilate” into “Australian Culture” (something she neglected to define or explain) and should go back to where they came from, even offering to take them to the airport personally and wave them goodbye.
She went on to attack single mothers who have more children to maintain their welfare payments, as well as suggesting that Muslim men are marrying multiple wives under “their” laws and having multiple children to allow them to collect “thousands of dollars a week from the taxpayer”. Shockingly, Hanson offered no evidence for what is a pretty wild and unsubstantiated claim. She also described the welfare as “lucrative”; clearly she’s never been unlucky enough to rely on it.
In fairness to Pauline, it wasn’t all about Muslims. She went on to call for changes to the Family Court system, which she suggested was being wrought by women making frivolous claims which is then directly responsible for men murdering their wives or partners and committing acts of domestic violence. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, the absolute apex of victim blaming; she actually blamed our domestic violence problem on women forcing men to do it by taking advantage of them in the Family Court system.
To put the icing on the most ludicrous of cakes, she returned to old faithful, suggesting that Sharia Law is inevitable if we continue down the “She’ll be right, mate” path. While the baseless, fear mongering vitriol continued to spew from Hanson’s mouth, all senators from The Greens walked out of the senate chamber in protest. Greens leader, Richard Di Natale Tweeted soon after:
Together, our MPs have left Senator Pauline Hanson’s 1st speech because we’ll call out racism wherever it occurs, including Parliament.
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) September 14, 2016
Racism has no place in Parliament but that is what we have just heard from Senator Hanson. I stand with those people hurt by her words.
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) September 14, 2016
The move by The Greens has been divisive, with many calling it disrespectful to both Hanson as an elected member of The Senate as well as those who voted her in and presumably share her views. One Nation received 4.3% of the National vote in the last election. Personally, I would argue that there are more than 4.3% of Australians that are horrified that Parliamentary privilege is being used as a shield to preach hate, intolerance, bigotry and if nothing else, victim blaming directed towards those who have suffered or lost their lives as a result of domestic violence. Sometimes respect and traditions must give way to stand up against intolerance, and I take my hat off to The Greens for drawing attention to just that.
On the Labor side of the fence, Bill Shorten and Co were sidewinded with the shock resignation of Deputy Senate Leader, Stephen Conroy. The former Communications Minister, as well as powerbroker within the party, Conroy quietly tabled his farewell speech at 9pm on Thursday rather than delivering it to the Chamber in the usual way. Conroy’s reasons were simple; he indicated the 24/7 news cycle was taking its toll, and a desire to spend more time with his family. The subtle approach appeared to take everyone by surprise, most of all his own party as it turned out that Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, wasn’t even aware of it when facing the media the next day. Leader Bill Shorten learned of the resignation via a text message from Conroy not long before tabling his statement to the Senate. Penny Wong, Labor’s Senate Leader, didn’t even know that her deputy in the Upper House was resigning.
Wacky and Wonderful
Apparently we’ve been getting our US Presidential polling numbers from the wrong source all of this time and Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is actually in the lead. That is, if you listen to Jim Bakker. The televangelist last week gave detailed information about a casual chat he had with God recently in which God hinted that the polling numbers might be wrong. Apparently, according to God, via Bakker, Trump supporters are in fear of the “hate mongers” and won’t publicly declare their support for Trump. Bakker went on to say, “Now, I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just saying this is what happened this week, a few days, a few hours ago.” I’m not suggesting that Bakker is deluded and possibly senile whatsoever; I’m sure little chats with God can overwhelm you and throw your internal clock out a little. But I will say that I also had a chat with God this week and he told me that Bakker is a stubbie short of a six pack.
Crime in Washington DC is seriously getting out of hand. A Maryland woman this week found herself under arrest on a charge of second degree theft – a theft that was perpetrated against a Police Officer. The 26-year-old woman approached the officer at a restaurant at around 9:40pm, clearly looking for trouble. The officer in question was quietly enjoying his meal, blissfully unaware of the carnage to come. The woman reached over and stole one of his french fries straight off his plate. He warned her to stop but she was having none of it; she took another…and then another, before the officer decided that enough was enough. She was placed in cuffs and arrested with a police report that read, “The listed offender appropriated the listed property without the consent of the listed complainant.” The “Listed Property” was listed as “French Fried Potato…quantity: 3.” Not every hero wears a cape, ladies and gentlemen…
Have a great week, TBSers!