Gordon Smith

Current Affairs Wrap: Centrelink on compassion, NZ on Roberts, Ley on our dime

centrelink

Approx Reading Time-12Accidental home ownership, a village missing its idiot, Centrelink on how to deal with people in crisis and an intercontinental Presidential romance. So 2017 is off to a great start?

 


Welcome to 2017, or, as it may as well be called, 2016. Think of it like a software update that adds more bugs than it resolves, or like putting out a kitchen fire by flooding the house; sure, your original problems have gotten at least slightly better, but you’re still far from golden.

Case in point: the 2016 US election, hereafter known as “the gift that keeps on giving”. You would be remiss for thinking that the political tick of approval for Trump would be enough to consider this case closed, but your sighs of relief may just be premature.

No spoilers, but an unlikely bedfellow and some cross-oceanic shenanigans mean that this “gift” is set to keep on giving for months to come.

To make matters worse, it seems a village is missing its idiot, thanks to Australia’s own far-Right political uprising.

 

International

The minefield run that was the US election was marred with stories of hacking and rumours of international intervention.

After months of speculation, the top US intelligence official has told Congress that he held a very high level of confidence that hacks on the Democratic Party had come from Russia.

The declaration of belief comes as President-elect Trump (a truly horrifying title, really), remains outspokenly sceptical about the accusations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Russia’s intrusions manifested in the hacking of Democratic Party institutions and operatives, along with the dissemination of propaganda and fake news.

Clapper said that his current assessment was “even more resolute than it was” when the Government first made its accusations against Russia public, on October 7th of last year.

A unclassified version of the intelligence review of Russian interference in the election will be made public early next week, he said.

Both political parties in the United States are both wary of the former superpower, calling on Thursday for more economic sanctions and action against Russia.


Also on The Big Smoke


Things are a little more upbeat down south, far away from the tiny hands of Trump.

Our friends in New Zealand have alerted us to an Australian tragedy: the loss of a village’s idiot.

One Nation’s bastion of rational thought, Senator Malcolm Roberts, is not shy about being front page news. The “eccentric” senator is not so cool with the concept of climate change, and is especially not cool with the blame game shifting responsibility of climate change to humans.

He has asked chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel to “spell out” the logic behind assertions that human induced carbon emissions (on the rise since the start of the Industrial Age) could cause global warming, and has even earned a personally written letter from NASA Director, Gavin Schmidt, who suggested told Roberts “I suggest that you avail yourself to the resources provided by the Bureau of Meteorology or CISRO in Australia for further details on this topic.”

Our senator’s latest epiphany is a call of economic sanctions on New Zealand in response to the nation co-sponsoring a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as having no legal validity last month.

“At the very least we should look at further cuffing benefits for New Zealanders living in Australia,” Roberts said in a call for Australia to review immigration arrangements for New Zealanders. “Perhaps a tougher immigration policy aimed towards New Zealand would stop Kiwis from establishing settlements in Australia.”

With one statement, New Zealand’s sneaky plan of expansion into Australian land is thwarted.

A New Zealand Labour MP was having none of it, calling the statement “totally offensive” and “absolutely nuts”, and saying that he had to Google Malcolm Roberts to find out who exactly he was.

“This guy is a climate change conspiracy theorist. He’s a racist and probably the saddest thing about his entry into Australian politics, spending so much time in Canberra, is he has denied a village somewhere in Australia of its idiot,” MP Kelvin Davis said.

“You’ve got to call out stupidity where ever it exists. I read his press release yesterday and I suspected the guy was a bit simple, and listening to that interview then, I think that has confirmed it.”

Overall, a cheery, friendly start to the new political calendar.

 

Domestic

Back home, however, things are a little less out of the ordinary. Another day, another year, another entitlements scandal.

Like the high flying Speaker before her, Health Minister Sussan Lea has made good use of the tax payer funds at her disposal, buying an investment property valuing at nearly $800,000 from a Liberal Party donor while on an expenses-paid trip to the Gold Coast.

Former property owner Martin Corkery donated $50,000 to the Liberal National Party in 2011, selling the apartment at an auction to Ley, who made a purchase that “was not planned nor anticipated.”

The semantics of buying a house on a whim not withstanding, tax payers footed a $3,125 bill for the Ley family business trip in May 2015.

Labor has called for Ley to please explain or resign, with Shadow Health Minister Catherine King asking for the Minister to also release her diary for the period.

“I think she’s got to explain how purchasing a luxury apartment with her is in any way, shape or form, offical business. Frankly, if she can’t, she needs to resign,” King said.

“I don’t know too many people who would spend that sort of money, even if they had it, on an impulse. It’s a pretty unbelievable claim.”

Ley had the fourth highest expenditure from January 1st to June 30th 2015, her $650,000 tab including more than $105,000 on charter flights and $11,880 on family travel costs.

As a wise man once said, the age of entitlement is over.


Also on The Big Smoke


Don’t worry, there is plenty of money coming in to fund these multi thousand dollar adventures flowing in, and from those most financially secure: welfare recipients.

The much maligned Centrelink crackdown on welfare fraud has seen an exponential rise in collection notices, with claims climbing from 20,000 a year to 20,000 a week.

Better yet, one in five of those letters is being sent in error. That’s right, 4,000 people a week are receiving false accusations of welfare fraud.

Far from offering such ludicrous demands such as compassion or indeed logical care, Centrelink has taken to referring debtors to Lifeline in search of assistance.

The agency’s official Twitter account has been contacting users concerned about receiving debt notices over Christmas, referring some to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention service Lifeline.

Former Greens Leader Christine Milne shot back, Tweeting her disbelief: “What sort of Government terrifies its poorest people then tells them to ring Lifeline? Centrelink debacle must stop. PM should intervene now.”

Milne joins criticism from Labor and independent MPs, who are calling for the new automated system to be halted or scrapped until it can be fixed.

A little bit of sacrifice from society’s poorest for a much needed safety net for our needy politicians. Sounds fair to me.

Welcome to 2017: more of the same, and yet a little bit worse.

 

Gordon Smith

Journalist by day, cunning linguist by night. A passion for politics, hypnotically involved in human rights. An Australian born with a Japanese tongue, hoping to hold the big wigs in government to account.

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