Hello all, and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had terror in London, a faint heartbeat from Obamacare and a unique tribute to Harmony Day from our PM.
This week saw the one-year anniversary of the 2016 Brussels bombings. On the day of the anniversary, the world was shocked by another terror incident, this time in the heart of London.
The suspect, now known to be English-born Muslim convert Khalid Masood, began his attack at 2:40pm local time by mounting the kerb and running down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. He proceeded to his main target, Parliament, where he crashed his car into its railings. He exited the vehicle armed with a knife and entered the grounds of Parliament, fatally stabbing a police officer who attempted to apprehend him. Masood was then shot dead by a bodyguard of Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
The rampage has resulted in the death of five people so far, including the assailant, with a further 50 injured.
British PM, Theresa May, who was reportedly just 50 metres away when Masood was killed, has described the incident as a “sick and depraved terrorist attack”. She has also paid tribute to police and emergency responders who ran towards the danger “even as they encouraged others to move the other way” and to the victims and their families and friends.
A post on controversial online forum 4chan also appears to have predicted the event, with a strange code being posted the day before the attack on the board which when translated into Morse code provided a link to the coordinates of the side of the Westminster Bridge where the attacks occurred.
As is usually and unfortunately the case, social media was home of some disgusting reactions to the event. Donald Trump Jr chose to attack London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for a quote from September last year, choosing to highlight a select part of an article where Khan had said that “terror attacks are part of living in big city” completely ignoring the rest of the quote which makes it clear he was talking about the need for preparedness.
You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan https://t.co/uSm2pwRTjO
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 22, 2017
In the same vein, a Twitter user with the moniker “Texas Lone Star” tweeted an image of a Muslim woman looking at her phone whilst walking past a victim lying on the ground being attended to. The Twitter user captioned it: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking her phone” along with the hashtags #PrayForLondon #Westminster and #BanIslam.
Back to that little annoying “context” thing, the photo did not tell the whole story. The woman pictured who had her image go viral with every imaginable insult attached to it has since spoken out and indicated she was “shocked and dismayed” at the reaction to her picture around the globe. In her own words:
“What the image does not show is that I had talked to other witnesses to try and find out what was happening, to see if I could be of any help, even though enough people were at the scene tending to the victims…I then decided to call my family to say that I was fine and was making my way from home, assisting a lady along the way by helping her get to Waterloo Station. My thoughts go out to all the victims and their families.”
So let’s make sure we’ve got this covered; she investigated, offered her assistance (despite it being obvious that it wasn’t required) and then decided to contact her family to let them know she was safe. Burn her…and ban Islam while you are at it. There’s no place for a cool head and concern for everyone but yourself when there’s terror afoot!
Headline is based on very first sentence, which if you’d bothered to read it could apply to any major city in the world. Key word: “threat” pic.twitter.com/u2S9WA7yoA
— Ciaran Jenkins (@C4Ciaran) March 22, 2017
Back to Daddy Trump, who’s had his own problems to deal with this week. One of the President’s many lofty election promises was the complete dismantling of “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” – commonly referred to as “Obamacare”. The first thing resembling universal health care in the US, signed into law by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, simply had to go, to “Make America Great Again”.
For many, this was one promise he would most likely keep. The Republicans have fought against it every step of the way and have long dreamed of its removal. With a majority in both houses of Government, it was all but a fait accompli.
Except, as we found out this week, it wasn’t – the legislation put forward by Trump being pulled by his own party just minutes before the vote was to occur.
Trump, of course, has blamed the Democrats, proving that he may not actually have basic numeracy skills. His party has the majority in both houses meaning that even if every single Democrat voted against the legislation (which they were going to) then his party still had the ability to pass it. “We had no Democratic support. They weren’t going to give us a single vote,” Trump said.
Apart from you not needing them, Don, I vaguely recall that the introduction of the act in the first place didn’t get one Republican vote.
The problem, as it turns out, was from those within his own party who had no intention of voting for the legislation. A bloc of key Republican lawmakers made it clear they were going to vote “no” and, despite a lot of late night horse trading, held to their decision. So much so that it was looking likely that the bill would not just fail, but fail by a significant margin. Trump claims they were 10-15 votes short; multiple reports suggest the number was at least double this.
Trump also took the opportunity to point out that he never said he would “repeal and replace within 64 days”. Unlike his wiretapping denial, this time he is correct – he didn’t say 64 days; he said he’d do it on his first day in the office.
PM Turnbull went back on another promise this week by introduction legislation to modify the language used in the controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Back in August 2016, Turnbull announced that the government had “no plans” to change 18C, rejecting it as a distraction. He said at the time, “It doesn’t distract me at all, I’m talking about the economy, ABCC, the moral challenge we have to get the budget back in shape…we have other, much more pressing priorities to address and they include big economic reforms.”
I must have missed the memo. Apparently, the economy has been fixed, the moral dilemmas that plague the budget have been solved and we’ve had our big economic reforms in the past six months – because 18C was suddenly the top priority for the Government this week.
Turnbull made the announcement of the amendments on March 21st. If the date sounds familiar, it’s probably because that’s also “Harmony Day” – a day designed to celebrate our cultural diversity. It also coincides with the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I don’t think I need to say any more about that…
Also on The Big Smoke
- For/Against: Two dividing opinions on the 18C changes
- Double plus good: How Gov cornered doublespeak market
The changes are simple, but potentially far-reaching. Previously, it was unlawful for a person to “do an act, otherwise than in private, if the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people and the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group”.
Under Turnbull’s changes, the words “offend, insult and humiliate” will be changed to “harass and intimidate”. On the surface, not that significant, in reality, it makes offences incredibly hard to prove.
Turnbull claims the move is to protect the “freedom of speech that underpins our society”. For some reason, in Turnbull’s head, section 18D (that immediately follows 18C) already protects just that. But apparently it doesn’t go far enough – people are afraid to speak, journalists afraid to say what’s really on their mind; Bob on Facebook’s worried he’ll end up in a gulag if he mentions the word “Muslim”.
The reality is that the majority of complaints made under 18C don’t make it to court. The vast majority of those that do, get thrown out. The only case that anyone seems to mention in defence of the changes is the QUT discrimination case which had university students defending something they probably shouldn’t have had to. The really brave cite Andrew Bolt’s run in with 18C – apparently, we should be allowed to make sweeping, unsupported and clearly racist statements to a captive audience of thousands whenever we damn well please!
God, I’m glad we sorted that economy mess out so we had the leisure time to re-write laws because four people were inconvenienced over a 20 year period!
Also on The Big Smoke
- #AusPol winners and losers: I (18) see you baby, shaking that…
- TrumpFact: Undercutting NASA, stifling North Korea, repealing hunting regs
- While you were asleep: QandA is fake news, Gov thoughtlessly takes on 18C, large chicken crushes dreams
- Current Affairs Wrap: Sean’s spicy crumpet, Dutton’s shot at Qantas, McDonald’s McMilitance
On a slightly related topic, you know that the second there is the hint of the word “Islam” associated with violence in a western country that our fierce protector, Pauline Hanson, will be out screaming from the rooftops. The attacks in London were the perfect opportunity for Pauline to push her anti-Islam agenda again.
As usual, her delivery had the grace of an elephant tap dancing on a piano and the logic to match. Hanson posted a video on her Facebook page in the wake of the attacks to first echo Donald Trump Jr’s attack on London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. She then went on to say:
“People are feeling sorry for people over there and I’ve seen the hashtag #prayforlondon…Well look, I have my own hashtag and you won’t need to be praying for this place or that place, because it’s ‘#pray4amuslimban’.”
Deputy PM, Barnaby Joyce, slammed Hanson’s comments, calling them “bat-poo crazy stuff” – considering the source, possibly the highest of insults possible. Treasurer Scott Morrison described her comments as “irresponsible” and “reckless”.
PM Turnbull described the comments as “dangerous”, pointing out that they do nothing but benefit terrorists looking to create divisions within other countries. He then quickly pointed out that even though it’s dangerous, it’s also free speech which is of the utmost importance (I’m seriously not kidding).
Wacky and Wonderful
Wacky and Wonderful will be back next week, TBSers! Have a cracking day!