We’ve had a rat attempt to bring down the Trump administration, Turnbull lose 18C but gain Nick Xenophon and the world trying to con people on a very obvious day. What a week.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had trouble for Trump from an ex-team member, wild weather across our great southern land and some quick horse trading in the senate in the lead up to the next budget.
More trouble for the Trump White House this week with news that ousted National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has offered to provide evidence to both the FBI and the Senate intelligence committee regarding Trump’s ties to Russia in exchange for full immunity.
Flynn himself was removed from his new position not long after Trump took power for allegedly misleading Vice President, Mike Pence, about his own relationship with Russia; specifically his contacts with the Russian Ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak. The nature of Flynn’s potential revelations is still a mystery however immunity would only be offered if his evidence was extremely conclusive, meaning there could be some very interesting times ahead.
The question will likely be answered by which party, if any, chooses to offer said immunity. If the FBI offer it, it will be transactional immunity meaning he would be looking to testify in court against a “higher target”. Immunity granted by the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, will not relate to a criminal investigation and will simply provide him immunity for anything he reveals during a Congressional investigation – commonly referred to as “use” immunity.
Trump, it seems, has his poker face well and truly on. He has publicly responded via Twitter suggesting that Flynn should indeed ask for immunity in the “witch hunt” that he’s facing.
Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2017
A little further South, Paraguay has been plunged into violence with protests erupting over a bill before their Congress that would allow their current President, Horacio Cartes, to run for re-election.
Following 35 years of rule by dictator President Alfredo Stroessner, Paraguay established a constitution in 1992 which limits the President to a single five-year term, a term which Cartes is due to finish next year. Cartes is currently trying to introduce legislation that would remove this restriction allowing him to run for reelection next year. If successful, the change would also allow former President Fernando Lugo to also contest election. Lugo was impeached by Congress in 2012 for his handling of clashes between farmers and police in a land eviction which saw 17 people killed.
Protesters this week stormed the Congress building, smashing windows before setting the building alight, a fire that apparently lasted for a couple of hours causing significant damage. Dozens of people have been injured in the protests including protesters themselves, politicians and police officers. Local journalist Santi Carneri has described the violence as the worst seen of its kind in Paraguay since 1992 when Paraguay became a democracy.
On the domestic front, the news has been dominated by Cyclone Debbie and the ongoing damage and danger it has represented. The system made landfall earlier in the week as a Category 3 near Bowen in Queensland. It was described at the time by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as “equivalent to a one in 100 year event”. The initial hit saw at least 50,000 homes and businesses without power as well as thousands evacuated from low lying coastal areas.
Towns on the Queensland coast, as well as some of its most famous islands, were smashed by winds of up to 230 kilometres per hour before Debbie was eventually downgraded to a Category 1 storm.
Unfortunately, the worst was still to come. Large sections of both NSW and Queensland were suddenly under threat from flash flooding. South-east Queensland was firmly in the firing line with all schools being ordered to close on Thursday and employers urged to send staff home early.
Later in the day, the warnings came in further south for the northern NSW regions including Lismore which was subject to a full evacuation order from the NSW SES.
As the cleanup and assessment begins, authorities hold grave concerns for four missing people in south-east Queensland. In NSW, two deaths have already been confirmed; a 64-year-old woman in the Hunter Valley who died in a car after it was swept off a causeway and a 36-year-old woman who was swept away by floodwaters at a rural property at Upper Burringbar, 20km south of Murwillumbah.
So far, the NSW SES has conducted over 400 flood rescues and responded to more than 2,200 requests for assistance. The Queensland SES had received over 3,600 calls by 4pm on Thursday – a number that has continued to rise since.
Also on The Big Smoke
- While you were asleep: Brexit letter legs it, Slipper gets hung in Parliament, Sean gets spicy – lawd
- While you were asleep: Don Dale changes vetoed, Comic Sans creator speaks, Apple gives us space
- While you were asleep: Qld faces cyclone with art, Australia’s Jurassic Park, True Detective season 3
- While you were asleep: Trump places bomb on Obamacare, Internet fights back, IS may be on doorstep
On the local political front, it’s a been a bad week for Turnbull, even if he claims it hasn’t.
The controversial proposed amendments to clause 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act were defeated during a late night senate session this week despite Turnbull’s big push last week to see them introduced. The government didn’t have enough support from crossbenchers to get the vote across the line.
It has to raise the question: was the sudden push for the 18C amendments last week another failed move by the PM or a stroke of political genius? The odds of it passing the senate were already known and they weren’t good – a long shot at best. The attempt, however, would have likely appeased some of Turnbull’s enemies within the right faction of the party as well as the number of Liberal voters who supported the change. Doomed to fail and Turnbull can’t be accused of not trying.
Also on The Big Smoke
- #AusPol winners and losers: Who paid who back?
- Views from the Hume: The truckie’s take on Latham and 18C
- Ben Cousins stopped Cyclone Debbie: The storm front of our misconceptions
- Libs’ 18C changes designed to win back PHON voters
With the lower house approaching a pre-budget break, the pressure was also on for the Turnbull government to get crucial economic measures passed through the Senate before having to present another budget in May. The most important was Turnbull’s budget centrepiece from last year, a $50 billion tax break for all businesses.
All looked lost at the end of the week with the numbers not stacking up for the Government in the upper house. A last minute deal with the Nick Xenophon Team, however, saw a watered down version of the measures pass just in the “nick” of time.
The altered policy will now see $24 billion worth of tax cuts delivered to 2026-2027 – or $5.2 billion over the next four years. The cuts centre around small and medium-sized business, despite Turnbull’s best efforts to have large companies included in the mix.
In exchange, Xenophon won a one-off payment of $75 to singles and $125 to couples who receive the aged, disabled and carers’ pension, to assist with rising electricity bills. Additionally, Xenophon secured a $110 million loan from the Federal Government for a huge solar thermal plant in South Australia as well as the commissioning of a study into a gas pipeline from the Northern Territory to South Australia. The Feds have also agreed to intervene in the gas export market if eastern state producers fail to provide more supply to the national network.
Turnbull is claiming the deal as a win but it’s really nothing more than a small lifeline. For Xenophon, however, it’s a significant coup, as his party eyes off the next South Australian election, in which they plan to run as candidates.
Wacky and wonderful
Another April Fools Day has come and gone. Here’s a quick rundown of this year’s best pranks.
Former Rugby League player Lote Tuqiri announced a commercial partnership with Lottoland Australia – he even changed his name to “Lote Land”.
AFL star Dane Swan announced his return to the AFL on his Facebook page, even reaching out to Collingwood Club President, Eddie McGuire, to help him make it happen.
Ikea announced a new low-cost airline called “FLIKEA” along with the world’s first non-stop flight from Australia to Sweden. No word on whether you are expected to put your seat together yourself or not…
Virgin Australia announced the introduction of a world-first “Canine Crew”, placing hundreds of specially trained dogs on all Boeing 737’s, Airbus A330’s and Boeing 777 aircraft in the Virgin fleet.
Krispy Kreme announced the launch of their own theme-park – the world’s first with a doughnut theme.
The City of Adelaide and Kangaroo Island announced a “land swap” – the respective mayors announcing on radio station, fiveaa, that Lindes Lane would be rebadged as “Kangaroo Lane” and gifted to the people of Kangaroo Island in exchange for a bit of land at Emu Bay.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced a plan for the city of Melbourne to retain daylight savings time to help increase Autumn trade.
Gelatissimo launched the world’s first artisan gelato that also treats sensitive teeth.
Uncle Toby’s launched the world’s first “oat-powered batteries”.
Deliveroo launched its “extreme” delivery service, which engages skydivers to get the job done.
ING announced a prototype of the iTM, a smartphone that uses 3D printing to print cash notes on demand.
Travel Insurance Direct launched a new app designed to provide spell checking for those pesky holiday tattoos.
My personal favourite: Pedestrian TV announced that ABC stalwart Q&A was making the move to commercial television – specifically, the Seven Network. In even better news, Pete Evans was named as the replacement for current host Tony Jones.
That’s it from me. Have a cracking week, TBSers!