Happy Sunday! This week NZ made us look old, a very important bill cleared the first hurdle and one citizen took on the man…with bants!
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve seen a political shift across the Tasman, another to the North, an historic development in Victorian Parliament and a man in the US being true to his word against the odds.
Our Kiwi friends across the ditch have a new Prime Minister after a deal between three parties was struck to form a coalition government with a slim majority. Jacinda Ardern, who has only been leader of the NZ Labor Party for two months, knocked back the position back a staggering seven times before relenting in August.
Ardern has claimed the honor of becoming the world’s youngest female leader in history as well as the third female PM for New Zealand and it’s youngest leader for 150 years.
New Zealanders were left to wait for 26 days after their election to find out who would be leading the country as negotiations between the major parties and the New Zealand First party, with leader Winston Peters becoming the kingmaker. An eventual deal was struck between Labor, the Greens and NZ First to form government.
It’s not the first time Peters has found himself in that position. Unlike the long standing Coalition between our Libs and Nats, NZ First have formed a coalition with both major parties in NZ over the years. It all looked over for the party in 2008 when Peters stood down as the Minister for Foreign Affairs over a funding scandal which then saw the party fail to meet the 5% threshold required in the 2008 election and saw Peters himself lose his seat. 2011, however, saw a resurgence with NZ First gaining eight seats in parliament; a number that escalated to eleven in the 2011 election. Interestingly, this election saw Peters himself lose his electorate seat but the party still managed nine seats overall. Under the NZ system, as first on his party list he still retains a seat in Parliament.
PM-elect Ardern has an even more interesting story. At 37 years of age, she represents the new generation of politicians in her country but also in the world at large. A former Mormon, occasional DJ and whiskey-lover, coupled with a left-wing, socially progressive platform, she has been seen as a breath of fresh air – particularly when compared to what is happening north of the equator. She has listed her priorities for NZ as an urgent focus on climate change, inequality as well as improving women’s lives in the home and workplace. She has also made a deal with the Greens to hold a referendum on legalising cannabis for personal use by 2020 as well as treating drug abuse as a health issue via increased funding to treatment centres. She has committed to establishing a climate change commission with a target of net zero for greenhouse emissions by 2050 as well as restoring the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Her 100-day plan also includes banning overseas speculators from buying existing houses, setting up ministerial inquiries into the mental health crisis and historic abuse of children in state care, and legislating that rental homes be dry and warm.
Hopefully such a progressive move by our neighbours prompts a little competition which sees us start to elect people with a little more vision.
Also on The Big Smoke
- #Auspol winners and losers: Who wore Melania’s shoes?
- Current Affairs Wrap: Harvey secures his legacy, skydiving accident claims three, Tim Cahill’s questionable gesture
While we are on the topic of the controversial “S”-ism, our neighbours a little further north have made a big declaration this week. The Chinese 19th National Congress opened with a three-and-a-half hour speech from China’s president, Xi Jinping. His party, The Communist Party of China (CPC) unveiled the “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”. Whilst the title may sound a little dry, the content was anything but.
During Xi’s speech, he recommitted to two economic targets set out by the previous leadership of his party known as “centennial goals”. The first goal is to build a “moderately prosperous society” by wiping out all poverty in the country by 2021. The second is to finish turning China into a “fully developed nation” by 2049.
Xi’s speech made several mentions of China being a “great power” or a “strong power” (26 times to be exact), and preached about co-operation with the international community. However he also made it clear that China’s controversial expansion in the South China Sea was something to be celebrated and also warned his people that they still had to be prepared for conflict; but he also made it clear that through greater professionalisation of officers and more innovation in weaponry, China’s military would be “first class” in every way by the middle of the century. Xi said:
“A military is built to fight… Our military must regard combat capability as the criterion to meet in all its work, and focus on how to win when it is called on”.
The most telling part of Xi’s speech was his call for China to be the model for a new era, pointing to the fact that China has developed its economy to be the largest in the world without replicating the systems used by other, specifically western, countries. After saying that the upcoming era will be one that “sees China moving closer to centre stage”, he called upon other countries to follow his example saying, “it offers a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence”.
Many commentators were quick to point out that in the current global climate, China is potentially positioning itself to take the highest leadership position in the international community. At a time where the previous self-appointed leader, the United States, is becoming increasingly divisive both domestically and abroad, the mantle is ripe for the taking. The potential conflict in the Korean peninsula and the South China Sea could yet be flashpoints for a hostile takeover of sorts.
An historical vote this week has seen a bill legalising voluntary euthanasia pass the lower house in Victoria, 47 votes to 37. The debate saw six Labor MPs (including Deputy Premier James Merlino) cross the floor in an attempt to beat the bill however with three Coalition MPs also crossing the floor in favour as well as the positive votes of two Green’s, the move was negated.
Time will tell if the bill will pass the upper house, however Premier Daniel Andrews appears cautiously optimistic, admitting that “we still have a way to go”. Legislative Assembly leader Jacinta Allan told the media that “this sent a clear message to our colleagues in the upper house that we had a clear majority in the lower house who are now looking for their report”.
Interestingly, the issue has appeared to bring a rare case of consensus between some of the last people you would expect to agree on anything. PM Turnbull described the passage as a “very big development” before quickly highlighting that he is opposed to voluntary euthanasia. Turnbull did, however, make it clear that the decision was for the Victorian Government alone and that the Commonwealth could not and would not intervene or overrule.
Turnbull’s public stance against voluntary euthanasia earned praise from none other than his personal knife block, Tony Abbott, who tweeted “Sometimes disagree with our 24th PM but congratulate him for being against Victoria’s right-to-kill bill.” To round out the Three Amigos, former PM Paul Keating described it as a “very sad moment” and called for the Victorian Upper House to block the bill. Keating said, “What it means is that the civic guidance provided by the state, in our second largest state, is voided when it comes to the protection of our most valuable asset…especially and particularly those in either a fragile or state of mind or fragile period… To do or to cause to abrogate the core human instinct to survive and live….is to turn one’s back on the compulsion built into the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution.”
Don’t you miss when we had leaders that had a superior mastery of the English language?
Sometimes disagree with our 24th PM but congratulate him for being against Victoria’s right-to-kill bill
— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) October 19, 2017
Meanwhile, the Australian Government received what has been described as an “unprecedented” letter this week from North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Foreign Affairs Committee to be exact).
The open letter appears to be in response to the increase in sanctions against the rogue nation from the United Nations Security Council, turning the blame for the sanctions directly on US President Donald Trump.
The letter condemns the US, and calls for “international justice” against the US as well as “sharp vigilance against the heinous and reckless moves of the Trump administration trying to drive the world into a horrible nuclear disaster”.
The letter is certainly a departure from the normal heavy handed rhetoric that we have become used to from North Korea and, as most commentators (including Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and PM Malcolm Turnbull) have pointed out, clearly indicates that the sanctions are having the desired effect. Whether it can prompt a move back to the negotiating table with North Korea remains to be seen, but it certainly suggests that the possibility exists. Although it is a possibility that is clearly hampered by the equally divisive rhetoric coming directly from US President Donald Trump.
Let’s hope that cooler heads can prevail and that we start listening to China and Russia who have both been calling for a diplomatic solution – particularly Russian President Vladimir Putin who, despite signing off on the UN Sanctions, has warned against backing North Korea into a corner.
I can’t believe I just wrote that either…
Wacky and wonderful
Social media has undeniably changed the world in myriad ways. The way that people interact with each other as well as the way that consumers interact with businesses has been irreversibly changed – sometimes for the better and arguably sometimes not.
The way that the public interact with the police force has also changed. Again, sometimes for the better, with the quick and viral spread of important information to assist in harm prevention. Or humorously with fugitives interacting with police in a very public and taunting way.
For Michael Martin Zaydel of Redford Township in Michigan, the typical tit-for-tat with the constabulary on Facebook wasn’t enough – he wanted to take it to the next level.
Whilst on the run for suspicion of driving while intoxicated as well as a host of other misdemeanours, Zaydel was corresponding with Detroit police over Facebook under the alias “Champagne Torino” via private message.
In the digital equivalent of a dick measuring challenge, Zaydel told the police “If you’re next post gets a thousand shares I’ll turn myself in along with a dozen doughnuts. And that’s a promise. And i’ll pick up every piece of litter around all your public schools let’s see if you can get those shares (sic)”.
The cops, it would seem, were up for it, posting a screenshot of the message on their Facebook page, pleading for 1,000 shares. Unsurprisingly, they got them in less than an hour.
Surprisingly, a week later, Zaydel turned out to me a man of his word, walking in on his own with donuts in hand. The 39 days he was sentenced to in county jail was almost worth it!
That’s it from me, TBSers. Have a cracking week!