What a week it was. Trump attempted diplomacy, Husar faced scandal and Japan doubled down on the weirdness.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. This week we’ve had some more cowboy diplomacy from US Pres Donald Trump, a huge milestone for Apple, a Labor MP in trouble back home and the latest advertising trend out of Japan.
With US President Donald Trump riding high on the back of successfully achieving World Peace by way of North Korea as well as dealing with the impending threat of those pesky Canadians, he has now turned his ire towards Iran. Trump recently called out the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, on Twitter, using all caps to makes sure we all knew he meant business:
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Rouhani responded a few days later, reportedly remarking, “Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret. America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Trump began this week by following through, by way of ordering new sanctions against Iran. Iran have now responded in kind, sending a clear message to the US that if Iran is barred from exporting oil, then Iran will blockade and shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a vital channel that links the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, and is a major transport route for oil coming out of the Middle East. The strait represents the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and currently sees about 35% of the world’s sea-transported petroleum supply pass through it (around 20% of the world’s petroleum supply).
If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before. In late 2011, Iran threatened to close the Strait as well if threatened sanctions were imposed. Then, as now, the threat was followed by a show of force by way of a set of military exercises by the Iranian Armed Forces in the area. The situation escalated further following the imposition of sanctions on Iranian Oil by the EU in early 2012. These sanctions were eventually lifted in 2016 following confirmation from the UN that Iran had complied with an agreement to scale back its nuclear program as part of the historic agreement between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council in 2015.
So what’s changed? You guessed it…Trump. A few months ago, Trump pulled out of the historic nuclear deal with Iran. He announced he was going to impose “the highest level of economic sanctions” on Iran, in violation of the agreement (as well as a UN resolution). With a new agreement between the US and Iran now seemingly impossible, we may well see Iran follow through on the threat this time, potentially setting fire to the entire region.
Also on The Big Smoke
This week saw Apple become the first publicly-listed US company to reach a valuation of $1 trillion and they are showing no signs of slowing down. On Tuesday, the company reported that its June quarter results were above expectations and also announced that it had bought back $20 billion of its own shares. The rest of the week then saw its stock jump 2.8% to a high of $US207.05 representing a 9% increase since the announcement on Tuesday.
The result is that Apple’s stock market value is now greater than Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble and AT&T combined and now accounts for 4% of the S&P 500 (a US stock market index based on the market capitalisation of 500 large US companies, quite often considered the most accurate representation of the US stock market). Since Apple’s original public offering in 1980, the value of its stock has increased by a staggering 50,000%. To put that in perspective, over the same four decades, the S&P 500 only achieved a 2,000% increase.
Whether the lofty heights the company has reached can be sustained remains to be seen. Amazon, the second-largest listed US company by market value, currently sits with a market value of around $880 billion and continues to grow. Apple, meanwhile, have struggled to maintain the level of ground-breaking innovation they were achieving while founder Steve Jobs was still alive.
NSW Labor MP Emma Husar has had a tough couple of weeks. Husar took personal leave last week following the launch of an internal investigation into allegations that she has been bullying and harassing her staff. Twenty former employees have made complaints against Husar, alleging that she forced staff to perform her household chores, has a staffer living with her performing domestic duties and had staff collect and clean up her dog’s faeces.
Husar is also being questioned over a number of expenses charged to taxpayers that may not have related to official business. A little under $1,500 in various travel expenses were claimed by Husar last year for a trip to Melbourne to take part in a panel discussion for “Emily’s List” which funds female Labor candidates. Two other trips to Melbourne last year for around $2,200 have been highlighted as no purpose was recorded, no mention of the trips was made on her social media and neither of the two parliamentary committees she sits on had hearings in Melbourne at the time.
The big headline-maker, however, was a trip in March to Brisbane on the taxpayer’s dime that saw Husar attend the Bruno Mars concert with one of Penrith Police’s highest ranking police officers, Chief Inspector Tracy Stone. Husar has said that the tickets to the concert were a gift from Stone and that “no work expenses were used to attend the concert”. On the day of the concert, Husar reportedly had no meetings in Brisbane but did claim $114 for the use of a government-chauffeured Comcar which she has indicated was probably from the airport to the hotel. The day after the concert, she attended a meeting with homeless service, The Micah Project, and visited domestic violence call centre, DVConnect. Prior to arriving in Brisbane, Husar had travelled to Cairns from Sydney to meet with Ruth’s Women’s Shelter (the day before the concert) and attended a parliamentary committee hearing on the NDIS before flying to Brisbane. Another hearing for the same committee was scheduled in Townsville on March 15 however she didn’t attend.
The big question – which Husar has refused to answer so far – is whether the Brisbane meetings were organised before or after she had decided to go to the concert. It’s believed that the tickets were purchased by Ms Stone back in December 2017 and Micah Projects chief executive, Karyn Walsh, has confirmed that Husar’s meeting with them was only confirmed the day before the concert. It’s the chicken and the egg all over again…
Also on The Big Smoke
Treasurer Scott Morrison appears to have finally relented to pressure from the community at large and has indicated he will be seeking to have female sanitary items exempted from the GST. Morrison also took the opportunity to place the blame for the issue firmly on the various State Governments. Morrison said, “I can see it is a source of frustration and angst…I think it’s an anomaly that has been built into the system for a long time and the states have decided to hold on to the money instead of getting rid of it.”
Numerous advocates have been pushing for this change for a long time, specifically pointing to the fact that items such as condoms and lubricants are already exempt. However the change is not certain, as the states and territories have to sign off on it at the next meeting of the State Treasurers. Back in 2015, then-treasurer Joe Hockey attempted to have the items removed but was knocked back by the State Treasurers who were reluctant to lose the $30 million windfall that the items represented in GST revenue.
It does appear that the various states are more likely to support the move this time around with NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrotet, giving in-principle support and Queensland Treasurer Jackie Trad also indicating that her state was “100% supportive” of the removal.
Wacky and wonderful
For a section that quite often focuses on the wacky, our friends in Japan make surprisingly few appearances. This week, however, their stocks are rising with the “Wakino Ad Company” announcing that they are now selling ad space on the armpits of attractive young women.
Not only that, but they’ve picked up their first client: a beauty treatment clinic that specialises in painless underarm hair removal. With that in mind, Wakino are now on the lookout for more armpit models and even want to expand into male models as well. They have announced that they are planning on staging a beauty contest to find the most attractive armpits in Japan.
Ah Japan, helping us answer another question that no-one asked – what makes an armpit attractive?
That’s it from me, TBSers – have a cracking week!