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What a week. We lost Aretha Franklin but we might gain Peter Dutton as PM.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve lost another music legend, seen a disaster in Italy, some horrible deja vu back in domestic politics and the innovation of the French hard at work.
The world is mourning the loss of “The Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, who passed this week at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer.
The list of Franklin’s achievements and laurels is long and varied. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame back in 1979. She received a Grammy Legend Award in 1991 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994; all included in her the total of 18 Grammys she won and the 44 nominations she received.
In addition to her music industry awards, she also received the National Medal of Arts in 1999 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. She received an honorary degree from Harvard University in 2014 as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music and the University of Michigan. She was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Wayne State University as well as an honorary Doctorate of Law by Bethune-Cookman University. Oh, and she had an asteroid named after her – Asteroid 249516 Aretha.
Celebrities from around the globe have paid tribute. Mariah Carey took to Twitter to talk about the strong influence that Franklin had on her as did Annie Lennox and Christina Aguilera. Paul McCartney and Elton John also shared their admiration on social media and Barbra Streisand paid tribute to her as not only “a uniquely brilliant singer” but also for “her commitment to civil rights (which) made an indelible impact on the world.”
Former US Pres, Barack Obama, paid tribute with a touching tweet, saying “Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade – our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace.”
Current US President Trump also paid tribute, bizarrely describing Aretha as someone who “worked for me on numerous occasions”. On the plus side, he managed to get through his Twitter tribute without drawing attention to her gender or race. There is a small chance, however, that he mistook her for one of his maids.
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is dead. She was a great woman, with a wonderful gift from God, her voice. She will be missed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade—our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. pic.twitter.com/bfASqKlLc5
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 16, 2018
Disaster struck the Italian city of Genoa this week with a highway bridge collapse resulting in a death toll of 39 so far. Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, told media that “unfortunately, the toll will increase, that’s inevitable”. Whilst Minister Salvini wouldn’t indicate how many people they believe are still missing, the Genoa Chief Prosecutor, Francesco Cozzi, indicated to the media that there could be between 10 and 20 people still unaccounted for.
A state funeral is scheduled for the deceased this weekend and the country will also recognise them by way of a national day or morning. Italian President Sergio Mattarella described the event as an “absurd” catastrophe which has seen at least six of the deceased being foreigners from France and Albania respectively.
Cozzi has indicated that the investigation is focussed on potentially inadequate maintenance of the bridge or alternatively, design flaws. Whilst either of those two avenues may lead to an answer, it has been suggested that the collapse was caused by weakened cement, possibly used by the Mafia to save money.
Believe it or not, the disaster in Genoa represents the tenth bridge collapse in Italy within the past five years – an astounding number for a developed nation. Anti-Mafia campaigners around Italy have warned that hundreds of schools, hospitals and airports may also be at risk of collapse due to the provision of substandard concrete by the Mafia. In Italy, it’s referred to as cemento depotenziato which translates to “weakened cement”. The Mafia allegedly cut the cement with sand which significantly reduces the strength of the finished product.
Just for something new back home, the two words that the Australian public are sick of hearing are being spoken out loud again – “leadership spill”. Reports suggest that a handful of Coalition MP’s have been urging Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, to sharpen his knife and challenge current PM, Malcolm Turnbull, using the immigration debate and cheaper power prices as the catalyst.
How much truth there is to it, we don’t know. Defence Minister Christopher Pyne spoke out and rejected the rumours, calling it a case of some colleagues “trying to put the band back together from the late 2000s and naughties” – a clear reference to ousted PM Tony Abbott and the supporters he has left in Canberra.
Labor frontbencher, Anthony Albanese, summed the situation up perfectly, naming Tony Abbott as the person behind the rumours and speculation. “Dutton is just a glove puppet for Tony Abbott,” Alabenese said, “back there on the backbench causing all of this chaos.” Hard to argue with, really.
When Dutton himself was asked, he did little to quash the rumors. Speaking on 2GB radio, Dutton made it clear that he won’t speak out against the PM in public – effectively inferring that he has no problem doing it behind closed doors where coups tend to be launched from. He went on to say, “I work as a team player. I’m not going to be a part of the Cabinet and then bag the Prime Minister out. If my position changes, that is, it gets to a point where I can’t accept what the Government’s proposing, then the Westminster position is very clear.” Sounds very much like someone trying to keep their options open.
Also on The Big Smoke
- While you were asleep: Aretha Franklin passes, Scotland does well, World proves couple wrong
- Where does your state stand on the National Energy Guarantee?
A number of Coalition MP’s have already indicated that they are concerned by the Government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee which would force carbon emissions to be cut by the 26% already agreed to in Paris. For some Coalition MP’s, that 26% is too high, and some have indicated they may well cross the floor when it goes to a vote. So far, George Christensen, Andrew Hastie, Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Tony Pasin, Barry O’Sullivan, Kevin Andrews, Andrew Gee and Barnaby Joyce have spoken out against the policy at varying levels.
Conservative 2GB radio host, Ray Hadley, has scoffed at the denials, saying that there will “100%” be a move against Turnbull based on information he has been given. Although from the outside, it’s very hard to believe that Dutton would have sufficient support to mount a challenge and is hardly likely to unless he is assured of success.
However, it appears that the internal pressure may have worked, with PM Turnbull now looking like backing down and modifying the proposal to have the emissions target achieved via regulation rather than legislation – an idea he highly criticised just a few days ago. Coincidently, after news of the backdown hit, Dutton issued a much clearer statement in support of the PM.
Turnbull’s credibility as a result of the backdown is sure to take a hit with the public, but worse for him, those with their knives sharpening within his party will now smell a lot of blood in the water.
Also on The Big Smoke
While we’re on the topic of representation, I suppose we can’t avoid the other politician whose name is on everybody’s lips this week: Fraser Anning. Senator Anning was elected to the Federal Senate after the 2016 federal election with a whopping 19 primary votes as sixth on the ticket for Queensland. How, you might rightly ask. He replaced Senator Malcolm Roberts (who himself was elected with 77 primary votes) after he fell victim to the dual citizenship crisis. At the time, Anning was a member of the One Nation Party and subsequently enjoyed the benefit of their preferences which saw him elected to the Senate with less votes than there are people on an Aussie Rules team. By the time he was sworn in, he had a very public split with One Nation and leader Pauline Hanson which saw him switch to an independent and eventually join Katter’s Australia Party as their first senator.
This week saw Anning make his maiden speech to the Senate. Anning took the opportunity to call for a return to a “European Christian” immigration system and an outright ban on Muslim immigration. Anning went on to concede that not all Muslims are terrorists, but that “certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims”.
As the majority of the country watched on in horror, he put a vile, bigoted cherry on top of the excrement-filled cake that he had just baked, calling for a plebiscite on immigration, saying “The Final Solution to the immigration problem of course is a popular vote”. If you didn’t know any better, the use of the term “final solution” wouldn’t have registered. It did, however, for many who were well aware that “Final Solution” was a phrase used in Nazi Germany to describe the mass killing of Jewish people. Whilst it’s possible that Anning had no idea of the double meaning, his subsequent dismissal of the outrage over his use of the phrase suggests otherwise.
What followed was one of the most unique things you will ever witness in modern politics; Anning was attacked by everyone. The Libs and Labor both slammed the speech unequivocally as did the Greens – as you would expect. The big surprise, however, came when Pauline Hanson slammed the speech, making it clear that she felt it went too far. Hanson went on to suggest that the speech was taken straight from Joseph Goebbels’ handbook. Hanson told parliament, “I am appalled by Fraser Anning’s speech. We are a multiracial society and I’ve always advocated you do not have to be white to be Australian”. Surely someone making Pauline Hanson seem tolerant and inclusive is a bona fide sign of the Apocalypse? Even if she did add later that she did support a ban on Muslim immigration.
Anning did have some support, however, with none other than party leader, Bob Katter, applauding the speech, saying “It was a magnificent speech, solid gold. I love it! 90% of Australia have been waiting for someone to say it, and believe it.” Katter, as always, has shown that he has an expert grasp of numbers and statistics and has retained his strong ability to ignore the facts – especially those that clearly debunk most of what Anning claimed in his speech.
Wacky and Wonderful
The French have given society some incredible gifts. Imagine a world without French cheese, pastries or wine, to name but a few things. Their latest innovation, however, has drawn the ire of a few.
What many people may not know is that the French invented a contraption perfectly known as a “Pissoir”. The concept is simple: outdoor urinals in public spaces without the need for a dedicated toilet block. So if you feel the need to relieve yourself in a public space, you can cosy up to one of these contraptions and take a government-approved piss in the street. The idea is that the provision of such facilities will stop people from urinating on buildings, sidewalks or streets.
The pissoir is back with a vengeance, and now they are eco friendly. The new version is called the “uritrottoir” which is a dry and odourless system. Rather than using water, they are filled with straw which in turn composts and presumably helps the plants that sit atop the devices continue to grow. The straw is emptied every three weeks via truck.
Three of the new devices had already been installed in Paris during the spring to not much fanfare however the recent addition on the exclusive island of Ile Sainte-Louis on the Seine River has caused a bit more of a response. Locals, whilst admitting the idea is great, also don’t want it in their backyard. Others have spoken to the lack of privacy as boatloads of people passing down the Reine will get a front row seat to someone using one.
However the biggest criticism seems to be from women who have rightly pointed out that the devices only cater to men.
Whoever designs the “pissoir squat box” could stand to make a bit of coin.