It’s been a bit of a complex week. It seems that Donald Trump will not visit Australia, Peter Dutton is above the laws he enforces and someone hasn’t seen Back to the Future. Crimes, all.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had a change to Trump’s travel plans, a shocking development for an Aussie in South East Asia, a taste of terror back home and the car crash that is our Federal Government continued on its path of destruction.
In good news this week, it looks like US President Donald Trump has cancelled his planned attendance at a number of summits with Asian leaders which was believed to include a trip to Australia.
The bad news is, we might get Mike Pence instead.
Trump was expected to attend the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit as well as the East Asia summit in Singapore. He was also expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Papua New Guinea; events that he attended last year.
The lure of Paris, it seems, is too much for the Commander and Chief who will instead attend a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 in the city of love. White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement “While in Europe, the president also will visit Ireland to renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations”
Sanders also announced that US Vice President, Mike Pence, will be attending the various summits in place of Trump, saying “The Vice President looks forward to meeting with our allies and partners from across the region to advance security, prosperity, and freedom for all”. She also said that Pence would “highlight the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, and the principles of free, fair and reciprocal trade”.
It hasn’t been announced as to whether VP Pence will take a side trip to Australia while he’s in our neck of the woods.
James Ricketson, a 69-year-old Australian filmmaker has been found guilty of espionage and sentenced to six years jail in a Cambodian court.
Ricketson has been held in Phnom Penh jail for 15 months already following his arrest for flying a drone without a permit over a political rally. The Rally was organised by the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) who have since been banned by the Government.
His family released a statement following the ruling, saying “The toll of this result, for James, and our whole family and friends is immense. It has, and continues to be a truly brutal experience”.
Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Asia Director, Phil Robertson, was a little more direct, saying “When it comes to a conviction in a Cambodian court, clearly not facts are required. From day one, James Ricketson has been a scapegoat in Hun Sen’s false narrative of a so-called “colour revolution’ used as an excuse to crack down on the political opposition and civil society critics”.
Robertson also pointed the finger at the Australian Government, saying “This is more proof that Australia’s softly, quietly approach towards Southeast Asian dictators is not just morally bankrupt – it’s also totally ineffective”.
Others in the Media, too, have questioned whether the Australian Government did enough; particularly Julie Bishop who as Foreign Minister at the time, could have publicly declared that Robertson wasn’t spying for the Australian Government.
PM Scott Morrison has indicated, however, that the Australian Government will give any support they can to Mr Ricketson, saying “He can expect to get all the consular and other support from the Australian government you would expect in these circumstances. As usual in these types of events, it is best to deal with these things calmly and directly and in a way which best assists a citizen”.
Judging by his trial, however, it’s doubtful that the Australian Government will be able to do much of anything at this stage; the verdict and the entire case, absolutely reeks of propaganda. Prosecutor, Seang Sok, accused Ricketson of entering Cambodia with the express purpose of inciting hatred and aiming to overthrow Hun Sen and the government. Sok also accused him of using filmmaking as a cover since 1995.
Mohamed Kamer Nilar Nizamdeen, a Sri Lankan man currently in Australia on a student visa, was arrested this week and charged over a document that police allege contained plans for a terrorist attack.
The police received a tip-off from an employee of the University of NSW, where Nizamdeen is employed as a contractor, after allegedly finding a notebook containing the names of several “symbolic” locations and individuals as “potential targets”.
Those targets allegedly included former PM Malcolm Turnbull and former Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop as well as the Sydney Opera House, police stations and train stations. Police have also indicated that they believe him to be affiliated with Islamic State however he has not been charged as such yet.
Nizamdeen wasn’t known to police prior to the tip-off nor does he have a criminal record. He has worked for the University as a business systems analyst since 2016. Prior to that, he was heavily involved in the UNSW’s Hero Program where he collaborated with Deloitte and IBM as part of an innovation initiative in 2015. Nizamdeen did not apply for bail and it was formally refused at the Waverley Local Court on Friday.
As the fallout continues from the recent leadership spill, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that we aren’t going to have anything resembling a functional government until an election is called; not that we’re guaranteed to have one following an election.
Failed coup frontman, Peter Dutton, managed to hold on to his Home Affairs portfolio in the new Morrison cabinet, leaving the entire country scratching their heads. Following one of the most tumultuous weeks in Australian political history, many expected that the man responsible for the chaos might remain on the backbench as some semblance of punishment. Apparently not.
Dutton’s future in that portfolio, and perhaps in politics, is looking increasingly at risk following further revelations of alleged abuse of his position. The first case that has raised a serious “please explain” is that of Alexandra Deuwel, a French au pair. Ms Duewel was detained at Adelaide Airport on October 31, 2015, after admitting to border authorities that she intended to work while on a tourist visa.
For most people, this would result in instant deportation. Ms Deuwel, it turns out, was fortunate to be travelling to Australia to work for Callum McLachlan who happened to be related to AFL boss Gillon McLachlan.
After Dutton’s chief of staff received an email from Callum McLachlan and his wife, Skye, Dutton used his ministerial powers to grant her a three-month stay – as long as she didn’t work. The McLachlan’s claimed in their email to Dutton’s office that it was a misunderstanding and that Ms Deuwel was visiting the family but was not being employed by them while in Australia.
On the surface it actually sounds like a rare bit of common sense was applied. The problems begin, however, when you consider that Ms Deuwel, was last in Australia working for the family as an au pair and was warned then over suspicions that she was working on a tourist visa. Then you add to that the fact that Dutton was also contacted by an AFL official on behalf of Gillon McLachlan presumably appealing for intervention. Or you consider that Callum MacLachlan is part of a wealthy pastoralist family who have donated around $150,000 to the Liberal Party and a further $50,000 to the South Australian branch of the Liberal Party. Oh and the fact that his department strongly advised him against intervening, saying “the grant of a visitor visa is of high risk”. According to Dutton, it was “in the interests of Australia as a humane and generous society”
A one-off it was not. An Italian Woman, Michela Marchisio, was detained at Brisbane International Airport in June 2015 on the suspicion that she intended to work on a tourist visa. In fact, it seems she was intending on working for Nicole and Russell Keag; and Russell was one of Dutton’s colleagues in Dutton’s former career as a Police officer for Queensland Police.
The worst part, however, is the double standard. Without even considering those still languishing in our offshore detention centres (the poster people of Australia’s “humane and generous society”), there’s also the case of Army Veteran Captain Jason Scanes.
Captain Scanes, now retired, battled for five years with Dutton and his department, trying to obtain a visa for the Afghan national who worked as his interpreter when he was in combat in Afghanistan. Scanes said, “Essentially, when you arrive in Afghanistan, you’re issued an interpreter like you’re issued a pistol. You form a very close relationship and bond with them. If they’re found to be assisting coalition forces, the action taken against them by insurgent groups of the Taliban is very, very severe and quite barbaric”.
Dutton refused to meet with Captain Scanes. Even after Captain Scanes held a one-man daily protest outside Dutton’s Brisbane electorate office. Even when it was revealed that in addition to their close bond, the interpreter had saved Captain Scanes’ life. Following an outcry in the media, Dutton’s office eventually agreed to review the case and then denied an appeal on its original decision not to grant a visa.
A humane and generous society indeed.
Wacky and Wonderful
The life of an “on the spot” reporter can be pretty tough. YouTube is littered with examples of reporters being videobombed, groped or even assaulted. Rather than having the benefit of research and resources to hone your story, live reporting is very fluid, often leaving reporters flying by the seat of their pants.
Kathryn Burcham with Boston 25 news learned that even a simple mishear of the information being thrown at you can have disastrously hilarious results. Burcham was reporting live from the scene of a plane crash at Cranland Airport in Hanson, Massachusetts when she detailed the cause of the accident as being a faulty “flux capacitor”. For the three people on earth out there that aren’t aware, the Flux Capacitor was the famous plutonium driven device that made time travel possible in the famous Back to the Future trilogy.
The cause of the accident had been explained to Burcham by Jacob Haselden, the 20-year-old pilot who crash-landed the plane. It’s possible that Haselden had actually said “fluxgate compass” – a legitimate magnetic instrument that pilots use to help keep the plane level with the ground. But it’s also possible that Haselden was having a bit of fun with Burcham.
Neither Burcham or her station responded to enquiries. So we may never know the truth.
That’s it from me TBSers, have a cracking week.