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This week was heavy with Brexit splitting the Tories, former Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide and a jilted bride dishing revenge while it was still hot. At least we got a laugh in at ScoMo…that’s something, right?
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had a Brexit meltdown, some long overdue justice in Cambodia, horror in suburban Sydney and the ultimate revenge from a jilted bride.
It’s been all things Brexit in the motherland this week, with a potentially unthinkable development. Almost two and a half years after Britain held a referendum that saw the population vote in favour of separating from the European Union, it still hasn’t happened; and now it might not at all.
Following the initial vote, then-PM David Cameron fell on his sword and resigned after advocating for a vote to remain as part of the EU. His replacement, Theresa May, vowed to see the will of the people carried out – probably before realising how unbelievably complicated that would be and perhaps learning that a decision with such wide-ranging social, economic and cultural ramifications shouldn’t be left to direct vote heavily influenced by fear mongering rhetoric.
This week saw May and her cabinet finally release a draft agreement for her “Brexit”, with reports immediately suggesting that she would have significant difficulty in getting it through parliament. Worse still, rumours began immediately suggesting that her own cabinet was heavily divided on the draft which could see senior ministers walk over it… which they did. Within 12 hours of May announcing the draft deal, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned, closely followed by a further six colleagues, including another cabinet minister.
Fifty-five percent of the British public are in favour of another referendum, about a third support leaving the EU without a deal in place and 14% support May’s agreement.
Those within May’s Conservative Party who have been resisting Brexit have reportedly submitted letters, calling for a vote of no confidence in May’s leadership. Whilst the PM faced the media and reaffirmed her commitment to seeing the deal through and retaining her position as leader, the growing and public moves against her from within her own party may quickly make her position untenable. With the likelihood of the proposed deal passing parliament diminishing by the minute, Britain may find themselves out of the EU without a plan and without a safety net of any description.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to his party members this week, making their position crystal clear – it won’t pass, and it not passing will “represent a loss of confidence in the government”. Corbyn also wrote, “In those circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate general election that can sweep the Tories from power. If we cannot get a general election, in line with our conference policy, we will support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote.”
Surprisingly, it may just work. A Sky News poll this week showed that 55% of the British public are now in favour of holding another referendum on the question of Brexit. About a third of the respondents supported leaving the EU without a deal in place and 14% supported PM May’s agreement. A separate poll conducted by YouGov produced extremely similar results with the findings suggesting that a 54% majority of the population would now vote to remain in the EU and 59% were in favor of holding another referendum.
Also on The Big Smoke
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- Current Affairs Wrap: 11 dead in Pittsburgh’s anti-semitic rampage, ScoMo annouces drought relief, judge pursues crims on foot (sans robe)
- Current Affairs Wrap: Kavanaugh beats rap, MP’s internet bill, the 4:20 NY subway ride
A landmark ruling was passed this week by Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal which saw the only surviving senior Khmer Rouge leaders found guilty of genocide. The two men, Nuon Chea who was “Brother Number Two” to despot Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge President, were handed additional life sentences to those they are already serving over previous guilty verdicts for crimes against humanity.
The judges on the tribunal found both men guilty of genocide for their part in Cambodia’s ethnic cleansing of Vietnamese during the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge was in power. They also ruled that minority Cham Muslims were also victims of genocide during the same period however indicated that they did not believe the two men had “genocidal intent”. Rather, they found Nuon Chea guilty of genocide against the Cham on the principle of “superior responsibility” whilst they cleared charged related to the Cham against Khieu Samphan.
Despite an estimated 2 million Cambodians dying from being worked to death, starved to death, or as a result of mass killings between 1975-1979, the ruling this week represents the first time a court has ruled that the Khmer Rouge committed genocide. The tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was established in 2006 and has been frequently criticised for its limited scope and extremely slow process. In fact, despite being in existence for 12 years and costing more than $400 million, the rulings this week represent only the second and third persons to be convicted by the court. The other was Kaing Guek Eav who operated the infamous S21 prison where 12,000 people lost their lives.
The three other major players, leader Pol Pot, “Brother Number Three” Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith all died of natural causes before facing a courtroom; although it is rumored that Pol Pot took his own life by overdosing on prescription medication as he awaited collection by authorities in his home.
Back home, the week ended with what appears to be a horrific incident in the southern Sydney suburb of Kogorah.
A 7-year-old female student of the St George Dance Studio was allegedly the victim of a sexual assault in the bathrooms of the studio by a yet-to-be-named 54-year-old man. Police have indicated that the man appears to have no link to the victim or the school and that the attack appears to be random.
Mohamad Hariri who works at his family’s chicken shop across the road told the media that the alleged attacker was interrupted in the middle of the assault on the young girl by a dentist from the Denture and Dental Studio Laboratory which shares a bathroom with the Dance Studio. Mr Hariri indicated to the media that the dentist had told him that the man was partly undressed when he entered the bathroom and that the alleged victim was present as well. The dentist allegedly began to punch the man in an attempt to stop the attack.
At the same time, the girl’s absence was noticed by other parents at the class which led a parent of one of her classmates to go looking for her. Soon after, he found the alleged attacker, the victim and the dentist in the bathroom. Whilst details still aren’t clear, it’s believed that a fight then broke out between the parent and the alleged attacker which saw the parent stabbed with a scalpel. It’s believed that despite the stabbing, the parent was able to subdue the attacker who was then detained by witnesses who came to the stabbed man’s aid.
The alleged attacker was arrested and transported to St George Hospital in a stable condition, suffering facial swelling and bruising. Police have indicated he is still under guard in hospital but has not yet been charged. Police indicated on Friday that “the 54-year-old is expected to be released from hospital some time this morning, at which time he will be taken to Kogarah police station to assist with inquiries,” and that he won’t be in a position to assist police until early next week, once he has had a chance to recover and is given medical clearance. The girl was transported to the Sydney Children’s Hospital for observation and has since been discharged as well.
Also on The Big Smoke
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PM Scott Morrison has spent the week discovering just how much he has backed himself into a corner during his attempts to win the recent Wentworth byelection. In the lead up to the campaign, Morrison announced out of nowhere that Australia was considering moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, just as US President Donald Trump had controversially done.
The Wentworth electorate, unsurprisingly, boasts a significant Jewish population with more than 14% of residents identifying as Jewish. In another coincidence, Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate during that byelection, is the former Australian ambassador to Israel. At the same time, Morrison indicated that Australia would be suddenly reviewing the Iran nuclear deal. Quite the turn from the man who indicated that there was “no sense” in supporting a move of the Australian embassy back in July when he was treasurer.
Regardless of anyone’s position on Israel or Palestine, it was clear to anyone with half a brain that these sudden announcements were knee jerk attempts to win votes in a byelection the Libs were suddenly likely to lose following the entrance of high profile independent candidate, Dr Kerryn Phelps, and backlash from voters over the unceremonious dumping of Malcolm Turnbull.
Dr Phelps as we now know, won the byelection despite these desperate attempts from the Morrison government, and now, it seems, he’s created a much bigger problem for himself – one he should have seen coming a mile away. The potential move of the embassy was reportedly discussed when Turnbull was still PM and Bishop the Foreign Minister. The idea was completely rejected as being against Australia’s interests both in terms of any potential two state solution down the track, and the almost certain risk of offending our biggest neighbour, Indonesia.
Former PM Turnbull recently met with Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, and the message was clear: movement of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem would have ramifications with respect to our relationship with Indonesia, which boasts the largest Muslim population in the world and is a fierce supporter of Palestine.
Morrison is telling the world that the review should be finished by Christmas. Penny Wong summed up the thoughts of many, telling ABC Radio: “Why wait until Christmas?”
Morrison met with President Widodo this week as well, and whilst he won’t admit it, all reports are suggesting that the landmark free trade agreement between Australia and Indonesia will not be signed until a decision is made regarding the potential move of the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem – and it likely won’t be signed if the move goes ahead.
Morrison, apparently unable to swallow his pride, is sticking to his guns, telling President Widodo and the world that the decision is still going through a review process and that the review should be finished by Christmas. Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong summed up the thoughts of many, telling ABC Radio: “Why wait until Christmas?”
Meanwhile, representatives from both Indonesia and Malaysia have pointed out to the Australian Government that proceeding with the move will likely increase Australia’s exposure to terrorist attacks. Malaysian leader Mahathir bin Mohamad told the media, “in dealing with terrorism, one has to know the causes. Adding to the cause for terrorism is not going to be helpful.” Some, like Senator Eric Abetz, have argued that Indonesia shouldn’t be dictating Australian foreign policy in the Middle East given the amount of aid we provide. True or not, our foreign policy unequivocally shouldn’t be dictated by a desperate PM acting unilaterally in an attempt to hold on to his slim majority.
Others like treasurer Josh Frydenberg thought it was a good opportunity to double down and accuse the Malaysian leader of being an antisemite with form against the Jewish population. Again, true or not (for the record it is very true – Dr Mahathir is on the record multiple times as an antisemite), attacking foreign heads of state for clapping back against a snap decision made to benefit only a handful of politicians trying to keep their jobs is beyond madness – particularly when Dr Mahathir’s comments in this case are on point; anyone with half a brain could see that the move would increase the extremist target on our backs. Or as former Labor foreign minister, Bob Carr, aptly tweeted, “What got in to him?”
Can we just have an election already?
Wacky and wonderful
When we’ve been wronged, many of us mull over what we could have said or done to enact revenge at the time; lamenting the missed opportunity for the perfect smackdown.
For one bride-to-be, that opportunity presented itself, and rather than miss the opportunity, she seized it with both hands. The bride-to-be in question was spending the night before her wedding in a hotel room with her closest friends, preparing to leave the single life behind her. Then a text message came in and everything changed in an instant.
The message was from a number she didn’t recognise and contained a series of screenshots along with a message saying “I wouldn’t marry him. Will you?” The screenshots contained text messages between her husband-to-be and another woman, as well as selfies of the two of them. They dated from months earlier, right up until a few days earlier. They were legitimate, damning and even a little salacious.
Most of us would have hid under a rock, or run away. Not this bride. She decided to proceed with the wedding the next day. She walked down the aisle, and when she reached the front, she turned to the mass of family and friends and announced “There will be no wedding today,” followed by, “It seems Alex is not who I thought he was.” The groom desperately tried to grab the phone from her hand but there was no stopping her. She read every message in full to the assembled room of their nearest and dearest.
The groom to be exited quickly, avoiding the stares of horror from his own family. The bride-to-be finished with the cherry on top: “I love all of you and as horrible as this is, I’m glad you are all here. There will not be a wedding reception today, but instead, there will be a celebration of honesty, finding true love and following your heart even when it hurts.”
Boom. I really hope he was paying for the wedding too…
That’s it from me, TBSers. Have a cracking week!