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Current affairs this week: escalation in the Crimean peninsula, a racially motivated schoolyard assault, student protest against government climate change inaction, and further erosion for the Libs.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve seen tensions increase in the Crimean peninsula, a shocking viral video from Britain, and the Libs continuing to implode back home.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are heightened again this week following a confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian forces off the coast of Crimea. Russian border forces attacked and seized three Ukrainian naval ships, wounding several sailors in the Black Sea.
Russian officials have indicated that the three Ukrainian vessels, two small armoured vessels and a tug boat, illegally entered Russian territorial waters, attempted illegal actions and refused to stop despite several warnings being issued.
The Ukrainians have denied that their ships were acting illegally and have since formally asked NATO to deploy naval vessels to the Black Sea, with President Petro Poroshenko saying, “Germany is one of our closest allies and we hope that states within NATO are now ready to relocate naval ships to the Sea of Azov in order to assist Ukraine and provide security… We cannot accept this aggressive policy of Russia. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”
NATO have not formally responded to the request however have publicly condemned the Russian actions. It’s considered extremely unlikely that NATO leaders would consider granting the request due to the high risk of it provoking larger scale confrontations with Russia. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that she intends to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the Ukrainian ships and crew at this weekend’s G20 summit, saying “we can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts.”
Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2018
Merkel’s chances don’t look great, however, with Russia announcing that it plans to deploy more S-400 surface to air missiles to the Crimean region. Vadim Astafyev, a spokesperson for the Russian military, indicated that the new missiles should be operational by the end of the year.
US President Donald Trump has cancelled a planned meeting with Russian President Putin at the G20 summit this weekend in what he has indicated is a show of disapproval of the Russian military action against Ukraine. Trump tweeted, “Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin.”
Sceptics, however, have rightly pointed out that Trump’s cancellation of the meeting also coincides with his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to misleading Congress regarding a Moscow Trump Tower project during Trump’s election campaign. The plea has caused many to speculate that the investigation into possible collusion between Trump and Russia to assist in winning the presidency is gathering more momentum, as it stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into the matter.
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A shocking video was circulated this week showing a 15-year-old Syrian refugee being waterboarded by a bully at his school. The young man, who attends the Almondbury community school in the UK, can be seen in the video being taunted by another student before being pushed to the ground, grabbed by the neck and having water poured over his head in the attack.
The incident is allegedly just the latest in months of bullying that Jamal has been the victim of, according to information posted on a GoFundMe page set up to help him and his family. So far it has raised AUD $160,000. Support has also come from UK politicians, with Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman describing the video as “absolutely shocking” and also tweeting, “Have been supporting the family since it was first brought to my attention.” Jonas Lössl, goalkeeper for local Premier League football team Huddersfield Town FC, also tweeted his support and invited Jamal and his family to come to a game as his guest.
Jamal’s younger sister has also been allegedly subjected to multiple serious acts of bullying over the last few months, traumatising her so much that she attempted to slit her wrists. The family reportedly fled the city of Homs in Syria which was under siege between 2011 and 2014 as part of the ongoing conflict in the war torn country. Police have advised that they are treating the incident as a “racially aggressive assault” and had charged the sixteen year old perpetrator featured on the video.
Jamal has indicated that he won’t be returning the school and is unsure what the future holds for he and his family. Hopefully the money raised can help Jamal and his family move to a new part of England and try again for a fresh start.
The big problem with climate sceptics is it’s very easy for most of them to not throw too much concern as to whether they are right or not, as they’ll not be around to experience the real fallout. That problem will land on our children, and their children. This week our children stood up to make their voices heard and to send a clear message to those in charge.
Thousands of school students around the country skipped class to join in a mass protest against the government’s lack of real action on climate change. Protests were held in cities across the nation including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Coffs Harbour, Adelaide and Bendigo, despite condemnation from the Prime Minister and other politicians.
In the lead-up to the protest, PM Scott Morrison urged kids across the country to stay in school rather than protesting things that “can be dealt with outside of school.” He also added, “What we want is more learning in schools and less activism in schools.” Heaven forbid that we raise a generation that are interested in actually addressing issues rather than politically ladder climbing, one knife at a time.
The PM’s warning went unheeded, with turnouts well beyond those originally expected across the country. The idea was inspired by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who vowed to protest outside the Swedish Parliament until her country fulfilled its commitments under the Paris Agreement. Two 14-year-old Australian girls, Harriet O’Shea Carre and Milou Albrecht from Castlemaine Steiner School heard about Thunberg’s protest and were inspired to hold one of their own. They planned to travel with a group of friends to Bendigo to hold a protest outside Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie’s office. Word got out and the idea spread across the country like wildfire. Harriet O’Shea Carre told the media, “We have to sacrifice our education, which is something we really value, so we’re showing them that at the moment this is even more important than our education.”
In the words of year 10 student Deanna Athanosos, who organised the protest in Adelaide, “If you were doing your job properly, we wouldn’t be here.”
Politicians like Canavan are afraid of youth engagement, because one day they will be given the right to vote and it’s clear they will use it with their heads rather than relying on three-word slogans.
What should be regarded as a proud moment for our country – seeing a generation of kids who are engaged and educated about real issues taking a stand – was treated with disdain by our supposed leaders. PM Morrison’s discouragement of activism was telling enough, but the most disgusting was yet to come.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan took the opportunity on radio to attack the students for their stand, suggesting that the only thing that kids would learn by protesting was how to collect unemployment benefits. He said, “Walking off school and protesting, you don’t learn anything from that… The best thing you learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue.”
Could he sink any lower? Surprisingly, yes. Canavan continued, “I want kids to be at school to learn about how you build a mine, how you do geology, how you drill for oil and gas, which is one of the most remarkable scientific exploits of anywhere in the world that we do.”
I try my hardest not to editorialise when writing the Current Affairs Wrap but I can’t stay silent here. Canavan’s comments could quite possibly be the most disgusting and most offensive comments uttered by a politician in this country in recent times – and my God, does he have some strong competition. Suggesting that a politically-engaged youth engaging in activism represents a one-way ticket to the “dole queue” spits in the face of the foundations of democracy itself. These kids have learned more about the world by engaging in this action than they are likely to ever learn in their underfunded classrooms. Not to mention that it’s their grasp of their education that prompted their desire to act rather than accepting the consistent propaganda that this poor excuse for a government consistently tries to shove down our throat. These kids are exercising their democratic right to be heard; trying to quash that makes certain parts of our Parliament unequivocally fascist by definition.
Let’s not also disregard the utter lack of respect for the thousands of Australians who collect unemployment benefits who aren’t “bludgers” – and trust me, there are more of them than the “rorters”, despite all attempts to convince us otherwise by people like Canavan. Politicians like Canavan are afraid of youth engagement, because one day they will be given the right to vote and it’s clear they will use it with their heads rather than relying on three-word slogans. Perhaps he thinks his comments this week won’t matter as most of the kids protesting won’t be able to vote until he’s already sitting on his government pension, earning big dollars consulting to a mining company. Well Mr Canavan, I, like many others like me, already have the right to vote. I have protested against things I feel passionately about both during my school days and in my adult days. I’ve been employed for my entire adult life, have paid my taxes and haven’t ended up on your “dole queue”. I, and the millions of Aussies like me, know exactly how to make our vote count. Every parent in this country who wants to see a better future for our kids than that which you are offering now will remember your words come May next year. Every parent who wants to make sure their kids grow up with the democratic rights enshrined to us by law and history will remember your words come May next year. Every person who believes that standing up for something you believe in is the most honourable thing a person can do will remember your words come May next year. Perhaps you can look back to your first speech to the Senate after your election in 2014 and take pause:
I started talking about my family tonight because that is the reason I got involved in politics. I wanted to do something where my children could see the differences that I was making.
I hope you can explain to your kids that the difference you are making is stripping them of their voice and their future.
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- Vote Tony Out: On AusPol, Warringah and the Liberal Party today
While the Liberal Party knew they were going to have a difficult week following Labor’s massacre of them at the Victorian State Election last weekend, it seems they had no idea how bad it would actually be.
As the fallout from the election result continued, and with Senior Federal Ministers desperately trying to claim that the recent Federal instability played no part, another bombshell dropped: Liberal MP Julia Banks sensationally resigned from the party and moved to the crossbench. If the resignation that pushed the Morrison Government further into minority wasn’t bad enough, the scathing rebuke she delivered about the party directed the ship into the path of a Tsunami.
Banks took aim at the party’s attitude towards women, describing its treatment of women as “years behind” the business world – which as we know, isn’t exactly perfect either. “Equal representation of men and women in this Parliament is an urgent imperative that will create a culture change,” Banks said. “There’s the blinkered rejection of quotas and support of the merit myth, but this is more than a numbers game.”
Then she turned her attention to the system itself, accusing both major parties of undertaking “obstructionist and combative actions and internal games, all for political point-scoring rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.” For her pièce de résistance, she took aim at those within the Liberal party responsible for deposing former PM Malcolm Turnbull, saying, “Led by members of the reactionary right-wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for an individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence… Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people who we represent.”
The party responded as they usually do: with flat out denial about their gender bias and a reminder of how necessary Turnbull’s removal was, without actually giving a reason of course. They then wheeled John Howard out for the cameras to remind us again that we should vote for them because they had a passable Prime Minister a decade ago. Howard predictably defended the party, saying that he didn’t know much about Julia Banks except that he campaigned for her in her marginal seat of Chisholm (which says it all really), before reminding Banks that she owes a debt to the party for her political career.
Silly me. I thought she owed a debt to the public because we voted her in, she answers to us and we pay her wages? That debt, on the surface at least, it seems she’s willing to pay by giving us a fresh breath of honesty and being the first politician in living memory to make statements that actually reflect what the majority of the population is thinking.
That’s it from me TBSers, have a cracking week!