What a week it has been. The pope gave us a cardinal clanger, Julie Bishop called it quits and one mother took on an empire over the depiction of fake genitals. Stop the world, I want to get off!
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had more controversy from the Vatican, relations between Australia and China worsening, a surprise retirement back home and peak outrage at a Kmart in Melbourne.
Pope Francis has come under fire after labelling those who criticise the Catholic Church as “without love” and “friends, cousins and relatives of the devil.”
The pontiff was delivering a speech to pilgrims in southern Italy when he made the comments to his followers.
“One cannot live a whole life of accusing, accusing, accusing, the church,” he said. “Those who spend their lives accusing, accusing, accusing are not the devil’s children because the devil has none. They are friends, cousins and relatives of the devil, and this is wrong.”
Something’s wrong Frankie, and I’m looking squarely and you.
If the comments weren’t offensive enough, the timing has certainly pushed it over the edge with Pope Francis making them on the eve of the Vatican’s landmark summit into the protection of minors. 190 bishops and heads of Catholic religious orders are expected to attend with a view to ensuring that church leaders are held accountable to victims. Probably a little harder to achieve when your Commander and Chief tells you that making an accusation against the church will reserve you a comfy seat in hell.
Victims’ rights advocates have shared their disappointment in the Pope’s comments, with British victims’ advocate Pete Saunders saying that the comments prove that the pope was “not really interested in bringing real change.”
A group of victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy who met with Vatican officials this week prior to the summit have also hit out at the Pope for not taking the time to meet with them. American man, Peter Isely, who was abused by a Catholic priest when he was a child said, “We need to have a discussion with the man who makes the rules and has the power in this institution, and that’s Pope Francis.”
Pope Francis hadn’t been scheduled to meet with the twelve victims however they all expressed their disappointment that he didn’t anyway. In a further blow to the church, two conservative Catholic Cardinals, Raymond Burke and Walter Brandmuller, released an open letter blaming the “homosexual agenda” for the abuse of children by clergy:
“The plague of the homosexual agenda has been spread within the church, promoted by organised networks and protected by a climate of complicity and a conspiracy of silence.”
The two Cardinals have been outspoken critics of Pope Francis, however they do appear to be in alignment with his views on this matter. Pope Francis has previously said he was “concerned” about the issue of homosexuality within the clergy. In his recent book, The Strength of Vocation, he said “The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates.”
Sounds like we may have to wait a little longer before the Catholic Church takes any real responsibility for the horrors committed within, and covered up by, their organisation—if they ever do.
Also on The Big Smoke
Customs officials at the northern Chinese port of Dalian have banned imports of Australian coal this week and will also cap overall coal imports from all sources for 2019 at 12 million tonnes.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment.”
Whilst there may be some truth in his statement, it’s hard not to think that there is an overarching political agenda in play here. Relations between China and Australia have been consistently deteriorating since our government accused China of interfering in Australian domestic affairs in 2017. In the last few months, the Government has also barred Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment to our 5G network, and last week we all but accused the Chinese government of being involved in a recent cyber attack on the Australian parliament.
As it stands, Australian coal appears to have been exclusively targeted, throwing further weight behind the idea that the move is politically motivated. Add to this the fact that more than 90% of our coal exports to China come in through southern Chinese ports which haven’t banned our coal and it starts to seem like a case of China trying to have their coal and ban it too.
The announcement saw the Aussie dollar tumble in late afternoon trade on Thursday, however NAB chief market economist Ivan Colhoun pointed to a possible over-reaction by the market as the real economic impact would not be significant:
“The reported ban would impact a relatively small proportion of Australia’s coal exports—imports through Dalian comprise only 1.8% of Australia’s total coal exports—but if the reported ban reflects a more significant deterioration in the trade relationship between Australia and China then it could have more important impacts.”
After previously indicating that she would contest the Perth electorate of Curtin at the next Federal Election, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop surprisingly announced her intention to retire from politics at the next election instead.
Bishop, arguably the most popular Liberal pollie with the voting public, has held the seat of Curtin since 1998. During that time she served as the first female Deputy Leader of the Liberal party from 2007-2018 as well as having the honor of being Australia’s first female Foreign Minister.
Bishop spoke to the House following the announcement, saying, “It has been an immense honour to be the longest-serving Member for Curtin and also to be the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, the first female to hold the role for 11 years, over half my entire political career… I’m also proud of the fact that I am the first woman to contest a leadership ballot of the Liberal Party in its 75-year history.”
The completely unexpected turnaround has tongues wagging across the country. Her departure is guaranteed to further diminish the Morrison Government’s chances at the upcoming Federal Election. Apart from her strong popularity across the country, her fundraising skills within the party have also been lauded.
Bishop only quickly touched on PM Morrison during her speech, saying “Mr Speaker, during the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to closely consider the future of the Coalition Government and the pending general election. I have closely observed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Liberal National team in the Parliament, in Question Time, in the party room, in press conferences, and elsewhere. And it is evident that the policy platform that we will take to the next election is crystallising, based on the very firm foundations of our unrelenting focus on prudent management of our national finances—so that we can afford the services that Australians need—in returning the budget to surplus, in paying down debt, in lowering taxes, in backing enterprise and job creation, and growing the economy for the benefit of all Australians.”
You don’t need to be an expert in subtext to know that it was hardly a glowing endorsement of the man currently leading the party. To add insult to injury, Bishop departed the House before PM Morrison could respond to the announcement in the chamber.
Bishop’s announcement follows the shock resignation of one of the only other senior women left in the Liberal Party a few weeks ago, Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer cited a desire to spend more time with her husband and two children as well as expressing a desire to add a third child to their family.
Morrison was put on notice back in November regarding the alleged, less than empowering culture for women inside the Liberal Party when former Lib MP Julia Banks jumped to the cross bench and took a public swipe at the party over their antiquated attitude towards women. A few months later, and only a few months from an election, they’ve just seen two of their most prominent female representatives jump ship as well. I guess he was too busy re-opening Christmas island to worry about those pesky complaining ladies…
Also on The Big Smoke
The murder of Sydney nurse Anita Cobby back in 1986 shocked the nation and has been the subject of countless articles, documentaries, television shows, books and podcasts ever since.
Cobby, who was 26 years old at the time, had been walking home from the Blacktown railway station following a dinner with work colleagues. Five men drove up beside her and stopped before two of the men exited the car, grabbed Cobby and dragged her into the vehicle. A family from the house opposite where Cobby was taken heard her screaming and attempted to chase the car before it sped off.
What followed was beyond horrific. Cobby was attacked, raped, sexually assaulted and eventually brutally murdered in a secluded paddock. Following a public appeal for help and a $50,000 reward being posted by the NSW Government, NSW Police managed to arrest and charge all five men within 22 days of the murder occuring.
This week saw one of the five men, Michael Murphy, die in jail at the age of 66. Murphy had been on the run from police at the time of Cobby’s murder after he escaped from Silverwater Prison where he had been serving time for armed robbery. He, along with two of his brothers Gary and Les, as well as John Travers and Michael Murdoch, had their files marked “never to be released” by Justice Alan Maxwell after being found guilty back in 1986. Justice Maxwell reportedly cried when describing the crimes as “one of the most horrifying physical and sexual assaults” he had seen.
Murphy had reportedly been suffering from liver cancer for a long time prior to his death, with his final months split between his cell at Long Bay jail and Prince of Wales Hospital for treatment and palliative care. Cobby’s widower, John, spoke to the media following the announcement of Murphy’s death, saying simply, “One down, four to go. I hope it was painful for him.”
I’d like to think I’m “evolved”, but it’s hard to not agree with him.
Wacky and wonderful
Living in the age of the perpetually offended can be frustrating, but also entertaining at the same time. A 33-year-old mother from Melbourne set the Internet alight this week as she shared her outrage over the latest toy she purchased for her son.
Tanya Husnu had been planning a trip to the zoo with her kids and decided to take them to Kmart first to purchase some animal toys that they could bring on the day. Her 4-year-old son Hakan chose a toy lion that he was quite happy with until his sister pointed something out.
According to Tanya, she heard her daughter yell out “Look Mum, the lion’s got a willy.” It turn out that indeed, the Lion was anatomically correct.
But Ms Husnu wasn’t impressed, calling on Kmart to stop selling the lion toys because she believes that parents should decide when to teach their children about genitalia. I can only assume that little Hakan has never looked down in the bath and urinates with a blindfold on.
To restore a little of your faith in humanity, you’ll be pleased to know that Tanya was almost universally slammed on social media for her protest. No word if the customer relations staff at Kmart’s head office have managed to stop laughing yet…
That’s it from me, TBSers—have a cracking week!