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What a week it was. Christchurch suffered Australian-grown terrorism, our children marched to make us see the obvious and one homeless teen beat the odds.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had the unthinkable across the Tasman, more trouble for Brexit, impressive youth advocacy back home and a good news story out of New Jersey.
Whilst we have glanced the face of terror on our shores a few times now, our friends across the Tasman in New Zealand have largely managed to stay one of the only Western countries not to be hit by terror attacks. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
On Friday, at least one gunman opened fire in two separate mosques in Christchurch with it being confirmed that 49 people have died so far and a further 48 are seriously injured. The shootings occured at the Al Noor Mosque in the centre of Christchurch and the Masjid mosque in the suburb of Linwood.
The gunman live-streamed the shooting on social media and identified himself on Twitter as a 28-year-old Australian man named Brenton Tarrant. Tarrant has since been charged with murder and smiled as he faced court on Saturday morning; he didn’t apply for bail and has been remanded in custody. Two others have also been arrested in connection to the attack including a man by the name of Daniel John Burrough who is also facing multiple charges.
Tarrant also released a 73-page manifesto online, describing himself as “just a regular white man (born) to a working-class, low-income family…who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for my people.” He also indicated that he carried out the attack to “directly reduce immigration rates to European lands”. He also indicated that the attack was revenge for the death of 11-year-old Ebba Akerlund who was killed in a 2017 terror attack in Sweden. Disturbingly ironic given early reports suggest a number of children as young as five are among the fatalities of his abhorrent attack. A user identifying himself as Tarrant also posted on the 8chan forum announcing that he would be undertaking the attack and linking to his Facebook page for those who wanted to watch the live stream.
The Bangladesh test cricket team managed to narrowly escape becoming victims as they sat in their team bus outside the Al Noor Mosque, preparing to go inside and pray when the shooting started. The team were moved safely back to their hotel, the planned third test match between Bangladesh and NZ was immediately called off as a result of the attack.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the events as “New Zealand’s darkest day”. She told the media “clearly, what has happened here is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence. Many of those directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home. It is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such extreme and unprecedented acts of violence.”
I really hope that politicians at home and abroad, and their media counterparts, who have continued to spread hateful and divisive rhetoric towards the greater Muslim population for political gain, take a moment to have a good hard look at themselves. Any who have spread propaganda or fear (and sadly, there are many) to better their own position have blood on their hands this week. Not the blood of terrorists, insurgents or extremists; the blood of innocent victims. Men, women, children and families guilty of nothing more than attending their local mosque to pray.
Also on The Big Smoke
- New Zealand’s darkest day is not an outlier
- Current Affairs Wrap: Trump’s underling goes to jail, Abbott’s local bungle, the billion dollar prong that went wrong
British PM Theresa May can’t catch a break at the moment. After negotiating a new deal with the European Union, for the second time the exit deal was voted down in the British House of Commons. The vote, which was lost 391 to 242, saw members of her own party and the allied Democratic Unionist Party vote against the deal.
The failure to pass the deal means that the UK has no approved deal in place to exit from the European Union with the March 29 deadline fast approaching. The following day saw another vote, this time to avoid crashing out of the EU on March 29 without a deal. That vote passed 321 votes to 278 but isn’t legally binding yet and will require the passage of legislation before March 29. If such legislation can’t pass in time, the UK will be leaving the EU on March 29 with no deal or structure in place.
On Friday another vote occurred which saw the UK Parliament agree to delay the Brexit date from March 29 to June 30th. The vote passed 412 to 202 however was still contingent on a unanimous agreement from all 27 EU member states to permit the delay.
It seems that the EU member states are open to approving the delay with a big catch—the UK will have to agree to hold a second referendum on the Brexit question which may actually see the entire Brexit move shut down for good. The House of Commons have been reluctant to allow another vote, though one took place on Thursday with a “Remainer” bid voted down in a landslide 334 to 85 vote.
It seems all but impossible that May will be able to present a third deal that will pass. The EU have previously indicated that their best offer is already on the table and a third negotiation won’t happen, which leaves May to attempt to convince those who have voted against it to change their mind or to push for a second referendum—something she’s made abundantly clear that she won’t do.
Just have another vote and sort it out, guys. Either a referendum will result in a complete about face from the public (which is likely) and the Government will have a new mandate to work with, or it will be successful again which will only strengthen the Government’s position in terms of pushing a deal through.
School students across the country walked out of school on Friday to join mass protests across the country, demanding action on climate change. At least 50 separate rallies were planned across the entire nation, attracting strong numbers of protestors. The first of the day was in Adelaide outside Parliament House which saw around 3,000 people in attendance. The numbers in the Melbourne CBD were in excess of 20,000 students.
As with the previous mass protests last year, politicians—or should I say, conservative politicians—were quick to criticise the activist kids. Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan indicated that he would be happy to meet with the concerned students to discuss their concerns—as long as it was outside of school hours.
“Students leaving school during school hours to protest is not something that we should encourage,” he said. “Especially when they are being encouraged to do so by Green political activists”. Stay classy, Dan.
Soon to be ex-Liberal MP Christopher Pyne echoed a similar message on breakfast television on Friday saying kids should be “in school learning about education and getting ahead, gaining knowledge… If they want to do strike action or political activism, they should do it outside school hours. So I’m not quite sure why they think that it is a good idea. Obviously, the government is acting on climate change. Climate change is inevitable.”
Sorry Chris, the reason they are doing this is because they have been gaining knowledge in school and are rightly pissed off about the decisions being made on their behalf that they will be left to deal with. Perhaps someone should explain the concept of protest to the Libs; protest is what the public are left with when the Government refuses to listen to them and the only way it works is if it gets attention—doing it on a weekend to keep you happy doesn’t quite have the same impact.
In fairness to our hapless pollies, they aren’t the only ones complaining about the strike. Doctor Kevin Donnelly, a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, has blamed the protests on “biased” academics and failings in education. He said, “A lot of these students are barely literate or numerate. I think it’s absurd.”
Donnelly’s opinion does seem to be the opposite of a large portion of his colleagues in the academic arena, however, and of psychologists. An open letter has been signed by more than 800 academics in support of the protests and in solidarity with the protestors. But hey, it’s not unusual for the government to listen to one academic over 800 others when it comes to climate change, is it?
Steve Biddulph, a psychologist and author, pointed to the mental health benefits of student activism. He said, “Scott Morrison is diametrically wrong on this one. Many children and teens are affected by the state of the world with climate and cruelty to refugees and the environment generally topping the list.”
Professor Michael Platow from the ANU Research School of Psychology also agreed, saying, “It’s all part of civics education, it’s getting students engaging in their civic responsibility. Schools need to go beyond teaching maths and science because it’s part of a student’s role to engage—they’re required by the state to engage. Any democracy wants to replicate itself in the next generation, we don’t want demagogues to come in, we want a citizenship that embraces and engages with a vibrant democracy. We have to separate our own personal values about the topic, from the process of engaging in civic activity. We can disagree with the topic but we can’t disagree with the process.”
All I can say is how proud and heartened I am to see the upcoming generation making their voices heard on what could well be the most important issue the world has to face in the immediate future. Keep fighting, kids—the more they criticise you, the more you know that what you’re doing is having an impact.
Also on The Big Smoke
- The kids protesting climate change are the adults, we are not
- Julian Burnside: “I have the utmost contempt for a party which tries to win votes by lies and hypocrisy”
Another week and another resignation from the Morrison Government. One of Malcolm Turnbull’s key allies within the Liberal Party, Craig Laundy has announced that he will be quitting federal parliament at the next election.
Laundy has held the seat of Reid since 2013 and retained it at the last election with a two party preferred result of 54.69%. He won the seat in 2013 with a 3.53% swing against Labor (partially due to a redistribution) who had effectively held the seat since the electorate was created in 1922. Laundy added to that margin in 2016 with a further swing of 1.36%.
The marginal seat was already in Labor’s crosshairs and has been heavily targeted in the lead up to the next Federal election. Laundy reportedly let PM Scott Morrison know of his intention to resign some time ago but the PM kept it under wraps until he could find a “star” candidate to take his place; the intention being to announce Laundy’s resignation and the replacement at the same time to avoid further damage being done. All seems reasonable, except for the fact that the PM didn’t let his colleagues know about the decision either, leaving many of them publicly criticising Laundy for dragging his heels in making a decision about his future.
Unfortunately for Morrison, attempts to recruit a high-profile candidate for the seat have failed with former NSW Police Deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas rejecting an offer from the PM last week. With the cat out of the bag now, the PM will be panicking to find a suitable replacement with very little time left before the next election. To make matters worse, Laundry has not been actively campaigning in the seat and his electoral account is reportedly down to just 18,000. Whoever steps in will have a very difficult job to do, especially given the Labor candidate is Sam Crosby, who is the head of a Labor think tank and who has been actively campaigning in the seat for twelve months.
Laundy joins the high-profile ranks of Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Kelly O’Dwyer, Steven Ciobo, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion who have all announced they will be resigning at the next election. At this rate, they’ll be left with Morrison, Abbott and Costello Dutton, which can’t be good for anyone.
Wacky and wonderful
Wacky does tend to feature far more often than Wonderful in the Current Affairs Wrap each week, but I’m pleased to redress that balance a little today.
Dylan Chidick, a 17-year old boy from New Jersey, has been dealt quite a few shitty hands in his life. He and his family moved to the US from Trinidad when he was seven years old and were faced with a multitude of hardships. His younger twin brothers both have serious heart conditions and his family has been in and out of homelessness his entire life.
But rather than let the world beat him down, Dylan took inspiration from his struggling single mother who sought help from “Women Rising”, a New Jersey not-for-profit which was established to help families “achieve self-sufficiency and live safe, productive and fulfilling lives”. They were set up with permanent supportive housing which allowed him to establish some level of normalcy in his teenage years.
“Making herself vulnerable and putting herself out there, that made me determined to never let us get back in that situation,” Dylan said.
That inspiration led Dylan to set goals, work hard and be voted senior class president and be inducted into the honour society at his high school. Most importantly, it led Dylan to become the first member of his family to be accepted into college with 17 schools offering him a place so far—a number that will hopefully rise as he is waiting to hear back from his first preference.
Hat’s off to you, Dylan. You can’t change the cards you’re dealt, but that doesn’t mean you can’t win.
That’s it from me, TBSers—have a cracking week.