Rob Idol

Current Affairs Wrap: Brexit jumps shark, One Nation’s big week, the goodest boy of all

It’s been a week of relative detritus what with One Nation and Brexit. But there was a dog…and perhaps that is enough.

 

 

Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had the Brexit stalemate continue, some decisive action from Facebook, the absolute height of lunacy back home in the world of politics and a real tail wagger from the US.

 

International

Friday was supposed to be the big breakup for the UK and the EU: the Brexit. Alas, it came and went and the people of UK are still left wondering what the hell is actually going to happen.

British PM, Theresa May, successfully managed to get the EU to agree to a further delay with a few caveats. An automatic extension until May 22 would have been given if May managed to pass a vote by 11pm (local time) on the 29th—a deal that has already been rejected by the UK parliament twice.

As we now know, the third vote failed which means that based on the extension May managed to negotiate with the EU, they now have until April 12 to either announce a new plan or crash out of the EU with no plan at all. A variety of alternative deals were put to the House this week, all of which were voted down well short of the 320 votes required to pass. A proposal from Margaret Beckett for a referendum on any Brexit deal was the closest with 268 votes in favour; the second-most popular was Ken Clarke’s plan for a permanent customs union with 264 votes.

A no-deal Brexit has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster; the fallout from which will be PM May’s legacy, and the legacy of her party for some time to come. It’s been suggested that the very reasonable suggestion of holding another referendum over whether to leave or not hurts democracy as the public have already settled that question. The public may have settled that question, but it’s fair to say that those who did vote in favour of it may not have done so if they knew it would come to this—almost certainly enough of them to turn the vote in favour of remaining, at least. It seems the only reasonable thing for May to do is to admit that she and her party failed, and that the question must be put back to the public to settle the matter once and for all. Unfortunately I doubt she will.


Also on The Big Smoke


Facebook has been under fire following the deadly Christchurch terror attack, after allowing the livestream of the attack to occur on their platform. In Facebook’s defence, the stream was not reported by a single user while it was live, with the first report to Facebook occurring 29 minutes after the broadcast began and 12 minutes after it concluded. The social media giant was criticised for the quick spread of the footage after the livestream had been removed, with Facebook indicating they removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within the first 24 hours, indicating that they were at least attempting to get on top of it.

The matter brings to light again the issue of accountability for social media platforms. Just how responsible are they for content posted by third parties? What level of protection should they be responsible for in terms of their users? How long is a piece of string? 

Whilst users don’t pay a cent to use Facebook, advertisers do, and a consortium of New Zealand’s major companies have sent a strong message to Facebook, pledging to pull all advertising unless Facebook starts taking responsibility for hateful content. A joint statement from the Association of New Zealand Advertisers and the Commercial Communications Council called for NZ-based companies to think about where “their advertising dollars are spent, and carefully consider, with their agency partners, where their ads appear”. The statement continued, “We challenge Facebook and other platform owners to immediately take steps to effectively moderate hate content before another tragedy can be streamed online”.

It seems that Facebook got the message—either that, or it was our own Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s empty threats to jail executives from social media companies if they fail to remove terrorism related content (we know that Scotty doesn’t let the law or human rights get in the way of a good policy, after all). Despite Morrison channeling his inner Tony “Shirtfronting” Abbott, it’s fair to say that a combination of optics and potentially lost revenue were responsible for Facebook announcing some definitive steps. Morrison has also called for a ban on livestreaming, quickly reminding us that he tends to prefer dropping a nuke on an ant as a default policy position.

Facebook this week announced an extension of its existing ban on hate speech to include the banning of any content that promotes or supports white nationalism and white separatism. Whilst “white supremacists” were already considered banned on the platform, white nationalism and separatism weren’t specifically banned due to their link to broader concepts of nationalism and separatism such as American pride or Basque separatism.

Less hate speech in any public forum is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully represents more weight being thrown behind the concept of hate speech being an exception to free speech in general.

 

Domestic

It’s been a big week for Pauline Hanson and her One Nation Party, and I’m not talking about the successful election of all-round lunatic, Mark Latham, to the NSW senate.

If I told you a week ago that Pauline was a full blown “truther” and that she and her party had conspired to gain totalitarian control over the Australian government by way of a cash injection from the most powerful lobby group in the US, the NRA, you might have called me crazy. Actually, assuming that you are a reasonable person with at least a reasonable grip on logic and reality, you wouldn’t have blinked. The developments this week just cannot be a real surprise to any reasonable person.

The controversies surround a documentary made by the Al Jazeera network which saw undercover journalist Rodger Muller play the role of a gun advocate, and captures damning footage of Pauline Hanson and One Nation staffers James Ashby and Steve Dickson.

Let’s start with Ashby and Dickson. Muller began by setting up a fake gun advocate group called “Gun Rights Australia” and began pretending to campaign for a repeal of Australia’s gun control laws. He then managed to set up meetings in September 2018 between the US’s National Rifle Association and One Nation which were covertly filmed.

In one piece of footage, Ashby and Dickson discuss methods of undermining Australia’s gun laws, with Dickson saying, “We get the balance of power; very simply that means that we have the testicles of the government in our hand at every given stage. And guns, in the scheme of things, are still going to be the be-all and end-all.”

Further footage shows a meeting between the pair and one of the NRA’s senior media liaisons, Lars Dalseide, who proceeded to give Ashby and Dickson advice on how to counter those in favour of gun control, saying, “Just shame them to the whole idea. ‘How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forward your political agenda?’ It’s like, ‘If you, if your policy, isn’t good enough to stand on itself, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward?!’” Dickson can be seen replying “I love that,” and Ashby saying “That’s very good, very strong.”

The insanity behind One Nation has given Morrison no choice but to announce that the Libs will be preferencing One Nation below Labor at the upcoming election. Even the stand-in PM wasn’t stupid enough to dive into that fox hole.

Dalseide wasn’t finished dishing out his advice as he went on to describe how the NRA manipulates media coverage in the US. “You have somebody who leans to your side that worked at a newspaper, maybe he was covering city hall or was a crime reporter. We want to print up stories about people who were robbed, had their home invaded, were beaten or whatever it might be, and that could have been helped had they had a gun. And that’s going to be the angle on your stories. That’s what he’s got to write. He’s got to put out two to five of those a week… A lot of the times, we’ll write them for like a local sheriff in Wisconsin or whatever. And he’ll draft it or she will help us draft it. We’ll do a lot of the legwork because these people are busy. And this is our job. So, we’ll help them and they’ll submit it with their name on it so that it looks organic—you know…coming from that community. But we will have a role behind the scenes.”

If only that was the worst of it.

Footage also showed another meeting which saw Dickson complaining to the NRA that One Nation “lacks money” and lacks “people on the ground”, before requesting that the NRA “point us in the right direction”. The NRA proceeded to organise for them to meet energy giant Koch Industries, a company known for their huge political donations to conservative causes.

Muller asked Ashby and Dickson how much money they needed with Dickson indicating that $10 million would be the number before Ashby jumped in to say, “No, I was thinking 20”.

When they met with Koch Industries, Dickson indicated that he could “change the voting system in our country” if he had access to the right amount of funding. “If we could get that amount of money, imagine: we could change Australia. You’d have the whole government by the balls,” he continued. “We can change the voting system in our country, the way people operate, if we’ve got the money to do it. The ingredients are there, we just don’t have the petrol to put in the engine. So whatever you can do would be fantastic.”


Also on The Big Smoke


So let’s have a quick summary. One Nation representatives meet with the National Rifle Association (the biggest and most influential lobby group in US politics), get advice on how to undermine Australia’s gun laws and solicit enough funding from a US company to take control of the government and make fundamental changes to our parliamentary system for their own benefit.

Ashby and Dickson quickly tried to mitigate the damage when the footage was made public, effectively blaming the entire thing on having too many scotches. The party then announced that they had referred Al Jazeera to ASIO and the AFP saying, “Al Jazeera are a state-owned propaganda arm of the Qatari government that supports Islamic extremist groups and are not a legitimate media organisation. The matter has been referred to ASIO and the Australian Federal Police due to concerns of foreign interference into Australian politics in the lead-up to the imminent federal election.”

The party that were just caught on camera soliciting between $10 and $20 million dollars from a foreign company, facilitated by a foreign lobby group for the purpose of undermining and altering Australia’s entire political system for their own benefit, referred the journalists that caught them to ASIO and the AFP for…foreign interference into Australian politics. Let’s just hope that like the drug dealer who calls the cops to report that his crop has been stolen, they end up in prison where they belong.

Pauline was initially spared from the fallout and even from fronting the media after a mysterious “tick bite” left her unrecognisable. But as more footage was released, the One Nation leader was dragged into the thick of it.

The video shows Hanson talking to Muller about the infamous Port Arthur Massacre that saw 35 people killed and became the catalyst for a monumental shift in gun control in Australia. Hanson indicated that she had “a lot of questions” about the events on the day of the massacre before alluding to a possible government conspiracy for the purpose of tightening gun control laws, saying “An MP said that it would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia. Haven’t you heard that? Have a look at it. It was said on the floor of parliament. Those shots. They were precision shots. Check the number out. I’ve read a lot and I have read the book on it, Port Arthur. A lot of questions there.”

Hanson quickly backtracked when the footage was released, making it clear that she believed Martin Bryant was definitely the only one responsible for the Port Arthur massacre and that he should have been given the death penalty. Needless to say, like most words that spew from the twisted brain of a truther, we aren’t buying it. No word on how much of the $10-$20 million has been earmarked for an across the world expedition to conclusively prove that the earth is flat.

The good news is the level of insanity that has been revealed behind the scenes of One Nation has given Prime Minister Morrison no choice but to announce that the Libs will be preferencing One Nation below Labor at the upcoming election. Even the stand-in PM wasn’t stupid enough to dive into that fox hole.

 

Wacky and wonderful

When a golden retriever by the name of Charlie from North Carolina in the US tragically lost his sight to glaucoma, his owners were perplexed as to how to help their now-blind friend continue to live a healthy and happy life.

Thankfully, a wonderful idea struck them and they’ve been documenting it on Instagram so we can all enjoy the journey.

Eleven-year old Charlie now has a four-month old “seeing-eye puppy” by the name of Maverick to keep him company and help him around. The help, it seems, is a two-way street with Charlie repaying the favour by helping teach Maverick some manners.

Definitely worth a follow and a regram.

 

That’s it from me, TBSers. Have a cracking week!

 

Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals. www.robidol.com.au

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