Well, another week, another shot to the national solar plexus. This week, the UK tried to move past Theresa May and the federales raided aunty’s drawer. Hooray.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve seen a horrible hate crime in London, the biggest appeal on the Australian court calendar this year, a terrifying development delivered by the Australian Federal Police and a “cracking” story out of Alberta.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has officially stepped down as leader of the Conservatives party, with whoever replaces her as leader set to also replace her as PM. She will continue to perform her duties as PM until a new party leader is elected.
May’s failure to get a Brexit deal through Parliament prompted her resignation, however many are concerned that whoever replaces her will find the same problem and face the same fate—so much so that there is a growing push to have her successor end the parliamentary session, effectively preventing MP’s from doing anything to stop the scheduled October 31 departure from the EU, forcing the UK to leave without a deal in place.
The EU has made it clear that no new deal will be negotiated with May’s replacement. It also seems that if the push to force a “no-deal” scenario through parliament may result in a constitutional crisis. Due to the Conservative Party currently holding power as a minority government, whoever replaces May will be very unlikely to call a General Election. The recent European elections saw the Tory party come fifth, indicating that a loss in a general election is a real possibility.
Without an election to break the deadlock or the new leader asking the Queen to suspend Parliament, the only other real option is a second referendum on the matter to let the British people decide. If that was to occur, either the vote would come back as “stay”, effectively resolving the problem for the time being. If it came back again as “leave”, then it may be enough to provide a mandate to May’s replacement to force a deal through.
As has been the case for a long time, we just don’t know what’s going to happen—so we continue to watch this space.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: Another US mass shooting, Adani’s mine is almost here, America weaponises “freedom gas”
- Current Affairs Wrap: May’s day comes, Bill left outstanding, DeVito as Wolverine?
- Current Affairs Wrap: Alabama terminates empathy, Morrison wins election, the $10k dinner wine au gratis
A Ryanair flight attendant, Melania Geymonat, and her girlfriend, Chris, were savagely attacked this week by a group of boys on a London bus.
According to Ms Geymonat, who lives in Essex, she and Chris decided to sit at the front of the bus as they enjoyed the novelty of the famous London double-decker buses. However, a gang of boys sitting behind them quickly interrupted their novelty trip and turned it into a night of terror.
The young men concerned allegedly realised that Ms Geymonat and Chris were a couple and began demanding that they kiss in front of them whilst also making a variety of crude sexual gestures.
“They wanted us to kiss so they could watch us,” Ms Geymonat said. “I tried to defuse the situation as I’m not a confrontational person, telling them to please leave us alone as Chris wasn’t feeling well.”
Unfortunately, Ms Geymonat’s attempts at de-escalation failed, with the group beginning to throw things at the two ladies. Before long, the throwing changed to straight out assault with the boys attacking the women. Ms Geymonat said, “The next thing I remember was Chris in the middle of them and they were beating her. I didn’t think about it and went in. I was pulling her back and trying to defend her so they started beating me up. I don’t even know if I was knocked unconscious. I felt the blood, I was bleeding all over my clothes and all over the floor. We went downstairs and the police were there.”
According to Ms Geymonat, there were at least four attackers, with one speaking Spanish and the others with British accents. Not satisfied with just attacking and humiliating their victims, the boys also robbed the couple before fleeing.
London Police have since confirmed that four teenagers aged between 15 and 18 have since been arrested and that the investigation is ongoing. London Mayor Sadiq Khan described the incident as “a disgusting, misogynistic attack” before indicating that hate crimes against gay people won’t be tolerated. Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described it as “absolutely shocking” before promising “solidarity to Melania and Chris and to all in the LGBT+ community for everything they endure for simply being who they are”.
Soon to be ex-PM Theresa May also denounced the attack.
Hopefully justice, and a little bit of education for the perpetrators, results.
Disgraced Cardinal George Pell has commenced his legal appeal this week against his guilty verdict in December last year over the abuse of two teenage altar boys.
The grounds for Pell’s appeal are threefold as cited by his legal team. Their first complaint is that the court should have allowed a 19-minute video to be played during the trial which they believe will show the position of people in the Melbourne cathedral at the time of the offences which they argue would make the victim’s story impossible.
Their second basis for appeal is what they describe as a “fundamental irregularity” due to the fact that Pell wasn’t arraigned directly in front of the chosen jury. The last basis for appeal, and the most important to Pell’s team, is their argument that the jury reached an “unreasonable verdict”.
The appeal started well for Pell’s team with a compelling case being put forward that Pell effectively had an alibi for the time of the abuses as he was “on the front steps” of the church after mass on December 15 and 22, 1995. His team went on to argue that the crimes that Pell has been convicted for were “literally and logically impossible” due to the dates they took place, the timing of the offences and the geographical details of where they took place inside the church.
Christopher Boyce QC, who is arguing that the conviction be upheld on behalf of the Crown, didn’t have such a strong start. He was immediately admonished for speaking too quietly and was told to raise his voice. When asked for explanation of justification on some of the points he argued, he became flustered and accidentally named the surviving victim in court; victims of sexual abuse are prevented from being publicly identified. Despite the appeal being broadcast around the world over the Internet, the 15-second delay allowed the name to be edited out before the world heard it.
The judges in the case—Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg—reserved their decision after the appeal adjourned and will deliver a decision at a later, yet unspecified, date. They will also review and consider written submissions from both Pell and the Crown to assist in making their decision.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Pell sued by victim for “enabling” convicted paedophile Ted Bales
- While you were asleep: Darwin shooter identified, Pell prepares appeal, Kevin Hart takes the bus
The Australian Federal Police have been busy this week with a number of raids being conducted against journalists and media organisations over what they and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton allege are national security leaks.
The first raid was made on Tuesday where Newscorp Journo Annika Smethurst had her home raided following her reporting that the Home Affairs and Defence departments were looking to provide greater surveillance powers to spy agencies allowing them to spy on Australians more closely.
The story in question was published back on April 29, 2018, and was immediately referred to the Australian Federal Police on the same day. For some reason, the AFP waited a year (and for an election) before launching their raids.
Newscorp immediately hit out at the raids, saying, “This raid demonstrates a dangerous intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths. The raid was outrageous and heavy-handed”. The AFP had a different take, saying, “The matter relates to an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information that was referred to the AFP. This warrant relates to the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security”.
Do you know what else is a serious matter? The Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Defence and the Australian Federal Police raiding a journalist’s house after publishing information suggesting they are trying to further breach the privacy of every day Australians. If that doesn’t scare the absolute shit out of you, then you aren’t paying enough attention.
This is a huge concern when @annikasmethurst‘s story was clearly in the public interest.
Original story included images of letters outlining a plan to allow government hackers to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” cyber threats.https://t.co/hqEDnR2m2i
— David Crowe (@CroweDM) June 4, 2019
The raid on Smethurst’s house was followed by a raid of the ABC’s Sydney headquarters the following day over a series of stories from 2017 known as the “Afghan Files”. The stories in question by investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, brought serious and concerning allegations related to unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. The reports were based on hundreds of pages of secret Defence documents leaked to the ABC.
Again, two years after allegations of Australian special forces members committing murder and serious acts of misconduct, the Australian Federal Police suddenly raid the offices of the journalists that broke the story. Rather than the allegations themselves being investigated in the public eye as they should be, we see the AFP, at the behest of the Defence Department, trying to shut down those who broke the story rather than those who created it. Again, if this doesn’t terrify you then you aren’t paying attention.
There has been outrage over the raids from all corners of the country, particularly those involved in the media industry. Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery President David Crowe, from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, tweeted, “This is a huge concern when Annika Smethurst’s story was clearly in the public interest. The original story included images of letters outlining a plan to allow government hackers to ‘proactively disrupt and covertly remove’ cyber threats.”
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, a union that represents journalists, attacked the raids calling them an “outrageous attack on press freedom”. MEAA Media President Marcus Strom continued, saying, “It is an outrage that more than a year after the story was reported in April 2018, but just days after the federal election result, the Federal Police are now raiding a journalist’s home in order to seize documents, computers and a mobile phone in order to track down the source”.
I think it’s safe to say that Julian Assange shouldn’t expect much help from the Australian Government any time soon.
Wacky and wonderful
Stephen Mills was an unassuming tourist enjoying a tour of the Vermilion Heritage Museum in Alberta, Canada, with his family this week. Whilst most wouldn’t expect such a trip to make you famous, for Stephen, it did just that.
Part of the tour includes a 900kg safe which was donated to the museum in the mid-1980s after previously being used by the Brunswick hotel in Alberta, which closed in the 1970s. The safe, which is believed to have been manufactured in 1907, had not been opened since the 1970s for the simple reason that no-one knew the combination.
A number of attempts had been made over the past few decades to crack the code; all of which had been unsuccessful. When Stephen Mills was told this by his tour guide, he did what most of us would in the same situation—he had a go. Mills jokingly put his ear up to the lock, turned the dial a few times and the unthinkable happened—the safe swung open.
The numbers on the lock run from zero to sixty which led Mills to try a logical combination of 20-40-60, resulting in success on his first try. He told the BBC, “Typical combination lock, three times clockwise—20—two times counterclockwise—40—once clockwise—60, tried the handle and it went.”
Despite Stephen channelling his inner Rain Man, there was sadly no hidden treasures to be found inside the once impenetrable safe, only some old papers (including a pay sheet and part of a restaurant order pad which included receipts for a mushroom burger and a packet of cigarettes).
A guess it may have been, but to describe it as a lucky guess would be a huge understatement. University of Toronto Statistics Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal, author of the book Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance and the Meaning of Everything, told the BBC that the chance of correctly guessing the combination was 1 in 216,000. He did add that due to the safe using a combination lock, this could increase the chance of success to 1 in 8,000.
Either way, I’d be buying a lottery ticket if I was Stephen!