News is just coming through of a devastating terror attack in Barcelona, where a van plowed through a crowd, killing at least thirteen people and injuring up to a hundred. ISIS has claimed responsibility, and police have killed five suspects. The situation continues to evolve today.
North Korea released a statement this week saying they were delaying their potential attack on Guam. We did a deep dive on the issue on Tuesday. It’s good news for those of us who aren’t fans of world wars that could possibly annihilate everyone. Australia, America and South Korea are going to proceed with scheduled training exercises in South Korea next week, which is likely to piss off the North again.
In the States, the week began with a disturbing murder in Charlottesville, Virginia. A young woman was killed when a car drove through her protest group at the University of Virginia. The group were counter-protesting white nationalist protestors who were upset about the planned removal of a statue of a pro-slavery Confederate General – the almost entirely white protest group has been photographed with torches, and some dressed in Nazi shirts and insignia. Trump’s immediate statement on the matter said their was violence on ‘both sides’ (which goes against countless eye witness reports, who are insisting that the nationalist group were the only ones who were violent). The statement upset many who said he had not spoken out clearly enough against racism and white supremacists. Trump fired back in an off-script press conference, blaming the violent ‘alt-left’ were just as much to blame, if not more so than the right wing group. The conference was a train wreck. Dozens of major business leaders, previously part of Trump’s consultation bodies, have run away from him, afraid their continued association will paint them as racist. It’s the latest in Trump’s record-setting disastrous Presidency.
The Yarra Council in Melbourne passed a unanimous vote to ditch Australia Day celebrations in their council area. Malcom Turnbull said the council way over-stepped the mark, and are going against Australian values.
Aussie Parliament was cray this week. In actual law-making:
- The government is trying to pass its media reform package through the Senate. Under the reforms, the government would ditch the long-held 75% rule, which states that a commercial television provider can’t reach more than 75% of Australia’s total population. This, and other rules, were originally designed to prevent old-time pre-internet media moguls from taking up too much broadcast space. Some are concerned about limiting Australia’s media diversity. The reforms will pass, but independents in the Senate are using the opportunity to do some bargaining. This week, One Nation had a win, attempting to control the ABC’s ‘left-leaning’ commentary by forcing ABC staff who earn over $200,000 to make their earnings public, and setting up an inquiry into ABC’s capacity for ‘fair and balanced’ reporting. One Nation has previously boycotted the ABC for not giving enough air time to anti-vaccination advocates, or climate change deniers. Negotiations continue.
- The government put its Medicare levy bill into the House of Representatives this week. Most Australians pay a Medicare levy to support public health of 2% of their total income. The government wants to raise it to 2.5% to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS was put in under Gillard to provide major and meaningful support to people under the age of 65 suffering from a permanent and significant disability. The Government says they need another $8 billion to make it work. Labor is saying that they’ll only support a raise to the levy for those earning over $87,000 a year.
- Complaints and confusion about the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite continue. There was some speculation this week that 16 and 17 year olds could vote – but this was later denied. No one is sure how those who are blind will be able to vote, and questions remain around Australians living in remote communities, or those working on mining shifts who don’t have a fixed residential address.
But Parliament was also cray with some other stuff:
- The last month or so has seen major chaos for half a dozen politicians after citizenship concerns have been raised. Two Greens Senators resigned over revelations that they were citizens of other countries. This week the poop really hit the fan when it was revealed that Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister, has dual citizenship in New Zealand. The High Court is currently deciding if that makes him ineligible to sit in Parliament. He is just the highest of three pollies in the LNP leadership who are facing trouble. If they chuck them out, it will be major trouble to Turnbull’s entire party. More on this in a deep dive on Tuesday, where we’ll go into the whole debacle.
- Pauline Hanson rocked up to the Senate in a burqa this week to ‘raise awareness of security issues’. The entire Senate – and a good whack of Australia – was offended by the move, including Attorney-General George Brandis, who absolutely slammed the move in the Senate and received a standing ovation for his statements.
- In the wake of continued devastating reports out of the Manus Island Detention Centre of refugees making suicide attempts and suffering rampant abuse, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton quietly repealed some of the most controversial aspects of his 2015 ‘Border Force Act’. Previous to this week detention centre workers, including teachers, lawyers and social workers, were threatened with two years in prison if they spoke out about abuse or neg lect. The law was highly controversial, and is currently at the heart of a High Court case, brought on by doctors, who argue that such a law flys in the face of doctors freedom of constiutionally-protected political communication. The law will only now silence information that could compromise Australian security – which Dutton says was the original intent of the law to begin with. Think that smells fishy? You’re not the only one.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has made 85 recommendations into the justice system. This week, the news focussed on one of the most controversial suggestions, which recommends that priests who hear details of sexual abuse in confession must report the matter. Some Catholics see this as a permanent injury to the protection of confession, while others see it as a moral imperative.
On Monday, the Cassini spacecraft passed through the upper-atmosphere of Saturn for the first time. It will pass through the atmosphere another four times before being pulled in by the planet’s gravity to plunge into Saturn (which is gas) in mid-September. Cassini grabbed some pretty fantastic pictures of Saturn back in May (featured above). You can follow Cassini’s journey live here.
We’ll return on Tuesday with a deep-dive into Australia’s political citizenship debacle.