Hooley dooley, what a week. We’ve witnessed Trump burn bridges anew, marriage equality arrive on our doorstep, and a rather notable culinary scribe outed as a fraud.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had Trump sticking his nose where it shouldn’t be, some Brexit progress, an historic day in Australia and an elaborate Internet hoax.
US President Trump made a bold move this week, breaking with decades of US international policy by formally recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jerusalem is one of the most important symbols of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with both sides considering it the capital of their respective states. Regardless of anyone’s position on the conflict, the majority believe that a two state solution is the only way forward – so much so that the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted in December 2016, specifically indicates that the UN won’t recognise any changes to the 4th of June 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, unless it is agreed to by both Israel and Palestine via negotiations.
Trump, it would appear, doesn’t care about the opinion of the UN Security Council, or the majority of the free world who have immediately slammed the move. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation Secretary General, Saeb Erekat, left no doubt of the Palestinian position by telling CNN “President Trump tonight made the biggest mistake of his life” before accusing Trump of having “destroyed any possibility of a two-state solution”.
Even Australia has made the rare move of indicating that we won’t be following the US’ lead, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop indicating that “The Australian government is committed to a two-state solution.”
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip both erupted in violent protests immediately after the announcement, which included the burning of Trump posters.
And if anyone wasn’t convinced that it was a bad move yet, a very rare public statement was made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said “God is weeping over President Donald Trump’s inflammatory and discriminatory decision” and that it was the duty of the world to “tell Mr Trump he is wrong.”
British PM Theresa May appears to have had a significant breakthrough in Brexit negotiations this week, striking a deal with respect to the handling of the Irish border which has been tentatively accepted by the Democratic Unionist Party which May relies on to hold on power with her minority Government.
Under the arrangement, Britain will pay for outstanding debts and obligations over time at an estimated total of about €50 billion. In more practical terms, it guarantees the current rights of around three million EU citizens living, working and studying in the UK, including family reunification rights. It also guarantees that “no hard border” will exist between Northern Ireland the the rest of the UK as well as maintaining the “constitutional and economic integrity of the UK”.
The agreement will also allow that anyone born in Northern Ireland after Brexit is complete will still be able to choose to be Irish, British or both.
The deal, however, does not speak to the rights of 1.5 million British citizens currently living in Europe who still don’t know whether they will be permitted to move freely between EU countries. It’s expected without this clarification, more UK nationals living in Europe will be seeking to gain citizenship within their adopted countries in order to continue to enjoy the various freedoms that the EU provides.
There were scenes of jubilation inside and outside of Parliament this week with the Same Sex Marriage Bill passing the House of Representatives, legalising SSM in Australia.
The bill passed the Senate last week with a 43-12 vote before passing it down to the House where for some reason everyone was given a chance to speak on the matter (despite already washing their hands of it and handing it to the public to decide), resulting in 118 speeches by members of the House of Representatives. That combined with 57 speeches in the senate saw a total talking time of more than 55 hours.
Prior to the Lower House tackling the bill, many were worried that we could see the bill mangled or delayed through a variety of amendments. In fact, seven amendments were tabled to be voted on, suggesting that the “No’s” still had every intention of trying to delay or scuttle the bill and turn the day into a circus.
What better way to start a circus with everyone’s favourite clown, Bob Katter. Katter delivered a speech on Wednesday night which included the following highlights:
- Describing the debate as “drivel”
- Suggesting that no-one gets married in North Queensland anyway
- Complained about being anti-homosexual before suggesting everyone buy his book which contains a “humorous” story about a homosexual friend
- Tried to link Australia having the highest male juvenile suicide rates in the world to Australia apparently having “an extraordinary incidence of homosexual behaviour compared with other nations”.
- Alleged that 72 children were injected with AIDS as a result of giving homosexuals the right to give blood. (Don’t bother looking for evidence – it was hushed up according to Katter).
- Started rambling about Australians being a vanishing race, suggesting that the population of Australia could be reduced to 7 million people within 100 years.
At this point Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, said what everyone in the country was thinking: “Bobby, this is rubbish,” before the Deputy Speaker pulled the pin on Katter.
The next day saw another fossil enter the arena, with a last-ditch attempt to once again spit in the face of the will of the majority to serve his own agenda – none other than former PM, Tony Abbott.
Abbott and Costello Kevin Andrews attempted to use a rare procedural tactic known as a “pious amendment” which if passed would send the debate back to square one and start the entire process over again. The amendment was thankfully voted down immediately allowing proceedings to move forward. Abbott of course tried to claim that he didn’t push for a full vote on the amendment out of respect for the “millions who want the SSM bill swiftly passed”.
Abbott wasn’t done. When an amendment put forward by Liberal MP Michael Sukkar was tabled that would have created two categories of marriage – one between a “man and a woman” and another between “two people”, Abbott leapt to the defence of the amendment. A division was called for this time by Sukkar which saw 43 voting for the amendment and 97 against – with applause ringing in the chamber as it was defeated.
Andrew Hastie’s amendment was then heard which would exempt people from anti-vilification laws with respect to marriage equality. Tony Abbott, again, decided to stand up and argue its merits. Abbott was again, on the wrong side of the vote with 56 in favour and 87 against.
The following four amendments were heard, and each was voted down, leading MP George Christensen to claim that there has been “cheering from the gallery for the erosion of religious liberty” – which was met by an immediate loud round of applause from the gallery. Bob Katter then took the floor again indicating that he refused to use the word “gay” and accused the LGBTI community of stealing the word from it’s correct definition of “beautiful, light, happy and ethereal”.
Then the moment we had all been waiting for. With the amendments all thrown out, the final vote was ready to occur. The result was unequivocal with only four “no” votes in the House. The four are to be respected, however, as they at least had the courage to sit there and make their vote public. There were nine who left the chamber and abstained from the vote – Barnaby Joyce, Tony Abbott, Andrew Hastie, Michael Sukkar, Kevin Andrews, Scott Morrison, Alex Hawke, George Christensen and Rick Wilson.
Remember those names at the next election, Australia. They are the names of cowards that actively tried to stop SSM from becoming legal in Australia but lacked the courage to put their vote on record. They are the names of cowards who chose to abstain only because they were on the losing side. Sounds like the most un-Australian thing there could be in my book.
The results of the Queensland election were finally confirmed by the Electoral Commission this week with Labor winning 48 seats, the LNP 39, three to Katter’s Australia and one each to an independent, The Greens and One Nation. Annastacia Palaszcuk’s new majority Labor government will be sworn in next week.
Palaszczuk earned her place in the history books becoming the first Australian woman to be elected as a State Premier twice; an honor which appears to have strengthened her confidence as she vowed to “stare down” the next LNP leader to come up against her.
LNP leader Tim Nicholls called the Premier-elect to concede defeat and congratulate her before announcing that he would not be seeking to continue as LNP leader during the leadership ballot due to be held at the party room on Tuesday.
Deputy Leader Deb Frecklington put her hand up to lead within 15 minutes of the announcement but will be facing a challenge from former LNP leader, John-Paul Langbroek. David Crisafulli, the member for the Gold Coast seat of Broadwater, was widely tipped to challenge for the leadership but has ruled himself out to focus on his electorate and re-establish himself in the Parliament. Not a bad idea – I wouldn’t want the job right now either.
Wacky and wonderful
The hospitality industry has been forced to deal with monumental shifts in how they handle public relations since the dawn of the Internet. Where once word of mouth and traditional advertising methods were the difference between success and failure, now such decisions are often made by the masses on social media and “review sites”. The public rely on peer reviews on hotels and restaurants to make their decisions under the guise that such reviews are as independent as you can get.
Oobah Butler from London has very effectively proven this isn’t the case.
Butler had previously been hired to write fake reviews for restaurants on the site and one morning had a flash of inspiration for the hoax to end all hoaxes. Before too long, Butler’s restaurant, “The Shed at Dulwich”, was the top rated London restaurant on TripAdvisor with people from all over the world trying to get a reservation.
They weren’t able to, however, because the restaurant doesn’t exist.
He asked everyone he knew to write glowing five star reviews for the fake listing he put up, describing the amazing food and difficulty to get a reservation. He built a website to back it up, describing The Shed as “London’s best kept secret”. He crafted photographs of the amazing food offerings which were in reality, anything but. A fudge brownie topped with whipped cream was actually a painted urinal cake with shaving cream on it. The bacon sitting next to a fried egg was in fact a zoomed-in closeup of Butler’s foot.
Butler had to follow through. He opened The Shed (his actual shed in his house) for one night only with customers turning up and reportedly looking miserable at what they had found.
Please join me in giving Butler a round of genuine applause.
That’s it from me, TBSers. Have a cracking week!