Well, what a week that was. There was diplomatic change in Malaysia, the revisitation of gun violence, and one continent ceased to exist.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had a historical change in Malaysia, some more “Trump” diplomacy, a horrific tragedy back home and an existential crisis for us all to ponder.
Malaysia has had a political guard change this week following the election of new Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Prior to the win, the National Front party had continuously held power for 60 years.
Dr Mahathir, now the seventh PM of Malaysia, was also the fourth PM. Representing the party he has now beaten, Mahathir was elected in 1981 and held office until 2003, becoming the longest servicing office holder. In 2016, he left the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) to form his own party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party in 2016. At the age of 92, he has become the oldest sitting head of government.
Dr Mahathir has indicated his focus as leader will be on the economy and on trade. Following his swearing in, he told the media that he would lead a business-friendly administration and seek to boost Malaysia’s stock market.
Dr Mahathir has already announced he intends to remove a new Goods and Services tax recently introduced by the previous administration however details of what it will be replaced with are yet to be known.
The economic focus is likely to be joined by an anti-corruption focus, with serious questions still hanging over the now-departed PM, Najib Razak. His alleged involvement in the 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal may have been denied but he was left with an untrusting public.
President Trump: “This is a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.” https://t.co/ZShm2UeEXG
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) May 8, 2018
The 2015 (JCPOA) Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a historic and significant agreement between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany, the EU and Iran. The agreement, to many, represented a significant milestone on the path to nuclear non-proliferation.
The agreement was the first time in the history of International Law that a country subject to Chapter VII of the UN Charter stopped being subject to it via diplomacy. Previously, this had only been achieved via regime change, war or full intervention by the security council. Via this agreement, Iran became the first country in the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to voluntarily agree to restrict its nuclear activities so heavily.
In fact, with the notable exception of Israel, most nations around the world applauded the deal as a strong move towards stability and peace. Until now.
US President Trump this week pulled the US out of the agreement. According to him, it was “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
Experts and world leaders alike have slammed the move. Dr Jeffrey Lewis, the East Asia nonproliferation program director at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies has blamed the decision on Trump’s “personal and partisan motives”. He said:
“There was no strategic reason to abandon an agreement that was working to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon…Worse, the administration has no plan what to do next. When Iran builds a nuclear weapon, it should be emblazoned TRUMP, like one of his casinos.”
Joshua H Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review also slammed the move, saying:
“It’s a safe bet that Trump understands none of these complex policy matters in any depth. In each case, he has condemned an Obama-era law or policy in hyperbolic terms, while foisting responsibility for a replacement on whoever is invested in the outcome. After all, a blackmailer can hardly afford to care about his hostages.”
The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, tried to reassure the world, saying:
“The deal is not dead. There’s an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there.”
However Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has told French President Emmanuel Macron that there was only “limited opportunity” to save the deal.
Meanwhile, hostilities between Iran and Israel escalated significantly this week. Israel has claimed that Iran launched rockets against its forces in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights region – the first direct rocket attack against Israeli targets by Iran. The vice-president of Iran’s National Security Committee denied the attack.
Israel responded, sending jets to bombard Iranian targets in Syria in an attack which killed 23 people. According to Israeli sources, almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure was destroyed, including weapons storage centres and intelligence centres.
Tragedy has struck in Osmington, around 20km north-east of Western Australia’s Margaret River, following the death of seven people on Friday.
Police have confirmed that four children were among the seven dead and that they are treating the deaths as a murder-suicide. The horrific incident has become the worst mass shooting in Australia since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
Tipped off by a “male person” connected to the property via a phone call just after 5:00am, police were shocked to find two deceased adults outside, with the remaining five deceased found inside. Police believe at this stage that the caller was the killer and is among the dead.
The victims are believed to be Cynda and Peter Miles, their daughter Katrina and her four children, Taye, Rylan, Arye and Kadyn Cockman. It has been reported that Peter is the main suspect in the deaths.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson also confirmed that two firearms were found at the scene and that the victims suffered “gunshot wounds”, before adding:
“Police are expected to be at the property for several days at least. This will be a very large-scale and detailed investigation.”
The Federal Budget was handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison this week and it was about as exciting as the man who delivered it. Long story short: Morrison promised tax cuts for low-middle income earners. Labor claim that 60% of the benefits will actually be enjoyed by the wealthiest 20% of Australians. Then Labor promised to offer a bigger tax break to everyone. That’s enough about that.
Whilst the Budget and subsequent Budget reply may not be particularly exciting, it could turn out to represent cannon fodder from both sides in five upcoming byelections. This week saw the High Court disqualify Labor Senator Katy Gallagher as another victim of the dual-citizenship crisis.
Whilst Gallagher’s dismissal will not require a byelection (she will be replaced by Labor stablemate David Smith, second Labor candidate on the ticket), her disqualification did set a precedent that quickly saw four MPs fall on their swords. By midweek, Labor MPs Susan Lamb, Josh Wilson, Justine Keay and Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie had all resigned and triggered byelections in their respective electorates.
Also on The Big Smoke
- #AusPol winners and losers: Who made everything new, old again?
- Tonight on your ABC (on zero budget)
- Current Affairs Wrap: Trump’s Nobel nom, Telstra take down 000, pupper saved from drain by drone
The Libs immediately pounced on the fiasco, taking Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, to task over his previous guarantee that Labor has “no cloud over any of our people”.
In August last year as the citizenship crisis gathered steam, Shorten gave the Australian public a “rolled gold guarantee” that no Labor MP’s held dual citizenship. Shorten also took the opportunity to attack the Turnbull Government, saying that the citizenship issue “goes to the legitimacy and integrity” of the Government.
Whilst Shorten is claiming that the rules have changed and that the High Court has set a new precedent with the latest disqualification, the piles of mud being flung at him from the Libs could very well stick. Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, directly accused him of lying when interviewed on 2GB radio this week. Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, also took a swipe, saying that the Opposition Leader had “proved that he couldn’t be trusted yet again.”
Just another installment of the soap opera that is Auspol.
Wacky and wonderful
Whilst the Internet has given a very loud voice to all types of tin-foil hat wearers, even the majority of them wouldn’t believe a conspiracy theory that’s been doing the rounds over the last few weeks. According to the theory, Australia doesn’t exist and is simply an elaborate hoax by the British to make the world believe they sent their criminals somewhere.
Our early settlers, if the theory is to be believed, were thrown off ships to drown rather than embarking out to settle the Great Southern Land. The theory originally surfaced in a forum back in 2006 but seems to have been picking up pace recently.
How could this possibly be true, you might ask? Putting aside an explanation as to how 25 million of us call Australia home, how could you account for the millions of people around the world that have visited down under? There’s an answer for that. Apparently every tourist that jumps on a plane to head over here is actually transported to South America and fooled into believing they are in Australia (presumably with an army of genetically-engineered koalas and kangaroos). According to the post doing the rounds, all the pilots are in on it too.
I would say I’d like some of what they’re smoking… but I don’t think I actually do.
That’s it from me, TBSers. Have a cracking week!