Australia = Mass Weapon Exporter
The week began with Prime Minister Turnbull announcing plans for Australia to become one of the world’s top ten arms exporters. The new strategy targets high ‘priority markets’ such as the Middle East, the Indo-Pacific region, the United States and the UK. Australia currently sells about $1.5 to $2.5 billion a year in defence exports. A significant increase is good for Turnbull’s favourite words: jobs and growth. They’ve set aside $20 million a year to invest into the arms industry.
The decision has been widely criticised. World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello has said: “…we would be exporting death and profiting from bloodshed. There is only one purpose in making a weapon and that is to kill someone with it. Do we really want that to be what people think of when they see the brand ‘made in Australia’?”
Anthony Albanese, the opposition minister for infrastructure, commented it was odd the government would invest money into defence when it had withdrawn support for the car industry, and was not supporting the renewable energy sector. The Greens, Amnesty International, Oxfam Australia and Save the Children Australia have all criticised the plan.
Australian Economy, 2018
In a speech on Thursday, Turnbull outlined his economic agenda for 2018, pointing at tax cuts for business to stimulate jobs and investment, trickling down to wages growth. He also pointed to possible income tax cuts for ‘ordinary Aussies’: “We won’t compromise our return to surplus in 2020-21 but our next tax priority is further tax relief for middle-income earners.”
Polling has suggested that Australians are most concerned with low wage growth and the cost of living. Labor leader Bill Shorten has also signalled his economic agenda for 2018 in his first major speech of the year. He suggested a more aggressive approach to raising the minimum wage, and addressing penalty rates and the gender pay gap. (As an aside, he used the same speech to signal that Labor was contemplating a pledge to stop the Adani coal mining project, and he committed the party to setting up a ‘federal integrity commission’ to investigate corruption if Labor wins the next election.)
Turnbull turned to Trump’s recent corporate tax cuts in the US to justify his corporate tax cuts. “We know that if you reduce business tax you get more investment and, if you get more investment, you get more and better-paid jobs. Don’t take my word for it – the IMF [International Monetary Fund] just lifted global growth forecasts off the back of the Trump tax cuts.”
Debate around wage growth, housing affordability and tax are likely to dominate the first half of the year for Australian politics.
ABC found national secrets in an op-shop
This sounds like a plot to a Cohen brothers film, but I swear to God it’s real. A filing cabinet containing thousands of confidential files on the inner-workings of senior Government ministers from the last twenty years has found its way to the ABC. The cabinet was sold cheaply at an ex-government sale because it was ‘heavy and no one could find the key’. Someone drilled open the locks – because duh – and the ABC have published a bunch of the papers that it feels are in the national interest, but don’t pose a threat to national security.
The hi-lights so far:
- The Australian Federal Police lost about 400 national security files in five years. The AFP files are typically marked ‘top secret’ and concern themselves with Australian military operations, secret intelligence and security. The documents went missing between 2008 and 2013 when Labor was in power, and no one apparently investigated where the hell they went.
- When Labor lost government in 2013, Senator Wong (or someone in her office) left behind almost 200 files marked ‘top secret’ on a desk. According to regulations, the files should’ve been destroyed. Senator Wong has said that she wasn’t aware of the issue until the ABC made it public.
- Back in the days of John Howard, he seriously considered removing an individual’s right to remain silent when questioned by police.
- The early days of the NBN negotiations have been revealed. Under Kevin Rudd’s leadership, the NBN had lofty ambitions of receiving significant private investment. The current government has since called upon these revelations as proof that the NBN was bungled and rushed from the very start.
- The infamous Energy Efficient Homes Package was rolled out in 2010, and involved installing insulation in eligible homes. The insulation was ultimately unsafe and cased deaths to those installing it. Documents show that Rudd, Gillard, and other senior ministers were warned of risks. Kevin Rudd says he’ll launch legal action against the ABC for publishing such claims.
- In 2013, the then-immigration Minister Scott Morrison personally requested that ASIO delay security checks to asylum seekers. He was attempting to rush through legislation to stop those who arrived by boat from ever getting permanent residency in Australia. Concerned that 700 refugees would be able to get in before the law changed, he asked ASIO to slow down security checks so that they would miss the deadline.
- Ahead of the 2014 budget, senior ministers experimented with bold ideas, including banning anyone under 30 from accessing income support.
ASIO launched an immediate investigation into the leak, appearing at ABC HQ in the middle of the night to lock up the papers into safes, but not confiscating them. There’s ‘ongoing negotiation’ between the ABC and ASIO.
Super Blue Blood Moon Rising
The moon went crazy this week. For the first time in 152 years, a blue moon (second full moon in a calendar month), a super moon (moon unusually close to Earth) and a Blood moon (a moment during an eclipse when the moon appears red) combined. As a result, the dead were raised from their graves, and the official zombie apocalypse has begun. I’m writing this from my hideout in a water tank out the back of a Bunnings.
Around The World
Trump delivered the ‘State of the Union’ speech to Congress, usually seen as a line in the sand for ‘normal’ Presidents. He didn’t say anything unexpected, nor mention the ever-evolving Russia and FBI Saga. (We will do a deep dive on this eventually, I promise.)
Cape Town is facing violence and unrest when it officially runs out of water in April. This too will be the focus of an upcoming deep dive.
Violence has certainly lessened in Myanmar against the Rohingya, but there remains an enormous refugee crisis across the country’s border with Bangladesh. Check out our deep dive from last year here.
Violence is escalating in Afghanistan. We focussed on Afghanistan in our deep dive from this week, check it out here.
The Grammys were held this week and Bruno Mars won big. The awards faced major criticism for their historically low acknowledgement of female artists.
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Photo at the top thanks to Guardian Media Services.