George Christensen fires blanks
The week started off with a bizarre mis-step from one of the Nationals favourite lunatics. George is a Member of Parliament and representative for the Mackay region. He’s a champion of the ultra-right. He believes climate change is a conspiracy by the UN, he’s against same-sex marriage and he wants to ban the burqa. For reasons best known to himself he also posed for a photo last year in a singlet and a whip.
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Last weekend he posted a photo of himself holding a gun and posted it on Facebook.  The caption reads: ‘You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?’ George eventually deleted the post after numerous complaints. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said she received death threats after publicly condemning the post.
It comes in the wake of continued trouble for Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the Liberal Party, trying to make peace with their valued colleagues the National Party. National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is on leave this week after news of an affair with a staff member broke. Before he left, however, he described Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on the matter as ‘inept’ and ‘unnecessary’. There are fresh allegations of sexual harassment against Barnaby out today, which he denies. Some of Barnaby’s colleagues have started publicly talking about getting a new Nationals Party leader. In the Liberal Party, Turnbull had to get on a plane to go and have trade talks with the US, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (Liberal Party Deputy) went on a run with her London counterpart and loose cannon Boris Johnson. Everyone needs an ice block and a settle down.
Labor, meanwhile, has pledged an inquiry into university and TAFE funding if they win government.

Turnbull and Trump
Yes, Turnbull’s off to visit his mate Trump again. China will apparently be a big deal in the discussions. Basically, the US (and some others) are concerned about China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region. There is some gentle international pressure that Australia should take more of a leading role in infrastructure initiatives in the region. (As an aside, if you ever want a really boring porno, Gentle International Pressure might be a winner.)
There’ll also be chats about trade and immigration, all summed up rather spectacularly in this New York Times article.
How do we raise the minimum wage?
The Federal Labor Party has already flagged they want to raise the minimum wage. The question is how. According to the opposition’s workplace relations spokesman, this may includeParliament fiddling with the Fair Work Act. Ultimately, however, decisions about such things lie outside of politics (allegedly) with the Fair Work Commission. The proposed changes to the Fair Work Act would apparently encourage the Fair Work Commission to make sure ‘workers get their fair share’, in O’Connor’s words. This is a dialled-down version of what the Australian Council of Trade Unions is advocating for, which is to introduce a minimum “living wage” at 60% of Australia’s median wage (up from 54%).
Syria faces new pressure
Eastern Ghouta is on the outskirts of Damascus in Syria, and has been under siege since 2013. The area has seen dozens of airstrikes and shelling from the Syrian government this week. Almost 400 civilians have been killed.  Amnesty International warns that the situation is a humanitarian crisis. The area is home to 400,000 civilians. Seven hospitals have been bombed. From The Guardian:
“We are standing before the massacre of the 21st century,” said a doctor in eastern Ghouta. “If the massacre of the 1990s was Srebrenica, and the massacres of the 1980s were Halabja and Sabra and Shatila, then eastern Ghouta is the massacre of this century right now.”
A Revolution is Born
In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Florida last week, students from the high school have launched an emotional and highly-publicised protest. It’s triggered youth-led protests across the United States, with multiple walk-outs scheduled in the coming months. The biggest is likely to be on April 20, which marks 19 years since the Columbine High School shooting. After a week of intense media pressure, Donald Trump has opened the door to minor gun reform, ordering the Justice Department to ban “bump stocks” (used to convert semi-automatic guns into automatic guns) and suggesting he was open to supporting modestly improved background checks. He has also suggested that arming teachers with guns may be a solution.
The group of Florida young people will walk out of their school on March 24 in protest. Inspired by their actions, George and Amal Clooney have donated $500,000 to their cause. A few hours later, Oprah Winfrey matched their pledge.
That’s a whole heap of young people with a million bucks and a desire to change the world.
Adani under threat
The plan to build Australia’s largest coal mine suffered another set back this week. The conclusion of the project’s first stage was supposed to be in October, 2017, with the company securing funds. Banks, the Queensland government and the federal government have all backed away from initial enthusiasm, and Adani Australia’s CEO had set March 2018 as a new deadline. But they’re not going to get there. The corporation is quickly running out of options. The Queensland Government, Australian banks, and Chinese banks have all denied the company the money they need to get started.
Billy Graham Passes
Billy Graham, ‘America’s Pastor’ (like the priest, not linguine), has passed away at the age of 99. Graham is widely credited with leading contemporary evangelism to the modern religious force that rivals Catholicism and Protestantism in the US. He was a counsellor to US presidents, preached to over 200 million people, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We’ll be back next week. If you like this blog, share it around.


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