Thursday, August 29, 2019

Boris suspends UK parliament

The Queen has approved an order from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend parliament ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline. The parliament will be prorogued from the second week in September until 14 October. The move provoked outrage on all sides of politics, with opponents describing it as a “coup” designed to stifle debate against a no-deal Brexit. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons – an office that does not usually make statements on political announcements – denounced the move as a “constitutional outrage”. Robert Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, suggested civil servants should consider putting their “stewardship of the country ahead of service to the government of the day”. Johnson denied he was proroguing parliament to shut down debate over Brexit and said a Queen's Speech on October 14 would outline his "very exciting agenda". A petition against the move has been signed by more than 500,000 people.

On the subject of suspensions: New South Wales Labor has suspended general secretary Kaila Murnain at an emergency meeting on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney, Murnain admitted that she has known about illegal donations from Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo since she found out in a meeting with a former MP in 2016, but claims she was advised to “forget the conversation” and stay quiet by the party's lawyer.

From staying quiet to speaking up: Australian writer Yang Hengjun, who has been detained for seven months by China’s Ministry of State Security, has pleaded for prime minister Scott Morrison to “please help me go home as soon as possible”. Yang was last week charged with a single count of espionage and could face the death penalty. In a message delivered via an Australian consular official, Yang said “an investigation officer told me that Australia was small and wouldn’t care about me. He said Australia was dependent on China for its trade and economy, and Canberra wouldn’t help me, let alone rescue me. He said Australia wouldn’t help because I am not white.” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that allegations that Yang was a spy were baseless.  

Speaking of speaking up: Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has arrived in New York City after completing a 15-day journey across the Atlantic in a zero-carbon yacht, one day later than expected following rough weather at sea. She sailed from Europe to attend the United Nations climate change summit on September 23, using her journey to raise awareness about the carbon emissions generated by air travel. Her vessel was greeted by a UN flotilla of 17 sailboats, one for each of the sustainable development goals for 2030

Home Affairs’ propaganda machine
When a communications agency started contacting Muslim Australians for social media training, few realized it was funded by the Department of Home Affairs. Shakira Hussein on what it’s like to be pulled into a propaganda machine.


“Year one of the Morrison government has delivered a surprise election victory, income tax cuts, moves towards religious freedom legislation and the promise of a budget surplus, against the backdrop of a slowing economy and simmering tension with China. There have been fanfares and then friction in the Pacific, a dressing-down of the public service and now a new military commitment in the Middle East. But in terms of Australia’s future and any sketch for the direction of the nation, the Morrison government remains something of a blank page.”


“In 2013, he and his mate Woody Jack – also a surfboard maker – took a 99-year lease over a 1 acre patch of jungle and coast on the atoll, off the west coast of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu, and adjacent to one of the world’s great waves, the coral reef lefthander known as Cloudbreak. There, they’d build a modest surf camp, turn a dollar, enjoy the place with their mates. Access to Cloudbreak from their new block was a mere half-hour boat ride, through a natural opening in the mangroves. By his own admission, Fox saw the whole thing as an indulgence. None of it was activism. That came later.”


“The play is bilingual, with some scenes played out entirely in Mandarin, but it negotiates a number of other languages – legalese, the techspeak of the digital age, the brutal language of corporatism. Much of the intelligence in this play is how we are made to witness the mediations of these various vocabularies, with the complexities often – but not always – articulated through the Translator.”


“More employed Australians and home owners are relying on food banks to make ends meet, leaving charity bosses ‘nervous’ about the future. Four million Australians were unable to put a meal on the table at some point in the year to October 2018, research from the country’s largest food relief network, Foodbank, found. Almost half of those were employed in some form – part-time, casual or  working multiple jobs – but couldn’t afford food after paying housing costs.”


“A north Queensland mayor says charities providing food and laundry services to homeless people are ‘enabling’ them to ‘live a lifestyle’ in public parks. Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill was speaking about the council's $13.3 million spend on public safety in the latest city budget. While discussing the rollout of improved CCTV, lighting, path design and response initiatives, Cr Hill said she was also battling certain agencies in relation to antisocial behaviour. ‘Providing food in the parks enables people to stay in the parks,’ Cr Hill said.”



“Wandering through the hotel’s windowless, 4,300-square-foot ballroom for two days felt a little like bearing witness to a Givenchy-clad seed planting for an improbable political movement. The rich — at least an increasingly vocal minority of them — are revolting. But in an unexpected way. They’re agitating for policies that will directly diminish their own wealth and power. Their pitch isn’t based so much on self-righteous morality or civic duty — though there was enough of that on display over the course of the event — as it is on self-preservation.”


Quiz Night - September 20
State Library of NSW, Sydney

Love the weekly ritual of The Saturday Paper Quiz? Now trivia fans can come together for a grand night of quizzing in partnership with the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney.

Participants will enjoy a three-course meal designed by Annie Smithers and drinks will be available to purchase from A Wine Service bar, curated by Blackhearts & Sparrows. Plus, there are great prizes to be won.

Stay tuned for future Quiz Night events around the country.

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.