Australians were transfixed last month by the staggering kitsch in a “pre-wedding” video of the story of the meeting of Salim Mehajar (his persona a composite of Vin Diesel, Kanye West, Tupac Shakur and Jay Gatsby) and his new wife Aysha on YouTube. Words cannot describe the seven-minute 16-second real life fairy-tale. The 29-year-old multi-millionaire property developer and deputy mayor of the Sydney suburb of Auburn came to national attention when his $1.4 million wedding, complete with fighter helicopters, a fleet of Ferraris and 100 motorbikes, closed down a couple of streets and caused traffic chaos. There’s also the actual wedding video, the wedding bloopers video and a Photoshopped mock-up of bride and groom growing old together.
Now to ministerial bloopers. Two stand out: The PM Tony Abbott on radio, comparing the Nazis and Islamic State; “The Nazis did terrible evil but they had sufficient sense of shame to try and hide it. These people [IS] boast about their evil. This is the extraordinary thing.” The Jewish community was not happy.
|Lovey dovey: Salim and Aysha Mehajar at their wedding in Australia|
Then, immigration minister Peter Dutton was chatting to the PM, not realising there was a boom mike above his head. The PM had just returned from talks with Pacific Island leaders in Papua New Guinea, where low-lying islands are under serious threat from rising sea levels as a result of climate change. A meeting was running late, and Mr Dutton said it was running to “Cape York time”, a reference, as one newspaper delicately put it, to a “fluid approach to punctuality” on the part of remote Aboriginal communities in Cape York, where Abbott had recently visited. Abbott replied: “We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby [in PNG]” – to which Dutton said: “Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”. Responding more in “sadness” than anger, the Kiribati President, Anote Tong, said Mr Dutton should search his soul. Aboriginal leaders too were unimpressed. But one plus: at least a member of the government has acknowledged climate change.
And, oh, the ironies: on to Syria. After the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi appeared, Mr “Stop the boats” Abbott stumped everyone with the announcement that Australia would take 12,000 Syrian refugees this financial year. That was the same day he announced Australian air strikes into Syria. While congratulating Abbott on giving cynicism a rest for a day, Sydney Morning Herald commentator Tony Wright was moved to write: “Those of a mind to do so may chafe at the knowledge that Australia is bombing Syria as it takes its 12,000 refugees from Europe, may debate how and why Mr Abbott came to change his mind about the number of refugees Australia will accept, and may recoil from the incongruity of a nation that grants asylum to some while imprisoning others on distant islands…”
Now safe home in Australia, after 400 days in an Egyptian jail, Aljazeera journalist Peter Greste told a TV panel show that he’d been very pleased to discover how resilient he was. He was however, concerned for his two fellow accused, who are still in Egypt awaiting trial. And for the other roughly 220 journalists locked up by governments in the last year (75 percent on terrorism charges or crimes against the state). They were, he said, just doing their jobs. In his case, he had been interviewing the Muslim Brotherhood, which only six months earlier had been in government before being overthrown. They were still one of the largest and most significant political organisations in the country. “ISIS, of course, has taken the heads off three journalists and we saw the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris… so what we’re seeing now, I think, is a form of globalised McCarthyism, where journalism itself is under fire in the way that we haven’t seen for a generation.”
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