SQUIZ THE BREAK
Where did those couple of weeks go? And just like that, we’re back into it. Here’s a shortcut to some of the big stories from the Christmas and New Year break to help you fake the “I’m all over it” conversations…
A LESS THAN GLIMMERING OPAL – Wave your hands in the air (like you don’t care) if you had a merry/happy break? If you’re saying ‘word up’, you probably didn’t live in Sydney’s Opal Tower. Residents of the Homebush apartment development, which was completed in August last year, have been unable to move back into their homes since Christmas Eve when an internal concrete panel collapsed. Cue investigations into the safety of the building, and concerns about the industry more broadly.
PILL TEST RETHINK – The deaths of two music festivalgoers at the end of December put pill testing back on the agenda. After ruling it out earlier in the month, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she’d look at it if shown evidence that it saves lives.
DRAWING A LINE – On the political front, border security issues dominated over the fortnight:
– Islamic State terrorist Neil Prakash no longer holds Australian citizenship. Facing jail in Turkey, the government would prefer he stays there or heads to Fiji where he also holds citizenship. Except Fiji says he isn’t a citizen there… The standoff continues…
– Seeking to underline its credentials at the start of an election year, the Coalition Government announced the closure of Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre (albeit six months late), and the reduction of people in detention since taking office in 2013 (down from 10,000 to 2,250 currently).
– And outspoken clergy Father Rod Bower and Father Bob Maguire were in the spotlight over tweets about offshore detention on Manus Island and the Holocaust of WWII. Bower later acknowledged his comments “caused offense in some sections of the Jewish community.”
ENOUGH ABOUT ME. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ME? – And still playing the same song from last year, Coalition MPs continued to talk about themselves ad nauseam. In focus was its record on supporting female candidates and MPs. And one-time prime ministerial aspirant Peter Dutton delivered his (far from glowing) assessment of former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s performance in the job.
INDONESIAN DISASTER – The angry Ring of Fire struck again. The volcano, known as Anuk Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra in Indonesia, had the ultimate dummy spit on 22 December. An underwater eruption led to devastating landslides which caused a tsunami that killed at least 430 people. Villagers and holidaymakers along the coast were caught by surprise with Indonesia’s tsunami warning system falling over in 2012.
DRONE MYSTERY – There was Christmas travel chaos after an airport security worker reported sighting two drones near Gatwick Airport near London. A thousand flights with 140,000 passengers were affected over three days. Yikes… A couple was arrested (and labelled by one newspaper as “the morons who ruined Christmas”) but were later released without charge. Current thinking is there might not have been any drones at all, but it’s not all bad. The exercise may have exposed a security gap that authorities are working to close.
JAPAN TO RECOMMENCE WHALING – Japan formally announced it is leaving the International Whaling Commission and will start commercial whaling in its economic zone in July for the first time in three decades. That means no more ‘scientific whaling’ in the Antarctic Ocean, something welcomed by Sea Shepherd.
PENNY COOK – she was the woman who inspired girls to dream of becoming a vet. She died of cancer at 61yo.
JUNE WHITFIELD – best known by the current crop as Eddie’s mother in Absolutely Fabulous, she was remembered as a great British comedian. She was 93yo.
SISTER WENDY BECKETT – the unlikely TV star died at 88yo. Anyone who watched a lot of ABC TV in the 90s will remember the art historian/nun with a unique presenting style. Asked about her popularity, she said; “Yes, it’s bizarre. It’s the kind of thing only God would do.”
NOT DONE YET
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN – she was forced to correct “sick rumours” that she was in bad shape. ONJ has suffered from recurring bouts of cancer since she was originally diagnosed in 1992. “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” she said on Twitter.
BILLY CONNOLLY – he described his life as “slipping away” in a documentary released last week about Parkinson’s disease. But wife Pamela Stephenson has since released a clip of Connolly playing the banjo. “Sorry if I depressed you. Maybe I should have phrased it better,” Billy says.
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