From Tragedy to Farce

 

I have held off writing this post for a long time. I was worried that my blog would turn into an anti-liberal whinge session where you, dear reader, would be continually pummelled into political submission, and where I, your earnest scribe, would be sitting here wondering what happened to all the feel good posts about cats, film reviews and holidays. NOTE: I have not posted anything about cats but trust me, I will be getting one in a few years when I move out of my rental and when that happens, look out!

Anyway, back to this post. This one is about clowns. There are five types of clowns. The whiteface, Auguste, contra-Auguste, character clown and the Liberal Prime Minister. Actually, I confess. It’s not really about clowns but it is about Tony Abbott. Again! Hence my initial apprehension. Below I am going to touch on just a few of the issues that surround this poor excuse for a leader at the moment.

“No Cuts to the ABC or SBS”

The Libs have hated the ABC for a long time, but it came into particular focus when they exposed them for lying about the Children Overboard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_Overboard_affair

The night before he was voted into office, Abbott went on SBS (oh the irony) and said the above quote about no cuts. Low and behold, he announced that the ABC budget would be cost by $254 million over the next 5 years. Not a great deal but still, it’s a lie. He then tried to defend himself by saying it’s not a cut, it’s an efficiency dividend. WTF? He does not even have the courage to admit he lied or the intelligence to come up with a good excuse such as “the situation changed and I needed to go back on what I said to balance the budget”.

Don’t get me started on their proposal that they get to choose the Editor in Chief position. Government interference in editorial control anyone?

School Chaplaincy Program and the Separation of Church and State

Yes, even today in the 21st century, this is still a topic for discussion. Despite Australia being a multicultural and multi-faith country, we have a catholic and former priest in training PM (no problem with that) saying that the state will only fund religious leaders in the school system (BIG problem with that). Now one of my close friends used to be a chaplain in a school but I am sure even he would agree that religious leaders do not have a monopoly on ethics or counselling skills.

The cost of this silliness is about the same as what is being cut from the ABC but it seems some policies are too important to cut and state sanctioned religious counselling of our nation’s youth is one such policy.

GP Co Payment

One of the things that separate us from the animals is free healthcare. Look at the countries that have functioning civil societies and they have one thing in common; socialised health care. We as a society have decided that we are happy to pay taxes so that the government can use its bulk buying power to purchase cheaper drugs and doctor services. It’s a trade-off between that and stepping over the leprosy infected body that slumped up against your door overnight so when Abbott decided that he will charge people $7 for every visit to the doctor, you bet his popularity is going to fall. It doesn’t sound like much and in isolation, it’s not. But with a young child, I have been or have taken her to the doctors at least 15 times this year. $100 is nothing for me but for a single mum with two kids, that’s unacceptable and I am more than happy for some of my taxes to go towards the health of her children. The Liberals tried to wrap it up as an integral part of the Medical R&D fund they wanted to get up and running, but this sort of blackmail never works and especially from a bunch of hypocrites whose grasp of science is faltering at best. And don’t get me started on your lack of a Science Minister, cutting of funds to the CSIRO or that your Environment Minister gets his understanding of science from Wikipedia and won’t be attending the Paris Meeting on Climate Change. Again, WTF?

University Deregulation of fees

Another great thing about Australia that Toby Abbott is trying to ruin is our cheap education. Ideologically, you can argue that the conservative side of politics does not believe in government funding education for the masses. This idea leads to education being available only to those who can afford it. But an educated workforce, particularly in the information age, is a public good, not a private one.

Sure, universities should be able to compete with other universities in the global marketplace but universities are not about competing with other universities to have the best mass spectrometer or science professor or even the most Nobel prize winners. Their job is to produce the best educated workforce to take the country forward and our league tables suggest that we ain’t there. Interestingly, those same league tables suggest that the US is not there yet and they have had expensive degrees for ages.

Paid Parental Leave Scheme

This was a great idea that went too far. Abbott had a woman problem. Actually, let’s refine that. He has an old school attitude to women which has become a problem in the 21st century. What’s the best way to change that? Throw money at them. Now, I am as supportive of helping women achieve equality as the next person and ordinarily would support him in this but when its progressively skewed to help higher earners rather than lower earners, does nothing to alleviate the problems with expensive childcare after the first 6 months and is unaffordable to boot if we do have a so-called budget emergency, then it just appears to be what it is;- a short term thought bubble to get him out of his sexist hole he dug himself. Let’s have real reform, real equality, and less misogyny.

This whole experiment has been a failure and if the Libs actually knew anything about science, and sadly they do not, they would know to throw the microbes in the bin and start again.

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Burqas, burqas everywhere. The Blue Chiffon Peril!!!

I have thought a long time about whether to write this post, not because I have any qualms about what I am about to write but over whether the energy is wasted. I mean, I can’t believe that I am having to write about this subject at all but sadly, here we are, in the 21st century and it’s still happening.

I refer to the recent news that the Speaker of the House, Bronwyn Bishop and the President of the Senate, Stephen Parry, recently announced that all women wearing a burqa who entered the Australian Parliament would be segregated behind sound proof glass for security reasons. But wait, it gets better. You see, the sound proof area is also where the school kids, those pesky existential threats to Australian democracy, also sit when they visit Parliament House. So apparently, the people wearing the burqa are such a security threat that we need to put them behind glass but not such a security threat that we can’t put little kids visiting our nation’s capital on a school excursion in there with ‘them’. This is doublespeak of the highest order.

As Waleed Ali recently pointed out in the Sydney Morning Herald, what most Australians called the Burqa is in fact a Niqab, or more usually a Hijab. The point is, in such a ridiculous discussion about an item of clothing, they cannot even get the terminology right when they are trying to tar and feather. This speaks volumes about the intelligence of Bronwyn, Tony and the rest of these fools.

Of course, what has not been mentioned by Bishop and Parry is that EVERY visitor to the Australian Parliament House goes through an x-ray machine AND the security regime at Parliament House already includes a protocol to identify people who have their face covered. So, to me, all the rationalisations supporting this abomination pretty much dissolve away at the first pass of the light.

Tony Abbott has already come out saying that he finds the burqa ‘confronting’ however being the Prime Minister, he cannot be seen to be getting down in the weeds and risk upsetting the newest members of ‘Team Australia’ which such an insulting segregation so first he sent out his Chief of Staff to blow the dog whistle for the true believers before asking Bishop and Parry to announce this rubbish from their supposedly independent positions. That way, they can hoist it up the flag pole and see who salutes before Abbott needs to jump off the fence. He waited a few days to test the wind before jumping down and commenting that the debate has gone a bit far.

I would suggest that there are far more drastic threats to Australia’s democracy to worry about, such as our supposedly independent Speaker of Parliament who still attends Liberal Caucus planning meetings, who hosts costly Liberal Party fundraisers in her speakers’ office and whose record of disciplining members of the house is farcically lopsided.

UPDATE: This ridiculous rule has been quietly revoked earlier this week when Parliament resumed. Coincidentally, the Speaker of the House was unavailable to comment due to ‘urgent house business’. Anyone who knows Bronwyn Bishop knows how unlikely that scenario is.

UPDATE 2: The tragic attack in Canada shows that there are genuine security measures that need to be implemented across many of our vulnerable places in the country. This fiasco makes the implementation of those measures that much harder to sell to a tired and cynical public.

 

Tony Abbott – God Help Us

Well I did mention in a previous post that I would write more about The “Honourable” Tony Abbott, MP, Member for Warringah, Leader of the Liberal Party and Prime Minister of Australia. I do try to keep to my commitments despite having a baby girl that manages to devour my free time like a black hole sucks passing stars into its abyss.

This is actually quite a difficult post to write, not because I don’t have views on the man, but rather that I need to slow down and order my thoughts when I prefer to write in a stream of consciousness sort of way. To make things easier, I will use the man’s words himself as conversational hat hooks to hang my blog on. I think that’s fair enough too as I try to judge people on what they say and do rather than their political views, sexuality, economic circumstances, colour of their skin or anything else that does not make any sense.

So let’s kick it off, shall we?

“The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.”

I actually agree with this statement. Abortion is a grave matter, probably the most difficult decision as woman can face. But is it convenient to make that decision? No Mr Abbott, it is not. For you to label it so is arrogant. Should the process of abortion be easy once that decision is made? Of course it should. But that is something completely different. My religious views, although different from yours, also outlaw killing but because they do not get into specifics about embryos and also because I am not a woman, I refrain from telling them what they can do with their own bodies.

“I believe that there is a vast moral gulf which separates modern Australia from Nazi Germany. But can we be so sure that, under pressure over time, we will not slide down the same slippery slope. We only have to look at the abort situation in this country.”

Just what are you saying here? Mothers who choose abortion are the equivalent of Hitler’s Gestapo? SS? Brown shirts? Or are they the equivalent of the operators at the gas chambers? You, sir, are a fool!!

“We just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice.”

No one chooses to be homeless but let’s not get bogged down in details, right. This dog whistle politics plays well to your base. People become homeless because your corporate mates sack 1,000 people to increase their share value of their bonuses. People become homeless because they cannot remain living in a situation where they are being abused, or they are addicted to drugs and have made bad choices and need help to get on the right track.

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.”

Nothing much to say about this except you are a sexist, ignorant dinosaur living in the 1950’s within your mind.

“It would be folly to expect that women would ever approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, their abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

I need to slow down. My forehead is getting sore from slapping it all the time. Don’t worry ladies, it’s not the glass ceiling you need to worry about, it’s your aptitude, your abilities, your interests and your funny physiology ‘down there’.

Even when the women show the aptitude, abilities and interests, like your female parliamentary colleagues, only one woman out of 18 is found suitable?

“I know politicians are going to be judged on everything they say but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared scripted remark. Which is why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth are those carefully prepared scripted remarks.”

So basically, don’t believe what I say, only what I write? That’s actually a good one. It means you have a get out of jail free card for all the stupid things you say. Based on empirical evidence, this is a very useful caveat for you.

“The climate change argument is absolute crap.”

Hhhmmm, there is a whole blog entry I am planning to write about this comment of yours, but suffice to say, you needed more time in chemistry and less time with your head up your arse.

“The ABC takes everyone’s side but Australia’s” and “You would like the national broadcaster to have … at least some basic affection for the home team.”

The ABC, as the national broadcaster, is legislatively required to broadcast impartial news and has an editorial fairness policy that would boggle your mind. They stand in diametric contrast to your friends in the Murdoch press who do not. Also, as a former journalist, do you think a journalist should be impartial or should he or she unbalance their story in support of some home team? Please, your thoughts? If you are looking for a broadcaster that supports the home team, can I draw your attention to a Mr Joseph Goebbels however please pay particular attention to YOUR comments regarding Nazi Germany I have referenced above.

I could go on and on, but frankly, you’ve given me a headache. You are a bumbling idiot, a bully and an embarrassment to the tradition of the Jesuit school system.  I hope your term as our “leader” is a short one.

Australia Enters a Dark, Stormy Night

I have held off writing about refugees and Australia’s treatment of them for a long time for a variety of reasons. I did not feel I could write dispassionately about the topic and, shamefully, because I had grown tired of the whole debate and how it is discussed here. But I have been moved to dive into this cesspool of moral compromises by the latest macabre theatre that passes for politics in Australia at the moment.

To give some background, Australian political discourse on the treatment of refugees had been pretty consistent between the two major parties right up until John Howard faced the prospect of losing an election and decided to crack down on the refugees arriving in Australia by boat. When some refugees were picked up by the Captain of the MV Tampa, who in accordance with international law took them to the nearest safe port on Christmas Island, the Prime Minister sent the SAS on to the vessel, preventing the captain from offloading the refugees and in fact, took command of the vessel, effected transfer of the refugees to HMAS Manoora who were later offloading in the Pacific Island nation of Nauru.

There is so much wrong with this particular incident as well as the actions of all parties since then that I could be writing a much longer article. We have the Government telling the nation that male refugees were throwing their children into the ocean to force the Navy to rescue them when in fact the photos used to support this lie actually showed refugees being rescued from the water by Navy personnel who were actually ordered not to intercept the refugee vessel until it had literally fallen apart and sunk. I have spoken to numerous Navy personnel who say that this is one of the most shameful misuse of these honourable people in the entire history of the RAN.

But don’t worry, there is plenty more to discuss. There is the Government continually making the claim that these people are “illegals” when in fact there is NOTHING illegal about applying for asylum or seeking refugee status. Both parties have whipped up such a frenzy of fear within the community about “illegal immigrants” that we actually had two Australian citizens in detention for many years but who slipped through the system due to their mental illness. My only advice to those Australians of ‘swarthy’ complexion who are having a bad day is don’t walk too close to an Department of Immigration official or a politician.

I have not even gotten started on the practice of placing children behind razor wire in the middle of the desert or in Malaria ridden camps in third world island nations bordering Australia where they have been exposed to witnessing gang rapes, incidents of self harm and people exhibiting a variety of mental health problems as a result of being locked up while their requests for asylum are being processed.

I finally come to the reason why I have decided to write about this issue. It seems that today, in our race to the bottom in this ongoing saga, after PM Kevin Rudd announced that all people arriving by boat seeking refuge will be moved to Papua New Guinea where if they are found to be genuine refugees, will be permanently resettled in that country, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has dived even lower and announced that even if you are found to be a genuine refugee, you will NEVER be allowed to permanently resettle in this country. Australia is for Australians, you see. So if you are seeking refuge and find it here, don’t get too comfortable as you will never be allowed to become one of US, no matter how hard you work.

Strangely, this shameful attitude towards refugees has never really been applied to those coming here by aircraft and whose skin is paler than those from the Middle East. If you are an young Irish construction worker who flirts from cash in hand job to cash in hand job while occupying an overcrowded bedsit in Bondi beach, actually taking a job from an Australian, well you are relatively safe. Just make sure you don’t get too good a tan, know what I mean?

For those of you who think like our politicians do, I would like to end this post with some questions that I hope you can answer honestly.

If you are walking along a beach and you see someone drowning in the surf, would you run into the water and rescue them?

Would you rescue them if they were a 5 year old child?

Would you rescue them if it was a mother and father desperately holding their child above the waves?

Would you rescue them if they each wore a beret? (Those pesky French)

Would you rescue them if they each had a good tan and had a cultural arm tattoo identifying them as coming from a particular Polynesian culture?

Would you rescue them if they wore clothes identifying them as coming from a particular Middle Eastern or Central Asian culture?

Would you rescue them if they lost all their clothes in the surf?

Would you rescue them is they lost their wallet in the surf?

Would you rescue them if they lost their passport in the surf?

Would you rescue them if they came from a village where the Taliban were kidnapping children to act as suicide bombers and where leaving with all the bribe money they could gather to get somewhere safe was the ONLY option they had and where they were constantly persecuted in the next safe country they came to, forcing them onwards and onwards until they finally wash up in the surf in front of you? Would you still rescue them?

I hope so.

And lastly, would you help that big, burly, English speaking Irish bloke who stands before you with a smile on his face?

The Beginning of an Adventure

I read somewhere that we never know the pivotal moments of our lives until they have passed. I understand that and agree with it but as with most things, there are exceptions. The day I joined the Navy stood out for me as well as the day I left. Another was when I lost someone very dear to me. Today is another one of those exceptions. You see, today, the 27th of June 2013, my wife and I brought our daughter home from the Special Care Nursery of Mater Hospital in Crows Nest, Sydney.

She had been born one month premature so needed the extra 2 1/2 weeks to grow bigger, breathe better and develop her sucking reflex before we could bring her home. It was quite difficult for both of us to leave her each night and to come home to a cold, empty apartment without her. However, if there is an example of enlightened beings in this temporal world, the nurses of Special Care must be them.

Of all the great nurses who cared for Marina, one managed to have a special bond with all three of us. Her name is Donna. She managed to guide and advise us in those early days without minimising our role. Each day, she would reassure us of our baby’s progress as well as our future potential as parents and was able to deliver commonsense, affirming advice that served to build up our confidence. Thank you Donna.

With Marina home now, I have time to think about the world she is born into. When she was born, our country had its first female Prime Minister, one who had to endure some of the most outrageous, misogynistic, vile commentary from the media, other politicians and ordinary voters. By the time our child came home today, PM Gillard had been deposed (just last night) and was retiring, making way for Kevin Rudd, a hypocritical egotist who sadly, is our only hope against Tony Abbott. I could write a whole blog about that guy but for now, I will just say that anything would be better than Tony Abbott.

She is being born into a world that continues to voraciously work its way through its dwindling resources while building up a level of pollution that will radically change the world in her lifetime. It will be her generation that will have to develop remedies for the mistakes of our current political leaders. Unfortunately, society is getting less and less co-operative and more and more individualistic. A society where concern for where the next dollar is coming from has a higher priority than concern for our poorest brothers and sisters; a society where a billion dollar casino project is needed to get this state moving again rather than the hospitals, schools and civil society which continue to fall apart around our ears.

I had always had an abstract understanding of how a father has concern for his children. I have enough mates with children to see some great examples to model my behaviour on. This brotherhood of fathers is a great resource and my daughter will have the benefit of some exceptional and loving aunties and uncles but ultimately, her health, safety and happiness will rest upon my shoulders and my wife’s for the foreseeable future. It is a heavy responsibility but one that will have tremendous rewards and some pitfalls along the way, but one thing is certain; it will be an adventure and it begins today.