Tag Archives: ALP

Everything is politics. Discuss.

20 Oct

In this piece on The Drum today titled “Labor misreads the politics of Ebola,” Paula Matthewson argues that the Opposition has misjudged its stance on the Abbott government’s response to the current Ebola health crisis. There was a momentary lament on Twitter about the term “the politics of Ebola” to which Matthewson responded “Everything is politics.” To which I responded “And that is the biggest problem we will ever have to face.”

Everything has a “politics” to be sure, but not everything is solely politics. Good governance, of the kind we have yet to see from the Abbott government, doesn’t reduce every situation to its politics, unless that governance is entirely dedicated to self-interest in which case it isn’t good, or even adequate. Yes, there is a political dimension to the Ebola crisis, and there is a humanitarian dimension, and an economic dimension as well. Privileging the political is of benefit to politicians and their extended entourage, but rarely does it benefit the broader community to have any issue reduced to only one of its dimensions.

This isn’t to criticise Matthewson’s piece, she’s clear about the dimension she’s focusing on. However, some of us nursed a secret hope that the Opposition’s critique of Abbott’s hardline position in refusing to supply boots on the ground in West Africa indicated its humanitarian leanings, rather than being merely the assumption of a conveniently contrary political position, but so bereft are we of trust in politicians we can’t be sure of any of their motives. Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten delivers his set lines with all the conviction of a wombat brought down by a tranquilliser dart, and while the Prime Minister performed superbly in opposition as the world’s best bovver boy, his affectless promises to shirtfront Putin at the G20 are a bad fit with his current manifestation as our country’s leading statesman. As my grandmother liked to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, more’s the pity as the political landscape is currently littered with pigs’ ears, with barely a silk purse in sight.

It’s probably sadly true that every issue has become distilled to its politics, to the exclusion of any other consideration. So we treat asylum seekers abominably, break our necks in our urgency to become involved in distant wars, refuse to send medical personnel to assist with globally threatening diseases, and the rest, all because of political expediency. It has got to the point where to even raise humanitarian concerns will likely lead to a tsunami of mockery. Matthewson may well be right: everything is politics, and if that’s the case, that is indeed the biggest problem we’ll ever have to face.

The fundamental reason people seek asylum in Australia: because we tell them they can.

19 Feb

Both the ALP and LNP governments have, for more than a decade now, chosen to ignore the fundamental reason why people seek asylum in this country: we are signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, and as such, we currently offer asylum to anyone who seeks it, no matter what their method of arrival.

Instead of withdrawing from this Convention, the “honest” thing to do as apparently we no longer consider it to have any validity whatsoever,  the current Australian government has issued a comic book, explaining to potential refugees why they should not come to this country in the belief that we will honour our commitment, because, quite simply we will not.

We will not speedily assess their claims for refugee status in Australia. We will, in fact, transport them to hideous off-shore processing centres where they will languish in indefinite detention with no certainty at all about their futures, and if that is not enough, they will be subject to violence resulting in serious injury and death from sources that as yet remain unidentified, because we do not adequately protect them.

This is what we do, instead of honouring the obligations we undertook when we first signed the UNHCR Convention in 1951, then ratified it in 1967.

We are despicable. Our politicians have made us a despicable, lying, obfuscating nation without the courage to withdraw from a commitment we have no intention of honouring. Australia enjoys the kudos of being a civilised signatory to the UNHCR Convention. At the same time, Australia has no intention of honouring our voluntarily undertaken commitments to that Convention.

This is our primary shame. Our hypocrisy. Our disgrace.

And both the ALP and the LNP have brought us to this.

What a pity Tony Abbott didn’t stay in the seminary;Tony Soprano, & Moby

27 May

I woke this morning thinking of Tony Abbott, a rude awakening in anyone’s book.

What a pity Abbott didn’t stay in the seminary, and use the  Catholic church as his political playground, I thought. The rest of us would have been spared his rampant ambition, and who cares if he’d trashed the College of Cardinals if they refused him a red hat?

What a pity also, that Abbott wasn’t moved to realise his perhaps most outstanding natural talent, that of thespian.

It’s become clear  as we’ve progressed through the tortuous months since the ALP negotiated government, and since the day the LOTO failed to sell his arse in exchange for a ring of another kind, that Abbott has played whatever role his directors believed expedient.

We’ve watched Tony play the part of a highly offensive, sociopathically aggressive ambassador from the planet of negativity, whose speech patterns gave one reason to ponder whether or not the man was severely linguistically challenged.

Personally, I don’t think that role was difficult for him. It seemed to hint at his nature. Now he’s facing a far greater challenge – maintaining the role of  reasonable, statesmanlike Prime Minister in waiting. The emperor has new clothes.

I’ve heard Abbott described as “complex.” I don’t see it. Rather, I’d describe him as deeply shallow, so bereft of depth and complexity that he can easily be refashioned into the character his advisors believe he needs to be in order to win power. Abbott is an accomplished progenitor of ersatz complexity. He belongs in a Baudrillard text. I have gazed long upon this man, and I cannot find anything of substance in him. He reminds me of nothing as much as the replicants in the classic film, Blade Runner.

Complexity may well be present in Tony, deeply repressed in the interests of ambition. And in all fairness, he is not alone in his uncanny likeness to a replicant: it seems as if the only way to get ahead in Australian politics is to appear as robotic and unempathic as possible. Complexity, that richly human state, is apparently incompatible with what the majority of Australians want to see manifested in their leaders.

I predict that after six months of an Abbott government, many of us will be begging to have Kevin Rudd back. Mark my  words.

I’ve spent much of this last week bed and couch ridden, and fevered with flu. I re-watched three series of The Sopranos, including the episodes in which Tony Soprano, shot by his Uncle Junior, lies comatose in intensive care.

Now there’s a complex Tony. Even his shrink, Jennifer Melfi, is more than a little bit in love with his mercurial personality, though her own shrink, played to perfection by Peter Bogdanovich, reminds her constantly of Tony’s psychopathology, and urges her to ditch him as a patient.

Given his role in the bloody, death-strewn world of The Sopranos, Bogdanovich surprisingly wrote in 2012:

Today, there’s a general numbing of the audience. There’s too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible. Back in the ’70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, “We’re brutalizing the audience. We’re going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum.” The respect for human life seems to be eroding.

As far as our politicians are concerned, the respect for some human life seems to be eroding, while respect for other human life seems to be increasing beyond all proportion.

I had forgotten the haunting Moby song used so effectively to convey Tony Soprano’s state of mind as he wanders alone in the space between life and death. I don’t know that enjoy is the right word, but anyways:

On the politics of criminalising the persecuted

11 Apr

Both the ALP and LNP have, since the Howard government adopted Pauline Hanson’s racist rhetoric and made it politically mainstream again, steadily escalated the implementation of cruel and inhuman policies towards asylum seekers who arrive here by boat.

Hanson gave voice to a dark side of  Australian culture. Howard saw the votes in it, and legitimised its claims to entitlement. I don’t know if the voters who support the illegal punishment of those seeking asylum in great enough numbers for both major parties to capitulate to their demands, ever actually think about the human beings in whose mental destruction they are callously colluding. I doubt it.

Our politicians despicably wilful refusal to uphold our responsibilities to those seeking asylum, as we agreed to do when we signed and later ratified the UN Convention, makes a mockery of that Convention and our obligations to honour it. If we had any guts at all, we would withdraw. As it stands, by continuing to offer asylum to those fleeing persecution we issue an open invitation. We proclaim ourselves to the world as a site of sanctuary. When we are most definitely not, as it is defined by the Convention.

There has been no political leader in this country willing or able to contest the obscene politicisation of a global human tragedy. Even a prime minister with a vagina won’t do it, indeed, under her government things have become increasingly worse. Despite vagina, Prime Minister Gillard has fully embraced the discourse of the importunate other, taking every opportunity to reassure Australians that she will not permit “foreigners” to take our jobs. Despite vagina and anti misogynist rhetoric, Ms Gillard has presided over the vile and ongoing detention of women and children fleeing persecution.

Is it possible to be a feminist  today in Australia and lock up women and children fleeing persecution? There’s a question for Tony Jones and his all-girl Qanda. There’s a question for “All About Women.”

Every day some public figure in parliament or the media, refers to”illegals” and variations thereof, in their deliberate positioning of boat arrivals as criminals who must be dealt with far more severely than any other criminal. Even murderers know how long they are to be incarcerated. Boat arrivals do not.

Billions of tax payer dollars have been channelled towards these indefinite incarcerations, despite the irrefutable fact that the majority of boat arrivals are found to be refugees, and entitled to stay in this country. Those who are not are quite rightly sent back to where they came from. Unfortunately, some are wrongly sent back to where they came from, and when they arrive they are subjected to torture and death.

As long as there are votes in criminalising and dehumanising asylum seekers who arrive by boat, politicians will continue with these practices. This is one example of the evils of democracy. When the majority demand the torment of others in order that they may persuade themselves they are safe from threat, then the majority will have its way.

There is something fundamentally flawed, not to mention abhorrent, in the belief that the worse we treat those who arrive by boat, the more likely we are to discourage people from attempting the journey. We do not have the right to treat badly those who are only responding to our open invitation, and yet we continue to claim that right and to act on it.

I don’t know where this will end. Asylum seekers are not going away. Boats aren’t going to stop. I don’t know how much more cruelly we can treat boat arrivals, in the vain hope that desperate people will lose their desperation and stay where they are. The rich world must find decent ways to deal with the increasing encroachment of the persecuted on its privilege. We cannot continue to incarcerate them. We cannot continue to drive them out of their minds. We cannot continue to waste the resourcefulness and courage boat arrivals offer our society. We cannot continue to pour billions of dollars into brutalising women and children. We cannot continue capitulating to the ignorant fears of Australians who can’t be bothered thinking this through, and who just want someone to make it all go way and promise them they’ll be forever safe from difference.

We can’t, and we must not.

Elite feminism. Who is it good for?

1 Apr

This piece by Anne Summers on women in government sent me to Twitter with the question “Can Anne Summers explain to me the advantage of having a conservative female PM over a conservative male PM?”

There isn’t an answer to that question unless you are a fanatic, which Summers seems to increasingly become on the matter of Julia Gillard, and then the only answer is, vagina.

It might be worth noting that all the women ministers remained loyal to Gillard in the attempted coup on her leadership, Summers writes. Although a few female members of caucus supported Kevin Rudd (and were willing to be filmed with him while he spoke after the meeting where Gillard was re-elected unopposed), there were no women in the key group of plotters. Nor did any women resign as a result.

An act of double treason, then, that the females who supported Rudd were willing to be filmed with him as well? They should have hidden their allegiances, perhaps, not flaunted them, standing by his side?

Is this an example of gender solidarity, Ms Summers muses. Except of course for the women, (are they real women?) who legged it to Rudd’s camp. And how to explain that failure?

This is an aspect of feminism, increasingly dominant, that I find, well, I don’t think repulsive is too strong a word. It affects me viscerally, as is required of true repulsion. The concept that female genitals correlate with good governance is dangerous in so many ways I don’t even know where to begin. Surely such a gendered concept is one women have been fighting against for centuries now? Surely it is the very cornerstone of patriarchy? 

Just what these women in government are achieving for women not in government is not immediately clear. Indeed, for many single mothers the change to Newstart, for example, is nothing short of disastrous (so much for gender solidarity). I’m informed on Twitter when I voice objections to this obscenity, it was John Howard’s legislation.

This confuses me. We are supporting our first female Labor Prime Minister, even when she perpetuates John Howard’s policies?

The Gillard government’s record on asylum seekers? Makes me want Howard back. Same-sex marriage? ‘Twas Howard who changed the Marriage Act to prevent this, & despite her party supporting a reversal of Howard’s meddling to allow same-sex nuptials, Prime Minister Gillard will have no truck with it.

But that’s all right, because, vagina.

Of course women must participate in government, and at the highest levels. But why I am supposed to support women whose policies I despise, just because women, is beyond me. This “Rah rah ra! Women are in power!” stuff shits me to tears.

It is a particularly middle class, privileged feminism that spares little thought for women who do not inhabit its exclusive clubs. It is offensively self-congratulatory. It is dishonest. It is distorted. And outside of its immediate rarified circles, I can’t see what good it does anybody.

We did once hope that when women got to the top they would take care of their sisters. Which, come to think of it, is just as naive and dangerous as Ms Summer’s position.

Flower of Life. Georgia O'Keeffe

Flower of Life. Georgia O’Keeffe

Now is not the time to have a pity party for the PM

2 Mar

Considering the kind of lives many women are living on planet Earth at this time, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s is up there in the very top level of privilege.

So it comes as something of a shock to read leading feminist Anne Summer’s piece today, in which she frames Ms Gillard as a victim. Victim of bastardry and misogyny, cruelly mocked, scoffed at, subjected to vile commentary including pornographic representation; criticised whichever way she turns, frequently on the basis of her sex, and shown “not the slightest drop of mercy or respect.”

Not only is Ms Gillard deprived of respect, Summers writes, but as a consequence of  personal disdain for her, the office of Prime Minister is also inevitably disrespected.

It’s a bit rich to expect the public to respect the office of Prime Minister given the complete contempt the ALP itself showed towards this office when it was inhabited by Kevin Rudd. This disrespect was compounded when the ALP gave us no warning of their intention to topple the man who had so triumphantly defeated John Howard, and instead acted as if they were governing a nation of mushrooms.

Be that as it may…

While there is much truth in Summer’s assessment of the situation, one has to wonder if it is wise to paint the Prime Minister in such catastrophically underdog terms at this time. There will be plenty of opportunity to dissect the sexism Ms Gillard has endured after the election. If she leads her party to victory she can be portrayed as a glorious survivor of vile misogyny. If she leads them to failure, books can be written about the cruel and unfair treatment of our first female Prime Minister. But right now, nobody wants a victim in charge of a government that is already hurtling down the road to ignominy.

No matter what your opinion of Ms Gillard, I don’t think you could deny that she is a woman of extraordinary strength and tenacity, and a damn good fighter.  Indeed some, perhaps all of her best speeches have been made when she’s been on the back foot, and defending herself against personal attacks. Think the globally acclaimed misogyny speech, for example, as well as the press conference she gave to settle the matter of her alleged involvement in dodgy dealings whilst working at Slater and Gordon. These are not the actions of a woman with a victim mentality. They are the actions of a survivor.

What Ms Gillard endures is sadly no different from what many women endure on a daily basis. That any of us have to put up with misogyny is an outrage, and there are many among us who live with a great deal more of it than Ms Gillard, without any of the compensations she enjoys. In view of this, while it is appropriate to point out misogyny when it so publicly manifests against  a high-profile woman, it isn’t appropriate to cast that woman as a helpless victim. In the hierarchy of female suffering at the hands of the patriarchy, Ms Gillard is luckily on a low level.

I find it difficult to imagine that the Prime Minister herself would appreciate the gender card being played in this way at this time. I see no indication that she considers herself in any way an underdog, and her reaction to sexism and misogyny has been anything but that of a woman looking for mercy.

“Is mockery the new misogyny?” Summers asks.

Mockery may well be yet another form of expressing misogyny in this situation. But the sad fact is that we can’t afford to focus on that right now. Gillard is facing the fight of her political life. Far more importantly, the ALP is facing the same. Do we really want to offer the nation the picture of a victimised, bullied, vilely mocked woman as our next PM? Or should we be wise enough to keep our peace on the misogyny angle, and leave the pity party for another time?

Morrison hammers another nail into decency’s coffin

28 Feb

Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s latest stinky brain fart that everyone should be warned when an asylum seeker is lodged in their neighbourhood is stomach churning on a number of levels, but perhaps the most alarming is that there are people living amongst us, and likely quite a few, who agree with him. Obviously it’s such people he’s seeking to engage with, and he will succeed.

The ALP has well-exceeded the barbarity of Coalition asylum seeker policies. What once seemed so shocking now appears comparatively tame. Morrison has to dig deep to compete. The sad reality for our country is that both major parties believe that hostility towards asylum seekers and refugees is a vote winner, and there’s enough of those votes in play to make this race to the bottom worth their while.

Morrison’s statements are propaganda. There is little point in engaging with their content, except to suggest replacing the term asylum seekers with Jews, or Muslims, or women, or even privileged white males and see how it sounds. His message is that for current political purposes, asylum seekers are the group which will be scapegoated. Scapegoating is employed as a legitimate political strategy. There is no difference between what Morrison is doing, and the early propaganda of the Third Reich. Call Godwin’s Law if you like, but sometimes it really is the only appropriate analogy.

The only hope we have is that there are enough thoughtful women and men in both major parties to loudly protest this unrelenting moral decline on the part of their leaders. The  sickening willingness of so many politicians to remain silent in the face of this vile othering is contemptible.

%d bloggers like this: