Tag Archives: Kevin Rudd

Getting rid of dysfunctional Prime Ministers

30 Nov

 

Tony Abbott Announces Leadership Team

 

Former Liberal Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett this morning dumped big time on the federal LNP, claiming that dislike for Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a major factor in the Victorian election result that yesterday brought a resounding victory to the ALP, ousting the Liberal government in its first term.

Kennett claims the Abbott government is a “shambles,” and Ministers in the Napthine Government said there was “no question’’ that the unpopularity of Tony Abbott in Victoria was a factor in their defeat.

The government is in a bind about Tony. If they get rid of him in his first term they risk being seen as unstable and disloyal, allegations they levelled unrelentingly while in opposition at the ALP for its ongoing leadership woes with Kevin Rudd.

An aside on that matter. Now we have a good deal more information about that debacle, wouldn’t it have been so much better if Gillard had informed the electorate about the difficulties the government was having with Rudd, rather than leaving us to wake up one morning and discover we no longer had the extremely popular Prime Minister who’d led the Labor party to victory? Pole-axing an electorate in such a fashion and then going on to be excessively secretive as to the reasons for such drastic action would seem to be a most unwise strategy, and indeed, that’s what it proved to be.

The situation with Abbott is very different: while Rudd was still popular but behind the scenes, dysfunctional, Abbott is openly dysfunctional and unpopular to boot, so the electorate won’t go into nearly as much shock and awe if he’s chucked out of the top job in his first term.

Personally, I’d like to see Abbott stay on as leader as he’s the ALP’s best asset.

The federal government is like a dysfunctional family with a rogue father at its head. Everyone closes ranks and publicly supports the patriarch even though he’s bringing ruination down on their collective heads, because that’s what families do. They stick together in the face of adversity, and in so doing, enable the maintenance of the dysfunction. This eventually damages every family member, and the price for such misguided unity is death, of one kind or another.

There’s little more difficult than dealing with a dysfunctional leader, be it in politics or the family, and we saw how the ALP crumbled under the pressure of their Rudd woes.

The precedent for getting rid of first term Prime Ministers has been set, and there are few among us who would find it shocking the second time around. However, the LNP are likely far too spooked by the Rudd saga to risk ousting their dysfunctional leader in his first term. This could well be their downfall.

 

Politics, Melancholia & Vulva Vulva Vulva.

23 Aug

I don’t know if it’s a consequence of my recent encounter with melancholia, but I can’t recall a time when I’ve been less engaged with politics around an election period.

The word melancholia reminds me of the 2011 Lars von Trier movie of the same name, an apocalyptic tale of planetary collision, inspired by the director’s post-depression insight that those of us stricken with this disorder behave with far more calm than do others when subjected to stress.

Why this is a surprise to anyone is beyond me.  We aren’t calm. We just don’t care enough to get excited. I don’t know how von Trier missed that difference.

When I consider the current political scene I do so with low levels of enthusiasm, and a good deal of despondency. David Horton articulates some of my ennui here, in describing our choices as between the lesser of two evils, that is,  an ideological extremist on the one hand, and a man lacking all belief (other than in himself) on the other.  In this faux presidential race, we have little to compare beyond the personalities of two white middle-aged men, both of whom, to me anyway, have all the appeal of a three-day-old boarfish.

I have no idea where they got the notion that repeating a word three times imbues that word with magical magical magical qualities qualities qualities.

I feel some sympathy for those obliged to earn their living autopsying  seemingly off-the-cuff comments made by one candidate or the other, in a desperate effort to manufacture meaning. At the same time I am fed up to the back teeth with the hours of “analysis” of one sentence, usually Tony Abbott’s. I am of the belief that everything he says is determined by the focus group du jour and that there are no “gaffes.” If he is sexist, that is because he is dog whistling sexists. Which is not to say it should not be remarked upon, of course it should. It is a sad situation, when in order to win an election a candidate must resort to sexism and xenophobia, but what is even more alarming is the willingness of potential leaders to capitulate to what is least desirable in the human.

Fed up with it all, my interest was briefly aroused by a kerfuffle at Sydney University over featuring female genitalia on the cover of Honi Soit.  Just because I can,  I’m going to link you to the Mamamia  account of how university educated women don’t know their vulvas from their vaginas. As will be clear to anyone who looks at the uncensored collection, these are vulvas on display, not vaginas, though the women involved set up a Twitter hashtag to deal with the fall out that read: #vaginasoit.

They’re following on from our globally acclaimed Convoy of Cleavage, I thought, momentarily emerging from my lugubrious state  mildly pleased to have been an inspiration to women.

It is alarming, though, that so many among us do not know the correct names for the female genitalia, adding weight to the women’s claims that we need to be more upfront about our bits. Who would ever call a penis testicles, or vice versa? Add to that the opinion of the university’s vice-chancellor that the cover of vulvas is “demeaning to women” and we have, in one  fleeting moment, been granted a view into the abyss to which female sexuality is cast by, erm, the patriarchy. An abyss of ignorance, contempt and desperate desire.

In their defence, the women cited an occasion on which Honi Soit featured a flaccid penis on its cover and nobody gave a toss. So to speak. Fair enough. Radical women must not be subdued by social conventions that insist a flaccid penis makes a more acceptable magazine cover than a series of resting vulvas.

Lars von Trier used Wagner’s (much-loved by Hitler) Tristan und Isolde prelude as the soundtrack for Melancholia. In his post screening interview in Cannes, von Trier lost his head and claimed to be a Nazi as a joke, he later protested, a joke that saw him banned from screenings for a period and roundly castigated for his sense of humour. Like the Honi Soit women, he crossed a line.

In politics, the masters and mistresses of spin have co-opted the innocent (if at times stupid) crossing of lines, and turned it into strategy. When Abbott is sexist, when either man is xenophobic, they are crossing lines and offending many of us, just as many were offended by von Trier’s Nazi references, and the sight of vulvas.  However, politicians cross the lines because research has told them that below those lines dwell the voters for whom there are no lines beyond their own self-interest. There is no innocence or even stupidity left in such border crossings. It is cold and it is calculated. It cares not what havoc it might wreak. It wants only power.

Politics. Melancholia. And, vulva vulva vulva. It’s magic.

Let’s talk about trust.

9 Aug

Faith-Trust-Pixie-Dust_6E9B819CFor reasons that escape me, this election is,  I’m told every time I listen to analyses, being fought on the issue of trust.

It isn’t being argued on the grounds of which party the voter ought to trust, but which man. And so we find ourselves with our feet in two incompatible electoral systems: on the one hand Westminster, bequeathed to us by the colonisers, and on the other, a Presidential system that we have voluntarily adopted from the US. Our election is to be fought presidentially between Tony Abbot and Kevin Rudd and more specifically, on the trustworthiness or otherwise of these two men. However, we are governed by the Westminster system, in which either party can replace its leader without recourse to the opinions of voters.

It’s difficult to imagine a more advanced state of political lunacy.

Leaving aside the matter of which man is more worthy of our trust, or perhaps not entirely leaving it aside, because I can’t help but observe that there’s a bee’s dick of difference between them, and neither of them ought to be trusted as far as I can spit, but be that as it may, what is this thing called trust that will determine who will govern the country for the next three years?

The dominant paradigm for trust is generally accepted as the relation held between two morally mature people, although the trust of a child is the exception to this. For our purposes, I’ll stick to the morally mature. It’s almost impossible to will oneself to trust: a cause is required, in other words, what is the justification for trusting this person?

Trust inherently involves risk, and there are arguments made for trust as the very basis of morality. Moral integrity is required for all trust relationships: when I trust you I make myself vulnerable to betrayal so I want to know before I embark on that hazardous course that you have integrity, and that the risk I’m taking, while never entirely absent because human beings fall and stumble, is minimal.

There’s a great deal of difference in the distress one feels when betrayed by a politician, and that felt when betrayed by a lover, or friend, or someone in close relationship. I hope there is, anyway. If not, that gives a whole new meaning to the term political tragic. Indeed, I wonder if the term trust is  even appropriate when it comes to our relations with politicians. Perhaps there’s an argument for replacing it with reliability. When I only rely on someone, as opposed to trusting him or her, I’m not going to feel betrayed when he or she lets me down, I’m only going to feel disappointed. Trust and betrayal. Reliability and disappointment. Yes, trust does sound entirely too intimate to be applied to the political relationship.

However, trust is a powerful word, evoking powerful emotions, compared to which mere reliability carries little emotional weight and appeal. The very fact that  politicians choose the word trust is evidence of their desire to emotionally manipulate, and therefore good reason to be wary of trusting them.

If we were asked to judge and compare Rudd and Abbott on their reliability most of us would laugh like drains and that would be the end of the campaign. When we’re asked to trust them that’s a whole other ball game, and because of the emotional power of the concept, a far more serious one.

When I Googled “trust” I encountered such gems as “Loving someone is giving them the power to break your heart, but trusting them not to.”  And “Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” And my personal favourite from Twitter: “Truly falling in love with you is not one of the greatest mistakes of my life but trusting you madly is one of the biggest mistakes of my life ever.” Trust, then is generally perceived as belonging in the private, not the political domain. The betrayal of trust is rather a serious matter, and has consequences, most of which are very unpleasant. Once lost, it’s hard to recover.

It seems to me that fighting this election on which of two politicians is the most trustworthy is a sign of our escalating political insanity. The records of both men demonstrate their lack of integrity, and their wavering moralities. There is no justification at all for placing trust in either of them.

How much better to focus on the policies espoused by both major parties and ignore their leaders.  I need a good deal more than the faith, trust and a little pixie dust offered by Rudd and Abbott in their presidential race to win government. Gentlemen, neither of you cut the mustard in the trust stakes and you aren’t that reliable either. And if I consider a final Google gem: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved”, well, chaps, forget it.

Abbott Rudd

 

When politicians create scapegoats.

26 Jul

Humanity is therefore a graded and ranked status with many shades and tiers between ‘superhuman’ Western, white, heterosexual male at the one end and the non-human, the concentration camp inmates or the fleeing refugee at the other. Costa Douzinas

It began in 2001 when John Howard introduced into our politics the language of border control, illegals and queue jumpers with which to define asylum seekers arriving by boat. In the context of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Howard seized the opportunity to exploit a xenophobia unleashed by Pauline Hanson, and sought to create a bond amongst Australian voters by uniting us in fear of invasion by the boat-borne, allegedly diseased, allegedly potentially terrorist refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

The fabricated threat of invasion, together with Howard’s promise to protect the electorate from imagined perils, won him an election he looked set to lose.

What was absolutely necessary for Howard’s success, and what continues to be necessary to the present day, is the successful dehumanisation of boat borne asylum seekers by politicians. The humanity of asylum seekers must be negated so that their suffering appears both inauthentic and uninteresting to sections of the electorate perceived to control the re-election of governments. Primarily, they must be constructed as threats to the well-being of Australians, their lives stripped of experience and meaning. The implication of such treatment is that asylum seekers are less than human, and that seeking asylum is a criminal offence.

The theoretical underpinning of Howard’s political moves is explained by Douzinas thus:

The refugee is a representative of total otherness…This is the reason why the refugee is seen as such a threat…the terrifying absolute, total Other, the symbol of contamination that otherness may bring upon community and identity.

The asylum seeker, the ultimate foreign other, is employed as a scapegoat to strengthen the boundaries of the nation-state by uniting its citizens in a common rejection of the foreigner’s humanity in favour of maintaining the ideology of sovereignty. In raw terms, the suffering of boat borne asylum seekers is as nothing compared to Australia’s sovereignty which, it is claimed, is dangerously threatened by their arrival and their requests for sanctuary. Once this principle is established, the dehumanising process has begun.

It is hardly surprising that when such a principle is promoted by the country’s leaders, mistreatment of asylum seekers in detention centres occurs. Permission has been granted from the highest political level to act towards them as if they are less human than us, and less entitled to fundamental considerations Australians may take for granted, such as the human right to access to legal assistance, for example.  In other words, boat borne asylum seekers are denied the right to rights. There is not much more that can be done to dehumanise an individual than to deny her or him the right to rights.

They have been cast as an underclass, displaced persons without citizenship, stateless, belonging nowhere, anonymous. Indeed, to the state and its supporters, the stranger seeking asylum is assumed to be corrupt because of her very circumstances, regardless of how far out of her control those circumstances are.

It can be difficult to understand the situations that have caused asylum seekers to undertake life-threatening boat journeys rather than stay where they are. With no experience of prolonged terror, daily fear of death or torture, or the crushing despair of indefinite uncertainty, it’s not unusual for people to imagine they would do much better than asylum seekers, and show greater resilience and courage  in similar circumstances. This is an attitude politicians exploit, encouraging the electorate to position itself on the high moral ground that casts asylum seekers as inferior and weak. In reality, there are likely few among us who would voluntarily embark on those boat journeys that in themselves speak to us of courage, tenacity, a will to live and a determination many of us never have to seek and find in ourselves.

Politicians carry an enormous burden of responsibility for the mistreatment of asylum seekers by others. They have given permission, indeed they have actively encouraged a perception of asylum seekers that casts them as less worthy of care and concern than anyone else in our community. They have deliberately created a scapegoat. It is inevitable that the scapegoat will be treated horribly. They are now holding the scapegoat hostage as an act of “deterrence” to others desperate enough to risk their lives at sea.

It means nothing that most of the 47,000 boat arrivals assessed in the last five years have been found to be refugees. Australian politicians are happy to take people whose lives are already in trauma and turmoil, and exploit them even further to achieve their own dubious ends. PM Rudd and LOTO Abbott are upping the stakes. Their increasingly hard-line policies will result in asylum seekers being treated more badly than they have been to date, as the message filters through to the Australian public that these people do not matter. Their lives and their experiences are as nothing compared to the country’s allegedly precarious sovereignty, and the winning of government. They are nothing more,  in the constructed reality of Rudd and Abbott, than scapegoats, and a means to a political end.

Why Julia Gillard is my sister

3 Jul

I’m not the type of essentialist gender feminist who believes every woman is my sister simply because we share biological characteristics, unlike leading public figure Anne Summers, who in this article  expresses outrage against certain female MPs who did not resign “in solidarity” with Ms Gillard when she lost the ALP leadership to Kevin Rudd last week.

I don’t usually follow the line that a high achieving woman is making things better for all of those who share her sex. That to me is a romantic idea that has little basis in reality, indeed there are women among us considerably worse off after Ms Gillard’s prime ministership, for example the sole parents shifted to Newstart, and women seeking asylum.

Summers’ test of faith I find entirely self-defeating. What would it serve Australian society if every time a woman in public office was badly treated, her female colleagues resigned? In a nano second, there would be none of us left anywhere. It’s the sort of demand a comfortable middle class feminist can make from her armchair without pausing to consider the ramifications, for individuals and the greater good of our society.

That being said, these last few days I’ve noticed a sense of relief in myself and people around me. What is this about? The cessation of sexist abuse against Ms Gillard, that’s what it’s about.

It’s only since Ms Gillard left the leadership that it’s become painfully clear just how bad and how constant the gender-based abuse was. It’s like the relief you feel when you stop hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, if you are given to that form of self-abuse.  We no longer have to witness the daily public denigration of a woman, because she is a woman. We no longer have to witness the gender war in all its frightening darkness, as fought between Ms Gillard and the sexists from all walks of life, whose first complaint against the Prime Minister was that she is female, and who viewed every other dissatisfaction through that gender prism.

We have never seen such a terrifying display of anti woman feeling in our politics, because we have never had a female leader. We couldn’t see how bad it was until it stopped. We couldn’t see how the sexist abuse distracted from the most important  task of keeping our society functioning, which Ms Gillard’s government achieved better than almost any other Western government.

There is a great deal on which I vehemently disagreed with Ms Gillard. I did not personally take to her, though as Deputy PM I thought she would one day be an excellent leader. That day came too soon, and under fraught circumstances that could not have been worse for our first female PM. That the ALP chose to depose then leader Kevin Rudd in his first term was a questionable decision. That they should seize the opportunity to install the country’s first female leader, who as well as everything else was forced to become the blood-soaked symbol of the fallen man’s “knifing” beggars belief. One can only assume that as usual, the blokes brought a woman in to clean up their mess.

Though I am wary of joining anything, let alone a sisterhood (you will not find a woman less interested in or less capable of belonging than me) every time Ms Gillard was abused because of her sex, I was also abused. The unrelenting sexist and misogynist commentary directed towards her was directed at all women, though the perpetrators would no doubt strenuously deny that. It cannot be any other way, anymore than racism can only be aimed at one individual, leaving everyone else untouched.

We should be outraged at the contempt and insult daily enacted towards Ms Gillard. At any moment it can be and is turned against any woman who falls foul of those men and  women who are so conflicted in their attitudes towards us they can only fear and hate, solely because of our sex. One of Ms Gillard’s achievements, though it is not one any sane person could have anticipated or desired, is that she has shown us, through her personal endurance, the degree to which hatred of women still flourishes in Australian society and the awful toll it takes on that society.

In sexism and misogyny, Ms Gillard is my sister.

Knitted fruit makes more sense than politics

27 Jun

The only political event in the last twenty-four hours to provoke in me a smidgen of fleeting sadness, was the resignation of the two most admirable federal politicians in recent memory, Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

While many around them succumbed (with little or no thought for the well-being of the country they were elected to serve) to bitterness, envy, misogyny,narcissistic rage  and rampant idiocy, Windsor and Oakeshott stood firm, emanating decency, integrity, and, yes, that rarest of all virtues in our 21st century parliament, common sense,  while all around them busied themselves with their daily obsequious capitulation to the demands of their lower, reptilian-brained selves.

On a personal level, I dislike Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard almost equally. But this should not matter. Ms Gillard undoubtedly achieved much while simultaneously behaving despicably towards asylum seekers and single parents. We have no idea what Mr Rudd might have achieved, since he was dumped without warning in his first term. We have now come full circle, a political ouroboros, its head devouring its body in obsessive self-absorption.

When Ms Gillard took over from Kevin Rudd after the coup, she drank from a poisoned chalice, as women in politics frequently do, brought in, as we are, to clear up the messes made by blokes. As well, we are a distraction from said messes, and make the party involved look progressive.  Oh look! We’ll make a woman PM, for the first time evah, and that will take everyone’s mind off our chaos!

The repercussions of the coup were bound to be many, and like uranium rods, they have a lengthy half-life. How much better to install a woman to suffer the fall-out than to put a man at risk!

Now patriarchal order has been restored, the woman has gone, the blokes can get back to their business, fighting an election. Mr Rudd proved himself to be exceptionally adept in 2007, let’s hope none of his gloss has faded in the intervening and humiliating years. That he can lead the ALP to victory seems as likely as me learning how to sew, but if he can save a few seats, that will be better than nothing.

I am now returning to my blog break. I’m knitting fruit, in an attempt to dissuade the  creatures that visit my kitchen every night from chewing on the real fruit in my full fruit bowl. Yes. A real woman keeps a full fruit bowl. When considering our political options, we should never forget that fact.

UPDATE ON CONVOY OF CLEAVAGE: WE ARE NOW IN THE NEW STATESMAN

Knitted fruit

Come September,vote with your reason not your emotions

11 Jun

Of all the scurrilous campaigns conducted by the Federal Opposition, and maniacally propagated by almost all the mainstream media, the erroneous suggestion that we vote for a leader when we elect a government in this country has to be one of the most dangerous.

Dangerous because it deliberately disguises the manner in which our Westminster political system actually works. We do not elect our leaders. We elect a party that is entirely responsible for electing its own leader. As we know all too well, a party can sack their leader, without consulting us, at any time.  Had any of us been in any doubt about this, it was made graphically obvious when the ALP defenestrated Kevin Rudd in  his first term as leader, and after he’d led them to an extraordinary victory.

Be that as it may.

I’ve heard and read of many people vowing that if the ALP now defenestrates Prime Minister Julia Gillard, they will never vote Labor again. While I can fully sympathise with this enraged despair, an expression of powerlessness if ever there was one, at the same time it is alarmingly nihilistic, and the country can ill-afford dramatic gestures at this point in our politics.

The ALP needs to get its house in order and earn back the trust it squandered with heart-stopping recklessness since 2007. It may well be doing this from the Opposition benches. Things may well have got so bad there really is no hope of them retaining government, no matter who leads them. But disillusioned as many of us are, we have to do our bit and use our heads, not our hearts. If there is any chance at all of minimising a Labor defeat, we have to take it. The alternative, a coalition government led by Tony Abbott, likely in place for decades, is simply too appalling to contemplate.

The notion that we vote for our leader is part of the Opposition campaign, which relies almost entirely on disseminating false information through the use of simplistic   narratives. The degree to which it has taken hold in the electorate is shocking. That we behave and vote as if we live in a presidential electoral system reveals a vast and profound ignorance of our reality, an ignorance the Opposition and certain sections of the media manipulates and exploits to its own advantage.

No matter how pissed off you are with those in the ALP who have brought us to this, look first to who is standing in your electorate, not to who will or will not be, temporarily, the leader. I know they don’t deserve our trust. But nobody deserves decades of a Coalition government, while the ALP languishes in greatly reduced numbers, as ineffective in opposition as they have been in dealing with their internal strife.

Come September, vote with you reason, not your emotion. And that way, perhaps the damage can be minimised.

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