Tag Archives: New South Wales

What is it with conservatives and vulnerable people?

29 Jul

The refusal by Coalition states to put money on the table for the NDIS trials early this week makes no sense. If it was a purely political act, then one has to wonder what they imagined it would achieve. Every way you look at it the decision reflects badly on them. Premier O’Farrell (NSW) and Premier Baillieu’s (Victoria) back down two days later looks like a  win for PM Julia Gillard, while their initial refusal looks decidedly lacking in understanding and compassion for people living with a disability, and the carers the scheme is designed to assist.

Campbell Newman, aka the Butcher of Brisbane, continues to withhold financial support  from the scheme, and as a bonus has withdrawn a $6.50 payment to taxi drivers who transport disabled people, for whom accessing a taxi requires a good deal more time and assistance than Mr Newman needs to hop into his car.

What is it with conservatives and vulnerable people?

It’s hard to believe the conservatives involved in this particular decision to boycott assistance for the vulnerable actually thought “Well it doesn’t matter, they are disabled, they aren’t like us, so what do we care because they are weaker so they don’t deserve showers every day and a life.”

Anymore than Adolf Eichmann thought about the lives of the Jews his organisational talents and ideological commitment combined to ensure were efficiently despatched to their deaths. What Eichmann, O’Farrell, Baillieu and Newman have in common is that they failed (and in Newman’s case, continue to fail) to acknowledge that they were and are dealing with human beings. Human beings with particularly difficult challenges, in the contemporary situation, and I include those who care for disabled people.

Yes, I know there’s a big difference between Eichmann and the Coalition, but they are on the same continuum, a continuum that denies the humanity of others unlike themselves. What is so chilling about the politicising of NDIS is that someone made the choice to politicise it, and to entirely disregard the human beings affected by that choice.

It’s really a case of blaming the victim. If you are unfortunate enough to be born with or incur a disability that affects your life, conservatives are not going to make it easy for you because there must be something wrong with you to be disabled in the first place. Like the poor, it’s your own fault. Social structures are not responsible, it’s the behaviours and cultural patterns of the poor that put them where they are.

In short, many conservatives seem to share an attitude that causes them to blame the poor for their poverty and the vulnerable for their vulnerability. There are some who claim this contempt for the “weak” is a feature of the fascist character.

Then there’s the psychological theory of projection, in which the subconscious denies his or her own fears and emotions, and ascribes them to others. Accepting the inevitable vulnerability of being human can be quite a challenge. Nobody wants to feel powerless, or at the mercy of others. Seeing those who are powerless and vulnerable can provoke anger and repulsion, because they are living reminders of what we could be at any moment. Disabled. Poor. Seeking asylum. Responsible for another human being who cannot live without our assistance. At the mercy of others. Not in control.

People who are unable to come to terms with their own vulnerability can react with great antagonism towards those who are in some way injured, and in need of care.  One way of dealing with these extremely uncomfortable feelings is to frame the vulnerable as entirely different and lesser than oneself, thus creating a distance, an illusion of safety and an illusion of  invulnerability. Bad things happen to them, not us, because they aren’t as good as us. The ego can pretend to retain control over the uncontrollable.

However we frame the conservatives’ contempt for people living with a disability and their carers, the bottom line is, it is very unsettling. In my opinion, the two premiers would not have backed down had there not been an angry public reaction to their decision. What does this say about the men and women of the Coalition? Nothing good, I fear and it should cause us to think hard and long about an Australia governed by men and women incapable of seeing others as human as themselves, because they are overtly vulnerable in some way.

I give the last word to George Harrison:

Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all those little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in.

Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
And they always have clean shirts to play around in.

And in their styes with all their backing
They don’t care what goes on around
And in their eyes there’s something lacking
What they needs a damm good whacking.

Yeah, everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
And you can see them on their trotters
Down at the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To thee pig brother

- everybody: -
Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

Guns and God: Fred Nile says secular ethics led to Nazi atrocities

5 Aug

Christian democrat MP Fred Nile today claimed that the secular humanist philosophy on which he believes ethics classes in schools are based led to the worst Nazi atrocities of the second world war.

It’s unclear whether or not the Reverend Nile knows what secular humanism is, and it’s also worrying that he seems to equate Nazism with communism.

I find it difficult to see anything the least bit ethical in Nile’s attempts to blackmail the NSW government into dropping ethics classes from schools. But what is most puzzling is the Christian furore over these classes in the first place, and the insecurity that gives rise to it. This insecurity must be considerable if they resort first to Godwin’s Law.

Apparently Christianity is on such shaky ground in NSW that its proponents feel they must destroy anything they perceive to be the least bit competitive. Non-Christians are under attack. We have the school chaplaincy program trying to get converts, and telling our troubled young that Jesus loves them, and Fred Nile trying to quelch (is that a word? Did I just make it up? A neologism?) any alternative to Christian values. Actually, there are no alternatives, according to Fred. You can’t have ethics without Christianity. Where this leaves all the rest of the world’s religions, who knows.

I’m over these Christian types who try to impose their will on the rest of us. They have some nerve. I’ve met a few over the years and one thing that has always seemed incongruous about them is their reluctance to die. Yes. Faced with serious illness they do not want to go to God. They take as many evasive measures as those of us who think we’re looking at annihilation. I do not understand this. If you’ve lived your life in anticipation of the much better time you’re going to have after you’re dead, why put it off?

The linking of secular humanist philosophy with Nazi atrocities signals a new low in Fred’s fight. He’s always been an irritant, like something you get in your eye on a windy day. Elevated to his current position of power, he’s a menace. In NSW we are in the hands of gun-mongering lunatics who want every school child to learn how to shoot, and god- mongering lunatics who will break things if they don’t get their way. Guns and God. Now that combination should scare the bejesus out of any right-minded person.

Linda Burney confronted about punitive surrogacy amendment

26 Mar

On SBS Insight on Thursday, March 22,  audience members got their chance to confront the NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney,  on her amendment to the NSW surrogacy legislation that makes overseas commercial surrogacy a crime in NSW.

Extra territorial laws such as this are at present only in place for terrorist activities and child sexual abuse.

Burney introduced the amendment in an effort to protect women overseas she considers to be exploited by Australian parents seeking a surrogate.

It is a little on the grandiose side to imagine that any NSW law will have any impact at all on commercial surrogacy in, say, India.

But Burney’s agenda is punitive – she has admitted  that it is intended to “punish” couples who seek overseas surrogates. It will do nothing to prevent couples using overseas surrogates, as she also admitted in the program.

What it will do is put couples at risk of hefty fines and custodial sentences of up to two years if on returning to NSW they attempt to obtain parentage orders for their babies.

Parents are unable to apply for the orders without disclosing the circumstances of their child’s birth. If in an effort to avoid prosecution the parents don’t apply for parentage orders, their children are cast into a legal limbo that leaves them disadvantaged and discriminated against.

Ms Burney was supported by  Dr Renate Klein, a  “pro life” or anti choice feminist, depending on your point of view. Dr Klein steadfastly refused to acknowledge the right of adult couples to make responsible choices about commercial surrogacy. She stated that we cannot all have what we want, and when couples can’t have children, they must learn to live with it.

There has been much discontent around Burney’s amendment, and widespread agreement that it was passed without anything like the amount of public discussion and consultation it should have had.

It was clear from the couples in the studio who’d used surrogates that they are decent, fair people who went to great lengths to ensure the women who carried their babies were decently treated.

A father told the story of how his twin boys were born prematurely, and he’d lost them both. Klein immediately demanded to know if the surrogate got paid anyway.

The father broke down, and haltingly responded that of course she did, and that he thought it was disgraceful that Klein had had asked that question. I have to say I agree with him.

While there are of course incidences of exploitation, constructing all surrogacy arrangements as exploitative is extremely dishonest. This is what Burney and Klein have done, in order to further their personal agendas.

The topic is too vast, and too important to be left to the agendas of two women whose primary purpose is punitive and who’s moral position, in the case of Klein, extremely narrow.

Lastly we crossed to a short interview with twin boys carried by an American surrogate, whose parents were in the studio audience. The boys know all about their gestation, and are looking forward to a trip to the States where they’ll to go to Disneyland and spend time with the woman “who borned us.”

It seems unlikely that Burney will be a Minister after this weekend. She might be out of a job as well. She leaves a mean-spirited, dishonest and disempowering legacy to couples and their children. It is probably too much to expect that this amendment will be revoked. This means there will probably be babies in NSW who have no legal status and no legal protection, and no legal identity.

Another disgraceful legacy from NSW Labor.

How to “lovingly” expel a homosexual student, or, God is in the house.

20 Feb

God hates fags.com via flickr

 

Brigadier Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby believes that a church school should have the right to expel any openly gay student.

“But I would expect any church that found itself in that situation to do that in the most loving way…I think it’s a loving response,” he says.

It’s legal for religious institutions in NSW to expel homosexual students, and Attorney-General John Hatzistergos, supports that law. While there are churches that oppose it, Jim Wallace gives it his whole-hearted support.

It’s difficult to know where to begin addressing the offensiveness of Wallace’s comments, but perhaps from a human rights point of view, it is most shocking in its reduction of the identity of a young human being solely to their sexual preference.

Nothing else about these students has any apparent value for Wallace, other than their sexuality. The intrinsic worth of the student is reduced to his or her sexual orientation. If the young person is brilliant, gifted, a high achiever – and gay, the Christian school should expel him or her, according to the well known Christian, Wallace.

“Lovingly,” of course.

Would this be another version of “tough love” perhaps?

How does one “lovingly” expel a young person from their school community because of their sexual orientation? Please explain.

Reducing a human being to one aspect of their character is a dehumanising tool used in all propaganda. When we can’t see another’s humanity, we’re far more likely to treat them badly.  It requires a leap of the imagination to make an identification with people who’ve been reduced to stereotypes, and many of us don’t want to/can’t be bothered with that imaginative exercise.

Propaganda ensures that certain lives (homosexual in this case) are not considered lives at all in the fullest sense. Reduced to the issue of sexual preference, and on the sole grounds that they are not heterosexual, gay students are punished by expulsion from their community, their lives stigmatized as deviant by their churches.

Failure to see young people as individuals in their own right leads to serious repercussions for them, and for society. Homophobic religious imperatives are determining the course of some students’ lives, with the support of politicians whose first concern is not the welfare of young people, but winning the religious vote.

Belief systems with discriminatory attitudes are putting young people at risk, and governments are supporting the process. This is described by Hatzistergos as maintaining “…the sometimes delicate balance between protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination while allowing people to practice their beliefs.”

Since he admits homophobia is “unlawful discrimination,” Hatzistergos’ position is that what the rest of the community has declared illegal is acceptable if it occurs within a belief system.  That church schools are granted permission to behave illegally makes a mockery of anti discrimination laws.

If a behaviour is illegal, it is illegal.

Religions in this country should be abiding by the laws of this country.

Around Australia, churches are exempt from anti discrimination legislation that prevents others from dismissing gay, lesbian, and trans gendered people, solely because of their sexual orientation.

Culturally salient beliefs normalize these problematic practices. One of these beliefs is that religious freedom trumps the anti discrimination culture.

But only some religious freedom, otherwise we’d be condoning genital mutilation and the polygamous and forced marriages of ten year old girls.

We’re selective about which religious freedoms we uphold.

Religious beliefs are fluid. Values change, often quite radically. There’s disagreement within religious circles about the expulsion of gay students.  It isn’t the government’s role to legalise these vacillating values, or to give legal validity to one point of view within the churches at the expense of another.

As our law declares discrimination illegal, the government’s role is to support and validate the country’s law.

Religions in this country should abide by the laws of this country. We require this of non Judeo Christians, especially those most recently arrived here. State and federal governments must require it of all religions in Australia, and particularly of all schools.

GOD IS IN THE HOUSE,  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Nick Cave, by Ben Houdijk via flickr

 

Homos roaming the streets in packs,
queer bashers with tyre-jacks
Lesbian counter-attacks
That stuff is for the big cities
Our town is very pretty
We have a pretty little square
We have a woman for a mayor
Our policy is firm but fair
Now that God is in the house
God is in the house
Any day now he’ll come out
God is in the house.


Linda Burney’s punitive stand on surrogacy.

6 Feb
Dibujo del perfil de Nicole Kidman

Image via Wikipedia

If Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban had hired an overseas surrogate to carry baby Faith Margaret while living in any of their NSW homes, and then returned with their baby,they would be subject to fines and jail sentences, under the terms of  the amendment to surrogacy legislation introduced by NSW Minister for Community Services, Linda Burney.

On March 1 2011 NSW legislation on surrogacy will pass into law, making commercial surrogacy illegal in the State.

Linda Burney has added an extra territorial amendment to the original surrogacy bill, extending the criminalisation of commercial surrogacy to those who employ overseas surrogates.

The penalties for using an overseas surrogate will be a fine of some $110,000, and/or two years jail.

As well, the child parents bring home will have no legal rights and protection, as do all other children in NSW, regardless of the method of their conception.

Parents may apply for parentage orders for their children, however in doing so will run the risk of criminal prosecution, with fines and possible jail terms.

This would seem a powerful disincentive to applying for appropriate orders, leaving the children in a right-less and unprotected limbo.

As well, Burney’s amendment assumes that all those seeking overseas surrogacy arrangements will look for underprivileged women who need the money.

There are many commercial surrogates overseas who are middle class women, and who make an informed choice to carry a child for another woman.

The Minister’s justifications

Minister Burney’s justification for the extra territorial clause is that she wishes to, in her language, punish those who “take advantage of women who hire out their bodies because they are poor.” Criminalizing those who have been unable to find altruistic surrogates in NSW and turn instead to women overseas is the realisation of Burney’s desire to punish.

It is unrealistic in the extreme to expect this criminalizing of a minority group of NSW citizens will make any dent at all in the exploitation of women in countries where commercial surrogacy is legal. One might as well criminalize everyone who buys a t-shirt made in a Bangkok sweatshop by six year old children who are paid 20 cents a day for their labours.

Or what about the Australian citizens who travel overseas for say, a kidney transplant to a country where the traffic in human organs is unregulated and people sell the parts they can live without for an income? Are we going to criminalize those citizens and prosecute them when they come home with their new illegal part on board?

A divisive issue

Commercial surrogacy is a morally divisive issue. Those against it argue that it results in the depersonalisation of pregnancy and childbirth, and that it treats both women and children as commodities. Wealthy couples can “rent a womb” from financially vulnerable women, and this, in the eyes of some, is exploitation of the worst kind.

Commercial surrogacy is felt by some to be degrading to both women and children. It is perceived as morally offensive, and as treating other human beings merely as a means to an end.

There are potential emotional difficulties on all sides, including that of the child.

The argument for (briefly)

Those who argue for commercial surrogacy point out that it is a matter of personal autonomy for all the adults involved. If a woman wishes to act as a surrogate that is her business, they argue, and she is entitled to remuneration for her time and work.

If commercial surrogacy is permitted and regulated in NSW, then it will lessen the need for couples to go overseas and into situations of possible exploitation, they claim.

To proscribe commercial surrogacy on the grounds that it’s harmful to those undertaking it is interference by the State in personal matters that are not the State’s business, and that belong in the realm of the private conscience, some argue. It is not acceptable, this argument continues, for the State to impose and enforce one moral aspect against private actions that do not harm others.

What is Burney’s amendment good for?

It seems highly unlikely that Burney’s amendment will prevent couples seeking commercial surrogacy overseas. What it will most certainly achieve is the legal alienation of the resulting children in this State. It will cause parents to conceal their activities, perhaps even from their own families, for fear of prosecution.

It will cast an unacceptable and permanent cloud over such families and their children. It will drive those having no option but commercial surrogacy, underground.

And for what?

To satisfy Burney’s need to take a moral stand against the laws of other countries.

Moral stands are often good and necessary things, but only when they’re realistically weighed up against their usefulness, and their consequences. In this case the usefulness of such a moral stand would seem to be minimal. The consequences, on the other hand, are horrible and permanent for the families concerned.

The reality is that couples needing the services of a surrogate are going to find one, somehow, somewhere.  Those of us, who like Ms Burney have not needed to take this drastic action in order to create our families, need to be especially careful when prescribing for and judging those less fortunate in that respect.

It is an especially weighty responsibility for Burney, as she is in a privileged position. She has the power to create a situation in which those less fortunate than herself are criminalized, and their children cast into a legal limbo.

Burney’s extra territorial amendment could well be seen by some as an abuse of her power. Perhaps it isn’t a politician’s role to punish those he or she disagrees with, on moral grounds that are far from unanimous in the community.

Perhaps it is especially distasteful when a politician acts on a personal desire to punish constituents who are already struggling with the fraught issue of creating their family.

Surrogacy in NSW Law Reform Commission Discussion paper

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