Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

Abbott’s tyrannical silencing of 1,892,100 possibly critical political opinions

9 Apr

GovernmentThe recent directive from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the lack of freedom of speech public servants have as private citizens, includes the expectation that government employees will dob in colleagues they believe are criticising the government.

This report in the Guardian, linked above, begins with a declaration by Tony Abbott before he became PM:

There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.

I’m baffled as to why this noble sentiment isn’t applied to public servants. Engaging anonymously on social media is no protection for them, as is evidenced by the sacking of Immigration Department employee Michaela Banerji who tweeted critically of the department using a pseudonym, and lost her job.

In subsequent action, Ms Banerji argued that there is an constitutionally implied freedom of political communication for public servants, however, the prospective costs of prolonged legal action caused her to withdraw and settle out of court, leaving the claim untested.

There are some 1,892,100 public servants in Australia, accounting for 16.4 per cent of the workforce. None of them are permitted to offer personal political opinions critical of the government on social media. It is unlikely that this restriction will be challenge by an individual. The government has deep pockets and access to the best advice, when it comes to defending legal action against it. Yet it would seem a matter of urgency that a challenge to such tyranny is launched.

It is tyrannical to forcibly silence critical political opinion with the threat of loss of livelihood. While no one can reasonably endorse public servants using knowledge obtained in the course of their work to criticise the government of the day, general personal opinion, of the kind expressed by Ms Banerji in her tweets ought to be permitted, unless the government is so insecure it cannot bear scrutiny.

A robust and confident government should not fear robust critique. Politicians need to be reminded that they have their jobs only because the electorate allows them that privilege. Stifling dissent will never endear governments to the citizenry. Part of a politician’s job is to weather the inevitable storms of criticism, and if they are too weak to do this, they are too weak to govern a country.

Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, has this interesting take on the responsibility of public servants to the governments that employ them, noting that respect and civilising behaviour are the admirable goals of speech conduct codes.

As Mr Wilson once tweeted that protesters should have a water cannon turned on them, his notions of civilised behaviour are likely unreliable:

@timwilsoncomau Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in the water cannons

Wilson also draws a comparison between criticism and respect, which to my mind is totally false. Respect does not, and never has implied inevitable agreement or lack of criticism. It is a very dangerous conflation Mr Wilson makes, and it is especially concerning that the Commissioner for Freedom (I still don’t know what that means) seems unable or unwilling to consider the complexities of competing rights.

My sympathies are with the many people I know who work for the government. To live in the knowledge that one must be constantly aware of one’s speech for fear of losing one’s job is not how one expects to dwell in a liberal democracy. It is absolutely unacceptable that so many Australians must live this way, with the additional fear that a colleague may at any time dob them in. I am at a loss as to understand just what kind of society the Abbott government envisions for our country. The tyrannical silencing of so many people because it is too weak to withstand critical commentary, does not augur well.

If any public servant wants to be an un-named source, he or she is very welcome on this blog.

Abbott’s only claim to fame: persecuting the utterly helpless.

1 Apr

As far as I can tell, the Abbott government’s proudest achievement in its first one hundred days has been its ongoing persecution of asylum seekers arriving by boat. It has also been its most costly, and I refer you to this excellent ABC fact-checked site titled Operation Sovereign Borders: the first six months for a breakdown of the billions the government has committed to spending to maintain its “stop the boats” policy, and the mandatory detention of asylum seekers already apprehended.

What the government never admits is that “stopping the boats” is not something it can conceivably cease – as long as there are asylum seekers there will be attempts to access this country by boat.  Surveillance, interception and transfer of asylum seekers to lifeboats (which we must keep on purchasing anew as we never get them back) has no foreseeable end. Stopping the boats arriving on Australian shores is an immensely costly business, and open-ended.

Some weeks ago, the Guardian revealed that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had inadvertently released the personal details of one-third of asylum seekers currently in Australia, possibly putting them at great risk if they return or are returned to their countries of origin. The result of this data breach is that asylum seekers may now legally claim refugee status in Australia solely on the grounds of sur place. 

Eighty-three asylum seekers detained at Villawood Detention Centre have launched this action, and the directions hearing challenging the government over the data breach is due to be heard on Friday.

The DIBP have advised the Villawood asylum seekers that they are to be transferred to the remote Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia on Thursday, the day before their directional hearing.

Last week, Scott Morrison announced that all taxpayer-funded legal aid to asylum seekers who arrive by boat would be terminated. One of the consequences of this decision is that there are no longer any free telephone interpreter services available to boat arrivals. Plaintiffs transferred from Villawood to Curtin the day before the directional hearing of their claims, will be unable to freely access interpreters to communicate with their lawyers.

According to the UNHCR, asylum seekers are entitled to legal services and to deprive them of access is a denial of justice.

This is just one of the recent examples of the Abbott government’s unrelenting persecution of boat arrivals.

There is something monstrously pitiful about a government that has as its greatest achievement the persecution of a small group of utterly helpless people. Such persecution is the hallmark of the bully: attacking those who have no possible avenue of escape, or of fighting back, and then boasting of your  achievement.

Abbott and Morrison continue to bring the full weight of their contemptible authority to bear on asylum seekers who arrive by boat, and no expense is spared in the scapegoating and persecution of this group of human beings.

You may not particularly care about asylum seekers and their fate. But every one of us should care a great deal about the characters of the men who govern us when their greatest satisfaction comes from persecuting and ultimately defeating, even to the death, a human group who are amongst the most vulnerable on earth. Such men are dangerous. Such men do not deserve to govern us. Such men will not stop at one group of human beings. When this group ceases to serve their purpose, they will seek out another, equally helpless, equally unable to fight back, because bullies can only feel good when they make others feel terribly bad.

Bullies and bigots. Australia, 2014.

 

Do your job, Malcolm Turnbull, it’s what we pay you for.

21 Mar

I had a robust set-to with Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Twitter this morning, after he arrogantly informed a regionally based small business owner that if she wanted reliable internet connections she ought to have bought her house in a different area.

Vaucluse, maybe?

Perhaps I was exceptionally irritated by this comment because it reminded me of when my entire family went missing for a week in a Mexican hurricane, & Alexander Downer remarked that it was their own fault for living in a hurricane-prone place.

I didn’t argue with Turnbull about the government’s plans ( I use the word reservedly) for our future communications. I argued with him because every response he made to me referred not to the issues, but to the deficiencies of the ALP when in government. No matter how consistently I pointed out to him that his tactic of attempting to deflect a questioner from her concerns by arguing that “the ALP started it and were worse than us” only serves to convince me that the government fears its own policies aren’t worthy of mention, the man would not cease his epic struggle to gain a political point.

“You’re winning no support trying to avoid questions by point scoring,” I tweeted. ” You’re in charge, govern, in our best interests.” To which the Communications Minister replied” “So it’s shameful to tell the truth is it? Or is it that you are ashamed of the mess Labor left us to clean up?” And so on. The battle is still going on as I write this, though Malcolm retreated a couple of hours ago. I obviously struck a nerve: there are a lot of people wanting governance from this lot, and increasingly fed up with them behaving as if they are still in opposition.

What the Abbott government and their advisers are apparently unable to grasp is that every time they attempt to deflect the focus from their policies onto a critique of the ALP, they reinforce the impression many of us have that their policies either don’t exist, or are too inadequate to be discussed, leaving them obliged to resort to employing critique of the former government as their only narrative. This is not governing the country.

This is not building a better future for Archie:IMG_1756It isn’t building a better future for Ted:

IMG_1755It’s a serious abrogation of responsibility.

The Abbott government seems to me exceptionally disregarding of the future. This causes me great concern for the well-being of my grandchildren and their peers. Surely it is a government’s job to do everything possible to ensure the best for our young, now and as they become adults.

The Abbott government must understand that governing a country is not a game: it is the most profoundly serious enterprise anyone can undertake, it affects the lives and futures of millions of people, and arrogance and point scoring will not cut it.

You won the election, Mr Turnbull. Get governing, or get out.

Taking to the streets: why protest matters

13 Mar

shit is fucked up and stuffThis weekend, there’ll be a series of protest marches around the country known collectively as ‘March in March.’

The overall aim of the rallies is to protest against the manner in which the Abbott government is running the country. There is no single issue focus, and people are invited to peacefully state their own particular grievance/grievances against the LNP.

The protests have been organised by people who have no affiliation with any political party and indeed, little or no experience in organising protests. It sprang from increasing discontent expressed on social media by citizens who have no significant public platform through which they can vocalise dissatisfaction with and anger against the Abbott government. In every way, the March in March protest appears to be a genuine grass-roots movement, and no big names are associated with its initiation and execution.

March in March has come in for a fair amount of criticism for its alleged lack of focus and purpose.For some reason, ordinary citizens expressing grievances against their government is not regarded as being focused, or as having any purpose.

Protest itself, it’s also claimed in some quarters, is a waste of time, useful only to give participants a warm inner glow, and unlikely to achieve anything more than that.

I don’t know how the outcome of a protest is measured.  I’m fairly certain that change is usually very slow, and requires any number of ongoing actions to bring it about. I doubt anyone would argue that protest alone can achieve great things, however, it is one action among many that together can cause upheaval. As several people told me today, protest didn’t stop John Howard taking us into Iraq, however, nothing was going to stop Howard doing that, and in our parliamentary system the Prime Minister alone is permitted to make such grave decisions. What the protests did was allow citizens a unique opportunity to peacefully and publicly express their opposition, and in itself, this is something we should neither denigrate nor easily relinquish. Ordinary people without a public platform must have a voice.

While this Guardian piece criticising March in March contains much with which I agree, it entirely misses the point that this weekend of protest has sprung not from any organised political movement but from the rage of seriously offended citizens who have no other means of publicly expressing their fury. The peaceful public expression of  rage against those who govern is in itself a privilege many in different political systems do not enjoy, and we should treasure our freedom to take to the streets in protest at our governments. We may not, if conservatives have their way, have such freedoms available to us for much longer.

Hopefully, the March in March rallies will be the first in an ongoing public protest against the Abbott government that will reach its climax at the ballot box in the next election. It is a beginning. It’s an opportunity for motivated strangers to meet and engage. It’s a chance for a more finely honed focus to emerge and be developed. The grass-roots nature of these protests is thrilling. No Get-Up. No charismatic leaders. No political parties. Just citizens exercising their democratic right to peacefully dissent. Don’t knock it. Treasure it. Abbott is about to do everything he possibly can to take this freedom away.

Transfield, detention centres, ethics, depression & Abbott’s Commission of Audit

2 Mar

Douglas Snedden, Non Executive Director of Transfield, the global operations, maintenance and construction services business awarded  the $1.22 billion dollar contract to provide ‘Garrison and welfare services’ to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, is also a director of the St. James Centre for Ethics, and Treasurer of the Black Dog Institute.

Tony Shepherd, handpicked by Joe Hockey as Chairman of the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit,  was until October 2013 the Chairman of Transfield. His record is far from exemplary, according to this report by Bernard Keane, in which Shepherd is described as ‘Transfield’s doyen of debt.’

The St James Centre for Ethics works with business to promote ethics and ethical decision-making. It is extensively supported by the business community. The Black Dog Institute is concerned with the treatment of mental illness, specifically depression and bi polar disorders.

Transfield subcontracts  the security management of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus to Wilson Security. Counselling and medical remain the responsibility of International Health and Medical Services.

‘Garrison and welfare’ services are the responsibility of Transfield. ‘Garrison’ is a military term meaning a permanent military post. Transfield have considerable experience with defence.

Quite what welfare services the company is responsible for providing to the prisoners held in the camps I have not yet been able ascertain. Presumably these are the services that were previously supplied by the Salvation Army. I have also been unable to ascertain if Transfield have any prior experience of providing welfare services. Based on the company’s own account of their business, the specific welfare needs of the prisoners held on Manus and Nauru would not appear to be included in their expertise.

Former Transfield ChairmanTony Shepherd is also President of the Business Council of Australia, an association of CEOs of one hundred of Australia’s leading companies, as well as a past (2012)  Director of the Migration Council of Australia.

Isn’t this all nice and cosy?

Many thanks to @mix1127 for first pointing out some of these connections.

Abbott’s ‘War on Everything’

13 Jan

Before the September 2013 election, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a staunch Catholic who once embarked on training for the priesthood, revealed that he prayed to God every day that he would win the contest, and form the next Australian government.

It would be interesting to ask the PM how much of his victory he attributes to God hearkening to, and answering his prayers. I assume Abbott gives no small measure of thanks for achieving his deepest desire.

I also assume that as well as a believing in his mandate from the people, Abbott believes he’s mandated by God. At least, it feels safer to assume that is the case, than to pretend it couldn’t be thus. Know thine enemy.

This aspect of Abbott occurs to me every time I hear he has declared war on yet one more issue. His ‘wars’ seem to be based on moral assumptions infused with traditional Catholic morality, argued like the crafty theologian he almost became. As an example his statement on November 15 2013, on torture: ‘My government deplores the use of torture but we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen.’ This sentence seems to me to encapsulate the trickiness of being simultaneously moral and amoral,  a talent I have long associated with some theologians, most recently those who’ve argued for the Catholic church in the matter of child abuse.

Perhaps it’s being too generous to assume any morality in the statement at all, rather it gives merely a token nod in morality’s direction.

So far we’ve had the war on scientists and the entire body of climate change science, the war on education, the war on drunken louts ‘king-hitting’ innocent bystanders, the war on Holden, the war on NDIS, the war on the NBN, the war on same-sex marriage, the war on everything the previous ALP government introduced for apparently no reason other than that it was introduced by them, and then we have the war on people smugglers. This latter war is perhaps the only ALP policy Abbott has chosen to retain and build upon.

I imagine Abbott envisioning himself as a war-time PM, chosen to implement the policies his deity wants to see enacted, some of which include a good deal more attention to said deity’s alleged preferences than we are used, as a secular state, to allowing. What little we are allowed to hear the PM say is invariably infused with moral references, even the ‘liberation’ of those sacked by Holden has moral overtones in its implication that an opportunity for self-improvement has been offered to the newly unemployed, and it is their moral duty to avail themselves of it to the utmost.

There is much in Abbott’s sanctimony and righteousness that reminds me of Tony Blair at the height of his zealous and wickedly dishonest prosecution of the invasion of Iraq. The notion of a ‘just war’ got all Blair’s boyish juices flowing, and I imagine the same can be said of Abbott, even if he has not, as yet, had any war of global significance that he can use, as did Blair, to thoroughly establish his faux gravitas at home and on the world stage. We have as yet seen only glimpses of Abbott the unctuous moral crusader, disguised in the garments of a benevolent guardian, solemnly assuring us that it, whatever it happens to be, is for our collective own good. I suspect we are in for a good deal more.

The two Tonys even look a bit alike:TonyBlair

Abbott also appears to hold a traditional conservative Christian perspective on the natural world, that is, it is here for man’s [sic] use, not as a source of wonder, pleasure and enrichment, but rather as a resource for exploitation. So there’s a war on the natural world and all its sentient beings as well.

The war paradigm would seem to be Abbott’s central organising principle. His natural state perhaps, a mentality born of the confluence of ignorance, fear, prejudice and profit, a mentality shared by enough of the voting public to get him into office. This paradigm is closely related to the law and order paradigm so enthusiastically embraced by that other Liberal head of state, Campbell Newman. Deterrence and incarceration are its hallmarks, supported by the Christian virtues of teaching, reproving, correcting, cracking down with the full force of the law, and training in righteousness for those who are conspicuously lacking in these qualities.

Whether or not Abbott will wage a war on women remains to be seen. His views on abortion are well known, as evidenced in this piece authored by him and titled ‘Abortion rate highlights our moral failing.’ Personally, I doubt anything dramatic will be done by this government to offend women, rather, there will be a slow erosion in the form of the reduction of services with a timely dollop of theatrical distraction so we hardly notice what’s happening until it’s too late and they’ve changed the legislation enough to cause us inconvenience and distress. With Cory Bernardi and DLP Senator John Madigan doing all the dirty work, Abbott doesn’t have to say much. There’s also a strong group of anti-choicers in the ALP and we’ve learned, to our amazement, how certain moral panics can bring about the allegiance of very strange bedfellows, such as the Christian right and radical feminists in the matter of pornography.

By far the most cruel war currently being waged by Abbott is his sustained and increasingly vicious attacks on asylum seekers. Abbott and his Minister Scott Morrison, another Christian, though of different variety, unashamedly use the full-blown rhetoric of war when justifying the government’s position on refugees arriving here by boat. The efforts of these two publicly religious men to beat hapless asylum seekers into submission, as detailed in the above link, beggar belief, from a secular point of view at least.

When asked what is the best piece of advice he could ever give anyone, Abbott replied ‘Avoid the occasion of sin.’ So if he is committed to his war mentality, one can only assume that for him every war he’s fighting is a just one. This, for mine, makes him a dangerous man.

Or as Yeats observed in The Second Coming: The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ are full of passionate intensity.

Abbott intensity

Abbott dumps on low income Australians from the ski fields of France.

30 Dec

There can be no doubt that the proposed government tax of $6 on visits to the doctor will only seriously affect those already struggling to keep heads above water, and one has to ask, why would any government decide to make things even more difficult than they already are for a considerable number of its citizens?

Pensioners and those holding concession cards will be exempt from the charge, however, this exemption does not cover low-income earners ineligible for such assistance.

The proposed GP tax is intended to be  “a simple yet powerful reminder that, as far as possible, we have a responsibility to look after our own health, not simply pass on all the costs of, and the responsibility for, caring for ourselves to fellow taxpayers…” reads the report provided to the government by The Australian Centre for Health Research, a conservative think tank, why am I not surprised.

Of course those of us who are able ought to take as much responsibility for our health as possible, and visiting the doctor when ill is taking responsibility, whether we’re well off or not. There is little more irresponsible than self-neglect, except of course a government that places a group of its citizens in a situation where self-neglect becomes their only option.

As is usual with conservative think tanks, no allowance is made for those who are as morally responsible as anyone else, but lack financial means.  One could be forgiven for taking this one step further, and assuming conservative think tanks and their masters conflate a lack of means with moral turpitude and its attendant irresponsibility. The outcome of such thinking is that those who are too poor to pay for their own health care really should be left to die, as there is no place in a conservative world for anyone who can’t, for whatever reason, fund their own lives.

As the purpose of the new tax is to relieve the burden of demand on our health care system, conservatives are obviously of the opinion that it is the less financially fortunate among us who are burdensome. No middle class individual goes to her or his GP unnecessarily, it is assumed, as a mere $6 is unlikely to dissuade them from this practice. No, only the poor are responsible for draining our medical resources, presumably because of all the burgers, fries, & coke they consume instead of the healthy food they could afford, if only they would stay home from the doctor’s long enough to put their minds to their budgets.

Obviously a $6 charge whenever one visits the doctor isn’t going to be an oppressive discouragement for those who are reasonably well off, though depending on one’s state of health and number of children, it could quickly add up. However, if finances are already stretched in a household, an additional $6 for every doctor’s visit could conceivably lead to a decision not to make that visit in circumstances where it’s necessary.

It will almost certainly lead to increased pressure on already stretched hospital accident and emergency facilities, as an option for those unable to afford the tax.

That a government even considers creating a situation in which any citizens are discouraged from attending to their health and the health of their children is an obscenity. The message Prime Minister Abbot is sending from the slopes of the French Alps where I understand he and his family are enjoying a ski ing holiday, is that below a certain level of income, the health of Australian citizens is of no interest to him and his government. It is, it seems, incomprehensible to the leader of this country that for many people there is simply not $6 to spare.

Such failures of imagination are predictable in a politics in which middle class welfare and protection of the wealthy are the priority of government that increasingly appears to govern in their interests.

Or as Gerry Harvey unforgettably expressed it when offering his views on charity for the homeless:

“It might be a callous way of putting it but what are they doing? You are helping a whole heap of no-hopers to survive for no good reason. They are just a drag on the whole community.

“So did that million you gave them help? It helped to keep them alive but did it help our society? No. Society might have been better off without them but we are supposed to look after the disadvantaged and so we do it. But it doesn’t help the society.”

It’s a slippery slope you’re ski-ing Mr Abbott.

Why I can’t call Abbott a cunt

7 Sep

One of the most telling revelations Tony Abbott has ever made about himself occurred in his chat with Annabel Crabb on ABCTV’s Kitchen Cabinet last week.

Describing the circumstances that led to his abandonment of theological studies and his goal to enter the Catholic priesthood, Abbott explained that while struggling with a 500 word essay on the desert fathers, he had a conversation with a mate who was about to leave for London to enable the satisfactory conclusion of a billion dollar business deal. Upon hearing his friend describe his venal life, Abbott experienced a Damascene moment. Christopher Pyne will tell you how to correctly pronounce that word.

What the hell, Abbott wondered, am I doing sitting in a seminary writing about the desert fathers, when I could be carving out a future for myself in the world of power, money, and fame?

Well, that’s not a verbatim report of what he says he thought, but it would be, if he’d been truthful. He couched his moment of enlightenment in terms of doing good, however, in the context of the billion dollar business deal, one is given cause to ponder that ambition.

In short, Abbott found God sadly wanting in comparison with what the world could offer, and without much ado, quit his service.

Some may say it was at this point that Abbott embarked on what was to become a lifelong commitment to selling his arse. In my book, arse-selling has been his highest and most consistent achievement, and before too much longer he’s going to need a colostomy bag to contain his excrement when his arse, abused beyond endurance, finally falls out.

So why can’t I call Abbott a cunt, as do so many others?

I’ve long been ambivalent towards the co-option of this female body part to perform as the worst expletive Western culture can manage. I acknowledge the admirably explosive possibilities of the cunt word. Its unique ability to convey a profound, rage-filled and terminal contempt is undeniable.

And yet, and yet and yet…

The cunt houses the only human body part whose sole purpose is to provide its owner with pleasure. How this can possibly bear any relation to Tony Abbott I’m damned if I know.

The cunt, pink, plump, shiny with the juices of desire, is a thing of exquisite beauty, hidden from view, shown only to the chosen one, repository of what is most astonishing in human sexuality. When I think of the cunt, the last association I make with it is, yes, you’ve guessed right, Tony Abbott.

The cunt, with its miraculous ability to open beyond imagining when fulfilling the task of delivering new life into the world, does not in the least remind me of Tony Abbott, whose desiccated countenance and impoverished speech patterns symbolise a shrivelling of human spirit I cannot associate with any life-giving qualities at all.

Or am I being too harsh?

In truth, I love my cunt and everything she can do. I have never been entirely comfortable using her name as a means of conveying contempt, though I fully understand why that is done, and I’m not getting up a petition to have it stopped.

This leaves me with the problem of how best to describe Tony Abbott. I like to think of him as a rat-fucking piece of human excrement who sucks dead dogs’ balls.  I know that is far clumsier than cunt, and takes more breath.

But please, do consider my argument for the beauty of the cunt, and think twice before likening our next Prime Minister to her.

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

 

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