Tag Archives: ALP

Truth to power. Part One.

29 Sep

 

truth-to-pwoer

The other evening I was musing on the mainstream media reporting and pursuit of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari over  the Senator asking a Chinese benefactor to cover his travel costs, and then making a supportive statement, contrary to both government and opposition positions, on China’s activities in the South China Sea.

I was comparing this to the relative lack of interest in pursuing Steve Irons, the WA Turnbull government MP who stole taxpayer money to pay travel expenses for himself and his new wife to their wedding in Melbourne and back to Perth. I tweeted this:

The first response was from a Fairfax journalist taking me to task for using the blanket term “MSM.” After hooting a little at the notion of a journalist complaining about the use of “blanket terms” I acknowledge that the term, like all blanket terms, is less than perfect, although most of us use it to signify traditional media as opposed to new media.

There are some very good journalists working in mainstream media, without whom we’d be even more in the dark than we already are. Fairfax, the ABC and the Guardian are home to most of them. Yes, the ABC. There are still some exceptional people there and one can only imagine how they survive.

However, I wasn’t about to list in my tweet every media outlet not pursuing Irons to the same extent it pursued Dastyari, and I stand by my initial impression that the two incidents were handled very differently.

I then received this tweet from Mark Di Stefano of Buzzfeed. I’ve never considered Buzzfeed to be mainstream media so I wasn’t referring to them, however…

 

It is true that Irons didn’t reward the taxpayer for footing his wedding travel bill, as Dastyari rewarded the Chinese. It’s also true that both major parties are significant beneficiaries of Chinese money, for which they are presumably expected to provide favours in return. So why single out and hunt down Dastyari when the Turnbull government Foreign Minister, for example, received an iPad, airfares and accommodation, and a bunch of government MPs scored Rolex watches? All of these people are far better placed to further their benefactor’s interests than was Dastyari (who after all said something nobody much bothered to listen to) and to do it far more covertly.

It’s also true that politicians thieving from taxpayers has become normalised, and without the added spice of potentially treasonous remarks, Irons’ theft was of comparatively little consequence.

This, for mine, is the heart of the problem. “Ordinary” thieving from taxpayers is par for the course in politics, meaning politicians are held to a much lower standard of honesty and punishment than the rest of us. I’d like to know why.

For example, if you are caught thieving items from a supermarket you are very likely to be charged by police, even if you put the items back on the shelf and say you’re sorry. Not so much when politicians rip-off taxpayers. If they are caught, they pay it back and that is the only consequence they face.  They’re still thieves, but they are protected thieves.

No answer to any questions from Buzzfeed, and I’d terminated my conversation with the Fairfax journalist who’d lost his head and started telling me I was “wrong and you can’t face facts because of your bias.”

Interesting, I thought. I’m perceived as biased because I’m questioning the difference in how two matters are handled, and he’s obviously assuming I’m a Labor fanatic because why would anybody who wasn’t politically aligned bother to ask such a question? This is what I mean about the normalisation of crime in politics. You can’t even ask about it without journalists assuming you are only doing so to create trouble for a party other than your own.

At this point several of my Twitter pals joined in to assure the traditional media representatives that I’m equally disagreeable to all politicians.

On Di Stefano’s subsequent points, 1) It’s cheering to see the MSM doing its job by breaking stories, but actually I was querying the subsequent pursuit, and 2) what???

Do you mean MSM don’t pursue unless a political party pursues first? I asked Buzzfeed.

I didn’t say that, came the reply. So what do you mean, I asked. Just trying to clarify because your tweet read as if you were saying that.

Silence.

The notion that matters are not pursued by the media unless first pursued by a political party is unnerving. This is not what one expects from the fourth estate. This is not speaking truth to power, it is waiting until one power gives you the signal to speak a bit of truth to another power, and obediently refraining from pursuit when no permission in the form of guidance is forthcoming. Is this how traditional media decide what issues and personalities to pursue? Taking their lead from politicians?

Well, as you’d expect the conversation by now involved more people than just me and Mark Di Stefano. Many references were made to the “MSM” and I don’t think any of them were particularly favourable, demonstrating the frustration and disillusionment felt by some consumers. Di Stefano maintained his silence until this:

Well.

As you can imagine, there is a great deal to unpack in Di Stefano’s communication. And so I’m dedicating an entire post to its deconstruction, which I hope to publish tomorrow.

LNP: It’s not us it’s them

4 Jul

 

its_their_fault_1_inch_round_button-r9ce0010d8a4a4c73a129d267b7dfb73a_x7j12_8byvr_512

Caretaker Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday blamed an alleged “scare campaign” by Labor concerning LNP threats to Medicare, for the swing against the government in the election results thus far.

Caretaker Attorney -General George (Bookcase) Brandis blamed Twitter for the alleged denigration of political discourse that apparently contributed to the government’s disappointment. Which is a bit rich coming from the man who declared that everyone has the inalienable right to be a bigot and thinks meta data is the address on an envelope not its contents, but whatever.

Caretaker Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (known as the Brussel Sprout or Mr Potato Head, either way it’s a vegetable)  blamed unions for his slide in popularity in the Queensland seat of Dickson.

Several other ministers, including Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison, also blamed Labor’s “scare tactics” for the government’s fall from grace. Some have even blamed the stupidity of voters, a self-defeating attribution of responsibility one would think.

The complete absence of the media from the LNP’s jaundiced, wounded, blaming gaze is remarkable. It tells me that I was right to detect overwhelming bias in their favour from almost every media outlet including, unfortunately, sections of the ABC.

Tony Abbott, that desiccated piece of hyena scat, did obscene things with a sizzled sausage and left early to plot his next thrust for LNP leadership and deja vu all over again.

Such is the arrogance of these entitled drongos that it does not, for one moment, enter their drongo consciousness that they might have alienated voters all by themselves. It has to be somebody else’s fault.

The inability to listen to criticism is a boring characteristic in an individual. It’s boring because such people are in significant ways stunted. There’s nothing more valuable than a bit of criticism: in the emotionally mature it provokes thought and inspires the birth of change, and as I quoted a few days ago, he/she who isn’t busy being born is busy dying. The LNP is busy dying, and it has been for quite some time.

I’m struggling to recall a government that has made quite such a spectacular and total cockup as has this one. I’m not referring to unforgivable decisions such as taking us to war on the spurious platform of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, or taking us to an election based on the imagined threat of a few miserable, hounded and tormented people attempting to escape intolerable circumstances, but rather the internal clusterfucks that have rent the LNP’s fabric in ways that make the ALP’s internecine strife of a few years ago look pretty average, really.

And let us not forget that despite the ALP’s leadership debacles, they still got phenomenal amounts of legislation through. This cannot be said for the LNP, which has yet to resolve the 2014 budget.

However, the LNP is maintaining some consistency, you have to give them that much. They’ve blamed Labor ever since they took office, so there’s a three-year precedent. They’ve barely missed a beat in their blaming, making a smooth transition to blaming the ALP for the current election debacle and no doubt whatever the outcome, they’ll continue to blame Labor without so much as a hiccough.

This is, really, their area of expertise. Good governance? Not so much.

 

How politicians force us to make a choice we should never have to make.

11 May
Ironic points of light

Ironic points of light

 

The phrase, Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite, frequently attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville but in fact coined by French counterrevolutionary Joseph de Maistre, is translated as “Every democracy gets the government it deserves.”

It’s not a sentiment with which I entirely agree: many factors are at work in a liberal democracy such as ours that bring into question the core assumption of informed choice, not least of which is propaganda distributed by media with vested interests, and its collusion with political and financial elites. This piece in Alternet makes interesting arguments against de Maistre’s maxim, describing it as a toxic idea that needs to be laid to rest. It’s worth a read.

I’ve listened carefully to all the pragmatic arguments of ALP supporters, as I have for the last seven years. I know that in almost every way an ALP government is far preferable to life under an LNP administration.

And I am enraged at finding myself yet again in a situation where I would have to endorse the torture of asylum seekers and refugees in order to have a government that we in a liberal democracy deserve. This is a choice no one has the right to force upon citizens and we need to get very angry about being put in this position. 

All my life I voted Labor, until in 2009 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got into a face-off with Indonesia over Tamil asylum seekers picked up by the Oceanic Viking, refusing to allow them to be transferred to Christmas Island for refugee assessment.

In 2012 the Gillard government reopened detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru that had been closed by the Rudd government in 2008, at which time Immigration Minister Chris Evans described the Pacific Solution as a “costly, cynical and ultimately unsuccessful exercise.”

In 2013, newly returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced, “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”

The ALP lost my vote in 2009 and they’ve never got it back. It was a difficult decision: my local member was a woman I admired, and it was hard to imagine her supporting Gillard and Rudd, who appeared to be in complete harmony on the matter of torturing those who legally seek asylum in this country.

Refugee policy is one of very many issues to be considered when deciding on the government we deserve. For mine, it’s a fundamental issue: if we have as our government a group of people who take pride in destroying the lives of those who have committed absolutely no offence by arriving here on boats, indeed, who have done so in response to the invitation we continue to extend as signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, we have as our government a group of barbarians who will not hesitate, should it serve their purposes, to take severe action against any other group who in some way threaten their hold on power, or can be used to shore up their grip on governance.

For the last sixteen years LNP and ALP governments have used asylum seekers as scapegoats, fuelling entirely unsubstantiated public fears about the stranger as terrorist, and pitting those fleeing the destruction of their homelands and in many cases torture and death, against disgruntled voters who are being let down and damaged not by asylum seekers, but by their elected representatives.

Asylum seekers have proved and continue to prove infinitely useful to both major parties, as distractions from their own failures, inadequacies and corruptions. This is the moral calibre of our politicians: that they will actively or passively engage in and perpetuate this torture of waterborne asylum seekers for their political gain. There is not one of them, LNP or ALP, that I wish to support in their vile exploitation of human beings.

The Pacific solution uses cruelty as a deterrent to asylum seekers, and in so doing, compromises every single voter in this country, and ensures we are complicit. Every time we agree to pragmatically compartmentalise, we agree to the ongoing torment of refugees and asylum seekers. In this sense we do get the government we deserve as we agree to the ongoing torment of human beings by both major parties, in order to create for ourselves the life to which we feel entitled.

This is a piece written by a young friend starting out on his career as a journalist. It’s his perception of Manus Island and Nauru, together with information on what can be done to assist refugees. Cameron’s article  brought to mind some lines from W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages…

There are among the young ironic points of light, exchanging messages in this stuporous world. In them I trust, because I have lost all faith in the adults who govern us.

 

Abbott can’t take rejection. Hide your onions.

28 Mar

 

Abbott Onion Meme

 

In what can only be inspirational news for the ALP, failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced his intention to embark on a DIY election tour of marginal seats. This piece by Paula Matthewson spells out the possible consequences of this decision, none of which are especially enticing from the LNP point of view.

Abbott, it appears, is incapable of dealing with rejection by his party. He simply cannot accept their decision to lose him as leader. He’s lately taken to informing the public that of course he supports the Turnbull government because it’s built on Abbott policies. This claim led in turn to Turnbull’s bizarre plagiarising of a line from the US television series Veep, to the effect that what he signifies as Prime Minister is “continuity with change.” Julia Louis Dreyfus, star of the show, is reportedly “dumfounded” at Turnbull’s appropriation of a slogan writers decided upon solely because of its utter meaninglessness.

Obviously, the continuity with change to which Turnbull refers is his appropriation of Abbott’s policies (continuity) delivered to the people by the new PM whilst wearing a better suit (change).

If the Veep people are ever short of material they could do worse than check out the LNP: Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce threatening to slaughter Johnny Depp’s dogs, Bronwyn Bishop’s penchant for helicopter rides, Tony Abbott’s strange compulsion to publicly consume raw onions, George Brandis and his electrifying description of meta data, please, somebody stop me.

Few would disagree with Abbott’s belief that Turnbull’s government has retained his policies. However, the most relevant question Abbott apparently declines to ask himself is, why did his party get rid of him if it wasn’t about his policies? There had to be a sound reason for them to resort to the trouble and embarrassment of chucking him out, and in the chucking risk the ridicule of being perceived as just like the ALP with its Gillard/Rudd musical chairs.

The LNP is a gift that keeps on giving. Abbott is a gift that keeps on giving. His inability to deal with rejection is a godsend for the ALP. Have you all got your popcorn?

 

Behind every man…

16 Sep

 

Abbott & Credlin

 

According to Paul Sheehan, the Abbott coup wasn’t entirely about the ex-PM.  It was about his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

The allegedly widely-loathed and uber-controlling Ms Credlin was rusted onto the PM, or he on her, and word is, Abbott couldn’t put his socks on without her approval. The only way to rid the party of this meddlesome female was to give her boss the flick.

Sheehan’s effort to construct this Shakespearean interpretation of events probably says a whole lot more about his attitudes to women than it does about the actual situation, however, that the PM and his CoS were a dark and destructive dyad is likely incontestable.

I must say Abbott cut a lonely figure when he said his barbed goodbyes. Where were the women in his life at his darkest hour? No flaunting of a wife and daughters clothed in white garments. And only two flags.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull, also supported by a formidable woman, wife Lucinda. At first blush, this couple couldn’t be more different from Abbott and Credlin, which is not to say that their philosophy will be anymore palatable, only that it will be more palatably presented which, if you think about it, could well be even worse for us.

Somebody better do something about LOTO Bill Shorten, and they better do it soon. He has all the conviction of a dying cod. I don’t know what’s wrong with the man, but his delivery stinks, its content is excruciating, and he has the energy levels of someone at the high-end of a depression test score. Turnbull will wipe the floor with him.

Indeed, the entire cohort of ALP MPs appeared to be in baffled retreat in Question Time yesterday, stunned by the speed of events and at finding themselves unexpectedly confronted by a government front bench revelling in its liberation from the stifling oppression of three-word slogans, and the narrow-minded narrative of goodies and baddies preached by a failed priest who never quite managed to move beyond the unctuous tones and medieval attitudes acquired in the seminary yonks ago. Shorten might well have taken this man down in the next election. But Turnbull is a whole other kettle of fish.

Bemused overseas observers claim that for Australians, changing our Prime Ministers has become a national sport. But it actually isn’t us, the people. The parties elect their leaders and the parties give them the boot. That we’ve had five PMs in as many years speaks to the inability of our major parties to conduct their affairs in a reasonable manner. The criteria they’re using to choose their leaders are well borked. Until they dig deep into their collective psyches and address what’s driving them into serial unforced errors, many of us will turn our backs and give our votes to independents and minor parties, which will result in hung parliaments and tetchy senates.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with hung parliaments and tetchy senates. They act as safeguards against increasingly fascist governments. However, revolving door leadership is draining, time-wasting and a bit pathetic, to be honest, so it would be nice if the majors took a good look at themselves and remembered their raison d’être is to serve the public, not to conduct personal feuds at our expense.

Abbott gave us all such brilliant material. I don’t know what we’ll carp about in the immediate future. Adios, Tones. Don’t let the door hit your unsaleable arse on your way out.

Leunig. The End

 

 

 

Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Women, Sex, Why?

24 Jun

So, if I came away with anything after last night’s final episode of ABC TV’s The Killing Fields, oops, sorry, The Killing Season, it was a sense of profound shock and awe at the ALP’s astounding ability to squander political capital to the degree that in six short years they went from owning the room to a derelict mob of squabbling, self-important cane toads with over-active thyroids and a death wish, oozing poison from every pore, who had become and remain of little use to anyone, especially themselves. Don’t let your dog lick  them. It will cark.

Apart from anything else, what kind of lunatics install Australia’s first female Prime Minister after she’s executed a midnight assassination of her ludicrously popular male predecessor? Women cannot do that, for christ’s sake. Men can coup. Women can only be behind the man who coups. What is wrong with everybody?

In the penultimate episode Rudd, quite understandably in my view, took serious umbrage at Gillard’s babbling efforts to psychoanalyse him. Last night Gillard made the breathtaking claim that she believed knifing Kevin at midnight would provide him with the opportunity for a good rest he badly needed. This put me in mind of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claims that sacking workers offers them the chance of a new beginning. I find it interesting that two leaders from opposing ends of the political spectrum share such similar moral opinions on the misfortunes of others.

I have no idea who was lying and who told the truth in that three-part account of the ALP’s downfall, nor do I care. Mostly I just wanted to bang their stupid heads together. It takes a particular kind of perverse talent to have a country at your feet and still manage to turn it into a cock-up.

Speaking of Abbott, I once attempted to imagine him as a sexual being. My mind exploded. Everything went black. I regained consciousness in the  compost heap, with the dog licking rotting mango flesh from my eyebrows.

I pushed myself to this brink because I had just read the following comment by the Minister for Women:

I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.

Reading this statement I wonder first what kind of impoverished universe Tony Abbott inhabits if in it, sex comes down to a gendered right to “withhold” and gendered a right to demand, both of which, according to him, require moderation.

The word “withhold” implies an act of calculated deprivation as in withholding payment, withholding supplies, withholding access to bank accounts, withholding information. In order to use this word at all, Abbott must be starting from the assumption that men are always entitled to sex, like a worker is always entitled to payment, and if a woman doesn’t want sex for whatever reason, it’s a hostile act of denial on her part.

In other words, women are not permitted to not want sex, in Abbott’s world, without being perceived as denying a man what is his due.  In more other words, in Abbott’s world women have no autonomy, and no agency over our own sexual desires, because our sexual decisions are perceived as being entirely to do with whether we withhold or gratify male desire.

It’s in the use of the word “withhold” that Abbot reveals his attitude to women and sex. The idea that sex is a man’s right to demand part of the statement is irrelevant, really, because in the use of the word “withhold” Abbott has assumed a man’s right to demand.

This is our Minister, ladies. He doesn’t think we just don’t feel like it, are tired, have cramps, don’t find the male partner especially exciting. No. Women withhold.

Finally, if you want to see how little things have changed for women in some parts of the legal system, read this enlightening piece in Overland titled the Ethics of Defence, by barrister Catriona MacLennan . (Thanks to Maria for alerting me to this.) It takes a great deal of courage to even use the words ethics and morals these days without being laughed off the planet, unless you’re the government talking about ABC TV’s Qanda.

 

witholding sex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t deal with vulnerability you’ve no business being in government

1 Apr

Vulnerablitiy

 

If there’s one single characteristic that defines the Abbott government, and increasingly the ALP opposition, it’s their utter lack of care for people who are in some way vulnerable.

One might once have been tempted to use the phrase “lack of compassion” but it’s been rendered almost meaningless through overuse, and besides, in the current political discourse the word “compassion” carries negative value,  being framed as a weakness unless directed towards victims of plane crashes, and hostages. Almost everyone else faced with difficult circumstances is implicitly blamed for finding themselves in them, denied care, and all too frequently punished.

The public attitude politicians seem most to represent is one expressed to me on Twitter yesterday, after I’d remarked that it was time to leave Craig Thomson alone as he looked like a man at the very end of his rope and enough is enough. He’s putting on an act, he’s putting it on, a couple of people responded. And you know this how? I felt like replying, but didn’t, thinking it pointless to attempt to challenge that level of ignorance in 140 characters. I’d be at it all day to no useful purpose.

He or she is “putting it on” is a phrase that has always been used by people with a particular mindset towards anyone who reveals vulnerability. It’s used repeatedly about asylum seekers who express their distress through the only means available to them, their bodies. It’s used about people who attempt or express the desire to attempt suicide. A variation of the phrase was used by the former headmaster of Knox Grammar Ian Paterson, about a boy who was being sexually abused on his watch, when he claimed the victim was a “drama boy.”

This lack of care has brought us to situations such as this one, in which a five-year-old child currently in Darwin with her family, has attempted suicide because she so fears being returned to detention on Nauru. I’m waiting to hear Peter Dutton declare she’s “putting it on.”

For mine, this attitude reveals a great deal more about the person expressing it than it does about the object of their derision. It tells me they are bereft of imagination, and incapable of thinking themselves into another person’s shoes, even momentarily. It tells me they are terrified of vulnerability and must attack anyone who confronts them with it, however distanced from that vulnerability they may be.

Consider the mental attitude of a person who is compelled to declare on social media that an individual unknown to them is “putting on an act” when he says publicly that he is close to suicide. It is this mental attitude that forms the Abbott government’s demographic, and to whom the government plays with callous contempt for any vulnerability it does not consider legitimate, that is, vulnerability experienced by anyone other than the group with which the government  identifies.

The conservative mind dehumanises those it does not perceive as one of its tribe, because it does not consider the concerns of “outsiders” as valid as its own. The Abbott government exemplifies this in its attitude to tax reform for example. Consider this piece by Ross Gittins on Treasurer Joe Hockey’s budget spin, skewed to benefit the tribe to which Hockey belongs, at the expense of those who are most financially vulnerable and thus, outsiders.

No matter where you look in government and many opposition policies, you will find they have in common lack of interest and care for the vulnerable, and overwhelming bias towards groups they consider their own. The Abbott government’s attempts to push through a budget almost universally regarded as unfair, and its attribution of that failure as a failure to properly  “sell”  unfairness, reveals everything you need to know about the conservative mind. They couldn’t sell unfairness, which is their ideology, so they need to work out how better to do that in the future.

There’s a building body of opinion that the conservative mind is incapable of compassion for any other than those it recognises as its own, and the attitudes and actions of this conservative government, and to an increasing degree our supposedly left-wing opposition, fit this conservative ideological profile.

This harsh and unyielding position, erroneously claimed as strength, extends itself beyond the immediately human to vital matters such as climate change, with Abbott’s reputation as the world’s worst climate villain perfectly expressing conservative contempt for the vulnerable situation of the very planet on which we must all exist.

We need politicians who can cope with vulnerability of all kinds. It isn’t so much compassion we need as intelligence, and particularly active emotional intelligence, of which compassion is a part. I doubt there has been a time in our living memory when Australian politicians have been further from this intelligence, or a time when it has been more dangerous for them to be so.

They’re “putting it on” is a particularly invidious perspective to take on the vulnerability and distress of others. It’s ignorant, it’s defensive, it’s dangerous. If you can’t deal with the sight of another’s vulnerability that’s your problem, not theirs. Vulnerability is not legitimised or delegitimised by the social class to which you belong. When a government can’t deal with vulnerability of all its citizens it is not a democratic government. It’s an ideological tyrant.

 

 

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