Tag Archives: Julie Bishop

Truth to power. Part One.

29 Sep



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.


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:


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.

Pot, Kettle

9 Sep




The Coalition’s current explosion of self-righteous outrage is something to behold.

Compared to the excesses of, say, Bronwyn Bishop, or the personal gifts bestowed on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop by Chinese companies, not to mention the hundreds of thousands donated to her branch of the WA Liberal party by Chinese who have business interests in that state, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari’s few thousand dollars seem fairly insignificant.

The argument that Dastyari’s gift was “personal” does not hold water: so are Julie Bishop’s iPad, airfares and accommodation, and so were the $250,000 of Rolexes given to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others by a Chinese business man. You don’t gift a Rolex to a party, you gift it to an individual. It’s personal.

Then there’s the South China Sea. This is what Dastyari actually said about the situation in the South China Sea, as quoted by Sydney-based Chinese media: “The South China Sea is China’s own affair. On this issue, Australia should remain neutral and respect China’s decision.”

This is not the position of either the government or the opposition, and left the Senator open to charges of “cash for comment.”

There’s no doubt Dastyari should have kept his trap shut on the South China Sea: nobody was likely to take notice of his views on this matter anyway. The chap can be a tad too ebullient, though I dare say he’s been cured of that characteristic for the foreseeable future.

Whatever benefits the Foreign Minister may bestow on those who’ve showered her with personal gifts and her party with money may not, at first blush, be as apparent as Dastyari’s allegedly paid support for China. That she will bestow benefits of some kind is certain: this is the way things work, interested parties donate and expect favours in return.

There’s no missing the government’s glaring hypocrisy. It’s now up to the media to hound the government as they have hounded Dastyari. Why is the Foreign Minister accepting personal gifts from the Chinese, or anyone else for that matter? In so doing, she is not meeting her PrimeMinister’s expectations, or at least the expectations he has of Sam Dastyari, and why should they be different?

Or is it one rule for the Coalition, and another, much harsher rule for everyone else? Because, you know, entitlement?


Australia, Vietnam & white male supremacy

18 Aug



I don’t know who came up with the macabre notion of recreating the concert at which Little Pattie was performing when the Battle of Lon Tân commenced fifty years ago.

I don’t know who came up with the even more macabre notion of ABC TV’s Australian Story filming the recreation.

I do know that it should be no surprise to anyone that the Vietnamese government, citing the sensitivities of the people in Lon Tân and its surrounds, have, at the last minute, baulked at the notion of Australia recreating the circumstances in which that battle took place and refused to allow planned commemorations to go ahead.

I find it difficult to imagine that Australians would permit similar commemorations being enacted in our country, had we suffered the large-scale destruction wrought upon the Vietnamese by the US and its allies in a filthy war from which we finally withdrew in so-called “honourable defeat,” leaving a napalmed, land-mined landscape behind us and the communist regime intact.

Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and his ministers have expressed their deep disappointment in the Vietnamese government’s decision, and are particularly outraged at the last-minute nature of it. Perhaps the Little Pattie concert was too much of a stretch for the Vietnamese.

…the gala dinner, concert and the expectation of more than 1,000 Australians at the Long Tân memorial cross was seen as an insensitive celebration.

Yes. I get that. I would have expected Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to get that as well, and nip it in the bud.

However, Australia doesn’t care much for the feelings of brown people. There’s an example of this almost daily: indigenous youth in Don Dale. Asylum seekers and refugees in atrocious conditions on Manus and Nauru. The bribing of those countries and Cambodia to take refugees off our hands because they’re all brown aren’t they, so they should get on. The death of yet another indigenous woman in police custody. The conservative white male outrage over Section 18c.

The dominant Australian attitude as expressed by politicians and media would seem to be one of white entitlement: our sensitivities are paramount in the Lon Tân situation, not those of the brown people who cannot escape the repercussions of that war. We are apparently entitled to restage the entertainment of our troops, and if the Vietnamese want to stop us they are ill-willed spoil sports who will further destabilise our veterans.

Australians should never have been conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War. They were treated hideously when they returned. Successive governments have dark histories concerning their attitudes to and neglect of war veterans. Accusing the Vietnamese of destabilising them is hypocrisy.

In neighbouring Laos, the arms and legs of children and rice farmers are still blown off when they step on land mines, fifty years later. I’ve stood on the Russian airstrip in Phonsovan, Northern Laos where the CIA conducted its “secret war” and seen the napalmed jungles, and the bomb craters outside the caves to which the villagers fled when they no longer had anywhere to hide. I’ve walked the Plain of Jars on a narrow path marked by white-painted stones, on either side of which there remains uncounted numbers of active mines. This is the legacy the US and we, its allies, left in Vietnam and Laos.

So the Vietnamese government refuses to permit a gala dinner, concert and large numbers of Australians at the memorial cross? I’m OK with that. Theres nothing to prevent the veterans already in Lon Tân from holding their own ceremony of remembrance. They don’t need Australian Story to do that.

We have never been invaded.* It’s one of our deepest collective fears. The arrival of a few thousand boat people causes us to construct a fortress around ourselves, and a border force in black shirts to protect us. We spend billions on keeping invaders out. We torture them, children and all, to dissuade other potential invaders. Yet we believe are entitled to perform our ceremonies in another country where we slaughtered its people in the service of the US for seven years.

That’s privilege. That’s entitlement. That’s white male supremacy.

*Some objections have been raised to this sentence, on the grounds that it seems to imply a denial by me of European invasion of this country, and the ongoing trauma of that invasion for Indigenous people. Australia has two distinct overarching populations: Europeans who invaded and colonised and now call Australia home, and Indigenous peoples who were invaded, colonised and displaced. I’m speaking from the European position, one that has the privilege of never having experienced invasion in this country we call home.

Too little, too late, Prime Minister

12 Dec

Abbott on Women's Work



Prime Minister and Minister for Women Tony Abbott yesterday claimed that criticisms of his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, are “sexist.” His observation followed reports that relations between Ms Credlin and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have soured, leading to them being described by one frontbencher as “two Siamese fighting fish in the same tank.”

The frontbencher didn’t mention the gender of the fighting fish.

It’s hilarious to hear Tony Abbott accuse his own party of sexism. It can’t even be taken seriously enough to be given the label hypocrisy. It’s a blatant attempt to adopt principles the man simply does not have and never will. Abbott has still to grasp that he has no credibility, and no amount of politically correct language co-option is going to give it to him.

There’s nothing he can say about finally contributing to the UN Green Climate Fund, “sweating blood” for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, or protecting women from sexism that will provoke anything in the community but scoffing guffaws.

Abbott has left his run for decency far too late. His dire unpopularity seems to be causing a spin-doctored rethink in his politics, however, it’s painfully evident that any rethink is not a change of heart, but a superficial shift of attitude designed to haul his sorry arse out of the sinkhole of public contempt in which it has become increasingly mired.

So he can try to sell it again, one presumes.


Abbott on women

Life as a woman

24 Nov


I have a close relative whose long-term partner decided in his fifties that he wanted to live as a woman. The manner in which he went about orchestrating this change caused immense shock and distress, mostly because he upped and went to Thailand and had the surgery without telling anyone, then rang his partner from that country to tell her what he’d done.

Of course she knew his desires, and was struggling to adapt herself to having chosen to live with a man who now wanted to change his sex to female. She didn’t, she said, want to be with a woman, she’d been there, done that and for her, choosing to spend her life with a man was an enormous change. And now look.

I, unhelpfully I see in retrospect, recalled her time as a radical feminist separatist who told me as I continued to give birth to boy babies that all men should be castrated. So when I heard what had happened I said, well. Be careful what you ask for.

When her partner came back from Thailand she ran away and came to stay with me and my husband for a while. None of us had ever before encountered such a situation, but we all knew about deceit, and dissembling, and secrets, and lies, so we could help her with that part.

For mine, I have no difficulties with what people decide to do with their bodies and if someone feels deeply wrong in the skin they’re in of course they have the right to do whatever they need to do about that. I’m talking here about gender reassignment, not women having the human right to breast implants and labiaplasty to make them look like air brushed porn stars as an exercise of feminist autonomy over their bodies. Separate issues. I do wonder, though, how someone who has been born male and lived male for over fifty years in our society, can suddenly know what life is like as a woman.

In this instance, and I’m not going to extrapolate our experience to anyone else, Felicity looks like a man who has had gender reassignment, and so is often treated even worse in this heterosexually dominant culture than are many “natural”-born women.

Now I have an ear worm of Carole King singing you make me feel like a natural woman, whatever the hell that meant, it was an anthem to some bloke though, and I suppose a validation of hetero sex because I haven’t heard any woman singing that to a female lover though it would be a delightful subversion if someone did, but I still wouldn’t know what the “natural” bit meant.

Felicity and I have had some ripper brawls over this life as a woman thing. I’ve told her straight up, you aren’t living life as a woman, you’re living life as a man who’s had gender reassignment surgery. The difficulties you’re  encountering since your surgery aren’t to do with the kind of gender prejudice I’ve had to deal with my entire life, they’re to do with people being unable to cope with gender reassignment. She’s called me a fucking cunt more times than I could ever count. It took me a long time to realise I was angry with her for trying to claim my experience of living on this earth as a woman for herself, when she hasn’t done the hard yards. She is doing hard yards, but they are of a different kind and I want her to own her difficulties, which are significant, and not pinch mine. Whenever we see one another we visibly bristle, and it’s on. And yet I think so much of her for what she’s done, the subversion, the courage, the determination to live as she wants to live.

I should add here that I agree with Judith Butler, gender is a performance of the roles assigned to us at birth, according to our genitals. A performance that is profoundly ingrained.

No matter how much Julie Bishop might want to protest otherwise, life as a woman in this culture still brings with it enormous inherent challenges, for no reason other than our habitation of a female body. It does the same for indigenous people, for no reason other than skin colour.  It does the same for gays and lesbians and polyamorists. This is still the universe of the white heterosexual alpha male, and the males who aspire to that status, and the rest of us are still knocking on its doors begging to be allowed in and equally paid, and not murdered because we have vaginas, and the rest. And, if possible, to be let in on some of our own terms without having to entirely capitulate to the orthodoxy, as I would strongly argue Julie Bishop has. In my life as a woman I don’t want to play the alpha bloke’s games. Which is why I’m a blogger in my nightgown and not Janet Albrechtsen. Ha!

Julie Bishop and the prism of gender

30 Oct

Gender Inequality

Look. Julie Bishop doesn’t have to call herself a feminist if she doesn’t want to. Her public disavowal of the very political movement that made her success possible says far more about her than it does about feminism. But her refusal to “look at the world through the prism of gender” is insane.

There is nothing in this capitalist world that should not be viewed through the prism of gender, especially if you are  a member of the bloody government. Bishop is one woman who has achieved success at the highest level because of a constellation of fortunate circumstances, including, I’m sure, hard slog. However, there are millions of women who slog just as hard in circumstances far less conducive than those experienced by Ms Bishop. “I’ve had a very privileged upbringing as many women in Australia have,” she says. “We don’t fear violence, we don’t fear hunger. We don’t have the degraded life that many women around the world suffer.”

Um, what? There are millions of women and girls in Australia who fear violence. There are thousands of women and girls  in Australia who go hungry, and are dependent on charity for food and somewhere for themselves and their children to sleep. They don’t count as women? The “we” Bishop speaks of excludes anyone whose life experience does not coincide with her own, a lack of imagination that is a given in conservatives circles.

I don’t give a toss if Bishop doesn’t call herself a feminist. I’m a bit challenged by that myself these days, when feminism seems to have become about the right to sculpt our labia, and binge drink till we vomit in the gutter just like the blokes do. But the ignorant refusal to consider the world through the prism of gender is a symptom of a self-absorbed, smug woman entirely out of touch with reality.

Apart from that, I’m wracking my brains to think of one thing, one single thing Bishop has ever said publicly that is interesting, original or enlightening. She’s like a bloody Stepford wife in the Abbott government.


The diversion of aid: Carr’s false comparisons

19 Dec

The Gillard government yesterday declared its intention to rob overseas aid of $375 million in order to help pay  the living expenses of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia by boat.

The money will allegedly go towards supporting the resettlement of asylum seekers who have been released into the community on bridging visas. These asylum seekers need financial support because the government will not allow them to work while their claims are being processed.

They have been condemned to a marginal existence, receiving some 85% of the already meagre Newstart allowance, for some five years, the time it is estimated it will take authorities to process their asylum claims.

It’s not known if the money will also be used to fund off-shore detention centres, particularly the construction of new facilities on Nauru and Manus Island.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr claims this is no big deal, and cites the United States, Canada, Sweden and France as countries that already use overseas aid money for domestic purposes. However, none of those countries have a policy of indefinite and mandatory detention for asylum seekers.

In Sweden it is preferred that asylum seekers work while awaiting a decision on refugee status. In the US the maximum period an asylum seeker must wait before being allowed to work is five months. In most rich countries including Canada, asylum seekers are permitted to work within a matter of months.

However the countries cited by Carr spend their overseas aid money domestically, it is not on supporting asylum seekers for years while they await decisions on their status and are forbidden to work. It is not spent on supporting asylum seekers living in indefinite off-shore mandatory detention. Carr’s comparison of Australia’s asylum seeker policies with those of other countries is entirely false. We have nothing in common with any peer country.

The diverted money is intended for overseas aid and development. If it is to be spent overseas, that will be in our off-shore detention centres. Quite what development will be achieved in that instance is unclear. It’s also unclear how any development might be achieved domestically in denying asylum seekers the right to work, and forcing them into marginal existence paid for by the government for up to five years.

The Opposition, via its mouthpiece Julie Bishop, continue to confidently bray that they will “stop the boats.” As the Gillard government has implemented the most severe conditions we have yet seen, and still the boats arrive, it is difficult to imagine just how Mr Abbott will achieve this goal.

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