Tag Archives: Julie Bishop

Australia, Vietnam & white male supremacy

18 Aug


Little-Pattie-Col-Joye-Nui-Dat-18-Aug-1966

 

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

Time-Magazine-Transgender-Tipping-Point-Laverne-Cox

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.

Christ.

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.

And the winner is: Ms Gillard

28 Nov

I don’t know about anybody else, but I think by now Julia Gillard has hands down won the verbal battle currently consuming the emotional and mental energies of our elected members. Her confident stamina in the face of the Opposition’s unrelenting (if largely ineffectual) attempts at reputational savagery is astounding. I get tired just thinking about it. I can think of many occasions in my life when I would have given anything for even a smidgen of Ms Gillard’s élan.

What a role model she’s turned out to be! If you overlook the knifing, asylum seeker policy, single parents on Newstart, Palestine, but what the hell, nobody’s perfect and credit must be given where it’s due, must it not and the PM can do scathing repartee better than any of them.

The Opposition, led in this fight by an increasingly bedraggled and war-weary Julie Bishop loyally firing her beloved boss’s shots, have well and truly lost the battle. Having produced little more than exorbitant amounts of piss and wind, they will limp defeated from the chamber tomorrow to lick their Gillard-inflicted wounds over the break and good riddance to them, I say.

I still have no clear idea what the PM is supposed to have done, but I don’t care really. If nobody has managed to come up with anything of substance for twenty years, and by the gods plenty have tried, then I for one am willing to call bollocks and move on.

I do hope they all lift their game next year, because the political discourse has gone to the feckin dogs.

The Iron Leprechaun grounds the Flying Kangaroo

1 Nov

I realise I’m probably in the minority but I can’t dredge up any over-heated feelings about Alan Joyce the person, of the kind that arise in me unbidden about the likes of, say, Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, Alan Jones, Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, et al. The man seems like such a merry little fellow with his guile-less schoolboy eyes wide  behind glasses that look a little too small, and as if they were chosen for him by his mother.

Then there’s his enchanting Irish lilt in which he can announce events set to cause serious upheaval and deep offense to thousands and thousands of human beings who are just trying to live their lives, and make the offenses sound quite benign. No, the fellow does not provoke strong feelings in me, rather I’m bemused by the dissonance between Joyce’s immense power, and his inoffensive persona. If I was to accuse him of anything it would be a mild capacity for mischief. Just like the leprechaun who makes his mischief for the delight of watching what happens next. Of course, one can underestimate the intentions behind gleeful disruption. It is one of the many guises used by the devil to sow doubt and misery amongst humans.

I’ve had my fair share of minor disruption as a Qantas passenger. Last November returning from LA we didn’t have enough fuel to reach Brisbane and diverted to Noumea to top up. I found that interesting. They don’t know how much fuel they need to get from LA to Brisbane? Oh, it was the headwinds. OK. Then, finally on our way again after hours on the tarmac bitching and moaning we ran out of food, and most of us got no breakfast.

Then there was the time en route to Mexico when a couple of hours into the flight we ran out of water, forcing us to retain our intimate wastes if we possibly could as they had to be flushed away by bottles of water if we didn’t, an inefficient system to say the least. We didn’t get any breakfast then either, on the grounds that if they didn’t feed us we wouldn’t produce as many intimate wastes. I arrived in Mexico dehydrated, hungry and, well, I won’t spell it out for you.

At least I never got stranded in Los Angeles, which is probably the last place on earth anyone would choose to get stranded outside of Bangkok, where they have the coldest terminal in the world, furnished entirely with metal chairs that freeze your arse after five minutes and leave deep impressions in the flesh of your upper thighs. I once slept on the floor of that terminal waiting for a flight to somewhere that would eventually get me to Vientiane. It was unspeakably horrible but I can’t blame Qantas for that.

As things stand today the Iron Leprechaun has temporarily triumphed, both parties have been forced to suspend industrial action and enter into couple counseling. Many times have I sworn that I will never fly Qantas again. They have me in their power because of my frequent flyer points. But I plan to use them all up. I plan never to acquire anymore. I plan to switch my allegiances because enough is enough.

I loved Qantas, as much as one can love a commercial concept. The idea the Qantas brand successfully marketed for a long time was the idea of home. I will always remember once boarding a Qantas flight in Tokyo when the steward at the door said with a kind smile and a thrillingly familiar accent: “Welcome home, Dr Wilson.” Tired and emotional after many upheavals and weeks of  unrelenting travel, I found my seat and had a little cry. Now I was safe. Now I was home.

This is what I mean about mischief. It might not look too bad on the surface of it but it can carry a terrible punch.

PS I am not talking about horses today. No horses. However, if you choose to make an imaginative link between the picture below and the individual mentioned in this post, knock yourself out.

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