Tag Archives: Tim Wilson

Let’s talk about s*x

21 Mar
George Christensen MP

George Christensen MP

 

…how is it that in a society like ours, sexuality is not simply a means of reproducing the species, the family and the individual? Not simply a means to obtain pleasure and enjoyment? How has sexuality come to be considered the privileged place where our deepest “truth” is read and expressed? For that is the essential fact: Since Christianity, the Western world has never ceased saying: “To know who you are, know what your sexuality is. Sex has always been the forum where both the future of our species and our “truth” as human subjects is decided. Michel Foucault

If you cast a quick eye over the events of the last few weeks you will find a common denominator – sex. Whether it’s religious/political controversy and manipulation over the Safe Schools program, speculation over the relationship between failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, the outrageous proposed plebiscite on same-sex marriage, slurs used by a former NSW Liberal campaign manager against a rival ALP candidate, the attempts by his own party to smear Liberal candidate Tim Wilson’s sexuality, or star footballers shagging their best friends’ wives, sex, how it is performed, by whom it is performed on/with whom, and the perceived legitimacy or otherwise of its performance is at the heart of these superficially disparate events, a small selection from the plethora of examples available.

That this should be so seems to me breathtakingly and incomprehensibly stupid. How, indeed, has sexuality come to be considered the privileged place where our deepest “truth” is read and expressed?

Straight, white, conservative men and women are fighting to retain their privilege to define what is sexually “normal.” Anyone who fails this test of normality is pathologised, demonised, marginalised, ostracised, and othered, and because straight white conservative men and women have such a narrow definition of what constitutes “normality,” swathes of  humanity are inevitably excluded.

For people such as Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen to accept programs such as Safe Schools, they must first acknowledge the legitimacy of sexualities other than their own. Christensen, along with the rest of the conservative crowd, claims to attach a profound moral value to traditional sexual expression: anything other than hetero and preferably in a committed relationship is immoral, and so disturbing it must be stamped out. In this world view, any efforts to assist the young among us who are struggling with sexual identity will only encourage them away from the deepest truth of heterosexuality, and worse, will put ideas into the heads of children who were comfortably straight before they heard about the program.

In other words, if we don’t offer any assistance to LGBTQI kids, they’ll just get straight because.

Lyle Shelton, CEO of the Australian Christian Lobby, recently claimed on Twitter that same-sex marriage would deprive him of his primary signifier of normality: if same-sex couples are permitted to marry, went his argument, people wouldn’t know he wasn’t gay. This is a terrifying and likely unwanted insight into the self-obsessed mind of Lyle Shelton, but it does articulate a deep fear of conservatives about their heterosexuality, and how they use sex as a moral marker of privilege, creating a distance between us and them that allows conservatives the illusion of rightness and safety.

What is conspicuously absent from the claim of sex as a privileged place of deepest truth is the question of power. Conservatives currently hold the power to to determine an overall sexual “normalcy” in Australian society, and the repercussions for those who do not comply with their limitations is considerable.  Sexual difference is a useful conduit for the exercise of power, and this co-option of sex for the transmission of power is exactly what we are witnessing in the Turnbull government, as the right-wing faction brings the PM to his knees, and forces him to act against his own beliefs on the question of sexual difference in order to save his job.

The relationship between sex and power is complex and fraught, both in intimate relations and politically. The focus on sex and its expression  as the dominant concern obscures what is actually going on. If you manage to establish a discourse in which sexuality and its performance are markers of acceptance or rejection then you have power, whether you’re in politics, a cult, a football club, a school or a family. Our sexuality is perhaps our most vulnerable aspect: who controls our sexual expression by whatever means, overt and covert, has immense power over our self-regard and well-being.

It’s not about sex. It’s about power. But don’t expect the straight white moral conservative men and women to admit to that.

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Government by troll

10 Feb

Philip Ruddock

 

And even as I wrote this piece, news broke that Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment when you’re not having a Minister for the Environment, has just been awarded the inaugural best minister in the world gong in Dubai. I rest my feckin case. 

 

The Turnbull government recently appointed Philip Ruddock as its special envoy for human rights.  Ruddock will quit the government in order to take up his new position, as it will entail considerable amounts of travel during which time he would be absent from the House, and this, he considers, is not fair to his Berowra electorate.

One can imagine the glee with which this arrangement was arrived at. How enraged and outraged the lefties will be was likely the first consideration, as Ruddock’s expertise in furthering human rights, or even lobbying, was most certainly not a central concern.  The man has all the charm of an embalmed corpse, indeed, his waxy pallor during his Howard years caused me to note on more than one occasion that he looked as if he’d just crawled out of his coffin as the sun went down.

Ruddock is known as the architect of the Howard government’s off-shore detention policy, the “Pacific Solution.” This “solution” was condemned by Human Rights Watch as a rights violation, as it contravened international law. The UNHCR supported this view. A long-standing member of Amnesty International, that organisation asked Ruddock to cease wearing its badge, as he had done consistently and conspicuously whilst committing rights violations. Ruddock also introduced Temporary Protection Visas.

In 2003 Ruddock was appointed Attorney-General. He introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, in which marriage is for the first time defined as being solely between a man and a woman, thus preventing same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Ruddock once famously referred to an asylum seeker child as “it.” He was also responsible, along with John Howard and Peter Reith, of lying to the public on the matter of asylum seekers throwing their children overboard in order to gain access to Australia.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop explained it thus:  Mr Ruddock will actively promote Australia’s candidacy for membership of the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the 2018-20 term. He will represent Australia at international human rights events and advocate our HRC candidacy in selected countries.

Ruddock’s appointment demonstrates yet again that Turnbull varies little from Abbott in his practices: the only difference is the patronising urbanity with which he oils his self-satisfied way through his political life. Turnbull, like Abbott, makes decisions based firstly on the retention of his personal power, followed closely by the retention of his party’s power, followed closely by their collective desire to troll lefties just because they can. Yes. They are that infantile.

Turnbull continues the Abbott tradition of treating government, and governance, as a personal plaything. Abbott trolled the nation when he appointed himself Minister for Women. He did it again when IPA stalwart and vigorous opponent of the Human Rights Commission, Tim Wilson, was parachuted into a job invented for him at that very Commission, with the vague title of Freedom Commissioner and a salary of $325,000 pa.

While the LNP are having great fun trolling, it’s also their intention to take over or outsource institutions they perceive as obstacles to the implementation of their ideology. The government’s decisions have little to do with the welfare of the country, or anybody in it who is not in thrall to that ideology.

I hope the idiots who thought things would be better cos Turnbull are smacking themselves upside the head right now.

The LNP risking a leadership spill in an election year must be as likely as the survival of polar bears, which is to say, negligible. Turnbull is in the strongest position he’s ever likely to enjoy: he could do just about anything and remain Prime Minister. Yet he hasn’t the courage to run with it, and continues to roll over like a submissive dog under the pressure of his party’s extreme right-wing.

The man is scum. He’s worse scum than Abbott. Abbott was always scum, but Turnbull, on the face of it, seemed once to stand for something, though in retrospect I’m not sure what that something was. Turnbull has the smooth voice and sophisticated delivery the cloth-eared and dry-mouthed Abbott so conspicuously lacked, yet behind all his mannerisms, Turnbull is as hollow, and as pretentious, and as cruel.

Welcome to government by troll.

 

 

 

 

 

Water cannon. Free speech. The right not to listen.

22 Jan

 

A metal toggle switch with plate reading Listen and Ignore, symbolizing how we choose to pay attention to certain messages

The robust exchanges of the last few days on the subject of so-called “brokens” and the need to control or silence their allegedly “broken” speech reminded me of Human Rights Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson’s unfortunate tweet, posted shortly before he was parachuted into a job created specifically for him by Attorney-General George Brandis. Wilson was apparently walking through a public space in Melbourne on his way to somewhere else, when he suffered considerable affront at the sight and sound of an Occupy Melbourne protest:

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

What Wilson overlooked in this tweet is that nobody was forcing him to hear the protesters, except momentarily: he could walk right by them, remove himself from earshot, get on his train or tram and continue with his journey, free from the sound of others enacting their right to speak.

But Wilson was not interested in taking responsibility for himself: instead he felt an entitlement to protection from momentary affront, and it was to the state that he turned for his preferred method of protection. People exercising their freedom to protest deserved to be injured and silenced by water cannon, because Tim Wilson was aggravated by noisy views he did not share.

Engagement in social media is going to bring most participants slap bang up against views they do not share, oftentimes expressed in a manner to which they are not accustomed, and do not necessarily like. This happens to me regularly. I can either take the Tim Wilson route and demand these voices be silenced by some authority because I have a right not to listen to them,  or I can use my mute button, my unfollow button, or even my block button, and take responsibility for creating my own online environment that doesn’t include people who, for whatever reason, bother me.

The right not to listen goes hand in hand with the responsibility to take your own measures to protect yourself against another exercising her freedom of speech, if the content or manner of her expression bothers you, rather than appealing to the state or some other authority to do it for you, or demanding that the bothersome voices somehow be silenced so you aren’t subjected to them.

There are laws already in place that deal with dangerous situations and threatening people, but they don’t deal with boring people, or repetitive people, or people who don’t want to stop arguing their case, or people you think are stupid, and neither should they. I have the right not to listen to people who aggravate me, and I have a responsibility to enact that right myself when I have the means to do so. I’m not entitled to demand that the environment I want be created for me by the silencing of others.

None of us is entitled to protection from momentary affront caused by someone else enacting their right to freedom of speech. None of us has to listen either. But my right not to listen doesn’t trump your right to speak, unless your speech is illegal, or you’re forcing me against my will to listen.

One person’s broken record is another person’s gutsy persistence, and there are countless examples of situations in which injustices of all kinds would have continued unchallenged if it wasn’t for one person’s gutsy persistence, that could well have been perceived by others as “broken record” behaviour. There are also countless examples of people who vainly thrust at windmills, and so what?

If you desire civil discourse you won’t call for the water cannon, either literally or metaphorically, to silence those who in some way fail to attain your standards of debate. You’ll engage with others who have the same goal, rather than complain and angst about what we have to do to get those “brokens” as evolved as we are, or is it better just to condemn them to the margins because they’re incorrigibly dumb and boring and not worth the energy.

If you’re so damn smart, how come you haven’t worked out that you don’t have to listen, it’s a choice, and you’re the master or mistress of your online domain, if you only take responsibility for it?

 

 

The freedom to offend

13 May

 Freedom of Expression

 

This morning I’m thinking about Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson’s infamous “Occupy Melbourne” tweet; this piece I wrote about Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s tyrannical demand that public servants “dob in” workmates they suspect of speaking ill of the government, and the fantasy of the “freedom to be heard.”

Wilson’s Timsplain on the “civilising” and “regulating” goals of curbing freedom of speech, specifically in employment contracts, can be read here.

The tweet:

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

While sending in water cannons certainly serves to “regulate” behaviour, it is not in itself a civilised reaction to citizens exercising their right to speak freely about the principles and actions of governments. It still disturbs me to know that the Australian Commissioner for Freedom advocates state violence to suppress what he regards as “time-wasting” dissent, and considers such action “civilised.”

There is no such thing as the freedom to be heard. It’s impossible to make someone hear if he or she doesn’t wish to hear: they may give all the appearance of listening, but that doesn’t mean they’re hearing. It’s part of the vulnerability of being human that we can’t make anyone hear us, we can only hope that the other will care enough to bother.

Exercising the freedom not to hear is not a license to forcibly silence, whether by the use of water cannon or by implementing laws designed to protect those who don’t want to hear. For example, if Mr Wilson doesn’t want to hear protestors he doesn’t have to: he can take an alternative route, turn up his iPod, ignore news reports, in short, he can take responsibility for protecting himself from what he doesn’t want to hear, rather than depending on the state to do it for him.

While there is no right to freedom to be heard, there is no right not to be offended either. The increasing demand for the state to protect individuals from what is regarded as “offensive” across the entire spectrum of human behaviours is alarming, and crippling. It is paradoxical that conservative politicians and public figures make much of their desire for “small government,” while simultaneously seeking to prescribe state enforced restrictions on a wide range of attitudes and behaviours in their attempt to establish a society in which no one behaves in a manner determined by them to be “offensive.” To “offend” someone has become a significant, well, offence.

It goes without saying, one imagines, that to commit any crime against another is inherently offensive, and our laws already have crimes covered. Offence is subjective: I am offended by Mr Wilson’s use of social media to advocate state violence against protestors, however, even if I wanted to, I have no means available to me to turn the water cannon on him because he does not have the freedom to be heard. I can ignore him. Block him on social media. Complain about him on my blog. In other words, take responsibility for regulating and civilising my own world without calling upon the state to do it for me.

The only citizens the state will protect from “offence” are those with whom it is in agreement. All others it will seek to silence, one way or another. Even in a liberal democracy such as ours, the state will and does seek to silence dissent. It is in the nature of political power that those who have it seek to retain it, by any means available. The courts are hog-tied by whatever legislation the government of the day manages to implement.

For an insight into this demand for protection from the “offensive” on a popular cultural level, it’s worth reading Helen Razer’s piece on how difficult it is to be a “bad girl,” and the effort now required if one is to be at all transgressive, and why.

Transgression is impossible without causing offence. Transgression is by its very nature offensive to someone. A society that punishes what it considers offensive, making the offensive a crime in itself, is a society in which transgression of all kinds  is increasingly curtailed and silenced. The current dearth of satirical political comment in this country is but one example of this curtailing of transgression on the grounds that it is “offensive” and, as Mr Wilson would have it, uncivilised.

There is no human right that promises the freedom not to be offended. It is to say the least extremely unfortunate that we have in this country a Commissioner for Freedom who advocates turning water cannon on those who offend him. The protestors did not attack him. They did not threaten him. They merely spoke what he did not wish to hear. If we are entering or have entered a period in which another’s free speech is just cause for advocating state violence in order to silence them, we are in very dangerous waters indeed.

(I just looked out of my bedroom window to see snow falling. Ah.)

 

 

A new low in corporate paranoia: Transfield, Manus & Nauru

7 Apr

Zip It

 

There’s a report in the Guardian this morning that Transfield, the company responsible for the administration of detention centres on Manus and Nauru,is taking extraordinary measures to curtail the civil liberties of its employees.

New policy issued in February 2015 restricts religious and political freedoms of Transfield staff working at the detention centres by forbidding membership in or support for any “incompatible organisation,” such as political parties and churches opposed to off-shore detention. Support for the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Australian Human Rights Commission could also lead to staff losing their jobs.

At first blush, this looks like denying the human rights of workers to religious and political freedom.

A job for our Freedom Commissioner, Tim Wilson?

A staff member can also be sacked if a detainee or former detainee follows them on Facebook or Twitter, even if the employee is not aware of the following.

For previous Sheep posts on Transfield, and the association with the St James Centre for Ethics and the Black Dog Institute of one of its directors, Douglas Snedden, see here.

Then there was the brou ha ha I wrote about here, surrounding Transfield’s support for the 2014 Sydney Biennale which caused several artists to withdraw their work and led to Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull describing those artists as “viciously ungrateful.”

You may not think highly of people who undertake employment in detention centres. I’ve heard this perspective and spoken to employees, and it’s complicated. There has been, ever since the days of Woomera and Baxter, a culture of secrecy surrounding detention centres, asylum seekers, and those who are employed in the industry, a culture that serves no one well and from which very few emerge unscarred. Governments are entirely responsible for this culture, for imposing it and maintaining it, to the detriment of everyone involved at the coal face.

These recent actions by Transfield are alarming, and have widespread implications. They are designed to suppress dissent of even the most innocuous kind: being sacked for who follows you on Twitter must be a new low in corporate paranoia.

This morning on ABC Radio National Breakfast, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insisted that he would not make decisions about refugee status “under duress.” The “duress” he is referring to is the hunger strike by Iranian Saeed Hassanloo that has brought the asylum seeker close to death. Iran will not accept deported asylums seekers: they must return of their own free will. If they do not wish to return, they are kept in indefinite detention by the Australian government.

The message from the DIBP is clear. If you flee duress in a manner we consider inappropriate you will be subjected to more duress, and if you respond to that duress with actions that cause us to experience duress, we will subject you to indefinite duress. We win.

The message from Transfield to its employees is of a similar nature. If you want your job you will relinquish the right to everything we say you must relinquish the right to, otherwise you will not have your job. We win.

The Abbot government to all citizens: If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle on anything think again, because we have captured your metadata and we don’t need a warrant to trawl it and we can make any use of it we like and we win.

All you have to do is what you’re told, and everything will be all right and we win.

Freedom Boy! Where are you?!

Freedom Boy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PM who only knows aggression is a threat to the country

26 Feb

Agressive Abbott


The Abbott government’s attempted defenestration of President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs has, like so many of this government’s ventures into domination through aggression and bullying, badly backfired.

This latest debacle is yet another example of the Abbott government’s pugilistic default position, and follows hot on the heels of the Prime Minister’s combative approach to Indonesia in the matter of the looming execution of Australian drug smugglers Chan and Sukumaran.

Attorney-General George Brandis, chief instigator, along with Abbott, of an extraordinarily vitriolic personal attack on the head of a statutory authority, was yesterday asked what next in their campaign to publicly eviscerate Triggs, presumably to force her resignation which does not seem to be forthcoming, and why should it?

I can’t unscramble the egg, Brandis replied, in a rare admission of stupendous failure.

The egg certainly is all over the faces of Brandis and Abbott. In a move of unfathomable stupidity, Abbott decided to focus personally on Professor Triggs, rather than the report on children in detention the HRC published last week. Seemingly bereft of all politically savvy, Abbott made this choice despite the fact that the report fully covered the previous government’s abysmal record on this matter, and despite the fact that more children have been released from detention by the Abbott government than were by the previous Labor incumbents.

The down side is that this government keeps fewer children in detention for much longer. However, in spite of this reality there was much political capital to be made had Abbott chosen to take that path. Instead, he embarked upon a vicious campaign to force Professor Triggs out of her job, to be replaced, rumour has it, by the Brandis/Abbott protegé  “Freedom Boy” Tim Wilson, who, as you may recall, was parachuted by Brandis into his position at the HRC without so much as an interview.

This latest in the Abbott government’s expressions of contempt for the HRC has caused the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to write to the government protesting its attacks on Professor Triggs.

As Wayne Janssen explains,  the ICC  co-ordinates relationships with the UN human rights systems. Its accreditation system is based on compliance with the 1991 Paris Principles and grants access to UN committees. Australia currently enjoys “A” status which allows us speaking and seating rights at such committees.

Abbott’s attacks on Triggs imply state interference with the independence of the AHRC that may be a transgression of the Paris Principles. If this is the case, Australia stands to lose our A status, and the access to speaking and seating rights this status confers.

Add to this the suggestion that Brandis attempted illegal inducement by offering Triggs another job to get her out of the HRC, an allegation now referred to the AFP, and it’s difficult to see how this move has brought the government anything other than ongoing grief.

Abbott’s aggressive, combative, high conflict personality dominates his thinking and his decision-making. He has proved repeatedly that he is not capable of controlling his pugilistic instincts. He is entirely unable to overcome his primitive need to shirtfront somebody, anybody, even his own back benchers, by instead employing mature, considered thinking and mental clarity. This is a personality defect that has catastrophic potential for a country led by him. It has equally catastrophic implications for the party he leads, as many of its MPs surely know.

Like an abusive partner in an intimate relationship,  Abbott is in the process of isolating this country from the rest of the world, and from international bodies such as the United Nations that offer what little opportunity there is for cohesion and communication between nations. He is an isolationist, as the violent always are. He seeks to sow seeds of discord and disharmony within our own communities, in his efforts to assert the superiority and domination of white, middle-class alpha masculinity, to the exclusion of all other groups.

He’s a threat to this country. He may be the biggest threat this country faces. He needs to go.

Tim Wilson HRCommissioner spruiks for Abbott on ABC

1 Dec

Tim Wilson

 

I can’t believe what I just saw with my own eyes. On ABC’s The Drum tonight, Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom Tim Wilson, parachuted into his $320,000 a year job by Attorney General George Brandis without even so much as an interview, was a panelist on a program that had nothing to do with human rights or freedom of speech, the latter being Wilson’s specific portfolio. Instead Wilson spruiked for the Abbott government and Tony Abbott, in a display of political partisanship that I’ve never seen before from a public servant.

Wilson resigned from the Liberal Party when he took up his new job with the HRC.

Questions.

Why was Wilson invited to be a panelist on The Drum when his area of expertise wasn’t on the agenda?

Why did Wilson accept the invitation when his area of expertise was not on the agenda?

Is Wilson exempt from the APSC Code of Conduct as regards taking care to avoid partisan positions?

Is it mere coincidence that Wilson appears on The Drum to support Abbott on the day the Prime Minister admits the government’s had a ragged week?

If it isn’t a coincidence, at whose insistence did host Steve Cannane invite Wilson on the panel when his only possible purpose for being there was to talk up the Abbott government?

Why was Wilson given a platform on the ABC to express his personal views as he clearly wasn’t representing the HRC or his portfolio?

What does Wilson’s boss Gillian Trigg think of his blatant public political partisanship?

I’d ask Wilson these questions myself but the Commissioner for Freedom blocked me on Twitter when I asked him how he would handle a situation in which there were competing rights.

 

 

 

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