Friday, May 28, 2010

Suing Japan- Australia turns gamekeeper on international law

I don't resile from my eariler thoughts on this action.

I'm pleased we're back to supporting the notion of international law, it's been a bit hit and miss in recent times. I trust the plenary rule against use of force, resolution of future boundary disputes by international tribunals, and proper adherence to the refugee convention are all back in vogue. And that, instead of brandishing some 'privileged' advice from some hack in Canberra that allegedly says it might be legal, we'll willingly hand any of these highly disputed positions to an independent tribunal of international legal experts for appropriate resolution.

Tuvalu should start working up their climate claim....

Still, when it comes to managing our delicate relationships in the construct known as Northeast Asia, at a time when China is using secret 'trials' to pressure companies into doing favourable resource deals and the Koreas are taking us back to the most fragile moments in the Cold War, getting litigious with one of the only democracies in the region over whaling is entirely about putting populism above moderately intelligent policy making.

Refugees can wait for their due process, but the whales will have their day in court.

In other news, Australia has switched sides in the bluefin tuna debate and is to ban eating meat from all animals smarter than a pippie...

And of course any suggestion the decision to litigate now has been taken with a firm eye to the inward-looking nationalism and mistrust of other cultures that's become, yet again, the centrepiece of an election, is entirely misplaced.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Liberals leaving conservative parties

Malcolm Fraser has finally done what he should have done years ago. Beloved mused on why it took him so long. I can only assume that as it took me a long time to leave Labor, having given so much loyalty to it, for an ex prime minister it would be a wrenching step.

If the likes of Russell Broadbent, Judy Moylan, Petro Georgiou, George Brandis and Malcolm Turnbull were to do likewise, and seek to create a liberal party, politics would suddenly get more interesting.

Meanwhile, back at my local branch, another long term branch member who has consistently been involved in grass roots work, branch administration, hitting the hustings, who I emailed to tell about my own decision, has now also left. His tipping point was the policy asplosion that is the net filter. That wasn't on my top 5 list, but in terms of what appears to be a policy fail that will not even achieve its plenary aims, I concur.

Still, I might have to reconsider my earlier assertions about foreign policy. In some broader sense I know what I meant, but I forgot to account for the incumbent shadow foreign minister, singularly one of the least competent people in parliament. Ex union hacks might not make great analysts of the finer nuance of international relations, but that doesn't mean running a commercial law firm is any better. Julie Bishop, you moron.

And didn't she breach some security-related law with that bluster? I'm sure its true, I'm sure our security agencies do use all manner of spy-widgets in their work, but isn't the real issue that Mossad used passports belonging to real Australian citizens in an assassination?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A bit like cancer

Cancer. It is like a cancer, isn't it? I need the metaphor to explain the disease itself; the way you deal with a scare, get the all clear, then wait for the next one to arrive. And sooner or later it does.

No all-clear this time. Someone in the family, not Beloved or the kids, but still close enough, has had some precautionary lumps removed, only to find one of them isn't benign. It's in a place where prospects are not always great.

If you're a regular reader you'll know who someone is, because this comes in the middle of a rift, a rift that came in turn on the back of decades of struggle, some hits, many misses. Although I haven't blogged about it much lately, things have improved a bit since I wrote a fairly raw post a few months ago. In his usual, screwed-up way he's moved on and acted as if nothing was up, sending me books he thinks I'd like and getting chatty again on the phone. In some ways when I stop to think about it this makes me quite angry in itself, but I've generally resolved not to dwell too much and just accept it as the latest instalment in a long melodrama.

In fact the angriest I've felt since was when someone told me I needed to forgive him completely or I would never be able to move on. I couldn't fathom the logic of this, as much as the person may have meant well. I've relinquished, started talking to him again, decided that even though he won't make the effort to visit us I would still give his relationship with his grandkids a chance and visit them, from time-to-time. I'd partly-accepted, if not entirely excused, his conduct (and indeed a lifetime of it) as that of someone who was badly abused as a child, who is emotionally damaged and imperfect. What the fcuk is forgiveness in this context? A dishonest act of quasi-religious ascetic transcendence? In my heart I won't forgive the rejection entirely, and frankly with a personal philosophy that believes people should be held to account, it would create cognitive dissonance within me to try.

I found the statement, delivered in lecturing tones, akin to blaming me. After all, if forgiveness is what we should do, and we can't do it, then we aren't doing what we should do and apparently any lingering sadness or disappointment we carry is our fault. Isn't it possible we aren't actually the cause, that's the emotionally-abusive party who rejected us? And while clinging to daily bitterness won't make us happy, trying to take a happy-clappy view of things won't either? Isn't letting them slip back to normal like nothing happened, continuing to facilitate what contact they choose to have with their grandkids, continuing to talk to them and effectively accept the screwed-up status quo they have insisted on defining, isn't this all enough?

So. Cancer.

I will put my (apparently unacceptable) residual anger aside. I will take the family up to visit soon, far sooner than I previously intended. I will let the most important things take precedence, provide the opportunity for grandparent and grandchildren to find moments together. Perhaps because, despite my previously posting the worst of my fears and concerns, I believe this deeply repressed and self-centred man still cares. He may leave this world wondering why he didn't make more out of the past 3 years, regretting pissing his days away between the garage and the garden while his grandkids were growing up. He should. I won't do anything to make it worse.

We haven't got to that point yet, but the prognosis is currently uncertain. He's an old bugger, but I don't want him to die.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Aker's not homophobic but...

"Some footballers think there's something wrong with people, they have some kind of disease."

Some people think there's something wrong with footballers, they have some kind of retardation.

We know there are dumb bigots, racists, and people who can't understand what's wrong with s3xual assault in footy. Sometime in the past decade or so most people who haven't fallen on their small heads coming out of a particularly high mark came to the realisation that this isn't a good thing...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A well founded fear...

Jake Lynch, Crikey:

The government’s ill-fated bid to defuse “controversy”, by suspending asylum claims for people arriving from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, looks sicker still this week after a report from the International Crisis Group reminded us of the violations visited on the Tamils in the final months of the civil war, this time last year. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, it says, citing witness testimony, satellite images, documents and other evidence: most from systematic army bombardments of areas that had been officially declared “safe”.

No wonder the Sri Lankan government is cracking down on journalists and NGOs: it has plenty to hide. More than 100,000 people are still interned, with reports trickling out of maltreatment, r-pes and the mysterious “disappearances” that have been the signature MO of the security forces there for decades.

And what I think is on-the-money comment on political pragmatism gone wrong:

You can’t triangulate on race. It’s a lesson the Rudd government is learning all over again. There is no limit to how far a declared party of the Right will go, in search of a wedge: so the supposed “centre ground” simply moves further and further away from the comfort zone of a government still aspiring to hold together a “progressive” base of support.

Ay, some of it has cracked the sh!ts with being 'held together'.

Wiggly Party & a Deskbound Daddy

As I jot this down, in a quick 5 minutes mental transition between 2 tasks on my desk, Beloved, Bear and Mitts are sitting 4 rows from the front at a Wiggles concert.

I know, I should be more concerned about the branding and so in. Indeed, I think they've made the same mistake as many adult rock bands in transitioning to bigger, more polished settings, sounds and albums. But when push comes to shove (and I'll bet there'll be some frenetic shoving at knee level today!) they aren't bad musicians, their messages are healthy and inclusive, and they get the kidlets singing and dancing. So I'm excited for them, for Bear in particular, and a bit disappointed that I'm missing out.

This morning Beloved went in to wake Bear up, talking up the gig. And Bear responded:

"I want daddy to come to the Wiggles concert too..."


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Abbott caught with insufficient art...

Despite ending my Labor membership, I certainly don't like Abbott one iota, and I should still be taking visceral pleasure in his squirming discomfort on the subject of the truth.

I am certainly happy that he is in trouble. He is undoubtedly from a dark, wet place in the dungeons of the far right that I do not want to see anywhere near the reins of power. I enjoyed watching last night (and if I enjoyed it, Kerry looked like he was being given a small country for Christmas).

It would just be a lot more enjoyable if it reflected a deep, ethical adherence to the truth among both the political classes and the fourth estate. If his opponent were spotless, and 100% reliable in his word. If people actually, really, gave a toss.

It's just ironic that Abbott may suffer damage for being relatively artless about that which is usually practised through more sophisticated craft...

Labor trolls- a short time coming

Mere nanomoments between breaking lockstep, and drawing ire from trolls. Here's Dr Adam Carr in a Crikey thread:

"What a pathetic whiny spineless whinger. First sign of rough weather and he/she throws up over the side and demands to be put ashore."

I'm not sure what service Dr Carr, or the Greensborough Growler, or any other sources of vicious vitriol I pick up have given to the ALP. Perhaps it's substantially more than my 15 years. I am still stunned at the speed people I might have been standing at the hustings with can turn, or at the remarkable assumption, plugged here by someone who posits himself as an intellectual political analyst, that after such time, and dozens of compromises sucked up while standing on the hustings copping abuse from aboriginal-hating rednecks in the NT, or from Greens and Liberals alike in Northcote, relentlessly doing my bit for the party, I can't make a decision to leave.

I will resist the impulse to flame back; it's inconsistent with my flame-delete policy here, and in any event if any of those people visit I'd rather give them the opportunity to look again at my last few posts under politics and reconsider. You can disagree with someone without instantly resorting to mindless hatred.

15 years, and every territory or state election, and every federal election, as well as the republic referendum, becomes, in this thoughtful analysis, the first sign of rough weather.

If you feel like responding here, don't be vicious, cowardly, or senselessly vitriolic, or you'll be deleted. On the other hand if you want to explain why someone who's put in 15 years then leaves because the party fails to line up with most of his key policy positions is a mere spineless whinger, and can do so in reasonable tones, fire away.

In my hiatus post, where I tried to pull together my strongest reflections after several years of blogging, I wrote:

Being flamed by the other side is unpleasant, slightly. Being flamed by your own is sickening, it turns your world on its head, makes you wonder why you have found common political ground with someone like that.

Indeed. I suppose the difference now is that it makes me feel better about my decision. It's still unpleasant.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On Leaving Labor

Done. And it hurts a bit.

Done without vitriol, just disappointment.

Done without joining the competition, without any clear home for my politics. A centre-left secular humanist, with liberal tendencies restrained by some cynicism towards the market, lacking attachment to unions, per se. There is no home for me in Australian politics.

Done, taking me back to the mid-1990s, when my friend at university was campaigning for a seat, and I joined his campaign, then his party and faction. They were the 'moderates', a uniquely NT mish-mash of right and centre, pragmatic at a time when that seemed more acceptable. Decades of corrupt, hard-right rule by the Country Liberal Party made any compromise acceptable back then. And in the NT you didn't have to be part of a key union, large 'labor family', or other inside player in order to get involved. Membership meant real involvement, meeting the players, having a substantive say.

Done for a vow, one that was never clear in the execution. It involved dumping on refugees, a 'never again' following the Tampa capitulation. Yet I'm a centrist, I understand that my views aren't those of the people in the marginals and I do accept compromise. I didn't expect utopia- indeed, I can see that at some point refugee numbers could need restraint, and that decisions must be made that leave some people, whose lives aren't that great, on the wrong side of an application. I grumbled through a few 'toughening' steps, and kept the faith. But when it became arbitrary and irrational I knew the line had been crossed.

Done during the Great Rudd ALP principles-dump. A decision was made to dump a succession of ideals, to clear the decks for a debate on the economy and perhaps health, backed no doubt by some IR scare campaigning. The decision involved taking people like me - let along substantial numbers of party members well to my left - for granted. That taking-for-granted is pretty much standard operating procedure in Labor, based on a perceived need to pander elsewhere for crucial marginal seats. But taking several huge hits in succession just made my post-Tampa vow all the easier to keep.

Done during my year of clearing the decks. I haven't ruled out trying to re-join in the future if things improve. But the way forward is now hazy, in a year where I'm trying to stocktake the things I put energy into, to prioritise, to work out how I can do something worthwhile with my life.

Done to relieve the cognitive dissonance. I'm pretty straight-talking, the eternal compromise is always very unsettling.

Done because the one issue on which the ALP is genuinely left of centre- the continued influence of the unions- is not really my issue. Partly due to that issue and the influence of a couple of huge unions in particular, the party is pretty much as conservative as the Liberals when it comes to social liberalism and the continued comingling of church and state in this country. Those, by contrast, are my issues.

Done because the ALP are dumb on foreign policy. No better way to put it, it's a lack of knowledge and competence. On balance I will agree with more of their positions, but viewed objectively the Liberals actually seem to have more people who know what they are talking about. Who read books and stuff, even if they aren't books I agree with. This is a big area for me, miniscule as it is for the electorate, and I find the directionless floundering under Rudd's stewardship (let's face it, Smith is a patsy in this portfolio) highly frustrating. Ultimately I'd like to see us revisit our brainless sycophancy and flag-waving militarism, to find a completely new settlement with our place in the world as a small-to-medium power with quite different policy needs from either the US or UK. I'm tired of our foreign policy being resolved on bases that a year 10 student could rip apart. Which leads to...

Done because I believe in good policy. Policy I don't agree with is one thing, but policy I don't agree with that was hatched without, or against the prevailing analysis, simply on poll-driven impulse, is just an ongoing offence to our nation and polity. I really do think I believe that it would be better for the party to formulate some strong positions it genuinely believes in, that are backed by evidence, and to fight for those at the hustings. To just dump all perceived risks and run on the smallest of differentiations is to rob the people of their choice.

Done because, unlike many hard-wired members of political parties of all persuasions, I really do believe that the nation, and the policies, are more important than the -any- party.