Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Media outrage at slight glimpse of human error

The incident involving Conrad French approaching Abbott in a pair of speedos embodies everything that is wrong with politics, and the under-educated over-powerful media that shapes it, in this country.

My hyperbole? Let's take a deep breath and have a look.

A labor staffer- so for the first bit of perspective, not an elected member (just an underdressed member, but I digress), likely to be on a pretty average salary and to work very hard for it- pulls off a stunt that:

* shows a lapse of judgement in the current political environment, and given his position;

* would have made complete sense otherwise, given Abbott's history, as a minor, inoffensive, non-aggressive (he desisted pretty much immediately) prank.


That's it. Abbott laughs it off. Brandis agrees it's not that big a deal. Yet according to The Age Gillard is under pressure to sack him.

Sack him. Take away his job and career. For wearing speedos.

'Under pressure' from whom? The media. This kind of tawdry, senseless scandalisation of the unremarkable is what we have come to expect as normal. It doesn't seem odd that there is 'pressure' to sack someone, for running in a pair of budgie smugglers.

[As an aside I think everyone who wears them should be subject to some cruel and unusual punishment, however this should not be meted out arbitrarily in this case!]

I have met Conrad. He seemed fine, he works hard for that party which I was a member of. I don't have any special attachment to him though and I'm not writing this out of bias- he's part of the machine that ultimately let me down.

But I've chosen to comment on this as I think it's a great glaring paradox of our system that we, and the media, rabbit on about wanting human beings in politics, then any time there's a minor slip off the company prompt card the hysteria is deafening.

He'll be dwelling on his embarrassment, and nurturing that awkward sense that this will be used against him for years to come. Only the media cares, because if he isn't sacked then the scandle-cycle hasn't worked properly, and they miss an additional news story.

Monkeys. Go find some other peanuts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


The only vestige of family with any sort of active involvement in our lives has gone. Beloved's sister and her partner have moved back to the town of circling cars (Canberra). We feel alone and Beloved in particular is sad and disappointed.

It was very nice having at least a couple of family members close. Yet something stood in the way, they didn't engage the way we, Beloved in particular, hoped they would. They were fantastic with the kids, when we saw them. But being 15 minutes away this didn't seem very often, and yet I suspect in their view it was more than ample- duty done, slightly older family with kids attended to, back to the fun stuff. I suppose we hoped to be included as fun stuff which, when you're loaded up with kids and chores, I guess is hard to pull off.

The memories of when we did things together, several days at the beach for example, are special. But they are also sad memories because there are so few of them, over a couple of years living just a suburb or so apart.

The days at the beach preceded Mitts' expected birth date by just a few days. They were our support, particularly as this time around we had Bear to consider, and no-one else who could easily take care of her. Yet they also had friends renting a house in the country, out of mobile range, and when the opportunity arose there was no hesitation extending that from a weekend to several nights. Several nights for which we cobbled together a series of emergency contacts and kept our fingers crossed, wracked with stress. They were back just in time for the birth, but in a way the symbolism can't be altered- they easily could have missed it.

That can never be taken back, the symbolism - involving those whose role in his life would be second only to ours- stark and painful.

Yet they've done more than anyone else, so they shouldn't wear the full blanket of our deep disappointment. They came, they helped, babysat, played. Not as much as we'd have liked, and perhaps partly out of obligation, but at least it happened.

There are four families in our constellation. The kids don't really know any of them. Two or three people have built slightly better (than nothing) relationships and are remembered by name, but that's about it. Early experiences travelling around convinced us that there was no Shangri La of loving familial support waiting if we were prepared to move. There are certain individuals (my two mums come to mind) who would probably jump at the chance to spend more time with the kids, but who for various reasons will not be moving closer in the short term. Which is sad, the kids would love to play with them now, it'll be different in 10 years...

Beloved and I returned from London, where I had been working, at the end of 2002. Sometimes I miss London. One of the biggest reasons for not going back would be the effect on the kids' family relationships. We emerge from 3 years of incredibly hard graft and effort, less support than most of our friends, almost no time to ourselves, having dragged the kids around endlessly trying to get those extended family ties up and running. There is only modest gain to show for it.

Sometimes I miss London and can envisage, without much loss, a life built elsewhere.

The kids themselves are fine, we as an immediate, nuclear family are fine, tired but happy. They are so full of energy and joy at the moment, I am just getting over the fact that no-one else in our family constellation wants to share that with them.

I know, swallow a bag of cement and harden up, that's life, not meant to be easy, &c &c &c*... Beloved and I are just taking stock, and feeling quite sad about it all.

(*Love the use of ampersand-c in the old texts I've been reading...)

Monday, July 19, 2010

3 year old politics: 'Where's Kevin Rudd?'

'That's Julia Gillard', I say, as the PM appears on TV in full electioneering mode, 'she's the Prime Minister.'

Bear, 3 and a half years old: 'Where's Kevin Rudd?'

I'm stumped. I want to give her a neutral take, let her get all the positives from seeing a woman in a position of power. Despite my own disappointment at the consummate sell-out she, and Labor, now represent (oh and wasn't that dirty little ad with the border security garbage in it just an insult to the intelligence of the much feted masses?)...

'He's not Prime Minister any more...'


'Because he, um, his polls were bad, he was having some problems.... *thoughtful pause* he stopped being Prime Minister and now it's Julia Gillard.'




'I don't know love. But it's good because she's the first woman to do this, so now girls can do it too.'

Bear thought about this in silence. She was processing something about change, the inadequacy of the explanation for Rudd's removal- why has this man who was on the TV and in the papers, who daddy said was pretty important, just disappeared? And perhaps: why is she the first, why would girls not be able to do everything boys can do?

It's the machine, lovvie, and now he's just a ghost therein....

...Oh and you can lovvie, you can, we're just coming out of the triassic now...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Best Kind Of Sick Day

Yesterday, I had a magic day.

Mitts had a very mild case of conjunctivitis. Because it's highly contagious, he was sent home early from childcare on Monday and we were told to keep him home the next day. However, icky as it can be in bad cases, conjunctivitis is normally the most benign affliction from a functional point of view. The upside of this is that a parent is stuck at home with a child who is not in any functional sense sick.

So Mitts and I did some bonding. We started running around the house like nutters, throwing balloons at each other, laughing every time one of them bounced out of our hands. We stopped to read a book, it had a xylophone in it so I pulled out a real one and Mitts got stuck into it while I shook a maracca and gave him a round of applause after each atonal solo.

In the garden we kicked a ball along a few times. Then he made up a game where we sat on the top step of the granny flat, then on the lower, then sat back up again, each time with Mitts making the move then patting the step beside him while looking at me. I did actually think this was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen, though I kept an earnest straight face.

We went to some parkland, morning and again in the afternoon, walked on the grass, him holding my hand, something he's just learned to do, or sitting on my shoulders. There were ducks (All Nations Park) and moorhens (Darebin Parklands) and we sat for several minutes as he looked and pointed at them.

At Darebin it started to rain, I pulled him off my shoulders and, carrying him like a bag of potatoes, half-ran back up the hill, across the grass to the car. He smiled the whole time.

And even when I had to pretty much pin him to the floor to get the eye drops in, he took it well. The tears didn't last.

It was the best kind of day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oh well, off to Nauru perhaps?

Dili says take your colonial crap and shove it.

Abbott says the Labor Government should try Nauru.

Abbott's probably right, from her point of view. After all, the fact that Nauru is not a signatory doesn't prevent a centre on Nauru from processing in accordance with the Convention principles.

It isn't, after all, as if Timor Leste has the capacity to meet the obligations in full and provide asylum on its tiny land mass in the way we do. The plan was, I assume to do the processing then find people a home.

What a place to get to.

Reffophobia and apologia on the left- or why it's ok to be angry

There's a lot of work going into examining the motives of those attacking Ms Gillard, particularly in respect of whether some may be motivated by misogyny, or ignorance, or some other explanation.

Sure, examine away. That's legitimate. So too is questioning what is behind people who claim to care about refugees leaping stridently to her defence.

There probably are some gender bigots among those hammering her. I hammered Rudd on the same issue.

There are probably also some racists, and a far larger contingent of awkward hand wringers and ill-read ignorant-types (who really do find some elements of truth in all those references to people smugglers, queues, overcrowding et al), among those springing to her defence. The stats suggest there must be a bit of crossover, as much as we're a marginal dictatorship the asylum message has clearly touched otherwise generous and not-at-all xenophobic people across the country.

In these discussions it's been said that anger is a clue to some unreasonable or irrational motive. Sounds as gendered as 'blood under her nails' to me. Women get angry, men get use their fingernails in combat, but we know which gender each image is more usually paired with.

I'm angry, what of it? You see desperate people rotting in boats and camps while the politics of race flairs out and you don't get angry, well, don't start on some other progressive issue then. Go be calm under the wonderful status quo. And don't get angry about some other issue that for you is important, if it doesn't involve people as vulnerable as the ones I'm upset over. I often vent about thinks that upset me here, sometimes it's in the realm of anger. But I don't go around feeling anger every other day. This issue, those words said, these policies, make me angry.

There's an argument Gillard's getting special treatment. There may be some merit in this. I tend to think it's more related to a mix of timing and policy- she came in now, and was compelled to address ugly policy issues, and some of us are particularly upset at how she did that. But timing aside, looking at the Lawrences, the Kirners, the Kernots, the nasty little comments that have been directed at Gillard over her familial status, there's no doubt there are some big double-standards out there. So bring on the analysis. Bring on, for the likes of myself, the self-reflection. Perhaps we've vented too quickly at Gillard, as opposed to Labor in general. She's been appalling; but equally so has the party machine, and so was Rudd c2010, so let's keep some perspective and work on our even-handedness.

I liked her until recently. I promise to try to like her again. If her policies improve.

So, there's something there to work with.

And there's some pretty gross human rights abuses going on, now, on Gillard's watch. Some stupid policy fumbling, some making the ignorant, the bigoted and yes, the at-times outright racist, feel loved and understood. There's one of the most repellant speeches given since the middle of the Howard term.

And there are people who call all forms of bigotry. And those who seem more angry, sorry -earnestly upset, about the fact that Gillard is not being given an appropriate honeymoon.

Is it legit to be annoyed, or even angry, if it appears she's getting unfair treatment due to her gender. Damn straight.

Does it say something about people if they can't comprehend or empathise with the very strong emotions some of us feel about refugees, race, that whole awkward Cronulla *thing*? Maybe, in some cases, it does.

Maybe just as 'blood under her fingernails' is gendered, so too 'I hear you bogans and I heart your right to be ignorant' is dripping with this country's deep, nasty narrative of fear and race.

Am I suggesting perhaps at least 1 in 3 of those who are not getting it might not hold the same level of concern (to put it nicely, ever so nicely) about refugees, race, that whole awkward Cronulla *thing* that those of us who are more angry, hold?


But - and read this before you take the slightest bit of umbrage or in any way misunderstand me- as a wise and decent person once said to me:

If it's not about you, then it's not about you.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

People Smugglers as Slave Traders?

Plopped in a thread at LP...

It’s unedifying to read of otherwise progressive types picking up on the whole ‘people smuggler as slave trader’ narrative, without at least unpacking the differences between perhaps the odd overlord making handsome profits out of it all on the one hand and poor boat crews putting nasi in the mouths of their families on the other.

Wheel it right back to the ‘danger’ thing. Ever been on a boat, indeed any sort of basic transport used by the masses, in a developing country? I’ve caught rides on Indonesian fishing boats while backpacking, you sleep on the deck, in all weather, no safety rails, large families with chickens and bags of rice sleep there too, cramped on. You hope it doesn’t sink, as they sometimes do. If backpackers do this sort of thing by choice (and I’m not the only one, if you spend some time working through the eastern islands of Indonesia), is it really hard to imagine desperate refugees making the choice? Does it really prove the boat captains are exploitative? Are you sure they don’t put themselves at similar risk, going to work each day?

When I spent time in Papela, a ‘sea gypsy’ settlement on the island of Roti, I was shown the fresh graves. Tropical storm here, diving for sea cucumbers while breathing through an air compressor there. Dead children. Dead fishermen.

The truly evil smuggling cases I’ve read about- people packed into shipping containers, or having their documents removed so they can be held as bonded labourers, don’t seem to feature among those we demonise. Mostly, we just seem to be suddenly (and in a most faux act of unconvincing generosity) extending wonderful, first world expectations of reasonable care, as if the OH&S Act can be extended more easily that the right to claim refugee status or have that assessed through Australian tribunals.

The construction of the dreaded demonic, evil, people smugglers is one of the great acts of declaratory securitisation in a nation with a less than robust history of peering behind the rhetoric on matters foreign.

Here and there I’m sure they exist- nasty, exploitative figures making handsome profits while turning their back on the risks and consequences. But I never see any effort to distil these from the mass of general boat captains and crews, most of whom I suspect do not deserve this characterisation at all.

It doesn’t do anyone any credit to just simply adopt the dominant talking points on this.

Oh Noes, Restless Natives

If only someone in Sussex St or Julia Gillard's office owned an Atlas, they might have found their way to Timor Leste and explained what is expected by the great southern benefactor. Now instead of saying 'yes sahib', the locals are getting wobbly on the message, fancy that.

Rumours the initial delegation flew to Lord Howe Island by mistake are, of course, unfounded.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Timor Solution

The best I can say is that my worst fears were, slightly, worse than this.

The renewed due process for Sri Lankan applicants is welcome.

The ongoing freeze for Afghanis is baffling, even more so to anyone who saw 4 Corners last night, recalling both the extent of the ongoing violence and the specific discussions of what happens to people who annoy the Taliban or help the outside forces.

The no-longer-Pacific solution? The devil, or something redeeming, may be in the detail. However it smells like an old fish served up under a fresh dollop of sauce.

And Abbott has slyly offered a small biscuit to the asylum lobby, by breaking ranks and offering to actually increase the intake from the mythical queues.

What a petty, grubby, unedifying little 'debate'. What a stupifying waste of public funds.

... Greens-pushing bloggers may not yet have convinced me that I'd want to join that party, but they've probably, at least, earned my primaries. I'm not the only one either.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sometimes I love the Black Letter Law - Saeed v the Immigration Minister

Let's be realistic, you wouldn't get the same result in this recent High Court case if you went overboard on the purposive approach.

Go on, try to follow the Court's reasoning. Who needs Sudoku anyway?

Dad insults career redux

So anyway he's decided to avoid discussion of his prognosis and treatment and talk politics. Pretty soon, knowing how much we disagree on the topic, he's pushed on to asylum seekers. It's been a very long day and I'm weak, so I don't shut down discussion immediately.
Let's just be neutral on the politics for these purposes and accept he's entitled to a different view. And even assume that my robust defences of my own position, as I keep being bated with the kind of garbage people rabble on with when they phone up Alan Jones, have not been baited by someone deliberately not letting go. After all, I do know better, I should have just shut it down straight away. Still, with all that being said, and knowing what a vicious little vole he can be, I was still stunned when he started on the personal.
OK, I'm probably (for obvious reasons) speaking on the issue in a less than diplomatic manner. Phrases like 'ignorant shits' are probably passing my lips, and references to the lessons of 1938 remaining unlearned. Suddenly he lunges for a new tack (his voice edgy with snarling hostility at this point):
How do you get on at work? If you speak like that your career can't go very far... (repeated in similar terms, several times)
So we had the previous career insults. Me raising them. Him telling me I misunderstood him and therefore we are wired not to get along. And now, clearly more misunderstanding- he wasn't referring to my career, he wasn't implying (again) that I could be so much more in his eyes if only I had or lacked some quality. I'm just an ungrateful shit who doesn't understand him.
The subsequent discussion, which descended further as I (and dear reader I am SO SORRY I take offence and become angry at misunderstandings like that above, I KNOW I need to be a better son, grateful I was taken in, etc. etc.) let go of the reins on references to the fact that no, in my workplaces full of well-informed people I don't usually run into the same issue and, whoops, are we projecting again given I'm not the one who didn't go far in an organisation dominated by aboriginals or people sympathetic to their concerns as he grumblingly harboured reactionary views, and so on.
I tried to stay in the other part of the house but as I put down the phone, Bear asked "Are you alright daddy?"
I gave her a hug and told her yes, people just disagree sometimes.
And wondered whether I have to play some sort of martyr now he's so ill.
So I have recently made a vow not to discuss career with him, a vow I've been keeping, avoiding that marred, ugly topic. I've heard his frustration as he tries to ask more questions, as this is the only thing I have to hold back that he really cares about- not because he wants me to be happy, but because he likes to live vicariously through it, proudly talking it up to friends, taking credit, even as I get the putdowns and unwanted advice on what I'm doing wrong.
Perfect son = a long way away, no effort, no responsibility, but ongoing credit for career as some sort of achievement of the father.
So recently as part of cleaning up this festy little corner of my life I've stopped talking about it, and I've been good, resisted that 'still 12' temptation to tell him all the latest. Now, more lessons learned, no. more. politics.
From now we shut down to talk about health, house and family. Politics, as of my hanging up the phone last night, joins career on the paternal Do Not Call register.
And now I just have to work out what remains. Whether I should be dragging my family up there, despite his abject lack of effort, despite the stress it causes Beloved (me, I'm about on par here or there, it's the content of what he says and does that I find offensive), because he's ill, and that's what sons do? Because I hope that if I've ever offended my kids this much (and if I've done so in the way he's turned on me so often, then please hunt me down and kill me) that they would try and try again with me.

So I saw posterous

And I thought, looks great, posting by email would be much more office-friendly. Why can't I do that with blogger?

Apparently I can, so here's testing.

Update; so it worked, but now all my info has gone to the bottom of the page, and the colours aren't loading up properly. Is this happening to you, dear reader, on my site? Any idea why?

The White Kind Of Migrants?

Pursuant to the previous post, I hadn't heard this particular line she's wheeled out. But all that banging on about political correctness takes on a clearer tone when you understand that what Australia needs are the right kind of migrants.

Of course we do. People like my dad couldn't agree more.

Gillard warms up for the mother of all sell-outs

If you celebrated the notion that Gillard's ascension marked some sort of turning point in the system, a change from the old order, you might be reconsidering.

First the vicious execution, now the sell-outs.

Apparently she sees political correctness everywhere, especially in relation to asylum seekers. I'm flumoxed, here I was thinking we lived in the same country- that would be the one where the overwhelming national voice is screeching about the thousands of boats threatening to overwhelm us, the fact that they're full of murderers and terrorists, the fact that they make up 200% of our immigration take etc., but apparently the quiet, humble ordinary folk are being shut down by political correctness.

So it's not about race or culture, not about bigotry? Could have fooled me- as per my heated argument with the old man last night, or more genial discussions had with a couple of relatives holding the same views not long back, it soon becomes ALL ABOUT our 'way of life' and protecting 'our culture' and signposts in other languages and all those Sudanese waiting to jump on boats (I know, they're actually the ones in queues, you explain it, they don't get it, foreigners are foreigners...).

So we wait. Minority deluded politically correct loryars like me waiting to see what she's warming up for here. If in fact she's 'acknowledging' concerns prior to doing the right thing, then I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Part 2, unloading about the old man and the latest string of insults he managed to bark out under the guise of the abovementioned discussion, coming shortly.