Julie versus Julia–the climax. Holding your breath?

It just may be that this whole ultra-obscure saga (about events which in themselves matter about as much to the welfare of the nation in 2012 as whether or not Tony Abbott had herpes in 1985) could take a turn not entirely in Julia’s favour today – or so the muckrakers known as The Opposition hope. See Gillard gave ‘false representation’ to commission: Abbott – though I still don’t really care all that much.

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That one was a little vent of my own based on yesterday’s episode of Home and Away – sorry, Question Time. Indeed Bob Katter and Tony Windsor were probably the only exemplars yesterday of a genuine use of Question Time which was otherwise the ongoing bunfight or patent Dorothy Dixers….

Some have been mean enough to cast aspersions of a more telling nature against the lovely Julie – telling her to get into the naughty corner. Anyone else remember that one?

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The Telegraph 18 November 2012:

Lawyer Peter Gordon told Australian Doctor magazine in 2007: "We had to fight even for the right of dying cancer victims to get a speedy trial. I recall sitting in the WA Supreme Court in an interlocutory hearing for the test cases involving Wittenoom miners Mr Peter Heys and Mr Tim Barrow. CSR was represented by Ms Julie Bishop (then Julie Gillon). (She) was rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying."

Here is an incomplete list from Wikipedia: List of Australian politicians convicted of crimes. Its incompleteness was attested by a Sydney lawyer on my Facebook page just a few minutes ago: “In NSW, there’s Philip Smiles, Liberal, tax offences and Thomas Ley, National, murder, although technically he was not guilty by reason of insanity.”  Just mentioning these for the sake of “compare and contrast.”

The Libs must be keeping an eye on ICAC here in NSW too, even if at the moment the Obeid clan dominate the news from that body.

And reading that story was a tad more difficult than it should have been:

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I refer to The Hobbit ad, of course. I couldn’t find its kill button. Could you? And if there isn’t one, what a bad idea!

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There are things that matter and things I really don’t care two hoots about…

For example:

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Click that for the latest report from NOAA.

Read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Where even the earth is melting.

THE world is on the cusp of a "tipping point" into dangerous climate change, according to new data gathered by scientists measuring methane leaking from the Arctic permafrost and a report presented to the United Nations on Tuesday.

"The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales," says the report, Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost. "Overall, these observations indicate that large-scale thawing of permafrost may already have started."

While countries the size of Australia tally up their greenhouse emissions in hundreds of millions of tonnes, the Arctic’s stores are measured in tens of billions…

Geologist Dr Iain Stewart in Earth: The Power of the Planet (2007– )

And so many other things today, reaching a grand climax in THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!!! Yes, it’s JULIA, THE VAMPIRE FROM SLATER AND GORDON! JULIA THE GETAWAY CAR DRIVER! JULIA OF BONNIE AND CLYDE FAME!  Or as I said, risking being labelled sexist perhaps, on Facebook last night and yesterday afternoon, especially having watched Julia Bishop’s confected outrage during her press conference:

This "Get Julia" session of Parliament is perhaps the lowest point Australian politics has reached in my lifetime — even counting the Dismissal, which at least was about very serious matters. Right now I couldn’t care less if Julia turns out to have been a vampire 20 years ago. I just want to see her government governing, albeit in many areas not very well — refugee policy for one– and the Opposition looking like a credible alternative and not a pack of slavering bitches — no gender implied…

Congrats Julie Bishop on yr press conference. Succeeded in firming up a vote for Labor with me. Well done! What a heap of ordure this now is…

Julie Bishop: why should I care? I really don’t any more. Try policy debate instead of this crap and let the government govern. I really do not care what Julia may or may not have done 20 years ago according to the gossip and hearsay you are retailing no matter that it’s in a stat dec, which you know as well as I proves nothing except that the declarer asserts he/she thinks whatever it is is true — maybe…

Pissed off because the overblown rhetoric pre carbon tax is now proven piffle? Is that it?

If you can be bothered, here is the latest little gem:

BRUCE Wilson, Julia Gillard’s former boyfriend, said he ”perhaps” asked an AWU employee to deposit $5000 in her bank account, but could not recall it. The PM said she could not remember receiving such a sum.

Mr Wilson, appearing on the ABC, was emphatic that no money from the union slush fund set up by him and fellow official Ralph Blewitt was spent on Ms Gillard’s house. He said that after there were technical problems getting the fund registered, he had asked Ms Gillard to help. ”It was a simple matter that needed to be done, she did it, end of story.”

Mr Wilson said he had not benefited financially from the fund but said Mr Blewitt had taken money out. He had been ”packaging it up and burying it in his backyard” – and some of it rotted away. Mr Wilson felt sorry that Ms Gillard ”has to go through all this because it’s just not warranted”.

MICHELLE GRATTAN

See also Lenore Taylor’s Bishop bluster loses wind in an obvious absence of evidence.

However, some real light on this and related matters does come from these three posts and their comment threads. The three bloggers together represent years of experience in the law, business, and the Australian Public Service and are all far more qualified than I am.

Finally, not a story of cosmic significance perhaps but a nice local one nonetheless — about Yours and Owls and my ex-student Stewart Holt (not “Stuart”) — Illawarra Mercury today.

Charges against the owners of Wollongong cafe-bar Yours and Owls have been dismissed following a graffiti incident at the venue earlier this year.

Two of the venue’s three owners – Balunn Jones and Ben Tillman – stood accused of malicious damage after a graffiti message appeared on the business’s Kembla Street facade in March.

Last month the charges were withdrawn and dismissed.

Mr Jones credited solicitor Stuart Holt – a regular customer who offered his services pro bono – with seeing through the case.

The venue is now hosting a new street art project on its inside walls, but Mr Jones said the trio planned to soon sell the business.

"Hopefully it goes to someone who’s got a similar point of view to us and it doesn’t just fade away. It would be nice if it happened."

Mr Jones said the trio was selling "for a variety of reasons", but did not elaborate.

The men – friends from the Illawarra’s northern suburbs – opened Yours and Owls in 2010.

Sharings

Highly local

The Blue Mile: “Let’s go on a journey investigating the history of the Blue Mile area! The Blue Mile is located along the shore line in Wollongong from Flagstaff Hill to North Beach.”

Local but international

Nick Southall, based in Wollongong, is a thoughtful Marxist. I am an agnostic on this as on many matters. I do commend Global Revolt and the Struggle for Democracy, however.

…the struggles for democracy will be very long. In fact they will take the rest of our days. For, if we want rich and rewarding lives, authentic and loving relationships, decent work and living conditions, sustainable development and environmental protection, these are things we need to create and recreate every day. It is when we stop looking to those who hold power over us for solutions, and start to create those solutions ourselves, that democracy is understood not just as a goal to be struggled for, but as the immanent ability of people to self-organise and govern themselves. However, it remains unclear if recent collaborative struggles can maintain their multiplicity of organisational forms and extend participatory democracy. Questions now facing those in revolt are; can the spaces, times and experimental practices of real democracy be widened and extended? Are new subjectivities, capable of genuine democratic relations, creating the practices, processes, infrastructures or institutions that can sustain and expand a long-term global revolution?

A Muslim on the seal of the confession

Waleed Aly in today’s Herald.

Suppose a paedophile’s desire for forgiveness and absolution is so strong that they are prepared to take the risk and confess anyway. Then what? Canon law prohibits a priest from revealing a confession even under the threat of his own death. Should we expect him to buckle under the threat of a prison sentence? Here it’s essential to understand that any priest who violates the confessional seal faces excommunication.

That might mean nothing to you. You might even see this as the threat that underpins a dangerous fairytale. But you are not the one hearing the confession. What matters is what this means to priests and, in Catholic terms, excommunication is as serious as it gets – far more serious than any prison sentence. This leaves us searching for a very strange creature indeed: someone devoted enough to enter the priesthood, but not devoted enough to care about eternal damnation. And we need lots of them. We’re betting on a team of rogue priests. That doesn’t sound like a plan to me.

You can’t legislate away people’s religious convictions, however much you might want to. And you can’t ignore them simply because you hold them in contempt. What matters here is the stuff outside the confessional box: the lame responses to abuse that seem calculated to protect paedophile priests rather than their victims; the legal manoeuvring to avoid paying compensation; the failure of police to follow through on investigations. These are the things we should be pursuing relentlessly. This should be the focus of our desire for justice. Let’s not dilute that by getting lost on some doctrinal excursion it’s clear we don’t understand.

He should be a Cardinal! Better than the one that is there now in Sydney anyway. I saw the whole Pell press conference on ABC News 24 and was mightily unimpressed.

Richard Ackland on Hardie’s, hypocrisy and Bernie Banton

See Morality question as dust will never settle.

It seemed like exquisite insensitivity for the NSW Court of Appeal to reduce the penalties originally imposed on directors of James Hardie Industries on the day the second episode of Devil’s Dust went to air on ABC TV.

This was a major and engrossing piece of documentary drama, based on the book by ABC journalist Matt Peacock with the delicate title, Killer Company.

We saw the story about how, at first, James Hardie attempted to hide the dangers posed by the mining and manufacture of asbestos then, when its liabilities were dramatically mounting, to spin-off its asbestos subsidiaries into the Medical Research and Compensation Foundation, taking the remainder of the company offshore.

The story was told through the eyes of former Hardie employee Bernie Banton, his wife Karen, the dogged Peacock and Hardie’s PR man.

In the TV drama, the spin doctor is called Adam Bourke, although in real life we know it was Greg Baxter, who later went to work as the corporate affairs person for Rupert Murdoch’s Australian operations.

The identity and character were changed in order to import a dramatic device of having Bourke’s wife struck down with mesothelioma – the result of home improvements in the early days of their marriage.

The idea was to create a sort of tacit, last-minute bonding between the protagonists – although there was drama enough without this flourish.

At the core of the TV and real-life dramas was Hardie’s attempt, in effect, to thwart claimants receiving a fair level of compensation for their asbestos-related diseases…

See my previous post.

Taking Australia’s Temperature

This was a quirky, good-humoured  attempt to reduce the shrillness of the alleged “debate” on global warming by throwing up actual facts about what has really, really happened objectively considered in Australia over the past century. Only an ass could deny what we we were shown, surely. Sadly, rusted on Moncktonites won’t have been watching, or if they did watch are no doubt torturously finding “evidence” to neutralise what we clearly saw.

Dr Karl Braganza
Temperatures around Australia have risen by about a degree. Um, less chills, more fevers. And some regional variation in that as well. So some regions are heating up more than others.
NARRATION
Essentially, what the records show is that global warming isn’t something that’s coming – it’s here in our backyards already. It’s pointless now to ask, ‘Is this climate change or natural variability?’ What we see is one acting on top of the other.
Dr Karl Braganza
So, every parcel of air, every ocean current, every weather system is now about a degree warmer. And when you go through and do the physics, that’s actually a hell of a lot of energy added to the climate system in general.
Dr Jonica Newby
You know, of all the things I learned on this investigation, it was that comment from Karl that really struck me. It was like, ‘Aha! I finally get it.’ There’s one degree of extra heat across the whole planet. That’s just a lot of new energy in our weather system. What happens when you add another degree? And another?
NARRATION
So what WILL happen in the future? Well, I’m obviously going to have to spend some money on a retaining wall. And, like the rest of us, I’ll try to do my bit. But I’ll continue to toast my sunset, pray to my snow gods and get as much joy as I always have out of the parts of Australia I love. I do think I should do so with eyes wide open, though, and not pretend there’s no change to see.

Well, let’s hope so.

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In a similar vein from The Netherlands see Climate Dialogue: Exploring different views on climate change.

Searchings — 2

There really have been so many things I have seen or read in the past few days that deserve to be shared, that have provoked more reflection than I can possibly capture in one blog post or even two. To continue…

Sunday and Monday we had the two compelling episodes of Devil’s Dust.

An intensely personal drama based on one of Australia’s most shocking corporate scandals, Devil’s Dust tells the story of ordinary Australians caught in a web of deception in the James Hardie asbestos saga.

The two-part series follows four people – led by everyday hero and ex-Hardie’s employee Bernie Banton (Anthony Hayes) – thrown together by a tragedy that becomes a high-stakes battle through the corridors of corporate, political and media power.

Spanning four decades, Devil’s Dust shows industrial manufacturer James Hardie first cover up its knowledge of the dangers of its asbestos mining and products and then threaten compensation plans by moving the company overseas.

But it is not just a story of court cases and corporate legalese. Devil’s Dust depicts Australians from all walks of life whose lives are ripped apart by a deadly dust that looks so innocent, yet is so lethal.

In the 1970s, Bernie Banton works on the James Hardie BI factory floor in Parramatta where asbestos dust is piled like snowdrifts. Little does he realise the impact the dust will have on him, his family and his colleagues – and that he will inspire a nation with his determination to hold his former employer to account.

Young and tenacious ABC journalist Matt Peacock (Ewen Leslie) uncovers the dramatic gap between the dangers of asbestos known to international scientists and the public position of James Hardie and its allies.

When Matt meets Bernie during an interview for The 7.30 Report he anoints him the unofficial spokesperson for the asbestos compensation campaign. As the two become fixated on pursuing James Hardie, it’s up to Bernie’s wife, Karen (Alexandra Schepisi), to pick up the pieces at home. Karen helps Bernie handle the emotional burden of fighting for victims of asbestosis and mesothelioma, the cancer caused by asbestos – and to face his own asbestos fate.

The fictional character of James Hardie spin doctor Adam Bourke (Don Hany) is Matt and Bernie’s nemesis, as he works hard to protect the interests of the company’s shareholders. But far from being ruthless and uncaring, Adam experiences terrible moral dilemmas when he realises that the health and survival of thousands of Australians is jeopardised by the materials his company manufactured.

Based on interviews with those who have survived and the stories of those who have died, Devil’s Dust is inspired by the work of Matt Peacock, author of the book Killer Company.

The legacy of asbestos will continue for decades to come. By 2030, asbestos-related illnesses are expected to have killed more than 60,000 Australians, more than our country’s death toll in WW1.

Remember one of Tony Abbott’s less noble moments, from 2007?

Still putting his size 10s in his cakehole in 2012, I see…

That the events depicted dramatically but essentially truthfully in Devil’s Dust should serve to destroy any naive belief in the intrinsic goodness of capitalists, entrepreneurs  and markets is so obvious as to be hardly worth saying, and on an even greater scale consider the book I am now reading: Inside Job: The Financiers Who Pulled Off the Heist of the Century, by Charles Ferguson, Oneworld 2012. Thanks, Wollongong Library.

Charles Ferguson’s Inside Job, winner of the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary feature, is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand the causes of the financial crisis. Although narrator Matt Damon brought Hollywood glitz, the film’s stars were the bankers, regulators and academics interviewed by Ferguson. The director’s gentle interrogation and good humour coaxed his subjects into attempting to explain their actions. Most failed. Like all good political documentaries, it informed and infuriated, while the creator remained in the background….

So begins a rather critical review in The Financial Times, linked to the book title above. As for me, I am thus far drawn in and impressed by Ferguson’s narrative, and by his anger which strikes me as well justified and rooted rather firmly in facts.

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See also Inside Job: how bankers caused the financial crisis; Corporate criminals gone wild by Andrew Leonard; Heist of the century: Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis, an extract from the book.

…The Obama government has rationalised its failure to prosecute anyone (literally, anyone at all) for bubble-related crimes by saying that while much of Wall Street’s behaviour was unwise or unethical, it wasn’t illegal. With apologies for my vulgarity, this is complete horseshit.

When the government is really serious about something – preventing another 9/11, or pursuing major organised crime figures – it has many tools at its disposal and often uses them. There are wiretaps and electronic eavesdropping. There are undercover agents who pretend to be criminals in order to entrap their targets. There are National Security Letters, an aggressive form of administrative subpoena that allows US authorities to secretly obtain almost any electronic record – complete with a gag order making it illegal for the target of the subpoena to tell anyone about it. There are special prosecutors, task forces and grand juries. When Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, the FBI assigned hundreds of agents to the case.

In organised crime investigations, the FBI and government prosecutors often start at the bottom in order to get to the top. They use the well-established technique of nailing lower-level people and then offering them a deal if they inform on and/or testify about their superiors – whereupon the FBI nails their superiors, and does the same thing to them, until climbing to the top of the tree. There is also the technique of nailing people for what can be proven against them, even if it’s not the main offence. Al Capone was never convicted of bootlegging, large-scale corruption or murder; he was convicted of tax evasion.

A reasonable list of prosecutable crimes committed during the bubble, the crisis, and the aftermath period by financial services firms includes: securities fraud, accounting fraud, honest services violations, bribery, perjury and making false statements to US government investigators, Sarbanes-Oxley violations (false accounting), Rico (Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organisations Act) offences, federal aid disclosure regulations offences and personal conduct offences (drug use, tax evasion etc).

Let’s take the example of securities fraud. Where to begin?…

Redfern Now–and just up the road privileged erks revel in their toxic culture

Having spent decades around Redfern and close by, I really looked forward to Redfern Now on ABC Thursday nights at 8.30.

Produced by Blackfella Films (Mabo, First Australians), the 6 x 1 hr drama series has been directed by Rachel Perkins (Mabo, Bran Nue Dae) and Catriona McKenzie (Satellite Boy), with Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Wish You Were Here) and Leah Purcell (Somersault, Jindabyne, Lantana) both starring in and directing one of the stories.

Starring Deborah Mailman (Mabo, The Sapphires), Leah Purcell, Dean Daley-Jones (Toomelah, Mad Bastards), Miranda Tapsell (The Sapphires), Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits), Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires), Wayne Blair and Kelton Pell (Cloudstreet, The Circuit), REDFERN NOW has been produced by Blackfella Films in association with ABC TV, Screen Australia and Screen NSW.

With internationally acclaimed British writer Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Cracker, The Lakes) working closely with the scriptwriters as Story Producer, the series tells the powerful stories of six inner city households whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.

When the series went into production, the ABC TV’s Head of Indigenous Department Sally Riley said, "REDFERN NOW is the first drama project to go into production which has been developed by the Indigenous Department. It lays the foundation for ambitious Indigenous work and is part of ABC TV’s priority to get more Indigenous work in front of prime-time audiences. REDFERN NOW has a wealth of inner-city stories that are rich and diverse. Coupled with the celebrated cast, it will make for compelling viewing."

For starters I saw so many familiar places. I took these in 2008:

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And in 2009:

There was a launch of the series at The Block apparently. Had I been still in Sydney I would probably have been there, but not to worry – a spectator did film proceedings for YouTube.

Premiere of Redfern Now! at The Block, Redfern, October 31st 2012. Meet the cast. Hosted by Luke Carroll. Redfern teenager Aaron McGrath (Episode 4. Stand Up), then Miranda Tapsell (Episode 2. Joyride), Leah Purcell and Alec Doomadgee (Episode 1 Family). Redfern now! by ABC1 and Blackfella Films. (Raw footage from spectator – Me!)

Up the road from The Block is St John’s College, Tony Abbott’s old hangout. The privileged erks there have been screwing the joint and parading their tribalism and toxic culture for some time, it appears. Today The Sun Herald has made a feature of it.

When a degrading initiation ritual left a teenage girl clinging to life in hospital, the fallout was supposed to bring order and cultural change to Australia’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic college, St John’s.

Eight months on, nothing has changed. Police have been called to investigate widespread vandalism including smashed windows and doors, furniture broken or set on fire, and graffiti. Faeces are routinely found in common areas and bedrooms. Every second Friday, the student committee has decreed that all Johnsmen not speak to any female students – who are known as ”Jets”: the term is an acronym for ”just excuse the slag”.

Freshers are still being forced into initiation rituals, including the consumption of toxic drinks. And some senior students are showing a cavalier disregard for the fallout from the poisoned girl’s near-death, and have even printed T-shirts that celebrate the incident.

The "Year of Justice" T-shirt worn by St John’s students shows an eagle (the college symbol), which is blindfolded and vomiting. Photo: Amanda Parkinson

The college’s honorary dean and a member of the college’s executive have quit in disgust, with many former executives and existing students calling on Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic, Sydney Archbishop George Pell, to intervene and ”rescue” the 150-year-old institution from ”a crippling disease”….

I would have passed over the story as uninteresting to me personally and probably sensationalised – except a name struck me.

University of Sydney honorary professor Roslyn Arnold said she quit the St John’s executive this semester because she was ”ashamed to belong to such a group”.

”Anarchy has broken out and anarchy is not too strong a word,” Professor Arnold said.

”An external review of the governance of the college needs to be conducted urgently because the fellows are responsible for what happens on campus … I’ve been in universities for almost 40 years and, to be quite frank, I’ve never seen anything like this.

”In the external world, the incidents taking place could be considered criminal. I believe Cardinal Pell is the person who is ultimately called if things spiral out of control and become really tricky. In my opinion, we are well past that stage.”

I was a colleague of Ros in the Education Faculty at the University of Sydney – around the time Tony Abbott was a right-wing thug – and the fact she has said what she has compels me to take it seriously. What a wonderful set of products of private education, in the main, have been infesting this very beautiful building in Camperdown. You would find a much better class of person down the road in Redfern.

I find this telling too: “NOT one Coalition senator who responded to a survey by The Sun-Herald sends their child to a public school.” Now that doesn’t mean they will automatically vote against the interests of public education, but it is more than a little unrepresentative of the country as a whole, don’t you think?

Monday night

Good to see Ros Arnold on 7.30 tonight. She’s no wowser or puritan, but Blind Freddie can see that the behaviour that is an alleged “tradition” but in fact is merely a gross exhibition of bullying, vandalism  and substandard values at St John’s College is well past its use-by date – in fact should have led to mass expulsions, not slaps on the wrist, years ago. Put a stop to this spoiled brat barbarity right now and let it never happen again! On you, Ros, and all other decent people involved!

To be fair, note that both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have condemned the behaviour reported in the Sun-Herald, but with more than a bit of an “if” I’m afraid.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, another St John’s alumnus, said reports of misbehaviour at the college were unacceptable.

"It’s unacceptable behaviour and I think these things need to be properly investigated and I understand they are being properly investigated," he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

He said he now had no involvement with the college and denied ever being a mentor for students there.

He said there were initiation rituals when he attended the college, adding that the behaviour of many university students would probably not meet "general standards".

"Let’s not guild [sic] the lily* on this one, if there is inappropriate treatment of any person then it deserves proper investigation," he said.

"But I think if you opened the lid on colleges and campuses and frat houses and sorority houses right around the world, then by the general standard of behaviour it would be deemed to be pretty lewd and inappropriate."

Sorry, Joe; that’s not good enough. Just what would you condone at St John’s, and is the fact that people elsewhere behave like complete turds an excuse for St John’s? How much bullying is “enough”? How much hypocrisy can a Catholic institution find acceptable? When are “traditions” just excuses for assaults on individual rights and decent standards, and when should toxic traditions be outlawed?

See also She almost died. And they printed T-shirts to celebrate.

* That should be gild the lily – not Joe’s fault, of course, but rather an example of Herald-Sun proofreading. If something more than Spell Check proofed the copy, that is…

Miss Odgerny and other contemporary figures

Annabel Crabb is spot on today.

If we learnt anything at all about misogyny in this grubby old week, it’s that as a nation, our ability to spell the word is in precisely inverse proportion to our eagerness to fling it about online.

If we wipe the week down for a minute and examine where it all started, we find a text message from the former speaker, Peter Slipper, in which he likens an intimate female body part to a brined mussel.

It’s easy to see why this sort of observation, once published, might be inconsistent with the continued exertion of distinguished and unimpeachable authority over the federal House of Representatives.

And the text certainly established Mr Slipper’s status permanently, in the minds of anyone who might have been wondering, as ”bivalve-curious”.

But … misogyny? That’s a big call.

The Oxford definition of the word is ”hatred of women”.

Is it misogyny when Tony Abbott refers to the ”housewives of Australia … doing their ironing”?

Is it misogyny when some buffoon at a union dinner makes a cheap and speculative (and defamatory, which by the way is why you haven’t read it, and not very funny either) joke about the Opposition Leader and his female chief of staff?…

Sexism is everywhere in politics – you just have to count the examples that have cropped up this week once everyone suddenly started to care about it.

Mr Abbott’s response to the speech, understandably, was very different; he couldn’t believe he’d been called a misogynist, and that – in my personal opinion – is fair enough.

Mr Abbott has been guilty of sexism, and at times extreme dopiness, with respect to women. But a deep and unswerving hatred of women, ”every day, and in every way”? It’s not a case I’d prosecute.

Thursday, the day on which Christopher Pyne was arguing to the Speaker that the word ”bloke” was sexist and unparliamentary, and everybody else was going through the roll-call of the guilty, otherwise known as the guest-list for the CFMEU dinner, was the first International Day of the Girl.

One in three girls around the world do not get an education, the charity Plan International reports. One in seven is married before the age of 15. One in four is sexually abused by the time she’s 18. On Tuesday, as Australia’s gender debate revved up, 14-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban; punishment for her insistence that she has the right to be educated.

The definitional squabble over the term ”misogyny”, in other words, is rather a clear-cut affair, in certain less blessed parts of the globe…

One of the most sensible things I have read so far.

You want to see misogyny? Look no further than the Taliban. Comparatively you won’t find much of it in any Australian parliament, though sexism and dopiness are not so hard to find.

Then there is a tradition, quite venerable really, as any fan of the 17th century poet and libertine the Earl of Rochester knows:

Love a Woman! y’are an Ass,
‘Tis a most insipid Passion,
To Chuse out for Happiness
The idlest part of God’s Creation.

Let the Porter and the Groom,
Things design’d for Dirty Slaves,
Drudge in Fair Aurelia‘s Womb,
To get Supplies for Age and Graves.

Farewel Woman, I intend
Henceforth ev’ry Night to sit
With my Lewd Well-natur’d Friend,
Drinking, to engender Wit.

Then give me Health, Wealth, Mirth, and Wine,
And if busie Love intrenches,
There’s a sweet soft Page of mine,
Do’s the Trick worth Forty Wenches.

Now that could be called misogyny, even if it is not entirely clear how serious Rochester is…

Leaving that and the Punch and Judy show of 2012 politics aside, I go back a bit – but not before commending a couple of other articles.

Charles Waterstreet in today’s Sun-HeraldGillard brought down the House.

…Abbott likes women around him, so do I. They are smarter. Like Ramjan, they are more generous, kinder and emotionally honest. Ramjan built houses of bricks in her career, Abbott a house of sticks.

In law, good character means, among other things, that what such a person says about a matter is more likely to be believed. If Ramjan says she was intimidated, surrounded by fists, then I believe her. If Abbott could not recall it, then I would have believed that, too. When he changed his mind and said it did not happen, I believe Barbara.

The Prime Minister nailed Abbott to the wall this week. We have all done stupid things. Men of character apologise and move on. They don’t hide from the fog of the past and suddenly remember. I have been accused of living in a glass house of misogyny and sexism myself. When I appeared with Penny Wong on Q&A, I whispered to her that we had something in common. She turned to me quickly – ”We both love beautiful women”. She laughed, I think.

Abbott could not laugh when Gillard stripped him of all his emperor penguin’s clothes in the chamber. One thing he could do is get dressed, get on his bicycle and cycle down to Barbara Ramjan’s house and apologise.

Michelle Grattan: Misogyny war has no winner.

Now to go back, as promised, and to THE SHIRE!!!  Yes, I watched Puberty Blues last night – the 1981 movie, not the recent much praised Channel 10 miniseries.

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Now those are more the Cronulla I remember, as distinct from the over-developed version I saw when I revisited this time last year. Even so, my time teaching at Cronulla predates the period Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey wrote about by a good decade or more. By the 1970s I was in Wollongong rather than Cronulla, and the drug issues that form part of the story in Puberty Blues I associate with Wollongong, therefore, rather than Cronulla. (The ethnic mix in that second North Cronulla still above is interesting too for 1981.)

Sadly, I don’t think the 1981 movie is all that good. Having 20-somethings (it seems) playing the school-aged surfie guys didn’t work for me, and the parodic elements in the story clashed with the serious rather too much. But I really don’t think the book is all that great either.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the nostalgia trip, even if it was to a place that wasn’t really quite like that at the time. But see Kate Hunter, Puberty Blues: boys were really like that in the 70s.

It’s so sad the boys in Puberty Blues do little to make life better – more fun, more interesting, more memorable for the girls.

Whenever a panel van pulls up, or a wave packed with surfers rolls in, the girls’ relationship shifts. The mood gets darker, loaded … dangerous. I wanted to yell at the boys, ‘Rack off, you dickheads, those girls were having a perfectly nice time until you showed up.’

Maybe that’s just me. Could be because now I’m a mother of daughters. I’m not a girl anymore. Thank God.

Lying politicians? Oh noes!!!!!

You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a lie is just a lie! The fundamental things apply as time goes by!… Um… Winking smile

awb_2006-evidence

gee.10proud2

Both from the good old days via Bilegrip.

shamelessstupid

And now of course we have, to take a mild case:

JuliarGillard

And from the linked page on that one:

The worst by a country mile Prime Minister that Australia has ever endured our incumbent Juliar Gillard and the second worst in Australia’s history ex PM and ex Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd are engaged in an ego trip as to who should be the present Prime Minister of Australia.

Meanwhile Australia slips deeper into Labor’s massive debt program, the WW Fund, the IPCC, and the UN’s unelected authority are all intent on imposing on Australia their conditions on how we should deal with our Countries problems from the fake Climate Change agenda to our illegal immigrant problem. Meanwhile  the defacto PM Bob Brown has instructed us  all in a speech that there is no better time than the present  for Australia to become the first Nation to give up our  freedom and Sovereignty  and to put ourselves  under the control of the United Nations World Government dreamtime agenda…

And so on.

Yesterday Julia Gillard, dubbed Juliar by Alan Jones and friends, hit back with, to quote Loon Pond, The smack-down heard around the world … Sure made for lively television, but unfortunately I rather agree with Peter Hartcher.

She chose to defend her numbers. She chose power over principle. It was the wrong choice. It was an unprincipled decision and turned out not to be pragmatic either. The Prime Minister gained nothing and lost a great deal…

As I noted on Facebook last night: “Yes, Julia. I shared your anger. But that sleaze you borrowed from Tony Abbott as Speaker had to go.”

Now a bit more borrowing, beginning with an excellent post that could serve as a prelude to all the rest and is worth coming back to: Asking the impossible: online civility and identity politics.

… Occasionally when something happens in my friend’s life to make him aware of the Labor government’s carbon price, which is to change into a carbon market in the not-too-distant future – given that the Coalition does not gain office and abort the legislation in turn – my friend undergoes an odd personality shift and then out pop those crude words, ‘Ju-liar’. We saw them on one memorable occasion during a protest outside Parliament, and it’s been hard for people to forget them. Another painted sign that the protesters held up for the media on the day carried the words, ‘Ditch the witch’. Opposition leader Tony Abbott attended the rally, mingling with the crowd and sharing his views on the government’s intentions (this was before the legislation had passed through Parliament).

I tried to discuss the reasons for Julia Gillard’s about-face on the carbon tax in a comment I left for my friend. It didn’t turn out well. His other friends on social media chimed in with their views and the scene rapidly took on an unpleasant tone. It’s pretty easy to understand, of course, the rancour. I mean, there was a popular ballot in 2010 and the result of the plebiscite was a hung Parliament. Because of the way Australians voted the balance of power is held by the Greens along with a number of independent MPs. Abbott has criticised the resulting Parliament and he has been joined by certain elements of the nation’s media, notably News Ltd vehicles such as The Australian. But the ballot was quite legitimate, and reflected the wishes of the electorate on the appointed day. Noone can therefore blame Gillard for acceding to a priority of the Greens. Gillard has managed to keep the Parliament functioning effectively by working with her partners, even if she did not choose them, with the result that there have been a large number of new laws passed despite the objections of the Opposition. But it was of little use my explaining the new reality that took hold in 2010 following the popular ballot. My friend gave it as his opinion that, as leader of the Labor Party, Gillard was obliged to hold firm to her earlier public pronouncement, from before the election, that she would not introduce a carbon tax. In his view, that single public utterance is more important, in the balance of things, than the political reality that confronted Gillard following the election. No compromise. Which is a lot like the position taken by Abbott in his role as Opposition leader…

With that in mind, is Julia Gillard such a big nasty liar? I think not, unless you really have been sucked in by people like Alan Jones – climate change clown.

What is surprising about these insensitive remarks is not that Jones made them, but the importance attached to the remarks. It is truly bizarre that Alan Jones wields such influence and importance in NSW considering his track record of getting simple facts wrong. 

On climate change, Jones is full of hyperbole who feels little compulsion to cross-reference his statements against the bulk of research published in scientific journals. He stated to an anti-carbon tax gathering outside Victorian Parliament that, “the notion of global warming is a hoax” and “witchcraft”.

In 2011, Jones claimed "human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere" and therefore human induced global warming was a beat-up. Spurred by complaints, the Australian Communications and Media Authority followed up on whether these claims were supported by any evidence. According to ACMA, the licensee of 2GB, “conceded that it was a claim researched by Mr Jones himself and they weren’t able to adduce any evidence supporting that claim."…

carbonn tax rally

As Julia Gillard said yesterday:

I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch. I was offended by those things. Misogyny, sexism, every day from this Leader of the Opposition. Every day in every way, across the time the Leader of the Opposition has sat in that chair and I’ve sat in this chair, that is all we have heard from him…

Well, even I might unpick that and quarrel with some, but the image above was a bad look at the time and very much still is. Also, was she really a liar? I say no, or no more than many another politician. See I believe you Juliar by Dominic Knight.

… the current Eyjafjallajokull-level fury does seem something of an overreaction when anyone with even a passing familiarity with Australian politicians knows that their election promises are as flexible as News International’s code of conduct. Gillard is not some Ricky Gervais figure who invented the idea of lying in a mediocre movie. John Howard developed the risible concept of the non-core promise after his first election victory, and Tony Abbott tried to argue on the 7.30 Report last year that only his written commitments should be treated as binding – a standard which, as it happens, would excuse Gillard entirely. When ignoring election promises has been a proud bipartisan tradition, neither side of politics has any right to feign umbrage…

And is she the worst Prime Minister ever?  Well she is not the best, but neither is she the worst. As I wrote a few days back:

I just watched the Community Cabinet Q and A from Launceston, Tasmania, on ABC News 24 and am hoping a transcript comes in due course as it was a reminder that Julia Gillard can be far more impressive than we give her credit for in the present climate. It also was a reminder that aside from all the bullshit of the news cycle things really are being worked on. And at around 7.35 was a statement from the floor of the most amazing decency on the recent Alan Jones circus. 100 plus points to the man who made that remark. Hope, as I say, to get chapter and verse by tomorrow. It and he were just beautiful.

See also Judging Australia’s worst prime minister by Norman Abjorensen.

Gillard’s prime ministership has to be seen in the context of minority government, a situation that none of her immediate predecessors faced. Any knee-jerk judgment of Gillard needs to take this into account if only for the fact that the dynamics of minority government require a precarious juggling act to keep them working. Because she lacks a majority in the House of Representatives, she needs to be more pragmatic and make more compromises than would otherwise be the case. Other leaders have merely had to negotiate with a hostile senate, which pales in comparison (And it will be interesting to see how Tony Abbott as prime minister will deal with the Greens who will inevitably hold the balance of power in the upper house).

Our leaders are not perfect. A check list of flaws would look something like this… McMahon: distrusted, lacked gravitas; Whitlam: questionable judgment; Fraser: imperious and overbearing; Hawke: vain; Keating: unable to sell his ideas; Howard: pandering; and Rudd: timid.

It is too early to make even a preliminary judgment on Gillard, but I would argue that the peculiar circumstances make the comparison a difficult one.

Donald Horne argued half a century ago that Australia was "a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck". It is hard to disagree.

And then try these two on for size.

First Jim Belshaw, who can’t be accused of carrying a torch for the Labor side of politics – or any side, for that matter: Will PM Gillard win the next election? And possibly why.

Second Why Julia Gillard will win the 2013 election from The Political Sword.

One could go on, but person against person, the comparison between Government ministers and their shadow counterparts shows up the stark difference between competence and industry on the Government side, and indolence and incompetence among most of the shadows.

A well-informed electorate will have no difficulty choosing between the Government and its alternative. The task for the PM and her Government is to make this contrast starkly apparent in the face of a largely hostile media, to restore a strong connection with the people, and reestablish trust.

In my view, when it comes to the crunch, when it comes to the choice between the Government’s achievements on the one hand, and the vague, unbelievable promises and shonky costings of an incompetent alternative government, the choice will be easy. The ‘liar’ image that has afflicted Julia Gillard will pale into insignificance as the public becomes aware of the monstrous lies perpetrated almost daily by the alternative, Tony Abbott. Even the most sycophantic sector of the media will be unable to disguise his disingenuousness and the hollowness of what he has to offer. The exposure of Abbott is already happening.

That was written in April, Jim’s at the beginning of this month. Recent events have made governing harder for the government, but Julia Gillard showing some steel, on the other hand, even with my doubts about the whole thing, must have done her some good. See Julia ‘badass’ Gillard.

The most enthusiastic praise came from US women’s site Jezebel, which described Ms Gillard as "one badass mother—-er".

"In an impassioned 15-minute smackdown in front of the House of Representatives, the country’s first female leader gave a scathing speech calling out opposition leader Tony Abbott’s extremely misogynistic comments, actions, views on abortion and single women, all while pointing in his face."….

Update: A must read

Legal Eagle Alan Jones, feminism and Australian politics really is a must read on this and the Alan Jones issue. Katy is a lawyer and an academic at the University of Melbourne.

I started drafting this post days ago, but I have been resisting writing on the Jones issue. Part of my reason for not continuing with the post was that I don’t think much of Jones, and I felt that to talk about him is to is to give him credence. To be honest, as a Melbourner, I never really knew much about Jones until the Cronulla riots. And what I heard then didn’t impress me. It’s not that Jones is right-wing. I have friends who are right-wing and friends who are left-wing, and obviously enough, I blog with persons of a variety of political stripes. I don’t mind whether or not a person disagrees with me politically as long as they treat me civilly and with respect. What I dislike about Jones is this: he is an uncivil demagogue who plays on the fears of ordinary people. So I do not feel particularly sympathetic towards him. Jones should be able to accept the same hand that he deals others on a frequent basis. His complaint that he is being bullied seems more than a little hypocritical given that his radio schtick involves unpleasant and bullying comments about others….

The immediate plot has thickened even further yesterday when the Opposition sought to oust the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper from his position. Slipper is a former LNP Member of Parliament who accepted the minority Labor government’s offer to sit as Speaker so that the Labor Party’s position was less precarious. Slipper is now being sued by a former staffer for sexual harassment, and, as part of that trial, a variety of lewd text messages allegedly sent from Slipper to Ashby concerning women’s genitalia and other matters were tendered in court yesterday…

Two more updates

Jim Belshaw cautions – as I would – against excess in using terms like “misogyny”.  He cites several articles I have also reflected on, but I really don’t want to post on this topic again! I am amused by this:

It’s been interesting looking at the responses to this whole affair. My daughter, for example, does not share her father’s view:  

Agrippina ‏@ClareAgrippina: @JimBelshaw Can’t say I agree dad, I really think it was long overdue for someone to call Abbott out on his hypocrisy when it comes to women.

Aren’t we a modern family, tweeting to each other?!

Marcellous expresses close to my own gut reaction to Peter Slipper in his post Weird shit. Perhaps the fact I am now into The Cities of The Plain volume of Marcel Proust has something to do with my reaction…. Marcel is absolutely right also on an unbelievably stupid piece by Paul Sheehan on Gillard’s speech.