Well said, Bert

Dreadful choice we have in this year’s election, but perhaps some things really are more dreadful than others. This morning in the Sun-Herald is a letter from Bert Candy.

The decision by the executive of the Liberal Party to give Cory Bernardi the top position on their Senate ticket in the forthcoming federal election – despite his speech asserting that there could be a link between homosexuality and bestiality, as well as his association with an extreme right American organisation (”Smoking Gun”, January 27) – says a great deal about the political leanings of the Liberal power brokers.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

Bert Candy Lemon Tree Passage

Here is the man concerned:

He is clearly on the right of Genghis Khan. The recent story about him, to which Bert refers, appears online as Abbott’s man under fire over extreme right lobbying.

TONY Abbott’s handpicked former parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi has apparently breached strict rules by failing to declare his ties to a right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.

The organisation, the American Legislative Exchange Council, was involved in a High Court challenge against the Gillard government last year and has financial ties with big tobacco.

The US-based council is working with the National Rifle Association to block President Barack Obama’s guns crackdown after the Newtown school massacre. An ALEC member since 2009, Senator Bernardi was dumped as Mr Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary in September after he made a speech to Parliament that warned against legislating for gay marriage on the grounds it could open a legal path to bestiality and polygamy….

To get some idea of what kind of fruitcakes and downright subversives Bernadi sleeps with see ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection and Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teaching Climate Change Denial in Schools.

ALEC Celebrates Groundhog Day 2013

Groundhog Day is on Feb. 2 and fittingly, ALEC and its corporate patrons continue to sing the same tune, simultaneously promoting fracking, blockading a transition to renewable energy and pushing bills mandating teaching climate change denial on par with actual science.

"It’s the same old schtick every year, the guy comes out with a big old stick, raps on the door,"actor Bill Murray said in the classic film Groundhog Day. "They pull the little rat out, they talk to him, the rat talks back, then they tell us what’s gonna happen."

Replace "guy" with "corporate lobbyist" and "legislators" with "rats" and that’s ALEC in a nutshell, serving as a mere microcosm of the current American political system at-large.

And of Cory Bernadi’s idea of a mate and a good thing for Australia’s way of conducting business. And of where his brain really lives.

A person with these questionable views can hardly represent a modern Australian electorate and, by endorsing him again, the Liberal Party is guilty by association. With pundits indicating a Liberal landslide, it appears that the extreme right have the numbers.

No way, I say. Some things really can be worse than Julia.

And speaking of the Right, cop the things crawling out from under logs to greet the bouffanted boofhead from Holland.  And look closely at the group who invited him.  I see they have the obligatory Oz flag at the top and a quote from Mary Gilmore. I wonder if they realise she was a life-long Communist.  Mind you she is an under-rated poet who certainly deserves to be better known, as this poem (not on that site) shows:

Nationality

I have grown past hate and bitterness,
I see the world as one;
But though I can no longer hate,
My son is still my son.

All men at God’s round table sit,
and all men must be fed;
But this loaf in my hand,
This loaf is my son’s bread.

On that anti-Islam group’s site you will find Robert Spencer at al, pretty much as you would expect, but you also find this, which I reproduce exactly as it is:

Ayn Rand: The Collection.
Her book ‘Atlas Shruggs’ is considered by many in the International Counter-Jihad and Freedom Movement as foundational work for the relation between the free individual, the state and the collective society.

Surprise, surprise!

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They are all so sane and balanced, these people, are they not?

Meanwhile here are a couple of free eBooks from ANU that you could read as a way to ensure your own sanity.

Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21st Century, Edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons (November 2012).

The latter years of the first decade of the twenty-first century were characterised by an enormous amount of challenge and change to Australia and Australians. Australia’s part in these challenges and changes is borne of our domestic and global ties, our orientation towards ourselves and others, and an ever increasing awareness of the interdependency of our world. Challenges and changes such as terrorism, climate change, human rights, community breakdown, work and livelihood, and crime are not new but they take on new variations and impact on us in different ways in times such as these.

In this volume we consider these recent challenges and changes and how Australians themselves feel about them under three themes: identity, fear and governance. These themes suitably capture the concerns of Australians in times of such change. Identity is our sense of ourselves and how others see us. How is this affected by the increased presence of religious diversity, especially Islamic communities, and increased awareness of moral and political obligations towards Indigenous Australians? How is it affected by our curious but changing relationship with Asia? Fear is an emotional reaction to particular changes and challenges and produces particular responses from individuals, politicians, communities and nations alike; fear of crime, fear of terrorism and fear of change are all considered in this volume.

Multiculturalism and Integration — A Harmonious Relationship, Edited by the late Professor Michael Clyne and Dr James Jupp (July 2011).

Multiculturalism has been the official policy of all Australian governments (Commonwealth and State) since the 1970s. It has recently been criticised, both in Australia and elsewhere. Integration has been suggested as a better term and policy. Critics suggest it is a reversion to assimilation. However integration has not been rigorously defined and may simply be another form of multiculturalism, which the authors believe to have been vital in sustaining social harmony.

May help you counter the dogs’ breaths that are so noisome out there, and will no doubt get worse and skankier as the year goes on, God help us.

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Promises, promises!

Yesterday Wayne Swan was hijacked by facts and therefore had to “break a promise!”  The majority of economists, business leaders and commentators are saying it was about time – for example, see Swan eats crow – and not a day too soon.  The Opposition, particularly Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, have been handed a great Christmas gift and are acting as one would expect – but, as Lenore Taylor notes:

The Coalition has promised always to deliver surpluses but on Thursday Abbott hedged that promise saying, ”based on current figures”. If forecasts change, so might the Coalition’s promise. If it sticks with its pledge, when it comes time to tally the cost of election promises in the new year…

All this set me to thinking about political promises.

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Thanks to RacingB*tch

Gillard, Swan, Wong and all thoroughly painted themselves into a corner over the “budget surplus” promise – very foolish of them in retrospect, especially as so many quite supportive voices pointed out their folly. Had they promised merely to roll back the deficit they would not have had a problem, as they have indeed made very substantial inroads on that front. But they would set a too specific target, wouldn’t they. The splendid Penny Wong tried to look fetching with egg on her face on 7.30 last night, but it didn’t quite work.

Trouble is promises are so often oversimplified and changing circumstances can lead to much biting on the bum. Sometimes the promise is so far over the top as to be impossible from the word go, as was the case with Bob Hawke and “no child in poverty” by 1990 – now Hawke’s greatest regret apparently.

Twenty years after pledging no Australian child would live in poverty, former prime minister Bob Hawke says his comment is one of his biggest regrets.

"It was a silly shorthand thing," Mr Hawke has told News Limited newspapers. "I should have just said what was in the distributed speech."

I venture to say that in the sad race to the bottom we have seen on asylum seekers in recent years, Tony Abbott and the Coalition will rue the day they ever started barking “I will stop the boats!”  It seems to me that they will not, that their reasoning based on the effectiveness of policies of the past decade may well be very flawed.  Paris Aristotle was very likely correct the other day at the Senate hearing.

"At the current rate of arrivals, we could see upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 people coming (in 2013)," Mr Aristotle told a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Monday.

"There is simply no way our navy has the capacity to get to every boat that will get into distress in those circumstances."…

"If we think this is going to be fixed in three months we are delusional," he said.

Some idea of what has changed may be deduced from this graphic from the GetUp blog. Go there for the full graphic and commentary.

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See also There’s no evidence that asylum seeker deterrence policy works and other posts in that Conversation series.

tonyabbottsitting660

So good luck, Tony Abbott. I suspect your time for eating crow will come. Another shredded promise just waiting to happen, partly because it has been framed hyperbolically for full drama queen effect in the first place. A shame, too, that it is also a pretty disgraceful policy as well, but that is another matter I have pursued before. See also The People Smuggler.

The People Smuggler pieces together the events and terror that force people to take their chances on rickety boats. It fleshes out and humanises the people the politicians would rather we didn’t identify with and that the 30-second sound bites cannot ever capture.

It forces us to re-think the government’s ‘children overboard’ scapegoating version of events, the actual ways to ‘stop the boats’ that significantly differ from politicians’ postured but ultimately empty promises. It highlights the farcical and inhumane systems we have in place for processing—or not processing, as the case often seems to be—refugees we turn into detainees.

Ali sums up the situation well:

This is the first time I have heard of queue-jumping. I try to imagine this queue. What do they think? That when the secret police are shooting at you, you run down the street yelling, ‘Where’s the queue? Where’s the queue?’

He also writes:

It is unclear why Australians are so strangely concerned about asylum seeks arriving by airplane; maybe because there’re no pictures in the paper or on TV. But they are so afraid of the two percent who come by boat that they lock them up like criminals. As with the Jews in World War II, the refugees’ pitiful plight inspires irrational fear. If Australian people only knew the strength it takes to get on one of these boats, to keep holding onto life after the horrors these people have been through, they would be filled with awe and admiration.

That’s exactly what I’m filled with after reading The People Smuggler. I have a good mind to post copies to our not-so-esteemed ‘leaders’, especially the blustering, ‘I’ll stop the boats’ one who has a penchant for wearing budgie smugglers.

On lying pollies from another perspective see Promises promises: When politicians don’t deliver.

Update

Just a couple of other thoughts on the Wayne Swan/deficit news.

Nicholas Gruen, economist:

As a temporary member of the press gallery I had my ‘gotcha’ question ready for Wayne Swan, but alas didn’t join the shouting match to get my question in. But I can share it with you gentle reader – a little esprit de l’escalier a few hours later.

Treasurer, do you support the Budget’s Paper’s call for the Budget to retain “the necessary flexibility for the budget position to vary in line with economic conditions to support macroeconomic stability” or your Prime Minister’s commitment to return the budget to surplus in 2012-13 come what may.

That promise is the best of promises – and the worst of promises….

— Crikey, May 10th, 2011. A more recent column making similar points here.

Jim Belshaw:

The statement by Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan that the Commonwealth was unlikely to achieve a budget surplus this financial year came as no surprise.  Apart from some rather strange reporting in the Australian (Labor exposed as Treasurer Wayne Swan breaks surplus promise), I think that the major reaction among many was one of relief. I said strange reporting because of the inconsistency between the main take-home message provided by the "story" and the detail contained within it; this is political commentary masquerading as reporting.

Why relief? Well, the numbers have been suggesting for some time that a surplus was almost certainly unachievable. The fear was that in its desire to protect a political promise, the Commonwealth Government would be forced into silly spending cuts. The latest national account figures showed that the Government sector in general is now detracting from growth as a consequence of spending cuts. Further cuts would have added to this at a time when the economy is clearly off the boil. Forget the social policy arguments about the adverse effects of cuts. When the business sector as a whole starts arguing for the abandonment of the surplus target, you can be reasonably sure that there is a problem…

So, finally, Treasurer Swan was forced to face reality, not the atmospherics of politics. A bloody good thing too.

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.

Picture0055

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…

Misoneism?

Is that all it is? The hatred or distrust of new things or ideas?

Australia’s Prime Minister did not define “misogyny” wrong in a blistering attack on a male rival, the dictionary did.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s fiery speech last week in which she branded conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott a misogynist for a string of allegedly sexist comments he had made in recent years has been lauded by feminists around the world.

However, Ms. Gillard’s critics have accused her of hyperbole, pointing to dictionary definitions of misogyny as hatred of women.

Sue Butler, Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, regarded as the definitive authority on Australian meanings of words, said on Wednesday the political furore revealed to her fellow Editors that their dictionary’s definition was decades out of date.

The dictionary would broaden its definition from a hatred of women to include entrenched prejudice against women, she said.

“Since the 1980s, ‘misogyny’ has come to be used as a synonym for sexism, a synonym with bite, but nevertheless with the meaning of ‘entrenched prejudice against women’ rather than ‘pathological hatred’”, she said.

Ms. Gillard’s speech in Parliament last week came after Mr. Abbott attempted to move a motion to oust the House of Representatives Speaker Peter Slipper over crude and sexist terms Mr. Slipper made in text messages that came to light in a court case.

“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror,” Ms. Gillard told Parliament. “Misogyny, sexism every day from this leader of this opposition.”

She complained Mr. Abbott had questioned in a media interview whether it was a bad thing that men had more power than women in Australian society and had described abortion as “the easy way out”.

Ms. Gillard said she was offended when Mr. Abbott once told her in Parliament — “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself …”

The term “making an honest woman” in Australia traditionally refers to a man marrying a woman with whom he has had a sexual relationship. Ms. Butler said while the Oxford English Dictionary had expanded its definition of the word from a psychological term to include its contemporary meaning a decade ago, it took the debate over Ms. Gillard’s speech to prompt Macquarie to review its definition.

She said the decision had drawn complaints.

Among the critics is Senator Fiona Nash, a member of Mr. Abbott’s coalition, who accused Macquarie of making the change to suit Ms. Gillard’s centre-left Labour Party.

Ms. Gillard and Mr. Abbott declined to comment on the change.

That is from The Hindu, reflecting both the amazing international interest in Julia Gillard’s now famous speech, and the fact of course that Ms Gillard has been lately visiting India.

Julia Gillard Prime Minister Julia Gillard 9I3q2VcdPwfl

First, you will have noted that I was conservative in my attitude to the word misogyny last time I mentioned it, endorsing Annabel Crabb’s opinion that misogyny was a “big call” as an accurate descriptor for Tony Abbott. She cited the Oxford Dictionary. However, the illustrative citation on the Oxford Dictionary web site is “she felt she was struggling against thinly disguised misogyny” – which perhaps reflects, if you think about it, more the sense in which Julia Gillard and others have used the word.

david-malki-in-which-there-is-taunting

Whatever you may think of the Macquarie Dictionary modifying its definition of misogyny, the assertion that it is “making the change to suit Ms. Gillard’s centre-left Labour Party” is nonsense. On reflection, whether you like it or not, it is clear that a combination of contemporary usage and academic specialist usage has extended (or weakened?) the meaning of the word, and that this predates what happened a few days ago in the Australian parliament. Some idea of this shifting of meaning may be gleaned from Wikipedia and from About.com.

Definition: Misogyny means the hatred of women. The word comes from the Greek misein, to hate and gyne, woman. Misogyny is often used to describe contempt for women as a whole, rather than hatred of specific women.

In feminist theory, misogyny often describes an attitude that is perceived to be negative and demeaning toward women as a group. While it is rare to find someone who actually despises all women just because they are female, feminists more commonly observe prejudice against women or an assumption that women are less deserving than men. This usually leads to actions that harm women. People, usually men, who display hateful behaviors that oppress women are said to be misogynists.

Feminists and other scholars have often discussed misogyny in religion. They have examined the misogyny behind historical incidents such as the Salem witch trials and social traditions such as polygyny.

It is entirely appropriate for the Macquarie – or any dictionary – to take account of the development of the word as shown in the paragraph I have highlighted.

People can be very naive about dictionaries, but also very passionate or protective. See Descriptivism vs. prescriptivism: War is over (if you want it) from Stan Cary’s Sentence First. See also Joan Acocella in The New Yorker.

For a long time, many English speakers have felt that the language was going to the dogs. All around them, people were talking about “parameters” and “life styles,” saying “disinterested” when they meant “uninterested,” “fulsome” when they meant “full.” To the pained listeners, it seemed that they were no longer part of this language group. To others, the complainers were fogies and snobs. The usages they objected to were cause not for grief but for celebration. They were pulsings of our linguistic lifeblood, proof that English was large, contained multitudes.

The second group was right about the multitudes. English is a melding of the languages of the many different peoples who have lived in Britain; it has also changed through commerce and conquest. English has always been a ragbag, and that encouraged further permissiveness. In the past half century or so, however, this situation has produced a serious quarrel, political as well as linguistic, with two combatant parties: the prescriptivists, who were bent on instructing us in how to write and speak; and the descriptivists, who felt that all we could legitimately do in discussing language was to say what the current practice was. This dispute is the subject of “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by the English journalist Henry Hitchings, a convinced descriptivist…

Writing about such matters has been a staple of letters to the editor for as long as I can remember, and I guess that’s not entirely a bad thing – but oh my, what a lot of nonsense has been generated! For some common sense see linguist David Crystal’s “Thinking about Dictionaries” (PDF).  See also his blog, for example On complaining about the tide coming in (2006):

A journalist from the Observer, writing a ’fun piece’ for the Christmas edition, phones today to ask my views about the way some English words have become ‘loaded’. She had apparently read a piece in the current issue of the journal of the Queen’s English Society in which someone is complaining about the way certain words have changed their strength of meaning – likemassive being reduced in power to mean ‘huge’ (as in ‘a massive heart attack’) or incredible used so as to mean ‘very fine’ (as in ‘an incredible restaurant’)…

The writer is against people loading words ‘with powers beyond their meaning in the dictionary’. If that was a valid principle – you must only use words with the meaning recorded in the dictionary – English vocabulary would hardly have developed at all, and we would have cut ourselves off from the kind of expressive richness we see in, say, Shakespeare, who was one of the best meaning-extenders the world has ever seen. It is also a misconception of how dictionaries come to be written: lexicographers record meanings as they change, and if there is a widely used meaning currently missing from a dictionary’s pages then it is a weakness of the dictionary rather than of the language.

But the writer was wrong, in any case. Factually wrong. The senses of massive, incredible, and so on are in the dictionary, and have been for some time. But ignorance of the facts of English usage has never stopped people complaining about it…

Words change their meaning. To adapt a phrase rapidly becoming a catch-phrase at the moment (courtesy of the Bishop of Southwark): that’s what they do. They are there to help us talk about our world, and as our world changes, or our ways of looking at the world change, so do the words. It is important to be aware that the changes are taking place, of course, so that we are alert to possible ambiguities and misinformation. We need to know that generally is one of those words which writers often use in a misleading way. That is one of the driving forces behind lexicology, and why it is so important: it helps us manage vocabulary change. But to complain about words changing their meaning is as pointless as complaining about the movement of the tides.

Finally, in the course of looking around I saw for the first time the wonderful OUP blog site, specifically entries tagged “dictionaries”. Lovely stuff. For example:

It cannot but come as a surprise that against the background of countless important words whose origin has never been discovered some totally insignificant verbs and nouns have been traced successfully and convincingly to the very beginning of Indo-European. Fart (“not in delicate use”) looks like a product of our time, but it has existed since time immemorial. Even the nuances have not been lost: one thing is to break wind loudly (farting); quite a different thing is to do it quietly (the now obscure “fisting”). (This fist has nothing to do with fist “clenched fingers” and consequently isn’t related to fisting, a sexual activity requiring, as we are warned, great caution and a lot of tender experience. This reminds me of the instruction Sergei Prokofiev gave to his First Piano Concerto: “Col pugno,” that is ‘with a fist’.)

Both words for the emission of wind (fart and fist) were current in the Old Germanic languages. Frata and físa (the accent over the vowel designates its length, not stress) turned up even in Old Icelandic mythological poems. According to a popular tale, the great god Thor was duped by a giant and spent a night in a mitten, which he took for a house. He was so frightened, as his adversary put it, that he dared neither sneeze nor “fist.” In another poem, the goddess Freyja, notorious for her amatory escapades, was found in bed with her brother and farted (apparently shocked by the discovery)….

Those interested in the subject and not only in words may want to read the book by Valerie Allen On Farting: Language and Laughter in the Middle Ages (Palgrave 2007), but should skip the short section on etymology with its erroneous conclusion. Here I will comment on several etymologies about which I have often been asked. Latin perditio(from its oblique case, via Old French, English has perdition) is not allied to the words discussed above. Perdition goes back to the past participle of the verb perdere “destroy; (hence) lose.” It has the prefix per-, and the root –der-, so thatr and d do are separated by a morphemic boundary. But if Latin perdix had the ancient root with r, preserved in Old French perdriz, then its English continuation partridge belongs here. According to the usual explanation, a partridge makes a sharp whirring sound when flushed (and thus behaves not unlike a petard – not an overly convincing etymology).

Engl. petition and petulant, from Old French, have the root of Latin petere “seeks; attack. Pet “peeve” should probably be dissociated from collywobbles and the rest, but for Engl. wolf’s fist ~ wolves’ fist and German Bofist ~ Bovist(originally vohenvist “fox’s fist”) “puffball” reproduce Greek lykóperdon “wolf’s fart” and allegedly like partridge, owe their origin to the sound they make when pressed). Few people will remember that in the days of Nikita Khrushchev the only woman in the Soviet Politburo was Ekaterina Furtseva, the minister of culture. That family name made every mention of her in German media a rude joke, for the Germans of course spelled Furzeva or Furtzeva. However, it was derived from the proper name Firs, not from the German verb…

Also doing the rounds

Jim Belshaw posted something related this morning. He also alluded to the panic attacks in the Murdoch press about a pilot anti-homophobia program in NSW. Here is the announcement of that program from January 2011:

A pilot program designed to tackle homophobia in schools will start this year in 12 public schools across Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast.

The $250,000 Proud Schools program aims to build a culture of understanding and respect in NSW public schools through the professional development of school staff, student and parent  workshops and the development of  resources to assist schools build their capacity to support same-sex and gender questioning young people.

Recent national research highlights the impact of homophobic attitudes on young people, including the fact that about two in three same-sex and gender questioning young people reported they had been verbally abused, and that one in five had been physically abused.

The research, conducted by La Trobe University, also showed that the majority of those young people were abused at school and that once the abuse had taken place they no longer felt school was a safe place for them.

Young people who had been abused were also found to be three time more likely to think about harming themselves.

Education minister Verity Firth said bullying or abuse in public schools was not tolerated for any reason.

"That’s why the Proud Schools program aims to replace ignorance with understanding, intolerance with acceptance, and shame with pride," Ms Firth said.

"Proud Schools recognises that for this change to take place whole school communities will need to work together, with parents and teachers playing a key role in identifying and addressing homophobic attitudes."

More from SBS Insight:

The pilot program began this year involves around 12 public high schools across Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast.
The aim of the program is to build on the culture of understanding and respect in NSW schools and includes:

Professional development:
In NSW we have sophisticated training materials to help promote awareness among school staff of racial and sexual discrimination, but there are limited training opportunities to help teachers improve their awareness and understanding of discrimination and abuse of same-sex attracted or gender questioning students. Professional learning will be developed that will include key modules for school leaders and school staff.

Supporting resources
Work is being conducted to inform the development of the program and to identify the kinds of resources and support materials available to support staff and students participating in the program. It is important that we identify early in the program how best to assist schools build their capacity to support same-sex attracted and gender questioning young people.

Student workshops
Consultation sessions will be conducted with NSW students to find out what they think needs to be done to help address homophobia in schools.

Parent Workshops
Experience has shown that when school communities work together real improvements in promoting understanding and reducing discrimination can be made. In every pilot school a parent information workshop will be held to explain the aim and goals of the pilotprogram and to seek their input about how the pilot program can be tailored to suit the needs of their local community.

Steering group
A steering group comprising government and non-government agencies has been established to monitor the pilot program. At the end of the pilot it is anticipated that the steering group will provide a series of recommendations that will inform the development of a final Proud Schools program that can be rolled out across the State.

This is pretty much what I and my colleagues were  trying to do during the past decade or so. See my GLBT Resources Page.

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

This page is dedicated to understanding at least and acceptance at best.

To quote Jim’s post:

If all this wasn’t enough, I happened to read this story in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: Being straight no longer normal, students taught. I am not normally a Telegraph reader, but the paper was there while I was waiting. This introduced me to a whole new term that I had yet to hear, heterosexism.

The story was about a pilot program in NSW schools. This appeared to define heterosexism, and I quote from the story,  

….the practice of "positioning heterosexuality as the norm for human relationship," according to the Proud Schools Consultation Report.

"It involves ignoring, making invisible or discriminating against non-heterosexual people, their relationships and their interests. Heterosexism feeds homophobia."

The program should "focus on the dominance of heterosexism rather than on homophobia," according to the minutes from the Proud Schools steering committee on March 22, 2011.

Now given the Telegraph’s usual market positioning, I would be far from certain about the accuracy of the reporting. Even so, heterosexism? It’s really all becoming far too confusing!

Jim spots the problem, as he often does, and I’m afraid I can’t really be bothered following the story too seriously or even reading the crap the Tele (and Miranda Devine) are flinging around. I find that as reported it is at best a total parody of what may really have happened – if anything! (How someone as sane as Maralyn Parker can work in that environment amazes me, but I am glad her balanced views on schools and schooling are there as well.)

Rather than raise my own blood pressure I will let you read what Same Same has had to say.

Toxic newspaper columnist Miranda Devine’s outlandish concern over a new program designed to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools has created a nonsensical front page story today.

The Proud Schools program, being trialed in twelve high schools across New South Wales, simply aims to spread the message that diversity is OK and encourages conversations around homophobia and the use of anti-gay slurs – even the widespread use of terms like ‘that’s so gay’ to mean something best avoided.

“You have the right to be proud of who you are and you have the right to be safe at school,” says the program, which was based on a similar one trialed in Victoria and gained cross-party support in NSW.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph today, Devine points to concerns from several Liberal MPs who believe the program goes too far when it calls for heterosexuality to no longer be portrayed as the only ‘norm’ for relationships.

“It’s not up to academics to dictate attitudes to society via indoctrination of captive children in classrooms, and it’s irresponsible of politicians to allow them to do so,” Devine opined.

She also sought a comment from notoriously anti-gay NSW Upper house MP Fred Nile, who can never resist putting the boot in. “I’m totally opposed to the brainwashing of high school students, especially when they are going through puberty,” he said, labeling the program “propaganda.”

Devine has a history of wading in unhelpfully on LGBT issues – which culminated in her most embarrassingly irrational opinion piece of last year, where she wrote that Finance Minister Penny Wong’s new baby with her female partner was symbolic of a ‘fatherless society’ which results in situations like the London riots.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann is among those who’ve been quick to blast Devine’s views this morning. “Her attempt to stir fear about the Proud Schools program will fall flat because the fact is, people have grown up on this issue – it’s time she did as well,” she says.

“The rest of us have moved on from the days when people thought being gay was somehow abnormal. It’s ‘60s era thinking and Ms Devine should catch up.

“Unfortunately homophobia in schools is still a big issue, with homophobic abuse and bullying causing significant distress and harm to young people. That’s why programs like Proud Schools exist in the first place – to make sure young people understand that same-sex attraction is perfectly normal.”

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has today also defended the Proud Schools pilot program, which he says is helping to assist schools to provide a safe and supportive environment for all students.

Recent national research highlights the impact of homophobic attitudes on young people, including the fact that about two in three same-sex and gender questioning youth reported they had been verbally abused, and that one in five had been physically abused.

Update

I made a messy comment on Jim Belshaw’s post:

My point about The Macquarie and "misogyny" would really be that nothing very extraordinary has happened. The recent kerfuffle alerted Sue Butler and colleagues that something was happening with the word and, on reflection, had been for some time. They responded as modern lexicographers normally do. They were not trying to please anyone.

I then referred to Rewriting the OED as an example of lexicography today –  which is where the comment began to look messy. So:

Today’s OED offices in Oxford and New York are a hive of lexicographical activity. Over seventy editors work on updating the text of the dictionary for its Third Edition (2000-). Every three months the entire OED database is republished online, with new words added for the first time and older entries revised according the exacting standards of modern historical lexicography.

The Oxford English Dictionary is changing. In the first comprehensive revision undertaken since the original volumes were published between 1884 and 1928, every word in the Dictionary is being reviewed to improve the accuracy of definitions, derivations, pronunciations, and the historical quotations.

Every word in the Dictionary is being reviewed…

Once the huge task of updating the existing work is finished, the editors will continue to add new information to the Dictionary database as they receive it, instead of storing it away for the next print revision. Readers will be able to access an online version of the Dictionary, giving them the latest information on every word in the Dictionary as soon as it is inserted in the database. These technological advances, plus the enormous number of content revisions, ensure that the Oxford English Dictionary will be an even more authoritative record of the English language in the twenty-first century…

Today’s historical dictionaries are not monumental, static volumes, but dynamic texts which incorporate up-to-date information and respond rapidly to new information about the language as it comes to light. So how is the Third Edition of the OED being compiled? These are the principal steps in the editorial process:

  • collection and sorting of quotations for individual entries
  • editing of entries (by specialist new-words, scientific, and generalist editors), including the provision of British English and American English pronunciations (and others where necessary)
  • commissioning research on and specialist review of edited entries
  • preparation of etymologies (by the OED‘s Etymology group)
  • verification of bibliographical information for quotations to be published
  • final review by the Chief and Deputy Chief Editor
  • and, only then, publication

I doubt whether in the Macquarie the “new” definition of misogyny will “replace” the current usual definition; rather it will supplement it, perhaps with an added usage note. The dictionary is a record of the language and also, properly used, a guide for speakers and writers, but it is not, despite what so many think, THE holy writ on what words might actually mean in use.

That aside, I really am rather fond of The American Heritage Dictionary myself, you know.

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.

puberty

puberty2

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.

Reminders

This morning here in West Wollongong I noted how glorious was the Illawarra Flame behind an abandoned house I pass every day going to and from the Yum Yum Cafe.

PA040827

PA040828

And then I came home having read Paul Sheehan’s rather remarkable column about Alan Jones being “bullied”. Loon Pond deals with that and has this lovely picture…

jones 1

That just asks for a caption and Loon Pond supplies one. What would your suggestion be?

Yesterday I showed quite clearly that even though I am in his “demographic” I really think Alan Jones is deep down a total ass. But I have not supported the petition against him either. So make what you will of that. Meanwhile here is a far more decent man, and an event I saw as it happened on ABC News 24 last night, noting on Facebook:

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.

It may have been earlier than 7.35, but otherwise I still feel the same about this man and what he said.

669896-syd-edwards

Ms Gillard and her cabinet had been busy dealing with questions about the carbon tax and foreign aid at a community cabinet event in Launceston when an elderly man asked if he could make a statement.

If you’re quick, Ms Gillard told him, and he read part of a letter he wished to give her, taking issue with shock jock Alan Jones’ version – since disavowed – of her relationship with John Gillard.

"John Gillard spoke of his love and pride for his daughter," the man read.

"He would have died knowing that she, Australia’s first female prime minister, is, as history will show, the most vilified prime minister by far in Australian political history.

"I dedicate this letter to your father, John Gillard – a Welsh coalminer, a psychiatric nurse, a loving father, a much-loved father and husband.

"And I dedicate it in the name of everything that’s good and pure and true and decent."

Cue massive applause, and Ms Gillard appeared touched…

No, Ms Gillard manifestly was touched, as was I, as anyone would be.

Let me remind you:

My father, John Gillard, passed away this morning in Adelaide.
He has battled illness in recent years but his death is a shock for me and my family.
Dad lived a long and full life.  He was brought up in a coal mining village and left school at 14, but transcended these humble beginnings to become a man with a love of ideas, political debate and poetry.
Migrating to Australia in 1966, he studied for a new life in a new land and became a psychiatric nurse.  For more than two decades, he showed his capacity for love and care to those most in need of help.
My father was my inspiration.  He taught me that nothing comes without hard work and demonstrated to me what hard work meant as a shift worker with two jobs.  He taught me to be passionate about fairness.  He taught me to believe in Labor and in trade unionism.
But above all, he taught me to love learning and to understand its power to change lives.  He always regretted his family background meant he had not proceeded on to higher education as a young man.  He was determined that I had the opportunities he was denied.
I will miss him for the rest of my life…

See also her address in Parliament on 20 September.

And let me add, in fairness, Tony Abbott:

On behalf of the coalition—and I suspect on behalf of all members of the parliament—I welcome the Prime Minister back after her bereavement leave. This is a tragic time for her, and we all feel for her at this very difficult and sad time. I also acknowledge the sad duty that the Prime Minister and I have been engaged in over the last few days attending military funerals. They are very sad occasions. But they are proud occasions, because the departed have done their duty, by their mates and by our country.

I again acknowledge John Gillard, who has done his country proud in producing such a daughter. It is a remarkable parent who produces a Prime Minister of this country. I acknowledge his journey from the valleys of Wales to this wide brown land. It is a journey I am a little familiar with, as my own maternal grandmother grew up in the village of Gelligaer, a former mining town on the south coast of Wales. For John Gillard, as for Phyllis Lacey, my grandmother, Australia has been a land of opportunity—although the same journey provided different political destinations, I hasten to add, in those cases.

We all know the place good parents have in the hearts of their children, and the coalition continues to extend its deepest sympathies to the Prime Minister.

Don’t you wish, at the very least, that Alan Jones had shut his gob? What he said would disgrace a public urinal even if muttered just to himself, let alone when speaking in “role model” guise to a bunch of eager Young Liberals, and some twat of a reporter…

Related:  Ross Gittins being quite marvellous yesterday.