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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Danna Valle fights back

Danna Vale is fighting back. "My comments were clumsy" she says. True, you could have said it better, Danna. But you could also have thought things through better and your fight-back piece could be thought through better too. True, you were the victim of media who want only a 30 second grab or a quippy headline. But Danna you are paid for the position you hold and - surely it is not too much to expect this from your ministerial experience - part of the skills of the job is to learn not to get yourself into situations such as this. On the other hand, what happened to you can happen to people with greater skills than you. Costello is getting similar treatment from some quarters over his multiculturalism statements.

I think, Danna, from what I see at a distance, that you have a good heart. However, your expression of your good heart is let down because the intellect does not sustain a good argument or rationale. This can be rectified. It depends on the level of advice you get either through staff or through more informal channels such as knowledgable people to give you sound advice.

I think the nub of your argument is fair comment. In modern Australia when the national birthrate among those of European descent is declining, the birthrate among some groups subscribing towards more traditional/conservative mores remains steady or is increasing. You are right to point out that this is a legitimate concern of government and therefore needs to be considered in government policy. You have also pointed out that some people in Australia are more accustomed to exerting their political and social views with violence rather than through the ballot or through other democratic institutions. Danna, leave behind excuses of political correctness. Even if accusations of 'political correctness' have some validity - which I doubt - you have to work in this situation and get your point across without having to call foul.

Can I draw your attention to a couple of areas relating to the issues you are trying to highlight? Look at the female kangaroo. She controls her fertility to a greater extent than the human female. If drought and bushfires - two constants on the driest continent on earth - leave insufficient sustenance, the kangaroo will not breed. She will defer breeding. I think it is like that with the human female. If she is insecure, she will defer breeding or fail to breed. The options she has include contraception and abortion. In some ancient societies, human females also used infanticide. So how secure are things for the female of breeding age in Australia? Relations between men and women are not good. Commitment and stability in partnerships are difficult to carry out in practice. In many relationship breakdowns, economics plays a significant part. Economic security is declining. Increasing casualisation and underemployment are not the economic foundations for raising children. Workforce discrimination with regard to age and gender has not been eliminated. The cost of higher education for job advancement is increasingly locking Australians out. Public primary and secondary education is underfunded to miserable proportions and private primary and secondary education is unaffordable for large sections of the population. Childcare is difficult and, with the assistance of government subsidies, Australia has bred a globalised corporate childcare provider of monopolistic proportions who is now in the courts trying to avoid the prospect of litigation and foist it back on to the individual employee. If all this is not difficult enough, should you be the parent of a child with special needs the difficulties are magnified. So there's a huge agenda for you, Danna: fair and equitable access for all to education from childcare and pre-school through to university; job security and fair and equitable access to jobs irrespective of age, gender and other discriminatory processes.

Then you might turn to the political processes of this nation. Surely your own experience has shown you that entry to and advancement in the political processes of our democratic institutions are easier if you are a male of European descent. If you are a university educated male, particularly with a law degree, then it is even easier. We have large groups of Australians who are not represented significantly in our national parliament - and certainly excluded from the cabinet table. Aborigines? Muslims? Muslim women? Creatives? Youth? Women are getting there but at an excruciatingly slow rate - and they hit the glass ceiling more often than not - and the men tell us to have three kids including one for Australia. How arrogant and impertinent!

So if you are serious about being taken seriously, Danna, there's your agenda. Security, real security, in daily life - not making us feel terrorised by Muslims one minute and telling us how great things are the next; and giving Australians truly representative government, not just the suits.

God go with you, Danna - and watch your step!