The Network

The Network
This blog is no longer updated. Please click the picture to hop across to The Network

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hope grows for captives in Iraq

Hope grows for those held captive in Iraq, according to this report. Please God that there is an end to such misery very soon. This site has sought to draw some attention to the Christian Peacemakers held captive by an unknown group known as Swords of Righteous Brigade. Please visit their site and express your support.

Technorati tags

Business gets stuck into the budget

The Business Council of Australia and I are seldom singing from the same song sheet - but on one song we are in perfect harmony. That is the one about the renewal of Australia’s economic infrastructure such as roads, rail, energy and water to support future growth. In a time when trade barriers have fallen with greater and lesser success, the one thing we can do to support business - big and small - and ourselves as individuals and as a nation is by investing in national infrastructure. Australia has creaking infrastructure and, as well, has major illnesses to be remedied - such as salinity and associated problems in the Murray-Darling system. But what does our Government do? Hand out tax cuts to individuals willy-nilly as well as the profligate untargeted placement of money in the pockets of individuals prior to elections. Economic rationalists have weaned us - so they think - on to an effecient tax system uncluttered, unwarped by the sorts of tax deductions we used to be able to make for items such as mortgages, rates, and medical insurance. Now the government itself is corrupting the tax system by all sorts of churning of tax rates, tax rebates, family funding and so on. I am not against tax cuts or family support by government in principle. I am against untargeted spending. I am against willy nilly rebating individuals when collective investment in items such as national infrastructure and community-based services such as health, education, and policing would be of greater benefit. Our government clearly thinks that our greatest motivator is greed. It clearly thinks that if our taxes go into funding items of national and community importance we are so greedy we will not give them a priority above our own purses. So in the driest continent on earth we are turning over our water resources to the private sector as we bury ourselves in saline infested land that won't grow a thing. Our transport linkages are inefficient and, quite often poorly placed, and become part of the hidden costs that we all unnecessarily pay. If we fail to take the Howard Govt to task on these matters, then we prove that we agree with their assessment of us. Our personal greed dominates us. And the Howard Govt is happy to keep corrupting themselves and us by buying us and our votes - irrespective of anything else.

Technorati tags

Friday, January 27, 2006

The angst and undercurrents of the reshuffle

The major undercurrent in the turmoil within The Nats is the status of The Nats in Queensland in the run up to the 2007 election. This is what bouncing Barnaby Joyce is all about. This is why he claims to represent the Queensland Nationals in the Senate. His profile and his position on issues is meant to be a major part of the arsenal of the Qld Nats so that they can be catapulted from Opposition to Government. Queensland is the only place in Australia where The Nats can govern in their own right. Queensland is the only place in Australia where The Nats can not be considered a rural rump party. Barnaby has a mate challenging Ron Boswell, Qld's long-time Nat Senator for pre-selection. He was making noises on RN along the lines of "I support the incumbent" which was hardly a ringing endorsement of Ron. Ron, of course, says "I have always won the seat for the National Party". Yeah, Ron, you have. But look at the help you got last time when it was a very close thing. Pauline Hanson was also on the list and a lot of ALP voters voted for the National Party for the first time in their lives. They didn't find you too indigestible Ron and they sure as eggs didn't want Hanson. So they took out insurance against Hanson and voted for you. Those same votes are unlikely to be there next time around, Ron. Your mates in The Nats are probably aware of this too - so the preselection is on shaking ground. If Barnaby's mate, James Baker, who is challenging Ron turns out to be bouncy Baker after the style of bouncy Barnaby you will be on the way out Ron. Your mates in the Qld Nats want government and if you can't deliver to build the state profile you have had it. One thing though - there may be a little less bounce in Barnaby after the McGauran defection. His toes might have to stay closer and more firmly to the party line.

For some years, the Beattie Government has been getting more bad publicity than money could buy from the mismanaged Qld health system. Added to this is the Dr Death scandal aided and abetted by ministerial heads rolling and incompetent rationalist bureaucrats. One thing is clear - it has taken a bit of the bounce out of Beattie.

But The Nats can't rest easy - even when by-elections give cause for comfort. Elections are a long way out and Beattie has many seats in hand. Labor came out of the 2004 elections with a majority of 37 seats. This got whittled away with the loss of two safe Labor seats to the Liberals at by-elections in 2005. The joker in the pack in Queensland is optional preferential voting.

The Nationals and the Liberals have difficulty working as a coalition in opposition and there is much acrimony. The Nats want to continue their dominance - but the Libs are comfortable with dominating Brisbane and don't want any intrustion on that. So the road to power for The Nats is iffy as it is undermined by Liberal-Nats acrimony and optional preferential voting.

Maccas bring on the generic worker

Twenty or thirty years ago when I was living in the bush, someone I knew told me that she believed that the day was coming when jobs would be rationed to one per family. I listened. I could think of a few draconian and survivalist scenarios myself but I have never given the idea any credence. But now I feel that scenario is knock, knocking, and not at heaven's door. Aussies recall the wonderful career of Charlie Bell. Charlie began his career at 15 as a part-time crew member at the Kingsford restaurant in Sydney. He became CEO of McDonald's worldwide before his tragic death just over twelve months ago of cancer.

If numberless people are resourcing the one job at MacDonald's - who gets trained? Who gets recognised? Can another Charlie Bell emerge - or is this route to the top blocked?

It's common's the numbers, stupid

The Nationals are trying to concentrate on their act so they are going to have a crisis meeting. But when you hear what Barnaby Joyce had to say on Radio National's breakfast this morning, you do have to wonder. He suggested that Julian McGauran had not renewed his National Party membership last year. Simply 'mazing. Isn't the bookkeeping too good at the Paris end of Collins Street? Or are the Victorians unable to communicate with their NSW based leader? Or did Mark Vaille know all the time that McGauran was unfinancial and either failed to negotiate with McGauran or was unsuccessful in doing so - and is just covering up for his own failings as a political leader. Which brings us back full circle to the special privileges and pleading with which The Nationals indulge themselves.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Smoke getting in your eyes?

To-day is getting warmer and to-morrow promises to be a hot Australia Day - scorching in some parts. I have been out and about to-day: over to Coburg through Northcote and Thornbury this morning and midday found me in Lilydale heading for the hills through Monbulk and Belgrave and back home to Upper Gully. Now if it's that hot perhaps you dream of waving coconut palms. But coconut palms in Melbourne? Someone in Thornbury (or is it Coburg) has solved this problem. The photo above shows a green palm tree complete with yellowy green coconuts. I think it might be made from moulded plastic - note the "carved" effect on the "bark" and the spiky "palm fronds". The sky looks clear blue. Glad the camera was so sympathetic. The reality is that a smoky, smoggy haze from widespread Victorian bushfires covers the inner city extending even to the outer east and the Dandenongs. Even our view of the Dandenongs National Park from our home in Upper Gully is thick with smoke. It makes us think of the firefighters, those who have lost homes and livelihood, and - above all - of those who have lost their precious lives. Our prayers are with you all!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

We are amused

Senator Albert Patrick (Pat) Field
Photo acknowledgement:
Mark Vaile is almost having an apopleptic fit. The National Party in Victoria is like a stunned mullet. There's no doubt about those not-short-of-a-bob good Catholic Jesuit-educated McGauran boys. They just don't know how to behave. Peter, the reader will recall, resigned as Science Minister in John Howards Liberal-National Party Coalition Government because this well and expensively educated barrister could not get his travel expenses right. Well, to put it mildly, he was playing the system for all he could get - like milking a Gippsland cow. He was forced to resign his ministry and did so on 26 September 1997. Funny though, his entry in Wikipedia does not mention this fact. Is this because he did it himself? Now there's brother Julian. Perhaps he didn't do his own Wikipedia entry because it highlights his controversial career. Julian's behaviour in the Senate has not been impeccable. He is most noteworthy for giving the Senate the finger. And from such a good Catholic family! The McGauran family come from beautiful, conservative, Catholic rural Gippsland. I would be reasonably confident that if you had scratched a McGauran in the 1950s you would have found membership of the National Civic Council and support for or membership in the DLP (Democratic Labor Party). The Nats now have their own rat in the ranks. Mark Vaille, who leads the in-decline Nats, spat the dummy. McGauran's intention to leave the Nats and join the Libs, still leaving him in the Coalition ranks, is not good enough for the Nats. They want McGauran to go from Parliament and give them back their precious seat.

How reminiscent of 1975 when the ALP (Australian Labor Party) called foul over the actions of John Bjelke-Petersen, then the Premier of Queensland and Leader of the National Party in that state. John had decided to put a spoke in Gough Whitlam's wheel. A Queensland Senator died. This then left Gough, so he thought, with an ALP Senator to be appointed by convention from Queensland. The unwritten rule usually in play was that, in the case of a casual vacancy, someone from the same party would be nominated by whichever party is in power. The someone would be nominated by the party previously holding the casual vacancy. The government would then rubber stamp the nomination. But the trouble with unwritten rules is that they are easily broken rules. Joh manipulated the system and appointed a member of the ALP who almost no one had heard of - Albert Patrick (Pat) Field - and had not been nominated by the ALP. One thing about Pat Field is that no one could have accused him of being the sharpest knife in the drawer but he served his purpose and made his contribution to Whitlam's downfall.

So, Mark, seeds are sown and harvests are reaped. We reap what we sow. Now you know what happens when conventions get blown away and when people act in their own interests to overthrow and subvert them. Julian McGauran has made accusations that Barnaby Joyce's actions and his views have not been subjects of the usual conventions and processes. But then it is not only Julian McGauran you have to worry about. Your party is in decline. The Liberals tolerate the Nationals - but not very well. They don't need your numbers - they are so few - to form government. You keep yourself, no matter how much your vote and your representation declines, as a separate party, demanding privileges accruing to that status but not substantiated by numbers. Any wonder that Liberal members and Senators in rural and regional Australia complain that they have interests in portfolios kept aside for the National Party but are kept from the ministry and fully representing their electorate interests because of your special privilege. It is therefore open to question, Mark, whether your anger is for Julian McGauran alone. Is it because he told a home truth - that the National Party is not a Party of growth but the Liberal Party is? Or - and this might be more to the point - is it that a number has gone which is significant in percentage terms in a party of such slight representation. Is it that you face the question of how long you can even be considered a party in parliamentary terms? Is it that National Party clout will decline - especially in the Senate? If a National Party vote is subtracted by one and added to the Liberal numbers, what price Barnaby then? Is it that the vulnerability of the National Party is there for all to see? Is it that Julian McGauran's actions are the mirror image of those of Barnaby Joyce and both men are representative of clear divisions within the National Party that you can no longer paper over and for which you have no solution? In other words, while you are - through special pleading and privilege - trying to build up the credentials of the National Party on trade, the real issue is one that both McGauran and Joyce allude to - relevance.

Technorati Tags:

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Nigel Kennedy has made the right decision

Nigel, you have made the right decision. One day, I hope that the events of this current regime will be seen for what they are - detrimental to humanity. One day, I pray that the pendulum will swing and those of us who are alienated by deeds done in our name but without our support will be able to hold our heads high as Australians once again.
Technorati tags

Meanwhile back in the First Nations......

.....the care of children has a whole other meaning than the issue of childcare in mainstream society. Children are still being taken from their families and the groundwork is being laid for the continuing high representation of Australia's First Nations in the prisons of Australia. Two points to consider here:
  1. Democracy is government with the consent of the governed. The consent of aboriginal people is seldom considered in this country. In fact, until 1967, the Commonwonwealth of Australia constitutionally excluded them from the rights of citizenship. There is no Aboriginal representation in the Australian Parliament although in the Northern Territory of Australia representation of Aboriginal people in the Parliament (although they are clustered only in one party - and that party currently governs) almost exactly matches in proportion the Aboriginal component of the Territory's population. What sort of voice do Aboriginal people have in the government and governance of Australia?
  2. Economic participation. Voices are being raised in this regard. Two leading voices - although not the only ones - are Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine. Their voices need to be heard while recognising that while some of their points are universal in nature other items they discuss should not be taken as one size fits all. The other problem is that white politicians have been quick to grab on to some of Pearson's agenda - because they coincide with and reinforce their own agenda. Other ideas and other people whose ideas and experience are just as valid - and in some cases precede Pearson's - are sidelined. Whitefellas have to deal with themselves and remove themselves from centrestage.

Technorati tags

The really want us to make babies but......

....they think we're dummies. Crucial to the childcare debate is the issue of the childcare rebate. In other words, the financing of childcare is becoming a huge issue and the government needs to address it. ABC Learning Centres have become the monolith of the Australian childcare system creaming, if not milking, its turnover and profits on the basis of childcare subsidies. Even their URL is designed to look generic. They are the world's largest listed childcare provider. They have moved into the US with the takeover of Learning Care and this will be used as a base for expansion across North America including Canada. Could this be said to be the globalized corporation that Australian taxpayers and Australian toddlers built? It is a world away from community and parent controlled childcare.

The Treasurer, Peter Costello, is planning to spend $9.2 billion on childcare over the next four years. How will this benefit the children in childcare, working parents, and ABC Learning Centres? Above all, how will it benefit women like Philippa Waters who have to withdraw from the workforce, withdraw from a promising career, withdraw from community productivity because the community which benefits from her workforce participation will not give her a fair go in childcare provision, costs, affordability and accessibility.

Technorati tags

The Ugg is ours

What a you-beaut Australia Day present. The Ugg Boot (or Ugh Boot, as I prefer) is to be removed from the Australian register of trademarks, meaning it is now a generic name. Get the full story here.

Technorati tags

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

More conservative women join the childcare campaign. They have joined Jackie Kelly and Tanya Plibersek in speaking out for our children's care. Please encourage their voices:
  • Teresa Gambaro: raised two children as a sole parent, said child care had not adapted to changing work patterns.
  • Senator Judith Troeth: "I have a daughter with young children and lots of her friends would go back to work if they could find suitable child care," she said. "If the Government is serious about higher levels of productivity and getting and keeping women in the workforce, we should make child-care funding a higher priority." Senator Troeth called for incentives for business to provide care — such as scrapping fringe benefits tax on off-site child care that companies provide.
  • Senate Whip Jeannie Ferris: renewed a call for the cost of nannies to be tax deductible.
    "The cost of care for a second child makes it marginal for many women to return to work," she said. "I have never understood why deductibility can only apply if you pack up your child at 7.30am and take them off to care elsewhere."
  • Louise Markus: "Any improvements need to be responsive to the variety of child-care options that parents prefer and (should include) a more flexible approach to the delivery of child-care assistance."
  • Bronwyn Bishop: said more should be done for those whose working hours meant they needed to use nannies or other private care arrangements for their children.
    "All of our industrial relations and welfare-to-work amendments are offering more choice, and what we don't do in child care at the moment is offer choice," Mrs Bishop said.
  • Joanne Gash: said the rebate should be paid immediately.

And Barnaby Joyce has chipped in too calling for child-care rebates to be extended to cover kindergartens and nannies. Senator Joyce said many rural areas lacked a child-care centre or places, so parents were missing out on federal aid for the care of their children. Strange, he's saying what I was saying twenty years ago in north-west Queensland!

More of Howard's women join childcare campaign

More conservative women join the childcare campaign. They have joined Jackie Kelly and Tanya Plibersek in speaking out for our children's care. Please encourage their voices:
  • Teresa Gambaro: raised two children as a sole parent, said child care had not adapted to changing work patterns.
  • Senator Judith Troeth: "I have a daughter with young children and lots of her friends would go back to work if they could find suitable child care," she said. "If the Government is serious about higher levels of productivity and getting and keeping women in the workforce, we should make child-care funding a higher priority." Senator Troeth called for incentives for business to provide care — such as scrapping fringe benefits tax on off-site child care that companies provide.
  • Senate Whip Jeannie Ferris: renewed a call for the cost of nannies to be tax deductible.
    "The cost of care for a second child makes it marginal for many women to return to work," she said. "I have never understood why deductibility can only apply if you pack up your child at 7.30am and take them off to care elsewhere."
  • Louise Markus: "Any improvements need to be responsive to the variety of child-care options that parents prefer and (should include) a more flexible approach to the delivery of child-care assistance."

And Barnaby Joyce has chipped in too calling for child-care rebates to be extended to cover kindergartens and nannies. Senator Joyce said many rural areas lacked a child-care centre or places, so parents were missing out on federal aid for the care of their children. Strange, he's saying what I was saying twenty years ago in north-west Queensland!

They're going at it over at Tim Blair

They're at it over at Tim Blair. Comments had become ever more puerile, circuitous, and incestuous and then along came cor_uncle (see Comments 40-47) to take them on with some facts about Sharon and Israeli aggression. This had led to even more puerile comments and on to gratuitous insult complete with bad language. If some of these people can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. The company Tim Blair keeps!

Monday, January 16, 2006

70% of Australian mothers work in the paid economy

Only in recent years has childcare been taken anywhere near seriously in this country. Any wonder. Most effective decision-making in our Parliaments is carried out by men who spend long hours in the life political leaving spouses with childraising responsibilities irrespective of whether their spouse is one of the 70% of mothers in the paid economy. John Howard married Janette who has been a stay-at-home Mum and is consistently reported as advising John Howard on how to benefit the stay-at-home full-time wife and mother. Hardly a situation in which a campaign for better and more extensive childcare can take root.

As women have moved into the workforce and more have moved into professional and high-ranking executive positions, childcare issues have become more pervasive. Also contributing to this has been a more widespread interest on the part of male spouses in involvement in the lives of their children - some even forsaking work in the paid economy to become full-time stay-at-home fathers. All this, however, will not drive things as far as economy necessity in the eyes of the rationalists at Treasury coupled with the Treasurer's eye on the swinging voter embedded in the middle socio-economic cohort.

Now Liberal backbencher and former Minister, Jackie Kelly, has come out and put the matter bluntly: childcare is a shambles. She is supported in her comments by the ALP's Tanya Plibersek. Both are mums of young children. They speak from their own experience as well as listening to the experience of others. Imagine the picture if you will. These members of parliament - Jackie and Tanya - turn up to deliver and pick-up kids from child care. They get into conversations with other parents. These parents - if they have gripes, and they do - would open up to such influential women who have similar responsibilities. Now try to put Peter Costello in the picture. Peter - has he ever turned up to pick up the kids from child care, hung around and got into conversation with the mums and dads and listened to the consumer. Bit of a stretch, I'm afraid. Costello has his own agenda for before and after school care but - as Kelly says - there's more needed than this. Childcare is a shambles, it is very difficult to access, and unaffordable for so many.

Speaking on Radio National's Breakfast program this morning, Barbara Pocock, currently a Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the University of Adelaide, made the following points:
  • There are more than 170,000 children whose parents are looking for childcare
  • Cost and affordability are major impediments to accessing quality childcare
  • The childcare system is designed by people who don’t use it
  • The needs of parents have changed and the system has not changed to meet those needs
  • The needs of children are not considered in the design and provision of quality childcare
  • The quality of childcare and the quality of facilities is not not up to scratch
  • There are problems with staffing: i.e. training levels; staffing ratios; and remuneration of qualified staff
  • Childcare is not middle class welfare. The need and the problems extend across income boundaries
  • If we get it wrong for the under 5s, we pay for it down the track for the next 20 years
  • Parents need good options rather than the hotpotch prevailing at the moment.
  • An experiment with longday care is still being trialled
  • Market solutions to childcare needs to be looked at to determine whether the market is able to meet childcare demand adequately
  • Record levels might be being spent, as the Government claims, but the growing proportion of the budget spent on childcare is only a response to the demand generated as women’s participation in the workforce increases and the Treasurer wants more women in the workforce.

Meanwhile, Senator Kay Patterson - the Minister responsible for Childcare as Minister for Family and Community Services and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women's Issues - is dragging the chain. Kay's style seems never to appear like she's pushing to get things done.

So there you are mums and dads and kids. If you want things to change, to improve get behind the efforts of Jackie and Tanya (you have real choice here - one Lib, one Lab) and give Costello and Patterson heaps of encouragement in the right direction. Meanswhile, Steve Fielding, the Family First Senator doesn't seem to have figured out how to keep his office going and take a January holiday at the same time - because there is a deathly silence from him on this very important family matter. Oh well!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This is a hate blog

If it's on Tim Blair, does that make it official? I am cited in one of his posts headed Heed The Hate Blogs. So does this make me a hate blog? I have earned such an accolade from such a distinguished blogger (Ranked 7/10 on Google) for this. And here is the cartoon at the heart of all the angst. HT Tim, this little blog (Ranked 3/10 on Google) has never seen such traffic. It has come from across the world - including Israel - and the day's not half-way gone yet. And RebeccaH said

Eagle’s Child also says (among other moony, misty things) that “No is a very conservative word”. I suspect neither she nor Leunig ever heard that word much when they were growing up.

Moony, misty. Such compliments! Better than hard-nosed, bitch, and worse. And, as for the parental child-rearing.... Well, I was an only child for six years until my sister arrived. My mother says that she and my father did everything perfectly and strictly with me. Proof of this is that I am the only non-tea-drinker in my family. This is due to the fact that my sister, unlike me, was allowed to drink tea from our father's saucer and has not stopped drinking it since. When we were older and I didn't quite understand my sister's risque jokes, my mother remarked

It's not your fault, love, that you were brought up genteel.

My schooling was entrusted to the Sisters of Show No Mercy who, in my day, were predominantly Irish. Girls who wore make-up, particularly to Mass on Sunday, were regarded as fast and loose. Getting a handle on the age, RebeccaH? Definitely pre-Dr Spock. But I did get to meet him when he and I were anti-Vietnam war protesters. Guess this makes me tainted, do you think? Just that I prefer yea-sayers who see all the possibilities to nay-sayers who like to control and censor.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 14, 2006

400+ and rising

More than 400 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since the occupation began in March 2003. Many more Iraqis have been kidnapped, but it is the abduction of foreigners that makes news, and makes them particular targets....
Read more here and remember these words...

It is because no one listens to Iraqis talk about their suffering. That’s why
they kidnap foreigners, because it makes people and governments all around the
world listen to them.

Lest we forget the captive Christian Peacemakers

I have posted previously on the CPT Four here and here. There is no word, nothing but silence from the realm of captivity. Please check the Christian Peacemaker Teams website and the family websites for more information and please keep up the prayers and candles.

Christian progressives on the march...

Jim Wallis busted
Christian progressives are on the march in the USA. The major focus recently has been on a major civil disobedience action in Washington DC where 115 religious activists were arrested, including Jim Wallis, Editor of Sojourner Magazine. They were protesting a House Republican budget plan's cuts in social programs when they refused to clear the entrance to a congressional office building Wednesday.
A national organization has formed - CrossLeft. Momentum is growing. CrossLeft is a movement for social and political change, giving voice to Jesus' ministry of compassion, service, and social justice. CrossLeft is leading the charge and providing balance to the Christian voice in political dialogue in the USA. In just 9 short months, CrossLeft co-organized the Path to Action Conference at the National Cathedral, DC and has launched a Website community national progressive Christian calendar & portal featuring the exclusive CrossLeft News Service; A Speaker's Bureau; and Weekly Podcasts.
Do you think it is about time Christian progressives in Australia got off their collective fundaments and did something too?

Between a rock and a hard place

When Governments from Victoria to California compete for investment in their turf within a globalized economy, they can find themselves - as the Bracks Govt has done - between a rock and hard place: corporations getting government encouragement and incentive in real and financial terms and then, when their circumstances change within a short space of time, corporations up stakes and move. It is understandable that corporations will go where the best deal serves their own self-interest - but time and again taxpayers are left with a poor return on their dollar. VicGov says it is unrealistic to expect companies to return the money. But there are two things that are realistic to expect, ask for and get:
  1. a good return for taxpayers' dollars so that money has not gone down the drain on a poor bet;
  2. modern globalised corporations have to be accountable.

Corporations say they are accountable: but they are accountable on a very narrow base while ranging over vast distances. Corporations have to recognise their employees as stakeholders in the same way as shareholders are (not that they can't become part of the mushroom club too) and they have to be held accountable to the governments and communities in which they have their corporate base and in which they establish their business.

It has always bugged me that Australian corporations can pollute and deforest other nations in a manner that would not be permitted under Australian law without being held accountable at home. Not only should there be strong domestic accountability but there must be international accountability as well. You can't be a fine corporate citizen at home while being delinquent in responsibilities overseas - as BHP found at Ok Tedi.

Can we please see what we paid for and how?

The Howard Government clearly sees the Australian voters as mugs. Not only has it foisted an extreme and weird industrial relations system on the nation it now refuses to provide details related to its implementation under the Freedom of Information Act without paying a Howard's Ransom for it and declares the release not to be in the public interest. Horsefeathers! Not in Howard's, Andrews', and the Government's interest. We, the voters, are interested. Our money paid for the so-called information campaign. Now account to us, Howard and Andrews.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Angus McMillan and the voice of history

A recent journey through Gippsland recently brought Angus McMillan into my consciousness. McMillan has an entry in the Dictionary of Australian Biography. One thing we know now is that there are many aspects, many voices to history. What we learn at school, or what is written in dominant histories is not the whole story. There is an old saying about history written by the victors. Angus McMillan was certainly one of the victors. He is a pioneer of white settlement only in Gippsland. Notice I added the word only. Settlers tend to just say that so-and-so was a pioneer. We forget or gloss over that so-and-so was a pioneer in one sense only. I first heard about Angus McMillan and his journey from Adrian on The Director. I found this interesting since there were other Victorian journeys by whitefellas but only Angus McMillan's is talked about in Gippsland to any extent. This is probably because it had and economic impact that was not present with the other journeys. The first seems to have been in 1797 when the Sydney Cove was wrecked on Preservation Island, part of the the greatest survival trek in Australian history. I am also aware of Thomas Walker's journey publish anonymously as A Month in the Bush Of Australia. Journal of one of a Party of Gentlemen who recently travelled From Sydney To Port Phillip - with some remarks on the present state of the Farming Establishments and Society in the settled parts of the Argyle Country. Catchy title, don't you think? The reason I know about this one is that my four-times great-grandfather Rear-Admiral John Gore gets a mention. And of course, there was Hume and Hovell but they didn't go to Gippsland. These are the histories of the victors. But other voices are heard these days. One place to hear the other voice is at Krowathunkooloong, the Keeping Place in Bairnsdale. It was here I heard and read another side to the McMillan journeys: the deaths, even the massacres of aboriginal people that are ignored or glossed over. These were the deaths of people defending their land, their country. They are recorded and remembered there at Krowathunkooloong. There is an electoral district named for Angus McMillan but aboriginal people would like to see this name removed.In recent years, there has been much debate within the ranks of academic historians about the extent of aboriginal deaths during the taking of land by white settlers. This debate has earned the name The History Wars. While the debate rages and even finds its way into print, one thing tends to be overlooked. Firstly, that some massacres are fairly recent and are within living memory or only a generation behind. Secondly, that the stories of these massacres have been handed down within families to whom they are relevant - both white and black although in many white families they are covered up. I used to live in Mount Isa in North West Queensland. The Kalkadoons, the original people, had some huge, and sometimes successful, battles with white settlers. They were true warriors. In very recent times, along comes Charles Perkins who became quite a controversial figure in modern aboriginal history. One thing that seems never to be realised is that Charlie was a descendant of those Kalkadoon warriors - and he was a fighter too. I once worked with his sister, Nerida, and I sometimes used to give his mother a lift home from the shops to her home in Sunset. These are the things - the stuff of a family's heritage - that are lost in the academic research. So I have a family tree which includes a crew member of The Endeavour and his son, also a naval officer and god-son of Sir Joseph Banks who came as a white settler to a land grant (stolen land?) at Lake Bathurst near Goulburn. The Perkins family has a family tree which includes a fighter for aboriginal equality and rights, as well as fighters for their land and their freedom.So let the academics do their histories and argue and debate. But the stuff which gives flesh to the bones of an academic history lies in local and family histories and the energy and memory that sustains them.

 Posted by Picasa

Leunig unloved?

. Leunig writes that he has had an invitation to speak at the Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne withdrawn. Stunning! This news comes to me at the same time as herself wanders out to let me know there is a headliner on television's Sky News that Brokeback Mountain won't be shown in parts of north-west Queensland. We are Queenslanders, or ex-Queenslanders, living in Melbourne and we spent many years living in north-west Queensland. The thing we rejoice in the most is the absence of racism and bigotry of the type and depth that prevails there through the community and in its politics and policies whether its the National Party or the ALP in power. What are people afraid of? Are they only up for more of the likes of The Proposition.

Leunig is a beautiful and spiritual man. The constituency of the Jewish Museum has cut off its nose to spite its face in such rudeness that it withdraws its invitation. Perhaps it is pandering to the lowest common denominator of criticism. No is a very conservative word. Of course, it is not unheard of in the Australian Jewish community that it expresses its disapproval in a way that seems to go against the grain of the mainstream Australian community. This is particularly the case in Melbourne. It seems to me moreso than in Sydney. In a lot of cases, it will put the might of its political and financial influence behind its views. In a pluralist democractic society it, like anyone else, has every right to do so. But having the right to do so does not make the actions right. Having the right to do so does not always mean that it is wise to do so.

On learning of Leunig's disendorsement I am reminded of the stories of Greek immigrants who raised their children in the strict mores prevailing in their homeland when they immigrated. As teenagers and young adults, these children would return to Greece to meet family and home-grown Greek culture for the first time only to find that social mores in Greece were more liberal than that enforced by their parents. Similarly with language. Language is a living thing and the language of the homeland growing and flourishing in its native soil can be a different thing from the language of the diaspora which can be static by comparison. When I thought of these instances, I wondered if the Jewish diaspora are more defensive than it would be within national boundaries, less open to critical debate. But then I think the national boundaries of Israel are pretty defensive at this time with Ariel Sharon's build-your-own-ghetto scheme.

We need to remind ourselves that there are different ways of bullying and intimidation just as there are different types of power. There is the power that comes through violence expressed in military and physical prowess. At Cronulla, we saw bullying based on phsyical violence and numerical dominance by a particular group of people wrapped up in a repugnant nationalism. A number of those who have been put in jail and refused bail are of an ethnicity that has known in previous generations ghettoism, religious and ethnic prejudice, ethnic cleansing, and gross repression. There is bullying and intimidation of a more sophisticated kind which uses political influence and financial facilitation to get its way. Each are repugnant because neither relies on reason, interchange, and debate to make its point. Each decides there is one point and no other and sets about enforcing that point.

The one comfort in all this is that there are Jewish people in Australia and in Israel who agree with me. The difficulty is that the bullying voice is the one that grabs the headlines. The reasonable voice is only heard as it is sustained over time and distance and this requires great and consistent effort. I think of Robert Manne, Marcus Einfeldt, and other great Jewish civil liberties practitioners who realise that Jewish civil liberties benefit as the civil liberties of wider and mainstream society progress.

So I would say to the decision makers at the Jewish Museum of Australia, put things right. You have done one about face in withdrawing Leunig's invitation. Come full circle. Do another about face and reinstate the invitation. Let this be an occasion of reconciliation. Let this be an occasion where diverse viewpoints can be heard and considered. This is the way forward. Sure, it requires risk. It may even require putting oneself in the place of vulnerability. But this is the way we open ourselves to growth - like a tough clawed lobster outgrowing and shedding a hardened, no-longer-useful carapace.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Will someone please buy Myer...

...and put us and it out of its and our misery! I don't spend much in major department stores or big shopping malls these days. Income is limited and needs are not so great. But yesterday I was in the city and, because it was sale time and I had time to spare, I decided to wander over to Burke Street and have a look at Myer and David Jones. I went into Myer - and I was looking for a smart pair of black not-too-high heels.

Now I have only lived in Melbourne for sixteen months. Myer, while a national retailer, is a Melbourne icon. David Jones, on the other hand, is the other national retailer and is a Sydney icon. I have to admit that Myer has long since ceased to look like a packapoo shop/jumble sale/$2 shop that it did in the days of Dennis Eck. There is no doubt that Dawn Robertson has done her best and tried to cover all bases - including doing what was considered impossible: changing the name of Myer's Sydney store, the historic Grace Bros, to Myer. Why then, if they want to sell Myer, aren't they making their stores more attractive and comfortable for the consumer whose cash they rely on. A few months ago, I bought some clothes at Myer at Knox City. The dressing rooms were hanging off the wall, mine had a hole in the wall, nowhere to put your clothes, your handbag. They might have been tolerable if they had been erected at a suburban Sunday market - but from someone purporting to be a national iconic retailer. You've got to be kidding! Similarly at Myer's Burke Street store this week. Went up to Shoes. The shoes were displayed according to style - not to size - on metal rack after metal rack like something from that other Coles Myer retailer, Target. Eventually, somewhere near the back of the department I found an appropriate shoe (one shoe only is displayed) and I asked for the other to try them on. Guess what? No shoe. Two or three searches were done - still no shoe. Consequently, no sale. I didn't look for anything else. Left the store muttering to myself "Never again!". I walked out of the front door of Myer and into the comfortable and relaxing ambience of DJs next door. How wonderful the contrast. Antique light shades, decorated ceiling, art deco lifts. I made by way to Shoes. DJs doesn't have sales: it has clearances. The shoes being cleared are placed on tables, in a jumble I'll admit, but they are according to size and DJ's customers are used to the procedure. I had soon found a shoe, got its pair, and was satisfied and completed the sale.

I've come to the conclusion that someone, somewhere along the line is milking Coles Myer for all their worth one way or another. Now we know that Brian Quinn, C-M's former CEO, ended up in jail. There seem to be few admirers of Solomon Lew's business practices and, too often, Lindsay Fox voted with him on the Coles-Myer Board. So please someone - buy the Myer stores and make them something worthy of the people whom you ask to spend money there. Invest in your clientele. But if Myer stores continue to be below par, spread the word - Myer is no longer an icon fit for Melbourne or anywhere else.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A strategy for peace?

I lost my faith and trust in Kim Beazley at the time of Tampa and the children overboard affair. The failure to open a debate and a point of view of integrity lost me completely. Clearly, the stance was poll driven - but what price a leader who chooses the line of least resistance in the face of the bigotry of a Prime Minister, a government, and a nation? For the first time since I can't remember when, I can applaud something Beazley says. Let's open open a constructive debate on what benefit our presence in Iraq does provide or should provide. What are we trying to achieve? Are we merely trying to be little Mr Tag-along to the US and their views and their decision making? Or do we really want to build our own independent relationship with Iraq? If the latter is the case, then we had better start talking about it and looking at how the future will be built. This is vital in view of the fact that the Bush administration has scaled back its ambitions to rebuild Iraq from the devastation wrought by war and dictatorship and does not intend to seek new funds for reconstruction. The US has shown impatience and incompetence with regard to nation building. Instance Afghanistan. But is this how Australians want to be? Do we really want to go down the Bush/US path. It is time for some mature thinking, grown-up debate. We have our own interests to pursue in trade and international relations. We have citizens and permanent residents in our country of Iraqi origin. There is a life after regime change and oil wars. Let's take off the blinkers of cultural cringe and obeisance to the US and look to the future - a future for ourselves and for Iraq.

Monday, January 09, 2006

An Australia of an independent mind?

John Langmore has a realistic opinion piece here on the ANZUS Alliance. Our destiny as English speaking nations in the western European tradition are intertwined whatever we or they think. Does the US have to be so self-centred and we so culturally cringing that we cannot have an independent and mature relationship? Can we not affect their point of view and can they not take our view into sound consideration? Both nations have negative psychologies to overcome. We need to grow up and make considered judgments in which we have faith: judgments for which we need no international permission. The US is at a time in its history when the grace to see itself as others see it is deep wisdom. If the US takes the narcissistic line of "How great we art", their judgments will be faulty. I hope there is more discussion on the US-Oz alliance - a discussion, like Langmore's contribution, which is realistic in regard to the prevailing situation but seeking a mature relation which asserts and recognises the independence of each to pursue its own national goals - sometimes without support of the other. Posted by Picasa

Ethnic origins?

Three men in Sydney have been refused bail to-day in connection with December's Cronulla riots. The men are named in newspaper reports and these names caused me to think about ethnic origins. The surnames are Kelly, Shanahan, and Murray. Proud Celtic names! The first two of Irish origin and the last of Scottish origin. The Irish and the Scots know about oppression on the basis of ethnicity. They know about foreign colonisers. They also know about political terror. Makes ya think, don't it. And if you think I am being too critical in bringing up ethnicity or tribal origins - my name is Brigid O'Carroll Walsh.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Happy new year - with resolution


I hope 2006 is full of all things good for you and yours.
I have made some New Year wishes - humourless I'm afraid but I don't find the world around me a joy-filled place much as I want it to be joyful and creative and compassionate.
In fact, I am fearful for my country and the western and byzantine traditions across the world if we continue on the path we are on. Oh well, empires have risen and fallen across the millennia and the earth has continued to turn on its axis - so why worry. I think of missed opportunities for creativity. I think of those who could live and enjoy life rather than be destroyed by war and avertable famine. I love the biblical image of everyone with their vines, relaxing under the fig trees with their families having sufficient bread and wine to enjoy with one another. I think it is so sad that we do not maintain such an image front and centre in our minds and do not put all our energies towards fostering it and making it real in our own lives and the lives of others.

So when I wish you all that is good for 2006, this is the sort of good I mean.
However, I still have my wishes and here they are:

My wishes for 2006?
Number One on my list are that the actions of Bush, Cheney and Howard become more and more transparent and understood for their nastiness and destruction - and, dare I say it, evil. I don't want Howard to resign but to remain as Prime Minister to bear the fruits of his labour. I don't want Bush impeached - Cheney for President is beyond imagining - and I think it is abhorrent for the most powerful nation in the world to have a lame duck head of state but I want him outed before his nation and the world and for the Democrats - who don't seem in any better shape than the ALP - to win the 2006 Congressional elections.

Number Two that Australia continues to acknowledge, as some have since Cronulla, that it is a racist country

Number Three that Australia begins to look at and discuss its colonizing attitudes in this country since Federation through to to-day and how these attitudes affect our racial attitudes and our attitudes to our neighbours in Africa, the Middle East, the South Pacific and Asia who have been subjected to colonization themselves.

Number Four that Australians as a nation forsake consumerism and stop trying to be the 51st state of the USA and move to a more reflective, considered, and spiritually informed lifestyle.

After those headliners, I wish for love and compassion; peace and creativity; hope and support for one another; joy for life and joy in one another; faith in ourselves and our Creator; and an understanding of ourselves in and of the wonderful creation that is our planet, our environment.

All these things, in my view, would not only be great to establish in 2006 but be a great basis for the nation, the individual, and me.