The Law

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Liars always shout and make wild accusations to…

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Tuesday 12 December 2017Author’s Note:This is a hypothetical piece written by an…

Train track media narratives

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Monday 11 December 2017On December 7 I wrote a piece titled “Bill…

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Watch this space in 2017 - Redux

Normally around this time of the year over at The Political Sword…

Protection of, or Protection from Religion

By Terence MillsThe Prime Minister has called for a review of religious…

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Jennifer, who has a PhD, has worked as an academic and a scholar, but now works at little of both her careers. She has published short stories in several anthologies, academic papers and book chapters, frequently on the topic of human rights. Her interests and writing are wide ranging, including cultural analysis. Jennifer has written for On Line Opinion, Suite 101 and ABC’s Drum Unleashed. Jennifer is well-known for her long-running blog No Place for Sheep: an eclectic blog that covers politics, society, satire, fiction and fun stuff.

Ruddock: The man who called a refugee child “it”

In August 2001, 6 year-old Shayan Badraie, an Iranian asylum seeker who arrived by boat in Australia with his family, became seriously ill with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder after spending seventeen months in the Woomera and Villawood detention centres.

During the time he was detained with his family, Shayan witnessed suicide attempts, and great unrest within the Woomera prison. A letter I received from an asylum seeker described the conditions thus:

I see hundreds of people begging and crying, and I see people dehydrating in the sun. I see people with sewn lips and buried in the ground ’cause that’s what they did. I see people slash up and cut their throats and arms.

Shayan refused to eat, drink, and walk. After his plight was exposed in an ABC TV investigation of Australia’s detention centres, public outrage was focused on the Immigration Minister at that time, Philip Ruddock.

Ruddock claimed Shayan’s illness had nothing to do with his experiences in the detention centres. If the child was ill, Ruddock claimed in an interview with Kerry O’Brien on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report, it was because “it was not a natural child of the mother, it’s a stepchild.”

Ruddock referred to Shayan as “it” throughout the interview.

Philip Ruddock is an enthusiastic stamp collector. As Immigration Minister, he took the stamps from letters he received from people all over the world, requesting asylum, and requesting information about loved ones in Australian detention camps. Letters forwarded to him by Amnesty International, of which organisation he was a member, and whose badge he wore with pride. Amnesty eventually attempted to distance themselves from Ruddock’s inhumane policies by publicly requesting that he not wear their badge, as did his daughter, who was so distressed by her father’s position on indefinite detention, especially of children, that she left the country to work for an aid organisation.

Ruddock’s wife gave him a Chinese cabinet with many drawers, in which to store his stamps. He joked that it was one of the good things about getting so many letters from Amnesty, a growing stash of stamps for him to sort in his retirement.

With what hopes were those stamps bought, what fears, what dreams? Stamps on envelopes containing stories that might break your heart. In a chilling act of appallingly twisted appropriation, Ruddock took the stamps for his hobby, while simultaneously writing into history a narrative that transformed asylum seekers into criminals, terrorists and potential murderers of their own children:

Philip Ruddock has just been appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to chair a panel tasked with reviewing religious protections, perceived by the right-wing as threatened after the recent marriage equality YES vote. As John Howard’s Attorney-General in 2004, Ruddock introduced the bill that prevented marriage equality by changing the wording of the Marriage Act to describe the institution as legal between a man and a woman only.

Here is a piece I wrote on Tuesday for Independent Australia on the separation of church and state, increasingly threatened by demands from conservatives for laws that protect their “religious freedoms.” When I wrote the post, I had no idea of Ruddock’s new role.

Australia has been torturing refugees who arrived by boat for seventeen years. Ruddock was an essential part of the early and illegal inhumanity during his time as Immigration Minister.

These people have attempted to invade our sovereign territory, he said of the waterborne asylum seekers. They have jumped the queue of legitimate refugees legally attempting to achieve asylum in this country. They have broken our laws. 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Media must ask LNP: Do you intend to allow the Manus refugees to die?

Since the days of the Tampa, seventeen years ago,  I’ve heard it said repeatedly that Australians don’t care about what happens to asylum seekers and refugees who arrived here by boat, perfectly legitimately, seeking only sanctuary.

Obviously after seventeen years, during which the treatment of boat arrivals has only gone downhill, I must finally accept that this is true. If enough Australians cared, refugees on Manus Island would not be suffering as they are. If enough Australians cared, Peter Dutton and Malcolm Turnbull would not be conducting what amounts to a state-sanctioned experiment in torture: how long can people live without water, food, medicine, and medical attention in tropical conditions before they become extremely and or chronically ill, or die.

This is the experiment being conducted by our government. Australia is about to find out how long human beings can survive under these conditions. Australia is about to find out what the effects are on human beings of being subjected to these conditions if they don’t die. This is state-sanctioned experimentation on human beings. If you don’t agree, please, do tell me what you call it.

Every journalist should be asking every government MP they interview: Do you intend to allow the men on Manus to die? This is the only question that needs to be asked at this point. And nobody, but nobody, is asking it. The media are, with a couple of exceptions, as complicit in this state-sanctioned human experimentation as are politicians.

I am not particularly personally affected by which major party is in government. I’m not subject to Centrelink robodebt torment, for example. I’m not suffering the indignity of being unable to marry my same-sex partner. I don’t live in the vicinity of a proposed coal mine. I’m not desperately casting about for affordable child care so I can go to work. In terms of my material comfort and safety, either major party will, in general, do. Yet I’ve consistently, for decades, argued and fought for policies that seem to me fair and decent, whilst railing against injustices, not because they directly affect me, but because I’ve believed Australians, human beings, deserve the best and the fairest.

For the first time in my voting life, I understand the impulse to refuse the privilege of voting for any politician. This is not only because I am beyond disgusted over their collective treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Now I’m disgusted at Australians. The Australians I’ve always considered when I cast my vote. The Australians who don’t care what happens to the men on Manus and the families on Nauru. The Australians who enable, either actively or passively, this government’s experimentation on human beings who did nothing more than ask us to help them. That’s all they did. They asked us to help them.

To all the Australians who don’t care, I no longer care about you. I don’t care who governs you. It won’t bother me. It won’t affect my lifestyle. I’m not voting in your best interests anymore. I’m not voting at all.

There are 600 men on Manus Island who are, as I write this, being denied food, water, medication and medical care by your government. They are walking around leaking pus from wounds on their feet and legs. They are vomiting and shitting because the only water they have to drink is from wells they’ve dug, and it’s bad water. Your government destroyed their rainwater supply, and their means to gather rainwater. Your government has forbidden the Lorengau pharmacy to supply them with water purification tablets, and medicine. Your government is refusing to allow doctors from the AMA into the detention centre compound to treat their illnesses. They are perhaps only days away from outbreaks of dysentery and or cholera. They have no toilets. They have no power.

Remember, they have committed no crime. They simply asked us for sanctuary. They simply asked us for help.

And remember that while at the moment only the LNP can take any action to relieve their suffering, it has been inflicted on them by both major parties.

Are you proud to be Australian? I’m not.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Are you a Real Australian? Not if you’re a woman.

As I read this piece by Sean Kelly at The Monthly yesterday, titled Real Australians: The way we talk about our country needs to change, I became aware of an overwhelming, visceral sadness, a feeling not usually aroused in me by meditations on national identity.

It took a few moments to analyse what this feeling was about. And then I got it. There is no place in the current concept of the “Real Australian” for women. There is no place for me. For my mother. My sisters. My granddaughter, my daughter-in-law, the women I work with, eat lunch with, dance with, exercise with, chat with on social media.

In other words, there is no place in my country’s definition of its identity for me, or for any human with female genitals. Real Australians are men. Real Australian men may squabble amongst themselves about which of them actually are Real Australians, however, they aren’t squabbling amongst themselves about including women in the national identity.

Kelly’s piece examines the racially abusive verbal attack on Senator Sam Dastyari in a pub a couple of evenings ago. Dastyari described his feelings about the attack thus:

“It makes me feel small, makes me feel horrible, it makes you feel kind of terrible and that’s what they are designed to do.”

Dastyari is right: this is exactly what racially abusive attacks are designed to do to the recipient. Without in any way wishing to diminish the abhorrence of Dastyari’s experience, I would like to borrow his words to describe how I feel about being excluded from my country’s national identity. It makes me feel small, makes me feel horrible, it makes me feel kind of terrible, and that’s what it’s designed to do.

I say “that’s what it’s designed to do” because it’s no accident that women are not included in the fantasy of the Real Australian. It cannot possibly have escaped the notice of intelligent, thinking men that the concept is entirely masculine, and yet I have never heard any man point out its exclusionary nature in public discussion. Why not?

Denying us a seat at the national identity table is not entirely unconnected with the apparently entrenched male habit of murdering one of us every week. A stretch! And an offensive one at that! you might protest. However, if you have even limited knowledge of the processes of dehumanisation, you will be aware that refusal to acknowledge other humans as being of equal consequence as yourself, is the first step on the morally abject journey that can end in you killing them.

Women are appallingly abused in Australia, and nobody much cares to discuss it, and it is not a stretch to suggest that the exclusion of women from national identity is a significant contributor to a national perception that our lives aren’t as important, therefore the murderous harms done to us, usually in our homes, are likewise, not that important.

As you might have noticed, my overwhelming visceral sadness has overnight morphed into fury. What are women to Australia, that in 2017 we continue to be excluded from conversations about national identity, and what are men in Australia, that you continue to conduct such conversations as if the Real Australian is unquestionably male, and that is a universal truth?

I’m not usually interested in concepts of national identity, being more inclined to cosmopolitanism. However, in this instance, it’s like excluding family members from membership in the family.

It starts at the top. The people you exclude from the definition of your country’s identity are the people you dehumanise, by the very fact of your exclusion. It’s easier to discount us, abuse us and murder us, if we aren’t Real Australians.

Oh, I’m sorry. That escaped your attention?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Turnbull must urgently clarify whether or not he is entitled to Israeli citizenship

The S44 citizenship saga has thrown up possible queries concerning the citizenship status of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The first is this interview with the Times of Israel in September 2015, recorded when Turnbull ousted former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and took over the top job:

My mother always used to say that her mother’s family was Jewish, he (Turnbull) told the Australian Jewish News two years ago. Judaism is passed from generation to generation on the mother’s side, so if his mother was in fact Jewish, so is Turnbull.

The second is a piece from the Australian Jewish News, August 2013, headlined “Menachem Mandel Turnbull?” in which the same statement is made by Turnbull about his mother, Coral Lansbury.

If Turnbull is Jewish, he is, as is every Jew in the world with the exception of criminals and terrorists, entitled to Israeli citizenship under the 1950 Law of Return.

How does this bring into question Turnbull’s legitimacy as an MP?

Section 44(i) of Australia’s Constitution disqualifies someone from office if that person:

…is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power… (emphasis mine)

We know from recent events that:

The High Court’s reading of section 44 is strict and unsurprising. It means that a dual national is barred from Parliament even where they were born in Australia, are ignorant of their other citizenship and have never attempted to use the rights or privileges of another country. A person can even be disqualified where they become a dual national later in life due to legal changes in another country.

Obviously his citizenship status and S44 were far from Turnbull’s mind in 2013 and 2015, when the interviews were recorded. Yet  he was, at the beginning of his political career, like any other aspiring MP whose background carries the possibility of dual citizenship or entitlement to that citizenship, required to establish his status before standing for parliament. His failure to do this places his legitimacy as an MP and Prime Minister in doubt.

For the sake of the country’s stability, Turnbull must immediately address these issues, and rapidly and transparently convey his citizenship status to the Australian people. It is unthinkable that we should continue with a Prime Minister who is ineligible to sit in our parliament.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg is in the same situation as Turnbull. Frydenberg’s mother is Jewish, and he is also entitled to Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

In which the gas chambers are invoked to distract from dual citizenship. Yes. Really.

I planned on beginning this piece with: “The latest MP to fall foul of S44 in the current citizenship saga is Minister for Energy, Josh Frydenberg.”

However, two hours ago I heard that Alex Hawke has now come under scrutiny. Life comes at you fast when you’re a citizen blogger trying to keep up.

The possibility of Frydenberg holding dual citizenship was raised by The Australian, who must have it in for him for reasons I won’t attempt to deconstruct at the moment, except to say he’s a mate of Malcolm’s and Murdoch apparently is not.

Frydenberg responded with strong denials, producing an archival document in which his grandfather states that Josh’s mother, Erika, born in the Budapest ghetto and then aged about seven, was stateless when the family arrived in Australia from Hungary.

There are two more archived documents, one of which was written by Australian authorities when the family arrived at the port of Fremantle in 1950. This states the family is Hungarian, and that they travelled from Hungary on a valid passport. These documents can be seen in the first link at the top of this page.

The final document was issued by US authorities when the family was in transit. It describes Erika as a Hungarian transient, apparently the designation given to Jews by the Hungarian government at that time, and is on the left below.

 

It seems there are many questions surrounding these documents, given the period in which they were issued. However, for the purposes of establishing citizenship, Frydenberg must, like the other MPs, be referred to the High Court, with all the paperwork available to him.

What is remarkable in this case, however, is that Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have sought to make Frydenberg’s citizenship status all about the Holocaust.

If you haven’t seen Turnbull’s morally degenerate, calculatedly over-dramatised efforts to deflect these citizenship concerns by invoking the gas chambers, please do watch this video. It is a lesson in spin, the like of which you are unlikely to see again anytime soon.

Frydenberg threw his mother, and his family under a bus in an abject and shameful attempt to save his job. There was absolutely no need to drag them through this revisitation of highly traumatic events. He simply had to take himself to the High Court like everyone else, and make his case.

Instead, he and Turnbull have run the line that it is highly offensive, and anti semitic, to even question Frydenberg’s eligibility for parliament, because his Jewish family fled Hungary and the threat of death in the gas chambers, and have suffered enough.

It’s astounding that Frydenberg and Turnbull should attempt to manipulate such overwhelming tragedy for profane political purposes. But they have. Why, one could well ask Frydenberg, did you bring your family into this at all, particularly your mother, when all you had to do was present yourself to the Court with your documents?

The other hideous irony to emerge from Turnbull’s video is that many of the points he makes about the treatment of Jews by the Nazis are absolutely applicable to the treatment he is himself inflicting upon refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. As he attempts to destroy the 600 Manus men by denying them food, water, medicine, and the protection Australia owes them, and as he refuses to allow even 150 of them to be resettled in New Zealand, for no reason other than they might actually make a life there, the Chairman of the New Zealand Holocaust Centre drew these parallels:

We keep wondering how much worse Turnbull and the LNP government can get. And every time we wonder, they descend even deeper into a pit of moral and ethical slime.

But surely, you might well protest, using the gas chambers in an effort keep your job and hold onto government is going to take some beating.

But wait. There’s more. Genocide on Manus Island. There’s still that.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Media women name and shame sexual predators … unless they are politicians

Further allegations have been made against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, including multiple sexual harassment and molestation claims dating back to 2012.

One of the allegations concerns a 17 year-old girl.

On ABC TV’s The Drum yesterday evening, a segment was devoted to the latest alleged high-profile offender, banished by Conde Naste from practising his profession as a fashion photographer after allegations of serial sexual harassment and assault of his model subjects. Katherine Murphy was one of the panelists, and the host was Julia Baird.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to watch Australian political journalists comment on sexual harassment by powerful men in every workplace other than the Australian parliament. The elephant loomed large in the studio as Baird and Murphy discussed a topic over which journalists have thrown a cone of silence when it concerns Australian politicians.

It’s increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that Australian journalists are complicit in, and enable, sexual harassment and worse in the parliamentary workplace.

The situation for alleged victims of Australian politicians’ sexual impropriety is a dire one. At the best of times women (and victims are predominantly women) struggle to be heard and believed when we complain about sexual harassment and assault. It’s been obvious for some time now that the media play a significant role in bringing harassers to everyone’s attention, giving victims a voice, and making it difficult or impossible for perpetrators to continue their behaviour.

Yet none of this support is available to women harassed in the parliamentary workplace, because the media will not investigate, and will not report on sexual crimes and misdemeanours occurring there.

How ironic that there is currently a name and shame campaign under way, led by high-profile journalist Tracey Spicer, against men who harass women employed in the Australian media, while at the same time, media women protect politicians from scrutiny. This selective approach to outing sexual harassers in the workplace damages the credibility of every woman involved in the campaign, particularly those who comment on politics.

This post by J.R. Hennessy on the Press Gallery convention that protects politicians from scrutiny of their “private lives” is excellent, and well worth a read.

I continue to ask the questions: why are politicians given the freedom by journalists to sexually harass and abuse women, a freedom that exists in no other Australian workplace? Why don’t the Press Gallery care about women in the parliamentary workplace?

The idea of protecting perpetrators because they are “entitled to privacy” has kept women and children in violent and abusive situations for centuries. That it continues to hold sway at the heart of our democracy is absolutely shameful, and every political commentator should be absolutely ashamed if they support this long out-dated convention.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Politicians, sex, and the Press Gallery

 

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, the Daily Telegraph decided on Saturday to publish a piece inferring that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce engaged in an extra marital affair with a staffer that has caused upheaval and discontent in his workplace, and his home.

My colleague Noely Neate offers some interesting speculations on the Tele’s piece here. 

What caught my attention was the reaction on Twitter from a few journalists, among them Katharine Murphy of the Guardian, who tweeted:

I’ve written on this convention here, but there’s more to be said about it.

The problem with Murphy’s convention is that it makes any scrutiny of the parliamentary workplace well-nigh impossible. If journalists are not willing to do the necessary investigations, and politicians know they are safe from scrutiny no matter what their sexual activities unless a victim complains to police, they are at liberty to conduct affairs with employees in circumstances that are far from equal. A politician is a powerful individual, some more so than others. Staffers not so much.

In Barnaby’s case he is the Deputy Prime Minister. The power differential between himself and his staffers is considerable. Consensual sex requires a modicum of power on both parts, and it’s arguable whether or not the staffer of a DPM, in a workplace such as Parliament House, has that modicum of power.

I’m not aware of any workplace in Australia other than our Parliament that has an agreement with journalists that employees sexual lives are private, and will not be reported on.

While Murphy’s criminality rider is relatively straightforward, coercion and abuse are not. It is difficult to see how situations of coercion and abuse can ever see the light of day, given the agreement the Press Gallery apparently has with politicians to keep their sexual lives private.

Whether or not an individual is entitled to a private sexual life depends entirely on the nature of that life. If we look at examples such as Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville, Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, to name but a handful of men whose sexual lives consisted in large part of exploitation  and sexual assault, then no, those sexual lives are certainly not entitled to privacy. Indeed, according them privacy enables their abusive and criminal behaviour. Without journalists denying them that privacy, we’d be unaware of their predations.

I’m not, of course, suggesting there’s a large number of politicians indulging in predatory sexual behaviours, but given the Press Gallery’s refusal to go there, how do we know? It would be naive in the extreme to believe their workplace is the only one on the planet in which sexual predation does not occur.

We know how difficult it is for victims of sexual predators to speak out. How much more difficult must it be if you’re in a workplace where you know the culture is one of protection for perpetrators?

There are circumstances in which a politician’s sexual behaviour is absolutely of concern to the public, and those circumstances need not be criminal, coercive or abusive. Barnaby, for example, campaigns vehemently against marriage equality on the grounds that it will somehow destroy the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, while he’s allegedly destroying the sanctity of his own marriage vows. If we are being governed by the hypocritical, we have a right to know that.

Paula Matthewson deals with the implications of illicit sexual behaviours in the political world, and our need to know, here.

There are situations in which a politician’s sexual life is absolutely irrelevant, and privacy appropriate. The Press Gallery convention, however, makes no such distinctions, and journalists’ hands off attitude to politicians’ sexual behaviours ensures a cone of silence around their workplace that can only disadvantage less powerful employees, while allowing our elected representatives freedom from accountability journalists grant no other workplace.

Guardian columnist Jeff Sparrow posted this tweet:

While there’s no argument from me that our sex lives shouldn’t matter to politicians, there are occasions on which politicians’ sex lives should matter a great deal to us. Why, for example, is there no investigation into Barnaby’s alleged affair? Did he use public money to fund its enactment? Is it an isolated incident, or does he make a habit of betraying his family?

This is a government that has subjected LGBTQI people to a foul postal opinion poll that gives everyone the right to “vote” on their human rights, based entirely on sexuality. Barnaby Joyce wholeheartedly supports this disgusting intrusion into the sexual lives of others simply because they are not heterosexual. Why is there a journalistic convention that protects Joyce from scrutiny?

Let’s not forget as well that Minister Alan Tudge announced stringent and intrusive requirements for single parents to prove they do not have a sexual/intimate relationship, before they can receive benefits. This government increasingly encroaches upon our privacy and into our bedrooms: yet politicians’ privacy and bedrooms continue to be considered be sacrosanct.

Why?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Bernardi and Abbott: a shared pyschosis

And the week finished on a spectacularly self-mutilating note for the No side, with Cory Bernardi and Tony Abbott inadvertently exposing the dark spite at its crippled heart through a couple of straw-clutching stunts that only served to reveal the dire lack of substance in the anti-marriage equality tripe.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday provoked a media kerfuffle when he decided to report an alleged assault on him in Hobart not to police, as one might expect, but to Andrew Bolt and various other representatives of the gutter press. He had been head butted, he claimed, by a Yes supporter, in a totally unprovoked attack and this is all we can expect from Yes supporters who are disgracefully violent.

Eric Abetz, with whom Abbott later lunched, declared that if marriage equality becomes a thing we can expect that married same-sex couples will go round head butting whomever they want, because marriage equality gives legitimacy to head butting. Or something.

Eventually the Tasmanian police, alerted by media reports, contacted Abbott about the assault. They subsequently arrested  Hobart DJ and anarchist Astro Labe, who stated quite bluntly that his attack had absolutely nothing at all to do with same-sex marriage. Astro just hates Abbott and half-tanked, took an apparently god-given golden opportunity to “nut the c#nt.”

That the media unquestioningly ran with Abbott’s fantasy that he had been attacked by a marriage equality supporter because of his stand against same-sex marriage, is disturbing. As the story unfolded, it became clear Abbott had quickly confected the motives for the assault, and the media went right along with his confection. I am tempted to speculate that Abbott’s opportunistic lies explain his failure to report the assault to police, and hopefully will cause him some difficulties when the matter comes to court.

Senator Cory Bernardi took umbrage at the South Australian Craigburn Primary School’s “Do it in a Dress” day, an event they’ve held for the last six years in which boys are encouraged to wear school frocks as part of a fund-raiser for African girls who are in urgent need of education.

“This gender morphing is really getting absurd” thundered the chiselled-faced senator who apparently believes if you allow a boy child to wear a dress for six hours he will morph into a yucky girl and a rampant homosexual and destroy the values of western civilisation and all this ruination begins with marriage equality you are being warned!

The school expected to raise about $900 for the African girls. At last count they’d received some $120,000, as citizens outraged by Bernardi’s perverted attack on the generosity of little kids expressed their feelings via their credit cards. Bernardi has been left with an inordinate amount of egg on his Ken-like features, and his mean-spirited efforts to shame primary school boys because they don a frock has exposed the despicable lengths he is prepared to go to in his anti LGBTQI and marriage equality campaign.

These two men are, quite frankly, hideous in their zealotry and their willingness to exploit every situation in support of their cause. Both men have been exposed as extremists, who see the world through the lens of their bigotry and homophobia, always on the look out for circumstances they can turn to their advantage. These tactics have backfired for both of them this week.

The media is also apparently biased against the Yes side, with No campaigner Lyle Shelton receiving three times, that is three times more mentions than prominent Yes advocates.

You’ll be relieved to hear that Abbott received only a “very, very small swelling” on his lip. You might care to consider this alongside the murderous violence perpetrated against gays, for example, and the astounding lack of interest and concern shown by media and authorities in these atrocities.

Post Script: I have just with my own eyes seen a photo of Bernardi and his wife in their own home with a large painting of  Australia’s most famous gender morpher, Dame Edna Everage, on the wall. Nobody could make this shit up. Nobody. 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Turnbull’s postal opinion poll: a vicious, bullying farce.

 

It’s rather difficult to empathise with the marriage equality No crowd’s insistence that they are being “bullied” by the Yes side, given that the postal opinion poll on the issue is, in itself, one of the most outstanding examples of government and social bullying that we’ve seen in quite some time.

Subjecting groups to the judgement of their fellow citizens on the basis of their sexuality is bullying, of the most insidious and damaging kind.

Sexuality is an integral part of who we are. It ought not to be the business of anyone other than ourselves, and those we choose to share it with.

And yet here we are, bullied into participating in a bullying opinion poll on our bullied fellow citizens.

(Well done, Prime Minister Turnbull. We all know you chose this persecutory path this because you’re scared dickless of your right-wing. We also know that bullies are always cowards.)

The opinion poll is a survey (and I use the word loosely, given it wouldn’t pass muster as an actual survey anywhere except perhaps North Korea) of what some Australians think of the sexuality of other Australians. It is inherently privileged: gay people do not and never will have the right to participate in a government-initiated opinion poll on the sexuality of straight people and their right to marry. (The very fact this comment sounds ludicrous is solid evidence of entitlement and privilege). It is a survey with a non binding outcome if the answer is yes, and a binding outcome if the answer is no.

I understand that the national result of the opinion poll will be broken down on a federal electoral basis, thereby enabling politicians to claim they will vote in parliament according to their constituents’ wishes and not their own. Yet again they’ve worked out a way of getting themselves off the hook. Eluding responsibility is the one skill this government seems to possess in abundance.

Although the postal poll is to say the least haphazard (piles of envelopes left in the rain at apartment blocks; sent to people who’ve left the address ten years before; stolen forms auctioned online and so on) the results will be a permanent record of opinion in each federal electorate without any safeguards in place to ensure everyone in that electorate had the opportunity to comment. It really is an absolute farce, confected by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and embraced by Turnbull as a way to save his sorry arse from a right-wing kicking. If this isn’t bullying, I don’t know what is.

The No crowd, on the other hand, seem incapable of distinguishing between disagreement, and bullying or silencing. It’s a conservative trait to believe anyone with an opinion that differs from yours is your enemy. According to the right-wing, if you aren’t agreed with you are “silenced.” To this end, the No crowd continues to appear on every available media platform on a daily basis, protesting their “silencing.” Not one of them can see the irony in this.

Here, yet again, we see entitlement and privilege in action. The No crowd is working from the premise that they must be agreed with, simply because of who they are and what they believe. It’s become perhaps an over-used concept since the advent of Donald Trump, however, the notion that anyone who doesn’t believe what you believe is wrong and wickedly trying to silence you is teetering towards narcissistic. It’s also bullying.

So far throughout this debacle, the right has shown itself to be relentlessly seeking victimhood. However, for mine, Shelton’s appearance at the National Press Club last week conclusively undermined his accusations of silencing, both for him personally, and for his followers.

Let’s face it: we should be so lucky…

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

Let him eat cake: Abbott and marriage equality.

In the first paragraph of his opinion piece in The Age today, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott encapsulates the condescension and toleration typical of many on the No side of the marriage equality debate thus:

“Like most, I have tried to be there for friends and family who are gay. They are good people who deserve our love, respect and inclusion but that doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to reserve the term “marriage” for the relationship of one man with one woman, ideally for life and usually dedicated to children.”

(Note: in almost every statement you can think of, whatever comes after a “but” negates wholly or in part what precedes it).

“They” are good people who deserve inclusion, however “they” do not deserve that ultimate straight privilege: marriage. And why don’t “they” deserve it? Because they are not heterosexual.

It ought to be obvious to even the dullest of minds that if your sole reason for denying another human the rights you unquestioningly hold yourself is their homosexuality, then you are practising homophobia.

Neither can you give the right to one group of citizens to determine the humanity of another and call for respectful debate at the same time. The premise of the debate is inherently disrespectful and harmful.

At this point, I could rest my case that the postal opinion poll is, in itself, homophobic, and as such anyone involved in it ought to be fined for vilification by participation, including me as I’m answering Yes. I remain enraged at Prime Minister Turnbull for his lazy and cowardly outsourcing of this matter to the public, thus forcing me, because I’m not prepared to chuck my survey in the bin, into engagement with a process I consider discriminatory and cruel. I couldn’t live with myself if I did anything to enable a No victory. The sucky little bastard has me wedged.

In Britain, Abbott bemoans, Catholic orphanages have been forced to close down as a direct consequence of marriage equality. This would seem to me to be a win-win, given the well-documented atrocities visited upon children in Catholic institutions but Abbott apparently considers it a reason to tick No. In the US, he continues, a baker (a baker, in the whole of the US, in the entire western world in fact, a bakerhas been prosecuted for refusing to put a slogan on a wedding cake. This, my friends, is all the drunken little toe rag has to prosecute his argument that marriage equality will destroy the principles on which our society is, in his perception, based. Bring on that long-overdue destruction, is my feeling on the matter.

This debate is about power. It’s about who controls the damn narrative. It’s about changing a society in which some people are considered less human than others solely because of their sexuality. It’s about ending exclusion. It’s about challenging the absolutely unacceptable hold religion has on our secular country. It’s about allowing the expression of human love beyond the narrow confines of the heteronormative.

By all means, let us discuss the institution of marriage, its pros and cons, its dominance in our culture. Its inherently exclusionary nature, the many ways in which it disadvantages women, all of its many problematics. However, these are separate issues from denying the privileges of marriage to anyone, solely on the basis of their sexuality.

If marriage equality does, as Abbott insists it will, fundamentally change our society, this can only be a good thing. Change will mean an equalising and an opening up, rather than the fearful and repressive hunkering down advocated by the No side, simply because they cannot deal with any kind of difference.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Tolerate my intolerance or I will destroy you

It takes some arrogance to declare that your support for others is contingent upon their actions and speech being acceptable to you. In other words, they earn your support by dancing to your tune, not because you have any real interest in their cause. Your primary concern is that your own sense of decorum may endure temporary violation, and you will not tolerate that, no matter whose human rights are at stake.

“Do it my way or else” is hardly a respectful way in which to approach debate and disagreement.

(I’ve long been of the belief that arrogance is a psychological defence mechanism employed to conceal from self and others terrifying feelings of  insecurity, uncertainty, and lack of self-worth. It’s a thin veneer.)

Such arrogance has been expressed by several right-wing commentators and was yesterday reiterated by one Tom Switzer, currently employed by the ABC as a “radio host.” Fairfax recently published this piece by Switzer on marriage equality and intolerance. To paraphrase: I would vote Yes in the marriage equality postal survey, declared Switzer, but the same-sex advocates are being so objectionable I’m rethinking that and may vote No.

I like to think of this attitude as a desperate (and despairing) effort to retain control by those who feel they are perilously close to losing their hold on the status quo. The “If you are not nice to me I will not support your cause” position is narcissistic, in the sense that offending these people is experienced by them as a narcissistic wound, a threat to their very being. It reveals the fragile, threatened ego that needs everyone to be nice to it all of the time, otherwise it will blow you up, metaphorically speaking in this instance though the threats of annihilation are more substantial at the more powerful end of the narcissism spectrum where we find Trump and Kim Jon Un. Switzer of course is not in their league: his narcissism is of the petit bourgeoisie class for whom bad manners, language and graffiti are offences that far outrank just about any denial of human rights.

The ultimate exercise of control: do it my way and don’t offend me, or I will use my power to affect your life against you.

Many of us can likely find a parallel in childhood, when our parents told us we wouldn’t have what we wanted unless we were good.  Switzer, et al, are applying the same authoritarian discourse to adults seeking equality with other adults. They are demanding their own intolerance, either of marriage equality or the manner in which the fight for it is fought, be placed front and centre in a discussion on equality. In so doing they destroy any possibility of equality and respect in the debate, let alone in its outcome.

This is a tactic used by the privileged against many minority groups. The ruling class sets behavioural norms, and gives itself permission to break them while severely punishing and shaming those who are not of their tribe. Tony Abbott’s taxpayer-funded drunkenness comes to mind as an example, as he advocates for the humiliation of indigenous people with the imposition of a cashless welfare card to prevent their purchase of alcohol.

The intolerant, such as Switzer, are not interested in respectful debate and just outcomes. They are concerned with their own feelings of offence, and consider themselves to be so important that a vote on the lives of others hinges entirely on whether or not they suffer affront.

Respectful? I don’t think so. Tolerant? Nah. Silenced? Give me a break.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

The fluidity of tradition

 

Tradition is a word we’ve heard a lot these last few weeks, as the anti marriage equality crowd cast about, in increasing desperation, for valid arguments to make against the Yes vote.

I’m being generous here, in describing the No contingent as engaged in a search for valid arguments: there are no such arguments and the Nays are resorting to all manner of nebulous scare tactics, including, but not limited to, the threat same-sex marriage allegedly poses to “traditional” marriage.

Here is federal Liberal MP Andrew Hastie with his understanding of traditional marriage:

I could spend the rest of the day deconstructing Hastie’s evangelical Christian opinion of marriage as solely for procreation, but readers here are more than capable of doing that for themselves. Suffice to say the man has publicly revealed his sexual repression, commiserations to his female partner and back to tradition.

There is a sense in which people who call on tradition as a justification for perpetuating contested attitudes and actions hold the belief that tradition, in and of itself, entirely validates the status quo. Tradition is to them a numinous concept, and as such, unchallengeable.

A moment’s reflection ought to alert them to the perils of such an assumption: think of the many traditions our society no longer tolerates and one is immediately aware of the fluid nature of tradition, why it’s almost as fluid as gender, hey Mr Shelton? 

There are many examples of traditional values that have revealed themselves, in a society struggling to evolve, to be bigoted, exclusionary and privileged, not to mention racist, sexist and genocidal. Traditional is not a synonym for good, or compassionate, or decent. It merely means that a certain set of behaviours has been naturalised or normalised at the expense of another set of behaviours. The determination is inevitably made by those who have the most power, and the most to gain by investing their favoured behaviours with the allegedly eternal quality of tradition. He (and sadly it usually is he) who controls the narrative controls what is to be considered traditional.

I’m going to venture out on a limb here and suggest that tradition, in and of itself, is bollocks. There’s absolutely nothing numinous or eternal or universal about it. It’s nothing more than reified repetition. There’s nothing wrong with doing the same thing generation after generation provided it isn’t damaging people, but please, let’s not pretend it carries a mysterious power of incontestable rightness, simply because it’s always been done that way.

So there you go, No vote. That’s fixed tradition for you as an argument. Next?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

From the heartland of privilege: the week in politics

Statues of Lachlan Macquarie and Captain James Cook were graffitied by protesters last week, in an action the most cowardly prime minister in Australian history described as “cowardly.” Angry criticism erupted from the most unexpected of quarters, confirming that the privileged mind governs both the left and the right when it comes to challenging the myths of white heroes.

Apparently vandalism is fine, indeed it isn’t even vandalism if the political class approves of your choice of subjects such as say, Saddam Hussein and Hitler, but stay away from white icons even if they are terrorists.

For mine, spraying some symbols of genocide and ongoing oppression with paint counts as nothing in comparison with the murderous acts perpetrated against your people, but the middle-class commentariat were outraged by the lack of niceness evidenced, niceness being one of that demographic’s primary instruments of control through the exercise of the power of shame.

Their reaction seems a tad hysterical, after all they can white wash their statues just as they’ve attempted to white wash the history behind them. For example, this statement from Macquarie is never seen on or around statues raised in his honour:

How about putting that on a plaque then?

And on the matter of being nice to the commentariat if you want their support, we have this from Caroline Overington on the problem of marriage equality advocates acting mean towards those who would have voted yes if marriage equality advocates hadn’t been mean to them and made them vote no. Because marriage equality is all about how people such as Caroline Overington feel, innit, and if you don’t get that you cannot expect her support.

Here we have a further example of the dominant privileged mindset. The privileged can dictate the terms of your protest, and if you are not nice in how you go about it, they won’t help you. Indeed, they will forget all about your cause, and shame you for your bad manners. It’s not what you say that counts for these people.  It’s all in the way that you say it.

As you read this post, one hundred asylum seekers are being effectively thrown out into the streets as the Turnbull government’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton implements a new “final departure Bridging E Visa” designed to force those in Australia for medical treatment to back Manus Island and Nauru, or back to the countries from which they fled.

Families, including children born here, are not yet included, though it appears to be only a matter of time before they too will have their income support withdrawn, and be given three weeks to leave government-supported accommodation.

The ALP has protested loudly against this fresh torment of asylum seekers, however, opposition leader Bill Shorten continues to insist that none will be settled here, and he spitefully ignores New Zealand offers to take a quota for resettlement. Shorten refers to un-named “third countries” as a solution (as long as they aren’t New Zealand) and to the doomed plan to resettle refugees in Trump’s America.

It is blindingly obvious that the US project is going nowhere, since we learned that Prime Minister Turnbull promised President Trump he didn’t have to take anyone, he just had to act as if he might. So why does Shorten continue to behave as if the option has any validity?

The PNG government has in the last couple of days informed the Turnbull government that it will not permit the closure of Manus Island detention centre at the end of October, and Dutton’s planned abandonment of refugees housed there to the island community.

The reality is, there is nowhere for the asylum seekers to go, and both parties carry equal responsibility for this disgusting state of affairs. They should be brought here, allowed to stay here, and New Zealand’s generous offer should be accepted.

In the three examples I’ve selected out of the many possibilities on offer this last week, there are common motifs. They are of lies, misinformation, suppression, oppression, persecution, and the revolting self-regard of white privilege.

Yes, this is Australia, no matter how often somebody attempts to claim that we are “better than this.” Clearly, we are not.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

On religious freedom

Yes, I know, this might at first blush seem an odd choice of topic given our current circumstances but really, what can one usefully say about the political shenanigans that currently overwhelm any possibility of good governance?

One can only cling to the words of the late George Harrison: all things must pass, all things must pass away, and hope to dog they don’t take too damn long in their passing.

The erudite and decent Father Frank Brennan published this piece in the Guardian yesterday on the necessity to protect religious freedom as well as to support marriage equality. As far as I can tell from the piece, Brennan is arguing that while he hopes for the prevailing influence of good will all round, there must be room made for the religious to discriminate against same sex couples. He does not quite frame his argument in those terms, of course, however it seems to me that in this instance religious freedom equals the unchallengeable right to discriminate, on the sole grounds that the sexuality of some humans offends your religious sensibility.

If the religious are to be granted a legal right to discriminate against same-sex couples, they better provide some sound evidence of the need for that discrimination. Otherwise, discrimination on the basis of sexuality becomes normalised as “religious freedom” with no justification other than “it’s against my religion.”  I’m going to stick out my neck and declare that this isn’t good enough.

Why should your religious belief trump another’s human rights? On what basis does your religion condemn same-sex couples as humans you are entitled to discriminate against and therefore inevitably less fully human than you, be it in baking them a wedding cake or employing them in your schools?

And why should the secular state support you in your deliberate creation of a lesser class of beings?

It isn’t religious freedom to discriminate against others who don’t fit your vision of how humans ought to live. It’s religious exceptionalism. The language of religious freedom serves to obfuscate the reality: it is unjustified and unjustifiable dehumanisation of those whom it excludes.

Freedom of religion ought to mean, and in my opinion does mean, the freedom to practice your religious beliefs without oppression and persecution. It does not mean you are granted freedom to oppress and persecute those whose ways of being do not accord with your beliefs, and discriminatory behaviour towards such people is inarguably oppressing and persecuting them.

If your religious beliefs demand that you must, through discrimination, oppress and persecute a particular group of your fellow humans, perhaps you need to seriously consider the worth of that religion.

Religious freedom in this instance sounds an awful lot like justification for homophobia. And as long as the religious can’t offer sound reasons for needing this discrimination based on sexuality, it will continue to sound and look like homophobia. If it quacks like a duck …

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Voting Yes

Friends of this blog know I’m not particularly enamoured of marriage as we know it. It’s an institution, as one wit noted, and who wants to live in an institution? Flippancy aside, my main objection to marriage is the entirely unwarranted privilege it is accorded in our society, a discriminatory privilege currently available only to heterosexuals.

Some of the most heinous behaviour of which the human species is capable is acted out in heterosexual marriage. Treachery and betrayal. Domestic violence. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children. Murder. The dark side of marriage ought to cause us to question its privileged position, but as a herd, we have a capacity for cognitive dissonance that is nothing short of astounding.

So voting Yes in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s disgraceful $122 million postal survey on marriage equality is a complicated decision, given that I think marriage as we know it is a bit of a nonsense in the first place. However, the reality I must accept is that marriage is an institution, and as such must be available to anyone who wishes to live in it. Excluding people on the basis of their sexuality is appallingly discriminatory, and makes second class citizens of anyone who isn’t heterosexual.

Add to this the allegedly illegitimate nature of Turnbull’s postal survey, about to be argued out in the High Court, and it becomes tempting to boycott the whole despicable process, rather than validate the PM’s sordid machinations with my participation.

However. You can be absolutely certain the No vote is, as we speak, marshalling all its forces to fight what the Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton describes as “the fight of our lives” against marriage equality. Lyle, you might recall, some months ago issued a paranoid tweet to the effect that nobody will know he’s straight if gays are allowed to marry. Unfortunately most of his public commentary on marriage equality is far darker than that idiocy, and you can be absolutely certain he and his supporters will be cranking up their homophobic rhetoric over the next few weeks. If we don’t vote Yes we risk a No victory, and I do not want to think about the myriad ways in which that will licence Shelton and his ilk, possibly for years.

The No contingent will not care that a reduced Yes vote comes about as a consequence of principled boycott. They will rejoice in their victory. Nothing good can come of this, so please vote Yes.

Turnbull has wedged the electorate. He has presented us with a singularly depraved process, one he admits will go nowhere as a Yes vote is non-binding. He has co-opted us into his internal strife. He has made the Liberal party’s turmoil ours. He has forced us either to join him in his corrupt process, or risk an ongoing abuse of and discrimination against LGBTQI people that will be validated by a No vote. For this he should never, ever be forgiven.

We all know the right-wing of his party stands ready to nail his testicles to the despatch box. In another desperate attempt to avoid this fate, Turnbull has outsourced his responsibilities to the electorate.

I loathe the situation in which the PM has placed us. I loathe that he has made us a part of his cowardice and depravity. I would like nothing more than to boycott his stinking survey. But I believe the only way of fighting back is to vote Yes to marriage equality, an overwhelming, resounding Yes. If nothing else, this will place Turnbull in an absolutely untenable position if he then refuses to accept this Yes, and will forever make a mockery of his claims to listen to the will of the people.

A Yes vote is a demand that everyone in this country be accorded equal access to what is recognised as a human right to marriage and family. It is a demand for an end to the perception of LGBTQI people as somehow inferior to heterosexuals. It is a demand for an end to heterosexual privilege and power.

Turnbull has co-opted us into his vile process. Turn it back on him. Don’t play into his hands with a boycott. Vote Yes.

Oh, and you can also will the High Court to chuck the postal survey as an option out on its carbuncled arse.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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