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Listening to Loz Lawrey – #1 of the Friends Conversing on a Verandah Series

(Setting the scene – recently two friends, Loz Lawrey and Keith Davis, sat on Keith’s verandah and recorded their conversation. They wanted to capture the ‘now’ of their interaction. That conversation, by agreement, ended up morphing into two separate and delightfully different audio interviews. Nothing was pre-planned and both friends had quite different styles of self-expression. The questions and responses were totally free-form and in the moment. Here is the transcript of Loz’s interview with Keith asking the questions and Loz responding to them … Keith’s interview will follow on Thursday.)

Loz, why music in your life, why not woodwork?

Actually Keith I do both. Look, I grew up with music. My family had a big record collection and I just have fond memories of lying on the living room floor. I received messages of all sorts from folk musicians like Peter Paul and Mary, and my parents were folk music fans at the time and they sort of passed that love on to me, and so it was listening to all those tunes and realising that music can tell stories and make you feel things, and I guess that’s where it all started.

Yes, well the other night over dinner you sang a song about India, which certainly brought up feelings/memories in my friend who had joined us for the meal (and who had travelled there). Even though I didn’t travel on that part of the hippie trail in the old days, I never got to India, your song did give me a feeling, a sense of what it was all about. Is that what you try to impart with your music, to evoke feeling in other people?

I heard my music can do that and have that impact. I don’t actually set out to do it. You write a song.You’re telling a story. Something’s triggered you to do it. Yes in my case, that song India was just remembering a road trip I’d done when I was 21 years old. I was living in London as a student and it was time to head back to Australia. And I decided I wanted to do some travelling on the way. And there was a well-known, what they called the hippie trail, a well-known route from England through the Middle East to India, that many hippies and vagabonds used to follow at the time. And I heard a lot about it while I was living in London and became more and more interested in following that route.

And at the same time I was trying to find my own place in the world and I was in a sense on a spiritual search. I’d already figured out Christianity somewhat, And I’d had an interest in other religions. I’d actually read up a bit about Buddhism and I was interested in what religions had to offer, in terms of revelations about human existence and our place on the planet and our place in the universe in a sense. And I read a book called Be Here Now, and I think I’ve told you about that, written by an American who went to India and really had his mind blown by the change in culture and the focus on spirituality that you find in countries like India, particularly in India, where it’s a greater part. It’s a much less materialistic place than the western world I’d grown up in, you know, Australia, England.

And what’s interesting, you said your family was a diplomatic family.

Yeah, that’s right.

So you’re exposed from an early age to travel, different cultures, different ways of thinking?

That’s right. That’s right in a way. We lived in Washington for three years when I was very young, when I was a baby, and we would periodically come back to Australia, but my father was posted to other countries, after Washington it was Indonesia, he was working in the embassy in Jakarta for a couple of years, and then we went back to Australia again, and then after that France for four years, and in every posting he sort of rose through the ranks in a sense. And once we’d been back from France, I had just done my first year of high school by then.

So we came back for a year to Canberra, and I went to a public school there, and then he was posted again, he got his first ambassadorial post posting to Cairo. And that’s the point where I was put into boarding school, because the advice at the time was that you don’t take your kids, you put them in boarding school. So I spent the next four years in a boarding school in Canberra.

And … Was it a secular or…?

No, well it was a Church of England boarding school, it was … what we’d now call an Anglican boarding school, and the religion was definitely part of it, I mean we had chapel every morning and evening, quite a brief session, and we had to endure an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, every Sunday, every day of chapel, and hymn singing, and services, and listening to endless sermons and so forth. But it was just, you know, to the kids, it was just part of the wallpaper in a sense, it was just how things were done, and it wasn’t, you know… I mean I was slightly intrigued by it all, but never felt part of it.

In fact my parents were non-religious, and I actually had to go and get baptised to actually… to be accepted in the school, and I’ve never forgotten this afternoon, going to this chapel with my mother and her standing there rolling her eyes, well… well this chap threw water on me and mumbled the various things, and then declared me baptised at the end of the process, you know.

You do strike me as a secular man, perhaps a spiritual man, but not a
religious man.

I’ve always seen religion as something ultimately evil, if I dare say that, because of the way young people are brainwashed by their parents to accept a certain world view, you know, involving worshipping a deity and judging others. It’s that judgemental side of religion I really hate, we’re called non-believers, or considered lesser, or other. And I do consider myself a spiritual person because I spend a lot of my life trying to understand my own essence.

And yet I am a secular person because I do not subscribe to any creed or faith, you know. I really believe we’re all on our own search and on our own journey, and we all come to our own conclusions, and hopefully we all develop a lifestyle that reflects our core perspective, if you like. And ultimately, I just think human beings have an amazing capacity and potential to, well, I mean, I don’t understand science but I am amazed at scientists and their ability to analyse the universe.

I’m not putting this very well, but in myself, I know I’ve always wanted completion, I was obsessed with it from a young age, from leaving school, partly because I felt a bit lost. I’ve always wanted to find some sort of completion, and then over the years, through reading about Buddhism and so on, I realised there’s a concept of self-realisation that’s out there. There’s a path one can pursue to actually realise and achieve that. And I guess in my own way, I’ve been trying to do that.

What that is, I mean, I have no real vision of, does the world explode in blinding light? I don’t know. Do I become some super being? I doubt it very much. But to me, self-realisation or self-actualisation is really coming to peace with oneself, coming to know oneself, to feel an acceptance of oneself, and to banish self-doubt. I remember when Mahatma once said, I would rather have a bullet than a doubt in my mind. Because really, it’s that doubt that destroys us, our self-doubt, and the doubt that others inflict on us, through their judgement and the feedback they give us, or the criticism they use, you know.

And I guess what I aspire to in the world is to be a good person, a person who doesn’t harm others, who treats others with respect, basically.

Which leads me into another question. To you, what is love? What is your concept of what love is?

Well, that’s a big question! I grew up listening to a lot of pop songs about love, that’s for sure. And that kind of love is really about the love between men and women, or basically these days, you’d say, between two human beings. And yet, in a way, I feel like, before anyone can love, we have to learn to love ourselves. We can be love. We can feel love. Others can treat us with love, and we can feel that, and feel the warmth and the embrace of that. But I feel at the same time, we have to not love ourselves in some egotistical way, but come to understand ourselves. It’s only then we can really truly love others, and feel the love for others.

I guess, in a sense, it’s something we’re always developing a sense of, it is something we’re always working on because we’re always trying to understand each other. I’m still not defining love here. It’s a hard thing to define. We all know what it is. I really feel like they say love makes the world go round. In a way, there is something called love that is the kernel. It’s something that lies at the heart of human life, at the heart of our humanity. We have a capacity to feel love for others, to demonstrate love by how we treat them. As the song says, love is a wonderful thing. As much as we have light and dark, cold and hot, we also have love, and we have hate.

Where do you think hate comes from? What is the deep world that hate comes from?

It’s a deep well of ignorance, I believe. A black pit.

And how does hate develop in your opinion? I’ll circle back to political hate later.

It really develops through fear. Hate is really the other side of the coin to fear. Fear of others, fear of the unknown, fear of difference, the type of fear behind classic racism, that hatred of people of other appearance or skin colour, hatred of other cultures. It’s all really founded in a lack of understanding.

We hear so often about people who have a fear of immigrants, and yet when the immigrants arrive and they get to know them, they realise they’re just like us. That’s why I’ve always felt that every school curriculum should have an overseas trip as part of it. Like kids should be sent overseas as part of their school education to experience other cultures that are different to if you live in a Western culture like Australia. A school trip to India, to the Middle East, to Indonesia, to Japan, to anywhere other than here. So the children can realise that it’s not all about us and our culture, that humans exist in many forms and have many varying societies around the globe.

And yet there’s a point where we are all the same, right at the essence of all of us. And that’s, I guess that’s what anyone in the spiritual search is seeking, you know, is that kernel, that inner truth.

That if we were all exposed to different cultures, different ways of being, that the level of judgement of the other would lessen?

It would lessen. Well that’s my personal belief, maybe wrong, but there’s a broadening
advantage to try. And I feel like the fact that my parents exposed me to all these different cultures, even in boarding school once a year I’d travelled to visit them at Christmas and I would land in Cairo and I would meet Arabic people and I would, I would get some understanding of their culture. I would see our servants fasting for Ramadan and I would learn what that was. And I would, you know, and my travels through the Middle East, that experience, it taught me a lot about the warmth of many of those cultures and the hospitality visitors receive, are greeted with. And I would come back to Australia and always feel a little bit sometimes like a stranger in a strange land.

You know, I did go back and live in London for a couple of years, but since that road trip from which I returned in 1974, I’ve really been in Australia since then, but I’ve never felt fully quite part of our culture here in one way, even though I speak with an Australian accent and so forth.

You almost beg this question. What time and place do you live in? What kind of world do you live in?

Well, I try to live in the present, totally in the present. I’m very bad at planning, looking ahead, you know. And really, I’ve really had an awareness ever since I read that book Be Here Now, which really, and the message of that book really was, life happens in this moment. In fact, I wrote a song about it on my last CD called Right Now, and it’s about how this is where life happens, right now, right here, and it’s never going to happen anywhere else. And John Lennon referred to this, that life’s what happens while you’re busy making other plans. We can think about the past, but it’s gone, It’s slipped through our fingers already. And the future’s an unrevealed secret that lies ahead. But we’re here in this moment where we both are sitting now, and we’re experiencing this moment, and this is where both our lives are happening, right now.

If you had to, which you don’t have to, but I’m asking you to, if you had to pick two people who have inspired you the most, who would they be?

That’s a really tough thing, because there are many people, and to say who’s inspired me the most, I would find it very hard to identify them.

Certainly, I did spend quite a few years following Prem Rawat, who used to be called Guru Maharaji, who taught me a lot about self-awareness and meditation and self-knowledge, and showed me techniques to meditate that have brought me much peace over the years, and helped me to accept life as it unfolds and accept myself and my role in it.

Do you think that we can actually inspire ourselves?

I guess so. That’s something I’ve never really thought about. I mean, inspiration can come from so many sources, I guess, from others, from experiences we have, from movies we see, you know, from songs we hear, from stories we’re told. From living we’ve done. I find that a tough one to answer, Keith. I’ve never really thought of how that I might have inspired myself.

Okay, I’ll circle back to the earlier question about hate, specifically political hate. Where does it come from?

You mean hating our political opponents?

Yes, to define it down a bit more, why in the current era do we have so many people who hate and cannot accept political difference?

Wow! Well, I think ignorance is a big part of it. I think inadequate education is a part of it. I think there are so many things that play into this. I think social media plays into it. I think as technology evolves and we rely more and more on it, there’s a diminishment of people’s ability to think critically. There’s an acceptance of shallow perceptions that are being shared and that we inflict on each other.

The lack of critical thinking, I think, is at the core of it. Because it’s really quite an amazing skill, and if one is able to do that, it’s a life-enhancing thing. But if you can’t think critically, you’re really living a more superficial life, where it gets harder to tell good from bad and see the true value of things. I think of what’s happening in America at the moment, and it seems that right at the core of the problems there, the lack of critical thinking and the possible potential of civil war, and the total tribal division between Republicans and Democrats, the way the country is split almost in two, and the inability of the two sides to even… You know, it’s becoming harder and harder for the both sides to even communicate.

Political hate is, as you say, it’s everywhere now, and there’s a resurgence in every country and it’s quite frightening, I find. There’s the rise of fascism that seems to be occurring globally, and the rise of these really narcissistic sociopathic autocrats who have no regard for either human life or the rule of law, or a sense of decency, the sense of decency that civil society requires as its foundation. Yeah, so political hate, political hate leads to war, does nothing to unite us, and yet, as someone who’s definitely on the left side, if we’re going to talk about polarised politics, I definitely am on the left, and there is always this great temptation to hate those on the right, mainly through a frustration that I simply struggle to understand their thinking. It’s as if there are two kinds in political terms, it’s as if there’s two kinds of human beings, and some are wired one way and some are wired another. And due to that there’s two different circuitries. it’s almost impossible to find common ground, because your world views are totally different, you know what I’m saying?

Yes. As you know Loz I’m known for quite happily going off on tangents. So … what is a question that you would like to ask of yourself?

That’s too hard. Yeah. Well, there is this one. The basic one is who am I and what am I meant to be doing in this lifetime, you know? If there was a creator, what would he or she want me to be doing? How would they want me to live? I mean, at the end of the day, I think our questions are answered by our own inner feelings. So, we resolve those questions within ourselves by a basic sense of right and wrong, I believe.

I mean, I have lingering regrets of having offended people at different times in my life, and now looking back at my age, I would dearly love to meet those people. I’ve tried to contact some through Facebook even, but simply cannot find some of them. They don’t seem to be on social media, but I’d love to meet up with them and apologise for the slight I inflicted on them at the time, you know? Because that has left a lingering sense of shame.

I remember in second-year high school, I got into a fight. One of the first kids who welcomed me to the school became a mate, and for some reason, one recess, and I put this down to teenage hormones, it’s a pretty weak excuse, I know, but we ended up in a fistfight, and I kind of punched him out. And as I drove off from school on my bicycle at the end of the day, someone shouted, good fight, mate! And all I felt was this cringing sense of shame, because I knew in myself that I had done it for bad reasons. I really had no…this guy had done nothing to deserve this. And it was a seminal experience for me, because it was a life-changing moment. These are the life-changing moments, I believe, when we make a terrible mistake and hopefully learn from it and change and modify our behaviour.

And there are moments when I’ve been rude to people, and wish I could take it back now. And yet I remember those things, because there aren’t that many of them, but they’re there. And yet at the same time, these are the things I believe that help us grow and mature. And I mean, I guess I see human life as a trajectory. We’re born into the planet, we come into this light, and then we’re subjected to everything. We can be lucky, we can be grow up in a family that’s loving and considerate, or we can be really unlucky and grow up in an abusive situation. And some of those situations can persist for years.

And I have to say, I’ve been lucky in my own way, and yet I’ve had my own struggles, such as being left in boarding school, which I didn’t find easy. But I feel at the end of the day, whatever we go through, we learn from, it informs our future behaviour. And hopefully, over time, we become better people and better able to treat others with decency and respect, you know? Which I think is really what lies at the core of the human condition and what it demands that we do.

People use the word humanity, meaning empathy, meaning decency, meaning respect for others, and a desire to include others. The word humanity has wonderful connotations. We speak of inhumanity as everything bad, everything evil. People describe Putin’s war on Ukraine as an inhumane venture, and clearly it is to anyone who has a love of humanity. How can some humans treat each other so inhumanely? It makes no sense to me, but history tells us it’s always happened.

And at the core of all that aggravation and warmongering and genocidal behaviour, I believe, is a lack of understanding. I mean, I also believe religions have a lot to answer for because they basically mess with people’s heads. I think of the Crusades and other wars of religion, and the atrocities that are committed in the name of the Lord or God or modernity, and I mean, at the end of the day, how do religions thrive? They thrive on ignorance.

I just remembered … I’m supposed to be asking some questions but I was quite happily getting lost in your discourse. Loz, I did read your humorous, really humorous article on The Australian Independent Media Network about flicking spuds at a photo of the Queen. So, are you a Monarchist or a Republican?

Well, I don’t know what the best model for a Republic is. The best model for organising society, but I’m definitely not a monarchist because I really think the idea of kings and queens and people being set apart as being special in some way or superior in some way is crazy, basically. You know, I mean, we’ve always had kings and queens and emperors, and today we have one of the autocrats … it’s pretty obvious Trump’s always wanted to be a king and Putin’s behaving like he thinks he is one, and they managed to weasel themselves into positions where they nearly get away with it.

But I believe in egalitarianism. I believe in equal rights, no one is superior to anyone else. And that’s apart from all these things that give us an appearance of difference such as our level of education. At the end of the day, people are people, you know, any race, any culture, any indigenous group. We’re all part of the same human race, and we are all equal. And I wish societies around the world reflected that because most don’t. Most have social structures that put some at the bottom and some at the top and others in between. And, I mean, the very concept of middle class, governments are always trying to please the middle class, and then other more right-wing governments seem to favour the rich. I mean, there’s so much that plays into all this, our world order and the social structures that different countries have that are really a vestige of their past history, and an outcome of past events.

As a musician, as a singer, a songwriter, from your point of view, what’s the value of music in our lives?

Well, well, I think music’s a touchstone. It evokes feelings. It brings up feelings that are already latent within us, and it triggers them, hopefully good feelings often. It’s something like smell you know. Music can touch us. Songs tell stories, and we need stories. Stories are the way we share our understandings, our knowledge, our culture, whatever that is. It’s how we learn music. Music inspires dance, inspires smiles. Well, there’s just something about music. It’s another way of communicating, I believe.

Interviewers always try to have the last say but let’s turn that one on its head. The last say in this interview is your say.

Well, I’m not sure I really have any big say. I’m just another little ant on the global ant heap, you know. I guess I’d love to see more empathy in the world. I’d love to see more coming together, more unity. I hate, I just hate what people are doing to each other and what evil people are inflicting on others around the world. I hate the fact that we’re unable to solve issues of hunger and starvation in some countries.

I’m very worried about the world and about our race and our treatment of the planet. Sometimes I feel we’re on a terrible course that can, in no way, be good. I think there’s a sense, a sense at large that people have, that the world is in a terrible state. And yet we are the perpetrators and the instigators of that. What we do, everything we do, every tin can we throw out, every plastic bag we drop into the ocean does harm. And yet it’s hard to live in a way that doesn’t have those side effects, you know. I guess I just hope for a world where we get it together before it’s too late.


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Listening to Keith Davis – #2 of the Friends Conversing on a Verandah Series

(Setting the scene: Two friends. Keith Davis, Loz Lawrey. A verandah. A conversation. This is a transcript of an audio recording, ums and ahs included. The view from the verandah was of a wonderful slow sunset over the Mapleton Ranges. The content of the interview was unscripted and in the moment. Listening to Loz Lawrey is a companion interview to this one. Note: some difficult issues, as well as some lighter issues, are discussed in this interview).

I first became aware of you Keith when you wrote an article about the job industry for The AIMN and I realised he’s someone who’s lived on both sides of the fence in the sense that he’s worked for Job Centres and he’s also been a recipient of Centrelink benefits and been unemployed and at the mercy of the system if you like. That’s when I realised what a great writer you are and I’d like to start with that. What led you to writing?

Surprisingly enough, given my background, a Nun led me to writing. Initially, this is when I was quite young, six or seven years old in the orphanage and this particular woman really did have a love of children and a love of fostering whatever nascent abilities they had and she saw in me a very curious mind, and rather than suppress it, she chose to feed it. And she introduced me initially to the joy of reading and essentially she was saying, read first, absorb, learn as much as you can. Now she did not use these exact words, it’s the feeling it evoked in me. And then, learn to speak with your own voice.

Ha, that led me down a couple of trails and I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. And I really started to take writing seriously when I had this crazy idea of publishing a hippie newspaper in the 90s and I was building a house at the time, didn’t really have a brass rahzoo and I thought, oh, why are you doing this, do you realise you are going to have to write most of the copy, I couldn’t afford to pay anyone very much.

And so I started to write articles and at that stage, the French were letting off their huge bombs in the Pacific. So I wrote about things like that and through that whole process, for various reasons, I lived a life riven with self-doubt. But I did think, hey, here’s something I love doing and at least the majority of people who’ve read what I’ve written say, you’re OK at it. So I’ve stuck with it, and I love the fact that in this modern era, small voices, our voices can get out there and this part doesn’t come from me, I’ve been assessed as having a reasonable level of intelligence, a very impaired intelligence as it happens, but intelligence nonetheless.

Impaired in what way?

Oh … childhood stuff.

And I thought, well, OK, if you can add two and two and write one sentence that makes sense, then for fuck’s sake just add two and two and write a sentence that makes sense. And that generally has been my motivation. With writing, it’s like that old trope about failure. You’ve got to fail to learn to succeed, right?

I’ll write 100 lemons of articles, but the sweet spot is when you get one that hits, one that says something that is understood, that is responded to, but apart from all that deeper stuff, writing is like woodwork for me, writing is like hobbies that other people have, writing is both a love and a hobby, you become better, you question what you write, you look at what you write, you try to improve.

I’ll never be an author type person, I’m too tangental, I get dragged off in different directions, and part of that is autism, part of it is, my mind is just so curious, it’ll focus on something for a period, but it’ll bump another issue and I’ll focus on that. So I do find when I’m writing, I have to rein myself in, I have to think, stay on topic!

So you’ve referred to having a degree of autism, when did you, when was that revealed to you or when was that concept floated?

Yes, it was confirmed for me late in life, the diagnosis was late in life. For me, as strange as it sounds, it was a joy to finally find out.

Why is that, because it helped to make sense of your experiences?

It helped to make sense of the fact that throughout my life, I did not feel that I belonged, this life felt very strange to me, I could not understand other people. I did not understand why this world appeared to work the way it does work, and to my mind, getting on is so easy, love is so easy, hate and division are hard work. And so I couldn’t understand why the prevalence of hate and division, the prevalence of it, I couldn’t understand that.

(Silence …)

Um, I know enough about self now, to know that silence is OK. Right, I have a view of the world, it is shared by a number of people, it is not shared by many. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but finally, after many, many years, finally, after some grounding psychotherapy work, I now understand that my view of the world is valid, sure it comes through a different lens, sure, I have had to counteract the rewiring of my brain from the childhood abuse. And I now, not so much understand perhaps, I simply accept, my view is OK.

So you are referring to childhood abuse, and you have mentioned being in an orphanage, can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be in the orphanage and what the impact of those years was on you?

Isn’t it funny, many people think there is single cause, either your family broke up or there was an abusive family member or things like this. Now everybody comes from a different experiential background. I ended up in a Catholic orphanage, because the Japanese, love them as I do, dropped bombs on Port Moresby Harbour in 1942, and a particular sailor on the M.V. MacDuhi happened to be my father, and the war experiences he went through, not only the bombing and sinking of the MacDuhi, but also his later war experiences with the Americans, because he drove landing craft, and the later era of that Pacific war changed him forever. He saw such horror, such inhumanity, and it changed him.

It seared out of him a softness, he lost softness and caring, he didn’t want to, but it was the result of what he saw, what he experienced, what he felt. So that in the 1950s when he had children, he could not develop the necessary sense of responsibility, so as soon as anything became a bit difficult, as it does, often does, in marital relationship, he ran away. The fact that my mother ran away, as well, completes the picture. Found myself at five years old in the orphanage.

Right, so you found yourself in an orphanage abandoned by your parents. And how many years was that period, and what were your experiences there?

Oh. (Silence …)

Do you not want to talk about any of that? It’s just that I know it’s there, so I’m bringing it up, you know, you deal with that as deep as you want to.

Yeah. Um, OK.

I was placed in the orphanage at five years old. I came out of the orphanage at 11 years old, seven years, and I didn’t know when I first took those steps on the verandah in that orphanage, what a hell of a rocket had just been shot up my arse, I didn’t have any feeling of that, I was just a lonely little kid, but I felt the rocket over the next seven years, and the experiences generally were not very good.

What do you mean by the rocket? The rocket of, you were abused?

Yeah, mental cruelty, rape, all of that was a constant, a lack of love that children need, oh there was no love, there was no love. Now I will refine that, I did feel love from one Nun, and that’s the Nun I mentioned who fostered me into reading, but as for the rest, as for the visiting priests, as for the so-called loving Catholic families we were farmed out to on holidays …

Where more abuse occurred?

Oh, yes.


Hmm, ever been locked in a chicken coop? Hmm, remember I was young, ever had a horrible old man tell you he loved you as he molested you? Now remember this is me now at 70 years old talking, yes, for most of my life all of that was a unique experience, oh god it only happened to me, I realise now how prevalent it is in our society, I wonder what is wrong with our society, that these things not only happen, continue to happen, hmm, equally you could argue a similar case for what happens to women in our society,


Yes. But generally, as far as the orphanage goes, it shut down my spirit, it shut down my interest in life, it showed me what anger truly is, which is why in my life, I cannot express anger easily, and don’t want to.

Showed you what anger truly is. You mean your own anger or the anger you experienced from others?

It showed me the warped deviated anger of deeply frustrated and religious people.

So, in a sense, you share my dislike of religion?

I do not dislike religion, I dislike what people do with it, I mean I have never had a concept of God, I cannot understand a concept of needing a God, you know I look around, I see the planet I live on, I see the bottle brush over there, I see the beauty of the night sky, I see the Milky Way and I think well is that not enough, why do we have to attach myths to all that? There is a silly little part of me, because I have a Celtic background, that occasionally mutters nonsense like I adhere to the Celtic gods of river earth and fire, but that is just fun for me, it is not serious, okay.

So seven years in the orphanage, and you came out around the age of eleven, what followed from that, you went into foster homes I think, you went to school, and how are you feeling at this time ? You’ve just come through years of abuse and mistreatment and emotional cruelty, and how did you move on from that, and how did you, I know this is a hard question, how did you process that, and because I see in front of me a seventy year old man who is, who exudes wisdom, warmth, empathy and respect for others, and I am amazed that that is what I see when I know so much, when I know a certain amount about your history, and that kind of history often affects people negatively for the rest of their lives, would you mind sharing a bit about that, about sort of from the orphanage on, and how you process life and learn to move on and grow?

I came out of the orphanage like a deadened lump of lead, I had no feeling within myself, I had no joy, I did not know what love is or could be, I certainly knew what hate is, I knew what anger is, you know we never figured out over the years, whether my inability to read faces was caused by trauma, or whether it was simply a natural autistic trait, you know that has never been figured out, but when I left the orphanage, the simple things in life meant something to me, now as a ward of the state, you had nothing, nothing, nothing that was your own, no space that was your own, no protective space that was your own, and when I came out of the orphanage, the state gave you a little kind of cardboard port, and in that wrapped in cellophane, 1960s cellophane, there’s a pair of little sandals and a shirt and a pair of shorts, I thought I was fucking king muck, here I was, I have something that is mine.

Then I landed, you know the state organised, well in concert with the Sisters of Mercy, which is a bit of an oxymoron that one, I was placed with a foster family. They weren’t good, they weren’t bad, they were in the end perhaps maliciously indifferent, and so I came from a background where, this is not like boohoo stuff, you get over all that pretty quick, I wasn’t wanted by my parents, I was abused in the home, by people who were meant to protect you …

A betrayal?

Oh. A betrayal. We could spend some time in that space.

(Silence …)

So, I ended up in another situation where I wasn’t wanted, and all I can say about that is I wasn’t physically abused in that situation, I simply endured it, and I couldn’t wait to gain my freedom, and when I did gain my freedom, when I finished high school, and I had no idea who I was, I had no idea how damaged I was, I simply thought that life was this dark place, that was my view of how I felt, and that was probably my view of life until I reached my early 60s, when I totally fell apart. My ability to mask pain and horror, my ability to pretend to fit into this world I didn’t feel part of, finally became too much, finally my psyche collapsed.

But since leaving school you’ve had marriages and relationships, were they impacted by your previous experiences?

I think many survivors would identify with this. Every relationship experience, whether it be with my children, partners, friends, employers, were affected by my past experiences.

Just as your life was impacted by your father’s experiences?

Experiences. Yes. You know the idea, if you break a leg, try to explain how it feels to another human being, they can empathise, you bet they can however they still don’t know how your broken leg feels. They can’t. And so, to be a child, exposed to not one or two instances of sexual abuse and mental cruelty, but to years of it, you, not only can you not vocalise it, but you couldn’t explain to someone if you tried, and even if you managed to explain it, they wouldn’t understand, and even in my early adult years, I knew that, you know.

I started to question things like, hey Bozo, you have some intelligence, yet you cannot complete anything in the area of achievement, you come in with great enthusiasm, but then your energy just sinks and you collapse. And that has been a recurring theme throughout my life, yes, in whatever I’ve tried, whether it be marriage, whether it be in the work sphere, whether it be trying to maintain a wonderful relationship with my wonderful children, I lose the ability to communicate.

So, you hit the, you reach the age of around 60, and you hit a wall, and a breakdown happened, and how did you get through that, and you’ve obviously come through and survived that, and you’re here with us now. Do you mind talking a bit about that, and how you’ve moved on from that, or?


We both agreed together to do a very open/honest interview, I will not now say no.

OK. Yeah. Here we go.

You never get over it, I never handled it, and the best thing I ever did was never handle it, because it led to me falling apart. It led me into a couple of sojourns in acute mental health wards over the last two years. It led to a total demolition of self, a feeling of self.

It led then, now some psychiatrists and psychologists shouldn’t be in the job, it’s just a job for them, but boy did I meet a couple of extremely beautiful people, and as part of the legal process I went through for redress against the Catholic Church, I met a, I was flown down to Sydney to meet a leading forensic psychiatrist, wonderful man. First thing he said to me, he saw my hope, my yearning, my please change this and make me feel better. First thing he said was, I cannot heal you, you cannot be healed, but, but, and see people see that attendant but as a bad thing, and sometimes it is, but that particular but had incredible value, but I can almost guarantee you can feel happier in your life, and it was quite a big step for me to understand, accept and roll with the fact that I could not be healed, the legacies are permanent.

So a shock, a shock in one way to hear that in the end?

No, it wasn’t, in the end it was a relief, so all this striving, all this hoping, all this trying, all these weird and wonderful therapeutic ways could finally be let go, oh, okay, I can’t be healed, but what’s left, how do I live with what’s left? Rather than focusing on what is wrong with me, right, yeah.

Is that like a change from a seeing things in a negative light to a positive light, or encourage you to develop a new way of approaching things?

No. It runs a lot deeper than positive negative, yeah, it bites into that level of what truly is truth, what truly is truth, and it was truthful, right, so I’ve, and truth is always helpful, since that period I’ve been dealing in truth, been dealing with truth, through the feelings, truth about legacies, and understanding I cannot go back and change a thing.

That’s right.

There are certain aspects of how my brain works that cannot be undone, there are certain aspects of how my brain works that can be changed, and probably sounds weird, I am so glad I fell apart, I am so glad I ended up in, now I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone to do it, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a method to seek an understanding of truth, but those times in the mental health wards were invaluable, incredibly invaluable, and I’m glad it happened, you know, people regret, oh, I couldn’t have a life, I fell apart, no, I’m glad I did, because it would not have cut through, all the protections I’d thrown in front of myself, all the masking.

Oh look, here’s the happy hippie. He drives a kombi. Load of bullshit, I didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t feel, you know, and I often laugh about that period of my life, because I can’t smoke dope, it just brought up all the searing memories. Visually I looked the part, long blonde hair, you know, well he’s either a surfie or a hippie, he’s one of them, he’s got a kombi. But I never felt the part, it was my effort to fit in.

This is over those years before you’ll break down in your 60s?

Oh yeah this is through my 20s, 30s, and the, I just hit a period of thinking, I don’t know who I am, I just don’t know, I have no feeling of self.

Would you say that happiness is a state that’s related to our ability to accept ourselves in our past and who we are in a sense, or not, can you speak to that?

As best I can, I would say that my past has ruled the majority of my life, I’ve lived my life, and have not had the ability to live my life to the full in a sense, it was very much restricted. In fact I did not have the ability to live in the present, I lived in the past, I spent my time where I lived seeking high places to live, because that way you could see predators approaching now, I well know cognitively, part of my brain said, oh come on, seriously, most people wish you no harm, but the deep rooted stuff ruled you, and so I’ve lived my life full of fear, looking over my shoulder continuously, not even recognising the fact that there’s nothing there, it’s because the brain is such a malleable beast, there’s actually nothing wrong with my brain, very early on it learnt, I have to protect this human being I’m part of, and it protected me well in the sense that it shut me off, it made me aware, constantly aware, in fact hyper-aware, for most of my life, and, I mean ..

A human state of hyper-awareness means you’re never totally relaxed?

You’re always in fight or flight, always, it’s a perpetual state, but the human system cannot sustain that for a lifetime, eventually it crashes, which is why now I say I’m glad I crashed, I’m glad I fell apart, I’m glad I was, now, you know, maybe there should be a trigger warning at the start of this interview, but I’m glad I became suicidal, I’m glad I had to explore all that and live it, and be searched by security guards to not so much protect other people from me, but to protect me from me. It is such a juxtaposition on the one level to live such an empathetic life, to love, to be that way, and yet on a very equal and complementary level, to live your life feeling, you have no value, you have no worth, and I don’t forget you’re speaking to me at 70 years old.

How does the world look now, how is life now?

The world doesn’t look good or bad to me, it depends on the day, the day tells me what life is like, today is a good day, I’m sitting here with a friend, looking at the birds and the trees and looking at the bottle brush, so life is good.

You know, I’ve lived most of my life with a, in the old days they talked about a tape running through your head and you had to unpack the onion and get to all the different layers and you know, blah, blah, blah, all that sort of stuff, well it hasn’t quite been like that to me, I’ve simply had a 35mm film running in front of my eyes for most of my life, and it’s a replication of all the horror events, right, and see eventually, it’s not like I have to go into deep memory to dig it up, it’s always there, for a non-religious man I’m quite happy to say thank christ that after the year of intense psychotherapy, the film is gone, what a blessing, what a blessing.

So life does get better, life gets happier, the damage doesn’t go away, but your ability to deal with it improves.

The process of recovery is endless?

Oh. Umm. I have an opinion that not many people would agree with, there is no such thing as recovery, you know recovery is a false sell, no, it’s like grief …

Because you can’t undo the past, you cannot undo it, you cannot unexperience?

Yes. Exactly. Grief. I often think of the issue of grief, people tell you, oh it gets better and you move on, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all I say to all that is bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, the grief never leaves, but you learn to deal with it a bit better, that is the truth of it, not I’ve moved on etc etc.

Let me ask you a nice question, one that you asked me. What is love?

What is love? Interesting question. I love women, I’m of that type. Love is a heart that opens up and shows itself, that’s love, You know what is hate? It is a closing of the heart and a closed heart like for whatever reason I don’t know, a closed heart seems to have a predilection for attacking an open heart. I don’t know why that is, just a appears to be the way it is. I think love is a wonderful thing, I don’t have a romantic view of love, I think love if I had to define it right down, love is truth and care combined, extended towards another human being, love can’t be manufactured. It is something we can experience, at 70 I can say it can be experienced and I am experiencing it now in my life.

Keith Davis, thank you so much.

Welcome, Loz, now it’s time for that Shiraz!


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“I’m Sorry, Your Majesty…”

A Tribute to our Late Queen Liz, with Post-Colonial Afterthoughts

By Loz Lawrey  

As my tremulous fingers tickle my laptop keyboard, late this night in my campervan (currently parked on Wiradjuri land), my mind travels back, back to another time…

‘Twas 1967. I was sixteen, incarcerated in one of those most conservative institutions: an Anglican (or “Church of England”, as we said back then) boarding school.

Uniquely white-bread Australian, it was the colonial emulation of its British educational avatar: the boarding school, always a convenient place to park the kids during their teenage years when the conventional wisdom of the day dictated that career obligations and overseas postings mattered more than keeping the family together.

These private religious schools, whether Anglican, Catholic or otherwise would do their level best to indoctrinate their hapless students with religious dogma and ultra-conservative values, as well as an entrenched and inalienable belief in a class system that would always maintain the social status quo, with the rich (ie “successful” and “entitled”) on top and others (“poor”, “other” and “lesser”) way, way down below.

All this overlaid with that ghastly pompous veneer of religious justification plastered over its ungodly (dare I say it?) agenda…

Ah, white-bread religion (white Christians only, please)… always justifying that implication of colonial mastery and white supremacy that permeates our “Australian culture” to this day, as the current exposure of entrenched historic racism within Australian Rules Football exemplifies.

I’m amazed that I and a few friends from that time didn’t completely succumb to the conservative brainwashing, although I’m not sure we came through completely untainted.

Silly young boys we were, but our eyes, meanwhile, were on world affairs: What on earth was happening in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco? Who were the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers? Would man actually walk on the moon? Had you heard “Purple Haze” yet? The new Beatles’ album? What were those Israelis doing to those poor Palestinians? And what was this “civil rights” movement in America about?

The history we were being taught at the time ignored the true custodians of Australian culture, the native Australians who had occupied this island continent for over 60,000 years.

“Australian history” in the 1960s was a celebration of colonial occupation. The frontier wars? Never mentioned.

At the time, the attempted genocide and cultural demolition of Aboriginal people was in full swing, as stolen generations victims can testify.

At white-bred boarding school, however, we had no idea.

The arrogance, self-entitlement and ingrained racism of those invading white colonialists, who regarded all “foreign” natives and their cultures as inferior, has imbued our Australian society for over two hundred years and it remains in clear evidence today.

To myself and my fellow boarding school detainees, the Australian society that surrounded us in the mid-sixties seemed irrelevant and out of touch.

Locked up in boarding school, some of us were subscribing to Time Magazine in our mid-teens as our own assertion of independence, our way of embracing and trying to comprehend the affairs of the wider world beyond Australian conservatism…

I learned that politics can be the tool of oppressors and exploiters.

But life’s for learning, right? And at the age of seventy-one I understand much more than I did then.

But I digress… This is about our late queen.

Drowning as we all are in the apparently endless, bottomless ocean of public grieving and media squawking that “tradition demands” following the passing of a monarch, it occurred to me that rather than taking refuge from all news channels and retreating to Netflix and YouTube while Royalty dominates the airwaves, I might humbly add my own tribute to our late Queen Liz (that’s if I can reach up high enough to add it to the by now very high pile of obituaries and reminiscences).

Because, let’s admit it: She was the very exemplar of public service, and the absolute embodiment of the very model of a modern monarch.

And yes, she was there, a “presence” throughout my time on this planet: “The Queen”.

To most Australians, she was a fixture, our overarching monarch. After all, from 1954 to 2011, she visited us sixteen times!

Hey, that was her job, wasn’t it? To be Queen of the Empire, overseer, promoter and maintainer of that relic of British imperialism that is the “Commonwealth”.

It could be said that British church/state imperialism, with its overtones of invasion and occupation, of native suppression and eradication, was nothing more than fascism and authoritarian control dressed up as a congenial collaboration of disparate cultures and ethnicities.

A now-forgotten Australian PM (as recently as 2013-2015) venerated as “western civilisation” that unrequested imposition of English “culture” upon native populations.

Yes, the role of the Queen of England was always to maintain the appearance of a “commonwealth” of nations happy to be dominated, exploited and controlled by Mother England.

It was a role she inherited and one which she inarguably did her very best to fulfill.

And yet, and yet… preserving British dominance was the mission she inherited and to which she gave her all, and within the parameters of her own upbringing and understanding, it always seemed a noble cause, I’m sure.

Over the years, despite our familiarity with her image, she remained a remote figure to many of us, the titular head of the Church of England and… oh yes, that’s right… the Queen of the United Kingdom and the “Commonwealth of Nations” also known as the “many conquered lands of empire”, of which our own Land of Oz is but one among many.

No one with open eyes could argue that she didn’t do her absolute best, however, within the parameters of her own understanding and the worldview and title she inherited.

So here it is: my own tribute to our late Queen Liz:

Point one: You rock, and always did, your Majesty!

Anyone who really watched you over the years knows that your life was a masterclass in public service.

Point two: And then, as I said previously, ’twas 1967…

Picture it:

On this particular day, as was customary, we convened in the boarding school dining room for lunch. The headmaster and his teacher minions sat at the high table, students submissively subservient at the lower tables, Hogwarts style.

Teenage hormones rampant (scientists understand this stuff), brain in neutral, uninspired by the meatloaf (which we called “elephant turd”) and mash offering (my vegetarianism was incubated here), I flick a spoonful of mashed potato over my shoulder in an act of misguided irreverence.

Behind me, on the wall above, that classic photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth (young, beautiful and wearing the crown) that permeated my younger years…

The flung mash landed squarely upon Her Majesty’s left cheek, much to the amusement of my tablemates.

Fearfully, I glanced at the occupants of the high table, those who had the power to punish and suppress me.

None of them had even noticed!

Chuckles and nervous giggles all around… I’d got away with it!

After the many failures of various kinds I’ve had to endure in my life journey, this is one success I cling to this day.

No disrespect, Your Majesty.

At the time, Queen Elizabeth was a remote yet familiar figure to me, part of the Australian/colonial architecture, if you like.

Yes, I flung a little mash and it landed by chance upon the Queen’s portrait.

You know the one, that timeless image of a beautiful woman in her prime, wearing the royal crown and exuding that superiority and wisdom we commoners expect to perceive in the monarchs we accept.

I assure you all, there was neither malice nor republican nor anti-royalist sentiment involved.

I was, quite simply, young, stupid and sometimes out of control.

That is my pathetic defense.

And now I lay my tribute down:

I’m sorry, Your Majesty.

Thank you for your sincere service.

I know you did your very best, and who could ever do more?


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Nine Years Is Enough! It’s Time For A New Australia

By Loz Lawrey  

That the LNP Coalition is desperate to win this election has been in stark evidence throughout the campaign.

Morrison’s bullying tone at press conferences and the constant anti-Labor fearmongering, scare tactics and verbal assaults from him and his colleagues are testament to that desperation.

But are they desperate to serve the Australian public or simply desperate for power?

Tony Windsor, one of the independent MPs who in 2010 backed Julia Gillard to form a Labor government, recalled that at the time Liberal leader Tony Abbott begged crossbench MPs to make him prime minister, joking; ”the only thing I wouldn’t do is sell my arse – but I’d have to give serious thought to it”.

Clinging to power means everything to these Liberal folk, and a threat to their incumbency and sense of entitlement can make their voices go squeaky.

Is it me, or did Scott Morrison’s “bulldozer” speech sound a lot like a domestic violence perpetrator entreating his victim to forgive his toxic, abusive behaviour and take him back?

“Awww, honey, you know I can be a bit of a… aww gee, you know I can’t help myself. I can change… believe me! Just… take me back…”. There’s a certain cringeworthy tone to it.

Like the 1952 televised “Checkers” speech in which USA republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon, accused of fundraising improprieties, tried to reframe himself in the public’s mind as a trustworthy family man, Morrison is asking Australians to suspend their disbelief in his promise to “change” and begging us to return his government for another term.

The current squawking from Liberals threatened by independent candidates standing for their seats has been loud, shrill and sometimes a little unhinged.

There’s no doubt that there are among these centrist challengers some quality contenders who, whether of a progressive or conservative bent, would likely make fine federal representatives for their local constituents.

Such excellent members of parliament can be found on both sides of politics, well-known in the communities they serve and responsive to their constituents’ needs.

The Liberals are trying to paint the rise of these “teal independents” as some sort of attack on democracy and the Australian “system”.

Both major parties are concerned at the likely erosion of their bases, as votes are lost to these new challengers.

Other Australians, however, firmly believe that the major parties have let us all down and these independent candidates may in fact help to save our democracy, yield greater transparency, force a new government into realistic action on climate change and create a Federal ICAC, among other things.

“Only Labor or the LNP Coalition can form government”. That’s the response you’ll often hear if you tell a friend you’re thinking of voting Green, Progressive or Conservative Independent, or even Loony Right Independent.

At every election, the two main parties and mainstream media send voters a clear message: only a vote for Labor or the Coalition matters. If you vote otherwise, you’re just throwing your vote away.

Yet history tells us that this was clearly not the case in 2010, when both major parties found themselves unable to form government without support from both the Greens and some Independents.

Julia Gillard and Labor won that support and, for the next term, despite an ongoing vile and misogynistic assault from both the opposition and the Murdoch media, ran a very competent and efficient government, proving that independents in government are not a recipe for the destruction of democracy.

Clearly, political parties who win government would prefer to govern in their own right, without having to consult and negotiate with independents or minor parties.

In our changing world however, good negotiation skills are more necessary than ever for the aspiring leader.

It’s been said that “politics is the art of compromise”, but for this government compromise is always a bridge too far.

Why isn’t the Nadesalingam family back in Biloela? Why were they removed from a community that embraced them in the first place? Sheer cruelty.

For the LNP, cruelty seems to be a necessary component of “strong” government.

I can never shake the memory of Morrison’s “on-water matters” announcements and the pride he took in his management of the institutionalised cruelty of the offshore detention system.

Cruelty is a structural component of the Morrison Government’s business model, as it was under Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Another memory I can’t shake is that of Turnbull advising Australians not to get “misty-eyed” over the mistreatment of refugees in detention.

Cruelty is certainly a structural component of the Department Of Home Affairs. Just ask anyone who’s tried to assist an Afghan friend under daily threat of torture and execution by the Taliban to apply for a humanitarian visa.

This morning I heard from a young journalist friend I’ve been trying to help. He’s just been caught and tortured by the Taliban for the second time, for simply being of Hazara ethnicity and a supporter of free speech and human rights.

The first time they caught him, he was whipped. I’ve seen the photos of his wounds and they were shocking. He lives on the run, constantly changing address to avoid capture. Now my friend tells me he’s just recovering from another assault. This time one of his hands has been badly damaged.

He’s also run out of funds to support himself and under the Taliban, finding work isn’t an option.

In October 2021 I helped him lodge an application for a humanitarian visa to Australia. We are now in May 2022 and no response whatever has been received from the Department.

One has to ask: does a Department of Human Affairs actually exist in the real world, or is it a paper tiger, a mere semblance of a department?

Is it like some Hollywood movie set, just a false façade to fool the public?

Try calling the Department, if you can find their phone number. They do have one, buried on the department website somewhere. But should you find the number, make the call and wait an eternity for the phone triage system to connect you to a live person, you’ll never get past the “enquiry guy”, who politely tells you he knows nothing, has no answers, can’t refer you to someone who does know, but can send you a website link where you may lodge an email enquiry.

The whole setup seems designed to keep the public at bay and in the dark. Human Services? There’s simply no service to be found there at all.

And if you’re a desperate human seeking assistance from a first-world country that claims to be humane, it’s a great shock to discover that in reality you won’t even get a polite refusal. Home Affairs will simply ignore your application and leave you swinging in the wind, in danger and in fear for your life.

Yes, in the Morrison government, cruelty is entrenched.

One can only hope that a new government (hopefully less cruel, with a leader who won’t require empathy training) will replace it, one with an actual vision for the betterment of our nation beyond simply clinging to power for power’s sake.

That new government may need to negotiate with new independent MPs to form government.

Which brings us back to negotiating and achieving outcomes in the national interest. The “art of compromise” has over time become a lost art, thanks to the wolf-warrior tribalism that infects our system.

For Morrison, politics seems to mean never negotiating and finding compromise, but rather doing whatever it takes to keep up appearances: Bald-faced lies straight to camera, if that’s what he thinks will consolidate his grip on power.

For years we’ve endured Morrison’s shouty carnival-barker style, with announcements delivered in an aggressive bully-boy manner, jaw thrust forward, slightly reminiscent of America’s former president Trump, that master of belligerence and misrepresentation.

One of Morrison’s public nicknames is “Scotty From Marketing” and it’s true that he often sounds as though he’s trying to flog you a mattress or a used car. And those family-handyman, curry-cookin’ footy-boy selfies… ’nuff said.

But I don’t want to “play the man”, tempting as it is…

I have no idea what outcome we Australians will collectively choose on voting day.

My fervent hope is that this time we’ll opt for change and a new direction.

Of course, that’s what I hoped last time and I was stunned to see the Morrison government returned, so… I’m not holding my breath.

I was stunned to see Australians reject a raft of nation-building policies that would, had Labor won government then, by now be well in place and yielding positive outcomes for our country.

Yet where are we now? A failed three-term government is relying on Australians being politically disengaged sheep with short memories, who will simply cave in to an avalanche of spin and re-elect them.

“Better the devil you know” as it were.

Morrison talks of refusing pay rises and imposing ongoing poverty and misery on so may of us, all in the name of that old trope “the economy”.

I can see the people, but I can’t see the economy. Is it imaginary? Is it just theoretical? I’m just joking, of course. I know that “the economy” is a synonym for “the machinery of capitalism”.

That economic machine, founded as it was on slavery, was never originally intended to benefit us all equally, but in these days of democracy it surely should, shouldn’t it?

But it doesn’t. It’s broken and out of balance. There is a huge gap between “haves” and “have-nots”.

If the very workers whose lifelong daily efforts create and maintain “the economy” can’t meet their own costs of living due to galloping inflation and wage stagnation, then capitalism has failed in its mission to benefit us all and remains true to its roots as a system that didn’t serve the people, just an elite few.

Morrison’s “the economy” mantra, wielded like a bat whenever wage rises are mentioned, elevates business and commerce above the people.

In that paradigm capitalism doesn’t serve most Australians, rather we simply exist to “serve the economy”. We the people are subservient to it, apparently.

It’s time to vote for candidates who want the economy to serve us all.

I dare to hope that this time Australians will choose a better option. I believe it’s time for change, but then I did at the last election, and the one before that.

Instead, we’ve had another three years of ministerial scandals and aimless, indifferent, lacklustre government.

If there’s an independent running for your seat and you feel their policy agenda reflects your values and priorities, why not give them a go?

Whoever you decide to back, please, please, please vote this government out.


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Patriarchy has had its day

By Loz Lawrey  

When it comes to toxic masculinity, neither Labor nor the Coalition occupy the moral high ground.

Both parties have male “rats in the ranks.” Women in both camps, whether politicians or staffers, continue to suffer from the insidious repression of their power, forced upon them by our patriarchal system.

It’s clear that our overarching Australian male-dominated social culture itself is the problem and, when it comes to the mistreatment of women, neither side of politics is beyond reproach.

Liberal MP Nicole Flint has called out sexist attacks and stalking she has endured, claiming that the safety of women should be “above politics,” while in the same breath accusing Labor of refusing to condemn the perpetrators.

As a woman, she deserves support and redress for any mistreatment she has suffered, yet her Labor-blaming demonstrates the usual right wing conservative politicisation of issues and response to criticism: avoid responsibility, refuse to address the facts and deflect, deflect, deflect…

Yet patriarchy is non-partisan. Male privilege and entitlement is everywhere.

It’s on the right, the left, and in the centre. Our system entrenches it as if this is nature’s way, the “natural order.”

It’s so easy, as a man, to accept that this is simply “the way of things” and thank our stars we weren’t “born a woman.”

To my shame, at times in my own life, I have had this very thought.

I’m now in my seventieth year. Yet still I continue to try to learn and grow my understanding. We can all improve on our former selves.

As I hear more and more women speak out about the mistreatment they endure,

I learn. My instinct is not to try to shut them down, but to listen. I know that if I do, I will learn, grow, and become a better person. I will connect with my own empathy and understand in some small way what it is to walk in a woman’s shoes.

Whatever my own political affiliation, I must listen and act on the knowledge and understanding that listening delivers.

At this moment in time, our federal parliament stands exposed as a disgusting cesspit of sexism and exploitation.

In the parliamentary workplace, which has no human relations department to address the issues of those who work there, a toxic culture endures, nurtured and maintained by men of privilege from across the political spectrum.

There’s an opportunity here.

Australia needs to change.

Who should lead that change? Our federal government.

Who speaks for them? Scott Morrison.

Is this man capable of even comprehending and addressing the problem?

Sadly, no. Scott Morrison is the emperor with no clothes, a hollow man of “faith” devoid of the consideration and understanding needed to change our system.

The activist Grace Tame highlighted his gormless response to the issue of women’s safety during her speech at the National Press Club, pointing out that; “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.”

Morrison’s pathetic reference to his own wife and daughters, while intended to imply; “I understand the problem – I get it,” did just the opposite.

He doesn’t understand the problem. He simply doesn’t “get it,” which is why he sought guidance from his wife.

Scott Morrison is, purportedly, the leader of our nation.

He sits at the top of the very system that perpetuates the repression of women.

He himself is a product of that system, and thus a part of the problem.

Will he do anything to address the issues of women’s safety and inequality at their source?

Will he encourage cultural change in schools, sports clubs and churches, those petri dishes of toxic masculinity?

Will he call for mutual respect our streets?

Will he speak for “equal rights for all, regardless of gender”? Probably not.

Make no mistake. Private boys’ schools exist to entrench and maintain the patriarchy and the “male power” that sustains it. They are breeding grounds for the sexism that preferences one gender over another, and the entitled men these institutions produce go on to infect our culture and society at large with their toxic attitudes and behaviour.

I myself am a product of this system, and it’s taken me a lifetime to understand this.

Toxic masculinity exists everywhere – in all pollical parties, in the business world, in our wider communities. It is not partisan, and the issue of women’s safety should certainly be above and beyond politics.

Addressing this issue requires more than the mumblings of a conservative evangelist, one who appears completely unable to even understand the problem.

We need a real leader.

Australia needs a female prime minister, one who can foster greater understanding and acceptance between men and women.

We had one once.

Her name was Julia Gillard, and we all witnessed the champions of patriarchy in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian attack and revile her throughout her term in office.

What a cringeing embarrassment that was to witness: our nation at its very worst. What a poisonous presence in our society Murdoch has been.

Ms Gillard did her best. Her “misogyny speech” resounded around the world.

History will remember her kindly. Murdoch? Not so much.

In Australia, sadly, the patriarchy is entrenched.

Dismantling it requires the collective effort of us all.

Our nation must change.

Our culture must change.

The education and upbringing of men must change.

These things will only happen once we all work together to change the very system that entrenches patriarchy and male entitlement.

Men must realise that this implies no threat to them, no disenfranchisement nor emasculation.

Empowering women will not disempower men but rather help to, as Robert Kennedy said in 1968; “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

In the civilised world, in these troubled times, the very survival of humankind depends upon collaboration, cooperation and mutual understanding.

Patriarchy has had its day.

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Charities, Unions and Social Welfare Groups Call For Living Incomes For Everyone: The LIFE Campaign Begins

By Loz Lawrey  

Throughout the current Coalition government’s term in office, social activist groups and even business leaders have been calling for the abysmally low Newstart (now JobSeeker) payment of $565.70 per fortnight to be raised to at least a minimum level that affords recipients the ability to meet their basic needs: food, shelter and the necessities of life.

In real terms, the rate of Newstart has been frozen at its current punitive level since 1994, as this 2016 article in The Conversation explains.

For years, successive governments have allowed this social justice issue to fester as one of the elephants in Australia’s room (like climate change inaction, the inhumane treatment of indigenous Australians and asylum seekers in detention… etc… ).

A religious obsession with neoliberalism has always strangled the Coalition’s ability to acknowledge and respond effectively to the real-world issues that our nation confronts.

That cultish ideology reframes every debate in money market terms: the economy becomes pre-eminent and over-arching while society, where the actual real people reside with their very real need for assistance and support from a government that claims to govern in their name. Trickle down rules.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has, however, thrown the economic and social cards into the air and forced  the Morrison government to deliver what society required: an immediate all-encompassing (more or less) protective response to both the pandemic itself and its resultant economic damage and unemployment.

Suddenly, the Coalition’s tiresome judgmental weasel statements such as “a fair go for those who have a go” sound like the screech of fingernails on blackboard.

At times like these, what choice do conservative governments have? Knocked off their ideological perches and pedestals, they embrace a form of socialism. And throw some money around in the public interest.

This irony has not escaped many, but what choice do they have?  Australia is, after all, a social democracy and we expect our governments to step up and act to assist us all in times of crisis.

Although it has been widely reported that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the Morrison government has “doubled” the fortnightly JobSeeker payment, this is in fact not the case. The payment remains at $565.70, or a mere $40.40 per day.

It is the provision of a separate additional “coronavirus supplement” of $550.00 per fortnight that has, for practical purposes, “doubled” the payment, bringing it to $1,115.70 or $79.69 per day.

Why not just increase the JobSeeker payment? Why the separate ”coronavirus supplement”? It’s simple. In September 2020, once eradication or sufficient suppression of the virus has been achieved and things return, to some extent at least, to “normal” (we hope), the Coalition intends to jettison the supplement and return JobSeeker payments to the previous punitive and insufficient Newstart level of a mere $40.40 per day.

Yes, they are indeed that bloody-minded.

What the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is this: the government has only succeeded in keeping pre-pandemic unemployment payments at such a low level because charities have taken up the slack and unemployed Australians were an easily-disregarded minority.

Come September, those charities expect a surge in demand they will be unable to meet should payments revert to previous levels. Let’s not forget that vast numbers of newly unemployed Australians may never work again and may require ongoing assistance.

The arrival of the pandemic and the need for a Keynesian “pump-priming” response forced the Morrison government to raise the Jobseeker payment to a level that actually worked in the real world.

It’s one thing to demonise, marginalise and underpay unemployed Australians when they constitute a small percentage of the population, but quite another to treat the hordes of citizens who’ve lost their livelihoods in the past three months with similar contempt.

Under the Coalition, the JobSeeker payment has been kept deliberately low, an inadequate support payment deliberately designed to punish those unable (or, in the government’s twisted view, unwilling) to find employment.

When only a small percentage of the population is unemployed, they become easy targets for demonisation by others.

When most Australians are enjoying the good times provided by a healthy economy, for those left behind the “dole bludger” myth is easily maintained, stoked as it is by commercial media and conservative politicians.  With the arrival of COVID-19 that myth collapsed.

The millions of working Australians who’ve lost their livelihoods due to the effects of the pandemic cannot be tarred with the brush of laziness that the Morrisons of this world have always applied to those in need.

In Australia in 2018-19, the “poverty line” (measured as 50% of median income) was $457.00 per week for a single adult or $65.28 per day.

The poverty line represents the income level below which an individual is considered “poor” and unable to provide for their daily needs. Clearly $40.40 per day represents a level of support that leaves recipients living in a state of constant stress and anxiety, struggling to pay for rent, bills and food.

It should be a given that, in a civilised society, even one suffering from the current pandemic-induced upheavals, that social support payments for the unemployed and disadvantaged should never be allowed to fall below the poverty line.

That line represents the cutoff point, the social Plimsoll line below which loss of dignity, misery and marginalisation become the lived experience of  those forced to rely on welfare.

By adding a coronavirus supplement to JobSeeker, the government raised the payment to a level that sits just above the poverty line, a level at which the many recently unemployed could manage to pay their rent, feed their kids and survive these most difficult times.

Surely this is the level at which it should have already been set? The Coalition’s creation of the Corona virus supplement was a clear admission that payment levels to date had been woefully inadequate. It also helped them avoid howls of anger and outrage from the most recently unemployed.

So what will happen come September? Will the pandemic still be with us? Will the need for lockdowns and social distancing still be the dominant force?

Whatever the answer, the JobSeeker allowance must not be allowed to revert to pre-pandemic levels.

We must ensure that future governments focus on job creation rather than implementing a regime that punishes those with no job.

COVID-19 has taught many formerly working Australians a harsh lesson about unemployment: that dole bludger can easily be you. And you can find yourself in the dole queue overnight.

We can only hope that in the future our society and its governments will show more compassion and understanding to those of us who, at one time or another in their lives, need help.

Trade unionists, social activist groups, charities and individuals are now coming together to endorse the simple claim for a Living Income, in other words a minimum social support payment that allows recipients to provide for themselves and continue their quest for employment with the dignity that all members of society deserve.

The Living Incomes For Everyone (LIFE) campaign is organising via Facebook to ensure $1,100 per fortnight becomes the absolute minimum payment below which no-one should be forced to struggle for survival.

This national campaign is receiving more endorsements from groups and individuals each day as we head for the government’s cutoff date of 27 September. The list of participating organisations is growing longer and longer and is regularly updated here.

The grassroots LIFE campaign is people-driven.

You can find a summary of its demands here.

To participate, go to the Living Incomes For Everyone Facebook page.

To find out more and to hear speakers from some of the collaborating organisations, you can attend the official online launch of the LIFE campaign on 21 July at 7.30pm here.

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Climate Change Isn’t The Elephant In The Room… It’s Capitalism

By Loz Lawrey  

In the arena of our public debate, various loud quacking voices seem to have recently fallen silent.

Australia’s national firestorm tragedy has driven many of the usual right-wing, Newscorp, coal lobby, anti-science climate change denialists back into their caves.

Stark factual reality has a way of subverting ideology and belief, no matter how strongly we cling to our chosen “views”. It’s hard to argue that climate change is a greenie conspiracy when its impacts are so evident: lives lost, homes destroyed, dreams shattered. Extreme weather events are now occurring on a global scale.

Where are Malcolm Roberts, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin, et al? Where’s that guy who regularly rings ABC Radio talkback regurgitating the dodgy claims of  Rupert Murdoch’s opinionators?

The battlefield of climate change debate is now littered (figuratively) with the bodies of the denialist fallen.

Who shall fight the good fight on behalf of the billionaire class to repel those hordes of scientists, with all their researched facts and evidence, before they take the castle of the plutocrats?

Don’t worry, Gina. Don’t worry, Rupert… you still have Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, those staunch legionnaires, out there proselytising on your behalf: “Reality be damned!” they cry. “Facts don’t matter, it’s how you interpret them.”

Despite the crisis unfolding across Australia, there they were, slytherin soulmates strutting the world stage, making total galahs of themselves:

Former politician Abbott, still dwelling in the mental labyrinth of denialist delusion, was hard at work, helpfully explaining on Israeli Radio that “Australia is in the grip of a climate cult!”… (Giggle. This from he who is known as the “Mad Monk”, failed priest of the darkest cult on the planet): Tony Abbott, former Australian PM, tells Israeli radio the world is ‘in the grip of a climate cult’.

Meanwhile, backbencher Craig Kelly’s overt rejection of climate science drew scorn, contempt and condemnation from conservative commentator Piers Morgan on Britain’s ITV:



In fact, when it comes to addressing climate change our Prime Minister has drawn great criticism from world leaders globally.

As our national fire crisis unfolds and Australia burns as never before, world leaders look on aghast, openly criticising our inept and possibly criminal government for its lack of response.

It takes a brave idiot to claim “nothing to see here, it’s just another drought and the greenies won’t let us do hazard reduction burns”.

Sadly, in our country idiots have never been in short supply, brainwashed over time by the conservative right, high priests of the cult of greed that is capitalism.

Capitalism. It’s been with us a long time and its legacy of planetary destruction must be confronted before it’s too late.

Look at Australia. In just 200 years we, the foreign invaders of British/European descent, have trashed the place. Our land management practices (or lack thereof?) have left this nation well on the way to becoming, forever, a scorching desert.

This didn’t have to happen. Imagine a scenario where white men came as visitors from abroad, with open minds and hearts and respect for the dark-skinned inhabitants of this great continent, eager to learn and understand their language, their local customs and culture.

After all, who really had historical seniority when Cook’s pale-faced sailors stumbled ashore in Botany Bay in 1770? Britain was only founded in 1536. It was historically and culturally a baby in comparison to Australia’s native population, who, evidence tells us, have occupied this continent for some 50,000 years.

The “western civilisation” we so often hear about from conservatives such as Tony Abbott is nothing more than an unschooled baby compared to Aboriginal civilisation, with its 50,000 years of learning and cultural development.

“Western civilisation” was exported from Europe and Britain. For native Indians in America or Aborigines in Australia, it meant genocide and attempted cultural annihilation imposed, always, by gun violence.

In their arrogance, the European arrivistes saw themselves as superior and “civilised”, the local natives as “savages”. And yet the real savagery came with the gun culture of the invaders.

The British Empire globally was founded on savagery, yet the perpetrators of that savagery always perceive themselves as the champions of “civilisation”.

Of course, with “civilisation” came capitalism.

Capitalism, that greed-driven system of private ownership and profit-driven exploitation of people and resources. The system we’ve been stuck with since the dark days of feudalism.

Capitalism. That free-market economy “winner-takes-all-and-let-the-rest-perish-in-poverty-amidst-the-scorched-remains-of-a-ruined-planet” system so beloved of the rich and the business elites.

Yes, the “top end of town” does actually exist. Driven by greed, they use their wealth and power to perpetuate denialist claims and maintain the status quo that suits their agenda of self-interest.

I’ve been on this planet for nearly seventy years, and since my first visit to a local rubbish tip in Wyong, NSW as a child, capitalism has never seemed “quite right”.

How could a system that requires constant “growth” ever be sustainable in the long term, in a finite world? Surely thinking people have always been aware that we live in a fool’s paradise? Our resources were always bound to run out and despite our refusal to admit it, we’ve always subconsciously known they would, eventually.

Since I looked down, as a young teenager, from the deck of an ocean liner, at the man-made rubbish floating in the ocean, capitalism has always seemed suspect to me.

And yet we were born into this system and it’s all we’ve ever known.

Over the years I’ve watched what can only be called the beast of western imperialist capitalism devour whole sections of humanity through war, politically-driven genocide, poverty and famine.

Distracted as we all are by the need to survive, to provide for our families and loved ones, most of us find little time to consider in depth the broader context of human existence – the world as we make it. We’re all bobbing like corks on the ocean, just trying to stay afloat.

And now we’re also trying to avoid being consumed by fires such as we’ve never experienced before, fires that result directly from anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.

Climate change, the bastard child of capitalism.

Capitalism, which will never acknowledge or admit to its own destructive impacts upon our environment and our societies.

Capitalism, that abusive system which has only ever truly served the privileged few.

Capitalism, that cult of greed which preferences the worship of money over respect for life itself.

Capitalism, not climate change, is the real elephant in the room.

Now that Australia is ablaze, those of us who, infuriated by the denialism of the greedy, have seen these impacts coming for years, take no pleasure in “I told you so’s”.

We sense a quickening in the public consciousness, an awareness that we may be reaching the awful degree of human suffering necessary for us to finally admit there’s a problem and do something about it.

As always, our media feed us distractions such as more nonsense from Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly. It all feels like yet more reactionary bait-and-switch, a “look over there!” diversion from the real issue.

As long as we keep debating the existence or otherwise of climate change and do nothing in real terms to change our behaviour, our headlong rush towards self-destruction continues apace.

Capitalism has always been detrimental to much of humanity. Yet we’ve tolerated it because it wears the sheep’s clothing of “freedom” or “liberty” and offers the promise of “growth”. It has always painted itself as the “least bad” system available to us.

It’s time to admit that this “least bad” system is, in fact, bloody terrible.

And now we’re facing the final dystopian impacts capitalism always threatened, through human-induced climate change, to deliver.

To those who are now saying “we-need-to-admit-climate-change-is-real-and- have-a-conversation-about-it,” I say no.

We need to address the real problem: capitalism. We need a new system.

We need to change our behaviour and the very way we live.

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Distraction, Diversion And Dereliction: A Government With No Real-World Vision

By Loz Lawrey  

In any democratic parliament, they waste so much space and time, bloviating incessantly and indulging in constant tribal self-aggrandisement.

Call them conservatives, right-wingers, contrarians, shallow-minded barbarians, knuckle-draggers, “Trumpanzees” (in the U.S.A.), “Morrison’s Morons”… call them whatever.

They’re a breed. Short on new ideas, but big on ideology and “belief”, they place little value upon facts and evidence.

How can in-depth thinking occur when so much available brainspace is already cluttered with Milton Friedman-style concepts of “free markets” and concerns over “political correctness”, bound together with the mortar of blind faith in an invisible, unprovable deity?

Political ideology and religious belief are siblings, really. How often in the past few years have we heard people say: “I don’t believe in climate change”?

I know I’ve often found myself shouting at the radio or TV: “It’s not a matter of belief! It’s evidence-based science!”

Mind you, I “believe” we all need a degree of “belief” just to get through the day. We have to “believe” in ourselves. We “believe” we’ll wake up tomorrow. When we start to think about belief we realise we’re already full of the stuff, in one way or another.

A mind already occupied by a fatalistic belief in “god’s plan” has little room for the creative thinking that leads to good policy development around nation-building or social equity… to governing, in other words.

Which brings me to… er… our current prime minister and his fellows in the “broad church” of the Morrison “government”.

While the Murdoch media trumpet Smuggo’s popularity with voters, I must say he appears to elicit the same outrage, anger and disgust from progressive Australians (roughly half the population) as did Anthony Abbott.

Does this make him vulnerable to a leadership challenge? If not now, then surely soon, when the gloss of his surprise electoral win loses the last of its sheen?

What will be the last straw for Morrison? I seem to remember that in Abbott’s case it was the offer of a knighthood to Prince Phillip that did the trick.

Australians (even the conservative right) had had enough.

Overnight, Malcolm Turnbull was dusted off and reinstated as coalition leader.

In Morrison’s case, just a few more weeks of non-response to the actual real-world burning of Australia may do the trick, while he focuses on ideological obsessions such as legislating “religious freedoms” (ie. entrenching religion’s right to discriminate in law) and repealing the humanitarian Medevac laws.

Scott Morrison is the embodiment of right-wing evangelical conservatism. He champions beer, barbies, and “belief”. Oh, and “the Sharks”…

Does he champion big ideas? Does he read books? Does he nurture an active imagination? Is he able to visualise a better Australia? Do his “values” include truly valuing ALL of us?

History tells us otherwise. After all, he’s the proud “I stopped the boats” guy, the man who takes pride in Australia’s offshore gulag detention regime where desperate refugees have been detained without hope (ie effectively abused and tortured) for years simply for arriving by boat without a visa.

Why weren’t they simply given visas and allowed to lodge asylum claims? If they’d come by plane, most would arrive with a visa in hand, as this government document from 2015 makes clear.

The whole mess around boat arrivals and offshore detention looks like nothing more than bureaucratic hair-splitting spin, designed to win the votes of bigots by demonising poor people fleeing war zones in search of a better life, as though they seek to invade our country in overwhelming numbers.

The absurd, disgusting, ongoing inhumane offshore detention regime, sustained as it is by the old canard of “border security”, seems to pander to some sort of racist bigotry.

Why must it be offshore? Why not onshore?

The whole cruel business has always been nothing more than theatre, a shadow play designed to create the impression of a government in control, a protective government caring for its citizens. Sadly, its impact upon the health of detainees, both physically and mentally, has been disastrous.

All this while implementing uncaring policies that effectively demonise poorer, unemployed and disadvantaged Australians, such as those receiving Newstart allowance.

Surely the imposition of the cashless welfare card will bring some Australians closer to a state of slavery, with authorities exercising control over the financial choices of individuals?`

As an evangelical Christian espousing “Prosperity Christianity”, Scott Morrison embraces a form of religious exclusivism that says: “my religion is the one true faith”. Surely the exclusion of atheists, non-believers and other “unworthies” is an unavoidable consequence of our pentecostalist prime minister’s worldview?

Does his “lifters and leaners” ideological judgement of each citizen’s social worthiness not stem directly from such exclusivist thinking?

Perhaps our country’s social cohesion relies upon shared concepts, such as the idea that we are all basically well-intended towards one another, or that acceptance and inclusion are natural expressions of our humanity.

Oops! That sounds awfully like a “leftie” or “leftard” perspective.

Rank socialism, even.

Is anyone else experiencing the current assault on progressive Australians? Members of the coalition government seem to regularly attack Australian citizens, demonising some as “lefties”, “activists” (how did that become a dirty word?), “leaners”, “greenies”.

How can a government of civilised beings make such statements, which effectively constitute an assault on half the population?

It’s not belief itself I have a problem with; it’s the displacement of thought, of analysis and consideration that I object to.

Personally, I rejected the “left, right” conceptual paradigm when Abbott came to power in 2013.

That’s when the political divide coalesced in my mind into “empaths vs sociopaths”.

A simplistic generalisation, I know, but it’s the only way I can explain the two conflicting mindsets constantly at war in the arena of our democracy.

Like the U.S.A., Australia has two political tribes, with the brains of conservatives wired one way and progressives the other.

Never the twain shall meet, so how do we resolve this?

Under our current system, half the population or the other is perpetually disgruntled and dissatisfied, if not living in a state of constant outrage and anger.

Meanwhile, so much government energy is spent on what is, at the end of the day, nothing more than ideological puff stuff such as “border security”, “religious freedom” and the “ensuring integrity” assault on workers’ rights.

Right-wing brain farts, long-winded complaints about “political correctness”, ministerial conflicts of interest and controversies… so much of our arena of public debate is filled with swirling nonsense, leaving little time for big ideas and policies for future-building.

What’s worse is the fact that Morrison’s ideological entrenchment results in the casual dismissal of everything he just doesn’t “get”. The arts, for example.

His closure of the Department of Communication and the Arts displays a gob-smacking barbarian ignorance, a complete lack of understanding as to the role of art in society and its contribution to our national well-being.

That ignorance alone should preclude him from holding public office. Without a clear perspective on the elements that contribute to a healthy, well-rounded national mindset, how can politicians come to terms with their own role and serve the public effectively?

And he’s the prime minister, the leader… Surely leadership requires something more than Morrison’s vacuous “beers, burgers and how good’s cricket?” approach?

Today, as large swathes of our nation burn, what is the Morrison government focused on?

Angus Taylor’s lies to parliament, the “religious freedom” legalisation of discrimination, the repeal of Medevac laws, the “ensuring integrity” attack on unions and the right of workers to organise… Integrity? One has to wonder if this government knows the meaning of the word.

Just listen to the likes of Morrison and his ministers when being interviewed. Do we hear a nation-building narrative? Do we hear about the search for solutions to address the great challenges of our time? Do we hear proposals for real-world action?

No, we don’t. We get evasion, distraction, diversion and dereliction of duty.

Australia’s greatest shame is its own government, the one it has chosen…

As Elvis once sang: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please!”

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Dismantling Australia’s Decency

By Loz Lawrey  

In 2014, some six months after the Abbott Coalition government came to power, a wave of community outrage found expression in the March in March rallies.

Some 100,000 Australians took part in protest marches at 29 locations nationwide to decry the new government’s right-wing policies and neoliberal agenda.

Organised on social media, March in March was in a sense a pop-up people’s movement, a grassroots response to a government which many progressive Australians perceived to be toxic to the common good.

As its online organisers sought to articulate and define what drove the collective outrage, the catchphrase “the people, united for better government” emerged as a war cry for the March in March movement.

One word which kept reappearing in those discussions, however (and later on placards at the rallies), was “decency”.

There was a prevailing sense that our national character had always been imbued with decency and that decency should always inform the policies enacted by our governments.

It was equally clear that our new government had little concept or understanding of the word, dismissing it as just another leftie snowflakey term like “empathy”.

Where had Australian decency gone?

Many progressives believe that decency in our country has been eroded and diminished over time and that its devaluation began in 2001 with the Tampa affair, a shameful episode in Australian history in which the Howard government abrogated its responsibilities to the United Nations under international law.

Several weeks later the Children Overboard affair served to normalise the demonisation of asylum seekers who, overnight it seemed, went from being innocent refugees in the public mind to “illegals” invading our borders.

Poorer, disadvantaged Australians, like asylum seekers, also became targets of ever-increasing government mistreatment (think cashless “welfare” cards and Newstart payment rates frozen since the 1990’s).

Meanwhile, the (mainly Murdoch) media worked tirelessly to reinforce the public’s contempt, using the well-worn tropes of “dole bludgers” and “lazy welfare cheats”.

In 2001, in response to a question from an ABC journalist on a Four Corners program about Australia’s working poor (who, despite being in full time employment, struggled to pay their bills and meet the cost of living), then Education Minister Tony Abbott planted a seed of contempt for the poor with this statement:

“Poverty is, in part, a function of individual behaviour. We can’t stop people drinking, we can’t stop people gambling, we can’t stop people having substance problems, um… we can’t stop people making mistakes, ah… that cause them to be less well off than they might otherwise be”.

Thus spoke the same Tony Abbott who in 2014 so contemptuously dismissed the concerns of the 100,000 Australians who marched in March.

His statement caused such outrage in Australia’s social services community that it can still be heard on YouTube today:


There it is – the old subtext of contempt for the less well-off that has underpinned the Coalition’s approach to governance throughout the Howard years and which truly found its champions in the right wing Coalition government Australians have been enduring since September 2013.

I once heard it expressed as an adage in a speech by a conservative accountant, who put it this way: “no one enjoys poverty more than the poor themselves”.

As with Abbott’s statement, the implication is that poverty is a choice, and that if you find yourself in dire financial straits, you have no one to blame but yourself.

This article, published in response to Abbott’s Four Corners statement, highlights some of the toxic fallacies that, to this day, inform Coalition ideology.

Abbott led a hollowman government, one without empathy or consideration for those it considered to be not “having a go”.

It was clear to many that Abbott came to power and immediately set about implementing the antisocial free market libertarian agenda of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA): business and profit first, the people and their needs last.

The common good? The public interest? Thrown overboard, for greed and profit.

The conservative agenda drives our nation relentlessly towards becoming more and more like Trump’s America where the rich are “winners” and the poor are “losers”.

In a land where the “winner takes all”, our poor find themselves excluded from enjoying the tiniest share of the wealth of our nation, a share to which, as citizens, they are surely entitled.

In Australia, our “social security” safety net has morphed into “welfare”, U.S. style. We’ve gone from “social safety net” to “alms for the poor”.

Public health and education are under constant attack as the Morrison government prioritises huge tax cuts to business while disenfranchising our needy and de-funding the NGOs that assist them.

Environmental protection? Addressing climate change? Let’s not go there.

This Coalition government, which treats human rights as an inconvenience, maintains a world view underpinned by an ideological disregard and contempt for marginalised and disadvantaged Australians.

Sadly, the citizens of our first world nation can no longer depend upon human rights remaining an essential foundation stone in our social democracy.

It could be said that like human rights, decency has also been under constant attack these past twenty years.

Lies and misrepresentation have been blatantly deployed with ever-increasing arrogance by successive Liberal/National Coalition governments, from Howard’s “children overboard” (2001), to his “which party do you trust to keep interest rates down?” (2004) (nb. governments have no control over interest rates), to Abbott’s “no cuts to the ABC or SBS” (election eve 2013) to Morrison’s “Labor death tax” (2019).

This disregard for truth, for decency, for empathy, for social inclusion and equity is still evident in the strident shoutings of the now re-elected PM Morrison and the Trumpian rhetoric of so many of his ministers.

Could there be a more cruel and divisive slogan than Morrison’s mantra “a fair go for those who have a go”?

Organisers of the March in March 2014 rallies were amazed at the variety of messages and slogans on the placards of participants.

They knew thinking Australians were unhappy and angry at the Abbott government’s direction, but what took them by surprise was the variety of issues being raised.

It seemed as though people across the board from all social sectors felt negatively impacted by many of Abbott’s policies.

They felt personally affronted by what they saw as the contemptuous de-funding of so many public services that Australians have always held dear, in areas such as science, education, health, social security, environmental protection… even our own ABC.

They felt disgust at the shameful normalisation of cruelty which underpinned Abbott’s regime of inhumane detention in offshore gulags, a regime of which our current PM “On-Water-Matters” Morrison was so proudly an architect.

They knew that this was the thin end of a very thick wedge and they sensed that the hammering-in had only just begun…

For six years since then Australia has become ever more a floundering nation of diminishing empathy, leaving so many of its own behind.

And yet we still have both government and media telling us that that’s acceptable, that it’s quite OK to throw a percentage of us under a bus.

Why? Because some of us are unworthy, apparently.

The seed of contempt Tony Abbott planted in 2001 is now a tree.

And now, it seems, decency is lost.

Have so many Australians really forgotten what the word “decency” means?

Are we really now a decency-free Australia?

Nearly half the nation wonders: Why, Australia? Why the selfishness? Why the contempt for your fellows? Why the hatred of others? Why the increasing bigotry? Why did you re-elect this government without decency?


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Liberal Soul-Searching: Can A Zombie Government Find Its Soul?

By Loz Lawrey 

After the Liberal/National Coalition’s resounding loss in the 2018 Victorian state election, Liberal leader Matthew Guy, in his concession speech said this: “We need to stay united. We need to stay focused, on our opponents and the game ahead, not on ourselves”.

This statement illustrates the misguided mindset of Liberal Party politicians: they believe that their job is to simply seize and hold power at any cost (the Tony Abbott approach), rather than to govern the nation by listening and responding to the Australian electorate.

Do these people realise they’re supposed to be in government, not playing some form of competitive sport?

Since Abbott’s election in 2013, the federal Coalition government, like its sibling party in Victoria, has been staggering about under the weight of this fundamental misunderstanding, like a clown carrying a donkey.

Winning an election is one thing, but actually governing requires the dialling-down of campaign rhetoric and focusing on developing and implementing good policy in the public interest.

Perhaps this is simply what an elitist born-to-rule mentality looks like. It’s as if these politicians are saying “We know best; our ideology and beliefs are the best; facts, evidence and expert advice don’t matter and neither do your opinions, voters. To us, it’s all about winning”.

Once the Coalition actually wins government however, it doesn’t seem to know what to do, other than bombard the public with messages about itself to reassure us that it does know, such as Scott Morrison’s already tired mantra: “We’re getting on with the job.”

A party of salesmen, the Liberal Party tends to get hung up on the effectiveness of their salesmanship rather than that of their policies or “product”.

We’re already hearing bleats of disgruntlement from conservatives about their party not “selling the message” effectively enough to win over voters in Victoria.

Unfortunately, the quality of the salesmanship becomes irrelevant when the policy message is negative and uninspiring.

And what is that message? Does the Liberal Party actually have a coherent vision for our country? A vision that depicts a healthy multicultural, inclusive, egalitarian society whose principal aspiration is fairness? A vision of a happy, well-educated society? A “clever country” perhaps?

Or is their vision one of mean-spirited, judgemental, fascist authoritarianism where certain minority groups are demonised and human and civil rights are constantly eroded while funding for social welfare agencies is withdrawn over time, while the rich get richer?

The Liberal Party embraces the antisocial neoliberal non-vision of trickle-down free market economics: low-taxing small government, pay-as-you-go profit-driven health and welfare services and privatised public utilities.

Meanwhile, their climate change denialism remains, blatantly, the elephant in the room. The only “message” we’ve been hearing endlessly repeated for the past five long years is another mantra well past its use-by date: “It’s Labor’s fault!”

The Coalition will only ever produce mere career politicians, never true statesmen.

Statesmen inspire and unite voters; they don’t try to divide and manipulate us through fear and insecurity. They don’t spruik hollow, contrarian slogans such as: “we’re working to save Australians from a Shorten government”.

A statesman might say (and mean) something like this: “We can never be a stronger state until we are a fairer state.” Victorian Labor leader Daniel Andrews delivered this simple message of inclusion and goodwill on ABC Melbourne radio on post-election Monday.

How different this sounds to the chest-beating, divisive hate speech we hear from Canberra Liberals.

During his Saturday night victory speech, when Andrews praised Victorians for rejecting “the low road of fear and division” we knew exactly what he meant.

The negative sloganeering we’ve been subjected to during this state election campaign, compounded by the dog-whistling from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton on law and order and terrorism has been like enduring a constant, never-ending screech of fingernails on a blackboard: “Screech! African gangs! Screech! Terrorists! Screech! Labor waste! Screech! Labor taxes! Screech! Law and order!”

A cacophony of fear-mongering nonsense, if you will. What a sad, miserable and above all, cynical approach to wooing an electorate: trying to scare people into voting for you.

It’s the oldest trick in the book, the last resort of desperate politicians, devoid of vision: scoundrels in their high tower of last refuge, hurling grenades of fear and loathing in a mendacious attempt to divide, conquer and scare voters into endorsing their regressive ideology and political posturing.

The narcissistic federal infighting, incompetence and toxic messaging have at times felt like an ever-flowing river of rubbish. Finally at last, Victorian voters have said “enough!”

Even some of the party’s own have also had enough: MP Julia Banks has abandoned the party to sit on the cross bench as an independent. In her view

“The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Federal Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has blamed Liberal officials and “ideological warriors” for imposing their extreme views on social issues on the broader party, which the public now views as one of “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

Bring on the federal election, as soon as possible, please.

Can Australians stand another six months of Zombie Government dysfunction?

Surely the Liberal/National Coalition has earned a long, long period in opposition?

After the Coalition’s poor result at the 2016 federal election under Malcolm Turnbull, the Liberals promised to do some “soul-searching” over their growing disconnect from the electorate.

Their Victorian election wipe-out is proof that the search has been fruitless. Much of the Liberal messaging came from Canberra, echoed by a compliant Matthew Guy, so the Morrison Government shares the responsibility for the loss.

Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton et al continually bang on about “our values” but those “values” appear to include mean-mindedness, misogyny, homophobia and outright cruelty.

If these are truly Australian values, then I’m a Martian.

To search your soul in self-reflection, first you need to find it.

Has the Liberal Party lost its soul?

Does a Zombie Government even have a soul?

Oh, for a government that values values

By Loz Lawrey

I constantly hear the word “values” bandied about in public debate. What are values?  The label commonly refers to moral and ethical principles or standards of behaviour, but what do the politicians who pepper their rhetoric with the term really mean by it?

If you google the term you’ll lose yourself in a plethora of examples and definitions of “core” and “personal” values, but according to Department Of Home Affairs Fact Sheet 07, “Life in Australia: Australian values” are:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individuals
  • equality of men and women
  • freedom of religion
  • commitment to the rule of law
  • parliamentary democracy
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
  • equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

That sounds OK to me and resonates completely with my own progressive views. It reassures me that beneath all the bluster Australia just might be at heart a modern, forward-looking nation, doing its best to learn and grow with the times. But do the priorities and policies of the (currently Morrison) Coalition government reflect those values?

Most applicants for Australian visas are required to acknowledge this “Australian values statement” as part of entry application process:

Perhaps this requirement to understand and acknowledge our society’s values should also apply to those who seek public office, because it’s clear that some of our federal parliamentarians subscribe to values sets of their own, ones that bear no correlation to the Home Affairs definition. What are these people even doing serving as representatives of the people?

We’ve often heard Pauline Hanson bandy the term “Australian values” about (they’re “Judeo-Christian”, according to her) as she advocates for her divisive hate-driven white supremacist agenda.

Where do her priorities align with the Home Affairs template, if at all?

We’ve heard Peter Dutton wave the “values” flag as he has, on multiple occasions, sought to whip up communal antipathy towards Somali youth (“African “gangs”), Lebanese Muslims, refugees and anyone who dares to contradict him or call him out.

When he was Prime Minister, Tony Abbott (remember him?) would refer to “Team Australia” and its “values” whenever the ABC’s reporting irritated or embarrassed him. His own sense of self-importance would take a hit when the reportage mirrored the facts, rather than his simplistic sloganeering. Like Pauline Hanson, he also used “Australian values” to support a “ban the burka” (read “anti-Muslim”) motion put forward by Nationals MP George Christensen.

The war on welfare recipients conducted by the Coalition was hardly rolled out under the banner of “a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good”.

Values? “Equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background” clearly does not apply to those desperate refugees who came to us by boat. They get abuse and torture instead, as they are driven to insanity or suicide on Nauru by the Coalition’s calculated cruelty.

Shouldn’t values inform our public policy-making? Shouldn’t they be the overarching first principle of government? Sadly, “values” is now officially a weasel word, an often racist dog whistle of the political right. It is a useful tool in the conservative arsenal, a term that somehow implies an unearned moral superiority. It is often used to silence dissent and shut down debate. After all, who would dare argue with or call “values” into question?

We live in an age of spin, a time when political messaging often has more to do with expedience than honourable leadership. Our current Prime Minister (this week) happens to be a former marketing man, a salesman. He embodies the Coalition’s preference for salesmanship over substance. It never occurs to them that electoral rejection of their policies may be based on the shortcomings of the policies themselves rather than the way they were “sold” to voters. From their perspective, Barnaby Joyce’s skills as a “retail politician” made him an excellent Honourable Member and Deputy PM. (Pause for laughter).

Scott Morrison keeps saying things like “what Australians want is …” or “the Australian people want us to …” as if he actually knows what we, the Australian people, value.

He clearly does not. If he did, we’d have a clear policy for addressing climate change and reducing emissions. We would be endorsing renewable energy as the only way forward. We wouldn’t have the cruelty and abuse of offshore detention. We wouldn’t see the dismissal, with the Coalition’s customary contempt, of the concerns of Indigenous Australians. We wouldn’t have been subjected to a divisive plebiscite on same sex marriage.

And then there’s religion. Ay ay ay! What can we say? I intend no disrespect to people of faith. I believe that we are all people of faith one way or another, not just those who embrace Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Guru Nanak, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or any other deity. At the end of the day, we all believe in something, even if it’s sport, sausage sizzles, Scientology or Dale Carnegie’s self-improvement for salesmen program.

We each live by our own understanding and concepts, regardless of how we came by them. The fact that so many belief-systems exist is surely the greatest argument for secular government and the separation of church and state there can be. A secular system is the only place, the only platform upon which many differing faiths can co-exist. Without it we’re living back in the time of the crusades and the inquisition, not here in 2018.

I have no problem with religion but I do object to the endorsement of homophobia as a “value” by religious institutions. A weasel word in itself, wrapped in the weasel-skin cloak of “religious freedom”, the term “values” is put forward as justification for an agenda of discrimination against a minority not on any proven, scientific or evidence-based grounds, but on outdated, archaic prejudice and bigotry which should have no place in the modern world.

According to Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, however, “Church schools should NOT be forced to play by secular rules. It goes to the very heart of religious freedom that religious organisations should be able to operate according to their religious ethos.”

What is he actually saying? The subtext appears to be: “We religious folk are special. We are superior.

We can flout the laws of the land. We will use funding from secular taxpayers to promote our agenda of homophobia and social control. We will claim tax-exempt status while doing so.”

“Religious ethos.” Now there’s a weasel term! You could endorse any hateful agenda to divide and conquer with that one.

Scott Morrison became, just a few days ago, the latest in the conga line of inadequate Prime Ministers to lead what is apparently now known as the ATM government, a failed government which has now wasted years of Australia’s precious time.

In the name of “leadership” we have, over several years, been force-fed slogans and catch-cries, lies and misrepresentations. Ideology seems to be the problem. This Coalition ATM government simply does not subscribe to the values promoted by its own Department of Home Affairs.

The “public good”? “Mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion”? Forget them, they are “leftist values”, part of a “leftist agenda”. Remember Peter Dutton’s warning that “a single act of compassion” could destroy the cordon of cruelty his government has erected in the name of “border security”?

“Leftist” or otherwise, our country deserves a government that values values. Not weasel pretend-values, not a list of definitions to be ignored but actual heartfelt real dinky di ones that truly define our aspiration to become the best, most humane society we can be.

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Killing The ABC: The IPA’s Agenda To Dismantle Australia

By Loz Lawrey

I’ve been resisting the urge to write yet another “rant” because … geez, who wants to hear more whingeing? Another complaint, another letter to the paper from yet another grumpy old man who thinks the world’s going to hell in a handbasket?

Yet I awoke today to read that the Liberal Party Council has endorsed the IPA’s wet dream: the privatisation of the ABC.

Enough! I have to squawk and screech!

In 2013, realising that Australians were about to elect an Abbott government, I remember thinking about the dumbing down of our nation I’d been witnessing for years and the extent to which it had been driven by the right wing servants of the moneyed class, aided and abetted by tabloid newspapers and commercial TV.

At first, Abbott’s style as opposition leader seemed absurd and unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone with a brain and an inclination to use it.

How could moronic, simplistic three-word slogans possibly convince Australians into voting for a party so out of touch with the public interest, one which strives to entrench the power of wealth while leaving our disadvantaged struggling to survive?

Quite easily, as it turned out.

“Stop the boats”, “ditch the witch”… several years before the ascension of Trump in the USA, Abbott and his media champion Rupert Murdoch were hard at work normalising hate speech and the politics of division.

TV vox pops with Australians in the street showed them responding to questions about their electoral intentions with regurgitated slogans or headlines from Murdoch’s publications.

The ill-named “Liberal” party, then led by Abbott and now Turnbull, bears a greater resemblance to the anti-communist, white nationalist empire-loving Old Guard than it did to the party created by Menzies.

As adjunct Professor John Nethercote (Australian Catholic University) tells us, Menzies “expressly distinguished liberalism from conservatives … Menzies was mainstream, and believed in the mainstream, believed in the community and a middle class.”

While current Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull may pay lip service to Menzies and his “values”, the fact is that the party he now leads is a different beast to the one Menzies founded. Hard-right conservative cuckoos now inhabit the Liberal nest.

It’s hard for the outsider to comprehend what these people stand for, other than money and the power it affords in a capitalist society.

In other words, that is all they stand for: their own interests and those of their wealthy backers, to the exclusion of the rest of us.

This is fascism, the merging of government and corporate power.

Selfish and self-serving, they are the ideological descendants of Thatcher and Reagan, harbingers of a toxic worldview that eschews the very concept of the common good.

“There’s no such thing as society”… Whether or not Maggie Thatcher actually said this is uncertain, but this statement perfectly encapsulates the mindset of the political far right, a mindset which perceives fascist authoritarianism to be in the public interest.

Why would anyone vote for a party that celebrates “winners” (ie. the rich) but will throw you to the wolves should you need a little help at some point from a system to which you yourself may have contributed for years via your taxes?

Well … you tell me.

In August 2012, the far right “think” tank The Institute For Public Affairs (IPA) published a wish-list of 75 suggestions for restructuring Australia’s system of governance.

If you have the time, please read this article, despite the repugnant Weasel-speak in which it is written, because it truly exposes the hypocrisy of the IPA and its agenda – one in which Medicare (ie. public health)is described as a “radical policy” and our “generous welfare safety net” (social security) as “unsustainable into the future”.

Item numbers 50 and 51 on this list were:

Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

Privatise SBS

This raised such concern in the Australian community that Abbott famously declared on election eve in September 2013 that under a Coalition government there would be “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”

These were nothing more than glibly-delivered promises, spouted at the eleventh hour by a shameless aspirant to power who had not the slightest intention of honouring them.

And what have we witnessed since then, over several years?

An ongoing defunding our public broadcaster and a vitriolic assault on its journalists based on … what? The wishes of the loony IPA? The rabid ideology of the far right?

The fact is that independent journalism and reportage tends to make right-wingers sound stupid. When ideology is given precedence over evidence, the earth becomes flat. Shallow utterances based on nothing more than belief have little to do with the truth and much to do with the pursuit of an agenda.

Once the Coalition took office, the assault began: The ABC “takes everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should “show some basic affection for the home team” squawked Abbott.

Why? Well, the ABC was doing its job. Reporting the facts.

However, when the facts don’t suit politicians and their agendas, they complain bitterly.

Throughout its history, the ABC has occasionally upset governments, be they Coalition or Labor.

Of course, it’s quite natural for incumbent governments of all stripes to wish the national broadcaster was their own propaganda spin-machine, regurgitating official media releases without scrutiny.

But it isn’t, and never should be a mouthpiece for government. Its journalism is one of the vital checks and balances that sustain our social democracy.

This is the very reason that the independence of the ABC must be maintained – its reportage holds government to account.

Sure, all journalism should be “unbiased”. Opinion pieces in conservative publications masquerading as news articles are one thing. But real “news” journalism is about facts, facts and more facts.

In other words, real journalists serve the truth, in the public interest.

Forget “Team Australia” and “taking sides”. These statements of Abbott’s seemed to imply that the truth should sometimes be suppressed.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, himself an IPA alumnus, has just lodged his fifth complaint against the broadcaster. This is not someone engaging in oversight and management. He is serving an agenda, and his complaints are part of a coordinated assault upon the ABC by a cabal of vested interests: far-right ideologues, commercial media owners and our own federal government.

The IPA recently released their book “Against Public Broadcasting – Why We Should Privatise The ABC And How To Do It”.

If I had the time and could be bothered, I’d read the thing and write a response that counters its toxic arguments and neo-liberal antisocial agenda. But sadly, I’m getting old and life’s simply too short.

What a miserable bunch of contrarians they are. So many of the “suggestions” on the IPA’s wishlist are about dismantling, demolishing, defunding and destroying or privatising institutions that were set up with the express purpose of improving our society and supporting Australians.

Is the Turnbull government hard at work implementing the IPA’s agenda? Yes, they are.

What sort of society do these people want? Their concept of “freedom” implies a  law-of-the-jungle world with no checks and balances, no empathy or inclusion, no equality or decency.

Clearly they want Australia to emulate the descent into darkness we are currently witnessing in Trump’s America.

Well, damn them all and damn them to hell.

We’ve let them do so much that is wrong since 2013. They’ve managed to make Australians condone torture and abuse being carried out in our name in offshore gulags.

History will not treat us kindly.

They have already reduced the ABC to a shell of its former self.

The lack of funding and resources is evident, yet still our ABC struggles on, for us.

Please, good people.

We can’t let these goombahs get away with this murder.

Save our ABC.

Fascism: History Repeats, Again

By Loz Lawrey

“… It was 1941. Europe was in flames. Spain had fallen to a ruthless dictator. Hitler had rolled over the continent, reduced France to an abject state, and was about to invade Russia. Concentration camps were filled with Jews (though we in America did not know much about that yet). Mussolini ruled Italy. Japan ravaged eastern China and southeast Asia, as her ultimate conquerors would later continue to do in Indochina. The enemy was fascism – and fascism did not exist only across the oceans …” (from the Rolling Stone article “Pete Seeger: Guerilla Minstrel” by Gene Marine, 13 April 1972).

It’s true that fascism, which emerged in Italy in the 1920s, was rearing its ugly head in America as well as Europe by the 1930s and 40s.

Social justice activists such as Pete Seeger knew their enemy well. The scrawled message “this machine kills fascists” on Woody Guthrie’s guitar said it all.

What is fascism? Most dictionary definitions describe a system of authoritarian government whose attributes include nationalism, racism and dictatorial/autocratic state control. Under fascism, military, corporate and political interests conjoin to impose their power over the people and suppress all voices of opposition or dissent. Hitler’s Nazi regime was fascist in nature.

Definitions of fascism tend to sound like neoliberalism’s mission statement, listing elements critical to the business model of … call them what you will: the wealthy elites, the one percent, the military/industrial complex, the economic rationalists, the political hard right, the corporate predators of neoliberalism … in other words, those who profit from chaos.

Socialism to fascists is what Kryptonite is to Superman. Fascists hate socialism, communism, even conservatism, which can appear too moderate in the eyes of these far-right bully boys. To fascists, concepts such as “human rights” and “social justice” are irrelevant.

Aspiring fascists prowl the corridors and back alleys of our federal parliament and public service.

Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton presides over a vast portfolio which, it could be argued, places too much power over others in the hands of one man.

Were he ever given free reign to exercise that power at will, without checks and balances to constrain his actions, fascism would displace the last vestiges of democracy in our country.

Were the Liberal/National Coalition government not constrained by our parliamentary system and the need to maintain an appearance of social democracy and public participation, we would now be living under an overtly fascist regime.

As it is, we are witnessing the creeping resurgence of fascism both here in Australia and globally.

I was born in 1951, only six years after the end of the Second World War, a horror chapter in humanity’s ever-repeating cycle of war, conflict, genocides and self-inflicted abominations which many of us hoped had ended with the USA’s shameful atomic  mass murders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I grew up in a time when our society truly believed fascism, which had a presence in Australia during the 1930s, had been consigned to the past, just another stain on humanity’s abysmal human rights record.

We great apes think ourselves clever, but we don’t treat each other well, do we?

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Lies, misrepresentation, fear-mongering, racism, the promotion of conflict and social division, “othering”… these are the tools of the fascist trade.

Political leaders with easy access to propaganda by mass media bring these tools to the task of grasping power and imposing control. The hysterical headlines of the Murdoch gutter press are a deliberate form of brainwashing.

How easily we forget the lessons drawn from the mistakes of the past. How short is humanity’s collective memory.

In my 66 years I have witnessed a great arc of human social improvement: Progress. A genuine, educated attempt to be truly human in our values and our social organising, underpinned by a vision of utopian possibility.

I’ve observed the struggle for civil rights in western nations, the hard-won gains of the union movement, the efforts to enshrine human values of fairness and decency within so-called democratic societies.

I’ve also witnessed that same vision of fairness, inclusion and equality being dismantled over time, diluted and diminished by neoliberalism: the cult of individualism with its “winners and losers” mentality.

Although socialism always attracts bad press, history demonstrates that some socialist values and principles of inclusiveness are mandatory requirements for any successful, healthy civil society.

For a few brief decades, thanks to the activism of our trade unions, workers enjoyed better wages, working conditions and safety standards than ever before.

With a little socialist garnish to balance its greed, capitalism actually seemed to work for a while there.

Workers earned a fair wage, a single breadwinner could feed a family and business reaped the rewards of workers’ ability to spend.

Trade unions brought rogue employers to heel. Principles of decency forced governments to endorse the standards of fairness that workers demanded.

Union members made this happen, while non-member “freeloaders” also enjoyed the fruits of endless hard-fought union campaigns. For years. And years.

Yet here we are today: Union membership is at an all-time low. Our hard-won rights, wages and conditions have been eroded and subverted, sanded down and dimished to the point of practical non-existence.

The new “gig economy” is code for a deregulated law-of-the-jungle employment environment where workers’ rights and entitlements no longer exist.

Like the crazed high priests of greed that they are, business lobby groups continually advocate for lower wages and working conditions in the name of “flexibility” and “productivity”.

We recently saw the oddly-named “Fair Work Commission” cut penalty rates for low-paid hospitality workers working outside business hours or on weekends, a decision that clearly had nothing to do with fairness for workers.

The nonsensical trickle-down economic argument supporting that decision would reduce workers to the level of indentured servants, caught up in an endless struggle for survival on wages which don’t meet the cost of living.

One has to wonder: can businesses really prosper while disenfranchising and impoverishing the very workers who are also their customers?

As long as workers are treated as “units of work” rather than people, exploitation will remain an integral part of our industrial relations system.

Penalty rates were originally conceived, fought for and won by unions seeking to compensate workers for the social disadvantages of working outside normal business trading hours while the rest of society plays.

Bloody unions! Always at it, aren’t they, trying to inject fairness into the employment space! They must be stopped! Quick! Raid their offices!

Unbelievably, I recently met a young man in his early twenties who had no idea what a trade union is. To him, the job market is a toxic jungle where concepts such as “fairness” or “living wage” no longer apply.

He sees a dog-eat-dog competitive arena where only a few victorious gladiators will ever be left standing to share the spoils of success.

To him, being a worker means being thrown to the wolves. Scars are expected. Ongoing employment and economic and social survival are now mere hopes, no longer expectations.

Is the struggle for social justice finally lost?

It could be argued that fascism has always been with us in one form or another.

Perhaps it simply changes its spots, adapting like a  chameleon to the temper of the times.

One could say that neoliberalism is fascism in sheep’s clothing, with its veneration of corporate power and market freedom, its deregulation, its austerity measures, its disregard for both the individual and the public interest, its attacks on social justice and denial of society’s right to social cohesion.

In other words, we now suffer from a different form of authoritarianism. Today industry and commerce run the show. Although the appearance of democracy and “people power” is maintained, governments listen first to the lobbyists of their corporate masters while paying lip service to voters, who are condemned to waiting for trickle-down benefits which may never materialise.

We are drowning in an ocean of often irrational lies and spin regurgitated by politicians quivering with excitement at the magnitude of corporate “donations” (some might say “payment for favourable outcomes”) to their party coffers.

Governments use the same fear-mongering (terrorists, North Korea etc) and “othering” (refugees, welfare recipients, “gangs”) as fascist regimes once did, in their ongoing attempts to divide, disempower and control us.

I’ve always found far greater inspiration in the stories of compassionate contributors to human betterment than those of conquering heroes and economic, social or sporting “winners”.

Some human stories warm the heart and inspire us to become our most generous selves, while others leave us mean-minded, competitive, judgmental, full of hubris, intolerance and nastiness.

I know that as a post-war baby boomer, I’ve been very lucky. I was born into middle-class comfort. I enjoyed a free education and a reasonably consistent working life, punctuated by short periods of unemployment, during which times my family was sustained by a viable social safety to which I myself contributed by paying tax, along with my fellow Australians.

While the media “dole bludger” label has always been with us, our social security system, though never perfect, ensured that few of us actually went homeless, unlike today’s reality when more than one in two hundred of us sleep rough.

“They” have turned us against each other. Maggie Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society” has come to pass.

Our own government constantly attacks and demonises our most disadvantaged citizens.

We are judged. If we accumulate wealth, we are “winners”. If wealth doesn’t materialise for us (for whatever reason), we are dismissed as “losers” and kicked to the curb.

As time passes, so does the past become devalued and forgotten. That’s why the historical record is so important.

I remember learning some years ago that the study of history was to be wound back in school curriculums. I knew then that we were making a mistake. How easily a generation forgets the lessons learned by its predecessor.

Once history is devalued and ignored, we’ve disempowered ourselves by throwing a precious resource of fact-based knowledge overboard.

Today we live in a world where people of lesser ability are elevated to high office, where stupidity is celebrated and fools are made famous by commercial media placing profit above the public interest.

Today I regularly encounter adults who’ve never read a book and are unaware of the precedents of history. I believe this trend has a lot to do with the resurgence of fascism we are witnessing globally.

Yes, fascism, Nazism … the ugliest variations on the theme of “Stupidity Uber Alles” are all around us. Fascism, that paradigm whereby bullies in jackboots with small brains, sadistic tendencies and no empathy whatsoever run the show.

As a player on the stage of life, I’ll eventually exit, stage left.

The world will go on without me and, apart from a few songs and scribblings floating in cyberspace, there will be little or no trace of me left behind. I hope to leave a small footprint: not too many people hurt, not too much damage done.

I love life, and while I do occasionally tumble into the slough of despond, I usually manage to remain positive in the face of what sometimes seems like universal awfulness.

There are, however, times when I’m overwhelmed by disappointment at what I perceive to be humanity’s bad choices.

My disenchantment began in the 1980s, with Thatcher in the U.K. and Reagan in the U.S., who infected our world with the toxic poison of “economically rationalist” neoliberal ideology, elevating selfishness, applauding greed and equating obscene wealth with success.

Today, things look worse than ever. Toxic regimes devour their own citizens. More global conflict seems inevitable.

History is repeating, again …

Once more, humanity’s fate is held in the hands of a few greedy, power-hungry men. Their deluded madness enslaves us all, and by their hand shall we bleed. Or perish.

Unless, of course, we choose otherwise.

How to reject division

By Loz Lawrey

“Loz, you have no class”, she said. Shocked and confused, I felt my eyebrows arching. Was my sister-in-law’s mother insulting me?

“No”, she said. “I mean, you have no class”. Then I realised: she was referring to social “class”.

This was a seminal moment for me. It had the effect of plunging me into an ocean of self-analysis and thought about myself and the societies which shaped me.

Do we have a class system in Australia? Many of our politicians seem to think so. How often do we hear the term “class warfare“ bandied about? In the country of the Fair Go, with our social democratic system which espouses equality for all, how can this be?

In truth we’ve always had a class system, but it has to go.

Multiculturalism cannot thrive and blossom in this country until it does. Well-off Australians often seem to harbour a contempt for our indigenous citizens, for refugees and “foreigners”, for our less-educated, our poor and disadvantaged. That contempt, constantly fanned by radio shock jocks, Murdoch and IPA opinionators and echoed by right-wing politicians, must end

The concept of “class” is not only imposed by the entitled few upon the less well-off many. “Class” difference is also accepted as reality and reinforced by those who benefit the least from such a construct.

My late wife used to tell me that she often heard the term “that’s not for the likes of us” from her parents. She made it clear how hard she had to struggle in later life to overcome and forget that dream-crushing, crippling statement.

Social and economic “class” doesn’t bring us together, it limits us and keeps us apart.

I’ve lived on Australian soil since 1975, but many of my earlier years were spent in other countries: the USA, Indonesia and France. My father worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and was often posted overseas for years at a time.

I spent my final four years of high school as a boarding student. Once a year I was flown overseas by the government during the Christmas holidays to visit my family in Cairo, Egypt, and later Madrid, Spain.

Released from the shackles of boarding school, I spent 1970 in a hall of residence at the Australian National University growing my hair, listening to music, experimenting with substances, avoiding lectures and, as might be expected, eventually dropping out. I’d been locked up in an institution for far too long.

My work resume details a chequered career: I’ve been a factory worker, a beer keg roller, a wine and spirits storeman, an invoice clerk, a Commonwealth public servant (twice), a labourer, a menswear salesman, a hardware/paint salesman, a tradesman painter and decorator, and a builder/renovator.

I’ve also been unemployed for periods of time, such as the early 90’s, during the “recession we had to have”, and forced to rely on unemployment benefits, so rudely referred to as “welfare” by the Turnbull government these days.

I hope all this palaver about myself hasn’t come across like a narcissist’s picnic. I just wanted to make the point that I’ve lived and experienced life from many angles, and that’s why the concept of ”class” means nothing to me.

Now in my mid-sixties, I realise that I’ve been a very lucky boy. I’ve been living through the most prosperous period in our country’s history and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve been afforded.

I’ve lived in or visited many overseas countries, each with their particular cultures, societies, languages, cuisines and idiosyncracies.

I’ve worked alongside humans of all ages, social backgrounds, education levels and racial origins.

I’ve seen enough of the world and its people to know that we are all connected and that at our core lies something beautiful, a quality beyond ethnicity and appearance that we associate with the word “human”. Dare we call it “soul” or “life energy”?

I don’t focus on “class”. I try to see not what divides us, but what unites us. Wherever I look I see human beings, each of us grappling in our own way with the demands, expectations and responsibilities of our lives, carrying the baggage and joys of our lived experience and often, sadly, the scars of abuse.

How do we, as a nation, cut through the hypocrisies of “class”, the judgmental pushing-apart, the social condemnation inflicted by the entitled well-off upon our most disadvantaged? How do we come together? Do we truly seek inclusion and equity for all as our most noble objective?

Our attempts at multicultural inclusion have been admirable to date, but it’s clear that government ministers such as the execrable Peter Dutton just don’t get it.

Has this man ever read a book? Has he travelled overseas? Has he ever imagined anything other than acquiring and maintaining power over others? Has he ever bathed in the Ganges or wandered through the marketplace in Marrakesh? Has he strolled the Champs Elysees? Has he ever experienced the warmth and hospitality of strangers that a traveller can encounter in all corners of this globe? Has he ever had the chance to perceive the oneness of humanity? Or has he only known, in his short life, the limited, fearful, xenophobic post-colonial parochialism in which it appears he was raised?

Every public pronouncement Dutton makes seems to reek of racism and condemnation, of “othering”. So far, he’s singled out Lebanese Muslims, refugees from several countries and members of our African-Australian community. “These people”, he thunders …

He may as well say it: ” these non-white people” … they’re not subscribing to “Australian values” … we must teach these “values” in schools!

Yes, Dutton. And what might those values be? The values of inclusion, of embracing difference, of learning and growing together? No, you’re just like Tony Abbott – resentful of the fact that our multicultural nation isn’t some pale reflection of mother England.

Can’t you damn right-wingers see our amazing potential? Are you unable to move beyond your petty mindscapes and see the obvious? Our country is uniquely positioned to be a visionary world leader, to develop a model of social and economic organisation that might arrest humanity’s headlong rush towards self-destruction. Why can’t you see that?

In Australia, our multicultural experiment is working. We just need to accelerate its development.

That process will require that you step down, Dutton. Just removing your toxic voice (and several others) from the arena of our public debate will give our community clear air to breathe, live and grow, together.

I believe that overseas travel and exposure to other societies and cultures should be a mandatory part of our education system.

Why should young Australians’ first taste of world travel be landing in an overseas war zone, wearing camouflage gear and carrying a gun?

Surely they need to see the world in a time of peace, to find themselves surrounded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures beyond those they’ve grown up with. Just to broaden their minds and open their hearts …

And I don’t mean catch a train to Footscray. While Footscray itself is well worth a visit, it still exists within the Australian paradigm, a paradigm which locks us into a bow-to-the-queen and follow-the-USA mentality, a paradigm which tries to foist a “last-refuge-of a-scoundrel” patriotism upon us all, a form of nationalism which implies and seeks to entrench a concept of white superiority which only exists in the minds of little men.

No, young Aussies. I mean: go overseas. Immerse yourself. Place yourselves on a foreign street, in a community whose language you don’t speak. Learn that communication beyond speech is possible, when the need is there. Understand that that foreign-looking brother or sister is quite willing to advise and assist you, even make you welcome in the community he or she loves.

Please, know the joy of travel. Learn to be thankful for the warmth of acceptance. Learn to share that warmth. Don’t stand on our beaches flinging stones at new arrivals.

Our Prime Minister Turnbull is quite good at playing the role of Multicultural Mal when it suits him, when the cameras are rolling.

But by their hypocrisy shall ye know them: one day Turnbull participates in a blatant attack upon our African community, enthusiastically endorsing Dutton’s vicious “African gangs” smears, the next he’s all smiles, graciously gushing and grinning like a wolf as he effusively welcomes Kenyan-Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi to the Coalition dark side.

And then we get: “There’s no one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce!”

Actually, we get the government we deserve.

It’s really no surprise that our federal government and its brain-farts, thought bubbles and vitriolic public utterances simply reflects the confused and split personality that is our Australian psyche today.

Nothing is more illustrative of our schizophrenic national identity than the annual Australia Day/Invasion Day debate.

Poisoned by the leftover white entitlement of our colonial past so blatantly sprayed about by the Abbotts, Duttons, Turnbulls, Bernardis, Sheltons, Bolts etc. among us, public debate in Australia is constantly tainted by the rhetoric of division, of judgment, of racist bigotry, of intolerance and fear of the “other”.

It’s simple really. Do we want a united, inclusive nation?

Do we really want to live in that mythical land of the Fair Go?

Or do we want the division, the racism, the cruelty and contempt for our most disadvantaged being dished up daily by a government owned and operated by billionaires and bastards?

One thing is clear: A government that constantly singles out particular social sectors for demonisation can never unite our nation. Right-wing divisiveness is scarring Australia’s soul. To reject division and reclaim our nation’s heart, we must reject this government.

Hypocrisy shall be his epitaph

By Loz Lawrey

As Australia suffers the stewardship of a man apparently devoid of vision, inspiration and the self-confidence and character to truly lead, the word “hypocrisy” will forever define the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull.

We’ve had toxic PM’s before; John Howard and Tony Abbott come to mind. By “toxic”, I mean those whose determination to consolidate and entrench their own power at all costs subsumes their desire and capability to take our whole community forward, together, towards a greater common good.

Rarely are such people able to articulate a coherent plan for the betterment of our nation beyond spin-doctored platitudes such as Turnbull’s meaningless “jobs and growth”, or Abbott’s ghastly negative three-word slogans (remember how we choked on those?).

Such “leaders” don’t agitate for change or betterment. Rather, they seek to impose upon our present a white-picket-fence conservatism from the past. They don’t move with the times; they want to freeze us in time.

They’ll say or do anything to score a political point, to shut down debate and maintain their authority at any cost. But many Australians recoil in horror when shallow, mean-minded and divisive language spews forth from those who would purport to govern our nation.

Language is the most basic and important tool in the leader’s kit. Language has the power to unite, to inspire, to uplift. It is the brush which paints great visionary concepts into our public consciousness: the ‘light on the hill”, the “clever country”… such truly great verbal imagery encourages a nation’s people to share and embrace aspiration, moving forward, together, towards a brighter future.

But what do we get from Turnbull and his ministers? As Zorba the Greek might have put it, we get “the full catastrophe”. We get platitudes and scripted sweet nothings. We get bluster and manufactured outrage.

We get rhetoric designed to achieve nothing more than deflect attention away from the government’s own failures and shortcomings. We get hypocrisy.

We get constant attacks upon the Labor opposition as if the Coalition really believes that this is what Australians want to hear: a relentless, negative ever-flowing river of rubbish.

I’m drowning.

It’s New Year’s Day, 2018. What is Malcolm’s message to the people? Might it be something along the lines of: “We’ve found a new way to manage our country’s wealth, resources and social organisation. Our focus is to create a society in which everyone is included, cared for and afforded the opportunity to participate fully in the pursuit of the happiness that should be the birthright of every Australian”? Or perhaps something less cheesy but inspiring and inclusive nonetheless?

Nope. From Malcolm, we get this: “We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne. This is a failure of the Andrews Labor government.”

Ministers Greg Hunt and Peter Dutton, singing in harmony from the same songsheet, highlight the fact that they’re talking about “African youth gangs”.

And so, here we are. On the first day of the new year, Turnbull and Co. are already hard at work demonising a minority group, inciting hatred and dividing our community. Inspiration? Leadership? No. This is casting poison into the well. It’s classic “divide and conquer” stuff, astoundingly blatant in its arrogance.

Yes, folks, this week’s New Year effort by our federal government has been to pick a state government issue which Victoria is already addressing, inflate it into a message of fear and loathing and dump it on Australia’s coffee table like a steaming turd. Umm … thanks, Malcolm. The Sudanese community, in particular, thanks you. Not.

How stupid does the Turnbull government think we are? Now, there’s a question… we did elect them.

There’s no doubt the federal Coalition hates state Labor governments and grasps with eager hands any perceived opportunity to attack them.

We’ve witnessed Turnbull try to make political capital from the South Australian power blackout of 28 September 2016, when Australians concerned about climate change were stunned to hear him cynically blaming the state’s renewable energy policy for what was, in fact, damage to the grid caused by a severe weather event.

It’s as if the Turnbull government (and the Abbott government before it) is constantly trying to drag us backward, forcing its regressive, outdated worldview upon a society yearning for progress, like missionaries trying to impose their fanatical belief system upon a culture foreign to their own. It’s as if they’re constantly trying to insert a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit!

That’s the trouble with hypocrisy. It requires a suspension of disbelief, but try as we may, we can’t get away from the fact that the emperor has no clothes. In the end deception, truth-twisting, dissembling and misrepresentation cannot hide the reality, the facts.

Professor Google tells us that hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case”. Well, there it is. Sorry Malcolm, the jury’s back. Your pompous pronouncements in praise of multiculturalism and the “fair go” belie your government’s constant ongoing attacks on whole community sectors. You simply can’t claim to stand for all Australians as you single out some of us for vilification by the rest. You can’t let ministers like Peter Dutton target Muslim Australians of Lebanese extraction or young members of our Sudanese community with his insulting, condemnatory rhetoric. When you do, you out yourself as a hypocrite.

“Divide and conquer” has been an evident weapon regularly deployed by Coalition governments, at least since John Howard’s “we will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come” during the 2001 Tampa affair.

Sadly, it seems that hypocrisy is on the rise and, thanks in part to Donald Trump (its very embodiment in the USA), becoming normalised. Cynics among us might say that hypocrisy is as old as the human race. Sure, there’s no argument there. There was once, however, less tolerance for it from our politicians and in our public discourse generally.

Standards are slipping. We want leadership, well-intentioned leadership. Instead, we’re getting hypocrisy, garnished with obfuscation.

Hypocrisy, Malcolm Turnbull, shall be your epitaph.