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

The “open secret”: when men do nothing

In an independent investigation by a former inspector general of intelligence and security, former High Court judge Dyson Heydon has been found to have sexually harassed six junior court staff during his period on the bench.

More stories of Heydon’s predatory behaviour are coming to light as I write this piece.

Law Society of Australia president Pauline Wright commented after the revelations that harassment is pervasive in the legal profession. In 2019, the International Bar Association found that one in four women had been harassed in their workplace.

Heydon’s sexual impropriety has been acknowledged as an open secret in legal circles. Which might cause one to wonder about the integrity of a profession dedicated to upholding the law, that protects men who transgress that law.

It really is the same old never-ending story. In 2015, surgeon Dr Caroline Tan found her career derailed after she spoke up about being sexual harassed by a colleague. The prevalence of harassment in medicine is not known, however, it is considered sufficiently serious to cause problems for women across the profession. It is likely an “open secret” in that profession as well.

The only way sexual harassment is called out is when victims speak up. We are dependent on traumatised women putting themselves at further risk to tell us what is going on.

Women who disclosed are frequently disbelieved, especially if the man involved is a powerful figure. Women are blamed, both for the abuse and for disclosing it. Women lose their jobs or promotions. Women can be branded as troublemakers or worse, as sexually problematic in the workplace. It isn’t the perpetrators who are subjected to punishment, retribution and shunning. It is the victims. Women are frequently left without sufficient support and face inadequate complaints processes. Women can be further traumatised by the reactions of others, and the all too real fear of losing their livelihoods.

This is far too much responsibility to put on women in these situations. It is beyond appalling that traumatised women are the only ones who disclose these behaviours, and the only ones who name the men who indulge in them.

If the harassment is an “open secret,” as has been confirmed in the case of Heydon by accounts from senior lawyers, men who are in on this “secret” are enabling and protecting the perpetrator. Men who know this secret and stay silent are signalling their willingness to let this behaviour continue. If men stay silent, women can assume they agree with the behaviour. Women can assume that they will receive little assistance if they approach a man with their story.

There is absolutely no doubt that sexual harassment can only happen within a structure that tolerates and enables it. That would appear to be practically every institution and workplace in the country where men are employed.

Men in the workplace must be aware that sexual harassment is taking place. They must hear about it, see it, and suspect it. And yet, they do nothing. As angry and disgusted as we might be at the behaviour of one individual, he could not continue in that behaviour without the enabling silence of other men. It’s time we started demanding of men, why didn’t you say something?  It’s time we started holding men responsible for the behaviour of other men they do nothing to prevent.

Men harass women because they can and one of the reasons they can is because other men let them. It’s called complicit assent.  Men are complicit in a culture that encourages the sexual harassment of women. Men who are complicit betray women, and abandon their ethics. The wide-spread harassment of women will not substantially change until men step up.

The careers of six promising women lawyers have been derailed by the direct action of one man, and the tolerance and complicity of that action by every other man who knew about it. In these situations, there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. Men need to realise they are culpable in their silence.

Not all men are sexual abusers and harassers. But as long as they don’t speak up, all men are responsible for their complicity with those who do abuse and harass in their workplaces. It’s time to hold men accountable for that complicity, and remind them that failing to speak up makes them assenters. It’s way beyond time to demand that men start taking responsibility for the actions of other men. Way beyond time.

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Lies, lies and more lies

On May 25 2020, the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet, (PM&C) Phil Gaetjens, the most senior public servant in government administration, made a written submission to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into Lessons to be learned in relation to the preparation and planning for, response to and recovery efforts following the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season.

PM&C plays a central role in the management of crises, as outlined in the Gaetjens’ submission:

PM&C supports the Department of Home Affairs in coordinating the Australian Government’s crisis response, supporting effective decision-making by the Cabinet and its relevant sub-committees, advising the Prime Minister and facilitating coordination between Australian Government agencies. Emergency Management Australia (EMA) in the Department of Home Affairs is responsible for leading the government’s response to bushfires.

In his submission, Mr Gaetjens asserted that his department:

provided regular advice to the Prime Minister (including through his office) throughout the bushfire crisis, in close consultation with Emergency Management Australia (EMA).

You may recall that Prime Minister Scott Morrison left for a holiday in Hawaii on December 15th, 2019. At this time, eight people had died in NSW and Victorian bushfires, some of which had been burning since November. For the first few days Morrison’s office denied he was absent on vacation. On December 18, acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack confirmed that Morrison had left with his family for a holiday in “an undisclosed location.”

On Wednesday, May 27, Mr Gaetjens told the parliamentary inquiry that his department did not provide Morrison with any written or verbal briefings while he was away in Hawaii. This contradicts his written submission that regular advice had been provided to the Prime Minister by the department, throughout the bushfire crisis. Mr Gaetjens went on to say the he “believed” the Prime Minister’s office had been keeping Morrison updated while he was in Hawaii.

Apparently Mr Gaetjens doesn’t actually know this he merely “believes” it. Why didn’t Mr Gaetjens make it his business to know who was briefing the PM on a national catastrophe if his department was not? His department plays an essential role in the management of such crises and in advising the PM, yet they did not take responsibility for keeping him informed while he was on his Hawaiian sojourn, despite claiming he was briefed by them throughout the bushfires. Apparently, they did not ensure the PM’s office was briefing him either, they just “believed” it would.

We are entitled to know if Morrison was regularly briefed on the deteriorating fire situation while he was in Hawaii, and by whom.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack said on Thursday, December 19:

The Prime Minister is very across this issue. He is getting daily briefings, if not hourly briefings and he is very across it.

Not across it enough to return, however. Extraordinary, really. In what other employment environment would a CEO, for example, fail to return to their workplace at a time of unprecedented crisis? If Morrison was indeed receiving daily and even hourly briefings, how could he not come back, knowing the terrible circumstances Australians were in?

Both Morrison and his office had enough insight into the nature of the optics of his absence before he left, to decide they’d better lie about it. This is a decision that beggars belief, and is not unlike a small child believing if they cover their eyes, an adult can’t see them. However, neither the office nor Morrison had the gumption to realise it really isn’t possible to lie about a PM’s absence during a national catastrophe, and get away with it. Given the eye-watering stupidity of these decisions, not to mention the alarming penchant for magical thinking they indicate, we can’t trust that Morrison was adequately briefed by his office while he was away, and neither can we take it for granted that he wanted to be adequately briefed. The man legged it. Why should we believe that a man capable of legging it at such a time cared enough to stay informed?

It would be astounding indeed if Morrison’s staff took it upon themselves to withhold information about the gravity of the developing situation from their boss, without some strong indication from him that he didn’t want to know. But did they? Did he? These are questions to which we are entitled to demand answers.

It is also impossible that Morrison was unaware, briefings or not, of the disasters Australians were facing while he holidayed in Hawaii. By this time, our plight was the focus of global attention, and unless the Prime Minister isolated himself from all media, including social, he could not help but know how bad things were. And yet, he did not come back, and he sent no messages of support. He was thunderously, and most cruelly, irresponsibly silent.

When he returned he did say he’d beenVery focused on things back here while in Hawaii.” Thoughts and prayers, perhaps?   

How did Morrison watch such devastation take hold from the safety and comfort of his luxury hotel on a tropical island, and do and say absolutely nothing? If he was kept abreast of developments and still did nothing, preferring instead to enjoy his holiday, this makes his choices even worse. And what exactly did go on behind the scenes, in Morrison’s office and in PM&C? They are all public servants. We pay the lot of them. It’s about time we had some answers.

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How the PM’s refusal to isolate puts everyone at risk

Yesterday, Friday March 13th, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced that he’d tested positive for the COVID-19 virus earlier in the day, and was in hospital in Brisbane.

Dutton returned from a visit to the US on Sunday, March 8, and attended a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other ministers on Tuesday.

Dutton stated that he woke up on Friday morning with a sore throat and fever, immediately sought testing, immediately received the result, and was immediately hospitalised.

On Thursday,March 12, Senator Derryn Hinch revealed he’d heard a federal minster had tested positive for the virus, and had cancelled all meetings. Hinch is not clairvoyant, one assumes, and the minister in question was either Peter Dutton, or another infected minister who is yet to be named.

Mr Dutton claims to have woken up symptomatic on Friday, yet as nobody else has emerged as a contender, it’s reasonable to assume that Hinch’s information on Thursday  was in fact about the Home Affairs Minister’s situation.

This seems to suggest that Mr Dutton is misleading the public about the date his symptoms manifested, given that we can safely assume Mr Hinch is not a prophet. There is little else in this story that we can safely assume to be true.

The deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, advised the Prime Minister that he and other cabinet members present at that meeting do not need to self-isolate or seek testing for the virus, as Dutton was infectious for only 24 hours prior to displaying symptoms.

This is an astounding claim. The World Health Organisation advises that as far as we currently know, people carrying the virus are infectious for between 24 and 48 hours prior to symptoms manifesting.

 …we are learning that there are people who can shed COVID-19 virus 24-48 hours prior to symptom onset…

Noteworthy here is a) we are learning, and b) shedding can occur 24-48 hours prior to symptom onset.

The deputy Chief Medical Officer is apparently advising the government in contradiction of the findings of the World Health Organisation, and one has to ask oneself, why?

Morrison has since announced that he and his cabinet will not self-isolate, and will not seek testing. He has based this decision on the deputy CMO’s advice. We are now faced with the bizarre possibility that our most senior government members, according to WHO advice, have been exposed to the virus while interacting with a confirmed case, in a closed room, for several hours, and by their refusal to self-isolate, are prime suspects in its possible transmission.

Apparently the government and the deputy CMO cannot be trusted to properly inform the public on the matter of COVID-19. Quite where the deputy CMO acquired his definitive knowledge on the transmission period for the virus is unclear: nowhere have I been able to find support for his assertion, indeed, the overwhelming impression, trawling through international and domestic reports, is that to date, the period when a carrier is infectious is unclear and still speculative. And yet, the Morrison government has chosen to disregard this global reality, and work on the assumption that they are safe from the possibility of infection. As they are not self-isolating, they are risking transmitting the infection to everyone they come in contact with, including their own families.

If you are now feeling as if you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, you are not alone. Far from a government that is strong, proactive and reassuring during a pandemic, we are faced with the possibility of a government that is possibly actively expanding transmission, with the most cavalier disregard for the consequences of its actions. In the general population, ordinary citizens are self-isolating for much less, and being encouraged to do so.

Mr Dutton did not only attend the cabinet meeting. He’s flown on planes, he’s been at the Sunshine Coast, and has interacted with his staff and family. Anybody who has had close contact with him has the absolute right to know when he became symptomatic.

And the deputy Chief Medical Officer needs to publicly address the contradiction between his assertions and the claims of the WHO, as do the health departments that are advising a 24 hour infectious window in apparent disregard of international guidelines.

The reality is we do not know with certainty, which is why a fourteen day isolation period was decided upon in the first place.

Misinformation puts everyone at risk. Demanding full, honest and reliable information on the virus is not “panicking” or “hysteria.” It’s common sense, and it is every single person’s right to know what we are facing. The government needs to do its job, and provide this information immediately, or step away entirely form this situation and allow independent, non-politicised experts to inform us.

UPDATE:

Peter Dutton has just admitted in a radio interview that he became symptomatic on Wednesday, not Friday as he stated in his press release. This means anyone in contact with him on Tuesday must self-isolate.

The reason for this latest falsehood is not clear to this writer.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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In Cobargo people are still homeless after the fires, so where is the $2 billion going?

This morning I received the following email from my sister, Sarah, who lost her home in the Cobargo fires.

I’m speaking to ABC radio tomorrow about how bad the situation is down here.

I haven’t looked but have you written anything about it on your blog?

PLEASE will you write about how people are still living in tents? I heard a story about people with a disabled son, his wheelchair burnt and they are now paying to hire one. I hear of people who are still without power and water. I found another person who was renting and had been evicted because the landlord now needs to live in the house, she has 3 children and is caring for a disabled sister, they have nowhere to go. People who want to go home to their places in the bush can’t go there because the roads aren’t cleared. The organisations down here are giving priority to farmers and their fences and to businesses NOT the homeless.

This area is a place where Coronavirus would take off. We have no running water, no power, no toilets.

I saw on the tele tonight that the government has earmarked $2.4 billion to combat Coronavirus. Surely the best thing to combat disease is to house people?

Please tell everyone,

from Sarah

PS I’m so pissed off!

At the height of the fires, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was shamed into returning to Australia one day early from his Hawaiian holiday, the PM announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund, presumably to assist people like my sister and the people she speaks of in her email. So far, several months after the catastrophe, only 10 per cent of that money has been allocated.

According to this ABC report, from March 2, the very existence of the recovery fund is questionable:

Labor Senator Murray Watt questioned whether the $2 billion fund actually existed, after National Bushfire Recovery Agency deputy coordinator Abigail Bradshaw told the hearing the fund was “notional”.

“So, the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 6th of January, when he was under a lot of pressure, was that he had established a national bushfire recovery fund. But there is no fund, is there, it’s not anywhere within the budget statements?” Senator Watt asked.

So, is there or isn’t there a $2 billion bushfire relief fund? And if there is, why is it taking so long to distribute the funds to people in desperate situations? And if there isn’t, what the hell is the Coalition government playing at?

Winter in the Cobargo area is cold. Nobody wants to be living in a tent. Nobody wants to be without power, heating, and water. What do people struggling to survive the loss of everything actually have to do to see some of this $2 billion, to which they are absolutely entitled?

Morrison and his government have moved on to the COVID-19 crisis, which they no doubt see as an opportunity for them to  repair the massive loss of confidence, and the credibility they so thoroughly trashed during the bushfire disaster. We can only hope that monies promised to deal with the pandemic actually exist and, unlike the bushfire fund, are appropriately dispersed in time to have some effect.

In the meantime, the Coalition must answer all the questions surrounding the national bushfire recovery fund, the most urgent being, does it even exist? Because there are people in Cobargo, and I suspect many other fire-affected towns and villages across the country, who are living in tents and see no immediate relief from hardship, despite Morrison’s promises.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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“Let them watch fireworks:” Gladys Antoinette, Sydney 2019

The sickening irony of letting off millions of exploding flames into a city sky already thickened with the smoke of bushfires that have surrounded Sydney for weeks, and then calling it “welcoming in the New Year,” seems entirely lost on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

According to both women, the fireworks will demonstrate that NSW is a “resilient” state that looks towards the future with hope. “Coming together as a community in times of great trouble” is another justification for persisting with a fiery celebration many other centres, including Canberra, have chosen to abandon. Some because it’s too dangerous, others, like here in northern NSW, because we suffer an unpleasant visceral and emotional reaction to the idea of fireworks at this time. It just does not seem right to celebrate the New Year in this way when people are dying, communities are being left bereft, millions of hectares of country across the state are burning, and untold numbers of animals are frying to death or living in agony.

The symbolism is terrifying. The lack of leaders’ ability to comprehend this symbolism is unnerving.

In fact, cancelling the fireworks would send the powerful message that climate change is irrevocably rearranging our lives and our expectations, and action must be taken by governments right now to address this reality. Indeed, this is a rare and brilliant opportunity to sheet home to negligent authorities the urgency of our situation, something LNP governments both federal and state seem to be slow to grasp.

“Listen, chaps. If you don’t act on climate change and with urgency, fire prevention and management, you won’t be able to have fireworks on New Year’s,” seems an accessible example of cause and effect, even for those practised in denial.

Apparently, cancelling the New Year’s Eve fireworks on Sydney Harbour would cause a loss of some $130 million to Sydney businesses. Perhaps this overnight loss might stimulate those city businesses to demand that politicians face up to the financial impact of climate change and its manifestations, on our economy. I would also love to hear exactly why Sydney businesses must be protected from loss, when across the state, indeed, across the country, individuals, businesses and entire communities are being financially destroyed, even as we watch the fireworks. Increasingly, we read of under-resourced fire brigades, exhausted volunteer firies, and inadequately resourced aerial fighting facilities, yet Sydney businesses are a protected species, indeed, the only protected species in this entire catastrophic state-wide conflagration.

Of course, cancelling the Sydney fireworks would be an acknowledgement of the gravity of our situation, an acknowledgement the Berejiklian and Morrison governments do not want to make. Even the Sydney City Council, usually considerably more aware of the peril we are facing than either government, cannot see the smoke for the fireworks in this instance, and insists on giving priority to marketing and tourism. This is a short-sighted perspective. The impact on tourism of past weeks of air quality readings, at one point the worst in the world, has apparently been omitted from the council’s evaluations. It will be interesting to see how the fireworks are reported internationally.

“Let them watch fireworks!” appears to be the slogan of leaders who think a little bit of bread and circuses will momentarily distract from the catastrophes currently engulfing much of the state. Tomorrow, however, we’ll still be burning with no end in sight, the fireworks forgotten, the fear, anger and sorrow still in our hearts, the failure of our politicians seared on our memories.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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You have a #Right to Know, but only when the media says so. Media and the Morrison holiday.

For the last few days there has been unrelenting speculation on social media concerning Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s whereabouts.

Yesterday evening journalist Samantha Maiden published this piece in The New Daily, confirming he is holidaying in Hawaii. This photo, taken by Australian tourists who ran into the Prime Minister and posted the image on Instagram, accompanied her article. For context, around the same time as this photo was taken and posted on social media, two volunteer firefighters died in bushfires in NSW. Morrison has yet to acknowledge those deaths, or express concerns for the families, co-workers and friends of the two deceased. There are also two firefighters in induced comas, and three injured.

Also yesterday the Australian Financial Review posted an editorial in which it was claimed that the Prime Minister’s minders “ordered” the Australian media not to report on his decision to take leave at this time. The reason given for the ban was that the minders and presumably Morrison feared there would be “churlish” commentary from people who thought the PM’s place was in Australia during the bushfire crisis. The AFR apparently ignored this order & reported the holiday some days ago. Other media such as Crikey, and The Guardian published pieces defending Morrison’s “right” to take a holiday without confirming that he had done so.

Never in the history of this country has a Prime Minister taken a holiday in the middle of a natural disaster. For reasons that on the surface appear unfathomable, the majority of the Australian media opted not to question the judgement of the incumbent in choosing to leave at this time. Indeed, they decided to defend his decision. Neither did they question the bizarre secrecy surrounding Morrison’s absence, as I wrote here yesterday.

When the media don’t question incidents that are not normal behaviour for politicians those abnormalities quickly become normalised. The media is all we have to point out abnormalities in political behaviour and when they fail to do that, they are failing at their job and they are failing their audience. Speaking truth to power is their mission, not protecting power from scrutiny. Whether the PM is insufferably arrogant, sociopathically incapable of feeling empathy owing to his religion’s cavalier attitude to lives other than those of its followers, or more incapable of reading a room than any politician in Australia’s history, it’s the media’s job not to maintain its silence about these deficiencies but rather to trumpet them. Morrison’s behaviour in this crisis speaks to his capacity as a leader, & if this is all he’s got, we should be very afraid.

There are occasions when a Prime Minister’s whereabouts ought not to be public knowledge, usually only for a day or so while he or she is on their way to a troop visit that can’t be advertised. Genuine national security is more important than anyone’s right to know. However, in this case, the press were ordered to embargo the information in an attempt to protect Morrison from “churlish” commentary. We might ask, how weak is this man that he has to be protected from adverse commentary?

In October 2019, major media outlets formed the Right to Know Coalition in response to police raids on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, and the ABC. The Coalition includes 9, News Corp, the ABC, SBS, The Guardian and journalist’s union MEAA. The Coalition’s mission is to protect the “health of democracy” by ensuring that members of the public have the right to know and are informed about the conduct of those in power. The Coalition sought the public’s support in the stand it has taken against government resistance to scrutiny. I have steadfastly supported this Coalition and its aims. However, this last week would seem to suggest that the Coalition is rather selective about what it considers is in the public interest, appearing to have come down strongly on the side of protecting the Prime Minister from scrutiny. They’ve used the argument that he has a right to have a holiday, while apparently obeying the PMO directive to not actually confirm he’s on a holiday.

Hardly transparent. We do have a right to know how the PM is conducting himself in a time of national crisis. I would like to see any argument the Right to Know Coalition can produce that proves otherwise.

UPDATE: The Prime Minister has now released this statement on the deaths of the firefighters:

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Where is Scott Morrison and why is it a secret?

We awoke this morning to another day in which Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s whereabouts are unknown to the public, with his staff declining to enlighten us.

This isn’t the first time an Australian PM has gone missing: in 1967 Harold Holt went swimming and has never been heard of since. It’s unlikely Morrison has met the same fate, but we live in times when all things seem possible, generally not in a good way.

The secrecy surrounding the PM’s location is bizarre. Leaving the country in the midst of a national emergency with bushfires out of control and soaring temperatures threatening to elevate the danger to another level altogether is, in itself, an odd choice of timing. Shrouding his destination and the length of his absence in mystery only adds to the sense that we are in the hands of a very peculiar individual indeed. The man is already copping serious condemnation for clearing off,  why conceal his destination as well?

I’m trying hard to think of any other world leader who has simply disappeared from his country at any time, let alone when that country is in the crisis we’re currently experiencing. We’ve never had a PM who buggered off when there was a national disaster. They’ve all had their flaws, some of them major, but nobody ever buggered off and left the country rudderless and burning.

Rumours have placed Morrison in Hawaii, enjoying a summer break with his family. More rumours suggest Hawaii was merely a stop over in a much longer journey to New York, where his Pentecostal mentor, Hillsong’s Brian Houston, has just opened a church in a multi-million dollar property recently acquired by Hillsong in Manhattan. I couldn’t possibly comment. Well, actually, I could.

Many of us have been a bit slack about taking seriously Morrison’s commitment to his Pentecostal cult. Their beliefs are so wildly beyond anything any rational or even mildly irrational being can endorse, we’re inclined to laugh them off. This is a big mistake. Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought at the University of Queensland, Philip Almond, has explained five aspects of Pentecostalism that we need to familiarise ourselves with if we are to understand where Morrison’s faith will take us. Here you are.

There is also this piece in The Monthly by James Boyce titled The Devil and Scott Morrison which is a longer read, worth undertaking if you want to know how the PM’s religious beliefs influence his politics, particularly his attitude to deadly, rampaging bushfires and apocalyptic heat, as well as beliefs on poverty and god’s preference for the wealthy.

During the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009 Morrison, then an ambitious young Liberal MP, attacked Victoria’s Police Chief Christine Nixon for going out to dinner while her state was in crisis. He found her decision shocking, and not one a senior figure in public life should have made. However, not only has Morrison now buggered off in this current crisis, he’s gone overseas with no forwarding address giving no indication of how long he’ll be gone. Every criticism he made of Nixon must now be applied to him, tenfold.

In Morrison’s absence Emergency Leaders for Climate Action, a group that includes no fewer than 29 former emergency services chiefs, has announced it is prepared to take over if the government remains “missing in action”on the matter of future planning for emergencies similar or worse to the one we are currently experiencing. Group spokesperson Greg Mullins is the former NSW Fires and Rescue Commissioner. These are serious people with decades of experience. Mullins is still on the front line fighting fires.

There is, the group states, a “leadership vacuum” in Canberra and they will go ahead with planning for future emergencies whether Morrison is involved or not. I cannot remember a precedent for this in Australia or anywhere else, except when there’s a military coup. Essentially, the experts are declaring that the government is not functioning in these matters, and they are stepping in to take on responsibilities the government has declined to shoulder.

We are in interesting times. I have no idea how this will end, and neither does anybody else. Good luck, fellow travellers.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Trouble in Home Affairs

Trouble in Home Affairs: Coleman wants the family to stay, Dutton wants them refouled

In May 2019, newly-elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison removed responsibility for the Immigration portfolio from Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, and gave it to David Coleman. The portfolio, renamed Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, remains under the umbrella of Home Affairs, and Dutton is the senior Minister.

In the matter of the family from Biloela, currently incarcerated on Christmas Island waiting for the court to decide their fate this week, Minister Coleman has had little or nothing to say even though he is directly responsible. All commentary has been handled by Dutton, despite Coleman having the same ministerial powers, and the same legal right to exercise the ministerial discretion that would allow the family to stay.

(A quick recap if you’ve been out of touch lately. Minister Dutton attempted to secretly deport Priya, Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika and Tharunicaa under cover of darkness last week. An urgent injunction forced their plane, en route to Sri Lanka, to land in Darwin, from where they were transferred to Christmas Island.)

Ministerial discretion is a legal option that allows a minister to grant visas even if the court has declared the applicants are not refugees. It also permits the minister to intervene in the matter of, for example, European au pairs arriving in Australia on a Sunday afternoon with the wrong visa, ensuring the au pairs are released from immigration detention and sped on their way to employers with the clout to get Dutton out on a weekend.

Minister Coleman is well aware of the dangers that await the family in Sri Lanka, as this tweet from four months ago confirms:

It appears that Coleman has been gagged by Dutton, preventing him from publicly commenting on the current situation despite the fact that calls to Dutton’s office regarding the family are being diverted to Coleman’s office.

Coleman is also copping considerable ridicule on social media, with people referring to him as “OfDutton” and suggesting that he is “Under his eye.” It does seem as if Coleman is being forced to handle the brunt of public displeasure, while being temporary stripped of all ministerial authority and capacity to respond or act.

No doubt if this entire situation goes pear-shaped, Coleman will be held responsible for that as well, leaving Dutton with plausible deniability.

A report in The Guardian suggests tension between Coleman and Dutton, with the former “committed” to ensuring the family are permitted to stay in their community, as opposed to his senior minister’s hardline approach that will see them refouled to Sri Lanka:

Multiple sources have indicated to the Guardian that the immigration minister, David Coleman, is inclined – one source said “committed” – towards allowing the family to stay, but that he has been consistently overruled by the senior minister in the department, the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, who is adamant the family has extinguished its appeal avenues and must, by law, leave the country.

An annual employment census has ranked Home Affairs as the worst agency for staff engagement across the Australian public service. Thousands of public servants have expressed their wish to work elsewhere.

Almost 40% of those surveyed have applied for other jobs.

36% want to leave the department in the next six months.

Harassment, bullying, poor communication and substandard leadership are cited as some of the causes of employee discontent. It could well be that Coleman is a high profile victim of just such behaviour from his master.

It seems that the Home Affairs department is in something of a turmoil, which begs the question, how can this mega department satisfactorily carry out its multitude of duties, including overseeing every Australian intelligence agency and the AFP, when struggling with internal chaos and discord between its two Ministers?

That Home Affairs is such a toxic workplace should be a cause for serious concern and urgent action.

Peter Dutton has questions to answer. But don’t hold your breath. He’s a protected species and likely more powerful than the Prime Minister himself.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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Dealing with Pell

Yesterday, Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal against his conviction of child sexual abuse.

Children, when allowed to develop without debilitating trauma, often have an innate sense of fairness, together with a belief and the expectation that justice must be and will be made to prevail.

When you’ve been sexually abused in your childhood, this trust in the order of things is one of the first things to crumble. The disintegration continues into adulthood as you see that your abuser faces no consequences for their crimes against you, while your life is a daily struggle with traumatic stress that leaves no part of your body and mind untouched.

You often experience this loss of trust as feelings of angry hopelessness, despair even, disillusionment and bitter disappointment. Though of course you the child can articulate none of this, it’s inchoate, and black.

You might also as an adult speak of these things in the third person, when you manage to speak of them at all, because that creates some small distance from a chaos that might otherwise engulf you. The I, while recommended as a means of owning one’s life experiences and a step to empowerment, can be a bridge too far when dealing with experiences you don’t actually want to own. I use I sparingly, when I feel strong. It is empowering. I wish I could do it more often. For the moment, switching between the two persons is the best I can do.

I could not bear to hope that Pell would lose his appeal. I could not bear to deal with the blow of yet again witnessing a powerful man, backed by other powerful men and their female consorts, backed by the power of institutions and two former prime ministers, get away with it. So I prepared myself for his, their, win. That meant in the main trying not to think about it and when that didn’t work, steeling myself, calling up all my resources, so that I wouldn’t be entirely undone by yet another set of traumatic injustices over which I had no control. It meant forbidding myself expectations of anything other than our loss and their win.

When I heard the judges’ decision I was home alone. An involuntary and guttural cry, not dissimilar to the primitive roar a woman often makes in the last stages of birth, was my first reaction. It had happened. He’d lost. The institutions had lost. The powerful men and their consorts had lost. Two former prime ministers had lost. Survivors had won.

This was an unfamiliar relief, and it swept through me warm and strong. I didn’t have to deal with watching survivors lose again. You lose so much when you’re sexually abused, your losses are incalculable, this motif of crippling loss continues throughout your life and for many of us there comes a time when it is one loss too many, and we are done. A win over patriarchal power is rare and it is overwhelming. It makes you tremble, and it makes you fear that there will be consequences. How dare you defeat them?

The Pell verdict is just. It is an enormous victory yet at the same time, it changes little for individual survivors. Our childhoods remain stolen. For many of us, our potential remains curbed. Our daily struggles with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress continue. The fight for redress, in itself so horribly damaging and wickedly protracted by the guilty institutions, goes on. This is a turbulent time for survivors. As glad as we might be to see Pell fall, it is a tortuous victory when our histories, triggered by the circumstances, engulf us.

Despite my emotional and mental turmoil I am immensely grateful for this verdict. It gives me some small hope that things are changing, that abusers, no matter how powerful, can be made accountable for crimes against children. That the powerful enablers are not able to silence us, no matter how much effort they devote to achieving that end. My abuser is long dead, and I will never know the satisfaction of seeing him publicly disgraced and imprisoned. My gratitude today is to J, the man who made this possible, the man who steadfastly confronted power with truth and in so doing gave me, and many others, this extraordinary chance to vicariously experience justice.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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The attack on women by Australian politicians, and Alan Jones

Things have been just dandy for women in the last forty eight hours, with broadcaster Alan Jones declaring that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should give New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern a few backhands to shut her up, and then stuff a sock down her throat.

Jones was supported by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who mildly reprimanded him for his boy talk, before going on to declare that Jones is a “mainstay of our media.”

Then yesterday evening many of us in NSW received a robot call from Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce. Joyce stated that he was calling on behalf of the Foundation for Human Development on the matter of the NSW Abortion Bill.

The Foundation’s contact point is the NSW branch of Right to Lifeand we can presume that the robocalls were paid for by this anti choice organisation.

I will transcribe Joyce’s message:

[The NSW Abortion Bill] prohibits giving critical care to babies born alive following abortion and this will be given to any other baby born alive prematurely.

In other words, every other premature baby will be given critical care, except those born alive following an abortion who will be either left to die, or slaughtered by the medical professionals in attendance.

[The Bill] allows sex selective abortions. It legalises abortion for any reason up until the day of birth.

No, the Bill does not “allow sex selective abortions.” No, the Bill does not legalise abortion for any reason up to the day of birth.

Barnaby Joyce is a liar.

We have now heard that the Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party will refuse to work with the NSW government “ever again,” according to its leader Robert Borsak, if the Abortion Bill is passed.

Given the events of the last twenty four hours, a woman could be forgiven for thinking she’s been teleported to a southern state in the USA, where governments and their evangelical supporters routinely use our bodies as battlegrounds.

There is little more dangerous to women than a cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who believe they have the right to control our bodies. What is needed is an equally powerful cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who will vocally support us in our fight for bodily autonomy. So far, I hear very few men of influence doing that.

When the Treasurer of Australia describes a misogynist, violent scroat  as a “media mainstay,” I have little hope.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Neeson, Racism, and Rape

Liam Neeson is not an actor in whom I have the slightest interest. So spending the last couple of days discussing his actions has felt a little odd.

Out and about promoting his new film, a revenge saga, Neeson used a story from his own past as an example of the desire for revenge, and how irrational and primitive it can be.

Forty years ago, a close friend of his was raped. Neeson asked her if the perpetrator was a black man. The answer was in the affirmative. He offers no explanation as to why he asked that question.

For about a week Neeson cruised areas frequented by black men, hoping to provoke someone into a fight that would give him the opportunity to inflict serious harm. He wasn’t seeking the perpetrator. He admits that at the time he thought any “black bastard” would do.

Fortunately, he did not fully act out his revenge fantasy, realised his behaviour was irrational and dangerous, and sought help.

Confronted about the perceived racist nature of his fantasy, Neeson stated that he would have gone after any group that resembled the perpetrator: this rapist happened to be black. He expressed shame, disgust and regret for his fantasy and his acting out, however, he did not agree that either were racist.

His disclosure of this fantasy is puzzling. It isn’t hard to foresee the path down which such a confession will inevitably lead and it has, with global calls for a boycott of Neeson and his films, and quite likely the loss of future employment. Neeson has now been marked as an unrepentant racist, lacking the consciousness to recognise what he is, and what he did.

Going after a group as a surrogate for going after an individual perpetrator is a savage act, as Neeson acknowledged. It’s been pointed out that going after black men feeds into the racist belief that they are “all the same,” and had the rapist been white, Neeson wouldn’t have gone out looking for just any white man because white men are not perceived as “all the same,” at least, not by other white men. People of other ethnicities have been known to observe the white people all look the same. However, it’s not likely that Neeson would have told himself that any “white bastard” will do: he would have needed some identifying characteristics that he didn’t feel he needed in his pursuit of black men.

In his explanation Neeson stated that he would have gone after “Scots, Irish, Lithuanians, Chinese” implying that he didn’t care about the race of the rapist, his primary driver was revenge, and this rapist happened to be black.

It is the nature of a revenge fantasy that it be peopled by characters who most closely resemble the perpetrator. It makes no psychological and emotional sense that Neeson would construct a fantasy centred around a man who bore no resemblance at all to the description he had of the rapist. This is not to make an argument against Neeson’s alleged racism, about which I know nothing outside of this situation. It is to say there are many factors at work here, and it is wise to consider all of them, whether you believe Neeson to be a racist or not.

Post traumatic triggers and revenge fantasies

Survivors of sexual assault, as adults or children or both, are familiar with the triggering experience that occurs involuntarily when something or someone triggers traumatic memories of the abuse. A powerful trigger is a reminder of the body of the abuser. You may remember the colour of an abuser’s skin, or hair, his breathing, the sound of his voice, his hands, his shape and size. You may encounter someone whose physical characteristics resemble those of the perpetrator, and you may find yourself immediately in a highly distressed state, a state that overwhelms you before you have consciously registered those similarities.

For example, two women told me yesterday that they had been stalked and abused by men of Asian appearance. Both women disclosed an ongoing fear of men of Asian appearance, and difficulties in managing their distress when encountering them. These women are not racists because they have these feelings. They are experiencing a “normal” post traumatic stress symptom when confronted with a trigger.

While there is obviously a world of difference between Neeson’s situation and the situation of a survivor of sexual abuse, there is one similarity. The revenge fantasy requires characters who most closely resemble a perpetrator. The trigger response requires encounters with situations and/or people who most closely resemble the perpetrator. Men of every ethnicity on earth  rape women. That is an horrific sentence to write.

Therefore, a revenge fantasy, be it created by an enraged male such as Neeson, or a raped woman, is going to feature characters who most closely resemble the perpetrators and that will be white men, black men, men of Asian appearance, men of Middle Eastern appearance, Chinese men, Mongolian men, Vietnamese men, Indian men, Sri Lankan men, need I go on?

Perhaps if the universal propensity of men to rape women is addressed, men such as Neeson will no longer be able to be racist about it.

The uses of fantasy

Next, we come to the uses of fantasy, and the frankly terrifying idea of policing the fantasies of others.

The therapeutic value of fantasy is well known. It offers a safe outlet for powerful feelings that otherwise have no expression. It relieves the suppression of feelings that can have negative physical, mental, emotional and psychological effects on an individual, and people around them. It can be immensely satisfying to fantasise misfortune and worse upon someone who has done you damage. In the ordinary course of events the fantasy runs its course and the fantasist moves on, released from crippling negative emotion. Neeson took his fantasy into the real world when he went looking for black men. It’s not unusual for people to do this, and still stop before they actually commit harm.

Neeson has copped a lot of judgmental criticism for having the fantasy he had, a fantasy deemed to be racist. His mistake was not in having the fantasy, which might well have helped to prevent him actually harming someone, but in admitting to it. Revenge fantasies are seldom pleasant. That’s their nature. The majority of us would not emerge from a scrutiny of our darker impulses particularly well, I am confident of that. Indeed, Neeson showed considerable courage, or some might say utter foolhardiness, in publicly confessing his fantasy of revenge.

I would like to raise here the horror of policing Neeson’s or anyone else’s fantasies, judging them unacceptable and condemning their creator. I’m casting serious doubt on the mind set of people who have done and continue to do that. You disapprove of somebody’s fantasies? You think they should censor themselves in their own minds You want to tell other people how they should fantasise and about what? You want control over another human’s fantasies? Really?

You are one scary motherfucker and I hope you never attain political office.

Fantasies are the one medium in which we can be at our very worst, without harming anyone. Writers, artists, filmmakers transpose fantasies into creative product we all consume. That last horror movie that so thrilled you? Read Aristotle on catharsis.

Whatever Neeson’s intentions, and I have no idea what they were, they seem entirely self-destructive if the consequences are any measure, the outcome of his revelation is a global fire storm of condemnation, contempt, judgement, and nauseating self-righteousness. Really, he should have kept his mouth shut and made a movie with the material.

We are creatures of the dark as well as the light. Neeson admitted his darkness. Sadly, the consequences of that admission will not encourage anyone else to do the same.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Russian whistle-blower denied asylum in Australia

In 2006, British contractor Nick Stride was hired to work on the refurbishment of a palace under construction for Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, on his estate outside Moscow. The project included the construction of a luxurious greenhouse known as the “Wintergarden,” and the cost of the refurbishment is thought to be in excess of $140 million.

Shuvalov is widely regarded as one of the more “liberal” of President Putin’s close associates, a “counterpoint” to the hardliners dominant in the Kremlin. He is credited with strengthening business relations between the US and Russia, improving the problematic reputation of Russia’s international commerce, and is thought to enjoy a good relationship with Putin.

Using the pseudonym “Lucas,” Stride blew the whistle on Shuvalov’s complex web of financial manipulations, including dubious transactions and avoidance of customs tax on materials imported to refurbish the estate and construct the greenhouse. “Lucas” provided relevant documents to journalist and author, Michael Weiss, including copies of invoices. The labyrinthine details of Shuvalov’s financial arrangements for the refurbishment of his estate can be seen here in a marvellously complex account written by Weiss for Foreign Policy, an account for which Stride was the source.

In 2010, Nick Stride and his family were threatened with “severe consequences” should they ever attempt to leave Russia, because of his extensive knowledge of Shuvalov’s business dealings. Fearing for their lives, the family escaped Russia and fled to Britain. However, believing they were still far too vulnerable to Russian retribution, Stride brought his family to Australia, where they requested political asylum.

A Refugee Review Tribunal Assessor found the danger they feared to be real, yet despite this assessment, their plea for asylum was rejected in 2012. Successive immigration ministers have refused to intervene to prevent the family’s deportation. Stride and his children will be deported to Britain, while his wife and their mother, Ludmila Kovateva, will be sent by Immigration Minister David Coleman to Russia. Ludmila faces almost certain execution in her home country, as retaliation by Shuvalov for her husband’s exposure of his financial affairs to US media.

On Thursday 17 January, Michael Weiss posted several tweets, appealing for Australian legal assistance for the Stride family, and revealing Nick, with his permission, as his source, “Lucas.”

Also using Twitter to bring the Stride family’s perilous situation to public global notice is financier and economist Bill Browder, perhaps best known for his successful lobbying of the US government to pass into law the Magnitsky Act, legislation that authorises the US government to sanction human rights offenders, freezing their assets and denying them entry to the country. Browder is also the author of “Red Notice,”an account of Browder’s own experience of falling foul of Putin, his deportation from Russia and his relationship with Magnitsky who was both his lawyer and his friend.

The only coverage of the Stride family’s situation by Australian media this writer has been able to find appears to be this piece in the West Australian dated March, 2018. That isn’t to say coverage doesn’t exist and any links will be appreciated. This is a story of immense interest, given the current global political situation, and it’s inexplicable why the mainstream media aren’t all over it.

The people going into bat for the Stride family against the intransigent Australian Immigration Minister know of what they speak. Weiss is an authority on Russia, and specifically, its propaganda. Browder conducted a highly successful financial career in Russia before being deported. He has also testified to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential election. Their concern for Nick Stride, Ludmila Kovateva and their children is palpable. And yet, the Australian Immigration Minister, undoubtedly supported by Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, continue to refuse asylum to this family.

Why is this so?

And why are the mainstream media apparently uninterested in the family’s fate?

Since this article was first published this background piece on the Stride family was run by the ABC.

This article was first published at Independent Australia and republished on No Place For Sheep.

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Schooling Senator Hinch

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, January 17 2019, the body of 21-year-old Palestinian student Aiia Maasarwe was found next to a Bundoora shopping centre in Melbourne.

Police described her murder as “horrendous as you could get,” and refused to release further details out of respect for Ms Maasarwe, her family and friends.

Later that day, Senator Derryn Hinch posted a tweet that contained a most horrific detail, allegedly leaked to him by a “police contact.”  I will not repost his tweet.

Hinch’s tweet provoked an immediate and furious backlash on social media. He responded to this reaction by doubling down, and insisting that “the stark details were included to warn women in the area what this monster, still on the loose, is capable of.”

He followed this up with:

To all the do-gooder tweeters attacking me for telling the gruesome truth about the Bundoora rape/murder. This brute is still out there. My tweet was for the memory of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon.

Hinch’s posts are deeply unsettling from a number of angles. There is the legal question of publishing details of a crime, and how that may influence subsequent prosecution. His account is also unsubstantiated: we only know that he’s been told some details of the crime by an anonymous someone else. For reasons that are not immediately apparent to me, Hinch believes himself worthy of our trust on these matters.

Most important of all is what it must do to Ms Maasarwe’s family to see that the extreme harms inflicted on their beloved are the subject of a politician’s self-seeking tweet, dashed off in seconds, posted on a global social media platform only hours after her death. One moment spent imagining my own child ‘s suffering and death being co-opted in this way is entirely unbearable. The Maasarwe family, and friends, have to live this. It is monstrous to inflict further anguish on them by detailing the torment Aiia suffered in the form of a tweet. To do this under the pretence of protecting women, and further, to claim it honours the memory of two other brutally murdered women, is beyond belief.

Yet, this is what Hinch did, and he has continued to defend his indefensible actions.

There’s also the effects of his posts on his accidental readers, many of whom, like myself, simply opened our Twitter feed to be confronted by horrific descriptions that I, and many other women I’ve engaged with today, have been unable to erase from our minds.

The details of the attack on Ms Maasarwe will eventually become public, in court transcripts and media coverage. It will be my choice whether to read these or not. Senator Hinch denied women this choice by posting the information on social media and I, and many others, feel violated by his act.

Twitter is not the platform on which to reveal terrifying details police have decided to withhold. This was not an act of noble truth-telling by a courageous man whose only desire was to inform women so that we might better protect ourselves. Indeed, Hinch has demonstrated yet one more way men can provoke terror in women, by detailing the torment another man has inflicted via a platform where such information carries no trigger warning, and cannot be anticipated or avoided.

It is not Senator Hinch’s role to decide for women that we need to be confronted by gratuitous descriptions in order to grasp the danger we are in. We are far from unaware. We understand that if police describe a woman’s murder as “horrendous as you can get” they mean what they say. Many women live on a continuum of fear, from mild apprehension to full-blown terror, pretty much every day of our lives. We can decode “horrendous as you can get.” We do not require men such as Hinch to do this for us, and in so doing, erode what little control we have over how we can best manage our lives in a world where we are at constant risk. Hinch seems to be on a grandiose, messiah-like mission to force women to face the details he decides are necessary for us to know.

In itself, this attitude absolutely violates our right to decide what we can and cannot admit into our lives. It is a dreadful thing to do to women who have already survived male violation, and denial of our autonomy.

What Hinch actually succeeded in doing was to make himself the centre of the story, not the women who were murdered, not their families and not their friends. We have become somewhat inured to politicians’ despicable behaviours over the last years. We don’t expect much decency. However, this action taken by Senator Hinch is up there with some of the worst political behaviours on record.

Women who survive sexual assault as adults, and/or children, and the terrifying powerlessness of being overwhelmed by male violence, are, at the very least, entitled to decide how much we can afford to know about the suffering inflicted on other victims. This is the reason for trigger warnings: to give us the opportunity to decide if we want to take the risk of having our own trauma reignited by the details of the violence wrought on another. We can say no to such information. We are not obliged to absorb the details of horror. We’ve lived horror, and we’ve earned the right to choose not to allow details such as those published by Hinch into our lives. We well know what some men are capable of. We do not forget. We certainly do not need another man to forcibly remind us.

Hinch has been reported to Twitter by numerous tweeps. Many of us have asked him to delete his post. He has steadfastly refused to do this.

It would be appropriate for his political colleagues to school Hinch on his despicable behaviour. However, I doubt any of them will bother. Yet again, it is up to us to express our disgust and contempt for the hideous actions of an elected representative.

Vale, Aiia Maasarwe.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Dear Turnbull and Shorten: Don’t wear the White Ribbon next time around

In December 2017, following sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and Westminstera report into the sexual harassment complaints process in the Australian Federal Parliament concluded that procedures for staffers in this workplace are “incomprehensibly and woefully inadequate.”

The parliamentary policy, controlled by the Department of Finance … does not specifically address sexual harassment as defined by the Sex Discrimination Act (which clearly defines sexual harassment as unwelcome contact of a sexual nature), give examples of behaviour that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment, and, perhaps most egregiously, it does not clearly spell out an employee’s options for pursuing a sexual harassment claim and relevant time limits. The appropriate legal avenue is to make an individual complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, but a six-month time limit applies …

Furthermore:

“Where a complaint is substantiated, Finance has no capacity to take disciplinary action against either a Senator or Member or a MOP (S) Act employee.”

At the time of writing, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have remained woefully and incomprehensibly silent about the sexual slurs against Senator Sarah Hanson-Young made by Senator David Leyonhjelm, both in the Senate and later on the Sky News program Outsiders, a whine-fest of woeful and incomprehensible proportions with entirely comprehensible audience numbers of a mere few thousand, hosted by two of the most sadly inadequate men in media, Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron. Cameron is also a former Liberal politician, given shelter by the Sky News network retirement home for failed conservatives.

Sky News, Dean and Cameron have since apologised to Hanson-Young who has instigated legal action. Leyonhjelm, libertarian and defender of free speech but only when it suits him, has not.

Turnbull and Shorten are the leaders of the parliamentary workplace. Leyonhjelm’s verbal sexual abuse of Hanson-Young occurred in that workplace, as well as later in the media. The Senator attempted to use Hanson-Young’s assumed sexual life as a weapon against her. In other words he slut-shamed her, in the Senate and later the media, in the time-honoured manner of misogynistic old men who have never resolved their desire for women with their simultaneous hatred of us.

It was one of the more sickening episodes to come out of a parliament that daily emits a multitude of sickening events.

The silence from Turnbull and Shorten is deafening. Indeed, it is a betrayal of every woman in that workplace, as well as those of us outside of it. No woman is required to suffer sexual slurs when she goes to her job.

Sexual slurs are at the beginning of a continuum that ends with our rape and our murder. There is no workplace occasion, absolutely none, in which it is acceptable to comment on a woman’s sexual life and choices.

Turnbull and Shorten, quick to don the White Ribbon, quick to avail themselves of the photo opportunity and publicitysurrounding the ghastly murder of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon, are complicity silent when a female senator’s sexual life is used in the Senate as a weapon.

Lack of respect, Turnbull famously trumpeted, is where violence against women begins. If you respect women, he claims, you will not harass and abuse us. Lack of respect is the beginning of all violence against us, according to the Prime Minister who said on September 25, 2015:

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women …” 

Turnbull’s silence on the sexual harassment of Hanson Young in the Senate indicates utter lack of respect for women, if not contempt. Shorten’s silence indicates the same. The silence of both leaders goes a long way to explaining why the Australian Parliament has some of the most inadequate workplace sexual harassment policies in the western world. Because they don’t give a damn about women. They don’t give a damn.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Turnbull, the self-made man. Seriously?

I am an ambitious person, but I am not ambitious in the sense that I want jobs only for the sake of them … I am here to do things I think are worthwhile. I am always careful that the political positions I take are consistent with good policy. I would not want to be prime minister of Australia at any price.
– Malcolm Turnbull

A couple of days ago in The Weekend Australian, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton made an appeal for Australians to “guard against compassion” in the matter of refugees and asylum seekers held in offshore detention. I’ve written about this in some depth here at Independent Australia.

Yesterday, we heard from various members of the LNP that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is a shining example of the virtues of coming from tough beginnings, working hard and making a lot of money. This was in response to an advertisement authorised by the ALP, questioning how much the Prime Minister will personally gain from tax cuts his party introduced that benefit the so-called “big end of town.” According to the ABC report:

The ads state the Prime Minister has “millions invested in funds which hold shares in dozens of big businesses which would benefit from the tax cut”.

Labor also released analysis of Mr Turnbull’s financial interests register, showing he indirectly owns shares in 32 companies worth over $50 million.

“Who exactly is he looking after?” the ads asks.

Predictably the LNP, supported by friendly media, have worked as hard as Turnbull to confect outrage at the “personal nature” of the ALP ad. This reaction is enormously funny for several reasons,not least that just last week Turnbull personally attacked Labor’s Tanya Plibersek, and yes, irony is dead, buried and cremated:

Turnbull then appealed for the public compassion, claiming that the ALP was opposed to him and Lucy “having a quid.”

“They want to attack me having a quid,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“They want to attack me and Lucy for working hard, investing, having a go, making money, paying plenty of tax, giving back to the community.”

The rags to riches Turnbull fairly tale is just that. Here’s a couple of facts:

By the time Turnbull was in Year 10 and a long-term boarder at Sydney Grammar, his father Bruce was doing well enough to purchase a luxurious three-bedroom apartment in Point Piper, not far from Malcolm’s current dwelling.

Aged 28, with a couple of Sydney property deals already under his belt and his marriage into the wealthy Hughes family, Turnbull was left some $2 million according to reports, by his father.

There were undoubtedly a few tough years when Malcolm was small, but Bruce navigated them past those hardships well before Malcolm finished school. The reality is, Turnbull had the kind of good fortune most of us can only dream of, and he is the beneficiary of inherited wealth.

The ALP ad asks the question, how does a multi-millionaire Prime Minister justify introducing tax cuts that benefit him personally, as well as benefiting his multi-millionaire peers at the expense of ordinary Australians? This is not a “personal” question. It is a question any one of us is perfectly entitled to ask.

Let’s not forget as well, that in the 2016 election campaign Turnbull donated $1.75 million to the struggling LNP, who went on to win government by a margin of one seat in the House of Representatives. That donation could well have made the difference between winning and losing, we will likely never know. However, the question that has never been adequately addressed by the media is, is it good for our democracy that a wealthy Prime Minister can pay for his party to survive, and to retain his job?

A Prime Minister who used his personal wealth to keep his party afloat so that he could keep his job cannot at the same time claim his financial affairs are private. When a man has so much wealth he can buy himself the PM’s job, that is not a personal matter. It is entirely political. When that man, now in government, passes legislation that benefits him personally, that is also not a private matter. It is entirely political.

It is beyond me how any journalist can argue otherwise.

Opponents point out that there are wealthy men and women in the ALP ranks. This entirely misses the point. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having money. As far as I’m aware, the ALP are not promoting tax cuts that benefit themselves and their wealthy peers, while cutting penalty rates for ordinary workers, and defunding vital services to subsides those tax cuts. We don’t know the details yet, but they have to be paid for somehow. The Guardian’s Greg Jericho addresses this fundamental question here.

As far as I am aware, ALP policy is a better deal for all (other than refugees, and that’s another story) not exorbitant privilege for the 1%.

Oh, and it appears that Turnbull did indeed have a price. It was $1.75 million.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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