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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.

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.

Two female NSW Ministers for Women oppose women’s health, safety and well-being

It says a great deal about our society and nothing much good, that women attending clinics and hospitals providing abortions are subject to harassment and intimidation by so-called “pro lifers,” to the degree that it has become necessary for the NSW parliament to pass legislation that criminalises such behaviour and threatens jail time for anyone apprehended engaging in it.

The NSW parliament yesterday passed laws to impose 150-metre “safe access zones” around these clinics and hospitals. Pro lifers may no longer position themselves at the entrances to medical facilities, forcing women to run the gauntlet of abuse, threats, disturbing images, and the risk of being photographed by protestors.

It is with dismay and disbelief that we learned that the current NSW Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, and the former Minister for Women and sex discrimination commissioner, now NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Prue Goward, both opposed the bill.

Davies, a devout Christian, justified her extraordinary stand by claiming that the pro lifers are “sidewalk counsellors” who offer women options they may not be aware of and that may cause them to change their minds about a termination. Women are, after this “counselling,” able to make a “truly informed decision” as Davies believes they were not prior to the unsolicited sidewalk interventions.

“Sidewalk counsellors” is an oxymoron if ever I heard one. Counselling is a profession practised in private, in safe spaces, by trained and accredited women and men whose goal ought not to be persuading the client to the counsellor’s point of view. I don’t know why representatives of that profession haven’t yet confronted Davies about her slur on their expertise.

I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I would take kindly to a self-proclaimed “counsellor” bailing me up in the street and imposing his or her opinions on me. Were I on my way to a surgical procedure that might be fraught for me, or simply attending the clinic for some other kind of treatment and advice, I’d be even less inclined to respond well to such a vile intrusion on my privacy.

Davies has lost whatever credibility she had as Minister for Women. She is pushing her own religious agenda. She is not acting in the interests of women. She needs to get out of that portfolio.

Prue Goward came at the issue from the free speech angle. Pro life protesters are being denied their right to free speech by the new legislation, Goward claims, despite the fact that we have no right to free speech in this country outside of an implied freedom of political communication enshrined in our Constitution. Goward puts the fairytale of free speech before the well-being of women. It doesn’t matter how abusive, harassing and intimidating pro lifers might be, “free speech” is at greater risk, she claims.

Behaviour that would be unacceptable in just about any other situation must be protected, over and above the wellbeing of women making their way into a medical facility.

Goward’s justification make no sense and has no legs, and one wonders how she keeps a straight face when, dripping with faux sincerity, she avows in parliament her commitment not to women’s health and safety, but to freedom of speech.

Pro lifers have not lost the assumed privilege of free speech. They may protest all they like outside the safe access zone. They have not been silenced. Speech is restricted in all kinds of spaces. There’s nothing unusual about areas where speech may not be indulged without incurring penalties or expulsion, yet the only one that apparently disturbs Goward is the space outside hospitals and clinics that offer terminations.

Goward and Davies are an absolute disgrace, and should not be allowed anywhere near decisions affecting women. Readers familiar with the HBO series The Handmaids Tale will understand immediately why I call them Aunt Lydias, in reference to the brutal cohort of women who ensure that the wishes of the murderous patriarchy are fulfilled by subjugated handmaids. Both Goward and Davies are hopelessly out of touch with the concerns and needs of women. That they both hold portfolios that so specifically affect women is deeply worrying. They must go.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Cash and Joyce, slut-shaming women. It’s the LNP way.

In the last few days, women have been thrown under more buses than usual by members of the Turnbull government, making something of a mockery of the Prime Minister’s desire to make Parliament House a more woman-friendly workplace, and demonstrating yet again that other women can trash you as easily as can a man.

The following story should finally put paid to the risible argument that the LNP would be a better government if only there were more female MPs. Rubbish. It’s the ideology, stupid, not the biology.

Senator Michaelia Cash, former Minister for Women, now representing the new Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, in the Senate, lost her head and threatened to expose alleged rumours about the sexual lives of young women in Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s office, when asked seemingly innocuous questions in senate estimates about the movement of staff in her own office. You can see the entire unedifying episode here, if by any chance you’ve thus far missed out.

Cash threatened to “expose” young women staffers, based on nothing more than “rumours” if she was questioned any further about her new Chief of Staff. It has since emerged that her new female CoS has been transferred from Trade Minister Steve Ciobo’s office, a demotion, as Cash is a junior minister.

The women in Shorten’s office are understandably outraged by Cash’s murky innuendoes. And it is quite startling that a Minister for Women should single out young women to use as a threat in an effort to avoid scrutiny of her own staffing arrangements.

In effect, Cash used the female staffers as political weapons. She didn’t threaten to expose Shorten, or any men rumoured to engage in office affairs. She focused right in on the young women, whom she implied were sluts.

Parliament House is not a workplace that looks out for women as a priority. For example, there is no specific procedure for addressing complaints of sexual harassment. This 2017 investigation revealed procedures in place for dealing with these complaints are woefully inadequate, even described by the investigators as “shocking” and below Human Rights Commission standards.

Yes. This is our parliament. The heart of our nation. The home of our legislators. No adequate procedures for making complaints of sexual harassment. I kid you not.

Next, we woke up this Sunday morning to the news that Barnaby Joyce has decided he may not be the father of his lover’s baby after all, but being a decent bloke, he’ll love the boy and raise him as his own regardless. And he won’t do a paternity test. Journalists, Joyce claimed, are entirely at fault for not asking him when the story broke if he is the father.

Joyce is lying. I know of at least two journalists who did ask this question, Sharri Markson of Newscorpse, and Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. Joyce enthusiastically avowed his responsibility for the baby boy, and the reasons for his current disavowal remain unclear.

It’s quite something, to tell the Australian nation that your partner’s baby may not be yours. If you want to seriously damage a woman, there’s little more effective than implying she is such a slut she doesn’t know who her baby’s father might be. That’s she’s misled you into thinking the child is yours, and now you’re such a great guy, you’re going to stand by her anyway. And yet, if you are such a great guy, wouldn’t you just shut up and carry on, and not expose your partner and the baby to such awfulness?

It’s the enduring patriarchal myth: that women will lie about our babies’ fathers. The primary purpose of heterosexual marriage is to ensure a man knows the children are his. There is likely no greater transgression than a woman being uncertain of her child’s father. Joyce has dumped Ms Campion right in it. All that remains is for him to pin a red “S” on her shirt.

Yet again, we’ve seen played out in our politics this week the damaging myths of female sexuality, myths that position us primarily as sexual objects. No matter that a staffer in Shorten’s office may have three degrees and a fine brain, be first class at her job and work like a dog. She’s useful to Michaelia Cash only as a sexual object. In other words, she’s a slut.

In the LNP government, women’s bodies remain battlegrounds, for other women as well as men.

And spare a thought for women working in parliament house without even the protection of proper process, when they are sexually harassed.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

The investigation you have when you’re not having an investigation: Turnbull, Joyce and Parkinson

Two days before former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce resigned last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred allegations that Joyce had breached ministerial standards to Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, for investigation on the following grounds:

The Ministerial Code of Conduct Section 2.23 states:

Ministers’ close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices, and must not be employed in the offices of other members of the Executive Government without the Prime Minister’s express approval. A close relative or partner of a Minister is not to be appointed to any position in an agency in the Minister’s own portfolio if the appointment is subject to the agreement of the Minister or Cabinet.

Turnbull suffered considerable angst as he attempted to redefine “relationship” in a manner that would not include an ongoing sexual affair and pregnancy, thus exonerating Joyce from the allegation of breaching ministerial standards because he wasn’t in a “partnership” with Ms Campion at the time of her employment.

Turnbull’s definitions were in stark contrast to those of Centrelink that govern the rest of the population, as I unpack here.

Turnbull’s motives for referring the matter to Parkinson are as yet unclear. We might speculate that increasing public ridicule forced his hand. Perhaps there was a deal with Joyce: you resign, mate, and I’ll see the investigation is dropped. Requesting an investigation created the appearance of a much-needed distance between Joyce and the Liberals. Please feel free to come up with your own explanation, however, what has very quickly become apparent is that the investigation was never genuine.

No sooner did Joyce resign from the DPM position, than Parkinson wrote to Turnbull, stating that in view of Joyce’s resignation nothing was to be gained by pursuing his investigation, and the matter is now closed.

If the matter was worthy of investigation whilst Joyce was DPM, it is worthy of investigation after his resignation. The allegations concern the period when he was a minister, and the fact that he is no longer a minister does not negate the seriousness of the allegations. Presumably, were we to extrapolate this insane reasoning to other situations, someone who embezzled funds from their employer no longer needs to be held to account if they leave that workplace. A priest who assaults children need not be held to account by his church if he leaves that church.

While ministerial standards are not laws, the principle is the same.

Had Joyce been found to be in breach of the standards, next in the line of fire would be Senator Matt Canavan, who employed Campion when it was determined by Joyce’s Chief of Staff, Di Hallam, that Campion had to get out of her lover’s office. Then we turn to Turnbull himself, who, having denied all knowledge of the nomadic Ms Campion’s employment history, a denial contested by other accounts of the debacle, breached his own standards by not giving the express approval to her various employments, as required by the Code.

All in all there was little to be gained, as Parkinson points out, in pursuing the investigation, and a great deal, as Parkinson does not point out, to be lost.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

In response to Jacqueline Maley

After reading this piece by Jacqueline Maley titled “The Barnaby Joyce affair: when men make abysmal choices women pay the price,” I’m more than a little exercised.

Yes, it is true that Joyce’s lover, Vikki Campion, may well find herself unemployable whilst Joyce seems (at this moment, who knows about the next) relatively secure in his employment.

Yes, it is true that Natalie Joyce gave up her own ambitions to support her husband and raise their children, only to be catastrophically derailed when Joyce met someone else.

But for the love of the goddess, neither woman was forced at gun point to make the choices she made. We are not helpless. We are not fucking helpless. There are millions of women who refuse the traditional heteronormative couple experience and the price it can extract from us, and do something different.

When I was very young, I married a man who was an executive in an oil company. My life was that of a company wife. It was the most utterly abysmal period of my adult life, and after thirteen years and two children I said, fuck this for a lark, and ended it.

My standard of living plunged. My children hated me. But I felt, for the first time in a long time, that I was living an honest life, a life on my terms.

A woman decides that what she most wants is to attach herself to a man whose ambitions and self-realisation will always matter more than hers. Why do so many of us choose that self-abnegation? And isn’t it about time we took responsibility for that choice?

And before you tell me that we are indoctrinated, let me tell you that if anyone could be considered indoctrinated it’s me. I survived years of childhood sexual abuse that taught me, amongst many other things, that girls and women are chattels. That girls and women must do what men want when they want it. That girls and women exist to give men what they say they want and need, and that our own lives are as nothing in comparison. This is what I learned.

But at some point, a woman has to rise up and say, fuck that for a lark. At some point, every woman has to rise up and take responsibility for her one life on earth. And were I to say anything to Ms Campion and Mrs Joyce, it would be, rise up and take responsibility for your one life on earth, because that is your most vital duty, to yourself and to your children. 

Yes, it is true that when men make abysmal choices women pay the price. And yes, it is true that the only people who can change this are women, because there is no incentive at all for men to interfere with the status quo.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Turnbull’s latest bag of tripe

One hardly knows where to begin.

Yesterday, Head Galoot Malcolm Turnbull announced that in an effort to curb the apparent enthusiasm of his ministers for shagging their staffers, he was adding a new rule to the ministerial regulations, forbidding sexual relationships.

Only ministers are denied these pleasures: backbenchers can carry on as usual.

Turnbull has experienced considerable difficulty over the last few days defining “relationships.” This is because Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Minister Matt Canavan and Turnbull himself appear, at first blush, to have breached ministerial regulations already in existence, by conspiring to create jobs for Joyce’s lover, Vikki Campion, in various ministerial offices while she and Joyce were partners.

Were they in a relationship? Even though Mrs Joyce remains registered as his partner? The DPM got so Frenchy, so chic, sporting a wife and a mistress, and the ministerial regulations failed to anticipate this circumstance. Bronwyn Bishop took a break from her unrelenting savaging of socialism to explain that a series of one night stands is not a relationship. Centrelink disagrees.

All in all, a shamefully self-serving mangling of meaning by the Head Galoot, I thought, reminiscent of “I did not have sex with that woman” which brings me to my next point: how does Turnbull intend to define not just relationship, but “sexual?” Remember US President Bill Clinton’s infamous denial of fellatio as “sex?” Will Turnbull take this as a guide? Has he thought his new directive through? It would appear not.

We now have a situation in which ministers can be chucked out not because they’ve rorted, but because they’ve rooted, which, as Katharine Murphy points out, is a morals test the like of which we have never seen in this country prior to yesterday.

Let us consider that one in three Australian marriages fail. Some of those failed marriages are going to include those of politicians. Joyce’s marriage by all accounts failed. The reasons for that failure are nobody else’s business.

Joyce fell in love with a staffer. It seems pretty clear that the staffer fell in love with him. People fall in love. This includes politicians and staffers. Many struggling marriages come to an end when one party falls in love with someone else. That’s a well-acknowledged impetus for getting yourself out of a relationship that has run its course. It’s messy. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a catastrophic emotional event. There will be few among us who haven’t been or won’t be an abandoned partner, an abandoning partner, or a lover, at some time in our lives.

The particular problem with Joyce is that it is alleged he misused taxpayers’ money to conceal his affair, and to keep his lover employed. It is also alleged that there are several levels of murk surrounding the gifts of free accommodation and luxury holidays made to him and his lover by a wealthy and influential friend. He also did everything possible to conceal this entire situation from his New England electorate prior to the December by-election. Aided, many would observe, by a complicit media who, while adhering to their convention that politicians’ personal lives are private, failed to document the public interest story underpinning that private life.

The problem is not that Joyce, like millions of Australians, found his marriage was over and fell in love with a new partner. And yet, Turnbull has contrived to make this the core issue, rather than the allegations of ongoing rorting surrounding Joyce’s personal drama.

And so we have a thundering puritanism emerging in our parliament, instead of a sober examination of politicians misusing public money, lying to the parliament and the electorate, and taking “gifts” they ought not to accept.

Not to mention the appalling lack of adequate policies and procedures to protect workers from sexual harassment, and to give anyone who is sexually harassed, by a minister, a back bencher or anyone else, a clear and safe pathway to report that harassment.

Instead we have been served up a stinking bag of raw tripe that encourages the most prurient speculations, and leaves us with our most dire problems entirely unaddressed. This is no accident. How much easier for Turnbull to focus on the root, and leave the rorting alone.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Who is lying? Where we’re at in the Joyce affair.

Today, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce issued a statement in which he declared that he was not in an intimate relationship with staffer Vikki Campion while she worked in his office, and that their intimacy began after she was moved to a job invented for her in Senator Matt Canavan’s office, with a salary of some $190,000 a year.

Joyce stated:

I did not discuss these matters with the Prime Minister or his office as Vikki was not my partner, so they were dealt with in the usual course of staff deployments within the party.

The Ministerial Code of Conduct Section 2.23 states:

Ministers’ close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices, and must not be employed in the offices of other members of the Executive Government without the Prime Minister’s express approval. A close relative or partner of a Minister is not to be appointed to any position in an agency in the Minister’s own portfolio if the appointment is subject to the agreement of the Minister or Cabinet.

Joyce’s denial of his relationship with Campion is his attempt to circumvent the ministerial regulations, and to protect Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Canavan from serious allegations of breaching the guidelines.

HOWEVER …

In this piece titled “How Vikki Campion came to work for Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce,” Malcolm Farr gives background to the affair:

Inside the Joyce office there were other clues and they were quickly picked up by the minister’s highly respected chief of staff Di Hallam.

Ms Hallam took two important steps: She sent Mr Joyce to the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reveal the romance and Ms Campion was moved to the office of then Resources Minister Matt Canavan in late 2016.

“Clearly they thought her presence would be a problem, so she (Ms Hallam) made a decision,” said a source familiar with the situation.

In 2016, the affair was far more than a “rumour.” It was considered so serious that the Prime Minister was advised, and Ms Campion was moved to Canavan’s office to get her out of the way.

As Farr acknowledges: … the romance, by its very existence, became part of the delivery of public policy and taxpayer-funded staffing.

Joyce’s claim that the affair did not start until after Campion was moved to Canavan’s office contradicts Farr’s account, and the account of the source who identified Di Hallam as a key player in the removal of Campion from Joyce’s office. Ms Hallam is also alleged to have instructed Joyce to inform Turnbull of the situation.

Clearly, this is not a matter of someone getting the story wrong. Someone is lying. The liar is either Barnaby Joyce, Malcolm Farr, Malcolm Turnbull, or Farr’s source.

It is absolutely unacceptable that we should be left in a situation in which we have no idea whether or not the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister Canavan breached ministerial guidelines, and furthermore, are lying to parliament and to the country.

It is absolutely unacceptable that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister imply that senior journalist Farr, and highly respected public servant Di Hallam, are lying, without providing evidence that this is so.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Gaslighting. When media deny collusion.

In this discussion between journalists Malcolm Farr, Alice Workman, Caroline Overington and Fran Kelly yesterday, Farr and Workman take a swipe at those of us who have suggested that there has been collusion between the press gallery and the government to keep the Barnaby Joyce affair under wraps.

(Interesting times, Overington, a Murdoch employee, attacks her colleagues for not reporting on the Joyce affair).

In fact, there’s nothing like suggesting collusion to invoke scorn and contempt from press gallery and MSM journalists, who seem to assume that what one actually means by that term is an overt decision, taken in the middle of the night on burner phones by senior public servants, government MPs and senior media management to not publish or to delay publication of material that could in some way affect their mutual interests.

Such a scenario might well play out from time to time, I have no idea, however, what I mean when I use the term “collusion” is something far more subtle.

Every workplace, every family, every institution, every social media platform, indeed every human interaction is governed by overt rules, agreed upon by the culture and known to everyone. Far more elusive, however, are the unspoken rules, the implicit codes, the behavioural nuances deemed appropriate and inappropriate that you won’t find in policies and procedures guidelines. These are part of the culture of every institution, and all individual interactions. These tacit assumptions exercise an unspoken and unacknowledged control, constrain behaviour, and are arguably are more influential in determining behaviour than are the overt rules.

The press gallery, MSM journalists, government employees and MPs are as enslaved by these unspoken cultural requirements as is any other human being. When Guardian journalist Katharine Murphy tweeted about the “convention” in the press gallery that MPs’ private lives are a no go area, she was referring to these unspoken rules.

It is to these undocumented conventions that I refer when suggesting collusion or conspiracy between the press gallery and the government.

It probably won’t take you very long to identify the unspoken rules in your family that governed your behaviour, and the effects they’ve had on your life for better or for worse. Or in social media interactions, in the workplace, where nobody tells you about these cultural conventions, you have to pick them up, and you can be mightily ostracised if you unknowingly transgress. It isn’t difficult to image the powerful hold unverbalised conventions have over the culture that is parliament and the press gallery. Murphy names but one.

This conspiracy of silence on private lives in Australian politics cannot help but position the “ordinary” citizen as an outsider, marginalised in a democratic process to which we are, in theory if increasingly not in practice, essential. Many of us sense this exclusion and privilege, and many of us describe it, quite legitimately, as conspiracy and collusion.

Perhaps nobody actually said, “do not publish anything on the Joyce affair.” But nobody actually needed to spell it out. It would be known, via that mysterious process characterised as a nod and a wink, and in some instances not even that much would be required, what was to be said about Joyce, and when it was to be said, if it was to be said at all, and by whom. This is a process to which the punters cannot possibly have any access, and it is perfectly reasonable for us to experience that as collusion and conspiracy.

We are then gas-lighted by journalists who deny such a process ever takes place, and that we’re crazed conspiracy theorists living with our mothers, writing paranoid blogs in our grubby dressing gowns.

There are, however, instances in which the subtleties are abandoned and more direct orders issued. AFR journo Phil Coorey published this in December 2017:

Queenslander Keith Pitt, who Mr Joyce does not like, was not only overlooked but dumped from his job as parliamentary secretary for trade,” Coorey wrote.

“The two recently had a bitter argument about Mr Joyce’s infidelity and marriage breakup. Mr Joyce blamed Mr Pitt for spreading the rumours, a claim Mr Pitt denies.

Shortly afterwards these paragraphs disappeared from Coorey’s piece, after both Pitt and Joyce contacted him with denials. Fortunately, Twitter had secured a screen shot of Coorey’s original piece.

 

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

The Joyce affair: how the media didn’t know about it for sure until yesterday. No, really.

Over the last twenty-four hours, since the Daily Telegraph revealed the worst-kept secret of 2017, there’s been a deluge of rather plaintive articles from journalists explaining why they didn’t publish the story of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s extramarital affair with his former staffer who is also pregnant with his child, due in April.

Some have claimed they were respecting his right to privacy. Some have taken the high moral ground and spoken at length about gossip, rumours and lack of evidence. Or, “We asked him and he said no, it’s private.” That’s one of my favourites. Not in the public interest to publish, is another explanation. I addressed this last one here, in October 2017, prior to the New England by-election in December.

In this piece titled “How Vikki Campion came to work for Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce,” Malcolm Farr gives background to the affair. Bearing in mind that Farr has tweeted that the affair was only a rumour, denied by Joyce, I found this paragraph in his piece startling:

Inside the Joyce office, there were other clues and they were quickly picked up by the minister’s highly respected chief of staff Di Hallam.

Ms Hallam took two important steps: She sent Mr Joyce to the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reveal the romance and Ms Campion was moved to the office of then Resources Minister Matt Canavan in late 2016.

“Clearly they thought her presence would be a problem, so she (Ms Hallam) made a decision,” said a source familiar with the situation.

In 2016, the affair was far more than a “rumour.” It was considered so serious that the Prime Minister was advised, and Ms Campion was moved (according to some accounts promoted with a salary increase) to Canavan’s office to get her out of the way.

As Farr acknowledges: … the romance, by its very existence, became part of the delivery of public policy and taxpayer-funded staffing.

In other words, it qualified as a public interest story and did so from the time Ms Hallam intervened in 2016.

I have no idea, of course, when Mr Farr came upon this information. He could quite possibly have acquired it in the last twenty-four hours. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that nobody in the press gallery knew of the seriousness of these events until the Telegraph decided to publish them.

Well, that is what much of the media is asking you to believe.

Mr Farr’s account of the progress of the affair is detailed. He must have spoken to a lot of people over the last twenty-four hours.

Joyce is Acting Prime Minister when Turnbull is absent. Ms Campion was promoted out of his office not because she earned the new job, but to separate them. The affair continues, is described by Farr as “well-known secret,” advances to the point where it appears, according to Farr, that everyone who comes in contact with the couple realises immediately what’s happening except, sadly, Natalie Joyce, Barnaby’s betrayed wife who made this admirably frank statement about her feelings yesterday.

I don’t know about you, but I find it almost impossible to believe the press gallery did not know of, the seriousness of the situation until the last twenty-four hours.

One could almost exclaim at the ineptitude of the press gallery if they didn’t know anything more than “unpublishable rumours.”

It is, of course, impossible to ascertain what effect the affair would have had on the New England by-election, had it been revealed in October instead of yesterday. There are conflicting opinions on this: Joyce would have won anyway, some claim, while others suggest that New England voters did not go to the polls in full knowledge of Joyce’s character and circumstances, and might well have considered their options had they not been denied that information.

What matters I’d suggest, is that they were denied that information and this matters a lot.

What we do know is that the Turnbull government, with a one-seat majority, was desperate for a win in New England. They needed the seat, and they needed the morale boost. They could not afford to risk a loss.

The hounding by the media of private citizens (remember Andie Fox?) other politicians (Craig Thomson, Peter Slipper, Julia Gillard, to name but a few) makes me somewhat leery of high-moral-ground justifications of the hands-off Barnaby policy.

And, if it wasn’t in the public interest to report on Barnaby’s affair before the New England by-election, why is it suddenly in the public interest now?

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

When one woman’s “bad sex” is another woman’s sexual assault

You may have read the story published recently by Babe, in which an anonymous woman, Grace, tells of an evening she spent with actor and comedian Aziz Ansari.

The evening did not go well, with Grace leaving in tears after what she alleges was sexual assault. I recommend you read the article before proceeding with this post, but briefly, Ansari apparently repeatedly ignored Grace’s requests to “slow down”, “chill” or maybe have sex on the next date, and behaved in ways that sound obnoxious, uncaring, and contemptuous of the concept of consent.

This post is not all about whether or not Grace experienced sexual assault. I am struggling to understand the need some women seem to have to police and control the #MeToo movement, a movement that sprang up as a consequence of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, a movement whose goal is to bring to global attention the extraordinary number of women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault at some point in our lives. I’ve recently written about this, and the disapproval of #MeToo expressed by celebrity women such as Catherine Deneuve and Germaine Greer, at Independent Australia. 

This post is about the willingness of women to judge Grace. The overwhelming opinion is that Grace had a bad date with a man who was not very good at sex, that it was in no way comparable to sexual assault, and that her piece for Babe is nothing better than revenge porn. We need to interrogate these opinions, because they are lethal.

Briefly, Ansari is, according to The Atlantic: not just a navigator of the culture of the moment, but also an author of it. He has literally written the book about Modern Romance. He has co-created a Netflix series that is in many ways a sitcomic version of the ideas at play in its pages. He has defined himself, show after show, stand-up special after stand-up special, interview after interview, as a male feminist, as a proud ally—as the kind of person who could both wear the Time’s Up pin and actually explain what it means to wear it. He has adopted the guise of a celebrity who is thoroughly fit for this heady moment, at home in a culture that is ever more feminist, ever more diverse, ever more empathetic.

Grace was excited at being invited out by Ansari, and given his reputation, had no reason to expect the evening would play out as she claims it did.

The Babe piece has provoked angry and/or disappointed commentary claiming that Grace’s story has seriously damaged the validity and authenticity of the #MeToo movement. Some commentators have gone so far as to state unequivocally that Grace’s experience was not sexual assault.  

In this excoriating piece in The Atlantic, Grace is judged by an older woman who compares her experiences of “dating” with Grace’s account, and finds Grace seriously wanting.

There have been appeals for a more “nuanced and precise” use of language in the #MeToo movement, so that the difference between “bad sex” and sexual assault, the so-called “grey area,” is clarified. I would have thought that saying I don’t want this, I’m feeling uncomfortable, can we do it next time, and “I don’t want to feel forced because then I’ll hate you, and I’d rather not hate you,” as did Grace, is a pretty clear indicator that a woman is not consenting to sexual acts, is in a state of considerable confusion, and that to persist in your demands in spite of her expressed discomfort is a serious matter, rather than just “bad sex.”

The point of the #MeToo movement is that women can reveal on social media, many for the first time, our experiences of sexual harassment and/or assault. This isn’t a legal discourse and it isn’t a literary event: it’s women speaking, frequently from a position of trauma, of our experiences. That anyone should seek to police our language and our tone as we engage with #MeToo seems to me to be an all-too familiar act of patriarchal repression. If you can’t say it “well” you shouldn’t say it at all, is the message.

The call for nuance and precision also alienates women who do not have this skill set, or, in speaking of something so powerfully distressing, are unable to edit their speech to meet these bourgeois requirements. As I said in my earlier piece, #MeToo is basic, in its infancy, and is being used as an alternative to legal systems that consistently and catastrophically fail women when it comes to sexual assault. Yet the minute something gets up that offers all women with access to the internet a platform, somebody is there telling us how we should use it and the manner in which we should speak of our experiences.

Why? Who does this policing benefit?

Many women have disbelieved Grace’s description of her experience as sexual assault. No doubt there are many other #MeToo stories that are disbelieved, however, nobody needs to care whether another woman believes these accounts or not. Another’s disbelief is irrelevant. Women writing opinion pieces based on their disbelief are not police officers recording a report. They are not sitting on a jury. They are not judges and magistrates hearing your case. Their disbelief is their business, it isn’t the business of women who’ve spoken out on #MeToo. The opinionistas were not present. They cannot know the truth of the situation. They cannot contest your subjective truth.

So why, in the name of all the goddesses, do they have such a need to make their belief or disbelief the story?

I see no problem with women writing nuanced and precise deconstructions and interrogations of the #MeToo movement. Language does matter. In fact, it’s important that the movement is theorised and analysed. However, this is a very different matter from demanding that women speaking of traumatic experiences do so in a particular way. This is nothing better than a linguistic colonisation of trauma.

So you may not believe some #MeToo stories. So what? You don’t have the right to decide if Grace or anybody else was sexually assaulted or not. You have the right to your opinion, and that’s all.

Maybe you call it bad sex. Grace doesn’t, and she was there.

By far the best piece I’ve read on the Grace/Ansari evening is this one. The author writes:

If we begin to call all sexual assault what it is, we will have to voluntarily admit more pain into our lives, pain that we have up to this point refused to let in the door. If we call this kind of sexual encounter an assault, then women who have been weathering what they call bad sex will suddenly have justification for the icky feelings and shame that follows them home in the cab.

Could this be why so many women have mocked Grace? Because they’ve called sexual assault “bad sex” and Grace isn’t playing that game?

I don’t know how else to explain it.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Notes from an expert survivor

Of the 400 hundred or so recommendations in the Royal Commission’s final report on institutionalised child sex abuse, two were at the forefront of discussions in the MSM and social media yesterday.

These were the alleged role of celibacy in causing pedophilia, and the call by some churches for women to be given more authoritative roles in their institutions as a means of curbing the sexual perversions of some churchmen.

Both of these arguments, to my mind, minimise the gravity of the crime of sexual assault of children by claiming that making celibacy voluntary and hauling in a few women to clean up the mess, pedophiliacs will be brought under control. This is a ludicrous, and to survivors, an insulting notion.

The argument minimises the sexual assault of children by implying that this crime only occurs because men resort to raping children when they are denied access to adult sexual partners. Give every man a sexual partner and there will be no more pedophilia. This attitude demonstrates a profound ignorance of the psychology of pedophilia. It is not a crime to which men resort because they can’t, for whatever reason, have adult consensual relationships.

A survivor, if she or he can speak of it, will describe to you better than anyone else ever can, the demeanour of the pedophile in the moment. It is very specific. It is pathological. It is entirely predatory. It is secretive and it is threatening. It is everything consensual relationships are not.

The claim that celibacy is an indicator of pedophilia comes about as a result of the Catholic church winning hands down in the numbers of sexual abusers in institutions. People are, quite reasonably, searching for explanations and the most glaring difference between the Catholic church and other institutions is its demand that its priests are celibate. This demand, it is argued, leads to priests sexually abusing children because they have no other outlet for their needs.

However. Hundreds of thousands of children are sexually abused in non institutional settings, and by members of their families and family friends. The overwhelming majority of the male abusers in such situations have access to adult sexual partners, and they are not celibate. It is gravely misleading to peddle the suggestion that celibacy is an indicator of or a precursor to the sexual abuse of children.

It occurs to me that blaming Catholic celibacy for the majority of child sexual abuse is yet another means of ignoring the admittedly challenging reality that ordinary men walking amongst us, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, men you might eat Xmas dinner with, men you might work with, men you might have a drink with at the club, ordinary sexually active men with partners and without, rape and sexually abuse children.

It is also yet another means of ignoring the children and adult survivors who’ve endured the attentions of such men.

In my opinion, the celibate priesthood community does play a role in the Catholic church’s global pedophile ring. It offers protection and support. It feeds, shelters and clothes them. It gives them unlimited access to children. It covers up for them, denies survivors’ experiences, grants them the comfort of the confessional without any fear of being referred to authorities for the crimes they confess. The Catholic church and its celibacy protocols enable pedophiles to enact their fantasies, however, they do not cause pedophilia.

Again, if you consult a survivor on her or his experiences you will unfailingly hear similar accounts of the specificity of the offender’s behaviour, details that bear no relationship to adult consensual sexual encounters, details that indicate a particular and predatory mind-set, peculiar to those who sexually abuse children. That such a mind-set is “caused” by celibacy is not believable, and the experience of hundreds of thousands of survivors of non-celibate offenders is an ongoing challenge to the theory.

Likewise, the notion that more women in positions of authority in churches will somehow prevent child sexual abuse is not borne out by the experience of victims in non institutional and familial settings. There are women aplenty in these settings, mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends, grandmothers, the majority of whom are unable or unwilling, for very many complex reasons, to prevent a child being sexually abused. The notion that parachuting women into middle management in the churches will stop any pedophile in his tracks is insultingly ludicrous. It will not.

The other theory raised yesterday is that child sexual abuse is “only psychological, not physiological.” “It has nothing to do with sex.” “It’s not about sex, it’s about power.” As if a power dynamic is absent from consensual sex, which it is not, and only rears its ugly head in child sexual abuse.

The definition of sex is not solely consensual sex. Even when it’s rape driven by the desire for domination and brutality and power over, it’s sex. A criminal sex act is about sex. Sex can be very, very nasty, and it’s still sex.

Child sexual abuse has everything to do with sex. Perpetrators take physical pleasure and gratification from abusing a child. They do this because absolute control and power over a child is a sexual turn-on for them.

The abuse is the expression of their sexuality, a sexuality driven by the need for total control, secrecy, self-gratification, and domination over a defenceless child. It is absolutely misleading to claim the sexual abuse of children has nothing to do with sex. It has nothing to do with consensual adult sex. But to imagine that sexual predators experience no physiological stimulation is entirely wrong-headed.

Again, ask a survivor. If he or she can bear to speak of it, we can describe the physiological reactions of the man who raped us. We can tell you how he sought his pleasure, the quickening of his breath, the demands that we touch him and where and how, and in many cases, his orgasm. It is physiological. It has everything to do with sex. Sex is not simply defined by a consensual experience of it, and it adds to the marginalisation, confusion and suffering of survivors to claim that what we experienced had “nothing to do with sex.” Our bodies know differently. Our minds know differently.

I have no idea what is meant when, from the safety of their armchair, someone assures me that a pedophile’s actions have nothing to do with sex, and that it’s all psychological for him. That is not my experience as a survivor, and my experience trumps your armchair expertise.

In fact, many commentators on this topic would do well to remember that survivors’ lived expertise trumps any of their opinions.

None of us ever forgets the specificity of the demeanour of the perpetrator. It is unlike anything else. It is unforgettable, and most of us have no wish to describe it, for our own sakes and for the sake of others. We know, better than anyone else ever can, what we are dealing with here. We know, better than anyone else can, the depths of depravity a man must inhabit to sexually assault a child, because we have seen it, and felt it. That knowledge haunts us for life.

“Giving women more power in the church and ending celibacy will stop pedophilia” said no survivor ever, and with very good reason.

Thank you for reading this.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

In Turnbull’s skewed moral universe only “good” survivors get recognition

The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse hadn’t quite concluded when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Social Security Minister Christian Porter embarked on their malfeasant project of creating two tiers of abuse survivors.

In their proposed and ill-named redress scheme, (there can be no “redress,” there can only be recognition of awful suffering) a survivor of childhood sexual abuse will receive no “compensation” if he or she has spent five or more years in jail: The bill excludes anyone convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences.

At present in this country it is up to the judiciary to determine the punishment for crimes, not politicians and bureaucrats. Yet if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has done/is doing time for your crime, you will now be further punished by your ineligibility for recognition.

It isn’t enough that survivors have survived criminal sexual assaults, the majority of which attracted no punishment at all for the perpetrators. It isn’t enough that survivors are already punished as our judiciary deems appropriate. Now Turnbull and Porter have decided to further punish this group of survivors, because they can, and because it might save them a little bit of money they can spend on Peter Dutton’s spin doctors.

Apparently, in the skewed moral universe of Malcolm Turnbull, the damage done by sexual assaults perpetrated upon you when you were a little kid is superseded by your behaviour as an adult.

This is a sickening conflation. Survivors are not being rewarded by “compensation:” it’s a small financial recognition for lives ruined by the failure of authorities to fulfil their basic obligations and responsibilities to children in their care. No adult crime erases the legitimacy of trauma caused by childhood abuse, yet Turnbull’s two-tiered scheme implies that this is the case.

In the LNP world, childhood sexual abuse in itself doesn’t earn you the right to be recognised by your government and the institutions responsible for your suffering. You are only deserving of recognition if you are a good survivor.

It doesn’t matter what happened to you. You still need to behave like the ruling class thinks you should behave. This is what is most important. Not the crimes committed against you. Not the trauma you’ve struggled with your whole life. Not the perpetrators who escape accountability, including those who covered up the crimes against you. No. None of that.

You need to be a nice survivor. You need to behave.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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