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I am a writer and commentator, with a background in Indigenous sector project management and tabloid newspaper publishing.As a retired older-age Australian I use my time, and my voice, to highlight the level of social injustice that exists in this country. I seek a better, more humane, more progressive Australia.I do not limit myself to any one topic, and my writing style gives whimsy and left-field thought at least as much power as logic, fact, and reason.

The speech we need, but will never hear …

“I am your Prime Minister. I am the elected leader of the Australian people.

It has been said, and said many times over, that we do indeed, now, because of COVID-19, live in unprecedented times.

The political divide that has riven our country for the last decade must end now. No more is there room, in our current circumstance, for the pettiness of point-scoring, or for the ideological need to be ‘right’.

I stand on a mandate given to me by roughly half of the Australian people. And I do realise, that I cannot speak for all of you, I realise that I can only speak for a percentage of you.

We now, as a nation, need the combined voices of reason to steer our country through a period that represents nothing less than a direct challenge to everything that we as a society hold dear. We now, as a nation, need the best that all of us have to offer.

So effectively tonight, in the immediacy of this moment of now, the National Cabinet will be re-constituted to fully represent The Australian People.

The leader of the ALP, and the leader of the Greens, will now sit in the National Cabinet, with full and equal input.

All of us, as political leaders, and as representatives of you, The People, listening to the best of the advice of our health and economic experts, will endeavour to steer our country through these unprecedented times.”

Yeah, I know, some of you are going to say ‘dream on’. But we sure as shit need for something like this to happen in the current circumstances. The decisions that are being made at the moment are being made by people who do not fully represent the Australian people, they only represent a percentage of The People.

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Eating Tomatoes in Portugal – some AIMN fun!

Feel like a break from all the bad news?

Well here we are, the AIMN writers and regular commenters on those articles, spending plenty of time at home. We are all part of the AIMN community, commenters and writers both . As a Voice from the Serf Hovel type of writer I sprout up now and then and I feel as though I am part of something – a community of generally like-minded souls.

And in these testing times why shouldn’t we all have a bit of fun?

So here’s the happy challenge. I’m going to pick a subject out of the hat, and I’m inviting you to present your comment as a mini-article on that subject. Make it as funny/satirical/biting as you can and you can weave any issue you like into the subject – we could all do with a happy, or even a wry, laugh at the mo.

And the subject wafting in from left-field is …

EATING TOMATOES IN PORTUGAL (don’t blame me – it was in the hat!)

Here’s the first cab off the rank … memories from the Hippie Trail circa 1979 … I’m making at least some of it up as I go along.

“Bong. My wind chimes do that too I think. Lovely fit in the hand. Lovely sound as well. What was I about to say? Oh yes. Why would I want to marry Wana anyway? She was never in Portugal with the tomatoes. Killer Tomatoes, great movie, umm, this sentence has nothing to do with Portugal or the lack of tinned tomatoes on shelves so I kindly ask this sentence to stop. Did I just say that? Can’t remember if I did. Should the Coalition drink Mateus? If they drained Portugal dry they’d still have their heads up their rears. Need a bit of loosening up that lot. The Algarve. I ate tomatoes there once for three days in the shade of the Kombi. Gave me the runs and red spray in the morning Sailors’ warning or was it something to do with Shepherds at night? Can’t remember. I’ve totally forgotten what I’m supposed to be saying here. Ah yes, that’s it, time for a re-pack of the sound of the wind chimes. Here’s to the delight of eating tomatoes in Portugal!”

I don’t doubt that all of you can do far better than that. Go for it – we could all do with a good laugh!

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The end of the Newstart Criminal?

Happy days. The unemployed will now no longer be demonised as dole bludgers or Newstart Criminals. From now on they will be known as Australians in need.

Mind you, it has taken a crisis of unprecedented proportions to force a sliver of care, empathy, and compassion, into the punitive hearts of our right-wing politicians.

Could it be perhaps that the speed with which our Government has dropped their policy of the deliberate impoverishment of the poor and the unemployed could be due to the fact that now, given the ever-growing lines outside Centrelink, a proportion of their conservative base is about to be exposed to the untender mercies of our welfare system?

Can’t call your own voters dole bludgers or leaners can you? Gosh, how cynical of me.

Many people, and nobody alive would wish it on them, are about to find out what it will take to survive with a fortnightly income of roughly $1,100. But let’s bring that down to what the weekly income will be. $550. If you are single and live in your own home and have a mortgage of $500 per week you’ll be left with $50 per week to take care of everything else. Food, energy bills, petrol, phone, car repairs, and everything else. Reality. Not good.

If you are single and renting you will roughly get $550 per week plus a rental allowance of $69.50 per week. If you are paying $300 a week rent (and average regional rents, let alone city rents, are much higher than that) you will be leading a fairly tough and restricted lifestyle. Reality. Not good.

Of course, individual circumstances for the unemployed vary widely. Some people are in relationships and have children, and will be eligible for further support. But in all cases, things will be very, very, tight. Reality. Not good.

But lest we forget. Up until a week ago the unemployed, including those who lost their jobs during the last catastrophic bushfire season, were expected to survive on the paltry sum of roughly $275 per week. At the same time, they had to endure the demonisation of ‘dole bludging’ foisted upon them by their own Government, the nong commercial television channels, the conservative press, and far too many of their fellow citizens.

Let’s hope that when we come out on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis that the rush of empathy for the unemployed and the poor becomes permanently welded onto the hearts, souls, and guts of the bureaucrats and politicians who design and maintain the safety net of our Welfare System.

(What is the average rent in Australia? $436 per week. The median rent across Australia is currently $436 per week, according to a new report from property research house CoreLogic. In capital cities, it’s $465 per week, while the regional areas have it slightly cheaper at $378. and pls note: these figures are as of a year ago!)

(According to research from Commonwealth Bank in 2017, average monthly mortgage payments in Australia’s capital cities range from $1,500 to over $3,000.)

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COVID-19 and the coming surge of violence against Women …

If you doubt the truth of the above title in an Australian context …

Simply google 1/ COVID-19 isolation could create ‘fertile ground for domestic violence’ (From: euractiv.com). 2/ Fears of domestic violence (From: https://www.dw.com/en/top-stories/s-9097).

The studies on this matter are already coming out of China, Germany, and France.

From France

“On the day that France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced sweeping plans to go into a 15-day period of enforced lockdown from Tuesday, concerns also arose as to the potential increase in cases of gender-based domestic violence, following a previous surge in China under similar conditions.

The crisis that we are going through and the quarantine could unfortunately create a fertile ground of domestic violence, read a statement from France’s Secretary of State in charge of Gender Equality, Marlène Schiappa, adding that with the new quarantine measures in France, “the situation of emergency shelters for female victims of domestic violence is a major concern.”

From Germany

“Shelters and counseling centers also fear that domestic and sexual violence among adults will increase significantly in the coming weeks as more people work from home. Others face being made redundant or have already been let go due to the economic repercussions of coronavirus — adding to stressful circumstances in the home.

Similar trends have already been reported in China where in some places, the number of domestic abuse cases was three times as high as usual after weeks of strict isolation measures.”

“Under the current measures in place in Germany, the violent partner is less likely to leave the apartment, making it almost impossible for victims to reach out and call advice centers,” Katja Grieger from the Federal Association of Women’s Counselling and Rape Crisis Centers (bff) told DW.

Australia is currently experiencing the sad sight of people, under the pressure of anxiety and fear, unleashing aggression upon each other in our supermarkets and chemist shops. We have not even begun to think about the level of aggression that is about to be unleashed on some women in some of our homes.

On March 28, at 11 am, I am standing on my footpath (observing all of the current ‘social distancing’ regulations, with a sign saying that I oppose the level of violence directed at women. Under the auspices of The March of Decent Men (Facebook) I invite you, man or woman, to do the same.

Let’s stop it before it starts to happen.

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#BringThemHome

AIMN is a wonderful platform. Within reason they let us writers explore the boundaries of what can be.

I’m about to be.

On the personal level …

Two Australian women in their 60s, Diana and Sherryl, one of whom happens to be my best friend, and both from the Sunshine Coast, are currently stranded in Ecuador. They have done everything possible to meet the request of DFAT to fly home ASAP. They have managed to secure a flight home on the 6th of April. That is the only flight available to them, because airlines are shutting down across the board. There is no guarantee that the flight will even eventuate.

The 6th of April is far too late.

I bear in mind Laura Tingle’s hint on ABC today – “All the signs are now in place that, along with the rest of the world, Australia is likely to completely close its doors in the period ahead.”

My friends are stranded. They need help. Now.

Other Australians are stranded, they need help now.

I have to ask. Surely if the Government is sending a ‘survival financial package’ the way of our airlines, then surely either Qantas, or Virgin, under government guidance, can find a spare jet or two to rescue ALL Australians who are stranded overseas?

I ask that question. And I’ll keep on asking it. Are we going to abandon our own?

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We need a COVID-19 Unity Cabinet now!

We all know, and can see on a growing daily basis, how thin and fragile the fabric of our society really is.

COVID-19 is testing our ability as a people to pull together. It is testing our sense of community. It is testing our notion of the Fair Go for everyone. It is testing our nerve as a nation.

The economic ramifications of COVID-19 are immense, they are unprecedented. Totally uncharted waters. Recession. Unemployment. Fear.

Now is not the time for political/ideological divides. Now is not the time for political ego. Now is not the time to throw blame. Now is not the time for could have, or should have. Now is not the time for point scoring.

Now is the time for Unity.

The sight of older and infirm people being pushed aside by the frenzied rush of others to seek advantage is a political, moral, and societal wake up call for all of us.

Now is the time for the leaders of the ALP, the Coalition, and the Greens to stand together on the one podium. Now is the time for all of them to speak with one voice.

Our nation needs calming. Our nation needs leadership. The spiralling levels of anxiety and fear need immediate dampening. The stimulus packages need to be well thought out and delivered quickly.

I believe that a temporary COVID-19 Emergency Cabinet needs to be formed to guide our nation through this crisis over the next six months. An Emergency Cabinet consisting of the best minds that the Coalition, the ALP, and the Greens, can come up with. We need unity at this time, we do not need division. Political allegiances need to be pushed aside by all for the welfare of all.

The policies that are being rolled out now are affecting all of us, and they will affect all of us for quite a long time, but those policies are coming out of only one side of the political divide. These policies should be coming out of the minds of the best and brightest on either side of the political divide.

Now is not the time for politics as usual. Now is the time for a very different, and urgent, approach.

Morrison, Albanese, and Bandt need to quickly sit down together. They need to forge common cause, they need to get over their differences, they need to get out there now, together, and guide and lead our nation. In the face of this crisis they need to drop the political ‘need to win’. They need to become Leaders.

All three should stand together and deliver addresses to the nation. All three should be involved in emergency planning sessions. All three should be exposed to the immediacy of COVID-19 updates from our best medical experts. All three should roundtable with experts on policies designed to bulwark, and as best as it can be done given the circumstances, limit the undoubted damage that our economy is about to suffer.

We remain a democracy of sorts. There is plenty of time for political argy-bargy and point scoring to return before the next election comes around. But now is not the time for that. Right now we need unity.

Right now we need a combined form of leadership to guide and protect our nation.

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The Bog Rolls of Armageddon …

As we all know, I’m a bit of a hermit. Which makes me somewhat of a specialist at the social distancing thing. Handy these days. But, on occasion, I do foray out.

Went to my local supermarket this morning. Could not believe my eyes. Right in front of me were the products of one of the finest education systems on the planet, otherwise called people, biffing each other up over … of all things … bog paper.

What is it about bog paper?

Most people like me who are solely reliant on the old age pension, and let’s not forget those struggling along on the lower levelled Newstart, cannot usually afford luxury goods like that. I’ve always thought that a soft spray from the garden hose accompanied by a judicious swish around the pucker point from gently swirling fingers was all that was required. Very cheap. Doesn’t clog the drains. Still! I walked away from the supermarket in a state of thoughtful mind.

Perhaps the frenzied masses obviously knew something that I was totally ignorant of? If you don’t have thirty years worth of bog paper squirrelled away in your survival bunker/pantry then you’re simply gonna die!

Gosh, I thought. I don’t have thirty years worth of bog paper squirrelled away anywhere. I don’t even have two hours worth. Gosh, I’m gonna die!

The worries then became exponential, which means they get bigger and bigger real quick. If thirty years worth of bog rolls would protect me from Coronavirus, would forty years worth protect me from cyclones and tsunamis? Would fifty years worth protect me from the ravages of nuclear war? Maybe I should build my whole house out of toilet rolls and bunker down inside?

No.

It is a little stupid of people to think that bog rolls can do anything other than be bog rolls. If we ever do have to seriously consider bending over and kissing our arses goodbye due to a calamity of biblical proportions – it only takes a couple of sheets to make all things nether presentable. But I still say the hose is cheaper.

Panic buying is dumbness personified.

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Another woman dead. What can we as a society do about it?

Somewhere around Australia, behind a closed door in one of our suburbs, right now a woman is being beaten. There is no guarantee that she will not soon be dead.

I do not say that just to make you stand up and take notice. I say that to make me stand up and take notice of how appalling the level of violence directed at women within Australian society really is.

When I think about my daughter, when I think about the women in my life, when I think back over the years of my life, when I think about how when those women raised the issue of violence against women I was verbally supportive of their efforts to both highlight and then attempt to stem the tide of violence directed at women.

It made me realise that I am part of a large cohort of people who verbally oppose the level of violence against women. It also made me realise that as an individual human being, who happens to be a male, I had never translated my own supportive words into ‘action’.

When such realisation happens, it happens, and cannot be ignored. So, as an older man, with all of the wobbles and vulnerabilities that taking such a step would entail for any human being, I decided to take action.

A week or so ago I thought up a concept, created a Facebook page called The March of Decent Men, and sought to place an ‘idea’ out there for the public to discuss and think about, or even to improve upon.

The concept is uncomplicated. It accepts the premise that violence against women is wrong. It accepts that the majority of the violence against women occurs in our suburbs behind closed doors. It asks people to join me in doing something that addresses the issue on the very ground where it happens.

On Saturday the 28th March at 11 am I am going to stand in my own street in my own suburb (on the footpath for safety reasons) with a sign that says, and I’ve had to re-think my wording many times – VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS WRONG. PERIOD. NO EXCUSES. And I have invited everybody else, man or woman, to do the same with a sign of their own wording.

Doing such a thing as one person will change nothing. But imagine if the majority of us did it at the same time. Such a collective expression of will could not easily be ignored. Where is it written that we cannot all band together and make an effort to begin a process of positive change?

Support for the concept has been, in the majority, supportive. What is interesting though, perhaps in a sad way, is how some people respond to a clear and direct question. The question ‘Is violence against women wrong?’ cannot possibly draw in any sort of answer but yes it is wrong. Surely no human being could say that it is a good thing?

The range of answers to that so direct a question has educated me to the negative power of ‘Whataboutism’. Whataboutism happens when someone simply does not want to answer the question posed, because it does not directly address an issue that they feel heartfelt about, and they respond by saying ‘but what about’ violence against men, ‘but what about’ every other permutation of violence that human beings are capable of visiting upon each other. To someone who answers with ‘what about’ all I can do is encourage you to get out there yourself and do something about the issue that is of prime concern to you, you have the power to do that.

Is violence against women wrong? Yes it is. I invite everybody, man or woman, to stand up in their own suburb on 28th March at 11 am and say so. The perpetrators of such violence may just start to begin to get the message.

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The Killing of Women and Children must stop

I’m putting the call out for a National March of Men against domestic violence.

No more can we decent men just stand safely in the background behind the effort of women to end the scourge of domestic violence. We have to get out there as a gender and stand against the criminality and the terrorism of our fellows.

While I see this March as a male initiative called something like The March of Decent Men (on FB under that tentative heading)both men and women would be welcome to march together on the day … in fact such a coming together may well prove to be a very powerful thing for our society to witness … if this March can be organised. As men though I think we need to be prepared to get out there and stand up against the daily tide of violence and murder perpetrated by far too many of our fellow men. We MUST repudiate the repression of women, the attacks on women, and the ongoing attempts to manipulate and control and diminish the lives of women. This should have happened a long time ago, but it did not. So now is the time for it to happen.

The events in Brisbane a few days ago should have scoured the soul of every decent man. It is time for us to rise up and say THIS CRIMINALITY, THIS KILLING, THIS TERRORISM, MUST END, AND MUST END NOW.

I’m prepared to. Are you as a man?

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Australia Day 2020 … Boycott!

On Australia Day 2020 I intend to sit that one out, preferably out in the bush somewhere, as far away from the flag-waving and nationalistic hype as I can possibly get. I find the whole charade sickening.

It is not that I have anything against the existence of an Australia Day as such. A stipulated day where we celebrate who we are as a people, celebrate our national hero types, and celebrate our collective achievements in art, science, social progressiveness (there must be some), and industry. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a worthy enough pursuit. But that is not the sort of Australia Day we currently have.

Firstly, the chosen date has insensitivity written all over it, and secondly, it has become a day where the behaviour of Ugly Nationalistic Australia is given permission to reign free. Neither of the two are worth celebrating or being around.

It might help if we developed a greater understanding of the history of the months of January/February 1788 and got the actual date of so-called settlement right.

On 26th January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip landed in Port Jackson, along with a small crew of marines and oarsmen, and apparently took possession of everything he could see in the name of King George III of England. Perhaps we will grow up as a nation one day and no longer do it, but 231 years later we are still tugging the convict forelock in the direction of those English Monarchs.

But back to Phillip … it all sounds such a stirring landing event but most flag-wavers forget, or have never even bothered to find out, that the actual proclamation ceremony for the formal establishment of the colony of New South Wales, and the investiture of Arthur Phillip as first Governor, did not occur until 7th February 1788.

Before 7th February 1788, Phillip was far too busy protecting the female convicts who had recently been disembarked off the ship Lady Penrhyn from the rum-sodden predations of the male marines and convicts to have any time to formally declare or grab anything in the name of anybody.

And what was it that he formally established on 7th February 1788? He established a penal colony. He established a prison. In some ways, depending on how you look at things, Phillip quite unknowingly to be absolutely fair to him, established the Australian prototype for Manus.

So … on Australia Day we celebrate the formal opening of a prison, and we can’t even get the date right.

Before any sensitive folk tell me to go back to where I came from, I’m a sixth-generation Australian whose ancestors were boat people who got a free ride to the prison of New South Wales because they stole from the wealthy in England in order not to starve. As a progeny of convicts, I’m not inclined to celebrate Australian Prison Day on either the 26th of January or the 7th of February … why on earth would I?

(You cannot make origin statements like that these days without scrutiny, whether you want to get into Parliament or not, so for fact-checker types see the notes after this article.)

Many conservative fear-mongers say that 26th January has always been the date for Australia Day and that it should remain unchanged otherwise the world as we know it will belly-up tomorrow. What a load of nonsense. Prior to 1935, each state celebrated the foundation of the Prison on a different day, and it was only in 1935 that they all agreed to crank up the BBQ on the same agreed date. There are hundreds of other days Australia Day can be celebrated on.

Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
Meanwhile …
While all the drinks slide down and the nationalistic self-congratulation gushes forth …

Thrust into the background of the celebrations that we currently observe on the 26th of January is an entire culture of human beings, the Aboriginal custodians and owners of this land, who may have a thought or two about what they see paraded before their eyes. And what do they see each and every Australia Day?

They see, on the anniversary of the day Phillip stuck his foot on the shore of Port Jackson, the modern beneficiaries of that invasion of Australia, and that happens to be some of us, swilling beer and waving flags in memory of the day when the rapes, and the poisonings, and the massacres, and the stealing of land, and the dismemberment of a culture, began. They see the dark truth of our own history promoted up as a moment worthy of celebration.

The 26th of January is not a day of national celebration, it is a symbolic day of the memory of a national ugliness that started on that date.

To further compound the supremely insensitive error of judgement that the choosing of the date 26th January was, we still persist in refusing recognition and a voice to the very human beings whose culture and people were raped, poisoned, massacred and desiccated. We throw the hopes of Indigenous people back into their faces, and we walk all over our own much-touted Australian principles of egalitarianism, fairness, and humanity, as the drinks slide down and the self-congratulation gushes forth.

Many people say that oh you cannot say this, or you cannot say that. The problem with modern Australia is that the wrong sort of powerful voices are out there being heard in the political and media spheres, and that not enough of us are prepared to stand up and oppose them with courage.

I oppose the current iteration of Australia Day for a number of reasons given above. And here’s another one. I mention it to simply illustrate a point.

As a Survivor of child abuse, I can assure you that I do not get out there on a particular day and celebrate the anniversaries of those horrific deeds, and I am deadly bloody sure that you would understand why I would not want to do that.

My experiences inform my thinking. So I do find it beyond belief that we as a whole nation get out there on a particularly insensitive day and celebrate what was clearly the beginning of the attempted destruction of an entire Aboriginal people and their culture.

I’m not against the idea of an Australia Day. I’m against the date it is held on.

The date for celebrating Australia Day in 2020 should be changed. If not, I’m borrowing a line from a Jethro Tull song and sitting that one out, I’m boycotting it, and I’m heading for the bush.

Notes:
Mary Geer (1789-1851) arrived on the William Pitt in 1806. She was sentenced to hang for pilfering but the sentence was changed to transportation for life.

William Davis (1780 -). William was convicted of burglary and sentenced to death by hanging, but this was commuted to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney Cove in 1800 on the Royal Admiral.

There seems to be a bit of a correlation between the treatment of the poor in England in the 1780s and the treatment of the poor and the disadvantaged in Australia in 2020. If both of my ancestors were alive in modern Australia I’m absolutely convinced that they’d be front line activists for the raising of Newstart.

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Who are we … the people?

Oh gosh … two very wealthy people have pulled out of the royal (background German) royal British family. So what. It is a very nothing thing. Who, with half a scintilla of intelligence really cares when you move beyond the celebrity feed-fest for dumbo absorbers of monarchist PR stuff and moves on to real events in the real world that happen to affect real people.

A plane crashed. Real people died … innocent people paid the price for the umbrage between America and Iran.

Here in Australia we have paid the hard price for political leaders who did not have the right stuff when the right stuff was needed. Real people paid the price.

We live in a world where the Americans are fading, where the Chinese think that their empire will last forever when their own history should teach them that it will not, and where the Russians have never accepted that WW2 ended an awful long time ago.

We need a global view of everything that is happening … yet we are tied in to a parochial view ,,, we are such small-minded backyard types of people … whether we live in Sydney or Vienna or Peking … we all miss the possibility of the future.

I actually don’t care what anyone thinks. This is my view.

The West is not right, never has been. The Middle East is not right, never has been. The East is not right, never has been.

The standard normal people, wherever you look around the world, have continually refuted the actions of those in power. Not with much success it must be admitted. Yet, we the people, are still here, still fighting against the accumulative negativity of the accretion and the expression of power. As hard as it is, we should not give up, we should not give way, and we should continue to put our beings on the line.

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The appalling leadership of Australia.

Perhaps, finally, we have hit the point in Australia where the attitudes of our past are seen to be the undeniable scourers of our future.

We have a moribund political class. A grouping of people who came in too late with too little. We have a tranche of people who are well paid to lead our nation, yet, when the embers fly, and the lives are lost, and the homes explode, and the people, the very people, grasp for breath, the putative leaders of this nation feed us political ideology and butt-saving efforts to protect their own tenure in the soft seats of our political institutions in Canberra.

We, as a people, deserve better than this.

No longer is it ok to excuse the inaction on climate change from a Prime Minister who is held to ransom by the proud deniers within his own party of mindless and dangerous conservatism, by the small minds who are so disconnected from science, from truth, and from global agreeance on the peril that this planet faces. The fires that are currently scouring us need to change this nation.

Here we are, as a people, in a period where the shit really hits the fan, faced with the fact that you, as volunteers, are truly the only ones who can be relied upon. You were the deliverers of hay, and food, and water. Our politicians were well informed prior to this fire season, they were told about what was likely to come, yet they sat on their comfortable arses and played ideological games.

I will never forget the vision of a young Australian woman who had been through so much and who simply hoped that the leader of this nation would ask her – ‘how are you?’ – yet all the man could do was force her into an unwelcome handshake and then turn his back on her. It was the most appalling example of what is wrong with the leadership of this nation.

The fires have scoured us. That is undeniable. All of us have felt it. Our front-line people on the hoses are incredible human beings. Our State leaders, our local government leaders, our emergency personnel, are all incredible people.

Our federal leaders came late to the situation, while our country burnt they thought that holidays in Hawaii and Bali were more important to them than the welfare of us, the people. Appalling!

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The stitching-up of Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg.

So while we sit on our arses and fiddle with our fingers a brave son of Australia is about to be thrown to the wolves.

It would pay us well to read, and reflect upon, the following transcript between the President of the United States, his National Security Adviser, and his Attorney General.

The background to the transcript is that a journalist had just published an article in The New York Times. The article was the first installment of seven thousand pages of highly classified documents that exposed the decision-making process that had led the United States into an interminably long and destructive war.

Earlier, on the same day that the transcript was recorded, June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court, citing the First Amendment, ruled 6-3 that the Times had the right to publish the stolen documents.

The journalist who published the article stated that “It was just an exquisite moment of vindication for the freedom of the press in this country and how important it is.”

The President, on that very same day ordered his Attorney General to discredit the source of the documents, a man who had just been indicted by a federal grand jury under the questionable strictures of the Espionage Act of 1917. Sound familiar?

The redactions in the transcript are mine.

President: Don’t you agree that we have to pursue the … (redacted) case?

Attorney General: No question about it. No question about it. This is the one sanction we have, is to get at the individuals …

President: Let’s get the son of a bitch into jail.

National Security Advisor: We’ve got to get him, we’ve got to get him …

President: Don’t worry about his trial. Just get everything out. Try him in the press. Try him in the press. Everything, … (redacted), that there is on the investigation, get it out, leak it out. We want to destroy him in the press. Is that clear?

Attorney General: Yes.

So even though the highest Court in America ruled that the release of the documents was both lawful, and in the public interest, the President and his administration sought to go after, jail, and demolish those who were involved in the leaking of the documents.

And so Julian Assange sits rotting in a British jail while a case is concocted against him. And so our Australian Government sits on its arse and does not have the fortitude to confront Trump and his administration, and so the majority of our Quiet Australians (those perennial supplicants at the altar of the Big Lie) sit on their arses, while a brave son of Australia is thrown to the wolves.

There are some here in Australia who have had the courage to speak up, but far too many more of either political persuasion have not had the moral courage to speak up.

I don’t know what books Julian Assange has access to in his jail cell, but if he has access to the one I have just read, I don’t doubt that he would be reflecting upon the depth of betrayal, and the rankness of the betrayal, that has been sent his way by his own people, his own Australian people. Let alone what his thoughts also might be about the Americans at the highest level of power who are going for his jugular.

We all like to think that the ability of those in power to suppress truth and to threaten the journalists who publish that truth is diminished by a long societal memory of previously exposed scandals, and by the very vigilance of an informed and concerned populace. Well, that is simply not so. We live in an era where truth is far more strongly suppressed than it ever was, where the populace is apathetic and supportive of political populism, and where the journalists who expose that suppression of truth are pursued with the full force of the State.

Those of you with a knowledge of history might well ask what parallel is there between the cases of Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange, between the release of The Pentagon Papers and the Wikileaks Documents? For that is the question that I have unfolded above for you to think about. The transcript quoted above was recorded in 1971 and Daniel Ellsberg was the target. The transcripts concerning Julian Assange are being recorded right now.

I think you are intelligent enough to work out the multiple parallels between both cases for yourselves.

The transcript participants (recorded on June 30, 1971): President Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, John Mitchell.
The transcript and other relevant information quoted from the book: The Vietnam War – An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns, 2018.
The documents: The Pentagon Papers.
One source/author of the documents (target of the transcript): Daniel Ellsberg.

Here in Australia some of our journalists and others are currently being pursued by the full force of a middle-ranking state because of the disclosure of secrets that our government wished to keep quiet about – think East Timor and Afghanistan. Internationally, one of our journalists, for that is what he is, is being pursued by the full force of the American State because he published material, damning material, that the American State wished to keep quiet.

The stitch-up of Julian Assange is well underway. But it will be many decades before the transcript of the tapes of White House manoeuvring to indict him are released for public reading.

We, the people of Australia, need to step in right now and stop the tapes. We need to bring Julian Assange home to freedom.

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We, the unheard.

And so the priests stand up in their pulpits and wish everyone a happy and merry Xmas …

And so we, the unheard, sit alone at home on Xmas day and try to endure the silence, the loneliness, and the loss. We try not to hear the happy celebrations of our neighbours, we leave the television off because of the swamp of festive visual fare that shows happy contented people singing carols and exuding joy, and we avoid any sort of human contact simply because we no longer have the ability to pretend that we can either contribute to or benefit from what is meant to be such a day of happy and relaxed and innocent celebration.

Many of us have drifted away from our families, or they have drifted away from us. Our children have drifted away from many of us, or we have drifted away from them. On Xmas day we think about, and live, the loss. We sit on our verandahs, and we stare at the sky.

And who are we, the unheard?

We are a grouping of men and women who as children back in the 1950s, yes back in the 1950s, that long and far away reach back in time, we are the human beings who endured unspeakable abuse experiences while under the care of religious institutions. We are now in our late sixties or seventies by physical age, but we are much older and worn down under the effects of the inescapable legacies that we have carried over the stretch of a full lifetime.

And so the priests stand up in their pulpits and wish everyone a happy and merry Xmas …

Our abuse experiences do not stand unique against those who were abused in the 1970s, the 1990s, the 2000s, or yesterday. The horror of the crimes committed against us in the 1950s are equal to the horror of the crimes committed against other children in the 1990s or in the present era. Nobody, no victim or survivor depending on how you as a society wishes to view us, escapes the legacy imposed by those crimes. The only difference for we, the unheard, is the fact that we have carried those legacies, those legacies of depression and PTSD, and the acute memories of what happened to us, for well over sixty years now.

Did some of us escape from under the weight of it all? We would like to think so, we would hope so, some must have surely, but for many of us, such cut through did not come our way.

The Royal Commission came far too late for us, the reach out from society via the Parliamentary apology was woefully too late for us, and both those events combined simply served to remind us how isolated, unheard, and unbelieved we were over that more than half a century ago.

We lived, as young children, and as teenagers, in an era where the churches and their clerics were venerated, and where those who had experienced scouring trauma were expected to just suck it up and move on, and, under no circumstance, speak out. We lived in a conservative and hypocritical society.

For us, back then, there was no inrush of supportive therapists and counsellors such as automatically happens today immediately post any sort of traumatic event. Society was quiet during our abuse, society was quiet after our abuse, society did not want to listen, society did not want to know. There was no such thing as early remedial intervention in our day, with the result that many of us carried our load of depression and post-traumatic stress for far too long in silence, and that long period of silence ensured for many of us that the state of those afflictions would become permanent.

As we hit our fifties and sixties, and as we saw the unfolding details of the Royal Commission, and as we sensed the new move within society to listen and believe, we started to open up. We approached therapists and psychologists, and for many of us, it was the first time in the totality of our lives that we were able to speak of what had been done. Our speech may have been halting, but at least for us, it was a welcome crack in the veil of silence.

After sixty years of being pushed aside, we were faced with the very new experience of being listened to. We had to try and draw ourselves out from under the blanket of silence imposed upon us by the society of our era. And it was at that very time, at a time when society was prepared to listen to our words, prepared to listen to our stories, when the Royal Commission was at its height, well, that was the exact time because of our decision to engage with the remedial therapies that many of us received the news from our therapists, our psychologists, and our psychiatrists that the damage done to us had been untreated for far too long, and that the damage could not be undone.

That blow was shattering for many of us. The last vestige of our hope for some internal relief or sense of normality was taken away.

And the priests stand up in their pulpits and wish everyone a happy and merry Xmas …

So our anger rose, and many of us entered the legal redress system, either under the civil system or the government promoted and subsequently watered down Redress Scheme. For many of us, our mental state was such that we could not clearly discern the ramifications for us of the decisions we made about the various levels of settlement offered to us by the religious institutions. For many of us, it was a depressing experience that added to the level of abuse that we had received from those institutions. We saw, and felt, their response to our requests for justice as an extension of our abuse at their hands. Many of us simply signed settlements in order to stop the further perpetration of abuse upon us.

As the Royal Commissioner recently stated, the problem with the largest abusive church of them all, the one that affected so many of us, is the fact that they saw and still see the molestation of children as a moral dilemma, and not as a crime. Well, we, the unheard, are the living proof of the effects across our whole lifetimes of the crime of childhood sexual abuse that was perpetrated upon us by representatives of that church. A church that does not have the moral courage to change itself from within.

This new era of societal redress and focus on abuse will end, as all things do, and society will move on to other things, as in this era society more and more quickly does. But we remain here locked into a world, not of our own creating, and many of us are faced with the impossible reality of accepting that how it always was for us, then so it will always remain to be.

On Xmas day many of us will just sit on our verandahs, and many of us will just stare at the sky. We remain quiet, and hidden away. It simply IS our IS. A bit of a brutal truth the churches don’t care to acknowledge. The age of being listened to arrived too late to be of benefit for many of us, and within ourselves, we feel and remain unheard.

And the priests stand up in their pulpits and wish everyone, including one assumes us, a happy and merry Xmas …

So we, some of that grouping of men and women who were children way back then in the 1950s do not in any sense wish you to not enjoy your festive season. But there is something that we would ask of you.

We want you to enjoy Xmas with every fibre of your being, and we want you to appreciate the beauty of your family, the beauty of your children, the beauty of your friends, and the beauty of being able to laugh and dance and celebrate and shout with unaffected joy at the freedoms that you have. We want you to fully appreciate and live your lives well. We want you to spread love and kindness to all you meet, and we want you to extend to and receive compassion from all on Xmas day. We wish you much success in the raising of your children and in the creation of positive legacies for them.

We, the unheard, would take it as a wonderful Xmas present to see you manage to do all of that.

Peace and love to all of you from all of us.

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Smart Bullets: No more boots on the ground?

We are continually told that AI and autonomous robotic entities will put people out of work. Modern factory floors full of robots and not full of people, and modern mines full of driverless vehicles and robotic diggers (oh, hello Adani) attest to the truth of all of that.

But what about in the military sphere? Because we are also told that no matter what level of sophisticated weaponry one decimates enemy territory with, the only way to secure and hold territory is to put boots on the ground. The boots on the ground maxim has been a staple military requirement for thousands of years. If you don’t get your garrisons in you don’t get to hold the ground. To a great extent the maxim still holds true.

But for how much longer?

It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that there are multiple forms of smart weaponry patiently sitting out there waiting for either a sweaty or an eager finger to dab down on the red or coloured otherwise button. Smart Weaponry, AI controlled, and not necessarily endowed with an attached ethics module. Press. Boom. Goodbye worrying about the skyrocketing ascension of your next power bill.

But those weapons, multiple nuclear or biological warheaded ICBMs and the like represent the delivery of armageddon from a distance. They take off on the other side of the planet, or from some hidden sub somewhere, and blow the crap out of our happy beach side BBQs on this side. Splat, we’re gone, and then in come the enemy soldiers to eat up what’s left of the snags. The boots on the ground maxim gets another trot out.

But Smart Bullets will kill off the maxim in a nanosecond.

Our army is currently investing heavily in the design of autonomous driver-less military vehicles. An AI controlled jeep or somesuch with a menacing popgun mounted on the prow, fair enough, it means our military personnel can project force from a distance without having to duck flying bits of metal themselves. Not a bad plan.

But what about close-in defence? What about when the maxim supplied snag eating enemy are taking pot shots at us with their rifles and bullets? What do we do when things get a bit up close and personal?

Why, we use Smart Bullets of course. Swarms of the little buggers. Controlled by AI.

Have you ever noticed how missiles fired from military jets swerve and home-in on their designated targets, and chaff and desperate avoidance aside, usually get to splot the enemy jet. Well, why cannot that technology be miniaturised down, and for all we know it probably already has, and be applied to the humble old bullet?

Bullets at the moment get to be fired out of pistols and rifles and they generally follow a gravity dropping path from A to B over a fairly short distance in military terms, but further than a bayonet can reach of course. But once those bullets are fired they are on their own. Thine aim was true or not becomes the deciding factor, and the ducking ability of the snaggers comes in to play as well. Dumb bullets can’t think, they just go where they are sent.

But imagine a little bullet that can think. Imagine a little bullet that can see. Imagine a little bullet that has a two stage propellant system on board, one to launch it out of a barrel, and then the secondary one to allow it to swerve. Of course you’d have to add miniaturised little vanes to the thing to allow it some cornering ability, and the AI on board would have to be robust enough to recognise that, yes, that is indeed a snagger, and not you or me, lurking behind the change shed at Bondi.

The Smart Bullet would search for the hidden snagger.

But if you can imagine all of that, then you could probably also imagine that the invention and utilisation of Smart Bullets might make the need for rifles, and the soldiers who bear them, just a tad obsolete.

The bullet is a drone in other words.

A fleet of large predator drones loaded with zillions of little Smart Bullet Drones could on the one hand waft happily and lazily over all of the important areas of Australia, Sunshine Coast where I live included, and could on the other hand also put the wind up any potential snagger who wants to come here and disrupt our BBQs. It would also enable us to save an awful amount of dosh by dumping the purchase of our obsolete french subs.

Ok, we are talking about the future. A not too far distant future. And I’m aware that the little theory I’ve suggested here has enough holes in it to drive an old Leopard Tank through. But, so what? Why not give the thought a run?

I can’t help but feel that we are equipping our military with weapons systems that would be excellent at helping us to win the the last war that we were involved in, but that would be totally inadequate to meet our needs in a future war that we all hope that we can avoid.

The threat of the use of nuclear weaponry has not receded, it still sits there. However, we are now faced with the next generation of smart AI controlled autonomous weaponry that will seek us and our soldiers out in a remorseless and unethical manner (ethical war? surely a debate in itself). We are hardly prepared for such a prospect.

I’d prefer that no snaggers come here in a boots on the ground mop-up operation, I’d prefer that no snaggers of any nationality go anywhere in the world on a boots on the ground mop-up operation, I’d prefer that none of our soldiers get killed for any reason in any war, I’d prefer that war be consigned to the dustbin of history, I’d prefer that the maxim of boots on the ground be head-butted into irrelevance, but until all of that happens I’d prefer that we work out ways to defend ourselves.

Nanotechnology. AI. Drones. Smart Bullets.

Cheaper than wasting the lives of our Soldiers I’d have thought.

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