My parents only agreed on a very small number of issues. They both believed in god and followed a branch of the non-conformist Christian faith.
After a near disaster in my father’s mishandling of the mortgage payments, they agreed that my mother was the more competent money manager.
I had (intentional past tense) an older brother and sister, a year apart in age, with a nearly 3 year gap between my sister and me.
My father taught us all to ride a bike, to strip it down and service it (he was a mechanical engineer), to swim – a sport in which the 3 of us all later engaged at a competitive level – and to drive the car – having first been required to get a good understanding of how an internal combustion engine worked!
My mother had held a driving licence pre-WWII, without actually learning to drive, but she held it for long enough that she was automatically regarded as qualified. She put the fear of god into the local lamp posts if she ever did get behind the steering wheel, and her brief efforts to learn did nothing positive to her relationship with my father!
The plus side was that later she could accompany us when we were on L-plates and we could then replace my father as driver whenever was convenient.
My mother was responsible for ensuring we all learned to play the piano, which was a passion of hers, and she played well, and my brother later went on to play the violin and any other musical instrument you put in his hands!
When he was at Cambridge (he won a State Scholarship), he got involved in Morris Dancing and played the piano accordion, for that and folk dancing as well.
Politics was also a bone of contention between my parents, so an important part of my social education was learning that there are always at least two points of view on anything which cannot be definitively described as fact!
Although they were poles apart – Tory mother vs card-carrying Labour father – their Christian faith did leave them with a drive to help others, although their methods might have varied.
My sister studied medicine at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, which was part of London University, as was the Imperial College of Science and Technology (now Imperial College, London) where I later studied maths. So while my brother effectively left home when he went to Cambridge, my sister and I travelled up to college, daily, via the London Underground.
My brother moved on to design aircraft engines for Rolls Royce, my sister became a surgeon and I went on to teach maths – and, much later, practice as a lawyer and mediator.
In my parent’s home, we listened to the BBC radio, and I left home to get married a year after graduating and before television was an established household necessity.
At times in later life I have listened to commercial broadcasts on radio and TV and found the breaks for advertisements unbelievably unacceptable.
While still in England and after we had a family, we still did not choose to get television, as we had family and friends nearby, spent our weekends working on the boat (a long story attaches to that) and later sailing it, so we were quite happy to confine our radio news to the BBC.
Not surprisingly, after coming to Darwin nearly 50 years ago, we kept the same pattern – in fact when we first arrived, we preceded TV to Darwin – but we did succumb to renting a back and white TV later in our first year. The ABC replaced the BBC – but then, many ABC offerings are from the BBC!
My dislike of being inundated by ads means I rarely watch commercial TV and never listen to commercial radio.
When I started work at the then Northern Territory University (NTU), in mid-1989, I was given an Apple Mac for my exclusive use (as were all education and maths lecturers) – it had graphics packages which were particularly important for maths, but not then available in DOS – and I have morphed through all the changes in following years.
So now – years later – I can access news from a variety of sources and identify the extent to which bias distorts information.
Because the Murdoch media, which dominates the commercial media in Australia, is unashamedly hard right conservative, the ABC’s efforts to introduce balance in reporting is perceived, by conservatives as being left wing.
‘If you are not with us, you are against us’ is a typical attitude in a culture which, through its law and politics, encourages an antagonistic approach to contentious issues.
I have studied maths, which emphasises logic.
I have studied law, which highlights the adversarial approach.
I have trained as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolution – which I am happy to say is an approach into which the Courts are now diverting some disputes, particularly ones in the area of civil law and, less successfully because of the emotions involved, Family Law.
Mediation has so much to recommend it, because it directs you away from conflict and insistence on getting what you want, and requires you to consider the other party’s needs and wants, and to reassess your important priorities.
The question is “What can you live with?” rather than “What do you want?”
I listen to the ABC news and comment programs and note that they employ an increasing number of conservatives including former politicians, like Amanda Vanstone.
Yet conservatives as a whole continue to accuse the ABC of left-wing bias!
And because it is so obvious that the ABC is not offering exclusively left wing opinions, those who are firmly left-wing in their personal beliefs, see the ABC now as becoming right-wing!
It is a crazy situation when each side of politics demands balance in their national broadcaster, and, when they get it, interpret it as bias!
It is worse than crazy, it is dangerous, when that results in the government effectively introducing strong right-wing bias into media, by cutting funds to the ABC and giving funds to blatantly right-wing Murdoch media outlets.
You have to ask yourself – how, in a democracy, can this be seen as legitimate? – particularly when that same government is passing increasingly dictatorial legislation which reduces our freedoms.
Not a good look from a government with so slim a majority!
No wonder they do not want Parliament to be sitting and discussing the government’s flawed program!
It is clear that the current Coalition government is living from moment to moment, with no clear understanding of the need for a flexible plan which will minimise harm to those who become infected, to those who care for them, or to those who have lost income – and many also the ability to find a source of income.
We do not want politicians who sit comfortably in their ivory towers, unaware of the extent of people’s traumatic situations, any more than we want ones who force a handshake on a victim of unprecedented bush fires for the sake of a photo op.
We need a leader with vision of positive outcomes, who can, with a like-minded team, plan for a variety of potential situations and make rapid and appropriate adjustments as situations change.
I cannot see any in the Coalition who begin to measure up to what we need and they are not going to allow anyone else to step up, even though they clearly cannot cope.
Sadly, COVID-19 is their friend.
We ought to be out on the streets demonstrating but that might do more long-term harm than good!
At least we can be preparing for action as soon as it becomes less likely to put lives in danger.
What say you?
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”