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‘My tiny hands are bleeding’: Vanstone on protest

In yet another piece of bellicose dross on the thoughtlessness of protesters, former Howard immigration minister turned ABC broadcaster and Fairfax columnist (via ambassador to Rome) Amanda Vanstone, yesterday unleashed her inner curmudgeon in this indignant rant titled “The ‘look at me’ narcissistic politics of the left.”

On reflection, her curmudgeon aspect is not that inner, but let’s not digress into personalities.

Briefly, Vanstone suffered trauma when as a young woman, indentured to the Myer group, she was forced to walk the streets of Melbourne bearing a load of something or other tied up with string that cut into her hands so badly she was obliged to make occasional stops in order to lay down her burden on the pavements and give her tiny hands a break.

One day, she was prevented from enjoying even this small relief by a crowd of “well-fed” protesters, upset about Australia’s involvement in the US war on Vietnam in general, and in particular, the napalming of Vietnamese children.

The utter selfishness of them, whines Amanda, in anarchically denying her respite from pain, and quite possibly preventing other people from going to the doctor or shopping in Myers. Yes, there’s no question. Napalm Vietnam to kingdom come, but what is really wrong here is that some Australians are inconvenienced.

This has been the aggrieved tone of almost every comment I’ve read and heard since some WACA activists glued themselves to the gallery in the House of Representatives last week in protest against our torture of and other criminal actions against those who legally sought asylum in our country.

Of course, those asylum seekers, now refugees, also inconvenienced Australians didn’t they, in the manner of their arrival and then sewing up their lips and dying and suffering the worst mental health outcomes per capita of any group in the western world. Now we have to bear global chastisement, and we still haven’t managed to get rid of them to a third country.

We speak often on the topic of American exceptionalism, but rarely do we mention Australian exceptionalism. It’s time to start.

Australian exceptionalism believes we ought not to be put upon by any of the world’s estimated 60 million refugees fleeing conflict and violence, for our sovereignty is of far more consequence than any human life, even those lives we have ourselves contributed towards endangering. This is the meta level of Australian exceptionalism.

Australians who don’t care about refugees must not, under any circumstances, be inconvenienced by those who do and take to the street or parliament house to express their concerns at the actions of our recalcitrant governments.

This actually applies to public protest in general: there is a class amongst us who abhor protest, it makes their tummies tingle and all they want is to make it stop because they can’t stand a discomfort worse even than having parcel string leave weals on your palms.

This class puts their comfort ahead of every other human concern, and so we have Vanstone and her ilk believing they are deserving of greater consideration than napalmed Vietnamese children and tortured refugees.

It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here. It’s entitlement, and an unfounded belief in exceptionalism, both national and individual, that is corroding public discourse and daily life. Nobody is entitled to a life free of all obstacles, be they large or small.

Being delayed or otherwise temporarily inconvenienced by protesters who are legitimately expressing their freedom to speak on behalf of those who are silenced is a very small obstacle and for mine, those who cannot tolerate even this much without complaint are psychologically and emotionally dysfunctional, and they urgently need to get themselves seen to.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.



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  1. townsvilleblog

    Vanstone is a creature who has received preferential treatment in this life, she may have had a little trouble when she was very young, but obviously doesn’t care for the Australian workforce who constantly year after year continue to be underpaid, work unpaid overtime worth tens of billions of dollars and their employers can’t even be bothered to pay the employees superannuation contributions, this is a capitalist wet dream, and her tory government will do nothing to change the situation, because working people are apparently dispensable.

  2. Jexpat

    Ms. Vanstone likely has so little of a conscience that she’s unable to see the irony in the title of her own piece.

    Having said that, it’s hard to tell who’s worse, Vanstone herself or the organisations: Fairfax and the ABC who provide a paid platform for her bile.

  3. David Tyler

    Amanda’s ramblings get a huge amount of media space yet she never has anything to say unless you count her compulsive, half-witted patrician platitudes deploring the popular masses’ ingratitude at being tossed a few scraps and leftovers while she and her mates dine out in high style on the proceeds of their exploitation, usury and wage-slaving.
    Vanstone’s done marvellously well for herself despite her impossible burdens of privilege and bloody-minded ignorance. Ambassador to Rome, vanity publishing and even a spot on ABC where she is able to be paid for further service to the IPA,the mining lobby and the banks.
    As for protesting, Amanda was delighted to be part of the rabidly misogynistic ditch the witch lynch mob that went relentlessly after Julia Gillard, a woman who defied the reactionary world view and upset the dominant paradigm by being a powerful and successful politician and prime minister.

  4. Jan

    Like all fundamentalist she doesn’t get it. I am totally convinced now that 95% of Conservatives types have a mental malfunction of some sort. For she is no Counterpoint; just a horrible stick in the mud and total waste of space.

  5. Frederick Froth

    Speaking of narcissists why not google the topic: Narcissistic In Chief The Psychopathology That Explains Donald Trumps Depravity.
    Remember too that all of the usual Australian right-wing suspects are having wet dreams re their imagined possibilities for reshaping Australia’s politics and culture as a result of the Chumps victory.
    And of course all of the zombies that infest the IPA are completely in love with their own self-reflected image too, and their “gospel” of whats-in-it-for-me, which is an extension of the world view promoted by the famous sentence – there is no such thing as society,only the immediate interests of me and my family.

  6. Clean livin

    Hey Amanda, don’t blame the protestors, after all,it was yet ANOTHER Australian LIBERAL Prime Minister who lied to the Parliament to get the Vietnam war rolling along, killing plenty of innocent civilians.

    Seems to be a habit amongst those of Liberal persuasion to lie about it invites to Wars, or with recent efforts, just lie about most things.

  7. helvityni

    Aussies seem to like their folksy , uneducated politicians, the Amandas, Paulines, Jackies, Derryns; they have the same prejudices and hates as red-necks who keep electing them….

    I can hardly believe that she was an Australian Ambassador to Italy, shades of Barry Humphries’ Les Patterson, I’m afraid….

  8. Ella

    Terry2, out of curiosity I went to the link which you provided. Then I became curious about the IPA .
    I started to read an article by Gideon Rozner which was published in the Herald Sun 1/12/16.
    The title caught my eye “It’s Offensive When Labor plays Politics with Racism” ……
    well I nearly fell of my chair.
    Let me quote
    “it is disappointing when politicians stir up racial and religious tensions for their own political purposes.
    And its not politicians on the Right, I’m talking about . It’s Bill Shorten….”

    Well at this point my mind went back to comments by Mr. Duttton about the Lebanese , then both Mr. Morrison and our PM tried to play Australian workers off against the backpackers…accusing Bill Shorten of wanting foreigners to earn more than Australian workers.

    It is obvious from the fact that AM invited a member of this organisation to talk on her show, where her real beliefs are.

    Need I say more?

  9. Adrianne Haddow

    Maybe Amanda should have asked the Myers company to buy her gloves to protect her ‘tiny’ bleeding hands.

    Protesters need the “look at me” strategy or what is the point of the protest ?
    Standing quietly in a corner never gets anyone heard, Amanda should know this.
    After all, she gets herself heard, well past retirement age and use-by-date, she still manages to nauseate us with her twisted opinions.

    As for the IPA, they are a lot like a disease, infesting every current affairs show, opinion pieces in newspapers, parliament, even institutions such as the Australian Human Rights Commission, which have absolutely no relevance to their entitled, self interested world view.
    Except for the “look at me” factor.

  10. Archaic

    I periodically make a point of reading Ms Vanstone’s column, and even looking at Andrew Bolt’s writing when in a local cafe that only has the Herald Sun. I routinely find myself in disagreement with them but I think it important to understand what is being said, so that I can better oppose it.

    In that regard I think Ms Vanstone is missing the point in her article, perhaps deliberately so in order to re-frame the narrative. By asserting that the “narcissism of the left” is behind such protests she suggests that the intention behind the act is a superficial desire for attention, and so she discounts the possibility that people could be genuinely concerned about a particular issue. With regard to Vietnam war protestors she expresses a resentment that these protestors chose express their opinion without consideration of how their “good day out” could affect others. This again dismisses the cause being advocated to focus on the act itself, and in so doing she reveals her focus on her own personal welfare instead of considering the ethics of the bigger issue, the very selfishness which she accuses the protestors of having.

    Surely the aim of an act of public protest is to draw attention to an issue and demonstrate opposition. It would seem to be a necessary feature of acts of protest that the actions of others will be disrupted or inconvenienced, in order to draw such attention. This can be relatively minor, through holding up a sign or giving a speech, but extend to camping out in public spaces, blocking traffic, interrupting a politician during a live television program, or causing a place of business to shut down. The question for prospective protestors would instead seem to be: how much inconvenience or disruption to others is ethically justified given the seriousness of the issue and whether there are other avenues to raise awareness, and more practically, how much disruption will effectively communicate the issue to the public without backfiring through causing resentment.

    I don’t imagine that all protestors engage in such considerations, but I would hope that their leaders or representative do. Clearly the protestors who disrupted parliamentary question time thought that their act was justified and proportionate to the issue. My impression of the nature of question time is such that I doubt that their protest disrupted anything important to the governance of the nation, but will revise my opinion if it can be shown what vital Dorothy Dixer’s could not be asked, or abusive rhetoric could not be shouted at political opponents.

    It is ridiculous to assert that a protest is never justified if it might inconvenience even one person. The question is rather how much and in what way is it justified to disrupt or inconvenience others in support of a cause, and what controls do we set in place to balance such issues. For example, in Victoria my understanding that anti-abortion protestors are not permitted within 150 metres of fertility clinics due to the concern over the level of harassment and intimidation women experienced. Even with that distance imposed I imagine it is still unpleasant and inconvenient for the staff and patients that the protestors be there at all, but I doubt Ms Vanstone would assert that no such protests should be allowed, ever, or that the anti-abortion protestors are motivated by narcissistic desires for attention, rather than a belief in their cause.

    What we should be discussing is how we strike a balance between enabling protests as legitimate acts of political engagement and managing public safety. The past few decades have seen increasing limitations on acts of protest, such as need for permits and/or public liability insurance in order to hold a rally or protest march.

    It is sad that so much of the mainstream media have gone along with this narrative, focusing on the act of disruption rather than considering the issue of continued detention of asylum seekers and the harm that this causes

  11. Athena

    Australia is no longer the nation of the fair go for everyone. Thanks to the self-righteous, entitled right it is turning into the nation of “I’m alright Jack, I don’t give a rat’s posterior about you”.

  12. helvityni

    I read Amanda’s article Jennifer is referring to; she writes of ‘ well-fed’ protestors, when hardly under-fed herself….

  13. Matters Not

    helvityni, she has a taste for Chinese:

    On Monday, however, Vanstone admitted taxpayers paid about $54,000 for her Mandarin lessons and speech coaching. … are reportedly causing concern at senior levels in the Government and bureaucracy. Vanstone’s fondness for Chinese could prove awkward for a Government already suffering a surfeit of bad news.

    Fairfax reported the tuition costs do not appear to fall under any ministerial or departmental guidelines and that there are no records of a competitive tender process being sought for the services

    … Vanstone’s Chinese banquet seems to have ended with plenty of sweet and sour remaining.

    Sweet for the Senator, sour for the Government.

    Amanda’s been a ‘leaner’ from way back. I won’t mention other language courses she undertook – all at public expense.

    Amanda Vanstone’s Chinese banquet

  14. Kyran

    Sooo, wait a minute. Are you picking on poor Amanda? She is merely defending the weak and vulnerable.
    I have evidence. Proof. Facts.

    “Business lobby outgunned by trade unions, left-wing think tanks: Menzies Research Centre”

    It was on the ABC, for goodness sake. It must be true.

    “Australia’s once influential business lobby is now “completely outgunned” by trade unions and left-of-centre think tanks, according to a growing force in conservative policy development and debate.”

    Don’t you see? She is merely defending a business lobby that is so weak and vulnerable, it is susceptible to attacks by unions wishing to protect their members. How fecking dare they?

    “The research cites $157 million per year spent by traditional left, “anti-enterprise” groups including think tanks such as the Grattan, Australia, McKell and Chifley institutes, Industry Super Australia, Greenpeace, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and grassroots campaigners like GetUp.
    That compares to $41 million per year spent by traditional right, “pro-enterprise” groups such as BCA, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, Council of Small Business Australia and think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre of Independent Studies and the Menzies Research Centre.”
    “The research shows “anti-enterprise” groups have 200,000 followers, excluding unions, while “pro-enterprise” has only 24,500 followers.
    “Anti-business think tanks and single-issue groups focus on the commentariat and media while GetUp and unions penetrate the grassroots level.”

    Don’t you see? The ‘anti-enterprise’ people spend money on promoting their arguments, whilst the ‘pro-enterprise’ people have to ingratiate themselves with the likes of the ABC to promote their arguments, ex gratia.
    “It isn’t “lefty” concern and protest that’s the problem here.”
    I’ve always thought that respect and dignity qualify my approach to anyone. How they respond is up to them.
    Respect? Dignity? Vanstone?
    Pick the odd one out. Archaic nailed it. Thank you, Ms Wilson. Take care

  15. Archaic

    Hi Kyran, Thanks for your kind words.

    I also heard that interview on the radio this morning. I think that you’re correct to put it “pro-enterprise” and “anti-enterprise” in inverted commas. It was a wonderful example of newspeak. I’d always thought of Greenpeace as pro-environment, rather than anti-enterprise. Likewise I don’t understand how the ACTU would be opposed to enterprise if it meant employment for their members. It also seems odd that anti-enterprise GetUp would be supporting investment in the renewable energy industry.
    It seems a crass attempt to play the victim as you’ve identified.
    The most bizarre aspect is that if the BCA or IPA attracted that level of public support and funding, they would trumpet this as a sign that they represent the wishes and interests of the “silent majority” who are “investing in the causes that represent their interests”.

  16. Ray

    Sheite! Amanda is shades of Oliver Hardy in that hat !

  17. Kyran

    It is truly an oddity of our time, Archaic, that we need to defer to ‘pro-enterprise’, whilst decrying ‘pro-environment’. It’s something that the likes of Vanstone, and the various business lobby’s, insist are mutually exclusive.
    If we look at the ‘pro-enterprise’ argument, right now, in Queensland, we have given a free kick to a company.
    Unlikely to pay tax.
    Unlikely to have too many employee’s,
    Unlikely to have to post a ‘reparation fund’ for the environmental degradation they are likely to cause,
    Unlikely to do much good,at all.
    Commercially viable, only by virtue of governmental grant’s (at a federal level) and governmental acquiescence.(at a state level).
    It’s not like Queensland has a tourism industry, is it?
    “So where the bloody hell are you? is a A$180 million advertising campaign launched in 2006.”
    That was a campaign launched by scummo, just before he got deported to New Zealand. Thank goodness he wasn’t a refugee.
    Here’s the thing. The tourism industry in Queensland pays a lot of tax, because it pays a lot of employee’s. It is reliant on preserving the environment that it relies upon. Commercially viable can not, under any circumstance, be excused, when the beneficiaries are so few and the victims are so many.
    Take care

  18. wam

    Another fine mess you have got me into jennifer.
    She is a product of the WASP born to rule St Peter’s girls.
    My high school had the same blue and white striped tie. In 56 after morning exams a small group of us went for a walk and came upon some saint’s girls playing tennis, who were quite forward till some idiot in a blazer came by and the saw WHS they ran like scalded cats.

    wow archaic all that from vanstone’s speil wonder what you could do if you forced yourself to actually read the tlob.
    I’d like to see that????

  19. Kaye Lee

    That picture of Vanstone is from when she took part in a surrealist artistic installation called “Coalition of the Constipated”. I find the title more descriptive than surreal.

  20. Helen Holmes

    Does it not occur to her that her union might have been able to get her a bag to carry the items in? Then I’m sure she’d have happily joined in protesting the napalm deaths and rejoiced in the union movement for ever! And pigs might also have taken to the sky!

  21. Michael Faulkner

    Thank you for this piece Jennifer.
    The irony inherent in her own writing, where she laments the ‘ narcissistic ‘ behaviour of those protesting in parliament last week, while feeling sorry for herself as a young employee, confronted with anti-Vietnam War protesters more than 4 decades ago, was entirely lost on Amanda Vanstone. Judging by Letters to the Editor in ‘ The Age ‘ newspaper this week, Vanstone appalling article hasn’t won her any supporters.

  22. vivienne29

    I don’t believe her story about walking carrying uniforms and being blocked. I lived and worked in Melbourne.

  23. jim

    I’m pointing this out because Labor has been called responsible/negligent for thousands of deaths at sea, by the voters and the mrAbott/lnp government. Did labor cause thousands of deaths at sea?
    The data just does not support the never-ending claims by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison that they stopped the boats. The under-resourced and uncritical media accepts the Coalition’s line.

    Action by the Coalition along with the Greens in the Senate to prevent amendments to the Migration Act greatly assisted people-smugglers and boat arrivals from 2011 onwards……….When the High Court rejected the Malaysian arrangement in August 2011, irregular maritime arrivals were running at less than 300 per month. That number increased to 1200 by May 2012, and kept on rising.
    Then we had Liberal stooges telling the Americans that the more boats that arrive in Australia the better..,their cunning plan to stop Labor from stopping the boats.

    What largely stopped the boats, was the announcement by Kevin Rudd on the 19th July 2013 that in future any persons coming by boat and found to be a refugee would not be settled in Australia. However it was Howard and his “liberals” that first used off-shore detention as a tool,anyways..

    This was biggest drop in refugees ever! We may argue about the wisdom of that policy, but it effectively crippled the business case of the people-smugglers. between July and September, people arriving by boat fell from 4,145 to 837 and the number of boats fell from 47 to 15. The trend largely continued after that time. so the numbers fell two months before the LNP lied its way into power then they carried on….. but totally/fully secretive (so easy to do with the MSM on your side and all media Must !, be okayed through the PMs office)…….‘Soft’ border protection laws did NOT cause an influx of ‘boat people………….The fact that most people don’t know this stuff is testament to the dishonesty of our politicians and the brainwashing by our media.

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