Why Same Sex Marriage Is Now an Election Issue

As promised, Tony Abbott put the proposal of same sex marriage to the party room. But not his own party room where in all probability the motion would have been lost anyway.  But quite cleverly or perhaps fearfully, the PM put it to the joint LNP party room. In doing that, he knew the same sex marriage would be lost as most National party members and senators are against the idea.  Perhaps in gratitude, Warren Truss could stand aside and nominate Tony Abbott as the new leader.

And then once that was concluded, Abbott equivocated. He had stated that parliament should decide the issue, after the Irish referendum. Now after circumventing his party as well, he suggested a referendum or plebiscite.  A referendum would be unnecessary and a plebiscite could be easily ignored.

But with a private member’s bill on same-sex marriage shortly to be introduced into the House of Representatives and perhaps the revival of a Senate bill, Abbott’s manoeuvres have only bought him time. He believes that his tactics have ensured that the issue will be put aside perhaps until the next election or beyond.

But strategically, he has failed to see the long-term effect of his actions. He has offended senior members of his cabinet who are publicly disagreeing with his actions. Now he may threaten them with dismissal if they cross the floor and vote for the legislation but that will only create more and more publicity and a greater backlash. That could create a revolt within his party and another leadership spill. But that can be addressed tactically as he has done in the past.

But strategically, Abbott has failed to realise the following. His divisive actions with regard to same sex marriage has created an election issue.

In non-rainbow colours, the choice is clear…

A vote for the National party and the other conservative party (now now longer a Liberal party) will ensure there will be no same-sex marriage.




Bernie Sanders? President?

About two years ago, on Twitter I started following this odd American politician. A man named Bernie Sanders.  I thought to myself this man can’t be a Republican or Democrat. He’s saying what neither party could ever countenance let alone tolerate. Neither of the two conservative American parties would touch him for a second.
Then I found out that Sanders is the independent senator for the state of Vermont. And then after that I researched him a little further. He’s been around a long time. It’s clear and consistent what he stands for. And tellingly he’s saying now what he’s been saying for years.
And surprisingly enough that gives Bernie Sanders an almost unbreachable shield. It’s difficult to mount attack ads and craft slogans against someone like him. Voters will nod dully. They’ll say we heard Bernie say that before. He’s being saying these things for years. Besides it’s difficult to criticise someone who’s so far ahead of his time that now the world has just caught up to him.
And now he’s running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Against the already presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. And people are waking up to this truly maverick politician. And something very interesting might happen.
Clinton is almost unbeatable for the Democratic nomination. She has too much money, a massive network, extraordinary media clout and a long record of experience. Her campaign has already learnt the lessons from her defeat in 2008 and Obama’s victories then and in 2012. They have obviously learnt how to capitalise on her time as an effective Secretary of State and new York senator. Further Hillary Clinton cleverly has already ensured that President Obama has more or less endorsed her. But she won’t be able to touch Bernie Sanders. And that is why her campaign is worried.
Her main threat should be from the Republicans. As a party, they have prepared for her candidacy for a long time in fact since she was First Lady and senator for New York. They’ve readied the attack ads and slogans.
But that won’t matter. It won’t matter regardless of whether the GOP has a Tea Party candidate, running mate or both. It won’t matter as the GOP will appear to be as they actually are. Divided and unelectable as shown by the antics of Donald Trump. Even if Trump’s latest tantrum results in him running as an independent, it will probably make things worse for the hapless Republicans. Besides they can’t even pass laws on road repairs (with a majority in both Houses!).
In normal times, a divided and ramshackle Republican party would mean an easy run for Clinton.  In theory, that is, unless Sanders loses and listens to his followers. They will clamour for him to run as an independent. And Sanders being an independent will do just that. Then it will become interesting indeed.

A True Internet Fable: Don’t Mention the War, We’re Too Busy Collaborating

Last week, at work, the Aarnet (Australian Academic Research Network) is mentioned.  In my mind I slip away from the meeting and go back in time. To 1990, in fact, where I was witness to a remarkable episode of collaboration.

My then work colleague had done the unthinkable. He had talked management into connecting to the internet. But the only way to do so was through the Aarnet.

We had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. The internet wasn’t the sexy World-Wide-Web as we know it now.  The internet seemed to be like a fairly disorganised library. It was made up of e-mail, news groups, search tools and file servers, all great tools that worked separately but never together.  That was to wait until the advent of the World Wide Web. 

Some of us used email. My colleague used the search tools and file servers to find software. Everyone else used the news groups.

We could find out anything. We also could share anything too. But not just in our area of expertise, or interest or locality but internationally. This level of collaboration was best shown by an incident which could not happen now.

It wasn’t long after connecting to the internet that the first Gulf War began. We had the radio on to follow the latest updates. It was then we heard that Scud missiles were being fired at Israel. One work colleague spoke up and said he had a friend in Haifa.  We became nervous as events might have escalated very seriously.

But on the news groups it was a different story. Iraqi students had no idea what was going on. They were asking questions. American and Israeli students were answering them. It didn’t matter that a war was going on.

That’s what happens when you give people the ability to collaborate.

National Insecurity, Citizenship and Exile

As posted on Gumption-inc

With less than eighteen months remaining in its first term, (or less according to some commentators), the Australian Government has been determined to show that it is tough on national security. One of those measures is legislating to strip citizenship of anyone who has joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq. In this action, all they are doing is following the lead of Canada and Great Britain.

UN Passport

UN Passport

Great Britain’s response to the increasing number of citizens joining the war in Syria was to try and ensure they didn’t return. One tactic in the case of dual passport holders was to revoke their British citizenship. In fact, revocations have increased in Great Britain since 2013.  The power to revoke citizenship resides with the Home Secretary and utilises existing powers. Despite provision to appeal the decision through a court process, due to the decision occurring while the person was abroad, the result is that many individuals have been left stranded overseas.  In some cases individuals have been left stateless. The justification is that of protecting national security and/or deterring potential and actual terrorists. As a consequence of those grounds, little is known of those people who have had their citizenship revoked.  Great Britain is now in the process of enacting and enforcing even more strict laws.

Passport and Handcuffs

Passport and Handcuffs

Following the British example, Canada introduced new rules for revoking citizenship again citing terrorism and national security concerns. Again most cases will be decided by the Minister with a provision for a courts process. No provision is made it seems for dual citizens who are overseas. As the Canadian Bar Association states such actions in effect will exile citizens effectively through a paper based process. As the Toronto Star states citizenship has now been criminalised and is effectively been used as a tool to achieve Government objectives, such as deporting undesirables. But as we are seeing in Australia, once citizenship becomes expendable, then proposals to revoke it on trivial grounds appear from nowhere. However in Canada, those grounds remain terrorism offences overseas,  national security offences and serving overseas in armed forces against Canada. Again note that neither Canada nor Great Britain are considering the revocation of citizenship for single nationals.

Claiming that it is extra tough on national security, but really following suit, the Australian Government introduced a proposal to revoke citizenship from dual nationals who had travelled overseas to fight. This proposal was put to the Cabinet and involved an administrative process with no provision for appeal. After a rebellion by some ministers,the proposal was amended to include a judicial review process.

In the meantime, there has been many views expressed including that the legislation was unconstitutional. But then the legislation was introduced and it appears flawed. Grounds for revocation of citizenship now include terrorism, national security offences, serving in the armed forces of another country and being in a so-called prescribed area such as Raqqa, the capital of Islamic State. But the extent of offences now may include whistle-blowing and the vague phrase of using a thing (undefined) to commit an act of terrorism (a paper glider flown through Parliament perhaps?) noting that offences may be applied retrospectively. So that means a person could visit Iraq or Syria for religious reasons but then lose their citizenship as the war has spread to their location.

World Wide

World Wide

In all of that the Australian Prime Minister was quoted as still pursuing means to strip the citizenship of single-nationals who have left Australia to fight overseas.

This is troubling for democracy. In Australia, at least, a law will be enacted that imposes penalties and offences without recourse to court. This law too will mean that potentially Australians fighting overseas will be rendered stateless and have no means of regaining their citizenship. The law provides no means of holding these terrorists to account for their crimes by extraditing them back home. This law, and such laws like it, fails to deter and in fact provides more grounds for fighters to leave a country, commit terrorism and not return.

This government don’t know what they are doing. If they suspend the citizenship of dual nationals who have committed crimes overseas, how will these people be brought to justice? They’ve effectively got away with their crimes internationally. Such suspension effectively rewards (not punishes) these people with exile. Such people contemplating going overseas may be more motivated if they lose their citizenship. And now they want to impose restrictions upon those with single citizenship through an quasi-legal accounting of their actions which could potential break international law (again).

These laws and laws like it are stupid and destined to fail.




The Potential Radicalisation of News Limited?

In truth, I take little interest in the activities of Islamic State. They simply are another group that uses any religion to justify any violence. And yet another group who commit violence in the main against their fellow believers.

So I find myself agape and aghast at News Limited’s unmitigated obsession with them. Every single day, either on the News.com.au web site or the front pages of the Daily Telegraph or Herald-Sun or Courier Mail, there is a yet another story on Islamic State.

In truth, it’s enough to make one hearken after the good old fashioned days of so-called bum and tit journalism. I even have wistful wishes for those strange and odd stories about penises and vaginas which used to adorn the News.com.au web site. Even a few lines about one of the Kardashians/Wests/Jenners would do.

But all of those hopes were dashed after the recent ABC Q and A controversy. This time News decided to take the high moral ground (which in a sea of beheadings, drownings, burnings, Kardashians, penises and vaginas is quite hard to find) and declared (using their usual badly written headlines and poorly photo-shopped clip art) that the Australian Broadcasting Commission support Islamic State.  But any reading would show that (as I tweeted), “Its News Limited who generates free publicity for Islamic State not the ABC:)”

Shouldn’t we all be worried about the potential radicalisation of Australia’s largest media outlet?

Why Doesn’t He Just Leave? Men and Domestic Violence

At the moment, according to Destroy the Joint there is at least one woman a week being murdered by her partner.
Domestic Violence is now more of a mainstream issue than ever.
And there is plenty of advice in the air.

Men Accusing a Young Woman (ID 52029258 © Everett Collection Inc. | Dreamstime.com)

Men Accusing a Young Woman (ID 52029258 © Everett Collection Inc. | Dreamstime.com)

Rosie Batty is campaigning against domestic violence as Australian of the Year. The Prime Minister has floated the use of ankle bracelets to monitor domestic violence offenders. But first they have to be brought to court. Most aren’t. Mark Latham suggested that poverty and unemployment are the cause. He didn’t really suggest a solutionSallee McLaren claimed that women contributed to domestic violence and needed to be more assertive. Phil Barker stated that it was men who needed retraining.Perhaps this scenario may yield another point of view…A man who was brought up never to strike a woman finds himself in a situation of domestic violence.After the initial shock, he resorts to non-confrontational tactics and seeks safety in work, parenting and housework. Most of the time that provides solace. It never occurs to him to seek help because there isn’t any. But after years of avoidance and abuse, he retaliates.

The police become involved and he is served with a Domestic Violence Order. Despite the woman admitting she initiated the violence, she is not charged. The man reflects upon his actions. He ultimately determines that he shouldn’t have retaliated regardless of the provocation. He takes responsibility and does get help.

But it doesn’t change things. For, from that point onwards, more violence occurs. This time the man does not retaliate. He bides his time and in time leaves.

Perhaps the Men’s Rights Activists would see this as a defeat by rampant feminism. Perhaps their advice would be for the man to be more assertive. But much like Sallee McLaren’s advice, it would have made things worse.

At no stage does it change that fact that most domestic violence is male against female. Neither does it justify misogyny nor misandry.

But from this scenario emerges a man who has seen both sides of domestic violence.And from this man comes an answer which many people may not agree with….
Man Leaving (© Alexeys | Dreamstime.com - Leaving Photo)

Man Leaving (© Alexeys | Dreamstime.com – Leaving Photo)

And it’s isn’t that rather over-used cliché, “Why doesn’t she just leave?
No it’s the opposite : “Why doesn’t HE just leave?”
In fact, whether victim or perpetrator, it is easier for the man to leave the relationship.
And for this man, domestic violence is now a relationship ending event.
And for this man, any domestic violence leaves him one course of action. Leave. And he should.

Why Mark Latham Can’t Get It Right On Domestic Violence

Perhaps it really was a quiet news week. Apart, that is, from the Budget, Johnny Depp’s dogs, double-dipping mothers and the Rohingya refugee crisis. But perhaps with domestic violence in some of the news, Mark Latham decided to single dip and write another opinion column.

And he’s done it again. Or to use the academic expression, more research is required before a conclusion can be drawn.

As I waded through this column, looking for insight, I found it. But I had to ignore all the flim-flam frippery about Tim Watts, Peter Walsh, the ALP,  Government intervention, Parliamentarians Against Family Violence, Attila the Hun (some interesting juxtapositions there), Paul Keating, government intervention (again), until Latham finally, finally, at last, made his point. “This is an issue where politicians have struggled with their own behaviour, let alone found solutions for the rest of the country.” True. And I thought to myself, does he have a solution?

And he does. He diagnoses the root cause of domestic violence easily, simply and elegantly. But perhaps he’s been watching too much Struggle Street. The cause is self-evident. Poverty and unemployment. Wife bashing (as he calls it) can be solved by making the poor rich and giving them a job.

If I was a heavy-duty latte-sipper I would’ve spilled froth everywhere. But being a mere flat white drinker, I just skimmed the rest.

And my conclusion. Mark Latham does not know what he is talking about. His focus is too narrow. Domestic violence is wife bashing. But domestic violence is intimate partner violence.Domestic violence won’t be solved through fighting poverty and unemployment important as those issues are. Domestic violence would then have been solved as the rich and employed wouldn’t commit it. But domestic violence isn’t confined to class, or race or creed or sexual preference. A glib answer. A slick solution.

Domestic violence is an attitude.

And my advice. Don’t read the column. Don’t get mad at Mark. Talk to him about it. Talk to him about poverty and unemployment. Talk to him about the victims of domestic violence. Let him do his research and then draw his conclusions.

Journalism After Murdoch : What Now?

Amazing! My inbox changed again! That hadn’t happened for at least 45 seconds. But this time the email was actually interesting. In the first place, it wasn’t spam and secondly, it concerned a subject of interest to me: journalism. While not a journalist, I’m a writer, and my keen interest came from a close observation of my father, Kevin Whalan, a journalist.

Dad ran his own paper (editor, photographer, etc), edited another paper, was sub-editor for yet another, and ran a regional office for finally another before retiring. By the way, he still remains a journalist, he just works for himself, which is just the way he likes it. As a young man fresh from high school, I considered following him. But fate acted in another way. That should be left to another blog.

Today’s most interesting email was from Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. Tonight, Tuesday 5th May 2015, they had spare tickets to their Fifth Estate interview series focussed on media and journalism. Tonight’s guest was Nick Davies the author of Hack Attack. His book had uncovered the phone hacking scandal and worse, much worse, perpetrated by News Limited and other Fleet Street papers.

Nick Davies, author of Hack Attack, at the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award 2014 at the V&A

Nick Davies, author of Hack Attack, at the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award 2014 at the V&A

I clicked through, collected and printed my ticket, and at 6:10pm arrived and took my seat at the back.

Nick Davies was introduced. Up until then, I had never heard of him. Yes, I had heard of the phone hacking scandal. That to my mind and heart broke every rule of journalism. But I had no idea of its ongoing impact. Nor had I any idea of the threat journalism now faced.

Davies detailed the other methods used. He noted the extensive use of private investigators which meant that any illegality was borne by them rather than the journalist.

Then he talked about their dark arts. Phone hacking I understood as it was childishly easy. Then he detailed a technique called blagging which is where information is solicited from an organisation by the contact posing as a fellow employee. Much like the uber-hacker Kevin Mitnick I thought.

Davies then expounded on email hacks, burglary, intercepted phone calls and bribing police. I had only heard diluted whispers in the local media. But now it was starting to resemble a Le Carre novel.

This was a scandal that had existed for years and had wended its way through the Royal family and then celebrities and politicians. Even victims of the July 2005 London bombings, the families of injured and killed soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan had been hacked. On the occasions the newspapers were found out, they resorted to threats and of course the handy out of court settlement.

Despite that, the scandal appeared to be a creeping stain without end. But end it did when a murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone was hacked in 2011 and the actress Sienna Miller refused to accept a court settlement.

Then and only then did the newspapers publish. Speeches were made, enquiries followed and laws passed. But I sensed that Davies implied that things really hadn’t changed greatly.  Certainly the recent UK election was the result the press wanted.

But what Davies talked about was how the politicians, celebrities, etc. lived in fear. Fear of the media (led by Murdoch and News Limited) exposing their private lives. Fear that the Murdoch media leveraged to get what it wanted: freedom to make money and freedom to operate without too many restraints. Fear that other organisations would be targeted to the point of disintegration (see  the relentless attacks on the UK Labour Party much like the campaign against the ALP, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd here in Australia).

And all underpinned by a culture of compliance amongst the editors and journalists employed. Davies stressed that Murdoch was not an interventionist owner, in the tradition of say William Randolph Hearst, but he expected his staff to ensure that the commercial interests of News Limited were paramount. Davies made it clear that Murdoch didn’t operate politically but that he operated commercially.  Having heard that my thought was that would disappoint many of Murdoch’s enemies.

But his most telling points were on journalism itself. His initial comments were that Murdoch through the newspaper the Sun had driven journalism down-market. Due to the Sun’s success, others had followed with a corresponding decline. Certainly as the son of a journalist, this accorded with my father’s comments on the profession.


Old fashioned media

He said that journalism was now an intellectually corrupted profession. The main reason was that the internet has broken the business model of the traditional media.  The traditional media had responded by cutting back on resources. These included journalists but also foreign correspondents, so-called stringers and photographers (especially Fairfax in Australia).

Now there were fewer journalists required to find and publish more stories. Fact checking and investigation had been set aside due to time constraints. Consequently the publication of outsourced stories and recycled PR material were favoured. As a result, newspapers were more likely to put out stories that were distorted, propaganda or untrue.

He summed up by saying that the public may well say good riddance to bad journalism and end up perceiving journalism as an unethical profession.

From the floor, questions began. The first concerned the rise of online and citizen journalism.

Davies’ response was that through the internet, one can now buy news to suit one’s prejudices, for example, right-wing, Christian, socialist, left-wing, etc. The result now was that anyone can produce crap except for some notables such as Eliot Higgins who determined that Syria was using chemical weapons from satellite and other photographs.

Another question followed on regarding the future of new newspapers. He did state that newspapers ultimately will be electronic as newsprint, ink and distribution would be too expensive.

The final questions concerned what should a person making a career in journalism do? Davies said that there were many good journalists working for bad organisations that were run by executives who cabal beforehand. He reiterated that they relied upon news already published rather than investigative content. He emphasised that the future of journalism required good investigative content such as Higgins and Vice. He suggested finding a good mentor.

With that answer, I left with a sense of disappointment. If anyone worked for a newspaper where the culture was as clear-cut as Murdoch, it would be extraordinarily difficult to find good investigative content even though it is achievable and is occurring. And a mentor?

My misgiving concerned the future of journalism itself. From Davies’ perspective and my own perception, journalism is in mortal danger. Some of the comments from the audience as they were leaving suggested that it was the fault of the Murdoch Empire. But that’s too easy and too glib a reason. Yes Murdoch has made short-term gains and dominates media world-wide. And yes that has created a long-term malaise for and probable demise of journalism as we know it.

But as Davies pointed out earlier, that’s not the only reason. He suggested a new model is needed and it is still evolving via the internet.

The most telling point for me was that with the decline in journalism, people will be only told what they want to hear. It is true that we only choose facts to suit our prejudices but that can only lead to our demise.

It is vital that we are informed without prejudice. It is vital that we find out the unbiased facts. It is vital that we hear what we don’t want to hear or don’t want to know about. Otherwise we cannot learn, we cannot grow and we cannot teach.

That is why journalism cannot be allowed to become comatose and die. That is why a new model is needed.


The Self Doubt of Greg Hunt

Hidden among the reaction to the first Australian Government Direct Action emissions abatement auctions is an interesting and revealing response from the relevant minister Greg Hunt.
To recap, the Direct Action scheme has spent 25% of the funds allocated to abate carbon. For that spend, it will  theoretically abate 15% of the required 5% emissions reduction. Both figures are far too low by world standards.
Hunt believes that the full target can be achieved in the timeframe. No-one else does.
Hunt has derided his critics as ALP stooges and exaggerated the price of carbon under the ALP government ($1300) without an accompanying explanation.
Typically, it seems, much like his colleagues he’s afraid of criticism and prepared to exaggerate. So there’s nothing to see here, just move along.
But it was Hunt’s recollection of his conversation with  John Connor of the Climate Institute  that was for me most revealing.
Hunt claimed they gave him  full approval. The Climate Institute clarified the conversation just stating they saw the process as transparent and the projects had potential
I wondered, “Why would Hunt do that?”
My surmise is that those are the words of a man driven by self-doubt.
His course should now be clear. Hunt should admit he needs a better plan. A real ETS. It would cure his self-doubt too.

The Reverse Golden Rule

Somewhere in Australia, someone is gloating over images of a burning mosque. Before that he or she was fuming over the latest executions from the Middle East. They’re probably thinking this is how much they hate us and this is how we should hate them back.

Somewhere in Australia, someone is fuming over images of a burning mosque. Before that he or she was gloating over the latest executions from the Middle East. They’re probably thinking this is how much they hate us and this is how we should hate them back.

If it sounds like the reverse Golden Rule, it is. Hate others before they hate you.

These haters will never convince us not to attempt to live in harmony.

And we who attempt to live in harmony regardless of race, sex, creed, etc, etc, are the majority.

An opportunity to do unto others.

An opportunity to do unto others.

For we who attempt to live in harmony have bent ourselves towards the whispered breeze of love that calls us toward the Golden Rule.

Love others as they love you: before, during and after.

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