Well, almost empty.
Oh, bother it all. This topic is too interesting to be relegated to the back rooms, and no-one seems to be up to the job of writing a piece. So in the (new and quite iffy) Pigs Arms tradition, I’m just going to copy someone else’s article and give it my own title. Here’s Annabel Crabb’s piece from the Sydney Morning Herald.
There was wonderment in Caucus when the headline finally broke
That the Nambour Kid was giving it away.
They found out only when he rose, and tremulously spoke,
Instead of in the customary way.
To such a huge Kevelopment would normally accrue
An exordium of heraldry and archers.
But not this time; no hints leaked out, no Twitpic with a clue,
Or tantalising scoop of Peter Hartcher’s.
He stood alone; no team of chums around him all a-simper
Or kids in shirts with Kevin’s name embossed
And ended – not with bangs, but with a well-constructed whimper –
The civil war that everybody lost.
His government now packed away, his Lodge keys handed back
His bureaucrats now resting or retrenched
The Nambour Kid at last gave up the dream of one more crack
At the job from which he twice was cruelly wrenched.
The ”Gotta Zips”, the trips in VIPs, the phone-calls from Barack;
Are now the privilege of his successor.
His red-haired rival’s gone now too, and never coming back.
She’s off to be a visiting professor.
No more trips to high schools, then, with selfie-centred hordes
And miniskirted schoolies shrieking ”KEVIIIINNNNNN!!!”
(So different from the Gillard visits, when – hostile and bored –
They pelted her with sandwiches and devon)
The Kid’s Brisvegas-bound, for now; he wants a quiet life.
He has his new granddaughter, and his health.
And (thanks to early prescience in Kevin’s choice of wife)
He knows the thrill of independent wealth.
This comet leaves a complex trail; some see the Triple A
And recall the ”Sorry” speech that healed a nation.
But others look aloft and see things quite a different way;
All leaky boats, and dodgy insulation.
Historians will one day have a cooler, distant view
Of Kevinism’s arc to death from birth
The rest of us will never quite forget the year or two
When Kevin really was a place on Earth.
TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
For those of you who have been able to even click upon the title: Congratulations. You have taken the first step in a long journey of grief. For those who find themselves here by accident or who haven’t yet noticed: Welcome. Let me break it to you gently – Labor came second.
I hope this article will provide a place for people to mourn. So often others tire of our wailing when we feel we have not even yet begun to hit our stride. No-one will criticise you here for not getting over it and lightening the eff up.
Most of us have passed the denial stage of grief and entered into the Pain and Guilt stage, entailing the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase. Every news headline seems a harbinger of doom, or even evidence of its actual arrival. You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do. “If only I’d made one more comment about Julie Bishop’s hair. Labor might have won the election.” Don’t berate yourself for this. It is all perfectly normal.
Gold Coast identity Julian was sighted in Sydney this morning, out on the town with a few friends.
By Julian London
Envious of the publicity given to the GGG, in Voice’s back yard column, the
green fingered Vectesian’s lizard wanted celeb status.
Not content with wining and dining on rain water and dog food, the little
squamata craved WDA,P&W notoriety. And after much prevailing and lobbying,
managed to jostle onto the ‘latest post’ list.
I helped the little cutie, BTW. Not that you’d know–he’s done a bunk
now–he’s hiding somewhere!
That’s the rich & famous for you; Bugger orf when it suits them.
He/she may come back. One day. Things are different now though. The old
fence has gone and a concrete driveway has appeared. The muddy path has
disappeared, just like yesterday’s papers.
Perhaps an ad in Rupert’s Gold coast Bulletin, might attract him/her back:
Wanted!: Ex-companion to the rich & famous, looking for lizard’s
company…free food and lodging!
The panel for this special Melbourne Writers Festival edition of Q&A consisted of some of the attending writers. I’ve listed their works that were mentioned. I hadn’t read any but didn’t find that a barrier to following the discussion. All of the authors except for Malalai Joya are Australian.
Don Watson, former speechwriter for Paul Keating. A Portrait of Paul Keating PM.
Kate Grenville, The Secret River.
Anna Funder, former international lawyer who has worked in Berlin. Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall and All That I Am
Malalai Joya, former Afghan parliamentarian who has written her memoir together with Canadian writer Derrick O’Keefe in a book entitled (in Australia) Raising My Voice.
Omar Musa, Rapper and poet. My Generation.
Kate Grenville provided the grubbiness quote that is part of this week’s title in her answer relating to Craig Thomson’s alleged activities with prostitutes. This struck a chord with me because it ties in with a commonly recurring theme of people who have made wonderful contributions to humanity and yet have led flawed, sometimes seriously flawed, personal lives.
The central theme of Kate’s book Secret River is Aboriginal-Settler relations. Apparently it has evoked a certain amount of controversy due to two historians that have taken a possibly pedantic exception to its content. The author herself was clear that it is a fictional novel inspired by a history that she describes at one stage as “a bit unpalatable” and says that she does not write with the intention of shifting people’s view of history but “with a view to shifting people’s hearts .. their minds also.” She expressed regret that the issues she wanted to explore are getting masked by discussion about historical accuracy.
Kate also provided the quote: “Someone’s gotta stand up for the Labor Party here”. Well, no. No problems with anyone’s views being informed by their political affiliations, but I felt cheated that many of Kate’s comments were echoes of standard Labor sound bites; if instead they had been personal insights I feel that would have been an altogether different thing.
Don Watson presented his own thoughts in his own words and in his own deadpan manner, and what a joy they all are. Were I to do more than cherry pick from all his worthwhile comments this article would be far too long but I recommend listening to his Q&A answers for the pure enjoyment, particularly the one about political speeches from 46:18 in iView. In his answer related to the public engaging with politics, he drawled “It’s not that I want from politicians inspiring oratory, I actually just want verbs – doing words – I want concrete language rather than abstract language.” I can’t be certain but I had the impression that any slur on English education in our schools that might be imputed from his inclusion of “doing words” in implicit parentheses after “verbs” was purely intentional. He argued that his approach to his biography of Keating was the correct one for him because he believed it to be, a position that might seem superficially shaky but ultimately comes down to artistic integrity.
In relation to politicians and prostitutes Watson made the point that it is not uncommon over the years for even politicians who have done great things politically to have had unconventional sexual histories, a point referred to by Kate Grenville when she made the grubbiness remark. Applying the more general topic of separation of personal behaviour from public worth, Don Watson’s respect for Keating reminds me that at some time I should make the effort to look beyond my dislike of Keating’s vicious personal putdowns.
Omar Musa writes about Gen Y, to the early 80s birthday end of which he belongs. He presented his opinions on all issues with the enthusiasm of youth, but I was impressed that they were well considered opinions. Loved the rap he performed at the end; a poetical series of (male oriented) pithy observations of the 21st century experience of his generation which culminated in a warts and all generational appraisal.
On non-literary questions Anna Funder was quietly spoken although her stated opinions were thought through. She got a bit more animated when discussing her books. She appeared to sympathise with Kate Grenville over the type of controversy that has engulfed her books and expressed a desire to avoid it. To that end made she made it clear that her latest book, although loosely based on a historical event, is a fictional novel and that she makes no claim to knowledge of what really occurred “in a locked room in London in 1935”. She let drop that courage was the central theme of her books and provided some interesting insights into the fallout from her portrayal of the ex-Stasi agents that she interviewed for the earlier book. She mainly left her books to speak for themselves but I got the impression that they have a lot of interesting things to say.
Although Tony Jones made an effort at unification there were essentially two separate but interleaved Qandas today; one about Australia and one about Afghanistan. For this reason I have left Malalai Joya to last. Although in Melbourne for the festival due to having published her memoirs, Malalai Joya is primarily an Afghanistani patriot and activist. Her life has been threatened in response to denouncing the warlords, who include members of the current government. This requires extraordinary courage and commitment. Her views are probably best summarized by her statement that in the Taliban’s time in government “we faced only one enemy, but now, these ten years of occupation, we are facing three enemies: warlords, Taliban, occupation forces. When the troops leave, who stop bombing from the sky … the backbone of these fundamentalist warlords and Taliban will break and our people … will fight to the end against the warlord and the Taliban because of the hatred that they have.” I have to say that this view is hopeful but very bleak as regards the near future.
Doug Cameron. Labor Senator and ex trade union official.
Daniel Pipes. Conservative American political commentator.
Hanifa Deen. Pakistani-Australian author.
Nick Minchin. Former Liberal Minister.
Suelette Dreyfus. Whistle-blowing researcher and Wikileaks co-authour.
By popular demand I present my final Q&A commentary. I disclaim any in-depth knowledge of politics but it might provide a springboard for discussion. Or not as the case might be.
Daniel Pipes came across as well informed and able to present a coherent argument, which ability I for one found a blessed relief. Where I found him most impressive was on the issue of the “African Spring”. His analysis is that so far it has resulted in no tangible move towards democracy, and in some States the result is tending towards Islamism. He explicitly expressed an opinion that Islamist is a derogatory term, ranking it together with communism and fascism as one of the three ugly radical utopian philosophies of our time. But he made a clear distinction between Islamists, who he clearly defined (I think I’m in love, what a pleasant change) as people who wish to apply Islamic law in its entirety, and Muslims in general. In answer to an audience question he expressed a belief that Islam is not inconsistent with democracy, that there is clearly a democratic faction in the African Spring countries, and expressed hope that Islamic democracies might develop.
It later became clear Pipes is not only a conservative commentator but a conservative advocate. He extolled the virtues of Israel as a model of democracy and defended its military record, including civilian killings, refusing to admit fault other than that it wasn’t what he would have chosen personally. This led me to question whether his assessment of the African Spring had a hidden agenda. Later he blamed the GFC on over-regulation. He advocated for less market regulation in general and refused to address the specific issue of financial regulation, claiming lack of knowledge, an approach I found disingenuous at best.
Curiously enough, it turns out that at one stage there Obama was indeed a Muslim. But not in an interesting way. He was listed as Muslim at his Indonesian school by his mother when he was six years old. Dreyfus made a fair fist of challenging the relevance and intent of this revelation, rather than denying the facts, effectively nullifying it.
This issue had been raised by Tony Jones, was of no importance, and attracted the populist sneering that Jones must have known would be inevitable. One of several occasions on which I have felt that Tony Jones needs to restrain his tendency to switch into insider gossip mode.
Hanifa Deen came across as a Nice Person. As charming as this is, I eventually found myself wishing that she would respond to Pipes by raising coherent arguments rather than by raising her eyebrows. She totally lost me at the information level when she expressed the belief that Turkey would join the EU within the next ten years. With the EU still struggling to absorb its Eastern members, and grappling with twin financial and immigration crises leading to rising inter-country rancour, the last thing it needs is a member with yet another refugee entry point on its border with Syria, and with relatively low cultural compatibility. However Deen did successfully project a positive image of what she called the Islamic diaspora, of which I gather she is a member. (This is why I included her ethnicity in the brief description by the way, it seemed directly relevant to her comments on Islam.)
In his dual capacities as Labor Senator and ex union official, Doug Cameron had the job of defending Craig Thomson. Thomson is the Labor backbench MP accused under parliamentary privilege of misspending union funds, back when he was a union official, in a variety of ways, the most salacious of which being to pay for prostitutes. Cameron presented the innocent until proven guilty defence well. After having heard from all the other panellists though I am of the view that this counts for little when a crime has clearly been committed against the Union, although not necessarily by Thomson, and yet the Union has made no police complaint. This smacks of cover-up and I concur with the chortling Minchin that Thomson’s only chance of re-election is to be exonerated by a full investigation, not protected by a cover up, regardless of where the truth lies.
As an aside, my conclusion was quite clearly the one that Tony Jones was promoting in his promptings of various panellists. While this is cause for some unease, they were speaking freely. It makes me wonder sometimes how used politicians are to discussing issues in an insider echo chamber, rather than explaining their views to the general public who are not always au fait with the latest developments. Minchin should have filled in the background facts about lack of police complaint, instead it was left to Jones.
Cameron was likeable but there was little substance behind his rhetoric. He expressed a belief that I felt was totally sincere that the Australian government has a clear responsibility to maintain manufacturing, but discarded protectionism as a solution and had no alternative suggestions other than convening a meeting.
Nick Minchin expressed this same belief, but had no more idea what to do about it than Cameron, agreeing with him that protectionism is not an option. Bye-bye Australian manufacturing. Jesus wept. Minchin expressed fairly standard conservative Australian views on all topics. One point where this varies from the standard American conservative viewpoint is that our conservatives back more effective regulation of the financial markets. Again, little substance.
Suelette Dreyfus mentioned the importance of social media and Twitter at least twice that I noticed. I felt her most effective moment was her aforementioned addressing of the ‘Obama as one-time Muslim’ issue. What should have been her moment was the final question about whether Wikileaks’ exposure of behind-the-scenes diplomatic communications served the public interest. Instead this was the moment at which Tony Jones’ previous excursion into irrelevancy came home to roost. Each panellist gave a brief sketch of their predictable views, but any elaboration or in-depth discussion was precluded by time considerations. Not happy Tony.
If you are lovely click here.
Uncouth People (You Know Who You Are) Section
Loathe as I am to inject myself into a review, I feel compelled to commence this section with an apology. Comments on my first attempt at a review of the ABC’s Q&A TV program force me to face the fact that it was rather amateurish. In brief, it waffled about. I can only beg your indulgence and try to improve this time.
This week several questions were asked on ABC’s Q&A TV program to a number of panellists, some of whom were politicians. Which brings us to that burning political issue at the PA: Whose female politicians are more fuckable, Ours or Theirs? Last week there was unanimous agreement that it is Ours.
Stella Young: Disability advocate.
Lachlan Harris: ex Labor staffer and media man.
Jackie Kelly: ex Liberal minister.
Malcolm Turnbull: Liberal shadow minister.
Deborah Cheetham: Indigenous Australian opera singer.
Tony Burke: Labor minister.
In the immediate aftermath of this week’s performance of the improv theatre that is the ABC’s Q&A TV program, there had been no single outstanding feature by which I felt inspired to write.
Gratifyingly, both MPs spoke calmly and behaved like grown-ups towards each other. Tony Burke had the difficult job of selling the official reason why the recently announced National Disability Insurance Scheme has to wait seven years, being two to three governments away. Malcolm Turnbull had the difficult job of showcasing his own Party leadership potential whilst supporting 100% the incumbent leader and another potential rival. Verdict on Malcolm: You might say that he backed them to the hilt.
Tony Burke struck a particular chord with me when he said the objective of the disability scheme is effective delivery, not money going out the door. I for one am heartily sick of hearing unfocused demands for more money for this or that area as an end in itself, with neither vision nor concrete objectives attached.
Malcolm Turnbull came across as quite the elder statesman, combining a degree of bipartisanship with measured criticism of the government. He also played to perfection the role of faithful Party member ably discharging his duty to defend an errant leader. The nudge-nudge wink-wink here is that he and we really know Tony Abbott is an oaf. The prize for best actor in a supporting role goes to Tony Jones for repeatedly setting up Turnbull’s faithful defender scenes. Regardless of how this drama pans out it is an interesting sub-plot in the theatre of Australian politics.
Lachlan Harris, in parallel with his real-life job as a political commentator, remained on the periphery of the discussions, making a couple of good points about the political process along the way rather than addressing issues directly, except of course where the process was the issue.
Jackie Kelly has a certain rough diamond appeal. I really related to her heartfelt hope that Penny Wong’s new baby would keep her up at nights, as poetic justice for her disapproving tutting at Jackie’s personal presentation being negatively affected when she had been an embabied MP. As Deborah Cheetham empathised “you have to live it”. I found myself growing increasingly sensitised over time to Jackie’s belligerence though. When at one point she directed it squarely at Tony Burke, he didn’t so much respond to as weather it, successfully defusing the fleeting potential for a verbal stoush. This week it was Jackie’s turn to be the guest with the socially incorrect moment, with her unfortunate ignoring of The Disabled Person’s comment about how disabled people are often ignored, in order to pursue a point Stella Young had just rebutted.
But Stella turned out not to be a Disabled Person after all. Yes she’s disabled, and visibly so, but in the end (and indeed, from the outset) she proved to be an actual person, and an intelligent and thoughtful one. It seemed apparent that it is the government’s prioritisation of the surplus target that is behind the hugely delayed implementation of the expensive Disabled Person Insurance Scheme, rather than the prominently brandished productivity commission report’s estimated time frame. Stella made an excellent point about it actualising the wasted potential of people with disabilities, enabling them to contribute economically as taxpayers and increase the surplus. But in the meantime, just get/stay healthy people.
Deborah Cheetham was introduced as an aboriginal opera singer. I dithered over whether to include a racial/cultural label in my own brief description of her above, but I came down in the affirmative because she did seem to deliberately inject a broadly Aboriginal perspective into some comments. I felt impressed by her personal togetherness. Impeccably groomed, well spoken, and above all, warm, she was the only person to explicitly characterise the disability scheme as a social justice issue, which is an indicator of the extent to which the political debate is currently mired in financial territory.
Ultimately it was the understated impact of the two “non-political” panellists that developed over time into the inspiration to put metaphorical pen to paper. OK, that and the feminist push back above. 🙂
Tom Switzer. Conservative (right) editor.
Mark Dreyfus. Labor politician.
Noni Hazlehurst. Labor supporter and ex Playschool presenter.
Kelly O’Dwyer. Liberal politican.
Graeme Richardson. Anti-Liberal (Labor?) political commentator and ex political operator in the Labor Party.
Wow! Are good looking younger female politicians being given preferential treatment on the ABC’s Q&A TV program?
Last week they had Tanya Plibersek seated next to a fairly unsympathetic control freak member of and apologist for the right wing press. She is well spoken and only had to make Nice to look good. This week they had Kelly O’Dwyer next to Graeme Richardson. She only had to make a few remarks about behind scenes manoeuvrings in the Labor Party to look good.
But Kelly did more than that. She dominated the discussion. Usually Tony Jones prevents any individual taking control, but her interjections were done so smoothly and always courteously, particularly towards the host. Lesson there for future panellists wanting extra time. (Was there also a bit of that good looking younger woman factor?) Kelly exploited every little slip of her opponents, on one occasion ably assisted by Mark Dreyfus who actually handed her an opening on a platter by addressing a (probably intended as rhetorical) question to her. You have to watch it to see how she used this to absolutely demolish him from a debating point of view. Later she’d gathered so much rope she was in danger of hanging herself with it. But she redeemed her performance by neatly avoiding the trap of dissing Noni Hazlehurst’s views/actions outside the political sphere (unlike that Tom Switzer fellow) even supporting her with a personal story, which always goes down well. Look out Malcolm Turnbull.
By contrast Mark Dreyfus seemed to be wearily going through the motions. Moreover he came out saying Malaysia is a better solution than Nauru because almost everybody sent to Nauru was accepted into Australia! Oh dear. So much for Tanya’s Niceness the week before.
Tom Switzer supported Kelly’s financial pronouncements, sandwiching Mark Dreyfus between them. His borrowed quip about Wayne Swan’s budget demonstrating his adhesion to the Dolly Parton School of economics was rather good although as Tony Jones, who had tried to cut it off, said, no doubt well rehearsed. (An unbelievable figure, blown out of all proportion, with no visible means of support.) Proved he’s no politician however by attacking Noni Hazelhurst’s morals and hence alienating every Australian woman who became a mother in the final quarter of the twentieth century.
Does anyone know whether Richo still holds Labor Party membership BTW? From the little I watch of politics he has positioned himself in the media market as a well-informed honest commentator on Australian politics with insider understanding of the Labor Party. The resultant picture of Labor is not pretty. For example, Richardson said that the reason why Gillard will retain the Labor Party leadership is that the agreement with the 3 independents is a personal agreement between them and herself, not an agreement between them and the Labor Party. He also said “I think Labor has already lost the next election”. Notably he came out in support of onshore processing of boat people (pardon the shorthand). Perhaps he’s trying to destroy Labor in order to build them back up in a reformed version? Or is he just trying to redeem his image?
Now, from the point of view of understanding Australian politics from the inside, we need a Liberal equivalent of Richo. Maybe there is one but I can’t call them to mind.
Noni Hazlehurst tediously established her credentials as a Labor supporter by making a remark about budgie smugglers and big ears. But her remark linking Abbott with two year olds who always say no was at least original, appropriate in the context of her professional background, and got a laugh. Loved her featured reading of the Go The F**k To Sleep book and her background on why she got involved with it. And gotta love her Playschool insider bean spilling on Big Ted.
In the context of a broader question about denigrating the office of Prime Minister, the panellists were asked whether they believe Gillard is being particularly denigrated because she is a woman. Switzer ignored that part of the question. Richo and Dreyfus agreed. Noni agreed but couldn’t make a cogent case as to why, rather disastrously implying that Arabs aren’t good people along the way. I was disappointed that Kelly first ducked the issue then characterised it as a non-problem. But apart from dutifully seizing the opportunity to highlight legitimate political criticism of Gillard, it is risky politics for a female politician to support the ‘female politician as victim’ story. Particularly when the younger female politicians are performing so well on Q&A.