View from this side of the Ocean (29/4/18): Haha, yeah.

From the beginning I want to make it very clear that, no matter the circumstances, I think that the tampon tax is stupid and should be axed. In Australia, that means the 10% Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is levelled on anything deemed non-essential.

Which is odd considering that tampons are pretty fuckin’ essential to most women.

So Bill Shorten, leader of the federal Labor Party in opposition, has come out and said that they will remove the GST on sanitary pads if they win the next election (which they most likely will, according to current polling). Tanya Plibersek, deputy leader of the opposition, and Catherine King, shadow health minister, will spearhead the initiative provided Labor win, formally launching the policy today. Awesome.

Federal Liberal MP Sarah Henderson and the Liberal Women’s Council Victoria called on Scott Morrison, the Federal Treasurer, to dump the tax last year, so there’s a push within the government itself to support the initiative (if only to shore up a little support with women). Joe Hockey wanted to ditch the tax back in 2015, but Tony Abbott, PM and ‘Minister for Women’ (hahahaha), overruled him. Apparently at the time he said that: “We have to broaden the tax base, not start carving out politically correct exceptions.” Seriously, fuck that guy.

There will be some pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to support this issue. Will he? No fuckin’ idea if I’m being perfectly honest. Mr Turnbull would be wise to earn himself some goodwill amongst women by supporting the issue, but a number of members of his party seem to freak the fuck out at the thought of doing anything that might have any sort of positive effect on Australian women. Because fuck socialism, apparently. So we’ll see. I’d reckon Mr Turnbull’d be inclined to, but we’ll see.

And yeah, I’d reckon that a fair bit of Labor’s play in the issue is shoring up their own female vote against any turn towards the Greens, but one of the major political parties has made this policy and that is bloody fantastic.

What I really like about this particular policy though, is where Labor plans on making up the GST shortfall. They haven’t released full costings yet (and that is always a concern), but Labor reckon they can make up the shortfall by applying GST to services and products that the “Chief Medical Officer and National Health and Medical Research Council believe are not supported by scientific evidence.”

What do they mean by that? Well, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, naturopathy, pilates, reflexology, rolfing and shiatsu would all have GST added to the price. And seriously, why has all of this shit been GST exempt? Who the flyin’ fuck thought that goddamn healing crystals should be GST exempt while sanitary products that half the adult and adolescent population NEED are not?

So yeah, so far I’m chalking this up as a victory of common sense over bullshit. Let’s see where Aussie pollies go next with this. Here’s hoping they do the right thing.

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So about what happened on Tuesday

So I honestly don’t really want to add to the noise, but this is sort of my wheelhouse so I guess I kind of feel duty bound to not let the moment pass without writing a few words on the subject. And here they are.

Certainty.

I’m gonna start by saying that I’m not gonna claim to be one of those people who predicted Donald Trump’s victory. Give it a week, there’s gonna be tonne of them. Economists, pollsters, analysts, ignoring the pages and pages they wrote about Hillary’s inevitable victory and claiming that they just knew somehow that Mr Trump was gonna pull ahead. They just knew it in their bones. It always happens, just check the literature in the aftermath of the GFC.

Nah, I’m not one of those. But like a lot of far smarter people I wasn’t surprised by the victory, and that’ll make all the difference in the next few weeks, months and years for a lot of folk.

Y’see from an international perspective, I reckon what we’re gonna see real soon is two distinct types of planning: those who assumed that The Donald had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the presidency and those who realised that hell had frozen over right around the Brexit referendum. Both sides are scrambling, but one side at least had an idea of what to do next.

I understand why so many governments didn’t plan for Mr Trump’s ascension. Most pollies come at government from an economic perspective, and if there’s one thing that economists strive for it is certainty. When you decide on policy you want to be certain that the world will conform to your desires and the results will be what you expect.

Personally I like the saying, “expect the best, plan for the worst.” We’ll see who else agrees.

Who benefits?

As a white Australian (who thank god is about to watch it all unfold from across the fucking Pacific Ocean), I’m gonna come right out and say that it is not going to be alright for a lot of people. Specifically women and sexual, racial and religious minorities. Even if Mr Trump and his cabinet of cunts aren’t terrible for everyone who isn’t a white Christian upper middle class male (ha!), there’s a lot of very hateful folk in the US and the rest of the world (I’m looking at you France) who are gonna be feeling very empowered right about now. And that’s gonna make things very dangerous for a while. Stay safe folk. Maybe look at taking a four year holiday to Australia for a while. Or Mexico. Mexico is nice, and the irony would be fantastic.

As for who else loses and benefits from this election? We’ll just have to wait and see what policies and promises Mr Trump decides to keep. Not all that many of them by the looks of it.

Who’s to blame?

Good question. The head of the FBI, Hillary Clinton herself, dumb Americans and ignorant Americans (there’s difference and crossover), and of course Bernie Sanders. Yeah, Bernie Sanders. Look, I like the guy, but he should have conceded sooner and with more grace when it became obvious to everyone that he wasn’t gonna win the Primaries. Sorry mate, but you fucked up and now the Republicans control all three sections of the government headed by a bright orange egomaniac.

Final thoughts.

Is the world gonna be alright? Dunno. Maybe. We’ll see in a few months. Honestly, it’s too early to tell and I’m tired, full of gin and about to climb onto a plane home (woo). I’ll probably expand on all these subjects in the future (I want to) but right now it’s hard to guess exactly how fucked the international order is. It might not be fucked at all. I mean, it probably is at least a little, but maybe it isn’t.

Things might be about to go to hell in a handbasket but, in the immortal words of Dr Zoidberg, at least it’s not boring.

View from across the Ocean (18/9/2016)

Gotta say, when the chips are down and he’s against the wall Mr Turnbull doesn’t back down from anyone.

Except for the right-wing arseholes of his own party of course. Seems like he’s willing to do anything they fucking well tell him too, like a well-groomed sixteen year old boy for a Gold Coast retiree in the steamy imagination of a certain Queensland Senator we all know and suspect is a collection of King Brown snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish. Fucking Queenslanders.

Watching the Battle of the Marriage Equality Plebiscite unfold from over here in Canada (where it’s been legal for quite some time now) has been one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen in the rather drab and dreary first year of Mr Turnbull’s stint as ‘Captain.’ I mean, yeah, I had a great time during the election, but that was probably because I only saw the good bits (*cough*fake-tradie-memes*cough*) without having to endure the actual campaigns themselves. But watching the Plebiscite fail before it even had a chance to be voted on has been just fuckin’ wonderful. And terrible, because there’s a very good chance that the failure of the plebiscite will push back marriage equality for another couple of years.

It doesn’t take a professional journalist with decades of experience reporting, predicting and commentating on Australian politics to figure out that the plebiscite was going to fail before it even reached a vote. I’m certainly not a professional journalist with decades of experience and I’ve figured it out. Shit, I reckon even a collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a xenophobic blowfish would have figured it out by now. I mean, there’s evidence suggesting that a particularly stupid collection of King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the soul of a particularly xenophobic blowfish might not have, but let’s give Mr Christensen the benefit of the doubt.

The Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team (I’m sorry mate, you’re a decent pollie and I know the acronym can be pronounced ‘next’ but could you not have come up with a better name for you party? How about the Nick Xenophon Experience?) and a few other crossbenchers have all said they’d block it in the Senate, while the first openly gay Liberal in the Australian Parliament (also in the Senate) has clearly and passionately said he would not support such an “abhorrent” bill. As for Labor? Well, they haven’t outright said that they’d block it. But there are a few signs…

Meanwhile public opinion in favour of the plebiscite has fallen, not least because while the Coalition plans on making it compulsory they have no intention of making it binding. Which means that Coalition MPs would still be able to “follow their consciences” and vote however they want in Parliament. As far as I can tell it means there would be no legislative trigger whatsoever, so we still might not get marriage equality in Australia until Labor wins the next election (and they will win the next election) even if the ‘Yes’ vote wins. Funnily enough, people don’t like the idea of wasting 160 million dollars on a decisive “opinion poll.” At least that’s what the opinion polls are saying.

But shit guys, both Mr Turnbull and Attorney-General George Brandis* have said they’re open to compromising on the bill! I mean, not on the policy, question, legislative impact and the fifteen million dollars to be split between the two campaigns. That shit’s non-negotiable. But they’re willing to make changes to… the colour of the ballot papers I guess? Yeah. Maybe they can be coloured a nice, ironic rainbow. Labor’s response to this we’re-only-now-realising-how-embarrassing-losing-this-is-going-to-be-so-we’re-getting-desperate olive branch? Well, since shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ first instinct was to call both PM and AG dishonest and lacking backbone, the signs are not positive.

So, why has the PM taken this so far? Good question. Apparently the Coalition believe they had a mandate to see this thing through, and the Coalition doesn’t back down when it has a mandate! Except when it comes to superannuation reform. They’ve gone awfully quiet about that, haven’t they? Despite the fact that changes to super are something they could actually negotiate with Labor and the Greens and pass in a timely manner, saving the budget billions of dollars. But surely members of the Coalition (Tony Abbott’s old mob and collections of King Brown Snakes wearing human suits possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish) wouldn’t try and stop prevent something that the Coalition brought to the election and therefore has a mandate to see through?

I feel like I’ve been asking a lot of rhetorical questions in this post. I apologise.

It’s funny, Mr Brandis came out today saying the Malcolm Turnbull could go down as one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers, alongside Menzies and Howard (and I’ll just throw in Whitlam, Curtin, Hawke, Keating, Billie Hughes – who’s actually, technically a Coalition great – and Julia Gillard). I can’t help but feel he should show some leadership first. Stand-up to the King Brown Snakes wearing a human suit possessed by the souls of xenophobic blowfish that occupy the right wing of the backbench. Of course, nothing scares a PM like the thought of being courageous.

Then again, maybe we should really stop electing them. Fucking Queenslanders.

One thing you can be sure of is that Bill Shorten is laughing his arse off right now (SCHADENFREUDE!) as the Coalition hands them yet another easy win and a boost onto the moral high ground. This is going to haunt Mr Turnbull, no matter the result.

*More articles from the Sydney Morning Herald being linked than I usually like – for balanced readings sake – but they were the first ones that came up when I did searches.

The torch and the trainwreck.

Not gonna lie, I’m pretty bloody excited about the Olympics starting soon.

Now, going by all the people I’ve spoken to about the imminent start of one of the world’s largest competitive events, a few of you might read that and immediately think “Me too! Me too!” Some of you might even say it out loud, perhaps expecting a verbal reply from whatever screen you’re reading this on, a reply that will never come. A lot more of you would probably respond with a resounding “meh.”

The lead up to the Rio Olympics has been even more miserable than the lead-up to the Brazil World Cup and the Sochi Winter Olympics were. At least the Brazilians enjoy football and Russia only hates you if you’re gay, have skin a shade darker than fresh snow or a woman who doesn’t know her place is in the kitchen making Vladimir Putin some borscht. The Zika virus, an unfinished village, security concerns (including but not limited to kidnapped tourists, athletes and Bernie Eccleston’s fuckin’ mother-in-law), more than a little political upheaval (including but not limited to protests by the Brazilian people against spending all that money on fancy stadiums instead of schools, hospitals and probes into public sector corruption), and whatever the fuck’s going on with the Russian team (so the track-and-field team are unbanned but the weightlifting team are completely banned? Is that it? I’ve lost track). The London Olympic games opening ceremony was a celebration of British institutions (the monarchy, the NHS) and culture (James Bond, Dizzee Rascal and the Arctic Monkeys), while all that we’ve heard about the Rio opening ceremony is that they’re gonna fill the stadium with nearly naked samba dancers – in the hopes that a bunch of swinging tits will distract from the fact that half the lights don’t work and the toilets are broken. When Australia’s chef de mission, Kitty Chiller, got angry about the atrocious state of the athlete’s accommodation the mayor of Rio offered to put a kangaroo in front of their rooms to make them feel at home, a statement that I’ve since seen carried on international news and social media (as was the mayor blinking first and sending in repairmen until Miss Chiller was satisfied. Apparently you don’t fuck around with the Green and Gold’s chef de mission).

I love a good bloody trainwreck. And there’s no doubt that this Olympics has so far been a trainwreck. More spectacle than the games themselves are likely to be.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the games as well. Watching my fellow Aussies compete and/or win on the world stage is always something special, and I’m a competitive bastard. But it’s been tough to get excited really excited about them over here in Vancouver. Canadians just don’t care about the summer games all that much, not like we do back home. Honestly, they don’t get excited about many sports except ice hockey. As any experienced spectator will tell you the energy of the crowd you’re in is everything.

I’ll still watch the games and cheer on the Green and Gold. ‘Cause I’m an Aussie, and it’s in the blood. But what I’m real excited for is watching the spectacle of the Olympics themselves.

Now, we might be worrying (or hoping) over nothing. The games could be a flawless affair filled with completely intentional spectacles without a single athlete getting mugged. But that’s what I’m excited for.

Does that make me a horrible person? Absolutely. No doubt. I am fucking terrible. But it comes from a sense of morbid curiosity. If something is a disaster, I like to know why. I like to see it for myself, so I can form my opinions wherever possible. Not trying to excuse it, just explain.

So good luck Rio. We’ll be watching.

View from across the Ocean (14/7/16): Election results and other inevitabilities

Well, I feel like this week has been one long list of “it was going to happen eventually” moments, followed by a fair bit of “now what?”

Let’s see: the election in Australia has finally been called in the Coalition’s favour and Malcolm Turnbull is still the PM (and there was much rejoicing); over in the UK David Cameron has announced that Theresa May – the Eurosceptic who campaigned Remain – will be replacing him as the PM, then hummed a jaunty tune in what was possibly the most English way of saying “It’s your problem now! Peace bitches!” possible; Bernie Sanders finally – bloody finally! – endorsed Hillary, finally realising that he was beaten and that no one except the diehards who couldn’t take a hint (basically, Tumblr) were listening to him anymore; and hey, the Hague declared in the Philippines favour, telling China that “nah mate, you can’t fish there. Or drill for oil.” China doesn’t want to take the hint.

So, now what?

Well, in Australia comes the tough job of figuring out who actually won the election and why. I mean, yeah, Mr Turnbull is still top dog, but the Coalition has been gutted and the terms and conditions of the alliance between Liberals and Nationals has been updated (something that Barnaby Joyce is keen to keep secret… wonder why?) Labor did far better than most analysts were predicting, Shorten is secure in the leadership of the party and they’re setting themselves up for what’ll probably be short but bloody slog to the government benches. Over in the Senate, both major parties and the Greens lost seats to the Nick Xenophon Team (which really should have been named something like the Nick Xenophon Experience) and a resurgent, reawakened One Nation under Pauline Hanson (for fuck’s sake Queensland! This is why we can’t have nice things!) While the Coalition does have the slimmest of majorities necessary to run the lower house in their own right, they’re going to have to negotiate everything through an upper house that’s going to be hostile towards a fair bit of their ‘mandate.’ And I doubt they can pull of that double dissolution gag twice. So who won? In my opinion, moderate left progressives. But the explanation for why should get a post of its own.

In the UK, Theresa May is now the PM and she immediately came out and declared that the results of the Brexit vote will be respected. Brexit means Brexit and all that jazz. Far more worrying is that one of her most prominent appointments is Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, kinda crushing a lot of the hopes that they’d put someone capable of negotiating the best possible exit deal in the job. Yeah, it is not Boris. But Miss May still seems competent and calm enough, so the UK can still hope for a lot of sound compromises. We’ll just have to wait and see, and Miss May at the very least seems like the best option that was available. A lot will be answered by when she chooses to begin Brexit proceedings. On the bright side for the Tories, Labour is still a bloody mess.

In the US, Bernie Sanders did not follow through with plans to contest the primary all the way to the convention, finally realising that he lost (FAIR AND FUCKING SQUARE AS WELL YOU POLITICALLY IGNORANT FUCKING HIPSTERS). It’s not surprising, Hillary Clinton had already turned her attention away from the nomination and is gearing up for her fight against Trump and his Republicans, and even Democrats who supported Mister Sanders’ campaign, such as Elizabeth Warren, have joined the stage with Mrs Clinton against the great orange tide. What comes next? Well, the election for president builds up steam. Bernie fans either come together with the rest of the party and vote for the best possible candidate, or keep their fucking mouths shut when the Republicans come in and begin ripping the country apart with the super-duper right wing mandate they’re about to ratify. I don’t know. Hillary picks a VP, so does Trump this week for that matter (Governor of Indiana, I believe, is the favourite). I fucking hate American elections. Voters and pollies both just seem so fucking pathetic. Jesus Christ, I’m 25 and jaded by the political machinations of a country that doesn’t effect me at all. One question I want answered, ’cause I can’t be bothered googling it properly: How are we going to title Hillary Clinton? I used “Mrs” above, but are we going to use “Ms,” “Miss” or “Mrs”? They all feel really inappropriate, but I feel like it’s disrespectful to not use some sort of formal titling. Has she expressed a preference? ‘Cause obviously her opinion counts the most in such circumstances.

And then there’s China, who have already expressed plans to ignore the UN-backed ruling but nobody’s really sure how. Things are probably going to be a little gentle for a few weeks or months, while trade negotiations and G20 visits are going on, but everybody’s a bit worried about an escalation of Chinese military presence in the South China sea. Australia is rightfully concerned about confrontation with its largest trading partner. Canadian news and opinion has already moved on from what I’ve seen. Just thought I’d mention that, since I live here. Maybe I’m just not reading the right newspapers.

Anyway, talk more soon.

View from across the Ocean: A quick word on Brexit

There’s this song I really like by an Aussie guy called Chance Waters called ‘Maybe Tomorrow,’ an incredibly upbeat ballad about people predicting the end of the world. Here’s the film clip. It’s actually pretty delightful. As is the song.

Now this has really resonated with me for the past few days, what with half the internet screaming about the end of days because of the Brexit and Donald Trump and whatnot. Lot of anger and a lot more panic amongst the disenfranchised youth (yo! My people!) being sparked by the angry and disenfranchised elderly (yo! Not my people, but if you’re reading this you’re obviously cool anyway!) But honestly, given all the Yanks on Tumblr and Twitter and whatnot who began telling their British followers to “stay safe” you’d be forgiven for wondering if all it takes to bring about the apocalypse is one shitty referendum result. Where’s Idris Elba when you need him?

No doubt the result is shitty. It’ll undoubtedly damage the UK’s economy and diplomatic standing for years to come, and could bring about the dissolution of the Union that was narrowly avoided less than a year ago. There’s more than a few people quite rightly concerned that old white bigots around the world are seeing this as an example of old white bigotry winning and will be emboldened to push for their own white bigot goals even harder (La Penn over in France has already begun talking about a similar referendum taking place in her own patch). Right wing populism is on the rise and the left is in shambles or dealing with its own dumb-arse populists doing more harm than good (*cough*Jeremy Corbyn*cough*Bernie Sanders*cough*).

But, y’know. The world will either keep on turning. Or it won’t, and we’ll all be too dead to care anyway. So cheer the fuck up, aye?

And stop getting so pissed off at old people. Yeah, I admit, my first thought when I heard about the Leave Campaign winning on the back of the over-fifties was “would it be too unconstitutional if we set an upper age limit for being allowed to vote?” After all, most countries have got a minimum voting age, so why not set a maximum? Then I remembered two things.

First, recent democratic disasters have been avoided thanks to the older vote. It was old Scots that voted no on leaving the Union last September when it would have been a really, really stupid idea (jury’s still out on whether leaving now would be better), and it’s been old Democrats who’ve recognised that shit’s more likely to get done under Clinton than Sanders. Both of those have been against the wishes of the vocal youth vote and, speaking as a relatively objective outsider with an education in politics and economics, were the right decisions.

Second, only a third of you fuckers voted. Seriously, something like only 36 percent of 18-24 year olds voted in the Brexit referendum. Lindsay Lohan gave more of a shit about the referendum than 64 percent of you. You don’t get to whine about all the old bastards making decisions that you’ll have to live with if you didn’t even try and participate in the decision making process yourselves.

But the world will keep on turning. Things are going to be pretty shit for a long time. For everyone, since it’s fucked the international economy pretty bad. Except for all those Aussies right now planning English holidays now that the Pound has taken a nose dive.

But the world hasn’t ended. So cheer the fuck up.

View From Across the Ocean (3/6 – Election 2016 Special)

Something I miss about back home – and this is gonna sound odd so bear with me – is good old fashioned Australian racism. I mean we’re just so charmingly, hilariously sincere in our bigotry, ’cause we’re completely earnest when we mean it’s nothing personal.

Honestly, you’ll see a big white Aussie sporting a Southern Cross tattoo on his bicep and an Australian flag displayed on his wife-beater with the caption “Respect it or get out!” underneath, and you’ll probably hear him have a go at the Lebanese. Fucking Lebs. Bloody wogs. Bunch of fucking crooks and terrorists, amirite? But at the very same time you say two words crosswise at his mate Bilal (whose family comes from Beirut) and Mr Southern Cross will fuck up your day.

I mean, Australians are still mean, ignorant bigots and racism is wrong at any level. But it’s bizarrely populated with exceptions. Like we’ll hate, fear and attack entire peoples, cultures and religions except for the individuals we know personally. It’s weird. But it means that when we declare we’re not actually racist towards Asians because one of our best mates is Korean and another is Vietnamese we actually mean it. We’re wrong, of course, we are most definitely wrong. It’s still very racist. It makes for some bloody hilarious moments though.

Like with elections. Now while we’ve got the three white men running the major parties standing up and acknowledging that things aren’t all that harmonious in the land of Oz (though even Dr Di Natale heading the Greens doesn’t seem to have a whole lotta workable solutions), we’ve got Pauline Hanson of One Nation getting up and chomping through the usual feedbag of Australian xenophobia in her big to get elected again. But it’s alright, she says. One Nation isn’t racist, she says. After all, some of the members have Asian wives and they’re totally cool with her. Reckon she’s doing a top job, keep it up. Someone needs to keep all those ugly, unsubmissive, not-married-to-white-Australian-men Asians out.

And you know that when Pauline Hanson says these things, she believes it. She really does. Isn’t that goddamn excellent?

Maybe being a white heterosexual male I can afford to laugh. I’m pretty safe through it all, aren’t I? A lot of people are a bit worried because it’s looking like she’s got a pretty solid chance of getting into the Senate again. But, bloody hell, I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to fight the wrongs in this world is to point out how bloody ridiculous they often are. Point and laugh.

And Pauline Hanson is fucking hilarious.