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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, it’s that time of year again. Big Day Out, The Hottest 100, beaches, barbecues, cricket when possible and copious amounts of beer and cider. I’ll be up in Whistler with the rest of my kind (it’s not called ‘Whistralia’ for nothing) listening to Triple J count through all the songs I’ve missed after being away from decent radio for soon-to-be-a-year (Christ, that came quickly) with some mates. ‘Cause that’s what being a 20-something Aussie abroad is all about. Meanwhile, the grown-ups are (as always) talking about serious issues, like whether or not the Australia should become a republic or the never-ending argument about whether or not we couldn’t find a more culturally sensitive date than January 26th to celebrate what passport we hand into customs. If it sounds like I’m making light of it, it’s only because Indigenous Australians have every right to feel a quite miffed about it and we should have fixed this years ago. That and, quite frankly, there are people who are far better at communicating exactly what the issues are and how they need to be addressed. I just take pot-shots and write about video games.
Then again, ignorant white racists have had a good year since the last Australia Day. Reclaim Australia is still going surprisingly strong despite the rest of us pointing out to the ignorant pensioners in the group that they’re marching with skinheads. What about that guy that became the face of Reclaim Australia getting all angry about us judging a book by its cover? How fuckin’ funny was that! I was laughing my arse off when he claimed that he wasn’t racist because he had a Bangladeshi mate, whose name he didn’t know so he just called the guy Bangladesh. I mean, mate, referring to a guy by his heritage group because you haven’t actually bothered to learn his name is not the best way to prove you aren’t a bigot. All it does is show how lacking in any sort of self-awareness you are. But, nah man, it’s because of your facial tattoos. Sure. Mind you I think we now understand the demographic that must keep voting for Senator Barnaby ‘is this champagne halal’ Joyce. He wasn’t the only polly to make a bit of an arse of himself bigotry-wise of course (Peter Dutton had a moment or two, for example), and even Pauline Hanson got a moment in the spotlight again with her “all terrorists are muslims” thing, completely ignoring (amongst many others) the Catholic IRA, Hindu Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka (until quite recently), pre-Israel Jewish hotel bombers and by-this-point-mostly-just-lip-service communist FARC guerrillas only now having peace talks with the Colombian government. I could go on, but at some point it just starts being facetious. And I need time to mention those fuckwits who reckoned the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla Riots was worth celebrating, as if a bunch of drunken idiots wearing the Aussie flag beating up anything darker than Wonder White is something to be proud of.
But things have improved a little. The guy who this time last year was handing out knighthoods to bloody Prince Philip has been replaced by a centre-right republican (not the type any yanks reading this might immediately think of) who had too many centre-left tendencies for his own good last time he was running the Liberal Party. Thankfully a lot of those on the further right who gave Malcolm Turnbull the boot the first time round came to the conclusion that they weren’t going to have a job if Tony Abbott kept eating raw onions (I believe he kept a basket of them under his chair in parliament) and generally doing and saying things that made the population collectively mutter “for fuck’s sake!” under their breaths. So Mr Turnbull’s back in the top job. And there was much rejoicing. Hooray for self interest. Etcetera, etcetera. Except for Labor and Bill Shorten, who’s losing even more ground to Turnbull in the preferred PM polls. Wonder how long past the next election (due this year I believe) before Mr Shorten is replaced by someone who can actually win. Like Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese or (we can dream) Penny Wong, all of whom seem to have been putting up far more of a fight than Mr Shorten has in recent months (at least from my limited perspective across the Pacific). On the bright side for those of us who like taking pot shots, Mr Abbott had announced he’ll contest in the next election. I reckon it’ll be hilarious regardless of the results.
Lot to talk about, politics-wise from the past year. Been far too long since I wrote one of these as well. Even in just the past month or two we saw the Liberal ranks partly gutted after an attempt to jump ship to the Nationals was prevented and another member was removed from Cabinet after inappropriate behaviour towards a DFaT bureaucrat was reported. The Brits got a bit upset when the same-sex marriage of a couple was not recognised, after one of the husbands sadly died on their honeymoon. Even Christopher Pine called it a pretty heartless and unnecessary act (because it is, you heartless bastards), and as I understand it the South Australian government has since (quite rightly) apologised.
Could go on, but we’d be here for a while. Going back to Australia Day, you guys seen this Deadpool thing?
Fuckin’ funny. Nice to see that even the Merc with the Mouth can’t help but like Hugh Jackman (who really is just delightful). Reminded me of Ron Burgundy’s messages before the Melbourne Cup…
… and after our (I think it was) last election…
… joining our tradition of Australia Day messages that are funny despite being thinly veiled advertisements. You know what I’m talking about. And just in case you don’t, here’s Sam Kekovich:
Looking back at that, he says a few things that I can’t help but feel you wouldn’t get away completely with saying these days. Cringed at a few moments. But when I was 15 this was the funniest goddamn thing in the world. Mind you, it’s pretty easy to make a pubescent boy laugh, so yeah. Still not all that hard to make me laugh, if I’m being honest with myself.
Last thing I’ll mention is that the Republican movement does seem to be building up steam. All but one of the state heads have signed onto the call for an Aussie head of state, we have republicans on both sides of the federal leadership and we’re still not all that keen on Charlie taking the throne eventually. More importantly most people are probably pretty indifferent to shifts in a distant monarchy. Can’t get enough of those royal babies though, can we?
Anyway, I’ll be boarding a bus up to Whistler pretty soon. Stupidly excited about it all. Drinking and skiing and listening to the Triple J Hottest 100. That’s probably what I’m most excited about. Most likely be sitting there with the Shazam app running through the whole thing. Who’d you guys vote for?
It was an important week back home, as we finally saw an end months in the making. I am of course talking about the finale of The Bachelorette Australia, where Sam Frost finally found love with her new beau Sasha hard-to-pronounce-Eastern-European-name. Frost of course was the lovely lady given the final rose at the end of the last season of The Bachelor Australia, only to be dumped a week later by Blake “you’ve got a stupid name and weren’t good enough for her anyway” Garvey who changed his mind and went with the runner-up. Six million capital city Aussies (that’s more than a quarter of the population of the country) tuned in to see Sam get her happy ending, and what a fairytale it was.
I didn’t watch it, mind you, but I am gonna miss the funny recaps and social media quips by the hilarious people who did. Still glad you two found each other, Sam and Sasha.
Something else that I wasn’t a big fan of but enjoyed all the online piss-taking that just ended? The political career of Joe Hockey. Though that was less ‘fairytale ending’ and more ‘at last the nightmare is over’ as he finally got around to quitting after his boss and biggest supporter got booted out of his own job. Tony Abbott might not be leaving parliament anytime soon, but it’s no surprise that the bloke who (it can be pretty easily argued) was the individual most to blame for that downfall (sorry Peta Credlin haters, Joe pissed off the voters more) has decided to quit while he’s got any scalp left. Or maybe he just wanted everyone to start being nice to him again. Certainly heard a lot of cheery speeches in parliament from his side of the fence congratulating him on years of loyal service to the nation, while his own speech was a self-congratulating belief that he’d left the nation better than what he started. I can’t help but feel that the latter was met by a collective muttering of “my arse,” while the latter was actually a coded thanks that Joe had fallen on his sword instead of making them feed him to the lions in a colosseum filled with cheering swing voters. Except for Julie Bishop, who didn’t give a speech and was promptly accused of, I’m not sure, disloyalty or something? Being impolite? Not lying through her teeth about what a great job she thought he’d done? Something like that. Somehow just as cheerful were the eulogies by all the satirists who’re gonna miss drawing Joe and his cigar. Even I got in on that action once or twice. I didn’t draw the best likeness, but then again I didn’t do it for a living.
Truthfully though, this was a long time coming and nobody was that surprised. It certainly seemed to cease being one of the main headlines. Turnbull’s managing to keep things steady, talking about infrastructure investment and a changing economy and a plebiscite on marriage equality and not giving a couple of million dollars to a climate change skeptic. So much so that we’re barely paying attention to Cory Bernardi, and Peter Dutton’s offensive use of the word “Negro” hasn’t had nearly as much airtime as it would have gotten under the ancien regime. Mind you, he’s got Jacqui Lambie calling him out on inappropriate use of racist language in his capacity as a member of government, and when you’ve got Jacqui Lambie throwing down the political equivalent of “if you haven’t got anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all” then you really ought to think about your behaviour.
But of course none of this really matters against the fact that Sam Frost has finally found love. Good luck mate, you deserve it!
Well, it finally happened. Malcolm Turnbull has challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberals and won. With a solid lead as well, 54 to 44. Australia has a new Prime Minister with Mr Turnbull’s victory that, judging by the #putoutyouronions posts appearing on social media, surprised no one but Mr Abbott and a few of his more die hard supporters.
So, now the corpse is in the morgue and the autopsy begins. Did the absolute fucking disaster of a first budget or his stubborn loyalty to Bronwyn Bishop do more damage to popular opinion of Mr Abbott’s leadership and government? Just how much of Mr Abbott’s downfall can be attributed to Joe Hockey and Christopher Pine? His tired stance against Marriage Equality? Biting into a raw onion like it was a fucking apple?
Then there’s the question of who’s gonna survive the presumed blood bath of the senior Coalition leadership and ministers. Joe Hockey and Christopher Pine will likely need to walk the plank. I can’t see under-performing George Brandis and recently-in-trouble-for-insulting-remarks Peter Dutton making it through unscathed. Will Mathias Cormann might have to pay for supporting Abbott in this spill as well. Scott Morrison is looking good for the Treasurer, putting his weight behind Mr Turnbull in his victory but deciding not to run as Deputy. Julie Bishop has earned a place as king maker, having decided to remove her support from Mr Abbott and handily won the position as Mr Turnbull’s deputy (you can’t help but wonder if her support was a necessary trigger for Mr Turnbull’s coup).
It’s expected that there’ll finally be a few women whose names don’t end in Bishop invited into the cabinet, and Mr Turnbull has promised a more consultative leadership (“first among equals” and all that). Let’s presume that this means remaining ministerial vacancies will be decided by bloody gladiatorial bouts in skimpy leather armour (regardless of age and gender, of course) in front of a cheering, betting Liberal caucus.
Political analysts, commentators and random amateurs with far-too-high an opinion of their own opinions like myself will be busily reading the stars, the tea leaves, the coffee grounds and the speech and press conference transcripts in order to predict the policies of the new regime. Is Mr Turnbull finally going to finally do something about negative gearing and superannuation reform? What’s going to happen now that we have a pro-marriage equality PM (who needed the support of his party’s right wind to get into power) and opposition leader? What about climate change policy, the pin that popped Mr Turnbull’s balloon the first time? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Nice to hear a politician talking about treating the public like it’s intelligent, and trying to do what’s right for the economy instead of shouting about their only two victories (“We stopped the boats!” and “We got rid of the Carbon Tax!”) over and over and fucking over.
Good onya Mr Turnbull. You were patient, smart and you won. Now please don’t screw this up.
I’m gonna go see if I’ve got an onion to take a picture of.
About a week or so ago I was mocked by a customer for being an Australian. He was a young man, just old enough to drink in British Columbia out with the family, and kept on calling me “mate” with a stupid grin on his face and a poor attempt to mimic my accent. “There you go mate,” he’d say. “Thanks mate,” he’d smile. “There you go mate,” he’d say again, just in case I didn’t hear him the last ten times. Kept on saying it every time I checked on the table. Now, I’m not averse to a little bit of ribbing over my accent or where I’m from. Some customers will call me mate once or twice in a good-natured way acknowledging that I’m not from around there. Usually I might be able to make a few jokes about the weather because of it (“it’s not that hot mate!”) or make fun of Caesars, the apparent national drink (“honestly, it’s like a nation-wide Stockholm Syndrome!”) I’ll frequently make fun of myself when a customer misunderstands or mishears me (“yeah, I talk funny.”) Nothing serious. But this kid, this kid was making fun of me. It was in his tone, and he just kept on fucking going. Got on my nerves pretty quick. But it was a minor issue, and I wasn’t going to call him on it. That’d only lead at best to lacklustre or lack-of-completely tip, or at worst a complaint to the manager (and “he kept calling me mate” would not be a particularly strong defence). So I put up with it, swearing up a storm when I was out of earshot in the kitchen but otherwise taking care of the table with my usual smile and care. Because that’s the job. You just gotta deal with shit like that.
Now, I wanna be very clear about something: this is in no way comparable to what’s been happening to Adam Goodes.
For those non-Australians who might be reading, Adam Goodes plays AFL for the Sydney Swans, was a goddamn recipient of Australian of the Year and is, very importantly, an Indigenous Australian. And over the past few years an alarming number of white Australians have been getting increasingly upset about this uppity Aboriginal who has no issue being proud of (and displaying) his cultural heritage and is quite willing to call out acts of racism when they happen. Honestly, man’s a fucking legend and an amazing player. Honestly, it is fucking disgusting how he’s being treated, what with the other team’s supporters actively booing him and the obvious targeted racism. Just as disgusting? All the white men telling him to just deal with it, telling him that it’s not racist, or telling him that he’s in the wrong for calling it for what it is when he experiences it. Ignorant, hurtful and indefensible behaviour. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a bit of sledging and heckling in sports, but all those white commentators who have had the privilege to have had never needed to deal with racial abuse and think it’s just par for the course need to pull their heads from out of their arses and recognise that there are lines that should not be crossed, and calling out racial abuse for what it is should be lauded instead of condemned regardless of whether it came from the mouth of an old man or a 13 year old girl. She didn’t call him “mate”. She called him an ape. That was wrong, and someone needed to tell her that. Saying that he should just put up with it, ignore it and let it continue is wrong, because racism (alongside homophobia) should not be tolerated in any professional environment.
It is gladdening to see the Swans, their supporters, NSW Premier Mike Baird, so many other members of the sporting community and commentary, politics and now, at last, even the Prime Minister stand besides Mr Goodes. Enough to drown out the arseholes standing against him? I reckon so. Especially as long as good folk follow in Mr Goodes’ example and call out racist shit when they see it.
Who will rid parliament of this troublesome speaker? … Oh, sweet.
Seriously, why the hell was Bronwyn Bishop still the Speaker for the House of Representatives (the lower house of Australia’s Federal Parliament) for so long? For those beyond Oz’s borders, a few weeks ago Ms Bishop got in a bit of trouble when it was discovered that she (and two staffers) spent $88,000 of taxpayer money on a whirlwind two-week tour of Europe trying to get support for a plum new job. Then even more trouble when it was learned our supposedly unbiased and impartial speaker spent over five grand taking a helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong to a Coalition Party fund-raiser, about an hour’s travel otherwise in her taxpayer provided commonwealth car. Yeah, let me repeat that. Five grand of taxpayer money to take a fucking helicopter because she didn’t want to be too late to a party. A fucking helicopter. It then took her 12 days to issue an apology so weak it could have been called Bud-Lite, showing a serious contempt for the people of Australia who were obviously outraged by her spendthrift ways. I mean seriously. A. Fucking. Helicopter. She lost the respect and confidence of the people and she lost the respect and confidence even of members of her own party.
Yet Prime Minister Tony Abbott failed to do the expedient thing and remove her, sticking by his chosen Speaker and merely putting her on probation. Meanwhile the Memes grew in number, everyone forgot about the Royal Commission into the Unions that had revealed some less than savoury donations to Labor Campaigns including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s, and Malcolm Turnbull once again reminded everyone about how great life would be if he was still head of the Coalition with a simple picture of him boarding a train to Geelong instead of a chartered aircraft. And, of course, everyone wondered when the axe would fall and Mrs Bishop’s head would roll off the block.
Well, it finally happened. She resigned, citing her “love and respect” of the parliament and the Australian people (Baaahahahahahahaha) as the reason for stepping down. Thank god for that. We’re finally rid of her. Maybe the House of Representatives will finally have a someone in the Speaker’s chair who takes the whole ‘impartial’ and ‘unbiased’ parts of the job seriously. The big question now is how badly bruised Mr Abbott is by the whole affair. Badly, by the looks of it, with a few broken ribs and Labor not letting up. I’ve seen no shortage of Abbott government detractors gleefully celebrating the fall of Mrs Bishop and the splash damage done to Mr Abbott in her wake. Schadenfreude. The PM’s announced review into MP entitlements might do a little to earn a bit of trust and credibility back, but his continued allusions to Mrs Bishop being a victim of the system rather than admitting she did wrong (and she did very wrong) isn’t going to do her any favours.
Anyway. I was going to have a go at Senator Cory Bernardi’s continued crusade against Halal food in Australia (now targeting the Australian Institute of Sport, who responded like a champ by apologising to anyone who might have eaten non-Halal food thinking it was Halal), but I think I’ve hit the Coalition enough for now. See you all next week.
I said it a couple of weeks ago and I’ll say it again. Politics is weird. Bit more emphasis this week.
Let’s start with the Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce getting on TV and letting us all know that Johnny Depp, currently on the Gold Coast filming the latest likely far-from-greatest Pirates of the Caribbean film, had to either send his Yorkshire Terriers (delightfully named Pistol and Boo) back to Hollywood or they’d end up being confiscated by customs and, I shit you not, euthanised (the terriers were undeclared by Mr Depp and not noticed by customs ’cause he arrived by private jet. This has apparently garnered a lot of attention in the USA (because of course it would), though I haven’t seen much about it on the Canadian news I occasionally follow (admittedly I don’t follow a lot), so it’s probably not news to everyone. But goddamn, I like picturing the scenario that led to a government minister getting on national TV and threatening a celebrity’s dogs. I can just imagine some customs officer reading through some magazine during his or her lunch break, seeing a picture of Johnny walking his dogs and going “Shit, did he declare those?” then showing it to a supervisor who decides to send it up the chain (’cause would you want to make a decision about what to do about Johnny Depp’s goddamn terriers?) in a progression of similar scenes until it landed on the desk of Mr Joyce, who I assume immediately called a press conference (with the Facebook ‘like’ button or hashtags appearing comically in his eyes). He certainly seems to have enjoyed all the press a bit too much (enough to get Kyle Sandilands to call him a wanker, and Kyle Sandilands would know). Maybe he was just hoping that Depp would pack his bags and go with them. I mean, none of us want to see another Pirate of the Caribbean film, but this isn’t the way to stop it Mr Joyce. This isn’t the way. The dogs, as I understand it, have since been sent home on another private jet.
Credit where it’s due, when Mr Joyce wasn’t threatening famous people’s pets this past week or two he’s been trying to calm down the anti-Halal movement amongst some of the Coalitions fan-base. And members. Senator Cory Bernardi, whom I have previously indicated I have a very low opinion of (and that ain’t fuckin’ changing any time soon), has managed to wrangle a Senate Inquiry into the Halal certification “racket”. It’s alright though, ’cause he’s probably had Halal food before and it didn’t bother him too much (on an Emirates flight and everything!) He just wants to make sure people have all the information so they can make ethical decisions about what they eat. Because if you’re gonna be an Islamophobe you may as well have the government giving you advice on best practice. Thankfully members of the government across the lines who aren’t complete fuckwits, including Cruela De Vil himself Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, have pointed out that getting rid of Halal certifications will make it awfully hard to export our beef to such mostly-Muslim nations as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. This would be bad for consumers, who’d see the price of meat go up to cover the loss of international markets making it more expensive to put meat pies on our kid’s plates (won’t someone think of the children!), and worse for the farmers who are already officially dealing with a major El Nino event and another big draught (won’t someone think of the farmers!) If you can’t beat’em with an argument about not being a bigot, beat’em with an argument about not ruining the lives of our farmers and small businesses.
Then there was the insurrection (love that word, don’t get to use it as often as I like) in Cabinet this week, over a proposal by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, backed by the PM, to revoke the citizenship of sole Australian citizens assisting terrorists. Those who stood against such a suggestion included such lofty figures as Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and (dum dum duh daaah!) Barnaby Joyce. Unfortunately, Mr Dutton is still to be given the discretion to revoke the citizenship of dual-nationals for suspected crimes (not convictions, suspicions). I won’t go through all the reasons why I think that’s a bad idea, because other people already have far more eloquently then I’d be willing to. Suffice to say that while I, like so many others, would like to wash my hands of the Aussie-born arseholes posing with assault rifles, black flags and severed heads, revoking their citizenship is an impractical move that raises all sorts of issues regarding rights and discrimination, that is more likely meant to appeal to our knee-jerk intuition and secure a few more ‘tough on national security’ points at the polls than to actually discourage and prevent home-grown terrorism.
Then there was the budget. Good god there was the budget. The feel good budget. The fair budget. The budget of a desperate government knowing that it wouldn’t survive if it pissed off ninety percent of the voting public a second time. And, well, they managed to deliver, more or less. It’s certainly not the kind of budget to get economists jumping for joy. Too many cuts and some big, expensive plans for the future (like new tax write-offs meant to get small business owners on side) without any notable revenue raisers, or even the cauterising of the notable tax-dodges (like on high-income superannuation and negative gearing, something my generation will keep on griping about). Then there’s the piss-weak funding for everyone-agrees-this-is-a-problem-but-no-wants-to-do-the-hard-work-to-fix-it issues like preventing and reducing domestic violence. Oh, and of course there was the hope that no one in the media would pick up on the fact that Labor’s 18 billion dollar deficit was a “budget emergency” but a 44 billion dollar deficit isn’t.
Mr Abbott went and coined the term “Tony’s tradies,” an homage (a proper homage, where you don’t pronounce the ‘h’ and everything) to “Howard’s battlers,” the traditionally Labor-voting working class that kept former Prime Minister John Howard in the top job. Everyone seems to have ignored and forgotten it after having a good belly laugh (seriously Mr Abbott, surely you can hire someone to come up with better than that). The budget has certainly been better accepted than the last one, and the appeal to the middle class was probably the right way to go. God knows it’s nice to have a budget with a positive spin, trying to boost confidence instead of screaming that the macroeconomic sky is falling. All in all the Coalitions top players have done pretty well for themselves as well, bar a few slips here and there. At least they’ve done a far sight better than last year. Enough, at least, that Bill Shorten will actually have to start singing for his supper as Opposition Leader instead of just letting the Coalition do all the work for him. Can he do it? Maybe. I’m not filled with confidence over his past performances. We’ll just have to see.
Except Joe Hockey, of course. Couldn’t let a budget slip by without alienating another chunk of the electorate. This time? Mothers, wroughting the Paid Parental Leave system without their husbands’ knowledge. Ah well, such is life.
Truthfully though, the Opposition’s budget response was not any better, leaving me pining for the days Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan. Say what you want about how they came into leadership of the Labor party, they could put together a budget.
Continuing on. The recent yes vote in Ireland in favour of marriage equality has spurred on other nations to act, Australia amongst them. The Greens made a push in the Senate, and a few days ago Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek announced they would be sponsoring a bill in the Lower House. While I desperately hope it passes, and there’s good noises coming from all sides, there is more than a little doubt since it would be a ‘Labor’ bill being passed, rather than one that the whole Parliament could own (which Mr Abbott would prefer and would likely be more successful). Here’s hoping though.
In international news, the UK re-elected the Tories with a surprising majority, immediately filling my Tumblr feed with commentary from disenfranchised Scots who were just so disappointed with the rest of the UK. Seriously. I mean, I’m a left-leaning Aussie living in Canada, but it seemed to me like Cameron and crew were the best option in what is still a sensitive economic climate (but what the bloody hell would I know, yeah?) Shit, you guys have got an economically responsible government that’s being kept in check by a pro-Europe progressive PM with a decent track record on minority rights. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get one of those? Australia’s last one was in the bloody 80s. A definite negative, however, is that Mr Cameron has bowed to populist and party pressure to try and renegotiate the UK’s place in Europe and then hold a ‘in or out’ referendum on the matter, but no one’s perfect.
And, of course, there’s the FIFA scandal. Not much to say about this, aside from a very loud well it’s about bloody time. Funny thing, I’ve seen it a lot on the news over here in Canada where the FIFA corruption scandal is so shocking and alarming. There’s been very little about it on the Aussie news sources I kept up with beyond the occasional article updating on the allegations or calls for Sep Blatter to resign. I think for a lot of Australians the reaction’s been a bit like, “You say FIFA’s corrupt? Next you’ll be telling me the sky’s blue and water is wet.”
Politics is weird. Been an interesting time keeping track of the Aussie news this past week or two. Did anyone hear about that piece of coal the government’s planning on giving to the royal family to celebrate the new princess? The really pretty one? Was that a joke? I think it was a joke. I’m not sure I can tell anymore. Here’s what the news looks like from where I’m at.
Leadership wise, PM Tony Abbott seems to have pulled the plug on possible leadership spills for the moment, though that could easily change from “probably still won’t make it to the next election, and wouldn’t win it even if he did” back to “seriously, why the hell hasn’t this guy been given the boot yet?” if the upcoming budget has even a whiff of the things that made the old one such a disaster. Far more interesting was the sudden and apparently bloodless change in the leadership of the Greens yesterday. Christine Milne (best known as the Tasmanian woman who took over after Bob Brown quit) sent out a message on Twitter (the Aussie Polly’s megaphone of choice for important and/or policy related announcements, because fuck traditional media and press conferences) announcing that she wouldn’t be contesting her place in the Senate (family reasons), and because of this had resigned from her position as leader of the Greens Party. A leadership ballot was held at 11:30 in the morning, same day yesterday, and some bloke named Richard Di Natale had won it by 12:30. Larissa Waters and Scott Ludlum were made co-deputy leaders (because for some reason the Greens need two deputies). Done and dusted and leaving those of us who care about such things blinking twice and thinking “the fuck just happened?” The new Greens Leadership certainly isn’t talking. It certainly seems quick and painless. Considering that everyone was expecting Adam Bandt to take the top job in the party, however, and the speed of the announcements and ballot, I couldn’t help but think of a line from that episode in The Simpsons when they go to Africa: “He took power in a bloodless coup. Only pillow-smothering.”
Mind you, all due respect to Dr Di Natale (he’s an old hand and Greens veteran) but, as best I can tell, lacks the kind of public awareness amongst the new, young Greens supporters that the very social media savvy Scott Ludlum, Adam Bandt and even Sarah Hanson-Young enjoys. So I wonder if the most popular question he’ll be asked after “what were the circumstances leading up to you taking over?” or “when was the rest of the party made aware of Senator Milne’s plans to resign the leadership?” may just be “so, who the hell are you again?”
Good luck to him. We need a strong third party to keep the two big players (bastards, if you will) in line and honest, and that hasn’t been the Greens so far with their protest party mentality. Hopefully the change in leadership will allow for a change in policy.
Then there’s the recent incident of the Australian Ambassador to France Stephen Brady’s long term partner, Peter Stephens, being asked to wait in the car instead of greeting Mr Abbott upon his arrival in Paris. Mr Brady was understandably upset and offered his resignation, which was rejected. There’s a few different theories, including one where it was simply a bit of protocol miscommunication. Someone reckoned that since the PM wasn’t arriving with his missus it would be incorrect for the Ambassador to meet him with his mister. Mr Abbott’s made clear he wasn’t aware of the request, believes Mr Brady to be a fine, distinguished public servant and overall top bloke, and that the snubbing happened at the junior official level. I groaned a bit at one particular quote: “I’m the Prime Minister and I don’t normally concern myself with trivia.” C’mon Mr Prime Minister, don’t start going all aloof with us again after you did so well skolling that beer.
We’re likely going to be hearing about a billion dollar cut to Australia’s foreign aid budget, a strategic and geopolitically unsound decision in my opinion, but hey, I don’t get to make those decisions and Joe Hockey’s pretty desperate for cash. Y’know, like all those African and South East Asian countries that are about to find it a lot harder to pay for health and education to help pull their large populations out of desperate poverty. Though it’s not like a lack of education and an endless cycle of poverty breeds resentment that can be radicalised against us, right? Right. Most of that money will be pulled from Indonesia, something that the Indonesians might take the wrong way. You may have heard that they executed two Australians recently, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, along with six others. Now, the deaths of these two men is something I am not really qualified to comment on and a lot of people have done a far better job of it. Suffice to say I am always against the death penalty and supported all attempts by the Australian government and public to prevent the executions from happening. Point at the moment though is that them in charge are going to have a hard time convincing the Indonesians (and a lot of Australians) that this isn’t a reprisal from killing two of our citizens. It’ll be interesting seeing how Julie Bishops handles it, especially cause she strikes me as having the stones to not even bother trying.
What I’m really interested in seeing, however, is the budget. Hockey and Matthias Cormann need to pull something special out of their arses or at least one of those is going to face a boot. Hearing a lot about cuts, but not a lot about revenue raising, so I’m not expecting much. They were supposed to get some help when the RBA dropped the cash rate to 2.0% but the market reacted poorly to the news, so that might not be as useful as people were expecting. And now the unemployment rate has risen slightly (SLIGHTLY!). Then they’re talking about adding the GST to software downloads (including Netflix), making something far more expensive for Australians than it should be more expensive, and reducing the value upon which an imported parcel can be hit with GST to less then its current level of $1000.00. That’ll be popular.
Meanwhile, internationally, the UK’s going to the polls and Angela Merkel’s got into a bit of trouble because it turns out she was helping the Yanks spy on their friends. What’s happing in Canada… heh.