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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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.

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 (28/5/15)

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.

Joe Hockey and random talking Edited 28:5:2015
I really need to draw another Joe Hockey. The real man’s jaw is squarer than I do him justice. It’ll do for now though.

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.”

Alright folks, talk again soon.