View from across the ocean: Australia Day 2016 special

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?

View from across the ocean (14/9/15)

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.

View From Across the Ocean (2/8/2015)

Not nearly the same, so stop telling him it is.

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.