Monday, May 28, 2012

Australian Celebrity

Could someone please tell me where the real Australia stars are? I don't mean to cause offence; I'm actually serious. Am I the only one who is disenchanted with the calibre of our current celebrities? 

Thankfully, Tracey Spicer has noticed as well, and written about it for The Hoopla: 

I remember chatting to the wry and witty Chris Noth from Sex & The City a couple of years ago. “I have no idea why I’m here,” he confessed. “Don’t you have any TV stars in your country?”
We have soapie stars, reality tv stars, sports stars, radio stars and a few random celestial bodies. Yep, they're all 'stars' in that they are well known, but are they talented or popular or respected? Do we look up to these people, or simply recognise them? I'm not sure. I just know I'm disappointed when I see Seal on a local TV show. I'm disappointed when I see Dawn French flogging an Australian supermarket chain. I'm entirely mystified when I see the line-up for Dancing With The Stars and other celeb-based shows. 

It's an argument that's been going on since for at least 40 years. Each year through the 60s and 70s, there'd be an International Star to present the Gold Logie: These people were 'genuine' international celebrities: John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jnr, Mohammed Ali, Bea Arthur, Big Bird and TV stars of the day. Even back then, the question was asked: why? Was the promise of a room full of Australian television's most popular personalities frocked up and drinking free booze not enough to attract viewers?

But back to Dawn French and the Coles ads. I'm not just disappointed in Coles and their agency Big Red. I'm disappointed in Dawn French too. I doubt she needs the money, so why? Why would she risk her own reputation to spruik groceries? Perhaps Ms French  thinks Australia is too insignificant and too far away to matter. She may be right.

And isn't there an Aussie celebrity who could carry the campaign? Dawn French is a wonderful comedian and actor, but we have plenty of those here, don't we?

And then there's Seal and Benji. The need to include imported judges certainly didn't start this year on The Voice. The original Australian Idol judging panel included resident Pom Ian Dickson, American born Aussie Marcia Hines and Mark Holden, who spent much of his career in the USA. Various Australian seasons of the series of The X-Factor have included British judges John Reid, Ronan Keating and Mel B, who is now co-hosting Dancing with the Stars. Before that, American-born stage star Evie Hayes was a regular judge on Young Talent Time.

The cultural cringe is a two way process that I'd naively thought had ended in the eighties. In order to be a real star, you have to have made it overseas first: Helen Reddy, Keith Urban, Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett... Now, the flipside seems to be that we doubt the ability of our own celebrities to judge our talent.

But perhaps we do need to look at the big international stars to see real celebrity, because what passes here as "celebrity" is often so disappointing. Who are these people? Where are the real celebrities? We know the talent exists in Australia; we run shows to identify it...and yet the "celebrity" who gets her own reality show is Lara Bingle, a woman with no discernible talent other than looking good in a bikini. She makes the Kardashians look like real talent.

And that's the real  question: what do we want from our celebrities? Ultimately  the public is responsible for embracing or rejecting the personalities the media presents. If we don't want Kyle Sandilands on our tellie, we shouldn't watch his show. And we didn't. 

And if we don't want imported talent headlining our talent shows, awards shows and advertising, we need to make better decisions and support our local performers.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Challenge to Andrew Robb

Barrie Cassidy has chronicled for us the list of Australian politicians who've been through emotional crises. I don't think any one of us wants to see Craig Thomson's name added to that list. 

I've challenged Opposition front bencher and depression survivor Andrew Robb to take an hour or two to sit with Craig Thomson and talk, make sure he's okay, help him get the emotional support he almost certainly needs. I am no fan of Mr Robb's politics, but he has survived major depression and continued his career. That's something I'm struggling to do right now.

It doesn't even matter what the outcomes of the nine investigations might be. Mr Thomson's career has been damned by the speculation of the past months. He's been shunned by his own party, criticised and mocked by the Opposition, doubted by the independents, stalked,  probed and challenged by media, and has been the subject of nine investigations. Is there any doubt that he is under extraordinary stress? We've seen it in his tears and in his anguished plea to just let history take its course. 

That's what we know, what we've been permitted to see. Can you imagine the turmoil, the noise in Mr Thomson's mind? Even in the event that he is innocent, he is living the first chapter of his tortured sentence already. As I said a few weeks ago, Craig Thomson is barely relevant in the greater picture; unless something dramatic occurs, we should start preparing for an Abbott-led Coalition government. Mr Thomson can't do much but move the timing closer, and it's a no-brainer that he won't be re-elected. In fact, he continues to be a soft target for Tony Abbott and his team; no-one is looking out for Craig Thomson.

So I challenge Andrew Robb to remember his personal fight, to look beyond the scandal and the politics, and extend his hand to Craig Thomson, not because there's political advantage to gain, but because it's the right thing to do.

Queensland versus The World

It's Rugby League State of Origin week. For League fans, the State of Origin Games weeks are the biggest weeks of the season. These matches are tough, cliche-filled mini-dramas where everyone with even a passing interest in the game takes sides, dons a colour, drinks beer and yells a bit, at least here, north of the Tweed.

It's Queensland versus New South Wales, "Mate versus Mate, State versus State", Maroons versus Blues, Cane Toads versus Cockroaches. 

In Queensland, businesses are draped in maroon and white bunting, balloons and banners, office workers wear their prized maroon footy jersey to work over their shirt and tie or blouse, and the war cry is "QUEENSLANDER!!" So ubiquitous is the Queensland obsession with State of Origin that people who aren't swept up in maroon fever are mocked, insulted, shunned.  Of the 900 or so people that I follow on Twitter, the number to confess their disinterest in the sporting event is in single digits. Brave Susan Hetherington did; she knows the territory all too well.    

Many Queenslanders would be amazed to learn that the same level of obsessive state fanaticism just doesn't exist south of the border.  Sure, footy fans wear blue to the match, and get together to watch the game, yell at the tellie and share a few beers, but you won't find many offices and shops festooned in blue. In New South Wales, a State of Origin match does not equate to state pride on the line. The morale of the entire state doesn't hinge on the final score.

Queenslanders take a great deal of pleasure in taunting their New South Wales friends and colleagues when the maroons win State of Origin (which they seem to do most of the time). Take a hint from a transplanted southerner: save your breath, the don't care that much.

Queensland parochialism is a force of nature.  There's a maroon-hued unity within this state that I've never seen anywhere else, in any colour. When a Queensland sportsman wins anything of note, it's a headline.

There's a line, though, and while I respect the Queensland state pride, that line is crossed far too often, particularly by media. Look at individual sports like tennis, golf, surfing and swimming. Some of these sports have national teams, so when competing at international level, those athletes are representing Australia. They are wearing the Green and Gold. The cry from the stands is not "QUEENSLANDER!", it's "Oi Oi Oi!"  Too often, the Queensland media report these victories by describing the victorious athlete as a Queensander.

"But they are Queenslanders!", I hear you argue. 

Yes, they are, but when representing Australia, can we introduce them as such, as leave the state affiliation to the second sentence?

I recall during the Beijing Olympics four years ago, pumped up Queensland journalists breathlessly reported Queensland's Olympic medal tally. It wasn't a sidebar, or a feature on the success of Queensland athletes in the Australian team. It was just the way some maroon-hearted reporters presented the medal tally. 

Here's a note, up front of the London Olympics. Queensland doesn't compete in the Olympics because Queensland is not a country.

Of course it's appropriate to count up the number of Olympic medals won by Queenslanders if that's the point you're trying to make, as was the case in the Quuensland Parliament after the Games, but surely we can agree that if you're an Olympian representing Australia, your medal is an Aussie victory, first and foremost?

I fully expect to be challenged on this, by Queenslanders, by media, by you: why shouldn't we be proud of our state? 

We should be proud, and we are. Still, Queensland state pride often seems over the top, particularly in comparison to...well...everywhere else. The fact that nowhere else does state pride like Queensland does is something else we can be proud of. 

But what's behind it? Is it a response to having been mocked for so many years for not being as big or successful or trendy as New South Wales and Victoria? Is it an attempt to reclaim some pride after the Fitzgerald Enquiry painted the Sunshine State as more shonky than shiny? Is this intense maroon frenzy just a group reaction to our own inferiority complex?

I think it is. This is Queensland, constantly having to prove ourselves. It's part of who we are. For those cooler weeks in footy season, Queensland becomes QUEENSLANDER! This is our personality, our image, our colour scheme, our obsession. And for those three games per year, that's okay.

I wonder what Queensland is for the other 49 weeks of the year?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When Management Fads Attack

5S. Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu, Shitsuke

I reckon 5S is a great idea for mechanics' workshops, construction offices, any workspaces where there's a lot of tools, a lot of paper, a lot of mess. For an organised office that houses a high-performing team of electronic paper shufflers, it's a massive WOFTAM.*

So what is this craziness called 5S? Wikipedia has a decent definition, and all the other websites are trying to sell you their expertise in implementing it. Stick with Wikipedia in this instance.

It's an organisational management tool designed to improve productivity via obsessive attention to where stuff goes and how clean it is. Picture the pegboard in Richie Cunningham's father's garage: scungy white with black outlines drawn around all of the tools so that after being used, they can be returned to exactly the right place. It's that sort of organised thinking, backed up with disciplined adherence to detail, times a gazillion.

If you're a Lean practitioner, this is the housekeeping stuff. If you think Lean Housekeeping is about losing weight by vacuuming and dusting, you're wrong, but please do try it, preferably at my house. 

Lean and 5S are methods of working with a focus on improving the way you do things. The company I work for is starting a transformational journey to business excellence through process improvement, and as such, every single person and workspace in the business is being jammed through the workplace 5S extruder. The CEO has done it, the production and despatch teams are doing it, and I've done it. Sort of. That's another story

Anyway, I 5S'd my workspace, dusted and shined the leaves of the plant that I inherited, and stood ready for inspection. Victory was mine - I had passed! Most of the people in my area passed. My boss, a brilliantly messy  mad-scientist type, cleaned his area by shoving everything on his desk into a box which he then shoved under his desk. The box is marked recycling. The box lies.

I took a shorter route to 5S compliance, as my desk was relatively tidy, if somewhat dusty: I filed until I got jack of it, and everything else went through the shredder. Yes, I have shredded some documents I wish I'd kept. Damn you, 5S! 

Other 5S compliance techniques in our offices include body blocking the guy with the hand trolley so he can't take away your filing cabinets. Files should be archived off-site, or filed in a central compactus...which we used to have, until it was converted to provide additional office space. 

If the hand-trolley soldiers manage to overpower you and get your filing cabinets, you might have to jam all of your important hard copy documents into your desk drawers with the other stuff you aren't allowed to leave in plain sight: stationary supplies, last year's diary, a cache of painkillers, antacids, band aids and tampons, the funny mug your boyfriend gave you, a couple of tins of soup, a manicure kit, a broken mouse, three mousepads and emergency chocolate. 

And no, it's not an efficient use of my time or the company's limited server capacity for me to scan every document that comes to me as a tree-version, and save it.

But don't think the pain has stopped just because I complied.  Today, I saw what the 5S team has done to the staff kitchen. Like all staff kitchens, it's imperfect and inadequate. It has no dishwasher or stove, but I've seen far worse.  Still, obsession

They've labelled stuff. The microwaves, the sandwich press, the cupboards (cups, glasses, cleaning products), the drawers (cutlery, tea towels), the cupboard where you're not permitted to store cereal in cardboard boxes because it attracts rodents. The toaster, or more specifically, the position on the wall under which the toaster is to be stored when not in use. There are scary mystery cupboards too: these were not labelled. I don't know whether to sneak a peak, or assume that as they don't carry visible labels I'm just not meant to know.

But back to the cereal-eating rodents: why is this an issue? We have fat possums that live in the ceiling, occasionally breaking through to run around our clean, 5S'd desks in the middle of the night, leaving plenty of another S for us to clean up in the morning. And snakes: brown snakes and carpet pythons that find their way through cracks in the ceilings that the possums broke, seeking the warmth of our computer screens and hot water heaters. 

I've had it with this 5S business. Please leave your suggestions for how to mess with the minds of the 5S team below. Thank you. 

* WOFTAM: Waste of F*cking Time And Money

Occupy Class Warfare

When the Federal Opposition responded to the Budget with calls of “Class Warfare”, many of us closed our eyes and hummed old Abba favourites very loudly to ourselves. Tony Abbott’s Budget Reply speech barely addressed the Budget, other than to suggest that the Opposition would fund more language classes and make vague promises about fairness, and mock Wayne Swan's attempt to deliver the Holy Grail of Budgets, the Capital-S-Surplus. As a response, it was entirely without guts.
“The last thing the Coalition wants to do is start a class war, a post code war”, declared Abbott, entirely without irony, as he set about trying to start a class war. Then he suggested that the Government should be governing for all Australians. Again, the lack of irony was delicious.

Protip: Next time you want to start a class war, take a look at the Occupy Movement. At least they can use numbers that add up.
It wasn’t only the Opposition that accused the Government of Class Warfare. Dennis Shanahan, Political Editor of the Australian was happy to take up arms against the imaginary war:
Mr Shanahan has completely avoided the awkward detail that the Labor movement itself is built on an ideological foundation of challenging the class structure. If the ALP is seen as playing a benevolent Robin Hood against a backdrop of ongoing economic uncertainty overseas, why is that bad for Labor?
"After Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan invoked class-war rhetoric to sell the budget, it was well received by families earning less than $90,000 a year, while more people than last year, 18 per cent, said they would be personally "better off" as a result of the payments.
"But the cash handouts to families on less than $150,000, some sole parents and the unemployed have damaged Labor's economic standing. Mr Swan's fifth budget was deemed the worst for the economy since John Dawkins' disastrous 1993 budget after the election of the Keating government."
The Government spin on the Budget was that everyone – not just the rich – should benefit from the resources boom, and this was a way of ensuring that we all get a share.  Surely this is the opposite of class warfare, in that it seeks to minimise the class structure that divides the well-off and obscenely rich from those who live from pay cheque to pay cheque, or worse. And isn’t that the ALP mantra? “A Fair Go For All Australians”?
If means-testing of government handouts in the middle class and McMansion mortgage belts is seen as starting a war with those who already have their five-bedroom Tuscan style family home in the outer suburbs, so be it.
Yet somewhere around the end of last week, conventional wisdom was that “the people” (which rarely seems to include me) would fall into line behind Mr Abbott’s team. Julia Gillard’s jibes at Abbott and Hockey’s North Shore insularity and Wayne Swan’s Malicious Budget would be rejected, class warfare proven, insults hurled and punishment dished out via a further drop in the ALP’s approval numbers.
It didn’t happen.
According to the Essential Poll released this week, just 28% of Aussies agreed with the Federal Opposition’s claim that the Gillard Government - and Treasurer Swan in particular – are conducting class warfare against Australia’s richest people and most successful companies. Even more remarkable is the finding that the income level of the respondents was not a particularly strong indicator of response. People with incomes over $1600/week were only slightly more likely to favour the Opposition’s position. So, does this mean that the electorate is chiefly happy with the budget, and that the Opposition’s class warfare spin was off the mark?
Yes and no.
The big surprise was probably Tony Abbott, but not directly because of his unsuccessful class warfare attack. That was just the latest in a long series of political assaults. Attacking, criticizing, belittling the government are all part of the role of an Opposition party.
But it’s not the whole kit and caboodle of being an effective Opposition. The electorate is starting to want more from this Opposition than just a never-ending parade of disapproving grunts and mathematical impossibilities. We don’t need Abbott’s team of ministerial goons to point out that the ALP Government is in trouble. We can see that. Now, we need the Opposition to prove to us that they are a credible alternative Government.
As was the case last year, Mr Abbott used his entire Budget Reply speech as free media time in which to kick the government from every possible angle, but this year, it failed. Australians wanted to hear what the Coalition had to offer as an alternative budget. We needed to feel confident that in the face of years of economic absurdity from Abbott, Hockey and Robb, the Coalition Treasury and Finance teams could produce a credible alternative budget, not just some vague promises about fairness and language classes.
Instead, when asked to explain why the Government’s Education handout is different to his own Baby Bonus handout, the answer was “They just are.”
Noted blogger Peter Brent said in his Mumble blog in the Australian
 Today voters want grownups in leadership positions.
With their undergraduate, one-dimensional “us against the toffs” rhetoric, Swan and Gillard present the opposite.
They’ve made Tony Abbott a statesman.
No-one has made Abbott a statesman, nor have they turned around the fortunes of the careworn government. The Opposition’s failure to mount a substantial response to what was a pretty average budget is not going to be the One Big Thing that turns around the fortunes of the Labor Government. I don’t believe such a political marvel exists.  
It might, however, force the Opposition to reassess their approach, and convince them to offer more than just a dogmatic black hole with nothing to offer beyond “we’re not them.”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Queensland: State Without Grace

When Queensland’s new Health Minister Lawrence Springborg spoke to Spencer Howson on ABC  612 Brisbane to address concerns about his decision to axe funding from the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (formerly the Queensland AIDs Council), he cited two major reasons for his decision.
Firstly, Mr Springborg noted that the number of AIDS cases in Queensland in the past decade or so has more than doubled. Therefore, according to the Government, the QAHC was failing in its duty to control the spread of AIDs. In its place, the Government will fund a new committee to tackle the responsibility of reducing the number of cases of HIV/AIDs in Queensland.
Secondly, the Government feels that the QAHC has become too involved in lobbying for various same-sex issues, and according to Minister Springborg, it’s inappropriate that government funds should be spent on political lobbying.
Rather than a seeing the QAHC as a failure, is Campbell Newman’s Health Minister looking for justification to silence an organisation that has successfully lobbied for changes that don't sit will alongside the LNP Government's socially conservative agenda?
According to today’s Courier Mail, a key reason why HIV/AIDs cases are on the rise in Queensland is not because of gay activity, but because many of our young (heterosexual) men take group holidays to south east Asia and Papua New Guinea where they get absolutely sauced, and then enjoying unprotected sex with the local prostitutes. According to the AMA, the rise in Queensland is mirrored in Western Australia and is probably related to the mining boom, where young men with good incomes are looking for fun, and finding it in the region’s AIDs hotspots.
Mr Springborg said that the dramatic rise in HIV/AIDs cases in Queensland represent a failure of public health policy, and it’s hard to argue that fact. On the other hand, is it fair to dump responsibility at the feet of the QAHC?
What is the QAHC, exactly, and what is their charter? According to their website  
Our Vision:
A Queensland where all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people achieve the best possible health and well-being and participate fully in the life of communities, free from stigma and discrimination.
Our Mission:
To enable lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to increase control over and improve their health, as a resource for social, economic and personal development and an important dimension of quality of life.
Can Mr Springborg show me where, in this statement, the QAHC can be held responsible for educating and caring for the sexual health of heterosexual Australians who choose to put themselves at risk?
And now, to Mr Springborg’s press release, he states

There will be no cut to resources for HIV/AIDs strategies; current grants will simply be re-directed away from QAHC to Queensland Health under the guidance of the expert Ministerial Advisory Committee.
It sounds okay when he says it like that…except that he also refers to the previous government winding up the Queensland AIDS Council. The new body will focus on AIDs awareness and prevention strategies, which was the original purpose of the Queensland AIDs council when it was established in 1984.
That is not the purpose of the QAHC  and forms only part of what they do. In promoting health and wellbeing of the Queensland LGBT communities, this organisation is far more wide-ranging that simply targeting one devastating disease.
The result of Minister Springborg’s changes is that $2.6m in funding that used to support Queensland’s peak body for LGBT issues is being redirected to a body that will focus it’s entire attention on HIV/AIDs. Perhaps the AIDs fight still needs a dedicated body to coordinate education and awareness campaigns and ultimately reduce the number of cases we see in Queensland.
Mr Springborg’s justification for cutting funding to the QAHC must be met with scepticism. If the QAHC has been lobbying for gay rights, that’s entirely within their charter. Similarly, AIDS awareness campaigns within the greater non-LGBT community is not the purpose of the QAHC.
But what about the other activities that are currently undertaken from within QAHC? Does the Health Minister have plans to fund specialised assistance and referral  agencies for the rests of the LGBT and Indigenous communities? What about other Sexually Transmitted Diseases? Specialist legal services? LGBT mental health care advocacy?
This is not about penny-pinching; the money will still be spent. It’s about a divisive government agenda that is being set by the conservative religious right within the party, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what is best for Queensland or Queenslanders. With this one move, Queensland’s LGBT community has been dismissed by the Newman Government and the Health Minister as unimportant.
The saddest part of this chapter is that we all know Qld Premier Campbell Newman would not want this indignity for his lesbian friends, whose lifestyle he openly supports.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's Wrong with Labor?

Not far beyond the half-way mark in the Gillard government, the consensus seems to be that the parliament has been nothing short of chaotic: scandal upon scandal, lie after lie. Pundits agree that this government is magnificently dysfunctional, when in fact, the Gillard Government has been passing legislation with quiet regularity. And yet, they have all but lost the election that won't be held for another twelve months or so.

The possibility that the ALP could win the next federal election lacks credibility in most quarters, and the newest national sport is hypothesising on what killed the Labor Party, and for those from the left, how to fix it.

Conservative commentator Chris Kenny proposed via on Twitter on May 15 that the ALP's woes are the result of being poll-driven.

Labor's whole problem is it is poll driven - even the claim it is not poll driven is poll driven #auspol
Bill Kelty, one of the godfathers of the Left, suggested to this week's ACTU Congress that they should look within: "...when he advised delegates not to blame the media or opposition because they are just doing their job, the meaning for all of us is that we control our own destiny with our own behaviour." There's more than a grain of truth there, but it's an insider's truth, not the whole truth.

Brisbane commentator Madonna King had a look at the situation in yesterday's Courier Mail. "Voters aren't taken with Tony Abbott, and they've now turned off listening to Julia Gillard." Ms King is correct, as far as she goes, but there's so much more to it, and Bill Kelty nudges it when he talks about making policy simpler for the electorate to understand and embrace.

For Labor, there is no easy answer, no single cause, and no silver bullet. An extraordinary convergence of events and personalities has conspired the Australian Labor Party with its pants on.

Circumstantial shots were fired by the GFC, ensuring that the Labor Governments of Rudd and Gillard would face economic challenges not predicted in the promise-filled days of campaigning. After years of Howard/Costello Budget Bonbons and Surpluses, the electorate was confused by talk of recession combined with stimulus handouts. It was seen as wasting our precious surplus when we needed it most.

History has shown that Wayne Swan's economic leadership through the darkest days of the GFC was masterful. Had he taken us in a different direction, Australia could well be fighting Greece and Spain for the title of Loser of the Week. But as the ALP has learned, it's almost impossible to get that triumphant economic message out.

Factors 2 and 3 in the ALP Real Life Disaster Movie are the Coalition and Media. Bill Kelty cautioned unionists not to blame the Opposition or the media, but it's foolish to discount their impact. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is a skilled No-man, with a team of committed No-People behind him. So relentless, so fascinating is the Coalition's ability to undermine every Labor achievement, the media has no choice but to cover it, particularly when our articulate government ministers seek out a microphone and react every time the Noalition says anything. This is Labor allowing the Opposition to control the national agenda.

Who are the big media names in this country, the commentators with a personal following? Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Andrew Bolt, Piers Ackerman, each of them aggressively conservative, with anti-refugee, anti-climate change, anti-gay rights agendas. There is no left-leaning equivalent with anything approaching the reach of these men.

Add to that Today Tonight and A Current Affair. They may not be overtly political, yet their lowest common denominator stories about undeserving asylum seekers living the good life, dodgy public officials and the appalling cost of everything, feed into the anti-government sentiment. Even as I write this blog, Today Tonight is promoting noted xenophobe Pauline Hanson's guest-starring role this week as another Caucasian making you mad at people who look like me.

Chris Kenny, journalist and Liberal party operative, suggests that the ALP downfall is because it is poll-driven. The assassination of Kevin Rudd's Prime Ministership had an element of poll-reliance to it, yet those poll numbers that Rudd had in mid-2010 would be a dream come true for Labor now. Why hasn't the ALP benched Julia Gillard? Perhaps they aren't as poll-driven now as they were two years ago.

What else do the polls tell us? Concern about the economy trumps all other policy areas, despite Australia's world-beating financial status. The latest Morgan poll on issues doesn't seem to determine ALP focus, but it does reflect the agendas of the right wing shock jocks.

Does all of this suggest that the Coalition is simply better at getting their message out via traditional means than Labor is?

The final, most disastrous element in the ALP's decline is the simple truth that the Party and it's traditional base are separated by an ever-widening ideological gulf. Bob Hawke can sing all the union anthems in the world, but it doesn't mean anything to the unionists who see "their" ALP slow-dancing with policies so far to the right that even Malcolm Fraser has to swivel his head to see them.

So there they sit, disgruntled unionists, disillusioned greenies, disenfranchised lefties of all kinds, wondering where their party went. Polls, media, an obstructionist opposition, a hung parliament, the GFC, climate change, asylum seekers and the rise in popularity of the raspberry macaron notwithstanding, the base is still there, where they've been all along. The ALP chased the centre, and in doing so, moved so far to the right that it's unrecognisable to grass roots lefties like me.

How does Labor fix the problem? Start by turning 180 degrees to the left and peering into the distance. There's literally hundreds of thousands of Aussies over here who'd like to have a chat.


The Big Step Backwards

News reports this morning confirm that Queensland Premier Campbell Newman will repeal the Civil Partnerships legislation passed just six months ago by the Bligh Government. This is no great surprise, as it was raised as a probability during the LNP campaign.

The timing is surprising. This morning's Sunday Mail has released a Galaxy Poll in which 50% of the population support gay marriage, and only 33% oppose it. Even amongst LNP voters, 42% support gay marriage and 44% oppose it. And don't forget that Premier Newman himself supports gay marriage, yet is willing to overturn this legislation to appease the noisy 42%.

But it doesn't end there. If you're gay in Queensland, there's more bad news this Sunday morning. It appears $2.6m in funding has been withdrawn from Queensland Association of Healthy Communities, according to various Twitter sources. Such funding would come from the Queensland Heath Department, yet there is no media statement announcing these funding changes.

There is, however, a newspaper report quoting Queensland's new Health Minister Lawrence Springborg stating that funding will be redirected a new AIDS Council. The Queensland Association of Healthy Communities was established in 1984 as the Qld AIDS Council. Mr Springborg believes that by lobbying for equal rights, the QAHC has strayed from its it's original charter as an advocate for gay men's health. God knows what the LNP is thinking; Speaker of the House Fiona Simpson still thinks homosexuality can be cured!

Nothing but this shameful victory will matter to Wendy Francis, head of the Queensland chapter of the Australian Christian Lobby. She'll be dancing up and down the aisle at church this morning. Ms Francis spearheaded the ACL's campaign to have the Rip N Roll posters removed from bus shelters, so that children wouldn't be corrupted by the idea of two adults choosing to take care of each other's health. The Rip N Roll campaign was funded, at least in part, by the Brisbane City Council, which was at the time headed by Campbell Newman.

Ms Francis is also vehemently opposed to civil unions, and was seen leaving Parliament House in tears the night that Andrew Fraser's Civil Partnerships bill was passed. Prior to the 2010 Federal election in which Ms Francis was standing for the Senate, she infamously tweeted

@Wendy4Senate Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriage is like legalising child abuse.

Remember back in February, prior to the Qld State Election, LNP Members including Campbell Newman addressed ACL meetings, hoping to sound far enough to the right to appeal to the extreme conservatives. It's no surprise, then, that the Newman Government is honouring commitments made to a tiny group of far right conservatives, against the beliefs of the majority of the population.

Is the Queensland Government's approach to "rainbow issues" to simply pretend they don't exist, or is the LNP trying to drive gays south, thereby making them someone else's problem?

More importantly, who is pulling the strings? Queensland voted overwhelmingly for a government lead by Campbell Newman, yet in repealing the Civil Partnerships legislation, Newman is ignoring the majority view, and acting against his own beliefs.  This might be what Bruce McIver, Wendy Francis and Fiona Simpson want,  but it's not what Queenslanders - or their Premier - want.

Add your voice to the chorus signing a petition in support of equal rights in Queensland.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Short and Ranty

I'm a private citizen working for a publicly listed company. We mine stuff. We manufacture stuff. We sell stuff. We distribute stuff. Somewhere in amongst all of that, we employ a lot of people, add a lot of value, and make a bit of money. We are not a monopoly. There are competitors, and they want what we have: a solid business model and the largest share of the domestic market. 

In order to remain in business, we have to do our jobs well. We simply cannot spend our days snarking our competitors, whinging and whining, trying to undermine them to feed the increasingly hungry 24 hour news cycle. The way to beat the competition isn't about ego or volume or tearing down the competitors. It's about consistent performance, getting results and (dare I say it?) building loyalty.

Why should politics be different? More to the point, why do politicians think that the rules that apply in life are different to the rules that apply in government? 

If this Government wants to win back the voters who have deserted them, they have to have products we want to buy. That's policy. They have to deliver results - that's legislation. They have to earn trust, rebuild relationships, deserve respect.

So here's my suggestion to Julia Gillard and her team: ignore the Opposition. Do not allow Mr Abbott to continue to control the agenda or the tone of politics in this country. Ignore the ongoing Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper scandals. They're not your problem. Stop feeding the tabloid media. 

Focus on your core business: making good decisions for Australia. There's no guarantee that it will get you re-elected, but the current shenanigans is more like a pair of toddlers fighting in the sandpit than a respectable government of a civilized country. The tantrums are not working, they're not even dignified, and we're sick of it. At least if you govern well and with dignity, you can hold your heads up.

I challenge the Gillard government to reverse the death spiral. Stand up, do your job well, build your reputation, earn loyalty and respect.

This is what my employer expects of me and my colleagues, and I expect no less from my government.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't You Worry About That

I’ve come to love Brisbane, but how do you promote it to the world? What does Brisbane have that is unique, recognisable and impossible to reproduce?
We call ourselves the River City, but in reality, so does Taree (NSW), South Perth (WA),  Chattanooga (Tennessee, USA), Jacksonville (Florida, USA), and a large slab of the UK. We’re not a ‘beach’ town, and we’re not really tropical, although we have really nice weather.  We don’t have the kind of internationally known symbols that mark some cities: the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Saint Basil’s in Moscow, the Hollywood sign, the Brooklyn Bridge, the statue of Jesus overlooking Rio de Janeiro...
Brisbane has the Story Bridge, which is lovely, but not in the same class, and that we’ve got the Town Hall as our council logo is simply more proof that we’re lacking an identity.
And then this morning, as I listened to the radio accounts of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park being “moved on” by a hundred or so police officers, and media access being restricted, I realised that we have something new yet oddly familiar, something unique, something with images that are recognisable the world over.
Cue the blurry images and harp-music.
It all started with an idea, a fragment of something remembered, encouraged by a few scotches and some  misty nostalgia. Queensland was drowning. We needed a hero and the Superman suit wouldn’t fit Anna or Clive.
And thus Campbell Newman was anointed Saviour of Queensland.
Next, the idea: Like all the really good ideas, it needed to be simple. Our hero, and his trusty elders and sidekicks, looked to the good times, saw what made them great, and decided to reproduce those conditions right here in 2012. All right, it wasn’t one of the great pieces of innovation in this 21st century, but it made more sense than the nothing we currently had, and we needed a change.
Under our new hero’s leadership, we would return to the heady days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen and his stand-up mates. None of this namby-pamby new-millennium peace-and-tolerance bullshit for us. The LNP, political arm of Clive Palmer’s mining organisation, teamed up with the conservative Christian Lobby and convinced more than enough Queenslanders that the only way forwards was backwards.
Thanks to the new Campbell Newman government, Brisbane is becoming a real-life 1970s Theme Park. All the fun of the Paisley Fair, right here in Queensland:  Our disco-dancing Premier has been in the job less than 2 months and already, he’s thrown a party for his Boys In Blue in Musgrave Park. Unfortunately they had to do some cleaning up, but hey, the boys are here to serve us, right? There are some conflicting reports about media access to the party, but Joh never invited outsiders to his private parties, did he?
And earlier this week, SuperCanDo announced his intention to fast-track a few hand-picked items through parliament, without benefit of committee scrutiny. Way to get in the spirit, Sir! He’s really taking that one seriously, having entirely tipped the balance in the composition of parliamentary committees. Well, I’m sure there wasn’t much emphasis on balance back in the 70s, so it’s probably accurate.
And what about this business with the gay folks wanting to get married? Joh would never have stood for that rot; he would have had them all locked up – or sent back to Disneyland where they came from. Our new Premier knows what he has to do: those progressive communists from the ALP who rammed through civil partnership legislation aren’t in charge any more, and Lord Newman is already looking into ways to repeal that unseemly festive shenanigans.
As for the bloomin’ Arts, we can’t afford it. We’re not a bloody charity! These idiots in Canberra –…JuLIAR and their mates – have spent us into the poorhouse! You can forget your Literary Awards – if you want literature, you can read the classics. In fact, you can download them onto your Star Trek Ipod thingy for free. Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Yeats, Coleridge…keep you going for years! You don’t need that godawful doofdoof either, or FM or that new-fangled ABC DAB Digital Radio thingo. You’ve got 4KQ on the AM band. It was good enough for Joh in 1968, and it hasn’t changed a bit.
Sadly, with money the way it is, we can’t rebuild Cloudland or Festival Hall, but  you’ve got lovely offices and homes where they used to be. Can’t wait to see what we can build on the old Regent Theatre site. Maybe a bridge, or a tunnel.
So that’s it. Brisbane is well on it’s way to being the world’s only authentic 1970s Theme Park. All we need is a massive mirror ball, and we’ll even have our icon. Thankfully, those Skyhooks blokes have already written the jingle.

Does anyone know where I can get a Safari Suit in mauve?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Damage Done

One of my colleagues, Anne, asked me today if I’d blogged about Craig Thomson. No, I hadn't. I wondered why,  and I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities:

1.      I don’t care about Craig Thomson or his credit card
2.      I don’t know enough to feel confident I know enough about the details
3.      I have nothing new to contribute to the conversation

It’s really a little bit of all three.  A sitting MP has been accused of serious wrong-doing in a job he held prior to being elected to parliament;  he has been investigated, has been expelled from his political party…but not convicted of a crime. Yet. 

If that’s not intrigue enough, the precarious state of our hung parliament means that any movement - by Thomson, Slipper or any other member of the lower house - could tip the balance and set up a chain reaction leading to the new election Tony Abbott wants so badly.

Overlay that with last night’s Newpoll figures, and Mr Thomson’s situation is simultaneously a Labor nightmare...and entirely irrelevant.

Why irrelevant? Because even though  Labor’s numbers showed some bounce last night, all that is left for the ALP is their rusted-on supporters. Just about everyone who's going to desert the ALP has already gone. Craig Thomson's slow motion political implosion probably won't do a lot more damage.

As for the Newspoll result, it's not easy to determine whether it was simply a correction after the horror story in the last poll, or whether it was a genuine ‘budget boost’. The next set of Newspoll numbers will give a clearer picture of how deep the ALP's hole is...but it won't tell them how to fix it, and might even stabilise Julia Gillard as Leader.

Right now, I can't think of anything that could convince voters to trust this Labor government for another term with Julia Gillard at the helm. 

In the 20 or so months since the last Federal election, the situation has only become more dire for Labor, and despite that, the Coalition has failed to offer a viable alternative. On current numbers, the Coalition would win an election held now, but not because they are liked, or trusted or respected, because they are disliked less, considered less untrustworthy and disrespected less than the ALP. Note that I haven't mentioned Coalition policy: they don't seem to think policies matter, and maybe, in the end, they won't.

Right now, if given a choice, many Australians wouldn’t vote for either of the major parties. In the past three months, the Labor primary has decreased from 35% to 30%...but while the Coalition primary has been above 50%, it's fallen back to 45%, exactly where it was three months ago. The Greens have picked up a whole percentage point, but “others” have picked up 4%.

And really, Craig Thomson's mess is not relevant. While the Coalition makes loud, monotonous and ultimately fruitless calls for Prime Minister Gillard to disregard Thomson’s vote, we know it won’t happen. Thomson is another convenient ALP failure that the Opposition can use to embarrass the Government. Thomson is still a member of the parliament, and his vote is valid. 

Of larger concern is the damage this disgraceful series of events within the HSU has done to the union movement, and to progressive, people-driven, policy in Australia. Organisations like GetUp! will continue to gain relevance and influence, long after Craig Thomson has lost both.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lack of Oversight

What do you call a system where decisions are made without consultation, without collaboration, without consideration of people who are in an expert position to assess those decisions, identify risks, propose alternative solutions…
It’s a dictatorship. An autocracy. It’s tyranny – the literal opposite of democracy.
Sometimes, it’s convenient to just make a decision and get on with it. Sometimes it’s the sensible thing to do, when there is conflict, or deadlocked votes, or an emergency that means you can’t wait to convene a committee. Sometimes - rarely -  you have have to do it.
The rest of the time, in this country, we are democracy. Here in Queensland, we have an overwhelming LNP majority as a result of our recent democratic process. We have a single political party holding not just a controlling majority, but an embarrassing majority of seats in government. Equally, the non-government seats are so few, they are easy to dismiss.
And Premier CanDo Campbell Newman has done precisely that.
According to this afternoon’s Brisbane Times, Premier Newman will be introducing some of his election promises to parliament this week, but without the benefit of cross-party scrutiny. It won’t be all of the bills or all of the promises; he’ll be making his decisions on a case by case basis.
Well, hoorah! One man at the top of the Queensland Government tree is deliberately cutting out the committee process to ‘fast track’ the bills that he believes don’t need scrutiny. Those bills will relate specifically to election promises, and he believes that his record-breaking majority is his mandate to implement bills without scrutiny.
For those trying to block reality, the LNP currently holds 78 seats in the 89 seat parliament.
Seriously, no-one doubts Premier Newman’s mandate, but this decision stinks of arrogance. There is a genuine lack of accountability and transparency in a process where oversight can be traded for expediency.
It becomes even less palatable considering that the new parliamentary term starts tomorrow. Even though he is Premier, Campbell Newman has not sat for even one day as a member of Queensland’s parliament, yet here he is, undermining a process that is critical in a unicameral democracy.
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has likened the decision to something we would have seen during the accountability-free years of the Bjelke-Petersen regime.  Even with the numbers so heavily in the LNP’s favour, tradition would have placed equal numbers of LNP and non-governmental members on each committee.
In a nod to what would have been a ridiculous workload for the few members on the Opposition benches,  Premier Newman committed raised the number of members on each committee to eight, and reduced the number of non-governmental representatives to two. What used to be 50/50 committee membership is now 75/25.
And if hand-picked bills don’t go to committee, it’s entirely useless.
Do the Opposition members have a say in which bills go to committee and which don’t? It’s unlikely.
Think about it: mandate or not, Premier Campbell Newman is cherry-picking bills to be fast-tracked. The fast-track mechanism is to bypass the scrutiny of committees which exist specifically for that reason. And this is after he's relocated the non-government members out of Parliament House altogether and 'up the road'.
Premier Newman has in effect erased the role of the Opposition, and with no upper house to provide a brake of any kind, he is setting a precedent that quite frankly scares the hell out of me.

Out of her Depth?

As more and more science is known, it seems harder to find credibility, harder to know who and what to trust.
Robyn McNeill is a New Zealand native with a new business in Brisbane, counselling and supporting people through what she calls ‘stress burnout’. I first heard Ms McNeill speak on ABC radio last week, and she set off a few alarm bells. Ms McNeill was on the publicity trail about her new business called Beating Burnout, but for some reason, her interview concerned me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The warning sign was in the terminology she used: I had not heard of “stress burnout”.

I’ve experienced stress, and I’ve experienced burnout, and I know that they are two different things. In fact, if you google ‘stress burnout’, you won’t find the two words together as one term. Delve deeper into the scholarly articles and you will find that there is a close relationship between stress and burnout,  sometimes a causal relationship between stress and burnout, as well as a load of related conditions, syndromes, diseases, and illnesses.  
"Stress can lead to burnout but not all who are stressed are burned out ..."
PL Brill - Family & Community Health: The Journal of Health …, 1984 –
She spoke at length about her personal experiences with “stress-burnout’ and her resulting "meltdowns".
“One of the things that happened to me was that I had totally negative thinking that was out of control…I couldn’t think straight … events I should’ve been really enjoying stressed me out…” 
Ms McNeil’s symptoms during her “meltdowns” included crying on the bathroom floor, having panic attacks, ‘totally neurotic”, unproductive at work. Her coping mechanisms were either to withdraw and be negative towards people, or to drink.
These are serious signs of serious mental distress.
She described two kinds of burnout: “wired and tired” – tired but unable to sleep, or waking up early – or so totally exhausted she can’t function. There’s no doubt that she had a series of traumatic episodes. Had I seen a friend going through this, I would have bundled her off to GP after GP until I found one who would help, but I’ve had some training in recognising mental illness and working with friends and family of people with mental illness to ensure that the patient gets appropriate help. Most Australian GPs are very aware of mental illnesses, and there are various resources available to the public. I don’t know if the same is true in New Zealand.
When asked about her treatment, Ms McNeill mentioned a doctor prescribing sleeping tablets, which failed to help, and then nothing until she found an understanding GP in Australia.
For anyone suffering any kind of stress-related issues, the GP is definitely the right place to start, but what happened next? There was no mention of pharmaceutical support, psychology, psychiatry, counselling, lifestyle changes, natural therapies, spiritual support from a church, a holiday on a tropical island… So how did Ms McNeill get from a place of utter despair, where she was unable to function, to being happy and healthy, and apparently able to guide others through a potentially life-changing journey?
I don’t know, and these questions are the ones that have been on my mind since I heard her interview last week. Last night I emailed Ms McNeill with these questions, and I have read her website, Beating Burnout, and the answers aren’t there. I have received an email from Ms McNeill which addresses many of my concerns. It is posted below.
Despite a hearty search, I could not find any kind of qualification in this career area, anywhere. From the Beating Burnout website to Ms McNeil’s LinkedIn profile, there is simply nothing to indicate that she has any previous experience in counselling or training, in mental health care or referral, other than what she has learned through her own episodes of “stress burnout”.  
The fact that her only reference for burnout is a definition of ‘burnout’ is from Wikipedia suggests to me that she might be in over her head. For example, Ms McNeil’s website includes a diagram of ‘Levels of the Burnout Spiral’ (see below);

Does she assess a client’s ‘burnout level’, or is the level a self-assessment conducted by the client? At what point does she refer clients to a qualified practitioner? How would she react if a Level 4 or 5 client displayed suicidal tendencies? Would she recognise the signs? Would she know what to do?
My purpose in writing this post is not to damage anyone’s business or reputation. I am simply very concerned that the Beating Burnout business lacks the professional experience and expertise to identify and deal with the range of serious medical problems associated with stress, burnout (they aren’t the same), anxiety, and related issues.

Why Do I Care?
As someone who has experienced depression, both as a survivor and as a carer for someone with depression, I’ve had 27 years of hearing the lingo evolve. My interest started well before my first semester at uni, in my first Psychology lecture in 1984, continued through my own challenges, to more recent involvement behind the scenes in a programme called Help A Mate designed to assist our rural communities tackle mental health issues.
I’ve watched and experienced our society change its attitude towards mental illness, including stress-related conditions. I have an undergraduate major in psychology, and have studied natural therapies, and more recently, organisational change management, a new career pathway which focussing on helping organisations to minimise the stressful effects of workplace change.


I have received a response to my email, which I've copied and pasted below, in full. I will leave it to you to assess this information.

Hi there Sally

Many thanks for your email and great that you were listening in last week.  Yes, as part of my previous PM roles, I have worked alongside organisational change specialists and have been involved in implementing significant change for people with the roll-out of new information management systems.

I finally found the right people to help me when I moved to Brisbane.  They included a GP who recognised stress burnout, a naturopath who helped me get my body working again, a Counsellor who helped me understand how we constantly perceive the future, based on the past and how to communicate what I wanted better, and a wonderful lady who does Pranic Healing and counselling using the Byron Katie principles - really helped me to get my negative thinking under control. 

I have spent the last two years training part-time with the NeuroLeadership Group, who offer a fantastic framework in which to coach people.  Their framework/training suited how I wanted to work with people, as it focusses on our brains and our thinking, habits and behaviours.  It is very much aligned with what I had to do to turn my life around - which was to get my thinking, habits and behaviours under control and to know how to better manage by stress triggers, but understanding why I reacted the way I did.

I now combine my personal experience and my certification as a Neuroleadership Coach to deliver the Beating Burnout programs.  At this stage, I do not believe that Coaching services are claimable as part of your health insurance.

The model for my business is to have facilitators/business managers in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, which I am currently setting up.  So for now, I am delivering all programs in Brisbane.

Can't remember which book it was I mentioned on radio and there is no pre-reading recommendations before attending one of my seminars.  

I have a special women's only stress prevention/intervention workshop coming up this Friday 18 May at the Hilton Hotel in Brisbane - "Beating Burnout for Women who need a Wife"
It's a three hour event (12 - 3pm) and is going to be a hands-on workshops where participants work through recognising, acknowledging and managing their stress triggers and levels. Investment is $55.00 including lunch.

Details and tickets are available from my website if you would like to join us. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me again if you would like any additional information.

Kind regards

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Deal with Un-mothers

Why am I here? What is my purpose? What's the meaning of my life?

It's one of the big questions. Some of us will spend all of our lives searching for an answer. Some - the lucky ones - aren't cursed with this form of self-awareness, and don't think to ask the question. Some will answer that their purpose is to serve their god; others choose to serve their ideologies, their country, their ego, their addiction...

Many will answer that their purpose is to be a parent, to continue the family line into the future, to fulfil their biological destiny.

This week we celebrate Mother's Day, and I doubt that there is a more loving and generous and wise mother in the world than mine. (Happy Mother's Day, Kayeth!) I love Mother's Day, because I get to spoil my mother, and she can't spoil me back. 

I don't let her spoil me on Mother's Day, because I'm not a mother.  I won't be a mother. My biological imperative has been ignored, successfully, for so long that it's too late. I don't regret the circumstances that have brought me to this childless state, and only occasionally do I wonder at what I have missed. Childlessness is, for me, a perfectly fine state. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I know that being a woman without a child places me in the minority, although the latest statistics from America state that nearly 20% of women entering menopause have not had a child. 

Assuming the numbers are similar in Australia, that's close to one in five women who haven't had children. A minority, yes, but a significant one, and if I didn't know before, this week has made sure I'm aware of it. Yes, I'm a woman with no children, living with my partner. No budget-gifted middle class family entitlements here. No sweeteners here.

And then there's the planning for Mother's Day. Rob's done most of it this year, which is great, but is also a little sad. I enjoy picking out the treats for Mum, even if I have to wade through swamps of pink floral promotional crap to do it. It makes me feel just a little like I've failed the Womanhood test by not breeding.

Tonight, I saw a tweet pimping Mamamia's  article entitled Five Things Parents can learn from Non-Parents.  Huzzah, I thought! An article acknowledging that while we childless women might not have expelled babies from deep within our beings, we have some worth.  

Mothers and Non-mothers aren't different species after all, I thought. We have different experiences, different priorities, but we are The Sisterhood. We can share with each other, learn from each other. We don't have to accept the insults that Bill Heffernan and Joe Hildebrand hurl our way. We are not out of touch, or incompetent when it comes to maternal issues. 

All of these happy thoughts thundered at me in the time it took to open the link.

I was wrong. I am not wise or supportive or any of those things I'd hoped to be. Mia Freedman's article from 2010 is a superior little piece of sarcastic fluff, designed to give Mothers a smug, satisfied grin, while we unmothers shrink lower in our seats, stare blindly at our iPads  and promise ourselves that we won't cry. We WON'T.  


On behalf of the almost one-in-five, we're sorry, mothers of the world, for our ignorance of your struggles, for our flippant freedoms and our crass condescension. We apologise profusely if, in our inexperience, we lead you to believe that your lives would be easier than they are; that babies would sleep, that their poo would smell like vanilla custard, and that you would be perfect parents with perfect children.

Even those of us who struggle to find a maternal instinct with a map and compass are so terribly terribly sorry for failing to manage your expectations. 

But what the hell did you expect? Why did you think we'd know anything anyway? We haven't had the parenting experience. Don't ask us, and if by chance we accidentally offer some advice that we're clearly not qualified to give, please remind us that our wisdom in this area  is not of an acceptable standard.

And don't pity us, either. Most of us are, to quote Senator Bill Heffernan, deliberately barren.

On Sunday morning, when you're being served lukewarm tea with too much sugar, and burnt toast smeared with peanut butter and layers of sticky, gooey love, when you're being presented with cards made at school and flowers picked from your own garden, remember those of us who will never have that experience. You are part of a club we can never join. 

Our votes my not be worth buying, our words not worth hearing, and we'll have to get our own breakfast on Sunday, but here's the deal: We childless women will try not to be as unthinkingly supportive and ignorantly helpful, if you'll try not to undermine our very existence because we chose not to get knocked up.


This ABS release has the full breakdown on Australian families. 

The Psychological perspective in Psychology Today is here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Class Warfare? They Just Are!

There are days when I am amazed at my own capacity for disappointment, and at the ability of others to rise above it all. Most of the time, I’m just amazed by Tony Abbott’s incapacity to connect with reality.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t connect with voters. He connects with so many of them, he almost won the 2010 election.
I trust he enjoyed his half an hour of free national television time last night. What was supposed to be a response to the Federal Budget was a repeat of the 2010 election stump speech: no costings, no policies, no specifics beyond “We’re better than them, and they didn’t get elected anyway”.
Fast forward one year to 2012, and very little has changed. The Government is less popular than the Carbon Tax that killed it, and Tony Abbott is reading that as a sign that his parliamentary demolition squad is working. It is. The Labor Party is as fragile as any political party I can recall seeing, and yet, more than one in four voters are still prepared to vote ALP when the next election is called.
He’s still as incoherent as ever, although he’s replaced the stunning silence of his stoush with Mark Riley, with an equally stupefying response to a question about a criticism he made of the budget. His response: “They just are”. Oh, how the internet loved that one!
But back to that last frontier, “reality” – an unknown quantity in the world of Tony Abbott. As reported in The Australian Mr Abbott failed to detail any savings measures in the speech, but said he was confident he could make $50 billion in budget cuts to fund his election promises. “Yesterday was a budget reply, it's not an alternative budget,” he told the Nine Network.
Fifty billion in budget cuts, eh? And he’s going to repeal the Carbon Tax, but maintain the changes to taxation that were introduced to offset the impact of the Carbon Tax.
“If you don't have the carbon tax, you don't need compensation and this is effectively carbon tax compensation,” Mr Abbott told Sky News. “I don't begrudge the Australian public this money at this time given they are about to get clobbered and power bills, gas bills and just about everything else is going to go up and up.
Yet again, Mr Abbott provided a whole load of nothing, aside from a vague comment that our children should be bilingual. Someone should remind him that many more of our children would be bilingual, if the Coalition had supported a programme that was already in place. I guess that’s not part of Tony Abbott’s reality.
Still, the lack of anything resembling the kind of Budget Replies we’re used to has given the Coalition time to formulate a new plan of attack, and this time the battleground is class warfare. Apparently.
Just a few weeks ago, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey was referring to his ‘meagre’ package of $231,000 plus allowances. Tony Abbott, who also represents an electorate on Sydney’s North Shore, said that people on $83.000 salaries are not rich.
In comparison to Joe Hockey’s meagre earnings, an $83,000 package isn’t rich…but try telling that to sales clerk on $35,000, or a project administrator on $65,000.
As far as political challenges go, ‘Get off the North Shore’ is pretty average, but at least there is some reality there. Tony Abbott is the Member for Warringah, which sits adjacent to Joe Hockey’s seat of North Sydney.  According to Joe Hockey’s website,
Tony, tell me again why your receptionist, your driver, the waiter who brings your lunch should be paying tax to subsidise your children’s education. For that matter, tell me why I should be paying my tax to subsidise my boss’s boss’s kid’s education.
Relative to other parts of NSW, the electorate is also distinguished by having among the highest proportion of residents holding university qualifications and women in the workforce (almost 50% of women). Unemployment levels in North Sydney are among the lowest in Australia.
That’s not class warfare, that’s reality. That’s what you’re up against. In our reality, the majority of Mr Abbott’s Budget Reply speech wasn’t about the Government’s Budget, or about any budget that the Coalition would offer. It was a vague promise that the Coalition would do better because the ALP are a mess.
Based on Abbott’s response to the Government’s imperfect budget, the best thing the Coalition has going for them is that they’re not Labor.
Why? They just are!