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Kool Kiwis

Enzed is a great little country, full of civic-minded folk. By the way, little is good. It’s a pity they decided not to join the new Commonwealth of Australia in the day, as it may have toned down that rapacious Oz mentality. Sir Robert Muldoon’s famous quote that Kiwis leaving for Australia raised the IQs of both countries, is a favourite of mine.

Media coverage of NZ election night on Saturday exemplified some admirable qualities in our Tasman cousins. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was shown sitting at home with her mum on the couch watching developments on TV. I couldn’t see whether she had her possum ugg boots on though. Her telegenic partner Clarke Gayford had probably gone fishing.

Outgoing PM Bill English rounded up a few more family members in front of TV in a public place at least. However, no hotel ballroom with thousands of supporters working themselves into mass hysteria for our sensible, modest, down-to-earth war buddies (remember the NZ in Anzac).

The Kiwi proportional representation voting system is more democratic and often involves negotiation with other parties to form government, as in Germany. And so to another election vignette. Veteran ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters, who dislikes that descriptor, said he would consult his NZ First party members about which side of politics to join in government. Apparently no pre-determined plan and no hurry, or is that just Wily Winston?

The Maori Party looks like losing it’s seven seats to Labor. On a TV panel show veteran NZ Nationals ex-leader Don Brash said that the Maori party should disappear and even questioned Maoridom! Although fellow panelists were shocked they remained civil: a hallmark of NZ society. That wouldn’t happen on the other side of The Pond.

Imagine PM Jacinda meeting Canada’s PM Justin (such gen Y and X names) and joining him in taking over the reins of power from dreaded baby boomers. Add in Emmanuel, and it could be a trend, though 93 year old Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe is bucking it as he apparently lines up for another term!

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Survey Waste: $121,950,000

Readers are astonished by KC’s exclusive revelations about the Federal government’s bogus $122m postal survey on ‘marriage equality’. Okay, one of you wanted to know what would do the job better and far cheaper.

I’lll recap, using survey language. A voluntary survey is necessarily biassed and unrepresentative of the population. It will most likely produce invalid, unreliable results with very low levels of confidence. A properly-designed survey constructs a representative sample based on demographic information.

Recently Fairfax commissioned an Ipsos phone poll on ‘marriage equality’ of 1400 respondents, which produced 70% YES, 26% NO and 4% don’t know/undecided. With an error margin of 2.6% that’s a clear affirmative result. Better job done for a fraction of the cost!

As noted previously your faithful scribe was a corporate marketing research manager in another life, whose job was to commission all kinds of surveys. That Ipsos job could not have cost more than $50K, so do the math as they say. It’s a massive and disgraceful waste of taxpayer money!

What’s worse is that it gives the illusion of ‘voting’, and some commentators are even referring to a ballot, both of which are incorrect; or slipping back to ‘plebiscite’, which it’s definitely not. As we know, there is nothing binding about this survey, and pollies still have to get their hands dirty, in their newly-fenced parliament.

Wasting money

Marriage Malaise

Mea culpa: Professor George Williams, Dean of Law at UNSW, and KC’s legal affairs correspondent got it wrong. The High Court decided that our Federal Government could indeed pretend that having a dodgy postal survey on ‘marriage equality’ (the quotes are restored!) is an emergency. Hence it can proceed to waste $122m of taxpayer’s money.

Putting aside this sideshow, it seems that yes vs no is the only game in town. Nobody is challenging the idea of the institution of marriage as the new holy grail (so to speak!) for gay couples. In other words, having lived outside state-sanctioned domestic bliss for decades and fought for larger freedoms, why clamour for the same bourgeois recognition? I wonder if feminists aspire to this traditional symbol of historical subjugation.

Today Dr Caroline Norma presented (in Sydney Morning Herald) a compelling anti-marriage argument as an answer, which is below:

“The same-sex marriage campaign makes me wonder when my fellow Australian lesbians lost their political backbone? Where’s the sparky radicalism of the gay and lesbian community? When did chasing after marriage become our life’s work? Or for that matter any feminists’ work?

Our heterosexual sisters must be wondering why we’re so keen to dignify an institution – which for so many women has led to violence from their partners and drudgery for themselves. They surely notice the hypocrisy; lesbians becoming cheerleaders for an institution which has caused so many so much pain.

We get the “gold rings and honeymoon” appeal of marriage; but I feel embarrassed for our collective selves that the public now sees us as grovelling for the chance to wear white wedding dresses. How are women going to recognise lesbianism as an alternative to heterosexuality, if they don’t see us protesting against institutions that have been harmful to us: like marriage, prostitution and the nuclear family?

The “yes” campaign’s slogan “love is love” equates marriage with love when many married women experience it as anything but love. The slogan trivialises the heroic efforts of some who have had to escape the institution.

The “yes” campaign casts rainbows and throws glitter over an institution that many women and children struggle to survive. It romanticises a pre-modern social arrangement that secures most men a wife and all the perks that come with husbandhood: sexual servicing, household labour and public esteem disguising all manner of wrongdoing. It peddles pro-marriage propaganda that lesbians, of all people, should not support. We should remember why we became lesbians in the first place, and reflect on our own heroic efforts to evade the social role fixed for females worldwide. Marriage is a conservative institution developed in order to organise the servitude of women. For many women it remains so.

Women see state sponsorship of sexual relationships as a safeguard of their interests in children and property held in common with men. But this guarantee is a mirage. The frequent experience of mothers losing custody of children to sexually abusive former husbands, for example, now sees Rosie Batty and Hetty Johnston campaigning for a royal commission into family violence.

Israeli parliamentarian and women’s rights’ campaigner Merav Michaeli is in Australia advocating for the “cancellation” of marriage (including the same-sex kind) because of the lifetime of unpaid labour and unequal wages she feels the institution forces upon wives, which usually involved a contract between two men – a husband and a father – over the rights of a woman. Similarly, University of Cambridge philosopher Clare Chambers in her recently published ‘Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State’ advocates the abolition of marriage because, even if the “most egregious aspects of legal inequality in marriage no longer apply in liberal democratic states”, still “marriage remains an institution of inequality'” It’s a Victorian middle-class invention she says – usually not in favour of the wife.

In Australia, marriage equality campaigning rages, while on TV farmers and bachelors are being offered their pick of wives from parades of immaculately presented young women. The wedding industry booms here, and women abandoning their surnames upon marriage continues unabated. In this conservative climate, there is every temptation for lesbians to assimilate. But now, more than ever, we must vote no in the postal plebiscite to register our protest at marriage; it’s hurt us for too long”.

Final thought bubble: to continue a feminist perspective, I also wonder whether gay men are more motivated by traditional ‘male’ values to get married, than lesbians, who come from that historically subjugated half of the marriage dyad? Just saying!

* Thanks to Caroline Norma & SMH for permission to reproduce her article.

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Marriage Blues

Not seven-year-itch, or bitch about the beloved partner. Actually that’s probably the average life span of a marriage these days? No, today’s sermon (appropriately) is about all the stuff and nonsense over marriage equality (ok I’ve removed the quotes now). That is, marriage of a gay (or LGBTI) couple. Why bother, has already been canvassed!

We already gave the thumbs down to the previous proposal for a wasteful $160m plebiscite on marriage equality, designed to cover the cowardly arses of some of the people’s representatives in our Federal parliament, who were trying to shirk their duty in a so-called conscience vote.

(Does that mean MPs otherwise park their consciences outside the House while they slavishly follow the literal party line?)

Occasionally I have a visceral reaction of repugnance and distrust of a public figure, like Howard and Pell, for example. Unfortunately I have the same contempt for Matthias Cormann, now Acting Special Minister of State, and Finance Minister in the so-called Turnbull government. He’s acting all the time, and he’s not at all special, so what a confusing new moniker.

That man’s superficial, leaden, soporific, moronic and robotic verbal offerings are insulting to any intelligence, and were particularly dire during the last election campaign when he thought he had mastered Tony Abbott’s repetitive three word mantra (see Jobson Grothe) technique. Now he’s put his name to the latest wasteful arse-covering, a $122m Federal postal survey on marriage equality.

It’s a half-baked voluntary thing, technically not even worth the reams of wasted paper to be mailed out. As a corporate marketing research manager in a previous life, I can assure you that the results cannot possibly be valid and reliable. The Australian Bureau of Statistics was given the survey gig against its mandate, as the government could not use the Australian Electoral Commission, although electoral rolls are being used for the mail-out of survey papers.

A survey without consideration of sampling error and bias is a complete waste of time. The ABS is scurrying to set up some analytic stats to accompany the results, but the bureaucrats must be professionally insulted by this abuse of government resources for partisan political manoeuvres. The head of the ABS is wonderfully titled the Australian Statistician, and he should resign in protest.

The High Court is hearing challenges to the constitutionality of the survey on grounds that the expenditure is not approved by parliament. Gormless Cormann is pretending that it is ‘urgent and unforeseen’ expenditure, so as to bypass parliament and plunder special contingency funds. Eminent law professor George Williams agrees with me (oh yeah) that the High Court will rule against him.

Cormann is also arguing that he has sole discretion to decide what is ‘urgent and unforeseen’. Our Matthias takes hubris to another level! So if he loses I reckon he should be hoisted by his own petard and resign as minister. Obviously that would be an honourable course of action, which by definition he will blithely ignore.

It’s a pity he’s not caught up in the dual citizenship kerfuffle – surely this adornment to his Belgian origins actually still owes allegiance to King Philippe or some such? (Dutch joke: Q. how do you recognise a Belgian pirate? A. he wears two eye patches.)

An unintended consequence of survey preparations has been the rush to electoral rolls by a young cohort of presumably pro marriage equality voters, which may come back to bite the Federal government on the bum at the next election. Oh, sweet irony indeed. Meantime parliamentarians should dust off their consciences and get ready to do their voting duty on marriage equality.

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Politicians & Perjury

In this post-truth Trumpian world we now all inhabit, public interest in unveiling the falsehoods, falsity, fictions, fabrications, fibs and flim-flams of political discourse seems greatly diminished. Of course Australia has followed the trend, taking mendacious pollie-speak to new heights (depths?) of untruthing. The old expression a ‘trumped-up story’ is somehow prescient.

A prevailing ethos of bald-faced lying means that pollies are encouraged to flagrantly and shamelessly parade their untruths in full view of voting punters. The fourth estate and public opinion rarely bring serious offenders to account.

The latest lying by Australian federal politicians about their dual citizenships and therefore constitutional unfitness for office is an egregious example of decline in political morals.

Matt Canavan, erstwhile coalition minister still literally holding onto his seat, and Malcolm Roberts, One Nation senator, have both gone off to the High Court to defend their parliamentary positions against Section 44 of the constitution. Whereas Canavan was previously unaware that his mum had requested Italian citizenship for him when he was 26 years old, now his barrister says that he was Italian from birth or some such. Let’s not even mention the hapless kiwi Barnaby!

Climate change denialist and serious whacko Roberts, who apparently never had dual citizenship, now says that he renounced his UK citizenship just as he was entering parliament, but isn’t sure if it was accepted by the British government. Or some such. It’s amazing how hiring QCs as barristers in the High Court (acting as Court of Disputed Returns) flipped their stories around.

Puh-lease!  In olden days, MPs would be drummed out of the service for misleading parliament, let alone blatantly lying. Imagine if the High Court could charge the scoundrels (no, the MPs not the lawyers) with criminal lying and put them on the stand with a bible. Or apply the polygraph? Problem is they’ve had so much practice lying they’d probably pass with flying colours.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided that immigrants could not lose their citizenship because of lying about ‘irrelevant matters’ in their applications. So maybe it’s ok after all for our pollies to lie too in this 51st of the United States?

Oh, and you’ve gotta admire the chutzpah of our serially-lying erstwhile PM Abbott, who just confessed, eight years later, that he was indeed too drunk to attend parliamentary votes in the house, despite strenuously denying it all this time! This unreconstructed ex apprentice priest is the epitome of deceitful hypocrisy.

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Berlin 1936 Redux 

Recently while on assignment in Berlin your KC correspondent tip-toed in his father’s footsteps at Olympia-Stadion, the site of Hitler’s Olympic Games in 1936, which also took place in the first fortnight of August.

John O’Hara was one of three top wrestlers (freestyle) in the thirty-three member Australian team. Their medal hopes were high: light-heavyweight Eddie Scarf had won bronze in 1932 at Los Angeles and lightweight Dick Garrard would go on to win a silver medal in 1948 in London.

Cruelly their chances were spoiled by different European judging rules, resulting in disputed decisions, threats of boycott by other non-European teams and official protests. Nevertheless adverse decisions held and none of the Aussies progressed to the finals. My father’s loss in his third match, to the eventual silver medal winner in the welterweight division, was however considered a fair result.

Since 1936 the Olympic stadium has been substantially upgraded and de-Nazified with removal of offending symbols, but it retains the original stone construction – and is now home to Berlin soccer club Hertha BSC. Standing in his special box we try to imagine the atmosphere of 110,000 spectators saluting Hitler. The Australian team did not give the Nazi salute and were booed by some of that crowd.

The wrestling and boxing were held in the Deutschland Hall, a kilometre or so away. Unfortunately the building was demolished and is now the sight of a fun fair, so no chance of a pilgrimage to the venue of the wrestling contests.

The Australians were billeted in the Olympic village 14 kilometres away. It reverted to the Wehrmacht (German army) after the Games, and then to the Russians after WWII. Their troops left in 1992 and the village was then abandoned and fell into disrepair. I didn’t try to visit it but discovered this Berlin insider website with its story and a news item.

To celebrate our Olympic pilgrimage the KC team did however swim our laps in the rundown original pool, which remains unchanged, with its diving tower and green tiles. Australia did not send swimmers in 1936, as money was tight!

Recommended reading: Dangerous Games: Australia at the 1936 Nazi Olympics” by Larry Writer.

Photo hints: JOH is playfully fitted with the Olympic steward uniform cap in the press cutting – spot him in other photos. In the shot of eight casual training mates, Garrard is 2L and Scarf 4R.

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Burkini Ban

Nicely alliterative headline, but news from La Belle France is disturbing. French Mayors with local beaches have decided to ban the wearing of this cover-up swimsuit for Muslim women, as they consider it a ‘provocation’ against French secular values, or some such. The Conseil d’Etat, a kind of supreme court, has ruled that those bans are suspended, and the polemic continues.

Alas, everyone has missed a critical mistake! But firstly a little history of the burkini, which was invented by Aheda Zanetti, an Australian designer, after the 2007 Cronulla riots in Sydney. She proposed the swimsuit in lifesaving colours for Muslim women to join local surf clubs, and hence improve community relations.

Zanetti’s company owns trademarks to the words burkini and burqini, but they have become generic terms for swimwear acceptable to Islamic traditions, by covering most of the body, except for the face, hands and feet.

Secondly, there are different forms of Islamic dress for women: total body coverage with a burka, a niqab shows the eyes, and face uncovered with a hijab.

So, the overlooked problem stems from the misuse of the word burqa in the creation of a catchy garment label. A burkini does not cover the face, so it should really be called a hijabkini, but that doesn’t resonate like the amalgam of burqa and bikini. So it’s a misnomer, and the repressive, menacing burqa ethos is now attached to harmless full-length cossies (like wet suits?).

Ironically Zanetti’s idea of inclusion has backfired in France, so maybe the swimsuit should be re-branded there as friendly, sun protection wear. What about Cousteaukini, as a nod to the French godfather of scuba diving? Nah, I reckon Koala Kossie is perfect for the French market, with all those cuddly connotations.

In the so-called Western world women had full-length bathing suits early last century. Even in 1946 at Bondi a ‘beach inspector’ remonstrated with the first scandalous bikini wearer to cover up, but now bikinis are apparently the norm.

The French mayors and their boosters should all have a ‘douche froide’! The French habit of investing objects with symbolic meaning and extraordinary power has gone too far this time. Although understandable after the horrors of these last few years, quand même!

(Thanks to Cathy Wilcox for allowing use of her cartoon from SMH 29 Aug))

Cathy Wilcox SMH 2016-08-29

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