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Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

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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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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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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We all have visceral instincts about others. Without literally smelling him, my senses and sensibilities signal that Cardinal George Pell, that erstwhile defender of the indefensible in the Catholic Church is a corrupt individual of the lowest (or highest?) order.

He seems thoroughly untrustworthy, and certainly willing to suborn, dare I say pell-mell, a recent witness to the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, who was allegedly abused as a child by a Catholic priest under Pell’s protection.

David Shoebridge, Greens MP in NSW Parliament, is trying again to introduce legislation to allow victims to sue the Church for damages. At present the so-called Ellis Defence protects the Church, which is deemed to be an unincorporated association with its assets held in unrelated trusts.

John Ellis failed in the High Court to overturn this outrageous rort, where the Church effectively does not exist as a legal entity with attendant responsibilities. Which is probably appropriate for an organisation dealing in the occult, but let’s them off the hook for all their gross wrongdoings.

The Church is also exempt from any form of taxation in Australia, which is handy for a wealthy fraternity (brotherhood indeed!) dedicated to serving, oh hallelujah, the poorest and disadvantaged of our abundant society, as did Jesus apparently.

Pell should be brought back from his Rome sinecure to face the Royal Commission, and finally be put under forensic legal scrutiny with serious consequences, and not just brush off any criticism as before. More power to Shoebridge, and may justice be done one day!

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It’s meant to describe a feeling of consumer overload of Anzac themed TV offerings crashing in the ratings. Commercialisation is an understatement in this era of hyper-marketing of our cultural markers. Appropriation of Anzac for supermarkets, burgers, you-name-it, has been extant for years and becoming more flagrant. It can offend devotees of this quasi-religious popular annual outpouring of sentimentality known as Anzac Day.

It’s all been said already and I don’t mind ‘learned nationalistic sentimentality’ as a description of what’s going on in this veritable orgy of commemoration and brainwashing around it. Apparently its themes too have been updated from heroism and mateship to sacrifice and service. It rolls off the tongue nicely.

If you want to discuss the lessons we’ve learnt about not repeating (military) history then you have to explain why we are again sending more troops to Iraq, That’s right: making a total 1,000 to help train the Iraqi army. We did such a good job there last time, and it worked brilliantly in Afghanistan during 14 years of military mission in that benighted country.

As always our troops head off at Uncle Sam’s bidding, without even a parliamentary debate of the merits, strategy and national interest for Australia in doing so. The ongoing vacuum of political discourse about our endless military adventures is shocking. And this latest escalation is even more scandalous under cover of an Anzac Day centenary extravaganza.

Australians really haven’t learnt a bloody thing in the last 100 years or more. Ignorance, conformity and militarism are a fatal (ahem!) trifecta in our national DNA, and it’s grown like a cancer since we first sent NSW troops to fight against the Maoris in Enzed in the 1860s.

Poor fellow my country indeed, to borrow Herbert’s famous book title. My anger has turned to resignation and sorrow at our unrepentant failings.

Another VB, mate?

You mean Villers-Bretonneux?

 

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Oh dear, the motto of Knox Grammar School is ‘Virgile Agitur’, which translates as ‘Doing the Manly Thing’. As the school is under the spotlight of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse those words take on an ominous ambiguity. The school is one of the privileged bastions of male-only education with righteous Christian overtones and bullying, chauvinistic culture which decorate the firmament of Sydney’s upper classes.

The very English model of these schools flourished in our secular sandy soil. In recent years they attached themselves limpet-like to the public purse, as the aspiring nouveaux riches deserted the honourable public school system. To ensure that the fruits of their loins would prosper in those hothouses of networking and ‘values’ which the parents somehow fail to inculcate themselves.

The Royal Commission is investigating sexual abuse of students by teachers during 1970-2012 (oh yeah!) and a culture of denial and cover-up by headmasters and staff worthy of the Catholic Church (theirs is Uniting). The long-serving headmaster Dr Patterson has admitted his connivance in failing to notify police, nor take any disciplinary action and protecting the school’s reputation above all. The hypocritical righteousness of these superior institutions makes my blood simmer!

The nefarious influence of same-sex schools on society has been canvassed before, and the evidence is accumulating. The headmaster himself is charged with handling the genitals of a visiting 16 year old actress performing in a school play in full view of the male student audience. The headmaster of another elite boys school was previously a Knox housemaster and did not follow up on reported sexual abuse going on under his nose. So to speak.

The lukewarm expression of shock and surprise by Peter Fitzsimons, a Knox Old Boy newspaper columnist who knew nothing of the shenanigans going on there is implausible denial. It only goes to show the misplaced loyalties and tribal indoctrination practised at the school, like others of its GPS ilk. ‘School spirit’ can be translated as Mitläufer, in the language of Goethe! And for a classical allusion, the labours of Hercules would be needed to clean out these augean stables of bad school culture, which always close ranks against the critics and outsiders.

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An Australian batsman is struck by a ball at the base of the skull and dies after a cricket test match. Followed by an amazing outpouring of grief, eulogies, hero worship and memorials of all sorts across the country. Way out of proportion. The incident is described as a ‘freak accident’. Why it was freakish is puzzling. It’s actually freakish that more such accidents don’t occur.

The huge elephant in the cricket change rooms and corridors of power is the modern version of ‘bodyline’, a term used during the 1932-33 test series against England. English fast bowler Harold Larwood targeted Australian batsmen instead of the wicket, which was considered shockingly ungentlemanly, dangerous and unfair play. Just not cricket! These days it’s normal bowling practice for all teams.

In the wake, so to speak, of the recent death, the cricket commentariat were resolutely silent about a glaring, fundamental problem at the heart of the game. Along with administrators and players themselves, an omertà rules: not a word about the danger of hurling a hard ball at speeds up to 160 kph directly at another human being, including his head. The only rule is to make it bounce first and try to ensure he’s in front of the wicket. It’s tantamount to aggravated assault, or worse. The wearing of helmets and other protection, including the ‘box’, for sensitive body parts only underscores the problem. The rules of the sacrosanct game should change, but mentioning it would be apostasy of the highest order.

Add so-called sledging, that is verbally insulting your opponents, preferably with racist taunts, and you have an unsavoury cocktail of super aggressive, negative role model behaviour. The big-money professional sports have refined their games for profit and entertainment so that only vague vestiges of sportsmanship remain. An obsolete, old-fashioned idea that can also be interred.

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