Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Kevin Rudd

So now Kevin Rudd will take Labor to the election. Hopefully it won't be an early election because those of us who roster polling booths will need at least another month or two to get that done.

Anyway, after all the drama and media hype, will Labor now win the election? The dreaded polls, that have been very wrong in the past, say Labor has a better chance with Rudd at the helm but I'm not sure.

I wonder will Rudd win the election only to be dumped after it? From what they all say, he is impossible to work with. Such a strange but inevitably predictable turn of events.

Julia Gillard was by far the better PM. She introduced a number of good legislations including the price on carbon which was negotiated by the Greens and for the first time in Australian history has made emissions actually gone down. Kevin Rudd failed to introduce a workable plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But despite some good things, Gillard has let us down with the mining tax and asylum seekers. Those two legislations have created an eerie similarity between Liberal and Labor or LibLab.

This election has become less about getting Labor in and more about keeping Abbott and Liberal out. Abbott would be worse for Australia and indeed the world than Rudd. Rudd is the lesser of two evils.

It was a chilling moment when on QandA the supposedly small 'l' liberal Malcom Turnbull struggled to justify the Liberal policy of turning back the boats. Chilling indeed. I'm pretty sure Labor will not sink quite that low but stranger things have happened. A few weeks ago I was saying that if we do indeed turn the boats around  into Indonesian waters, we risk harming our relationship with Indonesia. Now Rudd has said the same thing, accusing the Liberal's policy of being a diplomatic minefield which may lead to an escalation of strife between the two countries.

It seems to me that the Greens are the moderating influence in parliament. Some still accuse the Greens of being extremists when in fact we are the ones with the most humane, sensible, caring and least extreme policies. The Greens have put forward an idea that I believe will solve the problem of asylum seekers drowning at sea while at the same time eliminating people smugglers from the final leg of the journey to Australia.

The proposition is that Australia should set up Australian refugee centres in Indonesia and Malaysia. Asylum seekers could then arrive at our centres, receive an airline ticket to Australia and within a few days be processed by the staff we could afford to pay by shutting down most detention centres. Those who take longer to process could reside in asylum seeker centres or halfway houses in the community. Rural towns and cities would be the ideal place for asylum seekers. We have many vacant houses here in Warrnambool that would suit such a purpose. Those who are not refugees would be sent immediately home and those who are refugees would be released into the community with minimal psychological damage and maximum training, educational and employment potential. It works for me!

And before you say 'but that's just letting everyone in', it's not. Less than a 20th of the asylum seekers who arrive in Australia each year arrive by boat. Most arrive on planes and overstay their visas but for some strange reason, only those arriving on boats are sent to detention centres. That's just letting anyone in! They are only processed when they declare themselves and sometimes that is years after they've been living here illegally.  Many 'plane' asylum seekers are what Bob Carr would call economic refugees from New Zealand, Britain and Canada looking for a better lifestyle here in Australia.

I believe that all informed and caring people should vote for the Greens in both the Senate and the Lower House. We do more than keep the bastards honest. We provide good, sane and sensible governance for the Australian people. We have a far reaching vision. We really care about you!!
So VOTE GREEN people. You know you want to!

Monday, 17 June 2013

My memories of Cardinal George Pell

Thirty nine years ago, as a naive and passionate young student teacher, I attended Fr.George Pell's theology lectures at Aquinas Teacher's College Ballarat. I loved theology and ever the eager one my hand shot up at every question. Fr.Pell often responded with 'Not Lisa this time!', 'Have a rest Lisa.' or 'Someone other than Lisa!'

Fr.Pell was articulate, logical in a Thomas Aquinasy sort of way and extremely well versed. The other students, largely from farms in places I'd never heard of like Warracknabeal and Woomerlang, dozed off during his talks. Some thought I was nuts to be so interested in such a dry subject but I thought they were a bunch of hayseeds who couldn't appreciate quality when it was before them. I was a bit of a snob and looked down on the country students, assuming that when they left teachers college they'd go to little Catholic country schools, raise country kids and live the rest of their country lives in blissful ignorance and I was largely right. None of my cool, alternative peers were impressed with Pell nor indeed with anything Catholic; so that left me, listening attentively, with overused arm muscles.

                               'Manifold House' Aquinas College Ballarat, now the ACU Ballarat Campus

Fr.Pell was youngish, upwardly mobile and already principal of Aquinas Teachers College. We all agreed that he was really going places. My naive eighteen year old self found that very impressive. He was a kind man and helped me deal with a nasty old nun who would lock the door when she saw me coming down the hall. Good times! I exacted some revenge when each Friday I performed a soapie drama in the common room called 'Mary Manifold of Manifold House' in which I played the old nun as a gnarled, creaky voiced witch.

But never, in my most wild dreams could I have imagined that at that same time and for some years beforehand, the church had been infiltrated by monstrous priests who abused young children and that a number of those simple country kids who had studied with me at Aquinas had been brutally effected by those same priests.

Neither could I have imagined that thirty nine years later, Fr. Pell, the proud man with the grizzly bear posture who would become the leader of the Australian Catholic Church, would be called before the Australian Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse, for days of interrogation. If you had told me any of this all those years ago, I would have thought you were barking mad. In those days, for me the worst thing about the church was that crabby old nun.

But when the awful tsunami of truth hit us, the laity, it rocked the Catholic Church to its core and created ongoing ripples of trauma which are still being felt. As a result faith communities diminished and many stopped attending Mass. Many faithful left the church.

We have lived with that awful knowledge for a number of years now but we are still feeling the effect of it. Catholics are still stunned that an institution of perceived holiness could hide such vile evilness within it's walls and the secondary damage, next to the damage done to the poor children, their families, teachers and communities, is the damage done to the larger community of believers; to our trust, to our faith and to our sense of security. The response to pedophilia within its ranks by the brotherhood of priests and bishops has shattered our faith in the institution of the church itself.
In the belief that child abuse was a sickness, offenders were given therapy and when they were considered 'healed' they were simply moved into other parishes with no concern for those who had been abused and no duty of care for children in the parishes and schools to which the abusers were moved.

Entire communities, especially small country communities have been decimated by child abuse. Parishes everywhere have been affected. The damage done to young children, their families, their communities and the institutions themselves has been incalculable.

But pedophiles not only infiltrated the Catholic Church. All denominations and Government institutions have had these monsters in their ranks and all of those organisations reacted in a similar way; in self-defense. They kept it under wraps and moved the abusers away. There was no duty of care for the victims or their families and absolutely none for the vulnerable children waiting elsewhere.
So what does all this say about our society and it's institutions? What does it say about our churches?
The church I grew up in had a very clearly defined hierarchy. The pope of course being at the top and laywomen and children being at the bottom. Though my father tells me that all laity were powerless in the church, the broader society of the time did not see women as equal to men and in Australia today, despite the fact that women are free to study and enter any profession, there is still an undercurrent of sexism and inequality toward them. The rigorous hammering of our first woman Prime Minister has demonstrated that.

It must have been hard work covering up such a deep and scandalous secret. It must have been a kind of hell on earth, living with the knowledge of it and waiting for the news to break. The stress must have been unbearable. It reminds me of an aristocratic family, trying to hide their dirty linen, only worse.

Strangely, these crimes were happening during a time of openness and broad mindedness within the church. No wonder Cardinal Pell knee jerked himself and the Church back into the dark ages. No wonder he was so fearful of the new open church. He was probably worried the secret would get out. He may have even blamed the new openness for the pedophile problem itself.

Now, he must be nearly dying of shame and if he isn't then why  isn't he? Perhaps they had all lived with the mess for such a long time it may have been a relief to have it out.

Cardinal Pell and his brotherhood of priests and bishops do not feel responsible for the abuses of children in their church. I suppose the priests who didn't know about it can claim innocence but what about the rest? They did not respond appropriately to the abuse. They did not look after the victims and protect the children in their care and now they are suffering the consequences, if not by public prosecution then through the damage done to the church itself. If the church never recovers from this scandal, it will not be the fault of those who have stopped going to Mass or believing in the church.

I believed in George Pell. As a young girl at teacher's college I admired him. Now it seems to me that he is imprisoned by the institution and grasping at the life boat of tradition for survival. It does sound a bit like the British aristocracy.

Our new Pope Francis is trying to let go of that life boat and learn how to swim. If our church is to survive, we must all learn how to swim. We must learn from the past and embrace a more open, inclusive and accountable church. Like Mother Teresa, we must have respect and compassion for the least of us but most importantly, we must LISTEN TO OUR CHILDREN and never let it happen again.
'So the last shall be first and the first shall be last..' Matthew 20:16

Friday, 14 June 2013

How much sex should you have?

I watch 'Offspring'. I enjoy the Melbourne setting and Asher Keddie is a talented actress. There have been some really funny scenes. I laughed more than I had for a long while during her 'drunk and trying to buy a souvlaki' scene. Not that I'm condoning drunkeness but when I was younger I had a few souvlaki nights myself and her timing is spot on. Most of the time it works for me.
Nina's quirky, slightly neurotic mannerisms are fun, if occasionally over done. She demonstrates a degree of self doubt to which many of us can relate which brings me to the next point.

Recently Nina, Asher's character on Offspring, had reason to think there might be some competition for her boyfriend's affections. She confronted him and somehow the conversation led to the question 'How many people did you sleep with before me?'.

Her answer was six. That's six men.
Her boyfriend thought it was funny that she had only slept with six men. This gave her a complex about not having slept with enough men. So she asked her friends what they thought. Is six bed mates scoring less than the average or too few maybe? They all looked surprised and giggled as though they couldn't believe she had slept with so few men.

I found this story more than a little disturbing. This is an extremely popular Australian 'dramady' and Nina is a bit of a role model with young girls and young women. She has everything many young girls would want; a brilliant and admirable career as an obstetrician; a lovely boyfriend; a loving somewhat selfish family; a great figure and attractive visage and she is pregnant but the story line always plays her as lacking because she doesn't necessarily behave the way the others do.
Why is six a derogatory number of lovers? And who's counting anyway? I know it's only a TV show but does this demonstrate the pressure on people to have sex with just anyone to get the numbers up because it's frowned on to sleep with too few people? We encourage people to have safe sex but do we also encourage people to have lots of sex with many different people? When did this become so important?

I was very disappointed with this episode and with the recurring theme of what we used to call promiscuity. Are we pressuring young people to sleep with as many partners as possible before marriage? Is this the new norm or is it only a demographic?

I feel concern for the mental health of young people and in particular girls and women. The normalisation of promiscuity has had consequences. The numbers of young people suffering from anxiety and depression bear this out and suicide is an ever growing issue.

Women and young girls are subject to abuse. Abuse takes many forms and community and peer pressure can have the same effect on a young woman as traumatic abuse. Bullying is an example of this.
I believe Offspring missed an opportunity to support women and girls in this episode. If Nina's friends had said to her, 'Don't be concerned with something so unimportant! You have a lovely partner and you're having his baby. Who cares how many people you have or haven't had sex with? How is that relevant to anything in your life?'

We need to look after each other and help build resilience through self esteem.

Nina, is a straight laced, extremely accomplished, beautiful, sensitive and caring woman who because she is striving to survive in a promiscuous, mediocre environment, suffers from self doubt. She should be praised not belittled!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Malcolm Turnbull and Mark Latham LIED. Shame on both your houses!

Shame Malcolm Turnbull. 

Shame Mark Latham!

On Monday's QandA on ABC 1, Malcolm Turnbull said that under the Prime Minister-ship of John Howard, asylum seekers travelling on boats to Australia stopped.

They didn't.

Mark Latham reiterated Malcolm Turnbull's comment.

Both were wrong and here is a graph of figures taken from the Refugee Council of Australia that proves it. The figures don't lie!

Malcolm also said that turning the boats around worked.

He was wrong again.

The figures show exactly why  the arrival of asylum seekers on boats slowed down.
There is a direct correlation between fewer boat arrivals and circumstances in afflicted countries.

Malcolm feigns humanitarian sympathy for those who drown at sea, for thinly disguised political opportunism.  He is trying to justify his party's xenophobic policy to turn back the boats by lying about his concern for those who die at sea. 

If he truly cared about asylum seekers and their welfare why would he want to enact a double persecution on these people? Regardless, they will continue to come to Australia until the situations in their own countries change. The numbers bear this out!

The Greens have made a number of suggestions to the two old tired, stuck in a rut parties but they have all been rejected. Even the High Commission has agreed with Greens ideas.

The Greens solutions are:

Ideas: Establish Australian refugee processing centres in both Indonessia and Malaysia. Give each asylum seeker a waiting ticket which will take them to Australia within a few days.
Allocate funding saved from dismantling the extremely expensive detention centres in New Guinea, Nauru, Christmas Island and Australia, to staff the centres in Indonesia and Malaysia and for flights to Australia. 

With increased numbers of staff, asylum seekers will be processed and in communities within a number of days thus reducing psychological damage to them and their families. Avoiding the double damage done to asylum seekers will increase their potential to become active and useful members of our Australian society. 
Of course any who are proven not to be genuine will be sent back from whence they come. 

This has more potential to stop people taking that terrible journey by boat than anything the two tired old parties have to offer. Use your brains people!

Shame Malcolm Turnbull. 

Shame Mark Latham!

Here is the graph created by Karen Hansen.

'I have created this image from a graph from the Refugee Council of Australia paper found here :

I have included things like government (who the leading parties were at the time of figures) and also world issues and where the refugees came from (background)

You will note that Australian refugee intake PEAKED at 22,545 in 1980-81. (predominantly Vietnamese and Chinese fleeing Communist rule). This was under Liberal government........... but I am NOT suggesting that Liberals can't control the refugee intake ~ I am merely pointing out that the world issues affected the refugees seeking assylum in Australia were dependent upon WORLD issues, not government............... much as the refugees today are fleeing to us not because we have a Labor government, but because they are fleeing their homeland.

This figure of 1980-81 is SUBSTANTIALLY higher than the figure from 2010-11 of 13,799.

Indeed, the past 2 decades, the figure has sat about the 10-14K mark without much change.

Our quota is actually 6,000 but was increased to 13,750 in 2010 to account for Special Humanitarian Program


The current figures are actually the NORM!!!!'

Friday, 7 June 2013

Who are you voting for?

The media seem to think they know who will win the election. The media and in particular the Murdoch press, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald Sun and The Australian think they can influence who will win.

But THEY do not decide who will be in Government.
                                          YOU DO!
YOUR democratic right to vote is a very big responsibility. Many communities throughout the world do not live in democracies and cannot choose who will run their country but you do. In this country, your opinion matters. In this country, you can choose who will lead us and who will make our laws.

This precious gift was given to you by people who fought for democracy here in Australia and who fought in wars for our freedom. Many died, so that each one of us would have the right to vote.

                         This is an unknown soldier who was killed fighting for democracy, in the First World War.

So don't take what you read in the Herald Sun or The Australian which are influenced by their conservative/right wing owner, Rupert Murdoch, on face value. Neither should you believe everything you hear and see on TV. The media is always trying to sell you something and the two big parties will try to sell you a lot of spin. So, voter beware!  Make sure you are well informed.

Where to start? 
What issues are important to you?

For many it is hard to think beyond job, schools and childcare. But when you vote for a party or candidate, you are also voting for a larger group of issues and if you look a little deeper you may find that those who appear to be saying what you want to hear, are in fact not giving you the whole picture!

Pauline Hanson is a good example of this. On the surface, she sounds patriotic but dig deeper and you find thinly disguised ignorance and bigotry. Pauline's policies are hollow, racist, sexist and very damaging to many Australians. Her policies look for quick fixes and ignore human rights and environmental concerns.
So what other issues concern you? If, like me you have a family, then you will be concerned about those top three issues: job, education and health and of course all the things associated with them such as home, transport and life style.

But these issues are very much influenced by a number of other more broad ranging concerns such as the state of the environment in which we all live, the economy and our relationships with other countries; whether or not our country is at war and who our trade partners are.

For a number of years Australia has been involved in conflicts overseas such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many Australians and many more Afghanis and Iraqis have been killed in these conflicts which have cost the country billions of dollars. Billions of dollars spent on wars could have been spent on your children's education, medicines, health, transport, on preserving our environment and helping asylum seekers. who are usually fleeing those very conflicts!
Asylum Seekers
And then there is the issue that is often sensationalized by the media and misrepresented by both sides of politics for political gain; asylum seekers on boats.
Recently Kevin Rudd announced measures to do with asylum seekers that he says will stop people dying at sea or 'stop the boats'. Sound familiar? Well it should because he has swiped Tony Abbott's catch cry...'Stop The Boats' which Abbott in turn stole from John Howard.

But most people who have done their research know that shunting asylum seekers off to New Guinea and Nauru is extremely expensive and of course doesn't actually stop the boats. Like you and me, a person who seeks asylum is concerned for their family's health and safety. An asylum seeker, by definition, faces extreme danger in her own country and so is willing to make a hazardous journey, if necessary by boat, to another country; any country that has signed the UN Convention on Refugees, that will hopefully, offer  safety.

Australia is a signatory to this agreement.

The number of people arriving in Australia on boats to seek asylum is very low.

The journey is very dangerous and many have died but this is not a reason to renege on our obligation to the UNHCR agreement. 

People who have tried to come to Australia to escape persecution in their own countries, find that they and their children are imprisoned and further persecuted by the country they thought would offer them refuge. It is another case of our country's institutions enacting a double damage on innocent people. It is in the end, abusive and it is illegal. 

The Australian newspaper and some Coalition politicians are calling for our country to take it's name off the UN agreement. This is very concerning. These people want us to become a less humane country!

Labor and Liberal

Traditionally, Labor and Liberal have been on opposite sides of politics but over time the differences between them have become fewer and fewer.

Labor, as it's name suggests, originally had links to socialism and unionism and was once the party that supported Australian 'battlers' or the workers. Whereas the Liberal Party, whose name wrongly suggested it was broad minded and inclusive, had its origins in capitalism and industrialization, including, the industrialization of farming. It was the conservative party who sided with big business and the bosses.

These two originally small interest groups, have dominated Australian politics for the past sixty years.

It makes sense when you understand that once there were only two main classes of people: the workers and the bosses. These two classes always struggled against each other. The leaders of business and industry (the haves) were and still are driven to make as much money as possible for as little cost as possible and of course the workers (the have nots) fought and continue to fight for reasonable wages and fair work conditions.

The Australian Labor Party saw itself as building the country from the ground up and the Liberal Party saw itself as building it from the top down.

Labor and Liberal each had their place and together they maintained a fragile political balance which mostly helped our country to grow and prosper.

As Australia grew in population and prosperity so did the middle class. Sadly, few of us realized that prosperity came with a price. Mining, agriculture and industry have denigrated rivers, forests and tracts of land the size of Queensland, with the further denigration of our indigenous people.

With the growth of the middle class the boundaries between the two parties began to blur. Even the two logos now look remarkably similar!The Australian Labor Party has moved from socialist left to the conservative right, losing a substantial portion of it's original labour and union stronghold. Not surprisingly, the Liberal Party has continued moving ever further right, losing any connection it may have had to the meaning of its 'liberal' name. Both parties now have conservative policies. Both parties will deliver conservative outcomes, with Labor only marginally ahead of Liberal in its care for workers, human rights and the environment.

The growth of a new political alternative.

Meanwhile, in the 1970's many Australians were waking up to the flip side of Australia's prosperity and growing middle class. Large groups of Australians began to demand that we use our country's resources more wisely and preserve our wild places such as Lake Pedder and the Franklin River in Tasmania. These people were referred to as environmental groups.

They tried to stop the development of uranium mines in Kakadu National Park and stood in front of bulldozers in our ancient old growth forests, which scientists now tell us are the oldest, most carbon dense forests in the world. In other words, our forests keep a lot of the greenhouse gases, which cause human induced climate change, out of our atmosphere and replace it with clean air that we all need to breathe. They are also home to more species than we have been able to count.

Environmentalists began to demand that all urban, industrial, agricultural and mining developments should be safe for us and all other Australian species. During the fight to keep uranium mines out of Kakadu National Park, the environment movement joined forces with the aboriginal land rights and peace movements and began it's journey into Australian politics; eventually becoming the first Green party in the world.

This was the birth of the Australian Greens led by the famous environmental and human rights activist, Dr.Bob Brown.

Since then the Greens have become an alternative force in Australian politics next to the two almost indistinguishable, tired, old parties, LIBLAB.

The Greens now have a presence in parliaments throughout Australia as well as in many Councils with a number of Greens mayors. They have been able to negotiate some great outcomes for the Australian people. Free dental care for 3.4 million kids being one, a price on carbon being another and they are constantly advocating for public education, health, affordable housing, public transport, renewable energy, the arts, sustainable development, jobs and prosperity, marriage equality, asylum seekers and of course a clean and healthy environment.

All Australians are supported by the Greens whether they be here or overseas, our first Australians, new to our shores, religious or athiest, wealthy or poor, LGBT, single, married, parent or child. I have listed all those I could think of because the Greens support us all. More and more businesses, industrialists and farmers now vote Green because they want to grow their businesses in a successful and prosperous, renewable energy future. They see the old parties as dinosaurs.

Why is this information not in the media?

The media doesn't help. The Australian and the Herald Sun and other newspapers to a lesser degree and TV news and current affairs are only interested in selling a story and they most often report where the money is. Mining, big business and the fossil fuel industry largely support both Labor and Liberal.

LIBLAB are driven by their desire to be in Government. That's where the word 'spin' comes from. They will 'spin' a story in order to gain the greatest support from the Australian people. They will say what they think you want to hear.
LIBLAB rely on big business for campaign funds and this influences policy decisions. Why did Labor water down the mining tax which created a billion dollar short fall in the budget, prompting them to take money from the most vulnerable in our society, single parents? Have a guess.

But single parents were not the only ones to lose out. There were cuts to universities, the DSE, research, overseas aid and environmental bodies. Do you know that mining companies like those owned by Gina Rinehart pay less for petrol and for tax than you and I?  Do you know that coal mines and dirty, expensive coal fired power stations are subsidized by the government?

Let me make this clear. Single parents, universities, the arts, forests, the unemployed, hospitals and asylum seekers LOSE and the miners WIN.

What can you do about it?

So now is the time for YOU, the voter, to realize that there is a viable alternative to the two tired old parties!

Way back when the Greens were forming a political party, Clint Eastwood was catching bank robbers in Dirty Harry. Pardon the very big gun! It's a metaphor for climate change. Remember when he said,

 'Ask yourself, "Do I feel lucky?" Well do you, punk?'

As you probably know, scientists tell us that we have only a few short years to try and fix climate change. At the most it is ten years. They also tell us that if we don't, we can say goodbye to our homes, our cars, our life styles, our transport, our food, our water and what's left? Oh yes, the air we breathe.

Do you know what the Liberal Party under Tony Abbott, who until a few months ago said he didn't believe in human induced climate change, says they'll do about it? They say they will plant trees. Hey, planting trees is good, right? Yes it's good but how long do trees take to grow? We need to plant trees for the future but we also have to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases now, before it's too late.

In 2010 Tony Abbott was at a meeting in country Victoria where he was heard to say that human induced climate change is 'crap'.

Tony will repeal the price on carbon (emissions trading scheme) which has not significantly increased costs to the consumer and has managed to reduce carbon emissions in Australia by 15%! It has also helped to fund  the development of the renewable energy industry providing 24,000 new jobs.... 

Tony will support the fossil fuel industry which is the biggest contributor to greenhouse emissions next to agriculture.

Tony will increase taxes.

Tony will not help schools.

Tony will cut essential services to health and education.

Tony will help to chop down the last of our native forests and will allow loggers to further poison drinking water in many parts of Australia, not the least being in Victoria and Tasmania.

Tony will allow mining everywhere, especially in NSW and Queensland. EVEN UNDER YOUR HOUSE if needs be because Tony always says YES to mining companies. That's where his campaign money comes from!

Tony will allow industrial fishing fleets to deplete our seas of fish.

Tony says he will turn back the boats, full of people seeking asylum from persecution.

If you vote for Tony Abbott in this election, what will your kids say to you in ten years time when the world's temperature rises over two degrees and it becomes unlivable?


So, do you feel lucky? Do you want to take your chances with Labor or much worse, Liberal?

Don't rely on luck. Vote 1 Green in both the Senate and the Lower House. Your children will thank you and you'll be glad you did the right thing.