A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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05 Oct 08 Poor Malcolm’s deprived childhood

malcolm turnbull warped

“I do not come to the leadership of the Liberal Party from a lifetime of privilege. I know what it is like to be very short of money…”

 

 

 

 

malcolm turnbull warped

“I know what it is like to live in rented flats. For a time daddy and I had to rent a dingy penthouse in Double Bay…”

 

 

 

 

(more…)

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14 Sep 08 The dogs of democracy

Costello and latham, dogs of democracyPoliticians must be aware when they enter politics that they have a use by date. Sooner or later, due to scandal, party machinations or electoral rejection the time comes when there is no option but to make an exit. If politicians are aware of this, why do so many of them feel the need to publish memoirs subsequent to political demise which are intended to be highly damaging to their own side?

The Latham Diaries, published in 2005 were unashamedly spiteful. The same can be said about Peter Costello’s recent memoirs which abounds with attacks on his political colleagues. Michael Costa recently added his name to a growing list of disgruntled politicians taking the opportunity to damage their own party after being shown the door. Did these people enter public life with no ideals of serving a cause? No matter how disgruntled you are, why not make a dignified exit rather than become a wrecker? Such indulgent expressions can be seen as nothing more than rampant self interest.

Sometime during his career Peter Costello acquired the nickname ‘dog’, mostly for his looks. Now more than ever his behaviour deserves the same title. Costello has no excuse for the venom contained in his new book. After years of waiting for the Liberal leadership to be handed to him on a silver platter he now refuses it when it is laid at his feet. Perhaps a deep self doubt lies behind Costello’s ‘captain smirk’ egotism. Perhaps he realises that when push came to shove, he never had the ability to win an election in his own right or lead his party through a bleak period of opposition. Costello’s behaviour since losing the 2007 has been mysterious. Perhaps it is true, (as has been suggested in the press) that his current position on the leadership is just a way of promoting sales for his book.

Costello’s memoirs are nothing more than the culmination of a long period of sulking due to John Howard’s refusal to hand him the leadership or have him and his wife over to dinner. While many might now decry Howard’s mishandling of Kyoto, The Republic issue, the children overboard affair, refusal to apologise to aboriginal people, the industrial relation debacle etc. his refusal to step aside for Costello now seems his most astute decision.

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07 Jul 08 Peter is from Mars, Brendan is from Uranus

Did you ever happen to notice…

Politicians have developed the annoying habit of constantly repeating what they consider to be their key catch phrases. A line like “We’re about a fair go for working families” is always quickly followed by another: “yes, a fair go for working families”. Do they really think the average person is so thick they won’t understand the complexity the first time? Are they not aware that it really sounds just a bit patronising? In fact, this strategy serves several purposes. It allows the media to make sure they have captured a tidy sound bite, and it’s also a good way of stopping yourself saying “ummmmm” when you’re not sure what to say next. Both would have about the same meaning.

Whenever Brendan Nelson refers to Peter Garrett, he repeats the question: “Which planet is he from?” I’d like to offer an answer before Brendan asks again: Peter Garrett quite clearly comes from Mars. Garrett is an imposter who has been conscripted into the Labour Party in a cynical attempt to boost the youth and green vote. Even in his Midnight Oil days he professed to be just the singer and not responsible for the group’s political messages. As an Environment Minister, he makes a pretty good singer, remaining a figure head and leaving the really important stuff to Penny Wong. He has put forward a policy on the momentous issue of plastic shopping bags but he remains something of an embarrassment and a reminder that cheap populism has a price. Judging by his proposed solution to the fuel crisis (5 cents!!!???) there are strong indications that Brendan Nelson may actually come from Uranus.

The Australian Democrats have finally drawn their last breath. I doubt too many people will shed a tear over their final demise. A great many middle class, small l liberals thought they were very clever during the Democrats heyday and would announce: “I vote Labor in the lower house and Democrat in the Senate, let’s keep the barstards honest!”. They didn’t feel so clever when Meg Lees capitulated to the GST. This was surely a crime against the electorate; no one wanted it and once installed we’ll know we’ll never be rid of it. So much for keepin the barstards honest; Meg Lees may also be from Uranus.

Keep watching the skies…

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06 Jul 08 The Climate Change Political Football

earth wrecking ball On Friday 04/07/2008, in the first comprehensive assessment of the impact on Australia of climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut reported that Australians must pay more for food, petrol and energy or risk a rising death toll, economic loss and destruction of natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef.

The Howard Government’s policies on the environment, climate change and global warming: scepticism, inactivity and a steadfast refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol did little or nothing to address concerns raised by The Garnaut Report and other similar studies. None the less, it was to some extent highly politically astute. Howard understood that any positive measures in environmental policy would have a huge economic cost and be political poison. However, Howard failed to accurately gauge the mood of the Australian electorate and the piecemeal environmental policies he took to his humiliating 2007 sydney flooded due to global warmingdefeat were seen as too little too late. The rise of the Greens as a force to be reckoned with attests to the fact that the environment is now a major concern to considerable sections of the community.

The Kevin ’07 campaign made considerable ground by declaring environmental policies which at least appeared to have some credibility, as long as the capitulation on the Gunn’s pulp mill is put to one side. There were key Tasmanian seats which might have been put in jeopardy had Labor opposed the mill. The Rudd government has undoubtedly been damaged by the recent trauma over petrol prices. The decision to implement an emissions trading scheme and meet the Kyoto goals is likely to damage Rudd’s government even more among sections of the population that votes with their hip pockets in mind. It may actually improve his standing among those with a genuine concern for the environment. The backroom boys have undoubtedly already weighed up the statistics. Still, the climate change political football is looming more like wrecking ball for both sides of politics.
sydney desertPerhaps this is the fundamental flaw with democracy. It is natural that any government strives to ensure its political survival. To do so, it necessarily introduces short term policies that aim for approval within the next electoral term. Dealing with the environment has always required much longer term vision and a good deal of short term economic pain; making ‘climate scepticism’ a very attractive response.

It seems clear that governments will always create policy agendas in line with voting intentions. The responsibility ultimately falls to the electorate. If the majority aren’t willing to spend more on petrol and make sacrifices to help save the environment governments are unlikely to do anything more than make expedient noises in an attempt to pacify the minority who understand that sacrifices are necessary to ensure the survival of the human species.

The irony is the long term economic cost of ignoring conservation will be much greater than any short term hardships we might endure securing the future. How much prosperity will we enjoy when coastlines are under water and the rest of the country has turned to desert?

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23 Mar 08 Ramsay’s Foul Mouth and Parliament’s Trivial Pursuits

The first time I glanced at on of Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows (Hells Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares), I didn’t respond very warmly to him. He seemed so abrasive; how could anyone stand working under such a loud mouth? In fact, it reminded me of tyrannical chefs when I worked in kitchens as a student. On closer inspection; I found Gordon’s shows to be rather addictive viewing. He may be a loud mouth, foul-mouthed bully, but he has high standards for cuisine, and berating under performing staff is his way of provoking a more satisfactory performance from them. Moreover, most of the people he berates are so misguided, apathetic or just plain stupid it’s hard to feel any sympathy for them. Watching them get blasted with the bleeding obvious is actually quite entertaining; I mean, lamb bones covered in chocolate? Powdered mashed potatoes? Frozen food as part of a ‘unique concept’ in menu design? These idiots deserve all the abuse Gordon dishes up to them, and the portions are ample.

What is perhaps even more entertaining is that the Australian Senate has decided to :

“hold an inquiry into swearing on television and what more could be done about it. The motion to hold the inquiry was moved by the South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi after a recent episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares in which the abrasive gastronome dropped the F-bomb 80 times. That episode screened at 8.30pm on Channel Nine. Another that offended the senator, in which Ramsay used the C-word twice, screened at 9.30. Labor and the minor parties voted with the Coalition yesterday to establish the inquiry, which would concentrate on free-to-air TV. Senator Bernardi promised it would be brief.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Chef’s foul specialty sparks swearing inquiry, Phillip Coorey Chief Political Correspondent, March 21, 2008
http://www.smh.com.au/news/tv–radio/chefs-foul-specialty-sparks-swearing-inquiry/2008/03/20/1205602575633.html

Sure, swearing may be offensive to some people. It is of course possible for them (as has been pointed out numerous times in the past) TO CHANGE THE CHANNEL, or perform the even more extreme act of TURNING OFF THE TV. If this is to be an inquiry on “what the community is prepared to accept”, isn’t it already blatantly obvious that the community does accept such things, and has for a very long time? The offending words in question have, after all, very old origins as most ‘swear words’ do. (They have Anglo-Saxon roots as far as I know). Who can say that they don’t use such words at least from time to time. Such words are not always used to cause offence; it’s quite possible to use them in an affectionate way. As usual, it’s about context and language being used in an appropriate situation. However, is the language used on television by Gordon Ramsay, Big Brother, The Sopranos, Sex And The City really among the great social issues of our time? Does the Australian Parliament really have nothing better to occupy its time? Perhaps not…

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