No use crying … ?

Well, I was made to eat humble pie (flavour of the week) yesterday when I read the outcome of the ACCC report into the ‘milk wars’ between supermarkets earlier this year. Regular readers may remember I got a bit annoyed at Coles when the $1 per litre was announced.

The Age reports that, according to the ACCC, there’s no evidence that Coles has acted in breach of competition rules or engaged in predatory pricing. Also, importantly:

“As to the relationship between dairy farmers and milk processors, it is the case that some processors pay some farmers a lower farm gate price for milk sold as supermarket house brand milk.

“However on the evidence we’ve gathered over the last six months it seems most milk processors pay the same farm gate price to dairy farmers irrespective of whether it is intended to be sold as branded or house brand milk,” Mr Samuel said.

I’ll be watching to see dairy farmers’ response to the report, but it all still seems a bit hard to swallow.

[From in pastel’s photostream]

A (live export) picture paints a thousand words

From ABC online news, 9 June 2011:

This government has really let me down.

And, nice work ABC, intentional or not *ahem*.

Australian conversations: the insulation inspector’s assistant

An outcome of the tragedy of lives lost during the Federal Government’s insulation scheme is that “the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency is arranging the inspection of at least 150,000 homes that had non-foil ceiling insulation installed under the discontinued Home Insulation Program (HIP).”

That’s us. And it was our turn recently. The inspector and his assistant came and did their work, and I made small talk with the assistant while the inspector thumped around in the roof cavity above. He was an amiable and chatty Maori man in his forties, or thereabouts, but with a melancholy air about him.

JB: “Have you got many jobs down this way?”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “We’re flat out. We’ve flown over from Brisbane with our company. We’ll be here for about a month – only got here yesterday.”
JB: “Gee, that’s one way to see the country!”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “It’s better to come here, I’ve got nothin really to stay in Brisbane for. Lost my house in the floods.”
JB: “Oh, I’m sorry. Where abouts?”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “Yarrawonga, about 10 minutes out of Brisbane city. There was water everywhere. My Dad lost his toe because of an infection from the water. I had A Current Affair ringing up for interviews. I couldn’t believe that parents were lettin their kids swim in it, with all the sewage rising up.”
JB: “Gosh, that’s awful.  Where are you living now?”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “I’m staying with friends cos my house is a mess. But all the tradies are busy, you can’t get nothin done. So it’s better to be over here.”
JB: “I guess so. It must be so frustrating having to wait. I guess the tradies are all working flat out.”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “Yeah, it’s been a bad time. Because I lost my son last year too. That’s why I’m growing my hair, because I promised my son I wouldn’t cut my hair.”
JB: *Gulp* “Can I get you anything? A hot drink? Water?”
The Inspector’s Assistant: “Nah, I’m right, honest, we’ll be done in a minute – I just need a signature and we’ll be out of your hair.”


Why I disagree with GetUp’s petition to ban live export

[Email sent 1 June 2011]

For the attention of Simon Sheikh

I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of GetUp for a number of years, participating in online petitions and making donations – I have my NYT Assange poster on my wall.

However, this is the first time I’ve disagreed with you, and I feel very strongly that your carte blanche approach to banning all live export is misguided.  The live export trade is not the problem, it’s the animal cruelty.


  • There is animal cruelty everywhere – including lots in Australia (why else is the RSPCA so busy?).
  • You have to admit, this was a story that was always going to be controversial – footage of a compliant abbatoir was never going to make great TV.
  • A live export ban won’t stop cruelty in some locations – whether in Australia, SE Asia or the Middle East
  • Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and Livecorp have a lot of explaining to do, as they’re the bodies – funded by producers – who are supposed to ensure our cattle are treated according to agreed standards, and that training is carried out in overseas abbatoirs.
  • Sending chilled meat is not the solution – there are cultural issues involved, which I’m sure many GetUp members would be sympathetic to.
  • A live export ban would ruin Australian livelihoods – families and communities who work hard, honestly and drive innovation and follow humane practices in their contribution to the Australian economy.
  • A live export ban will just make the affected abbatoirs source their cattle from elsewhere – but how will that stop the cruelty, or is it enough that we just won’t see it any more on prime time TV?
  • A live export ban will take $300 million out of Australia’s coffers.

I have a bit of experience with this, having worked with a major media organisation in the North West of WA, and met many pastoralists and covered stories on the topic.  However, I state that I am not affiliated professionally with any live export body or cattle producer; this is my personal opinion borne out of experience.

And the problem here is that the 4 Corners program was so emotive, so shocking, it’s no wonder people are appalled. But now there are nearly 145,000 GetUp supporters who are going for the jugular, so to speak, without knowing the other side of the story.

This is not cowboy land.  These are men and woman, many of them under 30, tertiary educated, running family businesses and driving the use of technology and striving for ‘best practice’ in their operations.  They cannot be held responsible for the actions of a few.

So I’d like to know why GetUp has taken this blanket approach to banning live export, and not considered some of the points above.

I reckon if you were to ask your supporters if they want to stop cruelty in Indonesian abbatoirs, or they want to ruin the livelihood of fellow Australians who are doing a good job, I know what response you’d get.  Is it too late to change your message?

To summarise: some animals are killed. Some animals are treated cruelly. Some animals are eaten. Money changes hands. Unfortunately, these statements aren’t always mutually exclusive.

I’d like to see GetUp focus on the statement that your supporters, and most of Australia, is appalled by.

Thank you.

Desperately seeking SlutWalk sensibility

I really want to have an opinion about SlutWalk, I really do. I want to be firm in my resolve, and to be able to argue my points convincingly to anyone who’s interested in hearing them. “Yes! Go along and march, it’s great for women” or “No! It’s wrong, the messages are wrong.”

But I’ve been reading opinion pieces for just over a week now, and each time I think, “Yes, that’s it, that’s what I really think” and then I read the next one and think, “Hang on, maybe I think this after all.” More tellingly, I’ve now got to the point of , “I like that bit, but not that bit; this bit makes sense to my flickering inner feminist, and that bit’s just hypercultural postmodern bullshit.”

And that’s the problem for me -there are too many complexities to neatly encapsulate the event, let alone the arguments for and against it. And that’s because, in my case at least, being a 40-something woman in 2011 is a complex thing. All the experience of a wasted youth, a bit of travel, some great education, interesting career choices and now the constant puzzle of parenting two boys is there to remind me that a woman’s place in the world is usually where she’s standing, catching her breath, right at that moment.

And let me say that within that great education was a fair amount of cultural theory including feminist studies, and my mum was one of the career trailblazers in the 60s and 70s yada yada, so this whole feminism concept is not entirely new to me. So the fact I feel unable to find my place in this argument worries me.

One of the niggling aspects for me is the location of the conversation. When I think of how I’ve accessed SlutWalk, it’s been through ABC online News (only yesterday!), The Drum, Q&A and Radio National; and New Matilda. I’m not saying it hasn’t been covered anywhere else, but they’re the only places I’ve had time to listen, to read – to engage, dahling, with the arguments being put by the writers.

And let me be clear on the contributors I’m referring to. It started with a porn discussion from the Sydney Writer’s Festival I heard on RN driving home on Sunday evening, then my online onslaught began with Drag0nista, Guy Rundle (why Guy, why?), Mel Campbell, Clem Bastow in The Age, SlutWalk organiser Karen Pickering, self-proclaimed radical feminist Sarah Langford, Kimberley Ramplin, then the blokes-for-a-laff got in with Ben Pobjie taking no prisoners as usual, and cartoonist (Mr Lovely) First Dog On The Moon, who was just lovely as usual.  And I can’t forget the viewing pleasure that was this week’s Q&A. Finally, this evening I read Catherine Deveny’s contribution, which I agreed with more than I expected to.

And that’s because one thing I agree with, as an underlying theme of SlutWalk, is that rape is rape, and I couldn’t help but smile at Deveny’s t-shirt, “You’re not allowed to rape sluts either.”  Now that to me is a direct message to the target audience, which comes back to the location of the arguments, raising the bigger issue at play.

To explain, let’s jump for a minute to Lindsay Tanner, talking to political journalist George Megalogenis about his new book Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy on Radio National’s Big Ideas on Thursday 26 May:

Out on the Internet, out in digital land, there are all kinds of fantastic new products with high quality commentary, blogs, even some stuff on pay TV – the trouble is: that is talking to the engaged, educated minority … and until you’ve actually got a mechanicam for engaging the bulk of the population in a political conversation about the major issues of the day, which we used to have and which I think is slowly diminishing, then you’ve got a problem.”

I have no immediate answer (other than a long essay about the challenges of content and communication in contemporary Australian culture and politics) but I also have no doubt that Tanner’s point will be made hard and fast, as Kimberley Ramplin points out, this weekend:  on the commercial television news we will see images of scantlily-clad frozen young things having a bit of a lark in the name of the new sisterhood, not really sure how much of it is supposed to be fun, while alongside them the sensibly dressed women (shoes or otherwise), making a point with their placards, a genuinely heartfelt and passionate point about sexual freedom, won’t get any screen time, and the female journalist sent to cover the story will be squirming in her Jimmy Choos later in the evening watching the playback on the little screen; something won’t sit quite right with her and yet she won’t be able to put her finger on what it is. But if Deveny’s t-shirt gets a few seconds onscreen, maybe that’s an achievement.

So in the end I guess it comes down to: if you walk, good for you. If you don’t, I understand. And that, unfortunately, is the best I can do. And I mean it.

[Thanks Hollaback for the image].

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