Haiku for Australian of the Year, David Morrison

Australian Of The Year
David Morrison!

I was moved by, “The
standard you walk past is the
standard your accept.”

And now the rest of
Australia hears your voice!
You little bew-tee!

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*.

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; crikey.com 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].

24 June 2010: a Ruddy day in politics

rud·dy/ ˈrʌdi/ [ruhd-ee]

adjective –

1.  of or having a fresh, healthy red color: a ruddy complexion.
2.  red or reddish.
3. British Slang. damned: a ruddy fool.

On a day when there was far too much talk about the colour of our new Prime Minister’s hair, it seemed a slipknot irony to see the former PM’s complexion, ruddy in its raw emotion during his “I’m very proud” speech.

But I think, simply, that had he been a better communicator and manager, he would have gone on to be remembered for all those things he’s very proud of – as well he should be – instead of the ignominy of being dumped in first term etc etc.

And I’m not alone in my thoughts.  Do a Google search on Rudd communication skills and see what comes up. The day before the dump, Ben Eltham wrote on ABC’s The Drum Unleashed about the former prime minister’s skills in this area. Richard Farmer, on Crikey.com:

Behind the downfall of Kevin Rudd there were clearly some issues about his style and technique of governing — his presidential, almost dictatorial, dominance of decision making with the concentration of power in his Prime Ministerial office; a fascination with playing as a world leader on an international stage; an almost pedantic concern at home about the process that led to innumerable reports and enquiries.

The best evidence of Rudd’s ‘technique of governing’ came in Julia Gillard’s first press conference as prime minister.  Marvel at the subtext:  she confirms that Rudd was not a team player, did not respect or trust his ministers, nor delegate appropriately to them, and confused discipline with being dictatorial.

Yeah, sure the power brokers exerted their influence. Yeah, sure it could happen again. Yeah, even sure it’s all about election cycles (there’s a word for it – policy short-termism or something).

But manage and communicate well and the power brokers will be happy, and maybe even the electorate, and some long-term policies can be implemented with net gains to the nation! Simplistic, I know, but imagine that!

Try it, Julia – let’s move forward.

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