What about the birds?

My vote on July 2 will go to the party whose leader can most satisfactorily answer the weightiest moral and economic question of our time. That question of course is

Have the birds got jobs?

Voters with a moral conscience will well remember the first raising of the matter in cinemas everywhere in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”1back in 1979. It is surely a scandal of modern times that the question is yet to be answered or even taken seriously by politicians. Our avian friends deserve much better.I want Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten to tell the Australian people honestly just what it is that their parties have against the birds, that this defining question of our age could remain unanswered for so long.Let there be an end to all frivolous political rhetoric and commentary.

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Say “No” to all domestic abuse

Fairfax’s “Shine a light” campaign on domestic violence is an exemplary instance of harnessing the power of a major media organisation for social good. Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh’s public leadership for the same cause is equally welcome and commendable. (“Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh on how we can stop domestic violence“, CT, 19/4). Any success by either promises immeasurable benefits to our common life for generations.

However it would be regrettable if such efforts were to focus on physical violence to the exclusion of mental, emotional, sexual or other forms of abuse mainly perpetrated against women and children, in homes across the country. Whether or not the victim ever suffers physical harm, all forms of domestic abuse arise from one (most usually male) person’s ingrained sense of entitlement to control and dominate those closest to them. All such domination deprives the victim of their personhood, with the same ripple effect of destroyed lives and relationships, often for generations.

Say ‘No’ to all domestic abuse.

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Too much spark

The only truly surprising thing about the excessive revelry of New Year’s Eve indulgence in Fitzroy North’s Edinburgh Gardens, is that it wasn’t replicated in a dozen other neighbourhoods. Are we really surprised that scores of marauding, tanked up partygoers would gather, carouse to excess, urinate, defaecate, graffiti, and leave oceans of detritus for others to clean?

The merrymakers were merely having a ‘good time’ as portrayed by our cultural exemplars. Our political leaders lack any will to sever the marketing nexus between alcohol and sport. Our civic leaders invest our taxes and rates in the never-ending annual quest for pyrotechnic supremacy. We provide free transport for the paralytic. And then the evening news leaves us in no doubt that the wildest are the winners. What can we do but clean up the mess yet again?

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Up the poll

Is there no end to the prevailing obsession with polls? When for the past 3 years our senses have been numbed and our reasoning capacities neutered by almost daily electoral horoscopes, I suppose one shouldn’t pause at a front page ‘EXCLUSIVE … Age poll’ about the Federal Labor leadership ballot. But after the gangrenous impact of polling paranoia on the late government, is democracy now truly served by further forecasts of a ‘cliffhanger’ in a ballot limited to Labor members? Will our respect for our nation’s parliament grow by speculating on the roles the factions will play in the ballot, who might swap sides, and which side Mr Rudd is ‘expected’ to take? Enough of this fatuity.

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Hanging with the Greens

So its official. Asylum seekers are now the sacrificial lambs, to be offered up by both would-be governments to appease the rednecks who now hold the balance of power in voterland. All thanks to the electoral atom bomb of the 2001 ‘Tampa Election’, reeking damage long past its purposeful deployment.

The one remaining slender hope for the desperate emigres of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iran in 2013 and probably for years or decades to come, would be another hung parliament in which the Greens use their balance of power to extract a return to a hospitality of compassion, generosity and good sense, from a minority government.

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Anywhere

And when Manus fills up … ?

WANTED URGENTLY: uninhabited islands, disused prison hulks, surplus orbiting space stations … anything really.

Must be situated outside Australian territory. Managed by someone else. Human habitability preferred, but not essential. Razor wire supplied.

All expressions of interest to The Lodge, Canberra.

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Are faces too human?

I can’t say I’ve ever taken much notice of the relative content of The Age’s print and online editions. But I’m intrigued by the non-appearance in print of an online article by Daniel Street, dated 9th July. The assigned headline “Listening, caring Rudd has always been here to help” is de rigueur. But the content recounts firsthand the human face of the Prime Minister one rarely if ever sees.

As one who was closely associated with Mr Rudd at university, none of the qualities of humanity and compassion, as well as vision and discipline, come as even remotely surprising. However the comments to the online article underscore the disconnect between Street’s honest observations and the immutable judgement of the commentariat.

So I ask: What is it with the culture of today’s media, that any hint of humanness in the most senior politicians is so clinically filtered from the public gaze? Is it just the good ol’ tall poppy syndrome? Or is it some ideological determination to retain politics and politicians as objects of entertainment? If a nation cannot respect its leaders, the nation loses.

Go on, shock me. Publish this letter.

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Boats and votes

The new Rudd Government’s emerging asylum seeker policy will be a thing of horror to many Australians, but unfortunately not the ‘right’ ones. What we’re now seeing is the long term impact on our culture of the Howard government’s demonising of asylum seekers, using them as electoral fodder, thereby appealing to the basest instincts and prejudices of a sector of the population.

Fast forward a few years, and we have a Labor Prime Minister who on earlier indications may have developed a policy enshrining decency and compassion, now perpetuating a thoroughly entrenched fortress mentality to appease voters in western Sydney.

The well of Australian multiculturalism has plainly been poisoned. And on these indications the erstwhile Australian spirit of generosity to the stranger, mortally wounded in a matter of months by the 2001 ‘Tampa election’ campaign, will likely take a generation or more to resuscitate, if indeed it ever rises again. For living as we now do in an age of unprecedented political disillusionment and disengagement, with serial hung parliaments a likely consequence, expediency will trump principle in the name of electoral survival. In this cold civil war, swing seat xenophobia will win and the world’s most vulnerable will lose.

If this is so, then the only hope for justice will lie in the moral formation of the next generation.

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Dishonourable mentions

Your Editorial of 22nd June called on then Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stand aside from her office “so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again,” and to allow the party to “present a compelling, united and inspiring voice”. Prior to his re-election last night (26/6) as leader of the Federal parliamentary Labor party (and subsequent return to the Prime Ministership), Kevin Rudd pledged himself to invest his full energy in party unity, without recriminations or paybacks.

In light of all this can you explain to your readers how a front page headline such as “Rudd’s Revenge” (27/6) contributes to the restoration of intelligent democratic engagement in this country?

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Quality time

Your leading editorial of Saturday 8th June is right to call our political leaders back to matters of substance, but short on collective self-awareness. The standard and style of current day political commentary are at the very least complicit in the petty soap opera that now plays out on Capital Hill.

The personas of Gillard, Abbott, and their alleged internal rivals, that we the voting public see are in no small part constructed by those who beam them to us daily. The politicians themselves know this, as do the throngs of their media teams. Why then should we be surprised if policy takes a back seat to posturing? The science of politics has become the art of rap-dancing on a minefield. The story sells; characters are cheap and expendable.

In the antediluvian days when reporting of fact trumped opinion, the media’s role in the equation was on the whole constructive in the higher cause of informed democracy. Now we’re commonly left guessing where reality ends and speculation begins.

Yes, politicians please get on with debate. And journos, please get on with reporting.

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