Monday, April 16, 2012

The Radical Greens

Terribly sad to see Bob Brown retire as Leader of the Greens this week. Mr Brown was a leader of great courage and dignity, and having been lucky enough to have met him, just as inspirational in person as he was on the national stage. (I speak in past tense - he has said that he will remain involved with the Greens "till the day I die" - luckily for all of us).

Out of all the coverage of Senator Brown's retirement though, I was bemused to see him and the Greens repeatedly described as "radical". The idea that the Greens are a nutty fringe group with little to offer "ordinary Australians" is one peddled by both major parties and the media; PM Julia Gillard said in a speech earlier this month “The Greens will never embrace Labor’s delight at sharing the values of everyday Australians, in our cities, suburbs, towns and bush, who day after day do the right thing, leading purposeful and dignified lives, driven by love of family and nation.” What is she saying? That we're so busy sitting around inner city coffee shops with our fair trade soy lattes that we don't care about work, families or Australia? What are these values, anyway?

The Greens policies include such issues as increasing education and health funding, improving access to child care, reducing environmental impact and creating high-tech jobs, improving housing affordability (and legalising same sex marriage)...all issues a majority of Australians say they want. Most Australians when surveyed support same sex marriage and decriminalising abortion, which the Greens support and the major parties do not; it's Labor and the Coalition who are aligned with extremist groups here. Most "working families" would be appalled at companies getting away with polluting the environment, at the levels parliamentary superannuation, at the two-tier health and education systems we are developing. But the major parties need to paint the Greens as dreadlocked extremists in order to hide the truth; that it's the Greens who are more in step with the values, needs and aspirations of "ordinary Australians" than Labor and the Coalition will ever be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Andrew Bolt - Ultimate Weasel

Following his loss of the racial villification court case last year, Andrew Bolt has come out swinging. The writer Anita Heiss, one of the Aboriginal people Bolt was deemed to have vilified for not being black enough to claim Aboriginality, has published a book detailing the case and aspects of racial identity in Australia.

Well, Bolt hasn't actually come out swinging himself. Bemoaning that he can't comment on the case due to Australia's lack of free speech laws - a lack he helps continue through his opposition to an Australian Bill of Rights - he has instead directed his followers to Amazon, assuring them that they are protected their by U.S. free speech laws and using Amazon book reviews to express their opinions. It's a classic weasel move. If Bolt had the courage of his convictions, he'd stand by his claims - that people with distant Aboriginal ancestors claim Aboriginality in order to avail themselves of all the "benefits and privileges" he believes accrue from being Aboriginal - and allow them to be tested in court. But he won't, because he is, like most conservatives, fundamentally a coward; instead he has sent his flying monkeys in; and won't they get a shock if it turns out U.S. free speech laws don't protect Australians posting from Australian IP addresses to spread their offensive, racist views in the guise of book reviews. Has Bolt looked in to this? I'm guessing hell no. He doesn't care if his followers are hung out to dry in his name. He's a cowardly bully and the ultimate weasel.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Earning Their Keep

Recently I read an online discussion about kids and pocket money. Responses were mixed. A common approach is to give children $1 for every year of age. Some people said no pocket money, but they bought their kids what they needed; others said they expected kids to do their chores without getting paid. Then there were the parents who said that rather than getting pocket money, their kids need to work around the house to "earn their keep", a view I find hard to understand and very sad.

These days, for most people, having children is a choice. And when you make that choice, it comes with the obligation to feed, clothe and (hopefully) love your children. It's not something they should have to earn - would you invite guests over for a BBQ and expect them to work for their food? Then why feel that way about your children? We will expect BabyG to do chores. We will explain to him that helping each other is part of what you do in a family, because you love each other.

But he doesn't owe us anything. He is a gift, and we are lucky to have him.