26 November 2007

Yippedy do dah

Look, I dunno if this Rudd fella can make the kind of Australia that me and my bleeding-heart buddies would like. Basically, that Australia would be a 24-hour block-party where everyone worked a 4 day week, and then got a modest allowance to do their favourite hobby.

There would be no violence at all, and we would not go to any wars, in fact our military would be totally disarmed and sent exclusively to do clean energy and sustainable water projects in the world's poorest countries. There would be no decisions made based on people's racial background - in fact there would be so much blending and non-tribal love making that most Australians would look kind of like tall South-east Asians with big noses.

There would be no industrial farming, fertiliser or pesticide use - each regional municipality would have a "zero sum" food production regime, where they would produce enough basic produce for their own population, then trade with their neighbours on the surplus. There would of course be no deforestation, and a reversal of salinisation - people would earn handsome incomes from protecting forests, even if they didn't get any visitors at all. There would be no states and the federal government would concern itself with free education and healthcare for all.

But anyway , it's good to see a nasty and divisive man out of power, along with his nasty and divisive government. Perhaps we can hope for a temporary slowing down of the hardening of Australian character that's been happening over the last 10 years. Maybe a faint whiff of compassion will be detected in political rhetoric, that has become so totally overrun with talk of "strength" and "growth" and "stability" and "protection" and other paternalistic buzzwords.

Don't forget, dear readers, they allowed senior government ministers to bribe Saddam Hussein to take our wheat exports at the same time as declaring war against his nation. They slandered a boat-full of refugees who were sinking in our waters, who were trying to save their children from drowning by saying they "threw babies overboard" solely to get inside Australia's borders. They lied and lied about climate change, about whether most of the world's experts thought it was real, then when finally they had to say it was real, they lied about what the international agreements mean and how they really work. Right up to the election. And they forced through a special project about work place relations that influences a massive proportion of voters, without talking about it before an election, without proper study or advice even from their own bureaucracy.

Just try to think back ten years. Remember Max Gillies who dressed up like the PM and portrayed him as a hopeless drunk while he was in power? Remember it was okay to poke fun at politics, it was normal, and it wasn't edgy or subversive, or slightly dangerous (like the Chaser about to go to COURT for comedy?) Remember getting bulk billing at a normal GP - not just at a shitty over stretched clinic where the doctor spends 8 minutes on a consultation and gets confused if you don't need a prescription for something? Your consultation fee was paid for entirely by taxes that you'd already paid, or your parents had paid, remember? Oh yeah, and remember when you actually owned the national telecomms company (also through taxes), not only if you had a share portfolio? (Although mind you I'm all skype these days). And didn't ANZAC day used to be "lest we forget" rather than "lest we get so pissed we forget everything shit about our political landscape."

Phew. If you got through that here's some things people in other countries are saying.

The Guardian (UK)
Howard's defeat was finally delivered by the key defection of the group that had for so long supported him - the 'Aussie battler' - the disillusioned blue-collar voters that Howard had won over from Labor in his sweeping victory in 1996 -renamed 'Howard's battlers'.

The Times (UK)
Rudd, 50, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat, a staunch republican and a fiscal conservative who had campaigned for lower taxes and strict control of public spending, became his country’s 26th prime minister after a huge 6.1% swing against the ruling Liberal-National coalition.
Is "mandarin-speaking" some kind of code for "communist sympathiser" I wonder?

The Washington Post headline is:
Bush ally defeated in Australia: Next Prime Minister promises new course on Iraq, Warming..
(but they require registration to view it)

The Seattle Times

The Bush administration lost one of its staunchest political allies Saturday, when Australians chose a Mandarin-speaking former farm boy to become their new prime minister. . . .

Australia becomes the latest country to turn out governments that contributed to the U.S. war in Iraq, joining Poland, Spain and Britain.
The Buenos Airies Herald
Rudd is expected to forge closer ties with China and other Asian nations and has said he wants a more independent voice in foreign policy, but yesterday again promised Australia would retain its close alliance with the United States.

13 November 2007

A bit more perky

Sorry for two depressing posts in one go. Must be the diminishing hours of daylight over here. Did I mention that I'm coming home over the summer? Very excited about sand-betweenn-the-toes.

Here's a picture of some Belgian chocolates to lighten things up. More Euro adventures on flickr

Remembrance Day

On Sunday (11/11/07) I was actually in a town called Brugge, or Bruges if you are French. It's in Belgium , which used to be called Flanders. Where poppies grow wild, and have become the symbol of the millions of soldiers killed in the first world war. Here's a poem. I had to do it year 12, and it was crap then, but it kind of makes more sense now.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
--Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,-
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

-Wilfred Owen

Well that's a bit shit

ASIO interrogators were "grossly improper": judge

It looks like ASIO are playing out their fantasies of being hard-talking terrorist busting crime fighters for truth and justice through illegal detention, interrogation and trying to force a man to wear a wire to get more information on the people they think might really be the baddies.
.. It is the latest in a series of high-profile blunders by those responsible for prosecuting the war against terrorism.

In a damning judgment, Justice Michael Adams said the two ASIO officers "committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping at common law".

Their conduct was "grossly improper", he said. Ruling all subsequent police records of interview inadmissible, Justice Adams also observed that the officers' later explanations for their behaviour were defensive and, at times, untruthful.

And this is kind of crappy too:

Man stateless after immigration department admits mistake

Tony Tran, who was living in Brisbane with his wife and son, was detained in December 1999 when immigration officials told him his visa had been cancelled years earlier.

The Department admitted a mistake and released him after five-and-a-half years, but because he and his son have no permanent resident status they still face possible deportation