Friday, November 30, 2007

Rich Businesswoman

I was googling for other examples of rich businesswomen married to successful pollies, and, well:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Women's Business

Much is being made of the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister is suddenly OMG a woman and that her opposite number, a Tory for chrissake, is also of the female persuasion. Kevin Rudd is also rather proud of the fact that there are four women in the Labor cabinet - Gillard, Jenny Macklin, Nicola Roxon and Penny Wong - which tops the female count of even Howard's most feminine cabinet.

It's a brave new world. One would expect nothing less from a man who, apropos his wife's dodgy industrial relations practices, proudly asserted that his wife was no appendage of her husband. Nosir, although she did subsequently sell her multi-million dollar business in deference to her husband's political career, apparently content to spend the next God knows how long obsessing over curtains à la her Lodge predecessor. Oh, well. I suppose if manchester doesn't prove fulfilling she can always fill the time planning her Hillary manoeuvre.

Nor, when you think about it, is four women in a cabinet of twenty much to write home about. Forty years since the Second Wave, and we're only at 20%? Germaine Greer will be outraged, if she ever snaps out of her current Oz-dissing, young-boy-admiring daze.

I'd like to think we've progressed beyond the stage where a leader has to explicitly state that he didn't choose women for his cabinet just for the hell of it. But the fact is, however much we may snigger at the Coalition MPs who've suddenly discovered the joys of family life after all these years, politics is damned unfriendly to those who want any kind of balance in life. The hours are ridiculous, the job stressful, the travel requirements strenuous. I think that, more than, say, a lack of ambition or qualifications on the part of women, or sexism on the part of men, is the reason for the current gender imbalance in politics. Until the paradigm shifts to a point where women and men actually do share the business of child-rearing equally, women are going to be underrepresented in Cabinet, in the outer ministry, in Parliament.

Brendan NELSON?

I guess they thought Malcolm Turnbull's policy agenda was just far too likely to be well-received for the modern Liberal Party to take on board. Turnbull has all these crazy ideas about republics and reconciliation and signing Kyoto and failing to hate on brown people. It's Just Not On. Not what liberalism's About. Just ask Miranda Devine. I'm not saying Nelson is a right-wing maniac - I don't think he is - but his election as Liberal leader, with the support of the Liberal right faction, is a clear sign that the Liberals have no intention of learning from their mistakes.

As a matter of fact, the Libs have gone insane. Contrary to current conservative wishful thinking, this election was about more than a repudiation of John Howard, the man; witness Turnbull's results in Wentworth and Petro Georgiou's in Kooyong versus the debacle in, say, Bennelong or Lindsay. Hard right doesn't work; moderate liberalism does. It's what people want. But to admit as much would be to take on much of Rudd's centrist agenda, thus, in the view of some Libs, depriving the party of its raison d'etre. I get that, but turning right just for the sake of opposition isn't going to get them elected. It'll just turn them into a bigger version of the NSW Libs. And then there's Tony Abbott's dark warning that he might challenge for the leadership at a later date. For a Howard man, he doesn't seem to place much stock in leadership stability.

Serious questions about the future of the opposition aside, though, this existential crisis they're going through is highly entertaining, wets vs. dries vs. crazy uglies; my personal favourite moment was when Tony Abbott declared (with, one pictures, a hand over his heart): "I always regarded myself as the honorary president of the John Howard fan club." Aww. True believers can be so cute sometimes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Democracy works. It really does. I have never experienced such a jubilant mood, post-election: our Don's Party, nervous at the outset, quickly gave way to a mess of cheering, dancing, heckling, bloodthirsty speculation over the Liberal Party leadership, referring to one another as "comrade", and drinking penalties every time one's local member was spotted on the TV (much to the distress of the lone Joe Hockey constituent in the room; it seems the man cannot bear to be offscreen for more than a few seconds at a time).

Some thoughts:

- Maxine McKew mightn't be a seasoned politician, but she has star quality by the bucketload. Charming, articulate, natural. Her infectious speech on Saturday was the best moment of the evening. Guy Rundle summed it up in Crikey: "If the real deal happens, and John Howard is replaced by a FEMALE, LABOR, ABC JOURNALIST, how could you not see, in her sparkling eyes, a reflection of the light on the hill?"

- By contrast, we got bored and turned the music back up in the middle of Rudd's acceptance speech. He might be Third Way, but Tony Blair he ain't.

- If I say I'm glad Turnbull survived the bloodbath, do I get stripped of my True Believer credentials? I just think we need all the socially moderate Libs we can get right now, so we can forget that Howard's culture war years ever happened. The last thing this country needs is a hard-right, God-bothering opposition.

- For the same reason, Tony Abbott cannot be allowed within 500 metres of the Liberal leadership. He'll rewrite the party charter to include excerpts from the Book of Revelations and run on a platform of banning condom sales and instituting Compulsory Mass for the Dole.

- Quote from a "senior Liberal", post-Bennelong debacle: "f-cking Chinese". Dearie me: have they learned nothing?

- The Queensland electorate of Leichhardt topped off a highly entertaining six weeks by posting the biggest swing to Labor in the country. A bravura performance all round. But the title of most entertaining seat this time around must go to Wentworth. It had everything: silvertail businessman Malcolm Turnbull versus human rights lawyer George Newhouse, the political retaliation of an embittered ex, anti-Zionist campaign managers, the accipurpose revelation that Turnbull had sworn at the PM over Kyoto, an illegitimate candidacy and subsequent suppression of vital documents, the "girl talk"/political interference intrigue of Caroline Overington versus Danielle Ecuyer, and the soap operatic culmination on polling day, when Overington actually slapped Newhouse. Ah, the eastern suburbs.

- The talk is all about the Liberal implosion, but a secondary question - whither the Nats? - is equally salient considering Saturday's primary vote.

- One gets the impression Alan Ramsey has been waiting a long time to file this piece.

- Ditto Paul Keating.

- Between the seat losses and the leadership quitting, we have quite the star-studded death list: Howard, Costello, Vaile, Brough… hate to sound greedy, but couldn't we have squeezed Danna Vale in somewhere?

- Interesting times: the balance of power in the Senate will likely be shared among independent South Australian Nick Xenophon, Family First's Steve Fielding, and his mortal enemy, the Greens. God only knows what kind of under-the-table legislative deals we'll see this term.

- I know you're probably as worried as I was about how David "The Australian people are too smart to throw Howard out" Flint was handling the electoral heartbreak. Worry no more: apparently he survived.

- The young NSW quasi-fascist Alex Hawke is now a federal MP. He's an unashamed critic of the small-l liberal faction of his party and is said to have been instrumental in the downfall of John Brogden as NSW opposition leader. Be very afraid.

- Primary vote in Lindsay, home of the leaflet scandal: 38% Liberal, 52% Labor. Combined elected representatives of Pauline Hanson's party, One Nation, and the Muslim-bashing Christian Democrats: 0. We're getting there.

- In what may be an early sign that Rudd's prime ministership will, indeed, restore some compassion to the electorate, I actually feel a little sorry for Peter Costello right now. But I'm sure it will pass.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Holy Crap

Er, that would be the DAILY Telegraph.

Ala Akba

Apart from anything else, a leaflet taking on the voice of Islamic activists is rendered somewhat less convincing when the signature rallying cry is misspelled. Upon reflection, it was probably a deliberate style choice, but that doesn't make it any less dumb.

Amusingly, Howard's in damage control mode, condemning the leaflets as racist, which is just a bit rich for my delicate sensibilities at this hour of the morning. After all, the man is not above encouraging bigoted fringe groups himself when he gets a spare moment, and both his policies and his past rhetoric leave him open to the charge of race-baiting. It's just the execution of the leaflets that was a bit off. He's condemning the blackface while upholding Jim Crow.

This episode has made front-page news out of a long-existing fact: there are some scary folk in the hard right faction of the Libs. Sometimes I wonder how they can coexist with a man of evident conscience like Petro Georgiou. Fine, it's a big tent, but surely there are limits? Is a middle-class upbringing and a heartfelt devotion to cutting taxes really enough to keep these people together?

I'm not entirely sure it is. If the Libs lose office, the post-election fallout is going to be vairy interesting. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Race for the Bottom

For those of us who like to make a big deal out of our triennial accountability moments, the Senate group voting tickets are available online. Read. Research. Vote below the line. Truly, it's exhilirating.

I know roughly how my preferences are going to go, but I'm yet to work out the final details, in particular, who will win the coveted spot at the very bottom of my ballot paper. In the race:

The Christian Democratic Party

Fred Nile's disciples want a moratorium on "Islamic immigration", citing a highly scientific Daily Telegraph online poll which claims 99% community support for the initiative. Then, hilariously, they claim in the very next paragraph of their leaflet that "the Christian Democratic Party stands for religious freedom in Australia and worldwide". Religious freedom as long as you're, you know, Christian.

To me personally, this is all the more injurious because one of their candidates, Paul Green, is from Nowra. Indeed, he's the Deputy Mayor of the Shoalhaven City Council, where he no doubt introduces a certain godly je ne sais quoi to the quotidian business of bypasses, garbage collection, and development approvals.

Also, there are grammatical errors in their leaflets.

The Citizens' Electoral Council

These people are beyond bizarre. Allow me to demonstrate:

The CEC are affiliated with the anti-Semitic LaRouche Organisation. They have also likened the scientific consensus on global warming to "Hitler-Nazi race science". I'd explain the link between global warming and eugenics, but I think you have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand it. Sorry, folks.

Pauline Hanson's United Australia Party

Evidently think "Pauline: You Know Where She Stands" is a good thing. Well, the rest of Australia might've forgotten how much damage Pauline did in her pre-Dancing days, but I haven't. Onto the list she goes!

In a touching concession to its likely visitor stream, her website asks rhetorically "Did you know that the Senate can say 'No' and overrule the government?" Actually, I did, in common with most of my primary-educated counterparts, but thanks for asking.

So there you have it. Pauline Hanson: #1 representative for people without a goddamn clue.

One Nation

It's just not the same without Pauline, is it? Still, according to One Nation's own website, we should vote for them because that way... they can do exactly the same stuff Howard's been doing without them anyway! Well, the race-baiting stuff, anyway. As calls to action go, it seems somewhat lacking to my ear, but then I am probably not One Nation's target audience.

Clicking on "The Principles and Objectives of One Nation" will get you a 404 Not Found, which I thought was vaguely amusing.

The Nats

Just cos I'm mean, and it would be funny.

With so many genuinely bad-crazy candidates to choose from, it looks like the garden-variety or single-issue right wingers - Family First, the Libs, the Shooters, et al - are not even in the running. (Neither are the Nats, if I'm being completely honest.) It's really a pity when they work so hard at being objectionable. But hey, there's always next election.

Avendanos versus Andrews

Another distressing story from the dark corners of the immigration department. After everything - the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau, the deportation of Vivian Alvarez, the impassive response to hunger strikes by Baxter detainees, the cancellation of Mohammed Haneef's visa on 'character' grounds, the seven-year limbo of the stateless asylum seeker Ahmed Al-Kateb, and so on, and so on - it should come as no surprise to anyone to discover yet another instance of merciless bureaucratic stonewalling. But it angers nonetheless. This family has lived here for 23 years. Their son, Rainiel, an Australian resident, is a 19-year-old with an intellectual disability. Because of the refusal of immigration ministers - first Vanstone, then Andrews - to intervene on behalf of the Avendanos, Rainiel faces the choice of moving to the Philippines with his family, or staying in his country of birth without them.

This is profoundly wrong. Whatever interest Australia has in securing its borders, however strong a 'message' it wants to send out to would-be illegal immigrants, there is no justification for such cavalier treatment of any human being – let alone a family that has resided here peacefully for almost as long as I have been alive.

Kevin Andrews hasn't had long as Minister for Immigration, but in his short tenure he has proven himself quite Amanda Vanstone's equal as far as embarrassing Immigration portfolio incidents are concerned. My friends and I sometimes play a sort of parlour game: which Howard cabinet member would you get rid of, given the chance? I've always been an Abbott girl myself, and Abbott's performance of the last few weeks hasn’t done a great deal to dissuade me. But if I were playing the game with a completely open mind, minister for minister, Andrews is as good a reason as any to vote the Howard government out on Saturday. Unfortunately, his is a safe Liberal seat - but an Andrews on the Opposition benches is infinitely preferable to Andrews as Immigration Minister.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Newsflash: Talkback Caller Has Reactionary Views

I'm not entirely sure why the AAP felt the need to dedicate a news story to a talkback call by a diehard Liberal, but here it is in all its trivial glory. Looks like the subtext of the Libs' message – DON'T TRUST THE LESBIAN COMMIE REDHEADS - is getting through, at least to their Land-reading, John Laws-listening 'base'. Of course, the Coalition is probably hoping that their scare campaign about the deliberately barren, non-skirt-wearing communist union boss Gillard will transcend the redneck ouvre, but I wouldn't count on it. Gillard is a pet target of conservative politicians and pundits, but actual voters, it turns out, quite like her. Michelle Grattan, peace be upon her, had a good piece about this dichotomy a few weeks ago.

In other beatup news, Kevin Rudd does not hate the Australian flag, in fact he loves it dearly, but doesn't feel the need to drape himself in it at every occasion. Nice deflect. I would add that I find it bizarre the way uber-patriots expect the flag to be waved at every conceivable opportunity. If anything, I would expect a patriot to be offended by the idea of the flag being appropriated for such a transparently partisan cause as a Labor Party launch - the implication being that Labor faithful are more Strayan than their Liberal/National counterparts. Surely that's not what the flag is for?

Then again, what would I know? I don't even like the Australian flag.

Friday, November 2, 2007

How Do You Say "Quelle Surprise" in Urdu?

From the Australian:

CONFIDENTIAL emails between top AFP agents and a senior public servant advising Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews indicate that there was a secret plan to thwart a decision by a magistrate to release then terror suspect Mohamed Haneef on bail. The emails show the AFP was aware of a weekend "contingency" plan to ensure the Indian doctor would remain behind bars by having Mr Andrews revoke his visa under the Migration Act in the event of bail being granted by Brisbane magistrate Jacqui Payne on the following Monday.

No shit.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier about public confidence in politicians. I don't know a single person - not a single one - who will be surprised by this revelation, or whose opinion of either Kevin Andrews or the Australian Federal Police will change as a result. We know now, after all, that the 'contingency' did arise, and that Andrews did revoke Haneef's visa. In doing so, he was merrily disregarding, constitutionally speaking, the longstanding principle of separation of powers, and functionally speaking, the even longer-standing principle of habeas corpus. Here's a rule of thumb: if you think what you're proposing might contravene the Magna frigging Carta, you ought to consider the possibility that it's a very bad idea.

Not Kevin the Lesser, though. He's adamant that he and his department acted impeccably throughout the Haneef case. Labor's Tony Burke, who at the time couldn't support Andrews quickly or loudly enough, is calling for a judicial inquiry, presumably one unaffected by political interference. And so the world turns: the outraged among us grow a little more outraged, the minister concerned ducks for cover, and the apathetic continue not knowing or caring. Plus ça change.

Parenthetical of the Day

Guy Rundle writing in Crikey about Tony Abbott:
(Mind you, Howard’s unfortunate follow-up to cancer insensitivity – ‘well Tony’s taken his lumps’ – can only be described as Anglican par excellence. Dame Edna would be proud.)


Nothing Leicha Dame

Who knew the far-north Queensland seat of Leichhardt could be this much fun?

Leichhardt, you'll remember, is the site of the unusual tri-partite contest between the Liberals' Charlie McKillop, the Nationals' Ian Crossland, and Labor's Jim Turnour. It has already caught our attention once this election campaign when Crossland opined aloud that although he was no sexist, Leichhardt is "no seat for a woman". And meant it.

Now McKillop is once again the subject of no-fault-of-hers controversy. Ben Jacobsen, Family First candidate for Leichhardt and every bit as far-right as that implies, has been rebuked by Steve Fielding for insisting that McKillop make her sexuality a matter of public record. McKillop must be cursing the day gender stereotypes were invented; they've bitten her from both sides during this contest. Can't a female ex-prawn trawler be left to campaign in peace?

One would've imagined that Family First have been hoisted on the sexuality-publicising petard quite enough for one week - Steve Fielding evidently thinks so - but that's the trouble with pathological homophobia: you never know when it might rear its ugly head (cf: Bill Heffernan).

And that's the point here: Jacobsen's statement wasn't a one-off gaffe. Impolitic it certainly was, but claiming that people have "the right to know" about a candidate's sexuality is really just a logical extension of the entrenched Family First principle that consensual sex between adults is everybody's business. Hence, banning pornography and prostitution; hence banning gay marriage and denying gay couples the full complement of rights enjoyed by heterosexuals. Philosophically speaking, the "gaffe" and the policy are coming from the same place. Politically, Fielding's rebuke is the right thing to do, but ideologically it makes no sense whatsoever.

Incidentally, rare props to Peter Costello, for saying, explicitly, that this "doesn't reflect well on Family First". Damn right, it doesn't.

I'm Not Sure They're Fully Grasping Her Concern #2

A heartfelt piece from Kate Seear in the Life & Style section of about the media's treatment of powerful women. Seear is concerned about the way in which women are evaluated not for their contributions to public life, but rather for their looks, bodies, hairstyles, clothing, etc.

I pretty much agree with Seear's sentiments, which might be why I found it so laughable that concurrently ran a poll - in the same section - asking readers to evaluate the "political styles" of various politicians. And no, they don't mean rhetorical or managerial or policy styles:

The good news, I guess, is that it's not confined to women - it's also about men who dress like women. I don't think Alex Downer is ever living down those fishnets.