Same-sex marriage plebiscite and Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false.

So here you have the government’s position on same-sex marriage from two of its most senior ministers.

It was summed up by Gollum  in the Lord of the Rings:

 “Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!”

Two of Malcolm Turnbull’s most senior ministers have refused to say how they would vote in Parliament if the government’s plebiscite on same-sex marriage is passed.

Scott Morrison was interviewed on 7.30 by Leigh Sales. Morrison is a Pentecostal Christian and deeply opposed to same-sex marriage.

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 Scott Morrison will wrestle with his conscience on same-sex marriage

It is  a matter of faith for him and he’s probably one of those politicians who puts his faith above the wishes of the electorate.

Expect some St Thomas More moments if the plebiscite is ever 1) held or 2) passed. Thomas More famously opposed Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and lost his head as a result.

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Han Holbein the Younger  “Sir Thomas More” 

“My view is, if the plebiscite is carried nationally, then the legislation should pass,” Mr Morrison said.

Echoing Mr Morrison, Ms Bishop said she would “respect the outcome. That will depend on the plebiscite vote overall, how it is broken down and what it looks like state by state, electorate by electorate and then, of course, it will depend what the legislation looks like,” she said.

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 Julie Bishop considers a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage plebiscite.

“I would take my electorate’s view into account, but I would also take into account how the plebiscite played out across Australia because, for example, a referendum gets up if it is a majority of states, majority of people in the majority of states.”

So we haven’t had the election yet and the senior members of the Liberal party are already finding excuses for not supporting the Yes vote.

But this is nothing to the shenanigans that will take place when it comes to wording the actual questions on the voting paper. Remember the way John Howard worded the vote for the Republic. The options were such that no one who wanted a republic would possibly have voted for the Yes option.

So expect a ballot paper something like this:

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Malcolm Turnbull, Pontius Pilate, the governments of Nauru and PNG

Last night Turnbull appeared on Four Corners and was asked if, as Prime Minister, he felt at all responsible for the self immolation of two people in detention centres. His reply was that he didn’t because the responsibility was that of the governments of Nauru and PNG not Australia.

For those of us who had a religious education we are reminded of an incident in the new Testament where Pontius Pilate washed his hands as he passed Christ over for crucifixion. It is the incident where the metaphor “he washed his hands of it” was born.

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 Matthias Stomer “Pilate washes his hands after condemning Jesus”

“When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.” Matthew 27:24

Pilate was the Roman ruler in Jerusalem. His word was law. What he did was an abdication of responsibility. He is now famous throughout history for that one act.

In fairness to Malcolm Turnbull, at least his response was comprehensible if not particularly admirable. All that could be said for Bill Shorten was that he said that he wasn’t as bad as Malcolm Turnbull.

Julie Bishop and economic management in Australia

In a news interview with Chris Ullmann on the ABC, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop highlighted the problem that many Australians have with politicians nowadays.

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Ms Bishop was asserting that Labor were not good economic managers. But hadn’t Labor guided Australia through the financial crisis asked Ullmann with many economic measures that Malcolm Turnbull approved at the time?  Oh yes, said Bishop, but they inherited a $20 billion surplus from Peter Costello then we had the pink batts fiasco and all the debt and deficit that we now have to deal with as a  group of responsible financial managers.

There’s one thing we should understand about the current deficit. It was the price of Australia paid for surviving the global financial crisis. And you must realise that it wasn’t a terribly high price in the greater scheme of things. It didn’t represent fiscal responsibility on the part of the Labor Party and it didn’t represent travelling the budget deficit on the part of the Liberal party. So both parties should stop trying to kid the Australian public.

If Scott Morrison or Chris Bowen were to explain it for what it really is, rather than as the other guy’s fault, their credibility would increase and our confidence that they would be able to get us through a similar crisis in the future would also increase.

In her brief period as opposition treasurer, Julie Bishop demonstrated a complete unfitness for that position and rather unceremoniously dumped. She’s a good Foreign Minister but she was never going to be any good as a Treasurer and she again demonstrated a lack of some of the fundamentals of economic management.

Why can’t politicians simply be honest with us?

Certainly the Rudd government inherited a good financial situation from the Howard government. But many of those benefits had been squandered by the Costello tax cuts. Despite the Liberal party rhetoric, Costello was really not a very good treasurer. He was a lucky treasurer.

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However, there is no doubt that the triumvirate of Rudd, Henry and Stevens steered Australia through a crisis that almost no other first world nations survived and which many are still struggling with.

All of us, including members of the current Liberal administration should recognise this.

It is called honesty in government. Giving credit where credit is due.

 

Turnbull makes border security a key plank of re-election platform

Malcolm Turnbull launched his campaign and provided almost a caricature of Coalition brand identification, overwhelmingly emphasising economic growth and border security.

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Malcolm Turnbull frames the border security issue which is beginning to look like thin air

On the same day The Age announces Immigration chief Michael Pezzullo has referred 132 cases of alleged corruption involving immigration officers to the under-resourced federal law enforcement watchdog in the past 12 months, more referrals than the watchdog has received in any year since its creation in 2006

So it seems that the problem is not nasty people smugglers after all.

It’s corrupt officials and government inefficiency.

So much for trusting the Liberal party to keep our borders secure.

Second chance for UK: Brexit becomes Brinagain

Here’s how it would work.

David Cameron resigns as he has said he would and calls a general election.

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Boris Johnson succeeds him as leader of the Conservative party.

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Corbyn, or whoever else is leading the Labour Party runs on the platform of not invoking Article 50. Johnson has no option other than to rerun his Leave campaign.

The 28% of people who didn’t vote in the referendum realise what a mistake has been made and vote for the Labour Party. A significant portion of 51% who voted for Leave realise what a huge mistake they have made and vote for the Labour Party.

The result is a landslide to remain in Europe.

It may be a pipe dream. But it is a solution.

 

Stable government according to Barnaby Joyce

In a recent interview, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce mused, “Imagine a House of Representatives with 150 independents.”

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He was referring to the instability that will result from the election of people like independent Tony Windsor.

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Barnaby probably regards any House of Representatives with independent members as a  collection of worshippers of the Antichrist.

And I suspect that if we were able to get him in a dark room and whack him with a rolled up copy of the Gunnedah Bugle, he would admit that a good House of Representatives would be made up of 90 or so members of the National Country Party, with him as Prime Minister, 20 or 30 members of the Liberal party, with MalcolmTurnbull as Deputy Prime Minister and a few odds and sods from Labor and the minor parties and Tony Windsor, upon whom Barnaby would piss from a great height whenever the mood came upon him.

Under this scenario, the country  would be run by right-minded country folk who would give such issues as same-sex marriage short shrift  and tell its proponents to bugger off.

But his question is an interesting one. What would  a house full of independent representatives be like?  Joyce maintains that it would be chaotic and he’s probably right.

It would certainly not be orderly in the way that a two-party system produces order where party discipline ensures that government members will vote along party lines. This may produce stability but it may not necessarily be good for democracy or the interests of the electorate.

Parties are generally elected on the strength of the policies they announce during election campaigns and in part, if they are the government, on their track record. Often, they break  election promises or are required to formulate policies that were not announced during the election. In these situations, the electorate has no influence whatsoever about how or what decisions are made.

In  a House made up entirely of independent members, policy decisions on matters that had not been raised during the election campaigns would be subject to a range of views equal to those of the elected members of the Parliament. There is a much better chance that this would equate to the views of the electorate than would be the case in a two-party system.

The downside of an independent House of Representatives is that decision-making would be unbelievably complicated and time-consuming. But is this too high a price to pay for a highly democratic system?

There is a party standing for election this year that has no policies. The electorate can contact its representatives through an app where they can indicate how they want their representatives to vote on any given matter. It’s electronic and immediate democracy, a bit like Barnaby’s House of Representatives with 150 independents but  immediately responsive to the electorate.

There are indications of growing disillusionment with the two-party system in Australia. Political systems are notoriously difficult and slow to change but without constant pressure from the electorate, we may be left with a system that is unable to respond quickly and effectively to the challenges of a rapidly changing world.

The vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union was won by around 18 million voters out of a total population of just under 65 million, many of whom did not, or were not able to vote. Yet, despite this, the decision will be binding on future generations and will have consequences for years to come. It is worth considering whether a referendum, which appears to have been decided primarily by voters over 35, was correct way to decide this issue.

 

 

 

A slightly longer perspective on Brexit

I was around when Britain joined European Union. New Zealand, along with Australia, Canada, South Africa, India and a whole lot of other little countries were members of the British Commonwealth and, before that, the British Empire. These countries had fought alongside Britain in two world wars, against members of the European Union that Britain was about to join.

It was generally regarded as an act of betrayal but there was very little that could be done about it.

Fundamentally, the British said that they had had enough of the Empire and wanted to join their new friends (and old enemies) in Europe. Strangely, both Australia and New Zealand have been rather more keen on the idea of Empire than Britain  has been since then.

The British held a referendum and voted to turn their backs on the Commonwealth and join Europe. The world did not come to an end. In fact, the kids were forced to leave home and grow up.

But some interesting things had happened in Europe as well.

The first half of the 20th century had been characterised by two catastrophic  World Wars waged was incredible ferocity and unprecedented technology, particularly in the form of aerial warfare. The total death toll in these two wars is estimate to be around 100 million people.

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The city of Kleve lay in ruins in 1945.

In the 19th century, there were four major wars that involved  major European nations: the Franco-Prussian War, the Austro-Prussian War, the Crimean War, and the Napoleonic Wars (96 battles and 5 million dead).

Since the European Union was formed, there have been no wars in Europe. So, one the immense, but overlooked, benefits of the European Union has been peace.

That peace has come about because the member nations have decided that  it was probably in everybody’s best interests to focus on trade rather than warfare. Britain has been a beneficiary of that process. Now they want to opt out of the system that provided peace, prosperity and stability for the last half of the 20th century.

They want to be the beneficiaries of the system, they just don’t want to have to contribute to maintaining it.

Britain’s exit from the European Union will certainly not mean that Europe will be plunged into military conflict but there are benefits from international unions that are based on cooperation and trade and these unions require everybody to sacrifice some national interests for the greater benefit.

Britain has clearly indicated it is no longer prepared to make this kind of effort.

 

Julie Bishop makes a poor call on Eddie McGuire

Eddie McGuire’s outrageous behaviour has divided the community in fairly predictable ways. On one hand there is the “lighten up, it’s only a joke” brigade and on the other is the “threats of violence against women are never a joke” brigade.

In the second category is Holden, Collingwood’s major sponsor. “Holden categorically disapproves of Eddie McGuire’s inappropriate comments, along with those of his co-hosts,” Holden spokesman Sean Poppitt.

Holden kicks in $3 million a year to the Collingwood coffers so its opinion is going to be important.

Predictably and disappointingly, the founding Chairman of beyondblue Jeff Kennett, a national organisation “working to reduce the impact of depression and anxiety in the community” supported McGuire. His spurious defence in the Herald Sun today did little to justify his actions.

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Not predictably but also disappointingly, Julie Bishop got into the debate.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop backed the Collingwood president, saying: ‘‘If we’re going to take offence at every silly, offhand remark or attempt at humour, then we’re not focusing on the really important issues of the day.’’

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 You would have thought Julie Bishop would have had more sympathy for a woman who has to operate in a boys’ club environment.

This wasn’t an offhand remark. It was an exchange that went on for a number of minutes. It’s a pity that no one in the studio had the guts to say ” Hold on guys, this is out of order, let’s change the subject.”

So here is a question for the Foreign Minister.

If a member of the Labor Party had made similar comments about you, would you have taken it as a joke?

I hope you wouldn’t. But if you were consistent, you would have just laughed it off.

This was not some dumb-arsed yobbo talking to his mates in a pub. This is one of the highest profile media personalities in Australia. This is the president of one of the largest football clubs in Australia. This a man with almost unparalleled access to the media.

So what he says gets a lot of attention. And there will be people who think that what he says is funny.  And there will be a small proportion of that group who will think that this kind of behaviour is acceptable.

No one is suggesting  for a moment that McGuire or his mates would ever do something like what they jokingly suggested on radio. But that commentary, like the commentary of Alan Jones about Julia Gillard, normalises and legitimises violence against women.

It’s a pity that the Foreign Minister does not realise this.

 

Threats of violence against women are never a joke, Eddie

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has defended a ‘joke’ about drowning The Age chief football writer Caroline Wilson, saying they were remarks made “in the spirit of the fun of the day”.

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Caroline Wilson has had to endure a lot from her so-called professional colleagues

McGuire was condemned on social media for saying he would pay $50,000 to see Wilson stay under a pool of iced water and charge an extra $10,000 for “everyone to stand around the outside and bomb her”.

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Eddie McGuire drops the ball

And then from Danny Frawley

I’ll actually jump in and make sure she doesn’t — I’ll hold her under, Ed.

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Danny Frawley:  a big supporter of respect for women

All this comes on top  of Sam Newman’s appalling behaviour in 2009.

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Sam Newman’s treatment of Carolyn Wilson should have seen himbanned from television for life

So let’s hope that Danny Frawley can explain to his wife and three daughters why this kind of behaviour is acceptable. And then he should run the argument past the public and Carolyn Wilson.

Perhaps it is too much to think that the AFL will sanction McGuire or that the Collingwood football club would decide that this is one bridge too far.

Just as the women’s competition takes off in Melbourne, McGuire spoils the parade.

It’s not enough to say that it was a joke or that it was a massive error of judgement. These are standard excuses that celebrities offer when they make complete dick-heads of themselves.

What you said was not joke, Eddie. Perhaps you should try to explain why people shouldn’t think that this is the real Eddie McGuire speaking.

It is also time that Carolyn Wilson called out McGuire on this issue and took a strong stand on misogyny in the football media.