It’s a funny old world: Pyne apologises, Abbott continues to run amok.

It seems that Christopher Pyne and Tony live in parallel universes.

Christopher Pyne got into hot water for saying what most of Australia thinks: that it’s time we resolved the issue of marriage equality. He was forced to make a fairly grovelling apology.

Humble Pyne eats his words: Government minister Christopher Pyne has apologised for his ‘‘unhelpful and damaging’’ same-sex marriage speech that ignited a factional firestorm, as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on his MPs to stop focusing on internal party divisions.

‘‘I’m very sorry that my comments at an event last Friday have caused such a distraction for the government,’’ he said. ‘‘I apologise to anyone they have offended. My remarks were ill chosen and unwise, and I can see how unhelpful and damaging they have been.’’ said the contrite Pyne. 

Yet Tony Abbott continues to run around the countryside issuing six-point plans (a total of 18 words) showing how he would clean up the mess Malcolm Turnbull is making of running the country.

The Age reports “Mr Abbott defended his interventions and foreshadowed a speech he will deliver to the Centre for Independent Studies in which he is expected to call for Australia to embrace nuclear submarines”

 According to Tony, we should all give one of these great big hug.

 Malcolm Turnbull is partly right when he says Australians  are sick and tired of the personality politics emanating from Canberra. It would also be right if he said that Australians are tiring of Tony Abbott.  But Australians are also tiring of him not doing anything about Tony Abbott. It’s time he put Tony back in his bottle and hammered the  cork in.

Finally: Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, charged with child sex offences

After all the denials and the subterfuge: the wheels of justice have finally turned for George Pell.

The Age reports: Cardinal George Pell charged with at least three serious child sex offences. Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations against multiple victims and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.

Australia does not have an extradition treaty with the Holy See and the good Cardinal  can simply refuse to come to Australia. He can also plead, as he has consistently done before, ill health.  the eyes of many, to do either of these would be tantamount to a guilty plea

Many victims and victims group will feel vindication that a man who established the Catholic church’s Melbourne Response to be an independent process which offered counselling and support to  sexual abuse victims has now been called to account. For many Catholics,  it will be a time of great sorrow, dissolution and bewilderment.

People we should feel sorry for (not really) but it’s a nice way to start the morning

  1.  Malcolm Turnbull

Malcolm should be basking in the glory of rounding up the feral cats of the crossbench to pass Gonski 2.0,  but no.

Christopher Pyne went off and  had a few sherbits and got loose-lipped in a cocktail bar  in Canberra and put wind in the sails of the politically becalmed Tony Abbott by talking  (presumably quite loudly) about Abbott’s disastrous Prime Ministership and the issue of  the plebiscite on same-sex marriage. One of his drinking buddies appears to have taped his comments and released them to the press thereby sucking all the oxygen out of Simon Birmingham’s hard-won Gonski victory.

2. Tony  (no sniping, no backstabbing) Abbott

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Very (publicly) disappointed about Christopher Pyne’s lack of loyalty, despite the fact that he was leading the Coalition government over the cliff of electoral disaster, he expected everyone to follow them over the cliff. He also seems to think that loyalty is a one-way street and that he is at the end of it.

3. Christopher Pyne

Who looks sillier than usual and must be reconsidering his  Christmas card list

Joining the dots on terrorism and engagement in the Middle East.

There  were three interesting pieces of news in the last week. Not connected in any way in the media but certainly worth connecting in the collective consciousness.

The first was an indication of the impact of the higher-level technology being used against ISIS in the Middle East. It is undoubtedly working in terms of defeating ISIS on the ground. But the cost is horrendous.

The UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria reports that 300 civilians died in Raqqa province in the three months to 31 May. About 200 of these deaths reportedly occurred in an airstrike in March on the village of Mansoura. That’s just in May. The overall costs is much greater in terms of the deaths of women and children and the costs of families displaced from their homeland.

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The rubble and this picture is the breeding ground for ISIS.

In a recent post on Facebook, an ex-CIA agent says that all the ISIS fighters she interrogated said they were fighting to make the world a better place for their children.

She also made interesting point that in  many of the films that the Americans make such as Star Wars, there is a small band of rebels fighting against an evil empire. She said the ISIS fighters saw themselves as the small band of rebels fighting against the the evil empire, what George Bush called “the Coalition of the Willing.”

Then there was David Petraeus, who’s been around a bit having commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from, 2011 until 2012  and he was highlighting the fact that while ISIS may be being beaten in the Middle East, they are shifting their focus to the Philippines.

Former CIA chief David Petraeus says war in south-east Asia ‘a big concern’ for Australia. The war launched by so-called Islamic State in south-east Asia in recent weeks will be a big problem for Australia for decades. 

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Already, Australia’s sending reconnaissance plans to the Philippines. It’s only a first step.

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But how long will it be before we are sending FA-18s to the Philippines? Of course not, how ridiculous.

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The problem is, you can’t bomb ISIS out of existence. It’s an idea. You can only ultimately combat ideas with better ideas, better policies.

Perhaps even better politicians?

All Blacks beat British Lions 30-15 in a convincing display

Even the British press, who could be pretty sore losers particularly during Richie McCaw’s era, gave credit.

The Telegraph: It was that the outcome had a sense of inevitability about it.  This was a lap of deep reflection for the Lions. The honour belonged to the All Blacks. The Lions had been given a master-class in finishing.

The Independent: New Zealand taught the British and Irish Lions a lesson in clinical finishing as they won the first encounter of their three-Test series 30-15.

The Guardian: Perhaps most worrying for the visitors was how they were tactically unpicked by an All Black pack they had hoped to dominate. A 3-0 blackwash is now a looming possibility.

There was generally acknowledgement from a large number of people who know  rugby well  See more comments

Winger Rieko Ioane scored two tries in his debut for the All Blacks

It wasn’t a particularly beautiful game to watch. More of a slugfest between the forward packs but it was a slugfest that the All Blacks won and laid to rest the idea that the Northern Hemisphere forward packs are in some way superior to those of the Hemisphere. It was a demonstration that the All Blacks can play whatever style of rugby they choose and still beat the best in the world.

It is likely that coach Steve Hansen will come away with a long list of improvements for the second test. He won’t be happy with the way the runaway try that was scored and the way in which the Lions’ backs tore holes in the AB’s defence on a number of occasions.

It was ironic that the Lions were at their most dangerous playing style appropriate that  the All Blacks are most famous for: throwing the ball wide to hard running forward and backs.

Expect the All Blacks to lift their game in the second test. There is certainly room for improvement and they will know it.  The question is whether the  Lions will be able to lift theirs to match them.

Australian democracy and its legal system at work.

It was almost a case of “Watch yourself, sunshine.” with the Supreme Court of Victoria making it quite clear to a group of senior federal ministers just where the lines are drawn and giving three senior ministers a good and fairly public whack around the ears.

Ministers escape contempt charges after ‘unconditional apology’ to Supreme Court

Three Federal ministers Health Minister Greg Hunt, Human Services Minister Alan Tudge and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar (all lawyers) were hauled before the Supreme Court for speaking out about the leniency of sentences handed down by the Victorian courts on terrorism charges.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said the comments were “fundamentally wrong” and that the delay in apologising was “regrettable and aggravated the contempt”.

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Which is code for, “If this matter came before me, you would all be found guilty of contempt.” This would mean they would probably all be disbarred from holding their seats in Parliament.

The Turnbull government currently has a majority of one in the Lower House and this would mean the government would lose its majority and be forced to hold three by-elections which it would probably have a reasonable chance of winning. But trailing 53–47 in the polls, it probably wasn’t a chance that Malcolm Turnbull really wanted to take.

So despite a bit of huffing and puffing from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister everybody has gone strangely silent on the issue.

Except the three ministers who said, ” We have realised we should have offered an unconditional apology to the court. We offer that apology now and unreservedly withdraw all comments. It’s clear just how inaccurate our understanding was.”

And it was not a case of what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argued when he said in defending the three ministers, arguing the courts “cannot be and are not immune from criticism, which may extend to robust observations of a particular decision or penalty”.

What happened here was that the ministers made their commentary while the Supreme Court was considering the case of a specific terrorist and the Ministers’ comments could be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of the specific trial and this is something that the Chief Justice is rightly sensitive about.

If parliamentarians and the electorate, in general, are unhappy about the sentences that are handed down for terrorist offences then Parliament can change the laws and the courts will then enact those laws.

It is good to know that “robust observations” can be directed at politicians who cannot be and are not immune from criticism” nor from the consequences of their public statements.

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Hanson on autistic kids: Ignorant, ill-informed and ill-considered

Pauline Hanson has provoked a furious reaction with her comment in Parliament that: Students with disabilities should be removed from mainstream classrooms because they are putting a strain on teachers and schools, One Nation senator Pauline Hanson has told Parliament.

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‘‘These kids have a right to an education by all means,’’ Senator Hanson said.

‘‘But if there is a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be … given that special attention because most of the time the teachers spend so much time on them.

‘‘They forget about the child who … wants to go ahead [in] leaps and bounds in their education.’’

In particular, she infuriated Labor MP Emma Hussar, whose son is autistic and who must have articulated the views of every parent of an autistic child in Australia.

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“And, I’ve got one thing to say to every single child on the autism spectrum, who is going into a classroom today –  And, that even on the days that are hard – when you’re frustrated, and your disability makes you angry – you are still better than she is on her best day.”

What is so disappointing about Hansen’s comments, apart from the gross insensitivity of what she said, is that she is actually wrong. The Australian education system does have a special system for children with special needs and someone who was voting on education legislation should be aware of this.

In Victoria, these schools are called Special Developmental Schools and they cater for children for whom mainstream schools are just a bridge too far. But for many children, some of whom may be autistic, education in mainstream schools may be the best option.

The other person to cover himself with glory during this debate was good old Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm who expressed concern that spending on education had been rising over the last decade.

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David Leyonhjelm: More Guns, less education?

Patriotism and the last refuge of the (sportingly geriatric) scoundrel

Recently, I have been posting exultant blogs about New Zealand sporting triumphs and I have been reflecting on why I do this.

I have not lived in  New Zealand for 40 years, I now have dual citzenship and I probably identify more as an Australian…. but not when it comes to NZ sporting victories which still fill me was an inordinate and quite incomprehensible pride.

Some are relatively minor:  The Under-20 All Blacks winning the world championship crushing England 64-17.

Who cares? Only a small proportion of the world understands or recognises rugby as a sport.  Few comprehend its subtle beauties.

But for those who do, New Zealand is the undisputed champion and maintaining their position is an important part of the national psyche.

Others are currently major and anticipatory:  Team New Zealand goes 4-0 up in the America’s Cup and now has a chance of defeating the best in the world in one of the most technologically advanced and demanding sports that man can think up.

Yeah, I know we’re not there yet. And everyone in New Zealand remembers the last one  when the Kiwis went from 8-1 up to 9-8 down in what must have been one of the greatest reversals in yachting history.

But despite the fact we’ve got Emirates and Nespresso money (and presumably George Clooney will tag along if we win), it is still a bunch of Kiwi blokes taking on the most technologically advanced nation and one of the richest blokes in the world.

Now, with the yachting, if you can call it that, the connection to New Zealand is getting increasingly tenuous.  But in New Zealand, and everywhere where there is an expatriate New Zealander, this will be seen as a great New Zealand victory.

This is probably an indication that globalisation, or more correctly an understanding of it, has not yet reached the Shaky Isles.  We are already basking in the glory.

And this is where Rugby is so important to New Zealanders. They probably accept that yachting is dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars from Emirates and global sponsors but they also like to think that there is a certain amount of Kiwi know-how that derives from P class yachting, the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf that contributes to this particular victory.

But it is probably a bit tenuous.

But rugby is different.

Everybody in New Zealand has played rugby. Nowadays, both boys and girls.

When girls couldn’t play, families were involved. So everybody really understands what it is like to pull on the boots and run onto the field or at least to stand on the sideline, whether it is for the Under-10 Ponsonby side or for the All Blacks. There is actually no difference. The experience is the same

This is All Black great Joe Stanley.

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I taught him at Bayfield  Primary School in the early 1960s. I also coached him in the school rugby and softball teams. I think Joe would say I taught him everything he knows about metaphysical poetry.

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That’s Joe third from the right in the back row.

The point is that in New Zealand with a population of just 4 million everybody probably knows an All Black, some of us got to coach one of them.  So when they run on the field, we all feel that in some way we made a contribution and get some vicarious pleasure in watching them play and win.

There is something else as well. And it’s even more ridiculous. With each All Black victory, the merits and achievements of our own rugby careers are somehow enhanced, made all the greater. We, the bedrock of New Zealand rugby, growing greater year by year.

 

 

 

British Lions score confidence–boosting win over Maori All Blacks

It was one they had to win.  And they did 32 -10. Mainly due to the help of Lee Halfpenny who kicked 20 points plus they were awarded a penalty try worth seven.

Their only try coming from hard-running Maro Itoje

Coach Warren Gatland must be worried about the team’s inability to score tries. And they have a way to go before they are in double figures on that count.

By contrast, the All Blacks ran in 12 tries against Samoa.  The game couldn’t be considered more than a training run. But it went well.  The opposition has to run the ball back to the halfway line for the kick-off pretty quickly for you to run in 12 tries in one game.

The Lions face the Chiefs midweek before the First Test against All Blacks over the weekend.  Things are starting to get to the pointy end.

British Lions go 2 – 2 with loss to Highlanders

It was by the narrowest of margins,  23 – 22, but a loss nonetheless. Now, with four matches played the assessment must be forming that this team which is the best that can be drawn from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales is probably only as good as an average Super Rugby team in New Zealand. That’s not to say that Super in New Zealand isn’t good.  This touring team is unique and world rugby, nor the team draws on four international teams for its playing side.

There were some promising signs in this performance. The Lions are starting to score tries. Not a lot, but some.

But they must be worried at the difficulties they have containing players such as winger Waisake Naholo, 1.86m and 96 kg, arguably the most lethal finisher in world rugby, but not certain starting position in the All Blacks XV.

The Lions will be hoping for a strong showing against the New Zealand Maoris. Now that will be haka worth watching.