The media has been full of commentary on the problems of the current government. Much of it is focused on the Prime Minister Scott Morrison. It’s easy to criticise. Simply replacing him will not solve much. Fundamental changes to the structure of the Liberal party (and possibly Labor Party role) will need to be made to improve the function of our democracy.
To exceptionally brave young women have highlighted the problems of sexism and misogyny in the Liberal party and the Parliament in general.
Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins both gave impassioned speeches to the National Press Club. During their addresses, they effectively said that the time for talking was over. The time for action was now and the action must start with the Prime Minister.
Liberal MPs including Jane Hume, Marise Payne, Anne Ruston and Simon Birmingham remained seated as they were given a standing ovation at the National Press Club.
At least they turned up.
It’s not surprising, given that both speakers spent a fair amount of time attacking the (absent) Prime Minister Scott Morrison. You could scarcely have expected them to stood up and clapped.
This, and another incident highlights the fundamental problem in dealing with the issues that these two brave young women have drawn the nation’s attention to.
In an interview with Leigh Sales on ABC’s 7.30, Former deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, identified a group of Liberal MPs, who called themselves the “big swinging dicks” club. She said she believed this blocked her ambitions to become Foreign Minister. Morrison denied the group’s existing saying it wasn’t very successful.
But that is not the point.
The group name was first outed in 2009 by The Australian’s Glenn Milne. Members reportedly included Christopher Pyne, Steven Ciobo, Greg Hunt, Peter Dutton, Jamie Briggs, Mathias Cormann, Michael Keenan and Morrison.
Naturally, her claims with fervent denials, particularly from Morrison.
Both of these issues are symptomatic of the culture that exists within Parliament and specifically within the Liberal party. The people in this group were cabinet minister. this is the kind of behaviour that define’s and cements bean organisation’s culture.
The problem is that cultural change difficult in any organisation, particularly within the Parliament and Liberal party.
Anybody who has endeavoured to bring about cultural change in a large organisation knows how difficult the process is.
Organisational culture is developed over a long period of time and becomes deeply entrenched in the structure of the organisation. For better or worse, it becomes the cement that holds that structure together.
The longer the culture has taken to develop, longer it will take to change it.
What is defined (by some people) as a sexist and misogynistic culture in the Parliamentary Liberal party, is a culture that promotes and protects the power of a privileged group. They are unlikely to implement or support any program that will lead to them giving up power.
Ironically, the senior women in the party, some of whom attended the National Press Club will have been aware of the problems that Tame and Higgins spoke of but will also have the beneficiaries of the processes and structures of the party.
It’s a truism in system theory that structure determines behaviour. Until you change structures, behaviour will never change.
Unfortunately, Scott Morrison cannot fix this problem. But he can play a ukulele.
There are fundamental problems in the conduct of government that Morrison cannot solve.
The Liberal party structure needs changing in some fundamental ways. The way people get into Parliament is a simple example
It preselects people like Christian Porter and eventually makes him Attorney General His behaviour, going back a long way, has clearly made him unfit for the position.
It preselects Alan Tudge, a man who campaigns on Christian values, and appoints him as Minister of Education while he is having a very public affair with a staff member.
These are problems that selection process in the party should deal with.
I’ve taken a lot of photographs of people over the years and they have always been photographs of people I have been close to. Mostly Di and our children and lately my grandchildren. Many of the children I taught. Looking back, the photos were always a reflection of the relationship I had with them.
Is it possible for photographers to remove themselves completely from their relationship with their subjects?
The photographs of Warwick are very much a reflection of the serious discussion I was having with Warwick. I don’t have any photographs of him smiling.
At 99, Warwick is still mentally as he was when I met him when he was 50. We discussed things the same way we did 40 years ago. These photographs are a reflection of that. The photos on shelves, taken by his family, are snapshots. They capture moments the family has spent together.
What I have tried to do is to capture my insights into Warwick. I’m happy with the results. I’m not going back to take any more photos.
I was hoping to get some photos that his family will have to remember him by. His shelves are covered in photographic memories of their times together but no photos that are a serious study of Warwick.
So I thought I would take some photos that were more detached from the normal run of weddings, christenings, birthdays, family outings et cetera. A more formal portrait sitting.
I used my Nikon D7200 with a Nikon AF-S 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR DX lens.
Modern technology allows me to take photos in bursts of 10 in a couple of seconds. I am them able to edit out the duds. The one with closed eyes, the wrong expressions etc.In the bad old days of 35mm films and darkrooms it wasn’t until several days later that you discovered these. Nowadays, I can edit them out on the spot and shoot some more.
When I look at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s brilliant photographs, I often wonder how many he had to take to get one brilliant “decisive moment”. Probably quite a few.
Scott Morrison appears to be running part of his campaign on “Everyone in Australia knows who I am” as if this is a virtue. It isn’t.
Someone in Marketing must have told him it was good idea. And he has believed them.
What they didn’t tell him was that most people think that he is an underachieving, untrustworthy liar.
They have based view on the widely broadcast opinion of the Prime Minister of France Phillipe Macron, the ex-Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, the ex-Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull and numerous senior members of his own party, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells,Catherine Cusack normally a group of people you would expect to be singing his praises and various other parliamentarians. He also copped a bit from Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson
He has not been helped by his denials that he has not been spending time with the now disgraced head of the Evangelical Church Hillsong, Brian Huston. The photograph has not helped.
By comparison, he says no one knows Anthony Albanese. This claim lack credibility as Albanese has been in Parliament now for nearly two decades and has been untainted by scandal in direct contrast to Morrison.
In attacking Albanese, who now appears to be leading him in the polls as preferred Prime Minister, Morrison seems to be redefining political stupidity.
Morrison has yet to call the general election. Almost everything he has done leading up to the current election been pretty much disastrous. The gap between the two parties has continued to widen.
Now Albanese leads him as the preferred Prime Minister which is a remarkable situation for an incumbent against a leader of the opposition.
Worse still, Josh Frydenberg is preferred leader of the Liberal party amongst Liberal party voters.
Robert Browning’s poem My Last Duchess is one side of a conversation between two men. One is a Duke who is describing a painting of his previous wife to an emissary from a nobleman who is seeking a union between his master’s daughter and the Duke.
The poem has a basis in real life. The characters in the poem are presumed to be Alfonso d’Este (1476-1534), Duke of Ferrara
and his wife Lucrezia de’ Medici
Poem begins with the Duke inviting the emimsary
Will’t please you sit and look at her?
And then, clearly noting the surprise on the emissary’s face at this the expression that the painter has captured
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the’ cheek;
Quite unwittingly, ghe Duke makes it clear he was deeply jealous of his young wife.
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed;
She thanked men—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her
Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—which I have not—to make your will
E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop
I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.
The duke then invites the emissary to rejoin the company adding that he expects his demands for a dowry to be met but that the daughter remains his main interest. There is a subtext to his explanation of the painting. It is quite clear to the history what his expectations will be of his new wife. Any repeat of the behaviours of his last duchess will lead to the new one meeting the same fate. As they return, he points out in the work of art of bronze statue of Neptune taming the seahorse just as he would expect to tame his new wife. The Duke’s speech is one of wealth, power and arrogance must surely have left the emissary is no doubt about what the new wife can expect.
It will depend on who you ask. ABC viewers, those who watch will 730, will have loved it. Scott Morrison and his supporters will have hated it. They have good reason to have done so. Morrison came off very badly against the extremely aggressive Sales.
Perhaps she had remembered one of the most famous lines by Maximus (Crowe) was when he said to Commodus shortly before his death, “Time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end.”
Leigh Sales’ 730 interview with PM Scott Morrison was always going to be confrontational when she started out by asking:
“Let me put it to you …that there can only be one factor that’s playing into the negative sentiment towards your coalition and that without sounding rude has to be you?,’’’ Sales said.
Sales must find it frustrating. In trying to get to the bottom of the issue of texts that ex-New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian sent to a colleague was trying to nail a jelly the wall.
Berejiklian allegedly branded Morrison “horrible, horrible person” and a “psycho” and also that “He is actively spreading lies and briefing against me re fires.” in a text to a colleague.
Then Berejiklian subsequently released a statement saying she did not remember the text exchange. Then in the 730 interview Morrison claimed that she had denied them.
Subsequently, Berejiklian said she could not recall the texts.
Later in the interview, Sales challenged Morrison on his intervention in the New South Wales Liberal preselections. He defended his intervention on behalf of “Sussan Ley, one of my finest cabinet ministers”. It was a pity that he had to be seen to be defending the Minister who superintended the Sports Rorts disaster.
Similarly disastrous was the discussion of the accusations by NSW MLC Catherine Cusack that the Prime Minister had abandoning flood victims in Labor in electorates in favour of LNCP ones. It was an accusation that Morrison was not able to answer.
Morrison did his best to defend himself against the relentless attack by Sales. Unfortunately, his normal technique of not answering the question and speaking very quickly and smothering the viewer with information that is irrelevant to the question did not work and made him look increasingly evasive.
He is clearly not going to appear on 730 in the lead-up to the Federal election, whenever that might be. He is clearly dodging the issue of whether he will call the election for May. He still has the option of 1/2 Senate will election in May and the full election in September.
Do not be surprised if he goes for this option in the hope that some miracle, like China declaring war on Taiwan change his electoral standing.
English poet, Rupert Brooke, wrote The Soldier in 1914, after serving with the British army in Europe. Many soldiers died in the trenches and their bodies were never recovered. Brooke contemplates such a death.
If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England.
The first three lines of the poem address the reader, not requesting memories of bravery, but simply to remember that Brooke was English and
There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
And that this will last forever. It’s a very English idea and very appealing to the English. It was optimistic idea in a very dark time.
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England’s, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
It’s a bucolic and idealised view of England from a young man who was educated Rugby School, King’s College, Cambridge where he studied Classics and later awarded a Fellowship to King’s College, Cambridge.
There is a semi-religious tone to the end of the poem.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
But above all, it is being English that is most important for Brooke.
this heart Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
I first read this poem in 1960. I was 16 and sitting in a classroom. It had a visceral effect on me. I had never thought that poetry would have such an effect. We were studying European history at the time, so I was familiar with the context. I remember thinking, “So this is what poetry is about.” It was a road to Damascus moment for me. An epiphany.
Looking back nearly 60 years, the poem has lost some of its power. The Englishness of the poem seems somewhat cloying now. The horrors of war are too familiar and ever-present to be glossed over in this way.
The Soldier has been replaced by other more sophisticated works now but its place in my development is undiminished.
Now I reflect on how many young Russian soldiers who are serving in Ukraine must be wondering much as Brooke did in 1914 whether there will be
some corner of a foreign field
(where) there shall be in that rich earth a richer dust concealed
With the war in Ukraine dragging on, it is clear that the Russians are finding the war in Ukraine increasingly hard to win .
The relative resolve of the troops must be making a difference.
The US government is now paying the US military industry directly to produce munitions and equipment that can be shipped to Ukraine rather than providing them from the US stockpile. The most recent legislation was for $US13b. Presumably, European nations are quietly making similar kinds of contributions and most recently another $300m.
Australia is contributing Bushmaster armoured vehicles.
Prime Minister Morrison is reported to be sending prayers.
This will explain how the Ukrainians have been able to stall the Russian advance and prevent him from taking Kyiv. Much of the money goes towards so-called “defensive” munitions such as missiles, anti-tank weapons, drones, and rockets.
A recent newspaper article discussed the Russian use of mercenaries from a group called the “Wagner” group. It observed that the use of mercenaries was common on both sides in such wars. It is unknown how many mercenaries are being used to operate the equipment being supplied by the US and NATO forces to the Ukrainian army, but it must be extensive.
Western media is reporting that the Russians are recruiting conscripts to serve in Ukraine, indicating that regular troop numbers are running low.
It remains to be seen how long the Russian army can maintain its troops in the field. However, Ukrainians have the advantage that their supply lines from the West are relatively short and well-resourced whereas the Russians have those advantages.
It would also appear from Western media reports that Ukrainian troops are making some progress against the Russians.