Cory Bernardi sits in the Australian Senate, for South Australia. I refuse to ever actually call him a senator, given the root of the word: senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class. To be fair to Bernardi, there are others in the Senate to whom I would not want to ascribe the title, either.
I’ve been idly following Bernardi’s career for the last few years, via his website (Google it – I don’t want to send traffic there), and up until recently have been willing to simply think he was a right-wing nut job who lucked into a seat in the Senate – not actually someone who was dangerous.
I’ve changed my mind.
It has become clear that Bernardi is following the techniques and processes so successfully used by that collection of American right-wing nut jobs who lead the Tea Party movement there. This is a movement which has been able to gather many disaffected and alienated people in America, the vast majority of whom I suspect are people of good will, but whose lives are somewhat devastated by the effects of the Global Financial Crisis. Their leaders are something else again – no doubt there are some with well-formed ideological reasons for their beliefs, but some seem to be simply cynical users of power to gather the disaffected and turn them into a voting bloc, ready to do their will at the ballot box.
I don’t dislike Bernardi. I don’t know him. I find him unsettling and disturbing because of the effect his politics has. It creates fear, hatred and despair in society. It leaves us much the poorer. I don’t mind that he doesn’t like homosexual people – he’s entitled to if he wants. I do mind that he groups us with paedophiles and those who practice bestiality – simply a lie designed to catalyse the already fearful and hate-filled.
No doubt Bernardi represents a portion of Australia, and every time he opens his mouth he makes them stronger. That makes me very sad, and concerned for our political discourse, where he can make egregious and hateful comments and then claim to have been misrepresented. He should at least have the courage of his convictions and stand by them.
Finally, what concerns me most about Bernardi is that he mostly stands for Bernardi. He seems to be about getting power for Bernardi and keeping it, and thus spreading his hateful politics further through Australian society. This is not a viable or tenable platform for a Christian, and surely one who aspires to represent us in Parliament should have nobler aims.
One of the most horrible things about Australian politics at the moment is the plunge to the bottom. At the moment we have two political leaders (Julia Gillard of the ALP and Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party) who are committed to appealing to the fears and insecurities of the electorate. This is writ large in the discussion over what to do about people who come to Australia to seek asylum. Both parties seem to be trying to outdo one another to be as inhumane as possible, by ‘processing’ those who attempt to arrive in Australia by boat in places outside Australia.
I understand that this is probably not because of deep ideological commitment, as I suspect neither of them are, by nature, cruel or inhumane people.
It is, in a way, worse: they think they are hearing the voice of Australia saying ‘we don’t want these people here.’
Maybe the majority of Australians do think that.
However, that does not make it right, and it does not make it the right thing to do.
Political leaders need to, at times, tell the nation when we need to look at ourselves, and choose a new path. Sometimes, they need to tell us the truth about our obligations, and our commitments. And about our prejudices and fears. What saddens me about many contemporary politicians is their failure to lead, responding instead to our base fears and desires. The asylum seeker ‘debate’ is one example – carbon emission reduction is another.
As I grow older I am more and more convinced that our current systems and institutions (of all kinds) are breaking or broken, probably beyond repair. A new way needs to be found.
Wendy Francis is the lead senate candidate for Family First in Queensland (no link to their website so as to avoid giving them oxygen, Google it if you want).
She would like to be elected “… to bring balance to senate” because the major parties don’t “talk about the issues that affect Australian families and children.”
Wendy obviously believes that she is speaking something her potential constituents want to hear when she makes comments like these, which appeared on her Twitter stream (they were later deleted):
Australia would never recover from legalising gay marriage. Those who advocate this are not thinking of the dramatic consequences.
Children in homosexual relationships are subject to emotional abuse. Legitimising gay marriages is like legalizing child abuse.
Gay marriage = kids with no mothers or no fathers, parent-less generation; uncontrollable depression & suicide. Is that the Aust we want?
All have a right to be homosexual, But no right to dictate to mainstream Australia or to change laws to suit their narrow agenda.
Someone has to talk about issues that affect Australian families and children. The major parties are not. I want to bring balance to senate.
Strange that I can be called a bigot for standing up for values that many people believe in yet others can deride my beliefs and that’s ok.
I’m not hurling abuse at homosexuals. I treat every person with respect. But we all have the right to stand firmly on principles.
I agree that Wendy should be able to put her position. We live in a democracy, there is an election on, and she can say what she likes. But she has to wear the heat for making such obviously misguided, uninformed and offensive comments. She may genuinely believe them, and if she does, well, she does.
What she writes is wrong, and it is hurtful. Her very tone is unpleasant and belittling. Family First maintains that it is a party influenced by Judaeo-Christian values – one of those values is telling the truth and keeping a guard on the tongue.
Wendy is an example of a candidate who should never be preselected. Her speech is intemperate, and her behaviour unbecoming of someone who aspires to leadership.
What I would urge is this – do not vote Family First. Put them as your last preference. In Australia they will get funding if you put them in as your first preference, even if they don’t get elected. Do not give them a first preference. Put them last.
I also think that political parties should be willing to own up when they make mistakes. She should not have been allowed to remove the comments from her Twitter feed. If she believes them, she should stand by them.
Underperforming rail operator Metro has copped a blast from Premier John Brumby – and commuters – as it marks its first three months of operations.
Mr Brumby said he was disappointed the company had failed to meet contractual timetable obligations since taking over from the deeply unloved Connex.
His comments come as Metro revealed this afternoon that just 83.4 per cent of trains ran on time in February.
That is well short of Metro’s target to run 88 per cent of trains within five minutes of their scheduled arrival time.
Metro spokesman Chris Whitefield said those with a valid monthly, six-monthly or yearly rail ticket could apply to receive two free days of travel as compensation for February’s poor punctuality results.
Premier John Brumby said Metro needed to lift its performance.
“I am obviously very disappointed they are not meeting those targets,’’ he said. “They have not performed according to the contract they signed with the government.
“You’ve got to give them a chance to settle in and get on top of the job, but they’ve had now four months and they’ve not met those performance targets and I think the public wants them to meet those.”
Metro’s acting CEO Raymond O’Flaherty blamed February’s poor punctuality results on faulty trains and infrastructure failures.
Nine of the trouble-plagued Siemens trains were removed from service in early February due to braking concerns, creating a train shortage, he said.
‘‘To fall below our on-time target is unacceptable to us, and unacceptable to our customers,’’ Mr O’Flaherty said.
‘‘But it further points to why we have to get the basics right, which starts with improving the reliability of the equipment – the tracks, trains, overheads and signals.’’
Commuters experienced another difficult morning on Melbourne’s train network today, with at least 40 peak-hour services cancelled until midday.
On top of that, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the window of a city-bound train last night, while eight trains were pulled from service this week due to braking problems.
In an Age Online poll, more than 1200 voters so far revealed widespread public discontent with the new rail operator.
Asked if, 100 days since it took over from Connex, Metro was running a better system, just 32 per cent of readers voted “yes”.
While I’m no fan of the new operator, not associated with them or in any way connected with them, to expect that they could have done anything about the infrastructure that the Victorian Labor Government has shamefully and wilfully neglected is simply outrageous.
John Brumby – your government is on the way out. You’ve had your chance and squandered it. You protected a hopeless minister – Kosky – and bureaucracy – led by Betts, and now you’ll pay the price. Blaming Metro won’t wash, I’m afraid. If that was the game you wanted to play, you should have kept the abominable Connex – it would at least have looked vaguely plausible.
Tony Abbott was elected Member for Warringah at a by-election in March 1994. Prior to entering Parliament he was Executive Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy from 1993-94. From 1990-93 he was press secretary and political advisor to the Leader of the Opposition, Dr John Hewson. His previous career was in journalism, where he wrote as a feature writer for ‘The Bulletin’ and ‘The Australian’.
Tony was appointed Minister for Health and Ageing on the 7 October 2003.
After the Federal election in 2007 Tony became Shadow Minister for Families, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs & the Voluntary Sector.
He lives in Forestville with wife Margaret and three daughters.
St. Ignatius Riverview
First Grade Rugby
President of the SRC
Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University
MA, Politics and Philosophy
Won two Blues in boxing
St. Patrick’s Seminary, Manly
On the election of the Howard Government in 1996 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. In this role, he was responsible for the establishment of the successful Greencorps program for young people.
Following the 1998 election he was appointed to the new portfolio of Minister for Employment Services. As Minister, he oversaw the development of the Job Network and a major expansion of Work for the Dole.
In January 2001, Tony was promoted to Cabinet as Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Following the 2001 election he was appointed Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Leader of the House and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Tony was appointed Minister for Health and Ageing on the 7 October 2003.
He has written two books in defence of the existing constitutional system, “The Minimal Monarchy” and “How to Win the Constitutional War”.
OTHER than win his seat, Tony Abbott’s tasks for this election campaign were simple – don’t offend anybody, and turn up for the nationally televised live debate with Labor’s Nicola Roxon.
Thanks to a sharp tongue, ambitious scheduling and the inexplicable failure to take into account that election events rarely run on time, the Health Minister fluffed both.
First, he had to apologise to the dying asbestos victim Bernie Banton. Hours later he was apologising for arriving at the debate 30 minutes late.
Ms Roxon, who had the stage to herself for the first half of the National Press Club event, was unimpressed. At the conclusion, as they shook hands for the cameras, Ms Roxon said: “You can’t even get here on time.”
Ms Roxon: “You can control these things, mate. I’m sure had you wanted to, you could.”
Mr Abbott: “That’s bullshit. You’re being deliberately unpleasant. I suppose you can’t help yourself, can you?”
Ms Roxon: “I can’t help myself and you’ve well and truly earned it today.”
The Health Minister’s day began with him ringing Mr Banton to apologise for his comments the day before. Accompanied by unionists and other advocates, Mr Banton had arrived at Mr Abbott’s Manly electorate office on Tuesday with a petition calling for the mesothelioma drug Alimta to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
But Mr Abbott was in Melbourne and Mr Banton was in high dudgeon. The minister dismissed the petition delivery as “a stunt”.
“Let’s be up front about this, I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t necessarily mean that he is pure of heart in all things.”
Predictably, that went over like a plumbic dirigible, prompting yesterday morning’s smoothing of the waters.
Mr Abbott’s tardiness was the fault of the Coalition, with a last-minute decision to try to set the debate agenda with a $440 million health policy announcement at a Melbourne clinic.
John Howard, Peter Costello and Mr Abbott were scheduled to arrive at 10am. The formalities were to start at 10.10am, and Mr Abbott was to leave at 10.45am so he could make the 30- to 40-minute car trip to a chartered plane at Essendon Airport and the one-hour flight to Canberra for the 12.30pm debate.
But the meet-and-greet at the clinic went overtime, as usual, and Mr Howard did not start speaking until 10.35am. Then Mr Costello spoke, followed by Mr Abbott. Then there was a press conference.
A sheepish Mr Abbott arrived at the press club at 1.03pm.
Ms Roxon had earlier offered to do her Abbott impersonation. “My office tells me it’s quite good,” she said.
After the minister arrived, Ms Roxon called him discourteous. “This Government is so out of touch and so arrogant that they won’t even plan their policy announcements to allow the minister to be able to meet his commitments.”
To cap it all off, the Government’s promise to bail out the Mersey Hospital in Tasmania went belly up.
And now he is the leader of the Liberal Party of Australia.
This is a sorry, sorry day for Australia – Tony Abbott now has it within his power to do us over on any number of issues, the most major of which is the way in which he can scupper any attempts to create a way of combatting anthropogenic climate change (which he does believe in, I think, but seems to think any action to mitigate is futile).
Abbott, as I wrote, is a social conservative.
He opposes abortions: In March 2004 he asked “Why isn’t the fact that 100,000 women choose to end their pregnancies regarded as a national tragedy approaching the scale, say, of Aboriginal life expectancy being 20 years less than that of the general community?” A conscience vote took place in February 2006, approving a measure that deprived the Health Minister of regulatory control of the abortion drug RU486. Abbott and previous Health Ministers had decided not to allow it to be made available. Abbott responded to the vote by calling for funding of alternative counselling to pregnant women through church-affiliated groups. During this time, Abbott criticised the acceptance of abortion, saying “… we have a bizarre double standard, a bizarre double standard in this country where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder but a woman who aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice.” (From Wikipedia)
Anyway. There is little he and I would agree on. I guess the Liberal Party have a right to choose him as their leader – of course they do. He should, at least, be able to heal some wounds between the Liberal Party and the National Party.
I wonder, though, how a man of the 1950s can offer viable solutions in our world today.
The following video is from ABC Fora, and it gives a good insight into Abbott and his positions (so does his book, Battlelines).
The fact that this today we observed the Ascension of Jesus is by the by in this account.
At church today one of my brothers in Christ was rather loudly quoting the words of a Liberal Party politician, suggesting that there will be a September or October election, because ‘the Labor Party won’t be able to keep the economy going much longer than that’. He also recounted the events of the local Liberal Party branch’s meeting.
Now, he’s entitled to his political opinion, but I’m afraid I don’t think it is self-evident that Anglicans vote conservative. I am an Anglican, and I tend not to, because I find the conservative parties are extremely weak on social justice issues, and I find their ‘take’ on the primacy of economics to be dispiriting at best.
I didn’t say anything at the time, except to note that I didn’t find the argument for a September / October election convincing. Next time I will, and I’ll ask how he squares the appalling treatment the Coalition meted out to, say, refugees, with his Christian convictions. I think that’s a fair enough question…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited and inspired by the inauguration of President Barack Obama. I don’t envy him – there will be a lot of weight on him to deliver on hopes and dreams. It is incumbent, now, on the people of the US to work with the Obama Administration to make the changes they, the people of the US, are demanding.
As I reflected, however, on the nature of the presidency and contrasted it to the Australian political system, I began thinking of the (perhaps seditious!) idea of whether or not the president could be considered to be a sort of elected monarch, serving for a fixed term.
The Commonwealth of Australia is a constitutional monarchy. That is, we have a constitution and a monarch. The monarch’s role and powers are described and limited by the constitution. In Australia the constitution may only be amended following a national vote. For an amendment to be passed, it must receive the assent of the majority of voters, and the majority of states (we have six). The Queen of Australia is Elizabeth II. The Queen does not live in Australia, but is represented at commonwealth level by the governor general. The governor general is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister. The Queen is head of state, but the governor general is effectively the head of state in the absence of the Queen. In practice, the prime minister functions as the head of state for most purposes. Neither the Queen nor the governor general have executive power.
Australia is a federal commonwealth. Six sovereign states agreed to form a commonwealth in 1901. Each state is still sovereign. The Queen’s representative in each state is known as the governor. Neither the Queen nor the governor have executive power.
Every adult citizen in Australia is entitled to, and obliged to, vote in federal elections. Voting is compulsory. Federal elections occur every 3 years, but may occur more frequently if the prime minister calls an election.
Australia is a parliamentary democracy. We have a two-chamber parliament made up of the House of Representatives (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). Of the two, the House is the more powerful.
The political party with the majority of members in the House is the government, and the leader of that party is the prime minister. The most senior members of the government form the cabinet.
In Australia there are three chapters of government – legislative, executive and judicial. The members of the executive must be members of the legislature. The members of the judiciary may not be members of the legislature or the executive.
The Queen has no power to impose any law or decision on Australia (for example, she may not declare war). The Queen cannot suspend the constitution (nor may the Prime Minister or the legislature).
When I contrast this to (what I understand of) the US…
The President and the Executive are not members of the legislature (though the Vice President is the president of the Senate).
The President is the Head of State and Head of Government.
The President may declare war, and may invoke suspension of the constitution.
I wonder if the model of the president is based on an elected monarch. That is, at the time, similar powers were held by monarchs. Did the framers of the constitution believe that was the only way to govern?
If Australia becomes a republic (I hope it does!), it is likely we will swap the Queen (and governor general) for a president without executive powers – a person who symbolises the unity of the nation, like the president of Ireland, for example. Australians generally distrust the vesting of too much power into the hands of a few!
One that recently caught my eye is Gerard Henderson speaking about Sir Robert Menzies and his legacy. Now, my father probably does not read my blog, and it is fair to say that he and I are fairly wide apart in political terms (he was a Howard fan, I was not), so he will be surprised that I have posted a link to the video.
I do so because it is interesting, because I love ideas of all sorts, and because I think that Menzies does have an important legacy. So there, Dad!
For those unaware, Robert Menzies was a very long serving politician in Australia. He was prime minister from 1939 and 1941, and from 1949 to 1966. He was a member of the United Australia (now defunct) and Liberal parties, both conservative parties in Australia. He is particularly famous for his speech, ‘The Forgotten People‘, which outlined the values of the then nascent Liberal Party. For those outside Australia – the Liberal Party is economically liberal (but not opposed to interventionist policies and practices), but socially conservative (though there is a long tradition of social liberalism).