He can’t help himself

Tony Abbott Our Action Man

Tony Abbott is having a “mini election campaign” this week, showing us that he has a positive message and a policy platform. We’re told it’s an attempt to get away from his image as “Dr No” and a walking policy vacuum. Well, so far, not so good.

Before we get to Tony, though, let’s have a brief check-in with opposition Indigenous Affairs spokesman and noted social media expert/walking disaster Andrew Laming.

Fresh from his appallingly racist tweet two weeks ago, he had this to say today:

The PM, as it turns out, was in Gippsland meeting with people who had lost their homes to bushfire, while Abbott was pretending to fill sandbags for the TV cameras. Nice one, Andy.

Meanwhile, it’s only day two for the new “positive” Tony and he’s reverted to his old ways already – claiming, with no basis whatsoever – that the government had plans to bring in a flood levy to pay the still-undetermined costs of the current flood crisis in Queensland.

So much for a positive new message: Abbott has reverted to type and is running the same type of scare campaign he ran against the carbon tax. The same carbon tax that is designed to help Australia do its part to combat the climate change that is leading to more frequent and more severe floods like these.

Now, maybe the government will need to bring in a levy to help Queensland and northern NSW, once the floodwaters have subsided, and maybe it won’t. Disaster recovery is jointly funded by the federal and state governments under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements which make the Commonwealth liable for up to 75% of the cost of disaster recovery. If the Commonwealth needs to raise money to cover those costs, it has little choice but to do that via taxation. Is Abbott suggesting the government should renege on the NDRRA and just cut Queensland off?

Laming was quick to pick up Tony’s lead and is running this hilariously ham-fisted push-poll on his Facebook page:

Laming pushpoll

It’s a tough choice: if you want people in Queensland to have their roads and bridges rebuilt, you’re against “responsible government,” because responsible governments presumably don’t rebuilt washed-out bridges and roads. Do the voters in Laming’s Queensland electorate know he is against flood relief? Or maybe the question is just about whether we should have a “Labor” flood levy or a kindler, gentler coalition one?

After two years of fear-mongering and scare campaigning, in which he has gone ever backward, in the polls, this week Tony Abbott set out to remake himself as Mister Positive Alternative Prime Minister. But the new, positive Tony Abbott is just a rehashed version of the old, negative one.

I imagine there his media managers are scratching their heads tonight, wondering how it all went so quickly off the rails. Who would have liked him to stay on script and tell us what great things the coalition is planning for us, instead of just pulling another ‘Labor tax’ scare campaign out of his arse.

But that’s the thing about Tony. He just can’t help himself.

 

Elsewhere: Tony Wright has a similar view of Laming’s day.

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Our journey is not complete

President Obama’s second inaugural speech was, unsurprisingly, lofty and brilliant. A gloriously anaphoric section towards the end of the speech has been much shared on Facebook today:

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.  Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.  Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.  Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

Anaphora is one of the most effective rhetorical devices used in speech making. It was popular with Churchill and Martin Luther King, Jr., among many other great speakers. Shakespeare was fond of it, too (“This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars…”). I’ve even been known to use it myself (take a look at the third paragraph of this World AIDS Day speech).

Anaphora gives the language a poetic flavour, and deftly delivered (Obama’s great strength) it enables the speaker to modulate the energy of the speech, building to a crescendo and falling back to a gentler tone, as you can hear in the short clip above. It’s a technique some of our Australian politicians (and their speechwriters) could benefit from learning.

A great speaker and a competent president. Perhaps, four years from now, a great president. I hope so.

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Number one

The number one song in Australia this week is an anthem for same-sex marriage, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Same Love featuring Mary Lambert. It’s a great song with a powerful message about equality and civil rights. So why are our political leaders so out of touch?

Macklemore and Lewis’ chart success comes at a time when both the Australian Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are steadfastly opposed to marriage equality, as are the vast majority of our politicians. Marriage equality bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives were comprehensively defeated last September. Attempts to get same-sex marriage legalised on a state-by-state basis (which I have some issues with) seem to have foundered.

Australia seems no closer to achieving marriage equality today than eight years ago, when Labor and the Coalition combined to pass the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, which first defined marriage with those “one man and one woman” words we’ve heard so many times since.

But public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high. Every time a survey is conducted, the percentage of people in favour of marriage equality creeps ever higher. Across political lines, and across almost every demographic, a clear majority of people is in favour of removing this arbitrary barrier to equal treatment before the law. So why are our politicians so out of touch?

Throughout the history of civil rights, courageous politicians have stood up for what they knew was right, even when doing the right thing was not doing the popular thing. From the abolition of slavery in the US to the abolition of the  White Australia policy in Australia, courageous politicians have stood up for what is right and just, because that is what they are there to do.

Twenty years ago, in 1993, I was one of a small crowd of queers who sat, outside the NSW parliament, into the night to support a conservative politician, Ted Pickering, who that night provided the deciding vote needed to pass anti-gay vilification laws in that state. A small step on the road to securing our rights, and one that could not have been taken without one man stepping up to do what he knew was right, even though his party and the majority of his constituents thought otherwise?

Where are the Ted Pickerings of today? What became of the politician with a conscience, who saw past his/her next reelection bid and had the courage to do what was right, instead of what was popular or, worse, what the church, or industry, or x powerful lobby group, happy?

We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on!
With a veil over our eyes
We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Some would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start

It’s young people, of course, who mostly listen to new music, and they’re the demographic most clearly in support of equal marriage rights. They have lived their whole lives in a world where acceptance of different sexualities and genders is more-or-less normal. They have grown up with the internet, which opens minds, and social media, which, at its best, opens hearts.

And they are the politicians of the future. I hope they still have this track on their music playlists when it comes time to take the oath of office.

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Then and now

Two photographs, both taken from more or less the same spot, and exactly one year apart:

7 January 2012

7 January 2012

7 January 2013

7 January 2013

She’s dry alright. Last year we were enjoying the second of two fairly wet summers after a lengthy drought. So far this summer has been very dry again and it feels like another drought is upon us.

See also: The Food Garden at Buggery Acres

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