Tagged with Queensland

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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Grim reaper ads a ‘missed opportunity’

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities has responded to the state government’s new HIV prevention scare campaign, calling it a ‘missed opportunity’ in an article in the Star Observer.

“While we welcome increased public attention to HIV, this is a missed opportunity the update people on the reality of living with HIV today,” [QAHC CEO Paul] Martin said.

“It is also a missed opportunity to encourage people who may be at risk to come forward for testing and treatment and to inform and remind people how to prevent transmission of HIV.”

Responding to the criticism of the ad, Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said, “We needed a campaign that would reach everybody.”

Well, no. While ‘everybody’ should be aware of HIV and take steps to prevent themselves, not ‘everybody’ is at equal risk. More than 80% of people diagnosed in Queensland are gay men, which is why previous Queensland governments funded QAHC to do prevention work targeted at gay men. Spending a half-million dollars on a TV campaign to tell ‘everybody’ about HIV is not a cost-effective way to educate people who are at real risk.

Yours truly also gets a mention in the story:

Local LGBTI community member Paul Kidd released his own version of the new commercial on YouTube supporting QAHC, titled ‘Lawrence Springborg Shouldn’t Be Making This Ad’.

Read the full Star Observer article, or my earlier post on this subject, with my remixed version of the video.

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The Grim Reaper died in the ’80s

The Bouverie Centre’s Jennifer Power on the Queensland government’s HIV prevention efforts:

The government argues that de-funding QAHC was a response to rising HIV rates — evidence of QAHC’s lack of effectiveness — not an anti-gay agenda. But it would be a concern if HIV prevention in Queensland was to become more conservative, with little acknowledgement of the needs or interests of gay men.

Australia is known as a world leader in HIV prevention largely because the federal government at the time had the foresight to see that community-led organisations such as QAHC were best placed to deliver targeted HIV prevention campaigns to the communities most at risk.

The Grim Reaper died in the 80s – time for a new approach to HIV prevention

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Dude with a scythe

The Grim Reaper TV advertisement has cast a shadow over the HIV response since it was first aired more than a quarter century ago. The original ad, with its foreboding “Always use a condom — always” tagline and grim predictions that AIDS could “kill more Australians than World War Two,” has often been credited with raising awareness of HIV in Australia. It’s also been rightly criticised for having the unintended consequence of increasing stigma around HIV and towards gay men.

Those surreal bowling reapers were supposed to represent death, but too many people read them as representing gay men, hurling a deadly virus at the innocent women and kids at the end of the alley. The ad fed into a climate of fear and hysteria and generated a great deal of hateful commentary towards gay men and those living with HIV, who were seen as the diseased vectors of a plague that at the time seemed certain to sweep through the ‘innocent victims’ of the heterosexual community.

Despite its many failings, we’ve never quite shaken off Mister Grim and his bowling buddies. The ad is so widely believed to have been a smashing success that barely a year has gone by in the last quarter century when some ill-informed government minister or pundit calls for a ‘new grim reaper campaign’ to scare people into behaving more sensibly. Luckily, to date those calls have been largely resisted.

All that changed this last weekend with the launch of We Shouldn’t Be Making This Advert, a new TV advertisement from the Queensland government, the first evidence we’ve seen of its new ‘in-house’ approach to HIV prevention following the shock de-funding of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities. And there, proud as punch, is our old friend Grimsby, not looking a day older despite the intervening decades, ready to scare us all back into using condoms.

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The great leap backwards

Queensland’s LGBT and HIV communities have been hit with a double whammy this morning, showing just how dangerous the new LNP government in that state is.

First came the news that the Queensland government is set to overturn the state’s civil union laws. With a new poll showing that 50% of Australians are in favour of marriage equality, and just 33% opposed, the reported LNP plans represent the opening of a new front in the war on queer civil rights in this country. But given the LNP’s opposition to the legislation when it was passed, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

Much more troubling is the announcement this morning that the government has, without warning, pulled all funding from Healthy Communities, the only LGBT health organisation in the state and the front line of Queensland’s HIV prevention effort. Formerly the Queensland AIDS Council, Healthy Communities has been continually funded by Queensland governments of all political stripes since 1988, and currently holds (or rather, held) government contracts valued at $2.6 million for HIV prevention and LGBT health work.

In a press release (PDF link) issued this morning, Healthy Communities has confirmed that 26 of their 35 staff will lose their jobs as a result of the defunding decision.

This is an appalling, short-sighted, ideologically driven decision that will hurt LGBT people in Queensland. Cutbacks in HIV prevention funding in Queensland and Victoria between 1998 and 2006 led to pronounced increases in HIV infections, and this will happen again now.

According to the Queensland health minister, Lawrence Springborg, Healthy Communities is being defunded because it has “lost its way” and that funding is “made available for health campaigns, not advocacy.” This shows just how out of touch the minister is – it displays a complete absence of understanding of the basic principles of health promotion and its smacks of an ideological approach.

Springborg says the LNP government will fund a new AIDS Council – there’s no detail on when that will happen or how, but we can expect it will be a timid, compliant body with no real attachment to the community it is supposed to serve.

Elsewhere: A thoughtful post on the decision on View from the Quarterdeck.

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