Tagged with Tony Abbott

The week: 25 May

This is a bit of an experiment. Seeing as how I rarely write anything for the blog these days, I’m going to try to do a weekly post with lots of links to interesting things I’ve noticed during the week, a bit of personal narrative and maybe a photo or two.

Selfie, 21 May

Selfie, 21 May

I came home from university on Monday feeling rather brilliant after getting my two major essays back, both with ‘A’ grades. Then I read this blog post by Daniel Reeders and this review by Dion Kagan and I realised I was just an old duffer again. Daniel’s insightful analysis of a real-world encounter with HIV stigma, and Dion’s brilliant synthesis of multiple streams of nostalgia and documentary-making, put my first-year legal blatherings in their rightful place. Thanks to Dion I now have the terms ‘melancholic disavowal’ and ‘traumatic unremembering’ at my disposal.

Still on the subject of stigma, last week I had the opportunity to talk about the stigma that is increasingly apparent around hepatitis C virus infection among HIV-positive gay men, at a public forum hosted by Living Positive Victoria. I recently came across Gareth Owen‘s 2008 paper ‘An “elephant in the Room”? Stigma and Hepatitis C Transmission Among HIV‐positive “serosorting” Gay Men’ that examined this issue and I used some material from that paper in my talk. One sample quote:

‘The hep C situation on the scene is much like HIV was in the early days, so guys will avoid having sex with other guys who they definitely know have hep C. Though they tend to assume that guys don’t have hep C if it isn’t mentioned.’

I also used some anonymised quotes from a prominent serosorting/bareback hookup site to support my observations – I found dozens of texts like ‘žnot on here to get hep c guys so please be upfront about it’ and ‘I’m Hep C neg and not really into putting that at risk, being poz is enough as it is.’

It’s impossible to ignore the obvious parallels with similar statements made by HIV-negative guys about HIV.

Continue reading

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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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PFLAG ad for marriage equality

Why is Tony Abbott so scared of a conscience vote? As Amanda Vanstone writes in the Sydney Morning Herald today, his decision to announce there would be no conscience vote, after the parliament had wound up for 2011, goes against his stated position:

He has told Australians that if elected he would not let his personal views dictate policy; nor would he take instructions from Rome. He said these things because he is conscious of the apprehension among women and liberals that he would take Australia to a more conservative position than we now have on issues such as abortion and gay rights. So, the last thing he needs is to act in any way that causes women and liberals to doubt his word. Announcing that he did not want a conscience vote when his party members had dispersed is difficult to explain away. It looks deliberate. Even tricky.

Meanwhile, the extraordinary Shelley Argent and her comrades at Queensland PFLAG have produced the following TV ad, which will reportedly air from tonight.

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Shit Tony Abbott Says

I couldn’t believe nobody had already done this, so I did it. My contribution to the currently-fashionable “shit ____ say” meme.

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Australian politics through Taiwanese eyes

This has been doing the rounds, but it’s just too wonderful not to share. Taiwanese animated news report on the Australian election, complete with political assassination scene, precognitive crocodile and a messianic, refugee-slaughtering Tony Abbott.


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Hung parliament


Australia is headed for a hung parliament after the most appalling election campaign in history culminated in the most perverted election result in history.

A first-term government that has delivered low inflation, low unemployment and massive infrastructure investment while deftly managing the greatest economic crisis of recent years has been rejected at the polls, and an opposition composed of a ragged band of right-wing reactionaries, Christian fundamentalists and a peppering of downright loonies has come within a hair’s breadth of winning government. It takes a very special brand of stupid for a political party to squander opportunity the way the Labor Party have done over the last 12 months.

As it stands, the ABC election computer suggests that Labor have won 70 seats, the Coalition 72 seats, and the Greens 1 seat in the new parliament. There are four independents – including Andrew Wilkie, a former whistleblower who previously stood for election in Bennelong (2004) and for the Tasmania Senate (2007) as a Green. That leaves three seats in doubt – Brisbane (Coalition ahead), Corangamite (ALP), and Lindsay (ALP). Many seats have be won with very slim margins, which means they could slip from one column to the other over the next week, but the upshot is that no party is going to have the numbers to govern in its own right.

How could this happen? Twelve months ago, Labor was riding high – they’d dodged the global financial crisis, apologised to the Stolen Generations, and were gradually rolling out positive policy reforms in health, education, welfare and a whole lot more. They had a leader in Kevin Rudd who was enjoying near-stratospheric approval ratings, and an opposition that was tearing itself apart over climate change and mired in scandal following the Godwin Grech affair. When Tony Abbott became leader on 1 December last year, the event was dismissed by most people as the latest in a long series of missteps by a futile and disunited opposition. That was just eight and a half months ago.

The decision to depose Kevin Rudd in a party-room coup, engineered (or so the media narrative tells us) by “faceless faction leaders” using an ambitious woman – Julia Gillard – as their puppet, will go down as one of the ALP’s greatest tactical errors, but it also shows how deeply lost the ALP has become. A party made up of career politicians and factional warlords, where only the grittiest and most ambitious can rise to the leadership, where policies and ideals take a second place behind a cynical pitch for votes that has only one aim: keeping yourself in power at any cost. Yes, it’s true of both parties and both leaders, as I wrote yesterday, but in Labor this form of cynical antipolitics has reached its apotheosis.

There is an old saying that oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose them. This is an election that the government emphatically lost, but the opposition did not win. The only winners are the Greens, who have attracted droves of disaffected Labor voters and who have run a principled campaign backed by a comprehensive policy platform. As well as winning a lower-house seat for the first time in a general election, the Greens will likely have nine senators from 1 July next year, and I expect will have a close working relationship with Wilkie. That’s a huge win for the Greens and an impressive vote for change.

Of course, it’s easy to have a great policy platform when you don’t have the nuisance of having to implement it. Now the Greens will hold real political power for the first time, possibly in support of a minority Labor government, and certainly holding the balance of power in the Senate (but not until 1 July). The way they exercise that power will be keenly watched, and will test the party. The downfall of the Australian Democrats was ultimately in how they exercised power when they had it, and the Greens will need to find a balance between idealism and pragmatism if they are to succeed.

As for the Labor Party, the recriminations over today’s failure are already starting. The Greens will be blamed, for taking votes and seats away from Labor, even though most of those votes were returned through the preference system, and the two seats lost due to Greens influence, Melbourne and Denison, will back Labor ahead of the Coalition in parliament. The media will be blamed, and rightly so, for its failure to look beyond the intra-party squabbles and personalty issues and its abysmal failure of policy analysis. Kevin Rudd will be blamed, for his (assumed) rearguard spoiler action against Gillard. Mark Latham will be blamed. Queensland and NSW state Labor will be blamed.

But will anyone take the blame within the Labor Party machine that orchestrated this catastrophe? I doubt it.

You have to blame someone, and you can’t blame yourself – that would require a level of humility and introspection that is beyond the ALP.

UPDATE, 1PM: Karl Bitar and Bill Shorten have both been on TV this morning arguing that it was the cabinet leaks in the early days of the campaign that led to the loss. Not their decision to dump Kevin Rudd, not their decision to go to an election too early with no narrative and no coherent message, not the appalling way they conducted the campaign. No, it’s somebody else’s fault.

With ‘strategists’ like Bitar and Shorten, the ALP is doomed.

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I don’t care who wins, as long as Tony Abbott loses

Tony and Julia

It’s polling day today. This great ritual of democracy ought to inspire and excite us, but like a lot of Australians, this time round I’m more depressed than inspired, and more angry than excited.

Over the last five weeks we have lived through the most negative, cynical and dispiriting election campaign in memory. Virtually devoid of policy debate, unrelentingly negative from the get-go, a squalid race for the bottom that reflects the parlous state of politics in Australia. If, as they say, you get the politicians you deserve, then we must have done something very bad to deserve this lot.

Like most people in Australia, this election is not about me. Whether you’re an inner-city progressive, a Toorak Tory, a socially regressive cow cocky or a middle-aged queer tree-changer like me, neither of the big parties give a damn about you. This election is only about a handful of ignorant bigots in a few marginal seats in western Sydney and south-east Queensland. The rest of us don’t matter.

The result is a political auction to see who can be toughest on the most vulnerable and helpless people in society. The resulting campaign has degenerated into a five-week harangue attacking refugees, immigrants, welfare recipients, and anyone else who doesn’t fit the economically aspirational but socially insular template of the so-called ‘Howard battlers’ who now virtually run the country. Then there’s the rivers of middle-class welfare, the pandering to special interests, the bare-faced lies, and the sheer, mind-numbing, putrid, soul destroying emptiness of it all.

What should be a debate about the country’s future is instead presented as a choice between two individuals, one a self-flagellating Christian fundamentalist and the other an ambitious and calculating woman. Tony or Julia, who are you going to vote for? But both these stories are false: Abbott and Gillard are both career politicians, equally ambitious and both motivated by one thing only — gaining and holding power at any cost. Whatever it takes, as Richo said.

In our hearts we want our politicians to be motivated by a desire to build a better world, to protect and strengthen us, and build a united, resilient society. We want them to make us better people. Instead the political process has become a contest of personal ambition, played out by a small group of pathologically self-interested career politicians and perverted by the media into a presidential-style contest where the he-said, she-said narrative trumps any discussion or analysis of policy. Instead of debate, we get arguments about debates, breathlessly reported by a press pack who have unwittingly become players in the game.

The opinion polls published over the last few days have both major parties neck and neck, locked in at roughly 50% each of the two-party preferred vote, as if the electorate can’t make up its mind who it hates the most. A pox on both their houses.

I sincerely hope that Tony Abbott does not become our 28th prime minister today. I know that would be a disaster for Australia, or at least for the Australia I believe in. But I cannot say I feel any affection for Julia Gillard either. Like just about everyone I know, I’ll be voting for the Greens, who look likely to substantially increase their numbers in the senate, and maybe score a seat in the lower house for the first time at a general election.

But the Greens will not be the government — either Labor or the Coalition will, and neither deserves to be.

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Julia on gay marriage

Julia had a press conference today. Julia said she’d decided it was time for us to see the “real” Julia, instead of the fake Julia the campaign managers have been forcing her to be. Julia wants us to see the differences between her and Tony Abbott. A journalist asked Julia her views on same-sex marriage. Julia – the “real” Julia, the Julia that wants us to know she’s different to Tony Abbott – said she has exactly the same point of view and the same party policy as Tony Abbott.


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