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Category Archives: Politics – big ‘p’ and little ‘p’


Alan Jones really does have the happy knack of offending almost everyone without really trying. All he has to do is open his mouth and it just seems to tumble out. Points of view seem never to be substantiated by facts or evidence, no corrections are made when proved incorrect, instead vitriol and venom are the order of the day when he is in anyway challenged.  Civilised public discourse has never been his long suit.  It is almost as if there is a disconnect between his mouth and his brain.

He now accuses of being cyber bullies those of us who publicly came out and informed his advertisers we would no longer purchase goods from them if they continued to promote their goods on his breakfast programme.

It started with his destroying the joint remark about women in any position of power or leadership, and continued to even higher levels of outrage following his comments on the death of the Prime Minister’s father. Bouquets to both @JaneCaro  @JennaPrice  @turnleft2013 @destroyingthejoint

For Jones, a man who has turned bullying into an art form, to now accuse us of bullying is outrageous if it wasn’t so amusingly ironic.

Since 1985 we have been subjected to Alan Jones’s particularly pointed bias and bullying. He has consistently been the voice of divisive bile, pouring scorn on those he sees as being marginalized and without a voice – easy targets to garner headlines.

This Teflon coated shock jock has created an aura of not being able to be touched. Very little criticism has been cast his way by political leaders from either side of politics. Their simple wish was to curry favour. I always believed Jones’s influence was disproportionate to his actual listening audience. But he was master of managing the mainstream media for his own ends; that of continual self-promotion and that of his broadcasting interests.

Alan Jones pretty much has the freedom of speech to do all but incite sections of the community to riot and hate.  Companies have the freedom to advertise their products with him.

I just want to state loudly and clearly that I have rights too. I have the right to state publicly that I will not buy products from those companies who advertise with him. It is called a free market. I don’t have to buy at Woolworths, I can choose to buy at Coles or IGA or Aldi. My choice doesn’t need to come from where they advertise or who has the best price. If, for example, your goods are made from using child labour in some third world country I will not buy your stuff.

I also have the freedom to state publicly, as well as in private correspondence to those companies, the reasons behind my exercising this freedom of consumer choice. (See previous blog post:

What has changed?

The social media now has given a voice to the voiceless, and empowered the seemingly powerless. On our own we are one small voice speaking in a whisper, cautiously taking one small step at a time. As a group I found myself as part of an organic chain reaction of outrage, and to the shouts of “Enough is enough” this group has discovered a voice, which can now be heard. The unstructured, organic reaction to Alan Jones has changed the media dynamic.  The extent of that change remains to be seen.

But it was a helluva first step.

For me? I shall continue on as one little old lady unashamedly #destroyingthejoint.

A LETTER TO AN ADVERTISER – a little old lady destroying the joint.

This is an email I sent to one of the companies with whom I’ve done business over the years, who advertise on Alan Jones’s programme. I was so outraged with Mr Jones’s comments that I felt compelled to do something, no matter how small and ultimately insignificant, other than just rail against the day.  I’m just an ageing lady #destroyingthejoint through the power of her wallet. It would be advisable for companies to remember that women control the vast majority of decisions when it comes to consumer spending, even the family car.

Dear Boys,


Last week Alan Jones directed a diatribe, which was misogynist. It has been publicized that you advertise with Mr Jones.

The great thing about living in a democracy is that you are permitted to advertise with whom you please. Another aspect of this freedom is that I can chose not to continue doing business with those companies who make that choice, and I have the freedom to publicly explain why.

I have supported your company for many years now, but will not do so in the foreseeable future while you continue to advertise with a shock-jock who maligns targeted groups within our community as he did last week. (see link below).

At some point a line in the sand must be drawn indicating that such comments are offensive, incendiary, divisive and unacceptable in a civilized society. That line was crossed last week.

For your information I have two bathrooms and fittings for a further three bathrooms to purchase in the next year.  I will look and purchase elsewhere.

Please give my very best wishes to all those members of staff who, over many years, have given me such brilliant and patient service.

If at anytime you no longer advertise with Mr Jones please contact me, and I shall be only too happy to not only resume shopping with you, but also happily publicise that fact through my blog and on twitter.

Yours sincerely,

Joan Evatt.

4th September 2012.  Alan Jones’s comments on women.


Digby Wolfe: 1929-2012

Digby Wolfe. c/- SMH


Every now and then the phone rings. It will be a call that can be life changing or open up possibilities for an unexpected journey that enriches the soul.  In August of 1980 I received such a call. It was from Faith Martin, an old friend and one of the nicest and most generous people in the Australian film and television industry. She asked me to send over some of the longer human-interest stories I’d done while working at Channel 7 and Film Australia. Send them I did.  She rang to tell me that Digby Wolfe had a project in mind, had seen my stories, wanted to meet me, and was I interested.

Was I interested?!  Digby Wolfe! You bet.  The first time the name Digby Wolfe entered my consciousness was in the TV show Revue 61 and 62.  My mum was a huge fan.

Off I went to meet Digby. He really was a very good-looking man with a ready smile, firm handshake all wrapped up in an urbane elegance.  But it was his extraordinary blue eyes that struck me. They twinkled and were full of intelligent understanding. Whether you were in a one on one chat in an office or in the middle of a crowded room, Digby would focus only on you and not scan the room to see who had arrived. He had the happy knack of making people feel special, and that whatever you were talking about was so very important it required 100% of his attention.

He was putting on a show. The show’s premise was that every person has at least one good story to tell and we would facilitate the telling. He criticized my existing TV reports because there was very little of me in them. I regarded that as a compliment. I had learnt in an earlier era that if journalists removed themselves from a story, leaving the talent to tell it, they had done their job well.

Digby’s show was going to do the opposite. The interviewer was going to be as much the ‘star’ as the subject of the interview.  He talked about what he wanted to do.  I listened.  I said yes.  I knew that the show would thrust me back into the spotlight for a time, a place in which I’ve never been comfortable, but after my first meeting with Digby I also knew I wanted to work with this man.  My job interview descended into a multi-hour chat primarily about politics, both domestic and international.  Digby was passionate about politics, and any chat would always turn to the current political situation.

Robyn Nevin, Digby Wolfe and me. Photo: Kimbal Baker

The 10 months pre-production and production period, before the show was unceremoniously dumped because of poor ratings, was the happiest work experience I’ve had in my eclectic career.  I worked with the most amazing group of people both in front of and behind the scenes, including Faith Martin, Ray Taylor, Robyn Nevin, Col Joye and Sarah Grant. Frank Hammond, Jebby Phillips, Dennis O’Brien, David Mitchell, Wil Davies, Roseanne Andrews-Baxter, on and on, writers, producers, editors, shooting crews – a funny, warm, generous group of people.  It was a pleasure to go to the production office. There was always the sound of laughter, quick-witted banter, political discourse and the work.

You can tell the measure of a man when he is a boss who inspires loyalty freely given, provides a working environment people break their neck to be in, and who maintains enduring friendships.  That was Digby Wolfe.

Not long after he returned to LA. I had my first child naming her Sophie. I received a telegram from him saying “Agh. A perfect choice”. I had no idea what he meant so I replied “But of course”, hoping that this telegram missive would cover all bases. Unbeknown to me a film was about to be released called ‘Sophie’s Choice’ based on a novel I should have heard of but hadn’t. Six months later when the film was released in Sydney I got the joke. When I had my next child, a boy we named Darcy, I received a telegram from Digby, which said, “Elizabeth would be pleased”. This I understood so my reply was “…as would Jane, I hope.”

My trips to LA throughout the 80’s, whether for work or pleasure, required lunch with Digby at his second home, the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, allowing me to have brushettes with the famous and infamous. The luncheon conversation would start with gossip about family and mutual friends, new films, theatre and show business generally before getting round to politics.  Lunch would finish when we remembered we had dinner engagements.

Digby wore his political heart on his sleeve. His political stance was unashamedly left of centre. He had worked on Bill Haydn’s Federal election campaign in 1980, not long before I’d met him.

He believed in social equality. His view was that governments had a responsibility to ensure the health and overall wellbeing of their people. Education should be available to all enabling talent to be recognized and potential realized. Discrimination in gender, race, sexual preference or religion must always be fought against.  The Reagan years in USA and the Thatcher years in his homeland UK, he found intolerable. A man who was so full of generosity of spirit railed against the meanness that had found a home in politics then and since.

During the mid-90’s our correspondence had dwindled to an annual letter of considerable length about anything and everything, and the odd telegram usually about a new film/play I absolutely had to see. As he said when I apologized for being the world’s worst correspondent, “Joanie, it’s called life”. And Digby Wolfe lived it to the full.

It would have been so easy after his successes in LA with ‘Laugh-In’ and ‘the Sonny and Cher Show’ to have fallen into that two-dimensional schmooze fest that is Hollywood.  He didn’t. He remained an engaging, intelligent, erudite, disarming, witty, fun to be with man, who saw everything in terms of possibilities and potential, who encouraged new talent to try, and old talent to try something new. His unending enthusiasm was infectious.  In a world of costume jewelry he was a diamond of the first water.

I wish I could be in Albuquerque, New Mexico for Digby’s memorial in June. I know it will be peppered with laughter as a life that was well lived and lived well is remembered.  Just know that in Sydney, his OZ family will share a drink as we thank him for letting us be a part of his life, and yes, it will be a cup of Earl Grey tea, black, no sugar and with a slice of lemon.

Digby Wolfe and Laugh-In Producer, George Schlatter.Photo c/- LA Times.

INTERNSHIPS: At Last! An examination of a 21st century middle-class version of the old-fashioned problem of slavery.

For those of you who know me and read my twitter stream, you will know that my pet project over the past three years has been the dire problem of internships. It is what I have termed as the new form of slavery, affecting not the poorest in the land, but this time rather the children of the middle-class.

It is a growing tale of outrageous exploitation without any real regulation or supervision. It’s a hidden problem except by those who profit from it, and by parents who are faced with having to support their under-graduate or recently graduated off-spring while they become the 21st century equivalent of a 19th century Dickensian under-age chimney sweep.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been endeavouring to find statistical data on the number of interns working in Australian businesses at any one time. Little or no stats are readily available to indicate the level of participation of this designation.

(I’ve also been attempting to get statistical data on the growth of the casualisation of the workforce, and this too, is proving to be difficult – but that is another story).

Let me say at the outset that the concept of interns and the invaluable experience that they gain within the workforce can be very useful. However, as is increasingly the case, unregulated areas of business practices seem to open the door to unfettered and unmonitored exploitation of a vulnerable group of young people.

So this brief blog piece is not what I had originally been working on but is the first real public salvo in my fight for some level of responsibility in this area. Anecdotal stories must suffice in the short term.  Let me share a couple of stories that have contributed to my outrage.

The first was a slightly older than average student who has an interesting range of life and work experiences. She’s brilliant at research, has great organizational skills, an endearing way with people and writes any form of copy well.  (High praise coming from me).  I don’t readily offer or agree to give references to students, she was one of the rare exceptions. Call her A.

In most tertiary qualifications there is now a core requirement for work placement in that area of learning a student is undertaking. At most universities the duration of these internships will be for the entire semester. TAFE is in a similar position. The duration of their internships however, is far more flexible with the minimum requirement being a couple of weeks. The TAFE student is, however, encouraged to participate in longer internships if they can be arranged.

Make no mistake if a student does not undertake a form of internship or work placement they will not receive their qualification. It is a compulsory core requirement. For universities it has become a way of saving money. By including internships as a core “subject”, the university doesn’t have to pay for face to face teaching, but the internship will still generate income from these student hours for the tertiary institution concerned.

A… a TAFE student at the time, organized a five month internship at a relatively well-known PR company.  A couple of these months were at the end of her qualification thus requiring some level of supervision from any one of her TAFE teachers.

A… had been led to believe that there was a job in the offing at the end of the internship. It took less than a week for A…, along with the numerous other interns ‘on staff’,  to realize that there would be no job offer.  In a company of approximately 25 people, 12-15 were interns. There was even an intern supervising the interns. At the end of the internship the disillusioned but experienced intern would leave and a fresh-faced, hopeful new intern would arrive. This company relied on the unpaid labour of interns to complete their contracted work obligations to their clients.

No company should be relying on interns to turn a profit.

Interns are not paid. There appears to be no requirement to reimburse out of pocket expenses incurred as a result of additional work requests. There are no limitations on hours worked, no contributions to superannuation and the area of work insurance cover is very unclear when the student stops being a student but continues being an intern. The supervision is cursory and inadequate at best, non-existent at worst. This leaves young and usually inexperienced adults in extremely vulnerable positions.  In the most extreme cases, that of sexual harassment, the legal system is their only recourse, and that is one not often followed.

A… stayed at this company because she wanted a good reference at the end of the 5 month stint. She feared that if she didn’t do all that was required from her she would be denied a reference, which was going to be the only thing she would get from this period of ‘employment’.

B… was another case entirely which resulted in TAFE teachers, including the Faculty Head, bringing the internship to a close. In this instance the intern was offered a 6 month internship for an on-line fashion magazine with the prospect of a job at the end of it. With reservations she was permitted to do the internship but there were strict conditions imposed on the employer by TAFE. The hours were to be no longer than 20 per week, the duties she had to perform were restricted to those outlined by TAFE and she had to be permitted time off for assessments etc.

After approximately a month B…’s attendance became problematic, the quality of her assessments fell alarmingly as well as her ability to meet any deadlines.  She was interviewed and allowed to continue.

B… finally confessed to what she was being required to do and the level of abuse she was receiving from her ‘employer’. This came after she had suddenly burst into tears and was unable to stop sobbing when she had made one of her rare appearances in class. In the two and a half months she had ‘worked’ as an intern for this employer she had done 120 plus hours per week in the three weeks leading up to, during and immediately after Fashion Week. She had been asked to do certain work, which was beyond her training and experience at that stage of her course, and with impossible deadlines for even the well-experienced worker.  She had been the recipient of more than 700 emails and text messages that were overly demanding of the tasks she was being required to perform, dismissive of her educational obligations and downright abusive, intimidating and threatening in their language and tone.

B…was just 18 at the time.

Vulnerable, and intimidated to not tell anyone at TAFE anything, B… was threatened by the employer with a bad reference and a refusal to fill in the forms required by TAFE verifying completion of one of the qualification’s core requirements. B… had decided to battle on to the end of term as best she could. TAFE teachers moved in, had a number of interesting communications with the employer, and the institution was advised not to send anyone to her.

A former student, C… has just finished a third internship with one of Australia’s leading newspapers. This has been a wonderful experience for her as job offers along with references and an impressive CV have been the result. One thing she did raise caused my internal alarm bells to ring when we were discussing a few weeks ago her internship in particular, and internships in general.

C… had just been to the CES, she’s at university now studying journalism and receives an independence allowance. In the course of the CES interview she had been asked about work and she replied that she hadn’t worked the previous three weeks because she had been on an internship. To which she was then told that she had to report all internships.

Apparently internships are deemed to be ‘work’ even though interns are not being paid, are not receiving anything in return for their employment be it goods or services, are not part of a bartering or cooperative arrangement where you get goods in return for your labour. There was no reduction to her allowance as she wasn’t getting paid, even so, unpaid internships must be reported to the CES where presumably they are incorporated into the workforce stats. That seems to be the only logical explanation.  I’m still trying to verify this. I’m also trying to find out why CES needs to know about something like internships that do not result in any payment, cash or kind, being made.

Or, does a reference and an additional line to your Curriculum Vitae count as barter: a service in return for unpaid labour? Does this then justify the hours, weeks, months worked by unpaid interns being counted in the employment figures?

It looks like the Australian Government is now going to have an inquiry into internships.  The union movement has, on the whole, abdicated their responsibilities in this area, and I’m not sure who is going to represent the interests of the student-intern. Up against the intern will be the business community, some of whom rely on this form of slave labour to make a profit, and academic institutions.

This is the first installment of what I know will be a continuing story on the new middle-class manifestation of an old working-class problem.

KEVIN? Not on your sweet Nelly

Since the release of the latest opinion poll results I have yet to see any serious or detailed analysis as to why there has been an improvement in Labor’s position. The column inches and on-air time have been devoted to the ‘lifeline to Gillard’ approach when reporting what was an unexpected statistically significant shift in support for both the Prime Minister and the Labor Government over the Christmas break.

There would certainly have been two groups who must have been bitterly disappointed at the results. The first being the media who are enjoying the feeding frenzy that a possible leadership spill provides. The second is Kevin Rudd because I suspect his timetable has been somewhat disrupted. Actually Abbott may have broken out in a little sweat but at this stage it will be nothing of significance.

Julia Gillard is one tough operator. She may yet survive the relentless political pressure she is under. If these poll figures continue to improve there is every likelihood this could happen. Everything is on such a political knife edge for the Government: the independents’ support in the House, the nervousness in the caucus, the perceptions of the public, the global economic situation and, of course, the media.  Despite this precarious backdrop the Government has a legislative agenda that would be considered daunting if governing in its own right rather than as a minority government teetering on the brink.

There is the assumption that if a leadership change was to occur in the Government that it would be inevitable that Kevin Rudd would be the automatic goto guy. The mainstream media certainly expects it. Yet it would be foolish of them to make this assumption. The ‘anyone but Rudd’ faction has the numbers, and, apart from his core group of supporters,  the majority of members are not prepared to revisit a Rudd leadership. Labor has been down this path. Members know where it leads and the likely experience the return journey would give.

Kevin Rudd reminds me of a duplicitous Cheshire Cat. He is there one minute, and when the going gets tough for the Government, poof; he disappears except for a large smile lingering awhile to remind us all that he is still there, but really not.

Of course it goes without saying that the position of the independents must also be taken into account. The Greens would work with Rudd; they’ll work with anybody. The independents, however, may be different kettle of fish, and remember it only takes one of them to upset the apple cart. The key is Windsor, a man of integrity and humour, and for whom I have considerable time and respect.

Gillard is now in the position that everything, and I mean everything, must work in her favour resulting in improved polling numbers.

The Gillard/Rudd speculation has blocked any focus being placed on the underlying leadership tensions that exist within the Coalition. Apparently the media can only look at one leadership issue at a time given its seeming inability to walk, talk and chew gum simultaneously. Make no mistake, concern about Abbott’s style of leadership is there simmering away, but currently under the radar.

While the Coalition continues to have a comfortable election-winning lead Abbott will remain as Leader despite his appalling personal numbers. If the gap between the two major parties continues to narrow attention will turn to his position. There are many within the conservative side of politics who are uncomfortable with the tea party style  approach to both policy and strategy that Abbott has adopted.

The key spotlight that is thrown on anyone who occupies the position of Prime Minister is much brighter and more critical than the lights that shine on other key members of parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition. Choosing a leader is a kissing frogs exercise. A candidate, who you would wager would be a great leader, can fall at the first hurdle especially during times of criss. Menzies is a good example. He was hopeless as a leader in war time, and went on to prove that it’s easier appearing great when times are great. Curtin, the quiet, unassuming, door-mouse like character was the most unexpectedly successful leader for this country at a time of dire need.

Rudd is a known quantity found wanting under this critical spot light of leadership. The Labor Party can’t drink at this well again. The water was found to be too brackish.

POSTSCRIPT 15th February 2012

The political situation facing the Labor Government is becoming increasingly intolerable. Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the current situation and the double standards of the overall media coverage,  the political reality is that the Prime Minister cannot continue in this role. The analysis can come later. Labor needs to look at a successor.

I’ve been asked, given the last two blog posts, what my view is. Here is my view for what it is worth.

Rudd is not to be considered. There is a large cross-factional faction who, having previously experienced his leadership style, will not return for another visit.

What is left is the three S solution: Swan, Smith and Shorten.

I will deal with each briefly. Bill Shorten, Member for Maribyrnong since 2007, is well known, competent but has yet to get the miles into his legs. He hasn’t sufficient experience. He will be a future Labor leader, but not this year.

My  friend, Bob Ellis, included Anthony Albanese in the equation. I wish. He has been the most effective performer on the floor of the House this past year, however, he has to be dismissed from any real consideration. Why? One word: Faction. Two words: wrong faction. I would be ecstatic if proved wrong.

This leaves Stephen Smith, the Member for Perth and Wayne Swan, Member for Lilley, both elected to Federal Parliament in 1993. Wayne Swan has been a brilliant Treasurer. He has grown into this job now occupying it with a calm, assured and authoritative aura that he brings to the public debate. If circumstances were normal I’d be happy for him to take over the leadership, but they are not. Europe and US economies are still balancing on a knife edge. Swan needs to remain where he is, on top of the fiscal and economic plot. It is essential there is a strong and competent Treasurer guiding the debate over the next few years. Another certainty is that neither he , nor anyone-else, can do both jobs. The Prime Ministerial position will require full attention

My preference, therefore, is Stephen Smith, another highly competent front-bench performer. He has done more than has been asked of him. Like Swan, Smith too, has a similar steely quiet, knowledgeable and authoritative air. It would not be the first time that Australia has had a Prime Minister from Western Australia at a difficult time. I’d have both men in the top two jobs. From a psephological perspective, and somewhat serendipitously, it can only help Labor that Smith’s from Western  Australia and Swan’s from Queensland .

Julia Gillard: For whom the bell tolls…

I hate to see the death of talent. In these past months we have been forced to watch the apparent death throes of two highly intelligent and very competent women, both in the top echelons of their professions.

For any woman who works in a profession, and I don’t care what profession it may be, there is an adage: “You have to be twice as good before you can be considered equal.” I first heard this saying in the early 70s when I worked in a predominantly male domain. Unfortunately it applies as much today as it did 40 years ago.

Photo by Mystify me Concert Photo (Troy)

Julia Gillard

The likely demise of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister raises certain questions involving the role of the broad stream media, the current world wide political dynamic that is irreconcilably divisive, and the deep seated misogyny that shows itself to be still a fundamental part of Australian society.

Since Gillard’s ascension to the main job it has been interesting as well as dispiriting to see how she has been treated by those institutions in Australian society that come with influence and power. The lack of respect or deference to the office of Prime Minister has been evident. In many ways Gillard’s treatment has run in parallel with the treatment of President Obama by similar American institutions.

Australia has a woman in the top job, in USA a black man is President. Both leaders have had to endure a level of vitriol, unsubstantiated criticism and out and out lies, all fueled by misogyny on the one hand, and racism on the other.

If you look at the record of both, major changes have been achieved against all odds in a deeply polarized political environment as well as in the face of a cataclysmic international economic climate that has yet to reach its conclusion. These changes are fundamental with far-reaching benefits for a larger part of the community who were previously disenfranchised.

Gillard’s legislative achievements as a minority government will be forever on the history books as being truly remarkable given the context and constraints within which she had to work.

Why the demise ?

Gillard needed the support of the right wing faction to overcome Rudd and move into the Lodge.  The reasons behind this are well known. A seriously dysfunctional Government led by a person who likes to micromanage and getting so inundated with decision making unable to make decisions. This conundrum is not unusual for those who like to control all.

The problem about those not from the right receiving support from the right is the right wing’s belief that they own you and have an inherent right to manage you. (Oh and haven’t they been doing such a bloody terrific job of it this past decade, especially in NSW.)  Certain compromises must be made. That is a political fact.  But problems arise when those compromises so obviously fly in the face of fundamental and well-known beliefs and values

Gillard was prepared to compromise what the rest of the population perceived as a core value for her. Why? -To keep the likes of Joe de Brun happy campers. In a man the public will forgive flip floppery, sexual peccadillos and the like.  Not so a woman.  A woman in politics must preserve that which she holds important as something almost sacrosanct –  ‘To thine own self be true’ stuff. – A double standard? – You betcha!  But it is one that exists so ignore it sisters at your peril. Thank you Julia, lesson learnt. Tell de Brun and his ilk the answer is no, because if you are a woman and it is important to be seen to be driven by conscience, not political expediency. A double standard? – You betcha! Howard and Abbott flip flopped on supposed core values. Not a squeak was heard, in the case of Howard, nor is with Abbott , from the mainstream media. After all, the mainstream media now has an agenda and it reaches in to the political arena. The media outlet is just one little branch of a larger conglomerate, and often is not even profitable but in terms of clout, immeasurable.

You are ultimately as good as those who are your advisers, and Gillard’s office from the get go, has been questionable in their policy advice, strategic planning and communication skills.  At every critical stage they have apparently suggested pulling the wrong lever. In the end Gillard has to accept the responsibility for not organizing a better advisory and support group. Her team has not done her any favours.

Those who have set out to demonise her, and they include the more conservative elements in Australian business, religious and political circles, have lost all sense of proportion, appropriateness, and especially in the name-calling, decency.

In this regard the mainstream media is also culpable. As part of the commercially driven businesses now owning them, media outlets perform as players rather than as dispassionate and analytical observers. It is as if, from the beginning as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard’s being a woman, however competent, made her more open to a level of abuse that would not be accepted if a Howard, a Keating, or even a Rudd, were occupying the Lodge.

To those younger women who now occupy reasonable positions within the professional workforce, make no mistake. The struggle to overcome the entrenched and deep-seated misogyny that is a blight on this country is far from over. I had hoped, but fear I will not live, to see its demise

We are seeing the same scenario playing out in parallel in the USA where in this instance the malaise that stops them from progressing as a civilized society is racism. It is so easy for those who are happy to live with a personal toxic level of political opportunism and cynicism, to use fear as a political engine driver, manipulating large numbers of the public by appealing to their most basic concerns. Racism, sexism, and religious bigotry are the result. This takes generations of more reasonable policy to overcome and restore the veneer that civilizes us as a society.

The final shock for me has been the performance of Michelle Grattan. Grattan has been a journalist who, in my mind, has been an exemplary journalist of impeccable integrity and, for the last near 40 years, one of the few journalists whose work I relied upon. Her work when discussing the Prime Minister this past year has lacked the usual clear, dispassionate, analytical thinking, and instead, it has been coated with a certain level of venom. Grattan’s reputation and gravitas earned over the last four decades and which she always brought to any topic have now been pissed up against the wall. The reasons why she would undermine her reputation in such a way appear unclear, well at least to me at any rate.  Her work smacks of a personal dislike or appears driven by some personal history. Journalists, like the rest of us, have personal baggage that’s accumulated through life’s journeys. The really good journalist is able to recognize the baggage and compartmentalize it so that it doesn’t taint the work done. Why Grattan appears not to have been able to do this when covering stories about the Prime Minister is unknown and is a great shame.  For those who wish to read her last missive, the one that has prompted this piece as I found it nothing short of a disgrace from a journalist of such standing, I have included the following link.

Please read and judge for yourselves.









On Twitter – a lesson in good manners.

Peter Phelps, MLC versus tweeps.

Twitter is the cyber equivalent of Speakers’ Corner. In the old Speakers’ Corner you could get out your soap box and say whatever you like, especially venting on those issues of the day that had given you the shits. The really great speakers could always attract a crowd. Their subject of special interest was laced with lashings of good humour, a lot of it self-deprecating, and witty repartee with those members of the general public who decided to stop, listen and engage. Even the most heated debates rarely descended into personally abusing an opponent when the rigours of the debate became too much.  There always seemed to be an unspoken understanding as well as a certain degree of tolerance and good humour that permeated the scene.

In today’s world such niceties of behaviour have long gone. Today’s plethora of shock jocks whose appalling lack of manners are tolerated because of the ratings and money that such behaviour generates, and reality television that belittles and regularly abuses those who appear, are the backdrop to a form of populist culture that certainly dominates in terms of quantity.

It is, therefore, interesting and quite unexpected to discover that when you enter the twitter world things can be a little different. In the five months I’ve been tweeting I have come to regularly converse with a very nice, intelligent and engaging group of people, a reflection of my eclectic range of interests. In that time there have only been three instances of what I would describe as unacceptable antisocial behaviour.  All three cases involved men of some authority and status who, when confronted with either reasonable questions to which one expected reasonable answers, or exceptions to what they had said, or, heaven forbid, alternative points of view, resorted to a form of personal abuse that was both unnecessary and highly offensive. In all instances these personal attacks were against women.

In two of these cases both men should have known better, but that didn’t stop them from behaving like bully boys as well as being just out and out rude.  My! How proud their mothers must be. One is a recently arrived journalist for a prestigious overseas media outlet. The other is a politician who yesterday came unstuck when his imprudent language and behaviour, which I suspect to be commonplace, was deemed to be beyond the pale by a number of twitterers.

The details of what Mr Phelps said that prompted the outrage was a tweet about a fellow committee member, Rhonda V, and female witnesses to parliamentary committee hearings and their need to ‘HTFU’ (harden the fuck up). This tweet resulted in a number of tweets. One of which came from @Nyx2701 suggesting that perhaps Mr Phelps needed a “good punch in the head.” To which Phelps wrote the now infamous tweet of telling Ms 2701 to “go fuck yourself, commie! And you can’t complain because I put in a smiley;-)”. Well I don’t know whether Ms 2701 wanted to complain or not, but there were a hell of a lot of us who sure did.  My contributions were small potatoes compared to others, however I did suggest that if Mr Phelps couldn’t behave himself with more decorum then perhaps he shouldn’t tweet; that he was in a position in which his behaviour is expected to be of a certain standard; and descending into personal abuse indicated a lack of intellectual application on his part. These contributions were met with a few offensive, demeaning and just rude replies, but was nothing more or less than anyone-else received from Mr Phelps yesterday, except of course @Nyx2701 who received the brunt of Mr Phelp’s toxicity. 2.webloc

Ultimately the he said, she said, we all said does nothing more than indicate that Mr Phelps feels he can get away with this kind of behaviour on twitter because he seems to be able to get away with it in the non twitter world. I suspect he was quite taken aback when a number of tweeps took umbrage at what he had said, and were forthcoming in their disapproval.

Twitter gives one a false sense of security. Often you are conversing with total strangers, sometimes in a country not your own. It is therefore easy, if your personality tends towards the bullying, to think that it isn’t going to matter a jot if you engage in similar kinds of behaviour on twitter as you exhibit in all other areas of your life. One would expect it to be even easier because of the anonymity that appears to be Twitter. I now believe the reverse to be true.

At anyone time there is a whole group of people on Twitter who will happily stand up and attempt to nip cyber bullying in the bud, deeming it to be totally unacceptable.  The anonymity of the cyber environment can instead liberate the intended victim to a position of not giving two hoots as to who you are, what position you may hold, or what profession you may have. The subject of the abuse can’t be physically intimidated, and, if someone has to resort to bullying or personal abuse, their intellectual vigour has been found wanting.

Twitter is empowering, informative, can be intellectually stimulating as well as creative and just out and out fun. No one should have to put up with the nonsensical, offensive and mean spirited abuse that came from Peter Phelps yesterday.  He is a publicly paid for politician who is supposed to be a part of a group of individuals, including church and corporate leaders, that together are supposed to help set the moral tone and standards we, as ordinary Joes, are then supposed to emulate.

Codes of conduct and ethics don’t grow from the ground up, they filter down from the role models at the top of the societal tree. If the current younger generation is not living up to the standards we would like, then we should start looking at the examples set by our leaders.

Barry O’Farrell was disappointing yesterday.  It was very nice of him to apologise, well he didn’t really apologise actually. Rather, it should not have been O’Farrell’s role to be put in the position of having to “apologise” on behalf of Mr Phelps. Mr Phelps should have apologised to those he sprayed, and not stood behind his leader as a small child stands behind its mother when in trouble. From Phelps there is still nothing but a deafening silence. The absence of an apology from Mr Phelps says volumes about the manner of the man.

To those who were sufficiently outraged to speak out yesterday I salute you. @Nyx2701 who was the subject of the most offensive rant, @greenat15, @kateausburn,  @mrtiedt, @kimworldwide  and @Jo_Tovey  @SMH

To poor Rhonda V who has to sit on a committee with Mr Phelps you have my most heartfelt sympathy.


Jon Stewart is truly remarkable.  He appears to be: a man of passion whose political beliefs are unashamedly worn on his sleeve for all to see; intelligent with a heightened sense of the absurd, which is just as well given that he earns his living as a comedian, and, after this week’s performance, having an inordinate amount of integrity.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

He is the most trusted man in America. How do I know?  The New York Times told me so – along with the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post and just about every other print media of substance.

Why stop at America?

I’m sure that there are many worthy academic articles that have banged on about why a comic doing a faux news television programme shown on Comedy Central has serious street cred. Why have old news hungry farts, such as myself, for the past 6-7 years, in my case, have chosen to get my day’s news first from the Daily Show before venturing out to read or view “proper” media outlets?

There will be, no doubt, historical references to the concept of the court jester – the one person in the King’s court who was given permission to tell the truth and not lose his head. Alas poor Yorrick, or his like, was the one who announced to all and sundry that the Emperor wore no clothes

Jon Stewart isn’t the first political satirist. I cut my eye-teeth with the BBC’s ‘The Frost Report”. It was a brilliant satirical variety show, despite David Frost’s involvement, comprising of skits in which we were first introduced to the talents of John Cleese, and the two Ronnies, Barker and Corbett, and with biting, piss funny musical interludes provided by Tom Lehrer of ‘The Vatican Rag’ fame

Of course, the Frost Report was broadcast once a week so it had time, the most valuable part of the creative process, to hone the final show into something akin to satirical ambrosia. The Daily Show’s consistency in tight, pertinent, yet still funny, writing; spot on performances by the comedic troupe, and what must be a production nightmare resulting in four shows a week, is testimony to the creative team that is the heart of this show.

But it was in the past week that Jon Stewart again rose to the fore.

Sarah Palin was, and always will be, easy to make merry with, satirically speaking.  Her heady mixture of ignorance and arrogance will always provide fodder for comedians, especially satirists such as Stewart.

It was the coverage of Anthony Weiner’s political demise where Stewart shone.  It must have been so very difficult for him to pursue Weiner as he did, and needed to do. Unlike Fox News who, with their usual bias, spent the week trying to cover for, yet again, another one of Palin’s idiotic gaffes, Stewart, in a series of brilliant pieces of humour tinged with pathos, did what court jesters do. He told the world the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes.

That episode, tight from start to finish, is worthy of another Emmy – sorry Stephen!


Photograph by David Shankbone

For we mere mortals it is usually fun and always compellingly fascinating when we see the high and mighty slip on a banana skin. In the last week it is two American politicians, Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner, who have provided us with the humour and pathos of seeing how far the mighty can fall, and laugh at their discomfiture along the way.

Sarah Palin is currently engaged in criss-crossing the United States, meeting and greeting ‘the people’ on a ‘one nation’ promotion. (Where have I heard that expression before?)

Despite her denial that she is running for president in 2012, this latest exercise is nothing more than the Clayton’s presidential campaign; i.e., the campaign you have when you’re not having a campaign.

Sarah Palin has many things going for her – she is extremely attractive, she has a gutter-rat shrewdness for knowing what buttons to push to get the response she seeks, and she is never stuck for a word. She knows what resonates with her core audience, never missing an opportunity, even when one doesn’t exist, of trying to make a political point.

The problem with Palin is that she is neither bright nor knowledgeable which you have to be if you wish to follow this folksy, worldly-wise kind of political approach. She is, however, arrogant. Ignorance and arrogance do not sit well together. They combine to make a cocktail with potentially disastrous consequences.

At the moment she is in no real position of political power so we can look forward to her gaffes with much amusement. The latest, the ride of Paul Revere, came from a no brainer, really innocuous question. Palin couldn’t help herself – the buzz words that resonate: “arms”, “freedom”, “gun”, “liberty” were all inarticulately wrapped up in Palinspeak, requiring the mainstream media to supply subtitles for the benefit of those of us who went “what?” and then fell about laughing.

Two aspects of this blunder I find interesting. The first is Palin’s inability to …fess up to making a boo boo.  Even I, not an American, know about the ride of Paul Revere. How is it that she doesn’t? What are they teaching, or not teaching, within the American education system?  Was she ever paying attention? Who knows – she doesn’t!

There would be more respect for Palin if she had the balls to be able to say ‘well I stuffed that up’, and have fun with acknowledging the stuff up. But she can’t, and that is the arrogance coming to the surface.  She must always be right, or more accurately, she can never be wrong! Palin reminds me of Pauline Hanson when she was at her political prime. It will be interesting to see if she suffers the same fate.

The other Palin-blunder repercussion which I find to be the most disturbing aspect of this debacle was the attempts by Palin supporters to re-write Wikipedia’s historical entry on Paul Revere. Palin can’t be wrong, therefore history must be – so let’s change it. It is plaudits and bouquets to the Wiki people that these attacks of historical vandalism were corrected so promptly and further ones prevented.  Wiki’s credibility has certainly increased as a result.

For Palin the show goes on and her inability to speak off the cuff will continue to supply the water fountain joke moments.

Anthony Weiner introduces the moment of pathos to this week’s political sit-com.  The real issue is not Weiner tweeting photographs of private bits and pieces to the world at large. Ultimately this is an issue for Weiner and his wife and no one else. However, it is the subsequent action of lying about it that is the real cause for outrage, and the serious lack of political judgement, the real cause for concern.  His about-face, when he finally acknowledged that he had erred after a week of panic and obfuscation, made it sadder and more pathetic. One hates to see the death of talent. He would have been in hot water if he had been honest at the outset, but hot water only not necessarily boiling. He certainly would have got brownie points for honesty – a commodity fast disappearing into total obscurity when it comes to politics and politicians.

Official Congressional Photograph, Anthony Weiner 2011

Being a politician in USA is no easy task. In the current political environment, political participants as well as the mainstream media are driven by a conservative and rabid pack of bicycle seat sniffers. This should suggest that imprudent behavior is bound to have professional consequences. Weiner’s lack of political judgement, as well as his attempts at covering up his indiscretions, renders his short and mid-range political future to a place between bleak and non-existant.

And so we end the week with two politicians telling whoppers! Not a good example to set the rest of us.

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