Thursday, March 17, 2005

Guns, Nuns and VSU

THE GOOD: In SA, the Catholic and Presbyterian churches have (sort of) backed equal rights for same-sex couples by (sort of) supporting the Labor government's Bill to equalise same-sex couple relationship laws. I say sort of because there's still the usual cry of "save marriage! Don't touch the precious marriage!" - despite the fact that marriage falls under federal and not state jurisdiction - but credit to Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson for saying (very progressive for a Catholic figure head): "We recognise the fact that there are people in society who live in other kinds of relationships...It seems to me that it's possible to (give same-sex couples equal rights) by defining the terms clearly and making sure . . . we don't use ambiguous terms in the legislation..."

This Bill has had enough difficulty with SA Labor's own anti-gay Attorney-General personally trying to delay and bring it down from the inside, so a statement like this can only help its cause. And I'm sure you wouldn't hear these sorts of words out of the mouths of Cardinal Pell or Archbishop Jensen.

Not surprisingly, Pop Stars for Jesus - aka Assemblies of God - won't have a bar of it, and unfortunately we can't ignore the singing GBs here because one of them is an MLC in SA. Still, it looks likely now that SA will finally catch up with the rest of Australia.

THE BAD: The Libs nine-year wet dream of voluntary student unionism at universities is now to become reality. In my student pollie days I went along to the various protests and marches against VSU but my heart was never really in them - not because I support VSU but because I knew that so long as Labor, Greens and Democrats controlled the Senate it would never happen, just as I knew late last year that VSU would now become a certainty when the Lib-controlled Senate emerged.

I had an interesting dinner last night with a couple of my chardy friends, and was surprised to hear even them say that a flat compulsory fee was unfair, particularly for part-timers (like them) who no longer used the union-funded services as regularly as they did in their undergrad days. When I used the analogy of compulsory council fees - we pay them, we don't really seem to get much out of them and we wouldn't pay them if they were voluntary, but it's good to know it's there anyway and it's not just about our own benefit - said friends put forward the sliding scale argument, saying that a compulsory fee should exist but be charged relative to how much of the services a member is actually using. I took the point, but I'm not sure how something like this could be monitored, and I believe any reduction of revenue will still adversely affect union services and punish the 1st and 2nd-year kids who basically live in uni union halls, pubs and club rooms.

I know personally I would have struggled at uni were it not for the queer support group on campus and the student political body, both of which existed solely because of compulsory student union fees and will now probably cease to function for future queer students. The solution for me seemed simple then and still seems simple now: call it something else. Don't call it a union fee, because then the Right whinges about "right to freedom of association" and it's easy for them to argue against it and confuse this sort of unionism with the big evil boogieman, trade unionism. "Services fee"? "Sports and Clubs Association Fee"? "The Liberal Club on Campus Might Not Exist Without This Fee so Pay Up, Princess" fee? Let's be creative - we're at a tertiary institution, after all...

THE I HOPE YOU CRASH AND BURN YOU RIGHT-WING BOOFHEAD: Yet another Liberal Party scandal, this time Sen Ross Lightfoot - whose name sounds too damn similar to a toy action hero figure, Buzz Lightyear - admits to smuggling funds into Iraq while on a taxpayer-funded "study tour". The case is already weird: he's claiming he said no such thing (which, if this story were broken by a Fairfax paper, I might possibly accept, but as it was The Oz and it's not the usual Murdoch Lib arse-licking propaganda, I've gotta believe he did), Woodside Patroleum is claiming they authorised the donation but have no relationship with Lightfoot, and let's not forget the general dodginess of an Australian politician to be in possession of an AK-47 in another country.

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Just out for a little poof-huntin', ma.

Lightfoot earns the title of "boofhead" for, amongst other great calls, the challenging and thought-provoking dilemma he posed last year during the gay marriage debate: "If we allow this, what's to stop a bloke from marrying his E-Type Jaguar"? Hmmm. It's funny and it makes you think, donut.



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