Thursday, September 29, 2005

New Captain of the Titanic #2

The release of Mark Latham's diaries was never going to bode well with the fickle electorate and, surprise, Beazley and the ALP took a big dip in both the Murdoch and Fairfax polls.

Now, the Divine Ms G (who for some reason always reminds me of Jodie Foster playing Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs), who despite offering unconditional support for Beazley, is obviously a little bit happy that the polls show over 40% of voters believe Labor could win the election under her captaincy. She's now offering leadership-esque speculation on the future of the party. Sure sounds like she's still got her eye on the prize to me.

Quoth the Gillard: "Labor is the party of compassion, (but) should not be the party of welfarism."

Reminds me of my far-right yet somehow still very likable Year 12 Economics teacher: "Welfare should only be a safety net, not a hammock." Poetry in motion.

You've got to admire Gillard for coming through Latham's shit-throwing smelling sickly sweet, even though this led to the Latham-endorsement-for-leader kiss of death. She's a smooth operator and plays the boys' game better than most of the boys.

But all of this is a bit irrelevant, really.

Labor would be very, very stupid to change leaders again before the next election, which I predict they will lose no matter who is at the helm.

The fact is, sadly, Gillard is wrong when she claims: "I do not believe that the only way Labor can convince the electorate of its economic credentials is to be able to point to a conservative government's responsibility for bad economic times."

Labor will not win an election, the Coalition will lose it. And they will lose it only because of one or a combination of the following:

a/ interest rates rise substantially (there's already talk of this on the cards);

b/ the full sale of Telstra leads to a total collapse in rural communications;

c/ all the dire predictions of Labor and the unions about the government's IR "reforms" obliterating blue-collar worker rights come true;

d/ petrol hits $2 a litre.

The electorate has already demonstrated that the incompetence, corruption, lies, regressive social agenda and steady decimation of civil rights that define this government will not stop the majority of Australians voting for it - in fact, judging by the 2004 election, such features seemed to encourage more people to vote 1 Howard.

And when Kim Beazley engages in a pissing contest with Howard over who can infringe on civil rights more comprehensively rather than oppose such extreme measures, as Labor once might have done many years ago, it's clear there is no opposition for the (apparently few) voters for whom this is such a critically important issue - invariably, the same people who believe the Iraq war lies, Children Overboard, same-sex marriage ban, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, the Kyoto protocol etc, ie non-economic factors, are important electoral issues that should, but don't, relegate the Howard government to the political scrap heap.

Labor is not playing "me too!", keep up with the Liberal Joneses politics by accident, however. The reality is that the country has shifted to the right and the majority of Australians are not willing to let that stop at this stage. People, myself included, who lament this shift to the right may vote Green, Independent, or somebody else to send Labor a message, but will eventually vote Labor through preferences - and with the combined Labor/Green primary vote something like only 44%, we're clearly the minority.

Given this, the neo-conservative electorate would certainly not be ready for a female PM, let alone a childless woman whose residence includes the unspeakable sin of an un-cooked in kitchen. Remember, even in the left-leaning Herald poll, nearly 60% of those surveyed don't think Labor would win with Gillard as leader. Of course, there's two distinct issues here - whether people believe Labor could win under Gillard as opposed to if they should or deserve to win, but in politics often perception is reality, and if most people think she wouldn't win, then most likely she wouldn't.

So I hope for the sake the party and her own career, Gillard is smart enough to remain the skilful and effective Opposition frontbencher she is, or if she's really itching for a promotion, nobble Jenny Macklin for the Deputy role. The best person to take Labor to an election victory is still Kim Beazley - and believe me, I find it extremely depressing typing that sentence.

However, I hold onto the dream of Prime Minister, or even President Gillard, to ease my pain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pity the Poor Heteros

Oh for fuck's sake - come on.

I remember having to deal with this shit all the way back in 2001 when I was the Adelaide Uni Sex-O. I copped plenty of flak as my female equivalent and I set out to make the focus of the Sexuality Department purely queer. We even had a failed referendum on it.

But I haven't changed my mind since then and the fallacies are the same now as they were then.

1. A queer department discriminates against heterosexuals.

Yes - that's the point. I would love nothing better than to live in a world where uni queer departments need not exist - where queer students are not verbally and physically abused on and around campuses, where queer spaces aren't regularly vandalised, where they can automatically claim student payments when they're kicked out of home without getting their parents' OK first, etc - but so long as this continues, the presence of queer departments to advocate purely on their behalf is essential for the well-being of queer students.

2. Heteros have sex too.

And good luck to them. But the thing is, it's actually quite easy for them to do that in our society. They don't need to fuck anonymously in public places and jeopardise their lives. There isn't an urgent problem in straight world of increased HIV transmission arising from crystal meth fucking. There isn't pressure on heterosexuals to repress their sexuality for the sake of maintaining friendships and familial relationships, which leads to spiralling self-esteem, which can lead to the abovementioned and other problems.

3. Queer-exclusive spaces create an attitude of "Us and Them".

To quote the erudite Dave Allen, in fact: "It doesn't matter whether you're straight, gay, black, white or brindle, but when it starts getting 'Oh, we need a space for us to hang out', it's crap; just come down the pub and have a few beers with us."

(And as an aside: Isn't it heartening to see our third-year law students speaking so proper-like? "Everyone should be treated equal and everyone should get their fair share of the general service fee." Because of of course nobody should be treated equalLY or anything.)

Here's one out of the box for you, Dave: Maybe we don't want to go down the pub and have a few beers? I can't speak for all uni bars, but I know if I or friends of mine did anything even the slightest bit gay at Adelaide UniBar - discuss who had the longer staying power, Britney or Christina, for example (bearing in mind this was 2001) or, shudder, get in a bit of same-sex tongue action - you could be guaranteed a minimum of negative response, from the dirty glares to whispers to "piss off, you faggots" to a rumble on the balcony.

4. Mr Allen said he did not give "a rat's arse" about homosexuals as long as they were not being given special treatment.

(Ahh. Again such eloquence.)

I'm not quite sure which special treatment he has in mind. Is it the special way Centrelink denies the relationships of queer students? The special way we're bullied, victimised and vilified? The special sum of a few grand queer student bodies and social groups get thrown at them which might make up the grand total of less than 1% of the total student union fee collection?

I don't mean to straight-bash here, and I don't mean to adopt a victim mentality either, but a milder variation of both is needed to illustrate the point.

Heterosexuality officers/departments are the seed of complete and wilful ignorance - Asked if heterosexuals were a marginalised minority on the UNE campus, (Allen) said: "I don't know. I haven't done a study on it. I couldn't tell you what percentages we are."

Nevertheless, he had not seen or heard of any harassment of gays at UNE that would necessitate a queer safe space.

And I'm sure even if he had, he would dismiss an attack as something we poofs bring onto ourselves with our flagrant behaviour. We're talking about roo-shootin' redneck boys from Narrabri, after all. They can't help their biological urge to bash anything that's different - be it a roo, a poof or a non-Holden car.

Even other rednecks can see how fucked-up this is. Barnaby Joyce - who I'm guessing would not be a great ally for the pink man - sees right through it: He said the creation of Mr Allen's position was "a bit of a waste" of students' money and described it as "partisan and puerile".

"It sounds like they're trying to be deliberately antagonistic. It's a lot of rot," said Senator Joyce.

Sure is, Barnaby. But such students only get away with this rot in part because it's legitimised by your government - the one where your Education Minister, instead of identifying it as you have as the big steaming pile of poo it is, instead reduces the issue to VSU propaganda: "The best judges are always the students, who unfortunately are still compelled to pay compulsory student fees."

This may be the only silver lining on the VSU cloud - if it means students are not compelled to pay for wastes of space like Dave Allen and a Heterosexuality Department, then that's something.

PS - What the hell does it say for the state of Australia's legal fraternity that this bloke will come into its fold in a few years' time? Then again, John Howard and Phillip Ruddock were once lawyers too...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Dag Penguin

I have this feeling in me waters that I may be a closet dag when it comes to music.

1. I don't yet own an iPod.

2. Those crazy kids at Triple J are now just way too cool for school for me. (I much preferred the glory days of Helen Razer and Mikey Robins to Adam and Wil "goddamn, if only we were actually anywhere near as funny as we think we are!" Spencer and Anderson.)

3. My radio on more than one occasion has switched on with the ignition to "Sydney's smooth variety, Mix 106.5" (or "SadFM, easy listening for the over 30s", as Bridget Jones called it. And I'm not even over 30! *sob*).

4. The background music for this week's shagging session:

a/ was not the latest QAF soundtrack;

b/ was not random insane German industrial trance;

c/ was not Scissor Sisters;

but rather, the best of Carole King.

And now, the next two CDs at the top of my to-buy list (buying CDs is probably indicative of how much of a dag I am) are James Blunt and Daniel Powter.

This may partly be due to the fact that James looks like this:

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and Daniel looks like this:


And maybe I'm just a sucker for boys who are reminiscent in sound and musical sensitivity of Elton John (James sounds not unlike Rod Stewart, even). And have guns like those. Bow-wow.

I think there're also positive association issues. The theme song for my Europe trip ended up being "Speed of Sound" by Coldplay. I heard that everywhere. But "High" was in high circulation too, especially as it was used in Italian Vodafone ads where Megan Gale spins her finger around and says in an appallingly ocker accent: "Tutto intorno a te!" This was about the only Italian phrase I can remember from my time there. And for some reason I ended up seeing the film clip for "Bad Day" with that chick from "The OC" lots.

Of course, it could also just be that I'm a dag.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reft, Light, Reft, Light

From the outset, I should say that I respect Lindsay Tanner. I think he's a good combination of intellect, political philosophy, media savvy and pragmatism. Although his factional alignment would most likely preclude him from the position, as it would with Julia Gillard, I would be not unhappy to see him as the next ALP PM (which I'm hanging out to see happen before I turn 83).
So I'm not quite sure what to make of his deconstruction of the Left/Right dichotomy. Indeed, Tanner argues it's not so much a dichotomy these days, in a world where "our leading left-wing intellectual is recent former Quadrant editor Robert Manne, and one of the most powerful proponents of left-wing causes is former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser".

Positioning or even pigeon-holing Tanner somewhere along the political spectrum is difficult. He's of the Left faction, but he's not a union attack dog like Anthony Albanese. In fact, this review of his book, "Open Australia", would seem to imply he's left his union associations firmly in the past to pursue the glorious New Labour/Third Way.

Initially, I thought he was selling out his faction in this article. I had to re-read a few times to see this isn't entirely the case - although there is the slightest hint of (majorly modified) Latham-esque disillusionment with the side of politics traditionally associated with social justice. To illustrate:

"...the Right has largely absorbed the extraordinary changes of recent decades and thereby transformed itself. The Left has essentially failed to do so."

Reads more like something Tell-Us-About-It Janet might write, doesn't it?


It could even be that the Left as it has been understood in post-war Western societies is in the process of disintegrating.

I disagree. I think that's a myth the right-leaning Murdoch media enjoys perpetrating. Certainly, Communism was a monumental failure and mostly non-existent by the end of the 20th century, but in practical operation, at least under Stalin, Mao and even Castro, it was not really genuine left-wing politics any more than Hitler was genuine right-wing politics. I don't claim to be an expert on international politics, but my understanding is that Canada and Scandinavian countries at least operate quite successfully under left/socialist governments (relative to the US, UK, Australia etc). They don't always have to end in psychotic megalomaniacs and collapsed economies, do they?

I also found this comment worthy of further analysis:

"...Many of the views and values attributed to The Left in The Australian don't really reflect mine. I don't really see myself as an elitist, pseudo-intellectual, self-hating, pretentious, protectionist, postmodernist."

In fact, I would attribute many of these characteristics to the Right.

Elitist: Our government is predicated on cultural elitism, prioritising white, middle class, heterosexual Anglo-Saxon Australians and condemning, mocking and even punishing all Australians outside this mould, particularly now Muslim Australians. How elitist is it to ban same-sex couples from marriage and claim this can only be an institution for a man and a woman? How elitist is it to price tertiary education out of the realm for more and more young Australians?

Self-hating: Professor David Flint, Christopher Pearson, Alan Jones and other extreme-right fags spring to mind here.

Protectionist: I seem to remember protectionism being a key platform of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party - the party that, years later, our federal government is echoing, at least in relation to the "evils" of multiculturalism.

The Nationals are always keen to protect their farmers, too; how else can the lunacy of irrigating rice and cotton fields in the middle of desert land to the detriment of our primary river system (and, indeed, many people's drinking water) be explained?

Pseudo-intellectual: It is sad how the Right has demonised "intellectualism" and made it seem a dirty word, as though learning and education should be feared and ridiculed instead of celebrated. I hope, nay expect, our politicians, if not to be intellectuals (ie have doctorates), to at least be tertiary-educated and well-read. We should get our money's worth out of them, after all.

I think Tanner underestimates himself here - like Latham, he is a good writer of intellectual and philosophical rigour. Unlike Latham, he can also speak in this style, without resorting to name-calling and temper tantrums (at least not on camera).

Tanner goes on to argue that "the emerging fault lines in Australian politics involve issues such as environmental sustainability, material progress eroding relationships, entrenched poverty reflecting family breakdown and drug abuse, ethical issues about the human body, and globalisation."

For selfish reasons I would have appreciated civil rights in this list - specifically, civil rights of queer people and same-sex couples. This to me is a very illustrative divide. Neither of the 2 mainstream federal parties go far enough to redress the unjustifiable inequalities between straight and queer couples, but Labor to its credit at least committed itself last year, while supporting the same-sex marriage ban, to a legislative audit designed to reform all discriminatory federal laws and ensure same-sex couples would be equal to de facto heterosexual couples. Given its subsequent crushing defeat at the 2004 election there's no guarantee this commitment will carry over to 2007 (particularly with the much less queer-friendly Kim Beazley at the helm), but Tanner at least has said publicly he'd be open-minded to the idea, following legislative reform, of the possibility of civil unions, probably similar to what's been established in Britain.

The Coalition on the other hand, at least under Howard, blanketly refuses to acknowledge any inequalities here, let alone discuss how they could be rectified. Howard apologists will immediately point to superannuation reform but, as I have argued, this is not a real solution. This government has worked so hard to court the Rancid Religious Right vote that it cannot be seen to yield at all on this issue. This to me is therefore a very clear fault line.

Some of Tanner's other fault lines, however, appear ambiguous, and certainly not indicative of clear divides between Labor and Liberal. Labor has many key advocates of globalisation (Tanner himself being one) and pro-lifers (such as the member for Lowe, John Murphy) just as the Liberals have their share of pro-choice advocates and, now, members representing electorates of high poverty, family breakdown and drug abuse (eg the member for Greenway, Louise Markus). I'm not sure either party can rightly claim a monopoly on the issues Tanner lists, and indeed he himself admits that "the traditional champions of the poor have fewer and fewer poor people among their numbers. Resolving this contradiction may be impossible."

But I guess that's the overall point of his article - the lines are blurred and Left/Right arenas are hazy in contemporary Australian politics. "The overall political landscape is deeply confused. The old simplicities have disappeared."

Does this mean, then, that the Left was set on a pre-determined course of failure in its purest form, whatever that may have been? That human beings are by definition far too selfish and individualistic for any sense of socialism or community to govern its citizens? Economically, this would seem to be the case. As with an ecological system, consumers are increasing exponentially, resources become more scarce and inevitably we have to compete more aggressively for them.

I still don't believe, however, that an increased focus on market forces and economic rationalism need be an impediment to social justice. Why can't an Australian government deregulate, promote free trade, combat the influence of trade unions, etc - none of which I'm necessarily supportive, they're just examples of what both governments have done in the last twenty years and what seem inevitable - but not infringe on a woman's right of choice, allow same-sex couples legal recognition, ratify the Kyoto protocol, apologise to Indigenous Australians, keep religious extremism firmly out of the legislature, avoid draconian civil laws as part of a mythical "war on terror", not demonise particular ethnic sub-cultures, not imprison "illegal" immigrants behind electrified fences in the middle of a desert, continue to invest fairly in public education, health and programming - all the things the current government has got so horribly wrong over the last 10 years? Is this indicative of what Tanner argues is the "Right (being) economically liberal and socially interventionist...the Left (being) economically interventionist and socially liberal ?

If so, the dichotomy for me still exists and those on the Left should not feel ashamed about it.

But we should also take note of Tanner's advice about what the Left needs to do to remain, or at least be perceived to be, relevant on the contemporary political playing field.

We might reject George W. Bush's violent crusade to spread democracy throughout the world, but what are we doing about it? What's our strategy? We may disdain Noel Pearson's blunt assessment of the need for change in indigenous communities, but what's our solution? More of the same? We're often critical of the family as a social institution, so why do we campaign for workers to be able to spend more time with their families?

This is lethargic of me I know, but I hope Tanner has formulated some answers to these questions. He is after all the elected representative, while I am but one of that awful breed of soft-left, latte/chardonnay/insert-cliche-here armchair critics.

So long as it is never forgotten that "the social nature of human beings is at the heart of Left values", there can always be a theoretical political alternative to the current anti-humanist government. I'm not sure Labor is the ideal practical alternative, but it's nice to see that some of its members haven't forgotten about the heart of the Left.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hatred First

Really, there should be nothing left about Family Fist that shocks me anymore. But Andrew Evans' spray against the SA Bill that equalises the legal status of same-sex couples with straight de factos caught even me off-guard in its poisonousness (now there's a sweet word).

Credit to him that he still manages to avoid the words "God" or "Bible" throughout, disguising his Bible-bashing behind a thin veneer of supposedly secular "family values", but clearly FF feel cornered and are lashing out.

Below is my SX column, followed by some extra thoughts that could not be condensed into the word limit.

The venomous fangs of Family First are finally starting to bite, after years of ingeniously marketing itself as something other than the extremist, fundamentalist anti-queer organisation it truly is.

Unfortunately, there will likely be little reporting of this revelation as it's only evident in the parlimentary speech of South Australian Family First leader, and former Assemblies of God pastor (not that the two have any connection, of course!) Andrew Evans, objecting to the Bill that will mostly equalise same-sex couples with de facto heterosexual couples in legal status, finally bringing SA in line with all other states.

This week, most people only are interested in the vicious spray of just one (former) parliamentarian, Mark Latham, but the gay-bashing inherent in Evans' bitter words should not be overlooked. He claims that “ that same-sex relationships tend to be relatively brief and rarely monoga­mous. It is for this reason that marriage has been given higher status and has enjoyed superior rights over other relationships in every civilisation throughout history.” This is the pinnacle of specious reasoning, considering that homosexuality was until the 1970s largely considered a mental illness curable with frequent ECT sessions, and an affront to the numerous same-sex couples whose relationships have in fact lasted years in the face of so many obstacles.

But Evans is just warming up. Introducing some hate-mongering against same-sex couple families, despite the fact that this particular Bill has deliberately avoided any adoption, IVF or parental reform, he reads into Hansard a letter from a supposed constituent that “illustrate(s) the atrocity that same-sex relationships may cause in some situations for children”. On that logic, there would be millions of precedents to outlaw opposite-sex parents if the criteria were that their children felt resentment against them in later years.

Naturally, the old chestnut of same-sex couples constituting a very small number of the community is dragged out, although it would be a brave politician these days who argues against legislative reform for Indigenous Australians, people with intellectual or physical disabilities and other minorities, based on their relatively small numbers.

Finally, predictable as ever, Evans whines about the “detrimental effects on marriage” same-sex law reform will have. Sorry Andrew, but heterosexuals are perfectly capable of bringing down that institution by themselves. Since queer folk are banned from marriage, we can hardly be blamed for the nearly 50% divorce rate now, can we? Evans also neglects that tiny detail of how marriage is governed by federal legislation, and he is a State MP debating a State Bill.

If Family First equates “family values” with lies, hatred and fear, it is little wonder nearly 98% of the voting population rejected this party at the last election.

The other means by which anti-queer campaigners attempt to legitimise their crusade to override people's civil rights is to draw attention to their own legislation in which same-sex couples may benefit from creating a category of "interdependents", where people can nominate their beneficiaries based on criteria other than a sexual relationship. So Evans relays various anecdotes about friends or sisters who have lived together for 30+ years and who are discriminated against by a Bill that only targets same-sex couples for reform.

That's lovely and all - and it's the attitude federal Liberal is claiming to adopt with superannuation reform - but effectively it's equating and entrenching same-sex couples on a lower level of relationship status. Sure, people taking care of one another in their twilight years, whom Evans would have us believe are plentiful, should have some safeguards too, but reforms limited to interdependents negates the reality of same-sex relationships - that, like straight couples, they live together, socalise together, share bank accounts together, shop at Ikea together and, yes, fuck together. They're not looking after each other because they're elderly or impaired, they live together because they love each other and are committed to an equitable relationship. These should be kept two very separate and distinct areas of law reform. Perhaps interdependents who feel discriminated against could form their own lobby group and work their arses off to have their grievances taken seriously and legislated for, the way queers have had to (and continue to) for over thirty years.

I'm not so naive that I don't realise Evans could readily produce statistical figures proving that long-term same-sex relationships make up a small number of the population. But taking that to his conclusion, that such relationships therefore do not deserve any legal rights, is both insulting and offensive. By Evans' logic - and I'm sure his personal beliefs reflect this - queers may as well not even bother to attempt to commit to a long-term relationship; we should just continue to live in the sinful life of singledom, dance parties and multiple sexual partners - the very stereotypes for which we're so vociferously criticised.

Surely, if there is legislation that encourages queers to create and maintain their relationships, that indicates such relationships are both legitimate and legally-binding, this sends out the message that there can be more to life for queer people than the hedonistic single life after all. But clearly Evans doesn't think this way; in a typically paradoxical FF double standard they want to force us down and then criticise us when we're down there trying to lift ourselves up.

The reality in SA is that opposers of same-sex law reform form the majority in the Legislative Council, so this Bill will continue to be delayed for further unnecessary parliamentary analysis and "community consultation" (ie an open invitation for AFA, Festival of Light, Salt Shakers etc to piss on it some more). South Australians will have to wait until early next year, when likely the state Labor party will win a majority in both houses and be able to push the Bill through without any practical hurdles. Even though, as I have pointed out before, the SA Attorney-General is one of his own Bill's greatest enemies, the party is explicitly committed to this reform and it will happen once it has the numbers. The day the likes of Andrew Evans become politically redundant will be a sunny day of common sense, a victory for civil liberties and a blow against the enemies of fundamental human rights.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Step Away from the Penguin

I have gone to lengths to celebrate the queerness of penguins and their quiet resistance to sexual oppression, so I don't much care for conservatives high-jacking the faggy little birds and claiming them as models of their own warped perception of reality.

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Twink penguin bracing himself for a "visit from Daddy".

How dare they re-name March of the Penguins "The Passion of the Penguins"? Any self-respecting penguin would gouge out Mel Gibson's eyes with his or her beak and feast on the gooey goodness.

The filmmakers at least don't sound like born-agains to me:

"It's obvious that global warming has an impact on the reproduction of the penguins," Luc Jacquet, the director, told National Geographic Online. "But much of public opinion appears insensitive to the dangers of global warming. We have to find other ways to communicate to people about it, not just lecture them."

Environmental conscience? Promoting open channels of communication instead of self-righteous sermonising? All very un-Right so far.

The painfully obvious correlation here that these conservatives are trying to avoid is that penguins extol their ideals of monogamy, sacrifice and child-rearing - and given that penguins are an especially queer breed of animal, queer sexuality is in fact conducive, not anathema, to monogamy, sacrifice and child-rearing.

The Sun-Herald rather unhelpfully throws in a conspiracy theory - "...the concealment of Sydney's fairy penguin colony begins to take on a more sinister aspect. The word conspiracy is too frequently bandied about, but it must be said that keeping the penguins hidden does favour a left-liberal, humanistic world view."

Wrong. In fact, concealing fairy penguins favours an anti-queer world view. The editorial's warning against modelling parental upbringing on penguins - Readers should be aware, however, that carrying their young on their feet to keep them warm may be seen by some as child abuse - is more useful.

Also: stick with the Heinz baby food instead of regurgitation for the little ones. Now that's good parenting!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Snaps for Carol

So finally - finally - one of the 30-odd new House of Reps and Senators post-2004 election has made reference to same-sex couples in her opening speech. Disappointingly, it wasn't one of the two new Green senators; rather, one of the new ALP folk from Tasmania, Senator Carol Brown.

Admittedly, it's only a fleeting reference - "(Tasmania) is also socially progressive, with some of the most far-reaching laws in the world governing same-sex and significant relationships and a strong legal reform program" - but it's better than nothing, which has literally been the alternative.

With Brian Greig now gone, we are left with Bob Brown and Penny Wong as our only openly queer federal parliamentarians.

Greig copped a lot of flack during his time as senator, particularly from the more militant Labor-aligned queer activists. The word "token" came up a lot, as did patronising dismissal of the Democrats as useless, only providing lip service etc.

While the Democrats deserve condemnation for making a preference deal with Family Fist, I believe Greig's contribution to queer politics is underrated. He was an unapologetic queer agitator who never ceased introducing a queer angle/perspective to many different pieces of legislation when nobody else would, and re-inforcing the message of discrimination as suffered by same-sex couples in the context of federal legislation. Yes, he had the luxury of being in a party that would never form government, but so what?

Wong is testament to the reality that queer politicians are under no obligation other than their own consciences to further a queer agenda during their time in parliament, particularly if it's not a major feature of the party platform. And while I accept that there are many other issues according to which a senator may determine their political actions and speeches, at least a passing reference from Wong every now and then to our community and its issues would be appreciated. Last year Wong offered a fairly scathing indictment of the same-sex marriage ban when it arrived at the Senate, but as with so many ALP members, her words rang hollow when, at the end of her speech, she still voted in favour of the Bill.

Brown is better than Wong in this regard, but not much. His voting record at least demonstrates he has the courage of his convictions, and unlike Wong he will occasionally speak candidly about his relationship and partner.

It's disappointing that only one new parliamentarian has used that dreaded hyphenated term "same-sex", and even more disappointing that she did not use it while discussing how same-sex couples are almost completely ignored at the federal level. But with the political landscape containing newbies like Michael Ferguson, David Fawcett and Steve Fielding among others, a new ally like Carol Brown is greatly needed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Open to Suggestions

I'd like to move off the beaten politico-blog track long enough to talk about my...friend. Who is called...Barry.

Anyway, Barry's in a bit of a bind. When he was younger, so much younger than today, Barry was a delicate little thing, lacking in self-confidence, obsessed with finding and being with somebody - anybody - just for the sake of being with somebody, and assuming there was something terribly wrong with him, otherwise why was he always terminally single?

It was only as Barry got older that he came to realise boys who promote themselves, consciously or otherwise, as "instant husband, just add tongue", are not going to land other boys so much as send them fleeing for the hills, especially in the early 20s, when commitment is as common amongst gay men as Cold Chisel tracks are at homo night clubs. Barry also came to appreciate other pursuits in life over which he had a greater degree of control and which proved more rewarding - and sure enough, the desperate desire for companionship diminished. It did not cease, by any means, but Barry realised that being single at 24, 34, even 44 (though probably not 54) is not such an unspeakable crime after all.

Barry can now leave nightclubs alone without tears streaming down his face, as he has developed perspective and such. Having said this, he's had a solid nightclub batting average in 2005 and was lucky enough on Friday night to accompany home one of the single hottest Englishmen (or at least, that's how Barry described him to me) currently on the market. Even Barry, with his growing positive self-image, could not believe how lucky he was when his lustful stare was reciprocated two-fold.

The complication is that Barry is currently seeing another young man of whom he is very fond... Jose. Barry took a strong liking to Jose the second he met him - he finds Jose spunky, warm, sincere, funny, intelligent, stimulating, quirky and off-beat without being unsettling, is happy that he gets along with all his friends, and provides Barry with a level of boudoir gratification he otherwise assumed should be outlawed. Jose also seems to like Barry very much, which makes Barry feel all special and gooey and junk.

Barry and Jose are keen to follow their pursuits, both of which necessarily involve travelling abroad. Consequently, they have agreed to forge ahead in what is essentially an open relationship, in which both parties are free to play around with other playmates, just so long as it's kept to only one or two play dates at a time.

Friday night was the first tester of how this theoretical gentlemen's agreement would play out in practice, and unfortunately Jose felt strangeness and disappointment upon finding out about the Englishman, which did not bode well with Barry who does not like to see Jose unhappy.

Barry is very keen to keep Jose in his life but he's also reluctant to give up even a fraction of his independence. Not that Jose makes him feel constricted, but clearly there is somebody else's feelings to be considered here, even though Barry is not being dishonest about what's going on.
Barry became very good at being single - largely by necessity than choice - and though occasionally the vacuousness and superficiality of the homo scene wears him out, he's not entirely sure he's ready to give it up for domestic bliss and become one of those dreaded "coupled" chaps whom friends never see. Barry has never trodden this path before and wonders if there are any seasoned travellers out there who know how to navigate and what to expect along the journey?

Friday, September 09, 2005

The True Threats to Society

It's Friday afternoon so I'm inevitably feeling a little lethargic. I'd like to do a point-by-point demication of Mingy Miranda Devine's totally unforgivable (even by her standards) defence of the little fascist brigade forming in the NSW Liberal party, but I think I've banged on enough about them on QP.

Instead, I'd like to marvel at how far society has come from the bad old days when politicians would say things like this in parliament:

I believe that homosexuality is an undesirable activity. It is, I submit, an appropriate aim of the criminal law to encourage young persons not to engage in such activity especially in that phase of their life where young people are developing.

Oh, that was only said as recently as 1997, you say?

Oh, and it was said by Senator Eric Abetz, you say?

Oh, and Senator Abetz is a current senator in this government, you say?

But hey, don't listen to me, I clearly have a pro-homo agenda. Listen instead to Devine and The Australian when they assure us that the Uglies and their federal supporters are really nothing to worry about. Take them seriously when they say that accusations of homophobia levelled against David

"The evidence shows that same-sex relationships are far more susceptible to being unstable and more violent than traditional households. Those in homosexual relationships face a greater risk of overall health problems, suicide and attempted suicide. Studies show a far higher rate of sexual molestation of children in homosexual households than in heterosexual households...Children raised in homosexual households are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders. "

Clarke are "totally unfounded". I'm sure they know what they're talking about.


Let's focus instead on pleasanter things. For instance, local DJ Neal Crawford who, after nearly three years of living in Sydney, I have only realised just now is woofalicious:

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Spin me 'round a few times, Mr DJ:


I've really gotta pay more attention when I go out to Arq.

Oh - the boy knows his web design, too - funky personal site. And he's originally a Kiwi so the odds are better than not that he won't be the typical Sydney homo beauty with a broom up his arse and that delightful shit-don't-stink demeanour that make many of them so wonderfully approachable and engaging.

I'm schedule to make an appearance at Arq tonight, in fact. Will a DJ save my life? Fingers and toes.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

OK, This is Weird

So I'm checking my QP emails in my lunch break, and I come across this from quality individual Peter Stokes:

Dear Sam

Of course it is of concern that people are more prepared to accept immorality -What a great pity that people continue to be seduced by the lies and deceptive propaganda put out by the homosexual and pro abortion lobby.

My responsibility is to proclaim the good news that Jesus can heal the homosexual, heal the grief of the women who has had an abortion, he (sic) the broken relationships caused by gambling addiction and heal the liar, adulterer etc. and restore them all to be the people HE intended them to be through a relationship with HIM.

Thanks for sending the article.


Peter Stokes
CEOSalt Shakers
03 9800 2855
0413 084 145 <>

Peter was replying to this email, sent yesterday:

From: Sam []
Sent: Tuesday, 6 September 2005 8:01 PM
Subject: Headline - Nation getting less conservative: survey

Dear Peter Stokes, Sam wants you to know about this story on

Personal Message:Mr Stokes, Despite 10 years of conservative rule in Australia, Australians still hold progressive views on abortion, Gays,Immigration.. What DEVASTATING news for you !!! Good to see that truth wins and that your lies and destortions on those issues might have some wins but in the end does not win the battle of ideas! Gay marriage within 10 years - YOU BET !!!

Nation getting less conservative: survey
September 6, 2005 - 4:14PM

The weird part: I did not send this email yesterday.

They're certainly sentiments I agree with (except for gay marriage in 10 years - not going to happen), and I'd like to shake the hand of the person who wrote this email posing as me, but unless I'm suffering amnesiac black-outs a la Sindi from Neighbours, I honestly, rooly, truly did not write or send this email. I generally refrain from using multiple explanation marks as I think they're tacky. And I'm also not a big fan of that Fairfax feature that generates emails starting with "X wants to know about..." I'm more the old-fashioned link copy-and-paster type.

So if there happens to be a very well-meaning QP reader who broke into my email and fired off this letter, erm...Please don't. Or, should you recognise yourself as the author of this and are as intrigued as I am as to why I'm receiving credit for it, please drop me a line so we can jump in a psychedelic van together with a bloody big Great Dane and some Scooby snacks and solve this mystery! Yeah!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Gosh, there are some sparkling wits in the Liberal party, aren't there.

There's Tony "Stand Up" Abbott, with his hysterical improvs. "Did you hear the one about the suicidal NSW Opposition Leader? Yuk, yuk, yuk". I was almost rolling off my seat clutching my sides with mirth here, just as I was over 10 years ago when Leckie Downer took to the comedy club mike and gave us a riotous routine about domestic violence - "the things that batter" (yuk, yuk, yuk).

Stop it, boys, you're just killing me! Any funnier and they could host a live variety show to challenge Rove.

If you've finished wiping the tears from your eyes from all that laughter, I want to share my thoughts on apologies. There's been a few of them lately. Broggie tried to apologise for his own routine inspired by Helena Carr ("did you hear the one about the mail-order bride? Yuk, yuk, yuk"). Then, after attempting to top himself, Bob and Helena sort of, in a roundabout way, apologised for not originally accepting Broggie's apology. Now the Mad Monk is apologising for making light of the exceptionally unfunny issue of mental illness, responsibility for which falls under his charge as Health Minister.

In fact, for MM it's an unnervingly comprehensive, unqualified apology:

I do accept that the statements that I made were insensitive. I do accept that they should not have been made. I do accept that they were altogether inappropriate, and I am sorry for making them. I have apologised and I am happy to apologise again. I am very sorry that I have given offence to the former Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales. I am very sorry that I have given offence to some of my own colleagues. I am even very sorry that I have given offence to members opposite.

Oh - nope, wait, there is a qualification:

We live in a tough public culture. Politicians give each other no quarter. The media is absolutely ruthless with everyone’s mistakes. The public is highly judgmental. I am not complaining about it any more than I am complaining about the caterwauling from members
opposite; it is just the world that we live in. I accept that my colleagues have a right to make critical comments about me under all these circumstances and I certainly am not in any way going to quibble with the judgments that they make.

Falling back, as so many of the far-right kiddies will, on Kamahl's lament: "Why are people so unkind?"

So they should be allowed, apparently, to make as many grossly offensive and inappropriate "jokes" as they see fit, but as soon as they're pulled up over it, it's the media being "ruthless" or the public being "highly judgmental".

Excuse me? MM, who sits in judgment of the "national tragedy" that is (allegedly) 100,000 abortions, whining about the judgmental public? I think that might be the pot calling the kettle fat, Kimmy.

The point of all this is, none of these apologies strike me as being at all sincere. Brogden didn't apologise because he was overcome with remorse over his racist and sexist behaviour, he did it because he got caught out. Likewise Abbott. Likewise Bill Heffernan in 2002, when he abused parliamentary privilege to level lies against Justice Michael Kirby (and who inexplicably still has a job in politics). And yet now, suddenly Heffernan is the "vocal morals campaigner" kindly and altruistically rushing to Brogden's aid and disproving the "fallacy" that Howard (for whom Heffernan is a lap-dog) hung Brogden out to dry? You'll forgive me if I'm not lining up outside Heffernan's office waiting for guidance, as I'm not in the habit of taking my moral cues from a bitter, homophobic back-room numbers man whose apology sounded as sincere as a three-year-old mumbling it behind his teacher's leg when he's got caught out stabbing another kid with blunt scissors.

Anyways, I digress.

I'm intrigued by Howard's double-standard regarding apologies (I know - Howard having double standards, amazing isn't it?) When Brogden, a moderate, does the wrong thing and apologises, Howard says it's up to him as to whether or not he should choose to resign (translated into Howard dog-whistle code: "You're gone"). That is, an apology just isn't enough. It is enough, however, when Abbott offers one, even though his crime is arguably worse (not to excuse Brogden at all, but Abbott was actually sober during his stand-up routine).

Of course, such offensive behaviour is not the exclusive domain of conservatives. Alan Ramsay outlines one of Bob Hawke's finer moments making a joke about fucking Mrs Gandhi and wonders why he still went on to become PM for so many years. The short answer is that people's tolerance for such bullshit is a lot lower than it was 20 years ago. This is a consequence of that "evil" politicial correctness. And Tell-Us-About-It-Janet wants us to believe Brogden was no worse than Mark Latham in his raw days. She may have a point. (Drunken straight yobbo) Boys will be (drunken straight yobbo) boys, regardless of which side of the political fence they're on. And most of them will not learn from their mistakes. They'll apologise but only because it's in their political interests to, not because they realise the folly of their ways.

Offensive politicians are not so far from everyday "civilised" society, however, one in which an attitude of "I am who I am, I never apologise for that, fuck you" is the dominant theme in most prime-time television, especially reality TV. There is a fine line between self-confidence and total insensitivity to other people and things in the world external to fulfilling one's own Id. If politicians actually led by example to demonstrate this, we might have sincere apologies or, heaven forbid, no need to apologise as such stand-up routines would never happen to begin with. Who knows.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Save Dan!

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And so I hereby found RSPCD, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dan.

OK, first things first - who is Dan? He's Dan O'Connor, an Oz Idol season 2 runner-up who last night made his debut appearance in Neighbours as Stu's brother - wearing, naturally, as little clothing as can be allowed at the 6:30pm timeslot:


And from what cruelty is RSPCD determined to save him?

Dan has fallen prey to an evil cult calling itself the "Christian City Church", and "recently co-hosted a gospel concert by the rock band Third Day."

OK, so it's not the most evil cult of all, Hill$ong, but we're assured it's "similar".

Dan of course inflicts cruelty as he suffers it. Could he have been any crueller when he told us on Oz Idol that he was straight? Yes, when he went on to tell us that he was a sunbeam for JC, THEN telling us he's still a virgin who's saving himself for marriage. (So no fellatio involved at all to score a role on Neighbours? That'd be a first, I suppose. Unless, of course, the action took place on Jan Russ' casting couch...And there goes the last lingering threat of my hunger for the rest of the day.)

But Dan knows not how cruel it is to humanity that something so beautiful should be so inaccessible and so corrupted by sinful, perverse influences such as evangelicalism.

So I implore all self-respecting gay men to sign up quick to RSPCD so that we can save this gorgeous little sparrow with broken wings from himself.