Good Manners, Howard Style
God love him - I think he does actually honestly believe his own BS these days.John Howard tells the public
to improve its manners.
Coming up next: Bert Newton on retiring gracefully, Shane Warne on how to treat a lady properly and Eddie Maguire explains why talent is so critical to success and media profile.SX
-I had to chuckle when I read our beloved Prime Minister decrying the “marked deterioration in good manners” as he called for Australians to be more polite.
I wonder if he actually pays attention to what goes on in his own workplace. Did he have in mind at all an average Parliament Question Time session or the actions of some of his colleagues when sermonising on this issue?
The behaviour of some of our parliamentarians is so aggressive, offensive and outrageously rude it would put a standard primary school playground in the shade. One backbencher summed up the problem perfectly back in 2000: “Question time should be a time for tough and unrelenting questions where they are warranted, but it has become a time for consistent personal attack, for exchange of abuse across the chamber and for aggressive and unprofessional behaviour – and all this whilst often the question remains unanswered. I am sure that every one of us here would banish any child from our dinner table if they behaved in such a way.”
Of course, John Howard himself always endeavours to behave in a “proper, polite fashion” during his time in parliament and certainly, he does not have the acerbic wit, bullying demeanour (outside of the party room, at least), explicit cruelty and at times foul mouth of his predecessor, Paul Keating.
But as is so often the case, Howard’s actions blatantly contradict his words. Last year, political defector-to-be Senator Julian McGauran gave Opposition members the infamous one-finger salute – before an audience of school children, no less – after extensive grilling over his continued mediocre performance. The Howard government refused to discipline him for this, with its Senate President deciding not to refer the matter to the privileges committee and conveniently saving McGauran from a possible fine, suspension or even jail for contempt of parliament.
Howard identifies television networks and parents as the two entities primarily responsible for educating people, children especially, to mind their manners – easy scapegoats, and a denial of his own responsibility as leader of our country and leader of the ruling government and its members. He speaks of “vulgarism” on television but makes no mention of the vulgarism to which children are likely to be exposed on any school trip to Parliament House.
I’m not saying Howard is personally responsible for the gutter level to which our parliament has descended – this was a downward trend that had commenced long before he became Prime Minister. I am suggesting, however, that until such time as federal politics demonstrates some good manners of its own, he might like to keep quiet on the matter. Hypocrisy is no more endearing than rudeness and should not be encouraged in people either.
(Took Friday off between Oz Day and the weekend, you see.)
First: Ching-ching to my twin brother, Roger, for showing the world once again that being a class act is genetic.
There's been a lot of discussion in the last few days about tears and break-downs post Brokeback Mountain viewings, but damned if this wasn't the image that got me a bit salt-watery:
As I've always suspected, Roger is a beautifully sensitive man beneath the ice-cold demeanour he takes with him onto court. I just wanted to hold him until the pain went away. He is a player worthier of No 1 status than Spewwie, Roddick and Ferrero combined, and I believe his legacy will surpass that of Agassi, Sampras, Edberg, Lendl and McEnroe, to name a few.
Plus he looks like me. What a superstar.
Meanwhile, can we please agree on a life-long ban on the John Alexander/Jim Courier commentary team? Their frequent mutual masturbation sessions over Marcos Baghadtis' (apparently) hot girlfriend got me very Maggie from Little Britian.
Now, speaking of BBM: Giving one's opinions on this film is so hot right now, so here I go. Saw it - eventually - on Oz Day, but not before my car broke down on the 20km drive to Macquarie Gold Class (no, I don't go to Macquarie by choice, it's just that they weren't showing it at Bondi Junction GC).
Exquisite film - and unlike when I read the story, I didn't shed a tear. Not because I'm one of those types who likes to be different to everybody else - I mean, duh, the movie is devastating, of course I was saddened.
But I also realised a sense of hope I did not feel from the book. Ultimately, Ennis Del Mar is a better man for the love he has shared with Jack Twist, and in some ways Jack's
brutal and premature death immortalises that love. The resolution of the film, which suggests Ennis will be a better father to his daughter - and, indeed, that his daughter is aware of her father's secret and does not love him any less for it - is beautiful.
As with all his films, Ang Lee allows his scenery rather than characters to say volumes. The paragon of cinematography. Brokeback Mountain is truly personified, a kindly, protective and non-judgmental landlady who allows two unconventional lodgers to stay in her home and, for a period, develop and nurture a love that would get them kicked out of most other places.
Watching the film was a reminder that, contrary to common tag-lines, this is neither a gay nor a cowboy film. Firstly, they are sheep wranglers, and secondly, I got the impression that although Jack, "sensitive" in the way that that adjective is often used as code for homosexual (remember Blanche duBois' "sensitive" husband?) was gay, Ennis was not - he was in love with one man only, and that love transcended any kind of sexual barriers.
Acting was uniformly first-rate, but for me the break-away performance was not Heath Ledger, but rather Anne Hathaway as Jack's wife. Anne Hathaway - she of the Princess Diaries franchise and Ella Enchanted?! Her interpretation of Lureen Newsome speaks of a performer with insight and intelligence far beyound her years and capacity certainly far beyond what her CV would suggest. It will be a grave oversight if she is not nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category come Oscar nominations tomorrow.
Predictable rating, but 5 stars Margaret. This is a film without fault.
Other high/lowlights of 4-day weekend: Riding to Bondi from Drummoyne with a 60-something tow-truck driver who, without provocation, proceeded to detail the various women he had allegedly picked up in the last few weeks from bus stops, KFC stores and other exotic locations. I think that was the longest drive I've ever been on in my life. Another Maggie moment.
Yum Cha with my homo uncles at Marrickville on Chinese New Year (yesterday). In some ways, eating seafood and pork and drinking champers before 11:30am seems so wrong. In other ways, it's so right.
Being able to actually wake up early on a Sunday morning and be functional and sociable after a long night's trashing at the Midnight Shaft. Maybe I'm not as old as I sometimes whinge after all.
Are Mummy and Daddy Getting Divorced?
Sweet - the country is less two Nationals in any significant position. I'm particularly pleased about the dumping of De-Anne "Stepford Wife" Kelly. Couldn't have happened to a nicer Botox patient.
It's a pleasing thought, speculating that the inevitable split between the Libs and the Nationals - and indeed, the ultimate death of the horrendously irrelevant National Party - might happen under J Ho's watch. Quality leadership in action.
In fact, given Julian McGauran's long-standing chumminess with Peter Costello, I wouldn't be surprised if it were Pete who orchestrated this defection all along, as revenge against Howard's Robert Gerard offensive, to de-stabilise his leadership. If so, snaps for Pete. I didn't see it coming and so far it's working a treat.
Howard can of course himself claim a lot of credit for the Nationals' current comatose state. When One Nation peaked before crashing and burning, its redneck voters, instead of returning to the Nats, veered instead towards the soothing tones of Howard, who had so ingeniously refrained from condemning Pauline Hanson and ON as the bunch of lunar-right racist (sexist, homophobic, gun-wielding) freaks they truly were. Then the Independents started to bite in the House of Reps and budda-bing, budda-boom, the Nationals only picked up 12 seats in the 2004 federal election - their lowest ever post-war haul.
Even those dirty, drug-pushing commie homos in the Greens now attract a higher primary vote in the lower house than the Nats. And yet they don't have the luxury of being able to ride on the back of a far more successful party to win their seats. Go figure.
Now, for those of you who've ever wondered what J Ho's facial expression might be when Jeanette's working the strap-on:
I feel the Greens deserve a right-of-reply to my earlier speculation
about their alleged preference deal with Family Fist. So here's a posting in my comments from Ray Goodlass, the Greens NSW LGBTI spokesperson:The report that the South Australian Greens have preferenced Family First for the forthcoming state election is entirely without foundation.The South Australian Greens have issued a statement in which they “confirm that there has not and will not be a preference deal with the Family First party because the Family First party views are inconsistent with The Greens policies such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual and Intersex rights, support for access to abortion and voluntary student unionism”.Let’s put this malicious story where it belongs, in the garbage bin. The Greens put principal above electoral expediency and would never preference parties so opposed to our principle of support for LGBTI rights.
In retrospect, I should have known better than to take a reported story in the Advertiser as unqualified fact. The Murdoch Media Machine has a well-known hatred of and contempt for the Greens and will do anything it can to discredit them.
However, it is convenient for the Greens to categorically deny any preference deal was made now, after the allegation is reported and the outrage of Green voters - and indeed most people of even any slightly left persuasion - becomes abundantly clear.
Regardless, this statement appears to be an iron-clad commitment and does partially restore faith. Well, my faith anyway.
Meanwhile: Friend of mine emailed me this link about a new "gay scandal" over in the UK that has claimed the scalp of Liberal Democrats senior figure Mark Oaten.
For those of you who've seen any of the third series of Little Britain, my friend felt this might be life imitating art and likened Oaten to the unfortunate political chap in LB who has to make statements about his repeated homosexual encounters.
"And a piece of my body accidentally entered him. As far as I am concerned, that is the end of the matter!"
Unlike the many Tory sex scandals over the years, however, this one would appear not to involve breathing restriction apparatuses (no, it's not apparati).
Finally, a Cabinet re-shuffle worth getting very nervous about?
OK, so Robert Hill sold his soul as Defence Minister, as Ruddock, Vanstone and even Leckie Downer have all done since 1996, but he was still a key moderate in the party, intelligent and one of the few ministers who didn't make me cringe when he spoke. The thought of him being replaced by Nick Minchin is spooky.
And speaking of sell-out moderates: Looks like Helen Coonan's in line for a promotion.
I wonder if totally compromising one's political and philosophical beliefs is worth the extra paycheck? Do Coonan, Ruddock, Hill etc rationalise their whoring through the extra decimal place?
Ruddock's always been the one I pity the most. Despite his increasingly uncanny resemblance to Mr Burns, I know there was once a decent man in him, many, many moons ago. In fact, my theory is that Howard, as revenge against him for being a strong Fraser/Peacock loyalist who worked to keep him from attaining the leadership back in the 80s/90s, offered Ruddock a "promotion" to do the job he knew would cut through his then-progressive soul like a hacksaw - become the single most racist Immigration Minister since the WAP.
Which is why Ruddock has aged so horrendously in the last 10 years - I actually believe for all that tenting of his fingers and purring "excellent" while he watched the footage of asylum seekers starving and abusing themselves in Baxter or getting sliced on the razor wire, it actually tugged at the last shred of humanity that existed in him - his Bobo teddy bear, if you will.
But hey - as John Travolta pointed out in Primary Colors: "You don't think Abraham Lincoln wasn't a whore before he became President?"Maybe Phil has a dream about becoming PM after Howard retires - which given Howard's current enthusiasm about retiring, and Phil's current age, means Australia may be the first country in history to have a 107 y.o Prime Minister.
He'll get along fabulously with Papa Ratzinger, no doubt...
Well, it's the season (and gee, wasn't I devastated about Spewwie's loss last night? Oh, wait, no, I wasn't. In fact I think I was table-dancing by the end of it) and as I'm having one of those Mrs Slocum sort of days, the following is random pics of tennis players interspersed with bad double entrendres vaguely related to tennis.
That's a big long hard one you've got there! Bet you could do some serious pounding with it!
Why do you have grass stains on your knees?
I can stretch very far and have tremendous coverage...
Unfortunately he's come to the net too quickly...
That's a great Head you've got there...
Anyone for doubles?
It's a good, hard surface but thankfully not too fast.
He really nails that angle...
I would very much like to have sex with all these men.
Sorry - was running out of ideas. There's obviously only so many double entendres in the world of tennis.
Sleeping with the Enemy
Firstly, God love Kaz Cooke
column for the week.The Australian Greens and Family First preferencing one another at election time – has the whole world gone insane?
Family First, the party that, ably assisted by the Herald Sun
and other Murdoch rags, managed to conjure up false scare-mongering about the Greens’ “extreme” policies on drug harm minimisation, “compulsory” bike-riding and – worst of all, apparently – Medicare funding for people seeking transgender operations, is now set to get a leg up with the Greens’ help at the upcoming South Australian election, with a preference deal brokered that will see the Greens preference Family First in a safe, blue-ribbon Liberal seat, in exchange for their preferences for Kris Hanna, the former ALP member who won his seat for Labor in 2002 but then defected mid-way and is now the sole Green representative in SA parliament.
In purely strategic terms, this is not surprising. Hanna’s seat of Mitchell is marginal, and going into the election as the underdog, the way many mid-term independent converts do, he needs all the help he can get.
Also, the significance of this preference deal should be kept in perspective. Unlike the federal Senate, where the ALP’s deal with Family First actually resulted in the latter’s Steve Fielding’s election to parliament with less than 2% of the vote, a Family First representative is very unlikely to defeat the Liberals in the very safe state seat of Kavell. Preference deals in the lower houses only ever determine How-to-Vote cards, and voters still have the choice of directing their preference votes any way they like. However, such a choice was not available for voters who put 1 Labor on their Senate ticket, no doubt many little realising they were helping to bring to life a political monster in Fielding.
None of this, however, detracts from the shocking decision of the SA Greens to even consider dealing with an extreme-right, anti-rights party so diametrically opposed to them, and its members know this. Greens member Travis Gilbert has decided to stand against Hanna in Mitchell as an independent, or, according to his website, “True Green”. Appalled by this deal, he claims he has “been proud to be a member of a party that has put principles above politics, but evidently, (he has) been misled” and seeks to provide voters with a more genuine, “pure” green alternative.
Sadly, the practical realities of our state and federal voting systems have always forced minor parties having to deal with one another, no matter how contradictory they may be, if they have any chance of election.
But a line must be drawn. Assisting Family First in any way, even at a small, ultimately inconsequential level, is a means that no end can ever justify.
Extra QP thoughts: It's certainly an interesting issue, speculating to what extent minor parties should dance with the devil for their own advantage. It seems to me the Greens have more to gain out of this deal than FF do, and my point still remains that at a practical level it doesn't mean a huge amount anyway. Most Green and FF voters are, if nothing else, passionate about politics and passionate about their mutual contempt for the opposing parties.
I can't see all that many Green voters going: "Well, I wasn't going to preference an anti-queer, anti-woman bunch of dangerous, hypocritical God-bothering freaks as their entire existence is contrary to my philosophy and perspective on life - but this How-to-Vote card tells me I must, so I guess I'd better!" Ditto twofold the Family Fisters.
And I don't care for Labor apologists now going "ha, ha. Greens can't criticise us for doing a preference deal that got Fielding into office because they're doing the same thing now." Actually, they're not.
I am so confident FF won't win the seat of Kavell - with or without Green preferences - that I will join the party myself if I'm wrong.
Yes, you heard it here first - I will sign up to Family Fist if this preference deal gets them over the line in SA.
This isn't excusing the Greens for a pretty unforgivable move, even if it may be strategically advantageous to them. It's just a matter of keeping perspective.
Oh - if anybody's interested, Travis Gilbert's website is http://www.truegreen4mitchell.com.
Why Labor Sucks
Grrr .... You see, this is why people are deserting Labor. They won't adopt firm policies but they will criticise those who do. They're a bit like Homer:Marge:
You know, Homer, it's easy to criticise.Homer:
I've previously expressed
my appreciation of Lindsay Tanner, ALP member for Melbourne, but this is rank cynicism that disappoints even me.
Original QP email:Mr Tanner,
As somebody who has previously agitated for legislative reform to benefit same-sex couples, I'm wondering why you have remained quiet in the last few weeks on the issue of civil unions as debate has been initiated by Liberal backbenchers?
Will you be following the lead of Tanya Plibersek anytime soon and coming out in unqualified support for same-sex civil unions? If not, why not?
This seems to me to be a perfect opportunity to expose a wedge in the Liberal Party and I'm wondering why otherwise strong supporters of same-sex couple rights in the ALP - yourself, Anthony Albanese, Michael Danby etc - are not jumping on this opportunity.
Tanner reply:Thankyou for your email of January 9 2006.
As a senior front bencher and co-ordinator of labor's policy process I'm a bit restricted in my ability to speak publicly on issues outside my portfolio (particularly when my position is different from the official ALP position). And occasional public outbursts in the Australian don't count for much. I'll continue to push for a stronger Labor position, as I have done since the issue first surfaced in 2004.
QP response:Thank you for this reply although I'm now a little confused in a couple of places - does this mean your position in favour of civil unions (which I know previously you've supported or at least suggested should be debated) is contrary to the official position of the ALP?
Also, are you suggesting the coordinated and repeated statements of Mal Washer, Judi Moylan, Warren Entsch, Peter Lindsay and Petro Georgiou in favour of civil unions are merely "occasional public outbursts in the Australian"?
For what it's worth, their speaking out on this issue counts a lot for me as a gay man who never has nor ever will vote Liberal but who can understand how difficult it would have been for them to come out in open support of civil unions contrary to John Howard and I imagine the majority of the party room. I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates what they've done.
Tanner retort:Thanks for your email of January 10 2006.
Labor does not have a policy of support for civil unions (nor is it officially opposed to them either).
I accept your point about the significance of individual MPs speaking out, but it's not that hard for backbenchers who are never going to be ministers. In some respects it suits the interests of government, allowing them to maintain their position while possibly keeping some Liberal voters who support gay marriage on side with the thought that change in the party's position is possible.
Yours sincerely etc
And of course, the ALP would never stoop to playing both sides of the field, would it?
Would it kill Tanner - I mean literally, would he suffer multiple heart attacks on the spot and keel over and die - if he just said: "you know what? What these Liberals have done is a commendable thing. We support them and acknowledge their attempts at agitating for reforms we in the Labor Party have been bleating for years that we're the only party capable of achieving."
But maybe that's why Tanner's grumpy, because some Libs have stolen his party's thunder.
I know this is the ugly reality of Australian politics. I know unqualified bipartisan support for any significant policies or reforms is almost non-existent; that the Big Two will go out of their way to find some contrary position to argue or find fault with either the concepts put forward or their proponents, even when they're concepts that the party itself principally supports.
But none of that makes any of this less frustrating - nor, for that matter, does it address my original question of why Tanner, Albanese, Danby, Lawrence etc aren't following Plibersek's lead and remaining so deafeningly silent.
To paraphrase Tanner himself: it suits the interests of the ALP not to commit explicitly to same-sex civil unions while possibly keeping some Labor voters who support civil unions on side with the thought that change in the party's position is possible, as well as placating Labor voters opposed to civil unions who hope the party's position will not change.
I read a quote once from some random tabloid journo along the lines of getting splinters up your arse if you keep sitting on the fence. Never has a truer summary been made about the ALP in its current state.
Just a few odd socks and missing undies:
Girls (by which I mean of course, boys), this may be your new dream man. TSSH first discovered him and initially and mistakenly put him on the market for the (actual) girls, perhaps overlooking this somewhat glaring clue: favourite musician: kylie (female).
So it looks like the Dreadster might now have some competition for Victoria's No 1 uber-right, neo-con homo pin-up boy?
(And if John happens to be reading this - mate, you drive me to drink sometimes, but you know the love, or at least respect, is there :P)
And girls - unlike Dread, Tim is single.
So dust off those Victorian Young Liberal application forms, slip on those Rockport boat shoes, hyphenate that surname, buy that terrace house in Prahran with that trust fund, run down that Green Left vendor in Daddy's Lexus, watch that Demons match at the MCG from the corporate box and be prepared to jump back into the closet come pre-selection time, coz Tim is there for the taking! Yes, you could be the next Jeanette (or even Tanya)!!!
Saw The Family Stone last night. That's not really news of itself (3 stars Margaret - predictable, contrived, occasionally moving, Sarah Jessica Parker is very good at playing an uptight, neurotic bitch, wonder why?) - the news is that because I arrived late to it with my friend, we struggled to find two empty seats next to each other. We did find two empty seats with this woman sitting between them, who refused to move when we asked ever so politely.
Seriously, what the fuck is wrong is people?! Do human beings like this even exist outside of Sydney? When I pointed out that moving down one seat would not kill her I was greeted with a primeval grunt. Wasn't enough to ruin the enjoyment of the movie - or for friend and me to derive a little guilty pleasure by quite pointedly and probably more times than necessary passing our popcorn and Coke across this woman's lap.
If nothing else, the fact that she was there alone and will probably die alone and be eaten by Alsatians was karma enough for us.
One of the three reasons to watch the Australian Open this year is gone. Still, Roger and Andy still appear to be on track for it. Anybody else reckon Andy
looks a wee bit like Seann?
Another example of outstanding family values and excellent heterosexual parental upbringing that clearly demonstrates why same-sex couples are unworthy of adoption.
Neighbours is back for 2006. Initial thoughts: What's up with the new cartoonish opening titles? I know it's a G-rated show but does it have to look so much like Play School?
Dan's now in the opening titles and set for a love triangle with Izzy and Elle. I actually think his acting, somehow, is getting worse.
Liking Harold going a bit loopy-loo and now making dirty prank calls to Paul. I even thought the muffins he brought him on Monday night might be chockas with a slow-release poison.
And can we please get around to revealing the true plane bomber? Clearly it wasn't Tony Corbett as the dude was hung up over Izzy, not Paul. I've narrowed it down to either Gus or Darcy. In the meantime it's a little hard to take seriously Harold wanting to kill Paul when it's so bloody obvious he should be directing his misplaced psychosis towards Izzy, since she's the reason Gus/Darcy put the bomb on the plane in the first place.
Honestly, you'd think the Neighbours writers are taking selective liberties to contrive sensationalist plot twists. And I'm sure that's never happened before!
A thought: When Ben Affleck - whose name was floated to play me in the biog of my life before it was decided that Gael would be a much better choice - left Jennifer "taco-flavard keeeses!" Lopez for Jennifer "Film career goes up, film career goes down" Garner, was he making a conscious decision only to date actresses or famous women called Jennifer, so that he could keep the Bennifer franchise in business?
This got me thinking of other possible Bennifer combos. Sure, the most obvious ones to immediately spring to mind are Bennifer Aniston or Bennifer Connelly. But what of these?
Bennifer Love Huge-Tits?
Wait - I think we have a winner:
Bennifer Coolidge. Yay!!
Step Back in Time
Check out this article
on the government's power to quarantine, in the context of the current bird flu but also, more importantly, with a historical consideration of the rise of HIV in the 1980s.
Now, having not been born in the 1980s* I wasn't around the observe Australia's response to the disease. However, the general concensus that I can suss out would appear to be: Unlike the US, which under the Reagan government viewed HIV/AIDS as a "gay" disease and condemned it too often as primarily a social rather than medical issue (granted, in retrospect we can see it's probably a bit of both), the Australian Labor government, under the charge of Health Minister Neal Blewett, adopted a more pragmatic and less condemnatory approach - "the resounding message was that we were all at risk (of HIV), irrespective of age, sexuality, gender or ethnicity. But at the same time, each of us could contain that risk, by making responsible choices in relation to our sexual and other risk-related activities" - and received international praise
Whether or not Blewett's own homosexuality
- which presumably informed his sympathetic approach to HIV/AIDS - was known to then PM Bob Hawke at the time I guess we won't know, but appointing him Health Minister was one of Hawke's better decisions during his reign.
What this article got me thinking about was how different the rise of HIV/AIDS in Australia might have been under a conservative government - let's say, hypothetically, the current one.
Tony Abbott, minister responsible for the monitoring and minimisation of a dangerous new strain of a mysterious "flu", the only thing we seem to know about it is that it's unique to gay men? Terrifying thought, isn't it. We've already seen how Abbott is incapable of keeping his personal religious prejudices
separate from his ministerial responsibilities, and I have no doubt this would be no exception.
Take a guess who were the greatest opponents to the Labor government's approach to HIV in the 1980s? Yep - the National Party and Queensland government
We all know how much John Howard loves to emulate the Dubya administration. Imagine that happening if HIV were only now just beginning to spread to epidemic levels? Our government,"frightened by the unsanitary sexual discussions thought to be implied in HIV/AIDS education, shie(s) away from harm-reduction strategies. Instead, celebrity deaths...(are) used to reinforce the view that HIV/AIDS (i)s a "gay" disease. For decades, these and other pernicious myths continued to prevail, with substantial consequences for contraction rates. In its December 2005 report, UNAIDS found that the number of infections in Australia had declined by 25 per cent between 1995 and 2005. During the same period, infection rates rose steadily in the US."Now, right away I can hear the Howard apologists leaping with glee. "Ahhhhhhh-ha! Gotcha! A 25% decline between 1995 and 2005. And who's been PM for most of that time, huh? Huh?!"
But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and of course a government now is not about to go against a strategy that has otherwise proved to be effective, or at least more effective than the homophobic hytseria that characterised the Reagan administration. My point still remains that would Australia have adopted such a relatively successful, dispassionate approach to the "gay disease" under a political party whose history of homophobia speaks for itself at both state and federal levels? Remember, Reagan was rumoured to believe that "they that live in sin shall die in sin". This is an attitude that still no doubt exists amongst many of his neo-conservative brethren, but these days they just know better than to publicly articulate such thoughts.
My guess is that these days, Howard does not hold such extreme views, but who knows what was going on in his head behind those caterpillars in 1983 when, hypothetically, he shafted Malcolm Fraser and became PM for the duration of the 1980s when HIV became such a world-wide catastrophe.
I realise hypotheticals like this can be dismissed as largely useless, but take this point home, if nothing else: the issues are country face may change, but conservative attitudes do not. Indeed, that's the point of conservatism - don't threaten the status quo, stick with what we've currently got. In retrospect, however, we see how the more compassionate, left-leaning approach to HIV worked far more effectively than the far-right fearmongering.
What issues will we be looking back on in 20 years time, and will we be able to say the neo-con approach has worked? If, for example, abortion (or at least public funding for) is outlawed now, as many Howard MPs including the Health Minister would like to see happen, will we look back in 20 years and rejoice in all the "unborns" we saved? Or will we lament the new crisis to female health that was created as women sought more dangerous, illegal means of terminating their pregnancies?
Of course, a good conservative/Liberal comeback to both HIV and abortion is that both should be viewed as issues of personal responsibility. Most, but not all of the time - as HIV-positive friends of mine who practised safe sex compulsorily like everybody else are testament to - contracting HIV or becoming pregnant can be avoided with safe and responsible sexual practices.
But again, consider the extreme to which conservative governments (eg the Dubya administration) take this otherwise sensible approach: abstinence. Yes, pretend you're not a biological entity with urges and Just Say No all together. The true definition of "safe sex". Now, while you're at it, did you know you can avoid contracting any airborne diseases or bugs by not breathing either? Isn't that great?
If nothing else, I am personally very grateful it was a Liberal Opposition and not Government during the 1980s.
This can't be 2006.
I can't be twenty(*blank*) in less than 6 months time. No way.
I was just finally starting to feel like I'd got my head around 2005. Look - I even got myself an iPod and wireless net access and everything! (OK - so that's all a bit 2004, but still...sha'up!)
The good news is that I'm looking back on 2005 mostly positively. I went overseas for the first time, I started QP and its accompanying SX column, I started going to the gym again, I finished the first draft of a screenplay I've been writing on and off since I was 19 and I finally feel after nearly 3 years of living in Sydney that I've settled into a solid posse of top quality friends here that are fun, sexy, intelligent and sincere. Fun and sexy is easy to find in this city; it's the sincerity bit that sets them apart and for which I feel very lucky and grateful.
But overall, there is still a slight malaise. A sense of frustration born from stagnancy, feeling increasingly that I'm growing stale, stuck in the same averagely-paid job for over two years with no immediate career-improving prospects (at this company anyway) and no end to the dark debt cloud over my head (credit + HECS = about 30k). Such work has drained (but not yet totally depleted) my creative mind and made it difficult to write as regularly or even as well as I used to when it was my primary focus.
Then of course, there's the all quiet on the boy front.
Last year I had enough one-nighters, one-monthers, Euro flings and even brief re-connects with exes - not to mention the on-going soap opera with "Jose
" - to keep myself amused and my mind off the undercurrent of loneliness that sometimes surfaces at the least opportune moments. But just because you can drown something out with white noise doesn't mean it still isn't there.
But hey - my trip back to Adelaide for Christmas was a great opportunity for perspective. I'm one of the few people I know who does not dread this time of year. I'm very, very lucky to have a family I love and respect (and vice versa) and I probably take them for granted too often when being morosely introspective, sulking over my relatively insignificant issews.
So my outlook for 2006 will be based on this quote from Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera
"Something new is needed."
New job, new location, new penguins, new shampoo, whatever. I still have enough faith in myself to know I can change things about my life that are unrewarding or going nowhere. Adelaide was a good opportunity to catch up with all its ex-pats, dutifully returning for Christmas, and be inspired by stories of their lives abroad.
On New Year's Eve, my friends resolved that 2006 would be the Year of Cocaine and Fabulous Decadence. I'm not sure about the coke part but I'm definitely down with fabulous decadence in whatever form it may manifest.
Meanwhile - couple of interesting things that happened in my blogging absence to make brief notes on:
Kerry Packer passed away, and anybody who dared to acknowledge the truth about this man and not mythologise him as a god amongst men the way most media outlets did was ripped to shreds.
I did some brief research into what Packer actually did that could be considered at all selfless or philanthropic. So far I've found that he, or at least his publishing company, donated about $8m per year to various charities. And $8m divided by $6.9b is...?
Oh, and apparently he also provided funds for some medical equipment at the hospital he ended up at after one of his various heart attacks.
I won't beat up on the guy after he's dead. In fact, reading him in his own words about his old man - a vicious, mean old bastard so full of hatred and aggression that he put Kerry in the shade - I almost felt a little sorry for him. Like any abused child, he came to believe he deserved Frank's assaults. "I got a lot of hidings, because that's the sort of person I was and the sort he was. I don't ever remember getting one I didn't deserve and there's a stack I didn't get that I should have got." Quite sad, really.
Go Petro Georgiou, Judi Moylan, Warren Entsch, Mal Washer and Peter Lindsay for having the guts to stimulate debate in the Liberal party about civil unions for same-sex couples. It doesn't make me think they'll become any more likely under a Howard government, but they deserve kudos for speaking out when it would have been much easier for them to keep quiet and non-committal. You know, like the Labor Party. Truly, Georgiou is the real Opposition Leader in Australia.
Boo Wilson Tuckey, David Fawcett and Barnaby Joyce for being, predictably, homophobic rednecks. But boo especially Christopher Pyne. Without going into too many details for fear of being arrested for sedition or defamation - but does anybody else think Pyne of all people should keep very, very, very quiet on this particular issue?
Oh look Chris. There's Oprah's couch.
Welcome back to 2006, dear readers.