Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Water, Water Nowhere

Nice to see our pollies point-scoring over what is now the most critical natural resource. Take as long as you like with your pissing contest over this, boys - it's not like it's about anything terribly important. Just whether or not most Australians will actually be able to continue living in Australia.

Interesting latest line of attack against Kevin Rudd by an increasingly-desperate looking and sounding PM and his cronies. It's all about 'two-way Kevin', 'something-for-everyone Kevin', etc. I had the misfortune of catching Lackey Downer on Lateline last night getting characteristically putulant and pursed-lipped about Krudster never making the 'hard' decisions of Government - you know, in the way that the US decides something and then J-Ho and Lackey make the 'hard' decision to agree and go along with them on everything, all the time. Funny how after 11 years of this government, the other mob putting forward options of compromise and accommodating both sides where possible appears weak, because it's not ruthlessly single-minded or parochial.

Anyway, back to water. My former Premier Mike Rann is a bit of a knob at the best of times - and I'm REALLY not a fan of his government - but I think his idea of an independent, Reserve Bank-type regulator for the Murray-Darling basin is spot-on. This is an issue that's too important to be corrupted and fucked around by politicians hunting for voter mileage points.

And you can understand why Rann is the person to come up with an idea like this: His State interests goes far, far beyond defending unpractical industries that over the years should have been slowly and steadily dismantled - that is, essentially irrigating rice and cotton crops in a desert. The eastern states seem to forget that the MD basin is the source of Adelaide's drinking water. It's hard and it tastes like shit, yes, but ultimately we're weighing up some farmers having to find new work against over a million South Australians having no drinking water. Honestly, you gotta have some perspective about these sorts of things.

Bill Shorten nailed it in an Oz op piece on Monday. Money quote:

It's time to bite the bullet on cotton and rice. Is it really sustainable to keep farming these high-water, flood irrigation, low-yield crops in places such as the parched Murray Darling Basin?
The answer of course is no - but it's also not sustainable for the Libs' coalition partners, the Nats, to support this measure come election time. Shorten offers a viable solution -

We'll need to help farmers through this period of structural adjustment; in the same way we helped workers and employers in the car industry and the textile industries in the 1980s. The Prime Minister must show some leadership and buy water entitlements from cotton and rice farmers, compulsorily if necessary.

- but that's just not gonna happen, is it?

Howard really, really hates not getting what he wants, and this is no more evident than now when only Premier Dilemma is immediately bending to his will and signing up to handing over his State's powers to the Commonwealth, no further discussion entered into. The States and the Commonwealth being able to work harmoniously to devise a feasible solution to this crisis would make a pleasant change for we plebs down here who've become sentimentally attached to old-fashioned, romantic notions of drinking, showering, cooking, etc.

It really is a case of the PM fiddling while Australia dries up. The premiers aren't much better, but they deserve to be heard.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Starting to Crack?

UPDATE: Alexander Downer, ABC interview, 2004 (emphasis added):

Look, in the end this isn't a matter for Australia. We don't have a vote in the American presidential election, we just have to deal with whoever wins the election. And whatever John Howard or I, or anybody else may think privately, we'd never say anything publicly about the elections of a foreign country.



I find this fascinating: Howard taking it upon himself to deliver the sort of shrieking hysteria over possible US troop withdrawl from Iraq that he usually leaves to his lackeys - Lackey Downer in particular.

I've heard the 'Osama loves the Democrats and hopes they get elected' BS - or 'cowboy rhetoric', as Barack Obama aptly calls it - before from the Libs, but never Howard himself; he's usually too smart for it.

Just last week, J-Ho claimed he 'misheard' Rudd when responding to a question on climate change in which he expressed cynicism regarding the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. It's the sort of mistake for which Kim Beazley would have been crucified.

And the assault against Obama is uncharacteristically foolish and pointless by Howard's standards. The Republicans will be able to beat the 'vote for Obama is a vote for Osama' drum just fine without Howard's help, and it's not as though Americans - the few that actually know both a/ that Australia exists and b/ that he's our PM - will have their opinions swayed by some short bloke from the arse end of the earth.

So you have to wonder - is age finally taking its toll on the old war horse?

Or is he genuinely rattled by the latest opinion polls - both Fairfax and Murdoch - that suggest even when the honeymoon period's over, Rudd will be a genuine contender come election time? Howard must know by now Rudd does not come with the Latham liabilities. He won't shoot his mouth off, he's staying painstakingly on point and the point on which he's saying is resonating with a growing number of voters. His (thus far) inability to put any serious stoppers on the speeding Rudd freight train must be frustrating for a man who clearly has his eyes on the prize of longest-serving PM ever.

(And speaking of Latham: Remember how savaged he was by the Libs for calling Bush 'the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory'? Threat to that nice US-Oz alliance, indicative of a future leader with no diplomatic skills, un-Ostrayan, etc? You reckon they're going to be as critical with J-Ho? Nah, me neither.)

Perhaps Howard's so confident that Hillary Clinton will be the 2008 Democrat president and not Obama, that he feels free to to fire cheap personal attacks without anticipating the need to be diplomatically conciliatory after the US election. Or perhaps - just perhaps - he doesn't see himself around in 2008, regardless of who's in charge in the US.

Wishful thinking I know, but as I've said many times before, one can but hope. The Latham debacle is still etched in my mind such that I immediately qualify any visceral enthusiasm about encouraging poll results - Latham had impressive figures when he first began, too.

Put it this way: If the final Newspoll (not AC Nielsen - history shows it's simply too skewed to the Labor side ever to be taken seriously) taken the day before the election has Labor's 2PP at 56%, I might just feel a little tinge of excitement that I won't immediately quash.

Until then, I'm Alert but not Alarmed.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Praise Channing or Damn Channing?

So in the last couple of weeks or so, daily hits to QP have basically tripled.

At first, this got me doing my happy jig, let me tell you. 'I'm vindicated!' I cried out loud, moments before my co-workers at adjoining desks awkwardly shifted away from me. 'I have friends and I'm pretty and popular and suddenly lots of people care about what I think and write and now I'm a political blog heavyweight and...'

The jig was cut short when I realised why my hits had tripled.

Is it because of my biting social commentary, infused with witty rumination on that crazy l'il thing called life?

Pfft - hell no.

In fact, it's because of Channing:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

See, if you Google Image search for Channing, for whatever reason my Photobucket link of this image is the first of its kind to come up in the search results, even though I totally stole it from somebody else.

As I've whinged before, people really do just come here for the pretty pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Still, that Channing - pretty easy on the eye, ain't he?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And as someone once said to me, 'when it comes to Channing, everyone should be happy'.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Meh. I guess there are worse fates in life than being Channing's online photo pimp.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fuck This #2

UPDATE: Bingo - it's all about the ceremonies, after all:

Explaining the Federal Government's decision to block the ACT's latest gay partnerships bill, Mr Ruddock told ABC radio that its first objection was that "it involves a formal ceremony".

Which begs the simple question:

Why. The. Hell. Not?!

What is so upsetting about two men or women announcing their love and commitment to one another before their friends and family? Surely this is exactly what conservatives would want, for the poofs and dykes to stop screwing around and commit to one another in a stable, long-term relationship?

The 'argument' against civil unions crumbles under any kind of scrutiny.


Golly, this really is Deja Vu Week, ain't it? First it was May 2004 all over again, now it's June 2006 all over again.

As if living in Canberra isn't tragic enough, do its residents really deserve the further indignity of a completely neutered elected government?

ACT AG Simon Corbell says (Ruddock & Co) "have in no way sought to engage in any dialogue with us"... and that although the ACT had asked the Commonwealth Government what parts of the original legislation it wanted changed, but the Commonwealth had refused to 'engage in any dialogue'".

He's absolutely right, of course. Last year, The Bulletin's Laurie Oakes exposed how Howard worked overtime to ensure no communication was made from the Commonwealth as to how the original Civil Unions Bill could be "improved" to avoid supposedly "undermining marriage'". There was speculation even Ruddock himself was more willing, at least initially, to be open to the possibility of dialogue and reaching a possible resolution, before Howard swiftly and efficiently shut him up.

This is because Howard has absolutely no desire to see any form of civil union legislation get up, but also wants to be able to lay the blame with the Stanhope government - as though they are the bad guys who insist on putting up flawed legislation without properly consulting the Commonwealth first.

I tend to subscribe to the theory that the reason Howard is so terrified of civil unions is primarily the ceremonial aspect. He doesn't want to run the risk of photos of happy gay couples exchanging vows and commitment statements at their civil ceremony being splashed across the papers, lest it shift the perception in people's minds of poofs and dykes as happy, functional people in likewise relationships instead of the loveless, isolated, tragic sinners it's in his and the RRR's interests to market us as. This is why they can reluctantly support a 'registration' scheme instead - especially with the knowledge that, in the case of Tasmania at least, this option is likely to be (with respect) unpopular and not desired by queer couples, many of whom still perceive, correctly or otherwise, a registration scheme as too similar to registering one's puppy.

We knew this was coming and there's really nothing that can be done now, other than pray (ha! the ironing) the totalitarian madness of a thuggish government practically unconscious on its own power ends at the next federal election - or, as Corbell puts it: "We will simply let it sit in the assembly until after the nextelection … maybe then we'll have a federal government more willing tolet the ACT legislate for its own citizens".

Corbell also claims that ACT residents will punish Howard at the next election for trampling on their Territory's autonomy, but Howard would have already factored this in. The ACT only accounts for two Lower House reps - both Labor, and likely to remain so in a city that's essentially a giant PS office - and two senators, the Liberal of which, Gary Humphries, has already shown his token pretence of ACT solidarity by voting against the original CU Act being overturned. Strategically, this is diabolically clever politics; no serious negative consequences to the Howard government and another sweet opportunity to bash Stanhope, whose outspoken support of progressive civil rights is so affronting to Howard.

In the meantime, send the love in the direction of comicstriphero, squirming for life in the enemy's trenches. Huzah for non-productive protest!

Friday, February 02, 2007

I Once Was Lost

Strange - suddenly I feel this random, compelling urge to renounce my evil, godless heathen ways and embrace the brilliant, guiding light of Jesus' love.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

No idea why...

Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the Children??

It was only a matter of time before we saw the same-sex overseas adoption ban back on the landscape - and here it comes. And here. And here.

Note the timing is open-ended - Mr Burns can strategically introduce as and when is required sometime between now and the election.

Howard truly is the master of his game. Follow the comments thread to Tim Dunlop's analysis of the issue here and you see how this wedge works immediately and effectively. The debate ranges from hyperbole and slogans from both sides, with much well-meaning, 'I'm REALLY not homophobic, but...' or 'why not let the poor gays just do their poor thing?' in between. And that's exactly what Howard wants - a divisive issue designed eventually to polarise people, forcing them into one side or another. Come election time, he'll have the Fundies First and its small but growing army of voters in marginal, swinging seats throwing their hands in the air, and waving them around like they just...err...are at Hillsong on Sunday morning.

But there's more to this - it's Howard attempting to force the hand of Kevin Rudd, arguably the most overtly Christian-friendly Labor Opposition leader in living memory, on what exactly his 'progressive Christianity' means. Does this actually mean legislating against Scripture? If so, surely it's not true Christianity after all then, is it?

Regardless, I can't see the ALP reneging on the opposition to this Bill that they originally established in 2004, even with a new and possibly less queer-friendly leader. The arguments they presented back then have not changed, namely:

a/ that the amount of same-sex couples actually seeking to adopt overseas children is negligible, and that this is all about symbolic shoring up of homophobic prejudice, not legitimate or necessary law reform;

b/ that overseas adoption is governed by the - Labor - States, and this legislation would completely trample their governance in the area (although the ACT Civil Unions debacle last year showed the Howard government will stoop to this level);

c/ is it really worse for a child, as the legislation implies, to be adopted by a same-sex couple in Australia, than for them to be raised in the orphange of a third-world or developing nation?

The hope that the Bill will be brought down by Liberal moderates instead is very optimistic at best. The ACT CU experiment demonstrated any remaining moderate senators have nowhere near the guts on queer rights as they may on immigration or reproduction. Plus, it's more difficult to take a solid, unqualified stance here. There are people - probably a lot more than we think - who are not particularly anti-queer or homophobic but who genuinely believe a child born into a family devoid of either a mother or father is at a disadvantage. Arguing that queers who seek parental rights are being selfish and inconsiderate of the children they bring into the world and/or raise, will have broad resonance.

To counter this, the message must be hit home that a child born into a same-sex family will, most of the time, be the luckiest kid in the world. He'll know with 100% certainty he was neither unplanned nor unwanted, unlike many 'unintended consequences' of heterosexual liaisons. His parents are more likely to have a greater combined income and therefore the ability to provide well for his education and general security and future. And, as per most children of lesbian couples I know (which is not to say two men raising children together don't exist, personally I just don't know any), they will be the beneficiaries of the 'village' that it takes to raise a child. There is almost always a male figure involved somewhere, and the child is seldom wanting for paternal as well as maternal guidance and advice. The fallacy of the man-hating militant lesbians 'recruiting' their daughters to become likewise must be identified and shot down.

Disgregarding for a moment any emotional argument for or against same-sex parent adoption, the legal ramifications of baring any legal recognition in Australia of adoptions by same-sex couples which have taken place in other countries will be disastrous. As always, Rodney Croome explains it better than I can, but attention must be drawn to how this will fuck around with 'known child adoption', as opposed to 'stranger adoption', as the former is much more common and tangible in the case of same-sex couples than the latter. KCA is currently permitted in Tasmania, WA and the ACT, and typically involves one same-sex partner legally adopting the biological child of the other. Nutshell quote from Rodney:

The impact is simple; as soon as the family walks through Australian customs, the child (of KCA) will cease to have two legal parents, and one of the parents will cease to have any legal rights or responsibilities for their child.

This isn't hysteria; it's fact.

I've read some speculation that it may be harder than previously for the Howard government to storm through any further Bible-bashing bullshit between now and the election. The Rancid Religious Right took beatings last year with RU486 and embryonic stem cell cloning, and with even the Government Gazette these days deigning to acknowledge the elephants of David Hicks and global warming, perhaps we're not in such the conservative environment that served up Howard's election win in 2004. Frankly, however, I think this is also optimistic, bordering on naive.

My prediction is that this Bill will pass, and like the 2004 Marriage Amendment Act, a 'sweetener' will follow - a couple of interdependency reforms, possibly in taxation or public service superannuation, to show that the Howard government isn't really homophobic after all. As always with this government on queer rights, for every one step forward there are four steps back.

Slightly off-topic: Funny thing - My blood really doesn't boil when shit like this happens like it once could. In 2004, during the Marriage Amendment Act, I wrote more angry emails than any suppoedly full-time employee should have the capacity to write, mass debated in dozens of comment threads of online opinion pieces and took personal offence to almost every remotely non-gay friendly sentence written by someone. Nowadays, I feel disappointment, sure, but nothing resembling shock or anger, because it's nothing I don't already expect.

Any tips for me on how to maintain the rage? Or is this just what happens when you become a happy housewife*?

(*Actual housework to be completed by multiple Puerto Rican cabana boys wearing diamante-studded Gs.)

(What? Shut up - it is possible to be socialist and still have staff. Hello, Kennedy family?!)