Monday, December 26, 2005


So I'm still slogging my way through The Latham Diaries, and it's still quite a page turner. (It's just a pity about my goldfish-style attention span.) It's not that Latham's faults are necessarily intertwined with his strengths, as some have said, but more that he seems to move so quickly from one to the other.

Although I realise that I'm a bit behind, say, the world, in my comments on the book here, most of the material being discussed is at the very least a year old anyway, so I'd hope another couple of months on top of that shouldn't be too stressful.

Latham's January 4 2004 entry starts off strong with a few dot points on his policy ideas for the upcoming year. As evidenced by the plentitude of Latham's essays (here and here)and even books on policy related matters (mostly economic or community - socio-economic? - based), this is the area in which he excels, and it is in stark contrast to Beazley's reactionary Opposition. So as a new leader, Latham came on strong, and his diary entry is a valid record of that.

But then he fell into that same hole as always - the same one he never seemed to see.

"Saw the enemy [Liberal Party members] today in the Trust Box at the SCG for Australia versus India," he begins. That's all fine. He goes on to detail the perks and extravagances of his day, and the fact that "it's the world's best job: great view of the ground, chat away about the game, food and grog laid on, and you get paid for it".

Sure thing.

But then, his description of the other Trust Box guests: "a combination of ex-sporting heroes, business donors and political hangers-on, all enjoying the largesse with their nosebags on".

Er, what's that Mark, face still too stuck in your own nosebag to see the hypocrisy here?

The thing is, there's no dishonesty here, really. Latham admits the perks afforded to him, and he doesn't proceed to "Labor in theory but elitist in practice" displays as the others he criticises do, but it's his failure to realise the parallels between his own position and those he so admonishes that leaves him on such shaky ground. Latham's views are for the most part well thought out, defensible, and measured, but until he realises that most people are quick to turn into hypocrites the second free stuff starts getting piled at their feet, he'll continue be seen as the man who never saw the forest for the trees.

And I guess there's no point thinking otherwise now: he's set it all down in print.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Aussie Aussie Aussie...

As Crikey's December 13 editorial pointed out, in an October 2001 election speech Prime Minister John Howard described Cronulla and its surrounding suburbs as "a part of Sydney which has always represented to me what middle Australia is all about".

No real surprise there, but when you consider this in the context of this week's shameful race riots at Cronulla beach, where people of "middle eastern appearance" were set upon by drunken racist thugs, it's at the very least a trifle disturbing.

So much analysis isn't really necessary, because as Crikey further quotes, Howard continued to set the record straight. "If you listen to the people of this part of Sydney, you've got a pretty good idea of what the people of Australia are thinking and what the people of Australia want from their leaders".

Of course, this was all back in 2001, but if you're in any confusion as to what Howard's thoughts on the Cronulla crowd are these days, his hasty damage control should set the record straight. "I do not accept there is underlying racism in this country" quoth our apparently straight-faced PM, simultaneously staring down mobs of "Aussie blokes" (mate) chanting slogans like "wogs go home" and "no more Lebs".

Howard didn't even see much wrong with these top Aussie sorts getting around
cloaking themselves in Australian flags.

At least Costello had the balls to put that one to rest. It's a pity the same can't be said for our Prime Minister. If this isn't proof that the Liberal party is One Nation mark II, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Men and women divided

Tonight, when I was at work, a lady rushed into the store looking flustered and very, very worried. She looked Indian, perhaps Sri Lankan, with a small gold stud in her nose, beautiful eyes filled up with tears.

"A man's been following me," she said.

I looked out the window and couldn't see anybody, but she wasn't lying. She hung around for a bit, called a friend, and eventually ventured home. I hope she made it back safely.

Apparently the man who had been following her had started some time back - about a kilometre or so - and she knew he was following because she had taken back streets to avoid him... Yet he kept reappearing.

It's all very disturbing. There's no point saying that it's symptomatic of a greater problem within society, because as much as the media likes to blow such things out of proportion, an individual is never anything more than just that - an individual situation. It has no greater bearing on anything else in the world than its one instance. Yet such things require a contextual opinion to be formed around them, and that context is becoming increasingly troubling.

Was this lady being targeted because of her vaguely Muslim appearance? I don't know. I do know that three years ago that probably wouldn't have even be a question that I would need to ask myself. Saying things are unsafe, that women or men or children or whoever have to lock themselves inside at night, is pointless and untrue. Presuming that the ills of society are going to come crashing down on each of us individually is going to achieve nothing. Yet it's a scenario that we're being asked to consider more and more.

It doesn't help that despite decades of feminist struggle for equality and respect the gender divide seems to be widening again in many ways. Ariel Levy's new book speaks for that, as do Maureen Dowd's New York Times columns. Even The Age's Opinion Editor, Sushi Das, has been getting into the swing of things, with a slightly misguided essay on the unfortunate reticence of men to enter the debate. (Misguided because she misses the point herself: screaming 'Why won't you talk about it, men!?' isn't the most welcoming invitation to debate). Das also makes the mistake of simplifying the debate: women are now either "look-pretty-for-him" types or "hot-and-raunchy Paris Hilton" whores, whilst the men sit back and drool.

As unfortunate as Das's polarisations seem (and her refusal to acknowledge that there are plenty of men around who still prefer those intellectual women - and just as many women striving to be them), there is a great deal of truth in them. Too many women and young girls (and more disturbingly their celebrity role models) seem content to act as objects of sexual gratification in return for the attention of neanderthal men who are just as much to blame. Whilst the vicious circle continues situations like the one I witnessed tonight will continue to be the norm - and so will the disgusting behaviour witnessed in Cronulla over the weekend.