In the Australian state of New South Wales, there’s a series of exceptions for private schools in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. This means that these schools can hire and fire staff, and refuse admission to and expel students, based on their disability status, sexual orientation (actually, specifically, ‘homosexuality’), sex, age, marital or domestic status, or if they are transgender. Alex Greenwich, an independent Member of Parliament representing Sydney, has just introduced a bill called Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Private Educational Authorities) Bill 2013, which aims to remove these exemptions. It’s unclear as yet whether this bill will pass. It has the support of the Labor Party, which is the opposition in NSW parliament. However, the Liberal and National parties, the coalition of which is in governance, have not yet announced how they will handle Greenwich’s proposal. What, then, is riding on this bill?
It is not news that the way celebrity culture treats young female celebrities (and older female celebrities, for that matter) is icky. There is the constant hounding of singers and models trying to go about their grocery shopping. There are vicious rumours. There is the excessive and depersonalising adoration of the sweet young innocents – until they misstep, and then the celebrity gossip machine gorges itself upon the fall. I am given to think that sometimes the particular adoration of pre-fall female celebrities is set up in order to make their downfalls – however minor or major – seem all the more shocking and tragic. What’s really striking is the contrast between how celebrity culture deals with the “good girl gone bad” moments upon which it seizes as opposed to the real shocks, the real tragedies.
Australia faces a federal election on 7 September, and the rise of the right wing is troubling I don’t mean to predict a win by the right wing Liberal Party over the centre-left Labor Party, which is currently in power. Nor do I point to how both parties’ refugee policies have undergone a rightward shift that has prompted an outcry from the United Nations. The disconcerting thing is the rise of minor right wing parties. If this sounds a strange thing to be concerned about under a two party system, kindly sit for your Australian civics lesson. I do not promise a pleasant ride.
Sometimes, living in a relatively safe country like Australia, one becomes complacent in expecting one’s government to be out to, you know, do justly by its citizens. (If not its non-citizens; hi, asylum seeker debate!) In March, something rather unexpected happened in the north-eastern state of Queensland, and that illusion of justice could no longer stand.
It was in March that the Labor Party, led by Anna Bligh, who had been rather popular, was defeated by the Liberal National Party, led by Campbell Newman. It wasn’t just a victory, it was a landslide of almost unprecedented proportions, with the LNP gaining the largest majority of parliament seats ever seen in Queensland. The rest of the country was vaguely confused, but we moved on.
Working to eradicate poverty! Promoting better healthcare! The Catholic Church has been responsible for some atrocious things over the centuries, but working towards economic justice and helping sick people are two of those things towards which the average person would generally direct a great big thumbs up. In fact, the Leadership Conference of the Women Religious, a body to which about four in five of the United States’ Catholic nuns belong, is admirably dedicated to these very matters. The Vatican, however, has just come out with a condemnation of these foci.
Yes, I was rather taken aback myself.
8 March! Don’t we love 8 March? It is that wonderful day during the course of which we internationally celebrate women! Women are pretty great. I know because I am one of them. Women are, however, not the only members of their gender. There are these other people called girls who are also pretty great. I know because I was one of them once, too. Girls are people who are wonderful and vulnerable in their own particular ways. This is why I am right on board for the theme for this, the 101st International Women’s Day, which is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”.
Who likes to show Valentine’s Day a bit of love? Show of hands. I, for one, never have, because it has seemed to me that squishing expressions of love into one day of socially-approved heteronormative fluff is pretty empty. Apparently, however, you were in want of some musings on this holiday, readers, and in my journalistic strivings to bring it to you, I have, can we say, thought about it a little harder? This year, I’m going to overcome my dyed-in-the-wool side-eyeing cynicism and give Valentine’s another chance. That’s because what I resent is not actually the day itself, but what it represents about how culturally stagnant ideas of love are.
It’s been something of a historic week in the fight for same-sex marriage in Australia. And it’s been a significant year for LGBT rights more generally (not so much, arguably, for Q* or I or any of the other letters that might otherwise go on the end of that acronym). Unfortunately, the hyperfocus on marriage has obscured the leaps, bounds, and deficiencies in some of the areas in more urgent need of attention. Here’s your guide to where Australia’s at, and where the lucky country, as we call it, has to go in order to spread that luck around more evenly.
Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is in a whole jar of pickles right about now. The brand new civilian government is trying to set up a semblance of democratic reform, but human rights conditions in particular remain very repressive. Bad economic management and worse social injustice have been the case for decades, of course. So why is it coming to a head right now?
A year ago, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had won her first election, silencing grumbles from some corners that she hadn’t properly won the leadership of the Australian Labor Party from previous leader Kevin Rudd. The ALP win was a close thing. Gillard had to scramble to negotiate with three independents and the Australian Greens in order to form a coalition – in part because her party lost a lot of votes on its left flank to the increasingly popular Greens. Not only was Gillard remarkable for the close shave, or for being Australia’s first female Prime Minister, but she was also an unmarried atheist without children and with a reputation for progressive thinking. In Australia’s fairly conservative political landscape, in which it seemed unlikely that we’d have a Prime Minister who wasn’t a very wealthy married Christian father any time soon, this was unbelievable.
A year on, the left is just slightly confused about Gillard’s swing to the right – see for instance, our esteemed editor on the “Malaysian solution.” One might then wonder why, just a year out from the election in which they backed Gillard, Rupert Murdoch’s conservative media is baying for her blood.
What’s going on exactly? The big news story in Australia over the last few months has been a proposed carbon tax. Should it go ahead, only 0.02 per cent of Australian businesses will be taxed under this scheme, and 90 per cent of households will receive compensation for the increase in expenses they will undergo as we change over to clean energy. So far, so good – except barely anyone in the country knows those facts. Whoever is running the media show over at the ALP is floundering. Pushed hard by opposition leader Tony Abbott and Murdoch’s News Limited, the only message that is getting through is that the carbon tax is outrageous. Given that News Limited has control of about three quarters of metropolitan daily newspaper circulation in Australia, that’s quite a push. Make no mistake: Murdoch’s press is waging class war on behalf of the extremely rich, and it’s being done in the name of a phoney popularism. It takes quite some nerve to push a distortion of this magnitude down the throats of the people on whose behalf you’re supposedly speaking. More to the point, it takes power and money.