This is Australia. Today.
Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to political news today, the annexing of the mainland and the horrendous conditions at Nauru were all forgotten as we got to the important story of the day: Julia Gillard’s time at Slater & Gordon and the AWU “slush fund” scandal.
Oh wait, haven’t we already had this exhaustively covered? Didn’t Gillard do a knock down drag-out press conference on this back in August? Oh but there’s new information, or there’s another bleat from the same players. Who knows?
Peter Hartcher said on this afternoon’s Hack that the very thing that made the allegations worth investigating was Gillard’s press conference to “put it to bed”… It’s a kind of odd circular logic: “We’ll keep asking you questions about this until you answer them, and when you answer them, you give the issue validity and thus there are questions to be answered”. Bernard Keane’s excellent piece on the perpetual motion machine of press gallery circle jerking sums up this logic very well.
And that’s not even getting into Mark-Baker-level crazy.
Julie Bishop’s narrowing of the target to simple questions of judgement as a human being even if laws were not broken seems to be the slimmest of margins to call a political opponent on, and one that you’d think her leader would not be so keen on.
But at the end of the day, Gillard probably is best to follow Hartcher’s skewed logic: she should probably just shut about it. Echoing Bishop’s conspiracy theories back to her in Question Time will probably do more than opening the doors for another hour or so press conference.
If Credlin and Bishop are going to continue hanging around with that comically large folder, that argument is probably going to look pretty solid.
This is Australia. Today.
Today was a triumph of faux conscience and political expedience over actual compassion and humanity. The vast majority of mainstream reaction to the Houston panel’s report and the Gillard government response showed that we now see a Pacific Style solution as necessary to save lives, which is quite an amazing act of cognitive dissonance. We are now so disconnected from reality that taking legitimate refugees off shore for an unknown period of detention is seen as a gift to them.
Perhaps, as Jon Kudelka suggested on Twitter, we actually asked the panel the wrong question. It seems they were asked “how can we make this problem go away (politically)?” To which the logical response is, I guess, “give the Opposition everything they want, but do with the backing of an expert panel”. This game of call and answer has no provision for ethics or humanitarian obligation, obviously.
There are really two great pieces I recommend you read on this subject, and in some ways they reflect on the question of what the panel were hoping to achieve and how the government has immediately responded. It’s clear that the government had already saddled the horse and were just waiting for the panel to give it a wee smack.
Here’s Waleed Aly on the nature of “the problem”.
And the always fantastic Bernard Keane at Crikey on life at the arse end of “least worst” policy making. Oh, and please, please listen to this fantastic This American Life episode from back in 2003 on Nauru and the reason it is such an amenable dumping ground for our uncomfortable problems.
And heere’s my effort on today’s proceedings…
This is Australia. Today.
In addition to the frontpage, “This is Australia. Today.” also has a short summary of articles worth reading on key issues from the news of the day. It’s a small curated collection, worth reading with a drink.
In fact, I’m drinking Jacob’s Creek Reserve 2009 Shiraz as I write this. What are you drinking?
Asylum Seekers – Stopping boats from stopping boats
The asylum seeker issue hit new lows today, with the big issue apparently being cracks in the hulls of naval vessels, not loss of life:
Mr Clare said the navy’s patrol boats vessels were working harder than they otherwise would be, due to surging asylum-seeker arrivals.
“They wouldn’t have to work as hard if politicians would just work together,” Mr Clare said, suggesting the Coalition should back the government’s plan to stop asylum boats. (From this Australian article)
I guess when you can’t convince either side of politics on the merits of ethics, appeals to the military budget could help. The Coalition, of course, blames the government for not “stopping the boats” – and therefor stopping the boats that are stopping the boats. To quote Scott Morrison, “The people-smugglers are now stopping our boats rather than the other way around, which is what the Coalition’s policies would be designed to do if given the opportunity to implement them” (yes, he actually said that).
Hey, if Scott Morrison’s having fun with absurd word games, at least someone’s having a good day, right? I don’t think satire is really necessary here any more.
Meanwhile a Sudanese woman who arrived in Australia as refugee just won the right to be her actual age. Yay for Australian immigration!
Sikh Temple Shooting
This article by Suvendrini Perera on the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconson asks the tough questions around the difference in coverage between this mass murder and the widespread response to the Dark Knight Rises shootings in Aurora.
There’s a lot to the argument that there’s a degree of racism to the lack of coverage (or a lack of understanding) but I also think that sadly the Sikh massacre doesn’t have as interesting a “narrative” as the Aurora shooting does. The Sikh temple massacre probably also says more about the state of American (and possibly western culture in general) fear of Islam (and those who look Islamic) than is comfortable to digest in an everyday news package.
A guy who thinks he’s the joker who builds intricate traps in his apartment to stop police from investigating him? That’s an easy story. It’s like a Jeffrey Deaver novel without a journo even having to extrapolate.
Chris Berg wrote a great piece on the Drum about the Aurora/Dark Knight Rising shooting and the quest for a narrative which is well worth a read.
The Robert Hughes arrest
The coverage of the arrest of former Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes has thankfully been rather sedate. While it’s clearly the result of exhaustive interviews and research, it’s important to remember that Hughes is still currently only allegedly a paedophile.
I’m going to tread carefully here, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to be near impossible for Hughes to have a fair trial in Australia given the Woman’s Day and A Current Affair coverage of the issue initially.
Obviously this press coverage led to the investigations that ended with Hughes’ arrest today, and if the allegations are true, it’s good that after all this time victims may get some justice. But it’s hard to see how anyone could not think Robert Hughes is a paedophile after the press saturation on the issue – which is a problem for a trial. And a bigger problem if the allegations are not true.
But you’re never going to win friends suggesting that the pitchforks and flaming torches should be kept in the barn.
For what it’s worth, the Herald Sun had the best coverage of the day. The background on the investigation, coverage of Sarah Monahan’s response and court reporting on Hughes appearance in court is really comprehensive and measured. The Age/SMH and Australian coverage is bizarrely thin in comparison.
A few interesting links from around the traps
Do you ever read Terms of Service on websites? No? That’s right, of course you don’t, because you’re human. This site rates and summarises end-user agreements/terms of service in clear and simple terms so you don’t ever have to. It’s great.
All the news sites went a little crazy over the fire-fighter who was asked to move seats on a Virgin flight because he (as a man) was banned from sitting next to unaccompanied minors according to company policy. All the news articles were simple paraphrases (with varying degrees of verification) of John McGirr’s own blogpost at The Rant Nation.
And lastly, Jacob Silverman writes at the Slate Book Review about the chummy culture of the online literary scene, and why it may be killing the literary review. It’s a great read and perhaps has things to say about our own creative scene in Australia too.