One vote, one value? Not in the City of Sydney

23 08 2014

‘No taxation without representation’.

NSW local government minister Paul Toole wrote in a comment piece for SBS on 18 August, apparently with his tongue firmly planted on his palate. As fond as I am of American history, pinching a line from the colonists to describe a legislative overhaul which will result in a blatant malapportionment of votes within the City of Sydney (CoS) is lazy and misleading.

Under the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) 2014 bill, introduced by the Hon. Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers Party:

  • the General Manager, not the Electoral Commissioner, will be responsible for keeping and maintaining an automatic non-residential roll. The Electoral Commissioner will review it to check the nominated voters are eligible (i.e. over 18 years old, eligible to vote in Australia and not on the CoS residential roll)
  • if a corporation is the owner, lessee or occupier of rateable land, the GM will enrol two people to vote based on a majority written nomination
  • if no nomination is received, the GM will automatically enrol the first two people from an alphabetical list of owners, lessees or occupiers

Mr Toole likens this malapportionment to four people living in Redfern each having a vote despite occupying the same address. This ignores the fairly basic concept that four individuals on the electoral roll all contribute to, and use services provided by each level of government, and only get one vote in the divisions in which they are enrolled.

Mr Toole is correct that non-residents have the right to vote in the City of Sydney, and that the poor turnout at the last election suggests they find the relatively new re-enrolment provisions cumbersome. I don’t have a problem with business people who have a stake in the way the city is run having a say at the ballot box. I’m no fan of the current Lord Mayor, and after 12 years living in an inner city suburb, I proudly support local, independent businesses. What I object to is the malapportionment of votes. A single business entity with multiple business locations (such as a fast food chain) might ‘only’ be eligible to two votes, but that’s still twice what mine is worth. Further, who is to say that the ‘small business people’ the minister speaks of will actually get a say? An absentee landowner living interstate could nominate themselves over the people who deserve it – the ones who run the business, whose livelihoods are affected by council decisions such as metered car parking. Also, the model proposed by the Shooters Party means a corporation with interests in several separate business entities with a physical address in the City of Sydney could have multiple punts come election day. #Imagen this: just a few years ago, a certain family’s group of companies leased two shops at Circular Quay. Fast-forward a few years and under the same circumstances, that family could arrange for different companies within its control to nominate up to four people to vote in the council election based on holding those two leaseholds alone. Tops.

According to Mr Toole, the ‘Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Land Property Management Authority and business surveys will guard against fraud or scam electors’. Who will pay for, and resource this extra policing of the vagaries of some 40,000 businesses, which could be under administration or investigation, change hands or directors? The minister talks of cutting red tape, but the Shooters Party Bill will create another task for both Federal and NSW government agencies. The minister appears to be unaware the LPMA was itself abolished in 2011, with its three divisions now under the purview of two State government departments.

State MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, has introduced his own Bill into the Legislative Assembly. In addition to pointing out the inconsistencies with adopting a model based on Melbourne city council, the City of Sydney (Business Voting and Council Elections) Bill 2014 address several concerns I have about the Shooters Party Bill, including the CoS GM’s management of the roll. Why should the GM keep the non-residential roll when the Electoral Commissioner is responsible for the residential roll? Regardless of the nature of the elected council, a council employee with oversight of who votes for the composition of the council which pays their salary is low-hanging fruit for vested interests. Further, the Greenwich amendments provide for in person or postal voting, and importantly, does not make voting compulsory for non-residents. Let’s face it: the person who owns my flat may not give two stuffs who’s in charge at Town Hall. Compelling people to vote in an election they give even fewer fucks about will do nothing more than boost the number of invalid/donkey votes. While the changes to the CoS Act don’t affect other local government areas, Mr Toole has signalled his support to roll out the changes to other ‘key cities and economic areas’ such as Parramatta and Newcastle (because having a developer as Lord Mayor worked so well…).

————

I started writing this piece a few days’ ago (c’mon, you don’t think I could read this much draft legislation before midday on a Saturday), only to be beaten to the punch by Secco, who has written a #getClover feelpiece for The Saturday Paper. This, I hope, delves deeper into the nature of the proposed changes and the long-term impact on the residents of the City of Sydney, because it is much more than an attack on the political survival of one person as per the current narrative. The Tea Party-lite sloganeering adopted by Toole, Borsak et al is a reminder that money will equal speech, regardless of how sick to the stomach NSW is of those who sought, and succeeded to steal elections. Set aside political affiliations, apathy, personality-based views: malapportionment of votes; an electoral roll kept by a council employee; more red tape caused by the multi-layered policing of the roll and no clear indication of which corporation will wield the business vote where more than one exists on a rateable property make the amendments unworkable. Let MPs know, and don’t forget it in March 2015.

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To: Tony Abbott, Shite Minister, Australia. From: M. Tucker, undisclosed location, Spain.

21 05 2014

Dear Shite Minister,

DO NOT take this missive as a sign that I am writing to you in any capacity other than to instruct you like a boarder at a De La Salle Brothers’ List D school. My old mate Tex tells me you’ve got a regular Jesuit jizznado for me (something to do with self-flagellating and a flute, Christ on a bike, what is it with you lot?), that you won’t listen to him, or Peta, so here I am, emailing you at TOO EARLY SPANISH TIME.

Some twatweasel from the BBC – Jon high & fuckin’ mighty Donnison, sent to the  colonies after he messed me over some shitwank Parliamentary Committee hearing – thought dropping my name into a story about you winking at some fuckin’ Trot radio presenter when Granny Grindr called the station was a great idea.  The days of me getting Paxman and those other knob jockeys off my back by raising an eyebrow over the phone may be over, but don’t worry about Donnison, I’ve been onto the new Generalissimo and all I can say is, ‘good luck in Goma, gitface’.

I digress.

Abbott (may I call you Abbott? It’s a step up from numpty, so there’s that).

Abbott:

Now, listen to me, son. Listen to me very fuckin’ carefully, because I do not have the fuckin’ space/time thing down (YET) to RAM MY FIST UP YOUR ARSE SO FAR I CAN BREACH YOUR LARGE INTESTINE AND FLAP YOUR GUMS FOR YOU, YOU FUCKIN’ INSULT TO VENTRILOQUIST DUMMIES.

In my many, MANY years of running countries for cunts like you, I’ve never seen someone go from on-message to on-Mogadon so quickly. You’re like one of those French trains on tilt rails. Tilting Tony. Fuck, I thought I had seen it all with Blinky Ben and Nicola fuckin’ Murray. You son, you are a slightly less medicated Tom. You look like a demented Komodo dragon with Tourette’s. Apologies to anyone living with Tourette’s. You’re an insult to people with the fuckin’ balls to live with Tourette’s, you shiny-faced fuck.

Speaking of shiny-faced fucks, will you do something useful, there’s a good lad – tell Peta to check her voicemail (on the burner, not the NSA-approved device), yeah? I saw some gifs of that gommy Hockey on a mate’s Tumblr (don’t you DARE question me about Tumblr) and that bastard looked like he’d been caught ram-raiding on a Vespa. Couldnae help but share them with Jamie, he agrees (if you call cackling like an annoying cock on the weekend ‘agreeing’). If you don’t bang that bawjaws with some Botox PRONTO FUCKIN’ PRESTO there is nothing the Gorbals Goebbels can do for you.

To top it off, you and that great heaving jessie, Pyne then have the fuckin’ TEMERITY to fanny about with the public schedule for ‘safety reasons’? WELL SPIN ME AROUND AND CALL ME SUSAN. All the hats doffed in your direction, Antoine. Pissing your jimmies over some pock-marked teenage pinkos who will be voting Tory in 10 years and calling it ‘protection advice’ from those gawping great gin-soaks at your piss-ant imitation Scotland Yard (have you ever thought of calling it ‘Shitehouse Yard’? I quite like that)… anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, THAT… THAT takes some fuckin’ balls. To be fair, I wouldnae ride Pyne into battle against UNDERGRADUATE TROTS, either. ‘Stop the boats?’ Stop the fuckin’ Cliff’s notes being passed to the despatch box more like.

Right, I’d rather have Ebola than continue this email, so flap those jumbo ears and listen up, scrote with eyes: I am not your enemy and DO NOT START ME ON THAT QUIM-STARVED CUNT TURNBULL. Apparently, you’re such a dozy cunt you gave MORRISON  a private navy? How many punches to the head did you take at Poxford? He looks like a tall Napoleon when that Corsican cunt was conquering Europe (i.e. before all that shite went down outside Moscow fuck just read that thick Russian book, it ends badly) and you’re falling apart like a badly-packed kebab. No wonder you’re not sending him out to sell your Budget. He could probably DO THE FUCKIN’ JOB and you handed him a fuckin’ quasi-Stasi! Operation Sovereign Borders? Operation Shitey Britches. Jesus Howard Ker-ist on rubber crutches you are beyond all repair.

The thing people like you don’t get is that you are DIS-FUCKIN-SPENSABLE. OF ALL THE FUCKS, THERE ARE ZERO FUCKS FOR YOU. PETA?  SHE WILL FUCKIN’ JUMP, OR I WILL PUSH HER INTO NAPOLEON SHITOMITE’S DIRECTION BECAUSE WE ARE THE INDISPENSABLE ONES.

Yours, (not really, but I’ve leaked this to the Graun, bang up job on your daughter, hey?)

Tucker.

PS: DONNISON! Next time you want my attention, son, have the fuckin’ decency to leave a message back at HQ for Jamie. This, ‘sorry Malcs to interrupt your retirement on the Costa fuckin’ Brava but you’re my only hope of getting back to London’ bullshit disnae wash. Neither will you out in the bush, mate, and I don’t mean some fuckin’ air-conditioned tent in Alice Springs trailing after Kate fuckin’ Middleton. Your all-expenses-paid vacay to the DRC starts next week, pal. Drop me a note. Yes, I cocked an eyebrow like a boss and the BBC’s deflector shield was down.





Our greatest Premier?

21 04 2014

A dear friend compiled this list of Neville Wran’s achievements and poses a worthy question: was he our greatest Premier?

  • founded the University of Western Sydney
  • electrifying the railways to Wollongong and Newcastle
  • saving the north coast forests
  • Aboriginal Land Rights Act
  • working with Blewett on the AIDS response
  • beds to the west, including building Mt Druitt Hospital
  • all the great arts work for the suburbs and regions eg Riverside Theatre, Campbelltown City gallery
  • created the Powerhouse Museum and Wharf Theatre
  • gay law reform
  • Darling Harbour
  • Anti Discrimination Act 1977
  • built the Sydney Football Stadium
  • NSW Film and Television Office
  • democratised the Legislative Council after a titanic constitutional battle with the dinosaurs
  • appointed Michael Kirby as President of the Court of Appeal and Mary Gaudron as Solictor-General and QC (first female in both)
  • appointed the State’s first female Minister
  • created the DPP
  • introduced AVOs
  • introduced Random Breath Testing
  • passed the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act
  • set-up the Land and Environment Court
  • passed the Heritage Act and Coastal Protection Act
  • established the Historic Houses Trust
  • Parramatta Stadium
  • Sydney Entertainment Centre
  • purchased all those ferries that we still have
  • restored Macquarie St and Hyde Park Barracks
  • the Premiers Literary Awards
  • sister-state agreement with Guangdong Province
  • commenced the new wings of the State Library, Australian Museum and Art Gallery of NSW (opened in 1988)
  • development of the old Treasury building as an hotel
  • modernised the coal industry – new coal loaders and rail lines

It’s an impressive body of work which doesn’t rely on, ‘but we passed hundreds of pieces of legislation’ as a measurement of good government.  The Hon. Neville Kenneth Wran AC QC did things.  He invested in the future.  He protected our past.  He acted, where others mouthed the words.  For fuck’s sake – the Shitkansen takes as long to reach Newcastle as it did when the line was electrified.  A great many last week judged a Premier who signed up to an education package that delivered NSW more money as ‘great’ and ‘honourable’, all the while ignoring the fact that he took lifetime medical cover away from people who lose a leg below the knee in the workplace.  As acts of bastardry (not political bastardry, complete bastardry) go, that’s right up there.

Unless all political parties get rid of the cookie cutter hacks who are ‘for’ an electorate (spin me around and call me Susan if there’s a candidate who’s ‘against’ being elected); the venal cyphers who think we are unworthy of the truth while they line their pockets, abuse their influence, reward their mates and generally take the fucking piss; the timid and weak who follow opinion, rather than establish the theme; the empty shirts blathering endlessly to the cameras for next to no return, we will never see the likes of Neville Wran again.  Who am I kidding?  We are getting the public representatives, at all levels and all shades of the spectrum that an exclusive pack of pricks with limited life experience choose for us.  The only time they speak their minds is when the system that suited them fine on the way up screws them on the way down.  Wran had facets of each of these faults, but set against the dreary, small minds in the back seat of too-large white cars, he was a colossus.

~~~~~~~~~~

Enough vitriol, time for a personal reflection on ‘Nifty’, the dapper QC, the brilliant Balmain Boy who never forgot his roots as he rose, inexorably, to what passes for high society in Sydney.

I was awestruck when I met him almost a decade ago.  He had agreed to head a mine safety review my-then boss, Kerry Hickey, commissioned after NSW lost three miners on one of the single darkest days I hope to ever know.

He came into the office for a preliminary meeting. He extended his hand, one of an old man.  The rest – the intellect, the commitment to the cause of ensuring people could do a day’s work and return home to their families, the ‘dash’… it was all still there.  The grin, still blinding, even though the teeth were discoloured by age.

‘I’m Neville’.

The Hon. Neville Wran AC QC defied the truism about the charismatic, that they have the ability to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room.  Neville made you feel like you were an old mate in a room of good friends.

‘I’m sorry, but I have to call you Premier.  ’78 was my first political memory.  You’ll always be Premier to me’.

Again, the grin and chuckle.  ‘You’re too young to remember ’78!’

If you could muster indignation with Neville Wran, that’s what I felt.

‘I was seven! ‘Wran’s Our Man’ was our mantra’.

He chuckled again, and then his face changed.  The eyes ceased crinkling in good humour.

‘We’ve got a lot to do’.

Kerry, Neville, Genevieve, Siobhan and I stood in silence in the middle of the office at GMT.  Kerry had been hit hard by the accidents; the dead were his constituents.  People outside mining communities rarely understand the shockwaves these godawful events send through anyone with a tie to the industry.

There’s a wall outside the CFMEU’s Cessnock office inscribed with the name of every miner killed since the northern coalfields were founded in 1801.  More than 1,800 men and boys – almost four times the Australian lives claimed during Vietnam and a quarter of those who died during the entire Gallipoli campaign.  I have seen the damage first-hand: widows, wheelchairs.  A childhood walking home from primary school and looking for Dad’s bicycle in the garage.

As they say, you never start an inquiry without knowing the outcome.  We were about to wage war, and Neville was our Ajax – powerful, intuitive and intelligent.

The government adopted all of the Wran Mine Safety Review recommendations.  Sadly, two more names will be added to the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall over the coming weeks, and the CFMEU is calling for another review.  If one is conducted, all workers who give evidence (and the government) will be poorer for not having Neville Wran’s expertise and empathy to guide the process.

I know this is a small remembrance of a very public life, a sketch of one of the end notes of a full working life – and that everyone has a Neville yarn.  I’m grateful that of all of them, I’m able to tell this one.





Sucker punched

21 01 2014

Well played, dickheads.

The new offence & mandatory minimum sentence for so-called ‘one-punch’ assaults occasioning death, announced today by the O’Farrell Government is poor public policy on several counts. I don’t have time to pretty this up, I want to put a few thoughts out there & some links. You can chew my argument up & spit it out, but bring your A game. I worked for a government which made similarly populist decisions & they sucked arse. This one bites because it’s not only bad policy, it’s bad politics.

1/. What has the NSW Government done?

See the fact sheet released by the government here. In addition to the new ‘one punch’ offence, the government will:

  • increase maximum sentences by two years and introduced mandatory minimum sentences for serious assaults committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol;
  • create a new ‘CBD precinct’ stretching from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay, The Rocks to Haymarket and Darlinghurst which will be subject to 1.30am lockouts and no alcohol sales after 3am;
  • not approve new liquor licenses for pubs and clubs within the precinct;
  • run free buses from Kings Cross to the city every 10 minutes;
  • give police the power to ban ‘troublemakers’ from the precinct for up to 48 hours and the Police Commissioner the power to ban persons from the precinct for extended periods of time;
  • introduce a periodic ‘risk-based’ licensing system, based on the Victorian model (higher fees based on poor compliance);
  • change closing times for liquor stores to 10pm Statewide;
  • increase on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour;
  • toughen penalties for the possession of steroids;
  • suspend online Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification until changes are made to protect their integrity;
  • continue covert police surveillance to prevent sales of alcohol to minors; and
  • run a social media and advertising campaign.

2/. Why has the O’Farrell government acted?

The new ‘one punch’ offence is a reaction to a handful of high-profile cases and a sustained campaign by both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. The moral hazards or unintended consequences this moralising presents will come back and bite us all on the bum. You’ve got 150,000 signatures on a petition? I reckon I could do a whip count and match it with people who think this is at best unhelpful, creates different classes of victims of crime and could make a situation inflated by the media worse. When the State Government body which collects crime statistics tells you last week that the facts do not bear out the media campaign, you know you’re on a loser. Here is the latest NSW quarterly crime report. Violent crime is falling or stable in the City of Sydney. Crimes, as reported to police and passed to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, but no, let’s go and set our hair on fire over a catch phrase.

One Australian woman a week is killed by a current or former partner. ONE A WEEK, but you’re most likely to read about it if the Governor-General speaks about it, or the victim is a beautiful young woman. I live for the day either of these rags passionately advocates for a ‘safer Sydney’ for women and children murdered by their partners. White Ribbon Day is a fantastic initiative, but it’s not in the same league as the ‘one punch’ mission the newspapers went on. Why choose to crusade over the tragic deaths of a few young men when BOCSAR research indicates domestic violence is grossly under reported. If Dr Don Weatherburn & his team is right, you could look at doubling the recorded number of assaults in a domestic setting. There were 27,000 in the 12 months to September 2013.

  • The recorded number of assaults in the domestic setting in the City of Sydney LGA in the year ending September 2013? 905
  • The recorded number of assaults in the domestic setting in the City of Sydney LGA in the year ending September 2012? 874

(I.E. UP)

  • The recorded number of non-domestic related assaults in the City of Sydney LGA in the year ending September 2013? 3583
  • The recorded number of non-domestic related assaults in the City of Sydney LGA in the year ending September 2012? 3737

(I.E. DOWN)

This data is published quarterly by BOCSAR. It is freely available & I strongly encourage you to refer to it whenever you read about what constitutes or provides for ‘a scared community with the succour and support it needs’. Also, listen to the Governor-General’s second Boyer Lecture in full. If her words on the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and its Australian context doesn’t blow your socks off, I don’t know what will. How dearly I will miss Her Excellency. I’m not big on titles, but Quentin Bryce deserves that one.

3/. Why am I angry?

  • I am terribly sorry for the loss of these young men’s lives. The grief of their families and friends … I’ve never known it. I don’t question the push for sentencing reviews. A life lost in circumstances such as Thomas Kelly’s is worth more than the four-year sentence handed down to the man who punched him. I just don’t believe that a new offence needs to be created, or that one life ended at the hands of a violent drunk is worth more or less than another’s. A person who is stabbed to death is not any more of less dead than a ‘one punch’ victim. The person who stabbed them might be up for murder, found guilty, be sentenced to life and get a non-parole period of 10 years. Excellent. Reverse the situation. The 25 year old man charged with murder following the death of Daniel Christie on 11 January 2014 faces life imprisonment if the Crown proves his intent was to kill Mr Christie, or that he acted with reckless indifference to human life. If the charge of murder is proven, it serves as a precedent for charges to be laid in future cases. That’s a life sentence, which carries a standard non-parole period of 25 years. The maximum sentence under the new offence (if the offender is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol) is 25 years. The call to ‘get tough on thugs’ could result in a plea bargain for the lesser offence, and wind up before a judiciary chafing at the bit to tell the executive branch of government exactly what they think of mandatory minimums by handing out custodial sentences of 10-12 years. Well played.
  • Voluntary intoxication will be removed as a mitigating factor in hearing such cases, but the ‘vulnerability’ of the victim (such as age) is still taken into account as an aggravating factor. What happens if an 18-year-old man (they’re not ‘boys’, so let’s stop with that right now) physically attempts to restrain you to further unwanted sexual advances? Say the man is pissed out of his brain and falls like a sack of spuds if, in desperation, you hit them with an open backhander? Is it a WFA title bout? What constitutes ‘one punch’? What happens if two people each throw one punch, and only one connects, or as Ed Butler writes today, a person reacts to seeing a male or female friend being threatened or assaulted, lands one punch on the instigator, who then falls and dies? How do you treat the death of someone after a ‘brawl’, such as Daniel Cassai? Does anyone deserve a mandatory minimum of eight years’ jail because they’ve clocked someone on the back of the head in an effort to stop a rape? Removing judicial discretion – the idea that judges and magistrates have the wisdom, experience and knowledge of the law to give proper consideration to all evidence presented in court – is just a nonsense; as is the implication that a jury of our peers can’t understand or execute their role, one of the most important in our society. It’s a bloody insult to our collective intelligence. In the United States,the introduction of mandatory minimums for dealing in crack cocaine – but not powder cocaine resulted in one thing: disproportionate incarceration rates among young men from minority and lower socio-economic backgrounds. It’s the same drug, just presented in a different form. This is what I mean when I talk about creating classes of victims. Are the Christie and Cassai cases so different? All people who die during, or following a violent assault should be treated with the same dignity.
  • Mandatory minimum sentencing laws do not work, here or abroad. As Declan Roche wrote in a 1999 Australian Institute of Criminology report;
  1. they are not a general deterrent to crime – deterrence implies that people are rational actors when considering committing a crime when much crime (especially crimes such as ‘one punch’ assaults’) is impulsive and involves limited deliberation;
  2. they are not cost-effective – in fact, they are the opposite of a cost-effective solution to fighting crime. Consider the increased costs in the court system as more defendants contest charges to try to avoid the mandatory penalty that follows conviction, where they otherwise may have entered a plea of guilty; cost of housing large numbers of offenders imprisoned under mandatory sentencing laws. In Australia it is estimated that it costs up to $60,000 to keep a prisoner imprisoned for a year and approximately $200,000 to build a new cell;
  3. they do not promote consistency in sentencing – statutory definition of offences is inherently imprecise. Very unequal offenders can receive the same sentence when convicted under mandatory sentencing. Secondly, mandatory sentences may encourage judges to circumvent the mandatory penalties imposed by legislation. Judges and juries may “nullify” laws or penalties that seem to them unjust. Thirdly, rather than eliminating discretion it simply displaces it to other parts of the criminal justice system, most notably, prosecutors. Discretion is unavoidable in the criminal justice system. When that discretion is left in the hands of judges they are in a position to attempt to achieve consistency by taking into account all the relevant circumstances of the offence. Moreover, judges’ decisions are publicly accountable through their visibility, which provides some safeguards against inconsistency. By contrast, displacing that power & putting it in the hands of prosecutors means that discretion is being exercised in a less considered, and certainly less accountable way.
  • The new ‘CBD precinct’ just pushes the ‘problem’ elsewhere. What about Bondi, Coogee, Manly – all ‘notorious’ trouble spots for ‘alcohol-fuelled’ violence. I live two blocks outside the Darlinghurst suburb boundary, near other pubs in Surry Hills. Are those pubs going to adhere to the 1.30am lockouts because they want to be good neighbours? YA THINK? I look forward to the locked out masses trying to get into pubs 500 metres down the road. Fun times.
  • NEW ANGER: You know loses out here? The large pubs & clubs on Oxford Street, safe places for LGBTQI people, all with 5am licences. Odds on an upsurge in gay bashings because people who choose to switch nightclubs themselves are locked-out after standing in a queue for 30min & are vulnerable to homophobic fucks? THAT. THAT RIGHT THERE IS AN UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE.
  • Here comes another ring stinger:  small bars (yay, civility and $20 cocktails in Mason jars); restaurants and ‘tourist accommodation establishments’ are exempt from the CBD precinct rules on lockouts and new liquor licence applications. Excellent. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Think hard. It lets James Packer’s Barangaroo casino development go ahead. No worries.
  • The ‘bans’ on ‘troublemakers’? WHAT THE ACTUAL EFF? ‘Hey, pissed up suit! Don’t bother rolling up to the office after you’ve been arrested?’ How is this even going to work?
  • 10pm closing times for bottle-os? Get fucked. Just fuck right off. How many off-licences are open after 10pm? I know of two. The others are hotels which sell takeaways during opening hours. ‘Pre-loading’ doesn’t begin at 9pm. If you’ve ever caught a train from Newcastle to, or from Sydney on a Saturday afternoon, you’ll see it in full flight.
  • WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE – call a cunt a cunt and there’s a good chance some cunt will hand you a cunning $500 fine because that cunt can;
  • The ‘roid angle is interesting for singling out the stereotypical ‘one punch’ deliverer – a pumped up mid-20s bloke trained in mixed martial arts. What about the ‘one punch’ puncher who really is a coward & doesn’t have the self-discipline the vast majority of people who are trained in any martial art or boxing possess?
  • OH FINALLY SOMEONE HAS REALISED THAT ONLINE RSA TESTS ARE RORTED AND EVEN WHEN PEOPLE HAVE RSA CERTIFICATES THEY KEEP SERVING ALCOHOL BECAUSE MONEY.
  • Covert surveillance – I think this means young cops hanging out at Liquorland but I’m not entirely sure.
  • Bring forth the ad blitz. If it’s one thing Australia does well, it’s PSAs (no sarcasm; we really are very good at creating and heeding them. I just wish they’d run ‘DON’T HIT OR RAPE PEOPLE EVER’ on loop.

I know police are sick of seeing punch ons, but pro-tip from an inner-Sydney resident: I have seen police sending eight to 10 officers into nightclubs with sniffer dogs, or squad cars and paddy wagons parked outside one or two pubs, 20-30 police milling about, then walked 250 metres to my street and found a group of young blokes kicking a homeless person, or a man pushing a woman around. I’ve stepped in, because I always think, ‘what if that was me’? I’ve seen a bouncer drag a young kid from a club around into a lane way & beat the shit out of him & was too scared to intervene. I shouted at him & went into the club to tell the manager; the bouncer came in & dragged me off the premises. The manager told me to fuck off. I called the police, when they arrived they said there was no point taking the matter further because I’d had wine over dinner & the kid was a meth-addicted rent boy. I’ve seen a young woman thrown into a cab by two bouncers. When people who saw what happened tried to give the young cops a different story, they became belligerent. I’ve seen a bouncer hit a bloke, then lie about it to the cops, backed up by eight other bouncers. There is a plethora of existing law under the Crimes Act 1900 for NSW Police to enforce. There are City of Sydney bans on public drinking – in 12 years living here, I’m yet to see the bans in action. The laws & by-laws exist. They just aren’t enforced.

Finally (!) … as well as making no sense from a public policy perspective, it’s just really poor politics. I would be tempted to vote Liberal if Barry O’Farrell had stood up to the papers and their combined circulation of the population of Elizabeth Bay and led. Instead, the Premier did as he has done from 25 March 2011. He squibbed it. Small target politics is O’Farrell’s comfort zone. With the ALP unlikely to make a comeback for the next two, even three elections and a thumping majority, O’Farrell made the mistake of treating the NSW parliamentary press gallery with contempt. Ministers rarely hold press conferences or throw the lazy sods an ‘announceable’, so the media set itself as the Opposition. In a salutary lesson for the Abbott government, it shows that playing Sergeant Schultz, issuing statements instead of facing the cameras and not having the common courtesy to return calls before deadlines is a dangerous play. Sure, you can avoid the relentless questions on topics from Britney Spears to bikie shootings, but the habit of saying nothing can easily be turned into the perception of doing nothing, until you cut your losses and announce poor policy written on the back of a beer coaster, sponsored by the all-mighty liquor industry lobby. Instead of looking at the multiple causes and victims of violent assaults, Barry O’Farrell handed the papers their win. Really, the gloating is unseemly. Rather than ask the people of NSW to take a long, hard look at the way our casual acceptance of cultural norms not only around alcohol, but ego, as detailed here by Brandon Jack, followed up with this and this by Dane Rampe (which I might not agree with entirely, but I’ll take the lived experience of men of the same generation as the ones punching and dying as more relevant), the Premier folded, earned the plaudits of the crusaders and blamed one factor for an upsurge drop in violent assaults outside the domestic setting.

This is a Government creating new law in a category where crime rates are falling and introducing mandatory minimum sentences that will increase the cost of our criminal justice system and are unlikely to be at the forefront of a drunk’s mind when they throw a punch.

We’re the biggest state in Australia and we’re being governed by the Beverly Hillbillies.

Disclosure: after the Sydney Morning Herald’s deputy editor, Ben Cubby, tweeted this today, I thought I would add the following, even though my family’s financial interests and the occupations of people I talk to when I am not writing for five hours are none of your damned business. My parents are part-owners of a pub in Muswellbrook. My sister manages a pub in Newcastle. My parents are not members of the AHA. I have friends who work for the major liquor industry lobby groups. They might want to throttle me for a few of these points. I have not been paid, encouraged or influenced to write this or any other form of written or oral communication on this issue by my parents’ financial interests OR my relationship with anyone else. These are my thoughts on a media crusade I believe is unwarranted and a Government reaction to that campaign which I see as unwise and unworkable. You’re welcome.





Four beers and a packet of fauxtrage, please.

4 01 2014

Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.

~ Edmund Burke

Young people getting drunk = end of civilisation as we know it:

“The community needs to send a very clear message that it is unacceptable to drink yourself silly, because whether in backyards or beaches, or whether at barbeques or at other parties, we need individuals, family and friends to get a message to try and change a culture.”

Barry O’Farrell, NSW Premier

PM, 16 December 2013

Octogenarian alcoholic smashes a beer in front of adoring crowd of young people = legend:

Shut up. Just shut up.





It is enough for the people to know there was an election …

4 02 2013

The most important political office is that of the private citizen.

-Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

So, what do a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and one of the great tyrants (Stalin, attributed with the title quote), have to do with the events, spin, speculation and general swirl and hurl of the last week in Australian politics? Hopefully, I’ll be able to demonstrate that the bow isn’t that long.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013: The Prime Minister addresses the National Press Club. The speech released to attendees didn’t contain one crucial piece of news: the announcement of the election date – Saturday, 14 September 2013. Generally well received, I found the speech discordant in parts. In ‘taking stock’, the Prime Minister outlines some ABS data, and emphasises our fears as a people We’re middle-aged. We live too far away from where we work. We parent and care for our parents. We’re saving instead of spending, a nation of consumers who yearn for the days when we could whip out the credit card with abandon. We don’t shoot each other very often (unless you live in ‘some communities’ [read Western Sydney], and then – you’re rightly concerned about crime and ‘cohesion’). We’ve lived through a few wars, where our Gallipoli obsession looms large in our veneration of heroes and the rarely-explored existence of the ghosts among the returned. We’re early and loving adopters of technology. We have mobiles, Facebook pages and iThings in abundance. Then, in the next stanza, we’re ‘strong, fair by instinct, smart’. Which Australia are we, the people? From the rest of the PM’s speech, it’s enough that we know there’s an election. The governing will continue and we can all plan our year. Weddings can be planned, observant Jews can declare they won’t campaign on the day and the religion of footy finals may be attended sans the onerous duty of lining up to tick a box or two.

Firstly, the great reveal. The jaws in the room, and without, dropped at the omission from the pre-disseminated speech; most memorably that of the Minister for Workplace Relations, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, who was caught out live blogging at the Herald Sun. Here strikes the discordance: a PM offering certainty to a fearful people while catching many in her own Cabinet unaware.  For the trumpeting of getting on with governing, spin shot its load. The people who knew the election date announcement work in the PM’s office, Swanny DPM, The Greens leader Senator Christine Milne, and Independent MPs, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. Actions speak louder than words? What a splendidly cohesive team the Gillard Government is, that not even a mass text message was sent 30 seconds before the drop. People wonder why there is an abundance of nameless ‘government sources’ with a cracking dose of the shits. That covers the fearful Australia.

The strong Australia? The announcement itself. We’ve been stuck in a fairly rubbish election mode since Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor backed the ALP. Remember when the Member for Lindsay (suddenly via the Arafura Sea) set sail with the PM on the SS Nervous Nelly, looking for the People of the Boats? Now we can at least say it’s only going to last for another 220-odd days. Please don’t attribute the early call to anyone other than the PM and her advisers. They knew it would rob everyone from speculating on the date for the rest of the year. Is it crazy/brave? Not so much. John Key, New Zealand PM, did the same thing – again, in the name of the worship of sport – and he is one of the last people you’d call crazy/brave. It’s a little interesting if you look at NSW. We, the people of the Scum Corp state, are used to fixed election dates. What the early announcement allows is a gradual build-up of appearances in a State considered so toxic in 2010, I think the PM visited once (maybe twice, if you count Rooty Hill RSL as the People’s Debate). NSW must hold; not only for the government to be reelected, but for the next generation of talent to stick around. Losing the Likes of Chris Bowen, Jason Clare, Ed Husic, Michelle Rowland, Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke would be disastrous. David Bradbury, if his seat wasn’t so bloody indispensable, could pack up and go home. NSW is very much at the heart of the ALP’s problems, but it is also at the heart of its success and longevity. The state of McKell, Wran, Chifley, Whitlam, Carr and Keating, reeling at state level, must offer some pathway at the federal level for the real ‘next generation’. Already, Team JG showed the smarts to pencil the Tet Festival celebrations at Fairfield into her diary last weekend. Smart thinking by some former colleagues of mine now working in the PM’s office.

Thursday, 31 January 2013: I think it’s a crock that anyone’s hand was caught in some nefarious plot to ameliorate the shamefully public arrest of Craig Thomson MP. The NSW wallopers are not averse to dropping a high profile bit of work to the media. While the act was cretinous, it’s hardly surprising. UPDATE: NSW Police have been forced today into an embarrassing back down today. Thomson’s arrest, they said, was triggered by his failure to surrender himself to Victoria Police for arrest. Fer shame. The strip search and the damage done, it turns out their southern cousins wanted to have a chat with Mr Thomson, not arrest him. Bravo, dickheads.

The Thomson matter is going to be an open sore for the government regardless of whether the election was held in six weeks or seven months. The same goes for the disgraceful allegations being heard at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. I am proud of many of the achievements of the Ministers and Premier I worked for; but the scale of the allegations, the hubris and disregard for everything that is good and right about governing puts the allegations against Craig Thomson, and the infernal Ashby/Brough/Slipper business in the shade. A sequoia-sized darkness. None of it is going away, so saddle up and deal with it – a big tick for a strong Australia.

Friday, 1 February 2013: It was a dark and stormy night. It was great subscription bait from the Australian Financial Review’s Phillip Coorey, who tweeted at 8.38pm: ‘Gillard govt cabinet minister has resigned. details online soon’. After I finally navigated my way through the AFR’s subscription maze, and learned that Senate Leader and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs, Science and Research, the Hon. Chris Evans, was quitting Cabinet immediately, and the Senate at the election, I was shocked. Evans is one of those reasonably unassuming, non-fuck ups of a Minister. My initial thought was, ‘Christ, I hope he’s not ill’. When I saw Channel 7’s Mark Riley retweet of Nicola Roxon’s resignation several hours’ later, I was stunned. What the actual eff? Two Ministers going within hours of each other. Every part of my former political self said, ‘bad juju’.

Saturday 2 & Sunday 3 February, 2013:

Over the past few days, I’ve had a few, shall we say, some teeth-grinding moments on the Twatters, chiefly because I refuse to fall in line with the pinheaded orthodoxy of ‘MSM fail’; ‘media fail’; ‘stupid gallery speculation’. This is where Brandeis comes in – ‘the most important political office is that of private citizen’. It’s a two-pronged thought: firstly, if you’re reporting the straight Five Ws, why is still one of them. Given that Evans’, Roxon’s and the PM’s offices were refusing to answer questions (yep, no message control going on here), what are we, the people, supposed to think? Nothing to see here, move along? Two senior Ministers had just pulled the pin – yet the Press Gallery is supposed to just write, ‘who, what, when and where’, and ignore the damning why? If the why is not forthcoming, if information is withheld so the message can be massaged to within an inch of its life, the Australia of fearful people is going to, and is entitled to speculate. We are the most important political office bearers. Forget the 24-hour news cycle. What about the blink-and-you-miss-it Twitter free-for-all? If people think the ‘abysmal MSM’ were the only ones speculating, have a long, hard look at your Twitter feeds and DMs. I had some information and theories. So did others. We exchanged views, a bit of healthy scepticism, and a fair bit of plain old, ‘what the actual eff is going on?’ When you cannot accumulate fact, you speculate. If you’re whiter than white and didn’t muse on why both of these Ministers were resigning, then you forfeit the Brandeis test.

Secondly, both Ministers Roxon and Evans are leaving for personal reasons. I don’t doubt that Ms Roxon misses her husband and daughter, and that after 20 years, Chris Evans has had a gutful of flying from Perth to Canberra. Having seen Ministers’ workloads in State politics, I understand the demands of the job. Here’s the thing I didn’t get: the Prime Minister’s claim that both indicated up to a year ago that they wanted out. Evans’ senate spot, not up for election this time, could have been filled by a casual vacancy, He could have sailed off into the sunset. Instead, he’s hanging around and collecting his pay until this September. A small part of me wants to say, ‘fuck off, Chris, bad call PM’. Nicola Roxon’s resignation stumped me. I know the time commitments. I know the demands of serving an electorate. OK, I don’t know what it’s like to have a husband or young daughter. Again, it’s the, ‘I’ve wanted to go for ages’ line. Maybe. Or is it just that having got the plain-packaging tobacco laws through, the drive and pride you had in being the first female Australian Attorney-General faltered? The difficulty is not Roxon’s resignation from Cabinet. Mark Dreyfus QC is a central-casting Attorney. The potential issue is the pre-selection for the plum seat of Gellibrand. No sooner had the name David Feeney, he of the faceless face and an unwinnable number three Senate ticket spot, done the rounds, a far more palatable name appeared: former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks. He’s still young, lives in the electorate, and as someone I’ve met fleetingly, a smart operator with name and reputation recognition to die for. Mark Dreyfus practically went the Captain’s Pick himself, so effusive was his praise of Bracks. The sticking point is whether Bracks wants back in. After all, the most political office one can hold is that of private citizen. The real stick in the mud is the resignation of the Member for Barton and former Attorney-General, the Hon. Robert McClelland. It’s not clear whether McClelland will serve out his term; another former Premier, Morris Iemma, is one of the names being discussed to replace him. If McClelland quits Parliament in the next two-three months, it’s going to be very difficult (although not without precedent) for a by-election to be held off until September 14. Would any of us like to go six months (or longer) unrepresented in the Federal Parliament? Not so much. If he goes early, the Speaker should be encouraged, not laughingly discouraged from issuing the writs. Be strong, not fearful, lest the baseball bats come out in the months to come.

Monday, 4 February 2013: A new Ministry was sworn in. A new Senate Leader was elected. If the PM and Swanny DPM are both out of the country or unable to fulfil their duties, your Acting Prime Minister will be one Senator Stephen Conroy. Caucus met, and as sure as the sun sets in the west, Caucus leaked. Caucus leaked that the PM had cracked it with them for leaking against the Government, a fact relayed to her by a journalist. Meta or what? Caucus took place sans the former PM. Kevin, he of Queensland and here to help (and help all over the place – he’s said he’ll campaign wherever he’s asked), cited ill-health for missing the 2pm meeting. Maybe he was leaking. The fearful people of the marginals win this round, none of them warming to Brandeis’ treatise.

The Possum Comitatus with the Polling Mostest has produced this, the PollyTrend Two-Party Preferred graph, which looks like a few wobbly beer snakes. This morning it’s, ‘oh, fuck Newspoll, bunch of know nothings. Polls come and go. Outliers’. Not so fast. Yes, individual polls go up and down – but the trend isn’t a happy snap. If anything, it shows how long it’s taking for the numbers to move. Almost a year between the bulges, either side. I’m no pollster, but this doesn’t look like a volatile electorate to me. The polls taken over the weekend (with Essential to come tomorrow) reflect the thinking of the electorate at this point in time, and at this point in time, the ALP has freaked the people out. Going from a four-point gap to trailing by 10-12 percentage points is an indicator that the fear, fanned from within, translated to the people who hold the most important political office. And all for knowing that an election was being held.





Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

23 10 2011

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.

Hubert Humphrey

This is a cropped image taken (stolen) from the Herald-Sun’s #occupymelbourne gallery. I was flicking through, & this poster caught my attention. I flicked back & forth & still ended up at the same image.

Why? Because it speaks to me so loudly of everything that I find disturbing about the occupy movement as it exists in Australia. No economics or factoids in this post. Purely visceral.

Firstly, an apology to #occupysydney participants for not fully understanding why the camp was established outside the Reserve Bank of Australia. I was hammering away, railing inside my head & on Twitter as to why camp hadn’t been set up in Bridge Street (drunken aside: #occupybs would be a cool hashtag) given it’s home to the ASX? I asked a question on Twitter tonight (depending on how quickly I write this, maybe last night) and, thanks to @hailants, I learned something. Securency. I thought polymer notes were just a cool invention. I asked politely, genuinely, & I got a polite, genuine, informative answer about something I knew nothing about. That’s pure gold to me.

OK, so back to the poster. This is so fucking far from pure gold to me it’s not funny. Starving African child juxtaposed with obese Western kids eating junk food. Seems like everything capitalism, everything wrong, everything #occupy represents. Not to me.

I am in no way accepting of how totally fucked it is that gross poverty, is delivered in white 4WDs to the Global South by, yes capitalism, but also inept, corrupt governments & non-state actors. The answer (according to me) to a fraction of that starving African child’s problems is not the carte-blanche, lazy finger-pointing at evil capitalism. It is pathetic infrastructure. It is more expensive to transport food to famine-declared areas from a food bowl IN Africa than it is to ship food aid from Europe. As this Massachusetts Institute of Technology project contends, it is only through global actors such as the World Bank that intra- and inter-country roads in Africa can be built and maintained (the example it uses is the Mombassa – Nairobi road project in Kenya). People in sub-Saharan Africa starve not because there is no food, but because transportation costs are so high, making them aid dependent, and if the greedy Global North cannot be arsed, they die. Dambisa Moyo’s seminal work, Dead Aid may not be popular, but her central thesis, that cutting aid will force these capitalist solutions to take hold, is worth study. I do not agree with cutting foreign aid; but I would play with the idea and put forward the following solution – that the member states which signed up to lift aid to 0.77 per cent of GDP under the UN Millennium Goals – make that abysmal fraction higher, and invest in an infrastructure fund that will assist in building transportation routes and enable, empower the most impoverished to trade with their neighbours. It’s a capitalist solution to a problem that exists, that is so obvious, that for the life of me, I cannot understand.

Next: is this problem assisted by a poster in Melbourne? No. Bring forth the person in, Melbourne, or my Sin City of Sydney, this city of 4.5 million, who is not aware, that somewhere in the world, people are starving. Seriously, I will travel to them, I will jam my foot in their front door  & show them this poster if I am wrong. People know famine exists; they may not understand why, beyond natural causes such as drought; but we know it happens. Forgive me, Occupiers, but where are your solutions, where are your ideas, to fixing this unnecessary, base evil, ill? Capitalism Isn’t Working? It’s not an idea; it’s a statement of questionable fact. There is no attempt to make a constructive argument; it’s not even a talking point memo. Where, in the general assemblies or working groups, are the solutions? I know what the problem is. I’m disgusted by it. I’ve been to Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums. I’ve seen poverty in South London, where I worked in social housing; in Gaza; in Russia; in Redfern – none of which this poster represents – barring one teeny, tiny thing. The fat kids. The ultimate representation, the tool to demonstrate, about the greedy Global North. Shyeh, right on.

Yep, the fat kids eating junk food. What greater depiction of corporate greed could you imagine? Oh, I can. Teeny, tiny mind of mine suggests that the kiddies sat at the Golden Arches of the capitalist piggery of the Global North, are the the poorest percentile, those totally dependent on welfare; the kids who grow up in households where generational unemployment is a fact of life … these kiddies, the fat capitalist pigs gorging on the fries – they are the 99 per cent. Not you, not even me, with my multitude of fucktardness visited, uninvited, on my childhood. Fact: poor families sacrifice, or cannot afford, fresh fruit and vegetables. They eat fried food. They have less playing space. They are the children whose life expectancy is slashed; who will develop NCDs (non-communicable diseases) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They will die earlier, their lives straining public health systems in between. They will, on average, not go to university. They won’t make these posters & camp in Martin Place or City Square, because they have never fucking been to Martin Place. They are in our rural and regional centres. They are on the fringes of our cities & at there epicentres. They do not regularly attend school. They are supplied with breakfast & taught how to read by the best of the 99 per cent – our under-valued teachers. These are the children Occupiers need to speak to; not Twitter twats like me. These children are growing up poorer than any of us – not in terms of disposable income, the measurable, cold, economic indicators I have written about before but under-educated, not even disengaged. They are the scorn of our ‘current affairs’ programming. Fringe-dwellers, regardless of race. The underclass. The illiterate and innumerate. The kids who set London on fire while we, the lucky 99 per cent of the Land of Oz sat here and watched. Rail against quantitative easing, #occupysydney … give me a small break while I imagine an austerity package, two or three, visited upon us. The truly frightening thing is that these children are not the stereotypical fat, unruly progeny of Macquarie Fields, or Fitzroy Crossing, or Frankston: they are the middle classes of  the BRICs, especially China and India. There are 78 million Indians with Type 2 diabetes. To work these most basic health issues through, we – who are not the 99 per cent – must get off Martin Place and reach Mumbai. Indians don’t see themselves as victims of capitalism. Indians thrive on trade; not just now, but through the ages. They live in a post-colonialist, still caste-ridden and religiously-divided country. They are more powerful than this lazy portrait, the Indians, South Americans, South Africans, Russians than our piss-poor democracy can imagine.

OK, I am drunk, and tired and I have ranted and railed more than enough for the early hours. Please leave a comment or tweet me about what this poster says to you. I am a cranky old woman, sure; but I genuinely want to know, in more than a cut and paste about how we are controlled by the banks, the media, the corporations and politicians, just what this poster represents. I want more of you,from you, as the individuals who claim to make up the 99 per cent. Agree, disagree; just don’t ignore. Oh, and don’t bash the people you have so long admired for kicking against the pricks of the right, and laughed at the idiocy of the Convoy of No Confidence. If you believe that Wayne Swan is going to chuck a Tony Abbott and stand in front of an ‘occupy buildings, abolish gaols’ banner, you are sorely mistaken. Barack Obama is endorsing #ows in his cool, pragmatic style. He wants to save his presidency by appealing to his base. End of Politics 101. Time for bed. Like this, loathe me, just think about it. Please.