Tag Archives: politics

Queen’s Birthday Honours List – Sausage-fest

I wasn’t going to blog this weekend or until after my exams are done, but then I read the Queen’s Birthday Honours List as printed in The Age (gotta love the sub-editor who failed to notice “brithday”) and was absolutely horrified by the lack of female representation in the awards.  On my visual count (and I counted a total of 653 awards approximately), only 28% of the awards went to women.  All categories had an appalling representation of women.  Just looking at the police force and armed services and you’d think that there were next to no women in those fields.  Women make up slightly over half of the population, why are women making up far less than half of the QUEEN’s birthday list?

My count is as follows:

Order of Australia
Companion (AC) in the general division

Total awardees – 5
No of women – 1

Officer (AO) in the General Division
Total awardees – 21
No of women – 5

Officer (AO) in the Military Division
Royal Australian Navy
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Royal Australian Air Force
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Member (AM) in the General Division
Total awardees – 136
No of women – 33 – 35 (two awardee’s gender could not be identified)

Member (AM) in the Military Division
Royal Australian Navy
Total awardees – 2
No of women – 0

Australian Army
Total awardees – 8
No of women – 0

Medal (OAM) in the general division
Total awardees – 303 (approx)
No of women – 118 (approx)

Medal (OAM) in the Military Division
Royal Australian Navy
Total awardees – 2
No of women – 0

Australian Army
Total awardees – 5
No of women – 0

Royal Australian Air Force
Total awardees – 4
No of women – 0

Australian Public Service Medal

Australian Public Service

Total awardees – 17
No of women – 5

NSW Public Service
Total awardees – 11
No of women – 1

Victoria Public Service
Total awardees – 6
No of women – 2

Queensland Public Service
Total awardees – 5
No of women – 2

Western Australia Public Service
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 1

South Australia Public Service
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 1

Australian Police Medal
Australian Federal Police
Total awardees – 2
No of women – 0

NSW Police
Total awardees – 8
No of women – 0

Victoria Police
Total awardees – 5
No of women – 1

Queensland Police
Total awardees – 6
No of women – 1

Western Australia Police
Total awardees – 4
No of women – 0

South Australia Police
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 0

Tasmania Police
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Nothern Territory
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Australian Fire Service Medal
NSW Fire Services
Total awardees – 11
No of women – 0

Victoria Fire Services
Total awardees – 9
No of women – 0

Queensland Fire Services
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 0

Western Australia Fire Services
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

South Australian Fire Services
Total awardees – 2
No of women – 1

ACT Fire Services
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Ambulance Service Medal (ASM)
Queensland Ambulance Service
Total awardees – 2
No of women – 0

South Australian Ambulance Service
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

ACT Ambulance Service
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 1

Emergency Services Medal (ESM)
Queensland Emergency Services
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 0

Western Australia Emergency Services
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 0

South Australia Emergency Services
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Commendation for Gallantry
Australian Army
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 0

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM)
Australian Army
Total awardees – 4
No of women – 0

Commendation for Distinguished Service
Australian Army
Total awardees – 8
No of women – 0

Bar to the Conspicuous Service Cross
Australian Army
Total awardees – 1
No of women – 0

Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC)
Royal Australian Navy
Total awardees – 6
No of women – 0

Australian Army
Total awardees – 9
No of women – 1

Royal Australian Air Force
Total awardees – 6
No of women – 1

Conspicuous Service Medal (CSM)
Royal Australian Navy
Total awardees – 3
No of women – 1

Australian Army
Total awardees – 13
No of women – 4

Royal Australian Air Force
Total awardees – 4
No of women – 1

Total awardees – 653 (approx)
Total No of women – 183 (approx)
Percentage representation – 28%

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Tony Abbott – shut the f**k up

Tony Abbott, our delightful opposition leader, stated recently what Jesus would say and do regarding asylum seekers in Australia.  It showed yet again that Abbott’s Catholic beliefs are a cover for his arch-Conservative views and that he really has no idea what he’s talking about.  As a lapsed and possibly now agnostic Catholic, I know more about the bible than Abbot appears to.

Here is what he said recently, which really makes me wish he’d just stop talking and embarrassing the rest of us:

“Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone,” Mr Abbott said on ABC television’s Q&A program, according to the Herald Sun.

“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

Mr Abbott was quizzed extensively on his criticisms of the Rudd Government’s softening of Australia’s border protection policies and how that criticism squared with his own strong Catholic faith.

Asked what Jesus would do on the issue of asylum-seekers, he replied: “Don’t forget, Jesus drove the traders from the temple as well.”

“This idea that Jesus would say to every person who wanted to come to Australia, ‘Fine, the door’s open’, I just don’t think is necessarily right,” Mr Abbott said.

“(But) let’s not verbal Jesus, he is not here to defend himself.”

Ok, now lets look at what Jesus is actually attributed as saying on such issues:

Matthew 7: 1 – 5

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So Abbott, don’t judge others because you do not have the authority to do so.

Matthew 19:14

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

John 13:34

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Both of these quotes would suggest that a welcoming and loving heart are the call of the day and not one that would willingly exclude others, whether it be from entering a country or seeking asylum.

And as far as Jesus driving people from the temple goes, the story is as follows:

Matthew 21: 12 – 13

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”

Which has nothing to do with keeping asylum seekers from seeking asylum in Australia or any other country they can make it to and choose to seek asylum in.  Jesus spoke of befriending outcasts, the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and, Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19:1-2.  He healed Lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and others with diseases and disabilities.  He taught about humbleness and acceptance of others.  He is not the man that Tony Abbott keeps thinking he is.  And on a final note, a quote from Luke 18:9-14 that Tony Abbott needs to consider:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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Australia and secularism

When I read or hear something, particularly someone’s opinions about a subject, I try and apply it to my own experience and see if it fits. When something doesn’t fit in within my experience its harder to understand the concept… maybe I’m simplifying things here, but having experience of something, positive or negative, or even just because its nearby and not something I’ve directly experienced, makes it easier to identify, positively or negatively with an opinion or experience of someone else.

I used to interview people seeking asylum in Australia and am used to having to understand situations far beyond my experience and knowledge. I have had to consider trauma, torture, gross discrimination and abuse in relation to people sitting in front of me that I barely know and who have gone through situations I can barely imagine. So, I do get that I have not lived a life full of everyone’s experiences, and nor would I want to.

But when I see a nation, that for all intents and purposes appears to be like my own country (Australia), specifically the US, I think that perhaps things should be relatively similar. Because they purport to be on TV and other media. With one HUGE exception… religion.

I spend quite a lot of time reading atheist blogs all of which are based in the US. I read about their desire for community, discussions about who is representing atheism and how, what atheism is, and how to make a stand for their beliefs (or lack of them depending on how you look at it) without losing family, friends or their jobs.

Big parts of these blogs don’t resonate with me, and I’ve been trying to put my finger on it, and finally did when I stumbled across an article in the free newspaper that is available each weekday evening at train stations in Melbourne.

Before I announce my revelation (which is in the title anyway), I do want to state that I am by no means dismissing the experience of atheists in the US or any other devoutly religious country and the experiences they have to go through to hold their heartfelt beliefs. This post is about my experiences and how they differ from atheists in the US.

Anyway… back to my thoughts and revelation. Australia is an incredibly secular country. In fact we’ve voted in a Prime Minister who was atheist, as well as other politicans and we clearly didn’t mind. Sure we have religious whack jobs in Australia who attempt at various times to gain political power, but they tend not to gain an amount that threatens the secular nature of the country and often the next political party to gain power distances themselves from the religious whack jobs. I’m specifically thinking of the Exclusive Breathren an Pastor Danny Nalliah as the two biggest, and yet still very uninfluential, religious whack jobs that have attempted to gain some political leverage recently.

According to census data, thankfully provided in nice graphical form by Wikipedia (go on, click the link and read the article), Australia may be as much as 30% non-believers or atheists. In the 2006 census, 18.7% of people indicated that they had no religion and a further 11.9% of people did not answer the religious question (it was optional), which is where the 30% figure comes from. As “Australia the Confusing Country” written by Jeremy Lee attests, “Religion and politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don’t care too much about either) but sport is a minefield.”

The Wikipedia article previously cited also states:

  • Although many Australians identify themselves as religious, the majority consider religion the least important aspect of their lives when compared with family, partners, work and career, leisure time and politics. This is reflected in Australia’s church attendance rates, which are among the lowest in the world and in continuing decline
  • In a 2008 global Gallup poll, nearly 70% of Australians stated religion as having no importance, much higher than their American counterparts, and on par with similarly secular countries such as Japan, the Netherlands, Finland, and France. Only a few Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark) and post-Soviet states (Estonia) are markedly less religious.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian newspaper with a centrist viewpoint, asked its readers “Would the world be better off without religion?”. 81% responded in the affirmative (April 2009)
  • A 2006 study by Monash University, the Australian Catholic University and the Christian Research Association found that 52 per cent of Australians born between 1976 and 1990 have no belief in a God.
  • A 2008 Christian Science Monitor survey of 17 countries reported that youth from Australia and the United Kingdom were the least likely to observe religious practice or see any “spiritual dimension” to life.

So I get that Australia is far, far, far more secular than the United States. So much of the struggle that American atheists go through is not something that atheists in Australia even have to think about. There many be family issues for some atheists if they are coming from devoutly religious families, but generally the issues for American atheists are far different than those of Australian atheists. This is why I struggle to identify with issues raised by US atheists on blogs at times, because I’m living in a vastly more secular world.

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PETA annoy me

I’m not against the ethical treatment of animals, I think that PETA has done some sterling work in relation to having people think about the ways animals react to things and considering them as beings versus objects and this isn’t a bad thing. However, I do object to PETA’s demand that Australian farmers stop mulesing their sheep and their critique of Sam Neil and his support of the meat industry.

Lets start with mulesing. PETA state that it’s “cruel and painful and that more humane alternatives exist” (wikipedia), without actually stating what “more humane” alternatives there are… you know being useful instead of just condemning. It would be nice if they decided to research said humane alternatives and provide a response instead of getting businesses to boycott Australian wool for our alleged cruel practices.

The Wikipedia article linked to above has a good summary of the debate and what is being done where. If you want more education on the whole debate, that’s not a bad place to start.

I don’t know if PETA have actually seen a sheep with flystrike, but my mother cared for one a couple of years ago, and what she described sounds far worse than mulesing. She told me that the sheep looked like it was walking mince meat… it was in obvious pain and midway through the infestation was unable to walk and barely able to feed itself. It eventually healed thanks to both my parents care and is now a healthy sheep… but is it crueller to provide short-term pain (much like a vaccination) or let an animal (or person) suffer the consequences of an infestation/disease because the short-term pain is considered cruel?

Now Sam Neil. You can see his long term involvement with the meat industry here, here, here, and here. Some of them are funny, go and see…. this post can wait. He also did, though barely recognisable, an ad for vegetarian food, suggesting that vegetarianism is the next step in human evolution. Clearly Sam Neil also has bills to pay.

Anyway… What annoyed me about PETA’s commentary on Sam Neil’s personal decision to be, or not to be, involved in an ad campaign was their language and assumptions. Firstly they banter around the word “Jurassic” because he was in the movies… failing completely to realise that the Jurassic period had no ape like ancestors around at the time, and that all the mammals at that time were small rat-racoon like things (evolution of mammals here and human evolution here). The first primates, our ancestors, appeared about the same time that dinosaurs died out.

Of course PETA could be suggesting that meat eating is a dinosaur thing… but really most of the mammals around at that time would have been insectivores. And Sam Neil is right, well the script writer for the ads that Sam appeared in, is right. Without eating meat, it is unlikely that we’d be the species we are today. Whether we consume too much meat or not is another issue… and one I’ll address shortly.

The whole “Meat: It’s What’s Rotting in Your Colon” myth that PETA continue to push, without any medical citations also annoys me. Snopes have a good commentary on that here, but lets just think about the whole claim logically. I eat meat… I have various digestive issues that relate to fructose malabsorption and the fact that I have had my gall bladder removed recently, so I also have what is called an enzyme dump, which will rectify itself in time. On that basis, my colon is often spasming due the laxative effect of the fructose and enzymes… on the days that it is not, I certainly don’t notice the horrible effects of meat rotting in my colon. I live with two other people, and I don’t notice any horrible effects of meat rotting in their colon… and given what road kill smells like, surely my house would smell the same if meat was rotting in anyone’s colon here.

Oddly enough its actually very hard to dig up enough information about the veracity of the claim that red meat (or any meat) rots in your colon. The internet is full of people with opinions and agendas to push (hello there) and so there are doctors who are devoutly religious who have vegetarian agendas to push, PETA with their agenda to push, misinformation and other stuff… This site suggests that meat can take some days to digest, depending on your individual circumstances.

Wikipedia (and here) doesn’t suggest that meat sits in the digestive system for days, and as its the most reliable source of information I can find at the moment, I’m going with them.

Now, if PETA had gone down a sensible path… suggesting, for example, that farming animals is bad for the environment, uses too much water and produces large amounts of Greenhouse gas, as the WhyVeg.com people have leaned towards, then they’d be more credible about the whole thing. If they’d run with, “abattoirs are horrible places and animals suffer terribly in them AND meat eating is terribly bad for the environment” I probably wouldn’t be so annoyed with them.

In the end, I personally recommend eating less meat… don’t eat it every day, exist on less, eat more vegetables and fruit than meat, etc. The current editorial thing on WhyVeg.com advocates that, and that is a far more successful message… tap into the growing green consciousness and welfare of animals versus scoring cheap political points.

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Why Conservatism is bad for women’s rights (and rights of other minority groups)

I read over the weekend an article by a very “enlightened” Australian politician, Tony Abbott, a big “C” conservative and a big “L” Liberal. Not my favourite man. Apparently he’s just written a book, as part of his “grieving” process of being a member of a political party that lost the last election to an unworthy opponent, and not having the power he once had.

His book talks about the “coming out” of Conservatism, and how a return to “traditional family values” is an important thing. Given, he says, that gay people are likely to get the right to marry in the near future, perhaps adding extra options to heterosexual marriage will continue to make it all special.

He advocates reintroducing “fault based” divorce. This went out of fashion, and law in Australia around the same time I was born (1975). The fault based divorce laws provided only 14 grounds for divorce and placed the burden of proof back on the couples. It was widely seen as unfair and although conservatives and religious groups alike were horrified when it was abandoned to a faultless system in 1975, however society did not crumble and the world did not end.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 provided 14 grounds for the grant of a decree of dissolution of marriage (‘divorce’), including adultery, desertion, cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment and insanity. To succeed on one of these grounds, a spouse had to prove marital fault (sourced from here). This meant that individuals had to hire lawyers, private detectives, seek witness statements and prove one of the grounds. If the judge believed that the evidence was fabricated, then he (because they were mainly men at that time) could refuse to allow a divorce.

So, imagine being a victim of domestic violence trying to obtain a divorce at that time, or if the laws are reintroduced for people to voluntarily sign into, imagine trying to obtain one. If the judge doesn’t believe that you have been subject to “cruelty”, if you were unable to prove the violence because it was psychological versus physical, you may not be able to obtain a divorce. Is this a fair and reasonable thing?

The big problem with this style of conservative thinking, and “traditional family values” is that it places women in society at a lesser place than the men. Women are typically more likely to become victims of domestic violence than men (I am not denying that men are not victims of domestic violence), so if it harder for women to obtain a divorce from a violent marriage, then that’s hardly fair and surely not part of what people would think that “traditional family values” are.

Another big problem of course is the fact that conservative political parties and religions talk about “traditional family values” and don’t define the phrase… because we all magically know what it is. Of course, “traditional family values”, how silly of me. Do they mean, as I suspect they do, that children are raised (and you will have children, because without them you are not a family) by both mum and dad, living in some lovely house in suburbia, with their 1950s style decorated house, where mum cooks dinner for everyone every day, keeps the house clean and always listens to her husband complain about work at the end of the day? Probably…. but the 1950s were not the Golden Age that some current politicians and religious leaders believe them to be. There were things that really worked in the 1950s, and there were many things that didn’t.

If we turned back the clocks to 1950 we’d lose our lovely air-conditioned and heated homes, wonderfully diverse range of restaurants, and our lovely multicultural society. These are things I value, I enjoy being able to select a cuisine from just about anywhere in the world and be able to find it and share it with family and friends, I love getting to know people from all around the world and sharing thoughts and ideas with them. I enjoy being environmentally aware and trying to be active about things I care about. I don’t fit the 1950s mould and never would… and society today would not want to give up their freedoms that they have gained and created since then.

But if somehow conservative groups did turn back the clock, it’d go badly for women and other minority groups. Since the 1950s women gained better access to workplaces, anti-discrimination laws came into place, Australian Aboriginals were recognised as Australian citizens and were given the right to vote, the White Australia policy was repealed as draconian and stupid (perhaps my words), multiculturalism generally began to work, and despite some things like the Cronulla Riots, generally does work in Australia, and queer people began to live openly and without fear.

Despite all the gains that women and other minority groups have made over the last 50 years, there are those that still want to imagine that the 1950s exist. Just read this blog post as evidence that some people view “a good wife” as a doormat for her husband.

Lets not turn back the clock, lets actually look at preserving rights that we currently have and creating new ones if we actually need them. Lets recognise what rights minorities in our society need to feel safe and participate fully, instead of creating a slippery slope where they may lose rights because of some dream of a Golden Age that never existed in reality.

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