Tag Archives: WTF

Fearmongering about painkillers – codeine

TW Discussion of suicide

So  I’ll preface this post with the following – I am not someone who uses codeine frequently.  I don’t suffer from any form of chronic pain, and apart from when recovering from surgery, will probably have medication containing codeine about once every 4 – 6 months.

I am passionate about people being able to access the medication they need, when they need it, without unnecessary hurdles being put in their way, and today’s news about codeine moving to only be available in Australia by prescription, is a hurdle in everyone’s way.  From me and my very occasional use, to those who have chronic pain who use it much more frequently.

Also, all the reporting on the topic is frequently terrible, conflating all opioid related deaths with those caused by codeine, and attributing carrier drug deaths and injuries (usually paracetamol or ibuprofin) with codeine.

Let’s start with some important numbers:

  • Population of Australia (end June 2016) a bit over 24,000,000 (source)
  • Victorian Road Toll (2015): 257 (source)
  • Number of women killed by intimate partner violence: Approximately 1 per week (around 52 per year on average) (source)
  • Number of deaths in Australia in 2015: 159,052 (source)

The importance of all these numbers will make sense further down this post.

I’ll start with the ABC article (the second that I read on this today) which claims in part:

“Medication that are available over the counter or through pharmacies should be substantially safe and not subject to abuse.”

Now paracetamol and ibuprofen are safe, generally in the quantities that the box tells you to take them.  Excessive paracetamol (overdosing) causes:

Signs of paracetamol overdose include drowsiness, coma, seizures, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Another name for paracetamol is acetaminophen (often known by its brand name, Panadol®).

There is only a small difference between the maximum daily dose of paracetamol and an overdose, which can cause liver damage. Large amounts of paracetamol are very dangerous, but the effects often don’t show until about two to three days after taking the tablets. (source)

Excessive ibuprofen (overdosing) causes:

An ibuprofen overdose can damage your stomach or intestines (source)

Both of these drugs, which are commonly available in Australia, you can buy them almost everywhere (convenience stores, supermarkets, chemists, petrol stations, etc) are only just safe in the recommended doses.  If you have a compromised liver, or mix up your dosage, you can cause serious damage to yourself, if not die from the medication.

Neither paracetamol or ibuprofen are addictive however, so apparently it doesn’t matter how dangerous they are.

Back to the ABC article.

The TGA said misuse of over-the-counter codeine products contributes to severe health outcomes, including “including liver damage, stomach ulceration, respiratory depression and death”.

Overdosing on codeine causes:

Overdose symptoms may include slow breathing and heart rate, severe drowsiness, muscle weakness, cold and clammy skin, pinpoint pupils, and fainting. (source)

So the TGA is partly lying.  The liver damage and stomach ulceration are the result of the carrier drug, either paracetamol or ibuprofen.  I’m not sure how many tablets you’d have to take to get the overdosing effective of codeine from the blended paracetamol/ibuprofen and codeine tablets, but I’m pretty sure that the internal bleeding and liver failure will probably kill you before the “respiratory depression” does.

From the ABC:

Dr Greenaway said an Australian study using coronial data showed there had been over 1,400 deaths in a little over a decade.

A little over a decade.  Let’s say that’s 13 years since no one has bothered giving us the actual numbers.  That’s around 108 deaths per year attributed, apparently, to codeine.  Because the ABC (and all the other media outlets) didn’t bother to find the actual source of these figures, I’ve just spent 2 minutes finding them for you.

From a press release from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre:

The rate of codeine-related deaths in Australia more than doubled between 2000 and 2009, driven primarily by an increase in accidental overdoses, according to new research by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW.

“While we can’t look at trends over time beyond 2009, our sample of 1,437 codeine-related deaths between 2000 and 2013 allows valuable insights into the circumstances surrounding these deaths,” said Ms Roxburgh.

Of the 1437 deaths included in the study, just under half (48.8%) were attributed to accidental overdose, and a third (34.7%) to intentional self-harm.

Most codeine-related deaths (1201 = 83.7%) during 2000–2013 were attributed to multiple drug toxicity. A small proportion (113 = 7.8%) were specifically attributed to codeine toxicity. The remaining 123 deaths (8.5%) were attributed to other underlying causes, such as coronary heart disease, cardiovascular conditions, or other drug toxicity.

More than half (53.6%) of the cases of codeine-related death included a history of mental health problems, 36.1% a history of substance use problems (including misuse and dependence), 35.8% a history of chronic pain, 16.3% a history of injecting drug use, and 2.7% a history of cancer.

Those who had intentionally overdosed were more likely to be older, female and have a history of mental health problems; those who had accidentally overdosed were more likely to have a history of substance use problems, chronic pain and injecting drug use.

Ms Roxburgh said these characteristics highlight a complex patient population in need of specialist services.

Ok, so the TGA is being even more dishonest.  123 deaths over a 13 year period were related specifically to codeine toxicity.  That’s 9.4 deaths per year.  The 1201 deaths were multiple drug toxicity, which would most likely mean, since it isn’t spelt out, that the individuals died from consuming multiple substances, such as paracetamol and/or ibuprofen containing codeine, and potentially other medication.  As I’ve already noted, overdosing on paracetamol and ibuprofen is very bad for you.

34.7% of those deaths were suicide.  That’s not people getting addicted to codeine and then dying, that’s people using a commonly available drug and committing suicide.  I’m sure that those who were intentionally self harming with drugs containing codeine would find any other drug that would have the same outcome, and yet I don’t hear the TGA calling for prescriptions only for ibuprofen and paracetamol.

I included the last bit of the press release because it’s a point I want to come back to.  Mostly that addiction is treated like a moral failing and not a social failing.

And moving onto the Guardian:

The use of common, opioid-based painkillers such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone has increased by four times over the past decade and Australian is among a handful of countries consuming the bulk of the world’s opioid medication supply, according to figures from the independent body responsible for implementing the United Nations international drug control conventions, the International Narcotics Control Board, published in the Lancet.

This is deliberately misleading.  You cannot get morphine or oxycodone over the counter at a pharmacy.  Including these two opioids in a discussion about codeine is muddying the waters.  Also, Australia “is among a handful of countries”.  What does that even mean?  What is a handful of countries, who are the other countries, and given we produce a lot of our own opioids, what relevance does this have?

The Guardian continues:

The Australian Medical Association has said it accepts the plan will result in additional health system costs and higher workloads for GPs, but AMA vice-president Stephen Parnis said that should be weighed up against the cost of harm inflicted by the misuse of codeine, intentional or otherwise.

The TGA is making a currently available, over the counter, widely used and not widely abused drug, into a prescription only drug in an environment where the current Australian government is attempting to reduce the number of subsidised doctor’s visits to everyone (source), which will make life even more difficult for those with chronic pain conditions.

The Guardian continues:

“We also know that the number of people suffering avoidable harm in this area has been increasing over time, to the point where, at least in Victoria, the number of deaths from overdose of prescription narcotics is higher than the road toll.”

And my numbers come into play.  The road toll for Victoria in 2015 was 257.  The number of people who die (on average according to the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre) is about 110 per year.

Ah… but see what AMA actually said, “the number of deaths from overdose of prescription narcotics”.  This decision is about over the counter codeine.  It is not about prescription opioids of any other kind, and yet in attempting to justify a decision which is really just going to annoy and make life harder for people, we get all these other reasons.

The AMA dude has one more thing to say in the Guardian article:

Parnis said codeine also posed a hidden danger.

“The body converts it to morphine and in fact a proportion of the population can convert it so quickly that they can suffer serious harm as a result.”

This is true, but moving to a prescription based service is not necessarily going to root this out.  Are doctors going to get more training and time to treat addiction?  Are doctors going to know which person amongst the hundreds of their patients has a metabolism that can quickly convert codeine to morphine and potentially harm themselves as a result?  It’s very unlikely.

Moving onto the article in The Age:

A TGA statement released on Tuesday morning said there was evidence that misuse of codeine contributes to liver damage; stomach ulceration and perforations; low blood potassium levels; respiratory depression and death.

The TGA’s statement, again, is incorrect.  Misuse of paracetamol and ibuprofen contributes to liver damage, stomach ulceration and perforations, and low blood potassium levels.  The TGA is conflating two different sets of harm caused by different drugs, into one in order to bolster their position.

The Age continues:

The decision comes after reports of codeine addicts swallowing up to 100 tablets a day, and people “pharmacist shopping” to get around rules introduced in 2010 that restrict purchases of more than five days’ supply of the drug at one time.

“reports of codeine addicts”, citation needed.  Also, any more than 6 (ibuprofen) or 8 (paracetamol) tablets, yet alone 100 tablets a day is an overdose amount of paracetamol or ibuprofen.  I call bullshit on this claim.

Also, it’s not hard to “pharmacy shop”, almost everyone has to do it at one point.  Some pharmacists treat anyone who asks for certain types of medication as drug-seeking,, whether it be something containing codeine or pseudoephedrine (the one that works versus phenylephrine which doesn’t), or something else.  If a pharmacist treats you badly, you go to another pharmacy (if you can).

Despite the fact that pseudoephedrine can be used to make cheap, bathtub, biker speed (Tripod quote), you don’t have to get a prescription to get it.  Sales of products containing pseudoephedrine plummeted when manufacturers substituted in an ineffective ingredient (claiming it was helpful even though studies said it wasn’t), and pharmacists started treating customers who – legally – sought to buy the stuff that does work as though they were drug-seeking addicts. The same could be done to codeine really.

Back to The Age:

In 2013, Monash University researchers reported nine deaths over a decade linked to toxicity from codeine-ibuprofen medicines such as Nurofen Plus.

Less than one death a year from codeine and ibuprofen.  More women are killed in intimate partner violence per year and sadly the Government is doing sweet fuck all about that.  More people die on our roads each year, and the Government does quite a bit about that.  Also I don’t know whose figures to believe.  I’m not sure if this 9 deaths are just in Victoria, or are from a different type of study as undertaken by National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

The Age:

Government agency data also shows the number of Australians being treated for codeine addiction more than tripled over the decade to 2012-13, from 318 to more than 1000 a year.

More than 1000 a year.  That’s 0.0004% of Australia’s population.  Apparently that number (the 1000) is probably under reported as some people treat themselves for codeine addiction.  There isn’t any discussion as to how much codeine addiction costs the health system, so it’s hard to know if more than 1000 people being addicted to codeine, who want to not be addicted any longer, is a huge cost to the medical system or just an inconvenience.

This is in error.  Loads of resources and articles say that emergency hospitalisation of someone overdosing on codeine compounds cost about $10,000 each.  The AMA says “A review of 99 hospitalisations caused by the misuse of OTC analgesics containing codeine found they cost, on average, $10,000 per admission.”  That’s broken down a bit more over here where we find out that most of it is once again ibuprofen’s fault.

28 tablets per day?  That’s a lot.

When you treat addiction as a moral failing, despite the fact that most of the people who use codeine regularly are people who have chronic pain conditions, then you let everyone down.  The next person who becomes addicted to codeine after surgery or a bad fall is listed as the failure, instead of just something that sometimes happens when you’ve sustained certain injuries, have certain medical conditions, or have gone through major surgery.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW commented that:

Those who had intentionally overdosed were more likely to be older, female and have a history of mental health problems; those who had accidentally overdosed were more likely to have a history of substance use problems, chronic pain and injecting drug use.

Ms Roxburgh said these characteristics highlight a complex patient population in need of specialist services.

Instead of treating the underlying conditions that people, who use codeine regularly, have, we treat them like they are the problem.  Instead of treating addiction as an illness, we treat it as a moral failing.  We fail everyone when we act this way, and the TGA needs to actually consider the messages they’re giving those who use codeine regularly, and to stop misleading the public about the actual harm of codeine.

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A weekend of erasure

Trigger warning for biphobia and bi erasure

The main stream media (MSM) is not very good at discussing bisexuality.  They tend towards the old myth of “straight, gay or lying”, which means that for the most part people who don’t identify as straight, gay or lesbian, tend to end up with one of those labels anyway, because bisexuality isn’t an option, despite it being right there in the middle of the acronym for the community of non-straight and/or non-gender conforming people – LGBTI.

So it started with a garbage fire of an article published by The Telegraph.  It’s a UK paper, I really don’t know how it rates generally, but this article was awful.  The article was titled: ‘I felt like I was falling’: the moment I found out my husband was leading a double life. He was gay 

Let’s take the first moment of epic fail in this article, by the author Camilla Smith:

My husband Peter was away for work when I found the postcard of Manly Beach, in Australia. Sent from an unfamiliar friend, there was a comment about watching men sunbathing, and how Peter would enjoy the view.

After 10 years together, seven of marriage, it was instantly clear that Peter was gay.

“Instantly clear” that despite what I assume were 10 years of mostly happy relationship, one where they were together for such a long time, that Peter is gay.  Not bisexual.  In fact, in this entire article, Smith is of the opinion that bisexual men do not exist.  She goes to great lengths to pain Peter a philandering gay man using her as a “beard”.

So Smith continues:

I had a cup of tea, walked the dog, and when Peter came home, I told him what I had found.

He didn’t break down. He didn’t try to deny the friend or that he had a sexual interest in men. He didn’t, however, agree he was gay.

I think, for the age group of men like Peter and Keith Vaz, the image of a gay man is different to what you see now. If you grew up in the 70s, being gay meant Larry Grayson and John Inman, camp-as-a-row-of-tents clichés. They must have looked at these images and thought, that’s not me.

It was such a narrow view of homosexuality. Now you have rugby players, CEOs and soldiers who are out, but not then.

And yet Smith has no clue about bisexuality.  For her, if a man is attracted to men, he cannot be attracted to women.  Smith’s view of the spectrum of human sexuality is so incredibly narrow, that she could not even conceive that her husband, the man she’s spent 10 years in a relationship with, could be bisexual.

I don’t think he wanted to come out because I don’t think he wanted to be gay. Somehow, for him, it was preferable to be bisexual.

Probably because he’s actually bisexual.  It’s this erasure that harms bisexual people so much.  Not just Peter who is in the midst of being erased by his wife, but every other bisexual who reads this awful story and feels that they can’t be bisexual because we’re not real, that they have to deny who they are because the only options are straight or gay.  This erasure leads to the incredibly high rate of domestic violence against bisexual people, as well as higher rates of suicide and drug abuse than gay and lesbian people.

I was happy to believe him. We had a good life, a nice home. I wanted to save our marriage. We went to counselling. We made love.

But every so often I’d have a snoop. And I’d find a ticket to a gay club, or find a receipt for a gay sex toy.

She wanted to believe him, but clearly didn’t trust him.  I don’t actually quite understand what Smith believed.  Clearly her husband was (and presumably still is) attracted to women as well as men.  You know, the definition of bisexuality is attraction to more than one gender, so Peter is doing a great job of that.

Smith’s lack of trust is incredibly grating.  She clearly isn’t interested in communicating honestly with Peter, talking to him about establishing boundaries that make her feel safe, talking about what he does.  No, instead she’s “snooping” through his stuff.  Finding a ticket to a gay club, which might just be where he was hanging out with his non-straight friends, or finding receipts for “gay sex toys”.  I have no idea what gay sex toys actually are.  I assume Smith found receipts for buttplugs or other anal play toys – and if he’s using them himself for his own pleasure, I don’t actually understand what her problem is.

I’m trying to put a time line together of this whole relationship mess, and Smith is not very helpful with that… but anyway

I do feel he stole my adult life away. He could have told me before we got married that he felt he was bisexual and wanted an open marriage. He could have told me when I found the postcard that he was gay and given me the chance to start again. He could have told me that like many men – gay or straight – he didn’t want to be monogamous.

Ok… no one steals your life.  Smith gave her time and energy to this relationship and apart from the time at the end when she was an untrusting, biphobic jerk, she seemed to be happy.  Probably apart from the IVF bit, no one likes that.

Maybe, and Smith doesn’t consider this, Peter didn’t know that he was bisexual when they married each other.  Not everyone realises when they hit sexual maturity that they aren’t the societally expected heterosexual.  People do come out late in life.  Also, nowhere in this whole article does Smith say that Peter actually admitted that he cheated on her.  She believes that he has, and I’m sure she would have included it if that conversation occurred and he’d put his hand up and said yes.  So perhaps Peter, and since we don’t know I can’t say for certain, was entirely monogamous with Smith, and apart from hanging out with LGBTI people (not actually a crime) did everything well.

Also, stop with calling this bisexual man gay.  Peter has said repeatedly that he’s not gay, and Smith’s erasure of that is so wrong.

And apart from the Telegraph actually publishing this awful bit of writing, it’s the bit at the end which adds to the harm:

Straight partners of gay, lesbian and transgender people can find confidential support…

That’s ok, bisexual people are definitely a figment of your imagination. I haven’t provided the link to the email address that appears at the bottom of the article, I am not convinced that providing it would actually be a wise move.

Ok, so that was the first of my rants.  The second article which I noticed pretty much erased bisexuals and called bisexual women lesbians was published by The Guardian, “‘Love is always complicated’: Elizabeth Gilbert and the rise of later-in-life lesbians”.

I want to be completely clear here that I accept that there are women who come out later in life as lesbians, and for their own completely valid reasons did not come out earlier.  I also want to state that I accept that people have the right to label themselves.

The last point I just made has the following thoughts from me though.  If bisexuality wasn’t so incredibly stigmatised as an identity, would more people who are attracted to more than one gender use the label?  There are plenty of other labels under the bisexual umbrella (as several of us call it) that are used such as fluid, pansexual, polysexual, etc.  I think that those who identify with any label that suggests that they are non-monosexual is likely to face the same stigma that bisexuals face.

Later-in-life lesbians – women who identify as lesbians or declare same-sex feelings in their 30s, often after serious relationships, marriage and children – have come more into the public consciousness in recent years, with a string of high-profile women publicly leaving heterosexual relationships for female partners.

“Or declare same-sex feelings”… so those who aren’t identifying as lesbians, and are probably bisexual.  The word bisexual does not appear once in this article.  Not once.  It’s so thoroughly erased that this article pretty much states that if a woman comes out as attracted to other women, she can only be identified as a lesbian.

This is despite the following lovely quote from Susie Orbach:

Susie Orbach, who spent more than 30 years with the writer Joseph Schwartz, and had two children with him, before marrying novelist Jeanette Winterson, writes in the Guardian on Friday: “We are finally beginning to recognise that sexuality is neither a binary nor fixed. That love, attraction, identity, attachment and sexuality are more layered and interesting than they have been allowed to be represented in the public space until now and that as their complexity is opened up to us, the crudity of realising you were always gay or always straight is for many people a nonsense.”

And instead of asking why women don’t want to be labelled despite the fact that it would appear that they are bisexual, and instead of examining how non-lesbian women in same-sex relationships find community and operate in a world where they are being mislabelled, we get:

Jan Gooding, chair of Stonewall and group brand director with insurers Aviva, said that women who shift sexuality later in life are often keen not to be labelled in any way – like Gilbert, who does not explicitly refer to herself as a lesbian in her post but rather declares that she loves another woman.

Gooding speaks from experience: she had been married for 16 years “to a very wonderful man” and had two sons when she fell in love with another woman, but said she feels very protective of her husband and children and previous relationship. “People find it difficult to believe that I could fall in love with a woman out of the blue,” she said. “But it does happen, people haven’t necessarily been holding out until middle age. This idea that everybody knows deep down does a great disservice to individual journeys.”

I would love for more people to seize the identity bisexual, to be like Peter and stay firm, insisting that they are bisexual, not gay, not straight.  To state that there is nothing wrong with being bisexual, and that bisexuality is just another sexual orientation along the spectrum that is human sexuality.  This is why I am out.  This is why I am visible.  I want people to know that they can be bisexual and happy, that they can be in relationships with bisexual people and be happy, and that finding community and belonging are important and healthy things to do.

One day the MSM will get it right, and I’ll keep ranting until they do.

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Tony Abbott – Arsehat of 2015

It’s a big call I know, we’re 43 days into 2015 and there is so much left to go – but in the past few days, today in particular, Tony Abbott, Australia’s current inept, arsehole, Prime Minister, has raced ahead of all other contenders and seized the crown for Arsehat of the Year.  No one else, possibly no one else this decade, will demonstrate how much of an arsehat they are, as Tony has so far this year.

Today, for example, Tones decided that fair trials were things that people who were accused of terrorism did not need:

Despite prominent lawyers calling for restraint in public commentary on the case because of the potential for court proceedings to be prejudiced, Abbott disclosed key details of a briefing from police and security agency chiefs.

On Thursday the president of the New South Wales bar association, Jane Needham SC, urged restraint in publicly commenting on the case, warning that the men may not receive a fair trial.

“The association has concerns about the degree of public comment in the media concerning the two terrorism suspects appearing today in bail proceedings. Such comments have the potential to undermine the proper administration of justice,” Needham said.

“Our courts should be allowed to deal with matters before them without public statements being made that could prejudice subsequent proceedings and we would urge caution in this regard.” (Guardian)

He also, apparently under pressure, but really just because he’s an epic arsehat who engages his brain only rarely, suggested that the previous Labor government, oversaw a “a holocaust of jobs in defence industries”.  Yes he went there, he also subsequently apologised.

Mr Abbott was being pressed in question time about the surge in unemployment and the government’s plans to potentially buy submarines from overseas, instead of commission Australian-built vessels in Adelaide.

The opposition’s workplace spokesman Brendan O’Connor asked Mr Abbott: “South Australia’s unemployment rate has now reached 7.3 per cent.  Prime Minister, when will good government actually start and the Prime Minister deliver on his promise to build submarines in South Australia?”

The Prime Minister went on the offensive, telling Parliament: “Under members opposite defence jobs in this country declined by 10 per cent. There was a holocaust of jobs in defence industries under members opposite.”

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke got to his feet but before he raise a point of order, the Prime Minister withdrew his remark.

“That’s what there was Madame Speaker, jobs, jobs, jobs, I’m sorry if I, I’m sorry and I withdraw Madame Speaker. There was a decimation of jobs,” he said. (SMH)

He also, today, accused Australia’s Human Rights Commission of writing a partisan report, and that it was clearly a stitch-up, something the Human Rights Commission should be ashamed of publishing.  Clearly he also hasn’t read the report, because it covers “nine months of the Gillard and Rudd governments and the first 12 months of the Abbott government. And it references policies in place for a decade.” (Guardian).  While unfairly criticising the Human Rights Commission, he also said the following distasteful bile:

Asked on Fairfax radio on Thursday morning if he felt any guilt over the findings, the prime minister said “none whatsoever”.

“The most compassionate thing you can do is stop the boats,” Abbott said.

“Where was the Human Rights Commission when hundreds of people were drowning at sea [under Labor]?

“This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself.

“I reckon that the Human Rights Commission ought to send a note of congratulations to Scott Morrison to say ‘well done, mate’,” Abbott said. (Guardian)

That’s right, Tony thinks that the HRC should congratulate one of the most inhumane Immigration Ministers that Australia has ever seen (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).

This week also saw Tony being found “shockingly incompetent” by a US think tank.  I’m surprised that a US think tank was even looking at Australia’s political goings on, but clearly Tony and his team are making such monumental arsehats of themselves, that the rest of the world is beginning to pay attention.

A leading United States think tank has published a piece posing the question, “Is Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott the most incompetent leader of any industrialised democracy?” and answering, quite comprehensively, in the affirmative.

Published on the Council on Foreign Relations website before Mr Abbott survived a spill motion on Monday, the piece argues that he has proven so “shockingly incompetent” that he deserved to lose his job.

“Abbott has proven so incapable of clear policy thinking, so unwilling to consult with even his own ministers and advisers, and so poor at communicating that he has to go,” wrote the CFR senior fellow Joshua Kurlantzick, a US specialist in south-east Asian politics. (SMH)

Also this week, because it is an epic week of Tony being an epic arsehat, in response to the Closing the Gap report, he said that, “indigenous Australians must “grasp” the opportunity to close the gap of disadvantage and not expect it to be granted by government” (The Australian).  This is despite the ongoing racist policies and legislation enacted by the Government such as The Intervention, continued child removal, and the cutting of Government funds towards services aimed at improving Indigenous Australian lives.  Amy McGuire at New Matilda has more:

“Closing the gap is not something to be granted by this Parliament to Indigenous Australians; closing the gap is to be grasped by them.”

This is smoke and mirrors of the highest order, because it assumes blackfellas have some sort of choice. It assumes they have an ability to “grasp” this lifeline extended from HMAS Abbott, when in reality they are being left in the sea to drown.

If you dig into report, and it really isn’t hard given it is only 20-pages long, you’ll find a much more insidious agenda at play.

According to the report, the removal of CDEP resulted in a 60 percent decline in Indigenous employment rates. But governments have continually failed to view CDEP jobs as real employment, even though they kept Aboriginal people active and engaged, and paid real wages through ‘top up’.

The Remote Jobs and Community Program (RJCP) replaced CDEP in remote areas, and effectively takes Aboriginal people back to the days before award wages.

And finally, for this blog post at least, Tony is going to be investigated by the audit office for a federal budget proposal:

Tony Abbott’s decision to hand over $3 billion of public money for the East West Link without a rigorous benefit-cost analysis will be formally investigated by the national audit office.

Auditor-General Ian McPhee is apparently so keen to pursue the issue after making preliminary inquiries with Infrastructure Australia and the Department of Infrastructure that he adjusted the audit work program to accelerate his investigation.

The promise of $3 billion appeared to breach a Federal Coalition promise made before the 2013 election that there would be no Commonwealth infrastructure projects of more than $100 million without a rigorous benefit-cost analysis.

Mr Albanese said taxpayers deserved to know what due diligence process Mr Abbott undertook before deciding to fund the project.

“Based on documents released by the Andrews government, the Napthine government sought to conceal its business case from the Commonwealth and then attempted to cook the books to make the East West project look worthwhile,” Mr Albanese said.

“It also appears Mr Abbott did nothing to satisfy himself that the project represented value for public money.” (The Age)

This has just been one week in the Prime Ministership of Tony Abbott.  Given he survived a leadership spill with no clear alternative on Monday (it’s only Thursday now), I don’t imagine with more weeks like this under his belt that he’ll be around for much longer.  My eyebrows would appreciate him not being around much longer given they’re tired of being raised so frequently, I’m worried that soon they will start living on the back of my head.  Ideally he and his party would also vanish up their own arses when Tony is removed from leadership, but we’ll have to put up with their continued wreckage for a bit longer.

For everyone else who got this far, here is the tracker of all the promises that Tony has broken since his election, and the details of the mess he’s made.

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It’s time (again) to stop using gay as an umbrella term

In an almost good article, arguing for continued inclusion of Trans* people, writer Tyler Curry fucks the rest of the article up by excluding bisexuals and intersex people.  Because the Huffington Post now requires you to link your Facebook profile to their site for you to comment, you now get an entire blog post growling about this issue instead of a comment on Huffington Post as I don’t have a Facebook account.

Look, I don’t even this article… Trans* people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight, and they are a multidimensional part of the LGBTIQ community, a vital one that should be included and celebrated.  If you’re a transphobic arsehat that doesn’t agree then you should not be part of the LGBTIQ community.

If you’re going to write an article championing the continued inclusion (as if you could exclude them) of T, then you perhaps should examine your article and ensure that it’s completely inclusive and not excluding any other group, such as intersex (I), or bisexuals (B).  Tyler uses “gay and lesbian” and sometimes just “gay” to mean LGBTIQ, and we should beyond using gay as an umbrella term and making invisible lesbians, bisexuals, and intersex people.  Tyler uses bisexual once when referring to the “gay rights movement”… not “the LGBTIQ rights movement”, not the “queer rights movement”, no the “gay rights movement” because apparently they’re the rights that matter the most?  Tyler also seems to be completely oblivious to the existence of intersex people in the LGBTIQ community, as well as those who prefer to identify as queer.

This article is fail on so many levels, I’m disappointed in Tyler Curry and HuffPo (as usual) for failing to get it right.

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Just no

I found Daniel Stacey’s article on Daily Life titled, “Does The Hunger Games perpetuate ugly LGBT stereotypes?” and went “what, but… I don’t even… huh… does this even make sense anymore?”

As a bisexual, I appreciate that Stacey is attempting to have my back and protect me from homophobia (though not biphobia and there is absolutely no mention of transphobia in the article), but I think he doesn’t have sufficient historical knowledge to understand the Capitol and their wealth in context.  Stacey seems to think that men who wear flamboyant clothing and makeup are foppish and effeminate, and that women who wear extravagent makeup are dressing like drag queens, which doesn’t sound at all homophobic.

The context that Stacey is missing is that historically the incredibly wealthy (generally the nobility) wore extravagant clothes and makeup.  In pre-Revoluntionary France Kings Louis XV and XVI lived lives of decadence, wearing fine laces, silks, brocade, wigs, and makeup, because that’s what was done.  The unadorned man is actually a very recent invention.  Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games Trilogy (I assume Stacey hasn’t read them) makes it clear how wealthy the citizens of Capitol are compared to those who live in the Districts.  As King Louis XVI’s court was physically separated from the poor and starving in Paris, so the Capitol’s citizens are distant and separated from the poor of the Districts.  As King Louis’s XVI court spent far too much money on clothes, make up and food, while the poor starved and agitated in Paris, those in the Capitol do exactly the same while those in the District start to agitate for change.

The story is not about homophobia, the story is about what happens when you treat a large portion of your population with contempt, put them in arenas to kill each other, while forcing them to watch, and letting them starve while you keep all the good things for yourself.  In the books and in the movies, those of Capitol are displayed as incredibly wealthy, incredibly unaware (for the most part) of the privileged position they hold, and that they view those of the Districts as toys versus actual people.

The Hunger Games and stories are really a cross between the Roman Empire and it’s circuses and the pre-Revolutionary French monarchy’s disregard for the lower classes.  If you read homophobia into that, then I’d suggest it’s your own internalised homophobia.

Stacey’s comparison of The Hunger Games to the movie 300 is also weird.  300 (the movie) was based on the comic book 300, written by Frank Miller..  Stacey claims that 300 was racist and well on the surface that’s indeed true, but again ignores history.

The comic is a fictional retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to it from the perspective of Leonidas of Sparta. 300 was particularly inspired by the 1962 film The 300 Spartans, a movie that Miller watched as a young boy.[1] The work was adapted in 2006 to a film of the same name. [Wikipedia]

When you have a story about one group of people going to war with another group of people, one of those groups is always going to be painted as the bad people, and generally it’s going to be based on where they’re from or the reason they’re warring in the first place (wrong religion, wrong wife, wrong coloured socks, etc).

To conclude, Stacey needs to learn more history and stop judging things after a few seconds of thought.  Perhaps he should also ask some other LGBTIQ people their opinions on the movie before spending several hundred words writing a mostly incomprehensible article about non-existent homophobia (and biphobia and transphobia) and alluding to racism in movies for reasons that aren’t very clear.

The comments on this article (at least the first page) are pretty good for a change, and it’s refreshing to read a whole lot of people go, “What, why did you even!!!” at someone I’m doing the same thing to.

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Bigotry masqurading as rational arguments

It’s not often I bother to click on a link tweeted by ABC Religion and Ethics because far too often I find myself suffering serious eye-roll, if not rage.  Sometimes they have articles worth reading, today’s effort by Roger Scruton and Phillip Blond (two UK writers) was not one of them.

The article was florid and pretentious, using language and terms that many people would struggle with, but the worst thing is that the article was masquerading as a balanced view on marriage, which instead came across as sexist, gender essentialist and a bit homo, bi and trans* phobic.  I suspect that most people would have been put off by the language use, I almost was, and perhaps for my rage levels I should have let myself be – curse my stubbornness.

Continue reading Bigotry masqurading as rational arguments

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Bad journalism #20,134

Instead of writing a researched article which looked at the current impact that the lack of recent rainfall has had on the city of Melbourne and how that lack of rainfall has contributed to Melbourne’s current water usage, Jason Dowling at The Age decided to write instead, “Is the wally back? Melbourne water use surges“, based on the “Don’t be a Wally with water” campaign to reduce water usage during drought in Melbourne. From Dowling’s article:

HAS Melbourne turned back into a city of water wallies?

After years of conserving water, the city’s usage has surged this year.

A hot summer and easing water restrictions have coincided with a big jump in water use. In the week to January 10, Melburnians used an average of 238 litres per person – 50 per cent more than the former daily usage target of 155 litres a day.

It was the highest weekly per capita water use since the week ending February 15, 2009, when 241 litres a day were used.

In the week ending Thursday, average daily water use per person was 225 litres, 45 per cent above the former 155 target.

It’s not just a hot summer that has led to a big increase in water usage and it’s not just the easing of water restrictions that has led to a big increase in water usage – it’s the complete lack of rain.  As of writing this post, Melbourne has received a whole 0.6mm of rain* in January 2013.  The monthly average for January** is 47.6mm – I don’t see Melbourne even approaching that much rain in the remaining days of January.  In December, Melbourne received 30mm of rain *** with the average rainfall for that month being 59.3mm – only slightly over half the monthly rainfall.  Again in November, Melbourne received 37.2mm of rain ****, the monthly average being 60.3mm, and so on and so on – all these things that Dowling could have actually researched.

As there aren’t harsh water restrictions in place, because in 2011 and early 2012 many parts of Victoria flooded, which was great for water catchments, people are keeping their gardens alive while waiting for it to rain again.  And waiting they are, because the Bureau of Meteorology are already suggesting that parts of eastern Australia are going into drought.

When Dowling approached the Water Minister in relation to the recent increase of water usage, they replied:

Water Minister Peter Walsh denied there had been a cultural shift in Melbourne back to heavy water use. ”Melbourne has had some very hot days recently, we haven’t had a lot of rain, and it’s summer. It is not uncommon for water use to peak during such hot and dry conditions,” he said.

”After restrictions eased to permanent water saving rules last November, water use generally has continued to trend at similar levels, which indicates that the lessons Melbourne customers learnt during the drought about using water wisely have stayed with them.”

It’s also school holidays and we’re fortunate enough to have a heat dome over much of inland Australia.  When this heat dome wanders to the outer edges of our island nation people are going to do what they can to keep themselves and their children cool.  Water is an excellent method of cooling down.  People are also going to be drinking more, using evaporative air conditioners more, showering more frequently and using more water to stay comfortable and alive.

This article by Dowling should have focused on the whys of Melbourne’s increased water usage and asked why it isn’t raining (climate change), and how the heat dome has formed (failed monsoon – climate change), and perhaps even asked a meteorologist to explain how failed monsoons impact on rainfall in the rest of Australia.  This article could have been a very useful vehicle for educating people about how and why rain falls across Australia, and perhaps asked more about whether our water usage is sustainable if the continent is going to continue to dry out.

Perhaps instead of Dowling blaming people for watering their gardens with drinking water, using drinking water to cool themselves and their children down (if any), and using more water around the house, Dowling should look at the broader and more interesting story.  That’s journalism, this article falls far short.

 

* January rainfall figures taken from Bureau of Meteorology

** Mean rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

*** December rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

**** November rainfall figures taken from the Bureau of Meteorology

 

 

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