IT DOES GET BETTER

I support marriage equality and LGBT equality because I am a bisexual transgender woman, It took me until I was 22 (I am almost 24 now) to finally feel comfortable enough to come out to my friends and family. I long suffered depression and attempted suicide.  It’s been a long road to finally be able to begin my transition and progress. After a great deal of hard work and a lot of love and support from my friends, family and support groups and professionals, I am now studying at university to complete my Bachelor of Education.   I hope to be that teacher that made such a tremendous positive difference in my life while I was at school, and I hope to be able to offer that support, empathy and compassion to all students, but especially young LGBT children who may be struggling with their sexuality and gender identity. On that note, my journey in many ways illustrates why the Safe Schools program is so vital to the social and emotional well being of LGBT students, I never had that while I was at school and there was very little support. If LGBT students are to be able to get a fair and equitable education, they need the support that Safe Schools offers and the support which the Coalition and its conservative faction have tried so hard to destroy, defund and dismantle. To any young LGBT kids out there who are reading this. Please, I implore you, do not give up on yourselves! I know it probably seems like a cliche, something you’ve heard time and time again, but it truly does get better! Your lives in school are difficult and stressful, but you will be surprised at just how quickly you leave that life behind when you graduate. Change is happening, even if we struggle to see it at times.  If nobody has ever said this to you, please allow me to say it to you… You are loved, you are special, there is nothing that you can’t do.

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Refuting the “bullshit” of Pauline Hanson

“I said they [Indigenous people] receive privileges that other people don’t receive because they’re Aboriginal, which is true and you cannot deny that.”
 
Privileges like being discriminated against and subject to racism ? Privileges like enjoying a far lower life expectancy, educational outcomes, poor health in large part due to decades of governmental neglect and extremely poor policies with poor consultation? Somebody clearly doesn’t understand that until a level playing field exists, one cannot call it privilege as the rationale behind said “privileges” is to help end the above disparities I have listed.
 
“Along with millions of Australians, I am fed up to the back teeth with the inequalities that are being promoted by the government and paid for by the taxpayer under the assumption that Aboriginals are the most disadvantaged people in Australia.”
 
It’s not an assumption, it’s a fact. As I stated above, the “benefits” of being Aboriginal include a far lower life expectancy than white Australians, poorer educational outcomes, being subject to racial abuse and institutionalized and systemic racism in all facets of life like employment, education, health and justice to name a few examples. 
 
“This nation is being divided into black and white, and the present system encourages this. I am fed up with being told, ‘this is our land.’ Well, where the hell do I go? I was born here, and so were my parents and children.”
 
No where, just stop treating everyone else who also calls this country of ours their home so disgustingly. We’re a multiracial, multicultural nation and the first people and cultures in this land were those of our Indigenous Australian compatriots, you should respect that.
 
“I will work beside anyone and they will be my equal, but I draw the line when told I must pay and continue paying for something that happened over 200 years ago. Like most Australians, I worked for my land; no-one gave it to me.”
 
No, it was stolen from the Indigenous Australians when Europeans invaded and colonized this country in 1788 and this was confirmed when Terra Nullius was finally overturned. The effects of the above are still felt by Indigenous Australians today in the same way African Americans cannot be expected to simply “get over” the effects of 400 years of slavery and racial oppression with a few decades of painful progress and 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
 
“I do not believe that the color of one’s skin determines whether you are disadvantaged.”
 
What you believe is irrelevant and inconsequential, you also believe that vaccines cause autism (debunked) and that climate change is bullshit (refuted by decades of research and a consensus of climate scientists 97%) You don’t believe skin color can be the cause of disadvantage because the simple reality is that you are white and enjoy privilege simply because of that reality, it’s easy to dismiss that which doesn’t affect you. Has your life been hard? perhaps, but it hasn’t been hard because of the color of your skin, that’s the difference.
“Flying two Australian flags is extremely divisive. We should be united under the one flag, the Australian flag.”
 
Then we should have a referendum on a new flag which does just that, having the Union Jack and its imperialist and colonial legacy on our flag is extremely divisive. 
“If you want to live the traditional way of life, I believe you can do that, but people here, who are as white as I am, and have the blue eyes, whatever, and claim Aboriginality to have all the benefits that go with it – I’m totally opposed to it.”

Then perhaps this country shouldn’t have engaged in policies which systematically aimed to ‘breed’ Aboriginals out of existence. The language used to describe this Is particularly disturbing and genocidal and I quote “Early in Australia’s history legislation was passed in most states to deal specifically with an “Aboriginal problem’.” Solonec, Cindy, (2013) The use of the phrase “Aboriginal problem” Is a familiar one when talking about acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide, It has been used to describe numerous racial minorities who have been subject to genocide, the Kurdish problem, the Jewish problem, the Armenian problem… It dehumanizes these people and weakens the empathy of ordinary people who too come to see other human beings as a “problem” to be solved, disposed of and erased.

References:
[https://www.buzzfeed.com/allanclarke/pauline-hanson-and-indigenous-australia?utm_term=.rilvLwqay#.jrALoWaQY]
[https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-354182124/proper-mixed-up-miscegenation-among-aboriginal-australians]

Illusive peace In a world on fire

(I thought I would share something I wrote a little while ago).

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I often feel a strong, pensive sadness when I reflect on just how unjust, how cruel and brutal this world now is. We live in a world which holds the accumulation of ever-greater wealth above access to clean water for the world’s most vulnerable and poor. We live in a world where states are more concerned about the cost of implementing environmental protections than they are about protecting the very environment which we are completely and utterly dependent on for our survival as a species. Yet when I look around, I see people who are apathetic and disillusioned, who have all but given up on my future, on your future and on the future of humanity itself. We see people and governments that simply do not care, we see grandparents who have this selfish and callous attitude “oh well… it doesn’t affect me, I’ll be dead soon” while they’re condemning their family and their children to a future of hopelessness and despair, a future in which they will struggle to breathe as this planet steadily marches to its premature death. I quote the punk rock band Bad Religion and their song Kyoto Now! When I say, “we can’t do nothing and think someone else will make it right”.

It’s now 1:56 am on Saturday the 5th of March in Perth, Western Australia and as the minutes slowly go by, I am sitting at my desk contemplating that in the tens of thousands of years that modern humans have lived on this Earth, have fanned out across this globe as they have migrated across the seas and oceans, we still have yet to kick our most enduring habit. In 2016 wars continue to rage across this planet of ours. In Ukraine pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian Military continue to kill each other in the war-ravaged regions of Donetsk and Luhansk which were once home to almost 7 million people. The region is now a shattered and dead region, the fighting has displaced millions, cost the lives of almost ten thousand people and left the region in severe economic depression and a state of lawlessness. In Syria a brutal conflict that has been raging non-stop for almost five years, the human cost in Syria is as staggering as it is horrifying, the exact number of people killed in this horrific conflict is difficult to determine, but the truth lay somewhere between 270,000 and 450,000 lives. Every person had a story of their own to tell, a life unique, they had families, jobs and dreams. They were people, not just numbers on a ledger, not just statistics to be looked over. A quote often misattributed to Plato is extremely relevant, “only the dead have seen the end of war”.
Despite these terrible conflicts which continue to rage with seemingly no end in sight and precious few options which might lead to a resolution, I cannot help but notice some very disturbing historical parallels. In 1933 Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) rose to power in Germany and soon seized absolute power with the passing of an enabling act which for all intents and purposes gave Hitler unlimited and absolute power, power he grasped and took hold of with determination unlike anyone seen before or since. When he took power, he along with what would become one of the most powerful and infamous organizations in history, the Schutzstaffel (SS) would soon make life in Nazi Germany unbearable for German Jews. They became the scapegoats, the target of vicious propaganda, hateful crimes, violence and the victim of extremely prejudicial and discriminatory laws. These laws prohibited Jews from being doctors to Aryan Germans, owning property, teaching Aryan German children in German schools. Within a few years, Hitler and the Nazi regime had made certain that there was no place in Nazi Germany for Jews. That was 83 years ago.
Today, we turn on our televisions, we read the news on our smartphones, and we see a man campaigning in the US presidential election who proposes building a wall across the border with Mexico in order to keep out illegal immigrants, never mind the positive economic benefit these people have had to the US economy. We listen, shocked as this same man proposes banning Muslims from entering the United States because of extremely irrational fears of Islamic terrorism. He says this while white Americans occupied Federal buildings in a lengthy standoff with law enforcement in what can only be described as yet another case of white, right wing domestic terrorism in the United States. Every dictator needs a scapegoat; how else can they propose such overly simplistic solutions to solve the problems they claim we face if they haven’t got someone to blame for these problems? Hitler blamed the Jews for Germany’s economic woes, he blamed them for the ‘stab in the back’, the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War. The hatred, the bigotry and extreme prejudice would lead to one of the world’s worst genocides, the Holocaust.
And yet what have we learned from our troubled past? In the 20th century we had the Armenian Genocide, Holodomor, the Holocaust, genocide in Guatemala, Rwanda just to name some of the worst examples. It starts with a perceived historical injustice, a stain on national honour that needs to be avenged, the rhetoric and the language escalates as does the war of words until the tensions flare and boil over and the blood-letting begins. And at that point we see ordinary people who know right from wrong turned into criminals and inhuman monsters capable of the worst evil imaginable. We see neighbours and friends denouncing and betraying those they once called friends as the us versus them mentality well and truly sets in.
The stark truth that we may not want to hear, is that we have learned nothing from our past, despite the lessons we can learn from our genocidal past. We choose not to heed these lessons and time and time again we as people, as nation-states fall into that same tired old trap. We fall for the baited rhetoric, the promises of solutions to our problems, the false promise that by electing these individuals, that the government that we perceive to have long since ceased to be working for us, will be fixed, the system will be fixed and that somehow desperate times demand desperate measures. As we saw in the Stanford Prison experiment and the Milgram’s experiment, when put in positions of power and situations where the pressure to follow orders, even if we know these orders to be wrong, to be immoral, the majority of people will follow orders, even to the point of inflicting severe harm, resulting in death upon innocent people. We see how power corrupts absolutely and that once innocent and normal human beings can be made to perform acts of unspeakable cruelty on their fellow human beings.
And yet, despite the every-day scenes of violence, hatred, bigotry and oppression. I am always confronted with examples of human beings who display incredibly bravery, kindness and compassion. Who display true love and empathy towards their compatriots. The world is not devoid of love, empathy and compassion. But it is in trying times like those we face today, that we need to draw upon those reserves of love, compassion and empathy, of tolerance, respect and kindness in order to try and create even a modicum of positive change. We cannot simply give in to apathy and selfishness and think that other people are going to do what we are unwilling to do. We can all make a difference, but one first has to want to make a difference.

Written by Samantha-Jane Rose.

Safe Schools Deserve Our Support

The Coalition currently spends 248 million dollars on the National School Chaplaincy Program which provides religious, pastoral care to our children in public schools. Yes, you read that correctly, the NSCP provides religious, pastoral care for students in our public schools. Schools HAVE to hire religious pastors or nothing at all, they are not given a choice to use the funding provided to purchase the services of secular, professionally trained mental health workers such as psychiatrists and psychologists but are instead made to hire religious pastors or somehow find the funding to provide an actual mental healthcare professional themselves.

This is despite the NSCP being found to be unconstitutional in a 2012 high court challenge and again in another successful challenge in 2014. This is despite a 2014 petition against the NSCP being signed by over 180,000 Australians. This is despite some pastors handing out literature condemning homosexuality as wrong and condoms as ineffective contraception not to mention numerous complaints concerning pastors using their position to recruit children to Christianity and to proselytize.

One of the main criticism made against the Safe Schools Program from far right Coalition members of parliament like Cori Bernardi and George Christiansen, has been that the Safe Schools Program allegedly indoctrinates students and exposes them to this so called ‘gay agenda’. Given that the Coalition has long supported religious, pastoral ‘care’ in our public (secular) schools, even when this program has been challenged successfully in the High Court of Australia, not once, but twice and found to be unconstitutional on both counts, it strikes me as particularly galling and hypocritical, that the same people that have long stood by that program and defended it, not attack a program that provides much needed care and support to some of our most vulnerable and at risk children, despite this program being supported by groups like Beyond Blue and leading psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, whilst receiving a paltry 8 million in federal funding. Frankly, their attacks are as appalling as is their lack of a moral compass.

Our schools NEED to be inclusive, they NEED to be safe, not just for heterosexual, cisgender kids, but for the gay and lesbian kids, the bisexual and trans* kids and for anyone that simply doesn’t quite fit into that gender binary of male/female. These kids are among the most vulnerable in our society and they not only deserve our support and compassion, they have a right to feel safe, accepted and included at school, they have a right to an education like any other child. And it sickens me, it utterly sickens me that adults, politicians who are in positions of great power, can attack, denigrate and BULLY, vulnerable children, simply because they ARE LGBTQIA.

Cori Bernardi, Eric Abetz, George Christiansen, watch yourselves, because while those kids you’re bullying in school might not yet be of voting age, people like me ARE! I vote, I pay taxes like everyone else. And let it be clear. I am on the fucking warpath. ‪#‎SupportSafeSchoolsProgram‬‪#‎OneTermTories‬

Wealth, Welfare and Privilege

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the world “Welfare” as meaning “a government program for poor or unemployed people that helps pay for their food, housing, medical costs, etc. The state of being happy, healthy, or successful.” How is it that we here in Australia have been so easily led down the path of demonizing and stigmatizing the working poor and unemployed who rely upon our welfare system for their continued survival?

For years we have been exposed to and saturated by tabloid newspapers and so called current affairs programs reporting cases of dole bludgers, welfare parasites, scroungers, welfare cheats, scammers, frauds… the list goes on.  This has led to a culture and an atmosphere in which demonizing and stigmatizing those that rely on welfare is seen as something that is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged.

It amazes me how dare I say rabid some people become when whipped into a frenzy by the media, the contribution the media has made to the tone of public discourse regarding welfare in Australia isn’t something we should be proud of, it’s something we should be ashamed of as it has contributed to a system which is designed to fail those most in need of its assistance and compassionate treatment.

We are continually bombarded with rhetoric from the political right and the current Coalition government in which they tell us at length, the ‘age of entitlement’ is over, that we must tighten our belt as a nation. There have been untold billions cut from things as important as health, education, aged care, welfare and foreign aid. Yet nothing has been said about the 12 billion dollars being spent to acquire 72 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Royal Australian Air Force and unsurprisingly, little has been said regarding the 500 million that will be spent annually to sustain the Australian contribution to the war against ISIS in Iraq.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald “There were 579 local and foreign-based companies that paid no tax in 2013-14 which had a combined turnover of $405.9 billion and a taxable income of $4 billion.” and yet  the working poor in Australia face the duel threats of having their penalty rates for Saturdays and Sundays slashed and a potentially devastating increase of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from 10 percent to 15 percent, ideas which both enjoy considerable support within the Coalition despite considerable anger and angst in the community at the mere consideration of these ideas.

It’s abundantly clear to me that the government is exploiting the Australian public’s well established fears of immigration and international terrorism to ramp up military spending and intervention at the expense of and to the detriment of our cherished social institutions, our public education system, medicare and our welfare system. This comes as no surprise to me, I don’t want to describe myself as a hardened skeptic, but in my short time on this Earth and even shorter time as someone politically engaged and active, I have long since learned that the Coalition has a simple yet often devastatingly effective way of destroying our public assets and programs.

They gradually defund them which leads to a degraded quality of service which in turn leads to increasingly dissatisfied clientele who make use of those services and often at that point these services cease to be services and are sold off and privatized. At that point the quality of service deteriorates further as the service is expected to run at a profit and at that point its far too late to for anyone to do anything to stop it. The Coalition likes to tout itself as good economic managers, yet the reality is that most of the surpluses they have delivered have been delivered on the back of massive sell offs of government owned assets and Australians have suffered because of their shortsighted attitudes and lack of long term thinking.

In closing, It’s easy to fall into the trap of denigrating the working poor and unemployed  because of the attitudes and views so prevalent in the media today, but when one scrutinizes this issue more closely, one soon discovers that corporate welfare, corporate tax avoidance and expenses scandals of the political elite are easily a far more significant issue and drain on our economy. I implore you to think on this carefully before you go to vote at the next election because it’s not just your welfare at stake but the welfare and future of all Australians young and old.

Our 2015 of Discontent.

As we enter 2016, as one year ends and another begins anew, I pause to reflect on a tumultuous year in Australia. 2015 saw the fall of Tony Abbott, a man praised as one of the most effective opposition leaders in the history of Australian politics, yet who when given the reigns of power and the responsibility to lead a nation, failed so completely and miserably.  Despite his effectiveness in opposition, his ‘Captain’s calls’ and poor leadership skills made him a prime minister destined to fail.  Poor decisions and disastrous budgets ultimately served to make his position untenable as he struggled with deep an sustained unpopularity in opinion polls.  On the 14th of September, 2015 Malcolm Turnbull defeats the sitting Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a leadership ballot 54-44.

The swift demise of Tony Abbott and the swearing in of Malcolm Turnbull as the 29th Prime Minister of Australia was the latest in a string of depositions of sitting Prime Ministers which began when then Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard defeated the similarly unpopular Kevin Rudd who had come  to power on the promise of abolishing the deeply unpopular and hugely controversial laws known as Work Choices which severely damaged the rights and protections of workers. Julia Gillard would go on to form government in 2010 despite a hung parliament only to be deposed herself by none other than Kevin Rudd in a leadership spill, but who was then himself subsequently defeated in the 2013 Federal Election.

This period of instability was quite unlike anything before or since in Australian politics. Never before has Australian politics been so bitter, partisan and dare I say, nasty.  Since 2007 the standard of debate in parliament, in our senate has deteriorated rapidly from respectful and reasonable dialogue to bitter and partisan attacks, wolf whistling and cat calling, derogatory and defamatory remarks, not to mention one of the most partisan and biased speakers in Australian political history in Bronwyn Bishop who was later forced to resign amid the furore of her expenses scandal.

Malcolm Turnbull’s rise to our highest office was supposed to have changed everything. His supporters have set out to polish an image of him as a modern and progressive leader and to some extent this is true when one compares him to the stark conservatism of his predecessor. But the reality speaks for itself.  The Coalition which is comprised of the Liberal Party of Australia led by Malcolm Turnbull and the Nationals led by Warren Truss is in reality a party writhen by bitter and acrimonious divisions, the Liberal Party is a party divided by factions despite the claims of its current leader, the very thing that it so hypocritically attacked the Labor Party for during the very public implosion it experienced while in government.

The closer I examine his policies, the more I come to the conclusion that his policies are largely  a continuation of the Abbott government’s policies and this can be directly attributed to the strong influence and power the conservative faction which supported Tony Abbott still holds over the party. Since becoming Prime Minister, he has recommitted to Tony Abbott’s thoroughly discredited Direct Action approach to tackling Climate Change and recommitted to Tony Abbott’s bizarre plan to hold a 158 million dollar non-binding plebiscite on Same Sex Marriage instead of pursuing legislative change in parliament which would still be required pending a successful result in a national plebiscite, both these policies significantly harm his reputation as a progressive politician.

Just before Christmas Australian families were hit by the news that the Federal Government would be abandoning the agreement it has with our states and territories to provide funding for our schools under a new funding model which came into existence as a recommendation of the Gonski Review. This effectively means that our public schools will stand to lose billions in funding and will leave our students and teachers worse off and in an extraordinary attack on our education system, he claimed that teacher quality, not funding was the key to a better education system, these actions showed just how little faith the Coalition has in our hard working teachers and our education system as a whole.

For the Coalition, attacks on the futures of our children and their schools wasn’t enough. The Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption and the Productivity Commission recently handed down their ‘findings’ which recommended among other things the cutting of Sunday penalty rates to bring them in line with Saturday penalty rates which would hit some of our hardest working and lowest paid workers hard and decrease the pay they take home and furthermore recommended greater government control over trade unions despite the bias and conflict of interest of Dyson Heydon who oversaw the Royal Commission. Heydon was known as a conservative judge, and has spoken out against what he terms “judicial activism”. His publicly expressed views, made while a New South Wales judge, were described by contemporaneous commentators as a “job application”for appointment to the High Court by the government of Liberal Party Prime Minister John Howard.

Let’s ponder this for a moment, Onthe 13th of March, 2014 Dyson Heydon was appointed as the SOLE commissioner for the Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption. He was a CONSERVATIVE former Justice of the High Court of Australia, appointed by one of the most conservative Prime Ministers since John Howard who was a part of a Coalition government which has a strong and sordid history of anti-union actions. The most notable of these actions occurred during the years of the former Howard government in 1998 when the Federal Government led by John Howard conspired with the stevedoring company, Patrick Stevedores to sack the entire unionized workforce on docks controlled by them and replace them with non-union labor. The Maritime Union of Australia eventually defeated Patrick Stevedores in Australia’s highest court in what was almost Australia’s  ‘1984 UK Miner’s Strike’.

Recently it was revealed that some 597 companies in Australia  worth one hundred million or more had payed no tax in Australia.  Yet ordinary Australians have had to endure savage austerity.  Tens of billions of dollars have been cut from  foreign aid, aged care, health, education, climate action, Aboriginal Affairs and numerous other portfolios and areas in desperate need of more funding and or at the very least keeping the current level of funding that they had.

Glencore, Peabody Energy, Rio Tinto and  BHP Billiton, in total, these four companies received 311 million in corporate welfare. This could have funded the cuts to the tune of 304.5 million to Arts funding, public services, Home-based carer subsidies, the Community Childcare Fund, the Higher Education Participation Scheme, Fair Entitlements Guarantee Payments, the Australian Crime Commission, the Mature Age Employment Program, the Clean Energy Regulator, the Radiation Oncology Program, National Rural and Remote Health Infrastructure and Income Support Payments. All of which had their funding slashed by the Abbott/Turnbull program of savage austerity. And I wish I could say that was it, it unfortunately is only the tip of the iceberg. 597 companies in Australia worth 100 million or more payed no tax.

I am angry, I am dismayed and above all I am so bitterly disappointed in the Turnbull government. I expected shortsighted and savage austerity and class warfare from the arch-conservative faction led by Tony Abbott, but I did dare to hope that your ascension to our nation’s highest office might offer a glimmer of hope for change. I had hoped that your swearing in might lead to a little more empathetic and compassionate government. I have never been more deeply saddened to say how unequivocally wrong I was to have contemplated that a so called progressive coalition prime minister might bring with it an ounce of compassion and empathy for Australia’s young, her old and unwell, her working poor and those who come here in need of our help and understanding. I was wrong.

Samantha-Jane Rose

 

War Is Over

Humanity’s very existence has been shaped by its constant desire for war. It has to be one of our most enduring customs which despite so much effort, we can never seem to shake. There have been far too many moments in human history where it appeared we might finally have had enough, where we seemed almost willing to listen and talk instead of thrusting with the bayonet and filling our fellow human beings with hot lead… a mere 76 years since the beginning of the Second World War, the deadliest conflict in human history, we seem to have learned nothing, still we fight against each other for things as petty as nationalism, pride and politics, we still resort to violence when we should listen, to military force when we should be giving diplomacy a chance to succeed. We must come together, we must unify and show solidarity, we must end war or war will end us.

“When I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the rover
From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in 1915 my country said: Son,
It’s time to stop rambling, there’s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war “

“And the battle’s just begun
There’s many lost, but tell me who has won
The trench is dug within our hearts
And mothers, children, brothers, sisters
Torn apart”

“And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And night time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M.16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me – I was only nineteen”

“We came in spastic
Like tameless horses
We left in plastic
As numbered corpses
And we learned fast
To travel light
Our arms were heavy
But our bellies were tight

We had no home front
We had no soft soap
They sent us Playboy
They gave us Bob Hope
We dug in deep
And shot on sight
And prayed to Jesus Christ
With all of our might”

“Oh those that were living just tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
While around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
And when I awoke in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
I never knew there was worse things than dying

Oh no more I’ll go Waltzing Matilda
All around the green bush far and near
For to hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

They collected the wounded, the crippled, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind and the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And when the ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where me legs used to be
And thank Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity “

“A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Xmas”Light Horseman picking Poppies.

It’s time for gun control

In an age where gun control in Australia is once again under threat and renewed pressure I want to share a passage from the autobiography of one of Australia’s most conservative political leaders and 25th Prime Minister.

SEIZING THE DAY ON GUNS

“On 28 April 1996, Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, using two weapons – a semiautomatic Armalite rifle and a semiautomatic SKS assault weapon – killed 35 people on a murderous rampage in remote and eerie Port Arthur, Tasmania. Formerly a desolate penal colony in the early years of the nation, it was a popular tourist destination. The murders on that quite Sunday shocked Australia and the world. It was the largest number of people who had died in a single series of incidents at the hands of one person. The whole nation reeled in disbelief for weeks afterwards.

The Tasmanian government and police had the primary responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of the shooting, although there was no doubt as to where the ultimate responsibility would lie, The scale of the massacre gave it a national dimension, Tony Rundle, the Tasmanian Premier, rang me at Kirribilli House a few hours after the slaughter had occurred and asked that I come to Tasmania as soon as possible, visit the scene of the mass murder and associate myself with his government’s response. Even at that preliminary stage, we briefly discussed the adequacy of Tasmania’s gun laws. Although banned in some states, the weapons used by Bryant were not banned in Tasmania. Gun laws were then a hodge-podge, lacking both consistency and uniformity.”

“In one of my headland speeches, on 6 June 1995, I had argued for tougher gun laws in Australia, having for some time believed that we should do all we could to avoid going down the terrible American path, where the ready availability of firearms of all descriptions was directly responsible for the very high murder rate in that country. Although I knew that laws on the availability and use of firearms were exclusively state responsibilities, except in relation to imports, the scale of the massacre gave me pause to reflect. I began to give thought to the possibility of a national initiative to tighten those laws.” – John Howard, Lazurus Rising.

That was nineteen years ago and since that day all those years ago, Australia has been fortunate to have not suffered another tragic massacre like Port Arthur.  Tragically however the same cannot be said for the United States. Horrific massacres leaving innocent people dead have become common place in the United States. Despite the shooting deaths of hundreds of innocent men, women and children, America has become numb to the senseless shooting deaths of its citizens, those deaths have tragically become the necessary cost for having the right to bear arms.  It’s a sad indictment on the United States that despite more of its citizens having died from firearm related deaths than have died serving her armed forces in foreign and domestic conflicts, meaningful gun control remains illusive, no doubt due to the partisan nature of her politics and the toxic influence of the National Rifle Association on the debate surrounding gun control in America. Americans should be able to go to college and feel safe, they should be able to walk in public without fear, they should be able to attend church without fear of a gun wielding man going on a murderous rampage. Yet sadly, that is exactly what happens almost every year, it has become almost expected and I find it difficult to see that changing.  It would seem that a document  adopted on December 15, 1791, 224 years ago remains more important than the lives lost as a result of gun violence in America. I feel fortunate to have been born in a country which dealt with gun violence head on in the wake of the national tragedy that was Port Arthur. I just hope that one day soon, the United States wakes up and deals with gun violence with the determination and resolute attitude it had when taking men to the moon and storming the beaches of Normandy on the 6th of June 1944. For the sake of future generations it needs to do this.

Samantha-Jane.

Refugees need our help, not our contempt!

I apologize in advance for the rant which is certain to follow but I really do despise some people in my country… comments like these simply make me both cringe and furious.

“Elizabeth Hatton Get those young refugee men back to their OWN country and FIGHT for it. Not run like a bunch of gutless wonders”

It strikes me that this ignorant clown has never heard of the Iraqi Army, the ‘Yekîneyên Parastina Gel‎’ or People’s Protection Units, nor has she likely heard of the Peshmerga meaning ‘one who confronts death’. Of course she, sitting safely behind her computer desk many thousands of kilometers from the war in Syria, Iraq and Libya would say something so utterly ignorant abhorrent, the truth is, this redneck piece of filth is the true gutless wonder.

Or this gem, “Mark Deans We accept more refugees per capita than the majority of countries especially rich Middle East countries so your “hardline” headline is rubbish”

With the exception that we do not accept the most refugees per capita, not by a long shot. It’s disturbing that so many people would believe the blatant propaganda which has been unleashed by this right wing government, the very nature of the rhetoric coming from this government has only served to give sentiments like these room to flourish.

“Sarah Tutin Australia, don’t do the same mistake as Europe. NO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS in Australia!!!”

Not only does she abuse the exclamation mark, she is woefully uninformed about the very subject she is attempting to discuss. Not only is it not illegal to seek asylum in countries which are signatories to the UN convention on refugees (Australia has long been a signatory) These people are clearly not immigrants, they are refugees. It takes a moment to search the Syrian Civil War, it takes a moment to see that it has already cost the lives of over 250,000 people. To put that into perspective, It’s already cost more lives than are people living in Hobart Tasmania (population: 216,000). The toll on human life has been enormous, yet these selfish and despicable people would sit on their hands while people, innocent people lose their lives. The lack of compassion and basic human empathy is quite simply disgraceful.

“Matt James If any thing Australia needs to take a more harder stance then we all ready are to keep these refugees or migrants out! They don’t assimilate and they bring there problems here and there sharia law here and expect all of us to comply and buckle to there wants! If we want to keep Australia, Australian then we need to make a change to immigration laws.”

I hope it’s not just me when I say that the irony of a white Australian of European descent complaining about the lack of assimilation, respect for local culture and customs and the so called issue of bringing their problems with them is not lost on me. Given the fact that in 1788 European settlers arrived in Australia which heralded the beginning of one of the worst acts of genocide and cultural destruction in human history. I am so very tired of having to confront this sort of ignorance. When my ancestors arrived in Australia when the first tallships arrived to colonize this land and claim it for Great Britain, nobody gave a shred of respect for the hundreds of unique and irreplaceable Indigenous cultures and languages, nobody gave a second thought to the unheard of notion of assimilating into their culture. For Europeans, assimilation was but a one way street in which racism, scientific racism and negative eugenics reigned supreme. Our immigration policy until the 1970s remained  the now infamous ‘white Australia policy’ and until the now landmark court decision in favor of Mabo occurred Australia remained an apartheid nation.

“Ben Cocker It’s time for Australia to harden its stance on asylum seekers…..it’s not yet hard enough”

And in closing, apparently locking women and children up in appalling conditions in camps on remote islands where they have access to the media, to legal representation, to adequate healthcare and the right to feel safe taken from them, apparently their being subject to beatings, sexual abuse, being forced to submit to giving sexual favors in exchange for access to amenities, apparently this is not hard enough a stance for the appropriately named Ben ‘Cocker’. I truly wish these ignorant bigots would think before they post, before they drive me insane.

Love always,

Samantha-Jane.

REFERENCES

Facts Fight Back, (2013),

http://www.factsfightback.org.au/does-australia-take-the-most-refugees-check-the-facts/, Retrieved on the 5th of September 2015.

Fact Check, (2014),

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-24/liberal-mp-kelly-odwyer-incorrect-on-australias-refugee-intake/5270252, Retrieved  on the 5th of September 2015.

Refugee Council of Australia, (2013),

http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/n/mr/130719_GlobalStats.pdf, Retrieved on the 5th of September 2015.

Australia increasingly out of step, (2015),

https://www.facebook.com/news.com.au/posts/1142961849064520?comment_id=1143026715724700&notif_t=like,http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/australia-increasingly-out-of-step-on-refugees-is-it-time-to-change/story-fnixwvgh-1227514315864?utm_content=SocialFlow&utm_campaign=EditorialSF&utm_source=News.com.au&utm_medium=Facebook, Retrieved on the 5th of September 2015.

Abbotastrophe

I write to you today, to deliver to you, a report card on the Coalition government of the Honorable Tony Abbott, Prime Minister incumbent. I write this piece to express my outrage and utter disbelief at the decisions which have been made and the decisions which have not been made under the dismal watch of this government. This government was elected on a mandate of delivering transparency and good governance, to deliver honesty and integrity. Its election campaign capitalized on the ‘lie’, that infamous lie that former prime minister Julia Gillard had told, that there would be no carbon tax under her government, she went on to break this promise and it cost her dearly. Yet since his election in 2013 Tony Abbott has broken numerous election promises, he promised to not be a government that said one thing prior to the election, only to do something else upon election, he lied. He promised to “fix the budget”, he claimed debt was unsustainable, a “debt and deficit disaster” yet despite their 2012 election promise to reduce the debt by 30 billion by 2014, they actually delivered a 60 billion dollar increase in our debt. This is a government, which campaigned relentlessly on the issue of economic responsibility and discipline, yet once elected was sorely lacking on both counts.

His commitment to job preservation and creation has been extremely disappointing. Under his watch, we have seen the beginning of the end for automotive manufacturing in this country, we have seen Toyota, Ford and Holden announce that they will end local manufacturing by 2017 and with this end hundreds of thousands of jobs are predicted to go as a result of flow on effects from the demise of automotive manufacturing. It is a sad end to a once proud industry which will hit state economies extraordinarily hard and hit working class families hardest of all. This government frankly has been extraordinarily callous when it comes to the rights and job security of workers. Unemployment rose above 800,000 for the first time in twenty years, a hundred Maritime Union dockers were sacked by text message, yet apparently the loss of unionized jobs is something which garners little sympathy from the Coalition and in particular Eric Abetz, the fact that these Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters will all be unemployed is something which elicits no sympathy or empathy what so ever.  The plan to cut penalty rates for workers in industries like hospitality, yet, on the other side of that coin, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax payer money on politicians expenses simply shows how utterly out of touch and corrupt this government has become.
We have a government which continues to peddle substandard mental health care to our children in the education system, they continue to stubbornly defend the National School Chaplaincy Program like a petulant child despite the program being ruled unconstitutional, not once, but twice. This program is an affront to our secular values which underpin our public education system. They provide religious pastoral care to our children, many of whom are suffering from serious mental health concerns, worse still, not only was its funding increased, but schools have since been prevented from using that funding to hire a secular health care worker, a trained councilor, psychologist or psychiatrist. Some of these pastors have been known to harbor extreme and bigoted views regarding LGBT people, are these the people we want around vulnerable children, especially the young LGBT kids who are already dealing with incredibly complex and difficult issues, they are coming to terms with their sexuality and or gender identity and having been through it, it places us under enormous stress. We are doing our children a great disservice in failing to provide them with the necessary care they deserve. He promised no cuts to education, yet slashed billions, he promised no cuts to health, yet slashed billions. This my friends is Liberal economic policy, slash and burn.
The world has passed us by on the issue of same sex marriage. Since Tony Abbott was (unfortunately) elected Uruguay, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States of America, New Zealand,  France, Luxembourg, Finland and Slovenia all legalized same sex marriage, more importantly in several of these countries like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it was conservative governments who helped pass marriage equality legislation. In several of these countries marriage equality was passed despite strong opposition from organized religion as was the case in Ireland and the United States.  This puts enormous pressure on Australia to act, yet in the past 48 hours we have sadly seen the opposite. After a lengthy party room meeting, the Coalition voted by a margin of 66-33 to keep their ban on a conscience vote on the issue of same sex marriage. This compels all Coalition members of parliament and senators to vote along party lines, for front bench members failing to vote along the party line (that marriage is between a man and a woman)  means they resign their ministerial position, while members of the back bench can cross the floor.  It should be noted that the front bench was evenly split with half of Tony Abbott’s ministers voting to lift the ban and allow a conscience vote. The conservative faction may have won this battle, but this also exposes deep rifts within the Coalition and shows that there are serious doubts about the leadership of Tony Abbott. They know that 70 percent of Australians support same sex marriage, this has been shown consistently in polls, and given that the Coalition trails labor substantially and Tony Abbott languishes far behind Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister, this is making some Liberals understandably nervous regarding their future and job security.

Australia has been roundly and legitimately criticized for its frankly pathetic efforts to combat climate change. Since Tony Abbott was elected, we have seen the scrapping of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Carbon Tax), we have seen an unprecedented attack on our renewable energy sector in the form of oppressive restrictions, and attacks on wind turbines and solar panels, not to mention a ban on future investment in renewable energy technology. Yet, to our utter disbelief, the government continues to throw its support behind, yes, you guessed it, coal. The very same fossil fuel which is responsible for a very significant percentage of global carbon emissions.  Our emissions reduction targets fall far below those of the worlds larger economies like the United States which recently set itself ambitious new targets not only for emissions reductions, but for investment in renewable sources, even more impressive is Denmark, which now produces 140 percent of its energy from renewable sources and exports the remaining 40 percent to other countries, making it energy self sufficient. Few countries are so perfectly placed to capitalize on renewable energy sources, we are entirely surrounded by sea as we are an island nation, have wind and solar energy in abundance, yet Tony Abbott seems content to trash our renewable energy sector at the cost of economic growth and yet more jobs.

We have had to endure the witch hunt that was the Royal Commission into Union Corruption and Governance, which is so dubious as to be laughable when one considers the history of past Coalition governments, namely that of Mr John Howard, under which Tony Abbott was health minister. His union-busting actions which targeted the labor movement as a whole, but in particular the Maritime Union of Australia have not been forgotten and nor has Tony Abbott’s history on industrial relations.

This government militarized our obligation to help asylum seekers and the world’s most vulnerable refugees, he implemented a strategy in which it was easier to turn people back or lock them up in appalling conditions on remote camps on territories beyond Australian borders. These people who have already suffered from the most horrific atrocities, wars and conflicts are further brutalized and traumatized by being subjected to violence, psychological torture and primitive living conditions. Self harm and suicide are rampant, and the Australian government has failed miserably in its duty of care under the 1951 UN refugee convention to help these people.  We are the 12th largest economy, yet we treat these people so very appallingly, it is a national shame, one which i hope we will one day acknowledge and apologize for.

And finally, I come to the unnecessary curbing of our freedoms and civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism, in particular Islamic State. We have seen the introduction of mandatory data retention which can be accessed without a warrant,  and must be retained for atleast two years despite such mandatory data retention schemes being struck down in the United States and the United Kingdom. We have seen an extremely disturbing grab for ever more power in the form of legislation which would revoke the citizenship of people who leave to fight overseas, this is with or without a conviction. This power would be in the hands of the worst, least transparent and most incompetent bureaucrats.  He has exploited ignorance and fear in order to deflect from the serious and ongoing issues within the Coalition, he has used negative and divisive politics in order to hip up racial and xenophobic hatred in this country which has led to the emergence of groups like Reclaim Australia, uneducated, ignorant bogans, fascists and neo-nazis whose protests have led to violence on our streets.

The election is a little over a year from now. In that time, we will endure ever more bad governance. I am confident that Tony Abbott will be a one term prime minister, I am confident that in the end, we will return to the path of decency and compassion, and that things will get better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are better than this, I hope that you remember this when we go to vote at the next election.

Love, always, Samantha-Jane

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REFERENCES

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_same-sex_marriage#2013]

[http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-14/study-warns-carmakers-exit-could-see-200000-jobs-lost/5389682]

[http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/abbott-government-broken-promises-jumps-to-12/5870784]

[http://sallymcmanus.net/abbotts-wreckage/]

[http://www.smh.com.au/business/federal-budget/then-and-now-the-abbott-governments-broken-promises-20140514-zrcfr.html]

[http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/tony-abbott-the-abc-and-sbs-when-election-promises-become-lies-20141119-11pyue.html]

[https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/abbotts-broken-commitments-so-many-so-soon,5898]

[http://www.crikey.com.au/2015/02/03/remember-labors-skyrocketing-debt-the-coalitions-is-much-worse/]

[http://www.afr.com/news/politics/tony-abbott-loses-the-plot-on-debt-20150318-1m2906]