Vol 26 No 12

19 June 2016

First time voter



Beyond the myth of the rational voter

30 June 2016 | Fatima Measham

Ballot box in front of Australian flagWhen the democratic exercise is no longer the aggregate of informed, reasoned choices, but a matter of mood, then the business of persuasion - politics - becomes far less about ideas and more about momentary catharsis. This shifts the function of politicians and government, from leading and dispensing equity to masturbatory aid. Even so, there are questions worth asking. But at whose expense are public moods assuaged? After catharsis, what happens next?


Environment groups face fight for their lives

30 June 2016 | Greg Foyster

Advocate bound by green tape. Cartoon by Greg FoysterBy the time polls close Saturday, tens of thousands of voters in marginal seats will have received 'election scorecards' from environment groups. Almost all will rate the Liberal Party worse than Labor or the Greens on a range of issues, from protecting the Great Barrier Reef to encouraging investment in clean energy. Privately, some Liberal candidates will be seething - and, if the Coalition wins, they'll have the means for brutal revenge.


The quiet torture of unspeakable grief

1 Comment
29 June 2016 | Tim Kroenert

This strange and engrossing Italian film proffers an unsettling rumination upon the rituals of mourning, and upon a mode of grief which itself is a kind of death. It opens with a sweeping close-up of an imposing crucifix, and the fine musculature of a graven Christ. A mass of mourners is then revealed, and before them a woman, immobile and weeping silently. The camera angle cuts to calf level, to reveal a trail of urine more copious than her tears, running down her leg to her shoes.


Theology of elections

29 June 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Parliament HouseDuring the campaign neither of the major parties addressed seriously the major challenges facing Australia: climate change, inequality and the forced movement of peoples. That makes it inevitable that following this election, sovereignty, mandates and other weighty words will continue to dominate public conversation. They usually function as political knives to cut through the messiness of our democratic order. But they also carry a theological weight that may illuminate our present condition.


Where's Australia's Trump and Sanders?

29 June 2016 | Jeff Sparrow

Sam NewmanLast week Sam Newman said he'd been approached to run for mayor in Melbourne on a 'Donald Trump-like anti-political correctness platform'. The announcement raised an interesting question: where's the Trump, or Sanders for that matter, in the Australian election? Richard Di Natale has articulated a vision of the Greens as 'the natural home of progressive mainstream Australian voters', yet we might equally say that he embraced politics-as-usual just as politics-as-unusual began to manifest everywhere.

Operation Proactive Citizen: Tales of a first-time voter

28 June 2016 | Neve Mahoney

Young votersHonestly, I could talk all day about how growing up with Rudd/Gillard/Rudd followed by Abbott/Turnbull turned a generation away from politics. I could talk even longer about how seeing (mostly) white, (mostly) male politicians is its own form of alienation. But if I'm going to be the possible swing vote, the homogenous 'youth vote', I'm going to make it count. I know that I can't afford to disconnect; if for nothing else, I need to vote for the people who can't.

Youth are speaking, we're just not listening

28 June 2016 | Katie Miller and Caitlin Meyer

Former YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament participants'I'm doing it for my kids.' This is how some supporters of Brexit explained their position before the referendum. Yet 75 per cent of voters aged 18 to 24 voted to Remain. It seems the message from 'the kids' to older voters was 'thanks, but no thanks'. The same can be seen in domestic politics here in Australia. We often hear politicians and voters talk about the effects of a policy on future generations. Yet the issues of concern to young people themselves simply don't get much attention.


The shaky showman

1 Comment
28 June 2016 | Fiona Katauskas

Malcolm Turnbull balances precariously on top of a pile symbolising the monarchy, andi SSM, stop the boats and others. A passerby says that he is saying 'vote for stability'. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas

This week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


Beyond Brexit doomsday myths

27 June 2016 | David James

British poundHad Greece decided to exit the EU last year the consequences would have been far greater than Brexit, because Greece uses the euro, whereas Britain has the pound. British interest rates are not set in Brussels, they are set by the Bank of England. And it has an independent fiscal and budgetary system, to the extent that it is possible. The British government has been imposing 'austerity' measures because it subscribes to neoliberal orthodoxy, not because it is being told to do so by Brussels or Germany.


Happy hour reverie

1 Comment
27 June 2016 | Dougal Hurley

Beer pintsAmber brethren unified over glazed tables, cracked leather chairs groaning under the burden of another weary apprentice. Here's to the blackened crust on a Parma special and to being pricked by an unofficial entry tithe ... Douse me in the balm of mellifluous chatter. Let me move amorously down through this molten journey until I am left suckling at the dregs in my comfortably reduced environ, tending towards something that approaches what some might call contentedness.


No 'one size fits all' solutions to youth unemployment

26 June 2016 | Julie Edwards

Map of Sydney shows areas of disadvantageBoth major parties offer 'one size fits all' approaches to youth unemployment. This ignores the huge difference in experiences - and employability - between different categories of young person. Not all have completed high school and live at home in a supportive environment. For young people at risk of homelessness, those experiencing mental illness or substance abuse problems, or those who have had contact with the criminal justice system, the initiatives of both parties simply won't be effective.

'War on business' rhetoric echoes '07 union bashing

26 June 2016 | Brendan Byrne

Still from the fake tradie adWhether or not the person in the now notorious 'fake tradie' ad is or isn't a 'real' tradie is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it is a primary example of the co-option of the language of class struggle and economic justice that has so thoroughly poisoned economic debate in the industrialised West. Implicit within it is a patronising view of the working class that dismisses them as gullible dupes who can be made to entrench the privilege of the few in return for the paltry crumbs of consumer hedonism.

There's nothing fair about Australia's tax on sickness

23 June 2016 | Tim Woodruff

Doctor and patientMy patients who earn $36,000 a year pay $36 for most prescriptions. My patients who earn $360,000 pay the same, and those on $3 billion pay the same. Usually, these prescriptions are for conditions which can't be avoided - it's just bad luck. This government imposed co-payment is a tax on illness. It is not noticed by those on $360,000 but for those struggling on $36,000, it does affect their small disposable incomes. It is a regressive tax, and its effect on patient behaviour is well documented.

I'm not falling for Turnbull's diabetes bribe

23 June 2016 | Catherine Marshall

Insulin injectionFacing his first election as leader of the Coalition, Turnbull announced that, if reelected, his party would spend $54 million on continuous glucose monitors for up to 4000 Type 1 diabetics under the age of 21. This impressive promise was a lightning rod to the children and small number of adults diagnosed each year with Type 1 diabetes. But it comes too late for Donna Meads-Barlow, who has campaigned tirelessly for government funding for CGMs, and upon whose efforts the government has finally taken action.


What if the PM went to Manus Island?

22 June 2016 | Samuel Dariol

Turnbull on QandAIt is one thing to sit at a desk and make policies that will impact on individuals across the sea whom you do not know. It is another thing to cross the sea, to look into the eyes of people abandoned there, to meet the children and see the pictures they have drawn, and to see in their eyes terror, despair, depression and contempt. For a prime minister to go to Manus Island would require him to throw off the shroud and stare affrighted at the maggots in the flesh of the body politic.

Leave Europe arguments betray cultural amnesia

22 June 2016 | Andrew Hamilton

Union Jack and EU flag divided by crackSome commentators in the Australian media have welcomed the prospect of Britain's leaving the EU. The founders of the union would recognise these commentators' hoped-for changes. They are precisely the conditions that contributed to the wars that they so feared: the xenophobia, disregard for human rights, chauvinism, military adventures entered by individual nations and competitive economic policies that alienated citizens and so bred authoritarian and ideologically inspired leaders.


Feminist parable's message for Eddie McGuire and co.

22 June 2016 | Tim Kroenert

That McGuire, eventually, and presumably under pressure from the club's board and a major sponsor, offered what seemed to be a sincere apology, barely diminishes the fact that the comments were made in the first place, compensates for the lack of real repercussions, or excuses the time and effort that was required to get the incident on the agenda at all. Like a good parable, Mustang illuminates the ethical deficit of such a scenario, where women can so readily be bulldozed by powerful male voices.


Armchair hypocrisy

21 June 2016 | Fiona Katauskas

A man and woman are bored by news about asylum seeker abuse but appalled by live export scandal. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas

This week's offering from Eureka Street's award winning political cartoonist.


Laudato Si and the Australian election

21 June 2016 | Neil Ormerod

Laudato SiIt is now 12 months since Pope Francis issued his environmental encyclical Laudato Si'. He opined, 'Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.' Where are the Australian politicians who can give hope to the coming generation by focusing our attention on this most urgent issue?


Shorten's treaty talk reflects impact of Indigenous activism

21 June 2016 | Celeste Liddle

Invasion Day rally MelbourneFor the first time ever, I got the sense that political views on the importance of Indigenous issues had shifted. It was not due to an increase in Indigenous voices in the political discussions nor was it because either of the major parties announced a policy which I found remotely inspiring. Rather it was because, under the glare of the camera, the leaders of the two major parties both attempted to show a greater understanding of the Indigenous political agenda than they have before.

White Australia is alive and well in our parliament

20 June 2016 | Jarni Blakkarly

Wesa Chau campaign posterAcross the political spectrum, Australia's major and minor parties are failing to reflect the multicultural Australia of the 21st century. We have fallen far behind similar nations like Canada, who elected 19 Indian-Canadians alone, and ten indigenous parliamentarians, at their last election. Who we elect to our parliament is not just about the gesture, it is also a reflection of where power lies within our society, and whose voices are given the space to be heard to represent the community.


Is your super doing dirty work?

20 June 2016 | Thea Ormerod

Coal plant smoke stacksAn accelerating number of institutions and individuals are moving their money out of planet-heating fossil fuels and into climate solutions. The total assets guided by some form of divestment policy was $3.4 trillion at 2 December last year, 50 times more than what was up for divestment 12 months earlier. It sounds like a lot, but it's a small amount compared to the $100 trillion-plus invested in the usual way. That's our money, in banks and super funds, managed funds and insurance companies.


War-room of a child's mind

20 June 2016 | Belinda Rule

child's hand holding mother'sI saw a younger girl, blonde hair in pink clips, spiral glitter sneaker laces - baubles of a treasured child that no-one ever bought for me. A girl in a parlour painting, and I the hairy spider hulking in the corner. In the war-room of the mind, I pierced my map with pins. How simple to trick her to some dirty culvert, hold her down, mar her white arms ... Civilisation was a hair draped on the head of a pin, each one of us poised, rigid, clutching our own pin still - I could see I would cramp with the effort all my life.


A tale of two refugees

19 June 2016 | Kerry Murphy

Refugee week logoMustafa speaks very good English, and his professional skills are going to help him get work in Australia. He is not going to take an 'Australian's job' - he will work and contribute to the economy, as we all try to do. Ali's situation is far less certain. He came on a boat after being approved as a refugee by the UNHCR in Indonesia. He saw no movement in resettlement from Indonesia so he came to Australia. He is one of the thousands who, if they can prove their refugee case, only get a temporary visa.