Vol 27 No 7

09 April 2017

Voting using iPhones. Cartoon by Chris Johnston



The wondrous life and death of Japanese cherry blossoms

19 April 2017 | Catherine Marshall

Cherry blossomCherry blossom season in Japan is anticipated all winter long but when it arrives it is nothing more than a tease. It is a kind of new year, a starting over, a washing clean of the slate and beginning afresh. But these blossoms hold in their being the promise of death. 'With cherry blossoms, we start things over,' translates my guide, from a haiku. 'And we find beauty not only in the cherry blossoms but also in how they flutter to the ground.' It's from that fluttering that we derive the most valuable of lessons.


We are all neoliberals now

19 April 2017 | Tim Robertson

Cover image from JG Ballard's Concrete IslandOne of the challenges for progressive parties is to look beyond the existing neoliberal framework for solutions to the current malaise. Labor is so steeped in neoliberal orthodoxy that, even if it was willing to evolve, it's likely incapable of doing so. And while much of the intellectual heavy lifting in forming a picture of what a post-neoliberal future may look like will be done outside organised politics, Labor remains completely unengaged with almost all of these debates.

Breaking down the 457 visa changes

19 April 2017 | Kerry Murphy

457 visa formsThere are several significant changes which mean that for a number of occupations, the pathway to a permanent visa sponsored by an employer will be closed. A number of people will only be able to get a temporary work visa for two years, and a further two year period after that only. It is the latest in a range of changes to immigration that have seen Australia change from being a country of permanent migration, to one of permanent and temporary migration.


Rogue relations: The US vs North Korea

18 April 2017 | Binoy Kampmark

Kim Jong-un portraitA truculent rogue in the White House fumes at an upstart rogue in Pyongyang, both fumbling away in the kindergarten of blunder and realpolitik. How do they measure up in the stakes of rogue behaviour? Even conservative commentators such as Samuel Huntington noted in 1999 that the US is 'in the eyes of many countries ... becoming a rogue superpower'. International law, for the bomb-heavy bully, is a convenient moral reference when needed, but is avoided like a leper when it becomes an impediment.


Ghosts of grief in modern, secular Paris

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18 April 2017 | Tim Kroenert

Cynical about the prospect of any kind of afterlife, Maureen nonetheless spends time holed up in an old Parisian mansion, trying to commune with the spirit of her dead twin brother. She is employed by a difficult and demanding fashion model as a personal shopper; literally, she spends her paid working days buying clothes, shoes and jewellery for someone else. The juxtaposition of the pure materialistic focus of this work, and her doubt-riven incursions into the spiritual realm, is intriguing.


Poems for John Clarke

17 April 2017 | Peter Gebhardt

John ClarkeIt's a bleak sad day, That special voice has been taken away That voice that saw so much, Waged war against the witless and their wrongs, That smothered our lives and hopes And that voice will still sing his songs. Which we are free to hear for ages on.


Solace from grief in an unfamiliar temple

17 April 2017 | Tseen Khoo

Hoa Nghiem Buddhist Temple in SpringvaleLast Sunday, I headed to a Buddhist temple in Springvale, in Melbourne's outer south-east. I wasn't going for a Songkran festival (Thai New Year), and it wasn't a regular part of my routine. I was going because my mother wanted to pray for her eldest sister, who had died on the Friday. My mother is a temple frequenter. I am not. But I was thankful for the immediacy with which she felt she was part of a worshipping community, even though she'd never before been to that particular temple.


Putter power

17 April 2017 | Fiona Katauskas

Donald Trump has relocated the situation room to a golf course, and is much happier. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas

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


Not such a super way to buy your first home

13 April 2017 | Francine Crimmins

Broken piggy bankAs a millennial, I frequently find myself being told to stop complaining about housing affordability. It's all about working harder, saving more and, for goodness' sake, keeping off the avocado. As a young person, I'm concerned about using super, a system which was put aside for our economic welfare in retirement, as a savings account for instant gratification. The government is trying to solve the housing crisis not through direct action, but by encouraging young people into lifelong debt.

Digital solutions to political reform

12 April 2017 | Kate Galloway

People voting using iPhones. Cartoon by Chris JohnstonThere are reasons to be concerned about the capacity of a government to govern in the current brief election cycle, and in dealing with what some describe as a 'hostile senate'. But the networked world we inhabit also calls into question the way in which politicians might be accountable to the public. Rather than focusing on changes to a system of governance derived from a different era, we should be asking what are the implications of emergent technologies on the way in which we are governed.

Easter is the right time to find homes for children

12 April 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Youth Homelessness Matters DaySometimes events coincide happily. At other times the coincidence rings strangely. This year Youth Homelessness Matters Day is celebrated the day before Easter Sunday: desolation confronts happiness, penury plenty, and deprivation plenitude. When events clash most sharply, they may also illuminate one another most brightly. The Easter stories invite deep reflection on home and on homelessness, on finding a home and being made to feel at home.


Easter in dark times

11 April 2017 | Fatima Measham

Crucifixion artworkEaster, for me, has always been a time to sit in the brokenness of things, to absorb the dread and devastation, and reel at the inexplicable sacrifice. Crushing humility might have characterised my experience in previous years. This year, I feel formless rage. The human drama of Easter - with its betrayals, moments of audacity and doubt, the machinations in shadow - bears the sting of injustice. The central narrative is political. Choices were made by people in power. They are still being made.


Learning to love not needing men

10 April 2017 | Isabella Fels

Iron heartIn the sorry past when it came to men I could hardly say amen. I had really been messed up, not blessed, by them. I'm well over 40 now and no man has ever gone down on bended knee. I was always being put to the test. Not just in looks but in the superwoman contest. I tried to be everything to them and more, yet failed miserably as I was shown the door time and time again. Nothing worked no matter how hard I worked. But lately, I have changed my way of thinking.


Thinking big

10 April 2017 | Fiona Katauskas

After the Big Pineapple comes the next Australian tourist attraction, the Big Environmental Disaster, the Adani coal mine. Cartoon by Fiona Katauskas

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


The problem with Pepsi's appropriation of protest

09 April 2017 | Francine Crimmins

Kendall Jenner hands Pepsi to police officerPepsi's advertisement has been accused of appropriating the struggle for race and gender equality in the name of its product. It makes sugar filled drinks seem like the key to stopping police brutality against people of colour, and simplifies the way people engage and make change in the world. The image of Kendall Jenner approaching police has been compared to the actions of Black Lives Matter protestor Leshia Evans. While Jenner manages to strike up a friendship, Evans was thrown to the ground.


Waiting for the trickle down effect

09 April 2017 | Frank Brennan

Malcolm Turnbull explains 'trickle up effect' whereby welfare cuts fund corporate tax cutsIn an age of 'budget repair', social policy risks becoming just a sidebar to economic policy which is a contest of ideas about how best to grow the size of the pie thereby providing a slice for 'the deserving poor' without having to redistribute too much of the pie, while 'the undeserving poor' drop off the edge as they would have anyway. For those of us schooled in Catholic social teaching, the so-called 'undeserving poor' are the litmus test of our commitment to the human dignity of all persons.


This intimate proximity

09 April 2017 | Peter Evans and Brian Doyle

Judas IscariotYes, you did follow him into the palace courtyard. You had boldly vowed to follow him to the end. Now you are there. They are torturing him within as you sit with the guards without, outside in that damned courtyard and wait by the dying fire. 'What am I doing here?' you ask yourself, uneasy and lonely in the dark glow. 'But at least I am here.'


Striking Syria and the vagueness of humanitarian intervention

09 April 2017 | Binoy Kampmark

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from warships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfieldAbsent a Security Council resolution, the US had operated independently, adopting a policing and punitive stance against the Assad regime. 'This action,' House Speaker Paul Ryan insisted, 'was appropriate and just.' If humanitarian intervention is supposedly engineered to punish a regime in breach of obligations to protect the civilian population, it starts looking, all too often, like an act of regime change. At what point is the distinction on such matters as proportion or necessity even credible?

No easy judgement in Syrian chemicals attack

06 April 2017 | Justin Glyn

Victim of Khan Sheikhoun chemical attackThe pictures coming out of Khan Sheikhoun are horrific. Children foaming at the mouth, some with terrible head wounds. No wonder the reaction of the world has been outrage. 'Assad must go' has been revived as a catchphrase in the West. We are right to be appalled. Yet several features about the reported sarin attack in Syria's Idlib Governorate should give pause in the current rush to judgment. Firstly, while you wouldn't know it from much of the media, the facts themselves are contested.


Religious literacy routs Islamophobia

06 April 2017 | Ann Deslandes

Man with Islamophobic placardA person with religious literacy has an understanding and appreciation of the teachings of religions in the world, is knowledgeable about the various applications and manifestations of those teachings, and understands how religious faith forms, informs and enriches contemporary human society. In a world where Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise, endangering and taking the lives of so many innocent people of faith, it is difficult to overstate the importance of religious literacy.