Friday, October 28, 2005

Say No to the Death Penalty

State sanctioned murder – executions – is wrong. Even for drug dealers or murders.

25-yer-old Van Nguyen, who was sentenced to death for trafficking heroin, should be spared from hanging in Singapore. The Australian Government should make every effort to secure a pardon for him.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005


Originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.
Our friend 'Nise' gave us the orginal bromiliad plant two or three years ago, but she has never seen it flower. This is at least the second year it's done so. She's overseas, again, (the reason we scored the orginal plant), and so keeps missing the amazing floral display. Now she can see it! Hi Nise!

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Full on dad

Responding to my previous post on Latham's turn to full-time fathering, a friend questioned whether Latham was being genuine about it, how long being a full-time home-dad would last, and whether it was really about positioning himself for something later.

I think the response may be found in his Diaries. Though I haven't read it myself, Robert Manne's review essay of the Diaries in the recent The Monthly reveal some key points:
  • Latham was really taken with his two boys
  • He had been wondering which were his greater achievements: those from being in politics, or being a father and raising children.
Reviewers have pointed out that Latham increasingly believed politics to be toxic and futile. I think the clinching point on the sincerity of Latham's turn to fatherhood is Manne's point that Latham had been deeply affected by the words of (ironically) former Howard government minister Warwick Smith:
"A day you miss with you kids is a day you never get back."

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

History 101 redux: Australia's violent colonial past

Australia has a violent, racist colonial past. How many white intellectuals does it take to say what generations of Aboriginal people have said? The 'Comment' piece in October's The Monthly by author Kate Grenville is the latest commentary on the European invasion of Australia. She particularly looks at the language slight of hands that disguised or 'tidied-up' the messy, brutal job of hunting down and killing Aboriginal people. Her essay is quite compelling.

I don't want to hang shit on Grenville. She is doing something quite powerful, and risky. I wonder if Grenville, who's latest novel,
The Secret River, looks at the 'encounter' between the earliest settlers and Aboriginal people, will face the same apologist backlash from the Winshuttles of Australia that previous participants in the 'History Wars' faced in previous years.

Some of the language on colonial violence was pretty plain, as shown from this quote from a Captain Tench, acting on orders from Governor Phillip to go capture some 'natives' as retribution for the killing of a white man (a convict):

"we were to cut off and bring in the heads of the slain: for which purpose hatchets and bags would be furnished".

It's from a historical document Grenville examined.

I find it strange that Australia is only now having this discussion about its history of colonial violence – and of how that history had been submerged under the obfuscation of official, judicial and pompous colonial language. So many other peoples and nations who were colonised by the European powers in the 18th–20th Centuries have been exposing Europe's violent, despotic and brutal colonial history.

The stories of how the peoples of Africa, the Americas, Oceania and Asia suffered under Europe's empires has been going since at least the anti-colonial movements of the 1940s–50s, or sooner if we count the work by Mahatma Ghandi in South Africa and India before the independence movements blossomed, or sooner if we look at the anti-slavery movements of the 18–19 Centuries.

The thing is, Aboriginal people in Australia have been talking about the colonial horror of European invasion of Australia. It's only now that whites are talking about it too, and listening to each other. I wonder if that is because these are middle class, well-educated whites. And whites listen to each other before blackfellas.

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A Monthly fix

My Monthly arrived yesterday! It's as good as I'd hoped, though I'm still dipping my way through it. So far, the essay on Queensland, the piece on the new Socceroos (Australia's soccer team) coach Guus Hiddink are promising. And more.

Please note: No, I don't work for The Monthly, nor do I get any kick-backs from the publishers for mentioning their magazine in my blog (I wish.) In fact, after the freebies of the magazine's
first two or three editions, and a free el-cheepo bag given out at the writers festival, I've been a paid up subscriber and don't get any freebies. I just like their good writing, and want to support a new publishing innitiative – especially one whose ideas I appreciate – to survive its first year and more.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

October – where's my Monthly dose?

It's well and truly October, and I am still waiting for this month's edition of The Monthly. When already?

I got September's late because of an address stuff-up. I hope I don't have to wait too long for October... Their essay on Queensland, has got my interest, seeing my parents and sister and her family live in Brisbane.

I wonder if the essay will be blistering like the hot weather someone told me today they are having up there.

Meanwhile, this Spring October is already promising a doozy of a hay fever season for us here in Melbourne. Keeping my fingers crossed that my latest pharmaceutical approach will work this year.

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Bali's horror and Australia's quandary

A friend of mine was planning to go to Bali for a holiday. She's been working in Arnhem Land (Northern Territory) for something like two years now, and was really looking forward to the break before coming back to Melbourne. With the bomb blasts in Bali, I started to worry.

Had she already gone to Bali? If so, was she okay? If she hadn't left for Bali yet, would she still go, or would she cancel her trip? After all, the local press reported some airlines were saying they wouldn't penalise passengers who'd changed their minds and didn't want to go to Bali after all. Shouldn't she take them up on their offer and not go?

I emailed her to check if she is okay. I hoped she hadn't gone yet, and wouldn't go after all.

She replied – she was meant to fly out Sunday night (the day after the bombing!) but was going to cancel her flight. She wasn't going, but was really angry with the crazies who had done this. I was relieved to hear she isn't going.

This very debate is now preoccupying the local media, on top of covering the bombing and the hunt for the bombing conspirators. The letters pages, talk-back radio, even today's editorial of The Age, have taken up the issue of whether Australians should stop holidaying in Bali, or should not 'abandon' Bali, and Indonesia generally, when the local people are so reliant on the tourist dollar to keep their economy – their very livelihoods – afloat.

Tough call. My response – as it was for my friend – would be DON'T GO!! It's too dangerous. Besides, there are many other places people can go for holidays that are just as interesting, and in need of tourist dollars – whatever they're worth.

I don't for a minute believe that tourism – especially the forms preferred by better-off Western and Japanese tourists – is the key to overcoming poverty and unemployment in developing countries. It can be incredibly destructive to local economies, cultures and social relations. Think of booze-fueled Aussies in Kuta's bars, sexual exploitation, drugs, the list goes on.

But at the same time, I don't accept that other old furphy – that cultures like that of the Balinese are delicate, rarified things that are in danger from Western decadence, or in need of protection through curtailing tourism or other contact with the rest of the world. Believe it or not, that one has come up in the recent debate.

What is real is that there are many people in places like Bali whose very livelihood is dependent on their jobs or other income from the tourist industry. And they will suffer the effect of Australians choosing not to travel to Bali in fear of the terrorists. And many people fear they could lose their lives if they travel to places like Bali.

It is such a difficult quandary. And I'm just asking the question – not proposing any answers. This is no Gordian knot. Somehow, I don't think simply 'cutting through' this is going to solve this one.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stuffing around with blogger

Yes, I've changed the look of this blog, though I doubt anyone will notice. I wanted a template with a lighter colour, to give a sense of whitespace, so I went with this one. What do you think of the green? It's not my favourite, but was a compromise. Maybe it will grow on me.

More troubling though, is that my blog was down for at least three days last week, and I couldn't figure out why. Only after trawling through the Help and 'known issues' functions of did I actually send a plea for help from the Help team. And got an automated response saying that they couldn't reply to every email they got and for me to trawl through the Help and Known Issues!

I can understand that they're busy, but it wasn't the most helpful response.

Anyway, it looks like I can view the blog ok now. If anyone else had trouble, please drop me a comment so that I can tell if it was an isolated incident. Or not.

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