Midweek open thread: punctuation is important

Greetings and welcome to our midweek open topic. It ‘s been a very long few days in politics where friendships were strained, however with good will; and a vision for the future; and a passion that this old world may it become a become a better place, it seems that we’ve all survived.

It has been pointed out to me that punctuation is important. Well not usually so, but sometimes it is. The one that comes to mind is the Cole Porter song:

What is this thing called love.

Clearly a comma, an apostrophe and a question mark is of utmost importance, as the sentence becomes:

What’s this thing called, love?

On the subject of language, and the intricacies thereof, one of my passions has been the evolution of the English language. The bare bones of it aren’t much more than a history lesson: the language which we now call English being a blend of many languages, even the original Anglo-Saxon was already a blend of the dialects of west Germanic tribes living along the North Sea coast – the Saxons in Germany and the eastern part of Holland, the Jutes, and the Angles, and northern Franks from southern Holland.

It has within all of our lifetimes that language has had cultural implications: French, being the language of diplomacy and romance; Latin, being the language of the Roman Catholic church; Greek, the language of philosophy and science and medicine. Added to this were many other idioms from native peoples including our own – Aboriginal words are in our everyday language in place names mostly, which give recognition as to who were the original inhabitants, words from the Indian subcontinent, from native American, Mexican words. There are so many words which we speak every day and yet we do not realize their ethnic origin.

Our borrowed words which are mostly from the 16th Century include: giraffe, tiger, pyjama, turban, chocolate, orange, admiral, parliament.

For those who may never have studied Chaucer here is late 14th Century English, from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”:

I find this fascinating, that after all this time, with a little concentration and a little imagination that we can understand exactly what people all those years ago were saying. I do hope that our descendants will be as fortunate.

Rose of Cimarron

Our theme songs are back. First we had animals, then places, now we have names. But because we might easily run out of names it’ll be fine to post songs with he, she, him, her, mine, I etc in the name.  Here’s one for starters.

Do you know who our PM is?

I believe most do not.

Many do not know her, but they all know she is bad, sly and a liar.

If that is not enough, she is a bitch and cares for none.

She also rigid and unfeeling.

I forgot to add, treacherous.

To add insult to injury, she does not know how to dress or talk.

No one wants her.

The hate seems stronger among the young and Labor voters.

The hate from the young amuses me, as when you see her around young people, the PM appears to interact well.

Prime Minister, Interrupted: Why One Year After the Election Voters Still Don’t Know Who Gillard
The mud maps of our most recent prime ministers might go as follows: John Howard – solid, middle-class type. Bit awkward. Social conservative, sticks to his guns. Strong. Kevin Rudd – hardworking. A bit nerdy. Modern family. Knows about foreign stuff. Labor, but not much into unions. Keen to do something about climate change.

But what does Julia Gillard’s story tell us? It’s an interrupted affair, and this is at the heart of her continued struggles as prime minister. Her life story, as it appears broadly to voters, looks a bit like this: Redhead. Political lifer. Pretty feisty. Likes football. Seems a capable deputy. Whoops! Is suddenly the prime minister.

And the period encapsulated by the “Whoops!” element of the above synopsis is precisely the period about which the prime minister can give us no further information. In June last year, the deputy prime minister became the prime minister, for reasons that were not immediately clear to most outside the Canberra area. Stories are important in politics. And the gap in this story is grievous.
It’s nearly a year since Julia Gillard decided that a good government had lost its way, and issued the request for Australia to “move forward”.

But not everyone is moving forward.

“I don’t trust her, after what she did to Rudd.”

“She’s a puppet.”

“Shafting Rudd the way she did was appalling.”

“There is no direction”.

“She lied to us on the carbon tax.”

“People have to a large extent tuned out to Gillard, and they find her to a certain extent embarrassing,” is Scales’s assessment of the public mood. “There’s not much in the way of positives about her at all.”

One of the exercises Scales does with these groups is to ask them to divide a sheet of paper into two columns, and list down the left side all the things the government has done well. On the right side, they list the not-so-good things. “For some people, the left-hand column is just a blank,” Scales says. “Or, you find they’re reaching back to Rudd government stuff – the cash handouts or the pension increase. This is one of her major problems: People can’t find anything to argue for her. There’s not much people can point to that they [the government] have actually done.”


“The only people I see who have any idea who Gillard is are people in the western suburbs of Melbourne,” says Scales. “But no one else can ever give me a description of what they think about Julia Gillard as a person. And that applies as much in the other suburban areas of Melbourne as it does in Perth, or anywhere else.”


Prime ministers never like being asked about why they’re having trouble getting through to people but Gillard isn’t especially prickly on the topic, fortunately. “I think that that’s true,” she responds, equably, to my ventured suggestion that her silence on the manner of her assumption of the prime ministership is hampering her ability to communicate. “And I’m conscious of that. But it’s hard to explain all of that without being … you know … without being disrespectful to the efforts of the former government, which did achieve, even with all these fetters and constraints, did achieve all these remarkable things. And, more particularly, the efforts of the former prime minister. And even though it leaves a gap, I think it’s the better and more respectful course to create that gap than to do the alternative.”


What we do know: Those who know her personally and are close, have nothing but praise for her guts, ability and loyalty.

Gillard 71, Rudd 31.

Nothing in the media at this stage.  We will update the thread later.

11.09am: David Speers on Sky News says he has just got a message saying they are still counting inside the caucus room. Could Rudd be demanding a recount?

11.21am: Again from Sky News – the final tally is Gillard 71, Rudd 31.

11.30am: David Speers, “This gives Julia Gillard a firmer hold on the leadership”.

From The Age:

Michelle Grattan says this result is an overwhelming endorsement of Julia Gillard by her party.

It has basically said we are going to stick with what we’ve got and this means it is unlikely Kevin Rudd is going to have any sort of resurrection later on.

We will hear a lot of talk about unity and that will come from both camps. What’s important is how Julia Gillard settles down the government.

Memory Serves

Sitting down to write this, slurping away on a White Russian (shut up it’s after midday) one thing has become clear…. there is more infighting in Parliament House at the moment then there ever was in the Big Brother house, celebrity version or not….

We watch on with morbid fascination as Gillard and Rudd, once the dynamic duo, try to verbally tear each other’s limbs off. We see them fail at this, and only end up tearing apart Australia’s strongest political party as they battle it out….

With all of this going on, it is important to look at the other side of the house, the opposition, a motley crew made up by the dysfunctional marriage of a few political parties that can’t make it on their own.

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Who? Why? II

As we are rapidly approaching 500 comments on Who? Why?, time for Mark II of Who? Why?

We know two things.

There is going to be a leadership spill in the Labor camp and Tony Abbott would win an election if it were held in the near future.

Kevin Rudd, it appears, doesn’t have the numbers to topple the Prime Minister. But by announcing that he’s the only person in the galaxy who can beat Abbott he is perhaps hoping to win over a few late votes.

It’s a pity that it boils down to who can beat Tony Abbott. I would have hoped it was about who could best lead the Party and the country.

There are a dozen things we don’t know. Will the shoot-out be between Gillard and Rudd or will there be other hats thrown in the ring? Will Wayne Swan still be the Deputy Prime Minister on Tuesday night? Will it be Roxon, Shorten or Crean? If Rudd wins, will he see a lift in the polls or if Gillard wins, can she turn the screws on Abbott?

So these are a couple of questions I’ll throw open to you. Who? Why?

Who? Why?

We know two things.

There is going to be a leadership spill in the Labor camp and Tony Abbott would win an election if it were held in the near future.

Kevin Rudd, it appears, doesn’t have the numbers to topple the Prime Minister.  But by announcing that he’s the only person in the galaxy who can beat Abbott he is perhaps hoping to win over a few late votes.

It’s a pity that it boils down to who can beat Tony Abbott.  I would have hoped it was about who could best lead the Party and the country.

There are a dozen things we don’t know.  Will the shoot-out be between Gillard and Rudd or will there be other hats thrown in the ring?  Will Wayne Swan still be the Deputy Prime Minister on Tuesday night?  Will it be Roxon, Shorten or Crean?  If Rudd wins, will he see a lift in the polls or if Gillard wins, can she turn the screws on Abbott?

So these are a couple of questions I’ll throw open to you.  Who?  Why?

Cover art for Gun Fight (1975).

Image via Wikipedia

Rudd Quits!

What can I say?

This is what Kevin Rudd had to say over the media inspired leadership frenzy:

. . . the Australian people regarded the speculation as little more than  a soap opera.
“They are right,” he said.
“Under the current circumstances, I won’t be a part of it.”

Again, we hear it from the horse’s mouth.  So what will those baboons from the media say now?  I’ll leave that up to you to speculate.

Baboon and its mother on a rock, photographed ...

Image via Wikipedia

Show Me A Little Shame

Anybody who watched Monday night’s episode of 4 Corners would be as appalled as I am that the situation in Syria is continuing on, with the rest of the world watching, mildly interested, but mostly apathetic.

And a warning, this post contains images that should disturb….

For those that missed it, it can be summed up quite simply… Torture, brutality, torture, inhumanity, torture, and misery, with a bit of torture thrown in for good measure.

In Syria, the regime that is running the country make Saddam Hussein look like Santa Clause. It is clear that there is systematic torture happening on a grand scale. Unmistakably clear.

What pisses me off in all of this, is that we do nothing. By we, I mean the West. We are big on talk and finger pointing, but at the end of the day, we would far rather have committees to discuss things for months on end, and official enquiries etc. Then a vote at the UN, next time they meet, which will decide whether anybody helps these poor souls or not. This will invariably be voted down by Russia, China, and Israel, America will back the Israeli’s every time and vote no, and nothing will happen.

So, what do we do? We shrug and go “that’s sad, I’m glad I wasn’t born there”…. Then we get some ice cream out of the freezer, forget what we just saw, and settle down to watch Julie Bishop look like an idiot, once again, on Q&A.

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A stint in jail

It is often said that it’s time to “come down tough on” juvenile offenders, that a stint in jail would teach these young hooligans a good lesson; that it would teach them respect; that they would learn all about consequences.  But has it been considered just which lessons are taught to young offenders while in prison?

As background:

There are times when things arise from necessity.  In the late 1990s, lawyer David Heilpern was defending a young person and put the argument forward that this young person should not be given a custodial sentence, due to the probability that this young man would be sexually assaulted while in prison.***  The judge requested that Heilpern provide actuarial evidence.  No such study then existed for Australia.

As a consequence David wrote Fear or Favour, this being based on his Honours Thesis.  David’s findings included that 1/4 of male prisoners aged 18 – 25 years had been sexually assaulted, half had been threatened with sexual assault, 2/3rds were fearful of sexual assault, younger prisoners were at greater risk; that most sexual assaults were perpetrated by other prisoners; and that the incidents went largely unreported.  Approximately 66% of all prisoners are aged between 20 and 39 years.

These statistics are horrendous enough, but can you imagine if there was a particular demographic within Australia who are imprisoned at a rate 14 times higher than the white population, this demographic comprising less than 5% of the population (estimated). Now imagine that 59% of juveniles detained in Australia were from this same demographic, meaning that these same juveniles were 28 times more likely to be given a custodial sentence than white juveniles.

Late June last year a report was tabled to the House of Representatives:  Doing Time – Time For Doing.  As well as the above, this report includes that:

  • Between 2000 and 2009, the incarceration rate for Indigenous Australians rose by 66%.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the actual number of Aboriginal men in prisons rose by 55%, and the number of women rose by 47%.
  • 70% of remote Indigenous adults have hearing loss or problems, but that Australian Hearing, “which provides free treatment for children under the Hearing Services Program, doesn’t visit juvenile detention centres”.                                                    

So why are Indigenous young people imprisoned at 28 times the rate as white kids?  Creative Spirits provides the following:

Non-Aboriginal indifference

Police remain hard-hearted and indifferent to prison rates and, in some cases, to Aboriginal prisoners themselves. The Children’s Court is often being told imprisonment is the only option due to lack of accommodation.

“Incredibly trivial offences”

There is evidence to suggest that police treat Aboriginal people differently for trivial offences, for example some Aboriginal people end up in jail because they did not get the postal notifications of court dates after which bench warrants are issued and bail is unlikely.  Another example is being caught with 1.5 litres of any alcohol including beer in a restricted area carries with it a 18 month jail term.

Peter Collins, Legal Director of Aboriginal Legal Services in Western Australia (ALSWA): 

“Every day of the week we act for Aboriginal people who’ve been charged with disorderly conduct. “Their crime: To swear at the police. They use the F word, they use the C word. Often they’re drunk or affected by drugs or both, or they’ve got a mental illness or they’re homeless or whatever. But it seems to me the only people in this day and age who are offended by the use of the F word and the C word are police. And so these [Aboriginal] people are hauled before the courts for these incredibly trivial offences.”

Lack of understanding of white law

More than 90% of people in Arnhem Land, NT, could not answer basic legal questions.  95% of Yolngu people could not explain the 30 most commonly used English legal terms, such as ‘bail’, ‘commit’, ‘arrest’ or even ‘guilty’. Even 90% of community leaders, school teachers and council representatives had no understanding of these legal terms.

This might explain why in 2008 over 80% of the Northern Territory prison population was Aboriginal. Many of them might as well be innocent because they didn’t understand what ‘guilty’ meant.

Richard Trudgen, CEO of the Aboriginal Resource and Development Services:

“People thought that pleading guilty actually got them through the court quickly and they didn’t go to jail. When they realised what the term guilty meant they were able to identify some of the things that they were convicted of that they never had anything to do with.”

Another reason why Aboriginal people make ‘false’ statements in court is that they are hearing-impaired through a cycle of poor health. There is a clear relationship between hearing loss and early Indigenous justice problems – 90% of Indigenous inmates in Darwin Correctional Centre suffer from hearing loss.

Priscilla Collins, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA):  “Half the time our clients break the law because they don’t understand it”.

*** Note:  this young offender was given a custodial sentence, was raped while in jail and killed himself upon his release. 

The horrors experienced by many young inmates, particularly those who are convicted of non-violent offences, border on the unimaginable. Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure.

Heilpern, David M, “Sexual Assault of Prisoners: Reflections” [2005] UNSWLawJI 17; (2005) 28(1) University of New South Wales Law Journal 286