I think Ol’ Barnes had tossed back a few too many Bundies some years ago when I was staying at one of the hotel-motels in St George, SW Qld.
I had walked into the bar to pay for a night’s accommodation while travelling from out Cameron Corner way to the Sunshine Coast. Ol’ Barnes & his mates were checking out the blonde curls that bedeck my head. They were were greeting me with the cat-calls they usually reserve for members of the fair sex who don’t look like the heifers that normally throw back beers in outback bars after wrestling rogue bulls all week.
Encouraged by a bellyful of booze and bad manners, along with the yahoos from his mates, Ol’ Barnes decided to practise some of his ripper chat-up lines. Being a privileged private school lass, I duly ignored his slobbering advances. Undeterred by my brush off, he proceeded to de-nude himself of his shirt to impress me with his enormous beer-gut.
Without according him with any eye contact whatsoever, I turned on my heel and walked out. The hotel manager, however, obviously practised in the art of ignoring Friday Nite Shenanigans, was also pretending that he didn’t see a respected member of the Senate of the Federal Government of Australia, and now Deputy Prime Minister, making a total ass of himself.
Seems Ol’ Mate has somewhat fallen from grace since the good ol’ days of the skanky St George Friday Nite floor show scene by mouthing off at hard-working bar staff on the Sunshine Coast. Yep! That’s right. Upset with the foul-tasting imported rum in his coke, poor Ol’ Barnes was suffering from fair dinkum Bundy withdrawal. Of course! Told you so. (c) copyright Gerowyn Hanson)
SCOTT MORRISON’S CHANGES TO DISABILITY SUPPORT PENSION
GEROWYN HANSON (c)
Today, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Social Services and a senior member of Prime Minister Abbott’s Cabinet and Expenditure Review Committee, announced changes to Australia’s welfare system. Some of these proposals are very concerning for people receiving a Disability Support Pension (DSP).
As my followers would know, I have spoken and written about how certain members of large ‘L’ Liberal-democratic governments erroneously presume that work = self esteem. Moreover, their remedy is to give the handicapped a job. The presumption is that somehow, employment rehabilitates a person with a disability. As discussed previously, being forced to seek employment can actually be immensely soul-destroying.
Firstly, rejections from job interviews, failures on the job, and the inability to attend work on a regular basis, for example, can cause a disabled person with lowered self-seteem to have their confidence eroded even further. Mr. Morrison, these new proposals to the DSP are harsh and unrealistic even for non-injured, able-bodied job-seekers, let alone the disabled.
Secondly, not all employers are willing to engage a person whose disability is episodic. As examined in my other publications, time = money and businesses cannot afford to employ people whose conditions are unstable, or whose ability is fluctuating. This makes some people, by virtue of the symptoms of their disabling ailments, unreliable employees. Already, I have pointed out on numerous occasions, an “unreliable employee” has nothing to do with irresponsibility. It is a medical term used by health professionals assessing the stability of a clinical disorder which could render a person’s ability to attend work on a regular basis unlikely. It is not derrogatory. In a shrinking job market with rising unemployment for able-bodied and un-impaired persons, the likelihood of a disabled individual finding work in this competitive environment is slim. Mr Morrison, your proposals are unrealistic and unfair.
Thirdly, work does not in itself, nor by itself cause a person with an impairment to automatically see an improvement in his or her chronic or episodic disability. In fact, cases of people with a mental health disorder, neuro-psychological damage, chronic pain, or a degenerative illness, for example, it is unlikely to expect them to either get better or feel better. Mr Morrison, your statement that it does, is an opinoin: an un-informed opionion.
Fourthly, under current legislation, if a person on the DSP enters the workforce, they automatically lose their pension. Whilst this is neither surprising nor unreasonable, it assumes that the person is “cured” and will not be needing to go back on welfare. If, however, the condition flares up again and the employee is unable go to continue working, they are not entitled to go back on to the DSP. They will have lost the right to have their pension re-instated under the present system. This, too, Mr Morrison, is unfair and anxiety-provoking.
Morrison’s proposal is to allow the “flexibility” of working disabled persons whose conditons flare up, to receive one of 5 tiers of new welfare. This is not only absurd, it is also unfair and cruel. It results in a loss of income. As Morrison has stated, it would be equivalent to the unemployment benefit, known as the Newstart Allowance. This means the disabled person returning to welfare will receive less than half of what they would have on the Disabiity Pension. Mr. Morrison, your new 5-tiered welfare payment system unfairly promotes poverty amongst some of society’s most vulnerable.
Scott Morrison is entirely out of touch with the realities of the lives of people living with a disability. It is unfair, punitive, promotes poverty and anxiety. Moreover, it creates an underclass of people to blame for the woes of society by vilifying their inability to find work through implying that they are malingers and a drain on hard-working Australian tax-payers. The Abbott Government needs a scapegoat to deflect their short-comings from media scrutiny by re-focusing attention on blaming people most at risk in society.
This method of shifting the blame to an underclass has been done before in history. Notably, certain groups of Nazi German society were made scapegoats for the economic woes of the 1930’s. Mr Morrison, let’s hope this systematic vilification of an unprotected underclass in the making, does not happen in 21st Century Australia. Your responsiblity is to protect the powerless, not vilify them by holding them responsible for the supposed drain on Government coffers.
Please, Mr. Morrison, do not force people on the Disability Support Pension into the workforce, only to have them revert to a welfare level even lower than the present impecunious pension payments which are already below the poverty line. It will cause undue hardship, loss of self-esteem, loss of income, increased anxiety, exacerbation of existing symptoms, and ultimately result in even more money being spent to repair the damage to vulnerable individuals.
New Sunshine Coast runway attracts 900 submissions
The Sunshine Coast Airport’s proposed new runway has attracted about 900 submissions after its environmental impact statement (EIS) was released earlier this year.
Submissions to the Queensland Coordinator-General closed on November 13 and a spokeswoman for Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney confirmed 900 EIS submissions had been received.
Sunshine Coast Airport general manager Peter Pallot said he hoped the project would be approved in mid-2015 so work could begin in 2016.
He expected the first flights on the new east-west oriented runway, which would cross the existing north-south runway, to be operational by 2020.
While the Sunshine Coast’s proposed 2.45-kilometre runway was shorter than the newly opened 2.87-kilometre Brisbane West Wellcamp runway near Toowoomba, it still increased capacity and opened up potential new markets.
According to the EIS, the new Runway 13/31 would allow planes the size of Airbus A330s and Boeing 787s to fly in and out of the Sunshine Coast, which would open up direct flights to places as far away as Los Angeles and Dubai.
But Mr Pallot said the main priorities for the runway expansion were the domestic and burgeoning New Zealand markets.
He said the airport had a catchment of about 600,000 people, stretching from Gympie in the north to Morayfield in the south.
“The length of the current runway constrains our operations,” Mr Pallot said.
“With the Auckland flights, we can land a full aircraft of 168 passengers, but we can only take off with 139 because of the runway constraint.
“…It needs a longer runway to lift the load of fuel and passengers to get to places like Auckland.
“We just can’t get to Perth, we can’t get to Darwin and we’re even load-constrained on some days down to Melbourne.”
Mr Pallot said the longer runway would enable fully laden 737s to take off with enough fuel to make it to airports across the continent.
“It would also be great to get into other airports unconstrained, like Wellington and Christchurch and even Queenstown,” he said.
“Beyond that, there’s the potential for us to go into places like Singapore, Hong Kong and China with direct flights.
“Singapore and Hong Kong are, of course, major hubs, so to be able to fly into a major hub has got advantages, particularly for the inbound market.”
The largest passenger planes to use the existing 1.8-kilometre Runway 18/36 were Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s.
Including the runway, taxiways, apron and terminal upgrades, Mr Pallot said the total cost of the Sunshine Coast Airport expansion project was expected to be $347 million in 2020 dollars.
Mr Pallot said that was offset by a $4.1 billion boost to the Sunshine Coast economy over the first 20 years, with more than 2200 jobs generated throughout the community.
According to the EIS, the new runway would decrease noise levels in 13 suburbs, to the north and south of the airport.
Residents of Mudjimba and Yandina Creek could expect an increase in aircraft noise.
Passenger numbers at the Sunshine Coast Regional Council-owned airport have increased from 100,150 in 1999/93 to 790,002 in 2012/13, with a peak of 908,851 in 2011/12.
It has been a big month for Queensland airports, with Brisbane Airport hosting 70 G20 aircraft during the leaders’ summit and Toowoomba’s new Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport officially opening on Monday.
Brisbane Airport Corporation chief executive Julieanne Alroe said her airport, the third-busiest in Australia, coped extremely well with last week’s G20 summit.
“Brisbane Airport was one part of the enormous machine responsible for delivering an exceptional and safe experience for the world’s leaders, but as the first and last impression for those arriving and leaving the city we had a huge responsibility to get it right,” she said.
“The BAC team and various event partners most certainly achieved that.”
One leader who did not avail himself to Brisbane Airport’s hospitality was US President Barack Obama.
Instead, Air Force One flew in and out of the RAAF base at Amberley.
Subject: Your article 23 Nov Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 2014 06:13:32 +0000
All over the world on Sunday 21st September, people rallied in public squares, parks, and here on the Sunshine Coast along our beautiful beaches. In New York, the United Nations’ leader, Ban Ki Moon walked with leading environmentalist, Al Gore in calling on our governments to take urgent action on climate change.
Kicking off at dawn with the local Gubbi Gubbi “Welcome to Country Ceremony” at Sunshine Beach, more than 700 people participated in the Sunshine Coast Environment Council’s 50km relay to Caloundra.
The world-wide rallies want to bring awareness to people by opening the discussion about climate change. Research by more than 97% of the world’s climate scientists have shown evidence that it is real and it will impact on our lives. A report released by the Climate Council, indicated that low-lying beach-side communities along the east coast of Australia are likely to suffer more extreme weather events in the future as sea levels rise over the next 30 to 50 years, eating away our shoreline.
It is possible to slow down and avoid the devastating effects of climate change by burning less fossil fuel. Sunshine Coast residents embraced the previous State and Federal Labor Governments’ incentives to install rooftop solar panels. Solar electricity reduces the need to use coal-burning power generators. Residents without solar power can still play their part in reducing carbon emissions by opting to pay less than $0.20 a day on the electricity bill for green energy produced by wind. Leaving the oil-guzzling car at home and catching the bus is another way you can help reduce the effects of global warming.
Participants joined the relay in Coolum at Stumers Creek and continued the walk to Point Perry. Many locals peeled off for a chat about climate change issues, while the rest of the walkers continued their relay down the coast, being ferried across the Maroochy River to finish at Kings Beach around 7pm.
By Gerowyn Hanson / March 16, 2014
Australians rally to March in March
Rural towns around Australia saw thousands of concerned citizens come together in public places to voice their concerns about Abbott Government policy decisions yesterday, 15th March. Peaceful, non-partisan marches also took place in the capital cities today and one will be at lunchtime in the capital, Canberra, on Monday. Many people in isolated remote parts […]
GOVERNMENT CUTS TO DISABILITY PENSION ADDRESSED @ MARCH IN MARCH
Around Australia yesterday, 15th March 2014, today and tomorrow, tens of thousands of people voiced their concerns on the Abbott Government’s changes to various policy decisions.
Speaking on discrimination against people with invisible disabilities and the Government’s proposed cuts to the Disability Support Pension (DSP) at the “March In March” political rally in the Queensland rural town of Caboolture, I outlined the following.
As I have already explained in my previous blogs (30th Jul 2013, 13th Jan 2014 & 6th Mar 2014 gerowynhanson.wordpress.com), I have seen and experienced discrimination and negative judgements against people with an invisible disability.
Examples of invisible disabilities include:
– mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety and acquired brain injury (ABI)
– organ damage or dysfunction to heart, kidneys or lungs
– auto-immune diseases, etc.
Often, there is a combination of illnesses and conditions, the effects of which impact on the individual’s ability to function as an average, healthy person who is able to cope with everyday life.
I have an invisible disability and have also experienced negative attitudes and accusations from people who do not understand why I cannot work. For a long time, I hid my condition by telling people at one point or another that: I had taken early retirement (true); received a Workers’ Compensation payout after an accident (true); or I had received an inheritance (also true).
In fact, how I support myself IS NO-ONE’S BUSINESS!
Trying to find work for a disabled person can be very challenging. Employers do not want to offer the disabled a job as their conditions often interfere with their being able to work like an able-bodied or non-injured person. Many disabilities render a person as an “unreliable” employee due to the effects of their conditions.
Considering the types of invisible disabilities mentioned above, the examples below could impact on their ability to hold down a job:
– Pain, medications, severe dysfunction from anxieties like PTSD, poor social skills, psychotic episodes, sleep deprivation, physical weakness, etc.
As I have explained in previous blogs, “unreliable” does not equal “irresponsible”. It is a medical term used by professionals when assessing the ability for someone to actually go to work and hold down a job.
Time is money, so it is not necessarily in the employer’s interests to engage a person with a disability, invisible or otherwise. Again, as I discussed in More Discrimination Towards People With An Invisible Disability, large “L” Liberalism as purported by the Liberal National Party (LNP) of Australia, you are only a useful person contributing to society if you are employed. As stated by Therese Fitzpatrick from Beyond Blue, the organization helping people with mental health conditions, “Because we are so focused on work in our society, there’s a sense if you are not employed, there’s a sense you are somehow a failure as a human being.”
In a compassionate society, however, there needs to be support for the disabled. The Abbott Government wants to make everyone in society work, even if they are disabled.
While some people with a disability can do some types of jobs, those people who are forced into the workforce can experience failure and the humiliation of being sacked through no fault of their own. This could result in a serious blow to self-esteem, exacerbating their already fragile condition. If able-bodied, non-injured people suffer depression and lack of self-confidence after being laid off, what could the extent of such a blow have to someone with a disability?
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott stated some months ago when he announced the proposed cuts to the DSP, “The best form of welfare is having a job”.
His Government is intending to drop the DSP to the same level as the Newstart unemployment allowance. My research has shown the following statistics for a single recipient:
– DSP = $751 per fortnight + $125 for rent assistance
– Newstart Allowance = $501 per fortnight. No rental assistance
– Median rents on Sunshine Coast Queensland (where I live) = $350 per week
– Average grocery bill = $60 per week
– Average power costs = $25 per week
– Average phone & internet costs = $25 per week
– Average public transport costs = $6 per week
– TOTAL = $466 per week, $932 per fortnight
It begs the question, then, how does a person on the pension cater for extras that arise such as insurance, clothing, appliance breakdown and other emergencies?
How can the Abbott Government justify reducing the DSP to $501 per fortnight?
As much as my heart goes out to the plight of the unemployed, at least they have the possibility of being able to work if something is offered. Disabled recipients on the DSP CANNOT work. That is why they are on the DIS-ability Support Pension. We need to protect the vulnerable in our society and send a very clear message to the Abbott Government that reducing the DSP is NOT OK.
And please do not pass negative judgements on people with an invisible disability. They are struggling enough already.
YET ANOTHER ATTACK ON PEOPLE WITH INVISIBALE DISABILITES
Once more I find myself writing about the insidious and offensive prejudice towards people with invisible disabilities. Three recent criticisms have again raised my ire.
The first was a couple of weeks ago. During a casual conversation with a health care professional who has treated me for the past decade, I had mentioned my online writing and commented how it would be wonderful if one day I could be paid for my work. This person then responded with, “Oh, you could work in a nursing home as a carer. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
I was perplexed: what did a conversation about writing have to do with working in a nursing home? I mean, WTF? It was not until later I realized what this right-wing, LNP-worshipping twit had meant. Hadn’t the Abbott Government recently announced it was launching a programme to move welfare recipients of Newstart and the Disability Support Pension (DSP) back into the workforce by placing them at aged care facilities? Didn’t they say that, “The best welfare is having a job”?
I was incensed! Firstly, how dare she or anyone else tell me to get job! Notwithstanding how unrelated aged care is to my qualifications, experience and interests, it is absolutely none of her bloody business how or from where I receive my financial support. Secondly, while I as much as anyone else wouldn’t mind having a few more dollars in the bank, theoretically speaking, I am fortunate enough to not need paid work in order to survive. Not at this point, anyway.
To suggest that I take a job in a totally unsuitable and frankly in my opinion, unpleasant occupation, smacks of a whole range of nasty judgements upon me. It assumes I am a useless, lazy bludger who contributes nothing to society, and – dare I say it – her jealousy of my seemingly “fortunate” financial situation.
My blogs, 30th July, 2013 and 13th Jan, 2014 have already dealt with the philosophies and attitudes of how conservatives believe that people who are not working have no place in society. A recent article on the ABC (Network) Health & Wellbeing Newsletter website looks at the mental health issues that emerge from employees faced with the prospect of losing their jobs. The ABC article quotes Therese Fitzpatrick from the mental health organization, Beyond Blue, saying, “Because we are so focused on work in our society, there’s a sense if you’re not employed, you’re somehow a failure as a human being.”
The second incident debasing welfare recipients was a sign recently erected by Young Liberals at Edith Cowan University: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=665741003467286&set=a.653683968006323.1073741828.653679618006758&type=1&relevant_count=1
Let me tell you how my invisible disability would have affected my ability to work in the last 5 months.
To explain the background: a serious motor vehicle accident 10 years ago left me with moderate organic brain syndrome, psychological, neuro-psychological, neurological, psychiatric and extensive soft tissue injuries. As it was a Work Cover case, it was heard at the QComp (state compensation) Medical Tribunals. The bench ruled that I was “permanently impaired for work”, also known as a “PI” case.
The impact of these injuries, caused by my vehicle being criminally sabotaged, cause periodic flare-ups of excruciating neck, shoulder, back and pelvic pain which cannot be relieved by pain-killers, including heavy-duty prescription ones. It causes serious sleep disturbances which leave me experiencing the usual depressive and anxious episodes associated with prolonged sleep deprivation. In the last 5 months, there have been 3 incidences lasting a total of 14 weeks. Had I been an employee expected to attend work, I would have been on sick leave for more than 3 of the last 5 months. To my knowledge, few employers would be able to sustain the employment of a person whose mental and physical health so profoundly impacted on their ability to work. Hence, the Medical Tribunals’ findings and subsequent compensation pay out. Not that this is anyone’s business.
How can these cold, hard, uncompassionate, right-wing morons justify forcing someone like me back into employment? Not only that, but how dare they vilify my inability to work as nothing more than a shameful sham?
On the other hand my wonderful mental health therapist believes, contrary to what right-wing LNP supporters think, that we are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS. We need to be able to define ourselves by who we ARE, not WHAT we DO. Our self-esteem, should not be defined by our jobs but by our humanity. When dickheads like the other health care professional who believe that the work ethic is what defines us by shaming us into working, it can be quite soul destroying for those who cannot work.
Shame is an insidious thing. Those who attempt to shame us believe they have power over us. If we allow that shame to haunt us, we can spiral downwards into a mire of depression, self-loathing and anxiety. Large “L” Liberalism, as I have already explained in my previous blog, is a political philosophy of tyranny over the weak. Name it: it is ABUSE. It is BULLYING. These mongrels are TROLLS. It keeps those who are not as strong in a position of fear and shame so they become victims of manipulation.
The third incident making me see red is the Abbott Government’s recent announcement that it wants to reduce the allowance of the Disability Support Pension to a similar amount paid to unemployed Newstart recipients at $501 per fortnight.
I cannot see how I could survive on such a puny amount of money. Rents where I live are at least $280 per week and the mean is around $350. The average weekly grocery bill for 1 person is approximately $60 per week. Public transport costs per week are around $6, electricity $25, and phone and internet (plan) also about $25. That’s $396 per week, $792 a fortnight. Given that the full DSP is $751 per fortnight plus $124 for rent assistance, totalling $875, this leaves only $83 per fortnight to cater for emergencies, extra health costs, contents insurance, clothing, appliance breakdowns, etc. How can the Abbott Government justify reducing the DSP to $501 per fortnight?
People with a disability are already in a position of weakness in society. If I were in a wheelchair with tubes coming out of me, few people would pressure me to “get a job”. That would be heartless. But as a person with an invisible disability, I am subjected to this abuse by those who consider themselves to be my moral superiors.
Well, I have news for those of you who preach the LNP philosophy: you are not my moral superiors and you have no right to tell me to get a bloody job! And moreover, in my day-to-day battle to maintain my mental health, manage my pain, support local businesses, do my best to not pollute the environment, live a life of integrity where I do the best I can to be a good and kind family member, friend and neighbour, I am so much further along the scale of evolution in BEING a person of integrity.
NATIONAL WORLD POLITICS SPORT COMMENT BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY
TOP STORIES / WORLD / MARCH 3, 2014
World leaders respond to Ukraine incursion
GEROWYN HANSON (c)
In the wake of Ukraine’s head of Navy, Denis Berezovsky’s defecting and swearing allegiance to Sergiy Aksyonov, the unrecognized pro-Russian leader in Crimea, world leaders dash to put a lid on the unstable situation arising.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, spent ninety minutes on the phone with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. President Obama has responded to the mounting tensions in Ukraine by letting Russia know that, “there will be costs” if there is a military reaction in the region.
The new Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk is fearful of an imminent Russian invasion.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has made it clear that there will be a range of sanctions issued against Russia and he is flying to Kiev to discuss the escalating crisis.
France has warned that the Sochi G8 summit will be suspended.
Acting Ukrainian President, Oleksander Turchinov has appealed to President Putin to cease provocations in the predominantly ethnic Russian region of Crimea. He likened Russia’s military presence there to the incursion into Georgia when its states of Abkhazia and Ossetia were attempting independence.
Meanwhile in Australia, Prime Minister, Tony Abbott warned President Putin to “back off” from an offensive foray into Ukraine. Having won parliamentary approval for sending troops into the Crimea, however, Putin believes he has the sanction to go ahead with the intervention.
Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister, summoned Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov to meet with her secretary to discuss the emergency situation in the Ukraine. He has spoken to reporters telling them that Russia intends to act to “ensure the interests of Russians in Ukraine”.
DFAT has warned Australians not to travel to Ukraine.
Photo via Alexander Grinvald
ABBOTT, ABE & THE WHALE OF AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
I have been analytically watching the criticism many have hurled at the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, for not mentioning the war: Australia’s war on Japanese whaling, that is. He was in the picturesque town of Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum last week.
Christine Milne, Leader of the Greens Party, predictably, blasted Abbott for not bringing up Australia’s position on the Japanese hunting of whales, remarking that the Prime Minister was avoiding tricky subjects. That’s her job: to blast Abbott and stick up for whales. Our PM, on the other hand, stated that Japan knows Australia’s position on Japan’s whaling industry. Yes, they would be aware that the Sea Shepherd is in Antarctica keeping a watchful eye on Japan’s annual whale slaughter. Moreover, with Australia’s ongoing case in The Hague’s International Court of Justice, regarding the illegality of Japanese whaling, there’s a lot about which to be skittish. This is especially so considering Japan is Australia’s second largest trading partner. Oh, that and the all the big businesses Abbott represents who want to see the somewhat dodgy TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) deal with Japan hurried up, signed, sealed and settled, of course. Profits need to be made at any cost and all of that.
Trolling the net revealed numerous news sites showed an overwhelming number of self-styled opinionists were very cheesed off with the PM’s dodging the elephant in the room. Nice to see so many supporters of whale rights came out of the woodwork that day. I wonder how many of them actually bother to donate to organizations devoted to saving animals.
Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten (Australian Labour Party), was more concerned about reminding the world how un-PC Abbott’s negative comments were on his party’s term in office, than proffering a view on the Abbott-Abe interaction – or lack of, as the case was. I suppose Shorten should take every advantage while the camera was focused on him.
As many of you would have read my previous article, “The Japanese Whaling Season Begins”, published in The Infinitive, 9th Dec 2013, my blog, gerowynhanson.wordpress.com, Facebook and Twitter, you would know my stance on whaling. Having lived half of my adult life (and almost all of my work/study existence) in Japan, I see things from a more balanced point of view; at least, I would like to think so. They are all correct. And they are all missing the point.
The Japanese do not have a tradition of debate or the Socratic dialectic, or even the Catholic Church’s medieval practice of playing the devil’s advocate like we in the West do. It’s all too confrontational for their sensibilities. Their conversational method for broaching difficult or controversial subjects is a softer approach, sometimes accompanied with a libation to help the medicine go down.
It involves several rounds of polite exchanges, affirming one another’s attributes and basically a lot of bowing and back scratching. That might not be a bad thing, given that some “feedback” is about to follow. When the uncomfortable topic is eventually brought up, it is often couched in indirect terms. Close associates might even predicate the difficult matter with a respectfully phrased, “to speak frankly, if I may…”
Whether Abbott had the time to “speak frankly”, I cannot say. If that is the case, and after all, our Fearless Leader had to spread himself and his words pretty thinly over the Forum, then the sparsity of his exchange might have been unavoidable. A conscientious leader, however, could have obliquely hinted at intending to bring up the topic again at a more conducive time. This at least would have satisfied the naysayers. At the same time, while letting the Japanese know we have not forgotten their indiscretions in the Antarctic, there will be a time and a place when this sticky subject will be raised again.
Perhaps we (read = Abbott & Bishop) could take a page out of the Japanese way of diplomatic negotiations. Charging in like a wounded bull at Prime Minister Abe would have been injudicious and irresponsible. On the other hand, Abbott’s approach to simply skip around the edges smacks of insincerity, lack of integrity and downright untrustworthiness.
No, Mr Abbott, it is not a case of skulking around the elephant at the back of the room. Show some guts, stand up to the “baddies” and learn how to cross the cultural divide by respectfully approaching a difficult subject on your opposition’s terms. In fact, we might all learn a few handy techniques which after all are just good manners.
JAPANESE WHALING SEASON BEGINS
GEROWYN HANSON ©
News that the Japanese whaling factory ships are about to leave port for its annual cull is ramping up preparations for the Sea Shepherd fleet to also set sail.
Last year, the international anti-whaling organization reported their best year so far, by saving more than 900 whales from slaughter. Sea Shepherd spokesperson and former Greens leader, Bob Brown, wants the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, to honour his word by sending an Australian Customs vessel to accompany their fleet to the Antarctic. The Minister remains committed at this point.
While hunting for whales is abhorrent to most westerners, it is not particularly well accepted in Japan, either. As a matter of fact, since the late 1990’s, Japanese eco-tourism charter boats have been taking sightseers whale-watching around its coastline and islands. It is even possible for visitors to swim with the creatures. Progressive-thinking news commentators have also been questioning the need to hunt the species when Japan already has such a wide choice of meat products.
Unlike the ancient practices of whale hunting amongst indigenous populations in the circum-polar regions, such as the Inuit people, whaling was never a traditional custom with the Japanese. The practice was actually introduced in the post-war era when the near starving population needed a large and readily available source of protein. It was in fact, under orders from General Douglas A. MacArthur during the Allied occupation, that whaling was seen as a solution to an urgent problem.
Not only is it a relatively recent activity but the majority of Japanese people do not even like or eat whale meat. In reality, there are a number of Japanese anti-whaling activists who regularly protest against the whaling companies by pressuring them to abandon the hunt. In 2008, activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, known as the “Tokyo Two”, were arrested. The campaigners were unlawfully imprisoned for two years after uncovering government corruption whereby tax-payers’ money had been used to finance the whaling industry. Due to the overwhelming support for their cause, they were finally released on suspended sentences in September, 2010.
In June this year at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Australia challenged Japan’s true purpose of whaling for scientific research. The Japanese defended their case by stating that while some of their research included live whales, a complete investigation could not be carried out scientifically unless it could examine dead specimens as well. They accused Australia of offending its national dignity when allegations were made that the Japanese had lied to The Court. Australia argued that Japan’s use of the term “scientific research” is actually a scheme to conceal the killing of whales for commercial gain which is prohibited.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned the commercial slaughter of whales by non-indigenous populations in 1982 to allow stocks to recover. Member nations such as Japan can however, obtain “scientific permits” to kill whales for research. Presentation of evidence for the case is likely to take up to two years before a decision can be reached.
Earlier this year, the Japanese factory ship, Nisshin Maru and a Japanese Customs vessel, the Shonan Maru were ordered out of Australian territory when they crossed the line in Antarctic waters following interaction with Sea Shepherd craft. The anti-whaling organization believes there will be more confrontations with the Japanese fleet again this year.
While the Australian Government wishes to show integrity by both its legal and humane stance on whaling, there is the risk of offending an important trading partner. In view of the Abbott Government’s record in international relations to date, it will be interesting to observe how this situation will be handled as well.