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Daily Archives: September 5, 2008

I again thank Sarah Palin for another record day on Floating Life

The stats for the past 24 hours in WordPress are just in. Yesterday set a new “best ever” at 805 views of Floating Life, with the Palin post now standing at 1,577 views since it went up last Sunday. New today on Floating Life is Yin/Yang beats Either/Or time after time…. I have also corrected the post The South Sydney Herald September 2008 so that Jim Belshaw’s computer will not crash — or I hope I have. Finally, I have added Australian poem 2008 series #20: Middleton’s Rouseabout — Henry Lawson (1896). Lunchtime brought Iemma rolled amid Labor turmoil.

On English/ESL I have added Worth visiting.

Later

On Floating Life the top individual posts of all time — that is, since 1 December 2008 😉 — now are:

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2008 in blogging, site news, site stats

 

Iemma rolled amid Labor turmoil

Such drama here in NSW!

Morris Iemma has been forced to resign as New South Wales Premier after sacking his colourful Treasurer Michael Costa. Nathan Rees or Carmel Tebbutt are now in line to be elevated to the premiership in a bid to try to rebuild the party’s flagging political fortunes. News that Mr Iemma was gone came in the wake of a press conference by Mr Costa, who said he did not consider that he had been sacked until the decision was ratified by a Caucus meeting.

Bye bye, Morrie!

morrie

ABC pic

Later

Nathan Rees is now NSW Premier. Only in Parliament for 18 months, and at one time a garbage man — an experience that may well be relevant — he does come across fairly well. He has a job on his hands; some wit a day or two back said the ship was deserting the sinking rats, and there is something in that I fear. But whatever, I do like the cut of Nathan’s jib, I have to say…

Saturday morning

There has been something of an outbreak of honesty in some of the interviews that have surrounded the sinking of Morrie. Nice guy, but never very convincing. Former Treasurer Michael Costa definitely has personality issues — some of which he has quite candidly admitted to in recent times — but in his farewell package he certainly told it as it is. He also admitted the problems go way back to Bob Carr’s day; now there was a man who had read his tea-leaves — or coffee grounds — back in August 2005. Bob is, and was, very plausible; you may take that in several senses.

I don’t usually quote The Australian’s Imre Salusinszky — very much a culture warrior — but he does get recent events pretty right in this story and this commentary.

Here is one of the new Premier’s interviews: NSW Premier Nathan Rees speaks to Lateline.

VIRGINIA TRIOLI: And congratulations on being made Premier today. It’s been an unholy mess, a really crazy last few months, hasn’t it, and a destabilised and fracturing time for the Labor Government? How do you unite now such a deeply divided party?

NATHAN REES: Well, I think you nailed it just then. It’s been an unholy mess and what we’ve demonstrated today as a party is that we recognise that it’s been a mess and we recognise that we need to deliver much better than that for the people of NSW. The changes that were made today, with the resignation, the courageous resignation of Premier Iemma – or former Premier Iemma – and the installation of myself and my deputy Carmel Tebbutt demonstrates how seriously we take the job of fixing the public’s view of our delivery and we take it very seriously…

By the way, he has a degree in English Literature from Sydney University — so no wonder I like the cut of his jib… 😉

Sunday night

Worth looking at: ALP dominance crumbles by Trevor Cook on ABC Unleashed.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2008 in Australia, current affairs, NSW politics

 

Australian poem 2008 series #20: Middleton’s Rouseabout — Henry Lawson (1896)

Here is a poem my father and mother both delighted in quoting on occasions. It is very much part of its time, isn’t it? You could say it rather contradicts the idea of the “clever country” we are wedded to these days. On the other hand, it does say something about an (alleged?) Australian preference for the pragmatic over the dogmatic. But this heritage can also be ambiguous, don’t you think? Does Lawson endorse this character, or despair of him? Both, perhaps?

PA007389

MIDDLETON’S ROUSEABOUT

by Henry Lawson (1867 – 1922)

*

Tall and freckled and sandy,
  Face of a country lout;
This was the picture of Andy,
  Middleton's Rouseabout.

Type of a coming nation, In the land of cattle and sheep, Worked on Middleton's station, "Pound a week and his keep".
On Middleton's wide dominions Plied the stockwhip an' shears; Hadn't any opinions, Hadn't any "idears".
Swiftly the years went over, Liquor and drought prevailed; Middleton went as a drover, After his station had failed.
Type of a careless nation, Men who are soon played out, Middleton was - and his station Was bought by the Rouseabout.
Flourishing beard and sandy, Tall and robust and stout; This is the picture of Andy, Middleton's Rouseabout.
Now on his own dominions Works with his overseers; Hasn't any opinions, Hasn't any "idears".
 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, OzLit, poets and poetry

 

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Yin/Yang beats Either/Or time after time…

I never said my Christianity was orthodox, though I am happy it is acceptable to South Sydney Uniting Church. In fact I am close in spirit, though not in intellectual stature or importance obviously, to the new Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia who is reported as saying he is an “agnostic with a sense of wonder” despite a Jesuit education. Incidentally, it is one of the more encouraging signs of the times, contrasting with the dark side of the Howard era, that  this happened:

ON his first day as the country’s top judge, Robert French set an early precedent by acknowledging the land’s traditional owners at a ceremony that marked a new era for the nation’s highest court.

Chief Justice French, who has helped to shape the nation’s native title law, said his recognition of the Ngunnawal people was “no mere platitude” and reflected an awareness that indigenous history was “becoming, if it has not already become, part of our national history. The history of Australia’s indigenous people dwarfs, in its temporal sweep, the history that gave rise to the constitution under which this court was created,” he said. “A proper perspective reminds all of us who occupy public office … to see ourselves as other Australians see us. This will often be at best with a kind of sceptical respect.”

That’s not political correctness; it is a healthy decency and a proper pride in this country in all its manifestations over time. Seems we’ve had a good appointment there.

architecture1thumb So back to my somewhat Taoist version of Christianity. You do know yin/yang don’t you? M’s pic on the right we called “Yin and Yang” for reasons some will understand. There are so many occasions when Yin/Yang is preferable to the Western insistence on Either/Or. Are you Pro Life or Pro Choice? I would cut out “or”. Are you for socialism or capitalism? I would cut out “or”. I would further say this is not sitting on the fence. It is recognising that the fence is not there. Similarly, at the end of John C Lennox’s often interesting defence of theism God’s Undertaker, Lennox comes up with the classic Either/Or:

Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator.

I would cut out “or”. Further, even if faith makes me lean towards the second it does not make the leap that impels me to accept the Bible as a literal Word of God, because I know from reading it for decades and from studying both history and theology that it is not — and yet there are respects in which I can say it is, or includes words that send me God-ward, and thus I am inspired by those old texts, or some of them. All that will revolt fundamentalists, and other people with tidy minds, but that’s no bad thing. Check the religion section in my links for more resources I do find interesting…

On a dubiously related track: Palin’s pro-life code, loud and clear in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. I refer to Peter Hartcher’s celebration of “the conscience vote.”

… Australian abortion politics exist in a parallel universe. A Tasmanian Liberal, Senator Guy Barnett, is sponsoring a motion that would end Medicare funding for abortions carried out between the 14th and 26th weeks of pregnancy. It is expected to be put to a vote in the next couple of weeks.

This has the potential to ignite a great political conflagration as the pro-life and pro-choice lobbies fire up. Abortion remains one of the most emotionally powerful issues in human affairs. But are the Australian political parties gearing up for a mighty struggle on this?

Not a bit of it. The Labor and Liberal parties have both decided that they will not put a party position on this. Both parties will allow their members a conscience vote. There are to be no party positions; only personal ones.

This is the standard approach in the Australian system to difficult matters of reproductive morality. It is one of the starkest differences between the US and Australian systems. Passions over abortion are stepped down in Australia even as they are stepped up in America, defused here even as they become more highly charged there.

The chief reason is that the parties know that this is an issue that can tear them apart, both of them. For instance, the Liberal leader, Brendan Nelson, and the deputy leader, Julie Bishop, have diametrically opposed positions on another abortion-related measure – whether Australian foreign aid should be made available to countries so that they can provide abortion advice.

Such funding is now banned as a result of a deal between John Howard, who wanted the Senate to agree to the privatisation of Telstra, and the now-retired Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine, who wanted the abortion advice funding cut off. Both got their way. The Rudd Government is reviewing the policy. Nelson wants the ban kept in place; Bishop wants it scrapped.

The party chiefs allow conscience votes in order to avoid bitter division. Does this short-change Australian democracy? In the last parliamentary vote on an abortion issue, members and senators voted in 2006 on whether to retain the health minister’s power of veto over the abortion drug RU-486. In a conscience vote, 65 per cent of members voted to liberalise supply of the drug, and in the Senate 62 per cent supported liberalisation. Interestingly, this is broadly the level of polled community support for legalised abortion on demand.

So we get a broadly representative outcome, but without the bitter divisiveness. In a conversation with the conservative US political philosopher Francis Fukuyama last year, he asked what the Australian political position was on embryonic stem cell research. I told him that it had been approved by the Parliament but on a conscience vote, not on party lines. It was the way Australia handled all such issues. There had been impassioned speeches, but no great partisan clash. There was a long pause before he replied: “It must be nice to live in a country like that.”

It really is nice, at times…