Friday, March 22, 2013

the crean family tradition

I agree with Gillard on one thing – the only poll that matters will be the one taken on election day. And I will say one thing in Gillard’s favour – the woman has HUGE ovaries.

How much of the ALP leadership crisis rubbish we’ve seen in the news lately is simply a media-creation - “man bites dog” re-packaged as a political sitcom with just enough plotlines to spin out for 13 or so episodes?
How much has been just spakfilla to tide us over til the beginning of the AFL season this coming weekend?

Whether there were leadership rumbles inside caucus or not, the constant speculation about the leadership over the last week or more was damaging to the ALP.


Simon Crean’s father, Frank, was the Whitlam Government’s first treasurer. He was a lacklustre chappy, really. Sure, it would be hard for anyone to look impressive if standing in the same room as Gough, but there was something about old man Crean that always looked crumpled.

In the end, the public perception of Frank Crean was irrelevant. A life-long Labor man, he became treasurer at the worst possible time in Australian history. At least Whitlam replaced him as treasurer before the worst of Labor’s fiscal shenanigans went haywire.

His political career ground rather quickly to a halt, but he never jumped from the Labor ship.

Reading spakfilla headlines for the past week or so, I’ve been struck by the thought that only an idiot would put his/her hand up for the job of Labor Leader any time in the next ten years unless, as a new broom, they could really sweep the party leadership clean and start from scratch.

Anyone who aspired now to leadership of such a [ahem] “rudderless” bunch would be tainted forever by association. Anyone who aspired to leadership of this mob would have to lack either brains, standards, or any real ambition.

So what was Simon up to today?

Raph Epstein played a recording of Simon Crean’s comments about Rudd during the last leadership spill. Crean’s opinion at the time was, effectively, that Rudd had not changed, could not change, and never would change. Rudd’s leadership style was a leopard-spot.

When he demanded a spill today, was Simon Crean naïve enough to think anyone would elect him as deputy leader? That Rudd had a clear majority? I doubt it.

What I suspect really happened is Crean saw his political career spiralling down the S bend and thought “what the heck, I’ll light one last petard for the good of the party. At least it might get the leadership sitcom off the front page for a while.”


Some of the texted comments Raph Epstein read out on the radio included
-          I will vote for Rudd but not for Gillard
-          I would vote for Turnbull but not for Abbott
-          I will vote Greens but give my preferences to the Liberals
-          I’m sick of this: Just how many Prime Minister sized pensions will tax payers be funding for the next 40 years?


So, has all this brouhaha made Australia a laughing stock, as one expert claims?

Whether or not it is amusing to outsiders might depend in part on how they feel about the Westminster System. 
We vote for local representatives, and the majority of those representatives choose the Prime Minister. 
Voters do not directly choose the leader. 
This leads to stability and ensures the Prime Minister always has the confidence of the Parliament.

One could be forgiven for thinking the reality is quite different if recent news headlines are anything to go by, or even if we accept that some people do not vote according to party philosophy but really might prefer Turnbull to Abbott, Gillard to Rudd and so on.

The stability thing works when there is a clear majority. But… maybe not so well if the Government is patched together with a series of treaties and deals as shonky as those that caused World War I.


The end stages of this democratic process are underpinned by party machinery. I was appalled when Hawke was parachuted into the seat of Wills, and when an attempt was made to demote Penny Wong to 2nd place on the SA Senate ticket for 2013.

More frightening was when Julia Gillard announced – rather too autocratically for my liking – that Nova Peris must be given pre-selection for the NT Senate, and that long term Senator Trish Crossin could lump it. Julia Gillard might have a sound vision for Australia if she hopes we will one day have an indigenous female Senator, but a leader leads, not commands.

As for Peris, no one can hand her respect. She has to earn it. If the pre-selection is handed to her, she will have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. Maybe three times as hard.

There are things to like and dislike about both the Westminster and a Presidential system of electing a leader.

If, as Australians, we are expected to vote primarily for a party philosophy or set of policies, we are stuffed.

Policy statements are too often descriptions of outcomes rather than prescriptions or plans for achieving those outcomes. Policies have been replaced by simplistic promises. Promises are broken.

The how to part of outcomes should, if the Westminster system is to work, be evident from a party’s philosophy. I, for one, haven’t a clue how what I thought was the Labor Party’s philosophy relates in any way to the “how tos” that have been delivered so far.

Let me be honest: I’m very interested in policies and philosophies but on election day my decision will be an emotional one. Who is the [current] party leader least likely to embarrass Australia on the world stage?

Tony who is so negative he can only talk of what is not?
Julie Bishop, who just looks like a Stepford Wife, nodding, laughing or shaking her head on cue?
Joe Hockey, who I suspect could pick a fight in an empty house?

Julia may have ovaries, but she seems increasingly self-referencing, and is unable to sell any positive in a practical way. [She’s no Stepford Wife, but still seems quite clueless.]
Swan? Torn between fiscal sanity and a desire to be re-elected. A fence-sitter.
Rudd? It is always a mistake to go back.

I’ve often said in the past that we deserve the right to directly elect a leader, encouraging someone to come forward who actually has a clear vision and the ability to sell that vision.
Sadly, I’m not sure anything would change. I’m not sure anyone who's interested is up to the challenge.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

all i said was...

At work today, someone rather younger had said of someone else “he’s not the messiah, you know”.

My boss, pretty close to my own age, muttered quietly to himself “he’s just a naughty boy…”

Which got me to thinking about how awful it would be to have a law that punished people mercilessly for making an innocent comment that might be taken as offensive.

So it was amusing to hear on the radio, as I headed home, what has happened to the enormously convoluted and downright offensive new anti-discrimination law the federal government had proposed.

The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the proposed laws have been sent back to his department to be reworked.

Raph Epstein did announce, though, that it’s believed there will be bipartisan support for simpler changes to the existing law to protect gay, lesbian, transsexual and intersex Australians.

[Guess the religious nuts will have to be dealt with later or somewhere more practical.]

Sunday, March 17, 2013

plastic paddies' day

Beware the second day after the Ides of March.

It’s the day people all over the world queue up at Irish themed pubs for green beer – a silly thing to do really, considering it takes four days to properly pour one pint of Guinness and, served the right colour in sufficient quantities it can turn any dedicated drinker green without the artificial colouring.

As I live in a nanny-state where it is illegal to be offensive about someone’s background or heritage, I shall avoid providing any hackneyed Irish jokes, though one might prove the Irish do have a sense of humour by acknowledging that “Large-Lad” is reportedly slang for a penis. Or maybe it's not a joke.


These lasses are practising the curtsy approved for females meeting her Maj the British Queen. Only a hop skip and a jump from a Michael Flatley audition, really. 


Saturday, March 9, 2013

rude words, gloomy post


This is a hard one to write, and I will no doubt feel vulnerable or naked once I press publish, but what the heck.

Let me start with just one anecdote relating to mental health care. I once rang a clinic in a desperately suicidal state wanting to see someone. They asked me my postcode, and they told me I was not in their catchment area, and to ring the clinic at a different town. The people at the different town insisted my postcode was in the first mob’s catchment area.


How lucky was I to be born with a few brains? After years of searching, I was finally able to work out the “something” I had always known was wrong with me was a bipolar disorder. In my mid fifties I finally got a shrink and a diagnosis but only by volunteering for a drug trial.

So many, many people with no resources at all fall through giant cracks in the system. Thank heavens I'm obese.

Call me callous, but whenever I hear people expressing shock horror indignation about asylum seekers being depressed or wanting to harm themselves, I wonder how naïve anyone must be to be surprised.
I’m sure detention doesn’t help, but a better sense of perspective might.

Do I think resident Australians should get better treatment than asylum seekers? No. Nor should they get less.

Far too many people with no resources at all fall through giant cracks in the system. Resident Australians - even those who live on the street - deserve as much consideration as asylum seekers.
Not because everyone in the world should be walking around with a sense of entitlement, but every one in the world deserves consideration because life deserves respect.
All life.
People we don’t understand, people who are needy, the animals we eat, the ones we gawk at in zoos, and more.


I know I’m not alone in claiming to have a mental illness. The longer I live the more convinced I am that everyone is phuct in the head one way or another.
I would never ever accuse anyone of jumping onto a trendy bandwagon who says they have suffered depression, or have x or y syndrome, or they struggle to read the body language of others. Life is diverse. All life.

People are not jumping on bandwagons, the world is simply better informed now, and service providers are more aware. Life is not always happy, everybody is different, and everyone has some shit to deal with. If we know what people are dealing with, it can help us deal with them, providing a win-win outcome. Not knowing what people are dealing does not mean they are not dealing with anything.

The trial drug Seroquel was disgusting, and for a couple of years left me feeling like I was trying to run through wet concrete. But they were two relatively good years, with no really debilitating depression. It was a relief to be numb.

Thanks go to TO – saviour of many – for not only finding a good shrink but getting me in to see him even though he was not taking new patients.
I asked the good doctor if the bipolar diagnosis was correct or was I just accepted because the drug trial people were desperate for guinea pigs.

He said diagnoses are not definitive but handy – that certain symptoms are helpful for deciding what medications might help people.
Then he filled out a form which not only mentioned bipolar disorder but post-traumatic stress disorder. A surprise that was no surprise.

The price of Lamotragine has fallen and is sometimes as low as $75 – before the cost of having a prescription dispensed.
God help people with dreadful illnesses desperate for drugs costing thousands a month.
God help those poor women – 55 of them - who were given Hep C by “Doctor” Peters.

Many, many people have damage which was self-inflicted. Do I feel for them? Yes. I don’t know anyone else’s story, but for the most part I guess people are human. Life is a lottery. Maybe it was random chance that the mistakes I’ve made weren’t the same as the mistakes they made.

Do I give a toss about federal/state right fights over hospital funding?
You betcha.
There’s something disrespectful of life itself behind all that despicable, self-indulgent political bullshit.


I grew up listening to a relentless litany of reasons that life is defeat. There were negative opinions, thoughts and beliefs about every one and every thing, and that only stupid people set themselves up for disappointment. If anyone was a success in one aspect of their life, there were a thousand things that made them defective and undeserving of success.

I grew up believing that humour is sarcasm. Well, clever humour, anyway.

It has taken me 40 years of conscious effort to curb my own tendency to sarcasm, though there are still and probably always will be lapses.
It’s a horrible thing, sarcasm. It’s awfully disrespectful of life.
It’s awfully easy to be good at.


Aunty who came to live with TO and I last year is a positive, forgiving, tolerant, and accepting woman.

I was talking about my mother one day when Aunty said in mother’s defense “she probably has what you’ve got” [bipolar disorder]. My reply was “Yes, she definitely does, but I hope it hasn’t made me half the arsehole she is.”

How can I claim to accept and forgive the foibles of others, their human failings and mistakes, and still be so hard on my mother? Must be because in this one instance it was about me. Maybe I’m human after all.

I’ve tried to be forgiving, and even believe that I really have been, but as one friend quite reasonably pointed out, it sounds like I’m still bitter. It was disappointing to hear, but she was right. I’ve decided that forgiveness and bitterness are not mutually exclusive.

I looked after my mother for many, many years. For the past 3 years she has lived in a Nursing Home in Murchison and although Bro 2 has visited her religiously every month, I stopped going.

It’s too far from Frankston to drive just to be sneered at with a “what are you doing here?”, to listen to her criticising the people who’ve gone out of their way to visit her, or to feel humiliated every time she said to a Carer who has just wiped her arse “okay, you can fuck off now.”

I doubt I have to tell you all about my early years for you to get the idea.

Show me a carer working in an old age facility, and I’ll show you a saint who is grossly underpaid and exploited.
I’ll show you someone who will walk up to a demented patient wandering the halls confused, and give them a spontaneous hug at no extra charge.


There is an organisation called CLAN that has been around for quite some time now. There have been generations of Aboriginal children stolen, and there were British migrant children sent to all corners of the globe whose stories are distressing. CLAN was about the third lot – those who have been in care in Australia.

Just one of the members I’ve corresponded with wrote of all the things she was then doing for her ageing mother. Her story and her goal broke my heart and left me feeling impotent.

Not every mother has a naturally maternal instinct. Some women are so broken themselves they have nothing to offer anyone else. And I felt this CLAN member would live in a dreadful hell for years trying to get acceptance or approval that would never be forthcoming only to find that, when her mother finally died, the CLAN member would continue to judge her own self harshly for failing to get blood from a stone.

I accepted long ago that I would get no acceptance let alone approval from my mother. I looked after her because it is the right thing to do, not because I felt affection for her, or even still had hope of receiving any in return.

Just the same, I can’t help feeling cheated. It’s a bit like having a hundred good reasons to remain childless, but still going through a lot of angst on reaching menopause.


Naturally something has prompted all this gloomy introspection – my mother had a fall just over a week ago, and whatever caused it finished her off on Thursday.

Most people are good and kind and caring. I even suspect that those who aren’t wish they knew how to be good and kind and caring. And naturally when people discover there has been a death they offer condolences which are quite sincere. But sometimes they gush.

I’ve been reminded now of a cousin who quietly told me, after her own mother died, how painful it was to present a polite front in the face of so much sympathy and so many compliments.
She would be the first to admit her mother was essentially a good person as well as popular. But there was a little kernel of conflict too, for she and her sister had reported as little tackers that their father was up to no good, only to have their mother blank out her face in denial.
Ironic, really, that said cousin came from what appeared to be a successful, stable, loving and fully functional family.


Bro 1 rang me this morning and asked if I had a good photo of mother we could put on the Order of Service. “Yes!” I said, knowing just the one.

I’ve searched for hours, and it is nowhere in the bag where I have always kept my photos, or anywhere else that I can think to look.

Giving up the search and being unable to find the photo was more distressing than anything I’ve felt since I got the news. I wondered why until I realised it was the only photo I had of the only time I remember my mother being genuinely happy. She was smiling for herself, not for anyone else – she had been living in the moment and there was someone home behind her eyes.

It occurs to me that maybe automatically thinking of this photo - of a photo that showed a positive moment in my mother's life -  means I’m a little more forgiving today than yesterday, and a lot less bitter. 
God, I hope so.