Let’s stop outsourcing the problem of aslyum-seekers to our media and pollies

The Labor leadership is settled now.

The next question is, how do we lead our leaders into making better choices and communicating better about asylum seekers?

Some Australians have been so thoroughly frightened by ‘them’ that if they hear the message ‘asylum-seeking is not illegal’ all they hear is ‘we can’t stop those brown people’.

People with education assume the politicians are ducking a tough problem, but in fact most of the time they’re responding to the fear of most of the electorate.

In our history, we ‘trained’ our population to be frightened of the advancing hoards. Now we have some un-training to do.

It won’t help to only reverse asylum-seeker policies; the population has to accept refugees fully and see them as humans.

Almost all of the solution is in our (the progressive voters’) hands and we should stop outsourcing our angst to media and pollies. We need to think of ways we can communicate and build little friendships with those ‘other’ people we meet – at the supermarket, at BBQs, at work, on the train. The ones we politely disagree with but never really engage with, because their views repel us. We should also speak up when the media reinforces the fear – but don’t make the frightened audiences take on yet more fear – fear of us as well.

The solution is really very simple and we don’t like it: we need to reach out to our neighbours and touch them (ugh – not literally). Not preach, just connect. We need to respect them as fellow citizens, but not let that respect ossify into just accepting everything, let that respect mean we care enough about them to have conversations of substance.Image

Thoughts and feelings about distorting Julia Gillard’s work

Image of Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton

Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton

When I studied Australian history, I learned that we had been making public records wrong, recording based on the dominant view we thought that now we know that distorting public life leads to further distortion, we can stop it happening again

Good. So all us women have to do is educate ourselves for leadership positions and go for it. But no. We had a capable, educated, talented negotiator as a Prime Minister, but she was female.

And now we are collectively going to change the public record, and say she was shite, right in front of my eyes. Right here and now, we are going to change the truth. And everyone will go blindly along with it.

I used to think it happened secretly, when be wrote history books. But no, it happens openly, actively.

So take heart, everyone who has ever had a big lie told about them: you are now in very fine company indeed.

Here is the piece by Anne Summers: Mad as hell and not ready to make nice

In the 17 days since she was deposed Julia Gillard has been thoroughly trashed.[..]  Laura Tingle even referred this week to “the Gillard experiment”, implying the ALP won’t be going there again. Meaning what? No more women? Or lawyers? Or single, childless, atheist Welsh redheads?

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/mad-as-hell-and-not-ready-to-make-nice-20130712-2pv9d.html#ixzz2Yt0R7XCn


Julia Gillard’s gone. What then must we do?

Julia Gillard’s been booted out. After doing Knitting PMall the hard leadership yards.The fact that it happened is not shocking.


What is shocking is how many people have swallowed the dominant story in the media, put there and maintained by News.

When I was young, I was forever reminded by adults that “you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers”. Journalists regularly ranked somewhere next to lawyers and politicians in terms of trustworthiness surveys. When did we all become so stupid that we forgot to pay attention? The price of freedom, they say, is eternal vigilance.

You know what would make a real difference?

An angry, informed, deliberate, grass-roots campaign to educate people about politics, the political system, basic economics and civil rights.

That would make a difference to LGBT, to sexism, to the repetitive hoodwinking of the average Australian by the mainstream media (there are people in my social media feeds who don’t realise that there is no carbon tax on them), to the union movement, everyone vaguely left – and some of the wets from the right.

That would make a difference.

Who’s in?


Which comes first: church or state?


Debate and discussion swirls around the announcement by the Prime Minister of a Royal Commission into child abuse. The terms of reference are yet to be delineated, although we do know it won’t just be about the Catholic church, but will encompass all kinds of child abuse located in institutions and systems.

One of the arguments that initially confused me has been about whether Catholic priests ought to be compelled to report child abuse that is disclosed to them during confession by another priest. Confession is an ancient and very important part of Catholicism. My confusion arises out of my concept of faith versus religion.

Faith is both a practice and a belief. Religion is a practice. This is why one can mount scientific arguments to show that religion is wrong in its assumptions, but no scientific evidence could confirm or disprove faith. Faith tested by scientific evidence is no longer faith, it’s simply a bad theory in terms of its definition and an even worse one in terms of available proof.

But belief that is tested by hardship, suffering or a desire for insight is more of a faith. The belief (not hope) that the universe will provide the right person at the right time to speak to about a problem is a common belief even amongst agnostics. A child who trusts a playground bridge to not collapse under him is not only performing a psychological task but also exercising faith of a kind. The person who finds the courage to speak up about a bully is not necessarily acting in self-interest, this might also be argued to be another kind of faith.

There’s even screwed-up faith, that general urge of most humans to worship that sometimes becomes fanatical shopping or obsessive competitiveness. The urge to worship beauty is sometimes manifest by owning it rather than regarding it with wide eyes and then letting it go.

But that is enough of us lay humans.

The humans who have chosen to live lives of faith – priests – know perfectly well the difference between the material / scientific world and the world of worship, faith, humility of spirit and relationship to God. When a priest argues that other priests should not be reported for confessing acts that constitute abuse of a child, he is saying he wants to save their reputations (or, by extension, the reputation of the church).

Let none of us make the mistake of thinking that the state can come between a priest and his God. He already has a contract with God that he will commit his life to doing God’s work, mostly related to protecting and healing the poor and the vulnerable. (Leave aside the hypocrisy of child abuse in that circumstance).

There is nothing another person or the state can do, including jail or even death, that should be capable of violating a priest’s commitment to God. If his commitment to God and his faith is broken by actions of the state, one could say his commitment was not really there in the first place or that he had chosen the wrong profession.

There is no law which prohibits Catholic religious practices in jail. His confession can be heard by a visiting priest. He can seek and be given absolution. He can take communion.

The secular humanists, atheists and otherwise distracted commentators have be caught hook, line and sinker. The secular world is seeing the issue through their lens: that being found guilty of and going to jail for child abuse is pretty close to the worst thing that could happen to a person.

But to a priest of true faith, that would surely be a minor thing compared to burning for eternity in the fires of hell.

Hands up who thinks we need ‘earn’ the right to startup in Australia?

(Warning: this post contains massive generalisations, and should not be read as an invitation to start trolling. It is about an idea, not a piece of research, and thus it will be utterly flawed in many respects. So I will delete all nitpicks from comments…)

I found myself out of work recently with no real idea of what I wanted to do next. I did a fair amount of writing, some for me and some for others, but mostly I mooched around thinking my little head off, trying to figure out how to feed my family whilst not risking it all on a pipedream. I’m sure this is something that happens to a lot of people, this process.

Fortunately, now I have a venture to work on which is viable, easy to grow and based on cash flowing in. It carries no inventory – it’s a service. This service is based on the needs of small non-profits to provide reports to grant-makers and stakeholders. If you’re someone who administers a small non-profit, or you know someone who does, it would be terrific if you’d direct them to this survey. I’m also looking for a beta tester group – so something for nothing for those willing to give feedback.

The important thing is, I arrived at the idea for my new venture only after I abandoned an idea about entrepreneurship that thrives in Australia, an idea so deeply encoded in our day-to-day exchanges and media stories about business that we don’t even notice it. In the words of a once-famous Australian TVC for Palmolive dishwashing detergent: “You’re soaking in it!”

It’s been said over and over that Aussies cut down tall poppies – for those of you reading from the US, the expression means, when Australians see someone standing out from the pack because of their success, they cut them down to size, either out of envy or in a genuine belief that they are protecting them. Australian entrepreneurs who have been wildly successful have taken their cues from their US counterparts of from family and friends who have one-eyed belief in them. There’s been enough said about our tall poppy syndrome. I’m talking about something else here.

Sometimes, just a tiny shift in way you see something can result in an enormous change. I experienced one of those shifts of perception recently.

In the US, if someone needs work and can’t find it, or if he or she sees an opportunity that would pay them more or give them some other benefit, it’s an acceptable thing to start a business. Americans worship startups begun in the garage or on the dining room table, or out of the trunks of cars or doorknocking with their new gadget.

In Australia, we admire these people from a distance, and only in retrospect. We give them the tick of approval after they’ve achieved great success. And even if their success is not that great, but it’s still better than your average job and employs a couple of people, we still don’t admire them. We kind of act like they’re in loser purgatory because the only reason someone would be an entrepreneur is because they’re trying to hit the big time, make loads of cash, right? So someone who misses that mark and makes $200,000 per annum out of his or her slightly different insurance brokerage may as well go back and get a real job, because in comparison to Bill Gates, they’re nothing.

Here’s another one:  just exactly who should be attempting to start their own business? Obviously, a mechanic who’s worked hard in his or her career for two decades deserves a shot at it out on their own, of course. But not setting up business as a pool installer – that would be a bit much, wouldn’t it? There are guys who’ve been working in the pool industry for decades who should be better at that.

And who’s qualified? A guy who decides to retire early, and take a redundancy package, can do two things with it: go on a luxury trip that takes in St Andrew’s fine greens, or start a dynamic new consultancy selling services to his best buddies back in the washing machine industry. A guy who’s been recognised as one of the brightest in his final year at school and topped the class in his MBA must start a business, as a duty to the rest of us.

But what about your next-door neighbour? The lady who keeps cats who chews your ear off talking about the latest craze in kitty bling? Perfect niche internet business. No, she has not earned it. She wouldn’t understand the internet. She’s too old and on the pension. It’s not for the likes of her.

What about your cousin, the guy who invented his own non-processed food regimen and lost 40 kilos (88 pounds)? Perfect coaching/consulting business – might even be a candidate for franchising. He’s been looking for work for years, but nobody wants to take him because of the big hole in his resume caused by his (now long gone) depression.

So here is the thing I saw, that changed a lot for me. This is the crucial difference: in the US, if either one of them said they’d like to start their own business, people would support them, celebrate them. It’s the American way. And it’s the responsible thing to do -that’s right, earning money, by setting up a business, is a responsible thing to do.

In Australia, we equate responsibility with conservatism. So someone on income support shouldn’t register domains and start importing rare motorcycle memorabilia, young people with not enough education mustn’t squander all of our time and taxes on an event company that might fail and single mothers should just shut up and do party plan instead. In other words, we see startups as uniquely irresponsible, in comparison to getting a ‘normal’ job.

This seems like a little thing, but it’s not. To the extent that it’s true – I have no figures, it’s only an observation – it means that a disproportionate number of startup businesses in Australia are started by middle-class people with money and education. Innovation happens there, but not in the outer suburbs, not in the high schools, not in the senior citizens clubs. And when innovation does happen, it’s reined in by all our ideas about responsibility being aligned with conservative choices.

However, how could it be responsible to order only a container load of a new brand of sunscreen at the start of the summer holiday season? Why is it irresponsible to order ten containers? Surely, in the rational mind, the mind that is not hung up on holding back as a lazy means of practising risk management, the correct thing to do is to make the order for ten containers and then spend money telling the market about it. Rather than the Australian way, which is to order one container load and then cut back the marketing budget because you have no hope of building sales volume. Remember, these are gross generalisations and I know that Ruslan Kogan does not fit this mould. Thank God for that.

I wonder how wealthy our country would be if our attitude to small business wasn’t about owning small brokerages, Muffin Break franchises or vietnamese restaurants and was instead about the best ideas, the best market knowledge and the best support systems. And that it was responsible to start businesses and create jobs.