Saturday, December 08, 2007

PC Santa No 1 - Santa Clara the Wimmin's Santa

I put this image together for my own "art" challenge at Larvatus Prodeo. So far, it's looking like an easy winner - it's the only entry.

But that might change, thanks to this fulminating post at Slattsnews. It seems Port Phillip Council tried, and failed to put the kibosh on this years Santa Pub Crawl. Just as every Australian kid has a right to Santa, every red-blooded Australian male has the right to put on a Santa suit, go out with a few mates and get blind drunk - so long as it raises money for charity. And if a left-leaning city council tries to get it called off, with a lot of cant about public safety, it becomes an act of civic protest into the bargain.

Only a few days into this year's season, and we're already seeing some top quality Santa-bothering. Makes you proud to be an Aussie, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Word of the Day: Kirpan

The kirpan is one of five items of faith which are worn at all times by orthodox Sikhs. We'd call it a ceremonial dagger. It's worn (or carried) as a symbol and the Sikh religion prohibits its use in anger or malice.

Today's Rupertian reports that the Education and Training Committee of the Victorian Parliament has recommended...

... that schools should work with the Sikh community to allow male students to carry a kirpan - a small, curved ornamental steel dagger carried by all initiated Sikh men.

The Committee also recommends that female Muslim students should be allowed to wear the hijab at school.

Under Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, it's unlikely that the committee could have recommended otherwise - one of the rights protected by the Charter is "freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief". Since, for some Sikhs, carrying the kirpan is integral to the practice of their religion, a blanket ban on kirpans in schools would be a denial of this freedom.

Brian Burgess, head of the Victorian Association of State Secondary School Principals reckons the committee got it wrong on this issue (so do a couple of bloggers, which is how I picked it up) and it may be that there are one or two school principals,m and school councils out there who share Burgess' fears of what a kirpan armed Sikh student might do in response to one playground taunt too many, or what might happen if the kirpan falls into the hands of another student.

Expect a pointless controversy over this committee reccommendation; that's what happened in Canada when a Sikh student accidentally dropped his kirpan in the playground, in 2001. The result was a dispute that dragged out until March 2006, when Canada's Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that:
a total ban of the kirpan in schools violates the Charter of Rights because it infringes on the Charter’s guarantees of religious freedom. But it does allow school boards to impose some restrictions on the carrying of kirpans to ensure public safety. (CBC News, March 2, 2006)
In fact, such a solution had been proposed, adopted, and then withdrawn earlier in the Canadian case:
Quebec Superior Court Justice Danielle Grenier rules that because the kirpan is an integral part of his religious beliefs, Gurbaj can wear a real one to school as long as he follows several conditions. The kirpan must be sheathed in a wooden case, wrapped in heavy fabric and worn under his clothes. The belt holding the kirpan must also be sewn into his clothing. The judge calls these conditions a reasonable accommodation of Gurbaj’s religious freedoms and the need for public safety. The school board, backed by Quebec PQ government at the time, appeals. (as above)

You'd think that with such stringent safety precautions, and the Supreme Court ruling that would be the end of the matter. Not for some of Canada's bureaucrats:

Quebec's biggest school board is successfully accommodating the religious and cultural differences of its diverse student population — unless a student wants to wear a ceremonial dagger or a face-covering niqab, the head of the board told the Bouchard-Taylor commission Tuesday.

These are simply not allowed, the chair of the Commission Scolaire de Montréal, Diane de Courcy, told the Quebec commission on reasonable accommodation of ethnic and religious minorities, which returned to Montreal Monday for its final hearings. ((CBC News, November 27, 2007)

It would be pleasant to think that we could avoid imitating the Canadians on this issue and following them down the same weary road to obstinate idiocy; but I'm nowhere near that much of an optimist.

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo in Exile)

Pre-Christmas Vinyl Chuck-Out

I've just finished sorting my collection of old vinyl recordings into two classes - those I definitely want to keep, and those I can live without.

If there are any Melbourne readers out there who might be interested in acquiring some old 70s and 80s pop, one hit wonders and other stuff I've come to regard as so much musical dross, just drop me a line (gummo dot trotsky at gmail full-stop com).

You Know You're Too PC Dependent When ...

... you take a break from working on a complex tonal drawing and your first thought is that it's time to hit "File → Save".

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Our Official Values

According to the DIAC booklet Becoming an Australian Citizen, these are the main values that matter in Australia. The ones that matter enough to be included in the Citizenship test that was introduced earlier this year by He Who Is Occasionally Giving Brendan Nelson Friendly Advice on How to Run the Liberal Party:
Values which are important in modern Australia include:
  • respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual

  • freedom of speech

  • freedom of religion and secular government

  • freedom of association

  • support for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law

  • equality under the law

  • equality of men and women

  • equality of opportunity

  • peacefulness

  • tolerance, mutual respect and compassion for those in need.

It's no great mental exercise to run through the list, take a look at the previous Government's actions and a lot of the attitudes expressed in posts and comments on blogs and conclude that none of these ten values is particularly important in Australia at all. I could easily get a quick post about the rank hypocrisy of testing would-be citizens for a willingness to uphold these lofty values when the government routinely flouts them and a lot of the existing citizenry treat them with disdain.

It's more interesting - and more in the new spirit of "slow politics" to take a look at where this declaration of our official values came from. Let's start with the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, which created the citizenship test:

Application and eligibility for citizenship

General eligibility

(2) A person is eligible to become an Australian citizen if the Minister is satisfied that the person:


(d) understands the nature of an application under subsection (1); and

(e) possesses a basic knowledge of the English language; and

(f) has an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship; and


(2A) Paragraphs (2)(d), (e) and (f) are taken to be satisfied if and only if the Minister is satisfied that the person has, before making the application:

(a) sat a test approved in a determination under section 23A; and

(b) successfully completed that test (worked out in accordance with that determination).



Citizenship test

(1) The Minister must, by written determination, approve a test for the purposes of subsection 21(2A) (about general eligibility for citizenship).

Note: The test must be related to the eligibility criteria referred to in paragraphs 21(2)(d), (e) and (f).

Successful completion of the test

(2) A determination under subsection (1) must specify what amounts to successful completion of the test.
In short, it is up to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to decide what goes into the citizenship test, and what rates as a passing score. So DIAC's list of official Aussie values originated from the desk of Kevin Andrews. Obviously, Andrews didn't compile the list, or devise the test himself - that's what flunkies and bureaucrats are for - but it was his signed approval that made the test legally valid.

So our official Australian values are what the last Minister for Immigration and Citizenship decided they should be; but, interestingly enough, there's nothing in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, to prevent the current Minister, Christopher Evans (no doubt at the behest of Kevin Rudd) from getting his flunkies, and the bureaucrats who devised the Andrews test, to come up with a new test, more in line with the ideology of the Australian Riff-Raff Party.

It gives a whole new meaning to the saying "when you change the government, you change the country" doesn't it? The obviously sensible solution to this problem - and if you don't think it's a problem, you've got talc between your ears - is to reform the 2007 Act. Alternatively, we could roll things back to its predecessor - the Citizenship Act 1948, while we all have a good long think about whether we want a set of official Aussie values in the first place, and how to get them expressed in law if we do.

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo in Exile)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Slow Politics - It's the New Zeitgeist

... Let me make this point, Virginia, when you have a change of government, by this stage shouldn't you have had the announcement shock horror, Budget secretly in deficit, books cooked?
You know what's amazed me? Just the quietness of this week. There's been no revelations about the Budget...

Let me tell you when I was elected, the Monday afterwards, what had supposedly been a Budget surplus was $10 billion in deficit and the thing that amazes me about Labor is you know, all the equanimity around the place.
No hidden skeletons, no hidden shocks.
(Peter Costello on Lateline)
Well, that was last week. My first serious dip into current affairs this week was the first ten minutes of last night's 7.30 Report and Kerry O'Brien's interview with Wayne Swan:

WAYNE SWAN: Well Kerry, we have had six interest rate rises on the trot and they have flowed from the inflationary pressures in our economy that have been building for a long period of time.

Now, I could go on in this interview and bag the Opposition for the fact that they didn't deal effectively with inflation. I'm not going to do that tonight, because what I'm really interested in doing is putting in place the necessary reforms that expand the productive base of this economy and put downward pressure on inflation and downward pressure on interest rates...
Swan's refusal to bag the Opposition was a bit of a personal disappointment, but it's an interesting contrast with Costello's first major act as Treasurer - the revelation of the "Beazley Black Hole". A big shocker of an announcement, clearly intended to discredit Kim Beazley in the eyes of the electorate and dismay Australian Riff-Raff Party and its supporters. Fast politics, played for maximum emotional impact.

Naive optimist that I am, I think the days of fast politics - of manufactured crises, dog-whistling and campaigns based on vacuous promises ("Interest rates will always be lower under the coalition") and fear ("70% of the Rudd front bench are former trade-union officials") are over for now. We won't be seeing any triumphalist humiliation of a defeated Opposition for a while either.

As for the hidden skeletons - well it's early days yet. There are plenty of areas outside the budget - areas of substantive policy - where they might be found. See, for example, this post by Peter Martin and this AM interview with Kevin Rudd. Rudd's response is nothing like the "OMFG, we're nowhere near meeting our agreed Kyoto target and it's all the Opposition's fault!" that we would have got from He Who Has Passed Into Political Oblivion.

Over the next few months, as Labor gets to grips with the administration of areas like national security and immigration, I expect more of these revelations. They may lack drama, but the cumulative effect on the Coalition's credibility as an alternative government will be just as damaging as Costello's dramatic announcement of the "Beazley Black Hole".

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo in Exile)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Definitely an Own Goal - but Whose?

A week's supposed to be a long time in politics but it seems that it's nowhere near long enough for those insightful people over at the Rupertian to get over their peevishness at the way the voters let them down by electing a bunch of trade union leaders and other assorted riff-raff to replace what's his name and his annointed successor, Chinese submariners willing. However this morning's opinion section brings one promising sign that the engorged spleens and gall bladders of the editors and commentators at our rag of record are now merely distended - the task of paying out on the people for electing Kev, Julia and the ARRP (Australian Riff-Raff Party) has been contracted out to an overseas supplier for the day.

The supplier is Mark Steyn. His article "A loss for civilisation" is a good follow on from Paul Kelly's last piece, where he argued that what Australia had on November 24th wasn't any ordinary election: it was a great national enema, a purging of the bowels of the body politic with the warm soapy waters of democracy.

Steyn begins:
ACCORDING to my Oz-watching pals in Britain and the US, John Howard is not a failure but a victim of his own success. He made Australia safe for the Labor Party: or, at any rate, safe enough that a sufficient number of bored electors were willing to take a flier on a house-trained Labor on the short leash of a quasi-Blairite leader.

That, at any rate, is the spin. Even if it's correct, and accepting that in parliamentary democracies even the greatest generals go a bridge too far, I regret Howard's end. True, I object in principle to Australia's gun laws, and I regard much of the Aussie economy as embarrassingly overregulated after a decade of supposedly conservative rule. But, as the former prime minister put it in one of his most famous soundbites, this is no time to be an 80 per cent ally.

I am a 100 per cent ally of Howard.
It strikes me that there's really only one sensible place for Mark to go from there - and that's a final paragraph announcing his voluntary retirement from the columnising game in favour of a job as humble library technician which will allow him to mentor new up and coming columnists. That after all, is where all the 100 per cent allies of John Howard in the Liberal Party are headed - with the possible exception of Tony Abbott. In fact, Steyn goes on for several boring paragraphs to belabour us - the people who voted Rudd in and the Rat of Straw out. By his own admission Mark isn't arguing from an informed, knowledgeable position (you'd no doubt have guessed that from his objection "in principle" to Australia's gun laws - which are none of his damn business because he doesn't bloody live here):
From my perch several thousand kilometres away, I won't pretend to be an informed analyst of the internal dynamics of the Liberal Party. During my last visit, en route to yet another meeting, there'd usually be someone in the car explaining why the fellow I was on the way to see was on the outs with whichever prime-minister-in-waiting I'd met the day before...
Mark doesn't let his admitted ignorance stand in the way of giving us a good telling off for letting down Western civilisation - and hence the whole world:
What mattered to the world was the strategic clarity Howard's ministry demonstrated on the critical issues facing (if you'll forgive the expression) Western civilisation.
There's more absurd bollocks after that declaration, and a lot of name-dropping to let the reader know Mark's actually met some Aussie politicians. We natives might find them laughable, but Mark's willing to wise us up on a few points, such as this:
Costello's exhortation to Aussie couples - have one for mum, one for dad, and one for Australia - gets the stakes exactly right...
The Coalition was all but unique in understanding the three great challenges of the age - Islamism, demography, civilisational will - that in other parts of the West are combining to form the perfect storm... I liked to call Alexander Downer my favorite foreign minister, which, in hindsight, was damning with the faintest of praise.
Yes, we had our chance to re-elect the Rodent, and we blew it. Nonetheless, there's still a way that something might be salvaged from this - not for Australia specifically, but for the Western Civilisation of which we're a small corner:
As a distant observer of Australian affairs, I had some small personal contact with Howard and co. over the years. Merry, feisty, blunt and fair, they were exactly what we need at this moment: happy warriors. I'm saddened Australians feel differently. But if it's too late to get the US constitution amended in time for them to run for president next November, the savvier candidates ought to snap 'em up as speech writers.
There's no way I can beat that for a punch line.

(Cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo in Exile)