Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CRIKEY: Bradfield preselection shows NSW Libs have changed ...

Before my membership lapsed in 2002, it was a place where homophobes gathered and made jokes about all those “faggots” who formed a “Pink Triangle” cabal in the small ‘l’ faction known as the Group (or as we referred to them, the “Left”).

In fact, we had a theory about the powers-that-be in the NSW Young Libs, which was then controlled by the Left. We assumed that each alternate year, a homosexual male was made Young Liberal President, either as a kind of “affirmative action” or as an indication that the Pink Triangle had the entire Left faction by the balls (so to speak).

I remember our monthly NSW Young Liberal Council meetings used to be held at the Cricketer’s Club in the CBD. However, we were kicked out by the club after a right-winger punched a Group guy he assumed was homosexual simply because he wore a skivvy.

One factional heavy from the Senior Right (now a conservative NSW Upper House MP) even said to me that I should try and recruit lots of conservative Muslims to the party on the basis of his assumption that “they hate Jews and homosexuals as much as we do”. And when that upstart former head of the Australian Medical Association suddenly nominated for the Bradfield preselection I attended in May 1995, we all wondered about his sexuality simply because he wore an ear stud.

But at this Saturday’s Bradfield preselection at the Hornsby RSL, one of the front runners will a conservative who also happens to be openly gay. And I doubt he’ll be wearing a skivvy. Former Brendan Nelson staffer Simon Berger has the backing of former Howard staffer Arthur Sinodinos and South Australian conservative heavy Nick Minchin. Even Brendan Nelson sang Berger’s praises in the local rag before the 34-year-old had even nominated.

In keeping with the gay conservative theme, former tennis star John Alexander has received a reference from Alan Jones, as has former opinion editor of The Australian Tom Switzer. Also providing references to Switzer are Janet Albrechtsen. It’s only fitting given the enormous support Switzer gave her after she was caught out in some rather un-journalistic activity. Switzer doesn’t seem to have received much support from his old boss Dr Nelson, for whom Switzer worked as an adviser toward the end of Nelson’s leadership of the Federal Opposition. I wonder why.

First published in Crikey on Tuesday 22 September 2009.

Monday, September 21, 2009

MEDIA: Congrats to Toni ...

It's great to learn that Australian actor Toni Collette has won an Emmy Award for Best Actress for her brilliant portrayal of a woman suffering from a debilitating mental illness in United States of Tara.

Collette plays all four personalities of her character Tara with such ease. This show is at times hilarious and at times tragic when one considers the enormous impact Tara's antics must have on her family let alone herself.

And it's wonderful to see Toni hasn't changed her accent.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BLOG: Daily Telegraph opinion editor publishes call to virtual Muslim genocide ...

I wonder if Michael Danby will make a speech in Parliament about this.

Tim Blair, far-Right opinion editor of the Sydney tabloid Daily Telegraph, published a comment on his blog that literally calls for Mecca to be destroyed and facilitated all-out war in South Asia and the Middle East involving invasions of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria etc.

Here it is:

The US should have immediately attacked Mecca with a nuclear strike and brought the war to the heart of Islam.

They should have let the Indians off the leash to do what they want with Pakistan and Afghanistan, told the Israelis that they can smash the Jordanians, Syrians and Gypos, then landed half the USMC in Libya and Lebanon and steamrolled east and south until they linked up with the Israelis.

The US Army and the other half of the USMC should have been deployed to the Gulf and launched an invasion of Saudi and Iraq and pushed toward Syria.

Everyone else should have been told to eff off until the job was done and then some.

This is where Bush failed. He was too soft on them. Too soft.

Islam delende est.

murph of Blackheath (Reply)
Sun 13 Sep 09 (12:06am)

Wholesale massacre and genocide. Tim Blair allows it on. He thinks it satisfied his newspaper's moderation policy. His editor Gary Linnell doesn't seem to mind. And the Member for Federal Ports hasn't said a word yet.

But hey, it isn't racist to call for people to be murdered and bombed and turned into compost on the basis of their deemed religion. I mean, religion is a matter of choice, isn't it? And Muslims aren't a race, are they? It ain't genocide, is it?

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Monday, September 14, 2009

COMMENT: Mr Danby and racist comment moderation ...

Mr Michael Danby, former editor of what used to be called the Australia-Israel Review and now Federal Labor Member for Melbourne Ports, has a go at two popular Australian websites - Crikey and NewMatilda. He engages in a grievance mass debate in the House of Representatives on 7 September 2009, the contents of which can be read here.

Mr Danby was scathing of these websites' moderating comments that he regarded as anti-Semitic and racist comments appearing after articles. Here are some terms he uses to describe comments published here on the subject of the Israel/Palestine conflict:

... unmoderated, unleashed and unhinged comments on their websites ... the broad slabs of hate speak published in the comments section following each article ... Newmatilda publishes blatantly bigoted commentary, even though the magazine explicitly reserves the right to moderate that commentary if it is abusive or promotes hate. Only since being exposed has Newmatilda stopped publishing race hate in its comment columns.

... Crikey and its editor, Jonathan Green, have made no explanation or issued no apology. Eric Beecher, the owner of Crikey, who hails from a similar ethnic cultural background to me, owes an explanation for Crikey’s publication of these hate filled comments. Such comments would be suited for publication in Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer.

I write for both websites on a fairly regular basis. Much of my writing for Crikey has been to expose racist commentary moderated in blogs published by far better resourced international news outlets. I have also exposed racist commentary made by bloggers and columnists, some of whom Mr Danby has accompanied on trips to Israel.

If Mr Danby is serious about racism on websites, he should consider making an issue of what is published in the Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph. He should consider some of the anti-Lebanese, anti-African, anti-Muslim and anti-Aboriginal commentary published on the blogs of Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt and Piers Akerman.

Perhaps Mr Danby could provide some examples of comments left on NewMatilda and/or Crikey comparable to the ones found here or here or here. Or how about these?

All this begs one question: Is Mr Danby's refusal to attack these columnists' toleration of clearly racist, violent, xenophobic and fascistic remarks somehow related to their being solid supporters of the most far-Right views inside Israel? Would Mr Danby be more vocal in his criticism of these bloggers if they were somewhat less supportive of Israel?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

OPINION: Mad monk no more: Abbott's battle cry for Liberal supremacy

It's amazing how much spare time federal Opposition MPs have.

In Tony Abbott's case, the time was put to good use by his penning a sort-of-memoir and sort-of-manifesto entitled Battlelines. In it, Abbott sets out his vision for conservative politics which is at times useful in its coherence and at other times sycophantic to the point of nostalgia in its blanket praise of John Howard and his government.

Abbott's book starts with a useful reminder of why all wasn't lost for conservatives when John Howard lost his seat to Maxine McKew.

On election night 2007, few could have predicted the imminent fall of the WA Labor government or the electoral problems now besetting other state and territory governments. The Liberal Party is far from unelectable.

Indeed dysfunctional Labor governments in NSW and the Northern Territory could become a huge electoral burden for Kevin Rudd and lose federal Labor key seats in the next federal election.

Abbott writes in his introduction:

It won't be easy, but the Liberal Party can certainly win the next federal election. What's necessary is confidence that the federal Liberal Party has learned from recent mistakes and missed opportunities.

During a speech to the National Press Club on July 30, Abbott remarked:

I hope that Battlelines will turn out to be a significant contribution to the Liberal Party's policy development and political success. It won't be uncontentious even within the party. There's a difference, though, between fostering debate and rocking the boat.

But what if the boat is already sailing through choppy waters? Surely any contentious movement will make other passengers feel the boat is rocking unnecessarily.

And regardless of how much he denies it, one has to wonder how much Abbott's book is about making a tilt at the leadership. As conservative columnist Miranda Devine noted in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 30, the Sydney launch of Abbott's book was significant as it

... came on the very day that Malcolm Turnbull recorded his worst Newspoll rating as preferred prime minister 16 per cent to Kevin Rudd's 66 per cent.

Devine, frequently the recipient- of-choice for some of the choicest factional leaks from the conservative wing of the NSW Liberal Party, perhaps reflected the wishes of her informants when she described the book as

... Abbott's first crack at remaking himself as a real contender for the Liberal leadership. Abbott has never shown any sign of disliking the inference.

Some will wonder whether the Australian electorate would be ready for "Captain Catholic" to rule over a country where Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are the fastest growing faiths. Then again, many wondered during the mid-1990s whether John Howard, the man who suggested that Asian migrants may not make a neat cultural fit, could one day become Prime Minister of a country located closer to Kuala Lumpur than London.

Abbott is certainly conscious of this, and devotes some time in his book to explaining his interest in the priesthood and what Catholicism means to him. Abbott's clear preference seems to be enjoying the company of men of faith whilst not being as faithful as he would like. Hence he gave up on the priesthood and realised that the "living Jesus" was "only a second-hand presence" in his life.

There was a time when Abbott's alleged Catholic fundamentalism led to the accusation of his wishing to impose his rosaries on the ovaries of Australian women. Yet in Battlelines, Abbott takes a decidedly unorthodox view on the subject, placing himself in the same category as former US President Bill Clinton who declared that abortion should be safe, legal but rare.

Abbott's views on marriage are hardly a reflection of Canon Law:

It's not realistic to expect most young adults in this hyper-sexualised age to live chastely for many years outside marriage. People have not so much abandoned traditional mores as found that the old standards don't so readily fit the circumstances of their lives.

Abbott's book isn't just about de-frocking his "mad monk" image. He shows useful leadership in key policy areas and often in a manner that could put him at odds with key Liberal stakeholders. Abbott supports paid maternity leave and believes that employers (including small business) should carry the burden. Abbott acknowledges that this isn't a traditional conservative position.

Conservatives have been ambivalent towards maternity-leave schemes lest they encourage women to forsake their traditional roles.

Yet again, Abbott shows his conservatism to be "a pragmatic, eclectic creed", and his views on the issue were changed after discussions with former colleague Jackie Kelly and other female MP's

... who often felt torn between the demands of parliamentary life and the duties of motherhood.

Seriously lacking from Battlelines is a refusal to acknowledge serious policy (as opposed to mere strategic) mistakes of the previous government. This is especially the case in key areas of foreign policy such as the disastrous Iraq war. Abbott reminds us that during his first trip to the United States as an MP, he was described as

... a 'strong Liberal' and 'very anti-republican'. Most of my hosts thought I was a virtual communist!

Yet the manner in which Abbott defends the Iraq war would make any American host regard him as naive, if not imbecilic.

Tellingly, Abbott doesn't mention words like "torture" and "water boarding" in his discussion on foreign policy and the war against terrorism, despite his repeated references to conservative values such as support for the Rule of Law. Which I guess means that, should Abbott ever become Prime Minister, our nation's foreign policy battlelines will continue to be drawn by Washington.

Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and former federal Liberal Party parliamentary candidate. This article was first published in the Canberra Times on Tuesday 8 September 2009.

UPDATE I: For more stuff on Abbott's terrific book, you can read my review in New Matilda here.

UPDATE II: My goodness! even Bob Ellis has nice things to say about Abbott's book.