The Women of Simpson

Just on a fortnight ago, Gorgeous Dunny emailed me with this thread-starter. Among other things, he said:

Assuming a worst-case scenario, I thought that this story might be useful. It is nothing like what we had discussed about the gutting of the CES, but I did do a useful digression at one point in the story to explain why we need to have a fairly strong bureaucracy, and that some of the work they do is extremely valuable.

We may be facing a slash and burn if Hockey gets his hands on the Treasury keys. So it could be a useful reminder of the type of thing we’d lose.

I think Gorgeous Dunny is right. We need to refocus, we need to start the campaign for the next election NOW, and we need to trumpet every broken promise, every bit of damage to the polity, every bit of stupidity that this Abbott-led government will undoubtedly commit.

Thank you, GD, for your clarion call to arms!

Simpson is a small township in the Heytesbury district of Western Victoria, roughly between the regional cities of Colac and Warrnambool. Simpson is relatively close to other larger townships of Cobden, Timboon and Camperdown. It was founded after World War 2 as a base for soldier settlement farmers.

With less concern for such matters at that time, native forest was cleared to allow farming. It was suited for dairy farming, as was the entire district. The climate is cool with a high rainfall. The soil, once part of a volcanic area, is fertile. The farming flourished in that endeavor.

As one of the country’s most productive dairy regions, butter, cheese, ice cream and powdered milk factories prospered. By the 1970s, Kraft Foods decided to establish a cheese factory at Simpson. Kraft was already a dominant influence in Warrnambool and Allansford. Thus, the Victorian Government greeted the investment with some enthusiasm.

The Minister for Decentralisation, Mr Digby Crozier, was very keen to encourage any country investment and employment prospects. When Kraft first proposed the factory, he offered to build Ministry of Housing dwellings at Simpson to accommodate the employees. Kraft accepted.

(Credit: Colac Herald)

The best-laid plans of Mice and Men oft go astray – Robert Burns

The problem was that Simpson was only about ten minutes’ drive from Cobden, and about the same in different directions from Timboon and Camperdown. These places were the most likely sources of employees needed (many having the right type of experience). By the 1970s, the private car dominated as a means of transport. It was not worthwhile for employees from these places to relocate to Simpson, even though they readily accepted the work.

The Ministry of Housing was then in the unusual position of having a quantity of rental houses available at Simpson but no prospective tenants. That was contrary to the rest of the state where prospective tenants far outnumbered the housing available. It was too good to let go.

The dilemma was resolved by using that accommodation for single mothers with children. There was an abundance of single mothers on the Ministry waiting list for accommodation. As deserted wives, the victims of domestic violence, the spouses of alcoholics and drug abusers – they were invariably without means. And as the primary carers of pre-school and school-age children, they had few options for obtaining income. So the unwanted country housing became a refuge for young single-parent families (mostly from the city) in desperate need of accommodation.

There would have been adjustments for some, but the overall impact must have been positive. For the first time they had a secure cottage and land. It was at an affordable rental, and they could get on with their lives free of many stresses associated with the basics of food, clothing and shelter.

Although Simpson had minimal resources as a tiny country town, it did have the basics of a primary school, shop and park. Cobden, with a hospital, high school, super markets and other resources was only about ten minutes drive away.

As far as can be ascertained, most such families settled in well. They would have forsaken frequent contact with other family members and friends, and with services we’d take for granted such as dental and optical and the larger range retailing and recreation. That could be balanced against the freedom from abusive and violent partners. It was a safe and healthy place to raise children.

But by 1988, changes were occurring. The social security system that supported these women and their families was changing. In the 1970s, there had been a mishmash of pensions such as Widows and Deserted Wives. They had been merged under the general title of Supporting Parents Benefit. One further change during the reforms of the late 80s, however, was that the Supporting Parents Benefit ceased when the youngest dependent child turned 16 years.

Those claiming such a benefit were then expected to register for unemployment benefit, and implicit in that, to seek employment. The little haven of tranquility was suddenly exposed to threat.

This change exposed the social problem. The very strength of their location suddenly seemed a weakness. As sole supporting parents they were given housing priority. The country location, far from being a disadvantage was actually helpful, despite their city origins. Abusive and dominant ex-spouses were unlikely to trouble them.

If they were to become jobseekers, however, that very isolation could become a disadvantage. The government, sensitive to the impact from these changes to benefits, had assigned counsellors to assist in the transition. Simpson, however, was a different matter, with such a high proportion of its tenants on Supporting Parents benefit.

How I came to be involved is part of a different era in public policy, and worthy of a digression. For the last three decades it has been fashionable to talk about “reducing public waste”. In particular there have been political demands to reduce public sector staff numbers. Usually, politicians explain it away as “only cutting out excessive administrative positions” but not reducing important public contact positions. That is the political position, but it is more wishful thinking than realistic.

In my entire career I have always been happier and more effective in public contact work than in administration. But even I know the immense value of a strong administrative base. We need it to determine that our taxes are well spent. That requires a lot more than just eliminating waste and duplication. A lot must be invested in research to ensure that the scarce resources we have are spent in the most effective way. And a lot is invested in planning and developing public policy to ensure it has the widest reach for the greatest need.

The year 1981 was proclaimed the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by the United Nations. It called for a plan of action with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities.

In Australia (in an era just before the Reagan and Thatcher age took hold), all were called on to contribute in the private and public sectors. The country got right behind the idea. Great energy and investment was put into improving access for people with disabilities. Most was done on the most obvious shortcomings such as improving wheelchair access to buildings and toilets.

Our Department (Employment, Education and Training) considered access to its services, especially training and employment.
In particular, it looked at overcoming barriers to obtaining and retaining employment. It did not look at subsidies so much as to ask the question, what does such a person need to be competitive in the job market? When considered like that, the answer seemed to be to have employment skills that were in demand. From that it devised a Labour Market Program (LMP), which became known by its acronym as DAWS (Disabled Apprentice Wage Subsidy).

An employer hiring an apprentice under DAWS would receive a wage subsidy for the duration of the apprenticeship. In dollar terms it was about $130 per week. Over the duration of the apprenticeship, that meant near 100% of the wage at first year level, and a gradually receding percentage over the succeeding years as the trainee became more skilled and experienced, and was better paid.

The DAWS program was much more than just a wage subsidy, however. It had provision for Tutorial Assistance to help trainees with trade school. If a person had a hearing impairment, an intellectual disability, dyslexia or literacy problems, it could be applied to enable success. Other LMPs could be used in conjunction with DAWS. The Modifications to the Workplace Program enabled the purchase of particular equipment to be used in work. The aim was to allow the person then to focus entirely on doing the job.

From my perspective as an Employment Counsellor, DAWS was the best ever Labour Market Program. Persons with trade qualifications and skills had something to offer an employer. In most cases that meant that they became independent of social security support through employment, and sometimes self-employment, in the community. It achieved the aim of shifting the focus away from the impairment to how he or she could work. From a public point of view, such people instead of receiving benefits became taxpayers.

I have digressed at some length to illustrate the value of public policy research, evaluation and development. The argument that we can save public money by just reducing the number of jobs in the public service, especially at the Head Office administration level, is simply nonsense.

At the time of my story (the late 1980s), a great deal of research went into developing programs of assistance to employees made redundant be the reductions in tariffs. When used effectively, they could achieve good results in redeployment.

This digression was a way of explaining the Department and my role in intervening with The Women of Simpson. When Supporting Parent Benefit ceased to become available to those whose youngest child had turned sixteen, the primary support option then was unemployment benefit. To be eligible, however, persons had to be available for work and actively seeking it, or at least obtaining skills to be able to find work.

It was not just the shock in the changed conditions of support. It could potentially lead to distress as people looked at their plight. The government, sensitive to such a situation, would have already briefed and funded the two key departments Employment, Education and Training (DEET), and Social Security (DSS) to help alleviate the potential for a backlash.

The statistical data gathered by DSS included recipients of Supporting Parents Benefits, and in particular, those likely to lose that support in the next three or four years. The data would have identified anomalies such as the high proportion of beneficiaries in the Simpson area. From that it would have been a simple step to providing funding for and planning a special project. Then it would have been a matter of liaising with the resources in the area such as the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), DSS and TAFE.

By the time I was briefed about the project it was almost ready to go. It would always have been a priority to use whatever professional resources were available. Primarily that was an Adult Education Project Officer from TAFE, a Social Worker from DSS, and me as Employment Counsellor representing DEET and the CES. Eunice from TAFE was the coordinator of the joint project. She briefed me on the aim and the details of the plan. DSS had supplied a printout of the names of sole parents in the area.

What she proposed was a mail-out to those in the target group, inviting them to attend a meeting in Simpson about the transition. The first public meeting was essentially to be a briefing one to explain the situation and how each of us may help them.
A date was set for the meeting, to be held at the Simpson primary school. The mail-out extended to single parents in adjacent locations such as Cobden, but the largest cluster was at Simpson. We did consider the transport access of all when they responded. Since three cars (CES, DSS and TAFE) were going, we arranged to ferry any of those without transport.

The meeting was to explain the transition. Our primary concern was to assure recipients that nobody was being abandoned, and that this change could represent an opportunity to improve their lives and their future prospects. All three of us spoke to identify the role of each and how we could assist.

Eunice, as the professional adult educator, spoke about the advantages of improving literacy and basic education through to computers for broadening the horizons. The DSS Social Worker assured them of income support for the transition period and beyond, as well as offering individual help for those with personal and hardship issues. I spoke about the opportunities for changing lives and expectations through education, training and employment (which in some cases would have included preparation for work and work experience).

All three of us had graduated using the opportunities provided for free tertiary education during the Whitlam and the Fraser years. In a sense we had that in common with our group. We had all entered as mature-age students and valued the opportunities presented. The meeting was essentially for information, but we must have conveyed some of our enthusiasm to the group. There was a high follow-up response to the meeting.

We planned a second meeting for just over a week later. This one was almost a whole day (with lunch provided). There were two segments to this one. Eunice ran tests to determine their literacy and education levels and current needs. Working around that part, I, together with a CES officer, interviewed all of them to register as unemployed. They needed to be registered to qualify for LMP assistance even though not claiming benefits. I worked with those not currently being tested, and later we reversed.

It was an intense day for the group and for those of us interviewing and testing.

We arranged a third meeting to inform them of the testing results, and of the CES programs assistance available. The results and the subsequent actions are worth noting (albeit I am relying on my memory). From the mail-out we had about 16 attend the first information day. Then we had about 12 attend the second full day for the testing and registering.

It was pretty near the same number attended the third meeting for the results and the recommendations on educational, training and employment directions. The results and recommended actions were very heartening.

Four of those assessed were either functionally illiterate or close to it. Another four had little more than primary education. A further few had a reasonable enough secondary education to consider higher education or TAFE courses.

The most urgent needs were for those with no or limited literacy. That was also the first geographic problem. The nearest accredited courses in literacy and bridging education were at Camperdown. None of them had their own transport. We overcame that by liaising with the Victorian Education Department.

I worked a deal where they were able to travel to and from Camperdown on the school bus system. It was unprecedented and we had to get written authority, but it was done. From memory, seven participated, including some from Cobden. Three or four of these were in the literacy group. The others were in the educational preparatory classes in basic computers and English. I believe there were a few group sessions that all joined.

I followed up with the Camperdown coordinator some weeks after they’d commenced. She was very pleased with their progress. All had made some progress in literacy and preparation studies.

She was very impressed with a Cobden lady, Jill, who at 50 was the oldest member of the group. Jill was illiterate but made great progress. Not only did she progress in literacy. In other activities Jill showed a real talent for art and produced some excellent work. She also had a great sense of humor and kept other younger ones amused and interested.

Jill had had a long battle over her life. Her husband was in prison, and apparently didn’t add much when he was home. Poverty and the struggle to raise children had taken their toll. Somehow she had remained positive. She was looking forward to life as her children grew up. Each had an individual story, but all were about survival.

That was encouraging from where we had started with the assessments and interviews. One did Year 10 at Cobden High, which her daughter was attending. Some others, a little more advanced in education, also had good outcomes. Two enrolled in TAFE vocational courses, which normally lead to work prospects. I was able to assist another two into voluntary work experience through the hospital at Cobden and the school. In each case, it eventually led to paid work when I offered the Jobstart wage subsidy to their employers.

So starting originally with a response of sixteen to our meeting, eight moved into literacy and basic education, two into vocational training and two others into voluntary and then paid work. That was a very positive response ratio.

The success might have been helped by our backgrounds as mature-age entrants into higher education. All three of us were enthusiastic about prospects ahead for them. We seemed to have an empathy with the group. The social networking has also helped.

In my professional role as an Employment Counsellor, I was expected (in addition to my case work) to complete at least two projects on special tasks per year. This easily qualified as an important one. Some months later I reviewed and evaluated the entire project and its results, which were pretty well as described.

I prepared a study paper on it for discussion at our bi-monthly statewide meeting of Employment Counsellors. It was very well received. I was very flattered that two other Counsellors asked me to send them all the written details, with the aim of adapting a similar project to their own regions.

What we achieved then was a precursor to a program eventually promoted by DSS and the CES called JET (Jobs, Education and Training). The aim of that program was to assist single parents into one of those pathways through Labour Market Programs and Educational Assistance.

It was about opportunity, and was a little broader–based than our project. Childcare assistance could also be included. The key to its success is, I believe, to convince them that it is an opportunity, not a penalty. It can put them in control of their own future.

If we can give them hope and show a way, they will achieve.

1,054 thoughts on “The Women of Simpson

  1. leone

    he voyage of the Beagle

    This will get nowhere with Marty Natalegawa – he’s quite capable of being un-Jarvanese and just saying “get F#cked” when it’s required.

  2. leone, either i’m confused or David Pope is. That pic shows a pirate has taken over, and the former captain in lifeboat .. surely they mean the Bounty (Fletcher Christian setting Bligh adrift), not the Beagle (Darwin’s scientific exploration ship)?

  3. The most depressing thing at the moment is that the Coalition have walked straight up and wiped the slate clean of any undertakings or promises they made in the lead-up to the election, just as if they never uttered them in the first place – well, that’s not the depressing part, I fully expected that. The depressing part is the people in general just go, “Oh, ok, I guess they know what they’re doing.” We had three years – three full years – of Gillard being slammed from all quarters over the so-called ‘carbon tax lie’. And that misrepresentation was the only thing they had to concentrate on, as the ALP methodically set about implementing (or attempting to implement, amid the white-anting and hectoring and interference) everything they took to the 2010 election.

    And now we have the Coalition turfing everything out the window with their “we’re in charge now so you can all shut up” attitude, and the best response I’ve heard so far is a few “oh, please don’t do that” petitions.

    There’s a dangerous tendency in a lot of people to simply accept authority if it’s presented to them with a big enough show of power. They’d rather be treated like shit than take responsibility for their own well-being. They seem quite horrified when a political party offers them greater representation, choice, opportunity, efforts towards fairness and equality. They’d rather have the system of harsh authority and impotent complaint. It baffles me, but I can’t overlook it. I see it all around me.

    It appears that this time around the Coalition aren’t even going to go through the charade of opening up the books and declaring the economy is in bad shape. They’re just going to buggarise around with the economy without justification.

    We’ve had our flirtation with taking responsibility and acting like adults, and as a nation we didn’t much care for it. It’s back to the old patriarchal stereotypes. My only consolations are:

    1. Progress is a vector. It may be retarded or stymied, but it will continue. Right now is an odd time to be retreating to conservative attitudes as there’s not a lot to fear out there, so I can’t see an Abbott government being able to sustain the attitudes it’s currently displaying for all that long.

    2. Social media is now a player. It’s not able to change attitudes at this stage, but it is able to be heard, and it’s also assuming some of the responsibilities other media are abdicating – fact-checking, exposure of hypocrisy and mendacity, rational argument, balance of arguments.

    Give them a couple of years stuffing things up, and the Coalition will be able to go with the argument, “Things are bad now, but they’d be a lot worse without us.” It will take until people in general see through that – and that will rely on the ALP providing cogent arguments and a cohesive team – for the pendulum to swing left again. It’ll all collapse at some stage the way it did under Howard. The only question is when.

  4. Interesting Twitter conversation.

    Brooksy ‏@wrb330 21m
    Pub Serv friends warned they may be targets in Canberra if having anti Lib comments on facebook. Nice, fear for ur job via youre pers life

    authentiCATEd ‏@GalacticWomanAu 19m
    @wrb330 Isn’t it grand living in a democracy?

    Brooksy ‏@wrb330 15m
    @GalacticWomanAu What filth. Thought it was maybe a joke, checked my friend list. 16 gone today so it appears not. Texts advising of why.)-:

    Tony Abbortt ‏@StuartMckenzi10 12m
    @wrb330 @GalacticWomanAu Are you serious? In this day and age in this country WTF!!!???

    Brooksy ‏@wrb330 10m
    Yep, been getting messages saying so, & they have vanished online. .so it aint no joke. I am very angry. @StuartMckenzi10 @GalacticWomanAu

  5. I posted this elsewhere in response to wtte get over it. (KR v JG wars that is.)

    Culturally, Australia has their first woman Prime Minister who oversaw the most daring and progressive legislative agenda in decades passed in her parliament, out of politics forever. Meanwhile the man who whitanted her sits on the opposition benches in the new parliament of a reactionary conservative set of males in blue ties, and two sidelined women.

    But it is okay, everything is finally back to normal, everyone stand down, crisis over. Slap another snag on the barbie, maaaate.

  6. What is annoying me, is being told, now that Abbott is in, we

    I agree, we should not dish out abuse, but stating facts, and what we believe, is a part of the political system.

    Especially after this election, where very little detail of policies was given by Abbot.

    Also owing to the fact, it seems that people voted to get rid of Labor, not necessarily endorsing Coalition policies.

    No government, unless the few times they get control of both houses have been able to do as they please. That is a good thing. History has shown,mm that all legislation is improved, by amendments from others. That is how system is set up.

    What is more frightening, is Abbott’s belief that he is free to choose when he address the people. Much of their actions up to now, is setting in place mechanism to keep as much hidden as possible

    They must think the people are fools. This is only day three.

    I suspect that Abbott is attempting to keeping his public appearances, to releasing good news, and not answering questions from the media.

    Day three, we have GST on the table. Have not heard Abbott say, he would stop the states, if they went down this track. He was quick to say, he would stop the ACT on same gender marriage.. Maybe that is different.

    Abbott was clear, saying before the election, that he could do nothing about GST. That is not true, but it leaves the door open , for Abbott to do nothing, and let the states get on with raiding it, or more worrying, widening the base.

  7. Sorry, loss some words.

    “What is annoying me, is being told, now that Abbott is in, we must sit back, allowing him to do as he pleases. Sorry, the ability to dissent, is a important part of democracy.

  8. Fed up
    Dissent is no longer allowed. Read my earlier post about the Twitter conversation. The tweeter, Brooksy, lives in the ACT. He says the mood among public servants there is dismal, they fear they will lose their jobs, their careers, their homes and they are now being told not to make anti-government comments on Facebook.

    It seems we either shut up and learn to love our Dear Leader or else. No wonder Abbott is so keen to ditch the NBN. We can’t have all those tweeters and bloggers making adverse remarks about the new regime.

    Welcome to Abbotteria. The gulag is that-a-way.

  9. Heh. I kind of hope Abbott raises the GST. That’d be a very real opportunity for Albo or Shorten to rip out his throat, and get people rallying. We’ll see how smug the libs are when that happens.

    History says that the first opposition leader following election defeat won’t become PM. Well, history also said that unpopular opposition leaders don’t become PM either.

    The labor leadership campaign is terrific. Whoever wins it can needle Abbott for his cowardice at asking the Liberal base to do the same, especially when he loses popularity. Credlin might be able to intimidate the Liberal caucus into submission, but not the rank and file.

    I’m curious at the polls to see where things are now. I’ll expect Abbott’s approval ratings would be at their high water mark since it’ll all go south from here, and it’d be funny if they were still negative. And I’m also curious to see if they’ll include a preferred Labor leader, since it’s actually an appropriate question to ask at the moment.

  10. I think we may find that there will be no great hoo-haa about polls for a while. They’ve done their job…. nothing else to do for a while. As for not posting on Facebook – I refuse to kow-tow to that (although it is probably less dire for me at my time of life) – I’ll grant you for the young ones it would be a worry. This mob will over-reach – it’s happening already. I agree with Leone about the petitions – suck it up princes and princesses!!

  11. “they fear they will lose their jobs, their careers, their homes”

    It seems that we’ll have to rely on unemployed or homeless people, as well as pensioners, to criticize the government … Or on anyone who’s fearless enough to comment on their Facebook.

  12. Joe Hockey says the people who voted the Abbott government into power are losers. And yes, this is the genuine Joe Hockey.

    Indonesian Finance Minister tells APEC "governments are bad at picking winners but losers are good at picking governments". Gold!— Joe Hockey (@JoeHockey) September 20, 2013

  13. Hi all

    Off to the doc’s but should be back in time for the raffle. If it’s OK with the mods I’ll do the draw at 7:15 as we have had a couple of regulars who have just missed out getting their number requests in by a few seconds the past couple of weeks.

    gon out bakson

  14. In Fairfax they’ve finished counting the Absent votes so there’s only about 570 LNP leaning prepoll and postal votes to go.

    I’m projecting that Palmer will still be ahead by 13 votes at the end, so it still could go either way and there’ll be a recount.

  15. Looking at history, the recount in McEwen in 2007 was pretty eventful.

    The first count had Labor winning by 6 votes, then it had the Liberals winning by 12 votes in the recount. Then it went to the court of disputed returns and was declared as the Liberals winning by 27 votes, then later amended to 31. So any result below 50 votes is completely unpredictable.

    In close state elections, they seemed to find it easier just having by-elections, as in Mundingburra in 1996 and Greensborough in 1973.

  16. Waleed Aly re Abbott’s misoginy/sexism…

    This brand of argument is pointless for at least two reasons. First, it has been thoroughly agitated by Abbott’s foes for years now. A couple of weeks ago the nation either rejected it as untrue or deemed it an irrelevance.

    So because “A” happened, it disproves “B”. What complete and utter bollocks! Didn’t take him long to become an apologist. He probably believes the LNP have a mandate to do whatever they want just because they won the election.

  17. If Aly gets the sack from Fairfax and the ABC as they spiral to bankruptcy and LNP culture wars, I want to see the look on his face as he realizes trying to get into bed with the right didn’t work out that well for him after all.

    They still lump him in the ‘ABC lefty’ category, while real lefties are disgusted at him for joining in Abbott’s personal propaganda squad.

  18. We won the election and we will do whatever we please. Those who don’t like it will have to lump it. Election promises

  19. Abbott went to the election promising the cost of living would do down if he was elected. In government he colludes with the states to increase the GST and broaden its base to include fresh food.

    Hands up all those who took him at his word, voted for him and are now very worried about an extra $1 on the cost of their loaf of artisan bread or jar of handmade cumquat and pomegranate pesto. Gee, lots and lots of you. Tell you what, why don’t you start an online petition asking Tony to ……………….

  20. A Fairfax journo puts in his job application for a turd polishing gig with the LNP . If we cannot solve the whole world’s problems then best we don’t even try. Apparently.
    […but the Coalition has made the right choice to freeze the budget for helping to alleviate poverty overseas and merge the aid agency into the diplomatic service.

    No one would relish the task of standing in front of a hungry child in Africa and delivering this message. But it is more honest than peddling a false promise that spending more on aid offers a cure to the world’s ills.

    Despite our wealth, Australians should not be ashamed to admit we cannot solve every problem ]


  21. Kirsdarke

    They still lump him in the ‘ABC lefty’ category, while real lefties are disgusted at him for joining in Abbott’s personal propaganda squad.

    And their ABC will be expecting us lefties to leap to their defence when Blood Oaf undoubted either cuts it’s budget or sell’s it off. This lefty will not be; let their ABC reap what they have sown. The new media is becoming the new go to for us progressives for information. Fast, reliable, diverse and at times accurate; with the added bonus we can choose our own bias rather than having one forced down our throats.

  22. Wahleed Aly as a muslim male and all the education and social status THAT entails could be in a good position to comment on Tabbott’s mysoginy……having benifited HUGELY with a clear run to a networked career…like the network that LNP. “fellows” have….talk about “individual effort”!

  23. I wonder where HIS ; “Little woman” is…home with the kids and a weeks worth of ironing, no doubt…..But Hey!…she ‘chooses” to be the dutiful wife…and I have the blessing and authority of God to beat the snot out of her if she doesn’t! ( a metaphor of course!).

  24. What a strange article Waleed Aly’s is. It took me a couple of reads to see what he was getting at. And even then I’m not 100% sure. it seems to be making the point that the aim of movements toward liberation is to increase choice, by making it possible to select from any racial, gender, etc group on a basis of what, for want of a better word, we could call ‘equality’. But that, on the other hand, freedom to choose will inevitably result in favouritism from elite powerbrokers.

    If that’s his point, then I would argue that it’s so trite it’s hardly worth putting to paper. We know that. It’s the same point that might have been made 100 years ago re employment – ‘nobody disputes women’s right to work, but that doesn’t mean anybody is obliged to actually employ them.’ Or re law and order – ‘everybody breaches the laws in some way, but the police are free to arrest members of whichever racial group they choose.’ It’s the same logic, and if you’re happy to accept it then it reflects badly on you as a person.

    The question is: what do we do about it? I don’t think it’s acceptable for a party that governs the nation to operate as an old boys club. Saying, “Well they are, and we voted for them,” isn’t any sort of an answer. You certainly don’t change attitudes by just sitting back and saying, “Well, that’s the way things are.” You at least question it, rather than searching for ways to excuse it, as Aly seems to be doing. If it results in lesser governments due to said favouritism, that’s something we ought to be discussing.

    The concern here – and I would have thought it would be obvious to anyone who takes an interest in political issues, as Aly claims to – is that under-representation of women in Parliament is a disturbing example to set. It’s quite clear to me that there is a lack of female talent in the Coalition, which is of course the prime reason why there is only one female on the front bench. Accepted. But it begs the immediate question – why is there a lack of female talent in the Coalition? What’s going on there? The ALP – and the Greens for that matter – have no trouble finding women of calibre to take front-line roles in their party, and they do an exceptional job. There’s absolutely no question of tokenism when it comes to Wong, Plibersek, Roxon, Gillard, Macklin etc etc.

    While we’re mentioning Gillard, Aly also seems to have missed the point of Gillard’s misogyny speech. His tacit approval of Bronnie’s dismissal of it as “playing the victim” is disgraceful. We all know what the speech was about – not feminism, but hypocrisy. It came in response to Abbott getting all high and mighty about a private text from Slipper to Ashby, and carrying on about how disrespectful it was to women. Gillard, in her eloquent resply, set the record straight as to exactly what Abbott’s ‘respect’ for women amounted to. It was very much a “don’t presume to lecture me” speech. Aly appears to have taken up the cudgels and started lecturing again.

    This bit annoys me too:

    So many of those presently railing at Abbott would probably proudly describe themselves as small-l liberals. But would they understand the limits of what they’re saying?

    It would have been just lovely if any journalist in the period 2010-13 had ever started a sentence with, “So many of those presently railing at Gillard would probably…” But I’m willing to bet it never happened. All criticisms of Gillard were regarded by the press as justifiable, never ‘railing at Gillard’. You can see here the attitude that ‘things Abbott does are beyond criticism, and his actions need to be defended’. That’s a respect for the office of PM that we haven’t seen for about five years.

  25. kaffeeklatscher:

    Despite our wealth, Australians should not be ashamed to admit we cannot solve every problem..

    I think what he meant to say there was, “Despite our wealth, Australians should not be ashamed to be even more greedy, and tell lesser-placed countries to sod off.”

  26. kaffee = An eventful day as my nephew’s wife has just pranged the hire- car in Bath.

    Full -on smack from the rare. She made it home.

  27. Ian – It’s strange, because it’s the sort of thing I notice sometimes with myself and try to work out of my system. It’s so easy to let one’s prejudices and preconceptions affect the way one approaches facts. And it’s also why there’s not of lot of point getting into an argument online with someone you don’t agree with. In their mind they are absolutely correct, no matter how much you try to convince them otherwise. And they’re thinking the same thing about you.

    Clear thinking is the most important improvement that can be made in one’s life. And letting idiots think their idiot thoughts is a massive time-saver.

  28. CTar1

    Good news she came a prang like that through O.K. Probably good that it was a hire car.

  29. Aguirre

    [ And letting idiots think their idiot thoughts is a massive time-saver. ]
    There was a meme poking fun at those who did not follow that advice when online.

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