The Australia Tree

Today’s Guest Author is Victoria Rollinson, with a thoughtful reflection probably best described as a parable. Thank you, Victoria, for your superb, and sorrowful, story.

A metaphor occurred to me today about the Abbott government and I felt it was good enough to share. There’s nothing like a good metaphor to clarify how you feel about something; in this case to remind us how destructive and dangerous the Abbott government is for our country.

Imagine that you live in a big old house with your family and in the backyard in the middle of a sprawling lawn is a huge plane tree. In this metaphor, that tree is the Australian government. Yes, this is going to take some imagination but bear with me. The tree has been there forever and has grown tall and wide, with branches reaching out to every corner of your garden. It offers shade in summer, a place of shelter in winter, a quiet spot for an outdoor meal, a branch hosting a tyre swing for the kids and the perfect climbing gym and fortress for outdoor games. You can’t imagine your garden, or your home, without this tree and you always assumed it would always be part of your future.

But then something changed.

A man from the council knocks on your door one day and tells you there’s a problem with your tree that has been raised by a neighbour. He won’t tell you which neighbour, only that the council was taking the complaint very seriously as they would with any risk to the community. The only neighbour you could imagine caring about the tree is the grumpy old man living in the property behind yours. He had never been a friendly person and grumbled constantly about everything; the weather, the council, the rates he had to pay, the noise your children made playing and a few times, the leaves that your tree shed in Autumn, some of which found themselves in his swimming pool that he never used because he whinged about the cost of energy to heat it. ‘Is this about the leaves in the pool?’ you ask, nodding your head towards the grumpy neighbour’s house and wondering what type of ‘community risk’ a few dead leaves could possibly cause. The man from the council avoided answering directly and said instead that the council were ordering you to lob off your trees largest branches before they fall off, endangering your home. And the lives of your family. You suddenly feel anxious. ‘What’s wrong with our tree?’ you ask nervously. ‘It’s got a tree disease which is making it slowly rot. Your neighbour recognised the symptoms. In effect it’s dying and the branches will fall one by one. The entire structure of the tree is unsustainable. You may in fact be better off cutting it down completely to avoid worrying about it in the future’. ‘Let me have a think about it’, you respond, wanting the man to leave. He tells you not to think about it for too long as the council wants something done about it immediately. He leaves and you pass on his terrible news to your husband who then feels as anxious as you do.

The next day you can’t stop looking at the tree and worrying about how quickly it is dying. It doesn’t look sick, but the man from the council is meant to be an expert on this type of thing so you’re sure he isn’t making it up. After a couple of weeks, you decide to get the largest of the branches cut off; just the ones that are risking hurting anyone if they fall off or coming down onto the house. This is the moment Australia elected Abbott. The tree of government was suddenly a risk to the community, rather than a protector.

The day the man arrives to cut off the large branches, you try to make yourself scarce. The sound of the chainsaws grate on your nerves. You return home hoping to feel less anxious now that the branches are gone. But you don’t feel less anxious at all and the tree looks hacked up and pathetic. No more social safety net. Medicare is under threat. Huge cuts to health and education spending. Gonski no longer a bipartisan policy. No more credible climate change policy. No more mining tax. A fraud of a national broadband network that will be no faster than what we have now. Huge increases in the cost of higher education. Cuts to the ABC and SBS. And the economy is flagging under the weight of austerity cuts and lack of confidence. You did what the man from the council expertly told you needed to be done and yet you can’t help feeling like you’ve lost something you’ll never be able to get back. The tree had been there much longer than you had and in one afternoon its dependable foliage is destroyed forever. You feel sad.

The man from the council returns a few weeks later to inspect the tree. He taps his pen on the thick trunk and nearly trips over the tyre that used to hang from the branches as a swing. ‘The disease is still risking the structure. I would recommend cutting the whole thing down. It could easily come down in a storm. You wouldn’t have the insurance to cover the damage’. You nod weakly and promise to do something about it right away. The tree makes you sad now so maybe once it’s gone you will get over it.

The arborist who cut off the large branches is booked out for the next month so you call someone new and he can cut the tree down next week. Again you leave him to it, as you can’t bring yourself to watch your tree become a useless stump. When you return home, the last bits of trunk are being fed into the noisy wood-chip creating machine. ‘Why did you cut it down?’ the arborist asks cheerfully. ‘It was dying, it was risking our home and was dangerous for our family’. The arborist raises an eyebrow. ‘Who told you that?’ he asks. ‘A man from the council. We didn’t really have a choice, it had to be done’. ‘That’s a shame, because there was nothing wrong with the tree. It would have happily outlived you if you’d just left it alone’. Your heart sinks and you feel like crying.

Soon after you’re driving past your neighbour’s house – the one who you suspect had it in for your tree because of the leaves in his pool, and you notice he’s on his porch, talking to someone who looks familiar. It’s the man from the council. They’re laughing about something, clearly sharing a joke. They’re friends. Or at least friendly. Suddenly you get it. There was nothing wrong with your tree. The man from the council lied. You’ve been tricked into doing something against your best interest. Scared into ruining your Australia tree. And your neighbour no longer has leaves in his pool. The rage you feel is impossible to describe.

237 thoughts on “The Australia Tree

  1. Because a picture can explain something that a thousand words cannot – these hills will be removed by Shenhua, instead there will be a whopping huge hole in the ground. Aquifers that collect rainwater from these hills will, instead, be filled with polluted mining waste. Twenty-nine Aboriginal sacred sites will disappear. A few hundred koalas will die as their homes are destroyed.

    Abbott, ill-informed as he always is, says he doesn’t have all the details but it will all be OK. He said today that no farmland will be lost because the mine will be confined to the hill country. He doesn’t seem to know that those hills will be removed and shipped off to China, leaving only a crater or three, polluted aquifers and ruined farmland behind.
    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/07/09/joyce-to-lobby-baird-to-stop-shenhua-mine.html

  2. stonyhabbott
    Peter Wicks and Wixxyleaks – the best source of information on the Jackson business. Far ahead of the MSM.

  3. Leone,

    For years I had great respect for the Walkleys.

    Then I found out.

    They make the National Trust’s 2012 partnership with Woman’s Day look almost respectable.

  4. That Shenhua mine owned by a China company, under the new Free Trade Agreement is a project costing over $150m, will be allowed to bring in workers from China at a lower wage and less skills. WOW

  5. I used to enjoy being picked on by some of those smart-arsed bullies over on PB. I would even lay a bait for certain ones so they would try it on with me….I’d go back to their earlier posts and work out their style and technique of attack and then go for the jugular…I got a few of the little shits before that jerk who runs the place like his own personal feudal kingdom shut me down…I told him to get effed and shove his shitty little blog up his kyber..needless to say!
    Ahh…memories…

  6. Jaycee,

    Don’t forget this ‘ere place’s Boss’s most important rule . . .

    It is his place, so he does get to call the shots.

    He (and his support team) have, I think, been pretty consistent.

    I won’t comment about practices over the road.

  7. I should clarify.

    As far as I understand, with our kind host, it’s not a matter of ownership / possession / entitlement / whatever you care to call it.

    It is – quite simply – a matter of creating a space where everyone is free to participate PROVIDED they are respectful of everyone else.

    That doesn’t mean things can’t get a tad heated (though probably not as much as Bushfire Bill would like). However, as far as I’m concerned, one of the delights of The Pub is the legion of bright, intelligent, quirky women who have been stalwart commenters here since the get go – and most of them were not prepared to raise their voices in other forums.

    I had my baptism of fire on Margo Kingston’s Webdiary, in early December 2005 when she decided for all sorts of good reasons to retire from journalism, and from the internet. The utter filth that was spewed at her was disgusting. Terrifying, too, but my main feeling was disgust. Closely followed by anger that any male should feel it his right to abuse a woman in such a way.

    When I became a moderator of the site in 2006, I also copped a fair bit, though (mostly) nothing as appalling as Margo received.

    After seven years, enough was enough – so I am deeply thankful to the wise Joe6pack and the stalwart Bushfire Bill that we don’t allow that kind of behaviour at The Pub.

    So, thank you to two of the most delightful gentlemen I’ve ever met.

  8. The shenhua mine deal is a travesty. The deal must be overturned or blocked. Whomever signed off on this should go to prison, or have their citizenship stripped.

  9. Coming up in the tennis: Very Noisy v Very Large.

    The Spaniards have a woman in the Wimbledon final. First since Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in 1996.

  10. Good morning Dawn Patrollers.
    It is likely that there may not be a Dawn Patrol tomorrow morning as Mrs BK and I will be down in the city to attend the Telstra Business Awards finalists’ dinner. Hopefully we can pull it off.

    Waleed Aly is unimpressed with our crop of politicians.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/civil-debate-dead-as-main-parties-neglect-publics-views-20150709-gi8bh9.html
    This will get the climate change denialists singing and dancing!
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/sydney-weather-polar-burst-to-bring-plunge-in-temperatures-snow-to-alps-20150709-gi88ak
    You can’t blame the carbon tax for this Barnaby!
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/retail/sausage-and-steak-lose-sizzle-as-beef-prices-bite-20150709-gi8q5p.html
    No wonder our economy is flagging!
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/federal-politicians-spend-500000-on-australian-flags–but-tony-abbott-does-not-buy-one-20150709-gi91zv.html
    So now it all comes down to the pub test?
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/royal-commission-hearing-bill-shorten-needs-to-keep-an-eye-on-that-tightrope-20150709-gi8n8z.html
    Yes. Let’s have more privatisation! Medibank Private plays rough with the dying.
    http://www.smh.com.au/business/medibank-private-washes-hands-of-calvarys-dying-20150709-gi8che.html
    Ben Eltham says this is not the end for Bill Shorten.
    https://newmatilda.com/2015/07/09/not-end-bill-shorten
    Grattan on Friday – Abbott’s lucky to have a damaged Bill Shorten.
    https://theconversation.com/grattan-on-friday-abbotts-lucky-to-have-a-damaged-shorten-44469
    Australia is now a rogue middle power under Abbott.
    https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/australia-now-a-rogue-middle-power-under-abbott,7916
    The 38 worst things the Liberals did yesterday.
    http://www.ellistabletalk.com/2015/07/09/the-thirty-eight-worst-things-the-liberals-did-yesterday-291/

  11. Section 2 . . .

    The Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation fails to pay pensions on time. Quite a mess.
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/pension-panic-as-commonwealth-retiree-payment-system-melts-down-20150709-gi8l1l.html
    Greg Jericho examines the potential effect on Australia of the China stock market crash.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/09/chinas-stock-market-is-crashing-thats-scary-news-for-australia
    “View from the Street” says that the Liberals remind the Nationals what he Coalition really is.
    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/view-from-the-street/view-from-the-street-liberals-reminds-the-nationals-whose-coalition-it-is-20150709-gi8uid.html
    Should Barnaby resign over it?
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/barnaby-joyce-either-incompetent-or-lacks-influence-in-cabinet-over-coal-mine-approval-labor-20150709-gi8ka0.html
    Barnaby’s Facebook page got hammered by his constituents!
    https://newmatilda.com/2015/07/09/barnaby-joyces-facebook-page-flooded-criticism-over-shenhua-mine-approval
    The Essendon case will be heard in Sydney in October, not Switzerland.
    http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/court-of-arbitration-for-sport-case-against-essendon-to-be-held-in-sydney-20150709-gi90c1.html
    The review of Q and A will be quite broad.
    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/09/qa-audit-ray-martin-to-scrutinise-abc-tony-jones-topics-and-audience
    Another multi-billion hit to the budget for Hockey to manage as iron ore prices fall even further.
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/budget-facing-multibillion-dollar-hit-after-record-fall-in-iron-ore-prices-20150709-gi8cmn.html
    Jason Wilson reckons all the conservative have is their culture wars.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/09/culture-war-two-conservatives-get-high-on-their-own-supply
    Here we go! Kathy Jackson is being investigated by the Federal Serious and Organised Crime Squad. And Peter Wicks asks where have the mainstream media been.
    http://wixxyleaks.com/serious-kathy-jackson-investigated-by-federal-serious-organised-crime-squad/

  12. Section 3 . . .

    Andrew Dyson on Team Failure.

    Ron Tandberg with a twist on Abbott’s “Open for business”.

    Alan Moir nicely sums up the new legislation for AS detention staff.

    David Pope thinks the Nats have been rolled too.
    http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/federal-politics/cartoons/david-pope-20141123-1t3j0.html
    This sort of cartoon by Mark Knight shows how it is the TURC optics that will get the media attention.

    And the same goes for Bill Leak.

    MUST SEE! David Rowe with Barnaby’s balls being put to use.

  13. I cried at those nice things Fiona said about me, but otherwise am in the pink… thanks for the enquiries.

  14. leonetwo posted this pic of Mesma last night.

    Could Mesma be a Gloucester canary in disguise ?

  15. Sounds like TURC has been a big success for Abbott then. He’s successfully established that Shorten is a bit wordy. And it only took him $80M of our money.

    Both the Knight and the Leak cartoons look like the kind of taunts a dumb kid would aim at a smart kid at school. And they’re disturbing echoes of the “Does this guy ever shut up?” sneer aimed at Rudd in the last election campaign.

    Of course, the trouble with levelling that at Shorten is all the time they and the media have spent carefully shutting Shorten out of public discussion by not reporting on him. They’ve been painting him as a do-nothing/say-nothing guy who only knows how to use misguided zingers. Saying that he now speaks too much – in an RC that most people aren’t paying attention to anyway – will just have people saying ‘huh?’ They’re not even claiming he’s covering up indiscretions with words – just that he talks a lot.

    BTW – Shorten’s done really well there, leading them down that rabbit hole. The idea that he still might have “questions to answer” won’t fly if everyone’s saying “won’t he ever shut up?”

    It seems incredible, but the LNP have spent most of this year pigeonholing Shorten, we’re half-way through, and they still don’t know what they’re supposed to be portraying him as. If anything, they’re helping to flesh his character out.

    And I know this week has been a disaster for the LNP for two reasons:

    1. Abbott is saying he doesn’t want to give a running commentary on TURC. The only possible reason is that he wants people’s attention taken away from it.

    2. The sudden massive uptick in tweets about how great Albo/Plibersek/Wong would be as ALP leader. They always turn up when Shorten’s done something well. Destabilisers.

  16. ” The review of Q and A will be quite broad.”…Ray Martin to srutinise Tony Jones…

    To borrow terminology from my baseball days..: “The bases are loaded and Ray has been brought in as a ‘pinch-bunter’ ?? “

  17. We had a threat of a storm commng in last night so I shut down the computer after that last comment of mine.

    On the subject of Blogs, I remember BB. say that it was an agreed policy that RWNJ trolls would be swiftly culled and indeed THAT was exercised..even after one gormless example was allowed to vent just to show their stupidity…and it is true that a blog is “owned ” by it’s registered…well…owner. THAT cannot be denied and they can keep it going to their preferences or shut it down whenever they like.

    But there is another action at play whenever anyone of us “starts a conversation” with the public, and that must be the “social agreement” we inadvertently contract with the invitation to join with us in social engagement of conversation…like the hotel inviting a person in for a drink , one is welcome to partake , but not run riot…however, there must be tolerance and an expected wincing when the patron breaks into merry song!….it might be toneless, gormless and totally ribald, but hey!…they are still your guest..and like the awful example I once wrote of “Erroll’s prawn night “…they are part of the colour of your establishment and both the poster AND the Blog-Master can profit from the association.

    It can be a most glorious revelation!

  18. The important thing to remember about the Shenhua approval is this – the NSW government approved it back in January, before the NSW election. (It’s worth mentioning that the former NSW Labor government granted the exploration licence for this mining and if still in government last January would most likely have given approval.). The Feds were due to rubber stamp that approval in March, but help off because they didn’t want to influence the NSW election It is alleged Grunt again delayed the approval in April and called for more ‘scientific research’ but the damn business was already a done deal. He just needed excuses for a delay, maybe until things were looking brighter for the government. Or luntil CHAFTA wS agreed on, or until a time when the government strategists thought no-one would notice, like right in the middle of Shorten’s RC session.

    Barnaby Joyce, to be fair, did say back in January that he had “never agreed to these mines on the Liverpool Plains,” which he has described as “an anathema.” Mr Joyce has promised to “try as much as I can” to prevent them because the area affected is “the best land in Australia” and “if we get it wrong it will have massive consequences.” (source: ABC Radio New England North West, Kelly Fuller interview 29 January 2015)
    http://www.lockthegate.org.au/plea_for_the_plains

    That radio interview is no longer available, although others from the same program that day are still there. Hmmmmmmmm …….

    The really sad thing – the people of the NSW electorate of Tamworth, which includes the Liverpool Plains, voted overwhelmingly to return their National Party MP Kevin Anderson in an election where Nationals in other seats threatened by mining and CSG saw their votes plummet. That Tamworth vote has been seen as a stamp of approval for the mine.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-09/take-fight-to-the-pm-nsw-farmers-opposing-coal-mine-tell-joyce/6606642

    Greg Hunt could have vetoed the whole thing, but he did not. CHAFTA is more important to the Abbott government than the preservation of the richest farmland we have, and far more important than aquifers. Abbott thinks we can just build more dams if farmers need more water.

    Barnaby is now hoping Mike Baird will withdraw his government’s approval and kill the whole thing. Fat chance of that happening.
    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/07/09/joyce-to-lobby-baird-to-stop-shenhua-mine.html

    I think Barnaby Joyce could have done much more to fight this approval, but because he’s just a National Party MP and a very compliant one at that he has no say, no influence, so the little he said was ignored by the government.

    Grunt is trying to reassure us by talking up his conditions. Bah humbug! Shenhua will do whatever they want, pay any fines resulting from breaches and keep on doing more of the same.

    A legal challenge is already underway, there will be more.

    The whole thing might well fall in a heap anyway. The mine will not be profitable, going by current coal prices.
    https://independentaustralia.net/business/business-display/greg-hunt-approves-disastrous-shenhua-coal-mine,7919

  19. BB

    Now I understand. Fiona is a real gem, and so considerate. Crying is good when it is for a good reason. You deserve the accolades.

  20. “Could Mesma be a Gloucester canary in disguise ?”…Nah!..just another “old crow”.

  21. The commissioner, Dyson Heydon QC, further criticised Mr Shorten for providing “long and extraneous” answers, and over his credibility as a witness.

    That “credibility” thing is a bit of a worry. Some say the word was infiltrated to TURC by Peta. I wouldn’t be surprised. As soon as Heydon mentioned it, I thought it wasn’t really part of his usual vocabulary and that he had been dictated to by someone in the govt. And now, it’s part of the news. Back to trust as it was for JG.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-09/shorten-has-lost-some-bark-during-royal-commission-labor-mps-say/6608834

  22. I watched much of the grilling Bill Shorten was subjected to at the TURC and, in particular, was watching when the commissioner threw in his comments on the length of Shorten’s answers. Now, I realise that I am more than a little biased in this matter, but it had seemed to me that for much of the questioning Shorten was being asked, over and over again, “have you stopped beating your wife?”. There is no way questions of that ilk can be answered without an appeal to context.

  23. Shorten had to waste a lot of time repeating over and over wtte”I was no longer involved with the union when …….’. Obvious ‘gotcha’ set-ups were presented, again and again, and Shorten kept repeating ‘That was after I left the union’. It showed very shoddy preparation by Stoljar and his team. Did none of them bother checking dates?

  24. I think Shorten was a difficult witness, not the usual yes/no one. The context he was constantly giving, rightly so, was informative but obviously most irritating. He was in a way taking over, leaving Stoljar shuffling with his papers and probably wondering how to attack this insubordinate witness. From my point of view, quite entertaining.

  25. From what I can see they’re trying to do to Shorten what they failed to do to Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk, smear him to try and make his position as leader untenable. When they fail to do this this year, it’s an easy bet that the witch hunt will have its term extended for another twelve months in a desperate attempt to smear Shorten in a political year.

  26. Damning comment on our so-called political journalists.

    Greg Hunt’s approval for the open-cut mine southwest of Gunnedah was announced yesterday morning, at roughly the same time many of the nation’s premier journalists were going wild over one reporter at the Royal Commission sticking a funny note on another reporter’s back and tweeting about it

    http://junkee.com/the-government-sneakily-approved-a-coalmine-on-prime-farmland-and-its-backfiring-massively/60838#p4KZHxfgyjrwxFkq.99

  27. Leone, Kook’s article is misleading. I’ve posted this comment on his page:

    Wait on. Almost 75% of that debt is from the private sector. Government net debt is approx 24% of total net foreign debt. Very low by OECD standards. Also, while the private sector is vulnerable to an increase in interest rates, the government is a sovereign issuer of its own currency. It can never default on its obbligations. All Aust government borrowings are in Australian dollars, as are all export earnings. So the bottom line is that Aust government net debt is low, and its capacity to service this debt is completely solid. So chill out folks.

    Government/private and gross/net confusions are always raised to scare the punters.

  28. I can finally sit down and enjoy my coffee with two of the Mailanderli I just baked. I know, they’re supposed to be Xmas cookies but never mind:

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