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Essential Reading

Cross purposes

red crossThe Red Cross does a splendid job collecting blood, no doubt about it, and we should all be grateful for that invaluable service. Some of the charity's other activities don't seem to match the brief of a non-partisan organisation. From Red Cross CEO and former Labor federal minister Robert Tickner comes news of the latest initiative:

Australian Red Cross and SBS have teamed up to create an online educational toolkit for the new series of Go Back to Where You Came From. The toolkit aims to help high school students gain a better understanding of the topics around how and why people seek asylum by looking at the issues through humanitarian eyes.

“There are misunderstandings about how and why people decide to flee their own country and seek asylum in a place like Australia,” says Australian Red Cross CEO, Robert Tickner. “We want to encourage students to see the issues from a humanitarian viewpoint and get to know the people behind the stories.”

The Red Cross solicits public support and donations, with its website gently hinting that a gift of $60 would be an appropriate minimum.

Those who feel the Red Cross should stick to good works of a non-partisan nature might want to consider if other charities could make better use of their donations and support. Its endorsement of one side in the asylum-seeker debate can be read in full via the link below.

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The real thing

suicide cokeTo the aesthetically uninitiated, not to mention those who haven't been keeping up with White Australia's ongoing efforts to poison Aborigines with sweet drinks and sugary treats, the exhibition at Sydney's Anna Schwartz Gallery by Indigenous artist and film-maker Warwick Thornton will come as something of an education. That's one of his works above, by the way, a little snapshot of a primly dressed Aboriginal girl preparing to do herself in with a double-strength circlet of Coca-Cola cans.

Now it could be that, at a glance, the link between poor nutrition and fulminate of Islam's favoured suicide belts will strike some as remarkably obtuse, but Professor Marcia Langton was fortunately available to write the exhibition's accompanying notes. She explains:

... a young woman wears a suicide vest of Coca-Cola cans, and in the paired image, she holds a ‘number 7’ boomerang, the most efficient and deadly of all boomerangs. The same could be said of Coca-Cola, which medical professionals suspect contributes to the high levels of diabetes in the indigenous populations of Australia ...

.... The power of Warwick Thornton’s imagery, whether in cinematic or photographic works, is in how he plays with ideas of time, space and identity; the power of the Aboriginal story; the burden of the historical injustices; and so clearly here, the power of the Aboriginal presence, with all its horror and beauty, in Australia ...

... We do not need a class in semiotics to see the Thornton method: creating a sense of uneasiness, a sense of temporality, impending death, resistance and great insight.  They work at a number of levels, emotional and intellectual, as well as aesthetic.  I expected nothing less of this very important Australian artist.

And to think some ignorant souls might have mistaken a little girl strapped with soft drinks for a little girl strapped with soft drinks, rather than an indictment of "the viewer" and his or her abrogated "social responsibility to allow these young lives to flourish unimpeded".

Professor Langton's exploration of Thornton's muse can be read in full via the link below

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The two faces of Mark Kenny

There must be two Mark Kennys lurking in Fairfax newsrooms. The first Mark Kenny had this to say in November, 2013: 

Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison's aggressively marketed asylum-seeker tomahawk sold under the label 'stop the boats'.

Some people bought it, many wanted to believe. Canberra would simply turn back the boats to Indonesia with the only caveat being, 'when it was safe to do so' ...

... Australian voters will eventually wake up to the fact that they were sold a pup.

If it were merely a case of sending boats back, it would have been tried years ago.

Less than two years later, the other Mark Kenny hails Bill Shorten's courage in pledging -- or appearing to pledge -- that those leaky boats will indeed be turned back:

Shorten's argument was as sound as it was courageous. He concluded that stopping deaths at sea by stopping maritime attempts in unseaworthy boats via people smuggling, is the right policy setting. 

Politically, the policy is correct also.

The big question: When the Fairfax newspapers stop their presses for the last and final time, will those contradictory Mark Kennys each pocket a separate severance cheque or will they split the same one down the middle?

The second Mark Kenny's denunciation of the newly elected Tony Abbott's turn-back policy can be read in full via the link below.

Link to this post.

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Multiculturalism, ain't it grand!

suckling pig

Just why a municipal council feels that catering multi-faith get-togethers is a responsibility of local government -- or any government, for that matter -- is a question to pique the curiosity of residents whose rates and taxes underwrite such exercises. What we do know is that these affairs can be very hard to get right.

Consider the pickle Sydney's Liverpool Council landed itself in when, rather than keeping its focus on collecting garbage and rounding up stray dogs, it laid out a flash spread of multi-culti taste sensations intended to promote cross-ethnic amity and understanding. We all know the spiel: Australia is so much richer, more peaceful and united because someone else is paying to feed local worthies with a pot-luck lunch of vindaloo falafels, chow mein moussaka and monkey glands a la Caribe.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Mr Dzepovski said pork is special to the Macedonian community and in historical terms played a large part in their lives under Ottoman rule. To some members of the community it had become a symbol of their survival as pork was their main meat staple for hundreds of years.

So when it was left off the menu for the Liverpool Council lunch it sparked complaints and an article in the online newsite Falanga.com.au which complained about the "discriminatory policy of the Municipality of Liverpool".

A translation of the article said that the council was discriminating against Orthodox people (including Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Greek Orthodox), due to the council's current Islamic leadership."

The good news (if you happen to be a Liverpool Macedonian invited to dine on the ratepayers' tab) is that swine flesh joined the menu.The bad news (for Liverpool Macedonians and all other residents) is that the council hiked rates by 12% last year, the largest increase in all of NSW. That should be enough to cover the cost of linen laundering and serviettes.


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Tree huggers

naked tree huggersSometimes, every so often, the widespread incidence of vocal idiocy can be quite heartening, especially for sentient Australians who have endured years of hectoring by deep-green nitwits. One of the chief contributing factors to the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 in Victoria was the refusal of Greens-influenced local councils and land-care authorities to initiate the prophylactic burning needed to reduce fuel loads and manage fire risk.  It was much the same story a few years later in Tasmania, where the flames ran wild once again.

Surely these people were Australia's particular curse, it was tempting to conclude, as there could be few, even in less flammable lands, who would find the direct relationship between lethal fires and abundant ground fuel just a bit too hard to grasp?

Well, thanks to a group of Californian activists -- that's them above, naked and cuddly with a stand of Berkeley blue gums -- we now know that American fools are at least the equal of our own homegrown variety. Those trees are supposed to come down to reduce the fire risk, and there is good reason for the felling and lopping: Twenty-four years ago, wildfires feeding on the eucalypts' oil-rich leaves and uncleared ground fuel destroyed some 3,300 homes and claimed 25 lives.

But a tree is a tree is a tree, to your typical green ratbag, and human life not worth much at all, so Berkeley has been witnessing protests aimed at preserving the surrounding terrain as a pyre in need  only of its spark. This puts the Californian crazies on a par with their Australian counterparts -- but then they go further. According to protest organiser and photographer Jack Gescheidt, whose grasp of forestry leaves quite a lot to be desired, "native vegetation" absolutists have been spreading "the myth" that eucalypts love to burn. He explains:

".... all living trees, because of their high moisture content, are considered resistant to fire ..."

It is almost a pity Gescheidt wasn't communing with nature in Kinglake on Black Saturday, February 7, 2009. He might first have noticed that some species are indeed quite fond of going up in flames. Further, like the 173 victims that inferno, he might no longer be around to orchestrate a repeat performance of that holocaust on the other side of the Pacific.

It would beyond Gescheidt's comprehension, but those interested in learning more of trees, fire and the fatal romanticism of the deep green mind should read forester and fire expert Roger Underwood's essay via the link below.

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Those rotten Christians

fgmDid you happen to catch last night's news item, as reported by the ABC, making the case that restorative surgery be made available to women who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM)? Not a pleasant subject, admittedly, but interesting in this instance for the one victim the national broadcaster thought worthy of quoting.

A Muslim woman?

No, none of that. Reporter Thuy Ong led her report thus:

"Jools was a baby when her adoptive mother saw her touching herself and decided to cut her.

Her adoptive parents were 'conservative Christian fundamentalists', she says, and regularly abused her."

Despite FGM being mostly a Muslim thing, with survivors in Australia hailing overwhelmingly from Muslim nations, nowhere in the report do the words "Muslim" or "Islam" appear. Instead, down at the bottom of the report, we get this -- and do notice the coy, bland reference to "certain communities" (as opposed to those quite specifically referenced  "Christian fundamentalists"):

"For Jools, one of the pressing problems is the preconceived notion that FGM only occurs in certain communities.

FGM, she said, was a form of child abuse and can occur across society."

Worth noting, perhaps, is reporter Ong's professional history. Before joining the ABC she "reported for Al Jazeera".

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