Freedom in Azerbaijan
Guest post from Sam Gunders, media and journalism student at the University of Southern Queensland. This report went to air on Phoenix Radio Online on Friday morning, 25 May, and is reproduced here with Sam’s permission.
On Sunday night we might be enjoying a drink or 10 and watching the Eurovision song contest for 2012 from Baku, Azerbaijan. It will of course be a fun night of gratuitous changes of both the musical and costume varieties; there will be a bit of singing and a lot of watching votes being counted and you can bet that it will be an entirely politics free zone.
Politics and Eurovision have mixed in the past, but it is usually frowned upon. In 2009, Georgia withdrew after they were told to change the lyrics to their song “We Don’t Want To Put In” no political grounds.They refused and took no part in the contest.
Beyond the stadium in Baku though there is a nation in need of attention from the wider world. Azerbaijan was rated in the 2011 Freedom in the World Report as being “not free”, scoring 6 out of 7 for political rights and 5 out of 7 for civil liberties. Just to be confusing, a 7 is actually the worst score in that report, 1 is the best. So Azerbaijan is not performing well.
Thanks for the Reminders
Well, I did it. I wasn’t going to, but with all those friendly reminders, how could I not? I filled out the Government’s marriage survey (which closes today, by the way).
I don’t know whether it was someone forwarding me a letter by Jim Wallace that was the final straw, or the assumption that because I am a Christian I would automatically share the same views as my Christian family members.
Challenge for Who?
Apparently Senator Rachel Siewert is going to try living on $17 a day for a week to highlight the plight of people trying to survive on dole payments, which are well below the level they realistically need to be. ACOSS on Twitter is asking what everyone thinks of this. 140 characters is not nearly long enough to for me to say what I think, so I’ll do it here. And a week is not nearly long enough for a challenge, well intentioned though the Senator may be.
This website comprises a series of interviews with key players in Queensland politics over the last 40 years:
This is the first I’ve heard of this initiative: perhaps it has only just gone live, there is no copyright date on the website. As it describes:
Queensland Speaks is a free website that presents the extraordinary personal and political world of decision making in Queensland over the past 40 years. It aims to enable students, researchers and the general public to gain some understanding of political and bureaucratic decision making in Queensland from the 1970s to the end of the Beattie Government in 2007.
Each interview is clearly summarised, and internally indexed to allow easy access to key points. There is also an extensive tagging system that allows the listener to follow themes across a number of different interviews, and the search mechanism seems to work well. There is also an effective in-text glossary of terms, which provide the explanation of acronyms or background to particular events.
Given the period involved is guess it’s natural that first thing I searched was “Fitzgerald inquiry.” This brought up six pages of references, covering more than twenty interviewees from all sides of politics and including people like Russell Cooper and Wayne Goss.
Coming from the Centre for the Government of Queensland at the University of Queensland, the main drivers of this initiative are Professor Peter Spearritt and Dr Danielle Miller. It is well worth a look.
Who does the Occupy movement threaten?
There’s something interesting going on with the Occupy Sydney and Occupy Melbourne protests at present, and I can’t quite get my head around it.
The first thing that struck me was that the same people who celebrated the Arab Spring, and even Occupy Wall Street to some extent, were pouring scorn on the Australian protests.
One argument against the Australian movement is that things aren’t so bad here, so Australians have no right to protest in the same way. Yeah, right, well that depends on where you sit, even in Australia.
But is it better here? Or is it just that we tend to be a more individualistic and complacent lot? If we start asking about power rather than just the state of the economy, the answers start to change.
Another objection to the Australian movement has been that the protestors are a disorganized bunch with no unified objectives and no clear idea what it is that they are protesting about. That doesn’t surprise me. You don’t have to understand how a car engine works to know when something is wrong with it. Likewise, you don’t have to understand exactly how the social and economic systems work to realise that something is amiss.Actually, I paid little attention to any of this until the riot police were sent in to break up the protests in Melbourne and Sydney. Then the questions really started to flow.
Remember the SIEV X
Tuesday 19 October marks 10 years since the SIEV X sank and 352 asylum seekers, mostly women and children, drowned. We should remember this day. A nation should remember its shame with the solemnity that it usually reserves for its sacrifices and victories. In theory, remembering should help us to avoid the patterns of decisions that led to the tragedy that is being commemorated.
Judging from Our Own Perspective
Yesterday, Greg Jericho linked to two contrasting reports on the most recent household expenditure report. The first was telling how the rising costs of food, housing, and transport, in particular, were stressing families, with some families having to spend more than half their income on these basics. The second report claimed that because spending on cafés, hairdressing, and pay TV and internet was up, we were all better off than we thought. This has been a bit of a theme lately, especially for Ross Gittins. It is also the line that was picked up and run with by the ‘leftist’ twitterati in my feed.
The most sensible comment I saw came from Graham Young, whose response was, “Maybe. If everyone were average.” Thank you Graham! Seriously, guys, you don’t have to have a sophisticated grasp of statistics to realize that just because some people are more able to spend on luxuries that does not mean that others are not struggling. That’s the point of statistics, they appear to even things out.
Working Across Divides
Just lately I’ve been attending organising meetings for the World Refugee Day Rally in Brisbane later this month. The rally is 1pm in Brisbane Square (top of the Queen Street Mall) on Saturday 25 June. You can find further details here if you’re interested.
Some of the things that interest me about these meetings are the dynamics and how different these are at the grass roots to what we see in our political leaders. It makes me sick to the stomach with disgust and despair at the way that our political leaders, especially Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott, seem obsessed with each other and the competition to see who can go furthest and fastest in the race to deny asylum seekers and refugees their legal and human rights.
What I see in these meetings is so very different. . .
Sorry . . . for what we’re about to do
Were you proud when Kevin Rudd apologised to Australia’s indigenous peoples on behalf of the nation? Did you, like me, hope that it meant that, at last, progress would really be made on closing the gap in health, education, and employment? So many people were so optimistic, swept away in part by the relief at having Howard and his racist, punitive ways gone at last. Now the honeymoon is over, has the hard work of commitment begun? Was the promise fulfilled?
Yesterday I went to a talk by Mark Fordam, organised by the NTEU and the QUT Student Guild. It is the second time in the past year that I’ve gone to listen to someone with first-hand experience of the Northern Territory Intervention. The first one was by an anthropologist, I think, and what I remember most was her description of how difficult she found it to find fresh food, or afford it even if should could find it, and how much more difficult it was for the indigenous residents who could only use their basics card in approved stores.
Yesterday’s talk was by Mark Fordham. By his own admission, he started off on a good wicket with his early working life, made good money, and had skills that were highly sought after. At the point where his mother asked him to come and work on one of the indigenous communities, he was inclined to believe that those on the new CDEP were probably just lazy. He changed his mind after working with them for a time, seeing their willingness to work, and seeing the odds stacked against them.
The People in the Suburbs
“And for once in my life it’s not the people in the suburbs, It’s me’s got it wrong” – The Whitlams, Life’s a Beach
I put a comment on Twitter this morning that was born out of frustration and generated a bit of discussion that I then didn’t really have the time to participate in.
The comment was: “What is it with middle-class people making fun of bogans? FFS use your time, education, and privilege for something more worthwhile.”
My first point is that the people being disparaged are usually not bogans. Usually, it is the ‘aspirational’ classes in the outer suburbs, “Howard’s Battlers” if you want (although they don’t seem to consider themselves Abbott’s Battlers). Bogans, by my understanding, do not participate to any great extent in the formal economy or have a great deal of aspiration. However, the term has come to be used as a catch-all, derogatory term for what we might once have called the working classes. But, of course, we kid ourselves that class is not a definer in Australian society and in recent years some politicians (Peter Costello, if I recall correctly) have tried to convince us that “working class” simply refers to anyone who goes to work for wages. If that’s not depoliticisation, what is!