I will not succumb to Morrison’s opiate for the masses, and I won’t go back to narcotics, neither should you.

July 12, 2019

This is quite a personal piece and it is a little bit dangerous for me given society’s attitudes to drug and alcohol addiction.

Just remember, if it’s not you there’s probably a junkie or an alcoholic in your family. Treat them with sympathy, not disgust.

Scott MOrrison pusher man, selling opiates to the masses

Courtesy of Dan Jensen and Independent Australia

[This piece was first published at Independent Australia on 11 July]

There’s a well-founded belief among recovering addicts and alcoholics that you have to hit rock bottom before you start to get better.

I certainly believe it to be true. I bounced along the bottom for quite a while between 2014 and 2016. I didn’t truly begin my recovery until I left behind the toxic circumstances of my employment.

I’ve been mostly clean and relatively sober for nearly three years. I’ve had a lapse here and there, but usually got myself back on track pretty quickly. I still go to meetings and I have regular sessions with a therapist, but overall, I’m definitely much happier, stronger and more stable than I was three years ago.

So, it was with some horror that I found myself picking up a narcotic a few days ago. Exactly what the substance was is irrelevant; suffice to say it exists in a grey zone of legality and is readily available in a certain kind of adult store.

I’m glad to say I had a really bad reaction to the stuff. After a few moments of delirium, I became violently ill. I hope I don’t do it again.

However, what I have learned about myself through three years of counselling and involvement in both NA and AA is that there is a cause for my lapsing and if I can get to the bottom of it, I’m less likely to do it again.

What caused me to pick up again?

So, what do I know about this week’s episode?

Well, the first thing to note is that I’ve been suffering writer’s block. This article is the first thing I’ve written since the federal election on 18 May. Outside of a handful of tweets, I’ve said nothing about the Morrison victory, or the disappointing postures adopted by the Labor opposition under the doubly-disappointing Albo. I have a book deadline looming, but I’ve been unable to write a paragraph, despite all the juicy media and journalism controversy swirling around us.

Having writer’s block is not normally associated with me having a lapse or finding an excuse to drink more than I should, but I think there’s something intrinsic to my situation that created this recent blockage and then began to spiral me down to a bust.

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Nasty, brutish and short: Thomas Hobbes and the Coalition’s politics of exclusion

June 3, 2018

Political editor Dr Martin Hirst has been musing on recent political news while re-reading Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. His outlook is bleak.

First published on Independent Australia 2 June 2018.

I’m doing a course at my local TAFE this year; it’s a mixed group. I’m one of three oldies (I’d describe myself as a late baby boomer). Apart from a couple of students in their mid 20s, the rest of the group are all in their late teens. We had a discussion this week about what constitutes the zeitgeist — the “spirit of the Age”.

Some of the responses from the millennials in the class got me thinking. In part, I reflected on what I was like when I was 18; I also began to think about Thomas Hobbes and those famous lines from Leviathan about war of “all against all” and the bleak lives – “nasty brutish and short” – that some of us are forced to live.

I was reminded of these passages – from Chapter XIII, ‘Of the natural condition of mankind’ – by some of the fears and concerns expressed by millennial classmates.

For them, the overwhelming zeitgeist is fear. They are scared about the future that is facing them. More importantly, perhaps, they feel powerless to do anything about it.

They talked about how difficult it is for them to find work — even the precarious work of casual shifts in the hospitality or retail industries. They talked about feeling like they’d never be able to afford to buy a house, and their fear of global warming and the damage that we’re doing to the planet.

But most of all, they felt like they could do nothing about the problems confronting them.

I thought about it for a few days afterwards. Something was niggling me. I finally figured it out. For many millennials, it feels like they are being deliberately excluded from society and from decision-making.

Then it hit me: our whole political culture is built on exclusion and fear.

It is actually blindingly obvious.

Australia is a nation built on exclusion

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Malcolm Turnbull’s protection racket for incompetent Ministers and MPs

May 4, 2018

There was a time where prime ministers insisted that their cabinet colleagues, junior ministers and backbenchers met certain standards of behaviour but today, the Ministerial Codes of Conduct are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Political editor Dr Martin Hirst explains.

First published on Independent Australia.

Cartoon by Mark David / @mdavidcartoons.

YOU COULD SAY this is a fable — a tale of two Malcolms.

Malcolm Fraser – the former Liberal Prime Minister who is reviled on the left for his role in former PM Gough Whitlam’s dismissal – was a saint and a man of great virtue compared to his namesake, Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Fraser sacked two cabinet ministers in 1982 for bringing a colour television into Australia, but declaring it was black and white to avoid customs duty, Michael MacKellar was sacked for this relatively minor offence and Customs Minister John Moore was dismissed from his portfolio for his poor handling of the whole issue. A few years earlier, then MP Andrew Peacock offered to resign because his wife appeared in a television commercial for Sheridan Sheets.

As an aside, 20 years ago, even the disgraced war criminal former PM John Howard had the decency to sack two ministers over a travel rort over the paltry sum of $9,000.

In contrast, today Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is running a protection racket, not a government. His ministers break convention and hide their actions from public scrutiny, and sections of the backbench seem completely feral, but Fizza does nothing to rein them in.

Lucky for us, the glitter is washing off and the machinations of the protection racket are being forced to endure the cleansing sunlight of public scrutiny.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the recent outrages, in no particular order.

Michaelia Cash

Minister for Jobs and Innovation Michaelia Cash has been hiding from the media for several months, constantly dodging questions about her portfolio and the circumstances under which her office tipped off journalists about an AFP raid on the offices of the Australian Workers’ Union. Four of Cash’s staff have left her office under an unresolved cloud of suspicion in the wake of the scandal. Her office is also using the excuse of the AFP investigation of the leaks to stall Freedom of Information requests by journalists trying to uncover the truth.

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Election 2016: Opinion polls, swings, roundabouts and statistics

May 31, 2016

This is not good news [The Australian paywalled] for Malcolm Turnbull.

The Turnbull government is facing the prospect of losing 10 seats in NSW, six in Queensland and three in Western Australia, with a significant slump in support in the key election battlegrounds.

The Australian headlined a six per cent swing against the government according to its own Newspoll data on 30 May.

I wrote this piece the day before [Sunday 29 May], without seeing the Newspoll data. Then in Monday’s Fairfax papers we also saw confirmation that the coalition is in trouble. James Massola wrote that the LNP is likely to lose at least a dozen seats and maybe even more.

Political strategists for both major parties believe the Coalition is on track to lose about 12 seats at the July 2 poll, slashing Malcolm Turnbull’s buffer in the Parliament but returning his government with a reduced second-term majority.

 Seems like I might be on the money with my prediction of a Shorten ALP government after the election.
But the numbers depend almost entirely on who’s doing the counting.
Labor thinks 11 seats in Queensland are in play, but to others the margins in some seem insurmountable.
For example it would take an almost unachievable 6.7 per cent swing to unseat Immigration Minister (and part-time potato model) Peter Dutton in Dickson. But some plucky voters have a strategy to help make it happen on polling day.
Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

Mr Potatohead is suing Sinister Mutton for a breach of copyright

The key thing is that local factors will influence the national swing and an average swing of around 4 per cent may not be enough to unseat Turnbull if it does not occur in the right electorates (those that the ALP needs to win back and has a realistic chance of winning).

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The battle in St Paul – eyewitness account

September 7, 2008

I’m reposting this from a newslist I belong to. It’s grim reading.

Hi everyone,

I thought you would be interested in reading this first-person account of the heavy-handed response to activism at the RNC this week.  This is from Colleen Mihal, currently a Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado-Boulder:

_____________________________

Dear Friends,

When you wake up this morning and read the headlines about McCain’s speech, the latest horserace tally, and political predictions, I want you to be aware of events you may not read about, events that illuminate the real state of our democracy, events that brought me to tears (and it wasn’t just from the gas).  I want to tell you about battle that raged on the streets of St. Paul- A battle waged by the police, backed, funded, and organized by the Department of Homeland Security, a battle against peaceful protesters, war veterans, concerned citizens, and journalists.

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Journalists, politics and the union movement

September 1, 2008

[Note: updated 7 September]

An interesting piece on Jafa Pete’s blog about the rights of journalists when it comes to trade unions. Particularly if their union, like the EPMU in New Zealand, campaigns on behalf of a particular political party during elections. [The freedom to belong]

The question is about union membership affecting the ability of reporters to be fair and balanced. Alternatively you could pose this as: Are journalists compromised by their membership of a union that aligns itself to a political party?

As you can imagine [dribblejaws alert] I don’t think it really matters. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that journalists natural class alignment is with the workers. Even more, journalism would be better if reporters recognised this basic class instinct and acted on it at all times.

My argument’s a simple one, journalists are proletarians. They have a typically proletarian relationship to capital and to capitalism. The ideology of professionalism masks this and creates all sorts of confusion.

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