Dr Cameron Stewart at work in the high containment facility.
A team of Australian researchers has discovered a new gene with a critical role in the immune system and they are launching a public appeal to help name it.
CSIRO researcher Cameron Stewart said studying the gene — currently called C6orf106 or “C6” — could lead to new treatments for cancer, influenza and autoimmune diseases.
According to Dr Stewart and his colleagues, the gene probably evolved more than 500 million years ago in organisms much simpler than humans.
“We found the gene by studying viruses,” he said.
“Viruses can’t replicate on their own, they need host genes in order to do that.
“So we performed a comprehensive screening looking through the entire genome to identify human molecules that are important for virus growth.”
The process took about three years, working in a high containment facility.
Dr Stewart and his colleagues published their findings in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in May and, because they identified the function of a gene that had not been studied before, they have the right to name it.
Dr Stewart said he was going into the process with his eyes open and knew it was just a matter of time before Genie McGeneface gets tossed up.
“I don’t mind it, funny suggestions would be great,” he said.
“There is a body that does make the final decision so I don’t think Genie McGeneface is going to get up, but let’s see how many votes it gets in the first place.”
Genes could lead to new treatments
The CSIRO said the newly identified gene played a crucial role in regulating the body’s immune response to infection and disease.
The hope is the discovery could lead to the development of new treatments for a variety of serious diseases.
Rebecca Ambrose is a former CSIRO researcher — now based at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research — who co-authored the report on the discovery.
She said there was still much work to do when it came to understanding human genes.
“Even though the human genome was first fully sequenced in 2003, there are still thousands of genes that we know very little about,” she said.
“It’s exciting to consider that C6 has existed for more than 500 million years, preserved and passed down from simple organisms all the way to humans. But only now are we gaining insights into its importance.”
Dr Stewart echoed those sentiments and said it was an encouraging moment for his team, who work with some of the deadliest diseases on the planet.
“It is a high-containment lab and we do a lot of diagnostics work for very serious diseases, viral diseases that don’t have any cures and can infect humans,” he said.
“The idea of getting to name a gene or being the first one to discover its function, especially an important gene like this with roles in cancer and autoimmunity, it’s very fulfilling and it’s one of the reasons scientists love their job.”
Australian researchers have discovered a new gene that could lead to treatments for cancer, arthritis and influenza.
The gene, called C6, plays a critical role in regulating the body’s immune response to infection and disease and it could help scientists develop more targeted therapies for a variety of diseases.
A team at the CSIRO has found the gene regulates the production of proteins called cytokines to stop our immune system from spiralling out of control – cytokines work to prevent diseases by stopping viruses from replicating. Although C6 has existed for 500 million years, its importance has only been understood through new research.
The scientists made the “lucky” find while researching the deadly Hendra virus after they were moved to action by an episode of Australian Story on the ABC a decade ago.
Equine vet Ben Cunneen died in 2008 after contracting the rare disease while treating a sick horse, inspiring the CSIRO team to find a treatment using a painstakingly slow and careful process.
Team leader Andrew Bean said the scientists had to make sure they could work without contracting the virus themselves, working in a space with tight biosecurity while wearing “those space suits”.
One by one, the researchers “switched off” about 20,000 genes in the human genome to learn how they interact with the virus.
“If we turn it off, the virus can’t use it. And if the virus can’t replicate then we know that’s important to the virus,” Dr Bean told AAP. “(Viruses) use a method of hijacking our genes to fill in for the genes they are not carrying with them.”
Although the researchers found the gene in 2014, they spent the following years understanding how it works.
Now, a public appeal has been launched to help name the gene, whose longer moniker is C6orf106 and reflects the gene’s location rather than its function.
The public has been invited to go to http://www.csiro.au/namethegene and do better than “Gene McGeneface” – in reference to a political debacle in NSW that saw a ferry named Ferry McFerryface by the public, and another in which Boaty McBoatface topped a British online poll to name a research vessel.
A powerful new gene-editing technology called CRISPR has enormous potential to treat human diseases but the ability to tinker with genes can also be controversial. Here we explain what CRISPR is and how it works.
Since gene technology first emerged over 40 years ago we’ve seen a wealth of genetic advances — not least of all the decoding of the human genome in 2001.
CRISPR is a faster, cheaper and more accurate way of editing genes
It should allow replacing faulty genes with healthy ones
CRISPR is not yet accurate enough to use on people
Scientists have called for a moratorium on using CRISPR on sperm and egg cells
But that’s nothing compared to the genetic revolution that we’re at the beginning of right now, thanks to a technique adapted from bacteria called CRISPR (the catchy acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats).
Researchers learn what genes do by switching them on or off, or cutting them out of the DNA in a cell entirely.
Since it appeared in 2012, CRISPR has completely transformed the process that researchers use to edit genes this way.
It’s not the first method devised for this kind of genome editing, but CRISPR is a lot cheaper, faster, and more accurate than any of the alternatives. In technology jargon, it’s a capital D disruptor.
And with applications in gene therapy (replacing faulty genes with healthy ones), drug research and agriculture for starters it’s no wonder the method has taken off like a rocket.
What is CRISPR? And how does it work?
Editing genes can mean removing or replacing an existing gene, switching a gene on or off, or inserting a new gene altogether.
Whatever the aim, the first step is always to find the stretch of DNA that codes for the gene and grab hold of it, so a cut or tweak can be made.
CRISPR not only finds the target gene and locks on, it also delivers an enzyme that cuts the DNA. And it does all this with unprecedented accuracy.
The reason it’s able to manage this precision double act is because CRISPR is made of ribonucleic acid (RNA) — a molecule that can be tailor-made to perfectly match a sequence of DNA or to bind to a protein.
CRISPR RNA does both jobs — one end is custom-made to match the target gene’s DNA sequence, and the other end binds to a DNA-cutting enzyme, or nuclease.
It’s a brilliant system, and it wasn’t cooked up in a lab — scientists pinched it from bacteria.
Simple beings that they are, bacteria have a version of an immune system, and CRISPR is at the heart of it.
When a virus invades a bacterial cell, it leaves traces of its DNA in the bacterial genome. If the bacterium encounters that virus again, CRISPR RNA uses the viral DNA remnants and a nuclease called Cas9 to attack the virus.
An improved version of this CRISPR-Cas9 combination is now being used in laboratories around the world.
Cas9 is not the only nuclease in the game — there are a number of Cas (CRISPR-associated) proteins, each with a slightly different capability.
Researchers simply order the sequence of guide RNA to include a part of the gene they’re interested in, plus the Cas binding sequence, mix it with the Cas protein to suit the job and they’re ready to go.
What can CRISPR do that other gene technologies can’t?
CRISPR has two main rivals in the genome editing game, with equally odd names: zinc-finger nucleases and TALENS.
Like CRISPR, these gene editing systems can deliver a DNA-cutting enzyme to a particular gene.
But they have one key difference: while CRISPR is made of an RNA molecule, zinc-finger nucleases and TALENS are proteins, which are much trickier molecules to work with.
Unlike RNA, it’s not just the sequence of a protein that matters when it comes to making it bind — the shape is critical.
If a protein isn’t just the right shape with positive and negative charges in just the right positions, it won’t stick to DNA.
So tailoring a zinc-finger protein or TALE (TAL Effector) protein so that it’s the right shape and charge to bind to a particular gene is far more complex than ordering a custom sequence of RNA that’s a perfect match.
And complex translates to more time consuming, more expensive and less accurate to work with than CRISPR.
CRISPR technology has another benefit — it can target multiple genes in a cell at once.
Like in the bacterial system where it originated, multiple CRISPR-Cas9 combinations can exist in the one cell, all targeting different stretches of DNA — it’s just a matter of using different guide RNA sequences. That “multiplexing” just isn’t possible with protein-based guide systems.
Considering that most diseases and conditions involve more than a single gene, multiplexing opens the way to studying and potentially treating more complex genetic issues down the track.
What are the limitations of CRISPR?
While it’s a game-changer in gene editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9 isn’t error proof.
It has a much higher success rate than the other nuclease technologies when it comes to cutting DNA at the right place. But like the other systems it can also make unintended cuts outside the target gene.
It’s still early days in the technology, and reducing these off-target errors is a big focus for those working on improving CRISPR. A slight change in the Cas9 protein has already shown a significant reduction in off-target errors — the technique will need to be incredibly robust before it’s applied in a clinical setting.
Where is CRISPR at now?
CRISPR-Cas9 is still very much confined to research laboratories, but things are changing so rapidly in this field that this section will need regular updating.
Plans are afoot to use CRISPR to delete the gene for the protein that the HIV virus uses to enter T cells in the immune system, effectively locking the virus out.
Deleting genes is one thing, but inserting replacement genes is a taller order.
Success rates for this step have only just started nudging 60 per cent — well short of the extreme accuracy that is required for any clinical applications, like replacing a faulty disease-causing gene with a correct version, or engineering a cell so that it’s impervious to a virus like HIV.
Why is CRISPR controversial?
As with all methods that let us directly change genes, CRISPR has raised alarm bells on a few fronts. And its rapid uptake across the board in biotech research has some scientists understandably concerned that we’re racing ahead with experiments before knowing the full implications of the technology.
Nowhere is this more evident than in work involving human embryos.
Dr Daniel Dorsa, senior vice-president of research at OHSU, addressed some of the ethical questions raised by the latest results.
“This research significantly advances scientific understanding of the procedures that would be necessary to ensure the safety and efficacy of germline gene correction,” he said.
“The ethical considerations of moving this technology to clinical trials are complex and deserve significant public engagement before we can answer the broader question of whether it’s in humanity’s interest to alter human genes for future generations.”
While the embryos from these experiments won’t result in a child, they have added urgency to the debate around what limitations need to be put on the use of CRISPR.
That was the focus of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington in December 2016, which resulted in a call for a moratorium on using CRISPR on germ line cells (egg and sperm) until all safety issues and societal concerns have been addressed. This call has since been backed by a second group of researchers who attempted to edit human embryos.
As the accuracy and safety of CRISPR improves, and the potential clinical benefits of CRISPR become feasible, this stance will certainly evolve.
Hear more about the ethics of using technologies such as CRISPR on RN’s Big Ideas.
A Coles spokeswoman said yesterday the phasing out of single-use plastic bags “will be a big transition for customers”. Picture: AAP
By Ewin Hannan 28 June 2018 The Australian
Mice, cockroaches, needles, razor blades, dentures and dirty nappies have been found by supermarket check-out workers in reusable shopping bags, with employees told they can refuse to pack unhygienic bags.
As Coles joins Woolworths in ditching the use of single-use plastic bags at check-outs, the supermarkets giants have moved to address employee concerns about packing dirty shopping bags. The companies have also sought to address staff concerns about customers being aggressive or abusive in response to the ban.
Employees have expressed fear they could suffer injuries from lifting heavy reusable bags when customers insist staff overpack them.
Bernie Smith, the shop assistants union’s NSW secretary, said check-out staff had reported finding spiders, mice, used disposable razor blades, dirty nappies and dentures in reusable bags.
“We get stories of cockroaches crawling out on to check-outs from bags,’’ he said. A worker suffered a needle stick injury after a used needle was left in a bag, and staff said customers had presented bags strongly smelling of petrol.”
The union has launched a campaign urging customers not to “bag” retail staff. It says most customers accepted the plastic bag bans, but employees should contact their supervisor if a customer becomes aggressive or abusive.
He said many customers preferred to carry a small number of recycled bags and wanted staff to “fill them to the brim”, leading to the risk of injury. Woolworths removed single-use plastic bags at check-outs last week and Coles will implement a similar ban from Sunday. Single-use lightweight plastic bags will be banned in Queensland and Western Australia from July 1, joining South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT.
The Victorian government said yesterday single-use plastic bags used by shops, takeaway outlets and small supermarkets would be phased out by the end of next year. NSW has refused to ban single-use plastic bags, claiming the bans by the supermarket chains will be sufficient to reduce plastic bag use.
A Coles spokeswoman said yesterday the phasing out of single-use plastic bags “will be a big transition for customers”.
“However, we think that customers are willing to give up the plastic bag and use reusable bags for the sake of the environment,’’ she said. “For the health and safety of all customers and our team members, we cannot pack bags that are excessively dirty.”
She said workplace safety requirements meant “we can only fill a bag so it is safe to lift”.
“Not overfilling the bag minimises the chance of injury to customers and our team members, and also means the bag will last longer,’’ she said.
Woolworths has told staff they do not have to accept customer abuse, and complaints can be made to a duty or store manager.
If a Woolworths customer presents an unhygienic bag, staff have been told they can explain they cannot pack the items for hygiene reasons. “Staff are told to offer alternative bag options,” she said.
The weight of bags should be safe for employees to lift. If a customer asks to overfill a bag, staff are told to say too much weight might break the bag and they will not be able to lift it for the customer.
A Woolworths spokesman said the company had met with the union to discuss the removal of single-use plastic bags and training material for employees.
“At this meeting we made it clear to the SDA that our team members would be supported through the transition and appropriate health and safety standards would be upheld,’’ he said.
You can still buy & use your own low cost (1.6cents each) plastic shopping bags here
BAGS OF STUPIDITY IN THIS BAN
The ban on plastic shopping bags is a typical green policy: it does little to save the planet while hurting humans. But it doesn’t just mean inconvenience to shoppers, it could even kill them. Andrew Bolt’s editorial here.
When someone takes their own life their relatives will suffer grief more complicated, more intense and longer lasting than for any other form of death in the family.
Roxanne Roberts’s father killed himself in 1976. On the 20th anniversary of his death, she wrote about how her family grappled with the fallout from a brutal act.
by Roxanne RobertsThe blood was like Jell-O. That is what blood gets like, after you die, before they tidy up. Somehow, I had expected it would be gone. The police and coroner spent more than an hour behind the closed door; surely it was someone’s job to clean it up. But when they left, it still covered the kitchen floor like the glazing on a candy apple.
You couldn’t mop it. You needed a dustpan and a bucket. I got on my knees, slid the pan against the linoleum and lifted chunks to the bucket. It took hours to clean it all up, and even after that we found pools I had missed under the stove and sink.
It wasn’t until I finally stood up that I noticed the pictures from his wallet. The wooden breadboard had been pulled out slightly, and four photographs were spilled across it. “Now what?” I thought with annoyance. “What were the police looking for?”
But then it hit me. The police hadn’t done it. These snapshots – one of my mother, one of our dog and two of my brother and me – had been carefully set out in a row, by my father.
It was his penultimate act.
He was 46 years old. I was 21. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his death. And I am still cleaning up.
By the time you finish this article, another person in the United States will have killed himself. More than 30,000 people do it every year, one every 15 minutes. My father’s was a textbook case: Depressed white male with gun offs himself in May. December may be the loneliest month, April the cruelest, but May is the peak time for suicide. No one knows why, but I can guess: You’ve made it through another winter, but your world is no warmer.
Form of betrayal
This year, thousands of families will begin the process that ours began that night 20 years ago. Studies show that their grief will be more complicated, more intense and longer lasting than for any other form of death in the family. They will receive less support and more blame from others. Some will never really get over it: Children of those who die by suicide become a higher risk for suicide themselves. I once asked a psychologist why.
“Many children feel they don’t have a right to be any happier than their parents were,” he said. “To be happier is a form of betrayal.”
These are the legacies of suicide: guilt, anger, doubt, blame, fear, rejection, abandonment and profound grieving. Most people don’t want to talk about it, don’t even want to think about it. It is too raw and confusing.
Shortly after he died, I remember thinking: “I wonder how I’ll feel about this in 20 years?” Twenty years seemed like a lifetime away. Would I remember his suicide? Would I think about it much? Would I still feel angry, guilty, sad? Would time heal all wounds?
Twenty years later: Yes, I remember. No, I don’t think about it often. I don’t feel angry or guilty or sad, but, no, time does not heal all wounds.
My father’s suicide is, simply, a part of me. Think of your life as a can of white paint. Each significant experience adds a tiny drop of colour: pink for a birthday, yellow for a good report card. Worries are brown, setbacks gray. Lavender – my favourite colour when I was a little girl – is for a pretty new dress. Over time, a colour begins to emerge. Your personality.
When a suicide happens, someone hurls in a huge glob of red. You can’t get it out. You can’t start over. The red will always be there, no matter how many drops of yellow you add.
It colours the memories that came before it. It shades all the choices that follow. It is always there.
The call came about 9pm. It was a Friday night in suburban Minneapolis. The restaurant was packed. I was racing from the bar with a tray of drinks for my customers when the manager gestured me to the phone. It’s your mother, she said.
“Roxanne, he’s got a gun. He’s in the garage with a gun. You have to come.”
There had been many, many threats: “Be home in a half-hour,” he would say to my mother, “or I’ll be dead.” Sometimes she dashed back from the office, sometimes she refused.
This was different. There had never been a weapon before. “I have to go,” I said to my boss, hoping I wouldn’t be fired. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
I made many choices that night; some were smart, some stupid, some crazy. I believed, deep down, my father would indeed kill himself, sooner or later; I knew my mother was in danger; and I knew he blamed me for a lot of his misery. Looking back, I feel lucky to have survived the night.
I drove past the house. He was standing in the shadows of the front yard; I couldn’t see if he had the gun. I sped to a phone booth two blocks away and dialled.
She answered. “He’s in the front yard,” I said. “Can you get out?”
Five minutes later, she walked up to the car. He was quiet now, she said. She told him she was going to talk to me, but would be back. Then she dropped the bombshell: He had held her at gunpoint for two hours before she called the restaurant.
We attempted rational conversation. We came to what seemed, at the time, a rational decision. We pulled up to the house, and my father came out the front door without the gun. He wanted to talk.
Give me the gun, I said. He refused. We can’t talk until the gun is gone, we said. He shook his head. Come inside, he asked my mother. She shook her head.
He went back in, we drove to a coffee shop nearby. Frantic, we debated what to do next. To this day, I am still astonished that it never occurred to us to get help, to call the police, a hotline, anybody.
It was almost midnight; exhausted, my mother wanted to go home. She would stay the night if he let me take the gun away. Tomorrow, after a night’s sleep, we would be able to think clearly.
The house was silent; the door to the kitchen was shut. Ominous. My mother reached it first. Opened it.
“He did it,” she whispered and slumped against the wall. I looked in, then pulled her back and shut the door again to prevent her little dogs from running in all the blood.
“Why didn’t I kiss him?” she asked.
“What?” I said, confused.
“Before the coffee shop, he asked me to kiss him and I wouldn’t.” She sank onto the couch. “Why didn’t I kiss him?”
There was a time when suicide was considered a noble act of noble men. There was a time when corpses of suicides were dragged through the streets, refused Christian burial, and all the family’s worldly goods were seized by the state. There was a time when romantics, inspired by Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, embraced suicide as a sign of their sensitivity.
Now we have long, impassioned debates about “assisted suicide”, which pales beside the much larger issue: How do we feel about suicides when there isn’t a terminal disease and a supportive family on hand?
How do we feel about suicide if a 46-year-old guy just doesn’t want to live any more? A man whose marriage is falling apart, whose kids are growing up and moving out, who can’t seem to hold down a job? Reason enough?
How do we feel about someone who’s depressed but won’t get help? Who blames all his problems on someone else? Who emotionally terrorises and blackmails the people he loves? Is that OK, too? Can you fault him for anything if he ends up dead?
There are people who will tell you, convincingly, that depression is so dark that it blots out reason, perspective and all other survival mechanisms. They are experts who will tell you suicide is rage turned inwards: A desire to kill becomes a need to die.
This is what I will tell you: suicide is the last word in an argument, maybe an argument you never knew you were having. It is a grand exit, one guaranteed to make everybody stop in his tracks, pay attention and feel bad. It is meant to be the last scene of the last act of life. Curtain down. End of story.
Except it isn’t.
Sea of police cars
Tosca jumps off the parapet, and I wonder who finds the shattered body. Romeo and Juliet die with a kiss, and I grieve for their parents. Madame Butterfly collapses on the dagger, and I cry for her little boy in the sailor suit.
The calls began: first to my father’s only brother, who lived three blocks away, then to the police. Officers arrived, then detectives and someone from the coroner’s office. Someone came into the living room to ask questions. I answered. Yes, he was depressed. Yes, he had threatened to kill himself. No, there wasn’t a note.
I had sent my mother next door. “Watch for Mike’s car,” I instructed. “You have to watch for Mike’s car.”
This was the night of my brother’s high school senior prom. The dance was on a boat – we didn’t know where – then there was an all-night party and a picnic the next day. I called his girlfriend’s house. There is an emergency at home, I said. Tell him to call.
An hour passed. No call. The detectives were still in the kitchen when Mike’s car turned slowly onto the street and found a sea of police cars, lights flashing. Neighbours huddled in clusters across the street.
I watched from the front step as my mother ran to him. “Your father shot himself and he’s dead,” she said, guiding him to the neighbour’s house. I watched as the police took the body out, dripping thick drops of blood from the kitchen to the front door. I watched my uncle stare blankly when I asked him to help clean up the kitchen.
“Frank,” I ordered. “You have to help me. I don’t want Mike to have to see this.”
White-lipped, he watched as I scooped up buckets of blood and flushed them down the toilet. I threw him an old sheet and told him to start wiping.
Years later, I learnt how angry I made him, how he never forgave me for making him do that. He didn’t like blood on his hands.
I was alone in the kitchen again when I noticed the pictures from my father’s wallet. There were two portraits of his children. In the first one, I am four or five and my brother is maybe a year old. The other was more recent, taken for Dad’s last birthday just a few months earlier. He loved both pictures. Everybody knew Mike Roberts loved his kids.
If he had to kill himself, I thought angrily, why did he do it tonight? Why did he spoil his son’s last night as a teenager? Why ruin prom night?
“You selfish bastard,” I thought. “You couldn’t have waited one more night?”
Suicide is poison.
In 1988, Gloria Vanderbilt’s 23-year-old son flung himself off the balcony of her 14th-floor Manhattan apartment as she watched in horror. His last words to his mother: “[Expletive] you.”
Suicide is a desperate act, but it is also a hostile act. It begets more hostility. It gives the survivors the perfect opportunity to express all their real feelings about one another, good and bad. Years of petty resentments, years of unmentioned slights and snubs, grab centre stage.
Something – or somebody – had driven my father to take his life. Somebody had failed to recognise the symptoms. Somebody had failed him, over and over. It was somebody’s fault. It had to be somebody’s fault, anybody but the guy who did it.
My mother was never well liked by my father’s sisters, and so they concluded that what had happened was my mother’s fault. She was having an affair, she had driven him to it. That’s what my father had told them before he died. The fact that she wore an aqua suit to the funeral was proof, wasn’t it?
And I? I was on her side. So it was my fault, too. The fact that I didn’t fall apart at the funeral was proof, wasn’t it?
There is no one truth. There are too many truths. My mother swears there was no affair, my father swore there was. I search my memory and come up empty. Did I ever know? Have I forgotten? In the end, of course, it doesn’t justify the suicide, even if it’s true.
Death makes most of us stupid: We say the wrong thing, or we don’t say anything at all. Suicide is worse. Sometimes it makes people cruel.
After the funeral, we were simply abandoned by my father’s family. My mother was still numb, but I was confused and angry. No calls, no help, no kindness. There were no invitations to dinner, not even Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Two years later, I found out why: They thought my mother and I killed him. At one of those little get-togethers just after he died, my father’s family decided that perhaps my mother and I had cleverly managed to murder my father and make it look like a suicide. There wasn’t any note, after all.
One of my cousins was so sceptical he went to the coroner and asked to look at the police photos. It was a classic suicide, the coroner assured him.
After all we’d been through, this accusation was simply too much to bear. What kind of cruelty was this? And what had we done to deserve it?
I vowed never, ever to speak to any of them again. When a distant member of the family – a devoted wife and mother – found her husband dead in the garage, sucking the end of an exhaust pipe, I was almost glad.
“Good,” I thought fiercely. “Now they’ll understand that suicide happens in nice families, too.”
Suicide is poison. It poisons the ground beneath it. Anything that grows in that ground is poisoned; the fruit is poisoned. But people feast on it.
It is a terrible mistake. To survive, you have to get the hell out of there.
Second-guessing is the devil’s game, for there are no answers and infinite questions. But it is an inevitable, inescapable refrain, like a bad song you can’t get out of your mind. What if, what if, what if. What if we had forced him to get help? Had him committed?
What if, that night he died, we had called the police? Why didn’t we?
Part of it was the natural tendency toward privacy: family business is kept in the family. Part of it was arrogance, believing that we knew father best, or at least we could handle whatever he threw at us.
I think I knew my father would have charmed the police, sent them away, leaving him furious with me, furious with my mother, dangerous, armed.
Maybe that’s why. Maybe it was fear. Maybe not. Maybe I wanted him to die. The tiniest thoughts, the slightest variations, carry the seeds of redemption and damnation. “Why didn’t I kiss him?”
At some point, you simply give up. You could have done everything differently. You could have done nothing differently. You finally let it rest or you go crazy.
The police were puzzled by a wand of Maybelline black mascara they found in my father’s pocket. Another woman? Proof of an affair? The answer was simple: he used it to touch up the grey on his temples.
I don’t think he ever really expected to get old. He was the baby, the youngest of five children. He had three older sisters to fuss over him and a timid older brother who was envious of his effortless popularity. He was a very happy child; it was adulthood that he could never quite grasp.
He was tall and cinematically handsome – blue eyes, dark, curly hair – and wore bad suits well. He was charming enough to talk his way into job after job. There was the real estate phase, the radio phase, the political hanger-on phase. (In one family photo, he is shaking hands with Hubert Humphrey.) No job lasted long, but it never occurred to him to do heavy lifting. The big score, the one that would make him a rich man, was always just around the corner.
Things started out well enough: a beautiful teenage bride, two kids and – after his mother died – his childhood home, a little bungalow, to raise his family in. His son was popular and athletic. His daughter was pretty and smart and attentive. Because he thought Ava Gardner fabulous and didn’t care much for Marilyn Monroe, I never felt the urge to dye my hair blond. It was like that in the beginning. Things should have been idyllic.
But money bedevilled him. He described himself as the most unlucky of men. He must have felt himself a dreadful failure. I remember him hiding in the bedroom while I lied to bill collectors at the door. Some creditors were less gentle. One summer my father parked his old car on a different block every night, but still someone found it and smashed the windshield.
The last straw
My memories are mostly like that, dark and forbidding. And yet, a few years ago, I found an old audio tape my parents must have made when I was five or six. It is preserved from a big old reel-to-reel. My mother is braiding my hair. My father is teasing me. I am giggling.
“Hey!” my voice pipes up, delighted. “You bit me on the nose!” It is a moment of wonderful, giddy joy. I can’t recall it at all, or anything like it, except here it is, incontestable proof. There must have been thousands of moments like that. To me, they are gone. They are drowned out by red.
When did things start falling apart? Or were they ever really together? Which was the last straw?
I remember a night when I was 11. One of our cats streaked across the living room. In his mouth was a hamster that had somehow escaped from its cage. We all jumped to the rescue; my father caught the cat at the top of the basement stairs. He was suddenly, unaccountably livid. He shook the cat, and the hamster fell to the floor and scampered free.
I will never forget what came next: With all his might, he threw the cat down the stairs. It landed in a heap on the concrete floor, motionless.
There was a moment of stunned silence, then tears and regret and an emergency trip to the vet. The cat lived. But I think I never fully trusted my father again: anything, any time, could set him off. One day, I said to myself, it could be me at the bottom of those stairs. He will feel terrible afterward, and beg for forgiveness, but what difference will it make then?
The 10 years that followed were filled with sudden rages, explosions without warning. I found out later that he first hit my mother when she was pregnant with me, and continued on and off for two decades.
But in the last year of his life, he collapsed. His marriage of 22 years was slipping away from him. His children were leaving him: I had moved out three years earlier, my brother was about to graduate from high school. He couldn’t find anyone who wanted to hire him at a job he would take.
We begged him to get help. We asked his brother and sisters to talk to him. And when, ultimately, I told my mother I thought she needed to leave for her own safety, my father saw that as a betrayal. He ordered me out of his life.
He didn’t speak to me again for two months, until the night he died. That night, he spoke volumes.
I lied to the police. I told them there was no suicide note. In fact, there were three. They were handwritten on white sheets of notebook paper, short spurts of deadly poetry. Two were waiting in the living room as we walked into the house.
The note to my mother begged for forgiveness but said he simply could not go on the way things were. She has, to this day, no memory of reading it. The note addressed to me opened with a rapprochement. “All is forgiven,” read the first line. My eyes filled. No, I said silently, all is not forgiven. Death does not convey absolution. You don’t get off that cheap. The rest of the note instructed me to take care of things.
When I went to call the police, I found the third note, addressed to my brother, in his room next to the extension phone. I cannot recall the specific words, but the short message to an 18-year-old boy was this: Son, you can’t trust women. My father had asked me to take care of things. And I was going to take care of things.
He was dead; we were alive. There was nothing more we could do for him. But Mike and my mother needed each other now, more than ever. This note could do no good.
I stuffed all three in my purse and went back out to the living room. A week later, with my mother watching, I ripped them to pieces and flushed them down the toilet.
When I finally told my brother about this, just two weeks ago, he was angry and hurt, as I knew he would be. He asked, quietly: “What made you think you could take something Dad left for me?” Fair question.
Here is the answer, Mike. It is simple. I hope you can live with it. I’ve had to. The wishes of the dead do not take precedence over the needs of the living.
Nothing is ever the same
Suicide does strange things to the subconscious. A few weeks after the funeral, I attended a performance by a local improvisational troupe. The audience threw out suggestions; the actors proved how fast they could think on their feet.
“For the next sketch we need something you inherit,” announced a pert blonde actress. “You know: silver, jewellery, pictures, something that gets passed on to the next generation.”
“Hemophilia,” I blurted out. I didn’t know why I said that.
There was a long silence; then the room exploded in laughter.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense: a hereditary disease where the children, when bruised, cannot stop bleeding. Nothing is ever the same. At first, I read every book I could get my hands on about suicide. I tried to make sense of it all, tried to find reason in an irrational choice. To this day, I cannot bear the idea of a gun in my house.
On Easter Sunday almost a year after the suicide, I was standing at the entrance of the restaurant for which I worked, wearing a giant bunny costume to greet families arriving for dinner. A little boy, maybe two or three years old, came racing up to me, his eyes wide.
“Grandpa, look!” he said excitedly. An older man smiled broadly and swung the boy up in his arms.
I watched the two of them delight in each other. My father will never get a chance to know my children, I realised. He would have been a good grandfather. And the Easter Bunny began to cry.
I have come to understand that my father was angry, selfish, self-pitying. But most of all, he was without hope and in desperate pain. I don’t fault him for his depression; I fault him for refusing to get any help.
Suicides often believe everyone will be better off when they are dead. Even at his worst, I do not believe my father could have imagined the toll his death would take on all of us, and I don’t believe he ever really intended to hurt his children. His life was filled with errors in judgment, and this was his final one, a permanent mistake he could never correct or amend.
Suicide cuts a lot of ambivalence out of your life. I decided good intentions are never enough. I became fiercely protective of my happiness. Happiness, not money or titles, became my yardstick of a successful life. This was not adolescent self-indulgence or an epistemological exercise. It was life or death.
About a year after my father died, I left Minneapolis. I stumbled though my 20s, met a terrific man and got married, and spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up. For a couple of years I worked in advertising, an industry peopled by individuals with brains and creativity and a contempt for what they do. Not for me.
I think I became a journalist because whatever other duplicities this craft may embrace, your mission is the truth. You are not forced into war with yourself.
Nine months after the funeral, my brother moved to California. He was reckless, strong, adrift, and almost died three times – once in a motorcycle accident, once in a stabbing and once in a heedless dive into a pool that split open his skull.
He returned to Minnesota, subdued and gentle, and went on to a successful computer career. He was, surprisingly, never angry at my father or his family. He cherishes happy memories of our childhood, memories I cannot recall.
But he cannot bring himself to marry his girlfriend of 16 years. They live together, in a home they bought together, but he simply does not trust marriage.
Two years after the suicide, my mother remarried, changing her friends, her religion, even her first name. She was widowed again – a heart attack – and announced a year later that she was getting married again. Her fiance was my cousin – her nephew by marriage. He was the son of the aunt who had accused us of murder.
I was at a complete loss. His mother was someone I’d cut out of my life years before. I never expected to see her again; now she would be my mother’s new mother-in-law. One big strange dysfunctional family.
“I expect you to be civil to her,” my mother told me.
No, I said. I could promise to come to the wedding, and I could promise not to make a scene, but small talk with someone who thought I had murdered my father was too much to ask.
My mother was outraged. We had an ugly fight, and she didn’t speak to me for months. I went to her wedding but fled to the other side of the room when my aunt approached me. Nothing she could say would make any difference now.
My mother tells me my aunt is very hurt by all this.
The cycle continues, in ways I will never fully understand.
Four years ago, when my son was a month old, I took him to Minnesota to meet my family.
“Take me to father’s grave,” I told my brother.
It was the first time I’d been there since the funeral. The cemetery, shaded by rows of old oak trees, was cool and serene. I introduced my beautiful new baby to his grandfather, and my father to his only grandchild.
Today, when I stare at the boy who takes my breath away, I think about how much my father missed over the past 20 years, and how much more he will miss. I’ve more sorrow than anger now.
A lot of wonderful things have happened in those years, hundreds of shimmering droplets added to the mix. When I stir the paint now, it is a soft dusky rose. A grown-up’s colour, with a touch of sweetness and a touch of melancholy.
This story was first published in 1996.
If this story has raised issues for you contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
Australian author Tim Winton argues that misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma. Photograph: Lynn Webb
In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight
TIM WINTON Mon 9 Apr 2018 The Guardian
I don’t have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because I’m at the beach and in the water a lot.
As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who don’t exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.
I like the teasing and the joking that goes on, the shy asymmetrical conversations, the fitful moments of mutual bewilderment and curiosity. A lot of the time I’m just watching and listening. With affection. Indulgence. Amusement. Often puzzled, sometimes horrified. Interested, but careful, of course, not to appear too interested. And the wonderful thing about getting older – something many women will understand – is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. We’re left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.
We’ve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. There are lots of reasons for having clear-felled and burnt our own traditions since the 1960s, and some of them are very good reasons. But I’m not sure what we’ve replaced them with. We’ve left our young people to fend for themselves. We retain a kind of indulgent, patronising, approval of rites of passage in other cultures, including those of our first peoples, but the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.
What are we left with? The sly first beer your uncle slips you. The 18th birthday party where the keg is the icon. Maybe the B&S ball, if you live in the bush. First drink, first root, first bog-lap in your mum’s Corolla. Call me a snob, but that strikes me as pretty thin stuff. This, surely, is cultural impoverishment. And in such a prosperous country. To my mind, that’s salt rising to the surface, poisoning the future.
In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.
Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. I’m not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because that’s clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.
A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.
Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation – a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal – isn’t just desirable, it’s desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.
Children are born wild. And that’s beautiful, it’s wondrous, regardless of gender. Even when they’re feral creatures, kids are reservoirs of tenderness and empathy. But some do turn into savages. And sadly most of those are boys. They’re trained into it. Because of neglect or indulgence. And when we meet them in the street, and have them in our classrooms, and haul them into the courts, we recoil from them in horror and disgust. Our detention centres and jails are heaving with them. These wild colonial boys, they’re a terror to Australia. Real and imagined. But I worry about our revulsion for them, our desire to banish them from consciousness for their noncompliance, their mistakes, or their faithful adherence to the scripts that have been written for them.
Boys need help. And, yes, men need fixing – I’m mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I don’t deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.
But before we even get to that point, we have to acknowledge the awkward, implacable fact of their existence, especially those who most offend our sensibilities. We should resist our instinct or our ideological desire to cross the street to avoid them, our impulse to shut them down and shut them out and finally lock them up. We need to have higher expectations of them. Provide better modelling for them.
But before any of that is possible we need to attend to them. Yes, boys need their unexamined privilege curtailed. Just as they need certain proscribed privileges and behaviours made available to them. But the first step is to notice them. To find them worthy of our interest. As subjects, not objects. How else can we hope to take responsibility for them? And it’s men who need to step up and finally take their full share of that responsibility.
The insightful blogger who goes by the moniker Spotted Toad has created a series of charts explaining the 2016 Electoral College results as a result of average home price in each state.
The pattern is much the same as it has been in every election since 2000: In states where younger white people can better afford to buy a home, they are more likely to be married, have more children, and vote more Republican. In states where whites are less able to afford a home, they marry later, have fewer children, and vote more Democratic.
For example, the state with the most expensive homes on average is Hawaii, at a self-estimated mean during 2010–14 of $505,400 (according to Census Bureau data). Not coincidentally, Donald Trump did worse in Hawaii than in any other state, garnering only 30.0 percent of the vote.
In contrast, in the state with the cheapest housing—West Virginia, with its mean home value of just $100,200—Trump enjoyed his biggest majority: 68.5 percent.
These aren’t fluke outliers, either.
Trump won the 22 states with the cheapest homes, and 26 of the 27 least costly states. Conversely, Hillary Clinton carried 15 of the 16 states with the most expensive housing. (The most expensive red state was No. 9 Alaska and the least expensive blue state was No. 28 New Mexico.)
Here is Spotted Toad’s graph showing the fifty states, with Trump’s share of the vote on the vertical axis and home values on the horizontal axis. The correlation coefficient for the relationship between Trump’s share of the vote and home values in each state was –0.76, a very strong negative correlation.
The next most expensive homes after Hawaii are in California at a mean of $371,000, where Trump won only 31.6 percent.
California had voted Republican in nine of ten presidential elections from 1952 through 1988, but has now gone Democrat in the past seven elections, beginning with 1992.
“The country will increasingly tend to divide itself up into family-oriented red states with low housing costs and amenity-oriented blue states with high housing costs.”
This reversal is usually blamed by the media on Republican governor Pete Wilson coming from behind in his 1994 reelection bid by endorsing the popular immigration restrictionist Proposition 187. And this explanation that the California GOP was done in by the subsequent anti-187 anger of the Latino electoral tsunami is widely assumed to be true by GOP “strategists” too dumb to notice that 1994 followed, rather than preceded, the turning-point election of 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost California to Bill Clinton by a historic 13.4 percentage points.
In reality, the bigger problem dooming the California GOP was that it stopped routinely carrying white voters by comfortable margins. And this shift was likely related to the massive surge in California home prices. The state’s homes were no more expensive than the national average until 1975, but have since become increasingly expensive as California homeowners have figured out how to manipulate environmental regulations to slow the construction of new homes and roads.
Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, I had a front-row seat since the watershed year of 1969 to watch the celebrities of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Malibu learn how to exploit environmentalism to drive up their property values and keep out deplorables from the Valley, such as me. (Simultaneously, the Westsiders denounced Americans who didn’t want to let in more illegal aliens as vicious racist xenophobes raising the wages they’d have to pay their servants.)
Why have richer U.S. states become more Democratic and poorer states more Republican? I find that this phenomenon actually reflects cost of living, driven by residential building restrictions…. By making housing supply less responsive to price, land-use regulation increases house prices in locations that are highly desirable for either amenities or production.
For example, Malibu’s most famous amenity is 21 miles of beaches. But an even better amenity than a public beach is a de facto private beach, so Malibuites such as Rob Reiner have managed to keep its population below 13,000 by severely restricting housing development.
Malibu voters don’t even want you paying to vacation on their turf. By my count, Malibu has only 184 hotel or motel rooms. “Stay out of Malibu, Lebowski!” would make a truthful civic slogan.
Meanwhile, billionaire producer David Geffen waged a 24-year-long legal battle to ignore the state law mandating he provide public access to the beach in front of his house (which he recently sold for $85 million).
One reason that Malibu beach houses like Geffen’s are so expensive is that Southern California housing development can only grow eastward into the hot desert. While an inland Republican metropolis like Dallas can expand 360 degrees, a Democratic waterfront redoubt like Los Angeles can spread only 180 degrees. Blue-state metropolises like Boston and Chicago generally find their suburban expansion hemmed in by oceans or Great Lakes, so their supply of land is much more limited than inland red-state cities like Phoenix and Atlanta.
But, of course, the bigger reason that merely 0.1 percent of the population of Southern California can afford to live in Malibu is because the One-Tenth of One Percent likes it that way. While they may advocate open borders for their country, they understand the advantages of extreme exclusivity for their quiet beach community.
Professor Sorens continues:
High house prices are the most important component of general cost of living. High cost of living deters in-migration of lower-income households, especially those that do not highly value amenities. Holding median household income constant, higher-cost locations will tend over time to attract and keep households that highly value amenities. It is hypothesized that these households will be more Democratic. Accordingly, raising residential building requirements in high-amenity areas should cause those areas to move gradually to the left.
To put this another way, people who value being able to afford the space needed to raise their families more highly than they value amenities will be less willing to pay inflated housing costs. So they will tend to move out of places like California.
And those whose preferences are on the knife-edge between children or amenities will tend to go with whatever their locale makes more available.
For instance, those couples who stay in California will more likely need both man and woman to work full-time to afford the rent, which makes it harder to raise children. And if you are not having children, is it all that important to marry? And if you aren’t married, isn’t the GOP’s family-values rhetoric kind of offensive?
Republican candidates do much better with married voters than single voters. In most presidential elections, the marriage gap is bigger than the famed gender gap. A higher likelihood of being married in states with affordable housing appears to be the prime driver by which low home prices get translated into Republican votes.
This means that the country will increasingly tend to divide itself up into family-oriented red states with low housing costs and amenity-oriented blue states with high housing costs. Not surprisingly, the GOP, as the family-values party, does better in states more appealing to family-focused voters.
What about the country as a whole? If the Republican Party wants to thrive in the long run, it needs to adjust supply and demand to make housing more affordable in order to grow more of the kind of married-with-kids white people who vote Republican. How? The most obvious way is by making it easier to build housing and harder to immigrate.
Want to know the real difference between the elites and the working class? And no, it’s not the money, although the huge gap in income between the two groups has many serious flow-on effects, both financial and cultural.
The differences are far more complex than cash, as US academic and author Joan Williams details in a new book called White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.
Here’s one. “I was just living in The Netherlands,” says Williams on the phone from San Francisco. “And I show up in a room of people like me and they say, ‘What do you do?’ It’s the first question, and I say, ‘I’m a law professor.’ Well, immediately I have social honour. I’m a person they want to know.
“I tell the story in my book of going to my husband’s high school reunion in a blue-collar neighbourhood and he asked one of the classmates, ‘What do you do?’ The guy was extremely insulted and told him, ‘I sell toilets!’
“If you sell toilets you don’t want to be judged on your job. You want to stick around a group of people who know you well, who know that you’re more than your job and you’re a person to be reckoned with. And so while elites tend to pride themselves on merit, non-elites tend to pride themselves on morality. Each group choses a metric. We all chose baskets we can sell, that’s just human, but it means that elites are really different from non-elites.”
For Williams, a distinguished professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law who has written extensively on gender, race and class over decades, these class differences deserve to be at the heart of any analysis of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
“Class is not the only thing that was going on,” she says. “Gender dynamics were very important and if Hillary Clinton had been a man, she would have won. But class was very important.”
Indeed, it was Clinton’s failure to speak to the white working class that saw Williams hitting her keyboard on election night. As the “most boring conventional progressive in the world” she has always voted Democrat and worked to get out the vote for Clinton. Desperate to explain what went wrong, she published an essay in the Harvard Business Review that quickly became the journal’s most-read article online. It has been viewed by 3.5 million people. About 800 people posted comments, and pretty soon Williams had a book contract.
Her attack is “quite transgressive of the accepted wisdom in my crowd — that white working-class people are ignorant because they voted against their self-interest, that they are racist and sexist. I’m making a very different argument.
“What the white working class sees is the hollowing out of the middle class in the United States … They think neither Democrats nor Republicans have delivered for them, and their perception is absolutely correct.
“This talk they are voting against their own interests is a contemporary example of the stereotype, the idea they are dimwitted; it’s highly inappropriate.”
Americans have a “convenient deafness” about class and prefer to see everyone as middle class. Williams splits class three ways — the top 20 per cent are the elites, the middle 53 per cent with a median income of $US75,144 in 2015 are the working class, and the remaining are poor. She is unapologetic about focusing on whites rather than people of colour, arguing that their often different cultural attitudes and needs have been ignored for too long.
Lack of awareness around class is a fairly new phenomenon, according to Williams.
“In the 1940s, 50s and 60s we were not so clueless about class,” she says.
“At least liberal intellectuals were very clued in to class, and we had a language for talking about class, it was called ‘don’t be snobbish’. But starting in the 70s, the attention shifted away from class to race and gender and LGBTQ, and we tended to forget about class. And when elites forget to run things through their heads, you have assumptions …”
She cites the emergence since the 70s of television sitcoms, such as All in the Family, where the patriarch (in this case, Archie Bunker) is depicted as overweight and sexist. This demonising is “a consequence of forgetting”, which led ultimately to Trump’s victory.
The forgetting means many people in service jobs — janitors, receptionists, taxi drivers — are invisible to elites, despite the constant cross-class interactions of every day. It’s time, says Williams, for the PMEs — the professionals, managers and executives — to “talk to people without the assumption that because they have a modest white or blue-collar job, they’re dimwitted.”
In her book, a readable volume of just 180 pages (50 of which are indexes and references), she tackles issues from working-class resentment of the poor and professionals, and apparently contradictory support of the rich, to how elites gain self-worth from merit while the working class gains self-worth from morality.
Both groups value hard work but they see it differently: “To working-class members of all races, valuing hard work means having the rigid self-discipline to do a menial job you hate for 40 years, and rein yourself in so that you don’t ‘have an attitude’ (ie, so that you can submit to authority). Hard work for elites is associated with self-actualisation: ‘disruption’ means founding a successful start-up. Disruption in working-class jobs just gets you fired.”
Williams explains how food and religion and even the value placed on talk divide the classes. She identifies stark differences in parenting styles. Elites focus on “concerted cultivation” of children with intense schedules; non-elites are likelier to follow “the ideology of natural growth”. The first is a “rehearsal for a life of work devotion: the time pressure, the intense competition, the exhaustion with it all, and the ethic of putting work before family”.
For the white working class, parenting tends to focus on “clear boundaries” between children and parents, with prompt obedience expected, because this is crucial training for the working class.
Poor and working-class people tend to be more rooted in their communities than the elites — something elites forget when they urge people to move where the work is. PMEs tend to have national or global social networks and a “very broad range of acquaintances to help us out both professionally and personally”, says Williams. “The working class tend to have smaller networks, very local … They have to depend on family and close friends for a lot of things like good childcare or care for grandma. And so one of the things that elites don’t often understand is that they (the white working class) don’t want to move because not only do they have to find a job but they have to find a job that’s so much better than what they have now because they have to pay for childcare.”
Elites who dismiss working-class whites as racist or sexist are truly clueless.
“Racial bias (on the part of elite whites) even against very elite African-Americans is very strong” — she argues Sasha and Malia Obama will be disadvantaged by race despite being advantaged by class — “which is one of the reasons I find it so ironic that some (of those elites) say they couldn’t possibly listen to the white working class because they’re racist. My reaction is, compared to whom?”
Equally, white-collar professionals talk the talk on gender equality but often don’t walk the walk. Blue-collar men may not talk the talk and may have more traditional views on family, but they’re also likelier than professional men to participate in childcare, says Williams.
And because of different family dynamics, gender does not necessarily bind women — some of whom have very limited opportunities and different obligations for their families — across social class. Says Williams: “If working-class white women had just split 50-50 for Hillary Clinton, she would’ve won. High school educated women voted for Trump by a 28 per cent margin. The message for feminists here is that the ideal of equal parenting and both parents in the labour force often looks really different to the elites than it does to the working class and the poor.
“People who are non-elite often look back to the breadwinner-homemaker family with a great deal of nostalgia because of what’s replaced it.
“What’s replaced it, is that the men have often lost their blue-collar jobs and the family is trying to survive on the wife’s ‘pink-collar job’ (such as cleaning or supermarket jobs) and perhaps intermittent work by the husband or else a pink-collar and a blue-collar job or, god forbid, two pink-collar jobs, which means the family has quite a low income.
“They can’t pay for childcare so they’re typically tag-teaming, where mom works one shift and dad works another shift. The families are completely exhausted and the parents rarely see each other. Tag-team families have three to six times the divorce rate of other families.” What’s the solution? Elites should stop arguing that globalisation and automation mean that all jobs are going to be knowledge jobs.
“That is so untrue,” says Williams. “I mean, 75 per cent of the US economy consists of physical jobs and the only question is: are we as elite going to sit by and see the middle class disappear? That’s what we’ve done. We sat by and watched it disappear as we smugly talk about knowledge jobs and how globalisation and automation mean we can’t do anything about it. Excuse me.
We can do something about it. It’s called industrial policy.Germany has done it. We could be keeping high-quality, middle-skilled jobs if we actually cared, which we evidently don’t, and so I think that’s why in some ways we get what we deserve. “
What’s next for the Democrats? “It’s important to mobilise the base and make sure that young people vote next time,” says Williams. “I think it’s important to continue to reach out to communities of colour and Latinos, but we are not going to be able to govern effectively without the white working class.
“There’s a lot of happy talk about how the Democrats can wipe off the white working class and depend on people of colour and young people and college-educated voters. You may be able to squeak by the electoral college but, even if you do, you can’t govern. Because you won’t have the House (of Representatives).”
Impeaching Trump would be a mixed blessing: “If we got Trump out we would be less likely to have a war with North Korea, that’s a good thing, and then we would have a competent Republican administration, and then we would have a clean sweep. So I think they’re equally chilling options.”
She sees a bigger challenge for Americans. “When you leave the two-thirds of Americans without college degrees out of your vision of the good life, they notice. And when elites commit to equality for many different groups but arrogantly dismiss ‘the dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America’ this is a recipe for extreme alienation among working-class whites … We need to begin the process of healing the rift between white elites and white workers so that class conflict no longer dominates and distorts our politics … These people feel forgotten for a very simple reason. We forgot them.”
Every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands – Senator Cory Bernardi
March 25, 2017
Not for the first time and I suspect not for the last time, on behalf of the Australians Conservatives I am going to take the path less travelled, if I may put it like that.
I may be the only person in this place who thinks that $8.5 billion per annum spent on child care in the last 12 months, rising to $12 billion by 2020, for the government to pay service providers to look after families’ children, is more than enough.
As I said, already the figure is scheduled to rise to in excess of $12 billion in the next three years. That is $12,000 million that is being given to parents effectively to pay other people to look after their children.
It is another significant cost to the budget. It is absolutely created and sustained by delivering more debt that those very children, who all of us in this place want to help and bequeath a good, positive, healthy country to, are going to be forced to repay.
Once again I come back to it. Our debt in this country is spiralling out of control and there does not seem to be any real determination to redress it. That is a moral obligation we owe to our children.
So throwing another couple of billion dollars into child care here and there is not going to solve the problem, but it will indeed create greater problems, which will be magnified by the effect of interest and growth over time. Every child who is purported to benefit from this package will actually end up paying a very hefty price for it from the multibillion-dollar largess that is starting today, and I can promise you the demands will increase in the future for it to continue.
Australian Conservatives know that there is a better way. There are three key areas in which I can believe that this can be more effectively addressed. Firstly, we have to break this nexus between a government subsidy and a rise in the price of child care.
It seems to be a catch 22 where every time the government puts more money into the system it creates more demands for the child-care operators and the prices go up and there does not seem to be that greater benefit for the Australian families under the current guise.
Secondly—and I congratulate the government for its endeavours in this regard—there needs to be a determined effort to stamp out the significant rorts that are in this space.
Thirdly—and this is very important to me and I have communicated it to the minister—we need to remove the mandated prejudicial policies that disadvantage so many families and effectively establish a pecking order of who is allowed into the child-care system first.
Let me deal with the subsidies and costs. From a person who seeks less involvement in government it is far better for us to stretch every government dollar by streamlining processes and deregulating the sector. Every time we add additional compliance, additional requirements, additional reporting or any other additional regulation the cost of administering and providing child care escalates, sometimes exponentially, and I will detail some of those figures in a moment.
We need to end the ‘money shuffle’, if you will, where we collect taxes from people, throw it through the bureaucracy where sometimes it returns 50 or 60 cents in the dollar—sometimes less, sometimes more—and then give it back to those we deem worthy of it to subsidise the care of their children. I think that is inefficient.
It would be far more efficient for the government to allow tax deductibility, up to a maximum threshold, for childcare services. It would enable families to take responsibility for administering those costs themselves. It would allow families to claim it on a weekly or monthly basis with the ATO, as they do with other tax concessions, or on an annual basis. It would make child care more affordable.
With no guaranteed government funding, people could distinguish for themselves the service they want and the hours they want. That would create a much more competitive environment.
You mentioned the link between subsidies and costs. I want to take you back briefly to some research by the Australian National University which demonstrates the runaway price rises attached to child care in recent years.
Starting with March 2000 as our baseline, there was effectively parity between the market price of childcare services and the subsidy; in medical parlance, there was ‘no gap’.
Soon afterwards, a couple of years later, there was a modest gap, which parents were expected to meet, but there was virtually no difference between the subsidy rate and the market rate. But then between July 2002 and July 2007 the gap expanded.
By July 2007 the subsidy rate was 175 per cent of the March 2000 price. Not surprisingly, because of the additional onerous burdens on the childcare sector and the increase in subsidies, the cost of child care had risen by about 225 per cent.
So there was about a 50 basis point difference between the subsidy rising and the cost of child care. So no matter what levels of money were thrown into it, families will pay more.
What happened then was that there were cuts in 2007 and 2008 but the regulations continued to load up on the childcare service providers and there became a huge gap between the subsidy rate and the market price. The market price has continued to track upwards.
It has been higher than inflation ever since 2002, when, dare I say it, the sector recognised that by putting their prices up they could prompt demands in this place for more subsidies to be thrown at them and those demands would inevitably be met—just as we are discussing today. You cannot blame the sector for doing that.
If they can get away with it, they will continue to do it. We have to consider not capping it or putting any other forces on them but putting market forces on them.
We need to allow parents to make determinations about where they send their children so that the market itself will put pressure on the costs and prices.
So the gap—or gulf as it was then—went from about 50 basis points to about 150 points. It tripled in real terms. And then the subsidy rate returned to the March 2000 rate but child care prices keep going up and up and up.
At last check, that gulf is still widening. The market rate is about 460 per cent of the March 2000 price. In 17 years it has gone up 4½ half times, well in excess of inflation, and it has been fuelled by the money that has been thrown at it from this place.
And it is because of compliance. Since 2008, compliance has become so burdensome that the gap between the subsidy and the cost has risen from 50 basis points then to 300 basis points now.
That has a deleterious effect for every family and it is not going to be fixed by us throwing more money into the system. We have to take pressure out of the system. If we can reduce compliance, if we can reduce bureaucracy, if we can reduce regulations and red tape, child care will be more affordable and parents will have more choices.
And that will be sustainable because it means we will not have to throw more than $12 billion a year into the system; every dollar will go a lot further.
The second area in which Australian Conservatives believes there can still be significant improvement is in the area of rorting.
Lest anyone think I be uncomplimentary, I do want to congratulate the government and the minister for making significant efforts in this regard but, dare I say it, they are not enough.
I think there needs to be more diligence and more application to stamp out the rorts that are ripping off the taxpayer. I want to give you a few examples.
In 2015, an investigation in Albury in New South Wales revealed a $4 million family day care fraud in August 2016, authorities swooped on an operation in Lakemba in Sydney.
One of the accused was actually someone with alleged links to Islamic State. That did not stop them from profiting from and ripping off the childcare system. They stood accused of collecting over $27 million since 2012.
A known Islamic State sympathiser has been involved in an operation that has gathered $27 million of taxpayer funds, rorted within the childcare sector since 2012, and there are suggestions that some of that money has found its way to funding Australia’s enemies abroad.
The information I have is that in New South Wales, where these rort occurred, there are 324 services in operation but only 19 of them have been audited. If the other 305 underwent an audit, imagine how much more of this rip-off money they might find. In 2016, at Point Cook in Victoria, authorities raided families in the Somali community who in 18 months had claimed almost $16 million in grandparent childcare benefits.
Remember, these were additional payments brought in to assist grandparents who were looking after their grandchildren. But the $16 million worth of care was never provided— just the money was delivered.
Then the coalition government, to their credit, made the child swapping rort illegal on 12 October—bravo! Child swapping was where a childcare worker put their child in the care of another childcare worker and vice versa.
Before that, an estimated 11,000 parents were receiving $8.2 million per week, swapping over 31,000 children. That is $8.2 million per week of people just saying, ‘You take my child and I’ll take yours, and we’ll both make money out of the operation.’ It is wrong, and congratulations to the government for stopping it.
In 2016 a Melbourne woman of Sudanese origin was accused of claiming $800,000 a fortnight in a western Melbourne system that allegedly took $15.8 million in false payments. That $800,000 a fortnight is not a bad gig if you can get it, unless you are the taxpayer having to fund it. That is what is going on in our current childcare system.
A woman running Aussie Giggles, a family day care centre, was found guilty in 2016 in the New South Wales District Court of 81 fraud and forgery offences designed to defraud childcare benefits to the tune of $3.6 million in special childcare subsidies for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She claimed that as many as 14 of these children from disadvantaged backgrounds were in her care when they were not. And yet this was never picked up in an audit.
In 2016 the Queensland Labor government confirmed a trend in childcare rorting and noncompliance in ethnic communities.
Nationwide, almost all the family day care services hit with restrictions or closure were run by Somali, Sudanese or other African migrants. One Sudanese migrant received $1.6 million in 16 months to run a family day care network which authorities could not confirm involved people he claimed were employed by him.
There is a problem here. The minimal audits that have taken place and the maximum exposure of rorts—I have highlighted just some of them today—says we can do much, much better and stretch every one of those $12 billion much, much further.
The final aspect of where my concerns lie I raised during estimates. It is that there is a priority list for allocating places in childcare. Some may defend that. I may describe it as prejudice. It was news to the minister and to the department when in estimates I quoted to them words from their own guidelines:
A child care service may require a Priority 3 child to vacate a place to make room for a child with a higher priority.
In simple terms, if you are a white, middle-class person and your child is in child care, and if the government says there is someone more needy—I will get to what neediness is—your child can be removed with 14 days notice to be replaced by that child they think is more needy.
In some of these areas there is genuine need. The first priority for allocating places is ‘a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect’.
Instinctively, a child at serious risk of abuse or neglect needs much more than child care. They should not be put into child care for the day—the eight or 10 hours or whatever it is—and then returned to an environment where they are at serious risk of abuse or neglect. It needs to be dealt with at the very root cause of it. If they are not safe with their own parents they need to be taken out of that environment permanently.
The second priority is ‘a child of a single parent who satisfies, or of parents who both satisfy, the work/training/study test under Section 14 of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) Act 1999’. To be honest, I do not get that. I do not understand why one parent working is more important or less important than another parent working or another parent choosing to study or undergo training.
The idea is to provide this resource to Australians so that they can further their careers, their education or whatever the circumstances may be. I just do not buy it that we should all be paying and prioritising one person over another because of the job they are doing.
The third priority, of course, is ‘any other child’.
Within these categories there is even more entrenched prejudice. There is a priority list within the first priority group, the second priority group and the third priority group. If you are a child in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family, you get priority. A white kid can be removed from a childcare operation with 14 days notice to be replaced by an Aboriginal kid. I think that is wrong.
A child in a family which includes a disabled person gets priority. I am not making light of the difficulties that disabled people and their carers undergo, but I cannot come to terms with the fact that because you have a disabled sibling or a disabled parent you should have priority and someone should be removed from an existing childcare place because they deem you to be more worthy. I am not underselling the difficulties of it, but who are we to say: ‘I’m sorry, bad luck. Out you go and in you come.’ It is wrong. Even the department eventually admitted it was wrong.
Then, of course, we discriminate on the basis of income.
Apparently, if you do not earn enough money or if you do not have a job you are actually a greater priority for child care than the person who is actually out there earning money, paying more taxes and maybe employing other people—I do not know.
They can lose their place because they are earning above a threshold or they actually have a job—God forbid! Isn’t child care meant to be for getting people back into the workforce?
Finally, this is the one that really strikes me as odd, considering all the rorts I outlined before: children in families from a non-English speaking background get priority. I am not sure where they rank in the list, actually.
I am not sure whether coming from a non-English speaking background trumps being a low-income earner, having a disabled or less abled sibling or parent or having an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander family. I do not know whether it is the colour of your skin or the language your parents speak. I cannot determine this.
What I know is that any critical or reasonable assessment of it says it is wrong to remove someone in an existing place because of the colour of their skin, the language their parents speak or the income their parents have in favour of someone that a government of any stripe or persuasion deems more worthy.
Earlier, Senator Gallagher asked about deals that are done and things, and I have my doubts. I think that is very clear about the wisdom of throwing more money into this sector until other aspects of it are absolutely cleaned up.
I made it very clear to the minister that I have an open mind with respect to this package, but there are some things I would like addressed.
I really believe that if you are going to make child care available to every family, you are going to subsidise it to the cost of $12 billon-plus per year and more on the horizon, then it has to be available equally to every single family.
There should not be a priority allocation. You should not be able to kick a child out because their parents happen to be the wrong colour, speak the wrong language or happen to be able-bodied and earn money.
Pauline Hanson insists addicts must cover the costs of their treatment
The West Australian 4 March 2017 PAUL MURRAY
Based on a recent opinion poll, more than half the West Australians who will vote for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation next weekend are driven by a dislike of both Islam and the major political parties.
So while those who will actually form government continue to spend like drunken sailors buying votes, One Nation gets the bulk of its support at no cost to the taxpayer.
As is usual with protest movements, Pauline Hanson’s is best known for what it opposes rather than for things it supports.
But many voters might be surprised that the fledgling WA arm of PHON has released a range of policies in recent weeks that have escaped widespread media scrutiny.
That’s despite the possibility Hanson could hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council in a week’s time and have an arm lock on the next government.
So even if PHON voters are not interested in policy detail — preferring Hanson’s broadbrush nationalism on things such as foreign ownership and immigration — everyone else should be concerned about the party’s platform.
That’s because the next Parliament might just be dancing on it to Pauline’s tune.
For example, PHON wants methamphetamine-addicted criminals to pay for their own compulsory — and indefinite — treatment. The cash will be taken by force if necessary.
“One Nation WA proposes a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy to help tackle the methamphetamine scourge in our community,” the policing and community safety policy says. “If a meth user is caught two times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
“Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release.
“Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.”
Juvenile criminals, too, are in for a shock, with a promise to introduce controversial “broken windows” laws in WA. They crack down on minor crimes to create an atmosphere of law and order but are criticised for being inherently unjust and not addressing the causes of disorder, which are often racial.
“A philosophy of coming down hard on minor offences with juveniles in particular in order to deter future offending,” is how the PHON policy describes the approach.
The party also promises to examine new laws making parents accountable for the criminal behaviour of their children. It also supports a “Fagin’s Law” approach which targets those procuring young people to commit offences.
PHON also wants to build more prisons, for punishment rather than rehabilitation, and to make life inside tougher.
“Prisons are no longer a deterrent to crime,” the party says. “Society as a whole needs to consider what role prisons play in punishment and rehabilitation.
“Prisons should not be the home prisoners never had. We believe sufficiently punitive measures should exist for lawbreakers.”
Tough-on-crime promises are standard at election time, but the One Nation policies released so far miss several hot-button issues such as debt reduction and WA’s GST share and strangely ignore health, the biggest spending part of the Budget. There’s nothing yet on electricity prices, other than keeping Western Power in State hands — which doesn’t stop costs rising and won’t cut debt — but it wants to drive down gas prices by reserving more for domestic use.
On affordable housing, PHON says the key is to cut immigration levels and deter foreign buyers with a 20 per cent penalty tax. Labor wants a 4 per cent surcharge which it says would raise $21 million.
PHON wants no “racial/ethnic preferences” in public housing allocations and promises a minimum of 15 per cent of all government land and home developments would be targeted at low-to-moderate income households.
The party also blames immigration for Perth’s congested roads and services.
So to “ease congestion, lift productivity, generate economic growth and jobs and keep our assets in Australian hands”, it is proposing to start its own bank.
“A WA Infrastructure Finance Corporation would be financed with seed funding and direct public funding and operate on a commercial basis,” the party says, clearly forgetting Brian Burke’s similar experiment with the WA Development Corporation.
“It would help finance infrastructure projects in our State, at concessional interest rates, thus spreading the costs across the generations who would benefit from these projects.
“This method would allow WA to finance and construct major projects while earning a return for the taxpayer. It would allow the government to cut its Budget expenditure, freeing up funds either to pay down debt or to invest in education, health, families, policing and other areas.”
Most of these policies are highly contentious — and in some cases deeply flawed — deserving scrutiny against the likelihood that One Nation will have enough influence in the coming Parliament to exert substantial pressure on whoever forms government.
One Nation believes that communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic.
Solutions for Ice Addicts
One Nation proposes a three strikes and you’re out . If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control.
Addicts must cover the costs of their treatment, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Solutions for Dealers
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice.
Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison.
Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
It’s widely known as ICE, yet it’s also referred to as Crystal Meth or Methamphetamine. No matter how it’s referred to, the drug is with certainty, followed by misery.
Statistics now show there are 270,000 regular ‘ice’ users in Australia and the numbers are growing rapidly. Wherever I go throughout the country, the main issue raised by people is ice. Nurses and doctors are having to deal with ice users in our already overrun and understaffed hospitals, while other patients are forced to wait. A nurse informed me she was aware of a man losing his life due to a heart attack while waiting for doctors attending an ice user. This is simply unacceptable!
Our police and ambulance officers face regular abuse or attacks from overdosed ice users. Some of you might say this is a State Government issue, however this drug in particular is having national consequences and it’s about time the Federal Government encouraged the states to take a unified approach in combatting ice.
Two young mothers at Tweed Heads (NSW) told me the drug is out of control and ice can be purchased in a matter of 5 minutes in their community. They are in genuine fear for their children and themselves. It appears no place in Australia is free from ice and the devastation that comes with its use. Small country towns in the outback are also under attack. These once peaceful communities are being destroyed by crime, abuse and fear associated with ice. The Vulnerable and youth are being targeted, leaving parents and loved ones not knowing what to do, or where to go.
I have no sympathy for drug users. I do however for their families, friends and communities who deal with the destruction they cause. The ice users are ‘bloody idiots’ to say the least. Everyone has a choice in life. Being depressed, out of a job or feeling sorry for yourself is no reason to take ice. There are many people who can claim these ailments that turn to drugs. People have to start taking responsibility for their actions.
I am fed up with the innocent and taxpayers having to pick up the pieces for thugs and idiots, or irresponsible and selfish non-contributors in our society. I cannot understand the reasons why someone who is a hardworking, family person, wants to take ice?
Communities and governments must take a strong stance if we are ever to maintain control or stop this epidemic. I propose three strikes and you’re out. If an ice user is caught three times, they will be sent to a rehabilitation facility and kept there until their addiction is under control. They must cover the costs, either by having assets seized, or if on welfare, payments will be forfeited to the state. No debt will be wiped or worn by the taxpayer, even if the user is on welfare payments after release. Monies will be taken from their account until paid in full. If users hold a job, it will be taken from their wages on the same basis as maintenance payments.
Extremely harsh penalties should apply to anyone selling ice. Each gram of ice sold, should equate to a mandatory year in prison. Their assets will be sold to offset the costs and will be recoverable, even after time spent in prison.
If foreign nationals are convicted of drug crimes, a treaty will be sought for jail time to be done in their own country. Too many foreign nationals commit crimes within Australia because the rewards are far greater, and prison sentences are no deterrent.
I am not interested in do-gooders supporting the ‘rights’ of these criminals. When greed and disregard overshadows the impact on human life and society as a whole, they should forfeit all freedoms.
JUDGES will pocket up to $500 a week extra in plump pay rises next year after blaming ice addicts for worsening workloads and job stress.
Federal Circuit Court judges have demanded a bonus two weeks’ holiday and a doubling of superannuation contributions and service leave.
The Remuneration Tribunal yesterday gave federal judges a 4.8 per cent bonus from January 1, swelling the salary of Australia’s first female High Court chief justice, Susan Kiefel, to $573,046 next year.
Other High Court judges will pocket an extra $23,818 — bumping their pay to $520,028.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity”. Picture: Hollie Adams
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told the tribunal cases had “increased in complexity’’ due to an increase in drug use — especially methamphetamine — as well as mental illness and allegations of sexual abuse and family violence.
She said some litigants posed a “real/significant threat’’ to judges.
And she warned the “extraordinary number of cases’’ involving family violence “has put the courts under considerable pressure’’.
“The parenting cases … require difficult fact-finding about contested issues including sexual abuse of children, family violence … mental health issues and substance abuse,’’ Chief Justice Bryant states in her submission, kept secret for a year and made public yesterday after a Freedom of Information request by The Daily Telegraph.
The Chief Judge of the FCC, John Pascoe, told the tribunal that Federal Circuit Court judges receive only four weeks’ holiday a year, compared to eight weeks for Family Court judges and 10 weeks for Federal Court or NSW District court judges.
He called for at least six weeks holidays — as well as six months long service leave after five years in the job.
“Annual leave of four weeks a year is inadequate given the demands of trial judge work,’’ his submission states.
“Failure to deal with these issues to date has had a deleterious effect on the health and wellbeing of judges of the court.’’
Cartoonist Warren’s perspective.
Chief Judge Pascoe said the Federal Circuit Court — which hears family law cases, refugee and migration claims, consumer lawsuits and counter-terrorism issues — was the “primary face of federal justice’’ and its judges should be paid 90 per cent of a Federal Court judge’s salary.
“The average Australian experiencing difficulties in family life, at work, or in their business will appear before this court,’’ he said.
Chief Justice Pascoe said Federal Circuit Court judges’ superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary, because they were missing out on the usual judicial pension of 60 per cent of their salary after 10 years’ service.
But the tribunal rejected the claim, handing Federal Circuit Court judges a $17,046 pay rise instead of the $23,599 they asked for, and ignoring the holiday and superannuation demands. The Remuneration Tribunal ruled that a 4.8 per cent pay rise “recognises the increased complexities faced by judges … in an environment of continued economic and wages restraint’’.
Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe said superannuation contributions should double from 15.4 per cent to 30 per cent of salary. Picture: Renee Nowytarger
The judges’ pay rise is double the 2.4 per cent awarded to Australia’s poorest workers this year, and comes on top of a 2 per cent pay rise for federal judges in 2016. The federal Attorney- General’s Department fought the proposed increase, noting that Federal Circuit Court judges’ salaries had doubled between 2002 to $355,130 this year, while the average wage had risen 71 per cent to $80,415.
“Given the large number of judicial officers and the generous level of remuneration they receive, any percentage increase in judicial remuneration will affect the government’s budget position,’’ it told the tribunal.
The NSW government complained that any federal pay rises will trigger “me too’’ pay claims from judges in this state. NSW Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal head Richard Grellman warned if NSW failed to match federal pay packets, it “may have an adverse impact on the ability of … NSW … to attract and retain the best available people to the NSW courts’’.
NSW judges are paid more than judges interstate, with the Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court earning $482,470 this year.
Microbes living in people’s bodies can tell when you when they died
By John Ross – The Australian 23 Dec 2016
Higher Eduction Report Sydney @JohnRoss49
The balance of bugs in the body is crucial to quality of life. Now scientists are turning to bugs to get a better measure of death.
US researchers have found that the “microbiome” — the bacteria and other microbes living in and on people’s bodies — provides a surprisingly accurate gauge of how long they have been dead.
They say the discovery could sharpen forensic methods, shedding new light on murder investigations and corroborating or disproving alibis.
The team based its findings, outlined in the journal PLOS ONE, on DNA analyses of bacterial swabs from 21 bodies at various stages of decomposition. They used a “machine learning” approach to develop an algorithm equating microbial composition to time since death.
Team leader Nathan Lents said while it was a proof-of-concept study, the results had exceeded expectations.
“In a few years we’ll have a good idea of how to use this in forensic applications,” said Professor Lents, a molecular biologist with City University of New York. Recent research has uncovered links between the microbiome and Parkinson’s disease, bowel cancer, mental illness and autism, with microbes in the gut even harvested for new antibiotics.
Professor Lents said existing methods of determining time of death were accurate to within about six hours for the first two days after life.
From then on they mainly depended on analyses of insects in dead bodies, yielding “solid guesses” that often ranged over a few days.
“Beyond a week, no one really trusts the methods,” he said.
The new approach could estimate time of death to within about two days, even after four weeks of decomposition.
Microbiome analysis could also supply information such as a victim’s drug use, “even when the traces of the drug itself are long gone”.
He said it could possibly help determine cause of death or provide insights into places victims had recently visited.
In a study published last month, Californian researchers showed microbes on people’s mobile phones could be used to help identify their owners.
Queensland’s small-town battlers feel disempowered, disillusioned and angry as hell. Sound familiar?
The Weekend Australian 17 Dec 2016 By Trent Dalton
The chain has snapped on Russell Roberts’ work trike and Malcolm Turnbull’s gonna have to pay. The chain snapped because Roberts was pedalling his heavily modified black tricycle under too much pressure, towing a cart holding a line trimmer, three five-litre cans of petrol, a pair of wicket keeper’s pads and a Masport Utility 460 lawnmower. “Dirty Jobs R Us,” the cart states. “Lawnmowing, odd jobs, yard clean ups, free quotes.” The cart’s rear end bears a personalised plate that Roberts would like to fix above the entry doors to Parliament House, Canberra. “RUTED” the plate reads.
Prick of a day. Blazing Queensland sun. Snapped trike chain. The Masport clapped out three times this morning during a five-hour job that paid a grand total of $50. Five hours of hard sweat and throbbing lower back pain, all for a pineapple, almost a dollar for every one of his 49 years on this contemptible continent. Now that smug and carefree little green man in the traffic lights on Mary Street is taking his sweet time to wake up. “I’m just sick of all the shit,” Roberts says. He’s not alone.
Roberts once made a solid living fencing, building the endless wire and wood borders that criss-crossed Gympie’s fertile and vast dairy farm industry until deregulation of milk prices, drought and floods forced farms across Queensland’s glorious Wide Bay region to close. He was a builder’s labourer until the builders stopped building. He was a storeman until the stores closed. He packed fruit until the fruit arrived from someplace else. “I built this meself six years ago,” he says, kicking the trike’s front tyre. “Converted a tri-axle pushy to hold all the gear. It’s hard to get any jobs in town here so I decided to do this. There was nothing in town for us to do. I had to do this.”
He pushes his burdened and rusty trike up a hill running across Monkland Street, past Gympie’s Royal Hotel, his face purple as a plum, sweat across his cheeks and his calf muscles and his belly. “What are you sick of exactly?” I ask. “You know, all the f..kin’ shit,” he says. “All this bloody shit facin’ the country.”
I do know. Everybody in Gympie keeps telling me about it. The hard-to-crystallise, harder- to-convey frustrations of a regional Australian town existence. The years of being ignored by city bigwigs and sharp grey suits in Canberra. The unemployment rate across Wide Bay that spiked last year at 14.5 per cent, the worst in Queensland. The lives lived between the cracks of the city’s privileged progressives. The throbbing orb of Australia’s left-behinds, the great and growing mass of the voting discontented filling the voids – all those long-forgotten small-town craters – of political disillusionment. The forgotten people. The voiceless who are finding their voice in rogue leaders raised far outside the Canberra cradle. The immigration policies. The crime. The lack of decency. The lack of national pride. The lack of national direction. The broken bloody trike chain. You know, all the f..kin’ shit.
“All they say in Canberra is they want to reform all this and nothin’ gets done,” Roberts says. Then a thought enters his mind and it lights up his eyes. The first kind ray of sunshine he’s had all day. Just one wish, a fantasy really, that Malcolm Turnbull might fly immediately to Brisbane then hop in a hire car and drive two hours north to Gympie by the Mary River and meet Russell Roberts by the traffic lights on Mary Street and Monkland.
“Let me push that for you, Russ,” he would say. And the Prime Minister would haul this rusted apocalyptic trike utility all the way up that Mary Street hill in the blazing Queensland sun. “Just one day,” Roberts says. “I’ll take his job and he can have mine. I’ll show him how bloody hard my life is.”
The PM would probably have to abandon the trike about five shops up Mary Street, somewhere near the Fancy That Op Shop.
“Yeah,” laughs Roberts. And that thought makes him happy.
Ron Owen says the major parties only represent themselves.
“Oh, they’re not happy here,” says Ron Owen, former president of the Firearms Owners Association of Australia, sitting in his office in Owen Guns sipping from an oversized tea cup marked “The Boss”. “People in Gympie are realising they get no representation with the major parties. The major parties only represent themselves; they don’t represent the people anymore.
He’s visibly buoyed by Brexit; doing his best not to belly laugh with glee over Trump. “Well, we knew beforehand,” he says. “It was across Facebook. There was a change and it didn’t occur this year. Last year it happened, the whole thing began swinging around when there was all these images of millions of Muslims going into Europe. And it probably goes right back to 9/11. You might not be racist but you can’t ignore it. And that’s one of the problems. People are really pissed off with not being able to speak out. But the world is realising if it doesn’t pull its finger out, it’s stuffed.
He walks into a back room. It’s a gallery of sorts where he has arranged his jaw-dropping collection of rifles into wall patterns, weaponry art installations in nautilus shapes, guns moving through time like shells in the undertow. He has a whole display dedicated to early 1900s rural life that only exists now in history books and in the minds of more than a few locals who’d like to go back there.
“Don’t worry about Trump’s wall,” he says. “The wall has to be built up just past Black Mountain somewhere.” And the glint in his eye suggests Owen may only be half-joking with this talk. “The cities have got the numbers, but we’ve got the resources,” he says. “If you built a wall around Brisbane and said, ‘Well, you’re not going to get any more of our electricity because you don’t want our coal because you’re all greenies, so we’ll use the coal out here, and all the oil and all the food and all the resources’, I think it would be good.
“This lot down there in Brisbane, they’re building roof-to-roof ghettos. They’re producing rabbit hutches. They got nothing down there but houses.” He laughs. “And lattes. Lots of lattes.
The real wall, of course, is one of misunderstanding, a deep disconnection in towns like Gympie that the major political parties ignore at their peril. Politicians, like the media, have misread Gympie for decades, Owen says. “You all think we’re rednecks and we’re only two hours from Brisbane,” he tells me. “You’ll be the same. You’ll go back and you’ll turn us into potatoes: ‘Look at what these potato rednecks think’. I’ve had that done so many times.
The town remembers an article by Queensland criminologist Paul Wilson in a 1997 issue of Australian Penthouse in which he described Gympie as “Hell Town”, “the most undesirable place to live in all of Australia, full of hypocrisy, sexual violence, fear, drugs, murder, incest, pack rape, economic stagnation and rabid right-wing gun fanatics”. Locals found the piece so laughable they started to place “Hell Town” bumper stickers on their cars. Adam Martin found the name so irresistible he named his hotrod customising and auto fabrication shop just out of town Hell Town Hotrods. No surprises that people here took a keen interest in the recent trial that found Paul Wilson, 75, guilty on four child sex charges dating back to the 1970s.
Last month, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson walked through Gympie’s streets and was welcomed like royalty. “Thank you,” locals said, despite her having done nothing yet in Gympie to give thanks for. One Nation’s candidate ran third in voting at the last federal election in this LNP seat, but Gympie is just one of at least 10 Queensland seats political analysts say could fall to One Nation in the state election to be held in or before 2018. “Gympie is hers to lose,” Owen says. “They would only be negligent and silly if they didn’t win it. Pauline speaks her mind and she appreciates the problems, even though she’s not been able to do anything about them.
He takes a sip from The Boss cup and adds another thought to that sentence. “As yet,” he says.
Elenka Parkin with three of her kids.
Potatoes. Elenka Parkin is a 38-year-old single mother of five children, aged 19 to four, who can tell you a thing or two about the potatoes in Coles on Nash Street: “$3.50 a kilogram!” she roars. That price scares her. That price makes her worry for the future of her children. She was raised in North Queensland, where she dropped out of school to work on cattle properties in her late teens.
“Gave me a perspective to appreciate farmers,” she says. “We can get a 20kg sack of potatoes up there for five dollars and they have to throw away their produce because they can’t sell it. No one wants to buy local produce. I can get you the best mangoes in Australia and they’re dumped because they don’t go overseas and they don’t go to the local market. Pumpkins, watermelons, lychees, we grab by the uteload for horses in the paddocks because no one wants to buy them.
“We need to get a bit more independent. We have enough cattle, we have enough sheep, we have enough fruit and vegetables ourselves. Why do we need to import all this food?
Parkin is wearing a black T-shirt with the words, “Who cares?” stretched across it. She says that message is more hopeful than nihilistic. Who actually cares anymore? Case in point, a boy she knows who suffers a life-threatening illness that his parents have been managing by desperately raising funds for medical treatments adding up to almost $300,000 a year. “I hand-wrote a letter to Gina Rinehart asking if she could help this family out and she couldn’t,” she says. “And I wondered what happened to the Aussie spirit.
“People don’t like Pauline Hanson’s bluntness but she’ll go well here because we’ve had enough. She understands we’ve been dragged around and taken for granted. We’ll see Turnbull’s shovel, a photo of a brand new shovel about to go into the ground, but has he ever busted arse and dug one of those holes for a living? No.
“Pauline, she’s been through hell and back,” says Audi Small, a 35-year-old Gympie mum of three who works in retail. “She understands me better than anyone in Canberra because she’s been me. She’s been a battler. She could have quit a long time ago but she hasn’t.
“I’m not a racist but a lot of what she says makes sense. We don’t treat our own as well as we treat illegal immigrants. Give poor pensioners a house, you know. Give them food, give them cigarette money and all the luxuries these people are getting. It’s not fair. My mum is 74 and the pension she gets is ridiculous. It’s not enough.”
Audi’s mum, Lillian, is a widow. “She lives next door to me,” Audi says. “She has no super because my dad and her lost a printing business and then my dad passed away from cancer. They lost everything. I remember when Mum went to get the pension. She felt so violated, all the questions they asked. She said she felt like she was begging for money.And she had given back to the country her whole life. I’m not against immigrants, but let’s treat our own well, too. Let’s take care of our own before we embrace everyone else.
A young man named Dylan Thomas Ryan exits Gympie’s Busy At Work apprenticeship and employment centre. “You done?” asks his friend, Maddison Brown, 20. “Yeah,” he says, rubbing his eyes. Dylan’s been looking for concreting work. “If you want to work, you gotta go down to Brisbane and start your own business,” he says. “There’s not a lot of work here, unfortunately.
Maddison points at the concrete footpath. “Yep, all the concretin’s done, see,” she laughs. Dylan rolls his head back, laughing. “No, there’s no buildings going up,” he says. “Every building needs a slab to start on but there’s nothing getting built in this place, mate. And it will stay like that.
“I’m gonna start a business one day,” Maddison says. Dylan asks, “What are you going to do?” That’s a hard one to answer because the only business she’s seen prosper in Gympie is drug dealing. “The game,” she says.
Maddison recently went to jail for 11 months. “Attempted murder,” she says, casually, like she’s talking about what she got for Christmas last year. She was embroiled in a shooting in Caboolture that escalated from a dispute over an outstanding debt and left a victim in an induced coma.
“The industry of drugs is real bad here,” she says. “Ice. It’s not the town, it’s some people in it. Before I went to jail it wasn’t so bad. When I got out, it was like, whoah. How much it had changed was incredible.” Dylan and Maddison don’t know where they’d begin to explain their lives in Gympie to any political leader, local or otherwise. “What leaders, mate?” Dylan says.
Adam Martin, whose customising shop is called Hell Town Hotrods.
Frank Huskisson was raised in Gympie, but moved away to work in the coalmines in Queensland’s Central Highlands. “They closed the mines up there and coal went arse over head and I moved back here 15 years ago,” he says. Huskisson is 60, a father of three. He found work in Gympie as a mechanical fitter. “There was a lot of work when I came but that’s all disappeared in the last 10 years,” he says. “Gympie had a great infrastructure when I grew up here. It was self-sufficient. We had all the dairy farms, all the small crops. Everything has closed down. Half of the south side of Gympie was dairy farms and they’re all subdivided now into five and 10-acre blocks. You can’t make a living out of that, trying to milk a cow. The government’s done nothing to help that.”
“Disillusionment,” says Michael Cordie, 57. “We’re getting disgruntled. We’re heading to change because we’re not stupid. We have values.” Values, says Cordie, like the kind Russell Roberts shows every morning when he wakes up to a day of pushing his cumbersome lawnmower cart through the baking streets of Gympie. Roberts has gone into the Empire Hotel to spend almost a quarter of his day’s pay on a couple of cold beers. His trike is parked by an electricity pole on the footpath outside the pub.
Cordie looks the improvised mobile business over with a smile. He ran a lawnmowing business himself before he retired, with cars and trailers to lug his mowers around the suburbs. “But nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he says of Roberts’ initiative. “If he works it right, he’ll save enough to buy himself a vehicle and he might get ahead.
But he fears Roberts faces bigger problems than a broken trike chain. “Australia feels white-anted out,” he says. “The whole system is ready to collapse.I don’t know where the answer is. The country’s not built on what it used to be built on. That’s a worry. You look at Australia and it’s all pristine on the outside and you go and poke a finger through it and she’s ready to fall over.
Steve Handel with Mickey.
Steve Handel wants to fly back to September 27, 1983. That was the day after Australia won the America’s Cup. Australia was beautiful that day. Australia was great that day. “I was driving coal trucks in Wollongong back then and there was hundreds of us on the road,” he smiles, standing outside the Empire Hotel, his chihuahua Mickey on a leash at his feet. “People were on the footpath as you drove by giving you the thumbs up; they were waving to you because they were that happy.”
The memory is so strong and sacred that it brings tears to his eyes, standing right here on the footpath of Mary Street, cars zipping by. “All the trucks were blowing their horns and car drivers were waving to you. They couldn’t believe it had happened.” Handel shakes his head. “I miss that.
He wants to fly back to 1964, the year he started working, back when a young man could walk into any pub in Australia and find a job. He wonders how he’d go walking into the Empire Hotel this very moment and saying to the crowded public bar, “G’day, I’m an honest hard-working man from Wollongong and I’m lookin’ for work”.
“Ha!” he says. Mickey the chihuahua would be the first to be booted out. “Because there might be some health inspector hiding behind a tree around the corner,” he says. “We’re over-governed. We’re over-regulated. Bureaucracy has gone wild. You can’t do anything. This is a country where they’ll show you how you can’t do it, not how you can do it.Open a shop, start a business, nothing but red tape and regulation. Can’t work a forklift without a ticket, can’t use a chainsaw without a ticket, can’t go up a ladder without a ticket, can’t go in confined spaces without a ticket. Certificates of competency for anything you want to do. I feel claustrophobic in this country.
“Australia is stuck in limbo. We keep changing governments. We keep thinking we’re getting a prime minister that will get us somewhere but we’re still just in limbo. We’re going nowhere.
Elenka Parkin feels the same. “We need to bring back the Aussie spirit,” she says. Audi Small agrees. “I want to go back to the way it was when I grew up in the 1980s,” she says. “We had it good. We really did.”
That might well be straight-up nostalgia. That might be rose-tinted spectacles but it’s a strong feeling they all share. They don’t know what exactly they want in a leader but they want someone to bring that old Australia back. They want someone to make Australia great again.
Whilst its tragic that so many people feel left behind, the issue is we can’t go back…we need to find a way forward. These towns out in the middle of very inhospitable country are terrible places to exist. I’ve lived in a few as a boy. Some of the points the people make in the story do hold water, but we need to meet in the middle.
We can’t shut down globalism, it has kept the world safe since World War Two, well in relative terms. We need to decentralise the cites, and build high speed rail. And for those who say it’s too expensive, or too hard…there is no other choice apart from the collapse of Oz. It doesn’t have to be done all at once, but it does need to happen…this would would act as a slow release and get some of these people left behind into jobs. We also need to start thinking about reeducation, and expanding into the jobs of the future…all the high tech stuff that is coming on-line, and which Oz is being left behind on. Most of the people in this article would need to be reeducated for the jobs of the future, and again this would act as a slow release.
Finally we need to redefine the concept of existence, i.e. getting a job and working all our lives because this is about to all change due the coming robotics age. We need to teach creativity, so people can add to society in other ways, culture now is more important than ever…and not the sort of cringe stuff that Oz did in the past…it wont past muster in the globalised world, we need to look back to Europe and The Romantics, along with The Modernists and borrow to create something new. It can still have an Oz flavour but this new cultural renaissance needs to be visionary like the two aforementioned movements, not fearful like Oz culture was in the past of Oz’s place in the world.
We need steel, vision and courage now…and whilst I cringe somewhat at the ill-informed opinions of people in this story, we can’t leave anyone behind.
Every time I read a story like this, I think of the prosperous cities in the dry hot inland deserts of America. Like Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Australia’s press looks down on anybody who does not live in the coastal cities, as though they are dead-beat no-hopers. Useless, Not intelligent. What a massive waste. Its as though any money spent inland is a patronising gift from the coastal elite.
The inland and its people are a massive resource that is going to waste, because of the blind ignorance of the law-makers. Unless a few people like Pauline can make some progress, we will wake up one day, and the inland will belong to those who CAN see its potential. Those people may not be Australians.
Whatever is the matter with our journalists? Why are they not reporting the country’s real problems?.
Our country is bleeding and we used to be very good at quick decisive action to at least enlighten people So help could be forthcoming. Or at least ways around the problem.
. Now the more everyone is engrossed in seeing how many likes journos have achieved on Facebook, twitter etc The less the real country seems to matter to an entire mudswamp of people.
This is not just a problem for America.
Our National Party, has become too silent, too compliant, too politically correct for anyone’s good including their own.
Of course if Pauline selects people with very good communicative skills, who are prepared to stick to their ideals and clearly state what they hope to achieve at the beginning, they will no doubt be the new spokespeople for the areas, most adversely affected by sheer neglect.
The Liberal Party should lift its game in the country, There may well be some very good people who are being ignored. Journalists should take stock of what, insignificant relics they became to Americans when it mattered. That never should be forgotten? by them.
The day that truth died in America coming from Journalists. The day of the truthful reporting of situations, where help is needed, appears to be obsolete in too many quarters..
@BarbaraOur reporters are in unions. That’s the first point. Secondly, granny knickers have more impact than grannies dying. Celebraties will always come first, however the Oz did report the NG tsunami. Where have we gone wrong? Government as we knew it changed when Rudd was knifed by Shorten and Gillard was dropped in his spot. When the election was held, the moral fibre of this country and the respect for our political parties went downhill when three, Oakshott, Windsor and Wilkie gave Gillard the leadership of this country. This was an opportunity for the minor parties and independants to barter and win changes that brought nothing but spending on waste. Our debt soared,Gillard introduced another burden on this country with the carbon tax, illegal migrants stormed into this country, drownings at sea were a regular occurrence and the people of Australia couls see we had lost control of our borders and lost total control with spending.
Further respect for our politicians was lost on another knifing with Gillard deposed and Rudd reinstated. It was too late, the damage was done and the credibility and respect for parliament and its members zeroed. Then we had the election where Abbott took the LNP to an outstanding victory. However, he introduced a tough budget to get the deficit reduced and was howled down and Abbott was rolled by the press and a bunch of gutless party members who placed Turnbull at the top. This was a major blow to the country, a toothless waffler leading the country who took the country to an election and lost the super majority Abbott had won.
Throughout all of the past eight years, dumb politician after dumb politician has failed in leadership and doing what Australia does best…rely on its country folk to bring home the bacon. Exports of sheep, wool, beef, cattle, grains, fruit, vegetables etc etc. are the staples that the world needs, food and more food. But no, we allow our vast areas of arable land to be decimated by tax free multi-nationials that are ripping the guts out of the country.
Pauline Hanson may not be the smooth talking, articulate person like Turnbull, or the sneaky, union promoting, Shorten, but she is listening to the people and that’s more than those other two usurpers.
The common theme in so many of these stories about people who are disillusioned or fed up or angry, etc., is that it is the all the fault of someone else. They expect the Government to fix everything – to give them the lives they want.
Not a lot of self-sufficiency or taking personal responsibility going on. And their answer seems to be to vote in independents or minor parties who by definition cannot implement any real change – they can just keep getting in the road and cause the sort of non-achieving governments that they so dislike.
@Chris The people may be in part responsible for the circumstances they find themselves in, however the answer is NOT SSM, reduction of so-called greenhouse gasses, a back-packer tax, Safe Schools and any other rubbish the latte set like to chatter about and that Malcolm and Bill like to argue about. These people need encouragement to help themselves, not government handouts that LibLab love to handout with other peoples money (hard working-tax payers). We need some leaders like Trump who can give people HOPE!
@martin If you’re interested, why don’t you look the immigration numbers up on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website, martin? It’s no secret, it’s all there in black and smudge under item 3412.0 – Migration, Australia. The statistics on 457 Visas are published each and every quarter by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
The real numbers are readily and publicly available.
If Elenka is keen on reviving the Aussie spirit perhaps she could make a contribution by paying due respect for the Australian flag. Draping the flag upside down over the fence with part of the Southern Cross obscured is highly disrespectful. The upper hoist or canton, the Union Jack in the case of our flag, should always be uppermost and to the left, regardless of whether the flag is draped vertically or flown horizontally.
Our flag is significantly more than a prop for a photo.
@Ian More to the point, are you? Do you think the Australian flag is just a bit of cloth to be dragged out any which way? I don’t. Do you think that flag hangs over the back fence or did they drag it out to make some sort of misguided point?
And exactly what is “the issue“, mate, that takes precedence over respect for our nation’s flag? A bloke who no sooner gets $50 in his hands but he’s off to the pub? A single mum who doesn’t know the actual price of spuds at her local supermarket? A town pining for the good ole days?
@Mick You have the same problem as the politicians, you see the flag, but you don’t see the issue. At least it is an Australian flag and not an ISIS one. The majority of the flag, the Union Jack, most of the Southern Cross is there and it is not on the ground, so let’s look at the issue and not some point scoring.
@John Well, short of time travel, John, no we can’t go back to the good old days; they’re long gone and they’re not coming back. Do you think they are?
And since you ask, no, John, I’m not from the Labor Party. I’d suggest that someone from the Labor Party would be falling all over this story, wringing their hands and calling for immediate government subsidies and grants of all descriptions in the interest of saving people from the consequences of their own poor decisions.
@Ian Ian, I volunteer with a community services organisation that helps people 24/7. I work on a regular basis with people in need, I’ll be there on Christmas day doing just that, so save your exhortations about opening my eyes and heart.
As an ex-serviceman, what I object to is having the Australian flag dragged out like a cheap prop just to Aussie-up a photo to get a bit more sympathy.
Opening your eyes and your heart is all well and good but you need to balance that with your head, mate.
Go One Nation! The sooner you get the balance of power in the State Parliaments and the Federal Parliament, the better this country will be. Word of caution Ms Hanson, spend the time to ensure candidates are thoroughly vetted and are of good calibre because that will be your Achilles Heal.
We had a One Nation State Parliamentarian here in Gympie once , that lasted until she fell out with her party and ran again as an Independent . Never heard of again .
As much as I agree with some of Ms Hanson’s ideas I have absolutely no faith that she can corral a bunch of malcontents into a party that actually works. Just look at the clown from Western Australia she endorsed and now fights with and multiply that ten times.
@Douglas That’s what was said about Brexit and Trump. Do you honestly think this country will elect the union loving thug or the waffler who wants to be hugged? It may not be just PH, however, NXP and his troops could also make a difference.
Why do we need to spend billions on subs?
Why are we closing down the cheapest form of energy?
Why aren’t we escalating the development of the food bowl?
One Nation and the NXP have interests in these issues.
I’m not from a small town and I’m as mad as hell too. After six years of university study I worked as a professional software engineer for over thirty years. After more than four years of looking I have been unable to secure full time work. I have had some work but a long way from full time. I believe my situation is due to my age, I am over 50, and the governments policies on immigration. Allowing 10000 ICT workers into Australia last year on 457 visas is a scandal.The claimed shortage of ICT workers is a nonsense. The 457 visa holders will work for a lot less. I know other people with a similar background who are having a similar experience. In addition one third of computer science graduates have been unable to find full-time work. I know many engineers in the same boat. It does make you wonder why the government is pushing STEM so hard when it is clearly trying to destroy those careers. I’d recommend those who are attending university next year to avoid STEM and seek careers in the medical industry or perhaps property development. Not exactly top export earners for Australia but if the government doesn’t care what should individuals.
@John@John Sorry to hear about your employment problems, John, but let’s try to keep the debate on a factual basis. There were only 6,880 Information, Media and Telecommunications 457 visa holders working in Australia as at the last Subclass 457 quarterly report (not 10,000!); they represent about 15% of all 457 visas issued. The Average nominated total remuneration for primary applications granted in 2015-16 to 30 June 2016 for Information, Media and Telecommunications 457 visa positions was $91,300, that’s 1.6 times the median starting salary for Computer Sciences bachelor degree graduates, so it’s a bit hard to see how 457 visa workers are taking jobs from recent graduates.
The employment rates for bachelor degree graduates in civil, electrical, electronic, mechanical and mining engineering are all significantly better than computer science graduates; only aeronautical amd chemical engineering graduates have employment prospects that are on par with computer science graduates.
Anyone pursuing a career these days needs to be cognisant of their own capabilities and motivations, the growth and development prospects of their preferred career path and, perhaps most importantly, the locational dependence associated with their choice.
The following figures come from a report titled Immigration Overflow : Why it matters by tapri.
17185 ICT workers on both 457 visas and permanent for 2015-2016.
Source: Department of Trade, visas issued data, 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16; Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2015-16 (BE 10296.01)
According to the ABS, the average Australian salary for full-time non-managerial employees in professional level IT occupations in 2014 was around $100,000.3 For the 5,722 of the total of 7,329 who were Indian nationals in these two occupations in 2014-15, the salary level was very low. Some 61.4 per cent had a nominated base salary below $70,180 — some $30,000 below average ITprofessionals’ salaries (see Appendix I).
A quick look on an online employment website shows over 100 job vacancies paying up to $85,000 a year in and within 80 kilometres of Gympie. Among the vacancies are casual Parks Labourers earning $25 per hour (Russell might be interested but he probably couldn’t go to the pub for a couple of coldies whenever he felt like it), wait staff at local cafes, sorters at the local rubbish tip, cooks assistants, carers and care support workers.
And you can get a 2 kg pack of Red Royale Washed Potatoes at the Coles in Gympie for $4.50; that’s less than the price of one regular Big Mac meal down the road at McDonald’s.
Get back to me when you’ve taken some of the people that figure in the story for a couple of job interviews, gone shopping with Elenka to see what she buys for the kids and had Ron Owen explain how he’s managed to run a gun shop employing three staff if things are so tough in Gympie. Or better still have any one of them tell you what Pauline is going to do to improve their lot.
@Mick In my experience a lot of jobs that are advertised do not exist, agencies place them to collect resumes. Even if the jobs do exist if there are 100 applicants Russell is unlikely to be successful because of his age. I do not believe there is enough work for everyone who wants it. Your assumptions are totally demeaning, Russell is obviously trying to make the best of a bad situation and he should be given credit for that.
@John Yeah, sure, there’s a booming market in collecting resumes for unskilled park labourers. I’ve made no assumptions, demeaning or otherwise, I’ve just stated some facts; inconvenient ones if you want to believe the “poor me” story of “Rum Pig” (that’s his “personalised” plate) Russell working for beer money.
@Mick@John there is a market for resumes… they get binned if they think you are totally unstable and might be kept on file for 6 months if they think you might be useful.. then it’s delete time and no one calls you. You have to be constantly calling them.
Had few tell me there are no jobs it’s almost Xmas, then they advertise … replies from them that client specific.. which means 18-22, preferably traveler.
they need money you see to stay in Straya… no one gives a damn that you have bills and need to eat.
@Anna Yeah, sounds like you’re describing the way most people go about finding a job, Anna. They get off their coit, go looking and chase jobs down; they don’t expect the Job Fairy to sprinkle some magic dust and have employers come looking for you.
Yes, reality check, you do have to have to be constantly calling them. And, well sorry, but we’ve all got bills and need to eat – that’s not going to get you into the priority queue.
@Greg Oh, of course, how silly of me. I guess that the statistic that well over a quarter of people who are placed in new roles nominate “Advertisement on the internet” as the means by which they found out about the role is fake as well.
Well two of my kids went for their first jobs in rural Australia this year and it was frankly too easy. A lot easier than I remember and paying over $25 hr for junior untrained labour with as much overtime as is legal. Still the companies cannot get enough starters.