Scott Morrison finally gets what he wants.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally been accepted as a real tradie after being exposed in a segment on A Current Affair.

Morrison was left floundering during an interview with host Tracey Grimshaw on a program which devotes itself to exposing dodgy tradies, repairmen and other occupations that Scott has imitated since becoming prime minister.

Viewers of A Current Affair watched Morrison suffer a ‘brutal takedown’ during the interview with Grimshaw, which aired on a channel which has been very sympathetic to the prime minister since he came to power. It came about the same time that Morrison rudely dismissed a journalist’s question as to why he has not appeared on NITV, the national Indigenous network, during the election campaign.

A Current Affair follows the formula of any modern commercial current affairs program. It runs countless stories exposing small-time cheats and scammers such as dodgy tradies, fridge repairmen, loan sharks, lawyers or small businesses, instead of pursuing big time cheaters such as political doners or the politicians themselves. It goes after very easy targets. If it does run stories on politicians, it is likely to be an ‘expose’ of a local council’s failure to repair a few potholes.

A Current Affair is nowhere near ‘investigative journalism’, and yet Morrison couldn’t even survive an interview on a show of this nature.

Ironically, Morrison has now been reduced to the status of the people he has been imitating in endless photo opportunities since coming to power. He has pretended to weld, drive trucks, use military hardware, bake, pour beer, build a cubbyhouse, run water for a football team and even wash a woman’s hair in a salon.

If only A Current Affair and its counterparts would run a story exposing his failure to be prime minister.

Image: Getty Images

Who should lead a nation?

There are two types of leaders: boring administrators and inspirational heroes.

Who would you prefer to lead your country?

Personally, I want a boring administrator to lead my nation. Boring administrators fulfill the role of a national leader, which is to essentially ensure that schools are funded, rubbish is collected, hospitals are staffed and trains run on time. It’s a boring job, best performed by boring people. Politicians are public servants and the highest ranking politician in the land is the highest ranking public servant in the land. A highly-paid and famous public servant, but still a public servant.

Unfortunately, too many world leaders have forgotten this, and have succumbed to the temptation to be seen as strong, charismatic, brave heroes.

Politicians do paperwork. Ultimately, that is their job. They review current policies regarding public services. They draft new policies and negotiate to have them implemented. Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum will strive to have their world view reflected in policy, but ultimately all of them are administrators.

That’s not to say politicians are boring per se. They can be as exciting and interesting as they want in their free time. They can front alternative rock bands, make funky art, do extreme sports or whatever they want, as long as they remember that when they are performing their role as a politician, they are supposed to be boring.

Brave, inspirational, strong and charismatic leaders struggle to combine substance with their style.

Donald Trump epitomises style over substance. His substantial fortune funded a slick public relations campaign which won him the election and kept him in office. He deliberately positioned himself as a strong, charismatic leader making bold statements to persuade impressionable voters to elect him. It worked. He even coined the phrase ‘Fake News’ to drown out the voices of reason, the voices of the boring administrators who offered the electorate statistics, facts and objective information gleaned from the boring paperwork they had done in their role as public servants. Trump reigned as a populist leader who was apparently strong and brave, and did nothing to serve the public. If you vote for strong leaders, you risk creating another Trump.

In Mexico some years ago, people vowed to vote for Enrique Pena Nieto because he is ‘muy guapo’, or very good looking. Perhaps not the best reason to vote for a president. It worked, though, and he became president, but few people would nominate Mexico as a land of public service efficiency.

Leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in the UK and Scott Morrison in Australia have also fallen into the Trump trap. They posit themselves as strong, courageous leaders who can improve and protect their country, but forego the boring administrative tasks required of a leader.

Scott Morrison is called ‘Trump Lite’ and famously displayed his organisational incompetence during the recent Australian bushfire crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the damaging floods. A boring administrator would have saved many Australian plants and animals, homes and people’s lives.

Morrison also makes endless statements claiming to ‘stand up to’ fellow world leaders in times of crisis. He famously attacks China when his popularity wanes and pretends to be courageous towards the emerging superpower. The statements increase his popularity among gullible, impressionable voters (and the racists) who demand inspirational, brave leaders, but they are not the wise words of a skilled administrator addressing the country’s largest trading partner. A boring administrator would treat China appropriately, and protect Australia’s economy and exports.

Brave, strong charismatic leaders often need an enemy. They will often create one to appear strong, and this can manifest as real life conflict.

Morrison’s predecessor also succumbed to popularism. Former prime minister Tony Abbott flaunted his impressive muscular physique honed through daily exercise, and implied that it was central to his ability to run the country. Yes, it was impressive for a man of his age, but do you need a six pack to manage tax rates? He also promised to shirt-front Vladimir Putin at a world leader’s summit, before eventually shaking his hand and smiling. Not only did he fail to deliver his promise, he also placated voters who expect a leader to be physically strong and brave, rather than boring and intelligent. He also forgot that you can’t shirt-front someone who never wears a shirt.

Putin is himself a strong, charismatic leader. He poses endlessly in photos boasting of his physical virility and prowess. He portrays himself as a strong leader and he eventually believed his own hype. Experts attribute his invasion of Ukraine to his ego, and his desperation to be seen as a strong leader, in the vein of a conqueror determined to restore the glory of Russia and the former Soviet Union. If you vote for strong leaders, you run the risk of creating another Putin.

Strong leaders keep us safe.

This is a popular belief and refrain. Proponents point to leaders like Winston Churchill as examples of charismatic and brave leaders who protected a nation during times of war. Yes, a brave leader might guide us through a war, making rousing speeches of courage and resilience, vowing to face the enemy anywhere at any time, even on the beaches. But a skilled administrator, a boring public servant, could prevent us from going to war in the first place.

“She’s got no balls.”

You’d hope not, because then she wouldn’t be a she – but that’s a different discussion. The quote comes from an acquaintance discussing candidates in an upcoming local election, made in reference to the incumbent female representative. The conservative, middle-aged man believed the woman wasn’t strong, brave, confident or aggressive enough to lead their region.

Why?

They didn’t say. They just believed she had no balls. Clearly they expected a leader with as much style as substance, perhaps even more of the former. They didn’t want a boring public servant.

Media darlings

Modern politicians must exist within the modern media landscape. They must present well and this will force all of them to consider ‘optics’ before and during their political term. However, many politicians prioritise optics too greatly and neglect their duties. Only voters can prevent leaders from concentrating too heavily on optics and instead force them to dedicate themselves to their work.

Next time you consider who to vote for in an election, ask yourself:

Does charisma staff hospitals?

Does charisma care for the elderly?

Does charisma improve children’s literacy?

Does charisma make the trains run on time?

Does charisma keep wages high?

Does charisma create employment?

Also remember this:

Boring politicians do their job and let us get on with our lives.

Boring politicians are not noticed, except when they make mistakes. When the trains don’t run on time, hospitals are understaffed, school children are left without teachers and roads are full of potholes, politicians are noticed. They shouldn’t be. They should administer our nations and regions and remain in the background.

Boring politicians avoid the headlines. Boring politicians resist the lure of fame, they ignore the temptation of the perfect soundbite or witty retort at their opponents.

Boring politicians are more efficient. Thus, you spend less time dealing with their departments, and more time enjoying your own life.

Image: Aditya Joshi

It’s not real until it’s royal.

Why does the world always wait for a member of a royal family to validate an issue before acknowledging its gravity?

Countless news headlines lead with comments from a random royal on social issues, and photos of royals are splashed across websites even though the royal played no part in the event or speaks with no authority on the issue.

Royals are propagandists

Royal families are the world’s most gifted propagandists. They have used propaganda for centuries to maintain hegemony. They have used propaganda to convince their subjects that they rule by divine right, through the mandate of a chosen deity.

When royals attend an event, they do so for propaganda. Their marketing arm, which is large, arranges suitable photo opportunities which maintain the positive public image of the family and the very institution, in the same way that marketing teams present a positive, and inaccurate, image of politicians.

Propaganda is powerful.

In many countries, royalty is the government and the government controls all media. This certainly explains the positive coverage of the Sultan of Brunei, and explains the reaction to his decrees. The Sultan is known to issue a ‘titah’, or an address to the nation, whenever he feels the need. Every person in Brunei must get off the streets, close their shops, cease classes and other non-essential tasks, and tune into the address.

The Sultan will lecture his subjects on any topic. He might tackle the issue of obesity among Bruneians. The very next day, every government employee, school and university student will be forced into a government mandated health check and fitness program, which normally lasts until everyone loses interest, or until the next ‘titah’ is delivered on a completely different topic.

Bruneians are forced to get healthy because a royal commented on the issue, despite the fact that countless doctors, nurses and health experts had been advising Bruneians to get healthy for years.

But who are royals in reality?

What authority do they hold?

They’re simply born or marry into a particular family.

They’re not scientists, so they speak with absolutely no authority on the issue of climate change. Despite this, Australian news networks devoted much column space to a meeting between the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prince Charles of England. The article implied that Morrison had to justify Australia’s climate policy to Prince Charles. The same news networks rarely, if ever, show Morrison meeting with environmental organisations, Greens politicians, victims of climate events or renewable energy corporations. Morrison is not shown justifying his (deplorable) environmental policies to those who are experts in the field or victims of climate change. Yet somehow the issue of climate change becomes real when a royal speaks about it.

Furthermore, Queen Elizabeth II spoke at COP26 in 2021. The world has ignored expert scientists, conservationists, ecologists, renewable energy advocates and other environmental authorities for years and years, but the moment an unqualified royal speaks about climate change, the media endorses the Queen’s call to protect the environment, as if now we must start to tackle climate change.

Lecturing the world on democracy

Royals are not immune to lecturing the world on democracy, especially when it is under threat. Prince Charles of England brought this to the world’s attention when he commented on the Russian military invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

Prince Charles was reported in the mainstream media criticising the attack and claiming that the values of democracy were under attack.

“In the stand we take here, we are in solidarity with all those who are resisting brutal aggression,” he was quoted as saying. Even his son and daughter-in-law, Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, said they stood with the people of Ukraine.

Thus, the royals claimed they stood in solidarity with all those resisting brutal aggression, except when that same brutal aggression saw countless territories stolen from indigenous people in the name of king and crown and led to the creation of the British Empire.

Rugby World Cup

Prince Harry made headlines when he entered the dressing rooms immediately after South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup and congratulated Siya Kolisi and the team. The victory was significant because Kolisi was the first black captain of the Springboks to win a world cup, not so long after black South Africans were barred from even playing the sport. Kolisi was a story in himself having overcome many obstacles to captain the winning team. And yet, It was as if the victory was not real until Prince Harry personally congratulated the captain.

This is despite the fact that the British royals are certainly not experts on race relations and the rights of oppressed people. They are the oppressors, even in the case of South Africa. The English government, headed by the royal family, colonised South Africa and oppressed and murdered Indigenous South Africans. It is largely the fault of the British royal family, and the Afrikaaners, that it took so long for a black South African to captain the ‘Boks.

Proof of their poor record on race is British colonisation, as well as the tabloid news stories about a leaked message from within the British royal family decrying the racial background of Meghan Markel and the colour of her child’s skin.

Harry and Meghan made news for other reasons.

In January 2022, news outlets reported their concerns over the spread of COVID misinformation on Spotify. This is a worthy statement. But, again, why did media networks devote so much space to the concerns of a pair of royals, when health experts, media experts, governments and other authorities in this field had been raising the same concerns, with much more authority, for months and months prior to the royal statement.

Royals are celebrities

Royal families these days are nothing but celebrities. Celebrities create clickbait. This explains some of the attention given to royals in the media. But most articles and headlines do more than note the presence of the royal. They are written in such a way that the presence or comment of the royal validates an issue or event that was hitherto less important.

Interestingly, articles about a royal calling for an end to world hunger often run beside an article about which royal wore a designer-label dress better.

In all of the examples listed above, how much actual work had each royal devoted to each issue?

How much time had Prince Harry spent trying to encourage and welcome black South Africans into rugby union. How much work has he done in this sphere since sneaking into the dressing room?

How many meetings had Harry and Meghan conducted with Spotify before demanding an end to COVID misinformation? How many meetings have they had since issuing that statement?

What has any royal family, anywhere in the world, done to alleviate world poverty. What have they done in any real sense? Many of them could start by offering some of their enormous personal fortunes and wealth to those in need.

So why is it not real until it’s royal?

Perhaps we can blame the Spanish, or speakers of other Latin languages. In Spanish, the word ‘real’ means both ‘real’ and ‘royal’. Thus, Real Madrid is not the ‘authentic’ Madrid football team, but the ‘royal’ Madrid football team.

Finally, the world is still waiting for a royal to condemn the actions of Raphael Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell.

Image: http://www.ft.com

How is this legal?

A stranger enters your home.

They throw over your furniture. They tear down paintings and artworks. They break objects and rip items out of draws. They smash your possessions and make a mess that will take for ever to clean up.

They steal what is most vaulable.

Days later, the police catch them. Mug shots and finger prints are taken. Their identities are confirmed. You don’t know them, nor did you invite them into your home. You certainly don’t want them to keep your valuables.

They are not punished.

They do not have to return the valuables they stole.

They do not have to pay a fine.

They do not spend any time in jail.

They don’t even have to clean up the mess, or pay for someone else to do so.

They don’t have to fix or pay for the damage they caused.

This could never happen in Australia could it?

It does.

Every day.

Outsiders steal from Australia. They take what is valuable. They cause enormous and often irreparable damage and refuse to fix what they broke. They also refuse to clean up the mess they made, or pay for it to be done.

Who are these people?

They are mining companies.

Australia’s mining industry is 86% foreign owned. They get away with his behaviour because they have spent over $541 million in the last ten years on lobbying Australian governments.

In addition, foreign companies hold 10 out of 14 position on both the Minerals Council board and the Queensland Resources Council board.

A 2011 report estimated 83% of mine production in Australia was attributable to foreign owners, including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. yes, even ‘Aussie’ companies such Rio Tinto and BHP, which called itself ‘The Big Australian’. BHP is 76% foreign owned, and Rio Tinto is 83%. Between them they constitute 70% of listed mining company resources.

This means that less than 10% of mining projects are solely owned by Australian owned companies, while over 90% have some level of foreign ownership. Foreign investment accounts for 86% share of ownership of major mining projects, including 26% from the US and 27% from the UK.2.

If the mining companies are based off shore, the profits go off shore. Australians are left to clean up the mess.

Protect Australia from foreign ownership.

Clive Palmer wants to protect Australia from foreign powers and to save Australia. He makes this promise in advertisements on TV, online, in the print media and on massive billboards throughout the country.

However, while he promises voters that his United Australia Party will protect Australia from foreign ownership and foreign interference, he himself has benefitted enormously from foreign companies operating in Australia.

The UAP website states:

“Our precious assets including our hospitals, ports, schools and power companies cannot be in the firing line, they need to be protected. We cannot have the Chinese government or any foreign government deciding how much we pay for essential services and how we live,’’

On a side note, does any foreign government or company want to buy an Australian school?

The UAP also boasts about preventing the sale of Australian assets to Chinese state owned companies, including a campaign launched in January 2015 to stop the potential sale of $50 billion in Queensland and NSW assets to the foreign government.

The UAP statements are true on the surface.

But dig a little deeper and it’s clear to see how Palmer himself has benefitted from foreign ownership in Australia, and used that money to fund the United Australia Party. The UAP website lists only one country specifically: China. This is interesting because China made Clive Palmer one of the richest people in Australia, and the world.

Economics experts claim that Palmer’s Mineralogy company was at one stage earning a million dollars a day from a Chinese mining company. According to Australian Financial Review, Palmer did a deal with Chinese company CITIC in 2006 in which he sold a series of mining claims for $415 million with ongoing royalties payable on every tonne of ore mined.

Despite earning so much money from a deal with a foreign company, Palmer did not pay many of his own employees. As a result, the Commonwealth Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme, funded by the taxpayer, paid $65.6 million to workers. Logic tells us that Palmer, their employer, will repay the money to the government, and to the taxpayer, but he indicated on numerous occasions that he was reluctant to do so.

Palmer’s business deal also allows a Chinese company, and thus a foreign company, to expand its iron ore mining activities in Australia.

Where does that money go?

How much of that mining money goes to the ‘foreigners’ Palmer and his UAP are trying to warn us against?

A lot of it. Foreign companies do employ a certain percentage of Australians in their operations on Australian soil, in accordance with Australian laws, but they also employ their own people. Mining operations make millions and millions of dollars per year, and when this much money is at stake, companies don’t take a risk when hiring employees. They won’t take a risk on hiring an Australian who may or may not be the best person for the job. They bring in their own people, and often those people are foreigners, who send the majority of their earnings back home.

This sobering statistic applies not only to Clive Palmer and his comany. It applies to the entire mining industry in Australia.

86% of Australia’s mining industry is foreign owned.

BHP, for example, is 76% foreign owned and Rio Tinto is 83% foreign owned. Furthermore, according to the Australia Institute:

“A 2016 Treasury paper on Foreign Investment in Australia stated that less than 10% of mining projects currently underway is solely owned by Australian owned companies, while over 90% have some level of foreign ownership.”

Thus, if Palmer plans to save Australia and protect it from foreign ownership, he might first need to warn his colleagues in the mining industry.

What does this all mean?

If you’re Australian, and if you’re eligible to vote, it matters. If you vote for the UAP, for any of their candidates, you are voting for increased foreign ownership of Australia’s resources, and you are voting for Aussie money to be taken overseas.

How to beat the Liberals and the Loonies.

The Liberal National Party could be removed from government at the next federal election if all Australians were required to be double vaccinated in order to enter a polling booth.

Currently this is not the case. At the recent local government elections, voters were allowed to enter polling booths without showing proof of vaccination. If voters were required to show proof of vaccination, or proof of legitimate exemption, this would prohibit many people from voting and cost the Liberal National Party (LNP) many votes.

Do loonies vote Liberal?

Not necessarily. But anti-vaxxers and anti-lockdown protestors are more likely to vote for the loonie parties upon which the LNP relies. The Coalition accepts preferences from many of the fringe parties and rely on these preferences in order to win elections at state and federal level.

Political analysts tell us that the Coalition won the unwinnable federal election in 2019 thanks largely to the preferences from Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) in Queensland. Palmer is one of the loonies challenging pandemic laws and has recruited Craig Kelly from the Coalition. Kelly is a famous opponent of vaccines, vaccine mandates and other pandemic-related rules, and is the most high profile candidate in the UAP. Ironically, if Kelly attracts many votes, he could help his former party to win the election.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party has also sided with those opposing pandemic laws and some of her candidates direct their preferences to the LNP. Consequently, Scott Morrison has failed to publicly and unequivocally condemn anti-lockdown and anti-vaxxer protests because his operatives know that his party needs their vote.

At the recent local government elections, one voter was overheard commenting,

“You can’t get into a cafe without proof of vaccination, but you can get into a polling booth.”

Why is this?

If an unvaccinated person can spread COVID-19 in a cafe, surely they can spread COVID-19 in a polling booth. This presents a significant medical risk in a country in which voting is compulsory. Some voters could be immunocompromised and thus face the risk of contracting COVID-19, or being issued with a fine if they don’t vote.

They can vote online.

Yes, the loonies could vote online. Australians can register for ivote and the anti-vaxxers could still vote for the fringe parties via online voting. This, however, requires voters to take the initiative and complete this process well in advance of the upcoming election. If the loonies don’t vote at all, without a legitimate exemption, they would be issued with a fine in accordance with Australian law. Perhaps the threat of a significant fine would convince some people to get jabbed.

Is it lawful?

I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer or an expert in constitutional law. However, news from around the world suggest that other countries have prohibited unvaccinated people from entering certain places or enjoying certain rights that are available to vaccinated people. Thus, it should be possible to act according to the same principles in Australia. If loonies can vote online, they are not technically being denied the right to vote in a democratic country.

A dangerous precedent?

Have the local government elections established a dangerous precedent? When people find out that unvaccinated people were allowed into polling booths, will they demand access to other indoor spaces which currently require proof of vaccination? Many business owners publicly stated their intention to reject the ruling and to allow everyone to enter their premises whether vaccinated or not. If these owners cited the polling booth example, surely they would have a case…

Therefore, if people make a conscious choice not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, should they be prevented from entering a polling booth? And, if so, would this harm the LNP which relies heavily on the preferences of the fringe parties which are likely to attract the anti-vaxxer vote?

Will it happen?

Probably not. The people who would make this law are the very people who rely on the loonie vote for their political survival.

We could change the law, or we could allow double vaccinated people to vote twice.

Image: Darren England

The Guy Gets the Girl, the girl gets…

It’s the classic movie scenario. The guy gets the girl, and the girl gets the guy.

Or does she?

Not according to the movie Bumblebee.

Charlie Watson is the protagonist of Bumblebee but she doesn’t get the guy at the end of the movie, despite saving the world. In contrast, the male protagonist of the previous instalment in the Transformers franchise gets the girl after proving himself a hero.

Charlie Watson, played by Hailee Steinfeld, battles the same humanoid robots, overbearing parents and cynical government forces as Sam Witwicky, but she doesn’t finish the movie in the arms of her crush. It’s not clear if she even has a crush. Sam Witwicky, however, definitely gets the girl, and his movie-long crush is the character Mikaela Banes, played by none other than Megan Fox who was once declared the hottest woman alive.

Sam Witwicky fulfils the role of the hero. He overcomes self doubt and many other obstacles to defeat a seemingly impossible enemy and concludes the movie in a romantic scene with Mikaela. He gets the girl because he is the hero, and it could almost be said that he is the hero because he gets the girl. It’s what heroes do.

So why doesn’t Charlie get the guy?

A guy is within her reach. Her neighbour Memo is shown to have a very obvious crush on her from the moment he appears on screen and the two are drawn together during the battle against the Decepticons. Just as the music slows, peace is restored and the sun begins to set, their hands draw closer; but she pulls away. Charlie makes it very clear to Memo that nothing is going to happen. The girl doesn’t get the guy.

Why not?

Is she too young?

No. Charlie is 18. This is made abundantly clear at the beginning of the movie. In fact, her 18th birthday is the pretext for her being given the beat up old VW which later turns out to be Bumblebee. Thus, Charlie is clearly old enough to decide if she wants to pursue a relationship with Memo, but she doesn’t. Perhaps she was shown to be 18 so that she could legally drive a car, not so that she could pursue a romantic relationship. The character was also given a name more associated with males. Should we read anything into this?

Is a sequel planned?

Will they, won’t they? helps sustain the narrative during this movie and Charlie’s declaration at the end hints at a continuation of the budding romance in a future movie. Keeping viewers hooked could explain why Charlie doesn’t get the guy.

Is there a deeper reason?

Is a young female protagonist not allowed to get the guy, no matter how courageous, physically capable and badass she is?

Must she remain pure, chaste and virginal simply because she’s a young woman? Perhaps a heroine is tainted if she succumbs to any physical desires, even though Sam Witwicky certainly succumbs to his physical desires. Will one loving, extended embrace or one kiss on the lips reduce Charlie to a fallen angel, a tramp, a slut or a loose woman. Perhaps a young woman acknowledging her physical desires is simply too much for Hollywood – too progressive. No fast women, just fast cars.

If this is the case, we must ask why. The genre of the movie itself may tell us.

The Transformers franchise is clearly aimed at males. Fast cars, machines, action and explosions appeal to the stereotypical male – the same stereotypical male who believes every young woman should be chaste, except the ones who satisfy his cravings. The same males with underlying Christian notions of female chastity.

In addition, every male viewer must be led to believe that he has a chance with the good-looking Charlie (Hailee), just as they believe they have a chance with coupled Instagram models who never reveal their relationships. For this reason, Charlie must remain single.

The male viewer could also be said to control Charlie’s body and choices. Marketing-savvy Hollywood producers know what sells blockbusters like Bumblebee. They know the formula and they adhere to it religiously. They know that predominantly male viewers will reject a sexually liberated and free-thinking young woman unless she practices that liberation in their lounge chair, and not on screen. The collective attitude of men towards young women traps Charlie in the friend’s zone with Memo and denies her the opportunity to connect with Memo in the same way that Sam connected with Mikaela.

Is it positive?

This could be an empowering moment for Charlie and female protagonists. Charlie decides if the relationship is initiated, at the end of the movie and throughout the movie. Charlie is shown to be in control. The producers could also be making a statement that a heroine doesn’t need a male love interest in order to be a heroine. She is independent. Female protagonists and heroines could in this way be subverting the action movie genre. Or maybe we’re reading too much into this. After all, it’s a Transformers movie.

Charlie doesn’t get the guy…but at least she gets the car.

Actually, she doesn’t.

The movie ends when Bumblebee flies off to save the universe.

Images: Paramount Pictures

Are LGBTQIA+ people being exploited?

Embracing the LGBTQIA+ community is trending. Corporations, governments, organisations and high profile individuals in Australia are embracing or being seen to embrace people from this community. This is a sign of a fairer and more equitable world, but is it also an example of exploitation?

Are LGBTQIA+ people being used by organisations to improve their public image or to distract the public from the organisations failings in other areas?

Why would they do this?

Support for inclusion and diversity is trending. Organisations seen to support the cause can position themselves as responsible corporate or social citizens, especially if they can successfully publicise this support. The organisation is less likely to be labelled unethical, and can also use inclusion and diversity to distract the public from their unethical or questionable practices in other areas – unethical practices which are destructive to society, including the LGBTQIA+ community.

AGL

AGL is an Australian energy company with one claim to fame: it is Australia’s biggest polluter. Australia is one of the world’s biggest polluters. AGL epitomises the exploitation of the LGBTQIA+ community for Public Relations (PR) purposes and distraction.

The AGL website states that:

“In 2014, AGL implemented a LGBTQ+ Inclusion Strategy, and in 2015 we were rated as one of the best performing first-time entrants to the Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI). Our employee-driven LGBTQ+ network, AGL Shine, was created in 2014.

In September 2015, AGL announced our support for marriage equality in Australia. Our position was strongly endorsed by the AGL Board, our senior management, and AGL Shine members.”

What exactly is involved in supporting marriage equality?

Posting a message on the company’s official platforms stating support of marriage equality. Not particularly difficult. AGL made the statement in 2015, when the movement had gained such strong momentum that same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia in 2016. Hardly groundbreaking or brave.

The statement continues:

“In 2020, we were proud to be awarded Gold Employer status for LGBTQ+ inclusion at the AWEI Awards. This is the third year we have been awarded Gold Employer status.”

How hard it is to promote inclusion and diversity?

Including people of diverse backgrounds essentially means treating people fairly.

How much does inclusion and diversity cost?

To have been continually awarded for inclusion, the company must have made some financial investment.

How much does transitioning to renewable energy cost?

In the short term, a lot. In the long term, AGL would apparently make a profit because the global economy is embracing renewable technology. Convincing shareholders to invest in diversity and inclusion seems much easier than convincing them to invest in renewable energy. AGL is a business and bases all of its decisions on profits. Transitioning to clean energy is undoubtedly more expensive in the short term than embracing the LGBTQIA+ community.

Interestingly, while AGL was publicly supporting marriage equality, it made a deliberate decision not to transition to renewable energy. The company had apparently appointed a new boss in 2015, who was tasked with overseeing a move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. However, pressure from the then Minister for the Environment, Josh Frydenberg, convinced the company to reject clean energy sources and continue burning fossil fuels.

AGL wins considerable social credibility and brand enhancement through its inclusion polices and support for marriage equality, at exactly the same time that it actively rejects a transition to renewable energy.

Coincidence?

AFL

The Australian Football League runs the premier Australian Rules football competition in the country and is well-known for its support of LGBTQIA+ people. It has held a ‘Pride’ round since 2016 to promote inclusion and diversity.

The AFL is more public in its support of this issue than other major sporting codes, and this could be motivated by honest intentions or by its commitment to its women’s competition, AFLW, in which many players are openly gay. Cynics might argue that the governing body is chasing the pink dollar, but that criticism is not constructive.

Interestingly, despite having held a Pride round since 2016, not one male AFL player has come out as gay. Are there any gay AFL players?

The AFL appears sincere in its acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, is the organisation equally sincere in its attempts to tackle racism and misogyny? The AFL also holds an Indigenous round (since 2008) and claims to embrace women, not just those involved in the ALFW.

However, just days before this article was written, a popular AFL player, Taylor Walker, was outed for a racist comment during an Aussie Rules football game, and his public apology was widely criticised as inadequate. This followed revelations earlier in 2021 of widespread racism within the Collingwood Magpies club, one of the nation’s biggest, as well as the brutal racism directed at former player Adam Goodes. The racist attacks on Goodes were so vicious, incessant and damaging that they forced him to quit the sport, and they spurned two documentaries.

Treatment of women within the AFL is also far from ideal. Numerous players have been found guilty of misogyny, harrassment and even assault of women, and this history of toxic masculinity is documented in The Frownlow Medal and The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame.

Thus, the AFL has failed to sufficiently address issues of toxic masculinity and racism, but derives positive publicity from its support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was praised for its decision to allow an Australian female Rugby 7s player to wear headgear with a rainbow coloured design. The rainbow design promoted awareness and acceptance of issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community, and commentators explained that the Australian player was given ‘permission’ by the IOC to wear the protective equipment with that particular design.

According to media reports:

“Chef de Mission of the Australian Olympic Team Ian Chesterman threw his support behind the celebration and Williams for lodging the request.

“It’s wonderful for our athletes to celebrate their identity as well as promote all of our Olympic sports as safe and inclusive,” Mr Chesterman said.

“I’d like to thank the IOC for their support in allowing Sharni to wear the headgear and thank Sharni for sharing her story with us during the games.”

The IOC has been the subject of countless articles and documentaries questioning its ethics and accusing it of bullying and rampant corruption. Furthermore, Olympic athletes are given strict and detailed instructions to refrain from any form of protest or activism on any issue at any time during the games. But, they let a rugby player wear rainbow headgear.

Tiwi Islands Mardi Gras

The Tiwi Islands lie to the north of Darwin and are home to Indigenous Australian communities. In 2017, 30 Tiwi Sistagirls, or transgender women, travelled to Sydney to take part in their first ever Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The inclusion was hailed as a victory for the Sistagirls and the LGBTQIA+ community in general. The inaugural journey received widespread media coverage and many organisations associated themselves publicly with this event. They could be accused of jumping on the bandwagon (or float).

Some of these organisations, including government departments, are responsible for solving many of the problems which plague remote communities such as those on the Tiwi Islands. These problems include societal decay, low life expectancy, loss of language and culture, drug and alcohol abuse, poor school attendance, violence, incarceration, unemployment, poor literacy and numeracy, and discrimination.

If the mainstream media and organisations celebrate the participation of Tiwi people in Mardi Gras, does it create the impression that life is improving on the Tiwi Islands and for Indigenous Australians in general? Does it distract Australians from the reality of life for Indigenous Australians and the need to do something about it?

Furthermore, how hard is it to get Tiwi Islanders to Mardi Gras? How hard is it to book a few flights and hotel rooms?

How hard is it to effect real change in Indigenous communities? Apparently very difficult. According to Pat Turner, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, only two of six Closing The Gap (CTG) targets were on track: early education and Year 12 attainment.

This means that after 12 years since the release of the first CTG report, little or no progress has been made in areas such as child mortality, employment, life expectancy and education.

Once again, it could be said that LGBTQI+ people are being used to distract the public from the failures of various organisations.

Supporting LGBTQIA+ rights is important. It is a question of equality and fairness. It should not be exploited for positive PR by organisations seeking to distract the public from their unethical or incompetent practices in other areas, or to shield the organisation from public criticism.

Image: Vector Stock

Are Australia’s Olympic medals tainted?

Aussies screamed at their TV screens as yet another Australian athlete strained for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Aussies cheered and wept for joy as athlete after athlete collected gold, silver and bronze medals while wearing the green and gold.

Most of these medals were won in Swimming and Rowing.

Most of those medals are tainted.

Most of those medals were funded by Gina Rinehart. Swimmers won 21 medals and rowers won 4 medals, making them our two most successful sports.

Rinehart is one of the world’s richest people and amassed her enormous personal fortune through two of the most destructive industries in the world – mining fossil fuels and farming livestock. Rinehart’s mines and farms are not small. Some of them are the size of small countries, and she owns or has a financial stake in businesses scattered throughout Australia.

Rinehart’s business interests are contributing greatly to the climate crisis which will harm the standard of living of people in Australia and throughout the world in the near future – including swimmers and rowers. She also wields enormous political power in Australia and has helped prevent the nation from making the smart environmental and economic decision to transition to renewable energy.

Rinehart’s businesses, operating under the banner of Hancock Prospecting, have helped earn Australia a reputation as one of the world’s worst polluters. Australia has the highest per capita carbon footprint in the world and the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world. Australia’s contribution to, and inaction on, climate change has made it an international pariah in recent years. Rinehart’s businesses are central to Australia’s environmental destruction.

Hancock Prospecting is the major sponsor of Swimming Australia and a major partner of Rowing Australia. Rinehart is swimming’s patron and is openly called the “matriarch” of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. She was pictured front and centre among the PODS (Parents of Dolphins Swimmers) during Channel 7’s coverage of the swimming events in Tokyo, and ran her own long ads during the games. She has sponsored Australian swimming since 1992, and her ‘generous direct financial support’ is described as ‘especially critical to Swimming Australia’ for it allows athletes to ‘focus on their on their training and performance and not be distracted by financial pressures that most athletes face.’ With Rinehart’s assistance, several swimmers were also granted private scholarships to attend Bond University.

In recognition of the amount of money Rinehart has given to sports such as rowing and swimming, she was awarded an Order of Merit by the Australian Olympic Committee (interalia), and is described as an ‘inspiration’ to Australian swimmers.

Rinehart’s sponsorship appears to be central to Australia’s record medal haul in swimming at the Tokyo games, and to the impressive results of the country’s rowers. The ebullient language of Swimming Australia cleverly praises their largest sponsor, and implies a dependency on her funding.

The question must be asked:

Would Australia win as many Olympic medals without financial support from Hancock Prospecting? Would Australia win any medals in swimming and rowing without Hancock Prospecting? Are Australia’s medals tainted?

A more pressing question is:

What is more important to Australia, Olympic medals or a livable planet?

Image: Charles Deluvio

Should Indigenous Australian performers boycott Brisbane 2032?

Should Indigenous Australian performers boycott the opening and closing ceremonies at the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

They are likely to be invited. They perform at most international events held in Australia and they played a significant role in the ceremonies at Sydney 2000.

Why should they boycott?

Because Indigenous participation in ceremonies at international events allows Australia to pretend to the world that Indigenous people are treated fairly in this country. They are not.

Because international pressure is often the best way to create change in a society. If performers boycotted, attention would be drawn to the issues which prompted the boycott. The Australian government and people might be embarrassed into acting.

Because sport matters to Australia. Boycotting at a sporting event might have more impact than a conventional protest march, petition, submission to parliament or general media coverage of the pertinent issues.

Because the very real issues facing Aboriginal people on a daily basis are far more important than an expensive pre-sporting extravaganza.

Boycotting the ceremonies could be a powerful way to draw attention to their struggles.

What are the issues?

The most accurate description of the issues facing Indigenous people in Australia today is encapsulated in the Ulruru Statement from the Heart.

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time immemorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago. 

This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown. 

How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disappears from world history in merely the last two hundred years? 

With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood. 

Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future. 

These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. 

We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. 

Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination. 

We seek a Makarrata Commission to supervise a process of agreement-making between governments and First Nations and truth-telling about our history. 

In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.

Yes, I just copied and pasted the statement, because I’m not Indigenous and I’m not going to speak for Aboriginal people. Too many Whitefellas have done that in the past, and continue to do so. I’m not Indigenous, and that’s why I posed this idea as a question. It’s not my decision. I just wonder if it is a move that would be worth considering and one that might improve the lives of Aboriginal people.

As well as incarceration, Indigenous Australians rank behind the rest of the population in indicators such as physical and mental health, life expectancy, literacy and numeracy, employment, financial wellbeing and general education.

Interestingly, similar concerns were expressed in the Bark Petition put together by the Yolngu people of Yirrkala in northern Australia and sent to federal parliament. This happened in 1963.

So, would it work?

That’s a very good question. Surely it would have an impact. It would attract publicity and may force the Australian government to and people to act on recommendations that have been outlined in countless reports, but have never been implemented. It would also provoke a lot of anger from narrow-minded Australians, but that anger exists, and is expressed freely, already. It could backfire, and expose the dark underbelly of racism in Australia which could set back the fight for equality.

If it didn’t work, performers would miss out on participating on the world stage, which is as much a pinnacle for artists as it is for athletes.

Participation might be more powerful. Indigenous performers may be able to negotiate the right to say what they want to say in their performances, and to shed light on the challenges they face, through their performance. Somehow, though, it is unlikely the Australian government, International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) would have the courage to let Indigenous Australians tell the truth.

The fact that the authorities can control what the performers present to the world is another reason to boycott.

A position of power?

It might work, because Indigenous Australians appear to hold some power in this situation. If the Indigenous component was removed from the ceremonies, what would replace it?

  • Stockmen in Drizabones and Akubras? Cliched, and done at Sydney 2000. Plus, Brumbies are destroying Alpine national parks.
  • Lawn mowers and Hills Hoists? Cliched and done in Sydney.
  • The migrant story? Australia puts some migrants in off-shore detention, which constitutes human rights abuses. Plus, we are witnessing a resurgence in exclusive patriotism and white nationalism in Australia, especially in Queensland, so we can’t truly claim to embrace multiculturalism in this country.
  • The Barrier Reef? It might be completely destroyed by 2032.
  • Pavlova? A dessert with a Russian name that some people claim was invented in New Zealand.
  • My Island Home? Done in Sydney, belongs to Warumpi Band.

We can’t boast about our natural environment, because we’re destroying most of it. We can’t boast about technology, because we can barely get the National Broadband Network to work. Nikki Webster’s too old to be suspended from a trapeze wire and we can’t resurrect the giant kangaroo, the foam eskies, Ned Kelly or marching bands. John Farnham, though, is always willing to make a comeback.

Thus, will the opening ceremony consist of a case of VB and a packet of Tim Tams in the middle of a massive stadium?

In all seriousness though, do Indigenous people hold some power in the composition of an opening or closing ceremony at Brisbane 2032? The show might look quite empty, cliched and shallow without them. This, should the threat of a boycott be made now, so that the nation has time to fix the problems facing Indigenous people before 2032?

How will we know it has worked?

When the demands of the Uluru Statement from the Heart are met. This would take years to happen.

Will they need to boycott?

Will the situation have improved so much by 2032 that Indigenous people can proudly display their culture to the rest of the world and enjoy prosperous lives long after the Olympic flame is extinguished?

Let’s hope so.