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.

Another cat curfew in Australia.

The municipality of Knox in Victoria has introduced a 24-hour cat curfew on all domestic cats to come into effect on October 1, 2021. Cats must be confined to their owner’s property at all times and the new law was established for one primary reason; to protect native wildlife.

Owners face fines for failure to comply, and the rationale for the law also sites general nuisance and safety for cats. However, it is not difficult to read between the lines of the government document and determine the primary motivation for the move.

The council in Melbourne states that there are “…currently over 6,500 cats registered with Council.” Even if each cat kills only one native animal per day, that municipality will lose 6,500 native animals every day. In the space of a year…

The law should have been introduced long ago. It should be nationwide policy.

Cats are still the single most destructive introduced species in Australia. More destructive to wildlife than foxes, rabbits, horses, wild pigs, wild dogs, deer, camels, donkeys and even cane toads.

Cats are estimated to kill about 1.5 billion native animals per annum in Australia. This destruction is the work of domestic cats, stray cats and feral cats. All of these cats are derived from pet cats. Feline species have never been native to Australia.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1994 only 26% of domestic cats were confined both during the day and night. This means 74% of cats where roaming happily, hunting and destroying native wildlife. In the same year, 42,126 cats were dumped on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). Only 3% of the cats were reclaimed and 74% were put down.

Feral cats threaten at least 124 Australian species which are in danger of extinction, and cats are a major reason that Australia has the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world – not per capita – outright.

Chantel Benbow is an ecologist, and some would say a hypocrite. She owns a cat and lets it roam free at night around the streets of inner Sydney. Her cat does wear a bib developed by Murdoch University, and utilised widely in the Eurobodalla Council region on the NSW far south coast. The bib claims to distract the cat from the prey, and to stop 81 per cent of cats from catching birds, 45 per cent of cats from catching mammals, and 33 per cent of cats from catching lizards and amphibians.

That said, Benbow still advises:

“If you want to have a pet cat, keep it indoors because they are hunters. They are beautiful, they are cute and fluffy but they will kill something.”

The municipality of Knox trialled the curfew in 2020 and more than 86% of residents are said to have supported the continuation of the program, including cat owners themselves.

Opponents or critics of the curfew might also argue that it is not necessary because they put a bell on their cat’s collar to alert wildlife. Their cats then roam guilt-free. Blue Mountains City Council, which administers a large area surrounded by national park, claims:

“Bells on collars don’t always work. Cats with bells can learn to stalk prey silently,” and

“…native animals don’t associate the sound of bells with danger.”

Knox is not the first community to introduce such a ban. Mount Barker near Adelaide implemented a similar law in 2019. The law proposed penalties for cats found roaming freely between 8pm and 7am, and a limit of two cats per property. The community lobbied for the law after becoming sick of domestic cats defecating on people’s properties, fighting in gardens and killing wildlife.

Similar laws aimed at protecting wildlife have also been trialled or implemented in Gawler, Adelaide Hills, Marion and Campbelltown in South Australia. The law in Gawler included a provision to ‘seize, detain and destroy’ any cat caught roaming within its boundaries if the animal isn’t claimed by its owner within three days.

Various forms of cat curfews are also being considered in locations such as Yarra Range Council in Victoria and Wollondilly Council in Sydney. Interestingly, a councillor from Wollondilly Council, Simon Landow, was quoted as saying that the plan had been met with great support, but that the rules had no teeth unless the state government enacted similar legislation.

Mount Barker, Knox and many of the regions mentioned above feature residential areas which adjoin an area of bushland or open space, where native wildlife can still be found. If that wildlife is to survive, a cat curfew must be implemented across the nation.

Image: Jae Park

Delay, delay then save the day.

I think I figured it out. I discovered Scott Morrison’s strategy for dealing with crises. Delay, delay then save the day.

Let a crisis descend to a state of utter desperation then announce yourself as the saviour of the nation. Propose a solution which is not of your making and which should have been implemented long, long ago, and take all of the credit.

I can see this clearly now. I’m not a political strategist, nor even a keen follower of party politics, but even I can see the strategy.

Morrison announces a plan in such a way that state leaders are presented as the impediment to personal freedom and as the architects of restrictive lockdowns. This strategy is dependant upon doing nothing effective to solve the problem when it arises. The LNP did nothing to facilitate a coherent vaccination rollout. The federal government did nothing to manage nationwide quarantine facilities. The LNP did nothing to effectively manage the arrival of people from overseas.

COVIDSafe was an expensive waste of time. It failed.

Vaccination rollout was so slow the states took it upon themselves to create mass vaccination hubs.

So incompetent is the government’s response to the pandemic that it has to have been deliberate. Even if bumbling politicians are inept and out of their depth, some of their staffers, advisers and department heads are competent and capable of dealing with a crisis. Australia should not still be in lockdown, and waiting for vaccinations, in July 2021.

At some point since early 2020, the federal LNP must have realised that they were incapable of managing the response to the pandemic, and decided that the only way to save the public reputation of their leader was to let the crisis deepen, then swoop in at the last minute and claim to save the day.

The prime minister did just that. He recently gathered state leaders, then the mainstream media, and announced a plan for guiding Australia out of the COVID crisis. The announcement included promises to end lockdowns and open borders, and to have most Australians vaccinated in the near future. Once these measures are taken, Australia can return to some form of normal.

Australians are sick of lockdowns, Morrison promised to end lockdowns.

Australians want borders open, Morrison promised to open borders.

Australians want international travel to resume, Morrison promised to allow international travel.

He didn’t say exactly when. He didn’t say how. His advisors cleverly used vague language to hint at positive changes which will occur at some time in the future.

The announcement was made in such a way that it presents Morrison and the LNP government as the saviours. It dismisses the efforts of medical staff, state leaders and competent people within Australia who have worked behind the scenes day after day to prevent the deaths of thousands of people.

And it works.

The strategy works.

Many Australian people will see Morrison as their saviour. It helps to have the entire NewsCorp media network serving as your private propaganda network. It helps to have the mainstream media reprinting press releases and failing to hold the government to account. It helps to have the Murdoch press launch a sustained and personal attack on Victorian Labor Premier Dan Andrews, and to defend the actions of Liberal premiers and the federal government.

It helps to have a compliant media serve as chief distractor. During the pandemic, and the recent floods and bushfires, distractions were always at hand to draw people’s attention away from the current disaster. Morrison went missing at some point during all of these major crises, even famously escaping to Hawaii and inviting himself to a G7 summit. He said and did nothing in the midst of the crisis, then emerged triumphantly to do what he does best; hold a press conference.

He conveniently took credit for a massive seizure of illicit drugs in Australia. A drug bust carried out by police, but announced by Morrison. Australians were also conveniently distracted when the government announced a multi-million dollar upgrade to the War Memorial in Canberra, and when Morrison decided to change one word in the national anthem.

Morrison will now be seen as the man who ended lockdown. The man who opened the borders. The man who fixed quarantine. The man who got Australia back to normal. This could all have happened long ago if it were not for one man…Scott Morrison.

Image:www.gettyimages.com

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 3.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Vaccine dogs

Dog lovers now have another Instagram account to follow. The account features pets accompanying their owners to COVID-19 vaccination centres in Australia. Sure, it’s a nice distraction from Australia’s shambolic vaccine rollout, which places the nation 101st in the world, but it distracts from the shameful reality. Only 2% of Australia’s population had been fully vaccinated at the time of writing this article, and the city of Melbourne has been plunged into yet another lockdown.

So incompetent is the current federal government in its handling of the pandemic, and the preceding bushfire crisis, that the prime minister’s popularity fell. In response, Scott Morrison was photographed with a cute little dog. 98% of Australia’s population are not vaccinated against a deadly virus, but the prime minister was photographed with a dog and his popularity has since increased. A sure sign of a gullible population. A sure sign of a country that has gone to the dogs.

But wait, there’s more…

Another prominent person was photographed with a dog. Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo played his 200th NRL game for the North Queensland Cowboys recently, and the NRL/ Cowboys PR team arranged for his family to form a guard of honour as he ran onto the field. His dog was included in the guard of honour. An emotional Taumalolo rushed to pat and cuddle his dog (before acknowledging his wife and kids) and social media erupted with compliments for Taumalolo. They’re forgetting the time in 2016 that he was fined for throwing eggs at cars.

A dog’s breakfast

Cafes, beer gardens, picnic areas, barbecue areas, children’s playgrounds, sports grounds and beaches are overrun with dogs these days. Many of these places are officially off limits to dogs. In addition, most accommodation providers are pet-friendly, despite what PetCulture might think.

Strangely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when patrons are required to check in, socially distance and use sanitiser, muddy, sweaty, dirty dogs are still allowed to sit next to, or on, the furniture at eateries throughout the country.

Mobile dogs

Dogs have even found their way onto public transport. Guide dogs have always been permitted on public transport, as they should be. Now therapy dogs, or companion dogs, are allowed on buses trains and ferries across the country. Sufferers of mental health issues can now bring their dogs with them, and dogs of any breed, size or temperament can be therapy dogs. Subsequently, inefficient, overcrowded, slow and outdated public transport has been further compromised to satisfy the owners of dogs.

A trip to the Sydney CBD recently highlights the problem. Two young adults boarded an overcrowded bus heading towards the city centre. The tattoos, attire, cigarette breath, vocabulary and general demeanour of the pair suggested a troubled past and a fondness for illicit substances. The dog was some kind of Pit Bull, Mastiff, Bulldog breed – short, muscular and aggressive. It appeared agitated and nervous and its presence clearly concerned the people sitting close to it. As I pondered how this breed classifies as a ‘therapy dog’, I heard the owners say that it had recently become a therapy dog, and that they were taking it to the local shopping mall,

“…to get used to people…”

The couple soon alighted, leaving the bus with the overpowering stench of a sweaty dog.

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 2.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

A dog is a child…

Owners of dogs (and other pets) were recently invited to sign a petition by online pet company PetCulture asking employees to grant their workers the same rights as parents.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, as well as website Kidspot, ran articles about the petition, which calls for employees:

  1. To be granted sick leave to care for their pets.
  2. To be granted leave to welcome their new pet family members.
  3. To be able to have their pets stay with them whether they are glamping in a five-star resort.

The article is not an April Fool’s Day joke (although one pet owner featured in the article is a comedian). It is not merely another example of lazy, shallow, gutter journalism from a NewsCorp publication. It is an advertorial (a paid advertisement dressed up as an editorial) placed by the ‘new online pet store’ PetCulture. Regardless, it indicates an obsession with pets in a country that has gone to the dogs.

The petition lists three primary demands.

  1. Owners expect time off work, on full pay, to look after a sick pet, just as they would look after a sick child. Colleagues would have to cover for the pet owner and/or the business would suffer a loss of productivity and profit. In addition, employers are expected to support the notion that pets are equal to children.

Some parents love their pets as much as their children, and some children love their pets with equal devotion. But does a dog or cat need the same attention as a sick child? If so, why can a healthy dog or cat be left unsupervised for hours or a whole day, but a young child (or even a teenager) cannot be left for hours on end? Owners seem to be forgetting that even though a sick animal requires appropriate medical attention, their innate survival instincts will stop them from falling down steps, or from touching or eating something that could harm them. Children lack the same survival instincts.

  • Owners are demanding time off, on full pay, to welcome a new pet into the home. How long does this take? An ‘expert’ recommended two days be spent familiarising the animal to its new surroundings. Easy, bring the pet home on a Friday afternoon, use the weekend to welcome it and return to work on Monday. Even within a less structured work schedule, time can be made to welcome a pet without taking time off work.
  • Clearly the word ‘or’ is missing from between ‘glamping’ and ‘in’, because five-star resorts don’t offer glamping, no matter how fancy the tents. Nevertheless, pet owners are complaining that they are prohibited from taking their pets to the most luxurious and expensive accommodation options, at a time when many Australians can’t afford to take a holiday at all, let alone to a five-star resort, especially after the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor timing

PetCulture appears to have mistimed its advertising campaign. They are calling for greater access to luxury resorts just as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been removed or reduced, and many Australians still don’t know when they’ll return to full-time, stable employment. PetCulture may be positioning itself as a high-end pet supply company, but the press release is still rather poorly-timed, especially since pet access to five-star resorts is one of the top three listed demands. This is a great example of clever marketing. It’s also a great example of a first-world problem, and a great example of a country gone soft.

PetCulture’s advertorial also claims that:

“…introducing a new animal member to a home is stressful, so it’s important to be supported…”

Really?

Fighting a bushfire is stressful. Fleeing domestic violence is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. Is introducing a pet to a house really that stressful?

Pet peeves

In recent years, pet owners have petitioned various levels of government to pressure landlords to allows tenants to bring their pets into rental properties, which has always been at the discretion of landlords.

Renters complained that owning a pet increased the difficulty of finding rental accommodation in an overcrowded and expensive rental market. A solution to this problem exists: don’t own a pet. Sit down, and do the calculations. Examine current and future earnings and expenses, and estimate the length of time that will be required to buy a property. Buy a property, then buy a pet.

Petitioning the government to change rental laws is symptomatic of a problem plaguing the nation: citizens expecting the government to bail them out of a problem of their own creation.

Housing crisis

Housing in Australia is becoming increasingly problematic. Rental properties remain scarce and overpriced, and home ownership is out of reach for many Aussies. Australia is estimated to have the world’s biggest gap between median salaries and median house prices, and many young Australians will never be able to buy a property.

Furthermore, social housing developments are insufficient and more Australians will be forced into homelessness or substandard accommodation – many of them older women. Meanwhile, the politicians who could introduce policies to alleviate many of these problems are too busy being photographed with cute dogs. The people who could vote out the current government are too easily persuaded by photos of politicians with dogs.

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 1.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Dogs v native animals

Australia is home to an estimated 29 million pets and about 25.7 million people. That’s right, more pets than people. We might have to stop teasing New Zealand about having so many sheep. Most of those pets are dogs and cats, and roughly one in three households has a pet dog.

Australia also has the world’s highest rate of native mammal extinction – outright. Pets are one cause of the extinctions. Cats are the single most destructive introduced species in the country, and wild dogs cause large-scale destruction. Wild dogs were once pet dogs. Native mammal extinction points to a disregard for native animals among Australian people who demonstrate an obsession with pet animals. Australians clearly prioritise dogs and cats over wildlife.

Natural disasters

Even during the Black Summer bush fires of 2019/2020, concern for pets over native animals was evident. Unfortunately, many pets were lost, but millions of native animals also perished in the unprecedented fires. However, at one emergency centre, evacuees complained that their pets were not allowed inside the building, because health and safety regulations prohibit the entry of pets into the premises. Evacuees and fellow Australians erupted on social media and blasted the evacuation centre co-ordinators. The dogs were safe, they had food, water and medical attention, and they were supervised outside the premises. Even some of the evacuees themselves chose to sit outside the building while they waited for the fires to be put out. Australians decried the treatment of pets, while millions of native animals were dying.

National parks

Pet dogs are banned from national parks in Australia. Domestic pets have an adverse effect on native wildlife. Some dog owners ignore signage and they take their dogs into national parks. According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, rangers cannot effectively monitor all of the parks to prevent domestic pets from entering, because they lack the resources. National parks services are not sufficiently funded by government.

Where is the national outcry?

Why aren’t Australians demanding the protection of our national parks? Perhaps for the same reason that Aussies are not doing more to protect another national icon, the koala.

Experts warn that koalas could become extinct by 2050, and wild dogs are a major cause of koala deaths, along with land clearing and climate change. Environmental groups and concerned citizens are campaigning for habitat protection to ensure koala survival, but where are the owners of the 29 million pets?

Koalas are also a major contributor to the nation’s (pre-COVID-19) tourist sector and the economy. Tourists flock from all across the globe to see a koala up close. They will not fly halfway around the world to look at someone’s pet dog.

Wildlife shelter vs pet shelter

Controversy surrounds changes to the RSPCA NSW Blue Mountains Shelter in Katoomba, near Sydney. Essentially, the debate centres around the expansion and modification of the shelter to cater for native wildlife harmed by the 2019/2020 bush fires. The fires were so widespread in the Blue Mountains that the national parks and the animals therein are still being rehabilitated.

RSPCA members and community members have voiced objections to the inclusion of native wildlife in the shelter. The RSPCA conceded that:

“…wildlife could be stressed by the sight, sound or even smell of the dogs…” and thus dogs would have to be housed in a completely separate building. One member then stated:

“I am concerned for the dogs which will need to be locked away in the new, totally enclosed kennels…” and a local politician, Kerry Brown, expressed similar sentiments.

Many of the animals housed at the shelter are strays. They are animals left without a home due to the neglect of owners. Therefore, rehabilitation of native animals is being obstructed due to concern for dogs.

The RSPCA website states that:

“Along with cats and dogs, RSPCA helps a wide range of other animals from horses to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, goats and sheep. All of these animals are non-native, (birds may be native or introduced). Rabbits cover Australia in plague proportions and destroy native flora and fauna, as well as crops. In contrast, an organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) cares for native animals. If the majority of Australians heard the names of these two organisations, which one would they be more familiar with?

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

ScoMo is UnAustralian.

A nickname is truly Australian.

It’s central to Aussie culture. Every Aussie gets at least one nickname during their lifetime. Expectant parents even have to consider how a name will be shortened or adapted before choosing a name for their newborn.

Nicknames can be ironic. Redheads are called Bluey. Tall people are called Shorty and fat people are called Slim. Turbo earned his nickname because he’s so slow.

Nicknames can be descriptive. Diesel plays footy. He’s big and strong, but can only run at one speed, so he’s called Diesel. Warren will be called Rabbit, or Rabs. Andrew Appledorf was called Strudel.

Nicknames can be cryptic. I once met a man known as Pockets. His real name is Paul – I still don’t know why he’s called Pockets.

Having a nickname is quintessentially Australian, and those nicknames are rarely complimentary. Colin was called Cul-de-sac because he lived in a cul-de-sac and had a prominent and expanding bald patch on top of his head. Poor Colin. Tony was called Shadow because he was always following around his older brothers. Richard Crane was called…well you can probably guess. In Aussie culture, you’re not meant to like your nickname. Nicknames are bestowed upon their owners – by someone else, and this is why giving yourself a nickname is UnAustralian.

Scott Morrison gave himself the nickname ScoMo. The prime minister, or his sizeable marketing team, created the nickname deliberately to make him seem more Australian, more likable, more down-to-earth, more in touch with the common people. It worked. The nickname endeared him to the Australian people and helped him win an ‘unwinnable’ election in 2019.

Scott Morrison is destroying Australia. He is owned by the fossil fuel industry, which is wreaking environmental and economic damage on Australia. His government has bungled the vaccine rollout and only 2% of the population is fully vaccinated. He started a war of words with China which has already cost Australian companies and industries millions of dollars. He did so to score a few political points and to appear strong and decisive. Morrison was hand-picked, and is controlled, by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is a US citizen. That’s UnAustralian.

ScoMo is a nickname that Scotty gave to himself. ScoMo is UnAustralian.

Scotty, don’t give yourself a nickname. Mate, give yourself an uppercut.

Image: http://www.gettyimages.com.au