Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vertically-challenged pornos seized in (short) customs raid

David Penberthy

One of the interesting features of modern public debate is the emergence of a small army of thin-skinned souls on permanent stand-by to be offended by pretty much everything.

And they call that entertainment.And they call that entertainment.

The way we talk, the jokes we crack, the way we describe each other, all these things are subject to such an increasingly prohibitive set of strictures that it is easier to keep your mouth shut for fear of upsetting someone.

While the scourge of mental illness is not to be taken lightly, and is something which has touched us all, it still puzzles me that one of Australia’s leading mental health organisations is spending its time vetting newspaper articles and sending letters to journalists asking that they excise certain figurative expressions from their writing.

My colleague Tory Maguire wrote a piece last year where she used the term “policy schizophrenia” to describe the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s inconsistency on border protection. She received a letter saying the term was an insult to schizophrenics everywhere and that she should not use it again.

If we take this approach we will end up with a language where ideas are never stillborn and pauses never pregnant, where movement can be impeded but not retarded, where we rewrite all of Shakespeare’s plays, and receive letters from the haemophiliacs association if we write a column stating the bleeding obvious.

One of the weirder examples of the new squeamishness came from an unusual source this week, those supposedly libertarian sensualists at the Eros Foundation, who issued a press release under the cracking headline “Customs seizes dwarf porn.” The press release was interesting not so much for the news that the films Midget Mania (Volumes 7 and 8) have been refused classification – well, that’s my weekend buggered – but more for the politically correct gymnastics the Eros Foundation used to tip-toe around the word “midget”.

The intro was pure gold: “The Australian Customs Service has set a new benchmark for the importation of adult films into Australia by confiscating two of the latest release US titles featuring vertically challenged people.” Eros CEO Fiona Patton said the ruling was “discriminatory to short-statured people and quite possibly offended the Federal Discrimination Act.” It will be interesting to see if it stands up in court.

It is in the area of racism where the trend is most pronounced. I received a yawn-inducing string of outrage this week after writing the most limp-wristed pro-republican column, which was barely republican at all, more a pathetic form of surrender at the fact that we all seem to like the royals so much and can’t agree on an alternative model that we’re stuck as a constitutional monarchy. In passing I noted that this was all a bit disappointing for republican ultra-minimalists who simply wanted an Australian head of state, and would also be happier if the Pommy flag no longer sullied our national ensign.

The use of the word Pommy sent several readers into apoplexy, no doubt because they were, you know, Poms.

From one reader: “Pommy flag? That’s a racist slur. Lucky it’s a racial attack against the white majority, otherwise, you’d be before the courts like Andrew Bolt was.” From another: “Getting the pommy bit off our flag are downright pathetic comments in fact they border on racist.” And another: “I have no interest in anything you have to say, it’s rude, tactless and uncivil…to talk about the pommy flag is just so rude I can’t believe you actually printed it.”

And so the whinge-fest continued. Another recent column, about the Andrew Bolt vilification case, was highly critical of his writing but said the judgment posed a threat to free expression as it put the onus on anybody to prove they were not racist should somebody take offence at their sentiments. Examples included declaring that the Serbs who disrupted the Australian Open should maybe bugger off to Serbia, the opinion that female circumcision by some African communities is barbaric and inhumane, the belief that Israel is a pariah state whose businesses should be the subject of a formal boycott. Several censorious folks wrote in saying that each of these opinions were potentially racist and should also be the subject of legal action under the Racial Discrimination Act. See you all in court, along with the people of short stature.

The stink over the performance of the Haka by the All Blacks in Sunday’s final was a double treat for those who enjoy being offended. First, there was there were claims that one of the Kiwis had made an apparently offensive throat-slitting gesture while performing the chant. So what if he had? This ain’t the chicken dance or the bus stop. The haka in its origins was a war dance performed by pumped-up Maori warriors shortly before they killed their enemies. The idea that it should be rendered more genteel is absurd.

After this kerfuffle it emerged that the French had not shown due deference to the haka by stepping forwards towards the All Blacks as it was being performed. This was also offensive and the team was fined, in keeping with the view that, out of respect for Maori tradition, opposing teams should stand there and do nothing. This too seems kind of absurd. If a bunch of blokes are sticking their tongues out and threatening to murder you, it seems only fair that opposing teams can respond, perhaps in a manner which is culturally appropriate –some mooning from the Wallabies, Morris dancing from the Poms, the French standing around waiting to be saved by another nation, in keeping with their historical traditions.

Meanwhile the Adelaide Zoo has cancelled its Free Rangas Day after complaints from redheads. Turn it up. Even Julia Gillard could crack a quality gag about her state of ranga-ness when she spoke to fellow blood nut Cameron Ling at the AFL Grand Final breakfast. Someone was probably offended by that too. Still what would you expect from a Prime Minister who wouldn’t curtsy before the Queen. Even though protocol says she didn’t have to, and did nothing wrong.

The whole thing is just offensive.


I'm an Australian, PM tells UK reporter

A reasonable response to a trick question, not that I agree her about the eventual demise of the monarchy

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has showcased her accent as proof she's a dinkum Aussie, when asked whether the Queen will be Australia's last unelected head of state.

At a press conference in Perth on Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Ms Gillard was asked how she felt on the republican question, given she was "born as a subject of her majesty in the United Kingdom".

Ms Gillard has made it known she believes Australia should become a republic but that it would be appropriate only after Queen Elizabeth II's reign ends.

In response to Friday's question from a British reporter, she said she was the daughter of a man from a Welsh mining village and a woman whose maiden name was McKenzie, but she had lived in Australia since she was four years old.

"So I am an Australian, so any of the perspectives that I bring on questions about our constitutional arrangements, I bring through the eyes of being an Australian.

"You don't get an accent like this from being anything else," she said to laughter from the press corps attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Ms Gillard said ultimately the Australian people would work their way through changes to the country's constitutional arrangements.

"But there is not a great deal of focus on this in our current national discourse," she said, noting there was more focus during the last referendum on the issue.

Ms Gillard said the Queen had been received with a great degree of affection on her current visit to Australia, with thousands turning out to see her.

"So there is a sense of personal connection with the Queen which has been very on display, and I would have to say a sense of excitement about the young royals as well," she said.


Farmers in green protesters' sights next as fight against mining escalates

FRUSTRATION: Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the industry was frustrated with the contradictions of the State Government over mining exploration. Picture: Nathan Richter Source: The Courier-Mail

THE Federal Government has told environmental activists to get out of the way of mining and warned farmers are likely to be the next target of green protests.

But the State Government has also felt the wrath of the mining industry, with a survey showing that the worst thing about doing business in Queensland was dealing with the Bligh Government.

All those who stood in the way of mining faced a fierce attack yesterday, as more than 400 mining delegates gathered for the launch of the industry's scorecard in Brisbane.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told the function he accepted legitimate concerns about coal seam gas but environmental activists had to get out of the way of legitimate mining activity.

"Fundamentally, many of these groups are against economic development in all its forms and once they have moved on from protesting against CSG, they could very well have farmers in their sights as their next target over water access," Mr Ferguson said yesterday.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the industry was frustrated with the contradictions of the State Government.

He said they wanted the Government to become a leader in exploration but then it "turns around and declares more than 23,000sq km of southeast Queensland off-limits to exploration".

Mr Roche also took on the anti-mining lobby, claiming that the public was being fed a constant diet of inaccurate information about mining exploration.


Time for conservatives to do the right thing

By Mark Textor

Is this guy joking or is he just off his brain? The stuff he talks about below was all fixed in the 1967 constitutional referendum, which 90% of Australians supported

Australians, including conservatives like me, are perhaps about to face the most important referendum most of us have never heard of.

The government's expert panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples will soon recommend options that formally recognise indigenous Australians in our constitution, with a referendum on the issue possible by the next federal election.

Now is the time for fellow conservatives to get behind this constitutional change not only because it aligns with the principles of their main party, the Liberal Party, but also because it's the right thing to do.

Liberals believe in the freedom of self-expression, including the freedom in our strong democracy to vote and express oneself.

A core part of the Liberal platform is the belief in "equal opportunity, with all Australians having the opportunity to reach their full potential in a tolerant national community".

How can we say we have achieved this equality, when Section 25 of our constitution specifically references the ability of the states to prevent people from voting in state elections on the basis of their race?

Most people would be shocked by this, and all true Liberals would also be shocked to know that Section 51 of our constitution gives Parliament the power to make special laws for people based on race.

Far from suggesting that Parliament should pay no attention to individual differences and diversity, it should eschew a constitution which makes laws based on race and instead make them on the basis of such things as culture and need.

Some people think a commitment to these issues belongs only to the left of politics, but that ignores the proud tradition of conservative politics when it comes to Aboriginal affairs: the first Aboriginal member of any State or Territory Parliament was Hyacinth Tungutalum, of the CLP in the Northern Territory; the National Party's Eric Deeral was the first Aborigine elected to the Queensland Parliament.

The Liberal Party gave us the first Aboriginal senator, Neville Bonner, and the first Aboriginal member of the House of Representatives, Ken Wyatt.

It was a Liberal federal government that introduced the Northern Territory Land Rights Act and a Liberal prime minister, John Howard, who put constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back on the agenda before the 2007 federal election.

These Conservative achievements do not diminish the contribution of other political parties - this issue is not about left and right; it's about supporting equality of opportunity and recognition in our constitution regardless of your political persuasion.

Many Liberals respect tradition and the preservation of "Australian culture". One of the amendments being considered is to recognise the English language as the foundation stone of the Australian culture, and to acknowledge the importance of Aboriginal languages.

The Liberal platform recognises: "The Europeans who began to settle Australia more than 200 years ago did not come to an empty land. For tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had lived on this continent. Their contribution to Australia's identity has been, and will continue to be, a vital and enriching one."

So should our constitution.

Also at the core of Australian Liberal philosophy is a belief in the freedom to achieve success and contribute to society. My belief is that it's hard to be so aspirational if the constitution allows a person to be discriminated against on the basis of their race.

One of my Darwin school friends, Johnny Daylight-Lacey, is an Aboriginal street artist based around Mullumbimby. A talented and passionate musician and painter, he wants to share his culture with other Australians, but he is not always allowed to practise his art because of council restrictions. While the considered amendments to the constitution may not give him carte blanche they would give him much-needed encouragement not only to share his culture but also to make a living.

Conservatives are rightly fond of supporting "a hand up, instead of a handout". If one is true to this value then one must get behind a constitution that truly enables all Australians to achieve their desires.

Conservatives can be at the forefront of a debate to recognise the contribution of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and to abolish discrimination on the basis on race.

It's time to step up, my friends. For all of us.


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