Sunday, January 03, 2016

Australia, we are The Lucky Country. So stop complaining

Jane Fynes-Clinton

I am pretty sure the fine Clinton is a basically conservative lady.  She is grateful for Australia.  Leftists just whine about it.  And gratitude is a major marker of conservatism and Christianity.  Committed Christians give thanks before each meal. Like Australians generally, few Australian conservatives are committed Christians but they do generally treat Christianity with respect.  Some of us even go to church on occasions.

Jane has written other articles that reveal her as patriotic and conservative, two things that are often related. I reproduce immediately below this one an  article by her that I heartily agree with.  It is a balanced look  at feminism -- a very rare thing indeed.

And from my observation and reading, I think she is pretty right on her international comparisons.  Garbage collection and potholed roads seem to be a major problem in Britain but not here.  Potholes are rare and only last a couple of days here.  They often last for months in Britain.  And ALL our garbage is collected every week with no need for us to sort it in any  way.  We have recycling bins but nobody checks what is in them. That would be a dream in most of Britain.

And our banks are the world's best.  At the height of the financial crisis, instead of going bust, they continued to make profits pretty much as usual.  Beat that!  I used to think our banks were pretty terrible -- until I encountered British and American ones.

And, remarkably, it is true that our politicians are pretty good.  There have been quite a few times over the years when I have written to my local member over some bureaucratic boneheadedness I had encountered.  And the problem was rapidly fixed on all occasions.

We have much to be grateful for here in the Land of Oz.

Instead of looking to criticise our nation and those in it, we must look to praise and find pride in it. The frustration is we could be so much more if we accepted that our economic situation is pretty good in a world sense, our crime rate is better than most, our politicians are largely accountable and work for us, and we are mostly safe.

We are a stunning nation and, at our core, a wonderful people. But misery seems to like company and an attitudinal shift here is overdue.

I have had the privilege of travelling to many nations in the past six weeks and am struck at how blessed Australia is — and how little we appreciate it.

On a day-to-day level, we have fresh fruit and vegetables by the barrowful. In England, Canada and France at this time of year, choices are limited and produce is expensive.

We have fresh air and drinkable water straight from the tap. In Bangkok, both are the stuff of faraway lands.

We have access to medical help regardless of income. Access to a quality education in Australia is not determined by social standing, as it is in many Asian nations.

Our footpaths and roads aren’t allowed to be in disrepair for long (holes and unevenness feature in main streets from London to Bangkok to New York) and our rubbish is reliably collected — again, a rarity in even civilised societies.

These are simple, transparent truths, so a little perspective and a little glimpse outside our bubble into the world around us might help us adopt an attitude of gratitude.

As well as these societal structures that we have demanded and our governments and authorities have implemented, we are also The Lucky Country — and that need not be imbued with the irony the creator of the phrase intended.

The Lucky Country is the title of Donald Horne’s 1964 book. It got its name from words in its last chapter, which read: “Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck”.

Horne grieved for an Australia at the time that did not seem to think for itself, that clung to traditions that were not its own, that had a chip on its shoulder the size of Tasmania. [I remember Donald.  It was Donald who had the chip on his shoulder]

Sadly, not a huge amount has changed in more than 50 years. But is it possible that 2016 could be our year? That we might start being the nation the rest of the world thinks we are?

We are lucky, certainly. We have space, natural beauty and resources and endless sunshine.

These are gifts we do not necessarily deserve, but should consciously treasure.

Our encroaching negativity — for starters, the practice of whining online about meals, people, systems and anything else that niggles, and our aggression on the roads over tiny infractions — is a characteristic we must shed to advance our civility and 2016 is the year to do it.

Australians want to collectively regain mental wellness and finally accept the positives our nation is groaning with. Our land abounds with them.

2016 is the year for gratitude. Happy — the kind that is deeply real and lasting — new year.


It's time to grow up and end gender politics, Jane Fynes-Clinton writes

An article from 2012

GENERALISATIONS about either sex, particularly when used in the political debate, are demeaning to all and cloud the real issues.

WE WOULD expect our children to behave better. If the kiddies picked on one another in such a way, right-minded parents would scold them, explaining that we are progressive and civilised and this is simply not an acceptable way to behave.

Reasonable people don't call one another names just for being boys or girls - surely?

But when the heat is on, at times when we should be most adult, too many resort to name-calling and using undertones that are built around gender even when it is not appropriate to do so.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman did it on Tuesday at the Budget Estimates hearing. Irritated at pestering questions by Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk, he suggested she was "being cute".

A look at Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Facebook page reveals the much-publicised hammering she got in a question-and-answer session earlier in the week was not isolated.

References early yesterday morning included one poster wanting the PM to make them dinner; and another for her to get back on her broomstick. And many other such predictable, gender-based barbs.

Drunken footballers on "mad Monday" called out lewd sexual things. And whether or not the comments were directed at female journalists, and an inquiry found they were not, they were still sexist and demeaning.

Women are no better. They can be as savagely sexist and poisonous as men. They generalise about men being emotionally unavailable, domestically lazy and obsessed with sex.

But gender generalisations are holding us all back and often clouding the real issues that are in urgent need of exploration.

While some men will say the Canterbury Bulldogs' rugby league team carry-on was "just what footy blokes do", many abhor the lack of respect it showed.

And many women are shocked that men are looked at with suspicion when they are alone around small children and reject generalisations about them being knuckle-draggers or meatheads.

We should never make general judgments about the opposite gender by the behaviour of its worst examples.

And that is the point - while evidence abounds of the most basic of gender stereotypes being wheeled out and put on display increasingly regularly lately, not all men are the same and neither are all women.

There is talk that Newman and federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are "not liked by women", as if women are an indivisible mass with one opinion, one mind and one vote.

It is as if women seek the most female-friendly candidate and vote for them, without thought on policy or principle.

The situation is no more advanced in the US, with the same debate going on, but with different players. The man who wants Barack Obama's job, Mitt Romney, is cast as not being popular with women, but is blessed with a wife who will speak up for him and has proved popular with the public (sound familiar?).

Isn't it all a bit primitive? Doesn't that broad grouping demean women in particular and society in general?

The key to understanding society is not, and has never been, as simple as herding women or men together and stereotyping them. The spectrum of views and interests in each gender is increasingly broad and varied.

But that seems forgotten in debates where generalisations are convenient.

We do not help the issue by cutting the cloth to fit the model. We accept sexist jokes from, say, a group of girlfriends, but not from our boss.

Man and women reach for and use the sexist button when it suits us - not unlike Labor, which has relentlessly targeted Abbott over having a so-called problem with women, but then on Tuesday baulked at giving the disgraced and disgraceful texter Peter Slipper the boot.

If the Alan Jones drama this week taught us anything, it's that bad behaviour is not sexist just because it involves people of a different gender.

Insensitivity and nasty comments, such as those Jones made about Gillard and her dad, are just rude. In his case, gender does not come into it, but in that case was an obvious weapon to reach for.

If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, framing all arguments in terms of gender is the basest form of understanding.

So, excluding Alan Jones and most of the Federal Parliament, let's get serious about developing a vestige of civility, put down the gender card and get on with growing up.

This is no sandpit and we are no longer little boys and girls.


Bob Hawke Says Nuclear Waste Dump 'A Win-Win' For Australia

Being arguably the most popular Leftist Prime Minister Australia has had, Hawke still has influence on the Left, so this is significant.  The Labor Party Premier of South Australia is of the same mind

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is still pushing for Australia to become the world's nuclear waste dump, calling the plan "a win-win" that could "transform our own fiscal situation."

Hawke was an advocate for nuclear waste to be stored securely in Australia's remote regions from the time of his Prime Ministership which ended in 1991; now, a quarter of a century later, the Labor Party elder statesman said he still wanted to see the idea come to fruition.

Speaking at the embargoed launch of cabinet papers from 1990 and 1991 -- the turbulent period which saw him elected to an unlikely and record fourth term as PM, then quickly dumped from the top job as Paul Keating's second leadership spill saw him seize power in December '91 -- Hawke spoke widely on both historical and contemporary issues.

"In my last final period as prime minister, I had a world economic group of geologists and experts commissioned to find out where are the world’s safest remote sites for storage of waste, and all the sites were in Australia," he said.

"We would negotiate with the countries to take the waste and we’d make the world a safer place by having all this unsafe stuff around the world stored safely, and at the same time we’d transform our own fiscal situation. This is what my Chinese friends call a win-win situation."


Australia's long-awaited free trade deal with China finally comes into force

More than a decade in the making, the deal is expected to deliver immediate benefits to exporters across the country.

From now, more than 85 per cent of Australia's goods exported to China – worth about $86 million last year – will enter duty free. That will rise to 96 per cent when the FTA is fully implemented.

The deal is expected to save exporters hundreds of millions of dollars in extra tariff payments next year alone.

The dairy industry expects to add 600-700 extra jobs in the same timeframe, as tariffs of up to 20 per cent are progressively eliminated across a plethora of products, from infant formula to cheese.

For Mr Thomas, a sharefarmer in Binginwarri in South Gippsland, the free trade deal has given him confidence to stay in the industry – and he's now contemplating buying his own property.

"I think the FTA's going to really bolster the industry. It's going to give people the confidence to invest, whether that's in new properties or expanding their current businesses," he told Fairfax Media.

"In a nutshell I think it's a fantastic thing and it's been a long time coming. And it's not just the dairy industry that's going to benefit, but the agriculture sector generally."

China is Australia's largest trading partner, buying almost a third of all Australian exports.

Under the FTA, tariffs of up to 25 per cent on beef and 20 per cent on wine will also be eliminated over the coming years. Duties on resources, medicines and services will also start coming down.

Consumers will benefit from more affordable Chinese goods such as electronics, clothing and other household items.

The Abbott government signed the deal – commenced by the Howard government way back in 2005 – in June.

A political bunfight over labour market testing ensued, but the opposition eventually helped the government pass the enabling legislation through the parliament in early November.

On Sunday Trade Minister Andrew Robb called it an historic day.

"This will prove a major fillip for our exporters in market of 1.4 billion people which includes a rapidly rising middle class," he said.

Exporters will see a "double whammy" of tariff cuts, with one round today and another on January 1, he said.


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