Words by Kristen Calandra
The spirited instruction “Aim High in Creation!” from the late Kim Jong-Il’s 1987 manifesto, The Cinema and Directing, doubles as the title of this playful documentary from writer/director Anna Broinowski. Aim High in Creation! is an experimental project following Broinowski and her team of six actors as they collaborate with big names from the North Korean film industry. Their motive: to make a propaganda film against the drilling of coal seam gas (CSG).
What initially seems like a straightforward documentary about CSG turns into a fascinating comment on ideology. But the intention of Aim High isn’t always clear. Maybe this is because it is almost a kind of a propaganda film in itself. At times it presents itself as a sincere indictment of the harmful effects of CSG, but the overall tongue-in-cheek tone somewhat undermines the sincerity of this. As a result, a serious and emotional interview with a farmer comes as a bit of a surprise, and only serves to heighten the initial uncertainty about where exactly Broinowski is going with Aim High.
By its conclusion, Broinowski’s point becomes a little clearer: that less of a barrier exists between even the most politically opposed of cultures (in this case the capitalist-leaning Australia and the socialist-leaning North Korea). Aim High in Creation! is about the universality of protest, that “people power” is not just a by-product of socialism, it is “the one weapon we share.” The film is an original effort that proves to be engaging, even if the distinction between sincerity and satire is sometimes blurred.
Aim High In Creation is screening exclusively at Cinema Nova from 27 March
Words by Caity Hall
It goes without saying that we live in a technological age. Not only does technology surround us wherever we go, but we need it for food production, for space exploration, for curing fatal diseases, and for making our morning toast. That is why it is so impressive that on Saturday 29 March at 8:30pm, people all over the world will be flicking off their power switches and lighting their candles for the seventh annual Earth Hour.
Beginning in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now a global environmental movement aimed at promoting public awareness of climate change and encouraging people to take a stand against this critical issue. Anna Rose, head of Earth Hour Australia, describes the movement’s principal message as “the beautiful, bold idea that all of us together can inspire action to solve the climate crisis”.
Since being founded by the World Wildlife Fund seven years ago, the Earth Hour movement has grown from a Sydney-based event—where around two million individuals and 2100 businesses switched off their power for an hour—to a global phenomenon, which in 2012 saw more than 6950 cities in 152 countries partake.
To ensure the number of participants continues to grow this year, Earth Hour is almost completely re-inventing itself. Currently perceived as a once-yearly event, Earth Hour will this year convert itself into a full-time environmental campaign. “We all know that solving the climate crisis will take more than one hour, so we’re turning Earth Hour from a moment each year to a year-round social movement,” Rose explains. This will be achieved through community campaigns which aim to pressure the Australian government to increase its renewable energy targets and its ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The focal point of this year’s campaign will be the effect climate change is having on the Great Barrier Reef. Described by Rose as “one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change”, this focus is intended to open the eyes of Australians and the wider international community. “Scientists tell us that if we don’t change our ways by 2030, the effects of climate change on our Great Barrier Reef—and the species that depend upon it—will be irreversible.”
The movement will be highlighting this issue through a documentary titled “Lights Out for the Reef: An Earth Hour Special”. Screening on the day of Earth Hour at 4:30pm on Channel 10, the documentary will demonstrate the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef in a unique and innovative way. Featuring YouTube sensation Natalie Tran and musical comedy act The Axis of Awesome, Lights Out for the Reef is already expected to make a lasting impression on viewers. Over 1000 Earth Hour supporters will host local-based gatherings to encourage their friends to watch the documentary. Rose hopes this tactic will reach out to people who “don’t consider themselves environmentalists, but do care about the future and want to leave clean air, clean water and clean soil for their kids”.
In an additional effort to extend the Earth Hour craze past 29 March, the hosts of the top 50 gatherings will be offered a chance to attend the first ever Camp Earth Hour. The camp will be held at Heron Island Research Station at the Great Barrier Reef, and will attract what the movement hopes will become the ‘champions’ of Earth Hour. The winners will have the opportunity to see first hand the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and will go on to spread that message.
It’s clear that Rose is excited about expanding the campaign, and placing a greater focus on the Reef. “Wouldn’t it be great… to be able to tell our kids that we helped save places like our Reef?” she exclaims. “And wouldn’t it be awful if we had to tell them we only thought about the problem for one hour each year, and by the time we realised it required more from us it was too late?”
UMSU’s Education Department and the LSS Environment Committee will be running an Earth Hour Unplugged event on Thursday 27 March from 5pm.
Words by Jason Wong
Illustrations by Kitty Chrystal
Infographic by Kevin Hawkins
What has become of the Clean Energy Act (CEA)? This once great milestone in the war on climate change has reduced the political conversation on carbon emissions to an endless squabble about electricity prices and loopholes. Meanwhile, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere march inexorably past 400 parts per million, and we’re marching inexorably toward the sportiest, road-trippiest Senate ever. Perhaps it’s time we review our climate policy.
First, let’s not pretend that the so-called carbon tax has zero impact on people’s finances. What else is a pricing mechanism supposed to do, anyway? It makes the regulated stuff more expensive. Economists generally agree that the cost boils down to $10 per week on households, which—depending on who you are—might mean the difference between morning coffees and morning lattes, or the difference between breakfast and no breakfast. Liberals have never been particularly nice to poor folks, but it doesn’t change the fact that their line about the carbon tax being an electricity tax, if not misleading, sounds true to working class people.
The numbers tell us that the CEA is working, but only just. Since its introduction, the Department of the Environment estimates a drop in CO2 emissions of 0.3 per cent, while the National Electricity Market’s data shows electricity sector emissions have decreased by 3.4 per cent yearly since 2008. How much of this is the result of carbon pricing? We will never know for sure, but between the demands of the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) and investments in clean energy by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), probably not much. When the price per tonne drops from $25.40 to a floating price in 2015, it will be even less effective.
Paradoxically, the polluters themselves may not be as upset about carbon pricing as they would have us believe. The government earned $4.13 billion last year from selling permits to polluters, but it also gave away $2.4 billion in free permits to the same polluters (most of which were massive power companies and resource refineries). The rest of the cost can be passed onto the consumer as a ‘production cost’. Since carbon footprint doesn’t vary consistently with income, the final cost constitutes a regressive tax—it affects the poor more than the rich. Unsurprisingly, most of this is because the polluters made sure to have their lobbyists poke as many holes in the CEA as possible before it passed.
So, let’s recap. Carbon pricing is scary to working people, doesn’t cut emissions much, is full of loopholes, and doesn’t force polluters to pay up. We’re going to need a Plan B.
Fortunately, there are bits of the CEA that work. Let’s start with those. We know that the CEFC has been making good investments in renewable energy projects. It’s limited in that it can only invest in projects from other developers, rather than coming up with its own. However, it’s still been able to add 500 megawatts of generation capacity, abating 3.88 million tonnes of CO2 each year. Let’s incorporate publicly owned clean energy infrastructure investment into the national budget, along with public transport and high-speed rail to cut transport emissions.
We also have a MRET which demands that by 2020, 20 per cent of electricity generated here must come from renewables. Since the energy sector is responsible for 77 per cent of emissions here, a well-enforced MRET can cut emissions without using convoluted price signals that can eventually be passed to the wider population. Let’s push for stricter emissions targets while monitoring energy prices to make sure they stay within reasonable levels. Consumers will get affordable clean energy quicker, and power companies can breathe easy on the day that oil and coal run out.
Finally, instead of a carbon pricing system, let’s switch the funding for this progressive policy to the traditional progressive funding source: filthy rich people and the corporations they run. They’re the people most responsible for high emissions, and we were going to raise the mining and corporate tax rates anyway. Bump those up from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, throw in a 75 per cent tax rate on the top one per cent and we’ll have double the $37 billion per year that Beyond Zero Emissions says we’ll need to go carbon neutral in the next decade. Plus, we won’t scare off low-income earners.
Carbon Neutral is our generation’s Apollo moment, so we need bold policies to get us there. The proposals here mesh beautifully with the social-democratic platform of wealth redistribution, public services, and social justice. In the face of criticism from climate skeptics and their allies in Parliament, it’s important that Labor, the Greens and progressive groups in Australia keep their options open and their eyes on the finish line. Up until now, we’ve had to choose between a carbon tax and the farce that is Direct Action. If we can offer a better third option with popular support, then Abbott can axe away while everybody moves on.
Words by Lyndal Rowlands
Illustration by Sebastian Clark
Trigger warning: Discussion of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
American university students who have survived sexual assault are challenging stigma and ‘victim-blaming’ by speaking out about their experiences. By working together they have put sexual assault squarely on the national political agenda. In January 2014, President Obama gave his support for their campaign, announcing a White House Task force to address the issue, he said: “Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it’s about all of us—the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons.”
The accompanying White House report noted, “no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women.”
Two students, past and present, from the University of North Carolina, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino have been at the forefront of a growing movement to address sexual violence on campus. Working to raise the profile of rape survivors has gained them widespread support in the The Huffington Post, CNN, New York Times, Glamour Magazine and, more recently, the BBC.
When Clark and Pino began to speak out, they found many students around the country shared similar experiences. For most survivors, their universities hadn’t provided adequate emotional and physical protection. Since most of the students affected were female, they turned to Title IX of the American Civil Rights Act, which states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program.”
“The high rates of sexual assault on female students contribute to an unequal learning environment, which is a violation of federal law,” Clark explained. “In the US, statistics show that women are assaulted at universities at an astoundingly high rate; between one in four and one and five women will experience assault or attempted assault during their time in college. There is not much reason to believe that this is different at higher education institutes in Australia.”
“Women who have survived such assaults often have their education impacted in severe ways.” She said that in the US, “When the university does little or nothing to support these students, they are in violation of federal law.”
Clark and Pino are part of a growing movement called IX Network. Clark said, “We now have a network of over 800 survivors advocating for change. It’s been amazing to connect people with personal support and to learn from each other, but also, as a collective, we are able to put pressure on our schools and government for policy change.”
Clark’s own story has been shared countless times—not so much how she was assaulted, but what happened next. When Clark reported to her university that she had been sexually assaulted, a female staff member told her, “Rape is like football, and if you look back on the game, Annie, what would you do differently in that situation?”
At a press conference in New York in 2013, Clark explained how this made her feel. “I was being blamed for a violent crime committed against me,” she said.
Victim-blaming is just as common in Australia. After a 21-year-old woman was sexually assaulted on Grattan Street in 2012, a (female) Senior Constable remarked to the media, “It’s just a matter of being aware of your environment and not leaving yourself in a vulnerable position.”
Comments like these extend the onus of the victim beyond reason. This Senior Constable holds the victim responsible for the perpetrator, as if the woman had provoked her attacker. Women’s safety becomes not a right, but a privilege that must be earned through good behaviour.
There has been little research into the specific prevalence of sexual assault and violence amongst university students in Australia. What we do know is young women are at a high risk of violence. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey 2006, 12 per cent of women aged 18-24 said they had experienced at least one incident of violence. Yet 6.5 per cent of women aged 35-44 years said the same. A recent Lancet study showed very high rates of sexual violence by non-partners in Australia, relative to other countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa. That same study suggested that abuse is common among dating partners.
Professor Murray Straus, Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, completed a comparative study of violence amongst university students across 16 countries in 2004. Straus explained that it is not widely known that “dating couples are even more likely to be violent than married couples, despite the fact that the higher rate has been demonstrated by more than 50 studies.”
To university students in Australia who are interested in following in IX Network’s footsteps, Annie suggests that students start doing research on sexual assault. “Look into your statistics about crime on university campuses and if rape and assault aren’t reported, do that research,” she said. “It doesn’t all have to be academic in the traditional sense either; bring survivors together, have them talk to each other and find the common threads.”
UMSU Wom*n’s Officer Stephanie Kilpatrick agrees that the undue focus on the person reporting the crime, rather than the perpetrator is part of the reason only a small percentage of rapes and assaults are reported. She says that on an every day basis students can help by calling out aspects of our culture which help to normalise rape and violence, such as rape jokes (‘fraped’) and songs like Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, which some argue questions boundaries of consent.
Another way University of Melbourne students can get involved is through Rad Sex and Consent week, which will be held at the Parkville campus in April. For more information contact the Wom*n’s Collective.
By speaking out, American survivors of abuse and assault are challenging the stereotypes, helping violence to prevail. Domestic abuse survivor Leslie Morgan Steiner’s TED Talk ‘Why domestic violence victims don’t leave’ has been watched over 1.7 million times since January 2013. In the talk, Steiner explains, “I don’t look like a typical domestic violence survivor. I have a B.A. in English from Harvard College, an MBA from Wharton Business School.”
Steiner didn’t see herself as the stereotypical ‘battered wife’. Even she thought that she would never have to endure domestic violence, “I would have told you myself that I was the last person on earth who would stay with a man who beats me, but in fact I was a very typical victim because of my age. I knew nothing about domestic violence, its warning signs or its patterns”.
For survivors of trauma, speaking out and hearing stories of abuse and assault can be a trigger for post-traumatic stress. Clark is now being recognised in America—every day somebody approaches her to share his or her story. Clark has described this as “vicarious trauma”. She says, “It’s very traumatic to hear these stories, but I think most of us have the motivation of wanting to make schools safer for the next generation of students. Sexual violence has always been an issue, particularly at university campuses. It’s not a matter of it happening more now … it’s the fact that more people are speaking out and we are connecting with each other.”
As President Obama reiterated in his speech in January, “Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.”
If you or friend need help or assistance:
In emergency situations or immediate danger call Police on 000.
For Melbourne University staff and students, support is available through a range of services, including Melbourne University Counseling, phone: (03) 8344 6927.
For 24/7 confidential help and referral in Australia call the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counseling Line on 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT) online counseling is also available at www.1800respect.org.au.
Words by Matthew Lesh
Illustrations by Giles Dewing
About a year ago, an 18-year-old was ecstatic when he got the call offering him the factory floor job at Holden. A non-academic type, he entered the workforce straight after school with the expectation of gaining long-term job employment in a safe Australian industry.
But like thousands before him, he had unfortunately been sold into a con, one that the government has been perpetrating for decades. It’s a con so intricate that it continues to see governments piss away hundreds of millions of dollars.
The con is the illusion that governments can create jobs and economic growth through subsidies, taxes on imports, loans, or so-called ‘co-investment’.
The truth, acknowledged by a large majority of economists, is that governments cannot create sustainable jobs by giving money or help to specific businesses.
All this money can do is create short-term jobs. These jobs are lost when businesses do not innovate or respond to demand. All subsidies do is encourage businesses to be stagnant. It enables them to increase their costs and prices, only for them to eventually ask for more money.
Take the car industry. For decades the Australian government has given Holden, Toyota, and Ford the highest subsidies in the world, most recently totalling about $US1885 per vehicle. This amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. These companies were also given a competitive edge through a five per cent tax on imported cars.
Over the past months all three companies have announced intentions to end production in Australia. The 18-year-old process worker, and thousands of others, will lose their job. Their jobs were a fraud that could only exist temporarily, pushing thousands in the wrong career direction.
However, the impact of subsidies on job opportunities and the Australian economy is much worse than just pushing workers into loss-making industries.
Subsidies require higher taxes. This takes away opportunities from other Australians to spend their money as they please and support competitive businesses. Subsidies also lead to a misallocation of jobs; high skilled workers are not available to work in other industries that are naturally profitable.
Ultimately any business that requires a subsidy cannot convince enough people to buy their product. If you cannot convince people to buy your product you either innovate, or exit the market entirely.
This is a constant occurrence, with about 44 small businesses closing their doors every day. Every lost job is unfortunate, but the economy is more dynamic and responsive than we can imagine.
Millions of Australians are trying, with some succeeding and some failing, to find sustainable businesses. This means jobs are constantly created and destroyed. This is how the economy works.
Government intervention hurts this natural process, raises prices, and will ultimately fail with inevitable job losses.
Words by Nathan Fioritti
Now, more than ever, it is crucial for newspaper publications to maintain integrity in order to sustain a devoted audience. The media world we are living in is one where falsities can be easily exposed, large-scale discussions can be easily had, and readers can access a plethora of different news options at almost any time. Integrity in the eyes of a certain newspaper’s readers is what keeps them hanging on.
For this reason, the second article in my column series will look at national News Corp. publication The Australian.
According to The Australian’s website, the newspaper exists in order to “lead the independent thinking, essential for the further advancement of our country”, and “cater to the needs of an influential and educated audience.” This feat, one would think, should not involve planting Kyle Sandilands on a front page. This is a man who abruptly asked New Zealand artist Lorde—who had reportedly been spending a lot of time with fellow musician Taylor Swift—“are you going to confirm now you’re in a lesbian relationship with her?”.
On the 12 March 2014 edition of The Australian, an article called ‘Fab and fat’ send Kyle and O off the dial‘ appeared in the middle-top right of the front page. Admittedly, there was a story there, with the duo reeling in over a quarter of a million listeners on their new station KIIS106.5 after getting kicked out from their former home at 2Day. But the choice to make the article front page material is almost akin to crowning them king and queen of our nation’s airwaves.
The Australian did, however, manage to slip in an important story about Labor’s increased opposition towards media reform, albeit below Kyle’s overly audacious mug. The media reforms had been proposed by Malcolm Turnbull, due to fears that local TV news are at threat. Unfortunately though, this story lived in the shadow of the one where Sandilands distastefully put his popularity down to him having the support of “fat people”. In similarly breaking news, Jackie O appeals to the “fabulous”, enabling the duo to cater to both the fab and the fat.
Flick a few pages in and you would have found the article ‘Palmer channels Gandhi in electoral act bunfight’, accompanied by an image of Palmer standing awkwardly in front of a plane. “Clive Palmer in Hobart with the coat of arms on his plane,” read the caption. Even this, however ridiculous, would have been a better story to run in place of the Kyle and Jackie O article, if for no other reason than comic relief.
Better yet, let’s take a look at what other intriguing and/or outlandish potential stories were out there during the time of the article:
- The Crossroads report, prepared by Ernst and Young and ReachOut, called for a rethinking of the Australian mental health system, stating that the current system is not meeting demand and that more of a focus on self-help and the young is required.
- A series of emails, leaked to the ABC, were sent out to Immigration Department staff urging them not to use the word ‘sympathise’ when writing correspondence for ministers. They were instead encouraged to use the word ‘acknowledge’ to avoid an “emotional” tone. Confirmation as to whether or not the ministers in question are robots—as the desired tone shift suggests—remains unknown.
- Both the Samsung app store and Google Play have released a new app called Power Sleep, which assists researchers by using your inactive smart phone to crunch scientific data. The app makes it extremely simple for anyone to lend a hand to science.
- Oh, and Barrack Obama sent a tweet, containing an inside joke about “spider bites” to Zach Galifianakis, following the filming of a Between Two Ferns segment.
Words by Christine Todd
Illustration by Cameron Baker
The Coalition Government is on course to create a new episode of history wars as it launches a less-than-comprehensive review of the national curriculum.
The curriculum review is designed to address what Education Minister Christopher Pyne perceives to be a clear leftist bias in the history curriculum for Australian primary and secondary school students. The minister has stated that the review will examine why the curriculum has become so politicised, why it refuses to acknowledge “the legacy of Western civilisation” and why it is “not giving important events in Australia’s history and culture the prominence they deserve, such as ANZAC Day”.
While curriculum reviews should be regularly carried out, independent organisation the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) already exists to serve this purpose. Its latest review, which took several years, included extensive consultation with teachers, parents, industry experts, and governments in all states and territories.
The urgency with which Pyne has demanded the latest review to be undertaken, as well as its remarkably short reporting date of only six months, suggests the report will be shallow and its content predetermined. That this could achieve in six months for the national curriculum what hundreds of education experts achieved in five years is foolish, and politically brazen.
The ideological tug of war between the left and the right in education is far from new. Right-wing critics, such as co-head of the new review, education commentator Kevin Donnelly, have lambasted the current curriculum for focusing too much on leftist ideals such as sustainability, trade unions, Asian perspectives, and the Australian Labor Party. Donnelly has also condemned the curriculum for promoting subjective interpretations of what Australian citizenship meant to different people, and has stated that the national history curriculum undervalued the importance of “western civilisation and the importance of Judeo-Christian values to our institutions and ways of life”.
Such allegations are baseless when held against the reality of the curriculum. Pyne’s suggestions that the curriculum does little to celebrate the memory of the ANZACs fail to note that a significant unit of study on the First World War is examined almost solely from the perspective of the First Australian Imperial Force. Critics have also complained that the curriculum does little to celebrate conservative leaders of the past, focusing solely on Labor prime ministers. That the curriculum also discusses protectionist PM Edward Barton and Australia’s longest-serving Liberal Party PM, Robert Menzies, appears to have been conveniently ignored.
Pyne’s suspicions are far from surprising, given the long-standing perceptions of the Australian education system as a left-wing profession dependent on union support. Nevertheless, the hasty installation of two conservative education commentators in response to leftist bias in the system does not reflect well on a government that has spent its first few months in power enraging the left by removing and fund-slashing all of the projects and committees that Labor and the Greens held dear. This suggests that the government is willing to use the national curriculum as a vehicle for political point scoring in the short-term.
That the two nominated heads of the review are experts in the field of curriculum review is itself in contention. It is instead likely that education commentator Donnelly was hired simply to inflame the left with his radically conservative perspectives on what content should exist in the curriculum. Donnelly’s major claim to credibiity is his position as Director of the Education Standards Institute. However, further research suggests that this ‘Institute’ is nothing more than a one-man show registered as a trading name for Kevin Donnelly’s consulting business Impetus Consultants Pty Ltd. Donnelly uses the Institute as a means to validate his commentary on the national curriculum and his views on social issues more broadly. So far Donnelly seems only to be a man with opinions, albeit opinions conveniently favourable to the policy objectives of the Coalition Government.
Further, Donnelly’s belief that there should be a greater degree of religious education in schools is no secret to anyone that has read his biting commentary on education policy. That he expects such religious education to rotate primarily around the importance of Judeo-Christian values reflects poorly on his ability to undertake an impartial review of the curriculum. What will be his recommendations regarding the prevalence of primary level exercises that teach respect and tolerance of a diverse range of value systems? Will his recommendations suggest that western civilisation and Judeo-Christian values are the superior and preferred perspectives upon which to examine Australian history, in effect whitewashing Australia’s past? How is this biased and entirely partisan approach to a curriculum review any different to the left-leaning bias he so aggressively criticised?
For such an ideological battle to be undertaken within the domain of the national curriculum is a cause for concern. While it is not a surprising place for an ideological battle to occur, subjecting the curriculum to arbitrary political whims certainly bears the potential to inflict damage on the education of Australian children. The new review will now prevent the full roll-out of the national curriculum until 2015, a delay that our school administrators, teachers and children cannot afford. Contrary to Pyne’s claims, teachers are generally not part of a grand left-wing conspiracy, and just want to get on with the difficult job of teaching. Politicians from both sides of the fence need to stop letting their interests interfere with the Australian education system and take their politics outside.
Words by Michael Roddan
Most people know that the Cold War ended in 1991 when the USSR was dissolved into its many different incompetent nations. But if you’ve heard a sentence with the word “Sochi” in it in the last year, you’d be forgiven for thinking the ANZACs had finally broken through the Bosphorus, landed on the shores of the Black Sea, and had begun another Gallipoli at the Olympic Venue.
Anti-Russian sentiment is running at an all-time high in the Western world, fuelled by progressive-minded dinner party conversations about Pussy Riot, Putin, and Pride in Sochi. But in the midst of all the chatter, you’d also be forgiven for thinking people actually give a damn.
The advent of Click-tivism has meant that being a progressive in the West is now as easy changing your profile picture, re-tweeting, and adding your email to a bunch of change.org petitions. Because of Russia’s ban on gay propaganda, multiple Heads of State have turned down invitations to Sochi, corporations have advertised pro-gay messages during broadcast, and Stephen Fry did something.
The law, a kowtow to the Russian Orthodoxy, is a half-arsed attempt to “protect” children by banning “propaganda on non-traditional sexual relationships”. This could mean anything from a flyer discussing the practice of safe homosexual sex, to an article discussing the abstract existence of homosexual people.
First, let’s be clear: the law is a fucking abomination and has no place in time or space. But 88 per cent of Russians support the gay propaganda ban. The West fought in Cold War against Russia for 50 years to bring democracy to the nation. Now that the Russians are exercising it, we want to punish them. Contemporary progressivism is synonymous with feeling good: if your opinion makes you feels good, it must be the right opinion to hold.
On the first day of the Olympics, Google changed its homepage to a rainbow flag and fooled dimwits across the internet into believing one of the most powerful corporations in the world gives a damn about human beings. Let’s not forget: Google loopholes out billions of dollars of tax revenue in countless countries. In Australia alone, Google paid $74,000 in tax on revenue over $1 billion—money that could be spent by governments on policy that helps homosexual people. But for contemporary progressives, empty symbolism wins out.
You must remember this is for Russia, where it’s perfectly legal to be gay. There are gay bars in Sochi and some Russian TV stars seem hugely camp (though the locals don’t always pick it up). What this criticism boils down to, more than anything, is a Cold War relic media bias against Russia and the habit of contemporary progressives to be disgusting cultural relativists who only criticise white people.
If you see Google change its home page to Brazil forcing their poorest citizens out of the favelas before the soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, let me know. If you see them put up anything about Qatar’s treatment of women or homosexuals—where it’s actually illegal to be gay—don’t let it bypass me.
It’s easy to criticise Russia. We’ve been doing it for years. When you bring in Brazil or Qatar, however, economics, race and ‘culture’ come into it, and people have to think. And thinking, for the contemporary progressive, is hard.
Take for instance the West’s love affair with Pussy Riot, who were convicted by the same laws against hooliganism that operate in many places they’ve been celebrated. Forget the fact that they weren’t actually a band before the West started calling them, but a loose collection of nominally feminist artists whose raison d’etre was to be offensive in the simplest possible way.
Do the same progressives who champion their staged concert in the cathedral defend the cruel hurling of live cats through McDonalds restaurants? How about the filming of, admittedly quite blasé, pornography in public places while pregnant? Or stealing food from small grocery stores by inserting pieces of chicken into their vaginas? Art that makes you think? Does it challenge you? Perhaps, but if you don’t think very much about it, it just seems subversive.
But the West latched on regardless. Because they think that Pussy Riot, or protesting the anti-gay laws will bring change to Russia. But it doesn’t. The Russians have been through a lot. They’re a tough, proud bunch of people. Western-enforced neo-liberalism after the Cold War killed millions upon millions of innocent people in the Eastern Bloc, increasing the death rate in the early ’90s by 13 per cent. The West celebrated and acted as if the opening of another shopping mall would solve all that ailed them.
When Putin stands up to the West, Russians support him. When the West tells Russia what to do, they recoil. It is not by force, or progressive superiority via memes on the internet, that Russia will change. It’s through proper engagement, dialogue and, largely, economic growth and reductions in inequality—it’s no coincidence the gangs beating up gays on the streets are lower-working class skin heads, born from xenophobic views that immigrants, gays and the other are taking their livelihood.
When two people were killed during the the Boston Marathon , a small electronic city was set up by the media who reported every development. On 30 December last year Volgograd was bombed, killing 34, but it was brushed over by the media and quickly forgotten.
Are Russian lives worth less than those of Americans? You could say our media act like they are. But the media, like any free-market service, work to serve the interests of the consumer first. That way, it ends up being our view, too. The people of Russia will not be swayed while we still think like that.
Words by Derrick Krusche
Illustrations by Kevin Hawkins
Victorians will be heading to the polls on 29 November to decide our next state government, so let’s take a look and see how this election is shaping up.
Unlike last year’s federal election, the race between the Coalition’s Premier Denis Napthine and Labor’s Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews appears to be much closer. The Coalition won office in 2010 with only a slender two-seat majority (including the Speaker). And since troublesome Frankston MP Geoff Shaw resigned from the Liberal Party to become an independent, the government now must rely on Shaw’s vote and that of Speaker Ken Smith.
Shaw has stated he will support the government with his vote. However, because he holds the balance of power he has the potential to stand in the way of the government’s legislative agenda. It is critical for Napthine to sell his message in an election year and he could appear weak if he is unable to control Shaw. Now that charges pertaining to misuse of his government credit card and car have been dropped, Shaw has the chance to exploit his position. The Coalition is determined to show to voters that they are not bound to Shaw. The Coalition is running a member against him in the electorate of Frankston and it is unclear whether he will contest his seat again.
Regardless, health and hospitals remain the most important issues to Victorian voters. Napthine is currently caught in a damaging standoff with the ambulance union over paramedic wages. They want a 30 per cent pay rise over three years but the government has only offered a 12 per cent pay rise so far.
Reports have emerged of worrying levels of stress causing mental health issues and abuse of prescription drugs among paramedics. This could offset the efficiency of ambulance services. Furthermore, the problem of ‘ramping’ at hospitals is ongoing, whereby paramedics are forced to wait hours outside hospitals before their patients are admitted and are consequently late to other calls. The government has failed to deliver on its promise to fund 800 new hospital beds and improve ambulance response times. There have been ongoing technical problems with the emergency dispatch system and the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA)
Another hotly contested area in state politics is education. Many of the early budget decisions of the government included massive cuts to TAFE. In the vocational education sector (VET) a market driven model was introduced, which required public and private operators to compete for government funding against each other. The aim was to resolve skills shortages through increased efficient training. But poorly designed courses and a lack of caps on enrolment have seen some private providers deliver poorer quality training. Alongside the new commercial model, this has led to VET graduates finishing their courses with fewer skills. Napthine said he would reinstate $200 million to TAFE to fix the problem, yet many say it is too late and not enough.
The last time there was a one-term government in Victoria was 1955. Yet Labor currently holds a solid lead in the two-party preferred vote according to Fairfax/Nielsen and Newspoll. This is a promising sign, but if a week is a long time in politics, ten months is an eternity.
Words by Cindy Zhou
Illustration by Dian Mashita
We’ve been condemned as ungrateful and narcissistic, and for housing an overblown sense of entitlement. Adverse social commentary—on our Narcissistic Personality Disorder rates overhauling our older generational counterparts’ threefold, or admonition for living in an Age of Entitlement surrounded by an abundance of iProducts (we’re all about the “I”)—has tarred Generation Y with a tacky and odious brush, painting us as lazy, flaky and non-committal.
Our childhoods were filled with adulation and constantly battered by the ‘follow your passion’ tripe. Now we are characterised by unrealistic expectations that lead to chronic disappointment. Generation X was monikered as ‘latchkey kids’ as they were raised at a time when both parents worked and were forced to fend for themselves. In contrast, Gen Y is somewhat coddled and dependent on helicopter parents, leading to a higher stay-at-home spike. Embarrassingly low youth voter turnout in politics has led to pundits declaring Gen Y as ‘apathetic’ or ‘politically disengaged’.
The term Gen Y roughly refers to everyone born in the 1980s to the early 1990s—the last group of people attached to the twentieth century. It was still pre-internet and yet we have primarily grown up in a world surrounded by technology. The tail end of this generation is students: we are the millennials. But are we really as hopeless as our older counterparts claim?
The assumptions that become affixed to generations often lead to competition where there should be a conversation. The fact is that it is impossible to compare Gen Y with the Baby Boomers because the social context is starkly different. The quality of one generation is simply a barometer of seismic shifts in the competing social values of the time. Today, we face a range of changes and new difficulties: stagnating wages, unemployment, student debt, and soaring house prices. We are marred by an overall uncertainty of economies and labour markets. Millennials remain in a precarious position – we house high aspirations but dismal economic prospects, and this can leave us feeling a little lost.
We are sometimes called the ‘Trophy Generation’—there is a tendency for kids in this demographic to receive awards regardless of actual achievement (remember all of those ‘participation’ ribbons and certificates?). We are told constantly that we’re special individuals with unique potential, so we develop highly ambitious aspirations. To quote the Pussycat Dolls, When I grow up, I wanna be famous, I wanna be a star, I wanna be in movies. But in all seriousness, it’s not that we’re self-absorbed or egoistic, it’s that we’re self-important. We understand that we are special and independent, and with enough hard work, we can reach our dreams.
The rush of judgement and negativity aimed at Generation Y from older people can overlook our merits that arise in the face of the challenges of modern day society. We may be chastised as idealistic and naïve, but surely it is the hopefulness we nurture that will lead to a bright future. Gen Y is generally more tolerant and socially conscious of different opinions, sexualities, ethnicities, cultures, and more critical of authority. For example, the ever-widening acceptance of same-sex marriages and relationships is a civil movement inconceivable to Gen Y’s grandparents. Times change, and people do too. Call it social evolution.
Quite simply, we ‘work to live’ instead of ‘live to work’. We are naturally collaborative, talented, open-minded, flexible and are digitally enabled. Self-image is worthy of protection. Volunteering and advocacy forms an integral part of many young people’s lives – clubs such as Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, Oaktree, Oxfam Group and Youth Charity Society within Melbourne University offer a glimpse into the ways that Generation Y defy the scrutiny they receive for being acquiescent and detached. Community mindedness fosters a more inclusive society through service to others. We’re pro-life, bubbly, wide-eyed and enthusiastic. And that is a good thing.