Friday, 30 November 2012

Gold-plating power in the King's navy

I have just received a letter from our erstwhile local state MP, Mr 72%. As the new Co-coordinator of Climate Change Australia Hastings Branch, I get to sign the letters we write on various issues to politicians.

This particular letter was to ask why the NSW State government was using electricity bills as a political forum by including a statement on how much the "carbon tax" had increased electricity bills. This information appears in a little red box on the bill. Like a Readers’ Digest competition, it screams “Important! Read me because I am in red letters and there is a box around me and therefore I must be true!”
For those of you who do not read the Readers Digest and therefore ignore important red lettered messages in boxes, the message says:

"NSW Government estimates that the Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $316 a year to a typical 7MWh household bill – see"

As it happens, our CCA group think that this box is a misuse of legislative powers, in that it requires that this negative message be included on public companies' bills. In our opinion, this message is solely there to have political impact and is selectively misinformative. The red coloured message is clearly meant to stand as a protest against current Federal policy and law in Australia.

As most of us in CCA objected to our household bills becoming political capital, we asked it be removed. Alternatively, we reasoned, if the State government thought this unreasonable, we thought that all extra taxes and charges should be shown. So a full breakup, including infrastructure costs, wholesale pricing and profits, a full and honest disclosure of the true economics of electricity pricing for each consumer, could all have their own important boxes. Heck, we could even colour coordinate them, so our bills looked like little rainbows.

We also suggested that there should be corresponding details about how the Federal government's compensation package had offset any rises caused by the carbon price.

And there are those little details in a report, released in April 2011, from the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPRT). They found the average price increases of 18 per cent for electricity in 2011/2012 were due to a number of factors including:

•Federal Labor's Renewable Energy Target (RET) (34 per cent)
•additional generation costs, (5.5 per cent )
•additional network costs (poles and wires), (55 per cent)
•retail increases in billing, marketing and metering, (5.5 per cent)

Note that 66% of the above increases are due to State costs.

Not surprisingly, Mr 72% and the State government do not see things this way. Mr 72% has helpfully replied that it is the State government's business to inform consumers of the Federal government's ‘carbon tax’ but not the State government’s business to tell the consumer that they are compensated by the Federal government because that is the business of the Federal government and not of the State government. It would also seem that those huge price hikes as detailed above – caused by the State government's business with power companies, to do with pricing and infrastructure – aren't anyone's business either as they don't get a mention in his letter. Mmmmmmmm.

A friend has suggested to me that this reads like the plot line of a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera. I believe he is right. It particularly reminds me of the Admiral in HMS Pinafore:

”Stay at your desk and never go to sea…and you could be ruler of the King’s Navy”.
Or to paraphrase: “Ignore all the facts and avoid coming clean…and you could be interviewed by Ray Hadley” Or maybe: “I gold-plated infrastructure so carefully, that now I am the NSW deputy.”

The bottom line is that for those of us who have fought long and hard for effective action on climate change, this manipulative political message is offensive, to say the least. The studied ignorance of Mr 72% and his government cronies is offensive. Their aim is not to address climate change. Their aim is not preserve our planet from the catastrophe now being grimly predicted by climate scientists. No, their aim is no higher than scoring cheap political points at the expense of our world and our children.

Tonight John and I attended the annual concert and dinner for our church’s children’s club. We sat at a table with a pleasant young couple and their two children. Someone at one point commented on the weather being hot, as you do at such events. The little girl, who is about 8 years old, informed me that the hot weather was NOT climate change. She was emphatic that there was no climate change.

Despite what some people may think, I am not given to arguing with 8 year olds who can only be parroting what they are taught by their parents (who did not contradict her). Those parents are being taught well by the National Party and their ilk, aided and abetted by News Limited, Fox News, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones.

Mr 72%, the people of this electorate voted for you in good faith. They expect you to make the right decisions for them, in terms of their health, their towns and their future. You are meant to represent them, not your party. Playing political games with their future for the short term gain is doing no one any favours, including yourself.

So one day I really hope you have the grace to be ashamed of yourself. I hope that you come to the full realisation that the sneaking partisan actions of you and your colleagues, aided by the parrot and the budgerigar of 2GB radio, may have devastating consequences far beyond which party is in power in the Federal arena.

Ignoring the science and the problem will not make it go away. Not only will it not mitigate the effects, but it will delay vital adaption strategies, that will adversely affect our water supplies and the land we rely on to produce food.

Do we want a clean energy future or not? Heck, do we want a future? The 4 degree warming predicted now by climate scientists is a grim scenario of species extinctions, floods, droughts, extreme weather events and decreasing food and water. Not to mention climate refugees from low lying nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Climate change is taking place before our eyes. Time for our politicians – all of them – to take off those partisan spectacles and replace them with for-the-common-good-glasses.

Time in fact, to stand up and be counted, all of us, all of you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Honi soit qui mal y pense: shame to him who thinks evil.

While I know this is being written a little bit after the event, I still think the accusation of misogyny against Tony Abbott is still worth exploring. What is bothering me the most is that males keep wanting to define ‘misogyny’ as the attitude of someone who hates women.

Many otherwise respectable interviewers have bought into this debate. Tony Jones on Lateline kept asking Wayne Swan whether he agreed Tony Abbott was a women-hater. Many less respectable journalists have done the same thing - Piers Akerman, Andrew Bolt and Paul Sheehan all ranted and raved about it. And whenever I raise it (in context) on Facebook, people – men – want to correct me, direct me to dictionaries and sneeringly tell me I do not know what the word means.

As it happens, I do know what misogyny means. I also know that language evolves, something that my erstwhile male friends apparently do not.

Mike Secombe, in Word of the day (12 October 2012 points out that the word has changed its etymology. He quotes the Oxford English dictionary, and New York Times writer on language, the late William Safire. Safire says: “The word misogyny has since its earliest recording in 1656 meant “hate or contempt for women.” The etymology of misogyny is straightforward: In Greek, miso means “hatred,” and gune means “woman.” A misogynist is a woman-hater. When I looked up the word … in the Oxford English Dictionary online, however, I noted that the meaning of misogynist had changed, slightly but significantly. In 1989, the definition was “hatred of women”; in the 2002 revision, the definition was broadened to “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”

Julia Gillard correctly labeled Abbott a misogynist. He has clearly displayed prejudice against women when he said, on various occasions, gems such as: “if men have more power generally than women, is that a bad thing?”
Or that men might be “by physiology and temperament more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.”

Abbott also challenged the “assumption” that women’s under-representation in positions of public power was “a bad thing”.

Secombe asks whether we should call this evidence of prejudice against women. I certainly think it is, so Abbott is, by definition of the Oxford English Dictionary and William Safire, a misogynist.

So why do otherwise rational men wish to leap to Tony Abbott’s defence?
I have discovered the answer to this. They all must have been reading the opinion of that unlamented and aging zealot of left wing politics, Bob Ellis.
In Sydney University’s newspaper Honi Soit, one Michael Koziol (October 17, 2012) interviewed this poor excuse of a man on how he viewed the world, the universe, the past and women. It was eye opening. Like Mary in the gospel of Luke, Michael Koziel waited breathlessly at the feet of the master or pearls of wisdom to be dispensed like manna from heaven.

For my part, I have to say Bob Ellis actually gives misogyny a really bad name. Misogyny would do well to disassociate itself from Bob Ellis. Misogyny is a pleasant state of being compared to the raging pot of bitter cynicism that is Bob Ellis. But I digress. Let us examine the article, which you can find at

Bob Ellis is introduced as a writer. He may have been one once, even a good one. Apparently he even blessed the hallowed pages of Honi Soit, becoming editor in 1963.
Bob deplores the change in university life. What, no alcohol in the Union after 7? This is tantamount to the death of civilization. This alone guarantees the death knell of all creativity.

But this is not what weighs most heavily on his mind. Instead, it is the events in Canberra, including the now famous Gillard speech against Abbott, that has colonized his brain.

Ellis argues that forcing Slipper from the Speaker’s position sets ‘a scary and dangerous precedent'.

I now quote from the article:
The implication of his persecution, Ellis says, means that “two billion males who have derided the female part and are still living must be removed from their jobs”. The hysteria and the overreaction stem from what Ellis calls “wowser feminism”, and it incurs a wrath he might have once reserved for old enemies like John Howard.

“It’s a threat to everything. It has thus far destroyed the world by impinging on the electoral chances of Al Gore through the unhidden scandal of the blowjobs of Bill Clinton. Gore would not let Clinton, as he begged, campaign in Arkansas, which was then lost.

“The Gore presidency would have saved the world from global warming [but] wowser feminism destroyed the Gore presidency. And it may do worse. It’s horrible.”
So there you have it, fellow females. Those of us who are feminists are to blame not only for the miserable Slipper’s demise, but also for the fact that global warming continues checked.

In case you think this is not enough to be blamed for, Ellis goes on to blame ‘wowser feminism’ for the destruction of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the European Union. The woman he coerced into sex was obviously a fascist plant. Ellis sums it up:

“So wowser feminism has firstly destroyed the world, secondly the world economy, and now it’s coming after Australian freedom of speech.”
Ellis also doesn’t think Tony Abbott is a sexist. Mmmmmm. Apparently it is OK to stand in front of signs that say ‘ditch the witch’ and Gillard is ‘Bob Brown’s bitch’ and not be seen as encouraging sexist behavior.

Gillard, of course, has asked for this. After all, says Bob, “she’s never been to a play, she’s rarely been to a film with subtitles, she hasn’t read a novel since she was 18”. Says it all really. How much unfit can she be?
And there is that other dreadful woman of power across the sea, Hillary Clinton. Ellis describes the Clinton of 2008 as being of “towering frigidity”, describing her as “a stranger to consistency, sincerity and (at a guess) oral sex”. And Bob would know, wouldn’t he? Never mind about Hillary’s husband’s infidelity, Hillary was “frigid”.

Apparently Bob has also questioned how serious the allegations of sexual harassment are in those hallowed halls of the Australian Defence Force Academy.
“Women, it seems, are tough enough for service on any battlefront but not tough enough to be peeked at in the shower,” he wrote.

Of course, Bob knows about this as well. His polite and respectful descriptions of women in public have earned him the right to make such remarks. What would we women do without Bob to tell us we deserve to be peeked at in the shower? These remarks have really contributed to the debate about sexism. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just get back to my kitchen and start knitting those saucepans once more (see earlier blog).

The gallant author of the piece thinks that Ellis’ critics are wrong to see him as a misogynist. “This is a serious charge that demands serious evidence”, says young Michael. “How fair is it also for a younger generation to condemn an elder for not subscribing to the absolutist feminism of today?” he continues.
I would say absolutely fair. Bob Ellis’ views are appalling. Does he seriously believe that women, who he has blamed for destroying the world via global warming, the world economy, and Australia’s freedom of speech, will take him seriously and not see him as a misogynist?

Well, just in case you missed the point, Bob, let me tell you. I completely reject the notion put forward by yourself that “wowser” feminism is “destroying the world”. I totally reject responsibility for the economic problems of the European Union. And all feminism’s fault there is global warming? Oh, please. Let’s not talk about the companies with fossil fuels interests, and the politicians who support them. Let us blame all those nasty feminists, who through their wanting to reject sexism, and abuse of power, violence against women, and who are demanding a decent and civil society, are clearly destroying the very fabric of our world as we know it. Bob Ellis, you give even misogyny a bad name.

To come back to where I started. You go, Julia Gillard. You articulated what many women have experienced and felt, and were not able to respond to. You touched a nerve in our collective psyche, about bullying, sexism and creepy men like Bob Ellis who think because they are men they can get away with their offensive and misogynistic remarks.

I really don’t care about Peter Slipper’s sleazy schoolboy texts. But I do care about women being seen as equals. Despite the criticism she copped from the press, I felt Julia Gillard did defend women and their right to be heard, to hold positions of power, to be themselves. Now if only her male colleagues could follow suit.