Facebook 1, Govt 0


It’s been a big news week in Oz. The big news yesterday came after Facebook disabled the posting of content from any Australian news sites and wiped clean media pages hosted on their platform. It was a belligerent act and indiscriminate at first glance, but I’m not nearly as surprised as the public appears to be. Folks, Facebook isn’t a public service – it’s a ruthless business. It’s not here for the common good – its motives are power and profit. Why should you expect better from it?

This action by Facebook was in response to proposed legislation that meant that Facebook would have to pay for every bit of content posted there belonging to a news provider. It’s a controversial and heavy-handed policy that seeks to compensate news providers for their IP shared online. It makes some sense when it comes to Google, who were the other organisation targeted. It makes less sense when it comes to Facebook.

As the fall-out from yesterday’s actions show, Facebook is an integral part of the Australian media landscape, like it or not. God knows how many take their primary news from social media – too many – but in removing this, many misinformed Australians will now also be ignorant. (Not me – I take my news from the source). More starkly, the news organisations that are meant to benefit from this legislation rely on Facebook to promote and publicise their content and drive traffic to their sites. Why else does every news site I’ve set eyes on have a post to Facebook button on their pages?

This is the hypocrisy of this legislation, which Facebook has rejected – they’re being asked to pay for something that these media organisations freely use to share their content. The government said you’ll have to pay for this content from here on in and Facebook has turned around and basically said fuck you, and pre-emptively blocked that content. For the government to then turn around and basically say hang on a sec is pretty stupid because Facebook is only reacting to the government’s threat.

You can hardly blame them. They don’t care about the average Aussie punter. By world standards, we’re a small market, and to agree to such legislation would be a damaging precedent. They can’t afford to agree to it.

There was predictable uproar yesterday and all sorts of hyperbole about how Facebook was a dictator, and this was a threat to democracy, and so on. Let me make it clear, I’m no supporter of Facebook. I think they’re a dangerous and arrogant organisation who seek to manipulate, all the while data mining from the people who use it for their own dastardly, greedy ends. They need to be regulated, but I suspect that’s a bigger job than little ol’ Australia can manage by itself.

This is dumb legislation and its backfired on the government. He deserves to as well because the whole purpose of it was to help out its media mates – News Corp particularly. It’s grubby work done by a grubby government and characteristically slapdash – but we’ll come to that.

The outrage yesterday would have been less but for the fact that many harmless, public service and charity oriented organisations were affected by this blocking. Facebook has admitted that some of that was in error and have reinstated some sites. But, let’s be fair, the legislation as drawn up by the government is so broad that what constitutes a ‘news’ site that it’s no wonder that Facebook took a cautious view of it: if in doubt, block it.

I don’t know what upsets me more about this government, the brazen corruption or the effortless incompetence. We know everything they do is political and as part of that they’ll look after their mates – but if you’re going to do it, do it with some finesses and intelligence. Not this government.

Unfortunately, most of the news sites affected in this imbroglio won’t hold the government to account – why would they? I can live without them, to be honest. Caught up in this, though, are the smaller, independent news services which are all that’s left investigating the government’s sharp practices. Many of them run on a shoestring and rely on every media channel to get their message across and support.

Interesting to see how this plays out. Initially, I thought the government would have to back down and modify its demands. But now, this threatens to become a test case, regardless of its merits. The world is watching as Australia takes on Facebook.

If the government was fair dinkum, they’d ditch this legislation and go at it the old-fashioned way, through taxation. I know it’s bloody tricky, yada, yada, yada, but so is this, and taxation, at least, would be fair and would benefit the broader Australian taxpayer, not the media moguls. And, Facebook is due to pay more tax – and Google too.

Won’t happen. What happens will be interesting to see, but I can’t see Zuckerberg backing down in any substantive way.

What comes next?


Yesterday was one of those strange, in-between, days. I’m still on leave. I had the TV on, switching between the cricket and coverage of the events in Washington on CNN and the ABC. In my lap was my iPad, and I doom-scrolled through many comments and updates on Twitter. That was most of the day.

The day after it seems strange still in many ways. I still don’t know what will come of this. I was amazed to see so many Republican senators uphold their objections to the election results when they were certified last night. If nothing else, it’s an abysmal reading of the room. And what did they hope to achieve? Surely – not even they – can hope for the results to be overturned and for Trump, magically, to be restored?

The only answer I came up with is that they’re playing to their deplorable base – the terrorists who stormed the institutions of democracy yesterday, and the 45% of Republican voters who supported it. This is their signal to them affirming that they’ll continue the fight, no matter the fight is foolish, futile and destructive. It’s all about power.

It doesn’t inspire one with hope. Where now with the GOP? Trump has ruined them, near enough, as a coherent political force, but I still think they can do a lot of damage. The hardline conservatives will continue on their path, bolstered by the support of the sort of people that stormed congress yesterday. They’ll give hope the radical right and be a voice for them. It won’t go away, and I expect they’ll be a thorn in the side of any attempts to re-integrate America into a single nation.

There are moderate Republicans, but they seem in the minority and will likely splinter from the party’s rump.

The good news is that the Democrats are back in control come a fortnight. Things can only improve across the board. Common sense policy-making and decency will make a return, and the hope is that it will filter across the world, especially here to Australia.

There’s no doubt that Morrison has modelled himself and the party behind him into a version of Trump-lite. He uses many of the same tricks as Trump – the open, brazen lying and corruption; the refusal to face scrutiny; the undermining of discourse and commentary by refusing to engage, and deflecting it as false news; and the sheer arrogance of pursuing an agenda that suits the party and his mates ahead of the national interest. And they’re just as lazy as each other.

It will be harder now for Morrison with Biden as president and setting a much gentler tone for the world. He risks being marginalised in a policy sense, and his style grating when politics becomes more accountable. That’s my hope, but in the meantime, the Labor party, and Albo, have to step up, and I have little belief that will happen.

But back to America. I think one of the big problems they face goes to their very soul. They have been inculcated with American exceptionalism from the day they’re born, but there’s little to justify it. America is great by virtue of its size and (waning) power, but the moral edge Americans have claimed has never really existed.

It’s an exceptionalism that is now at odds with events, and it’s the conflict between belief and reality which has caused so much grief. Trump campaigned on a slogan of making America great, and those who invaded Washington yesterday are firm in their belief that America should be top-dog.

The world has moved on. America is an insular country and for the most part, has no idea of how proclamations of greatness are so tiresome and ridiculous for the rest of us. It sounds so often like immaturity, claiming at something without complete conviction.

Watching from far away I’ve always found it curious some elements of American culture that appear naive to my Australian eyes – the reverence for institutions, both political and religious; the rituals and ceremonies that litter American public life; the love of high-flown rhetoric and sentimentality in general; and the need to advertise their patriotism. Perhaps it says more about Australians. We’re a pragmatic, sceptical and unsentimental race, and I find so much American culture both foreign and endearing.

This is not an attack on America. Some of the very best of us are American – but so too, as we have witnessed, are some of the very worst. I’ve consumed American arts and commentary all my life. I love American literature. There are some great thinkers come out of that land. But, so it is for most places, without the scale or the fanfare. We are all individuals.

I think the overt nature of American patriotism clouds reality. It is automatic and unquestioning, a reflex without real consideration. Events are cracking that facade now. Like someone who has belonged in a church all their life with unquestioning faith confronted by evidence that casts doubt, this is a time for Americans to examine themselves and what they stand for.

They don’t need to be top-dog. I think that’s gone anyway. As they say, be the best version of yourself and leave everything else alone. This is a time for humility and reflection. I believe the commentators who claim they can put this right – but they need to address the blight at the heart of their problems. They have to say it out loud and own it. Only then can they overcome it.

That’s what I think.

A broken world


If I was an American, I’d be broken-hearted tonight.

I’ve refrained from commenting much on American politics since the election. The events have spoken for themselves, and while it’s been messy and strident and ugly, there was nothing really unexpected. Like many of us, I never believed that Trump, or his supporters, would go quietly. And yet, right now, I struggle to get my head around what’s happened today: the storming of the Capitol building by Trump’s ragtag mob.

I sent a message this morning to a friend when the news broke: “Amazing. But somehow, not surprising.”

Not surprising, but I feel a form of wonder. It’s one thing to conjecture that anything was possible, quite another to actually see it happening. It’s a blow to the system. I felt it inside me. This was America. It was like watching as a mighty tree that’s stood for hundreds of years in the forest was being toppled.

It’s bizarre to watch the imagery coming out of Washington. A more feral bunch of morons you’d never hope to see. They’re dressed in combat jackets and draped in confederate flags. One is bare-chested, fur draped around his shoulders and wearing a horned helmet. They’re the disaffected dregs of society, hillbillies and social misfits and undoubtedly a fair few inches. They’ve been given power throughout all this, encouraged by Trump and his establishment, and incited to drastic acts like this by the likes of Rudi Giuliani. This must be what it was like when the Vandals sacked Rome.

It seems apparent that this was allowed to happen. There seemed little security at the Capitol Building ahead of what was a monumental occasion. There’s footage of guards letting the mob through, and others having selfies taken with them. Inside, the mob ran riot. Senators and staffers took shelter behind barricaded doors while the mob took control of the chamber. Two people have shot; one has died.

Police and National Guard have now taken control, long after they might have. Trump absconded his responsibilities and in a rational world can no longer go on as President for this last fortnight of his tenure. He should, in fact, be impeached. This was an insurrection, and there can be no doubt that Trump has incited it.

No surprise, and yet, there is shock. It has actually come to this.

So, what happens now? It’s a tricky time, and anything is possible. Trump should be impeached, but I suspect he won’t be. Perhaps he’ll be censured. I can’t see how it’s possible that he can continue as president. Pence must assume the role.

This is a country divided, though. Trump will go, many of the mob will be imprisoned, but the problems run much deeper than that. Nearly half of America voted for Trump. A goodly portion of them are fanatics and believe that they’ve been ripped off, and have god on their side. Even with Biden assuming office, they will remain.

I can’t see much end to the dissent and violence. The mob will rule again. Perhaps it will die away in time, but I think it won’t go far away. It’s in the blood of many now. It’s heartfelt belief. They will rouse again until there is such a figure that can heal the country. In the meantime, the risk is making political prisoners of the terrorists who stormed congress today and, with Trump, martyrs of them. Trump will go, but he’ll remain a rallying cry for millions.

It’s bad enough that such a terrible attack on democracy has occurred today, but what is heartbreaking is that there are two Americas, and never shall they meet.

The shocking truth


Last week the shocking news broke that 19 SAS soldiers were being charged in relation to 39 murders committed during their tours of Afghanistan. Some of the details were horrific. The cold-blooded nature of the killings struck at you. This was more than murder, it was perversity.

There were the usual platitudes amid the outrage. Many, probably quite rightly, pointed out that these were bad eggs, and that the majority of Australian troops served honourably. Some, very predictably, call it un-Australian, as if that absolves the rest of us of any responsibility.

I’d like to think it un-Australian much in the same way as I thought ball-tampering was un-Australian, but I think there was more justification before.

Going all the way back to the Boer War, Australian soldiers have had a reputation for being ruthless. In the WW1 particularly, they were often guilty of not taking prisoners. It was the flip-side of the dash and aggression they showed in attack. But then, it was in the heat of battle mostly, and they were not the only troops to do it. Not to excuse it, but it’s been happening since ancient times.

This is different. Some of those they murdered may well have been Taliban sympathisers, but all were civilians. In the cases I’m aware of, the murders were all committed coldly, the battle done and dusted. There are stories of Afghan civilians murdered by the newbies in the squad to blood them. More often, it was a cavalier after-thought – it was easier to put a bullet in someone than take them in as a prisoner. And then there were the teenage boys who had their throats casually cut on the off-chance that they might report to the Taliban.

To read of these things is to observe a deep disconnect between the world they inhabited, and ours. These are the very elite of troops, superbly trained and highly proficient in the arts of war. They’re different from you and me because their job is perilous, but I don’t think that excuses a different morality.

Some, in muted defence of the accused, said the problem was that they are sent on tour after tour of duty. They’re exposed to the harrowing and raw nature of the battle zone for years on end. I can imagine how the nature of their mission makes the effects more insidious – dealing with shadowy, unseen, fleeting opponents, rather than an enemy army in the field. They become cynical, they become jaded, they become burnt-out, and the values they grew up with supplanted with a kill or be killed mentality.

There is no excuse for what they have done, but perhaps there are reasons we can begin to understand. The blame for this is much greater than the men accused.

It’s strange to think that all of this could’ve gone on without anyone in authority knowing about. I find that hard to believe, and in either case, it represents a failure. They should know and be accountable. And if they knew and did nothing, then they are equally at fault. Military command, who have expressed dismay at these happenings, have also been very careful to draw the line and decline responsibility.

The fault goes all the way to our politicians. This was a political war from the start, and much of it conducted for the optics. It’s a cynical and ugly battle that has gone on for over 15 years. Our government sent them off again and again so as to be seen as a good ally, and for the privilege of claiming to the electorate that we stood for good.

All the while, they were bleeding our combatants dry. And, very cynically, betraying the principals they sought to espouse.

I understand there’s much bitterness in the military community about how our government has treated the Afghan allies our troops have served beside. Promised the opportunity to immigrate to Australia, they’ve been denied instead and left to the mercies of the Taliban and punished because of it.

This whole story reads like a moral inversion. Terrible things have been done. In some cases, it may be as simple as that. I can’t help but feel though that this is a manifestation of a deeper and more complex betrayal.

The murdered civilians were betrayed by the men who were sent to protect them. But those men, perhaps, were betrayed by their commanders, and by a political leadership that cared not one whit for their welfare. This is the result.

First things, first


I feel like I know all I need to know about the US election now, and US elections in general, after following the coverage very keenly over the last few days.

As it stands, there’s no winner declared, but it looks very likely that Biden will win. Yippee. There were a lot of nervous commentators on Wednesday as early results favoured Trump, but I have to say, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as last time. It could be that that disaster conditioned me, but there seemed a clear difference between last time and this.

Last time there felt a wave of early results that became insurmountable pretty early, never mind that some states weren’t called until days later. The vibe was all Trump.

This time it felt a bit like the last hurrah. A few nervous titters and then back on track knowing – unlike last time – that the great bulk of postal votes would favour Biden. And that’s been the case.

I expect within a few hours the election will be called for the Democrats, not that that’s the end of it.

Not surprisingly, Trump has already spread discord and dissent at the course of the election. He cast doubt on the process the very first night while claiming a false victory. He made accusations of corruption and threatened legal action. His numbnut supporters, der, then followed suit.

There’s almost a comical element to watching these vapid bogans protest at the injustice of the election, alternately demanding that the counting is stopped, or started, according to the state and whatever suits them.

In fact, it’s very ugly. In effect, they’re protesting against democracy, which is what it’s come down to. They rally and cry; they threaten and demand. They lay siege to the counting stations, some of them wearing automatic weapons. These are people who have lost the thread on civilised democracy.

That’s the danger in the weeks and months ahead that they’ll continue to rally and protest and refuse to accept the result, and ultimately, that it might lead to acts of civil disobedience and violence. I think everyone is concerned with that, but that’s the America that Trump has made manifest.

There’s much I find shocking. I don’t know a single Australian who doesn’t think that Trump is a ratbag at the very least, and a menace to the world society. There are Trump supporters in Australia, no doubt, but they’re way at the extremes. And yet, I look at polls and see that most White Americans favour him, and that white males predominantly support him.

If this true, then there’s a significant divide between minstream Australia and America, and maybe that’s the difference between living there and not, but maybe it goes deeper. (I suspect the Australian government, in comparison, is in Trump’s camp).

I think the risk goes beyond the immediate future for America. No matter that Biden looks like becoming president, it’s hardly been the resounding rejection of Trump that many hoped for. I will be a divided society for years to come, and it may take a generation to heal. Part of that is mending the damage done to the very concept of democracy, which will take education and leadership.

But, let’s be positive. The journey back has to start somewhere and is impossible while that corrupt clown is still in office.

Donuts


We got the news yesterday we’ve been waiting for for so long. As of tonight, at midnight, retail re-opens and cafes, bars and restaurants begin to accept customers again. It’s not a full-blown opening, but it’s a big start on the way back.

I think for most Victorians it was an emotional moment. The premier, as he announced it, appeared moved by the occasion. You could understand. For about 110 days straight he’s fronted the media to provide updates, bad and good, and through most of that has been assailed by an obstreperous media and a federal government that has betrayed its constituency and undermined the community effort. This was a relief for all of us, but for him, it must seem a vindication of sorts and a reward for holding the line so steadfastly.

It was like all this time we held our breath, through thick and thin, denying ourselves and staying true to the restrictions, until yesterday we let out a collective breath when the news came through.

This is a great achievement. For two days running now, we’ve had zero new cases. A couple of months back it was over 700 daily, the same rate as other countries. They’ve gone through the roof since with new cases in the multiple tens of thousands daily, and we’ve gone the other way – donuts.

There’s a lot to be thankful for and much reason to be proud. Gratitude to each other is not out of place. But – and here’s the thing – it’s tinged with some bitterness. It seems a common sentiment.

Many individual Australians across the country have offered their support and strength through our journey, but it’s been absent from the federal government and a large swathe of the media. Then there are the ratbags doing the wrong thing and the snipers happy to take potshots along the way while the rest of us do the hard yards.

Until you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand what it feels like when you’re doing your best to get by from one day to the next while others, on the sideline, cast aspersions and seek distraction. And those who use it for political advantage are the very worst. It’s a sense of being undermined and disregarded.

That will linger for a while, and there are some I’ll never trust now. I’ve never felt more Victorian, and I think the community has strengthened having endured this. The cunts can please themselves.

We have a way to go, but it looks like we’re heading back towards a semblance of normality by Christmas.

Hang in there


I get that this lockdown has been pretty tough, and getting tougher every day. And I appreciate that all of us are struggling with it to some extent, but some pretty badly. And I share the impatience of most people. But…

There’s no shortage of talking points around this. We’re bombarded every day by conflicting, hostile narratives and click-bait headlines, most of which make everything feel worse (the media’s reputation has taken a pummeling).

I have genuine sympathy for the premier and the medical professionals behind him who’ve mapped out the course out of this because they’re in an impossible situation. There are so many different opinions even among experts, let alone the self-styled ‘experts’ in the media and online that there’s no right answer for them. No matter what they say or do, there will be someone critical of it. In cases like that, it’s best to stick to your guns and hold the line. That’s what they’ve been doing.

I wish we were coming out of this quicker, and with more certainty, but the intermittent flare-ups along the way worry me. They’re proof of how quickly this thing can get out of control. In the wash-up, it seems very sensible to me that we err on the side of caution. An extra week or two now is better than further months in lockdown if we don’t get it right.

That’s a very sensible, level-headed take on the situation. I understand when others aren’t so level-headed. The media is very unhelpful – really, their motivation seems not to enlighten but to inflame. And many are directly affected by lockdown. If I were the owner of a small business or in hospitality, I’d be chafing too. And then there is common folk just doing it hard.

I read a lot of comments like that on social media. It feels quite foreign to me. I know we live in times when to share is second nature, but there’s so much I read I wouldn’t dream of sharing publicly. I don’t know if that says more about me or others.

It may also seem a strange comment from a man writing on his publicly accessed blog. I’ve been pretty candid here for many years and have made a point of not holding back when it comes to the uncomfortable stuff. My defence is that I write this anonymously, though in this day and age it’s probably not that hard to find out my true identity. More fundamentally, I write this for myself, and it’s a fundamental part of my mental health because by writing I will often lance the boil, and as I lay down these words I find an understanding lacking before. It’s therapy.

I guess the point is, I don’t write for clicks or likes. If you read this or not is a matter of indifference. I’m not rapt up in how you respond or what your reaction is. I’m insulated from that, whereas that seems the very essence of so much social media these days: not just look at me, but see me. And acknowledge it.

I’m sure there have been theses written on the topic, but I suspect the difference is generational. I grew up without any social media, and in a time where computers were new-fangled and the internet unimagined. I was never conditioned to be so transparent with every feeling and event in my life.

I often feel uncomfortable reading the intimate news of strangers. I can understand people being more open on something like Facebook when the audience is hand-picked friends and acquaintances. Still, it’s puzzling on a site like Twitter to read of every raw and intimate detail of a strangers life and mentality. Mostly, I don’t want to know about it.

That stands by way of caveat when I say that I don’t want to act the victim. Terrible things are happening, but I refuse to be cowed by them because this is my life. It will be what you make it to be. I’ll deal with the facts of it, but I won’t pander to the base elements of the situation, nor give in to hysteria or self-pity. I don’t intend for that to sound harsh – these are my decisions.

How others feel, or choose to feel, is their business, and they have my support. I just don’t need to read about every woeful detail of it. I may be wrong, but I think we have a duty to each other to stay strong. And we’ve done that mainly – just a little more, just a little longer.

When ignorance fails


Bit of a bombshell yesterday in the ICAC (anti-corruption) hearing in NSW when the NSW premier was called to the stand and revealed that she’d been in a lengthy relationship with a former parliamentarian accused of dodgy dealings.

Naturally, it caused an uproar. Most were flabbergasted by the news. A good many said that she must resign (but with different motivations), while others claimed that her personal life shouldn’t come into it.

I don’t really want to comment on the rights and wrongs of it. It’s the human interest angle that fascinates me. Generally, I’m of the view that the personal lives of our politicians have no bearing unless there’s evidence of criminal or corrupt behaviour, or if it risks the integrity of the office. Everyone’s entitled to a life of their own, and if they choose to engage in behaviours a bit different to the rest of us, it’s nobody’s business but their own.

For me, morality barely comes into it, though I might form an opinion on someone if something saucy is exposed. Having an affair with another man’s wife or if you’re into threesomes, or even if you get a blow job from an intern in the Oval Office, should make little material difference to your ability to do the job.

Gladys is ‘guilty’ of none of those. She’s a single woman who found companionship with a fellow parliamentarian. I’m sympathetic towards her. While others rail at her foolishness or accuse her of corruption, I see a person subject to the same very human whims and desires as most of us.

It’s very simple for people to look at everything through a political prism. In that way, everything becomes good or evil, and there are hard lines – and rules – that separate one from the other. That’s why you see a lot of grandstanding and people getting on their high horse, because the landscape has become so toxic, and because, for many, this represents opportunity. Some will rail against this in one person but excuse in another.

There are more sensible commentators, thankfully. They are independent-minded and clear of the muck. A lot of them are sympathetic but declare that Gladys should probably go because she’s perceived to have turned a blind eye to the dishonesty of her partner.

I doubt very much Gladys is corrupt. I think she has limitations as a leader, but I’m not sure that integrity or dishonesty are among those. Her faults, in this case, were human. If she chose to overlook his faults, she did so as a woman, not the premier of the state. She has a heart too, and hopes and fears and the need for comfort and the desire for love. Unfortunately, this may be one of those occasions where the premier can’t be separated from the woman.

Whether she survives this or not, I think her leadership has been fatally wounded. In politics, perception so often becomes a reality. In this case, the truth is that she was intimate with a man shown to be corrupt, and who tried to use her to further his own cause. I truly believe she wanted nothing to do with it, but she did nothing to stop it. Ignorance is not always bliss.

The butler did it


On Friday afternoon I took a break from work to sit down and watch Dan Andrews testify at the Hotels Quarantine inquiry. I sat there for over two hours watching, fascinated by the process in general, and by the slow reveal of information.

It’s pretty basic. You could even call the process ‘dry’. The assisting counsel asked a series of reasonably simple questions, each building on what has come from before. She was polite and friendly. Her probing was gentle, hinting at times, nudging at others, seeking the basic facts of the matter before teasing out an interpretation from the premier, and occasionally a statement.

Throughout he was as we have come to expect from him – calm, deliberate, never flustered, and seemingly in command of the situation. Occasionally there’d be a glimpse of humour, just as in his press conferences. As ever, he was well mannered and courteous.

I found myself drawn into the narrative as the pieces fell into place and some kind of sense began to emerge. Throughout the inquiry to that point, most witnesses had denied knowledge or obfuscated their evidence. A thread was disseminated that there was shared responsibility, and therefore shared accountability, for the hotel quarantine operation.

It wasn’t a pretty picture and one was left to wonder what the truth was. Like most, my take on the inquiry was second-hand, from news grabs and commentary. That is often misleading and subject to manipulation, however, many before the inquiry seemed to condemn themselves with their lack of candour. It wasn’t a good look and led me to wonder at what the truth was. No-one put their hand up, no-one claimed ownership, and without exception, everyone said they didn’t know who had decided to use private security guards. Either the structure was so bad that everyone thought that someone else was doing the job, or those who were responsible didn’t want to admit to it.

We know now, as far as the premier is concerned, that it was the DHHS who should have been controlling the operation, and that their minister, Jenny Mikakos, was responsible. You’d think Andrews would know as that would have been his departments’ decision. The result of that is Mikakos resigned on Saturday, quite appropriately, but not before insinuating that it wasn’t her fault.

I like Mikakos. I think she’s one of a number of very talented ministers the Victorian government had in their ranks – more of them women than men. I think she’s a very decent human being and no-one disputes that she is hard-working and passionate. It’s sad that it comes to this. As she alludes to, I’m sure she’s been badly let down by her department. It seems that not everything was communicated to her as it should’ve been and that the model – basically outsourcing expertise (a neo-lib scourge on politics generally these days) left the department short of expertise and muddied the lines of communication. I think a re-structure is required generally, and other heads should roll (including the department secretary, Kym Peake). I doubt any of that will happen until the report is out in a couple of weeks, but even so, Mikakos has to take responsibility for her department.

(Donna, who works in the Victorian public service and who is well connected, was telling me all sorts of horror stories. She’s unsurprised by some of the bungling, for the reasons given above – because of outsourcing, and because some bureaucrats have been elevated beyond their competence and enjoyed untoward power).

I have no doubt that there were decisions made without proper consultation. Reading between the lines, the Emergency Commissioner appeared to go off on his own tangent at times, and it seems the answer to the timeless question regarding who decided to use private security guards is that it was Crisp, but pushed into it by the police commissioner of the time, Graham Ashton (who suddenly resigned soon after).

That may appease some, but I really don’t think that was ever the big issue for mine. The bigger problem was how the situation was managed when problems emerged from the program – and it seems likely that was lost in bureaucratic red-tape and incompetence.

The report comes out in a fortnight. I expect it will claim unclear lines of responsibility/communication, failures of key staff and processes in the public service, and – potentially – unilateral decision making outside of the process. Mikakos is gone, I hope and expect others will go also, and I hope from this it becomes clear the public service model in use all around Australia, of public/private partnership, is failing us badly. Reform is needed, but it really needs to be across the board and extend to the federal level, where it’s even worse.

I would hope this would be the end of all the backbiting and controversy as I’m thoroughly sick of it – as are most Victorians I reckon. We’ll see what the report has to say, but I suspect Andrews has come out of this well by staying the course. And that’s after the federal government and the Murdoch media throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at him.

At the end of the day, the good news story is that as of this morning the daily infection rate was down to five cases. We’re well on our way out of this, and there’s much to be grateful for and proud of. We’re doing this.

Grumpy bastard


Was having a laugh with a friend from Sydney last night discussing the absurdity of the conflict over koalas in their state parliament. Look it up if you’re interested, it doesn’t bear repeating here.

Then our conversation turned to the latest story about our PM getting emotional on tabloid radio describing the privations of a woman who couldn’t get into Queensland to farewell her dying father. It’s an unfortunate story, but there are hundreds of unfortunate stories right now. Morrison said he was afraid that Australia might be losing its humanity through this pandemic, which is very rich coming from a man who’s never shown any sign of humanity himself. This is the man who denied asylum seekers the right to attend family funerals and, even now, has locked up a young family on Christmas Island for over a year. The man is a rank hypocrite and self-promoter.

As my friend said, it can’t be doing much for my blood pressure. He knows that I’m more affected than most by the dire behaviour of our politicians and media. It’s funny, most of my life I’ve been pretty sanguine about everyday events. Most people consider me unflappable and calm. Even as a teenager I was called phlegmatic. It’s only very few who see the other side of that.

While there have been occasions when I’ve been disgusted or disappointed, up to recently there wasn’t really an ‘other side’. I wonder now if it’s existence now is because I’m getting older, or if it reflects the deteriorating and deplorable state of current affairs? Probably both. In terms of my blood pressure, they’re a perfect match.

I’ve said it before – there’s so much I can stomach any more.

The petty bickering, the negativity, the rank politicking and infectious stupidity – not to mention, the spread of fake news – has been bad for my mental health. If I engage with it I end up with a knot in my stomach and my blood pressure likely going through the roof. It’s the fact that it has become this, without any brake or impediment to it, that infuriates me so. I’m sick to the soul about it because it goes against everything I believe in.

My routine over many years upon waking is to check out the morning news – on the radio initially, then online. I’m a news junkie, always have been. I switched on the radio this morning to be greeted by another sensationalist and utterly dumb headline, and with a groan, I switched it off. Much like the other news services, I’m now avoiding the radio news as well.

How has it come to this – a news junkie avoiding the news? Because, with few exceptions, there’s no rigour to it, no examination. It’s just a ritualised rehash of whatever somebody has said or claimed. The standard of journalism has plummeted so far that it appears few journalists are capable, or willing, to analyse the ‘news’ presented to them. Because of this, reams of arrant nonsense are reported as true. And because most of society only really skim the headlines, the nonsense becomes accepted fact.

I can’t deal with it anymore, though much of that is due to the lockdown we’re in. So much destructive and unnecessary commentary is dangerous to the collective mentality. It’s hard dealing with it but much harder having this rubbish piled on top.

All I want is for our politicians and media to act responsibly, and for us as a society to question what’s fed to us as a matter of routine and habit. Ask questions of what you read and hear and make up your own mind.

We’re getting further from that every day, and I don’t see it changing. I am, I suppose, becoming a curmudgeon. I may have to accept that and be much more selective with where I get my news.