Everybody loves the Trump/Turnbull phone call story

The Story

There were reports that on a phone call with Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Donald Trump shouted a lot and then hung up on him.

Everybody loves it

Apart from one group, everybody in both the USA and Australia loves this story:

USA

The fash love it because it makes Trump look powerful and in control, taking no prisoners, and not allowing existing alliances influence his very good decisions.

Conservatives love it because it embarrasses Trump, making him look out of control. They know that they have control of Congress and that this display of childishness means they can more or less proceed how they like.

Centrists are horrified because their President who they Must Respect has insulted the leader of Australia, and surely the Australians respect him and are also suitably insulted.

Progressives love it because it’s reasonably amusing.

Australia

The fash love it because it embarrasses Malcolm Turnbull, makes him look weak and unable to deal with Trump, and paves the way for previously ousted leader Tony Abbott to recommence his Glorious Reign.

Conservatives love it because it embarrasses Trump and shows how their darling waffling Malcopops Trumble remains cool, calm, and collected in the face of adversary.

Centrists love it because it’s reasonably funny.

Progressives love it because it embarrasses both Turnbull and Trump, shows Trump as unhinged and Turnbull disrespected by a man he’s spent the last few months declaring to be one of his closest political allies.

So what?

Quite. That everyone is jumping on this story and trying to use it their advantage probably means most of it has been grossly exaggerated, and that it’s a non-story probably masking real stories. (E.g. the call was over a deal concerning refugees on Nauru & Manus Island, and we’re talking more about the phone call than seriously how we can get these people to Australia as soon as possible.)

That’s as in-depth as my analysis on this will get. Sorry.

Enough already with #loveislove

A lot of same-sex marriage advocates really like the hashtag #loveislove. I don’t. It’s harmful.

Today deputy leader of the opposition, Tanya Plibersek, tweeted this in support of same-sex marriage in Australia:

It irritated me quite intensely. Partly because that’s not what same-sex marriage (or marriage equality, call it what you will) is; and partly because of the harmful message it sends.

Amending the law to allow same-sex couples to marry is simply a question of giving same-sex couples equal access to a legal institution. Nothing more, and nothing less. Amending the law is not about recognizing love: weddings (well, most) do that; the legal institution of marriage does not. We are not asking that the government recognizes the love involved in many of our relationships, or that the government supports the love involved in many of our relationships, we are simply asking that the government provides us with equal access to the legal institution for formalizing our relationships.

I feel like I am repeating myself too much, but it irks me that something so simple seems to be so widely misunderstood.

Facts aside, #loveislove seems like pretty good rhetoric to convince people to support same-sex marriage. And oh, how harmful that rhetoric is.

#loveislove says that we should be given equal access to a legal institution because we deserve it. Not that all legal institutions should be equally available to all, but that equal rights are for those who deserve them.

#loveislove invites people to base their willingness to allow us equal access to a legal institution on their opinion of the validity of of our relationships. It invites them to judge that our love isn’t real love in their eyes and deny us equal rights based on that.

#loveislove sets conditions on our equal access to a legal institution. It says our marriages should be based on love – when the law does not (the law says they must be genuine, for life, and exclusive – all of which I disagree with, but that’s another matter).

Worst of all #loveislove erases the queerness of our relationships. #loveislove demands our relationships be based on a heteronormative model of two people who love each other forming a monogamous life-long relationship, when a very large number of queer relationships are just not like that. #loveislove sets up gatekeepers of equal access to a legal institution, and gives the respectable gays the keys, keeping the scandalous queers out. It sets whatever exists of the queer community up against itself, and can only ever make our demands for equal access to a legal institution weaker.

So can we kill off #loveislove? Can we give up asking for permission? Can we demand equal access to a legal institution based simply on the fact that we are people, and without placing conditions on ourselves?

I hope so.

Conflicts on same-sex marriage

I just found this in my drafts on my Google Drive from August 2014. I probably meant it to be the bones of a piece with sentences and paragraphs and everything, but looks like I could never be bothered to actually write it. (I think the original question was on Q&A). Here it is in its unedited form.

Note the question used “gay people”, so I used the same in the response. I’d normally use “queer people”. See an earlier post for my thoughts on the term for marriage that includes queer people that I refer to here as “gay marriage”.

Why do so many gay people want to be assimilated into the heteronormative-archaic-patriarchal construct that is marriage?

 

  • We don’t
    • Rich vocal minority with means and funding to campaign loudly on this issue make it seem like more gay people see this as a major issue than actually do.
    • Well-meaning straight people with influence see this as an easy cause to get behind.
    • Actual major issues affecting gay people are where the less-vocal majority of gay people actually want to see change:
      • Homelessness, particularly for young gay people
      • Employment
      • Education
      • Access to relevant health services – including sexual and mental health, and especially aged care.
      • Societal, rather than legal change
      • Protection of our culture/subcultures
      • Not being called a poofter on national television or being told by boss to move to New Zealand
    • Underground gay culture is still strong – most gay people really do reject heteronormativity.
  • We do, but we shouldn’t
    • Marriage is a form of social control – government regulating our relationships
    • Gay marriage means more discrimination; not less
      • Immigration (ref UK Home Office guidelines)
      • Treatment of trans people
      • Treatment of poly people
      • Adoption rights
      • Increased stigma to unmarried people – including unmarried couples (of all orientations), single parents
      • Creation of a ‘gold standard’
    • Gay marriage is an attempt to stifle our liberation – by regulating our relationships, our oppressors make us less free; not more free.
    • Marriage is promoted as a right, but in reality it is a civic duty – our responsibility to ensure our relationships follow the approved format
    • Gay marriage creates a public register of gay people that can be used against us by those who would harm us.
    • The whole fucking system is bollocks
  • We do, and we should
    • The law shouldn’t discriminate
      • BUT it still does, indirectly.
      • BUT just because it doesn’t discriminate against us doesn’t mean it doesn’t discriminate against anyone.
    • Family is universal – our desire to form family units that fit within our wider culture is not assimilation – it’s an expression of our relationships being a valid and important part of society
    • Our relationships are normal, not subcultural, and society should recognise that
    • We actually just want the legal rights afforded by marriage, and we reject the archaic patriarchal nature of traditional marriage
    • We can’t completely eliminate societal discrimination if we don’t eliminate legal discrimination
      • Gay marriage, while not perfect, is a definite step in the right direction.
    • We shouldn’t ignore the inequality of discriminatory marriage laws just because there are also worse issues affecting gay people
    • We like the idea of having a wedding and all the cultural tradition that comes with it
    • It’s also just, at it’s most basic element, a certificate and official recognition that two (or more) people  love each other.
    • Some of us want to get married, and that should be reason enough

Versions of gay marriage I have knowledge of and oppose

    • The UK version. Oh god so awful.
      • Spousal veto in particular
      • Really heavily gender-defining
    • The (thankfully overturned) Canberra version (even fucking worse than the UK)
      • Set us apart as different
      • Completely excluded trans and genderless people
  • Versions of marriage including gay people I could support:
    • Any marriage that didn’t exclude any consenting adult. At all. Under any circumstance.
    • None, really. The whole system is fucked

Quick Politics Roundup (warning: may include a terrible analogy)

Hello, here are a few thoughts on Australian and UK politics for the weekend. In the tradition of political commentators who spill their thoughts in the Sunday papers, I probably won’t proof read or edit this, and I certainly won’t think about it too hard.

Jeremy Corbyn

I’m not a member of the Labour party. I generally like Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, but my goodness not right now. He’s come out as a Brexitmeansbrexiteer, which is actually a smart move considering he needs support from working class Brexiteers, but it’s really not helpful for anyone apart from himself.

To use a tired old ‘burning building’ analogy, Corbyn’s anti-austerity message was very good last year before anyone was even thinking about the EU Referendum, and was rather like demanding some fire doors and some sprinklers in a building at risk of catching fire. Now the building’s on fire with everyone trapped inside; Theresa May’s running a “let it burn and see what happens” line; David Davis and crew are turning up with a demolition ball to knock the whole thing down as quickly as possible, and all the while Jeremy – Leader of the Opposition – Corbyn’s response is still “we should put some fire doors in”. Meanwhile there do seem to be some (Owen Smith, crucially, as well as the Lib Dems) who are saying, you know what, we could try putting the fire out, and they’re being demonised by Corbyn supporters as haters of the poor.

Clearly fire doors are a good idea. Anti-austerity is a very very good position to hold. But right now, Brexit is more dangerous than imaginable. The result of the EU Referendum has caused more damage in a month than Cameron and Osborne’s austerity package could have caused in a decade. And even though Cameron and Osborne are out of the picture now, Jeremy Corbyn is still focusing all his efforts on them and their policies, seemingly unaware of what is going on around him.

(And much though I hate to take a “fuck the poor” position, large numbers of certain sections of the British population voted to leave the EU, and my sympathy for the resulting self-inflicted hardship is very limited indeed.)

The Australian Senate & 1st preference votes

Apparently Malcolm Roberts only got 77 first preference votes and is now a senator. Apparently we have four One Nation senators (up from zero) even though the party got a lower share of the vote than last time. Apparently nobody knows how preferential voting works. 77 first preference votes for a not-even-first candidate for a minor party is quite impressive, and quite worrying. We should probably be more concerned about a society that allows bigotry to flourish rather than an electoral system that allows people to vote for it.

This is what the fuck just happened in Australia

I’m fairly sure a lot of people who have half an eye on world events and international current affairs are wondering what the fuck happened in Australia yesterday and today. So here’s a two minute primer.

Why you’re confused

Almost without any warning at all, Australia got a new prime minister. There was no prime-ministerial death, no public election, no campaigning, just all of a sudden, boom, “In international news, Australia has a new prime minister for some reason”. There was a flurry of activity on twitter (read: twitter fucking blew up) and, and, and, something happened.

What happened: a brief timeline

Yesterday morning it was business as usual in Canberra. Government ministers were doing their obligatory popping up in various places around the country. At one of these pop-ups the Prime Minister was asked about a potential leadership challenge, which he dismissed as gossip and “Canberra games”. Other ministers were asked about the same thing, they all said it was nonsense.

During Question Time in parliament between 2pm and 3pm, the Leader of the Opposition asked a question implying that the Prime Minister did not enjoy the support of his party (the Liberals).

After Question Time the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, went for a meeting with the Prime Minister. Shortly afterwards the Deputy Leader of the Liberals went for a meeting with him.

At four o’clock Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference and announced he was challenging the Prime Minister for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

Just before seven o’clock, the Prime Minister announced there would be a Liberal party room meeting where an election for the positions of Leader and Deputy Leader would be held. He confirmed he would be a candidate for Leader.

Just after nine o’clock this meeting started, and shortly afterwards it was announced that Malcolm Turnbull had won the election and was now the leader of the Liberal party (and so would by virtue of being the leader of the majority party in parliament become Prime Minister).

The Prime Minister disappeared for fourteen hoursbut turned up at 12:30 this afternoon and gave one of the most ridiculous concession speeches in the history of political defeats, in which he blamed the media for his demise (despite News Limited giving him wall-to-wall support, and Fairfax’s negative coverage being lacklustre at best).

Just after one o’clock this afternoon, Malcolm Turnbull was sworn in as Prime Minister.


I should note there’s been instability for the last 18 months, and this has only intensified since there was a failed “spill” motion in February, so this didn’t come totally without warning. We were expecting one some time soon-ish, but this snap challenge took us all off-guard.

7-Eleven, [not] Subway and Bill Shorten’s misdirected concern

Following the other day’s revelation that 7-Eleven has been systematically underpaying and generally exploiting employees (mostly those employees who are temporary residents in Australia and on student/limited work visas), Bill Shorten made this comment:

We’ve all been appalled and disgusted by the scenes at Subway, thousands of people are being ripped off.

A dreadful mistake, commenting on Subway (who I’m sure have a wonderful track record on fair employment), when actually 7-Eleven is the subject of this scandal. But although this comment was called out by Mark Di Stefano , and this was the part he apologized for, it is another comment he made that made me sad and frustrated:

We want to make sure that we don’t see people coming here on visas being exploited and undercutting Australian jobs. [emphasis mine]

Exploitative work is bad, and it’s always bad. But this suggestion that the worst result of foreign workers being exploited is that Australian workers may in turn be exploited is insular and jingoistic. The argument that foreign workers undercut Australian workers is a favorite of racists. “They come over here, taking our jobs …” It’s rooted in the idea that people consent to being exploited in order to secure a job that would otherwise be filled by someone who would refuse to be exploited.

It’s racism and xenophobia. It’s victim blaming. And so transferring your concern to hypothetical potential Australian victims of exploitative work, when actual real people are being exploited is shameful.

The problem is that employers systematically exploit foreign workers where they would simply not exploit Australian workers. These employers know that temporary residents with limited work visas don’t have easy access to fair work resources. They’re not likely to join – or even want to join – unions. They’re not likely to seek advice when they are being exploited. And after some months or a small number of years, they are likely to go away and never pose a risk of exposure. They don’t “undercut” Australian jobs, because these exploitative positions are just not available for Australian workers. And most importantly, foreign workers whose employers exploit them in these abusive ways are not responsible in any way for any undesirable working conditions that Australian – or any other – workers face.

Bill Shorten should be appalled and disgusted by the way the actual people whose employers have actually abused and exploited them, rather than directing his disgust towards hypothetical Australians who he’d prefer as more ideal victims to be concerned about. Condemn abusive employment because it’s bad, not because it could happen to us.

He should care because it’s worth caring about, not just because it could be worth caring about.

Prepaid Welfare Cards, Drugs, Alcohol, and Fish & Chips

Talk of paying welfare benefits via pre-paid cards comes up again and again. The idea is to ensure that welfare recipients spend their money on “essentials” rather than drugs, alcohol and gambling. I hate the idea.

I think back to when I was claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in the UK, maybe ten years ago. Money was very, very tight, but I still liked to have fish and chips on a Friday night and a couple of pints in the pub. To me, that was essential: some enjoyment in life, rather than simply meaninglessly existing was essential – essential to my sanity. So for some people it’s fish and chips and a pint in the pub. For some it’s a joint at the weekend, or perhaps playing the pokies, or going out to a nightclub every now and then and doing tequila shots and maybe a couple of pills. For some it’s scraping together whatever money they can to buy some low-quality heroin because it’s a fucking mammoth addiction that the fucking health service is too underfunded to help them with in any way. But whatever, different people have different essentials, but for everyone it is essential for their life to mean something, and not simply to exist.

I think part of the problem is people who have never claimed benefits making decisions on – and passing comment on – welfare policy without consideration of the experiences of the people it affects. For all people, leisure and entertainment are essentials. Yes, not needed for basic survival, but essential nonetheless. To suggest that the poorest in society deserve nothing but survival is unfair and extremely misguided. It’s cruel and unjust. For many, a period claiming welfare benefits comes either after or before a long period in work, paying tax and contributing in a full way to society. If it’s taxpayers’ money it is then by definition their money. They are, were, or will be taxpayers. There are a small minority – a tiny minority – who are chronic welfare recipients (and it really is a tiny minority, despite perceptions caused by media focus). Some consider that to be problematic (I don’t) and something that should be punished. I disagree even there, but either way we have to let that go – otherwise we are punishing the majority simply out of spite.

When I was claiming JSA, the money I received was mine. I didn’t need permission for how to spend it. I needed serious and meticulous budgeting skills, but the money was mine, and mine to spend as I pleased. Often I spent the money on alcohol. Sometimes on drugs. Sometimes existence was painfully hard, and balls to anyone who would have denied me a little pleasure and a little entertainment.

Welfare is not a “lifeline to survive” – it’s a package to ensure that people who find themselves in financially impossible situations are able to maintain a decent and dignified quality of life. By denying those people all but the bare minimum to survive as living organisms, you would deny them dignity and the freedom to exist as humans and valued members of a functioning society. Welfare is there to prevent that – not cause it.