Victoria: new law ‘to give abortion right’

From The Age:

Women in Victoria would have the legal right to choose an abortion under historic legislation expected to be introduced to State Parliament next week.
The Age believes the bill, which will prompt long and emotional debate, would decriminalise abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, providing the woman gives consent.

The bill, which will be the subject of a conscience vote, is certain to split both major parties, but pro-choice advocates are confident it will be passed.

It is believed the bill will ensure that a woman’s consent provides lawful authority for an abortion up to 24 weeks’ gestation. After that, terminations would be unlawful unless doctors deemed continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk of harm to the woman.
Health Minister Daniel Andrews, who will introduce the bill, is expected to argue that it is designed to bring the law into line with community expectations and clinical practice.
Abortion officially remains a crime in Victoria, but an estimated 20,000 pregnancies are terminated each year under the common law protection of a 1969 Supreme Court ruling by Justice Menhennitt that allowed abortions if a woman’s physical or mental health would be put at risk by continuing the pregnancy.

Pro-choice advocates, who have been lobbying for the most liberal option, will be disappointed the Government has opted for the so-called compromise mode

Two reasons to like Australia again

via Paul’s
Chris Evans is Australia’s best immigration minister in a dozen years‘ – go read it, it’ll gladden your soul.
It’s worth repeating why immigration is such an important issue:

The immigration portfolio is probably unique in the degree to which the minister hold in his or her hands the lives and aspirations of individuals – real people. With a stroke of the ministerial pen, the immigration minister has the power to break the spirits and crust the souls of ordinary human beings whose only hope is the chance of a life in a new country where opportunity, not oppression, is the norm. That’s what Evans was referring to when he spoke of “playing God”.

And also – ‘Starbucks to close 61 Australian outlets‘.

Is Australia racist?

Interesting. Based on my experience as an Australian in Europe, Tampa changed how Australia was viewed – I’m not sure how that perception can be repaired, and while it’s heartening to read that ‘Australia generally is one of the least racist countries in the world’, even one ‘pocket of racism’ is too many.
The Age: We’re not racist, but …

There seems to be agreement among the experts that Australia generally is one of the least racist countries in the world. Instead, they point to “pockets of racism” across the country.

But Kevin Rudd’s apology might be the stimulus for changing attitudes towards indigenous Australians. Waleed Aly says it tapped into a sense of unease that perhaps Australians weren’t doing all they could on race. That, he says, suggests that we are aware of the criticism that Australia has problems with racism and that we want to shed that image.
“I would argue that Australia is among the least racist societies on earth,” he says. But he has no doubt that Australia is perceived poorly by other countries on matters of race. He believes past policies on refugees, Tampa, the stolen generations, the White Australia policy, Hansonism and Cronulla have damaged Australia’s reputation — somewhat unfairly.
“The reality of Australian society is complex, but the international vision of Australian society is usually simple.” And superficial.
One leading multiculturalism researcher, the Australian National University’s James Jupp, argues it is the outdated images — of Anzac, of battlers and of the outback — that should be a starting point for change. “Lots of countries have myths that are out of date, in fact most countries do, but it makes people who weren’t born here feel that the country doesn’t belong to them,” he says.

Go Kevin! Australia to regain political conscience?

Australia to speak up in the world: PM

The Prime Minister has declared that Australia will adopt an ambitious new “activist” stance on international issues where it believes it can make a difference.
Before leaving today on a round-the-world trip, which starts in the US and ends in China, Kevin Rudd said last night that Australia’s voice had been “too quiet for too long across the various councils of the world”.
He said the Government was committed to “creative, middle-power diplomacy as the best means of enhancing Australia’s national interests”.

Admittedly I’ve been busy with deadlines over here (because of course the end of the financial year is April 5 or whatever) but I haven’t seen Kevin really stuff up so far. This is so much more than I hoped for… to be very mature about it, Johnny Howard can go suck eggs.

For the future…

From the Age: Hands across the nation, ‘The apology to indigenous Australians is not about dwelling on the past, it’s about building a future.’:

I know of no indigenous person who told their story to the inquiry who wanted non-indigenous Australians to feel guilty — they just wanted people to know the truth. They wanted to tell the stories of their lives, to have the truth of their experiences acknowledged. Many people who gave evidence to the inquiry said that the telling was itself healing — knowing that at last they were being officially heard.
Governments inherit the laws and practices of previous governments, and so, too, do they inherit responsibility for past actions. We as Australians need to acknowledge the effects that past policies had on indigenous people, the hurt that has been caused to a group of Australians on the basis of their race, and we should rejoice, and take great pride, in today’s apology in our Federal Parliament.
Ultimately, we have chosen not to turn away from what was done to those children. We have chosen to face it for what it was, and I know that Australians will feel great relief having done so.
This is not about taking a “black armband” view of history. It is not about dwelling on the past for its own sake. This history is not someone else’s history. Today’s apology is about healing and reconciliation for the benefit of us all.

Two different views of Melbourne

Monstrous Melbourne presents Melbourne as the city that just keeps growing, and Melbourne dreamtime a reality looks back to the people, flora and fauna that was there before white settlers.
Melbourne seems both utterly familiar and completely strange to me now. It’s ‘home’ and yet it’s also a city I’d have to get to know again. I could live here again, but it would be an adjustment.
At least I don’t have to feel ashamed of being Australian now Howard is gone. Such a simple thing, but it’s such a big change.

Go Maxine!

I’m so excited about going home to a Howardless Australia. And I might even get to check out Maxine on the local news.

And after all the months of caution, control and campaign courtesy, she is finally ready to say what she really thinks about the former prime minister.
“Mr Howard has always presented himself as a courteous man, a civil man, a man with a great sense of history,” she says.
“But I’d have to say what struck me and what struck a lot of people in Bennelong and elsewhere … was a sense that Mr Howard presided over a government where there was diminished respect for our institutions.
“Be it the rule of law, the separation of powers, or the importance of institutions such as the universities, or the ABC and the CSIRO. And I think there is a message there.”

After months of intensive canvassing around the streets of her new domain, McKew also feels bold enough to proclaim a further, deeper mood shift in the populace – towards a national apology.
“I see this as a victory, importantly, for Bennelong’s people. I mean, consider the name of the seat.
“It turns out that Bennelong, one of the first Australians, who had a very interesting relationship with Governor Phillip, is buried in an unmarked grave in Kissing Point in Putney, right in the middle of the electorate of Bennelong.
“I think we’re on the threshold of something fine in this country. Jenny Macklin this week has talked about the importance of saying sorry to the first Australians. And I know that the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is very conscious that this be done in a very special way. It marks, I guess, a new generosity in the way we engage with the first Australians, and I would like to think that Labor’s win in Bennelong connects with that generous spirit in some way.”
McKew is not overly concerned with the questions of formal legal liability that have for so long attached themselves to the prospect of a formal apology to Aboriginal Australia.
“[In] most state governments, where the apology has been made in state assemblies, this has not been the case at all, so I think we have to look beyond all that, and be big about
this. It is high time now that the Commonwealth of Australia, in our federal parliament, that our parliamentarians take this step, and let’s hope that it is a bipartisan exercise. That’s my hope. It really is.”

SMH, Chinese whispers that built to a roar

This really won’t make sense if you’re not from Melbourne…

…but imagine my outrage that Franco Cozzo doesn’t deserve his own proper Wikipedia entry!
I originally thought of him because of an article about anger in America over non-English language ads which made me want to hear “Comprate da Franco Cozzo” and “Megalo megalo megalo” again.
Maybe there is hope for Australia yet – I might have been too young to notice any fuss but his ads, in Greek, Italian and English, were cult classics rather than an outrage. There’s a video on YouTube where someone’s spotted him in a car and asked him to say the lines from his ad, but even better – here’s the original Franco Cozzo ad.