Yes! Goodbye Howard.

Australia sweeps Rudd into power

Australia’s opposition Labor Party under Kevin Rudd has won a sweeping general election victory, removing PM John Howard after an 11-year term.
Mr Rudd said Australia had “looked to the future” and that he would be “a prime minister for all Australians”.

Unbelievably happy about this. But it’s a long way back to an Australia I can respect and be proud of. Let’s hope it starts now.

Ranking the sexiest women?

I’m quoting lots of this response to Maxim magazines poll of the world’s five “unsexiest women” because I think it’s really important.

In calling this kind of vicious, sexist rubbish “news”, the poll is given a smidgen of legitimacy. The media implicitly support the notion that it is OK to scrutinise and rank women on the basis of the most superficial and degrading of all criteria — their appearance.
In the past three decades, as women have made advances in public life and steps have been made towards greater equality between the sexes, the scrutiny of women’s bodies seems to have gathered pace. Take politics as an example. In Media Tarts, Julia Baird’s excellent book examining the media’s treatment of Australian female politicians, Baird argues that women in politics are rarely judged on their merits. Media commentators are far more interested in women’s hairstyles (Bronwyn Bishop, Julia Gillard), sexual histories (Cheryl Kernot), polka-dot dresses (Joan Kirner), sexiness (Julie Bishop, Natasha Stott Despoja) or unsexiness and weight (Amanda Vanstone) than their policy stances or the contributions they might make to the fabric of our nation.
Indeed, in many respects, women are still seen as less the sum of their parts and more the sum of their “bits”.
I can hear the naysayers: if you don’t like lists like these, don’t read them. And I agree. But even if — like me — you don’t actively seek out polls like these, assessments of women permeate every aspect of our culture. Ask any woman and she’ll tell you that such images are the reason she spends hours in front of the bathroom mirror, worrying about her every blemish or ripple of cellulite.
Media outlets need to be much more reflective about the role they play in fostering this kind of self-scrutiny among women. They must abandon the practice of uncritically promoting sexist material about women, of the kind we see in the Maxim poll. Because, as a woman, I can only do so much to avoid such harmful nonsense.

The Age, Media’s ugly looks obsession

What to call John Howard?

I can’t remember if I’ve posted about this before, but if you had to think of a phrase to describe John Howard in his role as Prime Minister of Australia, a la miserable failure, what would they be?
Suggestions so far have included Recalcitrant Weasel, Duplicitous Bigot, Mendacious Throwback, Reactionary, Machiavellian Despicable Derelict Misanthrope and finally Myopic Fear-monger.

More on Amnesty International report

This is the ABC’s take on Amnesty’s report:

This year Amnesty’s annual report into global human rights abuses focuses on the politics of fear, and argues fear thrives on “myopic and cowardly leadership”.
The Government is singled out for criticism for its portrayal of “asylum seekers in leaky boats” as a “refugee invasion”, which Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan says contributed to John Howard’s election win in 2001.

Amnesty spokeswoman Katie Wood says Australia also failed to act strongly on claims of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
“Australia should have been fairly sceptical of the assurances given by the United States, given the amount of information about torture and other ill treatment practised by the US in Guantanamo and elsewhere,” she said.
“It should have been enough to put them on notice to really insist upon an independent and proper investigation into all those allegations made not only by David Hicks but also Mamdouh Habib.”

The London-based group also says it is seriously concerned about the low rates of prosecution for violence against women and the “lack of support services for Indigenous women”.
“The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about the high level of violence against women, and the low rates of prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases,” the report said.
“The committee was also concerned about the continued violence and discrimination faced by women in Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities.

Amnesty hits Aust on refugees, women’s rights, ABC

John Howard ‘PM a short-sighted fear-monger’

I notice the headline and the focus of the story have changed since I first saw the article. I guess the SMH fears Howard more than they fear Amnesty.
Anyway, the headline is now ‘Amnesty claims a shoddy caricature, PM says’.
And the lead in:

“Prime Minister John Howard has robustly defended his government against claims by Amnesty International that it is as divisive as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime.
The human rights pressure group has accused Mr Howard of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security.
In a report released overnight, it also criticised Australia’s role in the war on terror and its treatment of female victims of violence.
Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan said the fear generated by leaders such as Mr Howard “thrives on myopic and cowardly leadership”.
Ms Khan lumped Mr Howard in with Mr Mugabe, US President George W Bush and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir in a paragraph about leaders who used fear to suit their political agenda.”

I like what Howard’s done here:

“In statement today, Mr Howard rejected the way Australia was characterised in the Amnesty report.”

They weren’t characterising Australia, you blockhead, they were characterising you.
But Amnesty weren’t taking it:

Ms Khan stood by her comments today, accusing the Howard government of having an “appalling” domestic human rights record regarding its treatment of asylum seekers and indigenous people.
These failures had undermined its good work overseas

Howard said:

“I believe many Australians will be as offended by this report as I am”

Not if they’ve got any sense, they won’t. Living in Europe gives me far too clear-sighted a vision of the damage Howard has done to Australia’s reputation overseas.
Final word to Amnesty:

Ms Khan also urged Australian voters to think about giving others a “fair go” at this year’s election.

“In failing in its duty to David Hicks, the Government has failed all Australians and shaken the foundations of Australian law. Ultimately, the Hicks case is not just about Hicks, it is about the rule of law. If the Government can recklessly abandon the law in the case of one Australian, it can much more easily abandon the law and its duty to other Australians.” Abandoning principle of law endangers us all
Someone asked why I’d still vote in Australian elections when I haven’t lived there in so long. I guess it had never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have an interest in Australian politics. Even though I’ve left, I’ll probably return some day. And as I said, somewhat rantily, “I hate Howard with a passion, and I hate what he’s done to Australia and I want him out so the country has some chance of claiming back ‘mateship’ and ‘a fair go’ and everything else he’s co-opted into his slimy xenophobic misogynistic homo-panicked puniverse.
And on a personal level I want a leader who doesn’t hate gay people.”

The BBC’s perspective: Controversies cloud Australia Day.
“In past elections, Prime Minister John Howard has proved himself particularly adept at exploiting voter fears about the threat to Australian identity from asylum seekers and new immigrants.
This year, a rejuvenated Labor Party, under its new leader Kevin Rudd, is determined not to be outflanked.
In condemning the organisers’ decision, Mr Rudd was wrapping himself just as tightly in the flag as Mr Howard.”
Just lovely. The two major parties are building their platforms on xenophobia.
I’d like to propose that being unAustralian is the new Australian:
“Prime Minister John Howard regularly touts his ideas for a so-called “Aussie test” for new immigrants hoping to become citizens – an examination both of historical knowledge and Australian values, like “mateship” and fair play.
In announcing a major cabinet reshuffle this week, he also renamed the Ministry of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
Quite deliberately, he dropped the reference to multiculturalism and replaced it with “citizenship”. ”
John Howard wouldn’t know mateship if it shouted him a beer in the pub.
And this is equally hilarious and scary:
“Speaking on Egyptian television, Sheikh Hilali said that Muslims had a much greater right to be in Australia than whites.
“Anglo Saxons came to Australia in chains,” he told the chat show Cairo Today, “while we paid our way and came in freedom. We are more Australian than them. Australia is not an Anglo-Saxon country – Islam has deep roots in Australian soil that were there before the English arrived.””
I’ll be sure to tell my Irish ancestors that they’re due a refund because they shouldn’t have paid their way to Australia.