Their Melbourne

From Southbank to Carlton, the city of Melbourne is littered with sky-blue posters. They carry the slogan Our Melbourne and the beaming face of Lord Mayoral candidate Sally Capp. Capp is the frontrunner for the by-election that follows by the resignation of Lord Mayor Robert Doyle after an independent investigation found that he sexually harassed two women.

For interstate readers not familiar with outgoing mayor, imagine if Mr Toad of Toad Hall was a sexual predator. Some of the highlights of Doyle’s decade in the robes include using riot police to brutalise peaceful protesters and plotting to purge the city of homeless people.

So Capp, if she wins, will surely be a breath of fresh air. The major parties certainly seem to think so. Both the Liberal Party – which Capp forgot she used to be a member of until a journalist helpfully reminded her – and “key local Labor figures” support the Lord Mayor for our Melbourne. But who does the “our” refer to?

Until she announced her candidacy, Sally Capp was the CEO of the Property Council, Australia’s peak lobby group for developers and landlords. The Property Council’s website states that its number one focus is “housing affordability.” But its number one political agenda is to retain negative gearing, a tax rort that redistributes wealth from the poor to the rich, keeps house prices high and forces children into poverty.

It’s a novel approach to problem solving – take a crisis you helped create and directly profit from, then offer to fix it by making it worse.

The Property Council advocates for the interests of the powerful against the interests of the powerless. The forces it proudly represents have ensured that the Australian dream can never be a reality for much of my generation. If the CEO of the Property Council becomes Lord Mayor of Melbourne, it will be the coup de grâce in a coup d’état staged by oligarchs and slumlords.

A mayoral election might seem like pretty low stakes. But local government is where we have the most immediate capacity to formally influence our community. And corruption accumulates. It flows up the food chain like a contaminant.

So how could Capp become Lord Mayor in the the most stereotypically lefty constituency in the country? For that matter, how did Doyle become Lord Mayor, or the string of businessmen who preceded him?

In the City of Melbourne, each residents gets one vote and every business premises gets two. Sixty per cent of council voters aren’t residents. The argument for companies having the vote is that they pay rates and have a stake in how the city’s run. The argument against companies having the vote is that they’re not people, which would kind of seem to be a voter requirement for any system calling itself a democracy, which famously means rule by people. The argument for companies having two votes is fuck the plebs.

Karl Marx one described government as the “committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.” In the city of Melbourne, where absent business owners get more votes than resident workers and a property lobbyist is winning the race for Lord Mayor, this is very literally the case.

The Cake Baker’s Tale

The same-sex marriage postal survey is almost upon us. For some, the consequences of this vote will be life-changing. It’s obviously despicable that our government has outsourced responsibility for its people’s of civil liberties to an opinion poll. But since they have, decent Australians must do everything we can to fight for the human rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens: evangelical Christians who work in the wedding industry.

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The Minister for Home Affairs

Content note: This piece includes graphic discussion of suicide and reference to abuse

Just as I said I wouldn’t, I forgot them, and their stories got tangled up with all the other distant horrors. In May, last year, two young refugees under Australian care set themselves on fire. Omid Masoumali, an 23 year old held in indefinite detention on Nauru, doused his body in petrol and burnt himself alive. Three days later Hodan Yasin, a 21 year old Somali woman, also set herself alight. Unlike Masoumali, she survived; with burns covering seventy per cent of her body. She lost several fingers in the blaze.

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Fields of Wheat

“Me and my friends sort of used to run through the fields of wheat…” the Prime Minister says, a gleam of merriment finding her eyes, “the farmers weren’t too pleased about that… Their cries were sort of like those of animals. Gosh, they ran and ran… their filthy, skinny haunches carrying them as best they could. But we were faster, of course – children often are – and because we were quite small they could rarely see us beneath the golden heads of wheat. We laughed a great deal when they swerved or swore or prayed. Blood takes on a different odour when it’s agitated, sort of like… marzipan. My friend April would always reach them first, then myself, then June. Farmers are rather well acquainted with dying. I imagine they learn it from their livestock. Goodness me… Nobody is ever perfectly behaved, are they?”

For UK readers who aren’t volunteering for Labour in today’s election because victory is still a long shot, even with the tightened polls, here’s a short letter from an Australian perspective.
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The Puppeteers

The American Government is compromised. The Trump regime is under the sway of a superpower whose interests do not align with those of the American citizenry, or indeed, most of the people on earth. This global actor has spent years pursuing its agenda by pumping the world’s media with lies; and in doing so has eroded the very foundations of liberal democracy. Every day, it commits human rights abuses on a colossal scale with impunity.

The evidence that it has corrupted the US administration is now beyond dispute. As well as giving millions of dollars in overt and covert assistance to the Republican election campaign, and having a clear influence on foreign and domestic policy, this power has financial ties with the very highest levels of The White House. With grotesque revelations breaking the news every day, it can be easy to forget the outrageous connections we’ve known about all along. For example, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Rex Tillerson, was the Chief Executive Officer of Exxon-Mobil.

Who did you think I was talking about?

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Consider a Notebook

Consider a notebook. Thick parchment, licked yellow by salty air, and brown ink in a grand loopy hand. It sits in the cabin of one James Cook, and specifies, in no uncertain terms, that a “discovered” land may only be claimed in the name of the King under one of two conditions – that it is unoccupied, or “with the Consent of the Natives.” But Cooky’s a boisterous sort, raised on Magellan and St George, and when they’re there and obviously not consenting he decides to seize it anyway with oratory and lead, notebook and orders be damned. This means that even under British law at the time the invasion of Australia was illegal. Continue reading “Consider a Notebook”

Satan Disendorses Trump

LUCIFER, Prince of Darkness and Emperor Apostate of hell, has officially disendorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Jeronimo Trump.

“His actions comments are beyond the pale,” announced Satan, a key backer of the Reagan and Bush administrations. “On behalf of all of the legions of the damned, I’m cutting all ties to the Trump campaign. I may be the cloven-footed embodiment of evil, but being assosiciated with this blabbering fascist is starting to hurt my brand.”

Lucifer claimed that his stunning denouncement was inspired by Trump’s recent rise in the polls. “We put him up as a bit of a joke, but we never expected it to go this far. He’s facing over a dozen unresolved rape allegations, including from his ex-wife, and is still on the brink of becoming president? How can I support him when  I myself am a father? How could I look the abstract concept of lies in the eyes?”

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Beyond Bluewashing

Content Note: The following piece contains reference to mental illness and suicide

A fortnight ago, the Weekend Australian published a profile of Jeff Kennett so glowing you’d be forgiven for thinking he wrote it himself. The obsequious puff-piece gushed about the resigning chair of Beyondblue, citing the “indefatigable can-do spirit hard-wired in his soul” and painting him as a maverick saviour of the anguished and bereft.

The anguished and bereft might beg to differ. While there’s no doubt Beyondblue has done internationally groundbreaking work to destigmatise and alleviate mental illness in Australia, this is largely in spite, not because, of the organisation’s public face. As Kennett steps down after sixteen years with the charity, it’s only fair that we acknowledge his generous advocacy. But let’s also not forget the tireless work he’s done throughout his career to champion forces that contribute to and exacerbate mental illness on a mass scale.

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One Nation

There’s worse news every day.

Thursday, 15th of September: in her maiden speech to the Senate, Pauline Hanson declares that Australia is “in danger of being swamped by Muslims”.

Sunday, 18th of September: speaking to a forum of European conservatives, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott describes the influx of refugees to Europe from “Middle East and Africa” as a “peaceful invasion”.

Wednesday, 21st of September: an Essential poll of 1000 people suggests that 49% of Australians want to ban the migration of people of people of the Islamic faith to Australia. A further 11% aren’t sure either way. If the poll is accurate, those of us who oppose such a measure are in the minority.

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Autopsy of an Unappreciated Joke

As the sky cracks and the earth burns, our hearts are afroth with Pokémon Go. I hate the sneering dismissal of pop culture – it’s elitist, patronising and hypocritical. But with a world in crisis from Baton Rouge to the South China Sea, it is important prioritise where we invest our attention and energy. And as I look at the the levels of interest different topics receive on social media, I can’t help but think that that something is amiss.

To take an example completely at random, the other day I posted a status to Facebook about the new British Prime Minister, Theresa May. It was a three word joke – “Yes We May.” Hardly the funniest thing ever written, though at the time I thought it was pretty sharp and accessible. Twenty four hours later, it only had one like. Now obviously I don’t care about how many likes my statuses get on Facebook, but doesn’t that say something interesting about the trivialisation of our cultural discourse? Here was a well-crafted nugget of timely political satire, and people were too busy catching Jigglypuffs to notice. Continue reading “Autopsy of an Unappreciated Joke”