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.

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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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”

Brexual Feelings

It is closing time in the gardens of the West.
Cyril Connolly

Yesterday’s news from Britain has bought the world to its knees. Europe’s most powerful institution has lost a crucial pillar and the hopes and dreams of millions dangle on the brink. It’s difficult to guess what brought us to this place – the path behind is tangled and dim, the path ahead is subsumed in darkness. As we stumble, blind, into the thicket of history, the only thing that’s certain is the stark reality of this uncanny severance – Harry Styles is leaving One Direction.

Things simply cannot go on as they were. Who would want to see Louis, Liam, and Niall in concert, a hair-gelled triumvirate of pure dead weight? 1D is finished. And, to add insult to injury, the United Kingdom is leaving the EU.

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Who Said It – Hitler or Trump?

Jaundiced schlockmonger Donald Trump could be the next Emperor of Freedomland and everyone is all in a tizzy. But has anyone noticed that this racist demagogue has qualities in common with the only other racist demagogue anyone can be bothered remembering? Amazingly, nobody has ever thought to compare Trump with Hitler. Until now! These quotes are from either the Moustachioed Menace or Orange Boy – see if you can guess which belongs to whom!

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PM says policies don’t target millennials: also hurt elderly, children, the unborn

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Halifax Rameses Turnbull has struck out at claims that his policies unfairly disadvantage millennials, arguing that they unfairly disadvantage all generations other than his own.

“Of course our policies aren’t some kind of attack on young people,” the PM announced to a press conference held in his negatively-geared harbourside hedge maze, “We’re committed to reducing living standards for all non-key demographics.”
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Randomocracy

There are questions that cleave nations, the junctures where the paths of history fork.

Who has the right to vote? Is this is our war to fight? Should above the line Senate voting change from a group ticket preference system to an optional preferential system wherein voters are instructed to number a non-mandatory minimum of six boxes above the line while the mandatory minimum of 90% numbered boxes below the line is replaced with a non-mandatory nominal minimum of twelve numbered boxes and an unwritten mandatory minimum of six numbered boxes which will act as a savings provision for those who confuse the below the line and above the line voting instructions as well as some changes to the mechanism of election night ballot counting for the sake of expediency and thrift, or not?

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A Crowd Pleaser

The only thing more interesting than state-level political history is state-level alternative political history. That’s why I’ve written the manuscripts for a series of eight gripping novels called The Winter on Spring Street Chronicles, an epic alt-history saga which dares to answer the “what if?” questions nobody has given enough of a shit about to answer before. Though the strongest manuscripts, in my humble opinion, are ‘Part V: Et Tu, Kennett?’ and ‘Part IV: Joan Kirner – Black Queen’, the following hypothesis is drawn from draft notes for Part VII, ‘Whither Napthine? – The Vet Who Never Was.’
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