Happy Birthday!

Well, well, well. This is a little thought-essay on Harry Potter, fandoms and growing up, in a sense.

Harry Potter has been a fandom of mine since at least 2003-ish. It was my second fandom, though first “prominent” one.

Today, it’s July 31st – celebrated by fans as Harry’s birthday. It also happens to be J. K. Rowling’s. As I mentioned earlier this week, in a way I sort of owe J. K. Rowling – and Harry Potter – a great deal, not just for being something I could escape into when others around me were being stupid, but for showing me what a writer could be.

The series has layers upon layers. Apparently, also a bunch of Britishisms which us outsiders need a little help picking up. It’s one of those books which you can keep rereading and finding new things about situations when you do. Which brings me to my next point: how perspective changes with different understanding and experience as we age.

When I first read Harry Potter, I hadn’t finished primary school yet. At the time, I barely scratched the surface in terms of what was there – things seemed a lot more black and white, good and bad. Rereading at a later date in high school, with a deeper understanding, brought to my attention the grey in-between black and white.

One of the things I think J. K. Rowling did really well with the series (at least, with a nuanced reading) was how the characters are all complex. There’s always more to a character than meets the eye; a lot of which we have to speculate on, even as she reveals more things on Pottermore etc. In short the characters are all real.
Though of course sometimes this is shown better than other times – in some ways, Slytherin got quite a raw deal at the end. On that….

The House system is a bit odd if you look at it. I mean, sorting people based on subjective, changeable character traits will of course lead to problems unless it’s carefully handled and at Hogwarts, it wasn’t at all.
That aside, each House has its own unique qualities. Slytherin with its emphasis on cunning, worthiness, drive and ambition just has the qualities and reputation which could build Dark wizards easily. But really, all Dark wizards (eg. Death Eaters) can’t have all come from Slytherin. Other people who emulate their House qualities too well, or for the wrong reasons, could just as easily go “Dark” or be total pricks. Remember Peter Pettigrew and Barty Crouch Jr.(?).
Of course, some Light wizards are not characters to emulate either, though it took me ages to properly realise that.

I’ve come to realise one of the HP’verse-emulating-life tragically but accurately is that J. K. Rowling shows how some characters (people) do stupid things when they’re younger, and they don’t always have the chance to make it up, or change fully. The tragedy is that certain characters are killed or imprisoned before they have that chance – properly, anyway. After all, 17 is more mature than 15; 21 is more mature than 17. But 21 is still very young. Real maturity comes with age, if one chooses to grow up and accept their mistakes, then change – and if they then get the chance to do so.

I could go on – and on – about this, using specific character examples (who knows, I may do that at a later date). I’ve posted stuff on a fanfic site about this very thing. Maybe it’s just the Hufflepuff in me, that I see so many sides – but I’d like to think it’s a good viewpoint to take.
___________________________________________________________________

Now, onto the other fandom side of things! 🙂

One of the things that make a fandom is the ability to have that shared experience, whether in-person or online, with a community of like-minded people. It can shape our attitudes, too. There are plenty of places online to hang out and find info, from facebook pages to the leaky cauldron to mugglenet to harry potter reddit to the HP Lexicon (an old but still somewhat useful site), to even the HP Companion to whitehound (scroll to the essays in particular) and other blogs. Not to mention real organisations like the HP Alliance, working for good in the name of fandom. It’s all there.

If I was an American, I’d have gone to LeakyCon (or GeekyCon). It sounds pretty awesome (http://www.buzzfeed.com/daniellehenderson/can-geekycons-founder-change-fandom-for-the-better?utm_term=.dh6N3pE1o#.umRdaDYW8).
As it is, I just listen, read and pay attention. We’re a pretty good bunch, us HP fans – there was a study a while back showing that those who read Harry Potter are more likely to be tolerant of others’ difference. That doesn’t mean we’re saints, though. The shipping wars alone demonstrate that! 😛 We’re real after all.
However, I’d advise outsiders (and insiders: don’t patronise us (<– that right there is one of my pet peeves; just don’t do it), or box us up. We’re louder and stronger than you think.

http://thehpalliance.org/positivefandom/

So, I say again, happy birthday to Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling, who created the story of the Boy Who Lived which we could breathe life into.

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Elections, Voting & Voice

I am a young person and I vote.

I was just a whisker too young to vote in 2013. Last year’s Victorian elections were my first chance to vote and I exercised that right. I’m glad I did.

My vote matters. Your votes matter. I realise this and I hope you do too (especially you, Aussie friends). More and more, people – especially young people – seem to be either not bothering to register or just not showing up, even though in Australia voting is compulsory. (The Australian Electoral Commission estimated that 1.22 million eligible people were not enrolled to vote for the 2013 federal election. Around 400,000 of these were young voters who had failed to enrol.)

If you willingly don’t vote, then your reasons for complaining about the current state of things or whatever are pretty thin. Voting is our chance to express our opinion on events. Forget opinion polls; the important one is election day.

Why am I rabbiting on about this? Because it is possible that Abbott will call a double-disillusion election, at some point in the next six months or very early next year. He is capitalising on the climate of fear he has created.

We can’t get pulled into his web. We can’t let him scare us into electing him again.

On that front, while Shorten and the ALP do seem in some ways to be similar to Abbott and co., they’re not the same. Even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for them due to this, put them second or third, then the LNP last. We can’t let Australia be vandalised more than the country already has due to the stupidity of Abbott. I feel more comfortable with the likelihood of at least a semi-productive conversation with Labor than I do the LNP.

The ALP will do a better job of at least pretending to care about all of Australia and not just the bits they know. I’m not saying to commit to voting for them forever – in 2019 things could change depending on what occurs. Though I very highly doubt that the situation would have changed enough for the LNP to be palatable, I speak of the situation of Independents/ Greens etc.

It’s our future. We need to claim it back, before it’s too late.

My view is that it’s better in the short term to grit our teeth slightly and preference ALP second, than it is to risk putting both at the bottom or something….for that runs the risk of returning Abbott to the Lodge.

No thanks!

http://theaimn.com/youth-votes-matter/

http://theaimn.com/i-want-a-government-that-governs-for-23-million-australians/

http://theaimn.com/what-about-my-rights/

At last, some common sense on climate change

One thing I am glad about which has come from the ALP conference is the promise to have 50% of Australia’s electricity generated by renewable sources by 2030. About time, I say. The current government has already tried to say that this will mean a “new tax”. Pah. Don’t they have anything new? Something must be done and it’s pointless to try and say otherwise.
Even if Labor’s move is partly motivated by political tactics, to be seen as a clear alternative to the current mob on this front anyway. I don’t care. I just want action

Food for thought: reblogged from http://theaimn.com/global-food-shock-may-be-very-close/

Global food shock may be very close

By Dr Anthony HortonA new peer reviewed risk assessment produced by Lloyd’s of London shows that humanity may be on the verge of collapse by 2050 unless significant effort is implemented to slow down the effects of global warming. The risk assessment discusses a scenario of three simultaneous disasters-a heatwave in South America, a windblown wheat stern rust pathogen across Russia and a very strong El Nino southern oscillation cycle-all of which are possible given the current trends. The result would essentially cripple global food security.Lloyd’s commissioned food security and sustainable development economics experts to develop this plausible scenario of a global production shock to some of the world’s staple food crops and to describe the impacts to investigate the implications for both insurance and risk. Members of the UK/US Task Force on Resilience of the Global Food Supply Change to Extreme Events (supported by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) assisted in the development of the scenario and a group of leading academics peer reviewed the risk assessment prior to its presentation to the insurance industry.

The risk assessment model used in the report estimates that wheat, soybean and maize prices will quadruple and rice prices may increase by 500% on those from 2007/8. Wheat and rice production would fall 7%, maize would fall 10% and soybean would decrease 11%. The resulting scarcity would precipitate riots in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East and the EU and US stock markets falling 5 and 10% respectively. The degree of shock to each commodity is based on Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data from 1961 to 2013. Three de-trending methods were applied to global aggregated and country data to address changes in crop area, yield, technology and other critical factors over this period. Midpoints of the range of percentage reduction in production for specific years caused by specific historical events were selected as the basis for the components of the scenario.

Global food demand is rising as a result of unprecedented population growth and shifting consumption patterns. The FAO has predicted that agricultural production will need to increase by more than double by 2050 to close the gap between supply and demand. The existing vulnerability of the world’s food systems is exacerbated by a number of factors including increases in the intensity and frequency of floods, droughts and wildfires along with a rise in conditions that are amenable to the spread of agricultural pests and diseases. Water scarcity is another very important factor, given predictions that approximately 66% of the world’s population may live under water stress conditions by 2025.

Agriculture is the world’s largest employer as it provides livelihoods for 40% of the world’s population. It is also fundamental to the global food system. Most of the discussions around food security have focused on long term pressures which heighten the vulnerability to supply shocks. Crop production shocks are likely to pose a systematic threat to food security if they impacted on any of the world’s traditional surplus production areas or “breadbaskets”.

Businesses are likely to invest more heavily in comprehensive risk transfer structures as they become more aware of the threat of disruption to food systems. Shocks to global food supply could represent significant opportunities for the insurance industry which has a key role in assisting clients to understand their risk exposure and to tailor appropriate solutions in response.

The scenario in the Lloyd’s assessment is based on a “business as usual” approach under which human induced climate change leads to increased flooding and drought and to agriculture functioning under water stress in a decade. If carbon emissions are reduced dramatically and the world’s agricultural systems can adapt, such a dramatic scenario will no longer be on the table.

Anthony Horton blogs on his own site: The Climate Change Guy

Why I Write

I write because I must.
I write because I always have and always will.
It’s as simple as that. But I’ve been told to write 1,000 words (link here), so I’ll give it a shot.

Words have always been my comfort and strength, because with words one can be drawn into a different – a better – world.

I’m the oldest child – and on one side the oldest grandchild – so people were happy to come and entertain me. I learnt my words early. I’ve always loved them.

When I was really little, I’d happily lie awake telling stories to myself. (Mum and Dad tried to record me, but it didn’t work.) For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an author. Whenever someone asked me as a kid, I’d say that.

When in primary school, I didn’t have the best of times. I was smart and picked on by those who weren’t. Also, I never really liked playing sport at lunch – instead, I read books. Later at high school, my lunchtimes were taken up by writing stories.

As an author, you create your own world. I’m something of an idealist, so in my writing I could create the world I wanted to live in, or dream about possibilities. You’re the boss! You make the rules and build the world. It’s sometimes a scary responsibility. Other times it’s a lot of fun.

Gah. This is harder than I’d thought. Um.

I think the person who inspired me into writing as a career was J. K. Rowling. My favourite series is the Harry Potter books after all and her ability to weave words really delighted me. Then I read her personal story. Wow.

I write about the things I love and am passionate about – usually involving some sort of futuristic or fantasy world where issues of social justice and other things can be touched on. For instance, my current story’s setting is some hundred plus years after a war that was started due to climate change causing a lack of resources. I also have a big thing about the future in my stories.

I write because I can’t stop. For example, due to various things my uni holidays were nowhere near as productive as I thought they’d be regarding my writing. I just stopped for some weeks – got distracted. But I could never stop indefinitely. The characters exist in my head and for one thing, they know there are at least three books worth of story in there, including some powerful scenes. To leave it unfinished would be terrible! Not fair on the characters. They are a bunch of naggers and I’m grateful for that. 🙂

For the longest time, they’ve existed inside me. It is merely my job to listen and watch and learn from the world around me, then put my fingers to the keyboard and write their story.

This blog is one thing – but in reality, my books will be my megaphone, I hope. Listen to my voice.

(531 words. Not bad.)

Oh! Check out Pavowski’s vision post: it makes some really good points about what vision is. It is so apt, capturing my idealistic nature and tying into this post: http://accidentallyinspired.com/2015/07/25/the-weekly-re-motivator-visionary/

Why are we spending so much time on a relatively small problem that could be handled much better?

I am passionate about many things, but one of my main passions is the plight of refugees. I think it’s the compassion in me. I know I’ve been giving quite a few posts about refugees over the past few days. It’s a hard issue for me. If I could, to be honest, I’d throw open the borders to those who come here by whatever means. I’m an idealist and I wish that were possible. But it’s not and that sort of attitude doesn’t address the problem, the root causes, of why they do it in the first place.

I refer back to a post about a month or so ago during Refugee Week, where I wrote up my notes from a speech given by humans rights lawyer, Daniel Webb (see here). We need real solutions and I’m cautiously hopeful that Labor’s may be the start of one. Like I said yesterday – it’ll be easier to negotiate with them than with the current “nope, nope, nope” mob.

With that in mind, here are a couple of reblogged posts. The first rightly asks why we’re allowing this issue to dictate debate (given that it’s been tied to “national security” as well as other matters) as there are other issues we should be focusing on – like infrastructure (or as one commenter on Facebook pointed out, the TPP). The second details exactly how the “boat turn-backs” policy option was pushed through by the Labor Right – apparently by not arguing nearly as much on other issues! So maybe that’s a good thing too? 🙂

Reblogged from http://theaimn.com/refugees-or-infrastructure/

Refugees? Or Infrastructure?

The following is a guest post by the Alexandria ALP Branch.There’s an anger in Western Sydney that could cost us the next election – “our schools, trains, roads, hospitals are full of refugees”.

We allowed and encouraged this anger to focus on how refugees can be stopped, a good Liberal issue.  We ignored and continue to ignore the underlying issue of our schools, trains, roads, hospitals being full. We allowed a single Liberal issue to displace a suite of good Labor issues.

In 2010-11, a total of 4828 Humanitarian Program visas were given to onshore applicants, not all maritime arrivals.  That number is from a total of 13,799 visas granted under the Humanitarian Program, itself a number out of a total of 158,943 new immigrants. Putting that number in wider perspective, new immigrants were part of a total population growth for 2012 of 394,200 people. Australia’s population is 22.32 million. Boat people are about 1-2 per cent of annual population growth which is about 1-2 per cent of our population.

In real terms, the nation is reducing government spending. You cannot have a decade and a half of income tax cuts without consequence. It has been a bipartisan squeeze. The squeeze hurts everyone who depends on public facilities and public services.

This is true not just in the western suburbs. There are stations in the inner city, near where I live, at which peak-hour trains are too full to board. We have kids commuting to nearby suburbs because the local schools are full. I don’t need to tell you what our roads are like. Here in the inner city we blame developers rather than refugees, but the anger is just as real. There’s a reason we’re nimbys. We’re being squeezed. Successive governments have contrived to squeeze public spending. Squeeze spending and you are squeezing the people. The people are the public. That understanding was basic to our civic culture. Used to be.

Here is the problem. Not the one that some people would like to have us believe, not that we have too many refugees, not that we have too many people. No, our problem is we do not have enough infrastructure per person. We are not investing in infrastructure.  Cut taxes, you cease investing in infrastructure. That is the basic problem that this government denies.

The UN estimates that about 1% of ‘ irregular maritime’ travellers drown, and this may be an underestimate. Presumably, a similar percentage of turned-back boats sink. A person who chooses not to become a refugee will not die at sea, but they may instead die at the hands of their own government. The calculus is complicated, and we do not have enough information to be sure that turnbacks do more good than harm.

We do know that turnbacks are damaging our relationship with Indonesia, and we know that they are illegal. We also know that refugees, after balancing the risk of drowning against the risk of staying put, sometimes chose the risk of drowning. It is no surprise that, when assessed, almost all maritime refugee applicants are found to be ‘genuine’ refugees – no one takes lightly to these boats.

We don’t need to spend billions on concentration camps. We need to spend billions on rail lines and on schools and on hospitals and on roads. It is not going to be cheap. It is necessary.

Having an adequate revenue base to facilitate spending is a debate we need to have, a debate we will win. Despite our record in recent government, the electorate perceives us as weak on refugees and economic issues, but strong on health and education and public transport. Why then should we indulge the Liberals in a debate on the refugees when we could be having a debate on health and education and public transport?

This article was first published on the Alexandria ALP Branch site.

Reblogged from http://theaimn.com/how-labor-right-sneaked-turnbacks-through-national-conference/

How Labor Right sneaked turnbacks through National Conference

To save Bill Shorten’s shaky leadership, the Labor Right were successful in getting refugee turnbacks through the ALP National Conference only by capitulating to the Left on a range of other policy measures.The Australian Labor Party National Conference has dominated the news headlines for the better part of a week.

Asylum seeker policy was always going to be a tense and hard fought policy issue; but at two-thirds of the way through the triennial meeting of the supreme policy and rules making body of the Australian Labor Party, it was the first topic to go to a vote.

This is almost unheard of.

Independent Australia were advised, by a well placed senior Left source at the Conference, that this is not an accident.

Bill Shorten and the Right leadership team, the source said:

“… are petrified of the mainstream/Murdoch media responding to a Left win on the floor of the conference with a headline that says ‘Socialist Left controls Labor Party’ or ‘Radical Left controls Bill Shorten’. That’s why Labor’s conference is furiously agreeing on almost all amendments.”

The source says this fear has seen Right negotiators

“… embrace progressive policies and amendments, and almost the most progressive platform the Left can propose.”

The Right have been in the position to decide what wins or loses on national conference floor in votes for much of recent history. It is no doubt an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position for them this time around, where they are not fully convinced they can hold their numbers together and defeat Left motions by peeling off a few stray Left delegates.

Said the Left source:

“Things that a week ago they were rejecting vigorously, they are now agreeing.”

The vast bulk of reporting from National Conference will be that the Left suffered a massive embarrassment, not being able to hold their numbers together to back ruling out boat turn backs under a future Labor government. It will be reported that the Right were the big winners, who cemented Bill Shorten’s authority.

The reality is that Bill Shorten made the issue of allowing turn backs a key pillar of his leadership. It was an aggressive move.

Were the Left successful in holding together and excluding boat turn backs Shorten’s leadership would have been terminal.

It appears after years of internal rancour during the Rudd and Gillard years, the main ally of Bill Shorten on this issue, the powerful left wing union, the CFMEU, couldn’t stomach the idea of more leadership turmoil.

Other left wing unions, such as the ASU (Australia Services Union), the Rail Tram and Bus Union and United Voicealso played a part in ensuring Bill Shorten can turn back refugee boats in the future.

Of course, there are many Labor voters and members upset and appalled that their party now includes Liberal Party policy among the suite of measures it is willing to use relating to asylum seekers. While this is a completely legitimate concern, the predominantly left wing base should turn their attention to the numerous policy wins of the ascendent National Left in the final platform that will emerge from this National Conference, which concludes today.

There are, for a start, signs the influence of the rightwing, religiously driven SDA (Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association) is waning.

In addition, rules amendments are set to be debated today, along with a strong motion in support of Palestine, backed by the NSW Right and binding on marriage equality.

It looks increasingly like marriage equality binding will be a reality by the end of today, and a raft of popular internal reforms – like giving the president and vice-presidents of the party a vote on the National Executive and giving rank-and-file significantly more internal power – will be successful.

Should the National Executive rules reform succeed, it would give the Left control of National Executive for the first since the late 1970s.

This is not insignificant. The party membership, it turns out, does have something to smile about — a platform that across the board will more closely reflect their firmly held values.

Looking at the platform of National Conference in total, when all is said and done, the Right will be reeling.

The wider issue for the Australian Labor Party to consider however, is how long are both the Left and the Right prepared to let fear of an unfriendly Murdoch media behemoth dictate the internal functioning of their party?

This is the challenge for Labor going into an election sometime in the next year or so.

Frontbencher Anthony Albanese, second from right, votes against the turnbacks policy at the Labor national conference. Picture: Hamish Blair Source: theaustralian.com.au

This article was first published on Independent Australia.

Bill Shorten’s Address at ALP National Conference on Asylum Seeker Policy – Key points

Well, it’s better than I’d hoped. It is rather close to what I’d thought it would be (see Friday’s “Cheeky Checklist”). We’ll just have to see how it turns out in practice. Given the alternative currently in place, it’s a good start.

The Red Window

Below is the video of Bill Shorten’s address at the Labor Conference, regarding Asylum Seeker and immigration policies. Key points from the address are listed below:

Key Points:

  • Immigration has been one of the secrets of Australia’s success.
  • Shorten believes in a new direction for Australia’s immigration policies
  • Accept more refugees and ensure we treat refugees more humanely
  • Shorten guarantees to keep closed the lethal journey between Java and Christmas Island, which claims lives.
  • Australia can be the greater, kinder nation, we want our children to see.
  • A Labor Govt will keep more people safe in a more humane way
    • Safe from persecution by dictatorial regimes
    • Safe from the exploitation of criminal people smugglers who prey upon the vulnerable.
    • Safe from abuse in facilities which even fail to meet the basic standard of decency
    • Safe from losing people they love from having families torn apart from drownings at sea
  • In addressing this, unlike…

View original post 516 more words

I Wish…. (A Coda to Yesterday’s Pragmatic Post)

I’ve always been a dreamer, as well as practical. I’ve been called an “Optimistic Realist”, in a good way.

I can’t believe I was so pragmatic yesterday, really. It’s awful that the state of politics has deteriorated so far, to this point.
I read in The Age today that this “boat pragmatism” is focused mainly on NSW and QLD rather than Victoria in courting the xenophobic vote. I hate it. It’s politics. Even the Greens high moral stance is playing politics a little bit, because they know that by doing so they’ll grab the votes of those unwilling to compromise on this issue.

It sucks that this issue has become so politicised. To counterbalance the pragmatism of yesterday, here’s a statement from ChilOut Revived, a Facebook page wanting all children, especially, out of detention.

No turn-backs; no offshore processing – An appeal to delegates of the national conference of the Australian Labor Party.
A humanitarian refugee policy cannot be achieved by lessening, or trading off, the recognised rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
Ending the interception and turn-back of boats carrying asylum seekers, closing the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, and ensuring that all asylum seekers are brought to Australia to reside in the community while their claims for protection are assessed, are essential pillars of a just and humane refugee policy. Sacrificing these on the pragmatic ground does nothing but further erode community expectations about the proper treatment of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The view being put forward in some quarters that refugee supporters should pragmatically accept offshore processing and the turn-back of asylum boats as a necessary evil in order to gain political concessions on the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia is misguided and mistaken. There has also been repeated reference to the “closure of ocean route between Java and Christmas Island”, without regard for the consequences of such a decision.

The interception and turn-back of boats have resulted in fires, drownings, sinking and disappearances and jailing of those intercepted. Turn-backs prevent asylum seekers from exercising their right to seek protection in Australia. They are also a direct violation of non-refoulement obligations that are the cornerstone of refugee rights.

Similarly, offshore processing also represents a fundamental breach of Australia’s international obligations to those seeking asylum. Neither Nauru nor Papua New Guinea has a resettlement arrangement for refugees. The conditions of detention on Manus Island and Nauru have been repeatedly condemned by international human rights organisations.

In 2013, Amnesty International described the conditions on Manus Island as ‘cruel, inhuman, degrading and violating prohibitions
against torture’. The government’s own Moss review and the current “Senate Inquiry into allegations of abuse on Nauru” has revealed an appalling history of abuse of children and asylum seekers there. Compromising on turn-backs or offshore processing would be a victory for the policies of fear, demonisation and deterrence over the policies of hope, compassion and justice.

Any decision by delegates at the Labor Conference to adopt a refugee policy that incorporated turn-backs or support for offshore processing would compound the bi-partisan mainstream political support for the violation of asylum seekers’ human rights.

We call on all delegates to the national conference of the Australian Labor Party to uphold the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and support resolutions:

(i) to end offshore processing;
(ii) to unequivocally oppose the turn-back of asylum boats;
(iii) to end policies of mandatory detention.”

really hope that either the idea is defeated out of hand, or that the policy is closer in deed to my cheeky check-list from yesterday than it is to Abbott’s idiocy.

Above all, I wish that we could do away with the politics of fear and embrace the politics of compassion. This whole idea makes me sick at heart. I don’t want to betray my principles!

I had hoped Labor would realise that I’m not the only one.
It seems they don’t care. Fine, then.
Be that way.

The Awful Compromise: In Order to Get Abbott Out, is Labor Jumping Too Far to The Right?

So, by now you probably would have heard the announcements unveiled ahead of the ALP’s National Conference. There have been good, bad and interesting stuff introduced. Right now, I want to talk about the idea of Labor adopting the “boat turn-backs” policy. So let’s begin.

When I first heard of this, I was horrified and deeply saddened. I’ve talked to people and listened to more since then and my initial reaction still stands. However, it is slightly tempered by a couple of potential silver linings trying to show themselves perhaps. We’ll see.

For one thing, Shorten has just announced it as a policy idea. It still needs to be debated. Reportedly, some Labor MPs are rather annoyed that Mr. Shorten pre-empted the conference with this announcement. It does seem a little like he’s pushing the idea.

Secondly, even if it’s adopted it is possible that it will not quite be “binding” as such, but merely an option. Go back and read/ watch the detail of the announcement – Shorten is being rather careful with his words.

Potentially, it could be just another tactic to ensure Labor wins over the LNP in the marginal seats, whose polling apparently shows approval of the policy. For as someone close to me said when I vented frustration about this ‘policy switch’: If we want to ensure Abbott and the LNP are voted out, then we need to be prepared. Labor have been presenting as a soft target for a lot of the time in Opposition, just letting Attack-Dog Tony, still stuck in Opposition mode, do their work for them. It is hard to out-opposition “PM Nope-nope-nope”. They’ve gradually been increasing their pointed remarks for those with ears to listen. But going by the polling, they needed to look “tough”, or at least similar to Abbott on this issue, in order to decisively chuck him out.

It saddens me, but I see their point, even if it feels like greasy politicking – sometimes in order to win the day, I guess that’s what needs to be done. After all, we do not want Abbott as PM for another three or more years – last year’s budget would seem tame. Labor also need to win decisively enough that they have a reasonable majority over the LNP, even if there are a few Independent/ Greens members and senators around. Otherwise, we could be looking at more of the same.

BUT: I have hope.

Call me idealistic, but I’d really like to think that in Labor’s case, “boat turn-backs” might mean something slightly different in practice to the LNP’s. Especially since there’s talk of increasing the Humanitarian Refugee Intake.

My (Slightly Cheeky?) Plan for a Potential ‘Boat Turn-Back’ Policy Which Would Still Help Refugees:

1. LIFT THE SECRECY.

2. (a) Enter into discussion with Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia – encourage them to sign up to the Convention.
(b) Shut down Nauru and Manus Island camps.

3. Intercept every boat once in Australian waters. Tow them to Christmas Island/ other place where there’s an airport.

4. Fly the refugees back to Indonesia/ Malaysia/ Cambodia to accommodation/ properly set-up camps, with access to UNHCR etc. to be processed. Ensure that the refugees have access to proper housing, food, school, work, etc.

5. Increase our Refugee Intake so that we’re taking many people directly from those camps.

6. Voila! Boats stop coming, as they know they’ll just be returned to the camps. At the same time, the wait time for refugees at the camps is reduced, with better facilities available.

….Of course, it wouldn’t be that simple. But come on! We have to try something.
It’s a compromise: I’d really actually prefer some sort of “limited onshore detention > progressing to community detention” scenario. But that’s politics, unfortunately.

What do you think?

P. S. My brain is telling me I’ve seen something like the above solution written before, but I’m having trouble finding it… If anyone could help, that’d be great.

Edit: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/jul/23/asylum-seeker-policy-and-boat-turnbacks-breaking-labors-heart?CMP=soc_567 <– This Guardian article offers another perspective.

Shelter

There is a beautiful song by Eric Bogle called, “Shelter”, which I remember singing as part of school choir. It’s a wonderful song, reflecting on Australia, though it never quite mentions the actual name.

I remember it had three verses, the first verse went something like:
I’m drowning in the sunshine as it pours down from the skies
There’s something stirring in my heart, bright colours fill my eyes
As from here to the far horizon, your beauty does unfold
And oh you look so lovely, dressed in green and gold”

The rest of the song is just as poetic and beautiful. I love travelling, but – well, never say never, but I feel that I was born in Australia and so will live and eventually die in Australia, even if I visit other places. As much as I grumble about the current government, some things transcend politics. There’s a certain rugged beauty to be found here that I wouldn’t trade for anywhere else in the world.

I like taking photos with my iPod touch – especially nature stuff, even if that’s just the sunset as seen from my family’s back deck. I feel like today is a picture-sharing day…especially given how cold it is outside.

Here are a few which I took last night from slightly different angles. All the pretty colours!

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Here are also some photos from back in April, around the Easter weekend, when my family went on a day trip along the Great Ocean Road. I can’t help but admire the wild beauty and natural peace of these places….

“I’m the hot wind from the desert, I’m the black soil of the plains
I’m the mountains and the valleys, I’m the drought and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky, the rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land, I am Australian”

(Bruce Woodley & Dobe Newton, one of the verses of I Am Australian)

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We have such a beautiful country. I think of many things when I take these pictures and look at nature. Another song I cannot help but think of is that lovely hymn, “How Great Thou Art” (Stuart K. HIne).

“Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!” (Chorus)

If only we humans hadn’t stuffed it up. Hopefully we’ll be able to agree to fix it before it’s too late.

Weather and Time

Hello.

I spent last week at uni at an intensive Auslan (Australian Sign Language) course. Goodness, it was fun. I can hold a simple conversation in Auslan now, I think. Which is very good to know.

It’s been very cold over the past few weeks hasn’t it. I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of winter, really. Maybe it’s because of where I live, but winter in these parts seems to involve plenty of days where it’s completely overcast, often with a bit of what someone I know likes to call “nuisance -” or “dirty rain”. That’s the drizzly stuff that doesn’t do much except be a nuisance. Of course, there are some good days of heavy rain too. That’s both a blessing and a curse. Add a strong wind and low temperatures and it isn’t the most pleasant.

Rain can give other things a certain beauty, I’ll grant – and without rain there’d be no rainbows.
But still – I’m a sunshine kind of gal. My favourite time of year is the month of November, when it’s nice and warm, but usually not too hot yet – and sunny. Ahhhhh.

I don’t care about the beach or whatever – I just like sunshine. 🙂
After all, for an indoorsy person like me, it’s easier to convince yourself to get outside when the sun’s out.

Right now, the beast called procrastination is hounding me. I haven’t worked on Lily’s Story as much as I’d have liked to over these past few weeks. That deadline is looming, but I keep finding distractions. Oh dear.
Now I’ve got a “legitimate” distraction, too – the last piece of work for that Auslan course is an essay about how linguists know sign languages are real languages, due only a few days before the other deadline. So we’ll see what happens!

I’ve got another couple of posts planned, but there have been a few recent developments with at least one, so we’ll see.

How are things going with you?