Archives: October 2008

…As I was walking past, and stopped to watch for a minute or so. It was one of those daytime soaps, “the Bold and the Beautiful”, I think.

Characters: Older Woman with red jacket and hair that doesn’t move;
Older Man with grey hair and clipped facial hair.

W: Oh, I just don’t understand why she would insist on an annulment. You’ve been married for twenty years.

M: Well, you see, I… strayed.

W: Oh. Well. Well, I can’t pretend I’m not shocked to hear that. But is she really doing the right thing- to ask for an annulment?

M: Weeeeellll…. There’s more to it than that.
…I strayed [Pregnant pause}
with Wendy.

W: !With WENDY!!!!??!?

[Another pregnant pause]

…Your cow??

M [Looks wretched] Well, we’d been very close lately the two of us…

[Woman jumps to her feet. Hair still does not move]

W: You strayed…with livestock?

…Then it was time to go back to work, so I don’t know how that panned out.

Update 1 November: Brownie has it totally sussed – and I mean completely. You genius!

25 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Killing off the grass roots

Killing off the grass roots

Author: Helen

Many people who begin a career in local politics start by being passionate about an issue. They stand for Council to try to make a difference. Others are political timeservers and seat warmers who are using the place as a stepping stone to bigger things. Many in my state, Victoria, never met a developer they didn’t like.

If you’re thinking of becoming one of the passionate issue-driven ones, now you can forget about it. Under a proposed amendment to the Local Government act, making a submission on any topic in, it seems, any forum, disqualifies a councillor from voting on measures related to that topic. Greens MLC Greg Barber:

Councillors can be banned from voting on any Council matter if they have previously chosen to:

(ii) make an objection or submission in relation to the matter.
* It doesn’t have to be a submission you made to the Council you are running for. If you made a submission to a state government review, your Council forming its position on the same review could be seen to be the same ‘matter’.
* It’s irrelevant what you said in your submission, whether for, against or neutral on a proposal. Writing the submission automatically gives you a conflict of interest.
* It doesn’t have to be a personal submission. You could be an office bearer of a group or other entity and be held responsible for the submission your group made.

Example: Katherine is a local councillor and also the Treasurer of the local Landcare group, who wrote a submission to the Minister for Water on a proposal to declare certain wetlands as protected. Later, the Minister writes to Katherine’s council asking them for their position on the matter. Katherine can’t vote.

* It could be a verbal submission you made by speaking at a council meeting. It doesn’t matter what you said, because the only necessary action is that you made a submission.
* It’s retrospective. Any submission you made in the past could knock you out of voting at any time on the future.

Example: Ian made a submission to his council’s proposed by-law on footpath trading rules. Some time later he is elected to council. Five years after the law was first created, Council considers running a review of the law. Councillor Ian can’t even vote on whether or not to review the law because he made a submission on the original version.

(H/T to Kieran Bennett).

This means that everyone who’s ever spoken out on forests, water policy, Alpine grazing, toxic waste dumps next to housing developments or any other debatable topic is muzzled from here on in, and everyone who hasn’t is prevented from making submissions or otherwise speaking out in the future.

It occurs to me that every time Councils vote, someone has to find out exactly who has ever made a submission on each motion, and as shown above, there’s a multiplicity of fora that have to be searched. For each Council member. Who’s going to do this work? Who pays for this?

Welcome to Victoria: government by time servers, seat warmers and people who endorse big projects and inappropriate development – but have been careful not to make any noise about it.
Crossposted at Road to Surfdom

24 Oct 2008, Comments (3)

Friday Dogblogging and …stuff.

Author: Helen

Here are things that are cheering me up at the moment, because heaven knows I need it, and maybe you do too. Boychild has a retinal tear as well as the other stuff, but he will still be OK as long as the retina doesn’t detach. We’ve been to the Eye and Ear Hospital a couple of times this week so the specialists can check him for whether laser surgery on the tear is the way to go. He has no pain and claims to have plenty of vision. He’s healing.

This week’s dog photo features Boychild’s left side, aka the side that was nearly blown up. He looks much like this again, except for a few scratches on the nose and the stitched wound on his hairline, which his hair will cover. We’re all so relieved it wasn’t worse.

19 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Saturday Night: Live, thank Goodness

Saturday Night: Live, thank Goodness

Author: Helen

So far we’ve managed to avoid the late night vigil in Casualty with Boychild. We had it with Girlchild a decade ago- memo to young parents: Polished wood floors are brilliant for health and aesthetics, but very bad for falling on face first.

(Update: Girlchild’s face is very beautiful and by some miracle she has all her teeth.)

Also, by some miracle, Boychild still has two eyes. His penchant for explosions caught up with him today. This time it wasn’t Mentos and Coke but simple bicarb and vinegar. Hell, I use the same mixture for cleaning bathroom surfaces. I first became aware of a problem when peeling potatoes and hearing his friend, who had come for a sleepover, yelling that “Boychild’s really hurt himself. Help, help, he’s really hurt.”

Here follows a couple of paragraphs which might not be immediately legible because it concerns tear/tear (rip vs. drop of salty water), like those “They’re Their There” paragraphs which school students have to parse…

He had a three cornered tear on the skin on his head near the hairline. Now I know what they say in the First Aid courses: Head wounds bleed copiously. Believe it. So, I did not freak out based on the enormous amounts of blood coursing down his little face. We hotfooted it to the local hospital and thanks to Boychild gushing fountains of blood, were admitted straight away. Thank the Lard, it was an unusually quiet night. One nice doctor sewed up his head while an extremely cool younger doctor gave him a lecture on not blowing things up. Thanks, nice doctor and cool doctor.

Then he had to wait an hour and a half to see Way Cool Eye specialist, which was where I began to freak out. (Inwardly, of course. People who outwardly freak out in Casualty should just get the fuck out and are a pain in the arse.) Because of course the first thing I’d asked him was whether the flying shrapnel had got his eye. No, he hadn’t got any pain in his eye and it was fine he said. Bollocks. He has a small tear in his iris. Yes that kind of tear not the other kind. He also has blood in the front of the eye. Fuckfuckfuckfuck.

He is going to have to spend seven days commuting between his bed, the couch and the toilet. He’s not allowed to do …well…anything much. He can’t even walk around the block. Worse, he can’t do too much reading or computer gaming or any of the other things 11-year-old boys want to do to pass the time when they’re immobilised. Is it possible for an 11- year old to perish from sheer boredom?

(Digression- about freaking out in Casualty – bearing in mind it was Saturday, we got discharged just as the first wave of Angry Drunks arrived. That was lucky. Isn’t there some island somewhere we could send angry drunks and meth heads to live? I wouldn’t want to persecute them or anything. I’d drop really nice food by helicopter. Just let them live there away from the rest of us.)

I’m just glad to have Boychild home, instead of in a hospital bed (which was on the cards a few hours ago). I’m glad he still has the chance of keeping his (hitherto) healthy vision. Please keep your fingers crossed for him.

13 Oct 2008, Comments Off on How amusing.

How amusing.

Author: Helen

A story from Yahoo News, via Shakesville:

In an upstate New York county, hundreds of voters have been sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for “Barack Osama.”

This was reported in the AGE.

Where? On the front page.

Good. Because we need to report that kind of stuff so the whole world knows about how Obama is being dog-whistled by some people. (That post was Shakesville’s Obama Racism/Muslim/Unpatriotic/Scary Black Dude Watch part 92.)

Where on the front page?

The Odd Spot.

The ODD SPOT? (that tiny section for little info-bites on cute, weird, pratfalls and two-headed chickens?)


Good one, Fairfax.

12 Oct 2008, Comments (3)

Man-Bites-Dog story

Author: Helen

Treebeard the Ent

This is delicious: FORESTS might help to destroy Gunns Ltd’s latest old growth-chomping project.

Frankable Optionally Redeemable Equity Settleable Transferable Securities, that is.

No, this is not a joke. Surely a box of Monte Christo cigars will have been bestowed upon the banker who dreamt up this acronym.
Anyway, Gunns is looking to wrap up its $430 million capital raising by early October, before the interest rate on its Forests resets on October 14 to an expensive 12.5%…

October 14, eh? Tick, tick tick…

Of course, it’s more fun to imagine Treebeard storming into the Gunns Ltd boardroom, bearing two tonnes of old growth woodchips, all of which he forces John Gay to eat. With milk but no sugar.

11 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Author: Helen

Update from Colleen Hartland last night:

The Abortion Law Reform Bill has passed through both houses of Victorian Parliament without amendment, and will therefore become law.

After the second reading, a large number of amendments were proposed, which I feared would create a law that would take away women’s rights, and perhaps even lead to women being forced into illegal back yard abortions.

The amendments related to some reasons for abortion were more valid than others, reducing a woman’s right to choose from 24 weeks, to 14 weeks or 12 weeks, bringing in various different types of doctors to make the decision for the woman, and so on. I voted against each of the amendments.

I hope you will forgive me for not giving detail about my reasons for my vote on each of the amendments – it has been a long week, and we sat until 3am last night. If you’d like more information, please check Hansard when it is published overnight – Sue Pennicuik MLC gave reasons on behalf of the three Greens MPs, with Greg Barber clarifying our position a couple of times. Please also have a look at Sue Pennicuik’s speeches in the second reading debate late last night.

I am happy to say that all of the amendments lost by a greater margin than the second reading vote.

We were then asked to vote one final time on the Bill as a whole. The Bill finally passed, with 23 MPs voting in favour, and 17 against. I’ll give you three guesses how I voted!

It was quite an emotional moment, and an incredible relief. The pro choice campaigners spilled out of the public gallery to join the pro choice MPs in Queen’s Hall, and there was a great deal of hugging, a few tears and bizarrely enough, whispering until suddenly one of the women started applauding and everyone took up the applause. It was very emotional to see long standing pro choice campaigners like Jo Wainer, Marilyn Beaumont and others standing together with Candy Broad MLC (ALP) whose brave attempt to introduce a private member’s bill last year paved the way for the government bill that finally passed, and Andrea Coote (Libs) whose brilliant analysis and skill was so influential before and during the debate. It was lovely to see women from different political parties hugging. There were so many amazing women present, I’m afraid I have neglected to mention some – Leslie Cannold, the womens health organisations. Earlier in the day, former Premier Joan Kirner was present, and Carolyn Hirsh. Joan got a feminist guard of honour when she walked out the back door at Parliament House, after the Bill passed second reading, and a special round of applause tonight.

I would like to thank you for the part that you played in decriminalising abortion. You have engaged in the process. You have written to one or more MPs, using respectful language, giving information and inspiration that has assisted this result. Some of you have shared life stories that have touched my heart. I am grateful for each of the emails that you have sent. I am sure that the result would have been different, if you had not become involved.

No, thank you, Colleen. I wasn’t the one sitting up till dawn listening to Bernie Finn waffle on for six hours .

This is the first time I have sent updates during a parliament process. I felt that it was the right thing to do, as so many people urged me to vote for abortion law reform, and I felt a duty to report back to let you know the result of your contribution, without making you wait for a week during a long debate.

Throughout the debate, pro choice MPs from different political parties worked together, with assistance and advice. I feel that the conscience vote brought out the best in all of us.

Emervents has blogged Colleen’s emails here, here, and here, and she has also provided a list of email addresses and a sample letter to thank all the MLCs who voted for the Bill.

A big thank you to Colleen. Now have a big sleep in!

I’d also like to thank the “Tell the Truth coalition” and their sympathisers for completely alienating and disgusting many waverers in the Parliament and helping to convince them that the anti-choicers weren’t presenting a logical or sane position. Great work, guys!

9 Oct 2008, Comments Off on View from inside the House: Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation bill diary

View from inside the House: Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation bill diary

Author: Helen

A bit of background: Colleen Hartland is my local Greens member for the Legislative Council, Western Metropolitan region. I know her to say hello to. She’s an approachable person who likes to chat to people in the electorate about the things that bother them. I know her mostly from meetings about transport and crossing safety issues, but she’s active on the abortion decriminalisation front as well and featured in an AGE article about the abortion she herself had when she was young.

The abortion decriminalisation bill, having passed the lower house, is being debated in the Upper house (Legislative Council).

Wednesday 8 September: Colleen reports from da House!

The Abortion Law Reform Bill debate adjourned at 10pm last night, and started again this afternoon, after debate finished on a Liberal party motion on another topic.

We have now heard from 16 MPs, of which ten have indicated they will vote in favour of the Bill at “Second Reading” – that is, they support the Bill in principle, and will let it progress to the next debate stage, which is called the “committee” stage.

Today’s debate has been fascinating. I recommend anyone following the debate via Hansard to read the extraordinary speech by Shaun Leane (ALP) when it is published overnight. It joins speeches by Andrea Coote (Libs) and Jenny Mikakos (ALP) yesterday, which I thought were outstanding.

There are still about a dozen MPs on the speaking list tonight. Yesterday they spoke for an average 30 minutes each (I only spoke for about ten minutes), so don’t expect a result any time soon. As I write this, Bernie Finn (Libs) has been speaking for about an hour, and for the first time I have left the chamber.

I was surprised and delighted to receive brief messages from so many of you yesteday evening, including people who listened to my speech on the live broadcast , or read it on the website. My staff forwarded me some of the messages in Parliament, and they gave me a strong feeling of being part of a supportive, caring community during an exhausting sitting week.

These updates are going to about 500 people who asked me to vote for a woman’s right to choose. I was already pro-choice, but you have given me the courage to stand up and speak with your strength and support. This included my very difficult decision to go public about having had an abortion. I am sure that brief, warm supportive emails to other pro-choice MPs would also be appreciated.

You may have heard that pro-choice MPs are receiving abusive emails after speaking. I have been inundated with those emails, each one nastier than the last. If the anti-choice brigade ever needed to convince us that they are abusive, misogynist bullies who want to impose their choices on others, they have achieved that aim, with bells on! Mind you, yesterday one email spat “the BRAZEN nerve of you”, and I’m taking that as a compliment.

I expect we will sit later tonight than last night, because of the delay in starting the debate. I will send a message with the results of the “second reading” vote, if we get there.

Thursday 9 September:

Nineteen MPs have now spoken, of which eleven have indicated that they will vote for the Abortion Law Reform Bill at second reading.

When I sent my last email to this group*, at about 6.30pm yesterday, I said that Bernie Finn (Libs) had been speaking for over an hour. He kept speaking after the dinner break, and hadn’t finished at 10pm when the house adjourned. He started again this morning and kept talking, give or take lunch and question time, until 2.45pm this afternoon. I’m not entirely sure he stopped when we all went home overnight.

Mr Kavanaugh (DLP) is now speaking. So far it sounds like a repeat of Mr Finn’s arguments, but with a softer voice. He has anticipated that he will speak for some time.

It’s as though the anti-choice advocates have realised that they can’t win the argument on legal or moral grounds, and instead they’re trying to starve us out.

Mr Finn’s arguments, while lengthy, were not new to me, so his speech gave me over five hours to reflect and achieve perspective on the contributions so far.

One of the clearest truths, from all the speakers, including some of the anti choice speakers, is that this Bill won’t change the number of abortions carried out in Victoria. All it will do is improve safety for the women and the medical practitioners. Nothing else will change if it passes.

Women still wouldn’t make their decision in a vacuum. They still have to deal with society. I nearly cheered when Shaune Leane (ALP) suggested that the 2,000 people who have lobbied him against abortion, should instead send protest notes to their local media outlet when it vilifies single mothers in his extraordinary speech yesterday.

Jenny Mikakos (ALP) made an argument for practicing Christians such as herself, who would never choose abortion themselves, to nevertheless support the Bill in her speech on Tuesday. Jaala Pulford (ALP) said this afternoon that, worldwide, the abortion rate has no correlation to the legality of abortion, but instead to the place of women in society.

Ironically, some anti-choice advocates are frightened that this Bill will give too many rights to women, when it is an increase in women’s rights that will decrease the number of abortions.

Mr Theophanous (ALP) was the first speaker this afternoon to refer directly to proposed amendments, which he has circulated. The amendments relate to abortion after 24 weeks gestation. He argues that some of a woman’s reasons for abortion have more validity than others, and his proposed amendments reflect this view. My Greens colleagues and I will vote against them.

There will be up to 20 more speakers before we reach the first vote, which is the vote at the end of “second reading”. My best guess is that the vote will take place tomorrow morning, after which we will start debating proposed amendments.

Usually we don’t sit on Fridays. We’ve only done it once since I was elected. I think we should sit every day until the debate is concluded. I don’t think that delay tactics should be rewarded, when the result would be to leave the public hanging on a decision by 40 members of parliament. Particularly when I think the decision should belong to each individual woman.

If you want, you can send messages of support to colleenDOThartlandATparliamentDOTvicDOTcomDOTau.

Atom bomb

“Mum, do we have any bicarbonate of soda?”

“Here. What do you need it for?” (Thinks: It’d be lovely if he said “scrubbing the bathroom tiles”, but somehow I think not.)

“Making a weapon of mass destruction.”


“Mum, can I have my pocket money?”

::Snip boring lecture about please don’t spend it on lollies because he’s had way too much sugar lately including the hedgehogs he made himself::

“No, we’re buying Diet Coke and Mentos.”