Archives: January 2011

The stealthy return of cattle to the Victorian alpine national parks by the Victorian Liberal government is a payback to the National Party for their help in winning the last election. In an attempt at arse-covering, they’re touting it as a “scientific experiment”. As Robert Merkel and others have pointed out, they’re obviously taking this audacious action from the “Scientific Whaling” playbook. Simply, they’re breaking the law.

There is a well-defined legal process for such projects, developments or activities in a place of national significance, under section 68 of the Environment Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act. In early January, before they sent the cattle in, the DSE was supposed to notify the Federal environment minister, Tony Burke. After that, the Minister is required to publish the notice on the internet and invite public comment. After “consultations with the public and relevant ministers”, the Minister is required to decide whether the activity is a Controlled Action under the EPBC Act.

The impacts must then be assessed (and there are already reams of information on the damaging impact of hooved grazing animals on the Alpine environment, such as the 2005 Alpine Grazing Taskforce report and the 2006 CSIRO study into the Alpine ecology, grazing and fire.) Following assessment, the Minister then may determine whether or not to allow the Controlled Action under the EPBC Act.

It is an offence to carry out activities which may be Controlled Actions without the consent of the Federal Minister for the Environment.

According to news reports on January 12, the (Victorian) DSE claimed to have sent a letter to the Minister, but this letter appeared to have mysteriously disappeared en route.

The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment has written to Mr Burke’s office advising it of the trial and has offered a full briefing, but it has received no reply.
But the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has not received the letter.
”Under national environment law, the onus to refer an activity falls on the person carrying out the activity,” a spokesman said.

The cattle are already in the park, so they were in breach of the law already by mid January. I haven’t seen any calls for public comment by Tony Burke for assessment of a Controlled Action under the EPBC act – anyone else seen it? At any rate, the legal process has hardly got to square one.

It’s wrong. And don’t fall for the argument that as a city dweller, you have no right to oppose it. For one thing, this is a Heritage area which belongs to all Australians, not just a handful of families. For another, it’s your taxes at work.

The $5.50 per head fee paid by the graziers when the practice was stopped in 2005 (calves born while up in the high country travelled free) represented a massive subsidy by the taxpayer to a privileged few families, since the tiny fee went nowhere near to covering the damage caused by the cattle. If the Baillieu government is hell bent on allowing these people to do their damage, will the new agistment fee be set at a more realistic level?

Also, when Alpine grazing was ended by the Bracks government, an ex gratia payment was made by the Victorian government to the tune of $100 per head of cattle for the three years after that, up to $100,000 per license holder. (H/T Wilful.) So we were still paying for them.

Now that Alpine grazing has been brought back, will they be required to pay back that money?

You or I would be sent to the wall if we attempted to do something like this, but for the macho men of the Liberal and Country parties, the law is for the little people. We saw the damage that favours for “Labor mates” did to Victorian governance under Bracks and Brumby. Stand by for government by Liberal / Country Party mates. Plus ca change.

Yesterday, as I learned while driving along Burke Road listening to PM, Lara Giddings had just replaced David Bartlett as Tasmanian premier, and DID A JOURNALIST IN THE PRESS CONFERENCE JUST ASK THIS QUESTION? OH YES SHE BLOODY WELL DID. *Head threatens to explode*.

…As a single woman taking on the role, do you, are you concerned perhaps you’re giving up the potential to have a family? Is it compatible?

I like to think there’s a split second where Giddings gives the journo a death-ray glance before she breaks into her, apparently signature, charming smile. But that’s probably wishful thinking. Like most of our politicians, she knows she has to roll over and play nice for the press gallery, however shit her immediate questioner may be. They have the power to make her look bad. And she knew she was wedged. So instead of saying “what an appalling question, and beside being not relevant to the topic and none of your bloody business, you wouldn’t be asking a single man that if he was in my shoes today”, (Headline that day: Tasmanian PM proves Feminists Have No Sense Of Yumour!1!”) she said

If I had the choices, then, uh, it might be an issue for me, but I’m yet to find that man.

Which broke my heart. No, not because she hasn’t found a man! Because a woman who’s being interviewed on a rather important achievement and should be in a position of authority still has to submit to insults like this and laugh along.

I don’t know who the “female reporter” was, although I have my suspicions, based on level of reporting fail, proximity to Hobart and obsession with femininity performance.

Although Giddings tried to have a red-hot go at talking about her actual policies and qualifications for the job, this was what the Australian put on its front page today – “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr Right”. FFS.

To those of you who are going to say this is trivial and not political and build a bridge, this stuff matters. Sure, little girls are watching and learning that they can become Premier. They’re also learning that if they do, people will quiz them in public about their marital status and sex life and that for a woman, not being partnered or having children is a terrible loss of face. And they will get the message, still, that if you’re a woman and you want to aspire to the top jobs, you risk having to give up the family thing, but men don’t. (And, no, reporting family matters about Tony Abbott or Kevin Rudd isn’t the same thing.)

Journos, I know you’re having a difficult time of it, but is wilfully choosing braindead stupid questions really necessary? And does advancing the male-as-default-woman-as-curiosity narrative really have to be part of your job description?
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

18 Jan 2011, Comments (15)

A 1950s Alternative Universe

Author: Helen

I’m taking some weeks off work courtesy of the wonderful 48/52 , and having an at-home holiday with a rare respite from early mornings and reasonable bedtimes. So it was that on Saturday night I found myself watching a late-night 1950s black and white movie – something I haven’t done much of since the demise of Bill Collins and Ivan Hutchinson’s shows. Oh, how I used to love those old black and white movies (cue massive eyeroll from the kids). Some of the interest lies in a mixture of plot points which appear to have been written while dropping acid combined with gender and class expectations which are all too real.

This one was No Sad Songs For Me, starring Margaret Sullavan, who was quite a hoyden in her youth, with Natalie Wood as her abnormally well-adjusted daughter. According to,

…Sentimental melodrama about a ridiculously self-sacrificing wife based on the book by Ruth Southard and starring a 12-year-old Natalie Wood. Mary Scott (Margaret Sullavan) is pregnant when she finds out that she has terminal cancer with only a few months left to live. She keeps this information a secret from her husband, Brad Scott (Wendell Corey), who is carrying on an affair with his assistant, Chris Radna (Viveca Lindfors). Mary encourages her husband to pursue Chris as a replacement wife and mother after she dies.

Heavy stuff, eh, especially as I was in Natalie Wood’s shoes in 1968, except that I was a year younger and not nearly as adorable, co-operative or conscientious with my piano practice. So the movie should have had me wallowing in memories and grief, except for that other marvellous feature of the 1950s B&W: the LOLWUT!? factor.

Consider the events which the writer of this weepie considered believable in 1950.

The movie opens with the happy family at breakfast discussing a new pregnancy. Mary says she’s off to the doctor that day to confirm. When she does, the doctor tells her sternly that she’s not pregnant and is never likely to be again. We’re given to understand that the doctor’s an old family friend, but this is all he tells her. Oh, and the hilarity – Doctor lights up a cig while giving her the bad news! In the surgery. Oh, the ’50s, those were the days.

Dr. Bedside Manner obviously has no intention of telling her anything at this point. He only tells her about her terminal cancer when she leaves the surgery, walks out to the car, is overcome by an unseemly attack of patient curiosity and walks back into his office to ask him for more details. We are asked to believe that the doctor has diagnosed the cancer some weeks ago yet hasn’t seen fit to tell the patient, who, remember, is also an old family friend. RIGHT.

Mary then says “I remember you’ve been taking dozens of X rays for the last few weeks!”

Wouldn’t you think a woman who thought she was pregnant, instead of harbouring a fatal illness, would question having “dozens of X rays” taken in the (presumed) early stages of the pregnancy? But these were the days of smoking in the doctor’s surgery. They didn’t have those namby-pamby, politically correct safety procedures.

In 1950, it appears, cancer was universally a death sentence. Mary asks Mr People Skills if operations or radiotherapy will do anything, and he replies that the treatment’s still in the experimental stage. Well, perhaps IF HE HAD TOLD HER EARLIER she might have had a chance to get a second opinion, or something.

Instead of going straight to a solicitor to file a medical malpractice suit – seeing as he’s a family friend, I guess – Mary swears the doctor to secrecy so that she can conceal her condition from her family. The doctor readily agrees with this, since obviously he’s given to withholding information anyway. Incredibly, although he can’t do anything at all about Mary’s cancer, he is able to give the most detailed prognosis: Nine months to live, six months of which will be “on her feet”. Modern oncologists would be amazed at the ability of cigarette-smokin’ 50s doctors to pinpoint the exact course of the illness.

The rest of the movie pretty much consists of Mary becoming more and more saintly. Her terminal cancer appears to involve no painkillers, curtailment of social activities or even symptoms, apart from the occasional frown and clutch of the hand to the abdomen, or a brief lie down on the couch. We are not told where this cancer is. One imagines that the ending will be Mary lying on lacy pillows becoming ever more beautiful and radiant as death approaches. However, it’s even more hokey than that.

After participating in a batty, and saintly, ruse to make sure her husband’s affair partner/girlfriend, Chris, is around to replace her(!) (LOLWUT!), Mary spills the beans. Husband, suitably devastated, breaks his philandering and working routine to take her on a second honeymoon to Mexico, where they dance together to a mariarchi band, after which Mary obligingly drops dead, thus eliminating the need for the sad bedridden final phase, and making the handover to Chris more seamless.

Although Chris is an exasperating entitled little shit, one can have some sympathy for her as she enters the movie in the guise of a professional draughtsperson working on a dam project with the husband, Brad / Wendell Cory. Thus we have the classic 1950s/1960s scene where the new worker turns out to be a WOMAN! Oh the HILARITY! The world turned upside down! The exchange between Brad, the hirer, and Chris, the prospective employee, illustrates perfectly the complete disdain for female employees and her need to plead and supplicate to convince him to give her the job despite her manifest inferiority. He demurs because the job’ll require her to go outside and it might rain! A woman might… melt, or something.

The plot then requires them to fall in lurve, but this is just predictable, because she’s a member of the sex class. That’s why we can’t have them on the job! They’ll distract the men!

In the final scene, the LOLWUT!? factor goes off the charts. Chris, the replacement mother, and the child Polly are sitting together at the piano playing a tragic musical piece. At this point, as far as Polly knows, Chris is the family friend/babysitter and Mum and Dad are just away on a nice holiday. The phone rings and Chris answers. It is terrible news from Mexico! Well, terrible for Mary, anyway. Chris makes some cryptic remark and they keep playing. Are they ever going to tell this kid anything? She never knew her mum was even sick. When are they going to actually let her know she’s DIED? The Wikipedia article on Margaret Sullavan says that her family life was fairly tortured and marked by suicide and institutionalisation. If this was the way 1950s families were supposed to handle family crises, I’m really not surprised. “Here’s your school lunch, dear. By the way, your mum’s not coming back from Mexico. She’s dead. I’m your new mum now. I’m sure Dad will explain everything when he gets back, but he’ll be a while because of organising the cold storage for the coffin ‘n all…”

Ah, those old black and white movies. If you’re ever tempted to join the conservatives in yearning for the Good old Days before the counterculture and modern medicine changed the world, when a man could still light up a satisfying fag in his doctor’s surgery and women knew their place, watch one of these and marvel. On the other hand, there’s no room for complacency yet; Judd Apatow and Charlie Sheen still churn out stuff which future generations will watch and…LOLWUT?!
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

Downunder Feminist Carnival

Profligate Promiscuous Strumpet hosts this month’s Down Under Feminist Carnival for your reading pleasure.

You can put up candidates for next month’s carnival on the Carnival Submissions form, or if you can’t access that, via email to Claire Arch-Nemesis at Leonine Anti-Heroine.

8 Jan 2011, Comments (9)


Author: Helen

Fell at the bus stop September before last and broke a hip.

He lay for twenty minutes on the pavement in the evening cold. Thankfully two other oldsters saw him and raised the alarm. The surgeon didn’t think he was in good enough shape for a hip replacement, and pinned it instead. A year and a half on and he was on so many painkillers he was hardly with us.

He deteriorated in December so much that she sought a second opinion. The operation was go, but there was no hundred percent guarantee that he’d survive surgery and an anaesthetic. Then, more deterioration and he went into hospital just before Christmas.

He woke up in HD (Intensive Care as they used to call it.) That was planned as part of the surgery, but of course, he assumed he was about to die. I thought that was perfectly logical. If I was ninety and I woke up in a hospital on various machines, and I was having trouble retaining things I’d been told that day or the day before, I’d assume I didn’t have long to go. And he was a bit of a wraith, those first two days.

Christmas in the hospital: he’s always been a scoffer, so I didn’t worry that he’d be devastated by missing out on the festivities. Neither am I one to make a big production out of Christmas. But the slabs of turkey in the covered lunch plate suddenly made me sad.

Am I dying? No, you’re getting better. You’ve had a hip replacement. Oh yes. Do you remember how much pain you were in? Was I in a lot of pain? Was it because of my broken leg? Yes. You’ve got a new hip now.

He’s in rehab now. Onward.