Monday, May 31, 2004

Who am I?

I was born in the mid-to late 1950s. I have degrees in social science and law. My early working life included time with the Law Foundation, the Evatt Foundation and heading up the Office of Youth Affairs in the Prime Ministers Department in 1985.

In 1988, I founded a not-for-profit think-tank – dedicated to “improving the learning and work transitions of young Australians”. All board members of this think-tank are my age or older. The think-tank bears my surname as the first word of its title.

Later, I founded the WorldSkills Australia Foundation (previously WorkSkill) a national not-for-profit organisation whose mission is to raise the status and standards of vocational training and work skills.

The pseudonymous think-tank I founded is self-funding. With this in mind, we applaud Mark Latham’s recently announced “Youth Guarantee” (which will force young people into training, school or work), with just this caveat/”hint-hint”:

And while Labor has offered a guarantee it has not yet spelled out an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure it will be delivered.

By forcing public schools to become baby-sitters for 15-17 year olds who don’t want to be there (school being the “easiest” option for a kid who isn’t rapt about the prospect of working in the fast-food industry at junior wages or doing a chimney-sweep "apprenticeship"), the public school system will be further demoralised. Not that we usually admit this – but hey, if we were a force for good, we’d get funded by government, or at least by charities.

Our other nasty policy mission is to systemically bury the prevalence of unemployment among GenX, and especially its skewing towards the most educated GenXers. We do this by the old scare-mongering decoy trick; in particular by incessantly exaggerating the correlation between early school-leaving and youth unemployment:

The Opposition's "youth guarantee" is an example of the muddled thinking of most politicians and many social commentators about young people's participation in the economy.

A myth persists that youth unemployment in Australia is frighteningly high, when in fact research has shown many times that young people leaving school – even early leavers – have very little risk of being unemployed

I am Tjerk (Jack) Dusseldorp

* Letter to Editor, The Australian 18 May 2004, from Dr Erica Smith, School of Education,Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW

Paul Keating issues baby boomer mea culpa

Adding another welcome notch in the groove of my broken old LP record anti-boomer spiel is ex-PM Paul Keating (who in this respect has now joined the august company of RBA governor, Ian Macfarlane:

He described the young as being in two groups - the connected and the disconnected. Yet even for those in the better-off group, there were significant difficulties.

They were, he said, "a group who get along in the world without institutional loyalties, without lifetime employment, who have to pay for education, who live life in nodules of employment, who are locked out of property, who are slated to rent often sub-standard accommodation, who are weary of marriage and financial obligation, who watched the wealthy get wealthier and prevail upon their parents for sustenance or support and rely more or less on the camaraderie of mutual friends in similar circumstances."

Mr Keating said that although these people were contributing enormously to productivity, the "productivity dividends" was not going to them.

Apart from the age range for Australia's "new poor" being said to be between 18 and 30, Keating is spot on. Today's typical 30-somethings are certainly no better off than today's 20-somethings. Indeed, the younger you go within Keating's nominated age range, the more likely you are to encounter Children of Boomers, who in turn are inherently less likely to be under the illusion I was at the age of 18, viz that Australia is a meritocracy which rewards its smart achievers.

Meanwhile, the Ken Parish-style "Don't Blame the Boomers" counter-argument has been enthusiastically taken up by Richard Clapton - he of the "boyish, unlined rounded face" (look at the photo - if that is a boyish, unlined face, then my almost-40 y.o. face resembles that of a foetus, if not a zygote).

Like most such attempts at this genre (Richard Neville is another notable exponent, of course), reasoned rebuttal is almost gratuitous - Clapton's unintentional self-parody speaks volumes for itself:

The problem for my generation is that the music of the last 10 years or so has become so heavily marketed that it is as exciting as the shrinkwrapped products on a supermarket shelf [excluding those in the confectionery aisle, which, judging by the photo, Clapton finds exciting indeed].

In case you don't get it - That the music industry is an over-commercialised monster is undoubtedly true. But as for "the last 10 years or so" - what the? No doubt the drug-fucked (i'm guessing) Clapton's memory is now shiite, but I'm sure he must have at some stage pulled a cone or snorted a line along to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd's "Money"* (1973) - which is, if you've just landed from outer space or Saudi Arabia, a song about the over-commercialised monster known as the music industry, circa 1973.

But cutting to the chase - which for a boomer, always involves money, even if this contradicts what they've just said - Clapton then goes all Fuhrer-like about why all discerning music fans should rush out and buy his new album:

The general public will not be dictated to, especially when it comes to music, which in a primal sense is a deeply spiritual part of people's lives. We are not battery hens.

Don't "we" me, Clapton. I don't think anyone has ever called boomers the equivalent of battery hens. Try "greedy, spoiled wankers, who have to resort to genX-bashing to keep funding their unsustainable lifestyles". And if you're a "downshifter", who thinks Clapton's new "spiritual" sound is going to be perfect piped backgrounder for the Bose up at your new Byron Bay pad, that goes double.

* 3 June 2004 Correction Even though (amazingly) no Pink Floyd pedant has so far picked me up about this, I should now record that "Money" (1973) is not specifically about the music industry. I actually meant "Have a cigar", from the equally bong-tastic 1975 album "Wish you were here".

Friday, May 28, 2004

Play for the dole?

A story in yesterday’s Herald-Sun, bemoaning the non-vocational-ness and slackness of many Work for the Dole projects, contains a strange twist, away from the standard serve of righteous tabloid indignation. Senior Labor figures are quoted more or less agreeing with the tabloid’s premise, with Australian Council of Social Services president Andrew McCallum leading the charge, in saying that Work for the Dole should be used for job training, not community service:

I don't think you would go through the Saturday morning paper and find a lot of jobs that say 'mural painting required'.

Err, Andrew, last time I looked through the Saturday morning paper there were exactly zero jobs for “legal academic with teaching experience and research track record required”. So your point is?

For those not au fait with Australia’s Work for the Dole system, worthy-sounding calls for all projects to have a training component miss the point by a mile (and senior Labor figures well-know this, even as they labour it). WfD is simply the last-resort “choice” that an unemployed person has for fulfilling their “mutual obligation” requirements. Notably, education (uni) and training (TAFE etc) are another way of metting one’s “mutual obligation”.

In practice, bearing in mind that the unemployed are just as career- and economically-rational as anybody else, this means that the typical particpant in a WfD project (certainly the ones I have been conscripted into) falls into one of two categories.

The majority are (like me) educated and trained up to our eyeballs. We could have instead chosen to sit in a classroom, and yet again ponder why the job-for-life boomer fuckwit is up the front, when any of us could be teaching the class much better than he/she. Upfront cost/debt is hardly a major deterrent here, either, at least re TAFE, for which a year’s part-time enrolment (sufficient to satisfy mutual obligation) comes to about $70 for an unemployed person.

The minority, on the other hand, are . . . (insert own prejudices here).

What Labor should be banging on about, then, is why Australia has so many highly-educated unemployed, and what to do about it. Hint – putting us in anything compulsory (other than an actual real job, of course) is not going to solve the problem.

As for uni graduates getting to finger-paint etc on some WfD projects, what would Labor like to see them do instead – given that they have explicitly, and quite rationally, rejected the option of further education/training? Painting rocks, perhaps? Commission-based selling? (Always plenty of jobs for that to be found in the newspapers)

Finally, the irony is that the finger-painting type WfD projects are usually run by the more commercially-oriented WfD program providers, and notably not by fundamentalist religious oufit Mission Australia (will is receiving $65 million to run projects in the current year). It’s cheaper, of course, to supervise and insure uni graduates finger-painting than scrubbing down the floors of nursing homes (the latter being more Mission Australia’s – and presumably also Labor’s – style of project).

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Even Andrew Norton is having a demographic poke at this upcoming online "magazine's" honour-roll:

Most of these people have ready access to existing media, and many of them have been active in Australian public life for decades

Putting beyond doubt that "New Matilda" will be a pointless waste of cyberspace are two fawning articles on it from today's broadsheets.

"Prosperity must have a social and moral purpose" says mag founder John Menadue. What prosperity, you cosseted little git?

Also according to Menadue, the public was misled over the children overboard affair and, more recently, the "dissembling and deceit" over the Iraq war "was the final straw".

While the furphy of WMDs was hardly a high-point of transparent government, I thought that by now everyone knew what Jack Strocchi, and Rupert Murdoch and I pointed out a year or so ago - Iraq was ALL ABOUT OIL. If John Menadue leads a life completely free of consumption of this substance, then that would be something to write home about. Otherwise, he and his boomer ilk should just shut the fuck up, for once.

P.S. I suspect that SMH columnist PP McGuinness is too old to count as a boomer, but the Australian's Amanda Meade must be one, in view of her recording this line from Paddy's resignation letter, without comment:

I offer you my commiserations on the situation in which you find yourself.

Paddy actually thinks that he's going to be hard to replace, with Amanda Meade in silent concurrence. Ha!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

What I'm reading

Looking back, my days majoring in English (Lit) at Melbourne University in the mid-80s, were ones of Brideshead-ian languor, as suitably cut down for the time and place.

Externally, my then character (complete with blue mohawk) owed more to the cast of TV's "The Young Ones" than to anything drawn by Waugh. For the life of the mind, though, this was time of haute classicism - to which can be added a sense of exquisite urgency, as portents from the ever-darkening real world occasionally lobbed in.

The Eighties - such as they have come to be popularly considered - thus more or less passed me by. While the boomers were proclaiming "greed is good" on every downtown street corner, I was either not listening, or else didn't care. It was only in 1988, with the thin edge of the HECS wedge looming, that the massive social changes being wrought by Reagan/Thatcher fundamentalism became concrete for me.

Which is not to say that Melbourne's English Department of the mid-80s was some kind of ivory tower. Far from it, in fact - it faced downtown with arrogant cocksureness; a stance that later would be recognised by 22nd C anthropologists as a precursor ritual practised by academics facing the ten-storey wall of terror and delight called Theory.

The above story is told to explain why I don't often do "What I'm reading". It's because I'm super-sensitive to the Canon. I got there just in time to get homage (that's homm-arge, BTW) for it drummed into me, but at the same time to be told, in no uncertain terms, that the Canon was now closed*; i.e. that all subsequent writers of exceptional talent would have to find some other place to be filed for posterity under.

Anyway, to cut to the chase. I reckon I'm going to commit the unthinkable, by suggesting that a writer be added to the Canon - and a living (b 1936) writer at that. His name is David Caute.

(Cont'd 27 May 2004)

I'd never heard, or read anything of Caute until a couple of weeks ago, when I came across two volumes labelled The Demonstration and The Occupation. Having a middling interest in student protests, I thought (correctly) that the two books might be along such lines, and so dived into them.

In so doing (and I read very few books "cold", other than from a sense of duty or of specialised interest), I was reassured and encouraged by the fact/expectation that (i) the two books were part of a trilogy (and even better, that the trilogy consisted of a play, a novel and an essay), (ii) the author's versatility didn't just stop there, with an edited** Essential Writings of Karl Marx under his belt, and most importantly, (iii) that the two books, published in 1970 and 1971, might have something important and "new" to say about the 1968 generation, having been written and published in real time, as it were.

So far, this latter expectation has been abundantly met. The Demonstration (the play; 1970) is an intelligent and provocative exploration of the limits of student protest generally, and a time capsule about Western universities in the late 60s in particular. It also contains some great one-liners - I'm sure, the first and last of this sort ever written by one who has, of necessity, read great swathes of Karl Marx.

While I'm only about a third of the way through The Occupation (the novel; 1971), it's clear that Caute is no one-hit wonder. The protagonist of both play and novel, academic Steven Bright, is depicted with particular relish and realism in the novel as a dirty, dirty man.

Looking up Caute's subsequent biography, there is obviously much more by Caute that is going to be worthwhile reading.

The most recent book on the list, from 1998, comes with an attached sad story, though. A parody (and apparently a ripsnorter at that) on the S@lman Rushdee affair, it was rejected by more than twenty publishers, before finally being self-published by Caute.

Which goes to show that terrorist appeasement was in high fashion in the West, years before 2001. In more ways than one, Islamofascism is the true and only love child of 1968.

* A neat little precursor of HECS this one was too - in hindsight - HECS saw the drawbridge raised against GenX, who were then forced to buy their way into university, irrespective of academic merit, and irrespective of whether they were part-way through their courses

** Karl Marx should no more be read unedited than pornography be viewed for its narrative.

Life as a displaced academic

In eight days' time, I give my last class for the semester, and rejoin the dole queue, for an unknown period of between six weeks and 25 years (the old age pension, assuming it's not abolished in the mean time, is going to be best (by monetary value) birthday present I've ever got). It's a strange feeling when the end-of-contract thing happens - not because it's unfamiliar (quite the contrary) - but because it's not supposed to happen. I'm a highly educated "knowledge worker", and all that.

Googling for "displaced academics" and "displaced academic" produces just a few dozen hits, most of which refer to the situation of Jewish academics in 1930s Germany, and its historical legacy. There is a single Australian-specific reference - occurring, odddly enough, in a recent NTEU draft Enterprise Bargaining document (clause 27). Predictably, academics on contract cannot come within the definition of "displaced academic".

Meanwhile, PM John Howard shows a curiously selective interest in his concern for displaced workers. For the thousand or so Mitsubishi employees who will - in 18 months time - be losing their jobs, he has made a pledge to look out for them.* What's the difference, eh John? Presumably that the making could-be-made-anywhere oil-fuelled cars is of greater national importance to Australia than the dissemination of high-level knowledge. Priorities can be funny like that - all the more so when governments have just tipped in tens of millions of dollars into Mitsubishi's soon-to-be obsolescent factories, while at the same time starving universities - which are a future-looking industry, by definition - of funds.

* "PM makes jobs pledge" AFR 25 May 2004 (no URL)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Clive Hamilton - welcome to Paul Watson’s perma-rotisserie

Clive Hamilton, Executive Director of the Australia Institute, is a baby boomer dripping with hubris. While I did a bit of a number on him only recently, as he is self-evidently not listening – based on the content of last night’s "Four Corners" – I’ve decided to give him another turn on Paul Watson’s Rotisserie. In fact, not only that, I think it’s about time this blog got its very first Mascot of Relentless Derision, and Clive, purporting to come from the Left, is eminently suited for this role. (Attacking the Right is too easy to be ultimately satisfying).

First, who is Clive Hamilton? I mean, apart from being Executive Director of “Australia’s foremost public-interest think tank”. Oh, and apart from being described “in the press” as “Australia's most influential economist on the left” (same URL). The last one’s a bit of a mystery, BTW, as Googling "Australia's most influential economist" "Clive Hamilton" doesn’t result in a single result from the said "press".

Well, from last night’s “Four Corners”, Clive is clearly (i) a man who wears expensive rimless eye-glasses, and (ii) sees a pricey Canberra restaurant as an appropriate place to conduct a TV interview in which he tut-tuts at people who spend more than they earn (if this choice of setting was intended as irony, it didn’t come across that way). You would be entitled to assume, then, that Clive is not a great practitioner of what he preaches – or alternatively, that his employers throw almost unlimited amounts of salary at him. I’m not discounting the latter possibility, BTW, when you look at his stellar employment history: nicely complementing his raking-in of insta-kudos as a visiting academic, he has sucked-in the big and fat but anonymous SES dollars at not one, but two obscure Commonwealth sub-departments: the Resource Assessment Commission and the Bureau of Industry Economics. If you ever needed to know the ins and pouts of the 1990 national wool clip, then I’m sure that Clive was once your man.

From microns on the brain to microns for a brain. As for Clive’s latest feats of mental nanoscopy, there’s this:

CLIVE HAMILTON: Luxury used to be something that was the preserve of the rich - the very rich. Nowadays, ordinary people aspire to, and feel they have a right, to a little bit of luxury, or even a lot of luxury. If they're willing to go into debt, they can have luxury for a short time. There are people now who spend $100,000 having a new kitchen just for display - just to express who they are to their friends and visitors. So there's this bizarre sense of people defining themselves - their very identity - by the goods that they consume. That's what luxury fever is.

That “luxury fever” – funding conspicuous consumption by debt – is something new is a blatant lie. In Clive’s childhood, many a new big-ticket home appliance would have been bought through hire-purchase. So what’s with the “nowadays”?

What is different "nowadays" firstly, is using home equity – i.e. unearned and untaxed windfall wealth resulting from house price inflation – to fund consumption. Baby boomers are, of course, the prime movers here – GenX either rent, or don’t usually have the “spare” home equity, while the pre-WWII generations (as “Four Corners” correctly pointed out) are much more averse to re-drawing on a paid-off mortgage.

Secondly, there is the rise of the outer-suburban aspirationals, a category that does include some GenXers, but is hardly typical of it. I'd suggest that none of the display home visitors interviewed on “Four Corners” has ever set foot in a university. Certainly the converse is true, among me and my group of friends.

For his part, Clive is clearly one who doesn’t believe in fouling his own cosy little boomer nest – the lone demographic detail mentioned in the program was “young people” having trouble with their mobile phone bills. The rest of Australia, particularly from Clive’s POV, is one big demographically homogenous “we”, “three times richer than [our] parents or grandparents in the 1950s”. I’d trade my precarious current existence for a life in the full-employment 1950s, any day.

But rimless eye-glasses and east-west fusion cuisine were unknown in the 1950s, so I’m sure there’s no going back for Clive.

P.S. See also Jonas’s take on the awful Sydney adland exec’s on $300k.

P.P.S. Even though (surprisingly) Clive doesn't get a guernsey in this piece on GenX "adultescents", his DNA is all over it. About a third of 18-30s still live at home, so this makes them . . . rich? (That some or most might be uni students is not even mentioned). Special mention goes to David Chalke, for this nasty piece of generational vilification:

These people in their 20s are in the business of deferring commitment. They don't save because they don't aspire to settle down. Even if they become connected to a partner, they still rent, because they want money now to spend on themselves. They don't think in terms of a career - just a series of jobs, because they get bored easily. They don't invest, because they want instant gratification.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

GenX erasure and the upcoming election

That GenX voters “basically have been ignored” by Australian political processes has received welcome recognition. More dubiously, GenXers are said to be firming up as one* of two “critical target group[s]” for the Federal election, which now seems reasonably certain to be held this winter. As to how GenX votes can be courted from a zero base, within such a short time-frame, is left unexplained Incredibly dubiously, Mark Latham is said to be the explanation for GenXer’s newfound political engagement:

just by the fact he's of a generation closer to theirs, that he talks a language they understand. I mean, he's not much older [43], so he's just more 'them' (same URL).

No dice! I may be just shy of 40, but I find PM John Howard much easier to “get” than Latham, in terms of where he’s coming from, quite probably because the PM is my parents’ age. Even though he came at the tail end of the boom, Latham self-evidently enjoyed all its privileges. If he was born three or four years later, he would be just another un- or marginally-employed GenXer, instead of, as Hugh Mackay has said, “another middle-aged baby boomer”.

For his part, PM John Howard seems quite comfortable with the status quo, of thirty-somethings being erased from the Oz cultural** and political landscape.

Possibly inspired by my recent call for first-year law students to do compulsory internships at multinational fast-food restaurants, PM Howard has observed how the manners of GenY – at least those who work in such places – are vastly superior to those of the boomer generation:

Some of the friendliest, [most] well-mannered young people around are those you find in McDonald’s . . . [A] lot of these young people are better-mannered than people in their forties and fifties.#

Hear, hear PM. But what about me and my generation – on our manners, or on anything else?

But invisibility and poverty do have some privileges – at least we’re off the trend-spotter’s cursed radar:

Teenagers are watching mini-soaps and reading love stories on their mobile phones, while baby boomers are sucking on Vodka-flavoured ice-creams and making love on quality mattresses.

* The other target group being $40,000 to $50,000 earners

** As (I think) I’ve previously written somewhere, Australians TV soaps have almost no 30-something characters

# Shelley Gare “The death of manners” (“Manners maketh the big Mac” box) Weekend Australian Magazine 22 May 2004

Friday, May 21, 2004

The big four-oh

This blog turns two next week, but it’s a case of h-h-hold the celebrations in my life for the few next weeks, until I pass-over the speed-hump otherwise known as turning 40. And meika, my fellow GenX poster-child is not far behind me.

By tradition AFAIK, 40 is the birthday in which the young fruit of your loins should bring you breakfast in bed, and give you a “joke” present of Grosby slippers – a “joke” because, of course, you are still whole months away from deciding they are, in fact, quite cosy, and if it’s only for around the house . . .

Lacking fruit of my loins, and probably also lacking a job by the time the big day swings round (my sessional contract ends in early June), I’m not sure what to do, by way of celebration. Apart from the obvious, of course – getting pissed with the gang.

This dilemma aside, the weird thing is that I feel quite happy being about to enter the Land of the Old. Forty is definitely "old", BTW, because it’s the halfway point of a typical lifespan, which first-half can also be neatly subdivided into Yoof (0-18ish) and the Getting Pissed with the Gang years (18ish-39) (or is that just me?).

That said, I’m not at all sure, at this point, what is the proper category title for the 40-60 years – I mean, for me, as opposed to boomers, for whom these years simply mean/meant obscene rolling in easy money. I am confident, though, that I won’t ever have a mid-life crisis (= 45 y.o. man realises he has just worn Grosby slippers to his local mega-mall, and makes mental note to buy a Harley-D so all will be right again, soon).

As a young person, I found it impossible to imagine an Old person when they where young. Of course, everyone knows that they must have been, once, but I’m talking about making a concrete mental picture.

Here comes the philosophical/metaphysical bit: the Young cannot picture the Old-as-young, because the Old cut-off and shed their own youth. Which is as it should be. And I’m not talking here about paunchy 50-somethings being derided for wearing sk8 fashion, or whatever, but of this cutting-off being a positive thing.

If forty’s the halfway point in life, then it’s all downhill from here – “downhill” as in: you’ve sat long enough in that creaky chairlift, and now it's just you, gravity and sweet nature, battling it out in one lon-n-n-g schuss all the way to the finish line.

And I plan a wild ride on this account: dole and poverty at 40 is one hell of a summit to start from.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Should law schools teach more "people skills"?

It is rich indeed for David Weisbrot to now be repeating this cry, ten years after he first (AFAIK) called for less poring over books, and more teaching of customer service skills (f.n. 5), as the newly appointed Dean of Law at Sydney University.

"Rich", of course, because a decade should have been more than enough time for Professor Weisbrot to have implemented his call-centre managerialist approach to legal education. If I'm wrong here - the new Dean, who recently taken over from Professor Weisbrot, doesn't even remotely allude to such an approach in his website "Welcome" blurb - then I apologise to Weisbrot for not having recognised the speed with which legal formalism's counter-revolutionaries could have undone the people skills-first curricular achievements of the good Professor.

But here I jest, for the most part. I've actually got no great problem with law schools turning out factory fodder, in the narrowly vocational sense. The customers (well, the students, anyway) would have a bit of a problem though, I suspect.

On the other hand, if your typical law student (or graduate any time since the late 80s) did study under the belief that they were destined for a life's work of rigorous intellectual application, then they were sadly mistaken. (And I - who graduated from a top Australian law school, with honours, in 1990 - freely admit that I was one of these deludees at the time.)

For this reason, far from intending sarcasm at Professor Weisbrot's hitherto little-heeded cries for the reform of legal education, I propose: enough talk - Do it now, and do it on the double!

Thus, I make a concrete suggestion along such lines. No place is better at teaching customer service skills (and these skills are utterly generic, according to any up-to-date management textbook) than your local multinational fast-food restaurant. Hence, why not have compulsory first-year internships at such restaurants, for all first-year law students? Given that law is a profession, and a seriously regarded one at that, I would suggest a minimum one year period for such internships (anything less and they'd look a bit TAFE-y, which is plainly not a good thing). Oh, and for their part, the said fast-food restaurants would be rapt - uni interns (under the Australian system) work for zero pay.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Charity begins and ends at home, when the phone rings

I've always hated telemarketing. Paper junk mail is annoying - particularly those little glossy slips from real estate agents that can't be easily slam-dunked into the recycling bin - and spam is a chore, but being asked over the phone to buy or donate something really, really pisses me off.

For starters, as a lawyer, I am instinctively happy with the written word only, when it comes to making contracts. This goes double when I can't see the person I am dealing with, and triple when you know that that this person is working on a results-based commission (as they invariably are), and so has every incentive to bend the truth (i.e. lie). Adding further insult is the fact that my landline (rarely used, apart from for Web dial-up) now costs a fortune, thanks to Australia's corporate equivalent of Nauru - the wastrel basket-case otherwise known as Telstra.

When I get a telemarketing call, I do at least try to be polite. As soon as I've worked out that the call is not social, I say (or at least I used to): "Sorry, I do not accept telemarketing calls", and then hang up. This line failed me the other day, though, when a pushy git from the Make-a-Wish Foundation replied, lightning fast: "But this is not telemarketing; do you know what Make-a-Wish is about . . .". I could have said something smart, but when the guy is building up to a crescendo about kids with cancer (cue violin music), I just wanted him out of my face, so to speak. So I again stated that I was not interested - having to talk over him to make this point - and hung up, as he continued to yabber.

My new line, then is: "Sorry, I do not accept unsolicited calls".

Having worked in an inbound call centre, I have some sympathy with the pressures that the job of commission-based cold-calling must entail. In particular, I am acutely aware of the fact that call centres are usually staffed almost entirely by GenXers (supervisory classes excluded, of course). But this time, my personal sanity runs deeper that demographic kinship, I'm afraid.

As for the news tie-in here, here it is. I'm surprised that "Dear Fuckface" letters aren't actually a lot more common (i.e. I've never received one). Apart from calls sometimes being "live" monitored, and statistics assembled on everything to do with worker performance, call centre IT systems usually aren't much chop, making it quite probable that a worker could make a note of a "not interested" customer they wished to, ahem, personally follow-up in their own time - without being traceable.

But the $64 question here is: "Why bother?". If the revengeful worker sends a "Dear Fuckface" letter from work, they are obviously going to get caught, and if from home, then postage ain't cheap when you're on a call centre wage. Moreover, it would surely be a case of where to begin with the "Dear Fuckface" mailing list (so many, so many).

Why, then, was Jillian Blake of Sydney's salubrious North Ryde singled-out, particularly when she says (and I have no reason to doubt it) that she was scrupulously polite in decling to make a donation to the Oncology Children's Foundation.

My explanation is this. Starting with Ms Blake's presumed relative affluence from her address and age* (50), the commission-hungry GenX worker would have assumed that he had a reasonably firm prospect. But when, in politely declining, Ms Blake let it slip that she was in the same game too, of soliciting donations for charities - any red-blooded GenXer's corpuscles would have boiled at this sting.

You see Ms Blake, a 50 year-old from North Ryde is very, very unlikely to be cold-calling their way through the A-Z pages for money, and money alone. (If I'm wrong on this assumption, i.e. that she is indeed without "charity" in the pre-1980 sense of that word, then my apologies to her). Sometimes, empathy can be the cruellest cut.

* It is unlikely that Ms Blake's age would have been on the worker's screen. But human nature, not to mention incredible boredom, dictates that call centre workers like to put a picture to each voice, and age (and much else, besides) is quite easy to tell by voice, once you've had some practice. In my old call centre, there was a special place in hell reserved for white trash from Perth, such trash being usually instantly recognisable from their English accents, and then later confirmable from their suburb - Joondalup and Thornlie, invariably.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

ABC bias and the GenX prolegentsia

I have no idea how David Marr can term looking for bias within the ABC the tassie [sic] tiger of broadcasting.

Here, I don’t mean at all to give a free kick to Richard Alston, Andrew Bolt, or any of the other nutbars for whom tracking ABC bias is indeed a quixotic, if not obsessive quest. Rather, the simple fact is that the ABC’s bias sticks out like dogs balls, and I don’t see how anyone could NOT see this.

All media outlets have some kind of over-arching contextual ethos, or “bias”, if you prefer. This can change gradually over time – witness the Age’s transition from being a Left-leaning newspaper in the 1970s and 80s to today’s vacuous lifestyle rag; apolitical, but still, of course, “biased”.

For its part, the ABC’s bias is probably as plain-vanilla as you could expect, in 2004, of a large media organisation, charged with being scrupulously neutral. Like just about every sector of industry today, the ABC’s ranks are comparatively boomer-heavy and GenX-light. With boomers’ numerical dominance, it is hardly surprising that soixante-huitard hegemonic values – anything-goes materialism, but with a compulsory touch of the alternative/Left thrown in – predominate at the ABC.

If anyone is entitle to complain of “bias” at the ABC then, it is the under-40s – ONLY. Boomers who cry “bias” might as well be haranguing a male dog for having balls.

I bring up the generational angle not because I particularly care – as I’ve previously written, I don’t. The fact that ABC is (mostly) just another boomer plaything does not have nearly the degree of impact on me that, say unemployment and the house-price bubble do.

Rather, the generational angle is mainly notable for its inbuilt irony – the very generation that has been locked-out of well-paying (by GenX standards, if not by boomer ones) jobs at the ABC is now expected to have its best and brightest unpick ABC broadcast content for signs of bias – all while being paid quite possibly less that the wages of a 15 y.o. fast-food worker. I say “best and brightest” because, having worked for a media monitoring firm, the skill level required of the monitor is at least on par with that of a competent journo, and possibly a bit higher.

The way the bias-monitoring tender was set up indeed smacks of masterplanned ultimate payment by piecework. While as successful tenderer, Rehame will not be requiring of its GenX sub-contractors the dizzyingly detailed qualitative analysis that rivals company Media Monitors originally proposed (measure . . . the balance in volume and prominence of all items, as well as identify the key issues and examine their tone and language . . . [including] whether the material presented by ABC reporters and anchors selects or omits pertinent facts . . . [with a particular emphasis on checking] choice of words, especially weighted “descriptors"), the tender envisions enough qualitative analysis to ensure that this one will be going through to the $7 an hour uni-educated monkeys of Glebe and Fitzroy, not of Bangalore.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Business-migrant visa abuse in Australia

This* is a migration racket, under any definition.

Of the many problematic consequences that flow from it, my view is that one of the main ones nominated, the supposed increased risk of terrorists slipping into Australia, should not even register on the scale of concern. After all, it is not the bona fides of the people coming in that is of concern here – they are, it would seem, all properly-qualified Indian nationals (as opposed to, say, Saudi “theologians”).

What is of pressing concern, rather, is the highly-organised level of this form of people-smuggling. The Indian nationals do not enter on tourist visas, and then simply stay on, working illegally. As it turns out, they would be no more illegal (and actually a lot better off, financially) doing this than entering Australia on a 457 business visa, and then going to work as $8/hour cleaners or kitchenhands.

The reason that they don’t enter via the former route, of course, is that there is little profit to be made by middlemen in such a “DIY” way. Instead, the pawns of the trade are groomed as hopeful business migrants by crime syndicates playing the old, old game of double agent. The hefty upfront (= while still in India) fee is handed over in good faith, but the agent knows that this is usually only the start of their remuneration – after the victim lands in Australia, he can be effectively held to ransom.

In this way, the business visa racket, trade has similarities to sex slave trafficking, with its legally (and morally) obscene notion of paying off a “contract” price#. In both, the victim is effectively stuck in Australia, working illegally. On the other hand, the Indian (ex-) professionals are not literally locked-up, and (it can be assumed) would have much easier access to the financial resources needed to repatriate themselves (= “buy their freedom”) than young women or girls from Thailand’s backblocks.

Nonetheless, one can empathise with the severity of the predicament that a third-world professional finds themselves in when, after paying out their (or their family’s) life savings to migrate to a supposed land of opportunity, they find themselves caught in a no-easy-way-out trap of illegality and exploitation.

Were they naïve, though, in getting caught up in the scam in the first place – and so should be partially blameable as the authors of their own misfortune? To the extent that the people in question are far from being impressionable Thai village girls, “yes”. But consider the pressures Indian professionals are coming under, from another direction: that of the outsourcing industry. It amazes me that one obvious element of the economics of outsourcing hardly ever gets mentioned – Indian IT (et al) workers know they’re getting paid a relative pittance (even after factoring-in India’s lower cost of living), and so with their skills at Western levels, would dearly love to be paid at Western rates; which is only in turn possible, of course, by actually living in the West.

Indeed, an Indian IT worker’s understandably prominent thoughts of emigration are far from idle ones – for at least some in the outsourcing industry, this is a handy “bait” useable for keeping Indian workers labouring harder, for less. According to Geoff Walsh, the Melbourne partner of Singapore-based business consultants, Quest:

The Indians have a first class grasp of English and are desperate to produce such a high quality of work that they will be sponsored to go abroad.**

In summary – pro-globalisation proponents might care to draw the line where the legitimate business (of outsourcing and migration-agenting) stops and the organised crime begins in this one (I sure as hell can’t). And as a big-money criminal enterprises whose fiefdoms entail very little downside, it can be safely assumed that Australian public officials are part of these groups’ (otherwise-minimal) payrolls.

Finally, the issues here are not only to do with high-level corruption and it consequences – Australia’s army of white-collar emigrants turned blue-collar slaves may help explain why, in this time of supposedly low unemployment, there are about ten unsuccessful applicants (including me) for a typical minimum-award-wage ($13 per hour) blue-collar job.

* See also: Elisabeth Wynhausen "Lost in a land of promises" The Australian 15 May 2004 (no URL), and Elisabeth Wynhausen "Illegal cleaning workers here on business visas" The Australian 10 April 2004 (no URL)

** Rowan Callick “Indians on line as firms dial a researcher” AFR 1 December 2003 (no URL)

# A de-archived post is reproduced below:

{{{{ Saturday, April 05, 2003
Sex slavery and freedom of contract,5744,6165092%255E2702,00.html§ion=current&issue=2003-0405&id=2963
(link via )

According to Phelim McAleer, the Financial Times (UK) Bucharest stringer, sex-slavery, at least as it concerns Eastern European women, is a myth – the women are no different from any other voluntary economic migrant from an impoverished backwater. Apart from that – an obvious fact, but still one that McAleer could have pointed out – the women are working in the West illegally.

And there’s the rub. Women from the poorest places on earth may indeed possibly aspire to a rewarding career as a prostitute in the West – but they have no financial means to make such a dream happen. Apart from the cost of passage, forged documents will often need to be obtained. In practice, the latter is likely to be a mere value-adding exercise anyway, as the only logically possible financier of the woman’s passage will be a local criminal with deep connections in the destination country. In other words, even if the woman is the straightest, purest sort of economic migrant at the outset, she will be bonded to organised crime in the process of achieving her dream.

Which brings up what is euphemistically called the “contract”. In essence, this is a more-or-less arbitrary sum, set high enough to make the woman a slave for as long as she is economically useful, and yet low enough for the woman to hold out some feint hope that she may one day be a free agent. (To serve tolerably as a prostitute, having such a glimmer of hope would be quite important.)

The Australian newspaper has been running an investigative story on the trafficking of sex slaves for the past three weeks, updating it more or less daily. Yet the story remains depressingly the same today as when it first broke. Today’s angle – Natalie O'Brien and Elisabeth Wynhausen “Bureaucrats ignored reviews sex slave sting” (no URL) – reinforces the policy of hardline, almost-complete apathy that the Federal Police and Immigration Department have both adopted on the issue; c.f:,4057,6240811%255E1702,00.html

Today’s article quotes a former Australian Federal Police officer who makes some good points. At least some of the trafficked women arrive as children – as in 12 years old, rather than 17 years and 11 months. Further, with the shopfront brothels they work in being matters of public record, tracing the perpetrators of the trafficking should not actually be that difficult. Hence, this particular instance of bureaucratic apathy is not simply a scandal petite; it is a cover-up of the highest order.

Never mind the Tampa (and a host of other dubious-ities that Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock has been intimately involved with). This is a simple, clear-cut issue of organised crime apparently acting with governmental fiat. Ruddock should immediately resign, and an inquiry should thereafter be launched, with a view to getting rid of the corrupt officials who logically must be currently mandating sex trafficking.

My personal concern here is not mainly for the welfare of the women who are trafficked (although of course that is an issue for me) – the mere fact of the existence of apparently-untouchable organised crime groups permeates, and degrades every aspect of my life and rights as an Australian citizen.

- Paul Watson 5:03 PM }}}}}

Saturday, May 15, 2004

British soldier Iraqi prisoner abuse photos faked

Conclusive evidence provided by male Tory politician, who fessed up: "That's me in the hood, getting wee'd on".

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The school where play is banned . . . except when it's "Please Father Robinson"

I don't think that Williamstown's Father Barry Robinson can be termed a paedophile; his crime was with a 16 year old, and so, while he is an icky person in many respects, the good parents of St Mary's primary school may be over-reacting a tad with this. In other words, sorry for the tabloid headline - I just couldn't resist.

That said, I can partially understand the parents are going for straight for the faggots and firelighters this time, what with the Banning of Play debacle from only a few days earlier. By coincidence (it would seem) the school's Principal, as the person who came up with this genius of an edict, has just resigned.

I suspect that Principal Lorraine Buntz's hand may have been forced as a result of publication in Tuesday's Age of this shocker of a letter (scroll to end) from one of the school's teachers:

"My colleagues and I have a right to have our classes start each day in a calm manner".

It is a reasonable assumption that the "calm" Tanya Travers refers to is not that of her own mind (or body). If she can't deal with the ordinary behaviour of young kids (and boys, in particular, needless to say), then I reckon she is in the wrong job, period.

Indeed, the brazen confidence with which teacher Travers asserts her "right" makes me wonder just how such a personality could effectively run a classroom. Father Robinson may be a hideous old lech, but the casual cruelty implicit in Tanya Travers's words would worry me even more, if I was a parent of kids at that school.

GenX the "selfish generation"?

In advising tool-head Clive Hamilton to look no further than his own generation, when it comes to setting "absurdly high lifestyle goals", I suggest he might like to look at some figures - like these - and not just at his lifetime of accumulated prejudices.


After some Googling, it seems clear that, in the last year-and-a half or so, Clive H has become increasingly generationally myopic (and looking in the wrong direction, at that), while still maintaining the general thread of his anti-affluence spiel.

Thus, in late 2002, it was - appropriately enough, if you look at the stats - baby boomers who were the selfish generation, according to Clive. But by early 2003, affluenza was claimed to affect "just as many are in their late 20s and 30s" as baby boomers. Dunno why Clive had such a sudden change of heart here - the facts didn't change, AFAIK. Perhaps Clive was having a bout of indigestion after too much Xmas lunch. Or maybe he was all a bit febrile after watching too much porn - but strictly for research purposes, mind.

In any case, it clear that today, Clive Hamilton is just another Richard Neville - sucked-in, it would seem, by the infamous, anti-GenX forgery "The Protocols of the Youngsters of Glebe (with their Home cinemas, and that)".

Or maybe Clive just took his mania for "downshifting" just a step too far - to include his mind. Oh, and Clive - speaking as a GenXer who has lived on $10-$15k annually for the past few years - you really should be more careful about using the d-for-downshifting word (in a "good" sense). Coz if you ever end up in my boat, I can guarentee that there won't be any shortage of legs to kick you while you are down.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Errrk - technical difficulties

Thanks to the (shared) computers I use at uni, my Blogger account has got seriously mixed up with someone else's. A couple of hours ago, I was getting HIS profile under MY log-on, but I couldn't change this, or edit/add to any of my blog content, as this was mysteriously locked. I know that this is a [name of uni] network problem, and not (mainly)a Blogger flaw, coz the other person is a student at [name of uni]. (Ah, the wonders of Google!)

In case (i) this post works, but (ii) the technical difficulties don't otherwise abate, I've set up a Mark II blog at:

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

There’s something about Peter Costello . . .

It’s Budget night, and for those of us not about to be sent into rapture by news of tax cuts, there’s a new reality TV show about six blokes lusting after a “she” who is really a “he” – well, a pre-op male transsexual, to be precise.

“There’s something about Miriam” is basically Springer-esque, exploitative trash, but for the poof audience, it promises much delicious Schadenfreude. The guys all picked the tranny, from a line-up that otherwise consisted of “real” women (i.e. without dangly bits). No doubt Miriam was the most curvaceous, and hyper-feminine acting one. While I can’t blame a bloke for being “looks-ist” and superficial – such is the very foundation of gay society, of what passes for it – surely your average hetero man in 2004 would be just a little bit suspicious about a super-eligible, yet hyper-feminine woman?

Anyway, that’s just a segue into the topic of Treasurer Peter Costello, who apparently has a hitherto-closeted past as a self-employed businessman:

PETER COSTELLO: Well, I think you've got to look at people's record. And we had people who had experience in Government, and people like me who'd had experience at being self-employed, managing their own businesses, for want of a better word.

Talk about keeping that one tucked up in his undies for so long!

Presumably, Treasurer Costello is referring to his nine or so years spent as a barrister at the Victorian Bar. While it is accurate, in one sense, to use the label “self-employed” for such workers (Victorian Bar rules prohibit employee barristers, or even joint practices), Treasurer Costello should indeed have found a “better word” to describe his barristerial role.

In no sense do barristers (in Victoria and most other places) “manage” their own businesses; almost all administrative and financial elements of the role are delegated – compulsorily, as it turns out – to one of a dozen or so “clerk” companies. Whether the barrister works for the clerking company, or vice versa, can be a moot point.

In any case, both the Bar and the clerking companies operate as cartels (note 4), that would be in flagrant breach of restrictive trade practices legislation were it almost any other industry.

That said, Treasurer Costello’s having worked for a lucrative cartel for almost the entire “greed-is-good” 1980s, could simply be regarded as his good luck – doubly so, in fact, from an Xer perspective – a “neither here nor there” detail which doesn’t and shouldn't affect his current role. Except however, when he exaggerates its nature, to make himself out to be some kind of shirtsleeves-rolled-up businessman, once upon a time.

Oh, and except for the fact also that Treasurer Costello is a union-buster from way back.

Costello first rose to serious prominence as the barrister in the successful prosecution of the Dollar Sweets case, a breakthrough in diminishing union power. He has a sweeping plan to dismantle many remaining regulations and rigidities in the labour market, especially in the universities and schools.

You read it right – Costello, who found fortune and fame through being a member of possibly Australia’s most cosseted trade union (a status which the Victorian Bar enjoys to this day) has completely avoided turning his union-busting blowtorch on himself and his ilk, then and now. Now that's a tuck I reckon that even the average hetero bloke should be able to pick up on.

Are Americans uncharitable, greedy and selfish?

Maybe not.

One thing they (and we*) certainly are, though, is Oil Pigs.

John Quiggin's recent piece on Will the oil run out is definitely worth reading, but I think that he leaves an awful lot dangling in the last seven words of this paragraph:

Similar points apply to the supposed vulnerability of the West to the cutting off of oil supplies. An embargo similar to that imposed by OPEC in 1973 might necessitate some form of rationing, but this is scarcely the ‘moral equivalent of war’. It makes no sense to maintain military preparations for a possibility that could be dealt with by reducing consumption.

With the proliferation of 4WDs/SUVs over the last decade, we are not even in the ballpark of levelling, much less reducing consumption of oil.

Update 16 May 2004

Well said, Margo Kingston.

* Australians are the world's number two consumers of oil, per capita.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

“Privatisation works - there should be more of it”

Quite. Get a bunch of computer nerds (CACI International purports to be an IT services company) to run a Iraqi prison, and productivity goes through the roof (or should that be through the anus?)

Who would have thought that a bunch of Help Desk guys could turn out actually to be so damn multi-skilled and helpful, what with:

pour[ing] phosphoric liquid on detainees, pour[ing] cold water on naked detainees, beat[ing] detainees with a broom handle and a chair, and threaten[ing] male detainees with rape.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Anti-Israeli art in Melbourne

This week’s brouhaha shows once again just how bad the Age can be at bread’n’butter local journalism.

Unbelievably, the paper didn’t seem to think it necessary to interview either co-artist for comment (or, for one, to even name them), despite actually photographing one co-artist (with his back to camera) erasing the work.

Admittedly, this “statement” provided by one of the two, Azlam McLennan, does not inspire optimism that an interview would have revealed anything more than a grandstanding undergrad way out of his depth:

One of the most common questions raised over the last 24 hours is 'what is art'? Hitler similarly held views about what constitutes degenerative art."

That said, if artist Azlam McLennan is the same as this and this Azlan McLennan (which I strongly suspect is the case), then his unfortunate Hitler analogy, above, doesn’t mean the guy has nothing to say, period. On the contrary (despite my being a long way from agreeing with his Orthodox Left views on asylum seekers), as I said last year, Azlam's/Azlan's security guard stunt was pretty good art.

Anyway, what should the broadsheet take on this story have been?

For starters, by giving the censorship/free-speech arguments short shrift. Of course, censorship of art, a la what happened to Serrano’s “Piss Christ”, is odious. But for a text-based piece of art (and I see no reason to use scare quotes around the a-word) the real test of censorship is whether dissemination of the image and/or text-within is nobbled – not whether the “original” (yes, scare quotes this time) remains in situ or not. And both the image and its transcribed words were given the full-monty by the Age. Further, reinforcing my point about the reproduction being as good, if not better than the “original”, is that the latter was always going to be a temporary installation, in a vacant shopfront, in an area of town hit by the ugly stick.

In view of this, the Age’s vox-popping the usual suspects from the two tired old camps (“This is not art” vs “This is censorship”) was hack-journalism at its worst. All that was needed was to get an unbiased opinion from someone who knows something about art – take a bow, me (and hang your head in shame, expert-manqué Chris McAuliffe, artistic director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art).

Compounding the Age’s piss-weakery, in running with a usual suspects (all boomers, of course) Punch-and-Judy show, instead of doing a thoughtful coverage of the story is that the tabloid Herald-Sun did actually manage to cut to the chase. This is a story:

City of Melbourne chief executive David Pitchford said in a statement last night arts grants were discussed in private to protect applicants. "There is a concern that organisations might refuse to apply for funding if they believe they may be rejected in a public forum, which could harm their reputation," he said.

While I can appreciate that the sight and sounds of (i) an expert-panel, and then (ii) the Council rubber-stamping meeting may provide overly juicy carrion for tabloids – or probably more scarily, grounds of litigation for hard-bitten GenX rejectees (75% of all applicants, apparently) – it is clear that Melbourne City Council’s culture of secrecy over its arts grants goes way overboard. The latest info on its website today about successful arts grant recipients is from the 2002 round.

Finally, swirling in the middle of the maelstrom, yet somehow out of reach, is the figure of the said controversial artwork’s curator, Mark Hilton. From a Google search, Mark seems to be a Melbourne artist who has done very little of note – certainly that has been economically remunerative – other than to curate Melbourne City Council’s art-in- vacant-shopfronts program since at least 1992 (same URL). My lukewarm wishes of luck to him – plainly he is either a boomer, or if GenX, an ex-private-school (=job-nepotism) mediocrity.

I still don’t understand, however, how and why Mark Hilton, in all his glowing mediocrity, has been given such an easy run by the Age:

Mr Hilton arrived home from Japan yesterday, unaware that he was flying into a storm. He said he realised something was afoot when he passed the exhibition space and saw Opposition Leader Robert Doyle holding a news conference in front of it.

He said threats of damage to the shopfront housing the artwork had forced his hand. He apologised to the council and other sponsors, acknowledging he had failed to abide by a contract that obliged him to notify them of potential controversy from his exhibitions.

Mr Hilton said the exhibition, titled fifty six, was a late replacement for a work that dropped out at short notice, giving him insufficient time to notify the council of its controversial content.

Heard of this new thing called a telephone, Mark? They’re a gadget which allows you to contact people – especially useful when you’re pressed for time. In the last ten years or so, there’s even been an invention called a mobile phone, which allows you to contact people, and be contacted, on your way to and from the airport – a place which, from the sound of your cushy, unchallenged job, you get to pass through quite frequently.

But we wouldn't want to take "a backward step" by joining the proles with phones, would we, Mark?

Update 14 May 2004

Today’s Age has a feature follow-up. For whatever reason, it gets quotes again from All the Usual Boomers (some previously quoted, some not), plus one Xer.

First, a correction. Mark Hilton may not have been the person who failed to notify the Melbourne City Council that Azlan McLennan's art work was potentially controversial (as was contractually required). Instead, this seems to have been the omission of an unnamed (!) person, who was "directing the space" during Hilton's absence overseas.

Also, an interesting figure gets mentioned: the total annual budget for the shopfront art program is said to be $8000. I find this figure difficult to believe, unless (i) it is net of Hilton’s curatorial fees, or (ii) the artists get paid nothing, and the sum is all curatorial fees going to Hilton.

On to some of the unintentionally hilarious Quotes From Boomers Who Matter:

Last week, Chris McAuliffe, artistic director of the Ian Potter Museum of Art, said this:

If local government gets involved in supporting culture, then it's got to be prepared to support culture in all its forms. If it's getting involved in culture in order to support only certain kinds of expression or only certain kinds of ideology, it might as well admit that it's supporting its own form of social engineering or propaganda.

This week, it’s this:

[Azlan McLennan's work is] art because that's the claim it made for itself, but it probably didn't have the sophistication needed to negotiate the politics effectively.

Even better is this masterpiece of Kafka-esque contradiction from NGV director Gerard Vaughan:

In no way will we condone censorship, but we do need to draw the line occasionally . . .
Our position is straightforward. As a publicly funded art gallery, we must be apolitical, but we defend our right to display work by individual artists that does have a political message.
(same URL)

As for the lone Xer interviewed (28-year-old artist McLennan was still not interviewed), Marcus Westbury, artistic director of the yoof-oriented Next Wave Festival, manages to come across like an 11 year-old giving a class presentation:

We would all be in a much sadder situation [if arts funding were linked to the politics of the day] . . . it would lead to bland and boring art and it would be worse for the community. (same URL)

Hey, no kidding, Marcus. But I reckon that the big boys may well have stolen your playlunch while you were impressing the teacher with your eloquence, up at the front of class.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

W(h)ither the Australian Financial Review?

I don't follow Stephen "Crikey" Mayne's logic when he queries:

Does the AFR produce good enough content to justify its premium pricing when so many journalists keep leaving?

While I can see that excessive staff turnover is generally bad for business morale (and so productivity), the nature of the journalist job market in Australia is (and has been since the 1980s) that anyone who leaves is immediately replaceable by someone who is at least as good. (Qualification: if they are straight out of uni, it may take them a week to learn the ropes).

If the "Chanticleer" column is an exception to this - i.e. it relies on the power of a person's Rolodex more than their journalistic nouse and general knowledge of business - then I admit the AFR may have a problem here.
But if so, this is a problem of output, not input. If someone needs a fat Rolodex just to write "Chanticleer", this is admitting that the column is nothing more than a clubby newsletter for insider chums.

Which, I suspect, is indeed why the AFR's circulation languishes - which is surely, BTW, more of a public-interest story than that of its staff turnover. Nothing is more boring - unless, I guess, your name is on one one them - than the sound of Rolodexes turning, turning, and turning over.

"Hamish & Andy" axed

This is sad news - not because the show overall was great (it wasn't), but because it leaves me bereft of "Mr G", Greg Gregson (aka Chris Lilley).

If you don't know who Mr G is, shame on you. His character is so large that it barely fits into a TV screen, much less within the words of a computer screen. Hence, I won't try too hard to describe him here. Other than to say that he is the gayest man in the whole world - imagine a burb-dwelling, 30-something Ian Thorpe as a Year 10 drama teacher, and you're getting there.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Get Thee Down the Aisle, George Pell

George Pell reels off a long list of factors supposedly setting out the case against gay marriage in this Op Ed. As I've previously written, I'm no torchbearer for this right myself. But this is not to say I agree with George's line.

His reasons, as it turns out, would seem to apply equally to same-sex married couples (albeit there is no empirics behind the latter, for obvious reasons).

In any case, if Pell's empirics are to be believed, why the %*$@ isn't he taking his own advice, particularly re the one about marriage apparently providing "a significantly lower danger of child abuse".

I'm assuming that this apparent benefit of marriage extends to both children and hetero adults. And I'm quite willing to go along with George's implication, in that I don't think a marriage-like gay relationship will stop one of that couple who is otherwise a paedophile from doing their evil business (Otherwise he'd have to be for gay marriage . . . Wouldn't he?). But, as George is hetero (I assume), shouldn't he be getting himself down the aisle, ASAP, to innoculate himself against against possible paedophilic acts?

(And I'm, not accusing you of anything, George - just throwing your own half-baked science right back at you).

From the "Derr" files

According to sociologist Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, young female students are a vocational hazard for both male teachers and university lecturers.

And for gay male teachers and university lecturers? We don't exist, apparently.

Personally, I'll admit that the age of the average undergrad (18-21) indeed places them pretty much at the prime of their good lookingness. This has more to do with the laws of gravity than evolutionary biology* - bodies just do start to sag, downwards and outwards, from the age of about 30.

But it takes two to tango. Having spent a lot of time at both ends of the lecture theatre, I gotta admit that I've never been remotely attracted to one of my lecturers/tutors - ever.

Apparently, hetero females are different in this respect, in lusting after balding, badly-dressed middle-aged men. Strangely, there seems to be no law of evolutionary biology to explain this one.

* "They note the argument by evolutionists that men are genetically predisposed to find women in their late teens or early 20s most attractive because they are most fertile at that age. And this despite the "laws of civilised society concerning the age of consent and the minimum age for marriage" ".

Huh? Is he saying that men should be going after the 16 years olds instead (16 being the most typical age of consent and minimum age for marriage)?

Monday, May 03, 2004

Richard Neville and his GenX mates

While Geoff Honnor has already had a pretty good go at Richard "my Xer mates [and] their Harvey Norman home cinema[s]" Neville, I can't resist getting a few extra kicks in myself. After all, this topic is my home turf.

I must admit that I am getting a bit tired of pointing out that Neville's presumed source for his information on GenX's comparative affluence compared to boomers, the "Protocols of the Youngsters of Glebe" is a forgery - its contents are utter, unmitigated crap. My "home cinema", Mr Neville, consists of an ageing TV and VCR (from Big W, BTW), with my sound-system being a portable radio/CD player (a donation from an ex) and dodgy turntable (from the Op shop). As for "sleepwalk[ing] all the way to [my] next investment property" - yeah, right. It certainly is in my dreams - only - that I'll ever own even a modest first home in Melbourne.

Worse, Neville commits the unforgivable sin of projecting his own, boomer generation's greed onto GenX. Did it even occur to the washed-up little weasel that many of students protesting against the 25% increases to uni fees are doing so for future generations? (The fee increases only start from next year, by which time many of today's protesters will be out of there)? No? I thought not - boomers, on the other hand protest/ed only (i) for the immediate gratification, and/or (ii) out of 100% NIMBY-ism.

Which brings me on to "NIMBY" Neville - a resident of the chintz'n'leadlight-infested Blue Mountains. So there was no adult under 50 to protest at the effect on property values arising from a few film trucks parked on your street, eh Richard? (Property values are the only domestic issue those over 50 would ever protest about). Someone with eyes and ears might therefore reason that GenX can't afford to live in upmarket sylvan splendour, like you do.

P.S. Almost forgot to mention that Neville's alleged Harvey-Norman-home-cinema-owning Xer mates include (or, I suspect are completely co-extensive with) his daughter's boyfriends. If your daughter chooses to go out with a series of tossers, Richard, this does not an entire generation maketh. More scary and more damning still, though, is the fact that Neville is apparently around at the pads of the said daughter's boyfriends, sharing popcorn in front of the said home-cinemas. I don't which is worse - Dad Neville there beside the snuggled-up youing couple, or just Dad and daughter's boyfriend watching an, ahem, laddish movie together. E-wwwww!

Update 4 May 2004

Today's SMH brings an Op Ed in reply (boring - and worse, ending on a note of conciliation. Plus, 23 y.o.'s aren't even Xers under my calculations, and we are quite able to speak for ourselves, so fuck off with your Gens X and Y coalitionism, Amy Persson), and a flurry of letters, of which the lead one, by Con Nats, really says all that needs to be said.

"Traded in their bongs for Rolexes in the 1970s" - hole-in-one!

One more thing from the letters, though: self-loathing Xer Cathy Sherry again puts the boot in. I wonder where Dooralong is; obviously it must be within Australia's hitherto little-known zone of Vichy administration.

Further Update 4 May 2004

More letters today, and John Quiggin has chimed in too. As for my reservations on the politics of Gens X and Y coalitionism, they are nicely born out in a pro-HECS-increase Op Ed in today's Oz by Ari Sharp. Asssuming this is the same Ari Sharp of Hawthorn East who ran as candidate for Kooyong in the 20001 federal election (for the Democrats!), this would make the little turncoat commerce/arts student about 22 y.o.

Memo to Ari - and the claimed "silent majority" that implacably believe in the fairness of HECS increases - why don't you all just shut up and shell-out - and conversely, let those opposed to to the increases, in good conscience, to not pay. There wouldn't be a problem with "free riders" as a result, because it is almost certain that the extra revenue will be squandered anyway. Even you, Ari seem to anticipate as much when you say:

"To pay an increased proportion of the cost of our education under the reforms introduced by the Government is fair enough - especially if it will increase places and improve quality". (emphasis added)

"If"??? It's a short way, to the bottom of the political sludgepit, if you're a Gen Y who wants to get down on his knees and suck.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Mayday in Saudi Arabia

As I've long thought was bound to happen, low-production value terrorism by GenX Saudi men is starting to merge with the mainstream, Western anti-globalisation movement. In saying this, I emphasise starting to - the broader anti-globalisation movement (whose general aims I support wholeheartedly, BTW) has never embraced (not advocated, AFAIK) murder as a political means to an end.

The main parallels I see between the Yanbu Mayday attack and a typical item of direct action by anti-globo's are its (i) autochthony (= not being lead by boomers, with their own agendas*) and (ii) its street theatricality (dragging a dead body behind the getaway car is less a D-grade copy of what was happening in Fallujah two weeks ago, and more a conscious - and acutely secular - stylisation of the moment, albeit in a form that could be seen as as tantamount to suicide, a usual corollary of high-production value terrorism).

Certainly, the grievances of your typical, tertiary educated GenX Saudi man are not a long way removed from my own. Unemployment tops the list, followed by a more generalised number of malaises, but all ultimately flowing from a fuckwitted, boomer-centric government and its religious hangers-on.

Similarity in point: Crown Prince Abdullah, speaking after the Yanbu attack, said on Saudi state-run television that "Zionists" are behind terrorist attacks in his country.
Good one - but not to be outdone, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer can be almost just as comical, as on this morning's "Sunday" program:

Look, we say that Australians should not visit Saudi Arabia on non-essential business. Because of the risk of terrorism. Our travel warnings are very clear.

But on the other hand, you know what Australians are like. They - as they were saying at the time of Gallipoli, well, they're not going to be pushed around by terrorists and told what to do by terrorists.

I think many of us sort of have that feeling very much in our bones. And so you know, a lot of Australians still work there, despite the travel warnings.

Not that Foreign Minister Downer has any of that forged-at-Gallipoli mettle actually in himself, mind. When it comes to what the Australian government is going to do, if anything, about the war-crimes committed in Iraq by US army-reservists and UK soldiers, he ducks and parries as follows:

LAURIE OAKES: Have you done anything about it, or has the Prime Minister got on the phone to George Bush and Tony Blair, as he does over other issues?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well, I don't think there's any need for us to do anything about it. I certainly reflected on that, but there's no need for us to do anything about it. The British and the American ...


ALEXANDER DOWNER: ... leadership are - well, they're sufficiently appalled, and they obviously would be fully aware of the views not only of Australia but of the rest of the world. I've seen and heard what both the British and American governments have said, and they've rightly condemned this disgraceful behaviour.

I don't think there's anything much more we can do.

Yes, you read it correctly: that the US and UK leaderships are "sufficiently appalled" by the torture is enough - no one actually in a position of chain-of-command responsibility (= baby boomer) needs to be caught up in any of it.

* I'm assuming that boomers (= the al Qaida top brass) were not behind this one.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sex, lies and academia

I’m puzzled by the lack of coverage that the Keith Lloyd/Shafston International College story has been getting south of the Tweed, especially in the Fairfax press. Okay, it’s a private college, strictly speaking, and the latest revelations are probably just another sordid instalment on/in the life of the businessman-property developer Lloyd.

But what about Shafston’s affiliation with the University of New England? Surely they alone make the story at least as national as this one about the University of Western Sydney lecturer who allegedly traded sex for grades.

In a statement from UNE's acting vice-chancellor Randall Albury, the university distanced itself from the allegations, Mr Lloyd and the international college. Professor Albury said the university provided some academic help to some of the college's diplomas. He said the report did not suggest that any UNE students had been involved in the allegations.

That no UNE-at-Shafston student was involved would seem to have been the result of good luck only. UNE's “distancing”, note, does not in any way seek to unwind the current contractual arrangements between the two institutions, a legal relationship which was no doubt arranged and concluded between UNE’s reps and Keith Lloyd personally.

Maybe UNE’s easy ride through the southern print media has something to do with the intercessions of Sydney-based firm Hawker Britton, which Shafston’s council has retained to manage the crisis. It is an interesting question whether UNE has got its own PR representation.

In any event, UNE, and/or its PR reps, may care to answer this: What type of conduct by the CEO of an affiliated institution would it take to rescind the relationship? Personally, my mind boggles – but for UNE, the Keith Lloyd “distancing” seems to be just an ordinary (repeat?) case of washing-off the fleas it has got from lying down with a dog.

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