Monday, October 8, 2012

Exclusive - ACL calls Warren Entsch's "LGBT Study Tour" offer a "Hyperbole"

Jim Wallace - Managing Director of ACL - Courtesy of ABC News 24
A couple of weeks ago, I conducted an interview with The Honourable Member for Leichardt in the Australian House of Representatives, Warren Entsch. As many of you would know, Warren is the Chief Opposition Whip for the Coalition, while he is also one of the most ardent supporters of Same Sex and Gender Diverse rights in the current federal parliament.

During that interview, Warren stated that he'd like to take Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby on a Same Sex and Gender Diverse study tour throughout Mr Wallace's local area. Such a study tour would include a trip to the local cemetery where a roll-call of suicide victims due to homophobic and transphobic comments and actions would be read out, followed by meetings with the families of the suicide victims in question as well as a group of devoted long-term same sex couples. Needless to say, it was a genuine and sincere offer that Warren made.

Recently I approached the Australian Christian Lobby, in order to ask what Mr Wallace's response to this particular offer was. After being unable to reach any members of the ACL Executive and their staff for comment over the past few weeks, I finally succeeded in reaching one of Mr Wallace's Press Secretaries, a Mr Ben Williams, at about 3pm this afternoon. For the record, I informed Mr Williams of both my preferred and legal names at this time.  After describing Warren's offer in detail to Mr Williams, I was immediately told over the phone on the record that he was certain that Mr Wallace was “Unlikely to respond to such hyperbole”.

Now if you break out a dictionary, you will see that “Hyperbole” is essentially another word for “exaggeration”. Given the thoughtfulness in his voice, the sincerity in his eye and his track record in regards to Same Sex and Gender Diverse rights however, this offer was no meagre act of exaggeration on Warren Entsch's part, as implied by the Australian Christian Lobby.

Now while I'm not surprised by the response from the Australian Christian Lobby over this issue, one must question their intentions and values if they aren't willing to take a simple, honest and honourable offer like the one made by the Chief Opposition Whip at face value. Given that Mr Wallace has recently stated in public that “there needs to be an open and honest debate” in regards to Mariage Equality and other Same-Sex and Gender Diverse rights, you've got to wonder why the executives of the Australian Christian Lobby are refusing to engage in one of the few activities that might give their position on minority issues credibility amongst the religious and non-religious public.

If Mr Wallace and the other executive members of the Australian Christian Lobby who share his opinions on Same-Sex and Gender Diverse rights are as certain of their values and the accuracy of their ideas as they claim, then they should have nothing to fear by testing them in a real life situation. If they aren't willing to do so, one must also question their claims about not being homophobic and transphobic with their comments and actions as well.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Warren Entsch, Human Rights and the Australian Christian Lobby

The Hon. Warren Entsch MP, courtesy of
(Radio Interview attached after "The Jump")

It's not often that I'm stunned when I hear something that comes out of the mouth of a politician (or anyone for that matter), though an interview that I conducted with Warren Entsch in Parliament House about 10 days ago, most certainly knocked me for six. As a matter of fact, parts of the interview nearly brought me to tears. That says a lot, as I'm normally unflappable when it comes to controlling my emotions during various interviews.

As a lot of people have probably found out over the last few days due to the Marriage Equality debate, Warren Entsch is the Chief Opposition Whip for the Coalition in the Australian House of Representatives. He's also one of the most ardent supporters for Same-Sex and Gender Diverse rights within the Conservative movement in Australia. From raising the rights of a Gay SAS soldier with Prime Minister Howard to protecting a Transwoman who later became a Doctor in rural Australia, he's done a lot of stuff behind the scenes in order to protect minorities over the years, purely because he thinks it's the right and honourable thing to do.

As the Australian Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace found out recently, it also a role that he takes extremely seriously.

When I first walked into Warren Entsch's office on the Ground Floor of the “Reps” side of Parliament House, I honestly didn't know what to expect. While I'd met and dined with various Government and Shadow Cabinet officials in the past, I'd never actually interviewed one. From the Crocodile heads on his office Cabinet through to paintings of stockmen droving cattle on the wall though, I had a feeling that I could get some really touching, unique and honest content out of one of Australia's most respected rural politicians, if I played my cards right.  

What came next most certainly didn't disappoint.

(Audio from the interview and more after the jump!!)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Flags, Embassies, Ambassadors and 9/11

Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich and other employees of the US State Department attached 2,996 miniature flags to the gates of the US Embassy in Canberra earlier today in order to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States of America. 

Ambassador Bleich reflecting on the victims of 9/11 at the US Embassy in Canberra (10-9-12)
The flag attachment ceremony was in preparation for the official September 11th commemoration events that will be taking place at the US Embassy tomorrow at 4-30pm. The main commemoration event will include remarks by both Ambassador Bleich and Foriegn Minister Bob Carr, followed by a presentation of flags by the U.S. Embassy’s Marine Security Guard Detachment.

Ambassador Bleich said that September 11 was a day of global signifigance, as a result of over 90 different countries losing citizens as a result of the attacks in Washington DC, Pennsylvania and New York City. The Ambassador then stated that he hopes that the world can reflect on the lessons learned from September 11 in a way that benefits humanity as a whole.

During the following press conference the Ambassador also answered questions in regards to newly proposed internet regulations that would be used to counter state-sanctioned and individual terrorist acts, as well as international criminal syndicates.

Audio -- Press Conference and flag-planting ceremony --

“We believe in an unfiltered internet, as it is the key to drawing nations together and that we do understand one another. There's an old saying that sunlight is the greatest disinfectant, and so we want an open internet.
At the same time we also understand that the internet can be used by criminal networks and by nation states in dangerous ways, so we are working to strike the right balance.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Newsrooms, Glass-Jaws and "Anonymous" Interns

The Farrago's Editorial team and room. (University of Melbourne)
A couple of days ago there was quite a bit of drama on Twitter after a certain "anonymous" young “upstart” from the University of Melbourne's Farrago newspaper dared to call News Ltd's Herald Sun a “hetero-normative” publication.  Apparently the young journalism student (a.k.a. "Intern") in question had taken offence from the fact that newsrooms can occasionally be the breeding ground of dark humour and other forms of bleak comedy, predominantly due to the high levels of stress, tension and tragedy that pass through a newsroom's hallowed walls on a daily basis.

While that doesn't excuse homophobia, transphobia, sexism and other forms of directed personal abuse within the workplace as veterans like Mark Colvin have stated, the presence of such comedy is the sign of a relatively healthy newsroom once you realise that it means that journalists and other media professionals are talking through the emotional traumas that most have to witness or experience on a daily basis. We all know that there's a lot of really gruesome and disturbing content that Journalists have to pursue and then edit out, before a broadcast ever goes to air or a newspaper goes to print. While the public may get a sanitised version of events as they are occurring, more often than not Journalists don't, which can lead to some pretty serious mental health issues down the road if they don't have a coping mechanism (such as dark humour) in place.

If the Intern had been dropped into either an emergency services or military environment, she undoubtedly would have encountered similar attitudes from doctors, police, soldiers, paramedics, nurses and firefighters alike. That's because when people face a similar type of tragedy or stress together on a daily basis, a tribalistic culture starts to form both within their select group and their industry as a whole. When that happens, all sorts of crude, innovative and outright dirty jokes come flying out of the woodwork, as a way of people getting things off their chests. Without that level of release, bad things nearly always happen.

Journalists are no exception to that rule, as evidenced by an explosive piece that was penned by NewsWeek's Michael Ware only a couple of months ago.

(More after the Jump!!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Policy Wonkette - Julie Bishop and the new Columbo Plan

Over the weekend I attended a function that was hosted by the Inverell branch of the National Party. Driven by their deep desire to defeat Tony Windsor and reclaim the seat of New England at the next federal election, the Nationals had invited the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop up for a Breakfast lecture and tour throughout the northern area of the electorate. While ordinarily such appearances are just an opportunity to beat the ideological drum and promote the electoral prospects of local members, the Deputy Leader came out with all guns blazing and released new information on Coalition policy as well.
Senator John Williams (Nationals Senator for NSW) and The Hon Julie Bishop (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)

Now those of you who follow my content regularly would know that while I hate politics, I absolutely adore policy as if it were a finely aged red wine. While politics is a nitty-gritty, ideological knife-party that we've got to deal with whether we like it or not, policy dictates what a party thinks, what their goals are and how they think they are going to be able to achieve it. Consequently it's a more clear-cut field to examine and report on, if you've got a broad understanding of history, science and economics.

(More after the jump, plus audio)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Couch Cycling - Tour de France 2012 - Day 1 - Prologue

If there's one thing that never ceases to amaze me about the Tour de France, it's the amount of money that's invested in it by various teams, sponsors and the French in general. Take for example the photo below provided by @Maxdelincel.

At first thought you'd think that the photo in question is of a shed with BMC Racing painted onto it. If you look closer however, it's quickly evident that the monster of an object is in fact a humongous bus that's been designed with only one thought in mind: Getting a BMC Racing rider across the line first at any of the major races in the UCI Road Racing Calender.

But as most sportspeople know, buses and training facilities aren't anywhere near as valuable as the minds of the people that use them.

When you really think about it, events such as the Tour De France are essentially a representation of  life unfolding in all of it's glory. For a three week period, it showcases all of what we are, all of what we have been and all of what we can be in the future. For a cyclist, it is one of the few events that can define the rest of a person's life both on and off the bike. By grabbing courage by the throat and throwing it towards your own inner-wolves with the right psychological training, tests of endurance like the Tour de France show how you can accomplish the unthinkable even when the entire world feels to be against you.

One primary example would be Stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France. After having a catastrophic bike failure early in what turned out to be a very mountainous stage, Cadel Evans shredded the competition by using the power of self-confidence and the ability to think tactically on his feet along with the rest of his team and support staff.
(More after the jump)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slippergate - Christopher Pyne's pint-sized problems over Ashby

In news just coming to light via Fairfax's Jess Wright, the Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne met with James Ashby over personal matters a month before he made his sexual harassment and cabcharge allegations against Peter Slipper.

In a stunning line of events, Mr Pyne and Mr Ashby were having drinks with another Slipper staffer, when the personal matters were raised. Mr Pyne then apparently requested Mr Ashby's mobile phone number after the meeting for later use.  As both the mystery over Mr Ashby's social media activities and this latest bombshell have shown however, there's still a lot that we don't know about this story.

The National Times' Jess Wright:
COALITION frontbencher Christopher Pyne spent almost two hours drinking and chatting with James Ashby a month before the political staffer lodged court documents accusing Speaker Peter Slipper of sexual harassment and misusing Cabcharge dockets.
The National Times has learnt that on the night of March 19, about 9.30pm, Mr Pyne - the manager of opposition business in the House of Representatives - met Mr Ashby and another Slipper staffer in the Speaker's office.
Two separate sources have confirmed details of the meeting to the National Times. Both insist Mr Pyne rang back later the same evening to request Mr Ashby's mobile phone number.

 Jess Wright's story is available in full here.

"The Deadly Newt" meets "The Heckler" ~ Slippergate & The Sunday Age

Over the weekend I received a delightful little surprise, courtesy of The Sunday Age.

Tucked away on page 16 alongside an op-ed written by Annabel Crabb was a column written by The Age's cheeky but lovable analyst of a million faces, The Heckler.  As an international man (or woman) of mystery, The Heckler referenced my previous post about the social media habits of Peter Slipper's former staffer (and current sexual harassment plaintiff), James Ashby, within their weekly column.  While the article itself isn't available online, it is available via The Age's iPad app and the screenshot that I have provided below.

Courtesy of "The Sunday Age" - Screenshot 29th April 2012 - Page 16 (Digital Print Edition)

~~ More after the "Jump" ~~

Saturday, April 28, 2012

From the Archives - The Tiny Tony Abbott Tapes of 1979

(Cross-posted from TUNE!FM 106.9)

Election 2010 – An Abbott Interview… from 1979

By Kate Doak.
5th August 2010

Tony Abbott has always been a magnet for controversy, so you can imagine my surprise when an interview from his studies in 1979 at the University of Sydney was found within TUNE! FM’s archives early last week. Given that I’m a sucker for history (even though I hate politics), I fired up the old Reel-to-Reel Tape machine and settled down for some aural pleasure. As an amateur Historian, what I heard didn’t disappoint.
Radio UNE – “Campus-Wide” Interview with Tony Abbott from 1979 – Click here to listen
(Note – This Podcast is now being hosted by the University of New England. All audio-downloading issues should now be rectified)
With a level of charm that only old Tape and Vinyl can deliver, I was whisked away to a time where Tony Abbott was way less recognizable than what he is now. Starting the interview off with the trials and tribulations of student politics and a healthy smattering of inter-university rivalry, Tony proceeds to take a firm swipe against both  Trade and Student Unions alike while recognizing their differences. Changing tact, he then switches topics to education, injects a streak of Christianity and sexism into the discussion and gets slightly put off when ambushed on the topic of Feminists, Gays, Migrants and Aboriginals forming their own supportive communities.
Now throughout his career as a Journalist and Politician, Tony Abbott hasn’t been afraid to say what he thinks. So given his past record on issues such as Education, Unionism and Women in the Workplace, the contents of this recording aren’t all that surprising. What is extremely remarkable however is that Tony was able to present himself in such a manner at such a young age, and that his positions were soo deeply entrenched at the time. Normally it takes years for student politicians to mature regardless of the University that they are studying at, so it’s extremely surprising that Tony was able to show political experience beyond his years at that time.
That begs the question, has Mr Abbott really changed over the past thirty-one years since this interview was recorded? While he’s certainly gained more than a few grey hairs, has he really changed with the times or has he become a modern day dinosaur, changing only when he really has to?
This is a question that only Tony can answer, as even though the media, his colleagues and enemies alike have closely followed his media and political careers over the course of the past 30 years, only he can say “Yes, my personal views have changed, and this is why”. It is also a question that he has been trying to answer with his actions over the course of the past couple of weeks, otherwise he wouldn’t have declared “WorkChoices” dead, or showcased his three daughters as being exceptional young women and his wife as a bastion of childcare.
It is crucial that this question is answered, because regardless of who wins the election on the 21st of August, Tony Abbott is going to be faced with challenges that he has never faced before. Tony’s ability to react to these challenges will influence the state of the Coalition and therefore Australia, for better or worse. If he can’t adapt quickly or make a snap decision that is correct even though it might go against his values, then Australian Politics is in for a rocky road ahead.
Therefore I challenge Mr Abbott to make a return to TUNE! FM via a phone interview, before the 21st of August. As Australia’s future hangs in the balance, Tony must be able to show that he has changed both as a person and a politician since his days at the University of Sydney. I also extend this invitation to all other Federal Politicians as well, as Australians need to know that their Politicians, whether they be Liberal, National, Labor, Independent or Green have changed since the 1970′s. Given that the University of New England is one of Australia’s core Universities and has engaged Politicians such as Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, John Howard and Bob Brown in the past with the Earle Page College Annual Politics Lecture, a more fitting setting could not be found, particularly as education becomes a key issue in this election.
Kate Doak is a young Trans-woman who just happens to be the Operations Manager of TUNE! FM, as well as a fulltime Postgraduate Arts and Social Sciences student at the University of New England.  In her spare time, she listens to some of the funkiest Dance, Trance and Progressive music that the world has to offer.  She can be contacted via twitter – @katedoak

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dirty, Sexy Politics - The Slipper Saga

If there's one guarantee about Australian politics, it's that there's always a stir going on that the public never sees, or that we refuse to see.
While the sexual harassment allegations made against Speaker Slipper over the weekend are nothing short of astounding, neither are they surprising. Between politicians having affairs with one another, Senators occasionally shoplifting and Party leaders making homophobic remarks while having closeted LGBT family members, things aren't always as clear cut as they may first appear within our nation's capital.

Take for example the situation surrounding James Ashby, who is the staffer who made the allegations against Slipper. Last month Ashby was caught up in a minor scandal, after he grabbed a reporter's iPhone at a news conference and threw it into scrubland. At the time I thought that this was pretty weird behaviour for a political staffer, so I decided to have a look at his online presence in order to get a feel for what the guy was like. Low and behold, I found that he had a modest number of tweets, a LinkedIn page and accounts on Facebook and Youtube, all of which seemed pretty tame at the time.

Due to the way that various politicians and Press Gallery reporters have reacted since the Slipper sex story broke, its pretty obvious that the general thought around Capital Hill is that Slipper has engaged in gay activities in the past. Given that more than a few politicians, journalists and bureaucrats in Canberra are closeted, it isn't surprising that Slipper's supposed sexual orientation has been kept quiet, on the risk that they could be “outted” themselves. For somebody who has been closeted in the workplace and at home for years, if not decades, the thought of being “outted” as being anything other than “normal” would be terrifying.

After the sex scandal allegations broke on Friday, I decided to have another look at Ashby's social media accounts in order to see if there was anything I'd missed about his online and offline personalities. To my immediate surprise, I noticed that somebody had made a considerable effort to make Ashby's online activities as non-controversial as possible. Not only had his Facebook page disappeared, but his LinkedIn profile had been changed and most of his posts on Twitter had been removed. As well as this, all of the cached content from these websites had been either wiped or made in-accessible to the general public. Strangely enough, his predominantly news-focused YouTube account had been left largely untouched.
(Read more after the jump)