John Howard ‘goopta’ Meme

What does it say about me that I spend precious seconds of my life generating this sort of content?

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A Musing on Rusteds

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In the campaign we talk about how the electorate of Batman has been ALP heartland for so long, voters have become rusted onto the party, stuck in place — ‘ALP rusteds’. There’s disdain in the phrase, but it’s also hard not to detect a certain wistfulness too, something I’ve often observed when people talk about class in Australia.

When Politicians evangelise about the decline of heavy industry, many do it by way conjuring up an idyllic time before — when working class men were rewarded for their labor with modestly paid but stable jobs that allowed them to provide for their families.

But hinting back to a lost egalitarian post-war period obscures a whole range of experiences. To whatever extent this reality ever existed for white working class men, it was at the expense of outsiders who were locked out of the economic system altogether.




Let’s spare a thought for Duncan Storrar, a man who for all his alleged faults, has faced the full and terrifying onslaught of the News Limited press this week.

But let’s also talk about that other titan of the corporate press, Fairfax, because this story is not only about class and disadvantage, but also about the way ordinary people are robbed of their voice and exploited in our newsmaking process. It seems like our nation’s big ideological debates are played out as some grotesque game of totem tennis between large media organisations, with people like Duncan Storrar taking the role of the ball.

We mustn’t lose touch with the personhood — and that includes fallibility — of the people who take on totemic status in our public debate.

Cut Penalty Rates? What Penalty Rates?

I was a student for a long time and I spent most of that time trying to provide for myself by working in hospitality. It surprises me that amongst all the teeth-gnashing and rent-seeking from leading voices in the industry about penalty rates, few have mentioned the prevalence of unlawful cash-in-hand arrangements that have long allowed many employers to bypass penalty rates and other basic workplace protections entirely. The problem is so widespread that I often wonder how many hospitality businesses would be forced to close if they were genuinely required to comply with existing laws.

Penalty rates are not only about ensuring workers are fairly compensated for working under exceptional conditions; they are part of a system that protects basic conditions for all workers, guaranteeing things like fair working hours, a decent break between shifts, and weekends. The erosion of penalty rates should be a concern for working people in all industries, as should the many hospitality businesses that refuse to give staff the most basic guarantees of fair pay and conditions.

Depending on how it’s arranged, paying staff a flat rate cash-in-hand can save hospo bosses huge amounts of cash. Along with reducing base pay rates well below the legal award, ‘off the books’ cash-in-hand work tends to ignore higher rates for weekends, late nights, long hours and so on, and allows employers to evade income tax and compulsory super contributions. Off the books employment also lets exploitative bosses bypass protections like unlawful dismissal and workplace discrimination laws, in practice if not in legal fact.

Profit margins are notoriously thin in restaurants and bars, and lax policing, high employee churn and low union membership makes it all too tempting for dodgy operators to gain a competitive edge by exploiting some of the lowest paid workers in the country.

It goes without saying that this dynamic fosters unhealthy workplaces where bullying can thrive unchecked or even encouraged by management. And you only have to work in a place like this for a month or so to see the genuine emotional cost this puts on workers. It seems to me scandalous that many renowned Melbourne hospitality bosses carry on in this manner with what can only be described as an air of impunity.


My New Look: Misty AF Eyes

Our esteemed Prime Minister can look at our immigration detention system without crying, he’s proud of that, and he’s warning others against the danger of ‘misty eyes’. I must now reflexively endorse misty af eyes, a’la the timeless Katherine Hepburn.

“We shouldn’t allow empathy to cloud our judgement”, says Turnbull.

I disagree. We should reject a martial vision of leadership where compassion is somehow a barrier to correct and proper judgement. Turnbull sounds like a grotesque Boer War general with a pencil moustache.

Where does this model of leadership actually lead us? Is cruelty ever a rational response?

Afterthought: Is Turnbull having a dig at Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young with this phrase? I’m thinking particularly about this event which is widely pilloried among right-wingers, usually in chauvinistic terms. I can think of few people who have shown as much courage and leadership on this issue in the Australian Parliament as Hanson-Young.

And can you imagine the outrage if a third party contractor paid by the Australian Government conducted spying operations on an ALP or Coalition senator abroad on official business? The AFP would have to show up with water cannons.