Archive for July, 2010

In defence of Penny Wong

July 30, 2010

Betrayed Wong puts politics before community…. screams the front page of the Sydney Star Observer (SSO). With such a bold statement I was sure there would be journalistic evidence to back this up, or at least a balanced argument. However having read the article it seems to me more of a personal attack on Penny Wong fuelled by dislike rather than biased journalism.

The supposed betrayal was her failure to openly disagree with the Government’s current stand against gay marriage.

As far as I am aware Penny Wong never expressed her ‘personal’ views, she was talking about her view on the ‘position of the party’ lets not forget she is a Government Minister and as such needs to publicly support Government policy to retain her post. Her personal views may well be discussed in private and I have no doubt they have been expressed in Cabinet, but like all Ministers her job is to demonstrate unity and support the Party Policy. The issue here is, does she speak out and therefore lose her ability to influence the future debate from within cabinet or does she work from the inside.

Not speaking out does not mean she cannot work from within the party to help change policy towards same-sex couples and indeed she, along with many others, in the ALP continue to argue in caucus, cabinet and at party conferences for change. Lets not forget the Labour Government have introduced and delivered 85 legislative changes to address inequality for same-sex couples over the last three years. These changes come about because of people like Penny, change takes time, patients and negotiation.

I am sure that in time we will have marriage for same sex couples and I am sure that our best chance of getting that change is via an ALP Government, but it will take us a lot longer to get there if as a “community” we hound out of office those that are best placed to help us achieve this aim.

I know Penny Wong is a lesbian, but for the community to see her as a lesbian first and foremost is in my view hypocritical and in itself discrimination. We cry out not to be ‘defined’ or ‘labelled’ simply by our sexuality, and indeed my homosexuality is just part of who I am it is not what defines me completely. Penny Wong was not given a mandate to “champion gay marriage” nor did she seek election to do so, therefore she should not be completely judged for failing to publicly take on the task.

TITANIC: The Artefact Exhibition is well worth seeing

July 13, 2010

I went all out and got the ‘complete works’ ticket, which gave you entrance to the exhibit, the audio guide and a ticket to see an hour and a half documentary on the big IMAX screen which is all about the excavation of the wreck. I decided to see the movie first.  It was really interesting and there was a lot of stuff in it that I did not already know (i am a bit of a geek about the Titanic), and some amazing footage of the wreck and inside the ship, it is amazing just how much is still preserved. The thing that struck me was that it takes two and a half hours just to get down to where it is, so a round trip without even stopping to look at it would take five hours, it is a miracle that they even found it really.

When you enter the exhibit they give you a boarding pass, mine was for a Mr Claus Peter Hansen who was travelling in Third Class with his wife. The card give you a little biog about the passenger, for example Claus and his wife were returning to the US after a visit to their families in Denmark, whom they had not seen in twenty-one years.  It was a really clever way to make you engage more with the exhibit, as you walk round there is information about various different passengers so you could hear people getting excited when they saw or heard something about the person they had been given. The exhibit itself is really well structured, it starts off with a section all about the construction, launch and some information about the White Star Line company, then it takes you through different sections for the First Class, Second Class and Third Class, so you can see how conditions get progressively more cramped and less opulent. A first class ticket cost the equivalent of $120k in today’s money and it was full of the who’s who of the day. They have also constructed a replica of the grand stairwell and other sections of the ship and have heaps of different artefacts on display. Some of the most moving items are the personal belongings as they tell you whom they belonged to and if they survived or not. Towards the end of exhibit is a huge wall with a lists of all those on board split by class and if they survived or not, so people were gathered around it looking for the name they had on their boarding pass and also looking to see if other family members have made it. It was all very moving, almost like people searching for the names of their loved ones in a modern day disaster. Unfortunately Claus had not survived the sinking but his wife, Jennie, did.

By the time I got out I realised I had spent a good three hours in there, I’m sure most people would have done it in an hour or two, I felt like I got my monies worth, and the ticket included entrance to the Melbourne Museum so popped in there for a couple of hours as well.

By: Colin MacArthur

What are you and where are you from?

July 12, 2010

What am I? This was a question posed in relation to my nationality by a discussion I had with some friends recently. But it was a question that is not all that easy to answer.

The discussion came up as a bunch of us that live here in Australia but were all born in England were away together and we started talking about our sense of ‘nationality’. The conversation was prompted by the fact that a few in the group have taken up Australian citizenship.  One member of the group was adamant that as we were born in England and our parents are English we are “English” and should always see ourselves as such. But is being born in a county really what makes you a member of that land?

I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, I have a Scottish surname, my grandfather on my farther side was very much a Scott but I live in Australia and am about to apply for my Australian citizenship – so what will that make me? Oh and my sister was born in Zambia so what does that make her?

Who should I cheer for in international sporting events like the Word Cup? I get that there is a sense of pride in ‘where you come from’ but surely this is not the be all and end all of how you define yourself in terms of ones nationality. I have chosen to live in Australia and am now looking to become an Australian, many people I know back home bemoan the fact that people emigrate to the UK but don’t ‘become English’, surely those same rules should apply to me then, now that I have emigrated to Australia I should ‘become Australian’?

Maybe I should just become a “citizen of the world”, wanky I know but maybe if we thought of ourselves in those terms rather than ‘us’ and ‘others’ we would not be messing the place up so much and would take more collective control of preserving the planet rather than waiting to see what others do, but that is another topic altogether….