Archive for the ‘Kind of Political’ Category

Will the new post-truth era make meaningful action on climate change harder than ever, even in the face of such devastating bush fires?

January 7, 2020
Bush fires are not related to climate change…

As we enter the new decade one would think that surely now climate change is becoming too hard to ignore. Here in Australia we are facing the worst bushfires in our history, but we are not unique, extreme weather has grown more frequent and more dangerous in the past few years. But what worries me is that this new decade will be the first that will be entirely in the new “post-truth” era, and we will see a further rise of ‘tribalism’ in our political and cultural discourse.

What this means is that climate change deniers will use ‘alternative facts’ (bare faced lies) more and more even as the world burns arounds us.

I am not saying dishonesty in political and cultural debate is a new thing – but it sadly now becoming the norm. I believe this is in great part due to Donald Trump being elected to President of the United States. If one of the world’s leading champions of “post-truth” politics can be elected to what is essentially the most powerful position in the world, then what hope is there for truth, facts and honestly?

President Trump clearly does not care one jot whether what he says bears any relation to reality and he seems to have become more and barefaced in his lies and is not punished for this. This is not ok, and all this does is work to reinforce prejudices and validates the us-versus-them mindset that feeds the rise in tribalism in our society.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is all Trump’s doing, even Boris Johnson who has twice been sacked for lying (by the Times newspaper over a made-up quote and by his own political party over an affair), something the British public were well aware of. Yet he still managed to win a landslide general election, with his chief adviser Dominic Cummings who came up with the lie that Brexit would generate £350m a week for the NHS by his side.

Post-truth has also been aided by the evolution of both the media in general and social media.  The rise of ‘social media’ platforms as a form news sources has shaped conversation in which lies, rumour and gossip spread with alarming speed. The eco-chamber effect only amplifies this, where lies that are shared online within a network, whose members trust each other more than they trust typical mainstream-media sources, quickly take on the appearance of truth.

General media channels only exacerbate the situation by presenting these lies (alternative facts) as ‘news stories’ and often fail to ‘fact check’ clearly dishonest claims or stories.

The reason this worries me so much is that the more we see the effects of climate change the more we see climate change deniers behaving as if truth doesn’t matter at all—they don’t appear to regard themselves as lying, because they exist in a world of opinion over facts. They continue to repeat the same untruthful talking-points even if they have been revealed time and time again to be false. They accuse scientists of touting “fake data”, while peddling lies themselves. This ‘tribe’ of climate change deniers are given more and more air time, in fact I would suggest they get more air time than the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists and in a post-truth era this will make significant and meaningful action on climate change even hard to realise, even in the face of such devastating fires as we are seeing here in Australia at the moment.

Why I support those who are protesting as part of the Extinction Rebellion movement

October 31, 2019

I know many of you feels frustrated or annoyed by some of the recent action taken by the Extinction Rebellion, but at least these people are out there trying to get our governments to take notice and take some ‘real’ action on climate change, not just make hollow promises that they fail to deliver on time and time again. . Extinction Rebellion is a socio-political movement with the stated aim of using civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to compel government action on climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. You might think this is all ‘a but over the top’, so I thought I would take an example of something that is close to home for those if us who live in Australia. Our Great barrier Reef is in danger of no longer being ‘great’, in fact it like coral reefs all over the world are under threat from climate change. Here are some interesting facts to give you some perspective…

  • Coral Reefs take up a fraction of a percent of the sea floor but support a quarter of the planet’s fish biodiversity.
  • The fish that reefs shelter are especially valuable to their poorest human neighbours, many of whom depend on them as a source of protein. Roughly an eighth of the world’s population lives within 100km of a reef.
  • Due to human activity, corals face the most complex mixture of conditions they have yet had to deal with.
  • According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in global temperatures of 1.5°C relative to pre-industrial times could cause coral reefs to decline by 70-90%
  • The planet is already about 1°C hotter than in the 19th century and its seas are becoming warmer, stormier and more acidic.
  • “coral bleaching” is happening five times as often as it did in the 1970s. The most recent such event, between 2014 and 2017, affected about three-quarters of the world’s reefs
  • Corals also protect 150,000km of shoreline in more than 100 countries and territories from the ocean’s buffeting, as well as generating billions of dollars in tourism revenue.
  • In the Coral Triangle, an area of water stretching across South-East Asia and into the Pacific which is home to three-quarters of known coral species, more than 130m people rely on reefs for food and for their livelihoods in fishing and tourism.

What do you think will happen to those 130m people once we have irreparable damaged our corals? They will likely become climate refugees that is what. More importantly, the corals are just one part of the worlds eco-system that is under threat. This shit is real people, it is already happening, and yet our governments do nothing of real significance to address this. So maybe don’t be so angry or frustrated at those taking time out of their lives to protest so that we can go about living our lives.

Trump more than anyone, should know that words have consequences

August 12, 2019

As a child I was taught, like many of you I am sure, that our words have consequences. What we say can influence what others think or do. As an ‘average’ man on the street my words carry little influence, but I am still aware that I can use them to encourage others to do good deeds, or should I be so inclined, not so good deeds.

If an average man like me can use words to prompt thought or action, just imagine how powerful the words of the President of the United States of America can be. I think we have just seen in the recent mass shooting in the US just how impactful Trump’s words can be. He cannot in all consciousness absolve himself of any responsibility for the impact his racially divisive language has had at rousing someone, like the El Paso shooter, to act out violent racist acts.

In a press conference soon after Trump blamed the internet, video games and mental illness but pointedly not guns or hate speech for mass shootings. Sure, when in front of a teleprompter (and being told what to say) he claims “Hate has no place in America. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy”. However, the sheer hypocrisy of the fact is that when he is not hiding behind a teleprompter, and is not being told what to say, he regularly issues harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and clear ‘hate speech’ and in addition has often re-tweeted statements and images from known white supremacists.

Trump must acknowledge, that the language he uses has consequences, he would not be so prolific a Tweeter if he did not believe this.

When Trump kicked off his presidential campaign, he claimed that Mexico was sending murderers and rapists across the border, and that was just the start, he has continued in this vain ever since. The El Paso shooter posted a manifesto filled with racist rhetoric and language that could have been lifted straight from a Trump rally or tweet-fest and made it clear his actions were “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

I am not saying that Trump is responsible for mass shooting in America per se, there were plenty before he came into office and alas there will most likely be plenty once he has left office. However, he has clearly inspired the actions of at least one of these mass killers, and the more he continues with his rhetoric of hate the more he will inspire others because, words have consequences.

Don’t stop being angry about Australia’s lack of legal protections for press freedom and whistle-blowers

June 23, 2019

I know it was a few weeks ago now that the federal police raided the ABC offices and the home of Annika Smethurst, a journalist at the Sunday Telegraph. However, where has all that anger gone? Lost in the news cycle and drowned out no doubt by what Trump might have been saying in his latest tweets. The recent protest in Hong Kong have got me thinking about just how placid we really are here in Australia. We get all outraged in the moment, then move on to the next thing without really protesting or preventing things that might ultimately be undermining the liberal democracy we hold so dear.

The raids were shocking, but they shed further light on the fact that the ABC had previously reported on allegations of illegal actions by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, such as the killing of unarmed men and children. These are not actions forces of a liberal democracy should be allowed to get away with it. The ABC was reporting on gross misconduct by our forces and this is indeed in the ‘public interest’. What is shocking is that the warrant served on the ABC looked like it was from an authoritarian, Kafkaesque society in that it allowed investigators to “add, copy, delete or alter” material in the broadcaster’s computers.

The raid on the home of Annika Smethurst was in connection with an article she wrote about potential ‘top secret’ strategies to expand surveillance powers that could be used by the authorities in Australia. These strategies include covert reading of people’s e-mails, text messages and even being able to see their bank accounts.

Stories like these are important in that they keep our governments and authorities within democracy honest. Furthermore, these stories would not have come to light if it were not for the whistle-blowers who risked everything to bring them to the fore. The allegations in the ABC story were brought light by David McBride who used to be a lawyer with the defence department. He did not go running straight to a journalist, indeed he had done all he could to adhere to the ‘public-interest disclosure rules’ and is on record of having raised his concerns with the department. However, they did nothing to address his concerns or allegation and it was this that prompted him to contact journalists. However, protections under the law for whistle-blowers are woefully lacking, and in fact these laws specifically exclude protection for public servants the very people who should be protected in order to guarantee the protection of our democracy!

David McBride is now being charged with the disclosure of unauthorised documents and faces a life sentence. Some in the right-wing media have said this an apt punishment as this story posed a national security threat, but this is a load of tosh as they relate to events that happened more than six years ago.

Democracy is clearly under attack in several parts of the world and some even say it is failing. Therefore, the last thing we need is for democracy to be under attack in the very countries that should be standing up for the benefits of democracy. So, what does it say about our own democracy that here in Australia we lack explicit constitutional protection for civil liberties and that we as citizens on the whole seem to sit back and let our government pass legislation that weakens our civil liberties.

Today is World Toilet Day…

November 19, 2014

Toilet_SignDid you know 19th of November is World Toilet Day, and no I am not joking, but trust me there is a serious message behind this auspicious day. World Toilet Day is a day to take action. It is a day to raise awareness about all people who do not have access to a toilet and hence this blog post from me.

Of the world’s seven billion people, 2.5 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe toilet (that is about 37% of the world’s population). 1 billion people still defecate in the open. Women and girls risk rape and abuse because they have no toilet that offers privacy. Did you know more people in the world have a mobile phone than have access to a clean and safe toilet?

This year UN Water have taken up the theme of ‘Equality and Dignity’, and have a campaign that is seeking to inspire action to end open defecation and put spotlight on how access to improved sanitation leads to a reduction in assault and violence on women and girls. See a bit more about it here.

Water.org also campaign on this issue and many others related to the effect of not having access to clean water throughout the year, their website is well worth a visit.

It was Jim Sim (aka “Mr. Toilet”), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day back in 2001. He was named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, and alas he died in 2009. He was described as “frank and entertaining” when it came to discussing the need for better sanitation. As he once said “No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas”, think about this next time you sit on a loo….

Study highlights risk of suicide among young people who are gender diverse, trans, and intersex

October 17, 2014

If you have seen the films Boys Don’t Cry, Skin I Live In or Transamerica you might think life for gender diverse and trans (an umbrella term which incorporates a variety of trans identities), individuals is a kind of hell on earth, and for some it certainly can be. Little is actually known about the mental health needs of gender diverse, trans, and intersex, young people in Australia which is why researchers at La Trobe University recently conducted a study called From Blues to Rainbows.

This study spoke to gender diverse, trans, and intersex young people aged 14-25 years old. The results found that half of the young people surveyed were diagnosed with depression and two thirds had experienced verbal abuse, a more worrying fact is that almost all of the participants had experienced abuse because of their gender diversity. This ranged from verbal threats to physical violence. Alas for many these threats and eventuated into actual physical abuse, with one fifth reporting this. Some of you will also know that I have written about the devastating effects suicide can have on friends and family, and what I found most shocking in the results is that 90% had thought about suicide in response to the physical abuse they had experienced.

The report also found:

  • 66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
  • 38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
  • One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
  • 45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population

Encouragingly the report also emphasized that parental, peer and school support can make a enormous and constructive impact to their wellbeing.

With 66% of this at risk group visiting health professionals it is important that they receive guidance on how best to deal with these and what language to use, given the negative impact the use of incorrect pronouns to address them can have, they are there for help and understanding to getting it right at the very start is key. Many of these young people are subjected to embarrassing questions or simply have their gender dysphoria as a teenage fancy that they will grow out of.

This of course a complex issue but one that needs to be better addressed so that these vulnerable young people get all the support and help they need to live the full and happy lives we all want to live.

Scotland – to be or not to be, that is the question…..

September 17, 2014

Scotland-Countries-Flag-Wallpaper Both sides in the Scottish referendum debate are making their final pitch to voters on the last day of campaigning and from what I have seen they have both ratcheted up the rhetoric in the last few days, but then there is a hell of a lot at stake. Is the Yes vote wins does it mean Great Britain will be a little less great!? And what might it mean to peoples sense on ‘nationality’, will those that think of themselves as British be any less British if the nation itself is decreased? Actually if the Union loses Scotland it will lose 32% of its landmass and say goodbye to 8% of its population.
I have been incredibly engrossed by the debate and am desperate to know what my friends who can vote will vote. I feel oddly engaged in a way that surprises me, I feel like I ought to have some kind of a say, or at least a right to an opinion, but am I Scottish? Well what am I is a good question? One that has come up among my friends and I on several occasions.
I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, I have a Scottish surname, my grandfather on my father’s side was very much a Scott but I live in Australia and am now an Australian citizenship, and I have two boys who are both Australian and British (although I have not yet sorted their passport – for either country). I feel a strong connection with my Scottish roots even though I have never lived there and hardly know my oh so Scottish grandfather, so am I entitled to a voice on this matter or not? I guess this blog post is just that so I have already answered that question.
If I were allowed to vote I am not sure what I would do, much like the latest polls suggest the results remain too close to call, with a slender lead for a “No” vote, I think I am leaning (just) to a no myself, but the Yes could still swing.
Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland, says the 300-year-old Union is no longer “fit for purpose” that seems a bit harsh to be me, it is a political union that has stood since 1707, ok I admit not always a smooth ride, but the union itself has evolved a hell of a lot over that time and especially of late. He also said recently “The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands. It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.” Those are powerful words which pack a real emotional punch and I would challenge any eligible voter not to feel the weight of these words.

Student welfare in our schools should not be the domain of anti-gay religious groups….

May 27, 2014

Let me start this post by saying I am sure many of the chaplains involved in the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools do fantastic work, but money spent by the government, raised by all tax payers regardless of their religion, race, sexuality etc, should not be used for funding for particular religious groups to take the place of qualified mental health professionals or social workers in schools where ALL our children go, not just those of Christians.

There were many cuts in the budget this year that irked many of us, but some of the biggest were to health and education costs, if all goes to plan for the Government they will save $80 billion over 10 years by withdrawing the funding from the states that it provides for services in these two areas.

In terms of education, Tony Abbott’s government will not continue with the fifth year of Labor’s Gonski School funding reforms. This means that rather than increasing school funding by 4.7%, the Abbott government will increase school funding in line with inflation instead. What this means in reality in that they will spend about $130 million less on schools in 2017-18 than the previous government promised.

On top of this there are fundamental changes to University funding and student loans, referred to by Treasurer Joe Hockey in his budget speech as “once-in-a-generation reforms, the government will help build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs”

So while we are on the subject of diversity in the education sector, and being more responsive to what students need, relative to other cuts made, how on earth does the government justify the continued federal funding of the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools?

Some of the organisations in the program have clear connections to homophobic campaigning and yet they will continue to benefit from the government funding. The proposed budget has allocated nearly $250million to this program over four years; it offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.

ACCESS Ministries is one of the key providers of chaplains, providing approximately 330 schools in Victoria with “Special Religious Instructors”, yet it has been revealed that they have distributed homophobic materials that the Victorian Education Department’s own investigation concluded was “inappropriate and offensive”.

Rob Ward who is General Manager of Development and Communications at ACCESS Ministries, and the former Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby,  has campaigned against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption and is on record as not wanting non-heterosexual orientations as being seen as ‘normal’.  When the “Fair go, sport!” program, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sport, was launched he said “The suggestion that the aim is to have the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender sportspeople…so public that it’s normal, so people don’t think about it is very troubling.”

In addition, Darren McMahon the Director and Presenter of Your Dream Incorporated in Sydney that runs chaplaincy programs through NSW, has significant ties to Hillsong Church, which has had a contentious relationship with the gay community regarding their involvement with the Mercy Ministries and the Living Waters Australia, which both ran ex-gay and conversion camps.

It is a documented fact that LGBTI youth have higher rates of suicide and depression than their heterosexual counterparts and as Jacqui Tomlins, a founding member of the Australian Equality Party, has said “Young people,  especially those who might be questioning their sexuality or sexual identity, need access to good, non-judgemental counsellors who can provide advice and guidance that is not based on any religious foundation”, yet it is via the Chaplaincy Program that these children would be dealt with.

To make matter worse the Abbott Government has changed the conditions to prevent School Principals from being able to elect a secular student welfare worker instead of a chaplain, non-religious student welfare workers could get access to funding under the previous Labor Government.

So just how Mr Hockey does the government propose to ensure we build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs with this program?

Not only was I annoyed enough to write this blog post but I also signed this petition: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/australia-budget-thanks

Remembering Lex Watson

May 8, 2014

Lex Watson who passed away this week was the first president of the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and a Co-founder of the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), in addition to being the founder of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, in short he was one of the most important gay rights activists in Australia.

We forget how things have changed over the past few decades and the fact that we have so many rights not afforded us in the past is in no small part down to the work Lex and others like him did on our behalf. He played an important role in the foundation of many of the LGBT rights groups in New South Wales. In 1970 he was one of the first gay people to advocate openly for their rights on Australian television, a very brave act indeed back then, to many LGBT people in their teens, twenties or even 30’s just how brave and pioneering an act this was would be hard to comprehend in a world where an openly gay person won Big Brother in 2012.

Homosexuality was legalized in New South Wales in 1984, 14 years after the start-up of CAMP, and in that time activists like Lex were at the forefront of the fight for equality and endured more than most on our behalf to ensure our rights were recognised. For example in 1976 whilst on a current affairs program on ABC Lex was pelted with human excrement during a debate, his response to this act…. was to point out that that was precisely the kind of persecution that homosexuals had to put up with, touché .

In his later years Lex  served as the President of Sydney’s Pride History Group, Lex Watson is part of our history, he was a pioneer for the LGBT community and one I hope history never forgets.

RIP Sir David Paradine Frost

September 2, 2013

davidFrom my own county, David Frost was born in Tenterden Kent, in 1939, so a bit before me. I spent a very unhappy year living in Gillingham and went to hear him speak at the local grammar school which he attended as a child before going on to Cambridge University. I can’t really remember what the talk was about now (it was more than 20 years ago) but I do remember that listening to him talk made me want to do something with my life other than live in a bedsit and work in McDonald’s which was what I was doing at the time.

Back then I knew him primarily as the host on Through the Keyhole, and still recall his voice saying “who lives in a house like this”, his co-host was Loyd Grossman who went on to sell condiments!!!

Anyway, what I did not know at the time was that he had been such a successful journalist and TV producer (he was one of the original founders and owner of London Weekend Television). In 1977, he did the The Nixon Interviews, a series of five 90-minute interviews with former US President Richard Nixon. Nixon was paid $600,000 plus a share of the profits for the interviews, which Frost funded himself after the US television networks refused to do so calling them “chequebook journalism” (og how things have changed).

Frost was also the only person to have interviewed all eight British prime ministers serving between 1964 and 2010 (Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron) and all seven US presidents in office between 1969 and 2008 (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).

And after the 1979 Iranian Revolution Frost was the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

These are but a handful of his achievements, sad to see such an accomplished talent come to an end.

Remembering those that have fallen on ANZAC Day

April 24, 2013

ImageOk, yesterday I wrote about Saint George’s Day but being a citizen of both the UK and Australia I felt I could not let ANZAC Day pass unmentioned. For those of you not aware tomorrow (25th April) is Anzac Day, it is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and a public holiday in Australia, unlike Saint George’s Day in England. It started as a day to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (now modern day Turkey) during World War I. However, today it more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in all military operations for their countries.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, Winston Churchill’s grand plan was that they were to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The overall objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk, who went on to become Turkey’s first President, bot more on him later). What had been planned as a daring strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a deadlock, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.

The Dawn Service on ANZAC Day has become a major tradition, and the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Thousands of Australians make a pilgrimage to the site of the battle in Turkey every year for the dawn service held there. The name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra:

“Those heroes that shed their blood

And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears,

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well.”

Why I am wearing my England top today…..

April 23, 2013

ImageSaint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George, and although I am wearing my England football top in honour of the day it is actually not just a day for the English. It is celebrated by various Christian churches and by the several nations of which Saint George is the patron saint. Countries that celebrate St George’s Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia.

Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George’s death in AD 303. By coincidence it is also my Uncle’s birthday (Happy birthday Uncle Clive). The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral.  The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. One of my sons has Alfred as a middle name, but this is just a happy coincidence.

In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s Day a feast day in the kingdom of England and  Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.

In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415) “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

St George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. My relatives own Mayflower Engineering in Sheffield, that has the Mayflower ship as its logo, another happy coincidence.

The tradition of celebration St George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. In recent years the popularity of St George’s Day appears to be increasing, slowly but surely. The Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell, has raised the issues in the House of Commons to make St George’s Day a public holiday and Mayor of London Boris Johnson encourages the celebration of St George’s Day.

A traditional custom on St George’s day was to wear a red rose in one’s lapel, however I could not find one this morning when getting dressed, so put my England football top on instead. Enjoy the day.

Have you used a loo today?

November 21, 2012

Ok, so I know you might well have missed it but 19th of November was World Toilet Day, and no I am not joking, but trust me there is a serious message behind this auspicious day.

Approximately 2.5 billion people do not have access to a clean and safe toilet, to put that in some perspective that is 37% of the world’s population.  Sanitation would make the lives of these 2.5 billion people safer and healthier, which this issue is so important.

On the day the Gates Foundation tweeted, “The annual gain in economic productivity if everyone had a toilet is $225B”. I’m not sure how they work that out, but it is an impressive figure. The Gates are not the only ones who see the importance of this issue, Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org, has pointed out that “Six billion people have cell phones, but only 4.5 billion have access to improved sanitation”.

It was Jim Sim (aka “Mr. Toilet”), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day back in 2001. He was named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, and alas he died in 2009. He was described as “frank and entertaining” when it came to discussing the need for better sanitation. As he once said “No invention has saved more lives than a toilet. More than 80% of sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated, polluting rivers, lakes and coastal areas”, think about this next time you sit on a loo….

Well done The Greens and Mr Greenwich

November 5, 2012

Ok I know the Sydney by-election was almost a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it still worth jotting down some interested facts about it….

One thing that caught my eye was how well The Greens did given the press had written them off before hand as having peaked and were in decline in terms of electoral support. They actually increased their primary vote to 17.7% which is the best primary vote that they have ever achieved in Sydney. This represents a 5% swing in favour of them from the 2011 election results, so well done The Greens. In places such as St Barnabas’ Broadway, Ultimo Public and St Peters’ Surry Hills, they enjoyed swings of up to 15%.

Although Cover Moore was no longer able to hold the seat, she still played a large role in the by-election having endorsed and then actively campaigned for the independent candidate Alex Greenwich. And boy did he do well. Mr Greenwich’s vote was just short of 50%. Take into account the fact that only once did Clover Moore’s first preference vote pass 40%, however she had polled above 36% at every election since 1991, then this result for Mr Greenwich can also be seen as a clear rebuke by the electorate for the O’Farrell government’s action to push Clover out of her seat in the first place, oh they got 30% of the vote a swing away from them of circa 5%.

Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote

August 28, 2012

I know I have talked about brands targeting the Pink Dollar before https://macarthursmutterings.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/big-brands-wise-up-and-target-the-lgbt-community/ when I looked at Coca-Cola and Grey Goose supporting the Winter Party Festival (WPF) in the US and Mardi Gras here in Australia being supported by Virgin Australia, ANZ, Google and Finlandia Vodka, for example.

Well this time I want to talk about Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote. We have some elections coming up in Sydney which sees the  political fight for dominance of Sydney Council being taken to the LGBT Community, why is that?

Well is it one of the few electorates in Australia where the ‘pink vote’ can and does make a difference. If you have spent much time in places like Darlinghurst and Surry Hills you will know that LGBT individuals are both an important and integral part of these communities, and their voice not only matters but is worth listening to.

With this in mind, and with elections just around the corner, the council recently announced some new funding, if all goes to plan Mardi Gras would get $400,000 in funding over the next two years. This might sound like a lot, but a conservative estimate of the average number of spectators a year is 300,000. It is estimated that MG delivers an annual economic impact of $29 million to Sydney and NSW. This is the direct result of international and interstate visitors travelling specifically for Mardi Gras events, so $400,000 is not all that much really, they could be doing more.

Labor’s candidate for the position of Lord Mayor has claimed a Labor run Town Hall would commit $3.2 million to MG and Aids Council of NSW (ACON) over four years, no small sum. And apparently a future Liberal Government will work with MG to ensure “it grows as one of Sydney’s most important cultural and social events and as a major tourism driver for the state”, although I am unaware of any actual sum of commitment in dollar terms.

Don’t get me wrong, all this ‘possible’ support and funding is crucial and long overdue, but LGBT voters don’t just think about how the parties support them at election time only (ok for some that may be true). Like any constituent they think about how political parties represent then (or don’t) most of the year and as such maybe those who want to win, and stay in power, in Sydney ought to pay more heed to the Pink Vote all year round and not just at election time.