The exhibition had a different manifestation at the Adelaide Biennale earlier this year, stripped back and more abstract, but I like the present manifestation better, not least because it contains, or embraces more vulnerability. And that seems particularly pertinent when Tony Abbott is pledging to reopen the detention centres on Nauru immediately if re-elected, despite Nauru not being a signatory to the UN convention on the treatment of refugees. Nauru keen as mustard for this to go ahead. So Nauru's destructive cycle of gimme-gimme-gimmes is not yet complete.
The tables with the deepest holes in them, in terms of the idea of a table maybe are less perfect but in terms of the idea of an object are absolutely mesmerising, I am not keen on smoking weed but these tables made me feel like going and seeking some so I could get well baked and go and sit and stare at them for a few hours. The contemplation for me begins with the immediacy of these arrested coralline microcosms that not a foot away from one another can be one universe and then another, I crouch and I stare and I am here, I am in the amniotic ocean... here... ocean... so that experience creates a temporal arc in my perceptions that actually neatly overarches the varied and colourful disasters of Nauru's economic history, and also serves to remind that these tables are made from the island's skeleton, that these hard coral stumps were what was left after they had plundered all the phosphate, one of many pivots in this, the phosphate that was the heart of Nauru now ground down, diluted and sprayed in a thin layer over for the most part the peripheries of Australia and maybe a bit on New Zealand too. And that there was even this fantasy of slicing up the island's coral skeleton and selling it as coffee tables to rich fuckers in the West, one hare-brained scheme of the Nauruan President before detention centres arrived on their scene.
I see this show as a bringing together of these very material realities of Nauru that Australia has played a major part in the conditions of, and the moral and ideological implications that the physical shifting of these materials, and later of money, and later still of human beings from one place to another have given rise to. The phosphate mining on Nauru created a void in the island's heart that richer countries since have sought to fill with different types of their own unwanteds. What it is about certain places or situations that drag ugly truths out of everyone involved is unclear to me, but Nauru tells us something important about ourselves. The treatment of Nauru by Australia is one of the binding agents of Australia as a nation.
I liked how many people were compelled to create their own custom 'twibbon' (ugh! I hate that word) in response to the Greens one that must have been one of the cheapest, most resource-light and effective strategies of their campaign; even the negative ones served to remind people of the strength of the Greens presence.
I collected the ones I came across on Twitter, for posterity:
So having one voice on its own in the Lower House achieves nothing, having someone in the government can achieve outcomes. Particularly for the very vulnerable people who live in the inner city.'
Yes, but having an opposition backbencher in the seat of Melbourne if Labor does not get returned to government is not going to achieve anything at all, eh?
I really feel there should be a law in place that requires the papers, if not to provide the public with balanced reportage, then to issue a statement pertinent to their political affiliations. I am sick to death of their endless attempts to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, in the case of Tony Abbott.
I like this idea. I think because it seems a springboard, if you do end up in that sort of troubled place in your understanding of things, for the possibility of knowing, feeling, realising that the world is better than you might have thought.
A short while later a helicopter pulsed overhead and the usual image came to my mind of some larrikin jewel thief making a run for it from the Cash Converters. Two hours later, whittling time as the laundromat drones my clothes clean I read that in fact two old men have been shot dead at a pokies place a couple of blocks away. They reckon it might be a revenge killing for the shooting of Chaouk, a ‘crime family patriarch’, this morning. Not so unusual for Carlton, I think, but I ponder it because the event brushed my senses, that moment of death, or its infrastructural ricochet at least.
(Update on this: Apparently the killings were carried out by some poor man who didn't take his medication and underwent a psychotic episode.)
Then I start thinking about the hospitals, St Vincent’s a stone’s throw to the South and the Royal Women’s to the West, and I think, people are dying all around Carlton all the time, and the cemetery just North of here too. Floors of people flatlining, being covered over, machines switched off, and then other floors of people squeezing out fresh lives, of lives being extracted and bum-smacked into a new version of being. You’re one of us, and it’s time to start learning the ropes.
It's all OK.
It seems surprisingly hard to find a simple policy snapshot of either Labor or Liberal parties; certainly none are apparent on their respective websites. And since they both seem incapable of conveying their policies for all the meaningless guff they are intent on spouting, I have undertaken to summarize their policies myself, based on the fairly lengthy (and for most people probably too tedious, rhetoric-riddles and time-consuming to bother reading) policy outlines each has on offer on their main policy sites.
Presumably (one hopes, anyway) each party has more policies than these, but these are the ones they lay out prominently. The ones, I suppose, that they are willing to let us know about. The coalition’s policies are harder to access, jammed away in .ashx format, and with ridiculous Blakes 7 ‘Federation’ style full-page headers at the top of each document. Each coalition document dedicates a substantial amount of space to outlining ‘how Labor has failed’, where the Labor policies, to their credit, do not defensively attack the Liberals. As though the Liberals under Howard didn’t fail Australia in hideous and damaging ways.
I note, additionally, that neither 'major party' has bothered to outline their arts policy on their policies page. How promising. No mention of work choices either. Though the Greens campaign is getting a bit of help from the unions that was previously directed towards Labor.
Update: I am adding a column for the Greens. The Greens have a vastly more detailed description of policy outlines on their website than Labor or Liberal, so I am going to abridge to a listing of their policies in relation to those outlined by the other two mobs.
This is a very abridged account; if you want all the detail/to read their policies from the horse's mouth (so to speak), follow these links:
Comments with * in italics are mine.
Free market. Pages of dogma on this, but not a figure in sight. Plenty of criticism of Labor’s spending.
Resource management is central to good economic management.
Free market economy is environmentally disastrous.
The GST is regressive and unfair.
Full corporate and government accountability
Equitable taxation system
$7.3 billion over five years to improve hospital system.
National funding for Health and Hospitals network.
$96 million for more doctors and nurses in emergency departments.
Support Medicare as universal health insurance.
Abolish private health insurance rebates and redirect funds to public health system
Increase community healthcare centres in regional areas.
Fund preventative health programs/healthy lifestyle education
Close the health gap
Compensate the Stolen Generation
End the NT intervention
30% resources tax on coal and iron
$6 billion regional infrastructure fund to help resource industry development (roads, ports etc.)
Cut business taxes
Instant write-off of assets under $5000 for small businesses
Cut company tax from 30% to 28.5%
Abolish resources tax
Reward calculated risk-taking in small business
Establish Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman
Reduce small business compliance burdens
Breaks for small business in general
Return company tax rate to 33%
Progressive taxes like income tax are preferable to regressive taxes like the GST
Grant tax concessions that align industry development with national goals.
Reduce tax rebates for high income earners
New top marginal tax rate of 50% for incomes $1 million or over
Gradual implementation of carbon tax
The coalition has a document outlining their ‘savings’, ie. what they would cut from Labor’s spending. Among the ‘savings’ are the discontinuation of:
-Australian Human Rights Framework
-Africa Law and Justice Frameworks
-UN Security Council Candidacy funding
-Centre for International Finance and Regulation
-Green Building Fund
-Retooling for Climate Change Initiative
-digital education revolution
-Improved teacher quality program
-Carbon trust and climate change foundation program
-Public service reform
-Climate Change Adaptation Initiative
-Abolish the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute
Among many other cuts.
Increase super guarantee to 12%
Implementation of national curriculum. (* The curriculum does not encourage creative thought or critical interpretation, in my view.)
§The English curriculum has an emphasis on the basics. This includes critical skills like sounding out letters of the alphabet and grammar
§Maths will focus on essential mathematical skills in number and algebra, measurement and geometry, probability and statistics.
§The science curriculum will ensure students develop the skills they need to live in a technologically advanced age.
§ A key feature of the draft Curriculum for history is the treatment of Australian history within a regional and world history context. This allows students to better understand the richness of the Australian story.
Increase education tax rebate ($500 per primary student and $1000 per secondary student for education-related expenses)
More money to public schools
Abolish league tables
Two years of public preschool
Free university education, abolish HECS
Include the history, culture and contemporary experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is included in the school curriculum, and in the training and professional development of all teachers.
*Note: Not listed on Labor’s policy page at all.
‘Small Australia’ (ie. cut down on immigration – though no specifics easily available on Labor’s website)
The regional processing debacle.
From 6 July: ‘The Government also announced today that the suspension on processing claims for Sri Lankan asylum seekers will be lifted immediately, in light of the continuing improved security and human rights situation in Sri Lanka.’
*Um, should’t a poor security and human rights situation be the reason NOT to freeze processing?
‘Turn back the boats’
Presuming asylum seekers are not refugees if they are seen to have disposed of their identity documents (*WTF!!??)
Stamp out ‘people smuggling’
All processing offshore
Temporary protection visas (ie. no permanent immigration for asylum seekers)
Establish ‘guard rails’ for population growth
Reduce immigration levels from almost 300,000 in 2008-09 to no more than 170,000
Ensure 2/3 permanent migrants are ‘skilled’ for regional economic growth sectors.
No mandatory detention
End offshore processing
Increase refugee intake
Support skilled migration programs
Establish visas for climate refugees
Stay in Afghanistan, keep sucking up to the US.
Try to strengthen ties with Asia.
Increase foreign aid to 0.5% of gross national income.
*I note that they do not detail the defence budget in this policy outline.
Increase border protection. No information on military engagement offered on policy page.
*No defence budget outline here either.
Withdraw from Aghanistan
Support global universal nuclear disarmament
Real security rests on cooperation, fair economic and social development, and respect for human rights, rather than on military capability
Vote before going to war
$200 million over three years for new homes to build up regional cities
Increase the regional healthcare workforce (100 new medical bonded rural scholarships, 100 rural nursing scholarships, $10,000 annual bonus for nurses committed to working in regional areas)
All NEW coal-fired stations should operate at best practice emissions standards (pah), and be carbon-capture ready.
*This is a lamentable environmental policy!
Reduce emissions by 5% by 2020 (based on 1990 levels). *Useless!
Incentives for oldest, worst power stations to reduce their emissions ‘in an orderly manner’ so as not to disturb the economy
*This is an even more lamentable environmental policy!
Equitable transition to a low-carbon economy
30% renewable energy by 2020
Direct compensation to coal-dependent communities rather than power station owners
Oppose new coal power stations
New trade cadetship for years 9-12 for students who want to pursue trade as a career.
$25 million to provide cadet work experience in Trades Training Centres.
Living allowance for full-time TAFE students
$1 billion over a decade (*paltry!) to connect homes to renewable energy sources.
Commitment to 20% of Australia’s energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.
One-off 50% tax break for buildings upgrading their green rating from less than 2 stars to more than 4 stars.
Invest $100 million each year for new solar homes
Mid-scale and micro renewable energy projects (very little real impact)
Plant more trees in public places
Investigate algae bloom carbon absorption and bio fuels.
Restructure Marine Protection areas to cater to fishing and tourism industries
Robust public transport system
Recognition of human dependency on ecological systems
Establish Ecological Sustainability Commission
Protection and regeneration of natural habitats nationally
$394 million for $2000 rebates to buy greener, more fuel-efficient cars.
Support compulsory noise and emissions standards for petrol and diesel vehicles at least to EU levels.
Mandatory fuel efficiency labels for new vehicles
Increase tariff on imported 4WDs from 5% to 10% except for primary producers
Protecting workers’ entitlements
Protect redundancy pay, annual leave, long service leave. Legislated.
Securing super to ensure employees receive their payments
Strengthen tax penalties for companies shirking on employee benefits.
Require employers to notify employees that they may choose to join a union
Legislatively protect the right to strike
Reinstate the functions of the Industrial Relations Commission
Job security for all
10-year strategy to improve the lives of people with disabilities (in draft stage).
Better start for children with disabilities.
More accommodation and respite for people with disabilities ($60 million for 150 new places)
Increase Disability Support Pension
Provide meaningful employment and training opportunities
Allow tax deductibility for equipment
Increase funding for accommodation and support services
$276.9 million over four years to provide services for those at risk of suicide, improve safety at suicide ‘hotspots’, provide more services and support to men.
*I would refer anyone interested in this issue to this article by John Mendoza that outlines very clearly the state of mental health in Australia and the deplorable inadequacy of this policy.
$1.5 billion for 20 early psychosis intervention centres; 800 mental health beds; 60 additional youth headspace sites.
Increased funding for services and education for the prevention and early detection of mental illness.
Establish properly resourced, strategically located 24 hour community mental health services, staffed by the full range of mental health professionals.
18 weeks paid parental leave at minimum wage
Increase childcare rebate
Improving access to occasional childcare
26 weeks paid parental leave at full salary (ref. ‘Savings’ to see some of the sacrifices that would pay for this if it ever actually happened)
Improve affordability of childcare
Replace the Child Care Tax rebate with a Child Care Benefit Guarantee
Increase benefits in relation to under-2-year-olds to reflect the real cost of caring for them
Provide incentives to workplaces which offer not-for-profit childcare in house
National broadband network rollout (way faster broadband).
Ensure diversity of ownership and opinion in the media
Subject the installation of communications infrastructure, including mobile phone towers, to existing state and territory local government planning provisions.
Installation of CCTV cameras in public places
Establish a National Violent Gangs Database
Implement a knife crime action plan
Introduce nationally consistent drug laws
$50 million for a community crime prevention program renewal
Implement alternatives to imprisonment, where appropriate, including restorative justice and diversionary programs.
Increase funding to community legal centres as an adjunct to legal aid and private legal practitioners.
Prohibit the use of electroshock weapons and Tasers.
Cease using GMOs
A ban on patenting living organisms
Sustainable management of natural resources industries (fisheries, forests, mining) with respect for traditional owners
Prohibit the mining of uranium
Implement sustainable agricultural practices
And there you have it. Well, some of it. More of a summary than the press has to offer at any rate.