Apartheid in Australia.

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Apartheid operates in Australia. It operates to this day.

Apartheid exists in remote Aboriginal communities in the form of liquor permits for residents.

Basically, if you’re white you get one, if you’re black you don’t.

A liquor permit is a piece of paper which allows the holder to consume alcohol inside the physical boundaries of the community. Permits are awarded by the local council, which is administered by the Aboriginal community in conjunction with the government. To my knowledge, the system still operates in 2018.

There are a few conditions governing the liquor permits. Holders may only consume alcohol in their own home, and only in the presence of other people who hold a liquor permit. If only one person at a social gathering does not have a liquor permit, no one can consume alcohol. For this reason, obtaining a liquor permit was one of the first things that I did once I arrived in the community of Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem Land, in 2004; not because I was desperate for a beer, but because the other white fellas in the community, most of whom were my teaching colleagues at the local school, insisted I get my permit as soon as possible.

“If you don’t get one, none of us can drink when you’re with us,” they informed me.

I was promptly issued with a permit after visiting the office. It didn’t seem very difficult for me to get one.

I couldn’t help thinking, why was it so easy for me to get a permit? There was not enough time for the issuer to run a background check on me. Is it because I was a Teacher? Does that automatically make me a respectable citizen? Yes, Teachers are respectable citizens, but I certainly wouldn’t have been the first Teacher with a drinking problem, especially in a remote community – it’s a tough job.

The only conclusion I could make is that it was because I’m white.

In my mind, that equates to apartheid.

So, should Aboriginal people be given liquor permits as well?

No.

Alcohol is destroying Aboriginal communities and a lot of the good work that is being done, including at the schools, is rendered redundant through the destructive power of alcohol. To solve the massive problems in Aboriginal communities, it’s imperative get rid of the alcohol – as a starting point.

Of course, the permit system didn’t stop Aboriginal people from abusing alcohol. Groups of men would gather at the town limit and drink to excess, in plain sight of anyone driving in or out of the community. They would then stroll back into the community and cause problems. There were also many venues in the nearby mining town of Nhulunbuy which served alcohol.

The white fellas would also abuse alcohol, so it was not as if all of them were worthy of the permit. There also seemed to be a reluctance among some white fellas to leave behind some of the comforts of their urban upbringing, such as Friday night drinks, when they chose to move to the remote community, despite the fact that they saw the damage alcohol was doing on a daily basis.

Apartheid is not new to Australia. The liquor permit is one of the last vestiges of this discriminatory colonial practice.

Pubs throughout the country once posted the ubiquitous signs, ‘No blacks, no dogs”. Many cinemas reserved the best seats for whites and the worst seats for Aboriginal people, and of course Australian history since 1788 is full of occurrences such as The Stolen Generation, blackbirding and genocide which saw Aboriginal people stolen, enslaved or murdered.

Apartheid occurred, it just wasn’t given a name. As a white South-African once told me, one mistake the authorities in South Africa made was assigning the word Apartheid to their system of racial discrimination. This opened up the Afrikaans to criticism from authorities throughout the world, many of whom, including the British, imposed exactly the same discriminatory practices on indigenous populations, but escaped the criticism because they didn’t label their practices.

Why is this not commonly known?

Because, like so many incidents and stories involving Aboriginal people since 1788, they are simply ignored or covered up because many Australians are too uncomfortable, too patriotic or too ignorant to talk about them.

The pill testing paradox.

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Pill testing is a paradox.

Demanding that authorities provide free pill testing for people who choose to take illicit drugs at music festivals is an inherent contradiction, because the act of taking the drugs is a form of rebellion against authority. Thus, pill poppers are demanding that authorities test their pills so that they can rebel against authority.

Pill taking, and the consumption of illicit drugs, is an act of rebellion. Drug users may argue that they are not deliberately engaged in an act of rebellion, that they’re just trying to have some fun during a concert, but the fact remains that taking drugs which are illegal according to existing Australian laws is an act of rebellion.

Do we have to test pills everywhere?

If pill testing is introduced as standard procedure at large-scale music festivals across New South Wales and the rest of Australia, does it have to be introduced elsewhere? Will pill testing be introduced at nightclubs, at private birthday parties, at beach parties? Illicit pills are consumed in many places, not just at music festivals, so if music festivals are required to provide pill testing, will pill testing have to be available to drug users in other places?

Who pays for pill testing?

If widespread pill testing is introduced at music festivals (and in other places), does the tax payer pay for the provision of medical staff, social workers and other resources? Should taxpayers be forced to foot the bill for an activity which is illegal, and entered into knowingly and voluntarily by the pill taker? If taxpayers are paying for the testing, then we are essentially paying for people to absolve themselves of any responsibility to ensure their own welfare and to take risks without accepting the consequences.

Festival organisers should pay for pill testing.

Let’s face it, people know they can take drugs at a music festival. We know most people go for the entertainment, the socialising, the food, the drink and the general excitement of being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people enjoying a great day or night out. However, it is also common knowledge that festivals are a great place to acquire, and enjoy, illicit drugs. Festival organisers and promoters profit financially from this accepted truth, and should thus accept the financial burden of providing pill testing if it becomes standard practice.

Unfortunately, organisers are likely to pass on the increased costs by raising ticket prices, and the festival-goers who don’t take drugs will suffer because of other people who require pill testing.

Does it set a precedent?

If a person takes a pill to a testing centre and the pill is found to contain a chemical composition which is dangerous, is the pill then confiscated from the person and disposed of? One imagines the festival-goer is likely to be quite upset at losing their pill, not just because it was purchased to enhance their experience, but also because they had just handed over cash for the pill, as well as paying for the festival ticket and food, and transport…The risk of losing their pill might also deter some people from using the service.

If the person is allowed to keep the pill, even after it is deemed to be harmful, are there legal ramifications if that person takes the pill and suffers adverse side effects? Australia is becoming an increasingly litigious society and it would not be surprising if a drug user attempted to sue the government and/or festival organisers.

Another precedent could also be set.

Pill testing, indirectly, allows people to ‘get away with’ taking drugs. Festival goers will not be punished for possessing illegal substances at festivals, which are always attended by police. If the same person, or another person, is in possession of illicit drugs in another location, such as a nightclub, and is punished at law for possessing illegal drugs, can that person sight the absence of punishment for possession of drugs at the festival as a legal precedent in an attempt to ‘get away with’ breaking the law at a different location?

But I didn’t know drugs were dangerous…

Advocates for pill testing argue that as well as harm minimisation, pill testing centres can also serve as a vehicle for educating people about the dangers of recreational drugs. People know the dangers of drugs. Any Australian under the age of 35 (the vast majority of festival-goers) has already been educated about the dangers of drugs. Most attended high school in Australia within the last 15 years and were provided with drug and alcohol education through subjects such as Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PD/H/PE) or through special drug and alcohol seminars.

Weren’t they listening?

Death is no deterrent

Pill testing is also designed to deter some people from taking harmful drugs. Armed with sufficient information, advocates argue, festival-goers will avoid taking drugs that are identified as dangerous. How can pill testing deter people if death is not deterring them? The deaths of numerous people at festivals during the 2018-19 Australian summer is what ignited the debate over pill testing, yet even these deaths did not serve as a deterrent to pill-takers. So, if death did not stop people from taking pills, how will pill testing?

The real problem with pill testing

The pill testing debate can also be examined more broadly in order to expose another major flaw in Australian society, the expectation that society/the government will protect people from harming themselves.

People popping pills at festivals do so knowingly and voluntarily and thus engage in a deliberate act of risk taking, while at the same time expecting society and the government to remove any potential consequences of their actions.

It is symptomatic of a country which has created an expectation that it is the responsibility of the government to protect all of its citizens from harm, even if that harm was the direct consequence of the deliberate actions of the individual.

Furthermore, not only do many Australians expect to be protected from danger, they expect to be rescued or bailed out when their own actions place them in a complicated or adverse situation.

If you choose to rebel against authority by taking a pill at a music festival, don’t expect the same authority to bail you out.

Image: http://www.freestock.org

Naive wildlife and mature cats.

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Is Australia’s wildlife naive?

Is this why so many of them are falling victim to cats, both feral and domestic?

A recent post on an Australian house minding website would suggest this is true.

The post from a home owner in NSW describes the house as overlooking a nature reserve which includes “…naive wildlife…”. Residing in the house are two mature cats. Was this just a simple typo, or are Australia’s animals ‘naive’ as well as ‘native’. Maybe the ‘naive’ animals are the only ones left in the reserve because the cats have killed all of the ‘native’ animals.

Perhaps this is why cats are, still, the single most destructive introduced species in Australia. Have our native animals not learned to flee at the sight of a furry little feline? Do we need to train our native wildlife to identify, and escape from, cats. Well, clearly this is impossible, and clearly we can’t train cats not to kill wildlife, because cats are acting upon the natural instincts of any feline species – they are great hunters.

Therefore, if we can’t train the cats, we need to train the humans. We need to convince, or force, cat owners to keep the cats indoors, or in a cat run / fenced off area, all the time. Yes, all the time, because if cats are allowed to roam free, they will kill. Owners of cute, furry, loving, kind, sweet, deadly cats must take responsibility for the actions of their pets. If owners can’t prevent their cats from killing wildlife, they should not be allowed to own a cat.

If we think that we can keep, and breed, cats as well as protecting our native wildlife, then it is humans who are naive.

 

Why do A-League players commit less scandals than players from the NRL, AFL and Super Rugby?

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How many A-League footballers have been involved in off-field scandals in recent years?

How many proponents of The World Game have been caught taking or dealing illicit drugs, beating their wives, fornicating with dogs, urinating in public, gambling to excess, abusing alcohol, drink-driving or creating a social media scandal?

Can you think of any? Can you think of one?

If you can’t think of many, or even one, that’s not a surprise, because ‘footballers’ who play in the A-League have been involved in only a few scandals in recent years, compared to players from the NRL, AFL and Super Rugby, whose names constantly appear in the media for controversial incidents.

Where is the evidence?

The evidence can be found in The Frownlow Medal, a satirical award given to the footballer, from across Australia’s four major codes, who commits the worst off-field scandal in a 12-month period. The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame honours players who have committed scandals in previous years.

Previous winners of The Frownlow Medal are Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Corey Norman and Tim Simona, who are (or were) NRL players, and Karmichael Hunt, who played NRL and AFL before finding a home at the Queensland Reds Super Rugby team. Famous Hall of Fame inductees include AFL bad boy Ben Cousins and NRL player Julian O’Neill.

The total number of nominees per code since the awards’ inception in 2015 are listed below:

A-League – 5

NRL – 138

AFL – 57

Super Rugby – 20

#figures correct at time of publication.

Why?

What makes the A-League different?

The game?

The A-League is the only non-contact sport. Super Rugby and AFL require their players to put their body on the line, while Rugby League is simply brutal.

The History?

The A-League is the new, mainstream incarnation of a sport built by migrants and it is far more racially diverse than any of the other codes. The new mainstream appeal of the sport sees it enjoy consistent support throughout the country.

Rugby League emerged from working-class, inner-city Sydney before spreading throughout NSW and Queensland, while Rugby Union players traditionally came from exclusive private schools in those two states.

AFL, meanwhile, attracts players and supporters from across the social divide throughout Victoria and many other states.

Alcohol?

Alcohol is a common thread in nominations for players from all codes. So do NRL and AFL players drink more? Are they less capable of holding their drink?

What about Super Rugby players? They certainly enjoy a drink, but they are still less represented in the list of nominees. Can the private school network of Australian Rugby Union simply afford more expensive lawyers to keep their players’ names out of the papers?

Race?

A- League players and fans are truly drawn from every race in Australia. The three other codes are still predominantly Caucasian / Anglo-Saxon, although League and Union have seen a huge increase in players of Pacific Island descent. AFL, in particular, has made a deliberate attempt to identify talent among many ethnic groups, particularly the tall, athletic Sudanese men who seem ideally suited to the game. That said, none of the three codes enjoy anywhere near the same multicultural mix as the A-League.

Fame?

How many A-League players, apart from the marketing masterstroke Usain Bolt, are household names throughout Australia? In fact, how many Socceroos, apart from the recently retired Tim Cahill, are household names outside football circles?

Compare this to the unabashed adoration of AFL players in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, as well as in SA, WA, Tasmania and the NT. Compare it also to the hero status of League and Union players in NSW and Queensland.

So, can we identify any of the factors listed above as the reason for the lack of off-field scandals among A-League players? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of them.

Who are the five A-League players to be nominated?

To find out, head to http://www.instagram.com/thefrownlowmedal/ or thefrownlowmedal.wordpress.com. Here you can find a full list of the A-League players and every other player who has so far been nominated for Australia’s most prestigious inter-code award.

Image: http://www.a-league.com.au

Aussies are pyromaniacs.

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Aussies are pyromaniacs. Australians love lighting fires and are really, really good at it.

At least, that’s the belief of so many international travellers who required the warmth and energy of an amber flame.

“You’re Australian, can you light the fire?” they would ask, normally in a rhetorical tone. It was accepted as done – have Aussie, have fire.

Why?

Do Aussies enter the world with a pack of matches in our hands?

Were we born with an innate knowledge of the technique which will guarantee a bright and lasting flame?

Personally, I prefer some scrunched up newspaper, topped by some twigs and the shaved bark of a eucalyptus tree, the strike of a single match and some tender, loving breaths of air to coax the flame to a height and warmth sufficient to add the assembled branches and logs.

Maybe our international friends think we’re all Crocodile Dundee.

Perhaps it’s our contribution to international cuisine which has earned us this reputation. No, not Tim Tams, not Pavlova and not Vegemite, but the great Aussie barbecue, fuelled traditionally by a perfectly curated and balanced flame.

Is this reputation justified?

We certainly have our fair share of bushfires every year; then again, so does California, but I don’t recall the kids from Cali’ being asked to prepare the bonfire – too cool.

How are bonfires and campfires lit when the Aussies depart?

Do our international friends just throw some toxic, flammable gas over a pile of wood and set it alight, or do they sit around an orange witches hat with a torch underneath it and pretend that it’s a fire?

The great irony, of course, is that Australians are usually prohibited from lighting fires in our homeland because of the very real and aforementioned threat of bushfires.

That’s why we have to practice when we’re overseas.

Choose the donkey: A new voting system for Australia.

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I’m proposing a new voting option for the people of Australia in future political elections; a legitimate donkey vote. A genuine option on the voting ballot paper for local, state and federal elections which allows to people to choose a vote which is not assigned to any of the official candidates.

What is a donkey vote?

For the non-Australians, a ‘donkey vote’ is the Aussie expression for an unofficial vote in an election. It is not supposed to be done, but it occurs when a person incorrectly fills out a ballet paper (yes, we still use paper in Australia), either deliberately or by accident. Their ‘vote’ does not count.

Do many people ‘donkey vote’?

Yes, many. Voting is compulsory in Australia and some people donkey vote by accident, as the ballot paper system can be quite confusing. Others deliberately donkey vote because they don’t know who to choose, or because they hate politicians.

Do Aussies really hate politicians?

Absolutely. I worked at polling booths at a few elections and one job was to sort the huge mass of ballot papers at the end of the day’s voting, and some of the comments scrawled across the papers were very colourful, offensive, rude, spiteful…and highly entertaining.

Why choose the donkey?

To tell politicians to do their job.

The number of official donkey votes would indicate the level of voter disenfranchisement in that particular election. A large tally of donkey votes would, hopefully, convince politicians to get on with the job of running the country, and to end the farce that characterises modern political life.

Democracy is under attack in Australia and many average citizens are fed up with their options at elections, from local to federal. The country has seen constant changes of Prime Minster, a dual-citizenship controversy, party colleagues backstabbing each other and the destruction of Australia’s environment and international reputation, from politicians obsessed with ‘sound bites’ over substance.

Australia is being taken over by ignorant loudmouths, and Aussies are starting to realise this. The result is that many Aussies simply don’t want to choose any candidate at an election.

Is this new?

Yes, and no. Australians are historically politically apathetic, and have always used broad statements such as ‘politicians are all useless’ or ‘politicians are all corrupt’ in order to excuse themselves from the democratic process. However, the expansion of media, including social media, has driven politicians to direct their energy towards the ‘sound bite’, at the expense of intelligent political discourse, and new media has made citizens more aware of what really goes on in politics.

How would it work?

The image of the donkey would appear on the ballot paper, alongside the candidates, and if a person chooses the donkey that vote would be officially tallied alongside all other votes. Yes, an actual image of a donkey. Sure, it’s cheeky, but this is Australia.

Of course, this only works if voters can differentiate between the picture of a donkey, and an actual candidate – sometimes that’s hard.

Electronic voting?

If electronic voting is introduced in Australia, the exact number of official donkey votes would be easy to calculate. As well as sending a message to politicians, the statistics could be useful for demographers, statisticians, researchers, academics and election analysts – I can see Antony Green brimming with excitement already.

An electronic record would also make it possible to compare the number of donkey votes at different elections and, henceforth, the mood of the electorate.

Isn’t it contradictory?

It does seem contradictory to give people an official opportunity to opt out of participation in the democratic process, when compulsory voting forces people to participate in the democratic process. However, as we’ve outlined already, a large number of Australians choose the donkey anyway and currently, when they do so, their ballot papers are literally thrown to one side and don’t count in any official statistics.

Isn’t it making a mockery of the democratic process?

Maybe, but politicians are doing it, so why can’t we?

Image: Daniel Fazio

Taking a bag to the supermarket is not a ‘challenge’

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Harden up Australia!

Stop complaining and stop claiming that taking your own reusable bags to the supermarket is a ‘challenge’.

This constant whinging on behalf of a significant number of everyday Aussies has just forced one of Australia’s big two supermarkets, Coles, to backflip on its decision to stop issuing plastic bags. Coles will now give customers these highly-destructive plastic bags to customers who demand them – completely free of charge, just weeks after the same company declared that it would stop giving out bags.

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These bags will end up in landfill and/or the ocean and average Aussie citizens will continue to destroy the planet, all because it is too much of a ‘challenge’ to remember to bring their own bags.

This complaining, and the backflip, is symptomatic of a country which is dominated by ignorant loudmouths and has now become accustomed to its baseless complaints being acknowledged and acted upon.

This word ‘challenge’ was constantly used, by Coles and by Aussies, when the ban was publicised and when it first came into effect.

Climbing Mount Everest is a ‘challenge’. Being a single mother is a ‘challenge’. Living with a disability is a ‘challenge’. Surviving a war zone and fleeing your homeland is a ‘challenge’. Remembering your reusable bags is not a ‘challenge’.

The Coles PR team obviously leapt upon this term with great enthusiasm in a concerted effort to placate existing and future customers. The conveniently inoffensive and euphemistic word reassured lazy, disorganised, ignorant, Aussie whingers who were  lured back to the Coles checkout during the transition.

In that way, Coles continued to make a profit. Profit is why Coles exists. Coles is a business, and it exists to make money. Coles reversed the bag ban because a sufficiently large number of ‘sources of income’ complained about the ban. Many people will attack Coles, but ultimately, Coles is not obliged to remove plastic bags. Common sense and responsible corporate citizenship should force Coles to ‘ban the bag’ – but clearly common sense and responsible corporate citizenship do not make a profit.

Of course, this would not have happened, and this article would not have been written, if the Federal government, under Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, had implemented a nationwide ban on plastic bags. It hasn’t.

Ironically, an article in the Financial Review in May of this year ran with the headline,

“Coles new CEO Steven Cain isn’t afraid of change.”

Banning the bag was a change, and it clearly scared someone at Coles.

The responsibility lies with the average Aussie. To stop whinging about having to take a few bags to the shops, and, in turn, to put pressure on Coles, and other companies, to stop enabling destructive, everyday habits which have given Australia one of the largest per capita carbon footprints of any country on earth.

Harden up ‘Staya!

Images: http://www.worldatlas.com, http://www.coles.com.au