Politics and Poo

Recently, a close friend private messaged a group of like-minded friends on Facebook and shared a link listing (in numerical order) all the alleged broken promises and poor decisions Prime Minister Tony Abbott had made since being elected in 2013. The list had my blood boiling before I got past #10, and I asked myself what I could do about it.

Firstly, this list was obviously one side of the story, there is always at least one more side to it. So I thought I’d post a few broken promises to my Facebook wall every hour and see how it all went down. I publicly predicted that I’d lose “friends” (FB friends are a crock of shit – I like having as many as I can, obviously, to feel like a real person and not insignificant in the world – but really, they aren’t actually your friends unless you see them in person or have their phone number – are they?!) and that by the end of the day even the most die-hard political fans would be hiding my status updates and my feed in general.

I didn’t measure this, I have no idea how many friends I had before I started, and I literally cannot be bothered looking at how many I have now (read: I’m checking every 2 minutes hoping I’m more popular!)

I also knew the risk. I have a diverse group of real friends, in the real life world. A lot of wonderful friends live in the country, and have intense agricultural and farming interests. These interests have been traditionally served by the Liberal Party, and the Nationals. I worked for a year as Media Advisor to a Liberal Senator, and made close friendships with amazingly smart and talented people throughout the Liberal Party at the Federal and State levels (not to mention I was exposed to Liberal leaders Abbott, Turnbull – Opposition Leader at the time, Bishop plus heavy hitters for other parties including Xenophon, Wong and some other amazing senators). I also have friends who associate with the Greens and Independents, and then more friends who are inactive members of the Labor Party. I knew the risk of offending those near and dear to me was quite high.

But I decided whingeing about it privately wasn’t good enough, I needed to put my money where my big fat mouth was (and really, although it was a Thursday, I was definitely seeing myself as this cat)

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I posted on average every hour during the work day last Thursday 6 February 2014. I was assuming my day would be like this (even though it wasn’t Friday)

My first post was this: Tony Abbott did this on 29th January – Cuts the wages of Australian troops deployed overseas by almost $20 000 per solider and following with the comment “I’ve committed to posting something every hour about what he is doing – I know I’m going to lose traction and also have ppl de-friending or hiding my news feed, but keep watching and sharing if you can!”

Comments were in support for troops receiving as much as possible, and most people had no idea the PM had done this, and were not in favour.

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My second post was this: Tony Abbott did this on 18 January 2014: Defunds all international environmental programs, the International Labour Organisation and cuts funding to a range of international aid programs run by NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE Australia and Caritas. Again, people liked this post and expressed outrage over cutting of aid funding.

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My third post was this: Third hour of posting, wondering how my friend count is faring. Tony Abbott has systematically undermined and put at risk “everyday Australians”… not sure how these people fit under Hockey’s “age of entitlement”… I’m sensing a theme here! Feb 4 – Abbott supports a reduction of penalty rates and other Award minimums in a submission to the Fair Work Commission’s review of all Awards. Lies to the Australian public about the wages and working conditions of factory workers at SPC in Shepparton, blaming them for their own potential job losses. 28 Jan – Abbott intervenes on the side of Toyota to support cutting Australian workers wages and conditions. 1st January (when no one is looking) – reduces tax breaks for small business and fails to publicise it. Way back in December – Abbott refuses to support jobs at SPC at the cost of hundreds of jobs. Again, people liked this post and were supportive of the workers.

STICK WITH ME, IT GETS BETTER!

My fourth post was when the shit hit the fan: Lunchtime appetite killer: last September Tony Abbott appoints only one woman into his cabinet and blames the women for his decision, saying he appoints “on merit” and then makes himself Minister for Women. This was where a heated discussion with a friend about sexism, feminism and reverse sexism began. Comments were about merit, and that if women hadn’t been chosen, they must not be as good as the men. Comments were about not having a female ‘quota’ as that discriminates against men, and by focusing on women we swing too far away from promoting men.

Truly, this conversation left me surprised and disappointed – and not specifically with my friend. The fact there is such a dangerous lack of understanding (in my opinion) out there about equality and discrimination, whether it is applied to women or other minorities, appalled me. I spent the better half of the day (cough, working, cough) trying to provide stats and data to prove that female equality was a real issue, here, in our country. I was able to find this by an amazing Liberal Party member, Sue Boyce, who said:

“The gender problem within the Liberal and National Parties is systemic and extends to the organisational wing. There has only ever been one female Federal President of the Liberal Party: Chris McDiven who was federal president from 2005-2008.
Business in Australia recognised decades ago that simply waiting for substantial numbers of talented women to walk through the door wasn’t working – our parties must do the same.
In Queensland only six of the 30 LNP candidates (including sitting MPs) for the 2013 election were women.
The number of sitting women MPs rose from three to four when Michelle Landry joined Teresa Gambaro, Karen Andrews, and Jane Prentice. There are 18 men. We won’t improve those numbers by waiting for women to knock on the preselection or Cabinet door – we need to go ‘outside’ and genuinely look for answers to the question ‘Why don’t women of merit want to join us?'”

And then the trusty Australian Bureau of Statistics said this:

Men continue to earn more money than women in the country. Australian men earn an average of 17.53 per cent more than women with a weekly average of $1,518.40. The figure is higher compared to women who have an average of $1,252.20 per week. The gap between the earnings of Australian men and women is $266.20. This amount was considered to be the highest since 1994 when the Australian Statistics Bureau placed weekly earnings data in digital form. According to a research report in July by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australia has one of the most sexist employment markets in the world with more women who are not promoted as often as men and consistently underpaid. In occupations where women dominate like primary teaching, childcare and nursing, men still earn more with $1,150 compared to $999 for women. Trade Union president Ged Kearney blamed gender discrimination, low wages and outdated workplace culture, especially for the small number of women who are holding management positions.

Arguing the point here had made me exhausted, especially because my factual information above appeared to be falling on deaf ears.

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I reluctantly stuck with it and my fifth post, which was met with deafening silence:

Bit exhausted after the last post, but I promised (until 5pm)! One very close to my heart – and this isn’t just about asylum seekers, so even if you don’t want them near you, controlling information is not ok: Abbott scraps weekly media briefings on asylum seeker issues to avoid public and media scrutiny

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And my last post:

Last one for the day: Abbott seeks to wind back the World Heritage listing of Tasmania’s forests, exempts Western Australia from national environment laws to facilitate shark culling, fails to provide the promised customs vessel to monitor whaling operations in the Southern Ocean, axes funding for animal welfare, starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system, overturns the “critically endangered” listing of the Murray Darling Basin, approves Clive Palmer’s mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin which opponents say will severely damage Great Barrier Reef, approves the largest coal port in the world in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and… I can’t go on…

What is the fucking point of this post? Well, to be honest, my primary aim is to again bring these issues up and make sure I have screamed them from every platform I can. And my secondary aim is to document the difficulties I have with the way we think about political expression.

I didn’t set out to browbeat anyone into submission with my posts. What I wanted was for people – my Facebook friends – to care enough to engage in a discussion. I don’t mind if people disagree, and I certainly don’t want everyone to think the same way I do (except I’m right so….!!!)

I was really excited, then, on Saturday night, when some other close friends brought it up at a party and we were able to have an open, honest discussion about equality for women with me being called a bra burning lesbo or other such insulting, derogatory names.

So thank you to those who care enough to engage in discussions about our future, and thank you to those who are able to keep an open mind. To those who refuse to question the doctrines they have been brought up on, shame on you – you make up part of the reason why women aren’t equal to men in 2014.

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