Give Properly Employed Democracy A Go

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I was recently shown this image and told of comments made by Australian comedian Josh Thomas, about the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s stance against marriage equality.

In light of the Private Member’s Bill for marriage equality from Green’s MP Adam Bandt, currently before Parliament and due to be voted on on June 6th, I’d like to point out a couple of things.

 

If you live in a democratic nation, of the free first world, then every single person in your country has the same rights to their own beliefs. If these beliefs become a matter of politics, in the case of same sex marriage, then the politicians voting on these issues are also allowed to have their own personal beliefs, just as their constituents do. They are also allowed to have whatever basis for their beliefs that they like.

While Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labor Party, and therefore her views do carry some kind of weight in the minds of other politicians, she is also entitled to her own opinion.

 

What is my point you may ask? Julia Gillard is not solely, or personally responsible for Australia not having granted marriage equality yet. Her views are not what is stopping this nation from passing that law.

The Labor Party have had a conscience vote on the matter of marriage equality for quite some time now, which allows all MP’s of the party to vote on the issue in alignment with their own conscience and they do not have to follow party lines. The Coalition on the other hand, do not have a conscience vote. Not only this, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, has publically announced that his party will not consider a conscience vote, nor a shift in party policy, until after the September elections – despite evidence that there are a number of Shadow Cabinet Ministers on his front bench, that would support a law for marriage equality were they allowed to vote for it.

 

This issue has been back in the news of late, due to the impending vote on Bandt’s Bill, and the recent announcement from Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he has ‘had a change of heart’, and will be voting to support marriage equality in June. He also stated that if the politicians of Australia could not sort this out, and that if the Coalition were not allowed a conscience vote, then the matter should be taken to the people to decide, via referendum – an idea which has been introduced recently by Independent MP Tony Windsor.

 

In all honesty, this was just a bit of a rant on my behalf. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it is however the role of politicians to listen to their constituents and to take those views to Parliament.

A politician’s job is to serve the people that elect them.

On the issue of marriage equality, it is obvious that this is a personal issue addressing, for a lot of people, some very core beliefs. However, it is also obvious, with polls to illustrate it, that over 60% of the Australian population does support marriage equality.

So my message is not to crucify Julia Gillard for her personal beliefs, unless you are also going to crucify every other Labor politician that voted no.

Labor politicians need to get out there and talk to the people of their constituency, and understand what it is that they want. Coalition politicians need to be able to vote with their conscience as Labor politicians are, and should then also go out and talk to their constituents.

 

If this really is something that the Australian population wants, then there should be increased pressure on our politicians, whoever they are, to act out their voter’s wishes. 

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Let’s Give More Meaning To The Words “Lest We Forget”

For hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women that have come back from war, it is something that they cannot forget. Something that they have to carry with them and struggle with everyday. Whether they served in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan – the horrors of war injure these people not just physically, but psychologically as well.

Mental health specialists have recently said that 30% of Australian soldiers return home with a mental illness – post traumatic stress disorder, heightened anxiety, social isolation, depression, sucidial and self harming tendancies – and these numbers increase with the length of the person’s tour, as well as the length of time that they are at home without receiving help.

 

The ‘Hack’ program on Triple J today discussed the issue of people coming home from war and the mental health help that they receive after they return home. Podcast is here:

http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/daily/hack_wed_2013_4_24.mp3

 

In the program a spokesperson from the Department of Veteran Affairs said that they spend only $160 million per year on mental health services for veterans.

It is also brought up that it is a part of training for the armed forces that one does not become emotional about the things that they might see, or have to do, and that the job must be carried out. Which is a mantra that is regularly played out, and becomes a problem for these men and women after they return home, as it manifests as an inability to talk to others about your experiences either as an inability to express yourself, or not wanting to burden your loved ones with those things.

 

There are many veterans that do struggle a lot settling back into life at home, and the idea of not being in a war zone, being able to walk down the street and not have people trying to kill you.

The sounds of door slamming and cars starting, begin to sound to like bomb blasts and gun shots. The simplest of every day tasks begin to make you aggressive and overwhelmingly stressed. You take it out on the people that love you and you begin to feel like you are constantly angry. The faces of people you killed in war and the scenes of horror and destruction, come back to you in dreams and during the day – in the worst case scenarios, the soldier ends up killing themselves, or a member of their family.

These are not uncommon for soldiers returned from war, and many Australian veterans feel that the appropriate amount of care is not available for those who do need it.

 

Soldier On is a new charity started by two veterans in April 2012, to provide help for soldiers wounded both physically and psychologically and they do a lot of good work – http://soldieron.org.au

 

It’s the eve of ANZAC Day in Australia, and while it is not my opinion that there is anything bad about ANZAC Day, I do believe that some extra thought and money, should be put towards assuring that the men and women who serve our country should be provided with the best psychological help possible.

When you go to a service tomorrow, or you here the words on the evening news, think a little more deeply about those three words – “Lest We Forget”.

Let’s give them more meaning in terms of mental health. 

The War in Iraq – 10 years, and not getting any younger.

Tuesday 9th April marked the 10 year anniversary of the day that U.S troops stormed into Baghdad and took control of the city, toppling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. However for the majority of Iraqi’s, this is just another ordinary day in a country in which nothing much has changed. In the decade that has passed, citizens have gained a freedom of speech, however the country is still incredibly unstable – politically, economically and socially.

 

To mark the anniversary, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard made a speech to the Lowy Institute for National Policy, on Tuesday night, defending Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq, his reasons for sending Australian troops, and the ‘evidence’ he received that Hussein possessed an arsenal of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

The transcript is here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/we-were-right-to-invade-iraq–john-howard-20130409-2hjst.html (watch the video as well).

 

This speech has effectively re-invigorated the debate about whether or not Australia should have been part of the coalition that went to war in Iraq. As Howard outlines it, this decision was not based on the 9/11 bombings, nor was it based on whether Hussein was involved in these attacks, it was simply because there was a universally held belief that Saddam Huessin had links to Al-Qaeda and that the government possessed ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

 

In the greatest case of irony that the world has ever seen, it was in fact the American government that helped to fund the coup that gave Saddam Hussein power in the first place, in an effort to fuck over the USSR during the Cold War.

 

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/howard-defends-australias-role-in-allied-invasion-of-iraq-20130409-2hjis.html

 

With Australia primed to have all their troops out of Iraq by 2015, the 10year anniversary of the beginning of the conflict, has raised the issue that in fact, there were no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ and that the continued presence of outside forces in Iraq in the subsequent 10 years, has in reality not actually changed all that much about the social situation of the country, one which still finds itself in a lot of economic and political turmoil and instability.

 

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today, Margaret Swieringa tells how she was the secretary to the Federal Parliamentary Committee from 2002-07, which drafted the report ‘Intelligence on Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Her article is about the real life facts, the situations that she lived through in that role, and her point is that earlier this week, John Howard quoted the findings of this report in his speech, but did so in a manner that was so selective that it could be seen as misleading.

 

Give the article a read, it is a page turner: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/howard-ignored-official-advice-on-iraqs-weapons-and-chose-war-20130411-2hogn.html

 

The Chief Editor of The New York Times, recently apologized for the use of their headline “Weapons of Mass Destruction”, back in 2003, for the fear that this caused amongst readers, and for the fact, that at the time, the newspaper had no evidence to support this.

 

I strongly recommend that everyone give Howard’s speech a read, as well as the article written today, and compare them. But do some research into what was actually going on at the time, and make up your own mind about the ever illusive WMD’s.

Should Australian troops still be in Iraq a decade later, or was it all for show?