Downs Under #1

July 28, 2006


Hi all, and welcome to my first column giving TheCritique readers the low-down on what’s up down under (or rather, Downs Under – my name is Alec Downs for those who don’t know me). Every week I’ll be reporting the latest goings on in politics from an Australian perspective. This name might not be permanent, so please feel free to pass your suggestions for alternatives on to me via the forums.


Prime Minister turns 67, not going anywhere soon

Australian Prime Minister John Howard celebrated his 67th birthday this week, and continues to fight off pressure from Treasurer Peter Costello to retire. The struggle for leadership of the Liberal party (who, unlike the UK Lib Dems are conservative and in power) reminds me very much of the strained relationship between Tony Blair and his embittered No. 2, Gordon Brown. Over the past few weeks Howard has vehemently denied allegations that in a 1994 conversation with Costello, he promised to hand over the reigns of power after a maximum of two terms in power. Despite this issue threatening to divide the party, both Howard and Costello insist their working relationship remains unaffected. Of course it does.


Unions claim $30 pay increase to combat increased cost of living

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) will this week lodge a claim for a $30 (£12.30) per-week rise for minimum wage-earners with the newly-established Australian Fair Pay Commission. This is largely in response to rising inflation and a government-mandated 18-month wage freeze. Some tabloid papers are placing the blame squarely on bananas, the price of which soared after recent hurricanes decimated the crop. Predictably, business sector representatives are claiming that this wage rise will lead to more unemployment and damage profitability. Of course, the 1.6 million people to whom this would apply are keenly awaiting the outcome of the claim. I find this an interesting debate, especially having recently emigrated from the UK, where the cost of living is a lot higher. With recent rises in oil prices, the price of petrol is a daily complaint; I have to laugh when people insist that $1.40 (£0.47) per litre is outrageously expensive. Having said that, given that only a couple of years ago petrol was as low as $0.60 (£0.25) here, it is understandable that people complain about the impact on their household budget. All I can say is, nowhere else could I afford to run a 3.5l V6.


Muslims urged to stand up and be counted

Islamic community leaders are this week urging up to 100,000 as-yet unidentified Muslims to fill out the appropriate section of the 2006 Australian Census, which will be circulated soon. This writer will continue to identify himself as a Jedi (as per the 2001 campaign in the UK), however I doubt this will have the same impact on funding for government services as it will for Muslims. Many people have been afraid to identify their religion in the wake of the September 11th attacks on the US, but as the census is anonymous I think any fears of attacks are largely unwarranted. I will report back when the census results are released, and examine what impact there has been, if any.


Aussies in Israeli Army

With the funeral of Australian-Israeli soldier Asaf Namer taking place this week, reports are coming in that up to 100 Australian citizens may be active in the Israeli army, with more moving from the reserves as the offensive against Hezbollah intensifies. Several thousand Australian citizens have been evacuated from the region in the past few weeks.


“Hate” books may be banned

Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has successfully pressured state attorneys-general to conduct a review of literature classifications in order to combat so-called “hate speech”. Despite widespread objection, Ruddock is advocating for what amounts to censorship; in a somewhat contradictory statement, he said: “Material which urges or advocates terrorist acts should not be available for sale, we are not about curtailing freedom of speech.” No one seems to be raising the point that there is no proof, anywhere of anyone, ever, conducting a terrorist act solely as a result of something they read. Nor are any specific titles named. If anybody knows of published terrorist books, we would love to hear from you on the forums. I will keep an eye on this issue in future columns.


And finally… NZ Lawyer: “I’m a lady!”

Bald, mustachioed New Zealand Lawyer Rob Moodie, 67, continued his unique form of protest today at what he deems is a male-dominated judiciary. He assures us that he is in fact, heterosexual, just with an “innate understanding of the female gender”. I’m all for metrosexuality, but Moodie’s apparently extends to women’s clothing, footwear and accessories. This lawyer in leggings is no stranger to controversy; as secretary of the New Zealand Police Association in the 1970s Moodie opted to wear Kaftans and women’s clothing while working cases. I think he looks lovely, but judge for yourselves! Feel free to submit your own images of cross-dressing lawyers, politicians or public figures. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Rob Moodie


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