May 06

I love to watch Q&A – sometimes I even tweet, and I’ve even written blogs about it.

On last night’s episode (2014-05-05) a group of protesters shut the show down for a couple of minutes. jones

The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne was on and taking questions from young people about funding of education.  The questioner kept interrupting the Minister’s answers, at which point Pyne would stop talking and look mournfully at Tony Jones, the host, for him to take some sort of action.

From the TV it’s hard to tell if Pyne was getting jacked off at the complete lack of respect that was being shown to him or if he was simply looking for a way to deliver his answer without the interruption.

The guy asking the question was being very impolite.  Proper manners would dictate that you ask your question and then shut up while the answer is delivered to you.  The format of Q&A doesn’t allow for a backwards and forwards debate style.  You ask a question and someone then gives an answer, then others on the panel throw in their ideas.

The trouble with asking a politician a question is that you rarely get an answer.  At least not an answer to the question asked.  That’s so frustrating, even as a viewer.  The pollie tends to avoid the direct question and that’s normally done by picking on the Opposition.  They all behave this way.

The next part of the show saw a bunch of students (I assume) drop a banner over the balcony and start a chant.  This essentially drowns out Tony Jones and his guests.

The video is embedded at this page.

I was horrified by such a bold display of rudeness.  The protesters were interrupting my TV viewing and making me cross.

The ABC then broke the live feed and played a bit of music.  I can only guess what was said while the program was off air.  A few minutes later it was back and normality was restored.

Was this the right way to handle the protests?  I’m not so sure.  Mind you, I’m not sure it’s the right way to launch a protest either.  However, simply silencing them without investigating the issue seems rather odd for a program that is trying to explore the issues and keep politicians accountable.

Maybe a better way would have been for Tony Jones to engage with them for a moment or two.  To get a question about the nature of the protest and direct that to the Minister instead of shutting it down and telling us how democracy works.

What do you do when you think the world is against you and you can’t get your message across?  How do you raise awareness and make your point if the conventional ways don’t work for you?

Are we moving to an area where you can’t protest, where you can’t stage an event to make your point.

Sure, what the students did was rude, disruptive and damn annoying.  I feel I should make some disparaging remark about their upbringing.  However, maybe they have a point.  Fund education, not planes.  Seems sensible to me and not enough is being said about the stupid situation we have in Australia where we seem to value the purchase of killing machines over education.  Where we seem to value the diesel rebate for huge mining companies over education.  The current government seems to think it’s better to make young people move to where the work is instead of keeping them close to their support networks.

Perhaps sometimes we should all do a little screaming to get our point across.  I don’t think it’s necessary for Tony Jones to apologise to Pyne.  Pyne should have listened to the frustration, he should have shown leadership by engaging, seeking to understand and then perhaps the world might just be a better place.

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Jun 24

qandaI’m a keen watcher of Q&A on the ABC.  I love the political discussion.  Michael and I fire up our laptops and tweet away.  I become fully engaged in the conversation and the questions.  We make comments to each other, interact with our Twitter and Facebook friends, at times I yell at the screen.  It’s a fun night all round.

Something has set me off on tonight’s show. There really was a lot there that I feel quite strongly about, Graeme Richardson telling us what the Labor Party should be doing, Judith Sloan calling Childcare workers ‘dimwitted’ and discussion on violence against women.  Those topics alone got me going, but I’m really quite disgusted.  I can’t believe what I heard and the sense of personal outrage in me was enormous.

Tonight’s show included this question:

DISCRIMINATION IN AGED CARE – Alastair Lawrie has asked: Senator Brandis: On Tuesday night, you stated the Opposition would block any anti-discrimination bill that does not allow religious organisations to discriminate against older LGBTI people in aged care facilities. You claimed that religious freedom trumps the right not to be discriminated against.

I’ll wait to see the transcript, but it seems to me that Brandis is perfectly happy to allow religious rights to trump sexuality rights.

He said that anti-discrimination laws should not be universal.  He said religious freedom trumps that of sexual freedom.

This is an outrageous position for a member of our Parliament to hold.  Brandis may well be the next Attorney-General.

You can change your religious afflictions, not so much your sexuality.  The only people who think you can change your sexuality, or even want you to change your sexuality are religious people.  Yet my rights, if Brandis got his way, need to be dictated by the rights of a religion because my unchangeable sexuality offends them.

Let’s see.  I can’t change my gayness.  Can’t even turn it down a notch or two.  Religion on the other hand changes all the time, indeed has shown itself to be changeable.

I am able to carry out my life and not impact on religion at all.  I made a choice to walk away from supernatural belief.  I am not evil, I am not out to bring society down, I am not gay because of some choice I made or because my father was absent, or whatever mumbo jumbo religion throws at me.

What next.  The right to vote is restricted to men?

Pretty sure I know which rights should be trumping here.


Update: 25 June 2013 – 8.30 a.m.

The Q&A Question (From YouTube)


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May 08

Tonight Michael and I attended a debate run by the Wheeler Centre, held at the magnificent Melbourne Town Hall.  The topic was “Freedom of Speech is over-rated”, and was part of their IQ² Debate series.

On the For side were Marcia Langton, Catherine Deveny and Michael Gawenda, and Against Arnold Zable, Gretel Killeen and Julian Burnside.

There seemed to be no doubt from those on the stage that the notion of free speech is something that is valued, but as Deveny suggested, it’s really an illusion in Australia.  There were some really great points made, afterwards some great audience questions.  The cast spoke with passion and clear thoughts about free speech.

I’m all for free speech, I value it.  That means at times I have to agree that some people can say things that aren’t particularly pleasant and with which I disagree.  It also means that sometimes I get offended at the words that pour out of someone else’s mouth.  I’m fine with that, I understand that taking offence is my responsibility, and as much as I want them to shut up, I accept that they have a right to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas.

I think that there is a distinction between free speech and hate speech.  It’s not ok to make derogatory remarks in regards to race, sex, sexual identity or disability.  So we put limits on our right to say what we think, and with just cause.  Treating people with contempt just because they are different to you is not ok.

There’s been an interesting development following George Pell‘s appearance on Q and A recently.  During the course of the program, which also featured Richard Dawkins, Pell said the following:

We were preparing young English boys

Then he paused, the audience broke into laughter, Pell’s facial expression went from “What?  Oh! Not what I meant” followed by a look of  “Why don’t you lot grow up”, he sort of snarled and finished the sentence with:

for Holy Communion

So the full sentence, just so we’re clear on this:

Were preparing young english boys…. for Holy Communion

Of course, Twitter immediately lit up with those words and it bounded around very quickly, finally ending up as a graphic with Pell’s head and those words but without the holy communion bit.

Pell and the Catholic Church, the same church that is at odds with victims of child abuse perpetrated by their own priests,  in Victoria and indeed around the world, then started legal proceedings by demanding that Twitter remove the offending tweets and the graphic image from its servers.

The letter from the law firm, Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth, to Twitter says in part:

By intentionally and maliciously failing to include the words “for holy communion”, the publication (the tweet) ridicules Cardinal Pell and conveys to Australian readers the false and seriously defamatory imputation that Cardinal Pell is associated with the sexual abuse of young boys.

Yes, that’s exactly right.  The head of the church in Australia is held in ridicule.

Is this a step too far?  Yes, it is.  To suggest that someone is guilty of sexual abuse as a joke isn’t really funny.  I understand that priests and sex abuse sort of go together in plenty of comedic situations, but of course, those that abuse are few, those that don’t are no doubt in the majority.

I think that Pell and the church’s response, however, is over the top.  Sure, Pell can defend his reputation, he’s allowed.  I think the threat of legal action against Twitter and Deveny was unwarranted.

I can’t help but draw a comparison between the hatred and bigotry that is thrown out by the church with regards to gay people.  Over the years I’ve had to stand back and watch the friendships of my children ebb and flow as people found out about my sexuality.  Sometimes the kids knew the reason why a friend from the catholic primary school they attended suddenly stopped being a friend, sometimes they didn’t know why that friend couldn’t sleep over or come to their birthday party.  The reason is that some people equate being gay with being a pedophile.  That isn’t the slightest bit true, but that doesn’t stop people from thinking it.

Religions such as christianity have perpetrated the myth that if you’re gay you’re a pedophile.  In 2010, Ratzinger’s right hand man, Tarcisio Bertone, said, out loud:

But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.

Do you have any idea how offensive I find such remarks?

This from a church that still describes gay people as intrinsically disordered, and contrary to the natural order.1

It’s fine for Pell to defend his reputation and to take action against those who he perceives as trying to destroy it.  Quite frankly I think he’s got bigger problems than being offended by some public chatter.

In all fairness though, who’s holding the church accountable for the defamation that we gay people have been subjected to for the last two thousand years?  Where is our justice, where is our right to keep our reputations in tact?  The words of the church have no doubt contributed to the premature death of many young people over the years.  Kids that haven’t been able to find the right way to freely express what’s happening to them. Riddled with doubt because the faith they belong to considers them against the natural order.

Free speech is indeed a wonderful thing, but only when we all have the right and the access to easily address and redress the imbalance.  We can’t all launch legal action against comedians and international corporations when we feel hurt.

  1.  You can find that little gem in the official book of belief of the catholic church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church–  #2357
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