The Dissemination of Thought

Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's intelligent…

Posts Tagged ‘Bob Katter

When Campbell dives and dinosaurs come alive

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In theory, the individuals we elect to represent us at a political level should be the cream of the crop.

Lamentably, somebody forgot to inform the Newman government of this fact.

What we currently have governing Queensland is a collection of Christmas geese, turkeys and those wind-up toy monkeys that clap cymbals together.

As 2012 draws to a conclusion, voters in Queensland seem to be realising that the goose has been overcooked, the turkey is a touch on the dry side and that the toy monkey is just a cheap, annoying novelty.

Following its landslide victory in the March election, the Liberal National Party held 78 seats in Parliament and took a stranglehold on politics in the Sunshine State.

After only eight months with Campbell Newman at the helm, things have gone decidedly pear-shaped.

While this is satirical, it also appears to be factual.  Source: greenleft.org.au

While this is satirical, it also appears to be factual. Source: greenleft.org.au

Former ministers David Gibson and Bruce Flegg fell on their swords in controversial circumstances, while the stench of nepotism surrounding the appointment of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Minister Ros Bates’ 25-year-old son to a senior AO8 public service job is nothing short of rancid.

When you throw Health Minister Lawrence Springborg’s apparent reluctance to admit that he – not the health boards – is ultimately responsible for health delivery in Queensland into the mix, it’s hard not to feel short-changed as a voter.

Things don’t get any better as you move up the LNP food chain.

The Premier rules the roost with a seemingly dictatorial attitude to democracy and has demonstrated his predilection to move swiftly against those who question the state of affairs.

Don't confuse him with questions about democracy and Clive Palmer.  Source: heraldsun.com.au

Don’t confuse him with questions about democracy and Clive Palmer. Source: heraldsun.com.au

Any lingering doubt about the internal dissent towards party decisions should have dissipated after Member for Condamine Ray Hopper defected to Katter’s Australian Party, and Carl Judge and Alex Dawson were read the riot act before being given no option but to exit stage right.

Even mining magnate-cum-conspiracy theorist Clive Palmer – a man who has poured some serious money into the LNP coffers – has spoken out about the apparent turmoil, swapping his life membership for rumours of starting a political party of his own.

Titanic II jokes aside, the rats seem to be deserting the political disaster that is the Newman government.

When he's not talking about robotic dinosaurs and the Titanic II, Clive Palmer almost sounds rational. Almost.  Source: smh.com.au

When he’s not talking about robotic dinosaurs and the Titanic II, Clive Palmer almost sounds rational. Almost. Source: smh.com.au

If the current rate of attrition continues, the 78 seats the LNP held in March will be whittled away to about 64 by the 2015 election.

Queensland deserves a better level of governance than it is currently enduring.

You and I deserve better from the people we elect to represent us.

Is it conceivable that our state’s political saviour could materialise in the form of an eccentric billionaire with a penchant for dinosaurs and blueprints for a big ship?

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When should free speech and personal beliefs take a back seat to the greater good?

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In 2012 Australia, you can affirm anything you like, even if it’s unjust, narrow-minded or based on a belief that may be less than sound. Unfortunately, there’s no rule that dictates free speech needs to be well thought out and factual. When this is considered in the context of the free speech of a private citizen versus that of an elected official, it raises a pertinent question: should the personal beliefs of politicians take a back seat in order to champion the causes of the people who elected them, even if the causes don’t align with their individual faith or opinions? Should free speech apply to politicians while they are acting on behalf of the greater population?

A great many words have been, and will be, written about tennis champion Margaret Court’s views on homosexuality, especially in the lead-up to the Australian Open. Gay rights activists are planning on using the arena that bears her name as a quasi protest site during the event, and have called for it to be renamed because of her outspoken opinion. I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen of the protesting persuasion, but she’s entitled to express her views, however ludicrous and bigoted they may be.

I’m an advocate for equality and same-sex marriage. I’ve written numerous pieces centering on the subjects, but I think Margaret Court should be allowed to speak. I believe her opinions are that of a narrowed-minded zealot and based on irrational religious beliefs, but I also assert that she is entitled to have and air them. Does hearing her purport that same-sex marriage would “legitimise what God calls abominable sexual practices” anger me and make me want to smack my head against a wall? Absolutely, but it’s her individual point of view. I’ve got mine. You’ve got yours. While I’d relish the opportunity to debate our differences of opinion, I learnt a long time ago that arguing with any sort of fanatic is futile: trying to have a rational, intellectual discussion with someone who isn’t flexible in their beliefs or accepting of facts and new ideas is never going to work. That said, providing we don’t incite hatred or endanger public safety with our opinions, we should be free to express them, whether privately or publicly, without fear of condemnation or reprisal.

There has been limited media coverage about the annual neo-Nazi Hammered Music Festival, most of which has focused on why this hate-filled, disgusting celebration of white pride is allowed to take place. As abhorrent as this event may be, it’s being held on private property, presumably out of sight and earshot of those who don’t want to hear it. Whether you wish you acknowledge the fact or not, attendees and performers are just as entitled as the rest of us to think and believe what they want. They aren’t spewing propaganda or spouting their preposterous views to the masses, and they aren’t airing their personal opinions publicly, unlike many who use the spotlight to constantly reiterate their beliefs.

Margaret Court has used her celebrity to broadcast her beliefs and faith, as well as raise the profile of her church, but is there really a problem with this? While some of her statements, including the affirmation that homosexuality is a choice, may be insensitive and not based on fact, she is free to say it. She’s not provoking violence or abuse against the gay community, and she is not acting on behalf of a group, nor is she an elected official.

What if Margaret Court was in a public position of power? What if she was a Member of Parliament? What about Premier of Western Australia? If she was Prime Minister, should she be free to express her deepest and most closely held beliefs while in that position? In my opinion, no. Someone who has been entrusted to act on behalf of a large, diverse group needs to be able to forgo their personal agenda and take their narrow-minded views, be they religious or not, out of the equation when making decisions that impact the community as a whole.

Source: tracker.org.au

In Australian politics, there are currently several high-profile elected individuals with very strong religious views who have no qualms about letting these beliefs guide them while acting in their official capacities on behalf of the Australian people. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic, was quoted in December 2009 in the Herald Sun as saying, “I think it would be impossible to have a good general education without at least some serious familiarity with the Bible and with the teachings of Christianity.” While he has, on several occasions, suggested that politicians should not rely on religion to justify decisions or a specific point of view, his comments make it clear that his faith plays a very strong part in his thought process and rationale. Independent MP Bob Katter is on the record as stating that marriage equality is a stupid idea that “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed”. I’m not disputing that they have the right to harbour these beliefs, where’s the line at which the personal views of politicians are required to take a back seat to a more broad-minded, progressive and socially acceptable perspective that’s representative of the views of their constituents?

Tony Abbott and Bob Katter are not alone in expressing their dogmatic views while acting on behalf of the people. In 2011, John Murphy, Labor MP for the seat of Reid in western Sydney, kicked the political hornet’s nest when he advised members of the Australian Labor Party who support same-sex marriage to ”join the Greens”. Is this petulant “my way or the highway” approach reflective of the attitude of his electorate? I think not. One person’s obstinate, black or white view should not be allowed to take precedence over the collective view of the almost 90,000 constituents in the electorate of Reid.

It may sound ridiculous and incredibly hypocritical to promote free speech in one paragraph and then suggest in the next that elected officials need to look past their own personal views in order to take a stance that, while not aligning with their own beliefs, fairly reflects what the community stands for and wishes to see achieved. Perhaps there is an element of hypocrisy to it, but politicians need to recognise that we have entrusted them to be our collective voice, and for this voice to be clearly heard, they have to look at the big picture, which often falls outside the line of sight that their bigoted or conservative blinkers allow.

For Australia to transform into a genuinely modern and forward-thinking society, we need to be led by free thinkers who can accept that personal religious views have don’t have a place in 21st century politics. We need strong leaders who make decisions based on fact and community sentiment, and who don’t feel compelled to constantly promulgate their individual beliefs and agendas; they need to remember that as a politician, they are the mouthpiece for twenty-two million voices, not just one. If our current politicians are unable to separate state from the church, mosque or synagogue, they need to step aside and make room for people who can.

When it comes to a group of individuals who have been empowered to represent the people and make untainted, logical choices based on fact for benefit of the collective group, there are occasions where free speech and faith are going to have to ride shotgun.

A ridiculous spat by The Kat in the Hat

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There are things that genuinely deserve to be ridiculed. Ten gallon hats in Canberra, for example. After reading this article today, I’m going to add anything that comes out of Bob Katter’s mouth to the list. As far as the Independent MP is concerned, the push for marriage equality in Australia is a stupid idea, and “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed”.

I find it concerning that an elected member of parliament is laughing off a change that will give all Australians equal opportunity to marry, thus removing the discrimination that currently surrounds the act of marriage in this country. After reading Bob’s comments and observing the make up of the crowd, I’m surprised that someone at the pro-marriage rally didn’t have a banner saying “Discrimination’s okay, if you’re gay!”

During his speech, he alluded to the fact that gay, one of “the most beautiful words in the English language” has lost its original meaning in modern society, and homosexuality is to blame. Bob seems to have forgotten that as languages develop, words often gain new meanings, both official and colloquial. I’m currently rereading The War of the Worlds. In it, H.G. Wells frequently uses the word ejaculate. When he penned the story in 1898, the word was used in a totally different context, and while it’s amusing to read “his landlady came to the door, loosely wrapped in dressing gown and shawl; her husband followed ejaculating” with a 2011 mindset, it demonstrates how easily the meaning of words can evolve.

On what was apparently the day for it, Barnaby Joyce also jumped on the ludicrous statement bandwagon when he suggested that same-sex marriage would be detrimental to his four daughters. According to Senator Joyce, “we know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband…”. What the fuck? While it would probably be pertinent to point out to him that a Y chromosome doesn’t necessarily signal a protected, secure relationship, he’s missing the big picture. Legislating same-sex marriage will mean equality for all, so while his daughters would still be able to marry men, they would also have the freedom and right to marry women, if that was their choice. I find his comment about not wanting any legislators “to take that right” away from him – yes, his right – archaic and somewhat disturbing, but it’s a discussion for another day.

I’ve said it once, and I have no doubt that I’ll say it again: there is no room in politics or the public education system for religion. These battlefields need to be the domain of clear, free thinkers, who are prepared to take an open mind into investigating changes to benefit us all, representative of the views of majority Australia. It has again been demonstrated that when people are asked to make decisions, on behalf of every Australian, that clash with their singular personal beliefs, emotion and bias come to out to play, while rational argument is relegated to the corner, wearing the dunce’s cap.

If it looks like a duck and swims like a duck…

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There was a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia today with a finding which will come as no surprise to anyone, but will hopefully force those responsible to admit there is a problem. The topic of this report: lead pollution in the city of Mount Isa and the associated health impacts, especially for children.

According to the report, co-authored by Associate Professor Mark Taylor from Macquarie University, there is no doubt that the major source of environmental lead pollution in the city is from “the historic and ongoing mining and smelting activity” – activities which have formed a main focus in the community for over 80 years. The report then goes on to say that the “purported lack of knowledge of the lead source is no longer a tenable response” from stakeholders.

Can Xstrata and the State Government honestly affirm that they didn’t think the pollution – and resulting health problems – was primarily being caused lead production in Mount Isa? Is it just me, or is the smelting stack that rises over a quarter of a kilometre into the sky over the city a somewhat obvious clue? Not according to Xstrata, who have been fervently suggesting that the main cause of the problem lay with the high natural mineralisation of lead in the Mount Isa area. Plausible deniability seems to be a good angle, especially given the current legal action taking place against the mining giant.

In the lead screening program run by Queensland Health in Mount Isa during 2006-7, it was found that:

Results of the study show that the average blood lead level for the children tested was 5.0 μg/dL, the lowest with 1.3 μg/dL and the highest with 31.5 μg/dL. Forty-five children (11.3% of those in the study group) had blood lead levels greater than or equal to 10 μg/dL. Of these, two children (0.5% of the study group) had blood lead levels greater than 20 μg/dL.

To make sense of this, consider that μg/dL is a unit of measurement which equates to the micrograms of lead per 100 millilitres of blood, and that similar testing of children in uncontaminated, urban areas returned a result of around 2 μg/dL. That’s right, the children tested in Mount Isa as part of the study had lead levels, on average, twice that of those in other areas, with the highest result being over fifteen times the norm. There is undoubtedly a major problem in Mount Isa with lead pollution, and it would now seemingly be confirmed that the primary cause of the pollution is the mining operation taking place in the city. Given that there hasn’t been any testing on older children in Mount Isa, it is impossible to ascertain the full impact the lead levels will have, but Associate Professor Taylor states in the report that “”…there’s an effect on their behavioural patterns, ADHD, school scores and lifetime outcomes.”

One can only hope that the release of this glaring report in such a well-respected publication prompts an authentic reaction from both the State Government and Xstrata, instead of the specious response to date. I am surprised Bob Katter, the Federal Member for Kennedy, hasn’t made more of a noise about this issue. One of the qualities I admire most about him is his predilection to call a spade a spade. He generally doesn’t seem too fussed with who he upsets in trying to be heard, but I am at a loss as to why the man under the ten gallon hat has been so quiet about an issue which is having a direct impact on his constituents.

NB: I have sent Bob Katter an email with a copy of/link to this post in the hope that he will respond with his thoughts – we will see what happens.