Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who Elects the Prime Minister of Australia?

I try not to discuss party politics on this blog so I'm not going to talk about who's wrong or right in the current upheaval going on in Canberra. What I am going to talk about is how shockingly ignorant Australians seem to be of how our electoral system works.

There's a lot of nonsense being talked about how the Prime Minister is elected by the people of Australia. Really this is rubbish. The only place where any candidate's name appears is on the ballot papers in the electorate where he or she is standing for election. Individually, we vote according to our choice of local candidates, not for who is to be Prime Minister. Yes, the voters know who the leaders of the various parties are but that doesn't mean they are voting for them. They are voting for the political party they prefer. The only mandate any candidate has from the Australian people is to represent his or her own electorate.

It's the parliamentary members of any political party who elect their leader and they have the right to change that leader without subjecting the nation to the expense of a general election (and, speaking for myself, I certainly wouldn't want to see my taxes eaten up by elections every time a governing party decides to change its leader). The fact is we, the electorate, have no say in the leadership of Parliamentary political parties, no matter which party is in government. We do not have a presidential style election of Prime MInister in Australia and, until we do have such a system, the election of party leaders is the business of the party concerned alone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just For a Laugh

I was reading about polydactyl cats recently. Then I came across this. In my mind they are connected.

Edit: With thanks to Tim Roberts for the second link

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We Will Remember

On February 19, 1942, Darwin was bombed by Japanese Imperial Forces, the first time that Australia came under attack and only the beginning of attacks on Darwin and other towns throughout 1942 and 1943. Towns across northern Australia from Queensland to Western Australia came under attack. At the time of the first attack Darwin was badly underprepared and chaos ensued. The evacuation of most white women and children was already well under way by the time of the attack although, shamefully, the indigenous women and children - perhaps with the assumption that they could survive by living off the land - were not included. The shambles following the attack saw most of the remaining females flee the town. Afraid of the effect on morale the authorities responded by clamping a news blackout on what had happened in Darwin and sent additional forces to defend the town. Among them were my two uncles. Darwin was now a designated theatre of war where our troops were under fire, a vital part of Australia's defence.

It's shocking to me how, until quite recently, unless you had family who had been living in Darwin or one of the other towns attacked at the time or who had been stationed in Darwin while it was under attack most Australians had no idea that Australia had been under direct attack. One of my uncles went to the Veterans Affairs Department to make an enquiry about his entitlements. He filled out his details stating that he had served in Darwin in a theatre of war and handed them in.
'Oh,' said the female clerk - who would be expected to know better. 'That's not right. A theatre of war means you have to have been under fire and that didn't happen in Darwin.'
'Well,' said my uncle. 'I wish I'd known that when I was being shot at. I'd have felt a lot better.'

That exchange is not likely to happen now. I've just watched our Prime Minister in Darwin at a commemoration of the attack. It might be overdue - and too late for my uncles - but at least their contribution to the defence of Australia during World War 2 is being acknowledged.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan

Actually this post immediately follows within minutes of my last due to my clicking on the publish button by accident so if you'll just pretend this runs on I'll be grateful.

I have just finished reading Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan - for those of you in Britain it is published as The Brides of Rollrock Island there - and it was a great read. Once again Margo Lanagan has produced a haunting and fascinating novel. It's dark and poignant, full of intriguing characters and placed in a beautifully realised desolate setting where you can almost smell and taste the waves as they crash on the rocky shores. I suspect it will stay with me for a long time.


Over on the Egoboo WA blog Sydney based author, Patty Jansen, is a guest blogger and writes about her experiences on self publishing e-books. There has been a lot of discussion on the future of traditional publishing and the rise in e-publishing so it's interesting to read about the experiences of someone who has been experimenting with self publishing over the past twelve months.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dad uses Facebook to teach daughter a lesson | Chicago - News

Via Jo who blogs at Jo On Food, My Travels And A Scent Of Chocolate came the link to this video. Dad uses Facebook to teach daughter a lesson | Chicago - News: A 15-year-old puts up a Facebook post bashing her parents for making her work too hard, dad reacts by posting a video response to her grievances on her Facebook page.

There's been some controversy over whether the father is a bad parent and over-reacted. I'm not entering into that side of it because I don't know anything about the family or its history but I'm pretty sure his daughter won't forget the sight of her laptop being destroyed in a hurry. And, purely as an aside, it did make me grateful to live in a country where guns are illegal except under very strict guidelines. This man is not threatening anyone with his gun but just the thought of pretty much anyone being able to arm themselves with a 45 and exploding bullets is quite scary.

Edit: There is an update at the bottom of the page where some additional details are filled in including how the girl's post was seen by her parents - and it has nothing to do with her father hacking into her page and everything to do with her posting to a page anyone could read.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Locus 2011 Recommended Reading List

is up on the Locus On-line website.The list is put together by a consensus of the magazine's editors and reviewers. There's a strong field and I'm pleased to see among them a number of Australian authors, editors and publishers, including one of my Clarion South fellows, Peter M. Ball, who features twice. Three of our Clarion South tutors appear as well - Margo Lanagan, Kelly Link and Gardner Dozois. Congratulations to Western Australian publishers, Ticonderoga Publications and Twelfth Planet Press, too, on the list for story collections, and local editor, Jonathan Strahan.
Other Aussies on the list include Jo Anderton, Terry Dowling, Thoraiya Dyer, Greg Egan, Alison Goodman, Ian McHugh, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Lucy Sussex, Kaaron Warren and Kim Westwood. Congratulations to all.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Of Travelling Red Dresses and Versatile Bloggers

Sometime in December someone gave me a Versatile Blogger Award. I was very touched and have been pondering since on who else I should hand this on to. (Part of the process is for each recipient to nominate other bloggers and thank the giver as well as a few other tasks that really do require thinking about). This proved harder than I expected. There are so many bloggers out there who make my life more than it would otherwise be. They inform me, delight me, make me laugh, share their sorrows and successes and so much more. So one by one I've been revisiting my favourites and I've been making my choices. I'll be passing on the award and all the other details required of me soon.

This process reminded me of something which has been going on in the blogosphere which is different - very different in fact because a physical object is being passed around - but which in spirit seems to me to be in some way similar. Jenny Lawson, who blogs as The Bloggess, (and just a word of warning if you visit her blog that she sometimes uses earthy language) posted recently about the travelling red dress. This is an actual red ball gown which she bought for no other reason than for once in her life she wanted to wear a wonderful red ball gown. She wore it and had photos taken then decided to share the joy by handing it on to other women who needed a lift. The travelling red dress has now passed through so many hands that it is worn out. So she launched another. This caught the imagination of many of her readers and now along with her ball gowns - she decided one wasn't enough. Last time I checked it had increased to ten - folk all over the world have joined in buying their own red ball gowns, taking photos and passing them on to others they feel need the lift they bring.

The connection? Well it seems to me that with a Versatile Blogger Award when I pass on the Award (although I get to keep mine unlike the travelling red dress) I'm saying to someone that they have impacted on my life in a way that has meant something to me. In a similar way the travelling red dress means that someone has looked at you, seen beyond the superficial and is acknowledging you as a person. They can't cure your ills but they can give you a chance to break out of them for a short time - and you, in turn, get the opportunity to to do the same for someone else.

I despair of humanity sometimes but gestures like this remind me that really we're not so bad after all.