More from the world of the Postal Survey

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost. See my previous post for more.

I particularly can’t get – though John Howard can – the argument on religious liberty. Legal Eagle helps.

It’s true to say (as some of my Yes vote advocate friends have said) that religious freedom and freedom of speech are different questions from the question that is being asked in the survey. Part of the problem stems from the fact that we don’t even know what we’re voting on – they won’t prepare a Bill until we vote on whether we want the law or not. But I think that any provision for same-sex marriage should make it clear that it will not force religious groups to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. Some of my religious friends are worried about what the position may become if a Yes vote stands, and cite the example of the Tasmanian pastor and preacher who have been the subject of complaints to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. They fear this is the beginning of a greater trend. They are concerned that the acceptance of same-sex marriage will mean anti-discrimination legislation can be used to make religious people suppress their views, and to have to conduct same-sex marriages against their will. And then, of course, there’s the services cases (involving flowers or cakes for same-sex marriages).

As an aside, I have never understood why a person would wish to force a reluctant florist or baker to provide for a same-sex wedding. If I were in that position, I would rather not give the service provider money, nor have them anywhere near my wedding. But this may be something to do with my private law background – as a general principle of law, courts are usually unwilling to specifically enforce contracts for services because of the coercive nature of such relief (see eg, JC Williamson Ltd v Lukey (1931) 45 CLR 282, 293 (Starke J), 297–98 (Dixon J); Byrne v Australian Airlines Ltd (1995) 185 CLR 410, 428 (Brennan CJ, Dawson and Toohey JJ)). The rationale for the rule with regard to contracts for services is that it’s inappropriate to force parties who don’t get along any more to work together. And I guess that’s a greater point. As my co-blogger Skepticlawyer has pointed out, you can’t use the law to force people to like you or accept you.

In today’s news we read Church cancels wedding because bride and groom supported gay marriage on Facebook.

Presbyterian ministers and churchgoers are under clear directions to oppose same-sex marriage. Mr Wilson, who is also moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, published a blog post committing the church to the “no” case and calling on attendees to campaign actively.

“There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this,” Mr Wilson wrote.

However, other church sources suggested the Ballarat experience was uncommon. Darren Middleton, convenor of the Church and Nation committee and a Geelong minister, said it was the first such case he had encountered.

“This is a decision for individual ministers to make. My guess is most probably would have let the wedding go ahead,” he told Fairfax Media. “It’s not normally a requirement to get married that you subscribe to particular views. I would want to talk to them about their views … but that wouldn’t be a bar to them getting married. That’s a separate issue in my mind.”…

On Facebook Trevor Khan MLC NSW (National Party) has commented:

So, let’s be clear:
1) This demonstrates that churches, now, have an absolute discretion (enshrined in the Marriage Act) as to who they chose to marry, and
2) Neither side has a mortgage on “crazy”.

My background, by the way, is Presbyterian.

And here is something else we can well do without.

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That is  former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s godson, bashed during an argument about same-sex marriage.

Now some personal notes. I am not TELLING people how to answer the survey. VOTE is apparently not the right word, by the way. But I am hoping that the majority do choose YES because, as I keep saying, it is the right thing to do. First there are all those same-sex couples I have known, not all of whom would have opted for marriage personally, though I suspect all would have supported the right of those who did so choose to have that option. Second there is my own relationship commencing in 1990 — yes, 27 years ago — with M. We did live together for over ten years, and still mean a great deal to one another. M was at my side at my mother’s funeral in 1996. One memory is of M sitting ensconced with my Aunt Beth at Kay and Roy’s place in Sutherland after that funeral. M’s own mother and younger sister have passed away this year.

Another highlight was the following year, when M, who is from Shanghai, gained his Australian citizenship. William Yang recorded it.

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Fast forward to 2012 here in Wollongong:

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Please! Ignore the Chicken Littles on “freedom of speech”, “freedom of religion”, and weirdness like the Revenant of Oz and her nonsense about not being able to call your Mum and Dad Mum and Dad! Choose a kinder Australia when you mark your survey form!

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Death of a hero: Liu Xiaobo 1955-2017

Guaranteed to get this post/blog banned in China, alas, when in fact the Chinese should have been proud of this son, and certainly should have listened to him.

Interesting to see that SBS News devoted twelve minutes to the story. It was the lead item last night, unlike on ABC.

Liu Xiaobo was born into one of China’s first generations to be raised after the country’s Cultural Revolution. Receiving a PhD in literature, he was branded a ‘black horse’ early in his academic career.

“He was notorious for tipping sacred cows,” friend Australia author Linda Jaivin told SBS World News. Ms Jaivin lived in Beijing in the 1980s and moved in the same literary circles as Mr Liu. “He was very intellectual, very confident. He would attack people that everybody thought were the greatest writers and the greatest poets. He was quite controversial in his opinions and very good fun also,” Ms Jaivin said.

Mr Liu’s provocative writing would soon turn to impassioned protest.

Protesting at Tiananmen Square

When the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests broke out Liu was a visiting scholar at America’s Colombia University.

He rushed home to support the students, becoming a key protest figure. He gave rousing speeches, and famously joined a hunger strike.

Most significantly he is credited with saving many lives by helping to negotiate peaceful retreat for students out of the square….

During the days following the massacre Mr Liu, along with other activist friends, took refuge in Australian diplomat Nicholas Jose’s Beijing apartment.

When the area was evacuated Mr Jose offered Mr Liu refuge at the Australian embassy. “He could have come inside the gates to safety, he would have been in the jurisdiction of the Australian embassy if he did that. But he decided no, he wanted to meet his friends and take his chance,” he told SBS World News.

Now a writer and professor at Adelaide University, Mr Jose says that moment is the most precious memory of his friend.

“I will always remember that handshake outside the embassy that night. He borrowed my clothes. He was wearing my jeans and my jacket, and off he went.”

Mr Jose and Ms Jaivin were horrified to learn Mr Liu was apprehended in the street by an unmarked van just hours later.

He spent 18 months in jail, the first of many stints in detention. But despite heavy surveillance and censorship Liu Xiaobo continued to publish abroad, unwavering in his condemnation of China’s lack of freedom..

While free he often travelled, lecturing in Australia in 1993. But Mr Liu never sought asylum from China.

“He was passionate about China and its future. I think he knew that’s where his destiny was,” Mr Jose said.

Through Nicholas Jose I met Liu Xiaobo in 1993 in Sydney. See also Nicholas Jose – Fiction and Non-fiction (2005) and Linda Jaivin on Hou Dejian (2016) which includes links to several other past posts of mine. See also Linda Jaivan A Nobel Affair.

One post is worth reposting as it summarises the ideas that got Liu Xiaobo into trouble, but which China really needs to hear:

Dr. LIU Xiaobo is a renowned Chinese literary critic, dissident writer and human rights activist based in Beijing, as well as the Honorary President of the ICPC (Independent Chinese PEN Centre). On 8 December 2008, Dr. Liu was taken into the Police custody and now serves a sentence of 11 years for what he wrote…

What did he write?

Many things, but his participation in the Charter of Human Rights in China (Charter 08) has been the cause both of his Nobel Prize and his imprisonment.

II. Our Fundamental Concepts 
At this historical juncture of the future destiny of China, it is necessary to rethink the last 100 years of modernization and reaffirm the following concepts:
Freedom: Freedom is at the core of universal values. The rights of speech, publication, belief, assembly, association, movement, and to demonstrate are all the concrete realizations of freedom. If freedom is not flourishing, then there is no modern civilization of which to speak.
Human Rights: Human rights are not bestowed by the state, but are rights that each person is born with and enjoys. To ensure/guarantee human rights must be the foundation of the first objective of government and lawful public authority, and is also the inherent demand of “putting people first.” The past political calamities of China are all closely related to the disregard of human rights by the ruling authorities.
Equality: Each individual, regardless of social status, occupation, gender, economic situation, ethnic group, skin color, religion, or political belief, is equal in human dignity and freedom. The principle of equality before the law and a citizen’s society must be implemented; the principle of equality of economic, cultural, and political rights must be implemented.
Republicanism: Republicanism is “governing together; living peacefully together,” □ that is, the decentralization of power and balancing of interests, that is comprised of diverse interests, different social groups, pluralistic culture and groups seeking religious belief, on the foundation of equal participation, peaceful competition, public discussion, and peaceful handling of public affairs.
Democracy: The most basic meaning is that sovereignty resides in the people and the people elect government. Democracy has the following basic characteristics: (1) the legitimacy of government comes from the people, the source of government power is the people; (2) government must be chosen by the people; (3) citizens enjoy the right to vote, important civil servants and officials of all levels should be produced through elections at fixed times; (4) the decisions of the majority must be respected while protecting the basic rights of the minority. In a word, democracy will become the modern tool for making government one “from the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Constitutionalism: Constitutionalism is the principle of protecting basic constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms and rights of citizens through law and a rule of law, delimiting the boundaries of government power and actions, and providing corresponding systemic capacity.
In China, the era of imperial power has long passed and will not return; in the world, authoritarian systems are approaching the dusk of their endings. The only fundamental way out for China: citizens should become the true masters of the nation, throw off the consciousness of reliance on a wise ruler or honest and upright official, make widely public civic consciousness of the centrality of rights and the responsibility of participation, and practice freedom, democracy, and respect for law.
III. Our basic standpoint 
In line with a responsible and constructive citizens’ spirit towards the country’s political system, civil rights and various aspects of social development, we put forward the following specific standpoints:

  1. Amend the Constitution: Based on the aforementioned values and concepts, amend the Constitution, abolishing the provisions in the current Constitution that are not in conformity with the principle that sovereignty resides in the people so that the Constitution can truly become a document for guaranteeing human rights and [appropriate use of] public power. The Constitution should be the implementable supreme law that any individual, group or party shall not violate, and lay the legal foundation for the democratization of China.
  2. Separation and balance of power: A modern government that separates, checks and keeps balance among powers guarantees the separation of legislative, judicial, and administrative power. The principle of governing by laws and being a responsible Government shall be established. Over-expansion of executive power shall be prevented; the Government shall be responsible to the taxpayers; the separation, checking and keeping balance of powers between the central and local governments shall be set up; the central power authority shall be clearly defined and mandated by the Constitution, and the local governments shall be fully autonomous.
  3. Democratize the lawmaking process: All levels of the legislative bodies shall be directly elected. Maintain the principles of fairness and justice in making law, and democratize the lawmaking process.
  4. Independence of the judiciary: The judiciary shall be nonpartisan, free from any interference. Ensure judicial independence, and guarantee judicial fairness. Establish a Constitutional Court and a system of judicial review; maintain the authority of the Constitution. Abolish as soon as possible the Party’s Committees of Political and Legislative affairs at all levels that seriously endanger the country’s rule of law. Avoid using public tools for private objectives.
  5. Public institutions should be used for the public: Realize the nationalization of the armed forces. The military shall be loyal to the Constitution and to the country. The political party organizations in the armed forces should be withdrawn. The level of military professionalism should be raised. All civil servants including the police shall remain politically neutral. Discrimination in employment of civil servants based on party preference should be eliminated and equal employment without any party preference should be adopted.
  6. Protect human rights: Protection of human rights should be effectively implemented and human dignity should be safeguarded. A Commission on Human Rights shall be established that is responsible to the highest level of authority representing public opinion. [This Commission] will prevent government abuse of public power and violation of human rights, and especially protect the personal freedom of citizens. All persons should be be free from unlawful arrest, detention, summons, interrogation, and punishment. The system of Reeducation-Through-Labor should be abolished.
  7. Election of public officials: The democratic electoral system should be fully implemented, with the realization of the equal voting right of one person one vote. Direct election of all levels of administrative heads should be institutionalized step by step. Free competition in the elections on a regular basis and citizen participation in the election of public officials are inalienable basic human rights.
  8. Urban and rural equality: The current urban-rural household registration system should be repealed. The equal rights for all citizens guaranteed by the Constitution should be implemented. The freedom of movement for citizens should be protected.
  9. Freedom of association: Citizens’ right to freedom of association shall be safeguarded. The current system for registration and examination before approval for civil society organizations should be changed to a registration and recording system. The ban on freely organizing political parties should be lifted. All activities of parties should be regulated by the Constitution and law. One-party monopolization of ruling privileges should be abolished. The principle of freedom of activities of political parties and fair competition should be established. The normalization of party politics and a rule by law should be realized.
  10. Freedom of assembly: Peaceful assembly, protest, demonstration and freedom of expression are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. They should not be subject to unlawful interference and unconstitutional restrictions by the ruling party and the government.
  11. Freedom of expression: The freedom of speech, freedom of the press and academic freedom should be implemented. Citizens’ right to know and to monitor supervise should be protected. A press and publication law should be promulgated. The ban on freely publishing newspapers should be lifted. The current provision of “inciting subversion of state power” in the Criminal Law should be repealed and criminal punishment for speech should be eliminated.
  12. Freedom of religion: Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should be protected. Religion and politics should be separated. Religious activities should be free from government interference. All administrative regulations, administrative rules and local regulations and rules that restrict or deprive citizens’ freedom of religion should be reviewed and repealed. Management of religious activities by administrative legislature should be prohibited. The current prior approval system in which religious groups (including places of worship) must be registered before obtaining legal status should be abolished, and instead, a new record-keeping system for religious groups and their worship places should replace the current one.
  13. Citizen Education: Abolish political education and examinations that are deeply ideological and serve one-party rule. Promote citizen education that encompasses universal values and civil rights, establishes civil consciousness, and promotes the civil virtue of serving society.
  14. Property Protection: Establish and protect private property rights, implement a free and open market economy, protect the freedom of entrepreneurship, and eliminate administrative monopoly; set up a state-owned property management committee that is responsible to the highest legislative agency, initiate property rights reforms legally and orderly, make clear the property rights of owners and obligors, initiate a new land movement, advance land privatization, and strictly protect citizens’, in particular, farmers’, land rights.
  15. Fiscal Reforms: Firmly establish democracy in finance and protect taxpayers’ rights. Build a public finance system and operational mechanisms in which powers and obligations are clear, and create a reasonable and effective division of power in finance among all levels of government; implement major reforms in the tax system to reduce the tax rate, simplify the tax system, and achieve tax equity. The administrative departments should not be allowed to increase tax or create new tax arbitrarily without a social public choice and resolutions of the legislative agencies. Pass reforms on property rights, introduce diverse market subjects and competition mechanisms, lower the market-entry threshold in banking, and create conditions for the development of privately-owned banking to energize the financial system.
  16. Social Security: Build a social security system that covers all of the citizens, and provide them with fundamental protections for education, medical care, elderly care and employment.
  17. Environmental Protection: Protect the ecological environment, promote sustainable development, and take up responsibility to future generations and humanity; enforce the respective responsibilities of the state and government officials of all levels; perform the function of participation and supervision by civil organizations on environmental protection.
  18. Federal Republic: Participate in and maintain regional peace and development with an equal and fair attitude, and create an image of a responsible great country. Protect the free systems of Hong Kong and Macao. Under the precondition of freedom and democracy, seek a settlement resolution on cross-strait relations by way of equal negotiation and cooperative interaction. Explore possible ways and an institutional design to promote the mutual prospects of all ethnicities with great wisdom, and to establish China’s federal republic under the structure of democracy and constitutionalism.
  19. Transitional Justice: Rehabilitate the reputation of and give state compensation to the victims who suffered political persecution during past political movements as well as their families; release all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and people who are convicted because of their beliefs; establish a truth commission to restore historical truth, to pursue accountability and to fulfill justice; seek a settlement of the society on this foundation.

Taste of Xi’an Wollongong

No web page or Facebook yet for this excellent addition to Wollongong’s eateries, though I note Edmund Rice College has already organised an excursion to it.

As part of their study of Chinese, Years 11 and 12 students are invited to experience an authentic Chinese meal of Rice Noodles (Liang Pi) at ‘Taste of Xi’an’ Restaurant in Wollongong…

 Students will order their own meal (in Chinese) and should bring $20.00 (approximately) with them to cover the cost of their meal…

That would well cover it. When Chris T and I road-tested Taste of Xi’an on Saturday this was my meal:

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Even the cash register is authentic!

We often forget that there is a great variety in Chinese cuisine. At Taste of Xi’an there was not a grain of rice to be seen in either meal we ordered. On the variety of Chinese cuisine — until recent years hard to be observed in Sydney (or Wollongong) see Local Knowledge: Sydney’s Best Regional Chinese Food, Part One and Local Knowledge: Sydney’s Best Regional Chinese Food, Part Two. The small but select menu at Taste of Xi’an features Shaanxi cuisine.

In China, Shaanxi cuisine is known for two rather distinct reasons. The first is the impressive use of usually unpopular ingredients like camel, mutton and bitter gourd; the other reason is the area’s snacks. Unsurprisingly, it’s the latter that’s come to Sydney. Pretty much all the Shaanxi or Xian (the capital of the region) restaurants in Sydney specialise in roujiamo (a doughy Chinese pita bread burger stuffed with fatty shredded pork), and liangpi (handmade cold noodles most often served with chilli oil, bean sprouts, cucumber and MSG). They’re usually eaten together along with an Ice Peak, a local Fanta-like soft drink.

And in somewhat eccentric English this blog informs us that Xi Jinping’s favourite food is from his native Shaanxi.

According to reports, when Xi Jinping Chairman Lien Chan and his wife entertained, there Seder steamed mutton, Hamburger, biang biang surface, Liang Pi , which steamed mutton, Hamburger, biangbiang surface is made ​​by a chef in Beijing…

Here are the “burger” and a couple of other Shaanxi dishes similar to Taste of Xi’an’s offerings.

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What was I up to in February 2012?

Hard to believe yesterday’s post replayed items from TEN years ago! Today I offer a selection from Monthly Archives: February 2012.

If I hadn’t seen the video I wouldn’t have believed they could be so stupid…

Mining executives, that is.  Or should that be so contemptuous of us and the truth?

This week mining billionaire Gina Rinehart became the largest shareholder in Fairfax, having already bought a stake in Channel Ten. But this new video reveals this move is bigger than one woman’s ambition — it’s part of a coordinated and very deliberate strategy, with climate skeptic ‘Lord’ Monkton seen here advising a room full of mining executives on how the industry must gain control of Australia’s media. – GetUp.

Monckton!

Skull Murphy: a Monckton fan

See also my post How to pick a climate site that’s not worth reading.

1. It thinks global warming is all about Al Gore.

2. It thinks every scientific organisation in the world from the Royal Society down is in a massive conspiracy to destroy capitalism.

3. It takes Lord Monckton seriously.

4. It touts some pipsqueak or other simply because they cherry-pick “proofs” climate change is not happening.

5. It thinks all the measurements from NASA or elsewhere are somehow rigged.

6. It sees climate science as a racket whose sole aim is garnering research grants.

7. Checking the site’s fine print shows it is a front for powerful energy interests or right-wing US think tanks.

8. It believes the “Oregon Petition” is genuine.

9. It displays the most egregious ignorance of the well-established physics behind climate theory.

10. It has no idea about the concept of “certainty” and the scientific method.

Monckton? OMG! See also Monckton: this has to be a joke…

No, the ones who would be stupid would be us punters – if we were to believe one self-interested word this mining mob comes up with. Now we have seen how desperate they are. Scientific objectivity? Concern about the environment? Concern about the well-being of the country and the planet? Pigs arse!

Compare So What’s A Teacher to Do?

Imagine you’re a middle-school science teacher, and you get to the section of the course where you’re to talk about climate change. You mention the “C” words, and two students walk out of the class.

Or you mention global warming and a hand shoots up.

“Mrs. Brown! My dad says global warming is a hoax!”

Or you come to school one morning and the principal wants to see you because a parent of one of your students has accused you of political bias because you taught what scientists agree about: that the Earth is getting warmer, and human actions have had an important role in this warming.

Or you pick up the newspaper and see that your state legislature is considering a bill that declares that accepted sciences like global warming (and evolution, of course) are “controversial issues” that require “alternatives” to be taught.

Incidents like these have happened in one or more states, and they are likely to continue to happen. Teachers are encountering pushback from many directions as they try to teach global warming and other climate science topics.

The importance of climate change education is, to the RealClimate community, a no-brainer. Numerous professional science organizations, from the American Chemical Society to the American Geophysical Union to the Geological Society of America have stressed the imperative of climate science being an integral part of science education.

So What’s a Teacher to Do?

Long a defender of the teaching of evolution, the National Center for Science Education has recently launched an initiative to support and defend the teaching of climate change science…

Quite a month for anniversaries

Coming up is the anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942. I don’t recall that but it certainly affected some people I have known very directly and all of my generation in one way or another. Of course less well known is the fact that I was conceived in 1942.

Then there is 1952 and the current Diamond Jubilee of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne. That one I remember very clearly for reasons I gave last month. By a very indirect route that brings me to my grandfather, Roy Christison.

That’s him seated on the right of that photo with my brother Ian leaning against him.

You see of the many things Grandpa Christison talked about with me during the 1950s – and oh how significant I now know those conversations to have been in my life and thought! – one topic was the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, which he, to my astonishment, remembered – along with much else of pre-Federation New South Wales. And another thing that peppered conversations with Grandpa Christison was Charles Dickens. Grandpa Christison’s world-view owed more to Charles Dickens than it did to the Bible – about which he had somewhat agnostic views. He used to say that if you saw someone praying you needed to watch out for the knife behind his back, for example. But Dickens – no friend either of evangelicals and God-botherers – was a pure source of ethics as well as delight. My mother recalled family readings of Dickens, as no doubt many people of my grandfather’s time and tribe would.

And of course it is now the Dickens Bicentennial.

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There are quite a few connections between Australia and Dickens, which explains his having an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  As an article in the Sydney Morning Herald explains:

FOR someone who never visited the place, Charles Dickens wrote, obsessed, lobbied and published an awful lot about Australia.

Though plans to make a lecture tour and write a book, The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down, fell through, Dickens encouraged two of his sons, Alfred and Edward, to go to Australia. And, of course, many of his most memorable baddies, including Abel Magwitch (Great Expectations), John Edmunds (Pickwick Papers) and Wackford Squeers (Nicholas Nickleby) were transported down under…

At first, Dickens saw Australia only as a place of transportation, says a Queensland scholar, Marion Diamond,on her website Historians are Past Caring.

”But by the 1840s, free emigration to the Australian colonies was becoming important. This sparked his interest.” Encouraged further by the discovery of gold, he supported a number of emigration schemes, in life and in fiction. Indeed, at the end of David Copperfield he ”sends an absolute torrent of redundant characters to NSW: the Micawbers, Mr Peggotty and Little Em’ly, and Mrs Gummidge. Just to round things off nicely, he then has Mr Peggotty return, 10 years later, to tell David just how successful they have all been. Mr Micawber has become a magistrate!  Mrs Gummidge received an offer of marriage. Martha has married a farm labourer, and they now live happily on their own land, 400 miles from the nearest settlement.”

Like Magwitch and Micawber, the Dickens boys prospered in the new land of opportunity. At least, at first.

Alfred bought a station near Forbes, NSW, and later moved to Victoria, where he and his brother set up a stock and station agency, called EBL Dickens and Partners. He died on a visit to the US.

Edward managed a property in Wilcannia, and for five years represented the town in state Parliament. He later worked as a rabbit inspector and lands department officer for the NSW government. He died in poverty in Moree.

In Australia as in England, the public devoured Dickens’s prolific outpourings in books, stage plays and magazines, such as Household Words and All the Year Round.

As the author’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography notes, so widely published was his material that it ”helped impose Dickens’s own view of Australia on Australian life and society”.

Marie Bashir, the NSW Governor, is one of many prominent admirers of the author, who died in 1870. She recently recalled how as a ”little book worm” growing up in Narrandera in southern NSW, she visited his statue in the park, and later munched her way avidly through his complete works.

”I can still hear my mother saying, ‘Come to bed, Marie. It’s past midnight. Put that book down’.”

Next entry I will recall another anniversary of a literary nature, and confess more about my new addiction to eBooks!

Damn Fine Gentlemen and visitors from Beijing

Yesterday at The Five Islands Brewery.

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The ladies were part of a bus tour. They are from Beijing. Seems word is getting out about what a good venue we have down here in The Gong.

Yesterday: the Christening Party at Five Islands Brewery

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M’s Wollongong visit

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M in Mylan studying the menu.

What was I up to in February 2007?

A selection from Monthly Archives: February 2007. Strictly speaking the previous post should have been February 2002, but unfortunately that vanished long ago when Diary-X failed. These retro selections are meant to be at five year intervals, so the next will deal with 2012.

Why I have “banned” the term “political correctness”…

05 FEB 2007

Not that I have, but I am certainly taking pains to avoid it. It was one of my New Year Blog Resolutions. (Another was to write less… 😉 ) Why? Because I suspect the term conceals more than it reveals these days, and hinders discussion.

I just did a search on this and found an interesting post: “Political Correctness” and Privilege on Definition — A Feminist Weblog. [Links no longer available.]

…This is in no way an effort to force others to agree with me or conform with my worldview; in all honesty, some of the people I insist on showing respect to would not return the favor. I am not attempting to tell others what they can and cannot say; it would be nice if other people agreed with my priorities and sympathized with my opinions. I believe in absolute freedom of speech, but also that decent people should have a few limits on what they will allow themselves to say. And freedom of speech is not freedom from critical analysis, freedom from criticism, freedom from opposition.

Freedom of speech is also a responsibility. Since I have the power to say whatever I like, I also have the responsibility to say things that I think are well-reasoned and respectful. This does not mean that I will not argue, will not disagree, will not pass judgment. This does not mean that I will not express ideas which many people probably find offensive, radical, or objectionable. It simply means I will try to express these ideas while avoiding any unnecessary use of terms purposely designed to marginalize or misrepresent already oppressed people.

Anyone who is remotely interested in justice and human rights needs to adopt the same attitude. And those who claim not to care at least need to understand the horrific gravity of what they are saying.

I can live with that.

The way to defeat terrorism…

09 FEB

According to Meghnad Desai on Open Democracy, one of the excellent links there on the right, this is the way to go:

We need to say loudly that while Islam has one book and one God, it also has a rich diversity of manifestations around the world. We need to point out that Muslims around the world live in harmony with other people and share the common concerns about leading a happy prosperous life, caring for their children’s future and ensuring a safe and healthy old age for their elders.

Faith is a private concern; where it enters the public realm and creates dispute, the resulting problems are resolved more by negotiations and diplomacy around matters of disagreement than by violence or threats of violence.

The way to defeat terrorism conducted in the name of religious belief is to distinguish between religion and ideology. Then you fight the terrorist while leaving the devout alone to pursue her or his faith.

Read the article itself to see how he reaches this conclusion.

One thing I noticed at SBHS today, where I did some work, is that the Islamic Students Society is thriving. I guess a point is that as so many rhetorical bombs are thrown at Muslims in the media and so on the more they feel constrained to identify and stand up for themselves. Human nature, when you come to think about it.

Cricket, rain, the Irish pub, Lord Malcolm

11 FEB

Bringing my shopping home from Woolies just now I thought, “They’ll be lucky!” I mean lucky to get the final one-dayer between England and Australia played, and the live scorecard now sits thus: Rain Delay: England lead by 59 runs with 9 wickets in hand. England have been doing rather well lately, as you probably know, having won three in a row. Australia must win this one.

building02.jpgI’d been to the Porterhouse Irish Pub in “Sydney’s fashionable Surry Hills” for one of their very generous $11 roast beef lunches. Sirdan (and Lord Malcolm) and I used to go there quite often at one time, but Sirdan and I hadn’t been there for maybe two years, so we were happy to go there today. We were unable to eat all the roast lunch! And for anyone out there who knows the place: they have learned how to serve the beer chilled! It’s a very pleasant pub, and there were some very pleasant English Cricket fans at the next table too.

I remember once telling the barman at the Porterhouse that my ancestors came from County Cavan. He looked at me as if I had just said my ancestors tended to have two heads… 😉

Sirdan went on to visit Lord Malcolm at St Vincents Hospital; I went shopping, and plan to go to the hospital tomorrow. There’s a fair chance Lord Malcolm may be sent home on Tuesday, but partly because there isn’t much the hospital can do for him now. They probably would have returned him to the hospice, but he has argued for being at home in his own bed. A lot of support has had to be organised. In fact, Lord Malcolm got the “green light” last Wednesday. I was there at the the time.

Jim Belshaw has replied to my Silencing Dissent entry: see The Howard Government, Dissent and the Pattern of Change in Australia. We agree and disagree. Jim’s perspective is interesting and well-informed, while I am quite passionate about what I regard as total intellectual and social havoc wrought by the Howardites. The discussion should be worthwhile.

On Silencing Dissent: you may purchase it from The Australia Institute, and may also see some of the ideas canvassed by Clive Hamilton in Quarterly Essay 21: What’s Left? – The death of social democracy (2006) which I have read.

Later

And the rain has held off enough, it seems. Australia is on the chase as I write. Oh dear, 1/25…

On the Smell of an Oily Rag: speaking English, thinking Chinese and living Australian

13 FEB

That is such a good title!

It is Ouyang Yu’s latest book, forthcoming with Wakefield Press in South Australia, 2007. Back in June 2006 I discussed his The Eastern Slope Chronicle, you may recall. Marcel still has my copy. 😉

Sunday there is a Chinese New Year Party at M’s. Sirdan, Simon H and David Humphries are going too — well, that is the understanding at the moment. I wish I could tell you more about it, but M likes his privacy. What I can tell you is that the party will be a total demonstration of what multiculturalism can actually mean. M has done amazingly well since arriving from China hardly able to speak English and with just one suitcase in late 1989.

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Guan Wei: Ned Kelly encounters the troopers in the mystic mountains

Guan Wei (the picture links to his site) was born in Beijing in 1957. He now lives and works in Sydney. By coincidence, he received his Australian citizenship at the same ceremony as M.

Clash of intolerant minorities

19 FEB

That rather than a “clash of civilisations” is what most Australians believe we are witnessing at the moment, according to a BBC-Sydney Morning Herald survey, details of which were published today.

IT IS bad news for radio shock jocks and clash of civilisation theorists. A poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries has found most believe political and economic interests – not religious and cultural diversity – are the underlying cause of violent conflict in the world today.

In the joint BBC World Service- Sydney Morning Herald poll, 52 per cent said conflicting interests were the primary reason for tensions between Islam and the West, compared with 29 per cent who thought religion and culture were to blame.

A global majority, according to the poll, rejects the idea, popularised by the American academic Samuel P. Huntington, of an inevitable clash of civilisations based on religion and culture.

A poll-topping 68 per cent of Australians blamed “intolerant minorities on both sides” of the Islam/West divide for stirring up tensions. Only one in 10 Australians surveyed blamed intolerant Muslims exclusively.

“Two out of three people in Australia understand that there are those on all sides of this question who just love to stir,” said Paul Korbel, of Market Focus International, the pollster that conducted the survey here.

Of all people surveyed, twice as many (56 per cent) believe “common ground can be found” as those who see violent conflict between Islam and the West as inevitable (28 per cent).

The worried minority are still a worry though.

“If a quarter of the Australian population believes violent conflict is inevitable, and over a third think religious and cultural difference is the reason, then that’s cause for concern,” Mr Korbel said. “Perhaps education programs aimed at the intolerant minority should be boosted.”

But it is worse elsewhere. In Indonesia, most (51 per cent) see violent conflict between Islam and the West as inevitable. People in Egypt (43 per cent) and Germany (39 per cent) agreed.

Bridge builders still have plenty of work to do. In the case of Indonesia, see The Wahid Institute for one example of bridge building.

I loved the photo accompanying the article today. It was taken on Harmony Day last year. I call that positive appropriation…

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Celebration of an amazing man

22  FEB

procession.jpgI arrived at St James Church an hour before Phil Day’s funeral only to find the church already filling up. What an amazing talent the man had for sustaining circles of friendship over decades, and how deeply was he appreciated by generations of students! St James seats 1,000 or more and it was packed, with hundreds standing in the side aisles. Australian of the Year Tim Flannery read the Old Testament Lesson (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-9). The readings and hymns had been chosen by Phil himself, I was told. I saw so many young men who used to be kids I (and Phil) taught… Young men of many ethnicities and faiths whose lives he had touched. Many bore witness to that, such as that anonymous reviewer on RateMyTeachers.com: “5 5 5 Best teacher. Ever.”

Today was a total reminder of what some teachers are and what they give. It is not often one sees this so spectacularly demonstrated as it was today.

Phil was a person of faith too and St James was his church.

And what a historical site that church is, designed by convict architect Francis Greenaway, facing his Hyde Park Convict Barracks across Queen’s Square. I found myself seated by the wall plaque for explorer Edmund Kennedy (1818 – 1848).

I had to leave before the service was over — it was a full High Church Requiem Eucharist — as coaching in Chinatown had to go on.

There was some Cheney-related trouble in the city today, but I managed to avoid it.

There were four eulogies yesterday…

23 FEB

At Phil Day’s Anglo-Catholic Requiem Eucharist four people spoke of him: one who had known him all his life, one who had known him from university, a colleague from Sydney High (Con Barris) and Subdeacon Graeme Bailey who spoke of Phil as a churchman. The first two had us laughing. Con’s speech was heartfelt and very moving. Graeme Bailey told me more of this side of Phil than I had known before, as Phil was someone who, as Subdeacon Bailey said, did not shout his faith from the mountain top though neither did he hide it under a bushel. I felt these were a right and proper part of a thanksgiving service.

Such a shame then to read Cardinal Pell today, not that he has anything directly to do with St James Church yet. See Bell tolls on saucy detail in eulogies.

Sydney Liturgy Office director, Father Timothy Deeter, blames increasing secularisation and unfamiliarity with church rituals for the creeping practice of turning the Catholic funeral Mass into an extended eulogy.

“We have to remind people funerals are to worship God and we are asking God’s blessing and help for those who have passed away,” Father Deeter said.

“There is a current trend to focus on the life of the deceased and celebrate the past, to look back, but in the Mass we have to look forward to the eternal life and put God back into the funeral like we keep God in Christmas.”

I doubt Jesus would be cheering that one.

Speaking of being unnecessarily po-faced, I (almost) feel sorry for the SMS-ing Liberal candidate in Wyong. See Sex text sinks the loveless Lib. Hardly comparable with Labor’s woes in certain Central Coast constituencies, is it?