A post for Human Rights Day

Sixty years ago today the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the newly-formed United Nations. After the bloodshed of the WWII, virtually every nation on the planet understood that these values were What It Was All About — and yet Australia is alone amongst Western democracies in not having enshrined them into Law. What’s wrong with us?

I’m still too ill to write an original essay today. However I’ve already written what I think about this in “Let’s just write that down…”. You may also like to read my review of Julian Burnside’s book Watching Brief.

Under the Rudd government, we seem to be closer to rectifying this gap in our laws — though I find it odd that a Bill of Rights sceptic is chairing the panel. Still, anything would be better than the comprehensive erosion of human rights under the Howard government.

OMFG! Kevin Rudd tweeted again!

Wow! Yesterday @KevinRuddPM said “Looking forward to communicating with you on Twitter” and now he’s said “Thanks to everyone for adding me on Twitter”! The Rudd Government really is about fresh thinking! Look!

Screenshot of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's second tweet: Thanks to everyone for adding me on Twitter

OK, I’m not going to write a blog post every time the PM tweets something. But this gives you an idea of the scrutiny he’s under. He (or an as-yet-unnamed minion) types eight words and suddenly hundreds of people are a’flutter. Or a’twitter.

Mr Rudd’s first challenge will be to explain why he had over 400 followers last night, and had followed most of them back, but now half of them are gone. It’s probably just a Twitter glitch, but we all Need To Know. Now please. I’m sure the friendly folks at Twitter will respond quickly when they know it’s Australia’s Prime Minister (or an as-yet-unnamed minion) asking. That’s like even more important than Sarah Palin!

Have you ever seen Sarah Palin and Kevin Rudd in the same room? Spooky!

Since my welcome to the PM yesterday, I’ve been thinking about some suitably Prime Ministerial tweets.

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Anzac Day Rememberings

Photograph of a sprig of rosemary, for remembrance

Where the fuck do I start? For me, Anzac Day is a tangled mess of emotions and ideas — some about grand themes of global and national politics, others deeply personal.

What pleases me most about Anzac Day is that Australia and New Zealand commemorate the sacrifice of their war dead not through parades of tanks and missiles and a glorification of war but with highly personal ceremonies of remembrance starting before dawn.

We talk not of our nation’s military prowess — though Australia is, by all accounts, capable of fielding professional military forces which make almost everybody else look like disorganised amateurs — but of the personal qualities which have made this nation great.

Those qualities were listed in an Army recruitment advertisement designed by a soldier. They were reiterated this morning by Major General Mark Kelly:

Regardless of religion, racial background, or even place of birth, we gather not to glorify war, but to remind ourselves that we value who we are and the freedoms we possess, and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who contributed so much in shaping the identity of this proud nation…

The term Anzac has transcended the physical meaning to become a spirit, an inspiration which embodies the qualities of courage, discipline, sacrifice, self reliance, and in Australian terms, mateship, and a fair go. This is what Anzac means to me.

These are the qualities which once gave Australia such a fine reputation overseas — before our foreign policy became one of subservience to American Neocons, and before symbols of military might were perverted into supporting a never-ending War on Abstract Nouns. Before quiet patriotism turned into loud but ignorant flag-draped jingoism. John Birmingham wrote about this in his Quarterly Essay, A Time for War: Australia as a Military Power. But what does it all mean now under Chairman Rudd?

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What should I do about Australia 2020?

OK, so I didn’t make the 1000 “best and brightest” going to the Australia 2020 Summit. Nevertheless I’m still very interested in Topic 9, “the future of Australian governance: renewed democracy, a more open government (including the role of the media), the structure of the Federation and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.” What should I do?

There’s still the possibility of getting media accreditation, or perhaps connecting to the themes of the event in some other way. Here’s a brain-dump of my thoughts on this sunny Sunday morning… comments appreciated!

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So Howard screwed up housing affordability too

At some point we will have to stop blaming John Winston Howard for every problem we face. For the moment, though, it does seem that whenever we lift the lid on some important issue we find something smelly whose cause was inaction or ineptitude on JHo’s watch.

Graph of ratio of real house prices to real wages

Yesterday it was how we’re stuck with the Super Hornets thanks to “a lack of sound, long-term… planning decisions by the former Government over the course of the last decade”. Today let’s look at Chairman Rudd’s theme of the week, housing affordability.

It’s now more expensive to live in Sydney than in New York.

[P]roperty prices have jumped 400 per cent since 1986, while income has increased by only 120 per cent.

The mysterious but awesomely-brained Possum Comitatus explains how he ran the numbers, leading to this graph.

It’s worth reading the full analysis, but his conclusion is blunt:

[R]eal house prices remained virtually frozen over the period from 1990 through to 2000. It wasn’t until Howard started stuffing around with halving the capital gains rate and things like the first home buyers grant that real house prices started to accelerate…

It also highlights in real terms just how much the NSW market has dropped over the last couple of years.

Possum’s going to look at our policy options in part 2, coming soon. However The Australian‘s George Megalogenis has already started down that path — from the suitably cynical viewpoint of which options generate the most votes for whom.

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