JUST when we thought Australian politics couldn’t become any more bizarre, Prime Minister Tony Abbott proved us all wrong this week, when he threatened to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Brisbane next month. Being a Queenslander, I have to confess I had no idea what this shirt-fronting business was all about, and for several hours I thought there might be some kind of bro-mance going on between Tony and Vlad. For those who don’t know what this quaint turn of phrase means, it is apparently an AFL term to describe a front-on charge designed to knock an opponent to the ground. Frankly, since learning this, I haven’t stopped laughing all week.
Apparently the Ruskis think it’s pretty funny as well, with Russian embassy official Alexander Odoevskiy telling Fairfax Media that he had “learned a little more about Aussie Rules football”. Odoevskiy went on to say “We are not sure when the Prime Minister would like to shirt-front the Russian President.” So, in the spirit of this great city in which I live, I’d like to offer up 10 Perfect Places to shirt-front a Russian President in Brisbane. (Hey, you never know when it may come in handy).
1.Head to the Cauldron
Ok, so we’re more into rugby league than AFL in Brissie, but don’t worry, we still know how to go the biff. Of all the places in the Queensland capital which has seen its share of fights, it’s got to be Suncorp Stadium or “The Cauldron” to locals. What many people don’t know is this hallowed turf was once a cemetery (I’m just sayin’ Tony). If the thought of Tony (a keen cyclist), beating up Vlad (a judo expert) makes you thirsty, head to the nearby Caxton Hotel, which has also seen plenty of bust ups over the years, particularly during State of Origin. Locals call this hotel “the Cacko” and after you’ve seen Tony take on Vlad, you’ll be laughing too. http://www.suncorpstadium.com.au; http://www.caxton.com.au
2.Make Love, Not War
I like to think of Brisbanites as lovers, not fighters. But we do have a secret war history. Few people realise that General MacArthur based the Allies’ southern pacific headquarters right here in Brisbane during World War Two. Today, the MacArthur Central shopping centre stands in the same building. For more of a war tour head to the MacArthur Museum and see the impact the events in Europe and the Pacific had on Brisbane. Entry fee costs $5 for adults. Tony, I’m happy to pay your entry fee, if you promise to stop picking on the nuclear giants. http://www.mmb.org.au
3.Got a Beef with the Russian President?
God, how we love a good steak in Brisbane. In honour of his bullish behaviour, I’d recommend Tony take Vlad straight to the Spanish Garden Steakhouse at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. It’s on the way from the airport, so it’s real handy, and the beef is good too. Still dancing around the issue, Tony? Then head to Cha Cha Char! for some of the best wagu in town. Given I’m dining out on the worst Prime Minister in Australian history, I may as well recommend the “Worst Vegetarian Restaurant” as well. Yes, the Norman Hotel makes this cute claim. Step away from the steak knives, Tony.
http://www.breakfastcreekhotel.com; http://www.chachachar.com.au; http://www.normanhotel.com.au
4.Bridge That Golf
What blokes in the history of the world haven’t patched things up over a game of golf? But let’s keep this one simple. Rather than going to some fancy, smanchy course, I recommend the Victoria Park Golf Complex for Tony and Vlad. This course offers some of the most challenging putt putt on its 18 hole course with Brisbane skyline view. Best of all, Tony, it comes complete with sand and water traps, a rocky terrain, swinging poles and even punching bags. http://www.victoriaparkgolfcomplex.com/golf/puttputt.html
5.The Smoking Gun
This one was a no-brainer really. Tony, you might want to bulk up before all that shirt-fronting, so I recommend you head to The Gunshop Café at West End. Mate, you’ll love it but don’t get too excited. Yes, this was a former gunship where they sold firearms, but the only smokin’ thing these days is the food on the menu. Has anyone told Vlad lately he’s got nice guns?
This former World War Two bomb shelter is now a cigar bar in South Brisbane. Just think, Tony, no one will hear the screams. Yes, behind this mysterious red façade you’ll find some of Brisbane’s best coffee as well as a couple of Cubans. I mean cigars, not actual Castros. Although Fidel would fit in well with this whole shirt-fronting scenario, I reckon. A quick Google search reveals Putin does not smoke (nor drink, apparently), so the upstairs smoking deck may be lost on him.
I reckon a day at the bay down at Redcliffe should sort everything out between this pair. Tony, what I suggest is you take Vlad for a lovely stroll along Bee Gees Way, which pays homage to these local lads who set the world on fire. Still feel like Jive Talkin’, then take a wander along the Redcliffe Jetty. Testosterone Tony, how about you get your James Bond on and strap yourself in for a tandem skydive over Suttons Beach? (Vlad, I recommend you pack a separate parachute). http://www.redcliffe.net.au/visitor-information.htm
8.Cuddle A Koala
Who can stay angry when you’re cuddling a koala? And Lone Pine Sanctuary has 130 of these furry little beasts with names like Rory, Sinnamon, Lina, Rose and Beck. But, best of all, there’s a platypus named Barak – who most tourists call Barack. Yes, as, in Obama. Now, if anyone can sort out this shirt-fronting mess, it’s Obama. http://www.koala.net
9.In Pursuit Of Libertine
This suggestion might be a bit girly, but Tony and Vlad can create their very own love potion at Libertine Parfumerie at New Farm. This place offers masterclasses in the art of fragrance and features a huge range of products.In fact a number of their scents have been worn by world leaders including Winston Churchill and Napoleon. Their fragrance Creed is 250 years old and is worn by the Obamas. Another fragrance, Love In White, has been worn by 3 or 4 US First Ladies. Let’s call this new fragrance the dirty shirt-front.
10.Get A New Shirt-Front
In case we are all wrong, and all Tony really wanted to do was actually buy Vlad a new shirt, there’s a few interesting options in Brisbane. At Mitchell Ogilvie – which has a secret bar in the store – it’s rumoured that $30,000 suits are currently walking out the door in the lead up to G20. The boys could also head to the The Cloakroom, which offers a modern tailoring service. But Tony, you can do your own ironing. I don’t care what you say about how “the women of Australia” like to spend their time.
LAST Friday I was attacked by a man I had never met before in a supermarket car park in Brisbane. I use the word attacked because while it was not physical, it was very verbal and extremely emotional and at one point, I believed he was about to become physical. I could also use the word abuse. So what prompted this attack? While parking my car, I had mistakenly parked over two car spaces, as the white lines indicating where to park had faded. It was a tight two spaces, because a tree in the corner had uprooted the bitumen, so I chose to park as far away from the uprooted bitumen as possible.
What happened next rattled me. As I alighted from my car, an angry white male, in his late 50s to early 60s, was standing there, screaming at me, saying he had wanted to park in the space beside me (for the record, there were plenty of empty car parks around). And in an absolute rage he started roaring: “Just take a look at yourself Sweetie!” At first, I didn’t know what I’d done and then I pointed out that I simply could not see where the white lines were meant to be. He paused and agreed with me, stating he had already complained to the shopping centre about this. Which I would have thought was the end of the argument. But then he came menacingly close, and just kept yelling at me: “Take a good look at yourself Sweetie!” The only thing I could do was mutter: “Don’t call me Sweetie”, which further infuriated him as he spat out the word “Sweetie” over and over again, at one point stepping close as if he was going to hit me. Eventually he drove off, and I sat in my car and wept. I cried because I was shocked, scared and stunned at the blatant sexism of this man.
I texted a male friend who urged me to call the police. But I argued the man had not committed any real crime. At the same time a female friend texted and she insisted I make my complaint to shopping centre management, which I did, feeling embarrassed and foolish the whole time, as I wept and shook. They were kind, giving me water and tissues and recording my complaint, but essentially powerless to do anything. As I drove home, without my groceries, I wondered what would have happened had I been dressed in a burqa. I’ve been thinking for weeks about writing about the simmering anger that seems to be pervading Australian streets right now, but until this incident, I felt unable to articulate this new paradigm.
I am not, for one minute, suggesting last week’s incident compares at all to what is happening to peace-loving Muslims in Australia right now. If there are any parallels to be drawn, it’s how unjustifiably angry and disenfranchised some Australians seem to be. And how prepared they are to act on this anger. And that scares me. In the past week, there’s been numerous reports of attacks on Muslim people simply going about their business. A woman in a burqa being set alight by a man; another woman having hot coffee thrown on her from a car window; Muslim kids in a kindergarden in lockdown to protect their safety. Every single day, there’s something nasty and new against Muslim Australians.
I’m horrified and disgusted by what’s happening to our country right now. And ashamed. I love Australia and I believe we are a big country with a big heart. There’s no room for bigotry. And no room for stupidity. For a Prime Minister who is meant to be showing leadership, I’m appalled that all Tony Abbott has achieved is whip up a culture of pure hatred. I’m stunned that those attacking everyday Muslims going about their business are so ill-informed that they cannot separate the radicalism of those who support the Islamic State from everyday people who look a little different. Given our long record of immigration and multiculturalism, I’m bemused when somebody accuses someone else of being “un-Australian”. I am yet to see a definition of what being an “Australian” is. Is it in how I dress? The colour of my eyes, hair and skin? What I eat or don’t eat? Does it lay in my religion or lack of faith?
The day after I was abused in the car park, I returned to the shopping centre, as I still needed to get my groceries. And for the first time, I felt fear. But as my morning progressed, I realised that Australians are essentially good people. He’ll never know it, but I thank the man who accidentally bumped into my grocery bags, and then stopped to apologise. Another man let me go first in the queue, even though it was his turn. And so, my confidence returned and more interestingly, I found myself remembering to be compassionate towards others. Yes, we’re Australians, but we are also global citizens, who happen to be incredibly lucky to either be born or have immigrated to this amazing land Down Under. This largely peaceful place of droughts and flooding rains. Of sunshine, beaches, barbecues, rainforests, reefs and yawning Outback. An attack, whether it is by a terrorist organisation, or an angry man in a car park, has always been likely. But a life lived in fear is no life at all.
SEVERAL commentators have likened the recently-announced Australian federal election campaign to a seven-month pregnancy and I have to admit that was one of my first reactions as well. Actually, my first reaction was one of excitement, as I actually misheard the Prime Minister and thought she said Australia would be having a long erection. Could you imagine it? Your local member (pardon the pun) standing on the street corner, and instead of handing out how-to-vote cards, giving out free Viagra.
Alas, she did say election and it really is like the obstetrician has just told us we are having twins – a boy and a girl. For the sake of this story, let’s call them Julia and Tony. Now, apart from thinking I could make a handsome profit if I whipped up to China and got 22 million “Is there a 3rd option?” t-shirts made, I think I have solved the problem for the Australian electorate. My advice: vote exactly how you did in the last election, and keep a hung Parliament. Why? As the past few years have proven, the country actually trundles along quite nicely, some say the envy of the western superpower economies such as the US and Europe, while our two twins, Julia and Tony, bicker.
It’s a bit like being in the toy aisle at K-Mart and Julia and Tony have spotted a boat on the toy shelves horizon. Tony immediately grabs a toy gun and starts shooting at the boat, demanding that K-Mart send the boat back to where it was made. In this instance, Indonesia. Julia, seeing Tony’s reaction, runs into the doll aisle and grabs Burqa Barbie, plonks her on the boat, and a struggle ensues. What’s interesting about this scenario is not Julia and Tony’s reaction but that of you, the parent. You’ve already moved on to the outdoor camping section of K-Mart, because all you really want is a holiday and a happy life.
But bear with me. My hung Parliament theory has legs – unlike Burqa Barbie which Tony has ripped off in to the argument with Julia. But before I give you the third option to lead Australia, I’d like to canvas some other candidates. We could look at some of our Aussie exports who’ve clearly done well overseas. What about Kylie Minogue? Her campaign slogan: “I should be so lucky” would clearly be a catchy hit, and she’s a certainty with the pink vote. Olivia Newton John would be rather convincing with romantic Australian voters if her slogan was: “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” Hugh Jackman? All-round nice guy who everyone loves. Just as I’ve never met anyone who actually liked or voted for John Howard, I don’t know anyone who hates Hugh Jackman. And just imagine when the latest round of refugees arrived on our shore, Hugh would be standing there and clutching that same line he used on Nicole Kidman in the movie Australia he’d swagger: “Welcome to Australia.”
But my secret plan for the person to be next Prime Minister of Australia is Barack Obama. I’ve worked it out. He’s only got four more years left before he must stand down as President of the United States. Our election is almost another year away. Which means we’ve really only got to sit out another hung Parliament for three years before we elect Obama. I presume the Australian Prime Minister must have Aussie citizenship and I’ve sorted all that out too. I am prepared to marry Obama so that he can become Australian and save us from ourselves. Say what you will about me, but never let it be said I’m not prepared to take one for the country.
MY 12-year-old niece broke it off with her “boyfriend” this week, telling me yesterday: “He acts one way around me, and another around his friends.” “Ah, mixed messages,” I told Miss Twelve, who didn’t quite understand the concept, despite deeply feeling the hurt. “He was shocked,” she added. And who said feminism was dead?
If we needed any convincing that feminism wasn’t dead it was this week’s outstanding performance by Prime Minister Julia Gillard who stood up for herself, and the women of Australia, to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. In her 15-minute speech in Federal Parliament during which Gillard never once stumbled, she did what was a long-time coming. She told the man who has taunted her with cruel jibes among which have included standing in front of a banner which labelled her a “witch” and a “bitch”, that she would “not be lectured about sexisim by this man”. Regardless of your politics, I implore anyone who hasn’t seen it to go to YouTube and see exactly the kind of mettle of which a woman scorned is made.
The best Abbott could do this week was trot out his wife and three daughters as a poor example of how this somehow made him a feminist. The mere fact he did this was a sexist act in itself. It’s a bit like telling someone “my neighbour is gay/indigenous/disabled”. Worst of all for Abbott, even if this did score him a couple of cheap political points, with possibly another year to run before the Federal Election, he’s potentially pulled out his trump card a little prematurely. So now he has to rely on his character.
Let me be very clear. This is not a political post. I, like many other Australians, have been deeply disappointed by the argy bargy and broken promises of both sides of the Parliament in recent times. Yet, sometime in the next 12 months, I will have the opportunity (a result of feminism) to choose one side. This is a blog about feminism. It’s a blog about basic human rights.
We live in interesting times. Despite the fact 60% of university undergraduates are women, in 2012, Australian women earn approximately 17.5% less than men. We’ve all been privy to the recent abhorrent behaviour of a certain football club’s end-of-year antics and their lewd comments towards a female television reporter who was simply doing her job. And then there’s a certain male radio announcer who decried Australian women as “destroying the joint.”
Globally, things are far worse. This week in Indonesia, a 14-year-old school girl victim of child trafficking was expelled from her school because she had “tarnished the school’s reputation.” In Pakistan, a 14-year-old girl is fighting for her life after being shot in the head by the Taliban. Her crime? She believed women should be allowed an education.
I’ve always been proud to call myself a feminist and for anyone who wonders what this means to me, it means I think women should be receive the same pay as men for the same work; that they should be able to walk down the street in whatever they choose without fear or favour; and they should be afforded the same opportunities as men. Women should be treated with the same respect as men.
And yet, in recent times, even I’ve been led to believe there is something wrong with me. This week, when a male friend sent me a private email making a lewd comment about my breasts, I was deeply offended. I told him so, and he apologised, yet it didn’t stop me choosing the baggiest blouses to wear all week and slouching my shoulders, something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. Through his comments, I felt that I should somehow be ashamed and embarrassed of my womanhood.
This weekend I’ve found myself waiting for a phone call from a man I’ve never met, who enticed me with the promise of a coffee date. That phone call never came. In the scheme of world events, and how women are treated, it’s nothing. It’s a very First-World problem and possibly even a luxury to have such a light-weight worry. But it still hurts, as did my mate’s comments. As these blokes would never denigrate their male friends like that. And doesn’t it simply come down to that? It’s not whether you are male or female. It’s how you would treat another human being.
This week, through Prime Minister Gillard, and people like my 12-year-old niece who wouldn’t have a clue what a feminist was, we saw a glimmer of hope. A spark.
Maybe feminism isn’t dead after all. Like myself, after 40 odd years fighting the good fight, perhaps she’s just been having a long-deserved beauty sleep. And there is nothing wrong with that.