Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Homemade Christmas Gifts

This is totally out of left field as a post on this blog but I decided to share it via this way.
Last year I made these cookie jars for a bunch of people. I'd made a commitment via Facebook to make something home made for 10 of my friends who liked a post and this seemed like a good gift for that. They include the dry ingredients for cookies and you package them up with fabric and ribbon and add a tag with the instructions and bob's your uncle you have a cute, home made gift. Click here for a link to the recipe:

This year I wanted to do something similar so came up with this:

I bundled up a pack of fried noodles, a small jar of peanut butter, some chocolate melts (all the ingredients for chocolate spiders...a recipe on the back of the noodle packet) and put them in a Christmas bowl and wrapped it in a Christmas tea towel so it looked a bit like a plum pudding.

Pretty nifty if I do say so myself.
The actual spider recipe in case it's not on your pack of noodles:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Citizen Journalism...fun but crazy

(Note 27/11/13)
I used this post as a starting point and wrote a new piece that was published at The Kings Tribune

UPDATED 3/9/13

A couple of weeks ago I received a direct message on twitter from Margo Kingston (@margokingston) asking if I would like to report from Corangamite for the Federal election as a citizen journalist. I was incredibly excited and flattered. I had become a little disengaged from politics after the removal of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and this seemed like a way to get back into it.

It's been a fun and consuming project. I've met more of the candidates in my electorate than I ever had previously and gained a respect for them all; major party candidates and smaller party candidates. They're all in it with good and genuine intentions. They're wanting to make our country good and that's inspiring.

So far I've interviewed 4 candidates, The Greens' Lloyd Davies (link), The Australian Sex Party's Jayden Millard (link) and the Palmer United Party's (who was dis-endorsed by the party 4 days after my interview and is now an independent) Buddy Rojek (link) and The ALP's Darren Cheeseman (link).

I was incredibly nervous for the first interview. I'd never done anything like this before and felt a little out of my depth, but Lloyd was so lovely and our chat was quite natural and informal. After I stopped recording we sat and chatted for another half hour. We'd met in a quiet space of the Belmont library. My next interview was with Jayden and we met at the Grovedale Pub. Teeing up a time and place had been a little tricky as he studies in Melbourne. I wondered if my phone would record well with the background noise of a pub but it was fine. Jayden talks fast! Transcribing his interview was hard work :) I was noticing a trend though. He was passionate about his beliefs and why he was standing for election, as Lloyd had been.

After publishing my opening piece for @nofibs I had been informed of a Candidates forum on Climate Change in Torquay so I made arrangements to attend. This was another first for me; attending a pre-election forum. By this stage more candidates had announced for Corangamite. I think we were up to 7 and I was wondering if I'd get to them all.

Buddy Rojek had made his presence known on Twitter and Facebook. His posts were random and difficult to follow and I wondered if his social media strategy was sound. I attempted to contact him via Twitter to tee up a time before the forum in Torquay. As it turns out a flyer hit the news about his election night party and he was front page news in the Geelong Advertiser on the day of the forum.(link) I could tell he was being sought by media outlets and wondered if my interview with him would go ahead. I took my 14 year old daughter with me to the forum. It was interesting and a chance for her to see democracy in action and to appreciate the privilege we have of living in a country like Australia where people can disagree, yet discuss things civilly. One attendee at the forum stood up and commented that he had recently returned from Africa where the idea of a panel of candidates for election sitting alongside each other discussing political matters was almost inconceivable. It was a sobering reminder of how fortunate we are.

At the conclusion of the forum I approached Buddy. He told me he was having a media blackout but I managed to convince him to chat to me. he wanted me to agree to not publish my recording but then at the conclusion of the interview said he was fine with it and I could publish anything. When my piece was published he was thrilled. I guess we all see things differently.

I decided to go along to the Geelong Advertiser debate between Darren Cheeseman and Sarah Henderson. Talk about immersing myself in this election. When I was able to confirm that I could organise my kids and their activities and actually make the debate (5pm on a week night was a tricky time-slot ..I wonder who thought of that? Obviously not a parent) I then contacted Darren Cheeseman's office to see if I could interview him post-debate. I need to maximise my time. if I'm at an event I may as well kill two birds with one stone. The media adviser was non committal. When I arrived at the debate I spotted up the media guy and approached him. I'd met him at an event at my kids school so I knew who he was. He was still a little unsure but I was hopeful. I introduced myself to Sarah and told her I would approach her office next week to organise a time for a brief interview. I didn't get an enthusiastic reply but we'll see what happens.

The debate was fiery. Sarah seemed to make some quite personal comments about Darren in a derogatory way, suggesting he was not respected. At one stage the audience collectively gasped. Darren played a pretty straight bat, targeting Abbott rather than Sarah herself. Sarah frequently wanted an additional say after her time was up and the crowd got a little agitated when this happened more than once. She is a strong media performer and speaks clearly and strongly. Her years as an ABC journalist have helped her in this regard. The Geelong Advertiser report on the debate is here and my tweets from the night are here

After the debate the media adviser approached me to see if I wanted the interview with Darren straight away. It was a pleasant surprise to not have to fight for it. We stood to one side of the hall and I recorded the interview for about 15 minutes. I was conscious of a crowd milling behind me, people eager to put their concerns to him and when I finalised the chat and asked one of them to take a photo I left him to his constituents. 

The first thing I had noticed about Darren up close was that he looked exhausted  His eyes were quite red. He was enthusiastic and fighting as a Labor person desperate to retain his seat. But I suddenly realised the toll an election campaign must take on people and their families. Sure they're doing it by choice but gee what a tough slog. He'd been up since dawn to attend a rally with the Prime Minister and then campaigned all day with the PM, which I imagine is quite stressful with all the bigwig media trailing behind, then a fiery debate and an interview with a citizen journo. This was then followed by chats with some voters whose issue means so much to them that they turn up in person to put it to their local member. I thought of his wife and young kids, and all the partners and kids and parents and friends of the other candidates.

I don't think Jayden will mind me saying this, but after I recorded his interview and we chatted informally while we finished our drinks, he commented on the support he is receiving from his family and friends, and he got quite emotional. It made me emotional too. It's so easy to judge politicians, or the people who want to be politicians, but they're human. Putting themselves out there requires a thick skin and strong support. Everyone has an opinion and it seems some will say it to your face, some will say it from behind a keyboard. I respect them all enormously.

So, when nominees for the election closed it turned out Corangamite had 12 candidates. 12! I knew I was never going to get to them all. I'm still keen to interview Sarah Henderson, but between finishing up at work (2 weeks to go), getting to parent teacher interviews, school dances, my nephews birthday, hockey finals and celebrating Father's day...I'm not sure when. I've been playing tag with her office, calling when I see her car there. I hope i get the opportunity. I've tried to be fair and independent when conducting my interviews, and generally publish them as a transcript rather than an opinion piece.

After I got home from work the other day and was sitting on my couch I saw a post on Facebook featuring a picture of a guy out the front of Sarah's office with a sign saying 'Tony Abbott is a tool'. I'd seen pictures of him elsewhere so I asked my friend if he was there right now. He was. I thought for about 30 seconds and then decided, What the heck. I jumped in the car and headed up to her office. I asked him if I could have a chat about his protest. I came home and wrote it up and sent it into nofibs. (link) It was up within about an hour or so. It was a bit heady. It was just a minor human interest story but I felt invigorated by the experience of seeing a story opportunity, acting on it, following through and writing it up and then seeing it in print. It was different to the interviews with the candidates and I'm glad I did it.

I also wrote up a story following the 2nd Leaders debate about undecided voters. I had experimented with surveying my Facebook friends by asking if they had decided how they were voting. That story is here. I guess it's totally out there that I'm a politics nerd... I'm pretty sure that not everyone in my life knew that before. I didn't keep it a secret, I just didn't advertise it. It's been weird to have that side of me out there to all the various groups I interact with.

I think I'll look back on this election in such a different way to others. It's been such a unique experience and has given me a far greater insight into how things happen. I hope I get that interview with Sarah. I'd like to chat to the other candidates too but my schedule will probably work against me. I also want to write up a story about the Climate Change Forum at Torquay. 

Take the time to meet or read about all the candidates standing in your electorate. You can bet they're all good people trying to do what they think is best.

I finally managed to get an interview with the Liberal Party's Sarah Henderson (link) After phone calls and emails she finally contacted me via phone and although I had offered to meet her somewhere along her campaign trail she suggested she was too busy one week out from the election and didn't think it would work while she was meeting voters. I then offered to record an interview over the phone and that is what we did. Given I'd just got home from a working bee at my kids school and was covered in sweat and grime it probably worked out best that I could conduct the interview in the privacy of  my own home with no vision :) 

I was keen to focus some of my questions on policy that distinguishes the Liberal Party from the Labor party and these included Direct Action (Climate Change), Paid Parental Leave (PPL) and the NBN. Unfortunately she still managed to refer to Labor in her replies in those three areas. I was even accused of having a negative tone to my questions. That stung a little but I honestly think I was just trying to extract detail about policy.

I managed to get interviews with the two major party candidates likely to fight it out for the seat so I'm pleased with that. As I told her before recording the interview. i wasn't planning on writing an opinion piece but publishing the transcript so it was her words. I hope my pieces on @nofibs have been of some use to the people of Corangamite, but even if they haven't I've enjoyed doing them and they've helped me decide my vote.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The day lunches were forgotten

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago and never hit publish for some reason...
Re-reading it makes me think...this is borderline typical of my everyday...

I had one of those days today. Woke a little earlier and saw that the weather was nice so decided to get a few loads of washing done. Noticed that the clothing on the clothes horse had dried so I started to fold them. Kids got up, ate their breakfast and started getting dressed. Dishwasher needed emptying. In the back of my mind I was writing a blog post for the @nofibs website. I think I knew what I wanted to write so I was running those ideas through my head. Kids were busy, noisy, lots of craziness, as per usual. I also have a uni application half written, deadline is next week. Ideas for that kept floating to the surface too. This is all normal. Lots of crazy, busy half ideas floating in my brain while I deal with the everyday.  Must remember lunch with an old friend. That’s right, need to be out the door earlier than usual so I can drop the car off for new tyres. Better get in the shower. Half way through it dawns on me that I haven’t made the kids lunches. Eeek. Panic sets in. I make lunches every day – how did I just let that slip? I call out to my kids to write out a lunch order. Much excitement. Maybe it would have been easier to quickly throw together a sandwich, but they’re in the groove now. Pie or sausage roll? Can I have a drink too?  Look for change, rummage through the bottom of my handbag, hoping a gold one emerges instead of all these 5 cent pieces. Raid one of the kids money boxes. Time is really ticking now. We need to get out the door.
Drop the three kids at their two different locations and then back to drop the car for its tyres. Walk toward the primary school via home. Must check if someone put the dog out. They did, but forgot to lock the back door. Leave again to head to school and remember I need to return a costume lent to me by another Mum. Back track again. All sorted. Arrive at the school to help cut fruit. Feel like I’ve run a marathon and it's just gone 9am. Brain full to capacity but haven’t really done much.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Corangamite...where 386 voters could have given us PM Abbott

This post appeared at http://nofibs.com.au/2013/07/27/in-corangamite-386-voters-could-have-elected-pm-abbott-primmich-reports/ as a part of their citizen journalists project leading up to the 2013 election.

To give you a brief outline about myself, I am in my mid 40s. I work part time as an accountant, but will shortly be leaving my employment and hope to commence a Graduate Diploma of Teaching at Deakin University. By this time next year I hope to be a teacher. I have been married for almost 16 years and have three children aged 14, 12 and 9, two in the local primary school and one in the local high school. We live in the suburbs of Geelong. My workplace is a 10 minute drive from home and my husband commutes on the train to Melbourne. The kids are involved in lots of activities which draws on my services as 'Mum's taxi'. 

In 1987 I was completing my HSC and one of my subjects was Australian Politics.  I developed a keen interest in the subject and of course our class was thrilled when Prime Minister Bob Hawke called a double dissolution Federal election for that year.  It was a unique opportunity to witness politics unfold in a real life scenario. I was 18, so this was my first opportunity to vote. I had memories as a child of waiting in the car while my parents went into the local primary school hall to vote and I was very excited to finally have my own chance to have a say.

You would think with these memories I would remember who I voted for or who the actual member of Parliament was, but I can't. Google has helped me to determine it was Attorney General Michael Duffy (ALP) who was my local member of Holt. I was to vote in this electorate for the next two Federal elections. It was a safe Labor seat.

In 1994 I moved to Geelong and into the safe Liberal seat of Corangamite. Much of the electorate captured south western country areas such as Colac and Winchelsea, seaside towns of Lorne, and some of the Geelong suburbs Belmont, Highton and Grovedale.  After having been in a safe ALP seat and now a safe Liberal seat I longed for my vote to have impact..

In 2007, when Darren Cheeseman seemed to come from nowhere on the wave of Kevin07 and the sense that Howard's time was up I was excited that it now felt like my vote counted, and the seat could readily fall either way. Our safe Liberal seat had thrown up a shock result, and long time member of Parliament, Stewart McArthur lost his seat after serving the people of Corangamite from 1984 to 2007.

In 2010 the margin in Corangamite was even closer, leading to it becoming the most marginal seat in the country. I clicked refresh on the AEC website so frequently as votes were counted, and truly felt my vote was important. It was the last seat declared in the election. Darren Cheeseman won the seat by 771 votes after preferences, 47235 - 46464. If 386 people had voted differently the seat would not have been his. As we now know, the 2010 election resulted in a hung Parliament. 386 people in my electorate could have brought about a different result, a different Parliament and life as we know it now could have been markedly different.

In 2013 the two major parties have the same candidates as 2010. Darren Cheeseman, the current sitting member, for the ALP and Sarah Henderson for the Liberal party. Both have been letterbox dropping for months now. I believe Sarah Henderson was preselected some time ago and has had an office in place for some time in busy High St, Belmont. 

Darren Cheeseman's office is located in Waurn Ponds near the junction of the Geelong Bypass and Princes Hwy. 

Both are regularly updating Facebook and Twitter with photo opportunities from community interaction.
 (from Darren's Facebook page 26/7/13)
(from Sarah's facebook page 24/7/13)

The Greens candidate is Lloyd Davies.  I have not been aware of his campaign or presence in the electorate (ie no junk mail) and found his name on the AEC website of declared candidates. I then found his Facebook page and see he is posting his photo ops too. As yet I am not aware of a Twitter presence.
 (from Lloyd's facebook page 26/7/13)

A visit to the Palmer United Party website shows Buddy Rojek is the candidate for Corangamite 
There is a photo and email address to contact him. 
Katter's AustralianParty does not have a candidate identified on their website.
I expect some independents to emerge too.
I would like to speak to the candidates and will also speak with some residents in Corangamite to discuss the issues that are important to them and the factors that will influence their vote.

Darren Cheeseman                                                                          Lloyd Davies

Sarah Henderson                                                                         Buddy Rojek

From the AEC website:
The Division of Corangamite is located in south-western Victoria. It covers an area of 7 624 sq km encasing spectacular coastline, scenic rainforest, magnificent beaches and rolling plains. The localities of Anglesea, Apollo Bay, Colac, Inverleigh, Lorne, Torquay and Winchelsea and parts of the Greater City of Geelong (Barwon Heads, Belmont, Grovedale, Highton, Ocean Grove) are located in this division. The division of Corangamite is bordered by the divisions of Wannon to the west, Ballarat to the north and Corio to the east.
Named after Lake Corangamite. The name of the lake originated from the Aboriginal word for 'bitter', describing the salt content of the lake
Products/Industry: Primary production (beef, crops, dairy, fishing, forestry, sheep, horticulture and organic farming), food processing, manufacturing, retail and tourism.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My political malaise

Lots of things about today ordinarily would have made me euphoric. A huge poll bounce in newspoll for the ALP, a record number of women installed as Ministers in the Government and record number of women in Cabinet. All great news stories in their own right, and worthy of celebration.
But, you can probably tell by my tone, I’m not jumping for joy. Sure, I am still pleased about those things, but in an ‘oh good’ way, not in an ‘Oh, that is bloody fantastic and about time’ way.
You see, I’m still in the hazy, cant believe this has happened aftermath of the change in Prime Minister that happened last Wednesday. It gutted me, such was my disappointment.  Not only did we lose an awesome Prime Minister, who also happened to be one of the best parliamentarians around, and a good person, with compassion, and skills to bring people together, not to mention skills on the international stage where she was respected far more highly than here at home, we also lost her to parliament full stop, as she vowed to not contest the next election. As promised when she called the leadership spill on Wednesday afternoon, in losing the leadership vote, she agreed to leave politics. Respect Julia Gillard, respect. What a shame Kevin Rudd didn’t do the same thing in 2010. Kevin wasn’t even brave enough to test his numbers in 2010 to show the Australian people just why we had to have a change of leader.
I’m still angry with Kevin and angry that his white anting and destabilization have been rewarded, and the destablilisers and white anters behind him have also been rewarded.  What a sorry message that sends out. It further shows me that Julia Gillard truly is a wonderful person that she will not do the same back, that she will give him clear air. Respect Julia, respect.  
Following on from Julia Gillard’s departure is a list of decent and hard working politicians, who will also not contest the 2013 election, people like Craig Emerson, Peter Garrett, Greg Combet and Stephen Smith, and others. I feel sad knowing that this collection of Labor people will no longer be a part of Federal politics. I’m feeling a bit of a dull federal politics malaise.  
For the past 3 years I’ve been passionate and enthusiastic about politics and the future of our country with such ground breaking reforms coming through; things like the NDIS, the Gonski education reforms, carbon pricing to finally tackle climate change. It was like we were doing things that are good for our nation as a whole and our nation’s future, and not just for individual groups or interests. We were fighting the big fights, the difficult battles that have always been put in the too hard basket.  Anyone else leading this hung parliament would have done one of two things
1) gone to an election sooner rather than later, or
2) nothing, just plodded along.
The fact that Julia Gillard took on some of the huge challenges facing our country, and actually passed the legislation makes me burst with pride.
So, whatever Julia, and Craig, Peter et al decide to do post politics, I trust it will be good and worthwhile and I’ll keep a keen eye on the direction they take.   I’ll play along with the political discussion leading up to the election, because no, I don’t want Tony Abbott to become Prime Minister, but I’m not about to march in the street for a Kevin Rudd led ALP…but I would have for Julia.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections on Julia Gillard becoming Prime Minister

It's pretty obvious I'm a Julia Gillard fan. I credit her ascendancy to Prime Minster as the reason I reignited my interest in politics, which I once had as a student in the 1980's but had let lapse through the last few decades. As a teen I would tell people I wanted to be the first female Prime Minster of Australia. Ha! As if! I wonder back then if I really thought it might happen; that we would have a female Prime Minster in my lifetime. I wonder how many now would seek the job. The attacks have been brutal, personal and constant.

I wasn't as horrified by the ousting of Kevin Rudd as some. My main recollection of his early years as Prime Minster are the 'Sorry' speech which I remember watching live, and being quite emotional and proud and having some semblance of the significance of it to the indigenous peoples,  and also the stimulus that got us through the GFC. I was involved in my kids primary school as we excitedly planned for a BER building to house a library and 5 classrooms. Our school is over 100 years old. It hadn't had major works for more than 40 years. It was amazing and to this day I am incredibly grateful that when our Government decided to stimulate the economy by ensuring building industry jobs were maintained, they chose schools and kids to be the beneficiaries.

I remember the rumblings that Kevin had a fiery temper and was difficult to work with. I sat up and took notice when my local member, Darren Cheeseman said in a door stop that Julia Gillard would be Prime Minister one day.  The night 'it' happened, exactly 3 years ago to the day*, I was on twitter. It was like watching a wave come through.  Twitter in 2010 had quite a few people on board in Australia but not as many as now, but still it seemed huge. It was like a crescendo and was completely unbelievable. I was fascinated.

I had to drive to a funeral the next day. I was pretty emotional and as I drove I listened to Kevin give his farewell press conference with his family around him. I felt sadness for him and shed some tears. If you've read this, you'll know that's normal for me. I then listened to Julia Gillard's 'moving forward' speech. It wasn't the greatest start in terms of speeches but I felt confident that she would grow and move forward ;)  And I definitely think she has.

I expected Kevin to resign. He didn't. I wish he had. His staying has been lethal for Labor. Some will argue that the removal of him was the beginning of the end, but for him to be so loathed from within would certainly have been Labor's undoing anyway. I see him now take on some of Campbell Newman's Queensland fights and think he should go to State Parliament. Queenslanders love him, let them have him and let Labor re-grow up there. Surely the Queenslanders are learning the hard way how much austerity bites. That they'd vote for more of that with Abbott confounds me.

I listen to the Prime Minister speak about education and the Gonski reforms and I hear her passion. Education is the fire in her belly. Her emotion when the final NDIS bills were brought to Parliament demonstrated to me how crucial and life changing that legislation is. Regardless of what happens on September 14, the legacy of those two reforms, alongside carbon pricing will be enormous. Along with her notorious negotiation skills. That this hung parliament has brought forward so much legislation is a credit to her ability to bring the cross benches with her and with Labor to legislate important reforms.

I sometimes wonder if Julia Gillard wishes she had come to the Prime Ministership differently. I kind of do, but what happened has happened and there's no changing it. Do I think the ALP should change leaders again? No. I hear the 'experts' saying annihilation is ahead unless they go back to Rudd, but I cant fathom that. If he truly had stayed quiet and loyal and worked for the good of his electorate, the country and the Government and still the polls were bad, I might have a different view, but I honestly feel that handing him the Prime Ministership on the back of disloyalty and a campaign of white anting would be wrong and would absolutely send the wrong message. Not to mention the perception that the ALP leadership is a revolving door.

Hopefully after Parliament rises this week, and the election campaign begins more earnestly we will see proper scrutiny of all policies and less focus on leadership issues. If Q and A continue with their themed events and have a health themed program with Plibersek and Dutton, a finance themed program with Wong and Robb, I just know the ALP can shine. Perhaps pressure might come to Tony Abbott to actually appear on Q and A and face the questions of the Australian public, or even a long form interview on Lateline.  Debates will show the strength of Julia Gillard. The snippets of Parliament's question time that are seen on the nightly news don't do justice to how well she performs in Parliament.  It took her misogyny speech to show her at her finest; in Question time, with no script and passionate about what she was saying. Let's see more of that!

Maybe journalists will really arc up when Tony Abbott walks away from a press conference just when the questions get interesting  Maybe an investigative journalist will follow up on some unanswered questions he has managed to avoid...his involvement in Ashby/Slipper, whether he was at the LNP fundraiser dinner with Joe Hockey and Mal Brough to name but two. Maybe we'll start to see what our real choices are on September 14.

The past 3 years have been one hell of a ride but I'm enormously proud of Julia Gillard and what she has achieved.  I would say to her: Stay Strong Prime Minister.  You have my continued respect, admiration and support!

Feel free to express an alternate opinion in the comments but please don't just express hate. Go write your own blog if that is what you want to do.

* I've ended up publishing this after midnight...the rumblings on twitter were on the evening of June 23, 2010. She was confirmed as Prime Minister on June 24, 2010 when Kevin Rudd did not contest the leadership ballot. Sources say it would have been an overwhelming majority to Julia Gillard.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Following up

I'm still coming to terms with the feedback and number of reads the letter I wrote to Leigh Sales generated. I'd never really taken much notice of the 'page reads' in blogger. I didn't really care. Sure, I hoped someone might read my words, but I never had huge expectations. It was nice when one piece had 100 reads. That felt quite satisfying. But as I sit here now, my 'Dear Leigh Sales' post is sitting on 7250 reads and 105 comments. I'd kind of hoped that Leigh herself might read it and also Craig Emerson. Heavens, they've had it tweeted into their time line often enough, I hope they did. 

To know that the sentiment I expressed was being agreed with so categorically was quite overwhelming.  I originally kept the comments moderated. I know how nasty #auspol can get on twitter and the last thing I wanted was a comment storm erupting after I posted the link on twitter. But after a little while I noticed a trend. The comments were all consistently supportive and self moderated. Kind of like my post.  I'd deliberately tried to stay calm as I wrote it, because I am sure a ranty, sweary post can turn the recipient off faster than anything else. So, I took the moderation off. The comments kept coming and the theme was consistent. 

Amen. Well said David and Linda

Thank you for articulating my thoughts exactly. I, too, almost wept when Leigh wrapped the interview - it saddened me that she did so so smugly. Debra

Thank you Michelle I think you have summed up many peoples frustration over this ongoing non-challenge Leadership challenge. Like you I too am sick to death of it,a point I reached about 18 months to 2 yrs ago,so every hypothetical spoonful we've been force fed since then has had the most disgusting tainted taste to it that I am overcome with nausea every time I hear the subject raised..which as you know is every single day.
Lee Skelton.

24 hours after I first published the post it had about 2000 reads. At about the same time twitter was erupting over the Age editorial for their Saturday paper advising Julia Gillard to step aside as Prime Minister in favour of Kevin Rudd.  Long time journalist, Mike Carlton had also written a piece suggesting that...and was copping it in return from Gillard supporters.

Like my first post, I'm writing this as an ordinary Australian. Not someone with media experience, nor political savvy, nor knowledge of the inner workings of political parties. It gives me the advantage of being removed from the coal face and the inner workings but also the disadvantage of not being close enough or knowledgeable enough about how things 'really' work. But that is what is wearing thin; the journalists on twitter, and even in their publications who flout this knowledge and inner circle like a badge of honour, dismissing the ordinary citizens who dare to question or challenge their position. 

It seems to be the reason this leadership story has legs. A few rats in the ALP ranks decide to feed their dissent to their media mates...the story grows, gets reported, gets re-reported. We're all sick of it. You can't tell me the Coalition don't have members who disagree. It seems they are on a path to being rewarded for their discipline!

I used to know someone who would ask your opinion on something by prefacing it with her opinion. For example, if she was choosing a paint colour she would say 'I like this cream paint for the walls, which one do you like?' It made it kind of hard to say 'Well actually I like the white paint'. I mention this because it reminds me of the polling situation. Newspapers, news coverage and current affairs programs run constant leadership stories, stories painting Labor as a rabble, stories suggesting the Government hasn't achieved much... and then they send the pollsters out.  Imagine if they had opinion writers lauding the achievements of the Government, the AAA economy ratings, the policy wins, or even just clarifying what some policy decisions meant for us all, by asking questions and reporting details. 

I know the ALP has low polling numbers. I know. I hope like heck they improve. I hope when Parliament rises and the campaign moves into full swing the focus will be on policy, and leadership debates and more scrutiny of the 'alternative Government'. I hope the incredibly insular Canberra based press gallery can take the focus off what people are saying in the hallways and cafeteria of Parliament House and perhaps ask questions so ordinary Australians out in the cities, and suburbs and towns of our great country can understand what we will be voting for in September. I hope some of them read my 'Dear Leigh Sales' post and the comments below it and will take note of the feelings out amongst ordinary Australians.

I will finish this post with this Mike Carlton tweet: 

'Amazed at the number of people who think I should not have an opinion unless it agrees with theirs.' 

and I say in response to that...

I'm amazed at the number of people who think I should not have an opinion unless it agrees with theirs. 

It goes both ways.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dear Leigh Sales

Hi Leigh,
After watching 7:30 on ABC tonight I wanted to write to you. You interviewed Trade Minster, Craig Emerson. For much of the interview you were asking him questions about the leadership of the ALP. A few things I want to bring up in regard to that.

Before I start though I want to assure you I am going to stay calm and non abusive. I have seen that you receive some pretty nasty tweets following so called controversial interviews. I am not a troll or professional political pundit. I am a woman in her mid 40s. I have an education. I work part time, I have a husband and 3 kids, a mortgage and a dog. I volunteer with many of my kids activities and life is pretty busy. I feel unique, and I am, but on the surface I think you could say I am an 'ordinary' Australian.

I've never been a member of a political party, and in fact have probably avoided them. The whole environment seems macho and not really my scene. The idea of Women for Gillard appealed to me as a way of getting involved in politics, without immersing myself in the deep end. The fact it has been mocked mercilessly bothers me. I'm sure there are other women who would like to get involved but are apprehensive. However, my post today isn't about that.

With regard to your interview...
At one stage you said that you were asking questions that ordinary Australians want to know the answers to. I'm an ordinary Australian and I am sick to my back teeth of the leadership speculation that has continued for the best part of 3 years. I don't actually know what questions you were hoping Craig would answer. I don't have a transcript but I recall you asked whether he thought Julia Gillard would stay on as Prime Minister beyond next week. This has been asked of many ALP politicians this week (this year!) and I honestly don't know what answer you are all expecting. Do you expect him to say 'Well no actually, I think she'll be gone by Wednesday?' Even if he did think that? Do you think he'd say 'We're putting boxing gloves on at the next caucus meeting and we'll settle it then'? You are never going to get the answer you want. However, I know that whatever answer you do get will then get dissected. Perhaps when Craig said 'Of course', he really meant 'Of course not'... It's like a dog chasing its tail.

No interview with any ALP person, pollster, politician or power broker is going to give you the answer you desire. And yes, we, the ordinaries, understand that backbenchers are mumbling, and the Rudd loyalists.  So what? Spend one sentence, or two, acknowledging that and move on. Aren't you embarrassed that for almost 3 years you've had the same story and still Julia Gillard is Prime Minister?

Craig made a valiant attempt to talk about policy and ideas despite your constant leadership questioning. When he finally managed to get a few sentences out about carbon pricing being introduced in China you then advised that the time was up for the interview. I nearly cried. How often do the ALP get accused of not being able to get their message out, but here we have a Minister, not involved in any leadership mutterings, invited onto your program, and he is subjected to 95% leadership questioning. In fact all Minsters have expressed that they are steadfastly behind the Prime Minister and they would probably love the chance to appear on your show to discuss their portfolio, yet they are subjected to leadership questioning that they can add nothing to. I would almost argue that there is a deliberate attempt by the media to stymie the Government's message... 'Keep asking leadership questions, avoid the policy message at all costs...'

I have been reminded numerous times this week that we are in the last sitting fortnight of this parliament but we barely know what legislation is before the parliament. All mention seems to be in relation to whether Julia Gillard will see out the fortnight as leader. We do get snippets of rants from question time in the news, but barely enough to know what the topic of the question or answer is even about. Isn't your show, 7:30, meant to help us ordinaries learn about these things? I imagine a lot of legislation will go through parliament before it rises next week. Help us to know what it is and what it means for us.

I understand that Julia Gillard has a planned meeting in Indonesia in a few weeks. The way it is reported is not advising us ordinaries about what the meeting is for, and what might be discussed, instead we hear speculation on whether it will be her or someone else actually attending. Really? Perhaps the reporter might also, in a sloganistic way, mention that she'll talk about stopping the boats! But is that the extent of Australia's relationship with Indonesia? Stopping boats?

It bothers me enormously that as we approach an election so little is known of the policy position of the Coalition. What is direct action? How will it work? Why do all IT experts seem to advise against the Coalition FTTN and prefer the FTTH NBN? Do they have a health policy? An education policy? I rely on journalists to ask questions and to help us ordinaries become enlightened. How do we make a wise voting choice in September? A choice that is based on informed understanding of policy and ideas?

I know you are trying to do your job Leigh, but really, please don't suggest to an interviewee that you are asking leadership questions because ordinary Australians want answers.  I speak as an ordinary Australian when I say, one question is enough, then move on to other topics. I tweeted just that very thing tonight and had been retweets, and saw many expressing the same sentiment. We do not have a microphone to ask our politicians questions, we are counting on our journalists, especially those of the public broadcaster, to ask questions that help us to understand.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Some emails matter more...

I feel sick.
I just hit send on an email that will potentially change my life. I volunteered for redundancy substitution. It means I might not have a job in about 8-10 weeks.  I’ve cried about 5 times this morning prior to hitting send on the email, which if you’ve read this might not surprise you. I’ve had 3 weeks to come to this decision. Three weeks of knowing that agreeing to go the way I’ve gone would mean signing off on security and my comfort zone.
I like the place I work at and I like the people I work with. I like how much I’m paid and I like the flexibility this job gives me but…. And there is the million dollar question, the but… ‘The but…’ is what made me hit send. ’The but….’ is that nagging feeling that I am not destined to work my entire career in this current role….this role that chose me. This role that I am good at and qualified at, but this role that doesn’t light the fire in my belly….that doesn’t represent what I am about.
The problem is, I don’t know what lights my fire. I don’t know where my passion lies. I just know it isn’t here so I’ve spun the dice and taken the gamble. Sure, the redundancy gives me a little cushion on which I can land, but between now and the next little while I need to find that passion. I need to work out where I’m going and what I want to do. I’m nervous. Actually, I’m more than nervous. I feel sick. But I keep thinking that the timing of this wasn’t meant to be a kick in the guts, it was meant to be an opportunity, so I’m grabbing it. It will still be about another week or so before I know if my choice has been accepted so nothing is really any clearer now than what it was this morning, but I’ve shown my hand. I’ve put my cards on the table and taken a step into the abyss.
As I drove to work this morning, confident in my decision, I listened to the morning news announcing that Ford was probably going to close their doors in Geelong…the first tears came, and the doubts about my decision. If Ford closes, then that’s more people in the job market in Geelong. I know it’s kind of selfish to think of myself when there’s a bunch of good people wondering about their future and their ‘involuntary’ redundancy, but that’s where my head was this morning. It had turned my decision on its head. I’m not in the same job market as Ford employees but it still seemed that the Geelong job market would be impacted. A friend and colleague, but mostly friend, came to see me and the tears came again. She reminded me that I hadn’t been happy here for awhile and as much as she doesn’t want me to leave for her own reasons of having a friend nearby, she reassured me that my decision was right for me.
My boss came to see me. He was shocked. He was sure I’d opt for the safer option of staying. I guess I present as risk averse –heck I am risk averse. I don’t think he could believe it, but he supported me. He’s facing a similar scenario. We both could be out the door. A colleague from another state phoned me to find out what was happening. Whispers are going around, as they often do in these circumstances. He too was supportive and understood why I was making the choices I was making. But still I cried. I think I was up to 4 lots of tears.  Being brave sure brings the tears to the surface for me. So much for work colleagues not knowing I was a crier! Ha!
Our work group decided to have a pub lunch. A few wines later and back in the office, I wrote the one line email that confirmed my decision. My finger hovered over the enter key. This is it. And so, I hit send. A few minutes later the Group boss called me. I ignored his call. I replied to his voice message with an email saying I was too emotional to talk. I’ve shed enough tears today.
In a week or so I’ll know. I don’t feel like the weight has lifted yet but I feel at peace with my decision. 
I feel thankful I have a husband who genuinely wants me to be happy and to make choices that will make me so. The financial concerns and staying in our comfort zone could have been his dominating drivers but he’s chosen happy over money. Yay me for marrying the right bloke, for more reasons that this, let me assure you! I have friends and family who are equally supportive.  My work team and immediate boss are great. We’re all in this together. I’ve got a good 20 years to give the workforce. I’m ready for a new challenge and a new career. Time to start researching just what that will be.  
Let any new tears be happy tears.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

I'm a crier too...

I’m a crier, always have been. When tear ducts were handed out, I must have grabbed more than my fair share. It doesn’t take much to set me off and I think my eyes are cleansed multiple times each week for sad, glad and mad reasons.
I’m also a professional. I work in an office and deal with a variety of colleagues. I am fairly well paid and do my job effectively, efficiently and professionally. Most colleagues who I only see at work would probably not know I am a crier. As a rule my work generally doesn’t involve much emotion. It’s all numbers and spreadsheets and black and white decision making.
But…a few weeks back I cried at work. It wasn’t a few discreet tears, it was tears pouring out of my eyes and unable to stop crying… the type I usually reserve for a something particularly sad. Without going into detail of the circumstances too specifically I’ll try to explain what happened… I had been asked to attend this meeting at another location to my workplace…it was still part of my workplace but a different site. It felt ominous. I was in a meeting that was video linking to other meetings across the country so all staff in similar circumstances to me could attend simultaneously.  In the room I was in, there was a colleague I see a couple of times a year and a Senior Manager who I knew but didn’t work with and a HR person with a reputation for only being at meetings when there was bad news….and there was bad news. It affected me and all of my colleagues and the minute the news started coming through I just knew that my working life as I knew it would never be the same…and the tears came. I didn’t choose to cry. In fact, if I had my time over I definitely would have preferred that the tears didn’t come. It felt weak and stupid.  I stared at a black dot on the white board as hard as I could, trying desperately to stop the tears, and then someone in another room and in another part of the country would ask a question and I’d hear their voice wavering, the emotion right on the edge of their words and the tears kept coming. And I didn’t want a comforting pat from the HR rep and I didn’t want anyone to look at me and no I didn’t want tissues. I just wanted to stop crying and I bloody well couldn’t.
You see, crying comes easy to me. I can sit here typing this and be reminded of numerous occasions when I cried, both specifically and generally. I often joke that I would have a weekly Thursday night cry as a young girl watching ‘Little House on the Prairie’, it was almost a given. I recall seeing the movie ‘Gallipoli’ when I was younger with my grandparents and remember this as the only time I ever saw my Poppa cry and seeing him cry made the movie even more poignant, so I was a mess.
I recall happy tears too. I distinctly remember taking my eldest daughter to see Hi-5 on stage. She must have been about 4 and as we sat in the audience and Hi-5 came on stage she looked at me with such awe and wonderment as if to say ‘Mum, they’re really there…not just on the screen’ and tears slid down my cheeks because I knew she was so happy and it made me happy.
Some of the best tears are the laugh out loud until you almost can’t breathe variety and I recently had one of those moments with my Mum and sisters. We laughed so hard we were doubled over and just about rolling around. Tears were streaming out of our eyes and we couldn’t even speak and then someone would say one word and we’d be off again.  They’re the kind of tears I love… and the memory of them brings a huge smile to my face… You are possibly wondering what it was that set us off and to be honest the re-telling of the story wouldn’t do it justice. It was one of those ‘you had to be there moments’.
 Driving to work today, Chrissie and Jane on the radio were talking about Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the tears she shed as she brought NDIS legislation to parliament. Hearing them discuss workplace crying is the reason I decided to write this piece, and I bloody well cried listening to people call up with their stories; the lady who cried singing the goodbye song with her pre-schoolers, the celebrant who had to perform a wedding for a bride whose father had died the night before. More tears slid down my cheeks for people I don’t know… My tear ducts just react to things like that.
When I heard that Julia Gillard had cried in Parliament yesterday I didn’t even need to know what the subject was to know that she would be judged. I saw tweets suggesting they were ‘crocodile tears’ and a newspaper report that the stress of the budget had got to her. It annoyed me no end. I have great admiration for Julia Gillard and have always thought she is one tough cookie and more than capable. I see some of the things she puts up with and can’t believe she doesn’t just throw her hands up and say “for f*cks sake”. I think that’s what I would do. I’ve since heard snippets of the tearful speech she was making and thought about how monumental it was. I have never done anything that affects hundreds of thousands of people’s lives, and not only affects them, gives them opportunity and hope. It makes me glassy eyed to think of how that must feel to know that you are involved in improving the lives of so many. Politics gets pretty nasty and petty and mean spirited and fighting over this road or that railway and then something like NDIS comes along. To legislate something like that into law, knowing it will change so many lives for the better would overwhelm me. It must have felt like a moment of ‘this is why I do what I do’ and I say kudos to the Prime Minister. Emotion can be strong and all encompassing. It doesn’t mean you are less of a person or weak, it means you are human.  And it doesn’t mean you are more or less equipped to perform your job.
After my meeting where I cried I was concerned I would be seen as weak or unprofessional but seeing the Prime Minister cry reassured me that tears in the workplace are not weak or unprofessional. Tears just show that things mean a lot and you care about things that happen in your professional life. We spend a lot of our life at our workplace. I’d prefer it if I had more “laugh out loud tears streaming out my eyes” type events at work and less of the “shit’s hitting the fan and life’s about to change” type tears.  The person you are during the hours you work is the same person you are in your non work time. I’m a crier, and occasionally, I might cry at work…

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I am Australia

On March 26, 2013 I started tweeting as @WeAreAustralia
It is a curated account that is rotated between Australian tweeters on a weekly basis... It's all brand new but I am excited by the opportunities and also excited I have lots of fun stuff to tweet about this week.
I was never going to represent Australia at the Olympics so here is my chance to represent Australia on twitter. Wish me luck and say Hi.
I'll do my best to interact...


A tweet from my time as 'Australia'

Monday, March 25, 2013

A shout out in favour of marriage equality

I happened to be on twitter when Kyle Pollard, a former Geelong Addy journo tweeted a question:

So, I jumped in...

I'm a pretty strong advocate for marriage equality, and as an aside, positively seethed when I read crap from Andrew Bolt in the paper yesterday (I'm not going to link it - he doesn't need more numbers to his site) where he suggested that all were equal to marry someone of the opposite sex. So, I took Kyle's original question to be a challenge to the need for marriage equality. It turns out he was querying the whole concept of marriage...I think.

Anyway - I then noticed a reply to him from the Victorian Young Libs President, Aaron Lane, who suggested marriage is about children... so I jumped in again.... I've put the tweet convo's as best I can below. I was bothered by Aaron's pen analogy and did think to mention that 50 odd years ago it would have been unheard of for a blue pen to marry a red pen but I didn't agree with the whole concept of his analogy and didn't want to go down that path.

I absolutely believe that marriage is not about children. Yes, many couples who marry have children and some may even marry 'for' the children, but in my mind, marriage is between two consenting adults who want to public declare their intention to be with each other for life. I'd like to think it is based on love and respect but am realistic to know that the world does have pre arranged marriages.

There are many celebrations in life that have evolved over time. Some of them have their origins in religion, some don't. To say we celebrate life events in 2013 the same as they were celebrated in 1913 or 1713 would be wrong.  Society has changed.

For example, I don't attend church. I don't consider myself remotely religious. I have been in a church, I've been to weddings, funerals and christenings. When my husband and I decided that we wanted to get married we chose an open outdoor space for our wedding. We invited the people who are important to us to attend. We included music and words that reflected our thoughts, our relationship and our personalities. We had a celebratory party that went well into the evening. It was memorable and meaningful. We reflect on it as a special occasion in our life together. If we were married in 1913 it would have been different. It would have had to have been in a church. There's not a chance we would have been living together in a house bought in both our names prior to the wedding date.

But we married in modern times, with a celebrant officiating and the people important in our lived in attendance. We loved each other and wanted to symbolise that love with a ceremony with our family and friends as witness. As a man and a woman we had that privilege...but modern times do not currently extend to two men or two women. I have dear friends who are in long term, committed and loving relationships who cant have that same ceremony or celebration, that same expression of love witnessed by their family and friends and I just don't get it. And don't give me that commitment ceremony line...It stands out like a sore thumb as 'different' and may as well shout 'Your relationship isn't as valid as a marriage'.

I realise my words are a small shout out in favour of marriage equality but I truly believe that all the small shout outs will soon sound quite loud and the law makers of our land will realise that love is the underlying argument at the root of marriage equality and depriving a man and a man or a woman and a woman of being able to marry is as silly as not allowing the blue pen to marry the red pen....if that's your analogy of preference.

I should  note that I started writing this post several weeks ago and only just finished it...as I post it now so the reference to Andrew Bolt's comments aren't relevant to 'yesterday'...

Friday, March 1, 2013

A good cause

I guess everyone has their favourite charities... I know I do, but I also like to support charities referred to me by others. Just this past week I've made 3 donations to causes that I perhaps wouldn't otherwise have supported.

The first is Garvan Institute. When I first went to make this donation I didn't actually realise it was the Garvan Institute. I wanted to support Love your sister and that is their chosen charity.
In case you haven't heard in the media, Sam Johnson (actor, unicyclist) is unicycling across Australia to raise funds for cancer research and to honour his sister Connie who has terminal cancer. I was so inspired I had to make a contribution to support them. So far they have raised $83,000 and Sam has unicycled 678km

The second is the Juvenile Diabetes Walk. There was a link on Facebook to support one of the students at my kids school who has diabetes and is doing the walk with her Mum. It was a no-brainer to support her, knowing they are doing this to help find a cure for something that affects them every day.

The third was a memorial donation. A lady, Tracy, who I follow and follows me on twitter passed away last week after a battle with cancer. I didn't know Tracy personally but twitter is a funny place and you find these people you follow and feel like you have a connection to them. Tracy actually met her partner on twitter...what a beautiful love story they had. I was sad to hear of her passing so when I saw a tweet suggesting the Australian Cancer Research Foundation as somewhere you could make a memorial donation I decided to do it.

So, yesterday was Rare Disease Day... I heard about it late in the day but as I watched the news coverage of two boys who are the only two in the whole world to suffer the disease that they have, it made me think that I wanted to support a charity that supports or researches causes, diseases or illnesses with a lower profile... so that will be my focus for March...I'll begin with AGSA ...and also support some other, lesser known charities... feel free to suggest some...