Ozone. Masculinism at the top

Sorry to harp on about the hapless Prime Minister again but there is no other story in this crazy country at the moment. He’s eaten a whole raw onion, peel and all, in public; a display of machismo when he visited an onion farm in Tasmania. Even the farmer was surprised. Also since the last issue of Noseweek, he’s called the way Aboriginal people live in remote communities/outstations a “lifestyle choice” which governments can no longer afford to fund via infrastructure and other benefits. It is forced removals Australian style, with plans to effectively “close down” 150 remote communities. It was “not the job of taxpayers to fund lifestyle choices”, said Tony Abbott.

Voters in Western Sydney have dubbed Abbott “incompetent, an international embarrassment and a fool” in a focus group. As a commentator in The Guardian Australia pointed out, the tragedy is that Abbott’s quirks are being made manifest on the Australian psyche: “Abbott has been able to make Australia a little more like himself: a bit more self-involved, a bit more threatening, a bit more masculinist, a bit more difficult for outsiders to understand, a bit creepier, a bit more weird.”

In the same article, we were reminded that this is the man who once said that his daughters’ virginity would be a “precious gift” to their husbands, and described them as “hot”  when he went on the Big Brother TV show. By the way, Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar in the 80s.

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser

Well, has Australia moved to the right or did Malcolm Fraser move to the left? Need I ask? Former Prime Minister Fraser, who died last week at 84 after a short illness (and who was very actively anti-apartheid in his day) in his latter years publicly divorced the Liberal Party, saying it no longer deserved its name – among other things over “bully boy”  tactics of the government of Abbott & Co toward refugees and the Australian Human Rights Commission. He did not spare Labor, writing of asylum seeker  policies: “Both major political parties… have found new ways of taking Australia’s approach to this problem to new depths, to new lows.” Still, the Libs are claiming Fraser as their own in death. Said Treasurer Joe Hockey: ‘‘The modern left is trying to own Malcolm Fraser but nobody owned Malcolm Fraser. He was his own man. He was of the Liberal Party and for ever, no matter what happened in later years, he will remain a part of the Liberal Party.’’

Fraser, who colluded with the Governor General (remember Australia is still not a republic) to sack a previous PM, Gough Whitlam (who also died this year) was, with apologies to Wikipedia, in 1986 the subject of the Memphis Trouser affair, which saw the then chairman of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons’ Group caught in his underpants in the foyer of the Admiral Benbow Inn, a seedy hotel popular with prostitutes and drug dealers. He was, he said, confused as to where his trousers were. His wife said Fraser was most likely victim of a practical joke by fellow delegates.

On a more cheery note, Fraser was well known for popularising the phrase “Life wasn’t meant to be easy,” which he later said came from George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah: “Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Some details and updates on Australian life: 400 people a day are stopped at airports by counter-terrorist officials ramping up efforts to detect potential jihadists. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has reportedly been too busy to return Tony Abbott’s phone call about the fate of two of the Bali nine drug dealers on death row, according to Jakarta’s envoy in Australia.

Another prestigious Sydney school, St Ignatius’ College Riverview (attended by PM Abbott and various other politicians of all stripes) is under police investigations for child abuse dating back more than 30 years.

Metadata retention laws, which sanction a new surveillance regime to keep tabs on our phone calls and movements, have been passed, with the consent of the Labor Party.

And on a really cheery note (we tried, we tried, I promise) new projections based on the census show that childless couples in Australia will outnumber traditional nuclear families by 2036. By that time, too, more people will be living alone after a partner’s death, and more younger Australians will be living alone too. “It’s partly a product of wealth,” hypothesised  Australian National University demographer, Professor Peter McDonald. Que sera, sera.

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