Sunday, September 15, 2019

A quiver full of arrows

Birthday wishes are in order for Joseph Lyons, tenth Prime Minister of Australia, and to date, the only Tasmanian to have served in that office, taking power in January 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression. Because of his appearance, with large eyes and an unruly mop of hair, political cartoonists caricatured him as a koala.

According to the Museum of Australian Democracy:
Joseph Aloysius Lyons (cropped).jpg
Joseph Lyons was one of Australia’s longest serving and most popular prime ministers. His commitment to Australians living within our means, even during the extreme conditions of the Great Depression, led him to abandon the Labor Party for the conservative side of politics. This did not impact on his electoral success, as he won three elections in a row in the 1930s, but it did leave him open to periodic criticism.

Lyons worked as a teacher before winning the State seat of Wilmot for Labor in 1929. A pacifist, Lyons campaigned for a ‘No’ vote in the conscription referenda of 1916-17. Lyons became Premier of Tasmania in 1923 and worked closely with the conservative government in Canberra. In 1929 Lyons successfully stood for the Federal seat of Wilmot. During the Depression years Lyons advocated orthodox finance, opposing the policies of Treasurer Ted Theodore. Prime Minister Scullin took over the Treasury portfolio in 1930, leaving Lyons as acting Treasurer from August 1930 to January 1931. Lyons' cautious economic approach won him public support, but infuriated the Labor Caucus. When Theodore was reinstated as treasurer, Lyons defected. Supported by businessmen, citizens and Robert Menzies, Lyons joined with the Nationalist and the Australian Party to become leader of the new United Australia Party. In 1931, Lyons became prime minister and the Coalition maintained power in the 1934 and 1937 elections. On 7 April 1939, Lyons died unexpectedly of a heart attack while in office. 

Lyons was the first of two Prime Ministers to die in office. After his death, Lyons's widow, Enid, went on to become the first woman to sit in the House of Representatives, and a Cabinet member during the Menzies government.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Righting wrongs

As someone who has taken a passing interest in Timor-Leste's relations with Australia, I am pleased with the satisfactory resolution of the contentious Timor Gap treaty. This is surely welcome news on the twentieth anniversary of its independence from Indonesia. This treaty formally establishes maritime borders between Australia and Timor. As the area contains billions of dollars of oil and gas reserves, the impoverished nation now has access to a lucrative source of revenue.

It needs this revenue more than Australia does, so it is just that Timor will receive 80 per cent of revenues, and Australia 20 per cent, but Timor-Leste will need international financing to develop these reserves. I hope that this financing does not come from China, which is a totalitarian regime, and as respected international relations analysts consistently observe, such as Ross Babbage, a potential economic and military threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

What does that mean?

Nerdy James Bond fans the world over emitted squeals of excitement...or more likely scratched their chin and softly exclaimed, "hmm," with the official announcement of the next James Bond movie, No Time to Die. As you can see from this screen capture, whoever was responsible for writing the press release for the announcement made a boo boo by writing the movie's title as A Day to Die.  There are two possible explanations for this error. It was a typo, or A Day To Die was a title under consideration until No Time To Die was finally selected, and it was in a draft release or on the mind of the writer. 

Whatever the title means, the plot of the film, and the choice of font which looks like it belongs on the cover of a paperback novel from the 1970s, all will be revealed when the film is released in April 2020, when Daniel Craig makes his last appearance as James Bond.  

Friday, August 16, 2019

Set your hopes up way too high

The Living Daylights - UK cinema poster.jpg
Quad poster for The Living Daylights
Long before the proliferation of suburban multiplexes, and when film piracy was less of a problem, major studios often staggered their biggest film releases around the world. Summer blockbusters released during the northern hemisphere summer were released in the southern hemisphere until the southern hemisphere summer.

The Living Daylights was Timothy Dalton's debut appearance as James Bond. The theme song to the James Bond movie of the same name, performed by Norwegian pop trio A-ha, in Australia it was released months before the movie, which wasn't released there until November 1987. Arguably, this is one of the reasons why it wasn't much of a hit in the Australian singles charts, peaking at number 29 later that same month. It would have made more sense to release the movie and the song simultaneously. It was a bigger hit in the UK, where this was done,  it peaked at number 5.

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A gallery of evil?

I came across this on social media today. According to the original poster, this is a reproduction of an educational chart of Great Dictators of the World. Apparently it is used in Indian schools. Its educational value is highly questionable. The likes of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Napoleon, Mussolini, and Mao were unquestionably dictators, but not the rest of them. 

The artist, whoever he or she is, has done a patchy job of depicting each of the figures named. Somehow, former American President Franklin Roosevelt looks more like former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and George Washington all legitimately held their positions, with constitutionally limited powers, whereas dictators can do what they want, with no checks and balances. As such, they were not dictators, unless the authors are radical revisionist historians. 

As for the rest of them, Garibaldi and Joan of Arc were military leaders. Catherine the Great took power by deposing her husband. Charlemagne was a powerful ruler, but not a dictator. I'm guessing that "Chenkiskhon" is a transliteration of Genghis Khan, who was ruthless, as was Ivan the Terrible. Henry VIII was a flawed ruler, but describing him as a dictator would be overstating things. Former President of Egypt, Gamal Nasser (Nazar) had an appalling human rights record, but was also popular with the Egyptian people. I had no idea who "Mazni" was. After a quick search, I established that he was Giuseppe Mazzini, who helped to bring about the unification of Italy in the 19th century. 

Friday, August 09, 2019

Finger on the pulse

It seems to me that critical thinking skills are an important part of lifelong learning. If my observations of social media are accurate, too many people nowadays fall into the trap of only associating with people who think exactly like they do. You need to be deliberate to not fall into this trap yourself.

Listening to podcasts is a great way to hear the ideas and opinions of people you would not normally associate with in person. I am a regular listener to podcasts from the Sydney Institute, which is one of Australia's leading current affairs think tanks. As Australia debates whether or not it needs legislation to protect freedom of religion, a recent dialogue between Senator Kimberley Kitching (ALP, Vic), and the Liberal Party's Tim Wilson, Member for Goldstein, was a valuable contribution to this debate.

In their prepared remarks, Kitching and Wilson both argued their cases well. At these forums, which run to a strict one hour time limit, speakers are allocated 30 minutes, followed by another half hour of questions from the audience. Kitching could benefit from more media training. I have noticed that when she answers questions, she excessively uses the phrase, "I think that..." I noted that she said it 36 times. If she and Wilson were given an an equal amount of time for answering questions, that means that she used it 36 times in 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Snowflakes keep falling on my head

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally has made headlines recently with her opposition to the Australian CPAC conference, to be held in Sydney in a few days time. Firstly, she campaigned for one of the conference speakers, Raheem Kassan, to be refused entry to Australia. In an interview today, she called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to condemn the conference, and claimed that it would disseminate dangerous "alt-right" extremism, and just days after two mass shootings in the United States, sought to link it with the National Rifle Association, which opposes restrictions on gun ownership.

I am not comfortable with the idea of governments arbitrarily shutting down individuals simply because they disagree with their ideas. It would be far better to let their ideas be discussed and debated openly by the Australian public. That's how a healthy democracy is supposed to work. I don't need to be protected from ideas that offend me, Senator Kenneally. Nor, dare I suggest, do the majority of the people of Australia.

I went to hear you speak at a public forum once, Senator. From what I know of your political, economic, and theological views, there's not much that I agree with, but I wanted to hear what you had to say regardless. Can we not extend the same courtesy to the CPAC conference? Let people attend and engage with the ideas presented without unnecessary governmental interference.