Thursday, July 31, 2008

No surprises in China...

Is it just me or does everyone want to say ‘I told you so’ to the international Olympic committee?

Yesterday Kevin Gosper was forced to apologise to the world’s media, gathered in China to cover the Olympic games.

Despite all the promises that china would clean up its act, the media has found internet access blocked – journalists are only allowed talk to approved members of the so called public – the homeless have been bussed out of Beijing, China still occupies Tibet, political prisoners remain on death row and so it goes on…

Communist China has made no attempt at all to address human rights issues. Who'da thunk it?

There is absolutely no chance of an Olympic boycott; our Olympians have worked too hard. But we must tread very carefully.

Hitler was the master politician. While these days everyone goes on about how he refused to shake Jesse Owen’s hand, the truth is, the Berlin Games were a PR triumph.

Despite loud rumblings about the Third Reich, by the end of the 1936 Games, Hitler was being slapped on the back and heartily congratulated by IOC officials and world leaders alike.

Anti-semites said: “See? We don’t know what everyone was worried about.”

I guess we know now.

For me, the Olympics will be more exciting than ever this year….we’ve got 5 fantastic athletes at the games…but I promise to never fool myself that the Olympics is just about sporting prowess.

The Olympics have always been political and no one understands that better than the Chinese.

Enjoy the spectacle, but never let them use glitz, glamour and our sporting stars to hide their transgressions.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Get involved!

Is it just me or does everyone think we are at a cross roads on the Sunshine Coast?

Affordable housing is a massive issue – yet the community voted earlier this year for a cautious council, a team to preserve the coast….

Most people realise our council is now completely at odds with the State Government – since Anna Bligh announced the fast tracking of Greenfield Development on the Sunshine Coast – making way for 75 thousand new residents.

Tomorrow night at Lake Kawana Community centre there will be a community forum to discuss the government plan…

On stage to answer questions will be:

Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot:

Leader of the Liberal National Party Lawrence Springborg:

Labor MP Stirling Hinchliffe, who the assistant minister for the Deputy Premier & Minister for Infrastructure and Planning:

It all gets underway at 7 O’clock tomorrow night (July 31 2008) at Lake Kawana Community Centre.

A panel of community representatives will address questions to the speakers – you are invited to submit questions to be asked by the panel... Either email me here (just submit a comment - it's easy!) - or contact Steve Dickson at (fax: 5478 1815)

Friday, July 25, 2008

How did it happen?

Is it just me or does everyone wonder how corruptible they might be?

Dr Dragan Dabic looks like a cross between a chilled out new age guru and Father Christmas.

In the alternative medicine community of Belgrade he is well known for his healing work with cancer patients and calm soothing manner. He conducts public meditation workshops and writes a column for the magazine Healthy Life.

In his spare time Dabic writes poetry, leading a local writers group and recently publishing at least one book of poems.

Dabic wears his thick white hair long with a kooky little top knot apparently useful in attracting positive energy to the head of the wearer.

13 years ago Dr Dragan Dabic was Radovan Karadzic, a megalomaniac war lord, famous for inventing the despicable term ‘ethnic cleansing’ as he drove 1.5 million Muslims and Croats from their homes and murdered thousands more.

On perhaps his worst day, in 1995 Karadzic apparently got tired of housing prisoners in his concentration camp at Srebrenica. He opened the gates and told the women and and girls to run for the hills. He then stood by and watched his soldiers slaughter 8000 men and boys, most of them found later buried in mass graves with their wrists bound together.

The Bosnian Civil War is obviously complicated, but from what I understand, absolutely no one saw the “ethnic cleansing” coming. Serbs, Croats and Turks had lived side by side for centuries in Yugoslavia. It 1990 Bosnia was a progressive, artistic, barely religious, culturally diverse melting pot.

Radovan Karadzic’s ultra nationalistic violence still dismays its survivors.

Muslims who knew him before or after the civil war say they cannot connect the man they know with the infamous war criminal.

Karadzic grew up poor in the hills of Montenegro. His father was a political prisoner of the Tito regime. Probably significant.

When he was 15 Radovan moved to the city and worked hard to study medicine. At University he met and married Ljubljana and moved to an ethnically diverse neighbourhood, enjoying the friendships of Serbs, Muslims and Croats alike.

Some of his neighbours from the 1960’s still live in the same building. They remember the young doctor as kind and generous, a charming bohemian who hung out with writers and poets, staying up all night to debate life literature and art.

Mostly, Karadzic’s poetry was ignored. Tragically, that includes the hateful ‘take no pity let’s go / kill that scum in the city’ – a poem he later used as a slogan in his war.

In contrast, Karadzic’s children’s poetry was popular – a book of published works ‘there are miracles’ is still a favourite in Serbian homes.

The young Karadzic eventually became a psychiatrist, studying for a while in the US and even working as the team psychologist for a Sarajevo soccer team. He bought a construction company, gambled, raised two children and remained a high profile ‘crazy poet’ in his groovy ethnic neighbourhood.

Commentators now claim everything up until this point, the late 1980’s, was part of Karadzic’s quest for glory, a craving for fame, eventually satisfied by politics.

At first, Karadzic joined the Greens, but he didn’t last long. A peasant boy at heart, he was raised to the tune of protest songs about ancient battles against the Turks (Muslims). In 1990 as Yugoslavia was beginning to break apart the ultra-nationalists came calling and Karadzic answered.

So which one is the real Radovan Karadzic?

Is it the groovy poet with a top knot and a gift for healing - or the brutal murderer who turned guns and shells on his former colleagues, neighbours, friends and patients?

I’ve heard the civil war in Bosnia described as comparable to civil war in Australia and I wonder how easily an enigmatic madman or woman could turn Queenslanders against Victorians or Territorians?

Did power corrupt Radovan Karadzic or was the evil racist always lurking below the surface?

For his victims and their families, it probably doesn’t matter. This week, at least, may they rest knowing their homeland is now ‘cleansed’ of Radovan Karadzic.

He is finally on his way to The Hague.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bullies are cowards!

Is it just me or does everyone think we have to be very careful with our young people?

There’s a story out of New South Wales this morning about an apprentice who was bullied. The cabinet maker who employed him faces court today….

The vast majority of bosses treat their apprentices with care and respect – but we know some things never change too.

I accept this particular kid might have been particularly unsuited to cabinet making – but that’s not his fault. If you take on an apprentice, you have to be aware that you are completely responsible for their well being.

No-one says you can’t sack them if you have to – but teasing and intimidation are the despicable traits of cowards.

For the record, here’s the list of what the New South Wales cabinet maker is accused of:

* TELLING the apprentice his mother wasn't allowed to drive him to work on Saturdays;

* THREATENING to smash his mobile phone with a hammer and banning him from making calls on his break;

* SENDING him home early, saying there was not enough work, only to force him to work unpaid on weekends;

* CALLING him a "fag" and a marijuana user;

* TELLING him he that he smelled; and he was not allowed assemble his sandwiches at work (????).

Byron was only paid slightly more than $6 an hour, however even that was after a week of unpaid trial work and another eight days after that for which he was not paid.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Papal apology

Is it just me or does everyone wonder why the Pope doesn’t just apologise already?

It’s a terrible blight on the Catholic Church that members of the clergy have been guilty of abusing children and adults – making a mockery of everything they preach and worst of all, eroding peoples faith in the church and in God.

I guess the nature of an apology is that it’s worthless – unless the receiver is ready to accept it.

For me, the most impressive thing about Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generation this year, was the spirit in which it was received. After years of acrimony – Australia’s indigenous community accepted the apology with dignity and grace.

Maybe the Pope and his many advisers are still trying to gauge the mood in Australia – an apology rejected as 'inadequate' would just damage the standing of the church even further.

There's no doubt the church is still coming to terms with how to deal with victims and their quest for compensation.

More importantly, I think there is still some way to go in terms of how it treats the perpetrators of abuse. To date, the hierarchy of the church, has treated abusers with far more respect than they deserve.

And finally just one point ….I make no apology for any sex abuser - but I think it's sad that we lump all Catholic priests into the same category.

More than 80 thousand Catholic Clergy have served the Australian people in the past hundred years. They've built schools, fed the homeless, comforted the bereft and given guidance and security to thousands.

All churches in Australia are worth a lot more than a headline.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Five great things about Germany!

Is it just me or does everyone think we’ve always got something to learn from other people?

I don’t want to live anywhere else but here – but it doesn’t mean we get everything right in Australia.

We had three German boys staying with us for the weekend, on their way to Sydney for World Youth Day.

Josef (Joe), Sebastian (Basti) and Ludwig (Ludi) are all from Perna, a town near Dresden, in what used to be called East Germany.

We exchanged heaps of information - for instance, wages are very low in Germany and some things are expensive, like getting a drivers licence (a couple of thousand euro all up).

They've got some great ideas though...

Germany is the mother of all green movements. A green government about ten years ago first identified that the world was facing an oil crisis – they jacked up the price of fuel and forced people to find alternative fuel sources. And they did it very successfully.

Our visitors were staring out across a see of bald rooves, stunned that Australians (…on the Sunshine Coast of all places) are yet to embrace solar power.

As a result of the governments tough choices – they say Germany is almost immune to rising oil prices.

And far from causing economic hardship, the environmental focus has been an environmental boon - resulting in exciting, clean, green, lucrative new technologies.

Other things I thought were great;

When you finish school in Germany – before work or uni – you have a choice nine months in the military – non combat – or nine months community work.

Sebastian – one of our boys - has chosen community and will work for student wages in a local hospital.

As well, if you give blood in Germany, you get 20 Euro – if you bring along a friend who has never given blood before, 50 euro…

They don’t watch much tv in Germany either, which has got to be a good thing.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All girl - all good!

Is it just me or does everyone really believe in all girl high schools?

Anna Bligh has asked Queensland parents to keep an open mind about the future of education. She says she is a big fan of single sex schools and is considering the introduction of single sex state schools.

I went to both as a kid, co-ed and all girls….and…I’m a big fan of all girls schools too (never been to an all boys, so probably not qualified to comment on that).

My all-girl school was very functional – that is, we were a happy group of well adjusted teenagers. We weren’t frustrated or competitive, we weren’t obsessed with boys (unless you count Simon le Bon and Michael Hutchence) we weren’t scared to be smart, and we weren’t worried about our hair or makeup.

The fact is, if you’re not Jessica Simpson – teenage boys can be pretty harsh critics… Girls like me did a lot better through puberty, without a constant reminder that we weren’t “pretty enough”.

Not only that, even in this day and age, you talk to any teacher, they’ll tell you to take a look at the fiestiest girl in year 7, who likes nothing more than to take it up to the boys. To be smarter, faster or stronger. Then take a look at the same girl two or three years later and she’s changed.

Teenage girls want boys to like them, and that’s why they take a back seat.

That’s no criticism of boys, by the way. It’s not their fault girls teenage girls like to be coy – it’s just a fact.

Single sex schools are not for everyone but at the moment, they are only available to families who can afford a private education. I reckon we can do better than that.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dennis Ferguson

Is it just me or does everyone wonder about the right for pedophiles to exist?

Dennis Ferguson is a creepy dog. I am not soppy or sympathetic about him at all – I am however tired of the boring media circus, costing Queensland taxpayers thousands of dollars a day.

Dennis Ferguson was released from prison last week, for a variety of reasons, including the fact the judge could see no prospect of a fair trial, given that Ferguson has become a statewide media star.

Ever since, he has been followed by the media – who whip locals into a frenzy, pack up, and follow him to the next location.

In desperation, the Queensland government has called on a church group to essentially take possession of Dennis Ferguson. It will cost us a thousand dollars a day – but he will be kept on a property (which we now know is in Carbrook, because the media is camped on the doorstep).

The church group has agreed, in principle, to shoulder responsibility for Ferguson.

I am not arguing the rights of Ferguson. I’m arguing the law.

Dennis Ferguson was released by the courts, on a point of law. Queensland isn’t a police state – it’s a democracy – and that means the government has no right to forcibly incarcerate Ferguson.

Its hands are tied.

In truth, the government actually has no responsibility to house Dennis Ferguson him at all – and if we’re not careful – that’s what will happen.

We either find an acceptable, supervised location for Dennis Ferguson, or we risk having him on the streets.

While tabloid news editors would most likely relish that outcome, I don’t think the rest of us would be as pleased.