Kevin Rudd Vs Julia Gillard and the Australian Media

Kevin Rudd is not an idiot. He's certainly not delusional as media magnate, Rupert Murdoch, supposedly said about Kevin's leadership challenge of the Labor party and, ultimately the position of Australian Prime Minister.

For my international readers, our government has been in the throws of a supposed leadership challenge by ex (and ousted) Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, for months. All of which came to a head over the last weekend where Kevin finally resigned as our Foreign Minister and announced he would be making a challenge.

Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the Labor party would be holding a ballot on Monday morning at 10am, in which Kevin lost his challenge 31-71 votes. You can read a blow by blow account of how Monday went down on the Sydney Morning Herald's website, Live: Labor leadership challenge - Gillard vs Rudd (Tip: start from the bottom and work up the article, which is in blog format - newest info first).

Kevin knew, long before he made his challenge, he had next to zero chance of winning. Every political commentator in the Australian media said so and most even had the approximate number of votes Kevin was likely to get about right. Even Kevin himself was quoted as saying he expected to loose this ballot according to ABC1's Media Watch Show which aired on the 27th February 2012.

The Australian Media have been hounding Kevin Rudd about the possibility of a leadership challenge for months. Speculating when he is best likely to make a challenge so as not to be too close to the next election. Kevin may have even toyed with the idea of actually making a challenge at some time in the past but was never really serious about it. Or maybe he was... I don't know?

What I do know is that the media have been building this story to the point where nothing else the government does matters much any more. It's all about the Leadership and who's more popular with the Australian public. Who gives a toss.

Even now, after Julia's decisive win, the media is focusing on retribution. Will Prime Minster Gillard bring down the axe on everyone that voted for Rudd and send them all to the back benches? Seriously. Julia has already said she's about unifying the party and getting on with government with a view to winning the next election decisively. Retribution is hardly a unifying step forward.

As a voting member of the Australian public I'm perfectly happy with Kevin as Foreign Minister. In fact I think he should be reinstated. He's clearly the best person for the job with his ties in the Asia/Pacific region.

Julia's not my favorite person for PM. She's too diplomatic and constrained by her party advisers. In fact the best thing about the leadership challenge has been hearing Julia actually sound like she's speaking her mind instead of the party line. She's no Bob Hawke or Paul Keating... yet.

Whether or not those two former PM's spouted the party line or not you at least felt like the words coming out of their mouths were what they believed in - almost to the point of it sounding like it was all their ideas.

But back to Kevin. I have no doubt he wants to be Australian Prime Minister again. He's a career politician very much in the same mould as former Liberal PM, John Howard, who is one of politics great survivors. John went through various ups and downs over many decades with the Liberal party before finally becoming one of its most successful leaders and Prime Ministers.

It is only my opinion but, since Kevin knew he had next to no chance of winning a leadership ballot, he probably only challenged simply to shut the Australian media up on the issue. In doing so, his support within the Labor party would be crystallized into a clear number that shows the majority of the party are not actually dissatisfied with Julia in the top job. (As the Australian media seem to want us to believe).

Even if Kevin never makes another challenge during this government's term he knows he's still got a shot at the leadership of the Labor party at some point in the future. He knows he's popular with the people, he's the most experienced person in the Labor cabinet and he's not about to resign. Whatever his party don't like about him, he can work on. Perseverance - that's what the life and times of PM Howard's rise to the top can teach Kevin.

Kevin is not an idiot. He may have talked up his chance at actually winning the ballot purely to put on a show. Apparently Kev's good at that. Being one thing in public and another when the media isn't on him. This challenge needed to look serious in order to shut the media up.

Kevin's not disappointed. Julia's not upset with him. Everyone goes back to the business of government with the obligatory cabinet reshuffle so the media can read more into that than there actually is and, hopefully, the news can report on real issues.

The Australian media are mostly a big disappointment. They want to turn the news into some kind of soap opera that they imagine is entertaining for their readers. Especially when it comes to government. Like government is some kind of reality show.

Your average Australian only cares about who is their preferred Prime Minister when they have to vote in an election. Do we really need a running poll on who's popular this week as PM? Or which party would win if an election was held today? It's meaningless crap.

The fact is we voted on the government we have and that's what we got. I just want to know what they're doing as a government and whether the things they're are doing are working. I want to know what the people opposing the government are saying and what they think the government should be doing as an alternative.

I don't need yet another photo opportunity of opposition leader, Tony Abbott, out in the community trying to mangle together some quote about the government in relation to whatever bit of machinery it is he's trying to operate this week. Tony, for heaven's sake, stop setting up photo opportunities and start planning a proper alternative government. Opposition isn't just saying 'No it isn't' (ref: Monty Python's 'Argument sketch').

There seems to be a perception in the media that politics is boring so it has to be made interesting with drama otherwise people won't care. As Henry Rollin's once said about TV "They're spitting on your mind".

There are so many interesting aspects of government that affect people daily. Why can't we see more of that as the headlining story instead of who's more popular as PM this week?

Movie: Chronicle

If you're a fan of realistically styled superhero movies then Chronicle is a movie that you should enjoy.

I didn't really know what to expect from this film. The previews made it seem like a Blair Witch, found video footage, wannabe but, after hearing a few good reports from people who'd actually seen the film, I definitely started to get more curious.

The basic premise is three friends, teenage boys, gain superhero like powers after making an amazing discovery in some kind of cavern in the woods. The story then documents how these new found powers affect the lives and friendships of the three.

The film starts out in a fairly mundane fashion with the main character, Andrew, setting up his newly acquired video camera for the first time as a way of documenting his Dad's abusive behavior.

You don't really think too much of this at the time (in fact I found it a little mundane and typical) but all the set up for Andrew's home life becomes significant in his character's development through out the film.

The story is told entirely through footage recovered either from Andrew's own camera or the cameras of others - even news footage. It works quite well but I found myself thinking for some scenes, there's no way that footage came from anyone's camera. I think the director decided a few regular film sequences wouldn't spoil the found footage quality he was going for.

Not that that is a big problem. District 9 starts out with all documentary footage then transitions seamlessly into a more conventional film as it progresses. In Chronicle however, I think they slipped in a few conventional, filmed pieces and hope you won't notice it doesn't come from a spectator camera.

The story arc of Chronicle is really well done. It takes you from the seriousness of Andrew's home life through the humor of the three friends experimenting with their power in some imaginative but very un-superhero-like ways. It then goes back to seriousness as each friend gets stronger and better at what they can now accomplish.

One thing to note is that, at no time, does any of the three refer to themselves as a superhero or being like a superhero. Some people like that there is no reference to fictional superheroes but I can't help but think a teenage boys mind would make that connection faster than a speeding bullet. Imagine their dilemma of deciding whether or not to wear underpants on the outside!

It's really hard to discuss what I like or don't like about this movie without revealing important plot points that may spoil your enjoyment of the film. I also don't feel compelled to nit pick and pull holes into a film that, overall works very well.

As I said at the start, if you like more realistically styled superhero films, a 'what if this actually happened' type scenario then Chronicle should be enjoyable to you. It's not your usual 'goodies and baddies' type superhero movie - which is definitely one of its strengths.

The ending does set the film up for a potential sequel but it may not be the sequel you'd like to see. You'll understand that more depending on how you feel about each of the three friends by the end of the film - and which, you feel, had the most interesting character development.

Definitely worth seeing in the cinema but not exactly essential. In fact one could make the argument that, seeing as the movie is supposed to be 'found footage' a further sense of realism might be achieved by watching it on a smaller screen like a TV. Which is how most of the footage would have been viewed if this had really happened.

Samuel L. Jackson Votes for Color

"Scary"
Samuel L. Jackson
In a recent interview with Ebony magazine, re-quoted on the New York Post website in Politics of Color, Samuel L. Jackson says he voted for Obama because he was black. Samuel goes on to say:
"Cuz that’s why other folks vote for other people — because they look like them. That’s American politics, pure and simple. [Obama’s] message didn’t mean [bleep] to me. In the end, he’s a politician. I just hoped he would do some of what he said he was gonna do. I know politicians say [bleep]; they lie. ’Cuz they want to get elected."
The interview is notable for some pretty strong language including repeated use of the 'N' word and some fairly radical suggestions that I'm willing to bet many people were thinking but are surprised that Samuel actually said out loud in an actual interview.

Samuel also goes on a bit of a rant, suggesting that Obama should get 'scary' because real N's are scary. Which leads me to think Samuel has played the tough guy just a bit too often and is starting to believe his own movie posters... Sorry Samuel, you're not that scary either. If I had to make a list of actors who I think of as scary, you don't even make the 'maybe' list. (Russell Crowe on the other hand... if he has a telephone close to hand).

But I digress... back to Samuel's quote above claiming that most people vote for people that look like them -  which is immediately on shaky ground when you consider that, if I was a US citizen, I would've voted for Obama too. Yeah, me and Obama, we're practically twins...NOT!

However, moving on to the rest of the quote, I believe Samuel is right on target with the sentiment. For a lot of people it doesn't matter what a politician says or which party they come from, they just vote for who looks the best in their view [NB: I'm using the word 'looks' in the broad sense rather than just physical looks. i.e. how they present themselves, how they handle media, questions etc.], because all politicians can't be trusted to do what they say. 

Which is something of an unfair perception of politicians and their ability to deliver on promises. All they really can do is make sure their promises are put forward for debate and discussion, once in government, and then hope they aren't watered down, butchered or completely thrown out.

Then if a promise doesn't get through the very people that blocked it, use it to perpetuate the idea that a promise has been 'broken'.

To really guarantee election promises you either need to live in a dictatorship or the government has to win with a clear majority that renders all other opposing elected representatives impudent.

Though politicians that change their mind on promises after being elected don't do anything to help the reputation of all politicians either. Yes, I'm looking at you Julia-"No Carbon Tax"-Gillard. Not that I can complain about that, since I voted for the Greens party, who were responsible for changing her mind. I mean who knew you couldn't trust a politicians word!

Which brings me back to Samuel's point. I didn't vote for the Greens because I actually care deeply about their policies. I don't even know half of what they actually stand for. I know broadly that they're about environmental responsibility, equity and empathy on social issues. Much of which I agree with.

However, I also know that all politicians, no matter who I vote for, will want to implement things that I disagree with - like a carbon tax (damn you Julia - you weren't supposed to change your mind on that!).

I just vote for the Greens because they're the only other party that can stop either of the major parties from getting things all their own way. I believe it's important that a government has to work to get its policies through. To do that you've gotta stop them from getting a majority government.

Mission accomplished. I got exactly what I voted for - damn you again Julia!

All I can say is, like Samuel, I just hoped at least some of the things I voted for got through... but not that carbon tax... Julia was my insurance on that. It's why I can vote for the Greens and give my preferences to Labor. I want to see both those parties working together because, broadly, they support things that I agree with and, for the most part, not a lot of the Greens actual policies usually get through.

As you've noticed I haven't really commented much on US politics. To be honest I don't really know a lot, other than I'd be a Democrat voter if I was a US citizen. (After George Bush Jnr. the Republicans have a lot of ground to make up before I'll forgive them for that). However the distrust of politicians is fairly universal no matter where you go.

I think Samuel was right on the money about that.

Not All Unemployed Aussies are Job Snobs

The topic of unemployed Australians refusing to work in menial jobs and therefore earning the title Job Snobs is not a new one.

There's this report from Australian Magazine show Today Tonight in November of 2011  highlighting how overseas workers are more dedicated to farming jobs than locals.

Then there is this report by The West Australian Newspapers back in April 2010 relating how people are taking high paying jobs in the mining industry then coming back to town to find work but refusing jobs that pay less than $1000 per week.

The issue of Job Snobs was again raised on Channel Ten News during January of 2012. This time claiming the government is having to import foreign workers because Aussies are "either too good or too lazy to clean toilets".

Whilst there may be an element of truth in all these reports, my extensive experience of what it's like to be unemployed and applying for almost any job you think you can do, suggests that employers are also partly to blame for being Employee Snobs. They won't hire just anyone.

A quick look through any job classified section, you'll notice job after job, all with one requirement in common, experience preferred. Even on jobs that you can learn in a couple of days practical work, like cleaning toilets, employers look for people who've done the job before.

Channel Ten's report seemed to roll the two previous reports into one saying that Aussie's were turning down jobs in Hospitality in favor of high paying mining jobs, thus requiring the government to import overseas workers. Which flies in the face of saying Aussie workers are too lazy.

However some of the jobs the report said were being filled by foreign workers included; cleaners, waiters, bar staff, kitchen hands, cooks and trolley collectors. Other than trolley collector, all of those positions typically require some type of training. I don't know of any unskilled, unemployed person that has even a remote chance of getting a cook's position without some training. Yet employers always list experienced preferred when advertising those positions.

There's a good chance that employers are hiring overseas workers because there's a shortage of people in this country with the skill set they require, therefore there's a need to import skills.

In my opinion there is a whole group of unskilled, unemployed people who are overlooked by employers because they aren't willing to train workers from scratch. They want people who can step into a job and be across it almost straight away.

Sure there may be some people who can afford to be Job Snobs but it's unfair to suggest employers aren't getting any applications for their vacancies. I've applied for plenty of cleaning jobs in my day (and I've even had training to clean toilets) and still missed out on the job.

Many employers lack the vision of training an unskilled person, who is likely to become a loyal worker to the company that gave them their first chance at a real job.

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