Saturday, March 31, 2012
I'm sure the votes are already in, so nothing I say here can be regarded as sucking up... but, I love the CBCA Awards. I love their long distinguished history and, usually, I find myself agreeing with the choices of the judges. Despite the occasional criticism, the CBCA Awards judges seem to come out on the side of well-written, original and thought-provoking literary works that appeal to their target audience. Sure, there's always grounds for dispute, but tell me an Award that isn't open to such criticism.
But, enough of that.
What this piece is about is the dreaded Tuesday announcement. The day when writers sit near their computer at midday, pressing the refresh tab until the CBCA web-site announces the shortlist. Sweaty palms and cheering... or sweaty palms and bad language.
And, despite the fact that many writers say on Monday afternoon, 'I don't expect to be shortlisted this year,' we all live in hope.
I've been lucky enough to be shortlisted on six occasions. But, I only remember two 'shortlist days' vividly.
The first time, my publisher had to explain the significance of the shortlisting, so out of touch was I with the prestige and clout of the awards. That was fifteen years ago. Forgive me my ignorance. I soon learned how significant that shortlisting was. Librarians knew my name, at last!
The other occasion I recall was when I decided to go kayaking and try to forget the impending announcement. It was a lovely day on Middle Harbour. I even saw a fairy penguin. Surely that was a good omen. After midday, my kayak buddy and I stopped for lunch and my partner Cathie rang with the good news that 'by the river' had made it into the older readers category. I positively glided along the surface of the harbour on the return paddle.
And this year? May I be the first to say, 'I don't really expect to be shortlisted...'
I have to work in schools at Jervis Bay on Wednesday, so on Tuesday, my bicycle and I have an appointment with Kangaroo Valley and two mountain climbs. I'm expecting good weather and to be out of mobile range for most of the day. Sometime in the afternoon, no doubt, Cathie will ring with the bad news. You'll probably hear the swearing from Kangaroo Valley. Followed by a gracious congratulations to the shortlisted authors. And maybe, just maybe, I'll try for a third mountain climb, to get it all out of my system.
Good luck to my fellow authors.
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Monday, March 26, 2012
Another Labor loss, this time in Queensland. Another decade in the wilderness, perhaps. I expect Labor will trot out the usual reasons for the loss: didn’t engage with the public: didn’t sell their policies well enough; been in power too long; the electoral tide turned… whatever that means.
All bullshit, of course.
Labor loses because it’s not Labor any more. It’s Liberal-lite.
When I was a child growing up in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, my father, every election would say, ‘We vote Labor. Always have, always bloody well will.’ Mum was no less forthright. Dad worked in a foundry for most of his working life and on Saturday morning he laboured at a chicken farm. Mum was a housewife and raised seven children. We were so working class, we didn’t know what that term meant.
We lived in a house on a dirt road with a thunderbox in the backyard. When the Labor Mayor, Clem Jones set about paving the suburban streets and installing sewerage, he won my parents vote for life. They saw Labor as providing essential services for the working people. Simple as that.
And then Gough Whitlam came along and stretched that vision of essential services to all, by providing access to university education for the poor. Their youngest son eventually benefited from Gough’s foresight, being supported by the federal government to go back to high school after failing at the first attempt, and then on to university. A working class kid at University. My mum was immensely proud.
That’s how politics was. A large percentage voted Labor, a similar percentage voted Coalition. Those who didn’t know, or didn’t care, swung. Or listened to the best argument? Or followed the most committed?
Labor spent many years in opposition, but Gough had instilled in a percentage of the population what a Labor Party should be: a party seeking to provide appropriate welfare services to the poorest citizens; access to quality health and education for all; a living wage for all workers (yeah, it took a while for women to be included in the meaning of ‘all’).
And then Howard came along and twisted welfare into something the middle-class should receive, and the poor… well, they can get stuffed. Howard, more than any other politician, stretched that number of swinging voters by bribing them, offering welfare as a middle-class birthright. And many fell for it, including the Labor Party.
When the Labor Party sells State assets, when the Labor Party fails to provide real welfare for only those in need; when the Labor Party allows our national resources to be plundered by the rich mining companies without proper compensation; when the Labor Party ignores the threat of Climate Change but goes weak at the knees over the ‘threat’ of refugees… we know, everyone knows that it stands for nothing. It is Liberal-lite. Capitalism and middle-class greed with a humane face.
I will never vote Liberal. It’s not in my genes. The idea that the individual means more than the collective is repugnant to me.
So where do all Gough’s children go?
Perhaps my parents story is the answer? Clem Jones, the Labor Mayor, not only won a few Brisbane City Council elections; he won my parents vote and my vote to the Labor Party, to the idea of a Labor Party for life. How simple is that? Don’t campaign every three years. Do it right in government once and keep the vision alive forever. Win and keep the working class vote; win the educated middle-class vote with your commitment to a better society that is not open to bribery or selling out.
And the swinging voters… well, if you sell your principles to the greedy who vote only according to how much bribe they’ll receive, you’re no better than they are.
So, is it too much to ask for a real Labor Party to vote for? One that will look after the poor, have a humane vision on how to address issues such as Climate Change and refugees. A Party that won’t sell off everything to the highest bidder and will stop the plunder of our land by meglomaniac magnates?
A Party that will have a set of principles and persuade the electorate that those principles are worth voting for. And that those principles will stand the test of time and not be sold out after one defeat. A Party that is so committed to those principles that it has no trouble arguing for them in the public forum.
A Party my parents, if they were still alive, could vote for.