Our final meeting for the year will be Tuesday 10th of December when we combine with the History class to watch a DVD. I hope you have a pleasant break and return next year for more of Trump & Co.
We were shocked to hear Ian Gray had died suddenly whilst traveling overseas.
Ian was such a vibrant character who could be provocative, but with a cheeky smile and generous laugh that invited us to share his good humour. Ian was going to join our convenors next year and I was looking forward to him co-hosting a new current affairs subject, we will miss him.
We had a lively discussion provoked by the antics of Trump and his UK disciple Boris. Climate change and the politicization of so many young activists also drew our attention, I wish the politicians would get moving! I find I get more sense out of reading the business pages than the political pieces on this issue. Business big and small are factoring in losses from climate change and lobbying governments around the world to take action.
It is a pleasure to hear more members of the group getting involved and outlining their thoughts on the wide variety of topics we discuss.
Watch out next year for more current affairs as Hot Topics makes a welcome return!
Prime Minister Morrison got his way at the Pacific Forum and reassurances were given that they can pick fruit in Australia. Did I get that wrong? In Northern Ireland arrangements are being put in place to bring back border and customs posts, what they need is a “Big beautiful wall”. The Americans have agreed it is wrong to separate young children and babies from their refugee parents, so they will join their parents in detention, another beautiful idea. The Amazon burns and developed countries who got rid of their forests hand out advice. Greenlanders kill their huskies as there is no need for them in an ice free land, which Trump thinks he might buy. Just business as usual. It will all be fixed before the Barrier reef dies, surely?
If you would like to discuss topics in depth, watch out for “Hot topics” which we hope will return next year. Politics will continue to cover a wide variety of topics generated by our favourite comedians, oops politicians. “Always look on the bright side of life…'.
Trump & Boris, the “Dream Team”? I am sure Boris will fix Brexit, after all our PM believes in miracles. The Americans are asking us to send warships to the Persian Gulf, “how good is that!”
The usual broad range of topics was covered in June, starting with the recent AFP raids on journalists houses and offices, and the resultant blow back. Press freedom is going to be an issue for weeks if not months. This led to the possible need for a Bill of Rights, but as this had already been discussed, without conclusion, last year in Hot Topics, it was left for another day.
Next followed the extra election being called in Israel, because the recent election had failed to result in a Government being formed. The political situation in Israel is massively complicated, and any outcome is unpredictable.
The recent election for the EU parliament was anything but uniform, with some countries going Green [Germany and friends] and other moving right [France and many to the South]. The centralist coalition is no longer dominant. The UK vote was another surprise, and makes the Brexit dilemma even trickier, with a no deal outcome looking more likely.
To finish off the first session, a summary of the recent change of Prime Minister in PNG was given. Unrest in our nearest neighbour has been building for 2 or 3 years, as more and more development has been occurring in Port Moresby, with little elsewhere, where over 90% of the population live, largely a subsistence life. The few developments that have occurred have often been grand, but totally inappropriate. This came to a head last year with APEC and the Maserarties, and then this March, with PM O’Neil centre stage with 31 other world leaders at the Belt and Road extravagance in Beijing.
On 1st April James Malartae, the deputy PM and Treasurer, resigned and joined the opposition party. Over the next 3 weeks 19 other Government Ministers and members followed. O’Neil closed Parliament for 3 weeks, and put forward various compromises without success, and before Parliament returned he resigned from office. Parliament resumed and James Malartae was elected unanimously by all members of both parties, except for 8 members of the old guard. The change took 7 weeks, but was almost without demonstrations, and the PNG army stayed in their barracks. That afternoon there was dancing in the streets.
PM Malartae was a toddler at the time of independence, is University trained and has business experience. He has wasted no time in setting out his vision for PNG. He wants the undoubted wealth of their country, to be shared by all people, and within 10 years he wants PNG to be the richest Black Christian Country in the World. Time will tell.
After the break Brexit was again the issue, and the Border difficulties that a hard Brexit would lead to in Ireland and perhaps Scotland.
Finally we contemplated whether a recession is probable as some economists predict, or less certain according to others. Back in the 1950s there were only 6 or 7 economists employed in Australia. The bigger banks had one, Canberra had another and perhaps NSW. In those times if you locked them in a room for long enough maybe they would reach consensus.
May has been a busy month for Australian Politics. The week prior to the election we discussed the likely outcomes for parties in the election, its effect locally and internationally.
Following the election the group discussed the news polls, how information is gleaned from the public, the change from landlines to mobile phones and its effect on polling, and how the parties view the polling. Following the election result the question asked is ‘where do we go from here?’
The status of Brexit and the European Union stimulated good debate on where the UK can go from here. We also touched on the political scene in Israel, as well as the tariff outcomes between USA and China. Also interesting is the situation between Trump and Iran.
We took stock of the first week of the election campaign and the politicians who for good or bad had drawn attention to themselves. The campaigning was meant to go into overdrive after Easter but the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka have drawn attention away from our trifling concerns. I think it shows yet again in Australia, that there is more that unites us than divides us.
The terrible massacre in New Zealand was used as a political football by the Turkish President. Our Prime Minister was quick to respond as both try to impress voters at forthcoming elections.
New Zealanders seemed shocked that such an evil act could occur in their country, but social media enabled vision of the killings to be transmitted round the world.
Freedom of speech, or freedom to hate, is that the question?
The first politics class for the year saw our room bulging with members keen to discuss recent events. We barely touched on the changes that had occurred during the break and we did not get to the schoolkids who are taking political action on climate change. A new movement was started by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, who commenced a lonely vigil outside the Swedish parliament, demanding urgent climate action. This is now a worldwide movement and Greta recently spoke at the World Economic forum, a meeting for the IMF and the super-rich.
Greta quoted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data that gives us 12 years to undo our past mistakes before it is too late. She told the forum that
“Some say we should not engage in activism. Instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will?
What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?
Adults keep saying: we owe it to the young people to give them hope.
But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.
I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
I am impressed by the action that Greta and others took to draw attention to the disaster they see threatening and am disappointed that there is a pushback from adults, especially those in power to undermine their actions. I think their fears should be addressed.
Gita-Kristie Korimbo, 4th Year Mechanical engineering student, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, recently visited Benalla and Tatong and during this time, with her travelling companion Vivienne Kiyo, spoke to the Politics group. Class members very much enjoyed meeting them and hearing their presentation.
A fascinating essay by Gita ‘My Impressions of Australia’ is published below.
'When I first visited Australia in December 2015 I had just finished year twelve and had no idea Australia would be as multicultural and BIG as it turned out to be. The small town I grew up in lies in the heart of Papua New Guinea in the Eastern Highlands Province about 1600m above sea level with a growing population of 19-20,000 people. The only biggest city I ever visited before Melbourne was Port Moresby, the capital of PNG. Of course I watched movies and I could easily get online and get a glimpse of what other places were like but it’s a very different experience actually visiting. Back then, I could only expect as much as my thinking capacity could take me.
I was very impressed at the international terminal in Port Moresby at first, it was prestigious compared to the Domestic terminals, and the security checks made me so nervous I could’ve easily been apprehended for sweating in a highly air-conditioned area. I realized when I got to Brisbane airport my home’s Jacksons International Airport had “big brothers”. Anyway, I got on the plane to fly to Brisbane, now during the 2-3 hours of flying I was too scared to walk to the lavatory and I couldn’t be rude to the hostess so I had to eat and drink everything that was offered to me. By the time I arrived in Brisbane the only thing I could think of was where I could find a toilet.
But of course, we had to wait for first class to get off, then the front rows, some of them had to remove luggage from overhead lockers. We finally got off and after relieving myself I got to border security. We were given the orange cards to fill out in the plane and I had to be entirely honest so I may have put a cross in one of the “yes” box that sent me straight to quarantine. All of a sudden I had a full bladder again. The guy there had a huge dog almost 3-quarters my size, I was scared as ever. I remembered back home whenever we were passing a house with a dog, my cousins and I always reminded ourselves not to look the dog in the eye and not to be scared because dogs could smell fear. This thought was not helpful at all. Thankfully my fear was not illegal enough to score me a dog bite so I got past and was received by Brian Vial and his partner Andrea Stevenson (my sponsors for the trip) at the arrivals.
I learned a whole lot of new things and gaped at almost everything from high rises to flyovers to bridges. I was particularly amazed at the fact that there were road links to all parts of Australia whereas back home there were a few main highways but they didn’t link all parts of PNG. Another thing was how flat Australia was. Back home, you couldn’t move a kilometre without seeing or climbing a mountain or hill at least, but in Australia, you could leave a car without handbrake and it would stay parked.
I found a few things different like the dress code, some funny like how avocado was eaten out of a container and how we had to bring our drinks or food sometimes to a party even though we were invited. I familiarized myself with the Australian accent and the ways in which certain things were said and done. I did have a bit of difficulty understanding people at times though, and I got homesick and stressed because I was not used to speaking English full-time. We usually use a bit of both, English and pidgin, so whenever we confused English, pidgin helped out and vice versa. I also discovered that not everyone was Christian and that half-naked people at the beach was a normal sight.
But what saddened me the most, something I could hardly accept probably owing to the fact that I grew up in a lifestyle that was three-quarters custom-oriented, was the fact that families in Australia don’t have as strong a ties as the ones we have in PNG. For example, I could hardly live too far away from my grandparents to leave them even lifting stuff by themselves, let alone think about putting them in a home for other people to take care of them. This was very different, but then I realized that Australians would find aspects of my culture unacceptable as I would find some of theirs. I realized how small my little town was, how limited my view of the world was and how curled up I was on the big island—yes island. My home, as I came to accept, was indeed an ISLAND compared to the rest of the world. Things were done differently everywhere and I had to start cultivating an open mind.
When I left in January 2016, I knew I wanted to visit Australia again, and so I did. I promised myself I would be ‘ready’ this time. I glided through security checkpoints, used lavatories as much as I needed (sometimes only just to take ‘selfies’ in the mirrors), had no trouble with quarantine and had a wonderful time interacting and meeting old as well as new friends. Most of the friends I met were Brian and Andrea’s friends which means they were aged folks but I was never bored, as in order to become wise I had to keep company with the wise.
On my second visit I travelled with a friend, Vivian Kiyo. We both had an exciting time visiting Melbourne, meeting friends, visiting Brian’s daughter Robyn and his granddaughters Evelyn and Claire in Bendigo, we also visited Brian’s son Leigh and his wife Sue with their two boys Digby and Rory in Swan Hill, and we managed to find our way through the Southern Cross Station and back to Benalla. I thought finding our way home was the exciting part because it tested our skills of reading tickets and signs and it also gave us time to sight see the streets of Melbourne a bit without getting lost.
It was indeed a great experience for me and I am truly grateful towards the Leigh Grant Vial scholarship that sponsored my years 11 and 12 at boarding school in Goroka and also Brian and Andrea doing the unthinkable of bringing two Papua New Guinean girls with no exposure whatsoever of the world to Australia not once but twice and giving us experiences of a lifetime. These experiences have added values beyond words to our lives and have broadened so much of our understanding.
I am currently in Lihir, an island in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea doing my industrial training with New Crest Gold Mine. I will be doing my final year this year at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology in Lae, Morobe Province and will be graduating next year (if all goes well). I didn’t leave Melbourne with a heavy heart, I know I want to return and hopefully this time with a degree and two visits of experience."
From the Tatong Tattler, February 2019. http://www.tatongtattler.com.au/issues/Tattler_2019_316_Feb.pdf
The State election almost ends our year, time to analyse and discuss the fortunes of the parties before our final session in December.
The Wentworth election was held on the Saturday prior to our session. Despite early claims of victory by political pundits the outcome was still not resolved when we met. The election provided much to talk about. I did not think I would have sympathy for a millionaire ex banker and ex-PM holed up in his New York house, yet whatever he did was twisted by his critics. Turnbull had made sure he would not be a distraction to his party, yet the very people who had carried out his political assassination were now claiming he should have helped the Party in this election.
Mr Rudd, another ex-P.M. could not stay out of the lime light and muscled his way into the act to promote his new book and himself. Of course his downfall was not his fault, and despite his protests that he has moved on he is yet another political assassin lurking in the shadows.
We now will wait for the results of the US mid-term elections in November, time to witness more of the Trump factor at work!
I think "musical chairs" would be the party game politicians would excel at, but watch out for bullying by the boys! This is usually the stage of the year where I begin to find it harder to find material as we approach the end of the year. Yes, I know its Spring and we have a way to go! This year we should still be finding new topics as both Victoria and New South Wales will be focused on forthcoming state elections. American politics will be consumed by the half term elections and the continual series of tweets from Trump. Britain may go to elections early as the Government is torn apart by the lack of progress and consensus caused by Brexit and Boris Johnson. Plenty to keep the Politics class occupied!
How should we deal with politicians making outrageous statements in order to boost their profile? Is the media being “gamed” by politicians seeking to create a following? Is it better to ignore these attention seekers, or is it the duty of the media to report their views?
It appears the rest of the year will be spent watching the Liberals play their version of “Game of thrones”, who will emerge victorious from the bloodbath?
About the Politics and Current Affairs group
Join our discussions as we dissect local, state, federal and world affairs.
2nd and 4th Tuesday 10.00 am to 12 midday
U3A Meeting Room, Benalla Senior Citizens Community Centre.
Convenor and contact details
Terry Case 0427621700