This week: The hypocrisy of Penny Wong … Time running out for Donald Trump
For the record, I regard Senator Penny Wong as the smartest and most courageous woman in Federal Parliament. She has been a huge asset to the Labor Party in countless recent elections as its combative spokesperson against the lies and deceit of the conservative Coalition.
Senator Wong is an outspoken lesbian in a same sex marriage relationship with two children. Who can forget her tearful and joyous celebrations when same sex marriage was finally legalised by the Australian Parliament? It was an especially memorable moment.
Malaysian-born Ms Wong has been named by the Same Same gender equality organisation as among the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians.
Formerly on the staff of NSW Premier Bob Carr, Ms Wong is a solicitor and barrister with links to the trade unions, particularly the left-wing CFMEU and the right-wing Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, and advocated for workplace issues and gender equality.
Elected to the Senate as a member of Emily’s List, Ms Wong commenced her first term in Canberra on 1 July 2002.
However, her career took an unexpected turn in mid-2010 when she opposed Greens legislation to introduce same sex marriage. Instead, she supported Labor Party policy which was then opposed to the legalisation of marriage equality.
She shattered her supporters by arguing that there was a “cultural, religious and historical view of marriage being between a man and a woman”.
Her friend and Cabinet colleague Julia Gillard took the same negative position, insulting and stigmatising people in same sex relationships.
Then Greens leader Bob Brown, himself a gay man, was outraged. He told the media that he was “horrified” by Ms Wong’s opposition to the liberating legislation. He called on Senator Wong, Prime Minister Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott “to bring Australia into the 21st century”.
Brown added: “To somehow excuse discrimination on the basis of culture or heritage – are we going to bring back hanging?”
Australia was lagging behind other countries by not allowing same sex marriage, he said. “If Catholic Spain, Canada and South Africa can get rid of discrimination against people who love each other wanting to marry, then I think this great country of ours can.”
In the gay newspaper, The Sydney Star Observer, editor Scott Abrahams from 2007 to 2012, wrote that Penny Wong, Australia’s openly gay Labor Cabinet minister, was a “hypocrite” for opposing the marriage equality legislation.
Penny under fire
Alex Greenwich, now a NSW MP but – at that time – the Australian Marriage Equality spokesperson, called out Senator Wong’s hypocrisy.
“It was once the ‘cultural, religious and historical view’ that women should not be Members of Parliament, Asians should not be allowed into Australia, and lesbians and gays shouldn’t even exist, yet thankfully all that changed allowing people like Penny Wong to contribute to Australian society at the highest level,” Greenwich said.
“By opposing marriage equality, Penny Wong has betrayed gay and lesbian Australians, and by using culture, religion and history to justify this opposition she has betrayed the principles of tolerance and inclusion that have given her immense opportunities as a lesbian woman of Chinese descent. If culture, religion and history were sound reasons for upholding discrimination there would be no Senator Penny Wong.”
Greenwich, NSW Greens MPs and Health Minister Brad Hazzard recently led a united front in State Parliament to end the criminality of abortion in NSW. They were fiercely opposed by the ultra-Christian lobby, a tiny group of Liberal MPs and, astonishingly, female journalists who I would have considered friendly towards abortion and women’s right to choose. Apparently, their loyalty to Christianity and their proprietors is much stronger.
Outrage starts to spread
Scott Abrahams’ strident opinion in The Sydney Star Observer drew applause from David Polson of Potts Point in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs: “Penny Wong is a disgrace. Yet another vote for the Greens in the Senate.”
Scott Hill wrote from Paddington: “Your rationale that there were ‘cultural, religious and historical views’ which we have to respect is simply not good enough. We ask you, therefore, whether you would have opposed enfranchisement for women, which was in opposition to ‘existing cultural, religious, historical views’?
“Naturally, you would also have opposed the end of slavery, as there were also ‘cultural, religious and historical views’ that wanted it kept. We live in the 21st century. It is time Labor followed the example of Britain and so many other countries and dragged itself out of the 18th.”
In a public protest, members of Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) organised a street protest against the Gillard Government and its Cabinet.
In Taylor Square eggs were thrown at effigies of Julia Gillard and then Opposition leader Tony Abbott. CAAH co-convenor Ben Cooper stated in a press release: “With so much disappointment and disillusionment at both major parties, this event is designed as a fun way for people to express their frustration at both Abbott and Gillard on issues such as the ban of our marriage rights.”
CAAH protesters charged $1 for each egg to cover the cost of a bigger demo subsequently held at Sydney Town Hall.
Politicians ignored public opinion
Greens legislation to legalise same sex marriage in 2010 was supported by public opinion. One poll showed that between 2004 and 2010, support for marriage equality grew from 40% to 60% of the voting population.
The shift was largely due to marriage reform victories in countries around the world. While the Greens’ initiative, led by Melbourne MP Adam Bandt, was most welcome they weren’t trail-blazers. They were engaged in catch-up.
Researcher Janet Phillips also noted that In November 2009, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee held an inquiry into the Marriage Equality Bill. The final report concluded: “This Bill recognises the increasing support for same-sex marriage in Australia, with opinion polls over the years showing a steady rise in support for marriage equality.”
Another study commissioned by the Australian Marriage Equality group found that “62% of Australians agree that same-sex couples should be able to marry”.
Despite clear evidence of public support for marriage equality, Canberra politicians, from all parties except the Greens, were too frightened to change the law. They opposed Adam Bandt’s draft Bill.
What worries me is that Senator Wong’s treacherous opportunism in 2010 has been air-brushed from ALP history. Her 2010 role has simply been erased and replaced by a tendentious celebration of her 2018 role.
Sorry folks, I won’t be joining the chorus of voters who now seem to regard Senator Wong as a cross between Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa. If she was willing to throw same sex couples overboard in 2010 how can she possibly be trusted to stand up to the pressure of powerful vested interests? The answer is she can’t. Any more than her male colleagues like party leader Anthony Albanese.
From Russiagate to Ukrainegate
At 5 o’clock on Tuesday, 24 September 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the Democratic Party would seek the impeachment of US President Donald Trump.
It was a history-making moment. Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners, Asians and Australians were aghast: the world was pitching into unknown territory.
NBC reported that 221 House Democrats and one Independent – a majority of the chamber’s 435 members – favoured impeachment action against Trump. In speech after speech they declared Trump had committed “treason” by aiding and abetting Russian President Vladimir Putin in “rigging” the 2016 US Presidential election.
The “Russiagate” conspiracy has dominated US politics for three years. It had been a central feature of dozens of books on the election, including one by his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State.
Perhaps, like you, I braced myself for the surging bandwagon against Trump and Putin. Would it end in Trump’s conviction, resignation or imprisonment? Would it lead to a US recession and the collapse of the US stock market? Was nuclear war with Russia now inevitable?
Between 2017 and 2019, Robert Mueller’s investigation had been front-page news in America and Australia. There were endless stories that Mueller had “proven” Russian interference in the Presidential election and that Trump faced imminent impeachment.
None of it was true. Contrary to the repeated reports of Robert Penfold (Channel Nine), Prue Lewarne (SBS) and Matt Bevan (ABC), Mueller, former director of the FBI, found there was “insufficient evidence” of a coordinated conspiracy by the Russian Government to interfere with the presidential election. Mueller concluded that Trump did not commit a crime but added: “It also does not exonerate him”.
In the words of one leading Democrat, “Mueller did not provide us with enough there there (sic) to launch impeachment proceedings.”
As a result, Mueller went from “hero” to “zero”.
On Thursday, September 26, Pelosi yielded to the discrediting of Mueller and his equivocal report. She replaced “Russiagate” with “Ukrainegate”.
Now Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and founder of the CIA-bankrolled Servant of the People party, became the hated enemy. Putin’s name disappeared from the front pages.
Zelensky was accused of accepting a Trump bribe to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Democrats claim that a Ukrainian energy company paid Hunter Biden $50,000 a month for a board seat in an industry in which he had no experience whatsoever. On the other hand, Republicans are claiming the payment is a “bribe” or “kickback” meant for Joe Biden. They hope the mud will stick and that Biden Snr, the current front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for President, will become mired in scandal and fail.
Currently Joe Biden is the leading contender for next year’s White House race. He is the candidate for the Democratic Party’s East and West Coast establishment with billionaire contacts in Wall Street and Hollywood.
The Democrat-leaning New York Times and Washington Post followed the new script by dropping “Russiagate” and mainlining with “Ukrainegate”. So did Australia’s Murdoch papers, Fairfax, commercial television, the ABC and SBS.
Trump is cornered
There is no doubt in my mind that Trump, his family and cronies have committed “high crimes and misdemeanours” before and since the November 2016 Presidential election. But the overriding question is whether he will stand for a second term or not.
Perhaps he will give himself a lifelong amnesty against prosecution or investigation and hand the Republican nomination to his Vice President Mike Pence, who is waiting in the wings?
I detect a gloomy fatalism surrounding the Trump presidency.
Washington’s Republican and Democratic powerbrokers appear to have stripped him of the power that he once craved. His has become a “lame duck” presidency. As commander-in-chief he thought he could start and end wars. He can’t.
As examples, he recently pulled US troops out of frontline duties one day and then increased their numbers the next. [Afghanistan, Syria, South Korea and Poland].
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have made sure he cannot start a nuclear war. They have taken his finger from the button. There are strong rumours that when US soldiers were asked if they were willing to go to war against Iran, over 70% replied “No”.
The mutiny against Trump is ever-widening, except for Australian Prime Minister, Pastor Scott Morrison.
A cringing Trump flatterer, Morrison has invited “The Donald” to make a “state visit” to Australia. Coalition Cabinet ministers are secretly practising their golf swings in anticipation. What price Morrison wearing a Cronulla baseball cap is one of them?
The unions, schools, universities, courts and the public service should declare a General Strike to show the strength of our anti-Trump feeling. Perhaps the legal eagles can do their bit by having him arrested, detained in custody and impeached?
Impeachment goes global
The distrust of politicians has become a worldwide phenomenon. It can be measured by the number of countries where impeachment of the ruler/prime minister/president is now under discussion.
In the US, President Donald Trump has become the official target of a pre-election impeachment masterminded by the Democratic Party (see above).
In Britain party leaders, MPs, political commentators and the media are urging the impeachment of Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the former Lord Mayor of London and former UK Foreign Secretary.
Rupert Murdoch’s London newspapers are leading the charge. Having backed Johnson for PM, the Murdoch-owned media is now tearing him down. [Veterans of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s Dismissal in 1975 will be familiar with Murdoch’s all-consuming lust for political power and circulation.]
Times columnist Caroline Wheeler set the tumbrils rolling on Saturday, 28 September 2019, with a heavily promoted piece which said: “Boris Johnson is facing impeachment proceedings under proposals being considered by Opposition parties in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling”. [Eleven High Court judges ruled unanimously that Johnson and Queen Elizabeth, Australia’s head of state, had acted “unlawfully” by closing down parliament.]
No one was quoted and Ms Wheeler’s story was unattributed. Her “think piece” was flashed around Murdoch’s television, newspaper and radio empire and republished. The Australian gave it prominence on Monday, 30 September 2019.
Screaming headlines accompanied the piece: “Impeachment threat to Boris Johnson gathers pace” followed a day later by “Rebel alliance plots to impeach Prime Minister”.
While Trump and Johnson were facing impeachment proceedings, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with corruption and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince admitted ultimate responsibility for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
He was tortured in the Saudi Embassy in Turkey, dismembered and his severed head was sent to Riyadh as proof of his bloodcurdling demise. Will the Post’s celebrated Watergate reporters, Woodward & Bernstein, break their silence and write something about the gruesome murder of their Muslim colleague?
Story you may have missed
Under the leadership of three conservative Prime Ministers, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison, Australia has climbed to nose-bleeding heights to become the world’s second largest arms importer.
The No 1 position is occupied by Saudi Arabia, the backward Sunni kingdom which imprisons without trial its political opponents and beheads others.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports that Australian taxpayers have paid billions of dollars for crash-prone American Joint Strike Fighters and French-designed submarines which are already obsolete.
Writing about Australia’s “triumph” the ABC’s “defence” correspondent Andrew Greene practically wet himself with excitement.
He welcomed Turnbull’s “bold plan to make Australia one of the world’s top 10 arms exporters, with a new loan scheme for defence companies that wanted to sell their products overseas”.
In other words, Australian taxpayers have been subsidising the arms industry to sell its weapons of death. Naturally, Greene doesn’t mention that distasteful truth.
But he did quote Turnbull announcing his cash hand-out to arms manufacturers in 2018: “We expect that in the next nine years because of the investments [!!] of this government we’ll move to being in the Top Ten defence exporters in the world, and so we should be.”
Right-wing Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price, considered a joke figure among Canberra war contractors, welcomed the SIPRI report saying: “A strong, exporting industrial base generates economic growth and creates jobs, which is why we are striving to be in the world’s best.”
Coalition policy is clear: Screw schools, hospitals, libraries, science and the arts, let’s spend on arms.
Australia’s Coalition Government is keen to publicise it is “doing everything possible” for the Australian locked up in Bulgaria on a murder charge and other Australians trapped in Syria after the demolition of ISIS strongholds by Russian and Syrian forces.
But Australian journalist Julian Assange remains jailed in London. His “crime”? Exposing the war crimes of US imperialism on WikiLeaks. Does Assange receive the same consular attention as other beleaguered Australians? Does he even receive the same consular care that was given to Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste when he was locked up in Cairo charged with being a spy?
An international campaign will be launched in the next couple of months to bring Assange home to his family and friends. Very prominent Australians from politics, the law and academia are supporting the campaign but very few journalists. I’ll be calling out all of them when the time comes …
Quote of the Week
England fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Joffra Archer could be the new-ball pair of [writer, commentator, cricketer] Ed Smith’s dreams – the best combination of fire and craftsmanship since Hephaestus.
- Tim de Lisle in The Guardian