5 Jul 2013

Gillard's Empty Years

By Shakira Hussein

The Gillard years were a tough time for feminist and academic Shakira Hussein. Here she reflects on a time of material plenty and emotional isolation, when many old ideals were tested

The Howard years were very far from relaxed and comfortable for many Australians, myself included. Given that I'm both a Muslim single parent and a member of the network stereotyped by right-wing columnists as left-wing, feminist, multiculturalist, latte-sipping, inner-city elitists (albeit without the physical trappings of elitism), I guess that's not surprising.

And yet, while the Gillard prime ministership was less grim in empirical terms than the Howard era had been, at an emotional level I found it more depressing, more isolating.

By coincidence, I was economically far better off during the tenure of our first female prime minister. As a single mother in poor physical health (multiple sclerosis), I had come through the economic boom years with no investment property, no first home (not even a heavily mortgaged one), no substantial assets or savings in any form. I commenced my first ever full-time graduate-level job just as Gillard came into office, but as often happens after a protracted underdog period, my loyalties remained with those who remained where I had been and where I suspected I would eventually return.

Disillusionment tastes sour, especially for those who consider themselves realists, whose hopes were never particularly high. I had never aspired to a feminist, socially inclusive utopia, or to any kind of utopia at all. As a pretentious undergraduate, I had a quote from Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting scrawled across my ring-binder:

“People have always aspired to an idyll, a garden where nightingales sing, a realm of harmony where the world does not rise up as a stranger against man, nor man against other men, where the world and all its people are moulded from a single stock ... where every man is a note in a magnificent Bach fugue and any man who refuses his note is a mere black dot, useless and meaningless, easily caught and squashed between the fingers like an insect.”

No idyllic aspirations for me, I vowed. I would do my best to resist injustice in its various forms – racism, misogyny, inequality – without any particular expectation of an idyllic outcome. How galling, then, to discover that I'd held ideals all along – however limited, however humble, however tempered by pessimism.

Let me catalogue, then, the ideals that were shattered during the Gillard years – the ideals that I had somehow maintained intact throughout the Howard years and the brief tenure of the first Rudd. All these ideals stem from the same basic source: the trust that I had – that “we” had – in the loose social and political alliance that formed to oppose the result of the 1996 election that brought Howard to the Lodge, and Pauline Hanson to parliament. This was never a cohesive, united alliance (nor would I wish it to be) – but during the Gillard era, it shattered into its multitudinous components.

One of the causes of this fracture was the reconfiguration of the asylum-seeker debate into a health-and-safety issue rather than a racially based moral panic. This was of course partly due to circumstances beyond Gillard's control. Like anyone else who campaigned on the issue, I struggled to assess my own culpability for the deaths of who knows how many men, women and children on their hazardous voyage to the country that they hoped would provide them with shelter and safety. I respect the motives even as I may disagree with the conclusions of those refugee advocates who now believe that the compassionate intention of the repeal of mandatory detention provided an incentive that was costing too many people their lives.

But this “rescue” motive provided a thin veneer of respectability to the same old dog-whistling about queue-jumping aliens who were not worthy of enjoying the privileges offered by Australia. Such concerns were “not racist”, Gillard assured us, as she called for “honest discussions”. I'm-not-racist, but. Always a sure sign of racism.

I remain a member of the single mother tribe, even after having moved through the most difficult stage of that particular battle. So while like so many other women around the world, I cheered at the spectacle of Tony Abbot's expression as he was forced to listen to Julia Gillard refuse to submit to the rants of nut-jobs and misogynists. I found myself unable to join the afterglow, knowing that her government had introduced measures to shift those single parents “grandfathered” after the introduction of the Howard-era “welfare to work” measures from parenting payment onto Newstart.

It was not only the cuts to an already meagre income that outraged me. It was the disciplinary language surrounding it – the finger-wagging assurances that it was all-for-their-own-good – as though single mothers are not acutely aware of the welfare of their own children, as though they do not battle for that outcome even under the most adverse circumstances, as though they lack the judgement to determine the best means to that outcome. As one feminist role-model after another applauded Gillard's speech, I felt like Cinderella excluded from the ball – no, worse than that. I felt like every wicked witch from every fairytale, ever, casting a dark shadow over the innocent dreams of the lead characters.

Gillard even managed to annoy me during the passage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – a scheme from which I potentially stand to benefit more than most other Australians, even though of course I hope never to need it. While I recognise its importance, I find it difficult to take the risk of investing too much hope in its promise. The naming of the scheme as “DisabilityCare” looks like a bad omen, the word “care” of course an echo of “Medicare”, but also redolent of charity, of patronising and intrusive helping-hands, of dependence rather than the proclaimed target of independence.

Opposition disability spokesperson Mitch Fifield said that the name was “close to being hated” by people with disabilities, and I hated the fact that I was agreeing with a Liberal Senator. I even managed to be angry with Gillard's tears as the legislation was passed – not because I thought that they were fake but because they seemed sentimental. I battle with the spectre of disability every day. I cannot afford sentimental tears myself, and I do not want Gillard or anyone else to shed them on my behalf.

We still face the prospect of an Abbott government. Should the worst come to the worst, I am planning to console myself by holding a reunion party, for all the comrades-in-arms from the Howard era. We'll reminisce about old battles, as old veterans like to do. We'll make contingency plans for the battles ahead. We'll join forces and gird our loins for the struggle.

I just hope that they're all still talking to me. 

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savidg
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 08:26

A rather empty anal;ysis which is grimly determined to focus on negatives rather than provide balance. Concerns about DisabilityCare are valid but tokenistic rhetoric. After all, DisabilityCare was introduced by the Labor Government under Gillard and not Abbott. Abboptt gtave in principle support but the Coalition has not committed to the funding of Disability Care and a Coalition Government will redefine DisabilityCare. To imply that DisabilityCare is patronising suggests that Medicare is also patronising. Both are based on rights and not charity but there is a challenge to ensure this remains the basis. Furthermore, there does not seem to be any understanding of the challenges of forming and managing a Minority Government and serve a full parliamentary term of office - a challenge that Mr. Abbott could not and Mr. Rudd would not have been able to do - and the impact of gender politics. Of course, there are negatives about the Gillard Government (2010-2013) (e.g. asylum seekers and single parents)  but there are also real positives and both are needed in any balanced assessment of what was achieved under the Minority Government. The recent meeting outcome between the Indonesian President and the Australian Minister was due to Prime Minister Gillard and her Ministers.

Rocky
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 09:53

 

As usual the easy assumption of the moral high ground by a critic of Australian society.

I also don't understand  how Ms Hussein could do her "best to resist injustice in its various forms--racism, misogyny, inequality" and still keep the Islamic faith.

Islam is predicated on misogyny, racism, inequality and violence--Moslems are at perpetual war with infidels.

Using its own criteria, the multi-culturalist doctrine is, at its core, racist.

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Rockjaw
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 12:04

Shakira's reunion party is already gate crashed by two pompous and bigoted Islamophobes, complete with the usual ignorance typical of their hate speech.

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. DrGideonPolya
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 14:56

I sympathize with Shakira Hussein's predicament of being a humane, honest,  educated feminist trying to deal with the dishonest Mainstream narrative of politically correct racist (PC racist) Murdochracy, Lobbyocracy and Corporatocracy Australia.

Thus my Muslim, Asian and Anglo women friends all assure me  that the worst thing for a mother apart from death itself would be death of her child. Yet in the Afghan War, so enthusiastically supported by Gillard, under-5 year old infant deaths since 2001 now total about 3 million, these being 90% avoidable and due to gross violation of the Geneva Convention by the  war criminal US Alliance , including US lackey Australia.

PM Gillard is unmarried (why not?) but refuses marriage for gay people and has no children (good for the overpopulated  planet) but has made the majority of  Australians voting Labor or Coalition  complicit in the horrendous under-5 infant mortality in Occupied Iraq and Occupied Afghanistan totaling 2.0 million infant deaths since 1990 in Iraq and 3.0 million since 2001 in Afghanistan, 90% avoidable and due to horrendous US Alliance and Australian war crimes in gross contravention of Articles 55 and 56 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War which state unequivocally that an Occupier must provide life-sustaining food and medical requisites to its conquered subjects “to the fullest extent of the mean available to it”. Most pro-war, pro-Zionist, US Lackey Lib-Lab MPs should be arraigned before the International Criminal Court for immense crimes against women and children.

Australian Mainstream feminists are also obscenely silent over another area of female maltreatment  resolutely  ignored by childless (great!) atheist (great!) Gillard is immense non-institutional sexual abuse of female and male children. Labor instituted a Royal Commission that is confined to investigating horrendous institutional child sexual abuse (e.g. up to 40,000 such cases over the last 40 years by Catholic Church personnel). However Labor ignored the awful reality that 34% of Australian women and 16% of Australian men – 4.4 million Australians in all - have been subject to child sexual abuse i.e. Labor has ignored this huge non-institutional child sexual abuse (see  Gideon Polya, “100 reasons why Australians must reject Gillard Labor”, Countercurrents, 24 June 2013: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya240613.htm ).

Yet Gillard Labor, while complicit in the mass murder of millions of Afghan women and children, has the temerity to falsely claim “sexism” and “misogyny” of the men and women of the Coalition. President Obama had the  class to strictly avoid playing the race card but Gillard offended many by illegitimately playing the gender card, falsely vilifying  the men and women of the Opposition  by falsely conflating them with the dreadful sexist (“ditch the witch”) scum at the bottom–of-the-barrel of Australian society and thereby giving oxygen to such scum.

The resolute inability of Australian women to recognize Elephant in the Room issues of massive maltreatment  of women and especially of Muslim women is in stark contrast to the courageous women of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan  (RAWA) (the oldest women’s political organization in Afghanistan) who published my damning assessment of .the horrendous crimes against women, children and men by the Lib-Lab-supported, war criminal US Alliance  (see Gideon Polya, “Afghan War, Afghan Holocaust & Afghan Genocide 9th anniversary – 4.9 million dead, 3.2 million refugees: report. It has been estimated that the annual death rate is 7% for under-5 year old Afghan infants as compared to 4% for Poles in Nazi-occupied Poland and 5% for French Jews in Nazi-occupied France", RAWA, 15 October 2010: http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2010/10/15/afghan-war-afghan-holocaust-and-afghan-genocide-9th-anniversary-4-9-million-dead-3-2-million-refugees-report.html .

 

Rocky
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 - 22:22

Rockjaw

Just what are "Islamophobes" ignorant of, in regard to the Islamic ideology or its  history?

Any liberal democrat who investigates Islam will naturally develop a chronic case of Islamophobia.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Rockjaw
Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 - 01:36

Good on you Polya, a bit of perspective.

Rocky, the youth of today all agree that it is really cool to be a Muslim!

Islam rocks big time!

Pretentious and crusty old "liberal democrats" gave to the world "regime change".

"Regime change" brought about the failed democracies of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya.

Soon to follow will be the failed democracies of Egypt, Syria and Iran. 

Liberal democracy gave the world debt servitude, the credit crisis and the too big to fail banks.

Liberal democracy also provides material support for terrorism in Africa, ethnic cleansing in Palestine and global nuclear expansionism.

Liberal democrat leaders, like Obama, have even made the claim to possess the authority to decide who may live or die and have ordered the murder of their own citizens without due process of law.

Liberal democracy now even provides material support for cannibalism in Syria.

Basically, liberal democrats suck big time.

This is why Islam remains humanity's fastest growing theology and political doctrine of choice whilst "liberal democracy" is just another one of humanity's failed and passing fads.

Go Hesbo!

EarthFan
Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 - 10:32

Assuming that Rockjaw is a man, his very pro-islam post tells me that he wants to be able to keep slaves, legally have sex with nine-year-olds and legally beat his wife. He wants the female half of Australia's population to be denied equality before the law.  See Sura 2 280 and Sura 4  35 of the Qur'an. He also wants to mutilate thieves so that they can never earn an honest living.

How can any Australian woman have confidence in the ability of our laws and courts to protect her if there are going to be Muslims serving on juries and in the judiciary?

Rocky
Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 - 12:12

Rockjaw,

"the youth of today all agree that it is really cool to be a Muslim!", LOL, sure everyone wants to live in the 7th century, particularly women. Very cool indeed- Islamic culture hasn't made any significant contributions to civilisation for 1000 years. 

EarthFan,

...and treat infidels as sub human.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Rockjaw
Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 - 12:39

EarthFan, where is your "equality before the law"? Prove to me that it exists.

Coming up in defence of fellow Australians who happen to be Muslim is not a "Pro Islam" act at all, to the contrary, it is in fact very "pro Australian" to come to the defence of fellow Australians under attack by bigots for their beliefs.

Mine is an "equal before the law Australian's" way of recognising and defending the rights of fellow "equal before the law" Australian Muslims when pompous "holier than thou" supremist Australians use hate speech against them.

This is not a comparitive study of the Quran vs social democracy, and if it were, our Muslims would not find justification for our social democrats' propensity to fall under the boot of our governments who claim to possess the authority to murder any citizen, without due process, and whenever we piss them off.

Not much "equality before the law" there now is there?

Where is the "equality before the law" for Australian Julian Assange when he exposed crimes committed by our most holy "social democratic" governments?

What about Ed Snowden? Where is his "equality before the law"?

What about the American citizens Obama ordered his drones to murder? Were they given "equality before the law"?

I can't remember seeing David Hicks being treated as though he had any "equality before the law" either.

Speaking of equality, we did all see how our banksters, who committed the greatest economic fraud in history were treated, they were "too big to fail", but the rest of us? We would all be sitting in jail today.

And then when the biggest money laundering crime in history was committed by international banksters, they were found to be "too big to jail". Not much "equality before the law" there either EarthFan.

And no, our Muslims do not support the notion that the murder of millions of women, infant children and the elderly in our "regime changing wars" is morally justified either. In fact, the remainder of humanity opposes us too, and the majority of humanity sympathises with our Muslim's views.

We "social democrats" are pretty much a fanatical minority sect of humanity here, and our time to pay the piper will arrive all too soon.

Our Muslims are also not alone in their belief that there is no "equality before the law" when "social democrat governments" reserve for themselves and the banking classes special privileges pertaining to the monopolistic use of debt and usury to economically enslave our productive citizens.

Muslims are also not alone in their belief that our tiny little portion of mankind, our tiny little fanatical sect which calls itself "social democrats" seeks to force its will on the rest of humanity through perpetual war on any nation which does not agree with us.

In the process of forcing our "morality" on others, and by sheer coincidence, we just happen to also be stealing a hydrocarbon empire presently owned by the rest of mankind, and whom we quaintly refer to as "terrorist nations".

Our Muslims are also not alone in their belief that our support of terrorist groups which eat the human organs of their victims is not morally justifified, despite our unconvincing propaganda that we "social democrats" merely support these terrorist groups as an expression of our "legitimate" concerns for the "enslaved women in Syria" and to ensure, as you put it, "equality before the law" in "Muslim states", whatever that means.

 

 

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Rockjaw
Posted Monday, July 8, 2013 - 13:00

Rocky, Islam is the fastest growing theological doctrine in the world today, and the the majority of the converts are under 21.

Don't know about you, but to me that is a really cool statistic.

Get over it Rocky, the rest of the world does not think like you and the rest of the world is not desperate to meet you or to learn from you. In fact, the culture shock is that the rest of the world probably doesn't even like you, get over it!

As for 7th century Islam? LoL, ignorance really is a necessary component of your bigotry.

I would not expect somebody like you to be aware of this, but the rest of us know how Islam gave us Algebra, they gave us the numbers which we use for arithmetic, accountancy and mathematics, they gave us eye surgery and hospitals, where they were the first to recognise disease as micro-organisms and introduced wards to quarantine against the spread of diseases.

They also bathed once a day and were known for their literacy, all of this while the rest of Europe, unconvinced that the odd rare bath was actually a good thing, struggled with the idea that basic hygiene was prophelactic to certain illnesses and that living in Dark Age Europe fighting for the right of men to own women and children as chattels never had a very bright future.

 

Here we are in the 21st century and guess what? Australia still shows many signs that we have never really emerged from that same Dark Age.

Rocky
Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 08:50

Rockjaw,

Practically all your "history" is incorrect. I bet you think that "it all started with the Crusades".

The positional number system and algebra were invented in India, Moslems transferred the knowledge to Europeans and, of course, characteristically, Moslems did little to use or develop  it any furher. So, in that sense, you could claim that Moslems "gave" the west algebra and arithmetic , however the belief it was invented by Moslems is nonsense. As you mentioned, using the techniques developed  in India, Europeans invented the double entry bookkeeping system and the scientific and industrial revolutions, while Islamic culture stagnated.

If Moslems bathed every day it was a practice they learned from The Greco-Romans in North Africa and the NE, who had known for a thousand years the prophylatic value of hygene.

Eye surgery was practised and hospitals were used in the Roman Empire and the Roman writer Varro suggested a germ theory of disease, most of Islamic civilsation's "achievements" were absorbed from  Greco-Roman culuture, a culture that the Molems destroyed. The fact is that Islamic civilisation's contributions were minimal, it's essentially a parasitic culture and in the East, Moslems lived off the remnants of Greco-Roman civilsation until it disappeared and Islam entered its 1000 year torpor.

Europe's "Dark Ages" were partly a result of the collapse of Mediterranean trade which was caused by Moslem attacks on Western Europe, Western civilsation took a thousand years to recover, partially as a result of Moslem barbarism. It's estimated that Islamic pirates took a million Europeans as slaves, Moslem slavers were still raiding England in the 17th century.

Compared to the enormous damge Moslems inflicted on the West, their contributions are insignificant.

So, who's ignorant?

 

Evan
Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 16:41

Do we presume the anti-muslim rhetoric is from Labor party flacks attempting to distract from Labor's failures?

Betty
Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 00:39

I do not think Julia Gillard would have had such a bad time if she had not fed Tony Abbott's negativity but ignored it and got on with the job. It isn't as if several States have not had women in leadership before. By her own responses to his baiting she brought herself down to Abbott's level and they bored the national electorate to a state of dissassociation between the two of them.

Rocky
Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 09:03

Evan,

 My theory is that the "anti-muslim rhetoric" is a respnse to articles written by Moslems who employ double standards in their arguments and without any justification, assume an attitude of moral superiority.