Posted by: jkirkby8712 | April 29, 2011

Thursday, 28th April 2011 – Questions and Answers on defence and royalty!!


A real treat for us Q & A watchers on the TV tonight – a second program for the week. I’d earlier forgotten to make reference to Monday’s program, which dealt with a range of subjects ranging around areas of defence, Anzac Day, refugees, etc.  The panel that night was – Jim Molan, Former Head of the Australian Defence College; Matina Jewell, Former Soldier; Eva Cox, Feminist Academic; Neil James, Executive Director of the Australia Defence Association; and Najeeba Wazefadost, Afghan Refugee

Questions were put to the panel on such  subjects as

  • the recent sex scandals in the Defence forces [eg, why is the real issue of the sexual mistreatment of women clouded by innuendos about their character and personal lives, which certainly on the surface, appears to have been the situation in the latest scandal to hit the forces];


  • the culture of the Australian military and it’s apparent secretive and hostile attitude to enquiries about internal affairs, etc;   the likelihood of such a culture changing in the future, and whether the government’s reaction to current problems is really going to affect that culture?;


  • women serving on the frontline in the Armed Forces, eg what is it ‘we’ are supposedly protecting women from, or is that also, a cultural throwback to earlier generatiuons in terms of views on physical or intellectual capabilities;


  • is Afghanistan safer now for women and girls in particular, and if not, why does the government persist with policies of returning asylum seekers to that country; the payments made to people smugglers to get refugees to Australia and the common perception created in the public that this makes them ‘queue’ jumpers, denying genuine refugees a chance to get into Australia.;


  • Najeeba was asked – “you are an example of a young person who has escaped Afghanistan and is achieving success. Do you believe that Australia and its allies are doing enough to help defeat the Taliban and are therefore making Afghanistan a better place? Has the situation for women improved and can girls now go to school?”   Najeeba responded that while in Kabul things might be better for women, there were many parts of Afghanistan where attitudes to the role  and status of women were little changed, and for our Government [and the Opposition] to suggest that ‘Afghanistan was now safe was an incorrect generalisation of the situation there.
  • Najeeba Wazedfadost, was also challenged directly a charge relating to queue jumping  –  ‘Your parents paid people smugglers to get you into Australia. Are you aware that Julia Gillard and most Australians do not like queue jumpers, because they deny genuine refugees a chance to get into Australia?’  Her answer reminded us  ‘what queue?’  – this is no queue for these people in many of those countries from which the most genuine refugees [fearing for the lives of themselves and their families] come from – no authority from which they can make application, and such enquiries would most likely make them an immediate target.  So to be accused of being queue jumpers when there is no queue, mmmmmmm!!!  And has been pointed out many times before, the majority of refugees seeking asylum, who come by these boats, are usually found to be genuine refugees.  That is not the case with the so-called legitimate ‘refugees who fly in by plane, etc!


  • There was criticism expressed of Australia’s current Memorandum of Understanding with the Afghan government to forcibly return so-called “failed asylum seekers” – many Afghan MPs as well as Australian human rights organisations and trade unions have voiced these concerns. . Why is Australia persisting with this policy, even though conditions in Afghanistan are still incredibly dangerous, especially for the Hazara minority, as indicated by Najeeba’s response?
  • Another part of the discussion on Monday night related to  the subject of the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day, coming up in 2015, and the panel was asked to consider the future of ANZAC Day, and how the occasion can be made more inclusive for new migrants not raised with the legend of ‘mateship’ and the ‘Australian digger’?

That brought us onto tonight, and a special edition of Q & A on the ABC – a program that was preceded by an extremely interesting documentary entitled ‘Is the Royal Romance Over?’, which was basically dealing with ‘Australia’s ongoing romance’ as such with the Royal family. I found that part of the program fascinating – having being brought from birth, basically in conjunction with the present Queen Elizabeth, and Prince Charles in particular, I admit  to having closely followed their lives, and in some ways being a support of the family. The documentary covered most of that period from the end of World War II, the death of the Queen’s father, her ascension to the Throne, and her rule since then, and the trials and tribulations amidst a life of luxury and privilege for that family up until this day. I imagine, like most children together with the bulk of the Australian population in 1954, I lined the streets with my little Union Jack flag to cheers the young Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, on the occasion of her first visit to Australia that year. The documentary dealt with the years and visits subsequent to that, and the gradual diminishing of that kind of fanatical adoration and worship of the Queen as generational attitudes changed, and her significance to larger portions of the Australian electorate began to dwindle.  And yet, despite a broad view these days that the British Royal Family is irrelevant to Australia in 2011, there remains a widely held view that the Queen is still well liked and respected by Australians generally for the manner in which she has carried out her role –  I repeat admiration for the Queen, but that respect no longer applies to the ‘institution’ she represents.

After the documentary, which contained some fascinating old film footage, the normal format of the Q & A panel came on air to discuss both the ongoing relevance of the Royal family to Australia. and in conjunction with that,   the possible affect on Australia’s constitutional future. Tonight’s panel consisted  of  a broad range of  so-called ‘passionate’ Australians [an interesting collection of people whom I heard one commentator describe later as an entirely inappropriately chosen panel for the subject in question!]  –   Senator Nick Minchin [Liberal powerbroker, former Howard  Liberal Minister,  and avowed monarchist]; Amanda Vanstone [former Liberal Minister and outspoken republican]; Marcia Langton [academic and Aboriginal activist of many years]; Bob Carr [former NSW Premier and a passionate republican]; Angela Bishop [entertainment reporter and monarchist]; a representative from the ‘Chaser’ satirical TV  team, whose program scheduled for  Friday night in competition with the Royal Wedding, had been banned by the BBC, and cancelled]; and in the audience, Dr, Aaron Paul [academic and modern monarchist].

I must admit that while this program was happening, I was in the early stages involved in an online ‘discussion’ of sorts about the whole question of the Royal William [Prince William to Kate, tomorrow] and the general relevance of royalty here in Australia. As is often the case, my comments began with a bit of a serious aspect, eg, I was expressing ‘pleasure’ that the ‘Chaser’ program had been banned – I’ve always felt it to be an extreme satirical show which didn’t deserve the support it had – and in making that view, I was well aware that probably none of my fellow Facebook debaters would agree with me – well, I said, ‘I can live with that’, though Ruth seemed to doubt me  –  ‘can you Bill, can you?’  Anyway, my attempts at being serious [as usual with this group of friends] soon degenerated into the kind of satire on royalty, etc, that I had been expressing opposition to!!!  All fun, I guess, in friendly banter!!

Back to Q and A.  Though not many questions seemed to come from the audience tonight, or if they did,  the questions ‘seemed’ to have been set up!  The emphasise of tonight’s program – well obviously about the Royal Wedding, and with a member of the Chasers’ team on the panel,  a dissection of the reasons why their planned program for tomorrow night had been banned.  For those not aware, the ‘Chaser’s’ is an Australian satirical program, on the ABC oddly enough [I’d expect things of that standard to be more likely to appear on the commercial channels]  – anyway, they had intended to present on the alternative ABC channel tomorrow night, an ‘alternative’ version of the wedding, although as their spokesman explained, it was aimed to be more of a broad based satire on the Royal family in particular and the institution they represent, not aimed at the wedding couple, although obviously, the Palace and the BBC were worried about something of that nature occurring. In some ways, I’m not sure that it really mattered if the program went ahead or not  –  those viewers who wanted to watch the wedding would do so anyway, while those viewers who generally have a cynical attitude to royalty in general, would watch the Chasers because that kind of presentation is their ilk anyway! During Q & A tonight, we were actually shown a clip from the banned show  – and while some people may think it funny to take off people Prince Phillip and Prince Charles and their sometimes prejudiced and bigoted attitudes to certain cultures, etc, my argument against their type of show, is that by ‘repeating’ those attitudes, the so-called satire adds to the ‘public’ biased perception of such groups, or to me, is simply distasteful when in fact, it is not the normal view of the watcher – yet they will still laugh at the depiction being presented – in tonight’s clip, Muslims, Indians, the Jews, were just a few of the groups ridiculed   Someone called them a ‘controversial comedy’ group – I agreed with the first part of the description, but could never accept the description of comedy as accurate  – to me, personal ridicule and ‘put down’ in the name of satire, is not comedy..  I read somewhere else, that it is the ‘Australian way’ to satirise and laugh at the misfortunes of others  –   and yet, if I was to walk down to street, and make in public the kind of comments that appeared in the brief ‘Chasers’ clip tonight, I could well be arrested and charged under  some kind of racial abuse legislation if a listener happened to take offence!! And yet we sit in front of our TV sets, or in a theatre seat at a ‘Comedy’ Festival, and think the same comments are uproariously funny and clever!  Crap!! I refuse to accept any ‘logic’ applied to such a situation.

The only point of ‘agreement’ if you like, that I might have with those complaining about the program ban, is the fact that our Australian ‘freedom of speech’ is being dictated to by forces exterior to Australia – where for eg, we see the BBC [presumably with some ‘Royal’ influence] being able to prevent the airing of an Australian program, in Australia  – although we should remember that other nations have tried similar tactics, eg, China, to prevent the screening of certain films, or even the visit of the Dali Lama to this country,  in case China was made to look bad –  –  I’m not sure of the exact present ‘relationship’ between the ABC and the BBC, but obviously the hold of the later over our Australian counterpart must be of some significance! 

Aside from all of that, I was especially interested tonight to hear some Marcia Langton’s views. The more I see her [and her thick brilliant patch of white hair] the more I warm to her general attitude. I think whe4n she was younger, as a student, etc, Marcia was a bit of an Indigenous firebrand activist. She is still an activist, but gives me the impression at least, that she has broadened her views a little, and is more prepared to listen to other sides of the Indigenous argument. 

Marcia Langton  

Marcia remains a great campaigner for the rights of her people, and in the debate about whether Australia’s Constitution should be changed to create our system as a Republic, away from the Monarchy, she was quite insistent, that before that happens, the Constitution must be changed to properly recognise Australia’s Indigenous population as part of this country’s people. Past referendums on that score have not been successful because  the question has always being put in conjunction  with some other question at the time of the referendum – recognition of Indigenous people in the Constitution must be put as a stand-alone proposal, if it is to have a chance of implementation.

The other interesting point that came from Marcia was the respect that the Indigenous community have always for the Queen, since her first visit here in 1954 – Marcia considered that her people understood the Queen, and her symbolic role, and the kind of traditional practices that were associated with royalty, because that was the way in which many of their tribal traditions and ceremonies operated. A similar attitude was taken by the Queen –  when traditional ceremonies, etc, were performed for her benefit, during visits, the Indigenous communities believed that the Queen understood the significance of those ceremonies, better than did the white Australian population. I may not have described that significance as accurately as Marcia Langton portrayed it, but hopefully, I gained the gist of what she was saying.

Finally, for the benefit of any who may be unsure of the significance [rightly or wrongly] of this ‘Queen’ we are referring to,  the following brief note, might help –

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21 April 1926, is the constitutional monarch of sixteen independent sovereign states, and as Head of the Commonwealth, she is the figurehead of the 54-member Commonwealth of Nations, and essentially is also the Queen of Australia, her representative here, been our Governor General, who for the past few decades, have been Australian born in any case.

Elderly Elizabeth with a smileElizabeth II, in 2007
Meanwhile, this is the view below,  that many today, in 2011 [particularly the ‘republican’ cause proponents, have of the Royal family institution……………a life of opulence on the public purse!!!

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