Weasel Words?

When I heard this charming expression drop from the lips of our Prime Minister, I don’t know whether I cringed most at the purile alliteration or the flat, boring monotone in which it was delivered. She seemed enamoured of this clever phrase because she savoured it several times during her rambling monologue. (Will somebody please get the PM a new speech writer?)

And with all the matters that could occupy the leader of a country in these difficult times, what was she droning on about? A conspiracy?

Yes, and what a conspiracy! Allegedly invented by Mal Brough to discredit Peter Slipper and take his seat. (This bears an uncanny resemblance to certain other attempts to discredit politicians, but more of that later.)

Someone should tell the Prime Minister that Mal Brough won’t need a conspiracy to take Peter Slipper’s seat. He’ll only need to stand as a candidate. I should imagine that a blind dog would have more appeal in Mr Slipper’s electorate than the sitting member at this moment. Even if he was the ‘last prayer’ of a tenuous minority government.

And this brings me to certain conclusions about two other incidents that made me uneasy.

Before the last elections in South Australia, a damaging document was leaked to an opposition leader. The document was a lie and the opposition leader who ran with it knocked out. I was stunned by the injustice of it.

Not so long ago, a politician viewed by many as the most promising Statesman since Menzies was leaked a damaging email. He believed it, ran with it, and was put out of action in exactly the same way. Was I the only person to see the pattern? Surely not!

Once again, the injustice of it shocked me. The liar wasn’t punished; the traitor sacrificed himself for ‘the faith’ and the innocent head went on the chopping block. (Of course, we wouldn’t want a leader that’s not up to all the tricks, would we?)

When I heard a few months ago that James Ashby had contacted Mal Brough for advice, I thought, Here we go again: another Godwin Gretch.

Does three times prove it? Or is it third time lucky? Or unlucky? Is there anything these unscrupulous people won’t do in their pathetic attempts to cling onto power?

Nor does the Opposition escape my censure: Boring on about the legality of a slush fund set up by the Prime Minister twenty years ago. She’s a lawyer, right? Of course, it was legal! … Wasn’t it?

At a time when the dollar is so high that it is strangling export and fizzling out the mining boom; when the economy is so rocky that every week another large company goes under, flinging hundreds out of work; I find such trivia frustrating.

People’s lives are being ruined: They are losing their hard-earned homes because they cannot pay their mortgages; cannot find new jobs in a dying market. And the Prime Minister wants to harp on about a so-called conspiracy involving an election not yet called? Unbelievable! Scurrilous!

Weasel words, Prime Minister? Yes, indeed!

Behavour Getting Worse in Prisons?

It is official: the behaviour of inmates is deteriorating in our prisons despite the carrot of early release for good behaviour.

I heard this interesting statistic discussed on our Wednesday Forum on the radio. Each of the four guests declined to hazard an opinion on why this may be. But sadly, I knew the answer straightaway.

Back in my teaching days, I came across a ‘BAD’ boy. He’d served time in juvenile detention for break and enter, and was generally considered a hardened criminal by the age of twelve. After a couple of years, he was released back into the community, ‘rehabilitated’, and sent back to school.

A Dickensian character, he was small, pale and sharp-featured, a sure sign of malnourishment in early childhood. He was ‘aggro’ and temperamental, unless something caught his interest. Then he was surprisingly clever, touching in his eagerness to learn. He was good at maths and art: something he had found out about himself in prison. We got through our lessons by a combination of tact(on my part), magnanimous restraint(on his) and humour.

Imagine how I felt when I overheard him confide to a friend: ‘You know, it’s not bad in prison. You have sheets on your bed, good food – three good meals a day, every day; hot showers, TV. I’m going to do something so I can go back.’

I found it hard to hold back tears. This poor little boy had not even the basics in his home that he found in prison. No, I am most certainly not suggesting that we lower the standards of our prisons. Nothing is further from my mind.

I do, however, think it a shameful indictment on our society that children can be raised in such poverty and neglect that prison life with all its restrictions and only basic provision for human needs can seem like luxury to those who have never known sheets on their beds or good food on the table (or perhaps do not even have a table).

This poor child saw in his prison bars, levels of security and comfort he had never known in a house where filth, neglect, hunger, physical and verbal abuse by drink and drug-ridden adults was the norm.

Who wouldn’t prefer a residence with locked doors, sheets on the bed and three good meals a day? It only makes sense when you think about it – if you can bear to.

One question:Whatever happened to that famous promise of no Australian child being in poverty after 1990?