Two Predictions on Julia Gillard

I should have got the first prediction up and running on Saturday, but I was busy travelling (I’ve been in Queensland where it is a darn sight warmer than it is here in Melbourne – brrr). Now everyone is saying it, so it doesn’t help for me to say “I said it first”. Anyway, Prediction One is: Our Julia will call the election within a month. Cathy is of the opinion that she will wait and try to get some runs on the board. I don’t think so. She has a number of problems that she has to deal with immediately – one being the Mining Tax (aka Resource Super-Profits Tax). There is a temporary truce on the table, but that isn’t going to last forever. Either she will do a quick deal with the mining companies or it will be a long drawn out affair. I think it will be the latter. For this reason, she will be better to go to the polls now while her personal popularity is high, before everyone see that it is the same government in charge today as it was a week ago.

My second prediction is that we will see less rather than more of the “Prince Consort”, Tim. Already today there is an adverse article on the front page of The Age. The issue here is not that our new PM is “unwed and childless”. As Magda Szubanski points out, so are nuns, and they do a great job. But unlike nuns, Our Julia has a “hanger-on” (as my father-in-law likes to call his grandchildren’s boy-/girl-friends), and – as in families – we don’t quite know what to do with hangers-on. When the family photo time comes, do you include them in the shot or not? Official spouses of those entrusted with the national government and security are easy to handle. They belong. They fit. They have a right to be at their partner’s side because they have made a public sworn committment to them. They are family and so they can take on duties on behalf of the family. Hangers-on are not and cannot. Julia’s “partner” is going to be a problem for her because we don’t know what to do with him. We are not to blame for this. Julia herself has not made her relationship with him clear. Anyway, I think one way or another we will see less of the boyfriend during the election campaign.

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76 responses to “Two Predictions on Julia Gillard

  1. Tony

    Less than what, David? Less than any other Prime Ministerial spouse? Most have ‘keys’ that are pretty ‘low’. For a prediction to have any sort of kudos, you need to be a little more specific!

    On the broader issue, most families have been negotiating their way around these sorts of ‘protocols’ successfully for a while now. The usual way (I think) is just to ask, eg, ‘should we invite him/her to the family Christmas gathering?’

    Even when marriage was a much more expected outcome of a long term relationship, there were sometimes delicate questions of ‘status’ to work out like, ‘Well is Kevin just a friend or a boyfriend’?

    • The fact is Tim ISN’T a “prime-ministerial spouse”. Not yet anyway. I don’t think it would be any different than if the PM was an unmarried, childless bloke with a live-in girlfriend. People don’t know what to do with hangers-on, male or female, and are nervous about non-spousal partners. There’s no judgement involved, just uncertainty.

      I’m just saying, is all.

      • Antoinette

        Don’t worry about apologising – we are with you on this one. What is wrong with judging? We all do it whether we admit it or not. We don’t want a prime minister that has no faith or principles. Marriage should be a pre-requisit to prime ministership. For heavens sake we need them at least to set a good example. Male or female makes no difference.

  2. Peregrinus

    On your first prediction: spot on. And I think this is clearly signalled by her decision not to move into the Lodge. She herself is symbolically questioning her own mandate until she has it endorsed through an election victory. Having taken that stance, she has to seek a mandate sooner rather than later.

    On your second: we had to deal with this issue quite a while ago in Holy Catholic Ireland, when Bertie Ahern became Prime Minister in 1997. He had for many years been separated but not divorced from his wife, and had a second conjugal partner.

    The Prime Minister’s spouse doesn’t have much official role in Ireland. There is no official residence, so the question of whether she would move in never arose. The Prime Minister does normally host or attend formal social functions and state occasions with his spouse, and is accompanied by his spouse on official visits abroad, and when receiving official visitors in Ireland.

    There was some issue about whether Ahern’s partner would do any or all of these things. What happened in practice was that she did them all, except that she did not accompany Ahern on official visits abroad if that would have embarrassed the hosts. When she travelled with Ahern, her expenses were paid on the same basis as a Prime Minister’s wife’s expenses would have been paid. When Ahern hosted receptions, etc, her name appeared on the invitation bracketed with his.

    What drove this was (a) a typically Irish disinclination to be openly unpleasant to anyone, for any reason, and (b) the practical reality that, with divorce impossible to obtain in Ireland until 1996, there were a great many second conjugal relationships not formalised by marriage. Ahern’s domestic situation was not at all unusual.

    I think similar considerations apply in Australia. Though for different reasons, there are a great many conjugal relationships not formalised as marriages. Socially, and to a large extent legally, these are treated as being on all fours with marriage. My own view, for what it is worth, is that if a couple can marry but choose not to, then we should respect their choice and not treat them as if they had married, but I appear to be in a small minority. I doubt that many Australians would be embarrassed or upset at the idea of somebody having a conjugal partner that they are not married to, or would be unsure how to treat them socially.

    (Do they appear in the family photograph? Of course they do. This is a no-brainer. If they’re close enough to be invited to family functions, then they appear in the photographs taken at those functions. Why wouldn’t they? They were there, after all. What’s the point of the photograph, if not to record and remember the gathering? And what kind of familial Stalinism would be involved in framing a photograph to suggest a different gathering from the one which actually took place?)

    As for seeing “less of the boyfriend during the election campaign”, the reality is that we hardly saw anything of him before. I couldn’t have told you his name, and I’m pretty sure that I’d never seen his picture. There’s a brief flurry of interest in him, not only because he is the first (acknowledged) non-marital partner of a Prime Minister, but also because he is the first male partner of a female prime minister (the first “clergy husband”, so to speak). But the novelty will fade soon enough.

  3. Louise

    None of us would know that Gillard had a gentleman friend if it weren’t reported in the media.

    As for my own family etc, I treat all “gentleman/lady friends” merely as the friend of my relative until such time as they make their relationship official by marriage. The one exception to this is when they have a child together, when, for the child’s sake, I go through the whole farce. Which it inevitably is – leading (of course) to separation, and children that bounce back and forward between mum and dad etc.

    Nobody is automatically invited to special family events just b/c they think they are now “in the family” however, it’s a pretty moot point, since our whole family is pretty open and inviting towards people whether in the family or not, for special occasions anyway. There’d be very few situations where I wouldn’t be happy to invite my brother’s current lady friend etc. It’s different with the new people in my parents’ lives however. There I’m much more strict about what goes on (from my perspective).

    People who simply expect their family members to roll with the punches are pretty arrogant really, which is why I don’t put up with it (which just means having pretty clear boundaries). Fortunately, most of my rellies are pretty reasonable.

    If one took this approach with the Pm it would simply be a matter of not trating the gentleman friend as any more important in the grand scheme of things than Ms Gillard’s other friends. In any case, it just shouldn’t be much of an issue – I’m more interested in the woman’s political philosophy and policies. I’d say they are of a piece with her lifestyle (as it happens), neither of which I agree with for the most part.

    • Peregrinus

      None of us would know that Gillard had a gentleman friend if it weren’t reported in the media.

      True. But we wouldn’t know about Rudd’s or Abbott’s spouses if they weren’t reported in the media either.

      • Louise

        Certainly, but a husband or wife is an objectively important person in conection with a public figure like the PM.

        • Peregrinus

          So is a non-marital conjugal partner. Like a husband or a wife, they may be politically active, and even if they aren’t their views and opinions may influence the public figure. If nothing else, they enjoy privileged access to the public figure!

          • Susan Peterson

            There is no such thing as a nonmarital conjugal partner! con jugo means yoked with…as in marriage. It doesn’t mean someone with whom you are having an illict sexual relationship, no matter how extended.

            And a public figure should certainly publicly maintain at least the fiction that what is going on is a courtship. Certainly the public should not be asked to pay for travel expenses for someone who isn’t married to a head of state. Even if the other person pays for his/her half, they shouldn’t be rooming together so that the public knows it.
            Before there are any public appearances together, the other person should be able to be referred to as a “fiancee” and that should mean that a wedding date is set.
            That is my opinion, anyway.

  4. Louise

    I’m no expert in the argy bargy of daily politics (which bores me to tears), but I would think Ms Gillard would be wise to call an election soon, while the honeymoon is on.

  5. Matthias

    according to a 7galaxy poll over at yahoo Liberals and Nationals could win the election. This poll taken over the past weekend.

    • Peregrinus

      Polls in the six or seven days since she became PM have bounced all over the place, giving Labor a primary vote of anything between 38.5% and 47%.

      It would be tempting to assume that the polls which accord with our own preferences are accurate, and the others anomalous, but there is no reason why this should be so.

      What’s going on, I think, is that there has been a major and unprecedented change at very short notice, and people still haven’t worked out what they feel about it. So their opinions are still quite volatile, liable to change depending on who they last discussed the matter with, or what columnist’s pontifications they have most recently read.

      It’ll take a little while for people’s opinions to settle down into anything like a consistent state. None of the polls we’ve seen over the last week are particularly reliable.

  6. Tony Bartel

    My prediction is conditional. If Julia wins the election she will not serve a full term. Her poll ratings will falter and at some point the factional heavy weights will cut her loose.

    Of course, I live in NSW, so my opinion may be jaded by having three ALP premiers in one term.

    • Peregrinus

      Well, at the federal level, the Liberal Party has had four leaders since the last election, so I think it’s safe to say that, on all sides and at all levels, the shelf-life of a party leader is not great these days.

      I think this is probably down to politics becomeign increasingly poll-driven and personality-obsessed. If the polls are bad action must be taken, because the polls must be good all the time, mustn’t they? And the obvious action to take – and the action you’ll default to if you don’t know what action to take – is to dump the leader, because that must be what’s upsetting the public, mustn’t it?

      So, yes, if Gillard’s ratings fall – as, inevitably, they will someday – she’ll be in danger. She may be slightly more secure than Rudd, though, because she does have friends, and a factional base, and apparently Rudd had neither.

      The wise politician will cultivate alliances and networks within the party. Plus, it helps to know where a few of the bodies are buried. If you can’t flatter colleagues into supporting you, you may be able to blackmail them.

      • Tony Bartel

        Its one thing to change an opposition leader. Both Liberal and Labor have been pretty good at that over the years. After all, such a person is only the leader of a party.

        It is another matter to constantly change the leader of the government. For that is to make the government a mockery, as we have in New South Wales. I think Kristina Kenneally is a decent person. I thought the same of Nathan Rees and Maurice Iemma. But it is impossible for them to govern and show leadership in the face of the NSW Labour machine. Iemma and Rees tried it and got shown the door for their trouble.

        Surprisingly the events of last week (and the last four years in NSW) could not happen in Great Britain, even for all the talk of this being an unpleasant characteristic of the Westminster system.

        Both the Labour and the Conservative parties elect their leaders by a vote of the whole party. As I understand the situation (and I stand to be corrected), the leader must still have the confidence of the parliamentary party, but if they are forced to step down, the whole party elects the new leader. The leader of the government has a mandate not only from the people but also from his or her own party. So even the hapless Gordon Brown managed to hang on in the face of parliamentary rumblings in the latter part of his term.

        I would argue that we need to create a similar system here, so that the leader has a broader base from which to operate and the opportunity and greater possibilities to make difficult decisions.

        • Peregrinus

          Gee, I dunno. Parties are – rightly and necessarily – independent of the state, and not subject to state control. A consequence is that their elections are not subject to any kind of regulation or oversight. We have no reason to assume that they are either free or fair, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that they are often neither.

          Bear in mind also that political parties these days are no longer – if they ever were – broadly-based membership organisations. So who exactly gets to vote in their elections? And why should those individuals have the privilege of choosing the Prime Minister?

          If the party leader is chosen by the parliamentary party, at least we know that the electors are themselves people who have some kind of mandate, having been elected either to the Senate or the House. Plus we know who they are, and – if we care to – a good deal about them. That strikes me as a much more transparent and representative system than having an election by the party at large.

          And, in the Australian situation, we could end up with a Prime Minister chosen by the member of the Liberal Party, despite the fact that the ALP is likely to have secured more votes, and more seats, and the last election. Why should the members of the [i]Liberal[/i] party choose the Prime Minister when, actually, more people prefer the Labor Party?

          The only reason why the Liberal leader ever becomes PM is that he (or she, someday) enjoys the support not only of the Liberal MPs but also of the National MPs. This points to the fact that ministers are accountable to parliament, not party, and it is parliament, not party, whose confidence they must enjoy. MPs are returned to Parliament to do a number of things, but the most important thing they do is (in effect) choose the Prime Minister and decide when it is time for the Prime Minister to go. I should vote for an MP whom I trust to discharge that responsibility. The suggestion that I should vote for an MP who is bound mechanically to endorse some external, private, unregulated bunch of people may choose as Party Leader diminishes the value of my vote.

          • Tony Bartel

            The other option, of course, is to have primaries, like in America. However that hasn’t worked out too well (at least in presidential elections) since 1952.

            • Peregrinus

              Hi Tony

              It makes little sense for the people to elect the candidates for an election in which they don’t participate.

              If what you really feel is that “the Prime Minister should have a mandate from the people”, isn’t the logic that the PM should be directly elected?

              I don’t see any insurmountable technical problems with that, though of course it would significantly alter the relationship between PM and Parliament, and marginalise the crown still further in Australian government. I wouldn’t favour it myself, though.

              • Tony Bartel

                You aren’t seriously contending that the more influential element in determining how people vote is the character of their local member as opposed to the person who will lead the country and the policies they will implement.

                In practice, we are no different from the United States, in that we vote for an electoral college that will choose the leader. It is just that our electoral college is called parliament.

                If a party turned around and chose a new leader after an election other than the one who campaigned, people would be quite rightly outraged.

                Otherwise, it would be meaningless to speak of a leader having a mandate as we do.

                My point is this. If it is truly necessary for a party to depose a Prime Minister, then there should be either some requirement that a body wider than the parliamentary party choose the new leader (in order to give a wider legitimacy to the new government) or it should be necessary for the new leader to call an election immediately in order to seek a mandate.

                I could live with either.I honestly don’t think either will happen. But I do think it is good that we debate these issues.

                • Peregrinus

                  In practice, we are no different from the United States, in that we vote for an electoral college that will choose the leader. It is just that our electoral college is called parliament.

                  There’s a huge difference. The only business of the US electoral college is to elect the President and, having done so, it ceases to exist. It never meets again. The business of parliament, by contrast, is to make and laws, to control public finances, approve taxes and appropriate money to public purposes, and to hold ministers to account.

                  Their power to hold ministers to account includes the effective power to remove the prime minister; convention demands that a prime minister who cannot command the confidence of the House of Representatives must resign, and the GG must appoint another who can. What that in practice means is that the leader of the largest party (or the largest party in a coalition of parties which dominates the House) is invited to be PM.

                  I think the ability of the House to monitor, supervise and call to account the PM is closely tied to the fact that he depends for his office on the support of the House (as opposed to the support of the voters at large). Change the latter, and you inevitably change the former. I don’t think this would be a good thing.

                  If a party turned around and chose a new leader after an election other than the one who campaigned, people would be quite rightly outraged.

                  You could be right. As noted above, a first-time PM has been dumped once before, and the party which did this lost the following election. It remains to be seen whether the party which has done it on this occasion will suffer a similar fate. Obviously, though, the assessment of the MPs concerned is that the electorate will reward it for making this change, rather than punishing it.

                  For myself, one of the things I expect my member to do is to be willing to change the leader, if he judges that the leader needs changing. ‘Course, I reserve the right to punish him if I disagree with that judgment, but I do want him to be in the position of being able to make that judgment.

                  My point is this. If it is truly necessary for a party to depose a Prime Minister, then there should be either some requirement that a body wider than the parliamentary party choose the new leader (in order to give a wider legitimacy to the new government) or it should be necessary for the new leader to call an election immediately in order to seek a mandate.

                  Of course, your argument applies to any PM who enters office without having won an election as party leader. The argument applies to any party which goes to the people, wins the election and then changes its leader before the next election. Whether the former leader was dumped, resigned or died makes no difference; the new leader does not have the mandate you feel he should.

                  The only thing body that can could possibly give the leader a wider legitimacy than parliament is the people. Perhaps there should be a rule that if a PM leaves office and a new PM is appointed without an election, then there must be an election within, say, 90 days. But it occurs to me that this would serve to entrench in office PMs who perhaps [i]should[/i] be dumped; if there is one thing backbench members hate it’s an election. And it would put considerable pressure on PMs who want to resign for reasons of health, age, burnout, etc to stay on to avoid putting the party through an election.

                  • Tony Bartel

                    “There’s a huge difference.”

                    Well I guess that is where we disagree.

                    I know the theory of the Westminster system; that the executive is accountable to the legislature etc.

                    My point is that it does not work like that in practice.

                    Of course the Hosue of Representatives is a de facto electoral college. That it is supposed to have other functions as well, while the American electoral college does not, is not an argument that it does not function like an electoral college.

                    I would question how the theory of the Westminster system works in practice. The House is not able to call the government to account because the majority of members belong to the same party as the government. A Prime Minister with a majority will survive a vote of no confidence because he or she has the numbers, not because the motion is lacking in merit.

                    Ironically, it is the “unrepresentative swill” of the Senate which is better able to hold the government accountable through its committee system.

                    If there is to be any challenge to legislation it will be in the Senate.

                    If the Westminster system operated in Australia in the way that it is supposed to, then I would agree with you. It doesn’t, so I don’t.

                    • Peregrinus

                      Yet Kevin Rudd has just lost office because he lost the confidence of the parliamentary Labor party. So clearly the House is a more effective electoral college than the US rubber stamp; not only does it choose the PM, but it can, and does, change it’s mind and choose another. That’s a pretty effective calling to account, in my book.

  7. Peter

    My prediction is that Gillard calls an early election, smile and promise her way through the usual insulting soundbites that pass for political ‘debate’ and Labor is elected with a slightly reduced majority. After which she will ram her dangerous agenda through the parliament like every other newly elected government. She is as smart a polititian as anyone on the hill, except that she (like Abbot) is also brave enough run with her principles rather than pure pragmatism.

    It should be an interesting election because both candidates have a track record of sticking to principles even when others don’t agree. I don’t like a few of Gillard’s principles, but I respect her for sticking to them.

  8. Son of Trypho

    There is another comparison with nuns – they have given up children voluntarily for Christ. Gillard has given up children voluntarily for Mammon.

    Other than this, I adopt a quietist approach to politics – I resent being forced to vote and especially for these wretched specimens that are called politicians.

    • Louise

      I’m pretty sick of politics and other such things right now. I am going to retreat for a while into normal, sane activities – like knitting and tapestry.

  9. I have removed a thread of comments which I think has probably overstepped the mark. You know who you are and what you said. Please don’t argue about my decision to do this.

  10. Susan Peterson

    I missed what ever it is that you removed.

    I just want to say that I don’t think a woman in an illicit sexual relationship would be elected to be president of the United States.

    I find it rather amazing that your country has done that, and that people here are assuming that her paramour will travel with her publicly and live where she lives publicly.

    I don’t think even a male president could get away with this here, much less a woman. Of course several of them have engaged in considerable shenanigans sub rosa, and one notably then lied about it. But if an unmarried candidate were known, for instance, to have shared a hotel room with a girlfriend/boyfriend, that would be the end of his chances. Especially if the candidate were a woman.

    Why isn’t it that way there?

    • Peregrinus

      Puritanism is a strong element of American history and culture, and this is reflected in its politics. But this is not a universal phenomenon.

      • Gareth

        I wouldn’t classify what Susan has noted about American culture as ‘puritanism’ but a simple reflection of what may be the norm of a population that has a relatively high level of religious belief or at least compared to other western democratic countries.

        Rememeber in the Christians eyes, non-Christain based relationships as discussed are actually serious business as God has relayed how grevious they are to Him in His Word and His Church’s moral teachings.

        We shouldn’t be surprised or label those as purantical or fundamentalist those that take this seriously as Christains.

        • Peregrinus

          Hi Gareth

          I think what’s puritan about it is the undue emphasis on sexual morality, as opposed to morality in other areas of life. Puritanism is particularly concerned about the “sins of the flesh” – not just sex but also things like alcohol and drugs, which is why the US has much stricter laws (and social attitudes) about drinking, for example, than most other Western countries. And Puritanism results, or can result, in people being correspondingly less concerned with sins against, e.g., justice.

          Further down the page, we see Susan speaking, apparently positively, of a political culture which punishes sexual sin but rewards hypocrisy and dishonesty, even about matters of faith. I cautiously suggest that that might be evidence of an excessive preoccupation with sexual virtue at the expense of other important virtues, like honesty.

          As to why American culture should have a puritan strand, we need look only to American history, and to the religious character of some of the early colonies and the reason for their foundation.

          And this early start may have been intensified by subsequent chapters in the American story. To some extent, Puritanism is a particular temptation for prosperous Christian societies. The Bible in general, and the Gospels in particular, have some fairly demanding things to say about wealth and power, and how they should be used, and the responsibilities they bring, and these can prove embarrassing to people and to societies which aspire to be Christian but also want to be wealthy and somewhat self-indulgent. If they can persuade themselves that they are virtuous in their personal, sexual and family lives, this makes it that little bit easier to believe that their wealth is a reward for virtue, rather than coming from some more fortuitous or even dubious source, and also to forgive themselves for not being so hot when it comes to, e.g., succouring the widow and the orphan.

          I don’t want this to turn into an America-bashing discussion; it is not so intended. Every nation has its history and its experience, , which gives it particular temptations but also opportunities to display particular virtue, and in many important ways the US is an example to the world. But I think it does partly explain why a non-marital, but not adulterous, sexual relationship would, by Susan’s account, be a much bigger political problem in the US than it is in Australia.

          • Susan Peterson

            Hey wait a minute, as a COUNTRY we are very generous to our widows and orphans, and also to those who for some reason haven’t been able to work a day in their lives, and those who are disabled, and those who have managed to turn a minor problem into a disability. ( I say that as a bureaucrat who reviews disability claims all day.) As individuals, perhaps not so generous. However American conservatives engage in far more personal charity than American liberals, who generally believe the government should do all that.

            The lower middle class is most conservative about sexual morality. Perhaps because sexual morality is what keeps it from falling into the lower class!
            Susan Peterson

            • Peregrinus

              As I said, I’m not America-bashing here. When I made the “widows and orphans” comment (a) I was thinking of historical times, not the present day, and (b) I wasn’t actually thinking of the US, and (c) I picked widows and orphans an a example of an issue which is clearly moral and scriptural, but not sexual, rather than because I was aware of a particular “widows and orphans” scandal. Perhaps if I had picked slavery, the point would have been clearer, while still being safely rooted in the past.

              I’m reluctant to try to pick a non-sexual moral issue where the contemporary US does fail to pay proper attention. Not that there is no such issue – every society affords examples, and the US is no exception – but I really don’t want this to turn into a discussion about the US in particular; my point about puritanism is wider than that.

        • Tony

          Gareth,

          There is a big difference between noting the historical fact of Puritan influence on American culture and calling someone ‘puritanical’ or ‘fundamentalist’.

          • Gareth

            There is also a difference between legitimate Christain distate or oposition towards a given situation and being Puritanical .

    • Tony

      Please don’t think this is a specific attack on you, Susan, or Americans in general, but I ran across this ad the other day:

      and, by way of your ‘what isn’t it that way here?’ query, I think I can confidently say that our Prime Minister is more likely to fly to Mars than for such an ad to appear here.

      We have a gun lobby but they have very little clout and even the most conservative politician would tread very warily around their association with guns (beyond making a noise about making them harder to own!).

    • Peter

      “I don’t think even a male president could get away with this here, much less a woman. Of course several of them have engaged in considerable shenanigans sub rosa, and one notably then lied about it.”

      So what our Julia needs to do is arrange a marriage to a respectable person and then she can conduct an affair with a married man (as she already has) or shack up with a boyfriend (as she now is) and she’ll be OK? It seems that the difference between Julia and Bill is that she is honest about being immoral. So, if she was married, cheated on her husband and lied about it, she could get elected?

      I’m no Julia fan but seriously, of the two, Julia has the moral high ground on Bill.

    • Antoinette

      Susan many of us feel the same way you do and we can’t wait till the election to vote Julia Gillard out. Firstly she WAS NOT ELECTED. She ‘slid’ into the position of Prime Minister. How funny for Kevin Rudd to say that he was not giong to let Tony Abbot ‘slide’ into the position when it was actually his own collegue that did that. Tony Abbot is campagning just like he is supposed to be.

  11. Susan Peterson

    So what’s wrong with this ad?
    She’s a tough lady and a good shot.
    Around here, we admire that.
    She’s target shooting.
    But Sarah Palin has bagged her elk!
    I don’t shoot, myself. But I would if I had time to be taught properly and to practice.
    Susan Peterson

    • Tony

      So what’s wrong with this ad?

      We’d need another blog to do justice to that, Susan.

      I posted it as an illustration of how different we are in some things.

      It’s not that it’s a non-issue that our new PM is an unmarried, childless, atheist but most pundits seem to predict that it will not stop her from being elected in her own right.

      BTW, just as it would be very unlikely for a politician to tout their links with guns in this country it would be even harder to imagine someone with professed Christian beliefs doing it.

      The whole ‘I have a right to have a gun’ thing is very foreign to us and most Australians would find an ad like that quite disturbing. I don’t expect you to understand that but that’s the way it is, is all I’m saying (to quote our host).

  12. Susan Peterson

    By the way, our Supreme Court just confirmed that the constitutional protection on the right to bear arms applies to individuals. Several city anti-gun laws were invalidated. Cheers all around.

    • Peregrinus

      Sure. All we are observing, Susan, is that American and Australian cultures, while similar in many respects, are strikingly different in others. We should not be surprised that this is reflected in differing political attitudes towards non-marital sex, guns and indeed much larger issues.

      For example, the term “socialist” is understood as a pejorative on both sides of the American political mainstream, and there is an extent to which this is also true of the term liberal. That’s simply not true in Australia, or indeed in most democracies.

      This is not to argue either that the Americans have got these things right and the Australians have got them wrong, or vice versa. It is simply to observe that Americans and Australian think differently, and talk differently, about these matters and – as is to be expected – this is reflected in differences in the two countries political cultures.

      In your post above you ask (with reference to attitudes towards a public figure with a non-marital partner) “why isn’t it that way [i.e. like the US] there [i.e. in Australia]?”, to which the answer is “Why should it be? Australia is not the US.” It would make just as much sense – i.e. none at all – to ask why the US doesn’t do things the Australian way.

  13. Susan Peterson

    But you commenters here ARE Christians.
    Yet you seem not at all disturbed by the idea that your leader would be someone in an immoral sexual relationship and that the government would pay for an illicit partner’s travel just as if he were an honorable spouse!

    I do think it is mostly hypocritical pretense here, religion and sexual morality in our politicians, but at least it shows that there is a large enough minority in this country to whom these things matter that the pretense has to be made.

    How I wish we could elect someone for whom it is more than a pretense, such as Bobby Jindal , governor of the state of Louisiana and convert from Hindu to Catholic, and also an extremely capable executive. He is my dream candidate for next president of the US!

    Susan Peterson

    • Tony

      Let’s turn the tables:

      But you ARE a Christian, Susan.

      Yet you seem not at all disturbed by the idea that a politician would be so ‘out there’ with her attitude to guns.

      I’m confident that this statement would be a whole more reflective of an Australian attitude than yours.

      It’s not that many, maybe even most, Australians like Julia Gillard’s situation, but for most — and this is yet to be proven — it’s not a vote changer.

      Maybe another difference is that Pamela Gorman is clearly promoting enthusiastic gun ownership as a good thing or, at least, as a vote winner. Julia Gillard has not, and is not likely to, promote aspects of her personal situation in this way. She’s up front about it, but it’s not part of her political persona.

      In short, Australia is not a defacto US state west of Hawaii (sometimes we need to convince ourselves of this, mind).

    • Peregrinus

      But you commenters here ARE Christians.

      Yet you seem not at all disturbed by the idea that your leader would be someone in an immoral sexual relationship and that the government would pay for an illicit partner’s travel just as if he were an honorable spouse!

      Just to clarify, it’s not clear that the government will pay for his travel expenses, or that they will be asked to. Gillard and her partner are known a “a couple”, but they do not live together and I don’t believe that he has travelled with her on ministerial business up to know.

      The issue arises because, now that she is Prime Minister, she steps into a role in which there is more official travel, and more official entertaining, and historically Prime Minister’s spouses have played role in this, e.g. jointly hosting official functions, being received as the Prime Minister’s consort on official visits abroad, etc. They don’t get paid for this, but their expenses are covered. Plus, the Prime Minister has an official residence in Canberra (and another in Sydney, if desired), provided and staffed at public expense, used not only by him but also by his family, his (private) guests, etc. And of course the Prime Minister’s wife gets to live there too.

      I don’t know that there has ever been an unmarried Prime Minister in Australia, but there have been widowed and single PMs in other countries. In these instances some of the functions and roles normally belonging to the PM’s wife have been discharged by, e.g., an adult daughter, or even a female friend.

      It’s entirely possible that Gillard’s partner will seek no kind of official involvement or recognition in his capacity as the PM’s partner. If he does, though, take on some of the roles taken on in the past by children, friends, etc, should we rule him on the basis that he is (presumed to be) sleeping with the Prime Minister?

      As for an “immoral sexual relationship”, most Australians would take the view that a sexual relationship is private to the people concerned unless they choose to make it public by, e.g., marrying. If Ms Gillard were known to be involved in an adulterous sexual relationship, that could be a political problem. But if neither she nor her partner are married to someone else, I doubt that it will be a concern.

      There might be some who would take the view that the fundamental immorality of a non-marital sexual relationship goes to Gillard’s character, and is something that should be taken into account in assessing her fitness for office. But in this instance the case is not a strong one. Ms Gillard is not a Christian and does not pretend to be one, and so far as I know she has never professed the view that sex is proper only in the context of marriage. There is nothing in her relationship with her partner which contradicts any principle or value that she espouses or offers to uphold.

      If we were to object to her simply on the basis that she did not consider sex between consenting adults to be always immoral outside of marriage, we would essentially be objecting to her for not holding to a particular Christian moral view, despite the fact that she is not a Christian. But why should we demand that a non-Christian politician should hold Christian views on a matter which, to be frank, has very little to do with the duties of her office? This would be tantamount to regarding her as unfit because she is not a Christian, a position which very few Australians would hold. The Constitution explicitly forbids religious tests for public office, and this I think would accord with strong public sentiment on this subject.

      • Susan Peterson

        Well, we don’t have official religious tests for public office either, but that doesn’t mean that voters can’t have an opinion of who they want to represent them.

        You almost write as if the moral law only applies to Christians. It applies to everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not. And not living by it does do harm to the soul. If she is young enough, she must contracept,(or if older, must have been doing so) and if contraception failed, she would most likely abort or have aborted, so how can you expect her to be pro-life? Isn’t that one of the criteria you use to judge whether to support a politician?

        I do apply your kind of thinking in my private life, not really expecting friends who are not believers to behave in ways that society in general no longer supports. I even have to act that way with some of my own adult children, although on occasion I tell them what I think would lead to a happier life for them.

        But so far in the US politicians of both parties have had to pay lip service to religion and to keep their sexual vices private in order to get elected. As awful as his policies are, and as fake as his religious affiliation probably was, Obama in private appears to be a solid family man, and a much better man in that regard than his own father. (That’s about the only good thing I can think to say about the man. I couldn’t believe our blog host said something positive about him when he was elected. No one in the US whose blog title was Sentire cum Ecclesia would say anything positive about Obama. )

        As I have said, I long for a politician for whom it isn’t a fake. But I think even lip service to good principles is better for the country, if not for the soul of the hypocrite, than their absolute abandonment.

        Susan Peterson

        • Gareth

          I agree with you Susan – as Christains we should at least have some distaste towards the points you have brought up.

          Whether or not it makes a difference on whether a person can do a good or bad job or whether how much else of the Australian population may be in a similar circumstance, I agree that as Christians there is a line to be drawn on the example the highest level politcal official is giving to the rest of society and the Christian community (e.g. I would not like to be a parent explaining to my child the relationship situation of our Prime Minister and how this is not tolerated by Christians).

        • Peregrinus

          Well, we don’t have official religious tests for public office either, but that doesn’t mean that voters can’t have an opinion of who they want to represent them.

          Sure. My point is that, in Australia, the Constitutional provision on this point in fact reflects how most people feel. There are some Australians who absolutely will not vote for someone who is not a Christian, but I think they are comparatively few.

          You almost write as if the moral law only applies to Christians. It applies to everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not. And not living by it does do harm to the soul. If she is young enough, she must contracept,(or if older, must have been doing so) and if contraception failed, she would most likely abort or have aborted, so how can you expect her to be pro-life? Isn’t that one of the criteria you use to judge whether to support a politician?

          I don’t expect her to be pro-life, but I can arrive at this conclusion by a far less tortuous route, and involving far fewer unlikely assertions (like “anyone who practises contraception would most likely abort if need be”); I can just look at her political record.

          Refusing to support her because she is not pro-life is fine (assuming, of course, that a pro-life alternative is offered, which sadly it isn’t). Refusing to support her because she doesn’t believe that sex outside of marriage is always wrong, and so must be pro-choice, is not.

          But so far in the US politicians of both parties have had to pay lip service to religion and to keep their sexual vices private in order to get elected.

          I’m gobsmacked. You think this is a good thing?

          Does it not occur to you, Susan, that a political culture in which politicians “have to pay lip service to religion” is an abomination, and something no Christian should advocate or tolerate for an instant? We are called to worship “in spirit and in truth”. Honest atheism is certainly more pleasing to God than a self-serving, hypocritical pretence of faith to secure secular advantage. A political culture which demands dishonesty about faith, and which rewards it, is fundamentally anti-gospel. A political culture which is as you describe it must, to a Christian, seem sick, corrupt and depraved.

          And, on the practical level, do you seriously think that a politician who “pays lip service to religion” and “tries to keep his sexual vices private” is more deserving of support than a politician who professes her principles openly, and lives in accordance with them? Which of them would you trust, when faced with a moral question, to think seriously about what is right and what is wrong, and to try do what is right? True, the atheist may fail to discern what is right, but the hypocrite won’t even bother to try.

          I begin to see why thirty-five years of political pro-life activism have produced no change at all. As you describe it, American political culture is such that it rewards, not the politician who is pro-life, but the politician who can appear to be pro-life while actually doing what he expects to be popular – which is not making any significant change to liberal abortion laws.

          • Susan Peterson

            I have no reason to think she is more honest; she just doesn’t have a political reason in your country to hide that particular behavior.

            No, I would not prefer an honest ideologue with an ideology directly opposed to mine. I suspect that is what Obama is. Not that he was honest in his campaigning, for his very ideology says one doesn’t have to be (see Rules for Radicals) but that he honestly believes in certain political principles and will do anything to promote them…even I believe to lessening his chances for reelection. An honest ideologue with a false ideology is the most dangerous leader one can have.
            A man only interested in political power is much more easily swayed if one can make it to his political advantage.
            Yes, I would prefer an honest man who thinks pretty much the way I think but who is practical enough to do the job.

            • Peregrinus

              I have no reason to think she is more honest; she just doesn’t have a political reason in your country to hide that particular behavior.

              Yes, but I think it’s a good thing that she has no reason to hide it. You seem to think it’s a bad thing.

          • Gareth

            Pere: I begin to see why thirty-five years of political pro-life activism have produced no change at all.

            Gareth: Don’t forget this is also due to the hundreds of hundreds of lazy, lazy and useless Catholics who sit on the fence on the pro-life issue and do not do anything productive about the issue at all – no that is hypocrosy.

            Having been involved in the pro-life movement for the past ten years in Australia I see it is always the same group of people that are willing to help the cause. Same people at the prayer vigils, same people that write to politicans, same people that write letters to newspapers, same people that do something positive at parish level.

            Yet thousands of Catholics attend Mass each Sunday – if even a quarter of these same Catholics contributed to the cause, the pro-life movemet would actually achieve something.

            Thanks for nothing lukewarm Catholics who ‘attend’ Mass but do nothing for the pro-life movement.

            I am sure one day you will be rewarded for what you put in.

            • Susan Peterson

              I go to the National Right to Life March every year.
              I did sit in at an abortion clinic and get arrested, once.
              But then it go so they could charge you under RICO (anti mob crime law) and take your house, if you did that. I couldn’t make my children homeless. Just when that was struck down, there has been an attempt to use AntiTerrorism laws passed after 9/11 against demonstrators at abortion clinics. I guess I am not very brave. But I do show up at the RTL march every year, and I do vote proLife.
              Susan Peterson

              • Gareth

                which is more than what 90 per cent of Catholics that roll up to Mass each Sunday do for the pro-life cause which in my opinion is the reason pro-life activism apparently doesn’t achieve anything as opposed to pointing the finger at the dedicated minority who have the strong will to actually be involved and do something.

                I have been going to a ecumenical pro-life prayer meeting in my neighbourhood (in fairness it is only a few miniutes walk from my home) for close to ten years now and the same dedicated group of thirty people are the same people that rolled up ten years ago despite widespread advertisements in parish bulletins.

                Make’s one think where all the other Catholics are?

                In my opinion, the dedicated few that turn up week in and week out should be supported for at least doing something.

              • Peregrinus

                I’m not condemning either the sincerity or the significance of political pro-life activity. I’m merely suggesting that what you say about the American political system might help to explain why it hasn’t so far delivered the goods, so to speak. If the system encourages and rewards the hypocrisy of politicians about their views on religious faith and sexual morality, wouldn’t it similarly encourage and reward hypocrisy on this issue?

                Gareth suggests that pro-life activity might be more effective if more Catholics supported it more actively. I take his point, but Catholics are a minority both in the US and in Australia, and it seems clear majorities in both countries favour the legality of abortion. As long as that is so, there is a limit to what political activity can acheive, however well supported by Catholics.

                And, more to the point, so long as political culture tolerates and even rewards hypocrisy, the effect of political pro-life activity will be more to encourage politicians hypocritically to profess pro-life views than to encourage them actually to embrace and advance pro-life values.

                Again, that is not to criticise pro-life activists, but to explain their singular lack of success.

                • Tony Bartel

                  When I was last in the States (2007) opinion polls were showing that a majority now favours limitation on access to abortion. Not necessarily a complete ban, but certainly a turning back from the view that there should be no restrictions.

                  If it were not for the continuing effect of Roe v Wade, many American states would restrict access to abortion and some would ban it all together.

                  So the pro-life movement has had some success in the States.

                • Antoinette

                  It is not only Catholics that are pro-life. I think the reason for its lack of success is that many people are not aware of how politics works. Pro-choice activists seem to be more politically motiviated – that is all. Just like many other things that become legal, this does not mean that the majority approve – they are just ‘asleep’. That is the real problem.

      • Tony Bartel

        “If Ms Gillard were known to be involved in an adulterous sexual relationship, that could be a political problem.”

        The adulterous sexual relationship was a couple of parliamentary terms ago.

        • Peregrinus

          Which is a long time in politics!

          It’s interesting, I think, that this focus on Gillard’s personal life only arises when she becomes PM. Is adultery any less morally problematic if committed by a mere Minister, or even a backbench MP? Or do we invest a Prime Minister with a kind of moral authority which is, quite frankly, wholly unwarranted?

          This focus on the figure of The Leader, investing her with signficance and symbolism, may not be entirely healthy. She’s been appointed to do a particular job – an important job, but still just a job. Is the virtue of chastity any more a relevant requirement for that job than it is for gthe job of a Minister or a backbencher?

          Christians, of all people, need to recognise, and be wary of, the desire to make a Messiah out of anyone.

          She’s not the Messiah. She’s just a naughty girl.

          • Tony Bartel

            It was a tongue in cheek comment.

            That being said, there was an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Bettina Arndt of all people –

            http://www.nationaltimes.com.au/opinion/politics/shacking-up-is-hard-to-do-why-gillard-may-be-leery-of-the-lodge-20100628-zexr.html

            Whether we like it or not the PM is a role model, and even more so for a first female PM.

          • Antoinette

            “It’s interesting, I think, that this focus on Gillard’s personal life only arises when she becomes PM. Is adultery any less morally problematic if committed by a mere Minister, or even a backbench MP?”

            The vast majority of people are not necessarily politically active or even aware of who is in government – other than the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader of course. This is a sad fact. I believe that most voters don’t actually know who they are voting for. If they did, they woud be more judgemental of the personal lifestyles of the candidates.

  14. Susan Peterson

    Why should Christians be against guns?

    In many places, one needs a gun for personal safety. The night clerk in a motel really needs a gun, for instance.
    In places where there are lots of burglaries and house invasions, the householder will want to be able to defend himself.
    Someone with a flock of sheep will want to be able to shoot predators.
    If I didn’t live right next to the elementary school I would have had someone in her to shoot the woodchucks that were ravaging my garden!
    Some people around here have bears come right in their yards and tear up their garbage and their bird feeders. Suppose someday the bear comes around when a child is in the yard? I think one would want to have a large caliber gun at hand!
    Any many people around here depend on being able to put a deer or two in the freezer for their meat through out the year, and maybe some wild turkey.
    A farmer wants to be able to put down a cow that is down and can’t get up; a horse farmer to shoot a horse that breaks its leg.

    The ad you showed me is kind of a parody of itself, and I am not sure if it isn’t meant as a parody, because it lays it on so thick. But I can’t understand why guns have such a negative connotation for you. A gun is a tool, like a hammer. Like a hammer, it has many practical uses. Or you can kill someone with it. But that’s not a reason not to use hammers. Or guns either.

    I just developed an intention to act on these statements and learn to use a gun. I have a friend, a Catholic convert and lay Dominican who teaches RCIA…and also serves as the guard when the church secretary takes the collection to the bank…who could teach me except that he lives quite far away. But it would be worth a visit to have him help me get started.

    I don’t know why you are comparing behavior clearly condemned by Scripture and Tradition with something which is completely morally neutral.
    Susan Peterson

    • Tony

      Susan,

      Why should Christians be against guns?

      I can think of lots of reasons why Christians would want to at least be very cautious in their approach to guns, but it’s really besides the point.

      In many places, one needs a gun for personal safety. The night clerk in a motel really needs a gun, for instance.

      Not in Australia. There may be some in urban settings but, even then, it’d be very rare (unless they were from the US … just kiddin’ ya!).

      In places where there are lots of burglaries and house invasions, the householder will want to be able to defend himself.

      Ditto

      Someone with a flock of sheep will want to be able to shoot predators.

      On farms, yes, many (if not most) farmers would have a 22 in the back room.

      If I didn’t live right next to the elementary school I would have had someone in her to shoot the woodchucks that were ravaging my garden!

      There you go, while Australia has its fair-share of pesky varmits, we don’t have woodchucks (and probably wouldn’t if we could, if you see what I’m sayin’).

      Some people around here have bears come right in their yards and tear up their garbage and their bird feeders. Suppose someday the bear comes around when a child is in the yard? I think one would want to have a large caliber gun at hand!

      We don’t have bears, Susan, … well we do have Koala Bears but shooting them would be like shooting bald eagles.

      Any many people around here depend on being able to put a deer or two in the freezer for their meat through out the year, and maybe some wild turkey.

      And those critters are a little thin on the ground, especially in the wild, Susan.

      My father used to go out with mates to shoot rabbits and my neighbour (who was brought up in the bush) is keen on going up bush to shoot feral goats, but you could live in a whole neighbourhood and not find a gun or gun owner.

      A farmer wants to be able to put down a cow that is down and can’t get up; a horse farmer to shoot a horse that breaks its leg..

      Again, plenty of cockies (farmers) have guns in Australia.

      The ad you showed me is kind of a parody of itself, and I am not sure if it isn’t meant as a parody, because it lays it on so thick. But I can’t understand why guns have such a negative connotation for you …

      Apparently you can’t. I’m trying to help you with that. I’m not saying — well, it’s not my point anyhow — that it’s wrong. It’s just different.

      A gun is a tool, like a hammer. Like a hammer, it has many practical uses. Or you can kill someone with it. But that’s not a reason not to use hammers. Or guns either.

      A ******* machine-gun, Susan?!

      I just developed an intention to act on these statements and learn to use a gun. I have a friend, a Catholic convert and lay Dominican who teaches RCIA…and also serves as the guard when the church secretary takes the collection to the bank…who could teach me except that he lives quite far away. But it would be worth a visit to have him help me get started.

      Fine. Go for it.

      I don’t know why you are comparing behavior clearly condemned by Scripture and Tradition with something which is completely morally neutral.

      Because I wasn’t comparing morality?

    • Gareth

      Thanks Susan,

      Australians have no right to judge Americans on their constitutional right.

      • Tony Bartel

        I support the right to arm bears. :-)

        I have strong pacifist sympathies. But I have never been able to reconcile myself with a total abandonment of the use of force in a fallen world. My position would be that we should use the minimum amount of force necessary to preserve our safety and that of our community.

        In some places that might necessitate giving people the right to carry a gun to defend themselves. In Australia, we do give certain members of our society the right to bear arms for defence (as opposed to sport or hunting purposes). We call them police officers.

        So the issue, at least from my perspective, is where we draw the line. That is surely a matter for debate on which Christians and indeed all people of goodwill can disagree.

        • Tony

          What I find intriguing about the cultural love of guns in the US is that it is seen as an inalienable right and a potent symbol of individual liberty.

          And this is about, at least to some extent, a citizen’s capacity to defend themselves against an oppressor.

          In Australia we have a small population — and therefore a small defence force — and a huge empty country. If any citizen in the world would feel the need to be prepared to defend themselves against an opressor, you’d think it would be us.

          But our first port of call, should the need arise, would be defence force, national service then arming our citizens.

          The US has a big country with a huge population with one of the biggest, best equipped, best trained defence forces in the world. So why have this gun culture?

          The only conclusion I can come to is a strong fear that their enemies — real or imagined — are within.

          Notwithstanding all of that, I was lucky enough to go on a road trip through the southern and western US a couple of years ago and I didn’t have a sense that the gun culture was that overt.

          At one petrol (gas) station in the middle of NM I saw a tall, dusty bloke with a huge gun on a hoster belted around his hips. I asked the lady attendant what the story was with the dude with the gun (expecting her to say that was the usual thang) and she said, ‘Oh he’s just some sort of desert rat’.

  15. Susan Peterson

    I think it was a semi-automatic, and people target shoot with them to see how many shots they can get in a certain range in a certain time frame. I don’t think an intention is involved to go out and shoot innocent people with it. There is a back ground that this is a weapon which might be used in war. But many war related skills have also been practiced as sport, such as fencing, jousting, archery. Certainly there is a background understanding to such weapons that battle is a human possibility. One might have to fight for one’s country…or should ones country succumb to tyranny, one might have to fight that tyranny, which is the reason there is the right of a citizen to keep and bear arms.
    It also might take such a weapon to bring down a bear, or a heavier caliber single shot weapon might be enough, I am no expert on these matters. With the latter I’d imagine you’d have to get the shot in the right place the first time.

    Where I live, there are so many deer that they are a traffic nuisance. I have seriously banged up three cars when a deer ran into the road in front of me. That’s 3 in 25 years up here. Just this morning I had to stop my car while 5 deer crossed the road in front of me. In certain seasons one sees whole flocks of wild turkeys. It is quite reasonable to hunt these for food. People don’t use semiautomatics for this, though. Some even go bowhunting; there is a separate season for it.
    When we first came up to this part of the country high school boys drove to school in pickups with rifles in the gunrack and went hunting after school. No one dreamed of thinking that they were going to use them for anything else. Then there were those school shootings out in Colorado,and that became impossible. But it was never hunting type country boys who were shooting up schools. The problem with guns is that it is easy to kill innocent people with them. But they aren’t evil in themselves. They have many proper uses. People who grow up around them know what those uses are and regard guns as tools for those uses. They respect the dangers of guns the way they respect the dangers of tractors and hay balers and siloes full of grain and liquid manure pits, all potentially deadly.

    It is very late here and I have to work tomorrow.

    Wow, I just detected the pungent odor of skunk.
    I hope it wasn’t after my chicks! I hope one of my cats didn’t tangle with it.

    Good night all, from the other side of the world.
    Susan Peterson

  16. Susan Peterson

    I don’t think he was judging Americans but trying to show me differences in attitudes…which he at least partially shares, to be sure.

    • Son of Trypho

      Doubtful Susan, Tony has struck me as the typical liberal type that sneers in common company about those people and issues they dislike eg. Palin, guns etc

      • Tony

        I think you’re hogging the port, SoT.
        ;-)

        • Gareth

          The problem with sharing the port with you Tony is that (as you have been told countless times across the years) you make no effort in your posts to find a balance in ‘coming halfway’ in your conversations or demonstrating just precisely what you have in common with your fellow Catholics?

          Why should fellow Catholic posters have to constantly enter into conversation or respect your intention of challenging others if there appears there is nothing as Catholics that we have common with yourself, and hence it is practically impossible to repect you or your views?

          I and others tolerance levels will drop if we are constantly in a conversation with someone that is almost always coming from a different perspective faith, which we are passionate about.

          • Tony

            Gareth,

            Please don’t feel obliged to offer me any respect or, indeed, respond to my posts … just pass the port will ya?