‘It’s time Tony Abbott opened up his government’

Open government - is it a contradiction in terms?

Open government – is it a contradiction in terms?

Today I wrote an op-ed for the Guardian Australia, ‘It’s time Tony Abbott opened up his government’. The op-ed talks about the Abbott government’s recent less than helpful responses to media scrutiny and requests for information. Please have a read, share and/or make a comment.

Abbott proclaimed that the election was ‘all about trust’, but in power has thrown up significant obstacles to transparency. This week he has the opportunity to change

In the article, I also call on Tony Abbott to affirm his commitment to Australia becoming a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and join 60 other nations in drawing up actions plans for greater government transparency.

The OGP summit begins this Thursday in London. Australia will be represented by Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan and James Kelly from the High Commission.

You can read the full article here and please join in the discussion!

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My latest for the Guardian Aus and SBS

Welcome to the election circus that is #Ausvotes2013. I’m looking forward to cranking out some serious thinking posts during this campaign period just like in 2010 – let’s see if there’s enough policy detail to get into. Either way, I’ll be covering it. Looking forward to all the commentary and insights on this blog and Twitter. Catch me at @Get_Shortened.

In the meantime, take a look at what I’ve been up to:

Until next time…

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August 5, 2013 · 6:46 pm

It’s all just a load of politics

Whilst the Canberra press gallery and broader Australian media mindlessly waste ink and data postulating who “won” Tuesday’s political tussle, I’d suggest the only winner was politics itself.

What about Julia Gillard’s rousing speech effectively obliterating Tony Abbott in his chair with clear examples of his sexism and potential misogyny? That was no watershed feminist moment in Australian politics. It was an opportune time to score a big political point. No one likes a hypocrite so what better time to speak out than when Abbott cries sexist?

There have been a litany of moments in Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership when she has effectively chosen to ignore Abbott’s overt displays of, and complicity with, sexism towards herself and Australian women in general. By expressing her unquestionably genuine offense now, only when her reputation and minority government is at stake, gives off hints of opportunism and sends the wrong message.

It signals to all Australians that calling out sexist remarks towards women is the last resort and socially unacceptable or god forbid, a bit awkward. “You’ve got to toughen up and move on, that’s just how it is. We’ll respect you more if you don’t complain and just take it on the chin”, right? Wrong. But that social fallacy is what keeps many people silent against gender discrimination.

If the woman who holds the highest office in this country won’t or feels she can’t speak out against the extreme sexism directed at her until nearly 2 years into her tenure and only when it’s related to the credibility of a parliamentary motion against the Speaker, how can other less powerful women do the same and with confidence?

In isolation, Prime Minister Gillard’s speech is a progressive light for Australian women and should be applauded, in reality the message, muddied by context and implicit political associations, changes nothing. It’s all just a load of politics.

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The Arndt of sex [response and LINK]

My latest article for The Drum (2/9/2011), ‘The Arndt of sex’ made a few middle-aged indignant men unhappy when I questioned Bettina Arndt’s logic behind her validation and heroising of men’s supposed monogamous sex-starved experiences. Needless to say, they weren’t going to be the types won over by calls for a mature and non-polarising discussion about heterosexual male and female sexuality.

Thankfully, I hope and I think, many already recognise that Arndt’s views do not represent the values of most Australians in 2011. This was voiced to me by men and women directly via Twitter and in person. It would appear that the majority of comments on The Drum post were made by those whose life foundations were called into question by my arguments and understandably so.

A few other men, who so very kindly made some of the most derogatory and misogynistic comments I have ever come across and who submitted them to this blog (after The Drum comments had closed), were not in keeping with the rules of proper conduct and hence were not approved. As a related side-note: the issue of misogyny and online abuse of women writers has recently gained recognition after female blogger and Guardian writer Laurie Penny published some shocking tweets calling for violence against her. She has written about her experiences here, ‘A woman’s opinion is the mini-skirt of the internet’.

The inherent difficulty with the subject of sexuality, monogamy, heterosexuality, differing sex drives, gender and masculinity/femininity inevitably leads to some emotional, ill-considered and irrational responses. And then there are superficial “puff” responses that reinforce the outdated, circulating social memes we still have to fight against. In an op-ed for Fairfax, one person decided to bypass the content of the carefully constructed argument I made and instead lambasted me for ranting a little. Here is the article, make of it what you will.

I am proud to have written ‘The Arndt of sex’ as it was one of the most daunting and rewarding intellectual challenges I have had to tackle to date. Writing about gender is hard enough, but writing about sex and sexuality is in a league of its own. It’s a personal topic for everyone and hence, it needs to be approached carefully and with respect. I have a great appreciation for writers who are able to do this, it takes a lot of skill. Personally, after deconstructing Arndt’s piece I decided to take a philosophical approach in offering a solution. I hope more will take up the challenge, because, as I conclude in the article; sex, sexuality and the negotiation of relationships and needs must be talked about more openly, constructively and often than it is now.

Thanks to everyone who has read it and thanks in advance to those who will. Please feel free to leave comments, my only request is that they be respectful to everyone contributing to the discussion.

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Walk a mile in a man’s social media shoes (LINK)

It has been an exciting time for me. The article I wrote, ‘Walk a mile in a man’s social media shoes’, published at ABC The Drum on July 8, 2011 created a definite stir, something I honestly didn’t expect.

What surprised me was the overwhelming and very positive response I received from both men and women, equally, saying that the article resonated with their own experiences and/or has made them think and reflect on their own interactions with this gender filter in mind. Many men have happily admitted to me that perhaps I was pretty on the mark with my ‘Twitduel Rules.’

I would like to thank everyone who contacted me about the story and has given me their personal insights. This kind of interaction about posts or publications is what all bloggers and writers most want, that’s what I think anyway. Thanks also to Dr. Cordelia Fine for kindly allowing me to quote from her book, ‘Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences’ Please read it, you will not be disappointed.

I was interviewed on the radio station, 4ZZZ 102.1FM in Brisbane on the news and current affairs program ‘Brisbane Line’. The very talented Stephen Stockwell was the interviewer and you can listen to the unedited audio of the interview here:
Radio interview with Amy Mullins on Gender, politics and social media

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Aim High on Climate Change Action (Link)

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to provide a link here to the second article I wrote for The Drum which went up on April 29, 2011. It’s a longer article than usual, and I hope into goes into a good level of depth on the issues of economics and climate change.

It draws from a previous post I published here called, Australia’s dubious and enduring political mantra, ‘Go For Growth’.

Thanks a lot for reading.

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Australia’s dubious and enduring political mantra, ‘Go For Growth’

Have a read of this excerpt from Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech, delivered at the Sydney Institute (Luna Park “campus”), 13 April 2011:


“Friends, we have a fiscal framework aimed at making the boom last and not adding to the boom’s inflationary pressures.

And we have a policy framework aimed at ensuring all Australians benefit from the opportunities created by the boom.

To appreciate this policy framework, I think it is necessary to appreciate some of the contradictory elements of the economic context.

What I think of as “patchwork pressures” in our economy, where some parts of the economy are strained by growth while others risk being left behind.

Because mining is especially profitable at the moment, it rewards investors and pays workers well.

Investment, equipment and workers are drawn from other parts of the economy, like a magnet dragging iron filings towards it.

In mining areas, the boom has lifted housing costs, it forces non-miners to raise wages to keep workers and it puts pressure on infrastructure like roads, ports and rail.

The record high for the Australian dollar lowers prices for imports – which is good for consumers – but it does make it harder for our exporters to compete.

Mining’s hunger for equipment and workers can also raise costs and make it harder for these non-mining sectors to compete, compounding the high dollar’s effects.

All these pressures require careful management.

So to manage these pressures we have sought to bolster productivity and balance growth:

By improving vital economic infrastructure – roads, rail and ports so we better get goods to market and people to work – with the NBN providing the most vital infrastructure of the future.

Connecting regional Australia – regions of growth and regions needing more growth – to the economic capitals of this country, and the world.

By cutting company tax cut and increasing tax breaks for small businesses, all funded by the mineral resource rent tax, so the most profitable miners increase economic reward and opportunity in other parts of the economy.

By revolutionising our approach to human capital – the most important asset for dealing with structural economic shifts – with deep integrated reform policies to improve the quality of education in schools today.

By record skills investments and growth and reform of universities.

By developing a new, detailed regional agenda so that we understand each part of the nation and engage its local leadership.

By reviewing the GST carve up in order to marry up the “fair go” principle which informs federal financial relations with the realities of today’s economy and today’s reform needs.

By reforming our skilled migration 457 visas to end the rorts and get skilled labour to employers who need it.

Friends, these are economic reforms and responses to deal with the “patchwork economy”.

But “patchwork pressures” are not only felt by industry or something to be distilled in a set of statistics.

These patchwork pressures have a human face as well.”

- ‘The Dignity of Work’, speech delivered by PM Julia Gillard at the Sydney Institute (Luna Park), 13 April 2011.

What was most salient in Gillard’s speech was that her government’s natural response to economic “pressures”, seeks “to bolster productivity and balance growth.” And by balancing growth, I take it that they mean providing other areas of the economy with the opportunity to grow, so that there is growth, somewhat, across the board. The balance would also be achieved by slightly constraining those areas where increased growth has started to have unhealthy effects on the economy.

What is a seemingly benign remark on the surface is actually a core dilemma. Have we consciously considered what economic growth means to Australia? Have we asked, how much growth is sustainable? What are the positive and negative consequences? In which sectors and regions should growth be encouraged?

We may have addressed these concerns in passing and at a very superficial level, but I haven’t seen a public throw down over the concept of growth. What was once a description rightly used decades ago, “growth is good for the economy” has now become an economic and political prescription, “we must have growth, it is always best.”

I’d bet that the average Australian does not think to question what they are told when it comes to growth and economics, and who could blame them? It’s dry, incomprehensible at times and the ideology behind the economy as a whole is not an everyday concern. There are other things to worry about. Issues that affect us much more directly in our day-to-day activities (except if you’re in the financial sector, of course) than whether the economy grows, where that growth occurs and what the practical, ideological and political effects of that growth is.

Of course we all want our economy to travel well. Every government and nation does. It usually means that we materially prosper. But what if there were other ways of measuring the success of our economy and the prosperity of our society? I know, you may have just panicked. What? We’re questioning growth? Just pause for a moment and consider what Professor Tim Jackson has to say (take note, he advises governments, including the British, about economic growth and sustainability).

In his book, ‘Prosperity Without Growth’, Jackson writes a comprehensive analysis of the global economy in general and suggests a different kind of ‘economics for a finite planet’. Now I don’t want to give anything away because Jackson is so eloquent and fascinating to listen to that it would be much better for you to encounter his ideas first-hand.

Watch this 20-minute video of a lecture he delivered at TED talks, it is mind-boggling. I had to watch it twice. But keep in mind it is only a brief run down of his main arguments.

And if you’re curious and want to understand his proposition fully, check out the 2010 Deakin Lecture he delivered in Australia on podcast at Radio National. It’s well-worth the time.

Please, if you have any responses to the video or podcast, I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

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