51% of university students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, when was the last time you were expected to pay for trips with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track?

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers for Mr Stepney and those like him.

– The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

– Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

The main problem with this survey is that it’s biased towards those who would take the time to fill it in. In other words, it’s more likely to attract those with some experience of sexual harassment or assault.


Revenge effects

Newsflash! Australian employers encouraged to ‘retire’ casual staff at twelve months!

I woke up this morning to the news that the Fair Work Commission had accepted Union demands to give casual workers permanent work;

“If the casual employment turns out to be long-term in nature, and to be of sufficient regularity … then we consider it to be fair and necessary for the employee to have access to a mechanism by which the casual employment may be converted to an appropriate form of permanent employment,” the full bench found.

Most of my colleagues are on casual contracts, many have been for years, including myself. I’ve done the same job, for the same money for five years. Each year is covered by two casual contracts, which are zero hours when I sign them.

So you’re thinking hey this is good right? I can now ask for permanent work?

Yeah I guess that’s true except three things;

Employers can refuse the request on reasonable grounds including that…. they could foresee their position would no longer exist in the next 12 months.

First, What stops an employer from simply saying ‘I don’t think your job will exist in twelve months’?

Second, there’s casual loading in casual pay, to compensate for being casual. It’s probably about 30% would be my guess. Does this mean a pay cut? Do casuals trade permanence for less money?

But perhaps the most problematic implication is this;  employers will be penalised for employing a casual for longer than twelve months. Surely this will encourage them to replace ‘old’ casuals with ‘new ones’ to prevent them from applying for permanent positions?


Dogma, Karma, bullshit

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-4-14-30-pmHow many times must I stab the radio this summer?

In today’s ABC ‘Documentary Piece’ about Roald Dahl, we hear of a young woman’s literary love affair with the author who shaped her childhood. Dahl, she tells us, with excruciatingly ponderous pace, made her into the writer she is today.

But wait, there’s a twist! There is a Dark Side to Roald Dahl, a side so horrible that one can barely bring oneself to look into it, lest their childhood be tapped open like a festering egg!

Tell me more!

Well, apparently Roald Dahl was an adulterer. And, he once called his daughter a bitch for confronting him on it. There’s more. Dahl once remarked that he’d rather be dead than fat (he’s as evil as Kate Moss! Shuffle over, Hitler and stop hogging the blanket!). It gets worse, folks. Dahl was a racist. His oompah loompahs were originally cast as African pygmies, and he ruminated on the character flaws of the Jewish people. Why, he wondered, had they attracted such perverse persecution? Sure, Hitler was a prize bumpfswiggle but in Dahl’s view the Jews had partly brought their fate upon themselves.

The radio narrator/writer weeps and wails over their gravity and depth of these failings…. Oh my God, how could I have loved this guy? How could I have read his books? WHAT A MONSTER! I can’t believe I was somehow complicit in his vile world!

After about thirty hours of this self-righteous, hyperbolic panto routine I turned it off.

When I was 8 my Dad showed me some film footage of Jews being pushed into pits. It is still the most distressing thing I’ve seen in my life and remains securely fastened in a repertoire of lively nightmares. I’ve since questioned my father’s judgement, but I’ll never forget his words;

If you had grown up in a family of Nazis, you would believe this was right too.

Dad wanted me to think about judgement, about the relativism of right and wrong. He wanted me to think hard about the social conventions that I was growing up in. (I’m making him sound like a morally righteous demi-God – he isn’t, he’s just a person like everyone else. A person who should have looked into a bit more Disney).

And so when I hear blind judgement, without consideration of context, background, politics, family, gender or class I get nervous. Because this is truly frightening. This is the blueprint of unblinking dogmatism. And unblinking dogmatism gets you front row seats at the pit.

Simply stating ‘Dahl was a monster’ demonstrates a troubling fixity of thought, something far darker than his supposed ‘dark side’. What is really, truly frightening, is cultivating the lack of insight that allows us to come to grips with what people are thinking and feeling, to think critically about the cultural patterns, tropes and values that are in ascendence at any one time. The Holocaust can’t be understood with the idea that there were just a few more shittier human beans in the can. Dahl’s story tells us that intelligent, well-connected people, loving fathers and mothers can come to hold dreadfully dangerous ideas. We are all ‘monsters’. We need to think hard about how that happens.

Dahl was a product of multiple moments in time, of the family he grew up in, the British class-constrained school he attended, the war he fought, the Africa he experienced and the women he disgraced himself with.

Dahl was a human bean. Like the rest of us.

Spoiler alert; Colonisation in Crocs

Let’s play spot the difference;

What’s going on in New Zealand this week? General freaking out about Peter Thiel buying New Zealand citizenship, that’s what. This brand new Kiwi is now the proud owner of a humble pile in Wanaka, apparently hedging his bets against a global, US centric clusterfuck.

Bolt-holes in New Zealand are the latest asset of the uber wealthy, or so we’re told. Don’t worry about being forced out of your country though, like other peaceable, desirable countries with WIFI and vegetables, NZ has an Overseas Investment Office (OIO). It ensures that only the most criminal of oligarchs can purchase state significant land.

So why didn’t Thiel go down this route? Well, as we all know, waiting for approvals on multi-million dollar purchases is so tedious. Sometimes it takes literally months. Luckily there’s another option. You can simply buy New Zealand citizenship, and then purchase whatever land you want! Just like in the olden days. Cos let’s face it, New Zealand citizenship has been a tidy export earner since The New Zealand Company*. Add to cart!

It’s not like Thiel, who is a US citizen, hasn’t bought little bits Pacific islands before. He recently purchased a home on Maui. He’s in good company, his friend Mark Zuckerberg also bought a hugely expensive estate on Maui. In a magazine article (that now seems to have disappeared) locals described Zuckerberg’s attempts to muscle out his neighbours, some of whom are indigenous owners. Zuckerberg started off by offering his neighbours inordinate amounts of money for their land. In the case of the indigenous owners, he got a few representatives to sell him pieces of land. Trouble is, indigenous title is famously complex – it doesn’t always mesh with Western capitalist version of land tenure. While some ‘owners’ took the money, others argued that it wasn’t really theirs to sell. Some people simply didn’t want to leave the place they’d called home for generations. For those who quibbled about the process, Zuckerberg’s lawyers applied force. This is called negotiation between unequal actors. Or, to use its older term, Treaty.

This is just another form of blockbusting – a co-ordinated attempt to reach a tipping point in a neighbourhood. YOU might dig your heels in and stay but everyone else has buggered off. You’re no longer among friends. But hey, if you need a job as a gardener….

It’s not that Zuckerberg or Thiel behaved illegally in Hawaii. After all, they’re simply participating in the real estate market, a market underpinned by the legitimate structures of US government. The same government that turned up about about a hundred years ago and put those structures in place, by legitimately negotiating with the indigenous Hawaiians to cede their sovereignty and accept a US system of private property and governance ….Kidding! Phew, that was getting awkward…

Seriously though, these uber wealthies seem to be doing something relatively unremarkable on Maui; using their wealth to reach a tipping point in the property market, the point at which those who’re left behind choose the carrot (take the money) instead of the stick (community dislocation and/or expensive lawsuit). Simply put, the peasants move on. Forget capital flight!  Deficit flight is where it’s at!

Johnny Moore’s article suggests that Thiel’s New Zealand property venture will be more exciting than his foray into the Hawaiian market. He describes oligarchs on the run, their children kidnapped, houses burnt to the ground. In this age of global connectedness, he argues, the only real bolt-hole is on the moon.

I think this is alarmist. The consequences he suggests are violent and also illegal. You can bet that Mr Thiel won’t be waiting a year for police to turn up at his place when someone sets fire to his woodpile. Not all NZ citizens are equal. ( I also found the casual discussion about kidnapping children bloody terrifying – I think others would too).

What’s more likely, I think, is people like Thiel will engage in a form of hyper-gentrification, a market distortion where one bolt-hole turns into a series of enclave economies. Ordinary New Zealanders will resent being made to feel like second class citizens, but hey, we’ve seen this movie before. See; New Zealand Company. Who’s dispossessed now?


*For those playing at home…The New Zealand Company sold parcels of land to British citizens who then sailed all the way to the other side of the world to set up house, only to discover someone else was already mowing the lawn.

Lucky break

Hey you know what’s making housing expensive? Red tape. Nope, not ridiculous, hyper- speculation by Australia’s largest age cohort. No no no. Why would you even think that? It’s red tape. Big, bad red tape. If there were more houses, there’d be more supply.

And you know what holds up supply? Red tape. The Planning and Assessment Commission to be precise. So what if we cut the PAC’s ‘red tape’? How cool would that be? Then we’d get more houses! Or more apartments, anyway, because the PAC only deals in large developments.

What’s that? There’s an oversupply of apartments in Australia? Oh, well don’t blame us, here at the Liberal party we’re doing our bit to keep the apartment market afloat.

Now, where were we? Oh yes, red tape. The PAC. Well, let’s ‘streamline’ the approvals process. That’ll get more housing. There’s a housing crisis don’t you know. We’re doing our bit.

And if housing developments happen to comprise about five eighths of fuck all of the PAC’s business, then that’s hardly our fault. What’s that? What does the PAC mostly do?

Mining approvals.

Supporting girls (to just smash ’em)


Hot tip! Always place newly dislodged teeth in a glass of milk!

-Just smash the shit out of the little fucks. Also, stop whinging. And get my smokes.  – Typical bullying advice for girls, circa 1980.

In the 80s whacking bullies was standard operating procedure. For boys and girls. I know, because I went through primary school like a pneumatic claw hammer. It didn’t entirely prevent bullying – at best my approach earned little more than a short reprieve while everyone searched the long grass for teeth. However, for a buck-toothed ginga with a short fuse and a hillbilly squint, thumping someone was definitely a legitimate option.

In 2016 things are different. It’s still OK for boys to hit girls, it’s just not OK for them to hit back.

How modern.

You see, in 2016 we give girls the tools to manage challenging situations in a mature and non-violent way. We engage with children to educate them about bullying. We empower them to recognise and manage it. We give them strategies to de-centre power relationships, embolden support networks, foster cohesiveness. In this way we have meaningful discussions about bullying.

Unless you’re a boy. If you’re a boy you can still just whack ‘em.

Oh sure, it’s not acceptable but it’s accepted.  You see, both girls and boys are are subjected to the regime of decidedly adult polite fuckspeak above, but only girls are expected to take any notice of it. In schools across Australia you might recognise this fuckspeak as ‘peer support’.

Peer support expects children to behave like adults. This isn’t new. Modern childhood is increasingly considered little more than an inconvenient larval stage where school is just preparation for The Main Event (the soul-crushing banality of heavily-mortgaged suburban ennui, counting the steps until your febrile, rest-home death on your Fit-Bit).

Where was I? Ah yes….

The focus on childhood as the preparation for a productive adult life means girls especially must learn to behave like ‘successful adults’.

They are expected to behave like responsible young women. They must have a high ’emotional IQ’. They must talk in an inclusive, respectful way. They  must manage and negotiate. They must rise above the petty squabbling of childhood. They’re still expected to be compliant and to learn well though – some things never change. This is why campaigns like ‘peer support’ are presented as school work, in class time: peer support is to be taken seriously. Girls must take everything seriously. They are little women.

In short, girls must modify their behaviour to maximise their social mobility. This is the politically acceptable form of adulting, the Life Matters version of My-First-Hot-Pants*.

Adulting isn’t new to boys. They’ve always been expected to behave like ‘young men’ in the playground, i.e., occasionally smash kids. It’s not condoned, but it’s expected. Boys are not expected to take ‘peer support’ seriously. Whacking someone remains firmly on the table.

This is how we normalise violence against women in a society where women have economic independence – we de-weaponise them.

If we are truly interested in equality we should recognise ‘peer support’ programs for what they truly are – a burden on girls who are expected to administer this playground regime of ‘self-moderation’ and ‘respectful dialogue’. The result is predictable. Girls internalise their failure to ‘manage’ violent playground behaviour. They get belted and feel guilty for it.

Perhaps in that respect it’s the most honest form of adulting yet.

*There are other forms of ‘adulting’ too – witness, for instance, the bedazzled nine-year-olds doing the bump-and- grind at the school Christmas concert. When girls make and re-make themselves through the modification of their ‘look’ they are behaving like adult women: commodifying themselves, mobilising their self-actualisation through consumption.

And just like with adult women this commodification is often little more than a direct transfer of ‘sexuality’ for power. (N.B – It’s still objectification if you pay for it yourself.) The hypersexualisation of girls is nothing more than the expanding commodification of female bodies – we make ourselves as products. Girls know that playing with their ‘look’ represents economic mobility.

It’s worth noting that the hypersexuality of girls is often presented as some weird, pseudo-paedophilic novelty, or a dystopian morality play. It’s not. That’s a distraction. It’s just every day materialism, embodied.


She’s so Charlie! (don’t worry chaps, she’ll still worship your tight arse, but she’ll just imagine it’s on her terms. Terms she will forever associate with the smell of industrial toilet cleaner).